NEPD Staff Writer: Matthew Jones
This year’s Rose Bowl provided something for everyone: frequent scoring in the first half, a defensive struggle in the second half. Ultimately, Stanford emerged victorious, concluding the season at 12-2 via a 20-14 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, who finished the season with an 8-5 record. The game was a mixed bag in regards to its top potential NFL Draft prospects; read on for more information regarding how the likes of Stepfan Taylor, Zach Ertz, Chase Thomas, Shayne Skov, Montee Ball, Ricky Wagner, and Travis Frederick performed last night.
RB Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
• Misses a read on his initial blocking assignment, forcing quarterback to roll out
• Picks up a handful of yards after contact to convert on second down and one
• Converted a goal-line situation for a touchdown behind some effective blocking
• Explodes through a massive hole for a gain of 15 yards or so in the second quarter
• Gives great effort on plays; never goes down easily and uses both power and finesse
• Always seems to lower his shoulder into contact and end up falling forwards
• Converted on third-and-one, effectively ending the game with over one minute remaining
Summary: Taylor ran with more leverage and drive than anticipated; his 88 yards on the ground and contributions as a receiver were instrumental in Stanford’s offensive success on a night which was not complimented by strong passing performances. He projects as a fourth-round pick or so in this April’s draft.
TE Zach Ertz, Stanford*
• Makes his first catch out of the slot on a “whip” route, resulting in a nine-yard gain
• Uncovered himself deep and made a leaping catch down the seam for a massive gain
• Made an impressive block on the play side of Stepfan Taylor’s first touchdown run
• Overthrown on an out route on third down and five; had some separation vs. zone
• Active, willing chip or drive blocker; not as powerful as he is energetic in that regard
• Lined up split wide to the right on a rushing attempt to the opposite end of the field
Summary: Ertz was Stanford’s leading receiver on the night; his 43-yard reception alone would have represented an upgrade over the game totals of any other Cardinal receiver. At this point, Ertz is not an outstanding blocker, but his combination of size and athleticism could earn him a spot in the early-to-mid second round.
OB Chase Thomas, Stanford
• Makes a tackle in the run game while otherwise engaged by left tackle Ricky Wagner
• Looks smooth dropping into zone coverage on a third-down play in the second quarter
• Rushes out of a three-point stance and uses a spin move to disrupt Ricky Wagner
• Gets his hand on a pass over the middle; however, the pass is still caught for a first down
• Seems to rotate out of the game more often than expected; frequently replaced
• Pursuit on third down forces a scramble which eventually falls short of converting
Summary: Thomas did not do very much to enhance his draft stock in tonight’s game. He looked effective dropping into coverage and challenged Ricky Wagner with a powerful spin move, but he was not as consistently visible as a potential first-round draft pick is expected to be. The early second round seems more accurate.
IB Shayne Skov, Stanford
• Diagnoses and stops a Montee Ball rushing attempt after a gain of just one yard
• Slips a second-level block attempt by Ricky Wagner and gets involved in run defense
• Helps hold the point of attack on a fourth-down stop at the goal line in the second quarter
• Plays off of a block and makes a tackle in the screen game to force fourth down
• Disguised a blitz well on third down and recorded a pressure which forced fourth down
Summary: Skov is one of the more polarizing prospects in this year’s class; his arrest and injury history will scare some teams off, but he has an intriguing skillset which compensates for other concerns. A team with a propensity for blitzing should take a chance on Skov at some point in the third round of the draft.
RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin
• Runs through a huge hole to convert on second-and-twenty; nice hit at the end
• Requires four defenders to tackle him on a tough inside run; slips through a small hole
• Makes an impressive cut at the line of scrimmage and falls into the end zone from eleven yards out
• Fights for extra yardage on a moderate gain which begins a new set of downs for the Badgers
Summary: Ball rushed for 100 yards and one touchdown and was easily the most impressive offensive performer of the night on either side of the ball. His vision, agility, and power were all on display tonight; his performance certainly improved his draft stock in my estimation. He should be a third-round pick.
OT Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin
• Seals his man inside on a conversion which sets up a first-and-goal situation in the first
• Gets called for holding, which results in the loss of a Montee Ball touchdown run
• Unable to handle Chase Thomas’ spin move; looks to have been caught off-balance
• Handles a subsequent spin move by Thomas effectively; allows quarterback time to convert
• Pancakes and falls upon an opposing player in the run game; allows ball a couple of extra yards
Summary: This was not one of Wagner’s most impressive performances; his success over much of the game was offset by a few costly mistakes. At this point, concerns about his ability to play left tackle at the next level warrant further investigation. At this point, he seems like a safe third-round talent who may slip into the fourth.
C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin*
• Outstanding block frees up Montee Ball on his second-and-twenty conversion
• Brings a blitzing linebacker to the ground on a rushing attempt which goes for a first down
• Seems to have some trouble with leverage on a goal-line carry; gets stood up and controlled
• Hasn’t been getting much push up the middle on inside rushing attempts; leverage again
Summary: Frederick did not do much to stand out today; if anything, his lack of dominant plays was somewhat puzzling considering his size and pedigree. He did not make many mistakes, but may be better off in a more aggressive blocking scheme as a right guard in the NFL. Frederick may want to return to school.