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 exposures and not full evaluations, so no conclusions have been made. As always, you can send observations, comments, or criticisms to me on Twitter.
+ Ohio State DE John Simon - A four sack performance would land just about anyone on this list, but Simon’s skills matter more than production. The senior lacks ideal size and length, but makes up for his limitations with leverage, excellent strength, and an outstanding motor. He will likely end up as a second day selection, but Simon could have a ceiling of Jason Babin.
+ Tennessee TE Mychal Rivera - Off of last year’s tape, I thought Rivera lacked a smoothness to his game and he repeatedly appeared to fight the football into his hands. This year, the Vol looks very comfortable as an inline blocker and working the intermediate and downfield areas. We expect Rivera to fill a second tight end role in the NFL as a third day selection and his game is only improving, especially after the catch.
+ Penn State LB Gerald Hodges - We will touch on Michael Mauti later, but Hodges has elevated his game in recent weeks. Along with doing his best work in coverage, Hodges has started to get physical with blockers at the point of attack and knife through lanes to make tackles in the backfield. His pad level could be a bit lower, but Hodges is more consistently undercutting passes or running lanes to make impact plays.
+ Wisconsin RB Montee Ball - After early season struggles, including two concussions, Ball is running better than ever. We questioned his vision prior to this year, but Ball has learned to run behind his less talented (than usual) blockers, utilizing lateral moves to find open lanes and knife through them. There has even been some talk of the Badger being the first running back selected in April. We disagree with that statement, but expect Ball to be a late second, early third day selection.
+ Utah State CB Will Davis - A personal favorite, Davis has done masterful work in his first season as a full-time starter. Last weekend against Louisiana Tech, Davis was the first to intercept Colby Cameron this season, effectively ending a late first half drive in the endzone. On the play, Davis undercut his man and beat him to the catch point. His awareness and ability to stick and trail with his opponent gives Davis a great advantage. At worst, expect Davis to go in the second day.
+ West Virginia WR Tavon Austin - 572 all purpose yards, what a game. We already knew about Austin’s ridiculous open field moves and ability to force tacklers to miss. The hardest thing to do in the NFL is tackle in space, and Austin has a better skill set in that category than any other prospect. Most of all, we saw Austin take plenty of snaps in the backfield last weekend against Oklahoma. If he shows the underrated strength that Percy Harvin plays with in that role, the comparison could be more fitting than initially expected.
+ Fresno State S Phillip Thomas - Thomas’ production (eight interceptions, three touchdowns, four pass breakups, 10.5 tackles for loss) is outstanding, but his skills match up. He is at his best when covering the back half, either working sideline to sideline to undercut passes or trailing vertical receivers, turning his head and beating the opposition to the catch point. I have heard many NFL Scouts consider him (easily) the best safety prospect since Earl Thomas and Eric Berry.
+ Kent State junior RB/WR Dri Archer - The best playmaker not getting enough attention, Archer shoots out of a cannon from the running back or receiver position, evading tacklers in the open field for big gains. Right now, he appears to run at a different speed than everyone around him, so a sliver of space can be taken to the house. We doubt Archer declares for the Draft, but keep his name in the back of your head for future reference.
+ UCLA junior OLB Anthony Barr - The Bruin has really burst onto the scene as part of a talented defense. Barr doesn’t possess refined technique and he loses too often when blockers get into his body, but his combination of length and closing speed is excellent. With his great production, Barr may depart to the NFL and we’d expect a day two selection at worst due to the obvious tools.
+ San Jose State junior QB David Fales - Another underpublicized junior, Fales utilizes solid pocket movement and downfield arm to make good things happen. The Spartan may work his first read too long, but that does not prevent Fales from taking the check down or looking at his second option. Also, he isn’t completely smooth in the pocket, choosing to wave the ball with a circular motion while holding it at stomach level, but everything is there for Fales to make an even bigger impact next year.
- Virginia Tech WR Marcus Davis - By now, everyone has likely seen the video of Davis’ blocking “effort”. Perhaps more troubling is Davis’ inconsistency, specifically with catching the football. His measurables and test scores are going to be outstanding, likely leading to a team falling in love with his athletic upside, but for every great downfield catch Davis juggles or drops another. In my opinion, some of those kinds of prospects make it, but many don’t.
- Ohio State junior DT Johnathan Hankins - Has anyone seen this guy? Coming over summer tape work, I absolutely loved Hankins as a prospect and what his potential might be. Lately, everyone else on that Buckeyes defense has impressed except for the big bodied junior. With Alabama’s Jesse Williams and Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson producing good performances on a very consistent basis, Hankins needs to end the season on a high note.
- Penn State LB Michael Mauti - After our own Alen Dumonjic’s excellent article, Mauti re-injured one of his knees, with speculation being another ACL tear. It is tough news for such a determined and aware player. Projecting where an injured player, especially one with the medical history of Mauti, will be selected in April is nearly impossible since medical tests are one of the key unknowns during the process. We hope a team takes a chance on him on the third day, because he is certainly a second day talent.