Josh Norris

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Draft 2012: E-W Shrine Wrapup

Friday, January 20, 2012

Offensive Line

1. Quentin Saulsberry (6-2, 302), Mississippi State - Saulsberry has a natural center frame and does not shy from contact. With experience at four offensive line positions, he will likely stay at the pivot spot in the NFL. He’ll need to improve his balance, first punch, and anchoring in pass protection, but he flashed quick feet to reach and seal holes against defensive tackles or at the second level against linebackers.

2. Brandon Brooks (6-5, 353), Miami (OH) - Even with his massive frame, Brooks carried his weight the best of any lineman on the West roster, moving very well. Balanced and strong at the point of attack, he flashed veteran moves by using defensive tackles’ momentum against them. Like most big interior linemen, Brooks struggles with leverage occasionally. Admittedly, I will need to review more of his games before the draft, but Brooks looks like a future NFL starter.

3. Rishaw Johnson (6-3, 309), California (PA) - Johnson is naturally powerful and cleared away many interior defensive linemen this week. However, Johnson needs quite a bit of seasoning; he is consistently high on first contact and prefers to keep his arms close to his body rather than pushing with locked arms. Johnson was one of the few to deliver a strong punch even when drop-stepping. If the Ole Miss transfer can release from his stance more quickly and add some flexibility to plant and anchor, he has a chance to start in the pros.

4. Al Netter (6-4, 316), Northwestern - Netter lacks the same strength as the others on this list but demonstrates technical skill. He consistently neutralizes defensive linemen’s hand placement, slowing down their upfield momentum. Netter's sluggish feet will limit his time at tackle, but he looks like one of the few that can transition from outside to guard successfully.

5. Derek Dennis (6-3, 310), Temple - A naturally strong run blocker, Dennis’ biggest issue is leverage. His first movement is too upright, which limits his ability to recover against quicker defensive linemen and set back in protection. If he can improve his stance for balance and lower his hand placement, Dennis will be much improved.

Defensive Line

1. Justin Francis (6-2, 270), Rutgers - Francis was the best pass rusher in practice for either squad, using a nice first step inside or outside to beat heavier-footed tackles to the spot. He’s a feisty competitor but plays reckless at times, guessing on the play rather than reacting. Because of his frame, Francis needs to learn proper leverage to get under bigger tackles’ pads, but he flashes natural strength and a willingness to fight through contact with counter moves.

2. DaJohn Harris (6-3, 308), USC - The overlooked USC product had a very consistent week, constantly getting by interior linemen with brute strength and a deceiving first step. Harris jumps the snap well and looks for contact with his hands. He may never be an NFL starter, but Harris will give effort when his chance comes. West coaches even gave Harris some looks at defensive end.

3. Dominique Hamilton (6-5, 320), Missouri - Hamilton was quite a surprise, not only showing the strength to hold a double team but also using his length to bull rush. He may not win on first contact but he continues to drive his legs while keeping his eyes in the backfield. Hamilton's height may intrigue 3-4 teams as a potential 5-technique defensive end.

4. Tyrone Crawford (6-4, 285), Boise State - There is nothing flashy about Crawford but he regularly found his way into the backfield to disrupt. More of a technician than athlete, Crawford holds and moves well with his weight. He already shows nice hand placement and effort. Crawford is a pedestrian talent with limited upside, but plenty of pass rushers have been successful with his skill set.

5. Micanor Regis (6-3, 309), Miami - For now at least, Regis is a one-down pass rusher. He was nearly unstoppable all week in one-on-one pass rushing drills but struggled mightily defending the run. While rushing, Regis has quick feet and immediately tries to beat the slower interior linemen with a swim move or push-and-pull technique. However, against the run he lowers his head and rarely fights over a block. There is no doubt Regis can learn on the job while contributing in pass rush situations.

6. Akiem Hicks (6-5, 324), Regina - Another raw prospect that played in Canada, Hicks has tremendous natural talent. Although a bit soft in his upper and lower body, Hicks’ bull rush is tough to contain because of his power and length combination. He has yet to show he can split a double team or any technical pass rush moves. Hicks needs to carry himself more like an athlete instead of hanging his arms by his side, but if he ever understands how to use his natural gifts he could be special.


1. Josh Kaddu (6-3, 235), Oregon - I mentioned Kaddu in my preview piece, and although I never got to see him in full pads, my intrigue grew. He fits perfectly as a 4-3 strong-side 'backer and is comfortable in space or on the line to bump the tight end. He has length, which helps his pass rushing skills and to hold the edge against the run. I expect Kaddu to be one of the first East-West Shrine attendees to be drafted. He can fill an Akeem Ayers-type role.

2. Brandon Lindsey (6-2, 255), Pittsburgh, - This ranking has very little to do with Lindsey’s week of practice. In fact, Lindsey looked bad as a 4-3 strong-side linebacker. Luckily for him, he will never play that position in the NFL. Lindsey has a natural first step as a pass rusher and fits as a 3-4 outside 'backer. He shies from contact a bit too much but in limited time covering the flats, Lindsey looked quite fluid and beat plenty of tackles in pass rushing drills with a quick spin move.

3. Shawn Loiseau (6-0, 241), Merrimack - Loiseau lacks in almost every measurable, but is simply a football player. He loves contact, which drew the ire from his offensive teammates but applause from the defensive huddle. Loiseau may come in as a camp body or late-round pick, but his willingness to be physical and love for the game will make it difficult for him to be cut. He’s a potential special teams stud.

Defensive Backs

1. Josh Norman (6-0, 203), Coastal Carolina - Norman was the top performer of any position on either roster. He uses his length well to stay with downfield receivers and a natural ability to turn his hips, plant, and close after a quick decision. There has been some talk of him guessing on routes in practice, but with his consistent success I find that hard to believe. Because of his size and toughness, some teams may look at him as a safety, but Norman has excellent cover skills both inside and downfield and rarely falls for any type of double move.

2. Micah Pellerin (6-0, 195), Hampton - Another surprising player, Pellerin has a ton of natural ability and never backed down from the higher profile receivers. He can get a bit high in his back pedal and needs to eliminate extra steps when reading routes, but Pellerin’s chippy play will aid him in the future. He can certainly turn and run in off coverage.

3. Shaun Prater (5-10, 185), Iowa - Prater has great technique in off coverage, staying low and driving upfield after recognizing the route. He plays faster than he might run and consistently stayed in the the receiver's pocket. However, Prater seems to lack confidence in his ability, often lining up five or seven yards off the line at the snap. He has the physicality to play at the line; he just needs more practice.

4. Duke Ihenacho (6-0, 212), San Jose State - Ihenacho impressed me with his size in person, looking much bigger than on film. I think he has the ability to play either safety position, but his downhill closing ability leans him towards playing in the box. He makes quick decisions and closes quickly, but sometimes that takes him out of plays against cutback runners. He was the best pure safety on either squad.

5. Robert Blanton (6-0, 197), Notre Dame - Blanton isn’t the typical corner, excelling more at the line than in off coverage downfield. His length and ability to hold the edge with toughness are hard to find. However, Blanton just cannot play in off coverage due to slow hip turn and heavy feet, usually forcing him to grab receivers downfield. Blanton is a great fit in a press scheme (think Seahawks), and can run with receivers after the jam while slowing them down.

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 .
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