In an effort to brainwash you even more with my weekend observations, I will be posting brief glimpses into players that have helped or hurt their evaluations in recent games early each week. I will stick mainly to seniors (as usual) unless another draft-eligible player jumps off the screen in a very positive or negative way. Keep in mind these are just off of a couple of exposure and not full evaluations, so no conclusions have been made. As always, you can send observations, comments, or criticisms to me on Twitter.
+ BYU DE/OLB Ezekiel Ansah (#47/6’5/270) - The former track athlete and native of Ghana is the next workout warrior to potentially be drafted in the top three rounds. Ansah offers excellent length and is rotated between defensive end in a three-man front and a linebacker in space. Above all, Ansah’s closing burst will be dangerous if he can ever refine the many rough edges to his game.
+ Florida RB Mike Gillislee (#23/5’11/210) - After being criminally underused in previous seasons, Gillislee has carried the Gators ground game in 2012. The senior looks leaner than his listed 200+ pound frame, but he continues to make appropriate backside reads and cuts to make tacklers miss at the second level.
+ Baylor WR Terrance Williams (#2/6’2/205) - I was not very high on Williams headed into the season and believed his future was solely as a vertical slot threat. However, in recent weeks the senior has shown strength at the catch point and more reliable hands than I had previously noticed. With a player like Torrey Smith drafted in the second-round, who has since progressed into a solid target, Williams looks poised for a second-day selection.
+ LSU DE LaVar Edwards (#89/6’4/258) - Somewhat of the third wheel in the Tigers edge rushing rotation, Edwards has gone from seemingly unknown to definitely draftable. From a production standpoint, the fifth-year senior only had six career sacks prior to 2012. Now, with 3.5 on the season, Edwards is showing off a nice burst and strength that has allowed him to be effective inside or outside.
+ Penn State LB Michael Mauti (#42/6’2/235) - Knee injuries have slowed down Mauti throughout his career, and although he does not possess, the heart of the Nittany Lions defense is always in the right place at the right time. Mauti has done well to recognize formations and personnel packages, chasing screens down before the come into fruition. Other than his medicals having to check out, Mauti screams third day low-risk pick.
+ Duke WR Conner Vernon (#2/6’1/200) - With all the talk of height/weight/speed prospects, Vernon will likely find a way to be draftable without qualifying in any of those categories for his position. However, the senior Blue Devil is fairly quick in his breaks and is never afraid of sitting in soft zones or shielding defenders at the catch point.
+ Texas DE Alex Okafor (#80/6’5/265) - A lot of hype has surrounded the Longhorns junior speed rusher Jackson Jeffcoat, but Okafor is much further ahead in his development. The likely future left defensive end does not have that blinding jump off the ball that covers a ton of ground, however, Okafor uses strong hands, powerful extension, and active legs to press the pocket into the quarterback’s lap. Against West Virginia’s Geno Smith, who is likely the best pocket manipulator in the country, Okafor consistently wreaked havoc and had Smith guessing on how to handle the pressure.
+ Florida junior S Matt Elam (#22/5’10/202) - The Gator safety hits anything and everything in his path, and though sometimes he appears to be reckless, NFL-caliber defensive coaches will want the chance to harness that aggressiveness. Elam is the definition of a downhill safety that takes sharp angles and isn’t afraid to punish at the point of attack, but he’ll need to continue to show the trailing and make up speed deep in coverage.
+ LSU junior ILB Kevin Minter (#46/6’1/245) - Like Elam, Minter plays with a fierce attitude and was seemingly in every big play the Tigers made on defense early in their game against Florida. The junior has plenty of speed to close on the edge and delivers on initial contact. Minter missed a handful of plays due to cramps, but he played like a top-64 pick against an offense that likes to attack defenses in a variety of ways with multiple weapons.
+ Stanford junior TE Levine Toilolo (#11/6’7/265) - Fellow Cardinal tight end Zach Ertz has drawn most of the publicity and targets, but we have considered Toilolo the top draft-eligible player at the position since the beginning of the season. The two complement each other well, but Toilolo is a true inline option at the next level. However, he is occasionally split out wide in Stanford’s offense in the hopes of forcing a positive matchup. Toilolo did misjudge a two-point conversion attempt, but showed toughness at the catch point to strongly go up and get his target. That combined with his excellent run blocking makes Toilolo very intriguing.
- USC QB Matt Barkley (#7/6’2/230) - In recent years, many have downgraded the importance of velocity. Too much, in my opinion. Sure, it is not one of the top traits evaluators should look for when scouting a quarterback, but lacking in the area can severely limit the throws a prospect can make. This is where Barkley suffers. The argument can be made that his offense potentially limits him due to the vast majority of his attempts coming in the form of swings and screens. Or perhaps this is done on purpose. Either way, I prefer to see a quarterback prospect take chances down the field, fit passes into tight or closing windows between the hashes, and make “wow” throws that go beyond excellent touch or placement on vertical sideline routes.
- NC State junior CB David Amerson (#1/6’2/194) - The junior corner had quite the season last year, finishing with 13 interceptions. At closer look, however, many of those came from utilizing solid ball skills after leaving his underneath zone or area in coverage. This year we have seen Amerson consistently struggle when forced to flip his hips and run with receivers down the field. It may be an understatement to say he loses a step in that transition. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he is asked to switch positions, specifically to safety, but a day-two selection appears in his future unless Amerson decides to return in 2013.
- Illinois junior DT Akeem Spence (#94/6’1/305) - Many touted Spence as one of the top defensive tackle prospects in a fairly good class, but thus far he has fizzled. The junior has not been able to win on first contact and is driven out of the hole far too often. Spence needs to regain that burst off the snap to force interior offensive linemen on their heels if he wants to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the 2013 Draft.