Josh Norris

Heisman Hopefuls

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Evaluating Heisman Finalists

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

College awards should have nothing to do with the evaluation process, since many are handed out to players that produce the best statistics or win popularity contests. However, they can be used by personnel staffs as some form of confirmation bias. Instead of reflecting on the Heisman finalists’ 2013 seasons, let's project them to the next level.

Florida State redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston

Player Comparison: Andrew Luck, in terms of eye level, athleticism and comfort in the pocket.

Where He Wins: An outstanding prospect in a variety of ways. A very confident pocket mover, keeping eyes up in the face of pressure to survey the field. Can improvise and find open space to throw if necessary, or wins from a phone booth/tight spaces. Understands where his weapons win. For big receivers, allows them to win at the catch point. For shifty targets, puts them in the open field.

Where He Fits: I don’t see an offense he does not fit in. Jimbo’s offense is complicated, but Winston runs it masterfully.

NFL Projection: Future No. 1 overall pick, likely May of 2015.

Alabama senior QB A.J. McCarron

Player Comparison: A poor man’s Matt Ryan.

Where He Wins: What you see is what you get. McCarron would carry out the orders of his play caller, targeting the necessary first read with touch and precision. He can hit a second read or checkdown thanks to pocket movement, but is limited in terms of target depth once moved off his plant foot. Experience from center and in the gun helps.

Where He Fits: An offense with weapons around him. Won’t be asked to elevate or carry talent around him, but instead he can work within the gameplan and his limitations. I don’t think he can hit vertical receivers consistently.

NFL Projection: Already some first-round buzz building, and I wouldn’t be surprised if coaches, once they join the evaluation process, like what they see. Top-64.

NIU senior QB Jordan Lynch

Player Comparison: Michael Robinson

Where He Wins: Makes good decisions on run/pass options. Breaks a lot of arm tackles as a runner. Carries the ball high and tight. Does not mind taking a hit. Willing to stay in the pocket without pressure and hit open receivers, but wins as a ball carrier.

Where He Fits: Most quarterback conversions end up as a receiver, but this is an unlikely fit for Lynch. His style projects as a ball carrier that wins with patience and breaking arm tackles. Maybe even a lead blocker.

NFL Projection: Will likely go through the draft process as a quarterback. Sixth- or seventh-round pick. Maybe even undrafted if test numbers show a lack of athletic upside.

Texas A&M redshirt sophomore QB Johnny Manziel

NFL Comparison: Tony Romo in terms of improvisational style.

Where He Wins: Wearing down defenses with tempo. A master of broken plays. Stretches teams laterally with his feet. Forces defenses to match up with quick passes followed by elongated plays with little time to rest in between.

Where He Fits: Has shown development from the pocket, but could thrive in a creative system. Thrives on broken plays. Drops his eye level, but can magically find open space and available passing lanes to connect on ridiculous completions. Will test tight single coverage. Gives his receiver a shot. Can also be a quick decision maker, which is key to Air Raid. Has made more throws outside the numbers and downfield this season. Obviously extremely mobile.

Draft Projection: Top-15.

Auburn junior RB Tre Mason

Player Comparison: Roy Helu

Where He Wins: Decisive one cut runner that sees a lane and attacks it. Reads end of the line blocks quite well, takes inside line if kick out or bounces if seals the edge. Very little wasted movement. Understands to get skinny and pickup whatever yardage is there. Will lower the shoulder to finish off a run. All runs come from shotgun. Loves to use a lateral jump cut when pressing the line.

Where He Fits: Downhill, one cut offense. Either a heavy zone scheme or a team that focuses on frontside runs. Receiving ability and pass protection has not really been tested due to Auburn’s offense.

NFL Projection: If he declares, third- or fourth-round.

Boston College senior RB Andre Williams

Player Comparison: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but with more open field speed.

Where He Wins: Generates a lot of speed in his first two long strides. A reliable runner in terms of hitting the proper hole with proper timing. Sees a lot of handoffs from pistol set and I-formation. Will break ankle tackles thanks to high knees. An improved player that continues to build speed beyond the second level. Very flexible. Follows a lot of front side, power, and pulling blocks.

Where He Fits: For his style, goes down too easily on first contact. Don’t see him in an offense that wants to get its weapons on the edge or in space. Most likely a power option in a rotational backfield.

NFL Projection: Among senior running backs, I would rather have Carlos Hyde and Charles Sims, at the very least. Third day selection.

Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris

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