NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Loyko
The Music City Bowl took place last night between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Here is our breakdown of how the top 2012 NFL Draft prospects on each team fared after re-watching the game film.
#94 DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
- Exhibits good burst off the ball, keeps feet going
- Very athletic for his size, uses a variety of pass rush moves on first series, spin, rip, bull rush
- Uses his quickness to beat the guard on a slant, making plays at LOS
- Lines up all over the DL. Inside shade, head up the guard, and on 3rd and long moves outside to DE
- Able to split a double team easily, rips through showing his power
- Has a great motor, is always chasing down the ball carrier, makes a tackle of a screen pass to a WR
- Has been cut a couple times, needs to anticipate it and use his hands in order to keep OL from his legs
- Changes direction on a dime, fluid lower body, overruns the play, comes back to make tackle from behind
- Looks as athletic as most defensive ends
- Keeps his pad level lower when he plays on the interior
- Sheds his blocker with ease whenever he senses he can make a play–impressive
- Cox’s signature play will be his blocked FG, where he absolutely steamrolls the guard and lays out like a CB to block he FG, Impressive athleticism for someone over 300 pounds
- Gets overaggressive at times, tries to make every play, which starts to open up holes, needs to stay at home a little better
- As the game goes on, he has just worn his blocker down, beats him easier and easier
- Plays with a swagger and confidence I like to see
Fletcher Cox is without a doubt on of the best DT prospects in America. His combination of power and athletic ability make him a nightmare to block one on one. Exhibits great explosion off the ball, unlike many DT he keeps his pad level lower than the OL. His ability to shed blocks and free himself up allows him to make a ton of plays in the backfield.
I have seen comparisons to Nick Fairley and they are not far off. I think Cox can play in either the 4-3 or 3-4. Like Fairley, Cox is still pretty raw. He relies mostly on his natural ability to make plays. Once he learns to diagnose and read plays better he will be scary. His pass rush technique needs work because he has a tendency to let the OL get their hands on him. Unlike a lot of play making DT, Cox’s motor is always running, chases down the play and plays to the whistle. However, there isn’t a more athletic DT prospect in this years draft.
If the rumors are true that Cox has declared, he will likely be picked in the first round and will be one of those “buzz” prospects whose stock could rise even higher. I like him better than Brandon Thompson the Clemson DT.
#13 CB Jonathan Banks, Mississippi State
- Long lean frame, with long arms. Perfect build for a CB
- Active in run support, doesn’t shy away from contact
- Struggled to get off block, which lead to rushing TD
- Rarely is thrown at, WF very cognisant of where he is at all times
- Good timing on the CB blitz, aggresive at the LOS
- Has played in mostly as zone today, but has the ability to play all coverages
Banks is a very good coverage corner. He basically shut down one side of the field against Wake Forest. He has very good size and length for a CB, something valued highly by NFL scouts right now. One of the most active CB in run support I have seen this year. Banks is a versatile CB who is used on blitzes. I think Banks could excel in press man, off and zone coverages. It will be interesting to compare him to Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward who I am scouting next game.
If Banks declares he is firmly in the second round with the ability to move up the board. Certainly his combination of size, speed and the ability to return kicks will be highly attractive to the NFL.
#55 OL Quenton Saulsberry, Mississippi State
- Starts the game playing RG
- Right side of the line, gets beat by a NT, DE twist which leads to a sack
- Opens up a huge hole, using good footwork to turn the DT, results in a long gain
- Gets to the second level quickly
- Not an overly big OL. He looks about 300 pounds, beats his opponents with quickness
- Saulsberry is very good at sealing off his man, uses good footwork and doesn’t overextend
- Shows the ability to pull and find his man, whenever Miss St. runs successfully its behind him
This is the second game I have scouted Saulsberry this year, and for the second time I come away impressed. He is not a big or overly physical lineman. He is a versatile, quick and hardworking player. Due to his size and quickness he is much better suited for the center position. Saulsberry does a very good job of sealing off his man and creating a hole. Uses good footwork, positioning and quickness. Needs to get stronger, since he can struggle against more physical players. Probably best suited for a zone running team. Saulsberry is one of the 5-6 best center prospects in the draft and will be drafted in the 5th-7th round area depending on team needs.
#28 RB Vick Ballard, Mississippi State
- Big, sturdy frame
- Catches the ball well out of the backfield
- Fumbles the ball when there isn’t much contact–big red flag
- Next play after the fumble, runs for a 60 yard TD
- Has a powerful stride, with good speed for a RB of his size
- Exhibits good athleticism and hands getting fully extended for a catch, even though ruled Out of Bounds
- Good change of direction, explodes out of his cut
- Not sure how good his vision or running instincts are
- Shows patience as a runner, allows his blocks to open up
Ballard is a very intriguing running back prospect. He had a great junior year and expectation were extremely high for him heading into this year. Those expectation have obviously not been meet. In my opinion Mississippi State has misused Ballard. With Dan Mullen running the zone read offense he brought from Florida, they QB is allowed to make more plays than the RB. Whe Ballard has the ball he exhibits pretty good speed for a bigger back. He has a powerful stride and runs with power. Not afraid to give and take contact. Runs with a patience that a lot of bigger backs don’t have. Has good hands out of the backfield.
Ballard is a better athlete than he is perceived to be. When I go to do my rankings Ballard will be a top 15 RB prosepct and should get drafted around the 5th round.
#2 WR Chris Givens, Wake Forest
Simply put I was not impressed by Givens. For a player that was as hyped as him coming into the game he made little impact. A lot of that can be credited to the Mississippi St. defense and J. Banks, but Givens doesn’t stand out. He’s not very dynamic to begin with and his playmaking ability is questionable. It’s said that he has decent straight line speed, however I didn’t see it translate in this game. Exhibited “alligator arms” on more than one occasion. Givens is more of a possession WR who needs to be in space to make plays. Not able to get the seperation that is needed against a top CB. Before the game Givens talked about possibly declaring for the Draft, my advice is don’t.
Other Players who impressed me:
#6 CB Kenny Okoro, Wake Forest- A junior CB, who has good size, exhibited fluid hips, will stay in school and is someone to watch in 2012
#25 CB Corey Bloomfield, Miss. St- Was thrown as alot playing opposite Banks, held up well. Made alot of plays on the ball, has good ball skills. Only a junior
#50 NT Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest- A very very undersized NT, was disruptive all day long. Very quick and shifty. Not much of a prospect unless he adds 30 pounds. Only a Soph. so he is someone to watch in the future.