Josh Norris

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NFL Draft: Norris' Top 100

Thursday, March 13, 2014


21. DT Ra'shede Hageman, Minnesota


NFL Comparison: Michael Brockers with less of a natural anchor but more pass rush upside.


Where He Wins: Predominantly used as a 1/0 technique this season. Obviously has a natural anchor. Improving hand use to create separation. Flashes of good athleticism for someone his size. Has the necessary power and leg drive to keep his opposition off balance.


Where He Fits: Appears his career can be taken on one two ways, either as a 1 in an even front or 5 technique in an odd front. I bet he will test well at the Combine, leading many to pick the latter, but I prefer him inside. Needs to deliver a consistent initial punch.


Draft Projection: First-round.


22. T Taylor Lewan, Michigan


NFL Comparison: Sebastian Vollmer


Where He Wins: Wide stance, wants to find contact through his hands. Has an aggressive mentality, but that can get him in trouble. Even if positioning is off balance, his strong base helps anchor and stop momentum. Better run blocker than pass protector, but wins when gaining a latch in either situation. Asked to pull inside and lead blocks well.


Where He Fits: Could see him on the left or right side.


Draft Projection: Obviously the NFL values offensive tackles. I was a bit surprised by Combine athleticism. Likely top-15 selection.


23. CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State


NFL Comparison: Aqib Talib


Where He Wins: An extremely physical corner who loves to press at the line of scrimmage. Frequently patient with his jam, not overextending but rather allowing the receiver to enter contact area. Rides inside hip downfield while sustaining position. Hand fights and flips his head quickly when receiver looks back for the football at the top of their route.


Where He Fits: Press corner or a few yards off on the edge. Will be physical in run support. Matches up at the catch point in contested situations which is critical.


Draft Projection: Top-32 pick, depends on when the run on corners starts.


24. CB Jason Verrett, TCU


NFL Comparison: Antoine Winfield


Where He Wins: Active player who doesn’t wait to react. Keeps close trailing distance and makes tackles for a loss on crossing routes by forcing receivers back. Quick in his movements once diagnosing and locating. Has great vision, baits quarterbacks from off man with success. Coverage versatile. Hides blitz very well.


Where He Fits: Plays a lot of off coverage, but that doesn’t mean he lacks physical play. Best role will likely be as a slot corner.


Draft Projection: First-round.


25. CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech


NFL Comparison: Alterraun Verner, but a better tackler and run defender.


Where He Wins: I like everything about Fuller’s game. He is a very fluid mover to stick with receivers downfield, despite some unique movements and turns. A very, very good run defender for the position, which he showed while playing a Whip linebacker role against Georgia Tech. Does not mind carrying that physicality over to covering receivers.


Where He Fits: Played a large amount of coverage 6-10 yards off WRs (nearly 57 percent of snaps), but I think he can play press very effectively. Flashed it when asked to do so. Unafraid of lining up over slot targets and attacks the catch point from a variety of alignments.


Draft Projection: Medicals cut his 2013 season short and missed the Senior Bowl because of it, but he is a first-round talent.


26. CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State


NFL Comparison: Jason McCourty


Where He Wins: Attacks the jam or blocking receiver, frequently gets into the action. Will play off or press man coverage, attacks the catch point by cutting in front of the target. Even plays on special teams. Trails in close distances and prevents the sliver of separation at the catch point. Makes things difficult on the opposition.


Where He Fits: Not locked into one side of the field. Likely better in press due to physical nature, but shows he can attack and drive in off coverage.


Draft Projection: Poor performance against Jared Abbrederis, but likely top-32.


27. WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State


NFL Comparison: Victor Cruz, two inches shorter.


Where He Wins: An explosive receiver that wins at every level of the field. Can take short passes for long gains after creating even more separation. Creates space on intermediate patterns. Tracks vertical passes exceptionally well. Takes the top off coverages. Has a large catch radius for someone his size.


Where He Fits: Some might only see a slot receiver, but he’s an accomplished edge target as well.


Draft Projection: Top-40.


28. Edge player Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech


NFL Comparison: Cliff Avril


Where He Wins: Line him up wide as a 7 or 9 and let him run to a spot in the backfield. Explosive off the snap and can win around the corner, on inside moves, or when engaging into the opponents’ chest.


Where He Fits: Many will attempt to project him to an outside linebacker role and drop Attaochu into coverage. I do not see it. He played that role through his junior season, but was so much better as a senior with limited responsibilities in a disruption role.


Draft Projection: Top-50


29. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M


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-10.


30. QB Blake Bortles, UCF


NFL Comparison: A poor man’s Andrew Luck in terms of mannerisms, running ability and pocket movement.


Where He Wins: Strong pocket mover results in handling pressure others might fold under. Not afraid to work through multiple reads and multiple levels of the field. Spent a lot of time in shotgun, but throws from multiple arm angles. Does not hesitate when throwing to covered receivers to let them win at the catch point.


Where He Fits: Velocity has dropped since 2012, and I am not sure why. With that said, I don’t think he has limitations in terms of an offense in the NFL.


Draft Projection: A top-10 selection, possibly No. 1 overall.


31. QB Derek Carr, Fresno State


NFL Comparison: Jay Cutler


Where He Wins: Has an incredible arm, not only when discussing velocity but also touch. Is forced to throw a lot of screens, but flashes upside as a vertical passer when given the opportunity. Shows athleticism when scrambling outside of the pocket. Aren’t many windows he can’t test.


Where He Fits: Doesn’t always throw from a balanced base but has improved willingness to take a hit on release.


Draft Projection: Likely the fourth quarterback off the board.


32. S Jimmie Ward, NIU


NFL Comparison: Poor man’s Kenny Vaccaro.


Where He Wins: Has very good backfield vision and ball awareness to work through blocks and make a play on ball carriers. Comfortable in zone coverage to work off one receiver and close on another. Very good tackler, takes solid pursuit angles and closes assertively but not uncontrollably. Does not mind slowing down smaller slot receivers or contending with tight ends downfield.


Where He Fits: Works his way closer to the line of scrimmage, creeping up to cover inside targets. Does very well to keep everything in front when playing that role, but can also turn and run and stick with breaking routes in man coverage. Can absolutely play that third S role early on.


Draft Projection: Could be a first-round pick.


33. G Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA


NFL Comparison: Louis Vasquez


Where He Wins: Has great balance, rarely on the ground. Does not possess a punishing first punch, but certainly has the movement skills to mirror defensive linemen and is active when looking for rushers.


Where He Fits: Has experience at tackle but should play guard at the next level.


Draft Projection: Possible first guard selected.


34. OL Brandon Thomas, Clemson


NFL Comparison: Rodger Saffold


Where He Wins: Has a great first punch and an athletic lower half to mirror pass rushers on the edge or prevent them from working inside. That athleticism and length will prevent him from being knocked for lack of ideal height. Can bend at the knee, absorb and redirect momentum. Has enough of a grip to keep opponent latched when initial line is thwarted.


Where He Fits: I can see Thomas as a tackle or guard. Has shown the ability to work in tight spaces, but also did a great job on an island against Clowney.


Draft Projection: Might sneak into the late first-round, but most likely a top-50 pick.


35. WR Marqise Lee, USC


NFL Comparison: Reggie Wayne


Where He Wins: Long, lean strider. Best as a straight-line receiver. Doesn't mind chipping the edge when in motion or finishing off runs with low shoulder. Obvious burst of quickness in first or second step, then it builds after that. Lines up in the slot and outside, smooth runner in his breaks to avoid contact. Frequently sent in motion. Hands catcher. Can make people miss in the open field, but doesn't have outstanding lateral agility.


Where He Fits: Likely outside receiver who gets vertical with fluid routes and long speed. Can easily peel back patterns and create separation when working towards the quarterback.


Draft Projection: Has dealt with injuries, drops, and bad quarterback play this year. Still a top-40 selection.


36. WR Kelvin Benjamin, FSU


NFL Comparison: Plaxico Burress


Where He Wins: Huge frame and length to win at the catch point in contested situations. Very good body control to slow down, time catch, and contort frame to haul in a catch.  Long strides allow him to get downfield. Unafraid to work across the middle on deep posts. Able to make adjustments with the ball in the air that other receivers can’t. Displays strength after the catch.


Where He Fits: Can dominate in the red zone, on vertical passes, and with strength on slants. Mainly an outside receiver.


Draft Projection: Needs to improve consistencies in the form of drops, but he and Mike Evans could draw similar interest.


37. S Calvin Pryor, Louisville


NFL Comparison: T.J. Ward


Where He Wins: A huge hitter. Takes aggressive angles downhill. Wants to get in on the action. Very good flashes while playing in the box or closer to the LOS.


Where He Fits: Was forced to play a lot of single high safety or far off the LOS. That is not where he should play at the next level. Was late on passes, but delivered big hits at the catch point.


Draft Projection: Second safety selected, possible top-25 draft pick.


38. TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame


NFL Comparison: Baby Gronk?


Where He Wins: Displays good speed when running down the seam. Has flashed winning with breaking routes or bodying defensive backs at the catch point. A very good blocker for the position.


Where He Fits: It is difficult to project Niklas right now. First, his best trait is blocking. He was kept in during pass protection situations because of it. But receiving and complete TE skills are there.


Draft Projection: Top-64 selection


39. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington


NFL Comparison: Martellus Bennett


Where He Wins: Displays enough agility to be detached from the line of scrimmage but also can in inline. Has the body control to win at the catch point. Movement skills are there to win in the short and intermediate areas. Can be a more than adequate blocker when willing.


Where He Fits: Likely an inline TE but is not stuck there.


Draft Projection: Top-64.


40. Edge player Marcus Smith, Louisville


NFL Comparison: Jason Worilds


Where He Wins: The more I watched the Cardinal, the more I liked him. Not only can he bend around tackles, Smith loves to chase from the backside and converts speed to power with good length and hand use. I know I keep bringing up hands and technical skill, but it really does set great rushers that can win on counter moves apart from good ones that have one trick.


Where He Fits: Like Attaochu, I don’t care how Smith lines up as much as where. He can stand up or play in a sub-package, hand in the dirt pass rushing role.


Draft Projection: Top-75


41. Off LOS LB Telvin Smith, FSU


NFL Comparison: Danny Trevathan


Where He Wins: Closing speed is outstanding. Much more physical than many prospects his size, strong finisher. Has enough trail speed to stick with crossing routes and has a knack for undercutting the receiver. Has enough length to fight off blocks. Attacks the downhill gaps to make tackles for loss.


Where He Fits: I read a lot of evaluators wanting to move Smith to safety, further away from the football. Why? I disagree with this idea. I think Smith can thrive as a nickel backer early in his career. 2) We get too focused on fitting prospects into position labels rather than focusing on responsibilities.


Draft Projection: A third- or fourth-round pick is likely.


42. CB Bashaud Breeland, Clemson


NFL Comparison: Sam Shields


Where He Wins: Very adept at finding the football and attacking the catch point. Worked in off and press coverage. Good at mirroring receivers movements, handles stems and seems to understand alignment tells. A very aggressive corner who competes with the ball in the air and is usually in position to do so.


Where He Fits: Does not seem to be scheme specific. Has also spent time as boundary and field corner.


Draft Projection: Second-round pick.


43. CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State


NFL Comparison: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie


Where He Wins: Played a lot of off coverage, but might be best suited for press in the NFL. Has the frame and closing speed that you want. Impressive athlete with ball skills.


Where He Fits: Footwork can be a mess and I question what he does along the sideline. Tended to struggle most on intermediate targets.


Draft Projection: First-round, possibly as the top corner.


44. T Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama


NFL Comparison: Doug Free


Where He Wins: Does occasionally bend at the waist but is athletic enough to recover and regain balance. Best when keeping separation thanks to great length. Can get a bit short in his drops, but again, has the athletic lower half to react and keep positioning. Better in pass protection than run blocking.


Where He Fits: Likely left tackle but could start on the right side as well. The two aren’t so different anymore.


Draft Projection: Has shown weaknesses this season, mainly in the form of overextension or slow feet off the snap, but talent is there. Combine medicals were reportedly an issue. Top-64.


45. DT Timmy Jernigan, FSU


NFL Comparison: Barry Cofield


Where He Wins: Can be very disruptive when gaining the momentum and balance advantage from the 1/0. Drives interior OL back and has quick feet to make a play in the backfield once creating the operable space. Much better when working upfield. Loves to utilize a pull and swim motion.


Where He Fits: I do not like Jernigan’s game from the 3 technique and/or when he is asked to work around blockers rather than through them. Run defense is hit or miss. I would rather he become an upfield disruptor close to the center.


Draft Projection: Could be the first defensive tackle off the board.



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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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