Saturday Slate: Week 7 College Prospects to Watch.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at South Carolina

NEPD Staff Writer: CJ Sousa

Wow. WOW. What a weekend in college football. Week 6 saw huge upsets, thrilling conclusions to games, and with Katy Perry getting substantial ESPN TV time, everyone truly went home winners Saturday (Except you, Alabama fans). Week 7 poses some just as important big time match-ups, but first let’s recap quickly.

SEC Battle Royale: It was truly separation Saturday in the SEC. First, Mississippi State took care of Texas A&M, and in convincing fashion. MSU QB Dak Prescott looked like a Heisman contender, and even though Prescott’s counterpart Kenny Hill compiled nice stats, he didn’t play so well. His favorite receiver was MSU LB Richie Brown, who caught 3 interceptions. The prospect everyone is talking about, MSU OLB Benardrick McKinney impressed throughout. Great flow, great anticipation… I’ve officially bought into the Junior ILB/OLB’s hype. In what was one of the ugliest games you’ll ever watch, Florida remains a contender in the SEC East after outlasting Tennessee 10-9. UF DE Dante Fowler Jr. was an animal and dominated the under matched Volunteers’ line.

In the biggest surprise of the day to me, Ole Miss beat Alabama, and QB Bo Wallace was the primary reason. I just didn’t think the Rebels, or Wallace, had it in them. Wallace threw for 251 yards, 3 touchdowns, and most importantly, 0 picks.   My two receivers to watch in the game, Bama WR Amari Cooper and Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell both played well and made their presence felt with 9 and 5 catches, respectfully. It was Bama RB TJ Yeldon who was the more effective of the 2 headed monster with Derrick Henry, as Yeldon ran 123 yards on the day.

And in the nightcap, what a performance by Auburn. In my article last week, I said it was all about the start. LSU simply can’t generate the offense right now to play catch-up. Aubie scored early and often, cruising to a 41-7 win. Auburn WR prospect Sammie Coates had his best performance of the season, catching 4 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown.

Other Impressions: TCU defended home turf and landed a huge upset over Oklahoma. For what could be the most talented defense in the country (OU), they sure struggled giving up over 450 yards. Notre Dame won a hard fought game vs Stanford. Is Everett Golson slowly turning into a quality prospect? Maybe… I need to see more, particularly with how he does vs Florida State. But nonetheless, he’s played well enough to be in the conversation. And, maybe I need to cool it with the Ameer Abdullah hype (I won’t). I predicted the Heisman contender to have a huge game and carry Nebraska to a win at Michigan State. He did score twice in the 4th quarter to make things surprisingly interesting late, but averaged less than 2 yards per carry on the day with his team taking the L.

Playoff 4: Currently, I have it as follows 1) Auburn 2) Mississippi State 3) Florida State 4) Ole Miss.. and yes, Todd Gurley will be and still is your Heisman winner.


#2 Auburn vs #3 Mississippi State 3:30 CBS

You thought the cowbells were ringing’ last Saturday? With the Bulldogs taking care of Texas A&M and flying up the AP top 25, I expect the cowbells to be extra obnoxious Saturday. All kidding aside, this game could very well determine who goes to the SEC Championship game in December. Both Auburn and MSU are undefeated in the SEC west, both have Alabama remaining and both control their own destiny. LSU looks to be out of it, and with it still being a 5 horse race (A&M, Bama, Ole Miss, Auburn, MSU) every game is crucial. Can QB Dak Prescott continue to light up the scoreboard? Can Nick Marshall continue to be the devastating dual threat (100+yards rushing in 3 of last 4 games)? Those are intriguing questions, but to me all eyes are on LB Benardrick McKinney. Auburn loves to attack the center of the rush defense, over, over and over again. McKinney will be in the spotlight all game long, for better or for worse. I’m going to pick Auburn here. I think although LSU and A&M are very quality opponents, Auburn is a different animal and will expose some of MSU’s weakness’. Too much Nick Marshall, too much Williams and Coates on the outside. I’ll say 38-30, Tigers.

Auburn prospects

WR D’haquille Williams: Williams had a quiet day vs LSU in the 34 point blowout. I still think he is Auburns best pure receiving threat even with Coates being healthy now. Excited to see the passing attack when both are in there and contributing. He runs better routes then he gets credit for and has good hands. Great athlete for his size (6’2 215 lbs).

RB Cameron Artis-Payne: Another night at the office vs LSU for Artis-Payne. One of my fastest rising prospects rushed for 126 yards on 24 carries Saturday.

WR Sammie Coates: Looked to be finally healthy Saturday and had a big impact (4 catches 144 yards and a TD). I’ll re-rank my prospects next week, currently have him as the 9th WR prospect for the 2015 NFL draft.

Other prospects: C Reese Dismukes, DT Gabe Wright, S Robenson Therezie, OLB Cassanova McKinzy (Best name in CFB), RB Corey Grant, TE C.J. Uzomah, QB Nick Marshall

MSU Prospects

 OLB Benardrick McKinney: Flew around and looked great last week. Flowed very well sideline to sideline, something A&M will expose if your skills aren’t up to par. Auburn’s jet sweep/dive run attack will place McKinney in difficult positions all game forcing MSU’s hand defensively. Gus Malzahn is my favorite play caller in CFB, and he knows how to put a defense in a bind. His scheme will put McKinney where Auburn wants him, not the other way around. This is McKinney’s biggest test so far, I can’t wait to see how he handles it.

 RB Josh Robinson: Did you know, Robinson is one of 4 SEC Running backs to be averaging over 100 yards per game? Auburn did a nice job against Arkansas 2016 draft prospect Alex Collins, so it will be nice to see just how good Robinson is. He is averaging an astounding 7.5 yards per carry.

 QB Dak Prescott: I’m not buying into the ‘next Cam Newton’ hype, but Prescott certainly is playing as well as any player in the country right now. Everyone talks about his rushing ability, but what will get him into the NFL is his ability to throw. He has improved, throwing a sharp ball and normally seems to be on time. I still don’t see him as a top 4 round prospect, but he will have his opportunities to shine (Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss) to launch himself up draft boards.

Other prospects: WR Jameon Lewis, CB Jamerson Love, Justin Cox, TE/FB/ATH Malcolm Johnson


#9 TCU vs #5 Baylor ABC / ESPN2 3:30

Saturday will be the first AP top-10 game in Waco since 1956. Wowza. The Baylor Bears come in after handling in state rival Texas 28-7 (Boy have the times changed). Baylor QB Bryce Petty struggled, while only completing an abysmal 32% of his passes. Sophomore RB Shock Linwood carried the ball 28 times vs Texas for 148 yards and a score, and I expect him to see a heavy workload once again. TCU comes in riding one of the biggest wins in school history, upsetting #4 Oklahoma. TCU Junior QB Trevone Boykin played outstanding last week in my eyes. Was a legitimate threat on the ground with 77 rush yards, as well as through the air with 318 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception. His solid play has elevated TCU from a back end top 25 team to a top 10 team. At the end of the day, I think it will be too much for the Horned Frogs to handle in Waco. Baylor has some excellent playmakers who are finally back and healthy (Goodley and Norwood) on the outside and I just don’t see TCU sticking with them for 60 minutes. After a good fight from TCU, I expect Baylor to win this game, only question in my eyes is will they cover that 11 point Vegas spread.

Baylor prospects

QB Bryce Petty: I’m sorry, I just don’t see it with Petty… at least right now. Some have flirted his name into the first round and I don’t even see him as a day 2 prospect. He’s had times of inconsistency on film especially from the pocket. On throws he seems to have time for he tends to rush his footwork which leads to some bad mechanics. I want to see him vs Oklahoma until I can really have a definite opinion on him.

DE Shawn Oakman: Everyone talks about Petty, but to me Oakman is far and away the best pro prospect on the team. At 6’9, 275+ lbs, he is an absolute freak coming off the line. He has the ability to beat OTs with his pure length and his speed. A very impressive prospect to keep your eyes on. So far he has 5 sacks and 7 TFLs.

WR Antwan Goodley: Has had injury issues, but seems to be back and healthy now (6 catches 114 yards last week). Built like a stocky running back (5’11 220 lbs) who can flat out fly, Goodley is a playmaker to keep your eyes on.

Other prospects: WR Levi Norwood, RB Shock Linwood, OT Spencer Drango, Bryce Hager ILB

TCU Prospects

S Sam Carter: Shows good athleticism and very good ball skills on film. He seems to have that knack to make the big play when needed. Good size for a safety as well at 6’1 215lbs. Should be a day 2 prospect.

DT Chucky Hunter: Moves well for his size and has great feet. Not often a DT leads his team in tackles, but that’s exactly what Hunter did last season. Quick first step and great hands. Most draft experts have Hunter around the day 2 to 3 range… I think he has a very high ceiling and I have him as a 3rd round DT right now.

Other prospects: QB Trevone Boykin, DT Davion Pearson


#12 Oregon vs #18 UCLA FOX 3:30

Both teams had very disappointing weekends, and will have to respond after losing to two inferior opponents at home. Oregon lost Thursday night to Arizona at home in the Autzen Zoo, while UCLA lost at home in extremely sorry fashion to Utah. This game pits two of the best QB’s in the country against one another. Potential #1 overall pick Marcus Mariota has played well for the most part this year. He is completing 74% of his passes, however in last week’s loss vs Arizona, he completed just 62.5%. When he struggles, Oregon struggles. Same could be said for UCLA and Brett Hundley. He isn’t playing terrible, but he’s not living up to the post 2013 season hype. Both teams have offensive line issues, both teams have defenses that can be vulnerable at times…so I’m going to go ahead and pick the team with arguably the best player in all of college football (Mariota). Oregon, on the road.. I’ll say by 10.

Oregon prospects

QB Marcus Mariota: My overall number 1 player, although he still hasn’t played up to the (probably way too high) high expectations placed on him in the preseason.   Through 5 games, he has yet to throw an interception while throwing for 15 touchdowns. I feel more comfortable personally with Mariota rather than Winston, both off and on the field, so he is still my clear #1.

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu: Has made some freakish athletic plays this year (diving interception vs Mich State), but has also been vulnerable in coverage at times. Lacks good size 5’9 195lbs but can make up for that with his great overall competitiveness. I see him as a 2nd round caliber prospect who by positional need will find a way to be a first round pick.

OT Jake Fisher: Stock is on the rise. Great frame, good extension… he has a mid-round grade from me at this point.

OC Hroniss Grasu: One of the best centers in college football. Ideal for a zone blocking scheme. First really impressed me on film last year vs current Pittsburgh Steelers mammoth DT Daniel McCullers when Oregon played Tennessee. I have him among my top 40 prospects and could easily see him as a first round pick.

Other Prospects: DE/OLB Tony Washington, DE Arik Armstead, RB Byron Marshall, OLB Derrick Malone

UCLA prospects

QB Brett Hundley: He’s been great this year, and then he’s been bad. And at times, he’s been both. His physical talent is unquestioned, but his decision making, durability, and overall consistency is definitely a concern. If EJ Manuel can be a first round pick so can Hundley, but at this point I don’t expect him to be a major factor at the next level. Can he improve? Definitely. He will have to at least be on par with Mariota Saturday if the Bruins expect to be in the game for 4 quarters.

DT Ellis McCarthy: Was inconsistent at times vs Arizona State when I really watched the Bruins defense in depth. High upside though, still probably a day 2 prospect.

ILB Eric Kendricks: Kendricks has been all over the field this season. I see 5 ILB prospects that I really like, and who should all be second round picks or higher. They are ranked as follows: 1) McKinney OLB/ILB (Miss State), Johnson (Tennessee), Kendricks OLB/ILB, Perryman (Miami), Wilson (UGA). I like Kendricks because I believe he’s athletic enough to play multiple LB spots at the next level, and I don’t see him making it out of the first round. Then again, I didn’t see his brother (Mychal) getting out of the first round either.

Other prospects: OL Malcolm Bunche, FS Anthony Jefferson, OC Jake Brendel


#3 Ole Miss vs #14 Texas A&M ESPN 9:00

What a win for the Rebels last week. It was only the schools ninth ever win vs Alabama and only the 3rd since 1989, no wonder Rebs’ QB Bo Wallace was carried off the field. However in the SEC, there’s never any time to celebrate. Up next is the slowly sinking, yet potent Texas A&M Aggies. A&M’s biggest issues have been self-inflicted wounds. You think Patriots’ fans are upset about their team’s receiving core? A&M had an astounding, an absolutely astounding 15 drops on offense Saturday against Mississippi State. That is just absurd. Obviously, this must be turned around to beat Ole Miss. Senior QB Bo Wallace has seen his draft stock rise, however I’m still skeptical. A&M has some freaks on the defensive front who I could see give Bo Wallace all kinds of issues. There will be no cowbells at Kyle Field Saturday night, and I see A&M coming out with the win to move to 3-1 in SEC play. I think A&M has a good size advantage on offense and will be able to run the ball setting up easy passing lanes. If the A&M receivers can actually catch the ball this week, I think A&M will take this one at Kyle Field in what should be a shootout. A&M points, Ole Miss… less points.

A&M prospects

OT Cedric Ogbuehi: Currently my 3rd OT prospect behind Stanford’s Andrus Peat and LSU’s La’el Collins. Has played well this year and still on track to be a first rounder.

OG Jarvis Harrison: A versatile guard who can play any of the interior positions, he should project as a mid-round prospect.

WR Malcome Kennedy: His presence was dearly missed last week. A&M has a lot of good athletes at receiver, but it is abundantly clear Kennedy is the anchor. Should play this weekend, however as of 10/7 it is not a lock.

Other prospects: DE Myles Garrett* FR, RB Trey Williams, TE Cam Clear, DB Deshazor Everett, FS Floyd Raven Jr.

Ole Miss prospects

FS Cody Prewitt: He talked the big game vs Alabama, and he walked the walk. Not his most flawless game on film, but Prewitt was crucial in run defense of TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry. He’ll be in the fire once again with A&M this week as commander of the secondary.

OT Laremy Tunsil*: Potential 2016 #1 overall pick. I think he’s already a top 2-3 OT in college, by the time the season is over he may be a better prospect then 2015 top prospects Andrus Peat or La’el Collins.

WR Laquon Treadwell*:Wasn’t a huge game breaker vs Alabama, but was a factor with 5 catches. There are plays to be made vs A&M, I expect a big game from Treadwell.

QB Bo Wallace: Carried off the field last week by his peers for beating Alabama. He is notorious for inconsistent play. He played great last week against Alabama with 3 touchdowns and ZERO interceptions. I just have a feeling he’s going to struggle in Aggieland… we shall see.

Other prospects: DE C.J. Johnson, SS Serderius Bryant, CB Senquez Golson & DE Robert Nkemdiche*

*2016 draft prospect

 

I’ll also be keeping my eye on the Red River Shootout at noon (Texas/OU) ABC, Todd Gurley, I mean #13 Georgia at #23 Missouri Noon CBS, LSU at Florida 7:30 SEC Network, and USC at #10 Arizona 10:30 ESPN2

 

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32 Responses to “Saturday Slate: Week 7 College Prospects to Watch.”

  1. GM-in-Training says:

    If you were the Pats, what 2015 pick would you trade right now for which veteran linebacker?

    Would you look for someone who wants to contend playing for the Jags/Raiders/Redskins or such?

    How many years left in the tank, at what Salary cap #, at what round draft pick would get an immediate impact player to bolster the LB group?

    • Oppitz says:

      depends… Who is available? I can definitely see they going for a trade like they did last year trying to fix the DL, but I cant think of many quality names available for a late round pick.

      Woodyard? Herzlich? McClain? Dont know if they really are an upgrade

    • steve earle says:

      From what I see the few desirable LB’s that could fit are few and far between and at this point would come at a high price. Bill doesn’t seem to be in any rush or perhaps isn’t willing to pay starting money to a backup talent. Just guessing. After tonight’s game we may see some kind of move, or not who can tell? Herzlich is someone I’ve liked from BC days but doubt Giants will let him go and if they did it would cost.

  2. steve earle says:

    Question? What happened to Stork? I must have had to let the cat out or something because he was playing one min. then gone the next.

  3. Russell says:

    The Patriots LB depth was an issue at he Start of the season, not sure what BB was thinking? If Collins goes down, then what? Bequette at LB? Not alot of depth with qualitiy LB’s in this draft beyond Mckinney.

    • MaineMan says:

      Bequette is really a DE/OLB so was never relevant to bolstering the depth at ILB.

      Going back over the original free agent list, they DID have Woodyard in on the first day (March 12), but they couldn’t offer him the chance to start that the Titans did. Dansby and Jackson were way beyond what they could afford. Daryl Smith was never leaving the Ravens; Beason was never leaving the Giants. Beyond that, there were a bunch of JAGs.

      After the draft, the Pats looked at several more ILB types and signed James Anderson (who was expectedly awful against the run and not all that good in coverage, as it turned out).

      In the draft, after VanNoy (#40, DET), there really weren’t any ILBs with significantly more potential (for the Pat’s system) than the guys the Pats picked up as UDFAs.

      I think they made every effort to address the issue, but there just wasn’t anything better available.

      I’m not wasting my time worrying about McKinney since there’s probably zero chance he falls anywhere near where the Pats would have a chance to take him. There are probably a few others who might be available in the 2nd, and that’s really you get to choose from when you keep winning every year. Of course, the Pats COULD have a disastrous season and THEN they might have a shot at a guy like McKinney. But, I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen.

    • acm says:

      There were a couple of LBs the Pats could have realistically (read after 5th round) gone for at LB imo – Jordan Tripp and Marquis Flowers (also a big SS and ST-er) – considering they both lasted deep into the draft. Quite frankly, I think they could have used both – Tripp was one of the better prospects at LB altogether and eventually one of the best values too, and would have made for an ideal replacement for Fletcher. Flowers, otoh, would have given them the player they hoped to find in Adrian Wilson.

      Anyways, I think the best way to take care of the recently exasperated but long-standing issue of LB depth would be thru either signing a season vet (not many options out there) or promote Darius Fleming to the roster. Fleming could take up Hightower’s role allowing Hightower to move into Mayo’s. Just don’t see much sense in looking for a solution in rookies, or almost rookies, who are not familiar with the system and lack NFL experience to begin with … not to mention the talent-level of 1st year or UDFA players available at this point in the season is unlikely to be very high to begin with.

      • MaineMan says:

        When the Pats took James White at #130, I had been hoping they’d take Kevin Pierre-Louis (Boston College) – same measurables as Shazier and more consistent production over four years. Then, I hoped he’d last until the Pats next pick at #140. Alas, the Seahawks snagged him at #132. He has only one tackle intwo appearances, but then, it’s probably really hard to break into that starting lineup.

        In order to take Tripp (#171, MIA) or Telvin Smith (#144, JAX), the Pats would’ve had to skip Cam Fleming at #140. The Pats had pre-draft private workouts with both and significant contact with a dozen or so other LBs, but I frankly wasn’t any more impressed with those guys than I was with the guys the Pats ended up signing as UDFAs (Skinner, Morris, Gordon, McCuller). Tripp has appeared in two games for the Fins and picked up a couple ST tackles. Smith has started two games for the Jags (it’s the Jags) and has a sack and 20 total tackles. Skinner has 10 TT and a sack in five games with one start.

        Flowers (#212, CIN) may have been a better choice than Jemea Thomas (#206), since he actually made the Bengals’ roster and he’s appeared in five games, although without registering a stat. Picks made that late are only about 50/50 to turn out better than a UDFA anyway.

        • acm says:

          MM, come on now – shouldn’t go on on comparing players on diff teams, in diff schemes, surrounded by diff coaching and teammate talent, having faced different opposition, especially this early in their rookie years.

          Also, draft picks are a fluid thing – one can always move up or down the board, especially in the late rounds, so I wouldn’t take those spots for fixed entities.

          IMO, Tripp has everything the Pats look for in a LB and is likely to have the best NFL career out of all of those guys. I like Skinner but on what level of logic does that justify not going for another LB, especially given the lack of depth and the difference in characteristics. The fact that they left strengthening the LB position for free agency may be interpreted as the Pats just not liking the talent that was on board but it may also be a sign of carelessness and miscalculation on their part (not the first time in recent drafts, mind you e.g. the Tavon pick) that is now coming to bite them in the rear.

          Even then, however, that doesn’t mean the Pats didn’t like Tripp. Maybe they would have taken him in early 6th … or maybe they would have taken him in the 4th instead of Fleming had they not painted themselves into a corner, OL-wise, watching all the OL talent in the draft quickly disappearing off the board and already toying with the possibility of shipping Mankins away at the first chance they get. It’s not like Bb and co haven’t drafted for need over talent before (eg Tavon Wilson – almost funny how LB position was the one overlooked back then again). Not to mention all the unknowns with the OL coaching change and lack of natural talent across an ageing line, with a lengthy history of injuries. You just don’t leave fixing the most important unit in football till the 4th round, not under the circumstances of losing the best Ol coach in the biz.
          How ’bout them Cowboys now … talking about taking a leaf out of the Pats own book in drafting 3 OL-men in the 1st round in the past 4 drafts. If you ask me, they stole the f-ing book, not just a leaf or two. Let’s hope they didn’t replace it with the old Cowboys book ’cause then we are screwed.

          Flowers was a player they could and should have gotten, no excuses there at all given Thomas was a completely unnecessary pick given his size limitations. A talented player but the secondary already had very good depth and his size was always more likely to limit his role in the NFL than not. He was unlikely to be ever anything more than a ST-er and there are plenty of 2nd and 3rd round picks already on the roster that are doing just that, anyway.

          You know, at one point you are gonna have to face the inconvenient possibility that BB is human ergo not perfect, after all. 😉

          P.S. I liked Pierre-Louis as well but thought he went a bit earlier than where the Pats may have been interested in getting a LB, all things considered, hence why I didn’t mention him. And I am trying to stay realistic, which prohibits me from expecting that BB would draft a LB on the smaller end of the size spectrum. And last but not least, I also think Tripp fits better what the Pats do at LB anyway.

        • MaineMan says:

          REPLY to acm:

          You raise a lot of good points.

          First off – my bad. I didn’t post those stats for comparison purposes, but just to note that these guys ARE on 53-man rosters and have gotten at least some playing time in one form or another. I should have made that a separate paragraph apart from my scouting opinions to make that clearer.

          WRT trading around in the draft – while it’s true that those spots WEREN’T “fixed entities” DURING the draft, they are now. What happened happened. It’s a fact that the Pats took Fleming at #140 AND that Tripp/Smith were subsequently taken before the Pats’ next pick. Change any one selection – like the Pats NOT taking Fleming at #140 or making a different move even earlier – and that change unleashes a cascade of unknowable consequences, easily 15,000 ways the draft might have unfolded differently from there (roughly the 31 teams x the 500 or so prospects who were picked after that or signed as UDFAs). It’s fine to speculate about what the Pats might have done differently, as long as one remains aware that the best scenarios for the Pats represent a minute fraction of the total possible scenarios and that we have no way of knowing for certain which scenarios were most likely to occur.

          As with the rest of the rookies, we’ll just have to wait and see how well Tripp progresses. Your projection may well be correct. While Tripp didn’t impress me any more than Morris, Skinner, etc., he didn’t impress me any LESS, either. And, of course, that was just my pre-draft opinion based on my own broad scouting (beyond just reading Kiper et al). But I don’t think that the Skinner or Morris signings necessarily had anything to do with the Pats not drafting an ILB or that the way things turned out necessarily means that they deliberately left addressing the ILB position until UDFA-time. It’s equally valid to speculate that Tripp (#171) may have been higher on their board than Halapio (#179) or Morris/Skinner, but just not as high as Fleming. And then Tripp simply didn’t fall far enough. But I seriously doubt that they simply “overlooked” the apparent need (even in the 2013 draft). BB and his staff are certainly not geniuses, but they’re not idiots, either.

          WRT the “better OL talent” the Pats might have obtained earlier in the draft – Joel Bitonio (#35, CLE) was actually at the top of my board for the Pats at #29 (followed closely by safety Jimmie Ward). I felt strongly that Bitonio was the type of player who could quickly become a top-notch starting Guard in any system. I also sorta liked Mewhort (#59, IND) and Corey Linsley (#161, GBY) and a couple of the OTs, but, otherwise, I was personally pretty “meh” about the rest of the guys who ended up getting picked after the #29 – including Stork and Fleming. Again, we’ll have to wait and see how these guys all work out in the long run, but, at the time of the draft, I didn’t think that the Pats could have addressed the need any better by drafting any of the OL who ended up going in the 2nd or 3rd (aside from Bitonio) instead of Stork and Fleming.

          While it’s true that, ~on average~, more “starters” are obtained in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft, it’s not ALWAYS the case for every position in every draft. There’s no guarantee that they’d have done better by, say taking Marcus Martin at #62 (instead of Jimmy G) rather than waiting to take Stork at #105. And, if they had missed out on Jimmy G, they might well have been painting themselves into a corner wrt needing to take perhaps a lesser QB prospect in 2015 to backup/develop behind Brady. Anyway, while a couple-three of the OL guys who were taken in the 2nd and 3rd this year seem to be doing kinda okay so far, I still haven’t seen enough from them to conclude that they are, or will be, “better” than Stork or Fleming.

          BTW, just to be clear, I don’t think that BB necessarily “missed” on Bitonio. While I can’t “know” this, I suspect that Bitonio was pretty high on his board, too. My guess is that he saw an opportunity to snag a guy (Easley) who COULD become an elite interior pass-rusher (IF he can ultimately translate what he did in college to the pros). Such a guy (if he proves out) would typically be much, much harder to come by in the late-1st/early-2nd than a “very good” Guard. So BB maybe took a risk to try for something really special. I can’t fault him for that, even if Easley doesn’t work out. The other side of this is that we won’t really know how well Fleming will turn out until he’s gotten a few more games under his belt. Bitonio may always be the “more elite” Guard, but if Fleming is good enough, it won’t really matter. At least, not to me. Anyway, that “lack of natural talent” did pretty well for the Pats up until last season and the two guys who were NOT traded away have looked pretty good the last couple games.

          WRT the Cowboys re-stocking their OL – three consecutive 8-8 seasons following a 6-10 season (versus three straight Conference Championship appearances following a 14-2 season) certainly gave them more access to elite talent in the 1st Round of the draft than the Pats typically have. The only one of the ‘Boys 1st-round OL who the Pats would have had access to was OC Travis Frederick (#31, 2013). Instead, the Pats traded their 2013 #29 for four picks from Minny that turned into Collins (#52), Ryan (#83), Boyce (FWIW, #102), and the #229 that was traded for Blount. The point being that it was as much their bad seasons that got Dallas it’s present OL as it was any particular drafting acumen.

          I honestly don’t have much of a clue about Flowers, talent-wise. I initially noted that he seemed to be the SS/LB tweener type that BB appears to have moved away from, so I didn’t invest any time in scouting him any further. I spent much more time scouting the CB/safety hybrids that BB has shown consistent high interest in – guys like Ward, Joyner and Thomas. I actually didn’t like Thomas much at all, but, since picks that late succeed about as often as UDFAs, I thought he was worth a shot. And it wasn’t Thomas’ size that put me off at all. In fact, my favorite CB/safety for the Pats out of this draft class was Jimmie Ward (#30, Niners) who’s about the same size as Thomas. The difference between the two for me was that Ward seemed to show way more football smarts on the field, and the type of relentless effort that would more than compensate for his lack of size. Thomas came off as a bit lazy and lacking awareness. Anyway, I just can’t get upset about a late-6th draftee face-planting since literally 85% of them do for everybody.

          I know you intended it as a gentle poke, and I’m taking it that way. But, for the benefit of others, I probably need to make it clear that I’ve never considered BB to be anything beyond an ordinary human being who’s working hard to do the best he can. I simply appreciate his effort even when things don’t work out as well as I’d hoped. I’ve probably studied the constraints that he and his staff work under more thoroughly than most folks, which I believe maybe gives me a little better grasp of the circumstances/context when his best effort appears to go sideways. But, I’ve never thought of him as a genius or idolized him in any way, so I’m not prone to outrage when he effs up, which he does, though probably less often than I do. However, in this “you’re either with us or against us”, binary-choice world with no middle ground anywhere, it seems that any attempt to illuminate a larger context or discuss circumstance is misconstrued as “reverence” or characterized as “making excuses for your boy.”

          Many of those same people who seem to think of me as being in awe of him, also viciously excoriate BB for being “awful” at drafting (even though, statistically, he’s no worse than average on his drafts) and, therefore, a poor GM (even though there’s way more to being a successful GM than just the draft). They get outraged that he’s not better at it, that he’s not as perfect as they seem to expect him to be, they seem to be bitterly disappointed that he has feet of clay.

          It seems to me that there’s a bit more than a hint of irony there.

        • acm says:

          to MM:

          I perfectly well understand your ripple-effect argument but opening up a pick for a Lb in the 4th wasn’t the point I was making when I said the Pats should have taken an OL earlier instead of Fleming in the 4th. The main idea behind that was to get a top talent on the OL instead of an infirmary HOF like Easley in the 1st with the purpose of getting younger and more talented on the OL as opposed to fooling themselves with a plug-in like Fleming in the 4th. All other things considered – the loss of Dante S, the brewing Mankins situation, etc, etc made going for cripple like Easley look downright irresponsible and foolish.
          And ripple effect or not, I am sure you can agree that the Pats taking an OL in the first and having an open pick in the 4th as a result, wouldn’t have turned Tripp from a late 5th rounder into a 3rd rounder i.e. he would have still been available there.

          Anyways, I think we we have that part well set already.

          Now, the need for the Pats to strengthen the OL and add depth and talent at LB did not develop during the draft but was already well established before it. I for one said here that OL was a must to address with a pick early in the draft. So, there is no speculation involved in pointing the failure to address two glaring weaknesses in a proper manner by merely doing some patchwork on the Ol and absolutely nothing for the LB position. I mean seriously – in what universe is relying on UDFA to fix a weakness not a careless miscalculation on their part? Can one honestly rely on necessarily finding 2-3 proper players at one position with acceptable odds in UDFA?

          I perfectly well understand – as you obviously do too – that there is no guarantee that even a highly drafted player would work out but there is a reason why some players get drafted high, while others not at all – it’s called “odds” i.e. the difference between a calculated risk and a gamble. When you are not playing the odds, you are gambling, not calculating risks. Mind you the Pats are lucky that Brady is still on his feet and still has his head on his shoulders 4-5 games into the season. That’s the problem with gambling – you can never tell how far that gamble can go and how deep it can hurt until it actually does.

          Also, the mentioned risks of a high draft pick not panning out can be attached to any player – especially one with two blown knees and a relatively short college career because of that. So, it’s hard to argue that the Pats somehow did the right and logical thing by going with Easley over say Bitonio, who I liked a lot. Yes, any player can turn out to be a bust but no one knows that at the time of the draft. That is, one cannot miss out on a player during the draft because there is too much specualtion, not projection, involved in defining that term that early in time. That is, with the sure information they had at the time of the draft – existing needs, injury history, evidenced talent/potential (to an extent), etc, etc only a gambler would go with someone like Easley over a player like Bitonio. There was a calculated risk involved in projecting how either of Bitonio or Easly would pan out Easly’s red flags, however, turned that calculated risk into a gamble.
          Shoring up the DT position due to serious injuries to both your starters (Vince and Kelly) from the season before by drafting a guy with two such serious injuries in quick succession during a short college career? That’s like fixing a broken window with an empty frame, in the middle of the winter no less.

          What the Pats did in the draft with the Ol and LB position was a gamble, pure and simple, nothing speculative about because they knowingly and intentionally played the long odds. The need to get not only deeper but also better at those positions was already a fact going into the draft, no moving parts there, no surprises, but well defined needs that had to be taken care of. Instead of doing so, they literally gambled on the fix by going for numbers over quality at OL and leaving the Lb position for UDFA. Skinner is a good player but that doesn’t excuse the fact that they gambled with the depth of quality at such a key position. And, as evidenced already, Skinner on his own is was never really enough – they are still 2 LBs short when 3 6/7 round picks were wasted, a 4th round pick got them depth but not the quality they needed at OL, while their 1st round pick is still more likely to have a short NFL career due to injuries than not.

          regarding them ‘Boys – 3 of last 4 1st round picks spent on OL? That’s a pattern, Mm, not a coincidence. Obviously they had their picks higher than the Pats normally would and thus, usually, access to better level of talent. However, that pattern shows intent and planning – The Boys could have spent those picks on many other positions and until 3-4 years ago, they probably would have – iirc, at the time of taking Tyron Smith in 2011(?) they had taken only one, or was none, OL in the 1st. They could have spent those picks in so many other ways but they didn’t – in 2013 they desperately needed a SAF but passed on Eric Reid at 18 in exchange for a late 3rd rounder, iirc.
          Anyways, my point is that the pattern of drafting OL early is the real reason behind their resurrection as a team to be reckoned with this year. I am basically trying to underline the huge importance of the OL, I’d say the most important unit in football, and it’s close correlation to the overall success of the team as a whole. A pattern and emphasis that were emblematic with BB’s way of building a football team in the past but a pattern I am sorry to say the Pats have moved away from in recent years.

          Regarding Thomas – What I meant by his lack of size being a limitation to his NFL potential was pretty much in line with you said. He doesn’t have the instincts and awareness to be a FS, a position where his size would not have been an issue. He’d have best suited as a SS in the NFL, imo, and for that position he is too small. So all in all he doesn’t fit anywhere as a starter but ST – a good player for a late 6th rounder but as mentioned, given the circumstance, simply an unnecessary pick thru and thru.

          Regarding BB, I made that remark because I have noticed you trying to make one too many excuses on his behalf, while rarely, if ever, criticizing him for anything. And yes it was with good intentions :).
          I have nothing but respect for the man but am not gonna pull any punches when I think he deserves it either – no one is perfect, at the end of the day. My biggest issue with the Bb way is his tendency of late to end up outsmarting himself and seemingly refusing to learn from his own mistakes potentially due to his inability to see them as mistakes in the first place, and that’s a cardinal requirement for bettering oneself. Perseverance and hard-headedness can be good to a pint but beyond that, they may end up dragging you backwards, not driving you forward. In the end of the day, as good a coach BB is, he may well not be good enough to make up for the shortcomings of BB the GM.

          Cheers

    • steve earle says:

      Agree not a lot in the first couple rounds but I’d take A.J. Johnson, Tenn. if available in the 3rd though I do like Perryman, Miami but as of this moment would rather a top OG early.

      • CJ Sousa says:

        Steve – after really looking in debth into both Johnson and Perryman.. both would look really good in a patriots uniform next year (esp. now with the Mayo question mark going forward)

        • steve earle says:

          Agree bout these prospects would be great. I do think Perryman is a low 1st high 2nd and thinking BB will want to resign Revis cap room will be tight so I’d aim for Johnson in the 3rd.
          If the draft was held today I would hope for something close to this:

          1) Vadal Alexander G/T LSU
          2) pkg. with our 5th to move near top of round &take Kurtis Drummond S Mich St.
          3) A.J. Johnson LB Tenn.
          4a) Arie Kouandjio OG Ala.
          4b) Terry Williams NT E. Car.
          5) pkg
          6&7 Trade out for picks in 2016
          Other possible needs look for URFA or UDFA. Bill always does a good job in these areas.

    • steve earle says:

      Any one of our 3 current starters goes down we’re in big trouble. Have to resort to a 4-2-5.

  4. Dan Sullivan says:

    If Patriots sign one of the five linebackers that they worked out today then I hope
    its either Paul Hazel or Justin Anderson. I think the signing is going to happen fast.

    • MaineMan says:

      Of those five, all but Dobbins were originally sent to IR at the end of 2014 Camp and later released with settlements.

      Dobbins is by far the most experienced (8-year vet), but also probably the smallest (6’1″/~240) and was cut by a Falcons team that’s still in serious need of quality defenders.

      Anderson is, like Skinner, a 2014 UDFA.

      Hazel was a 2013 UDFA (Jags). He’s big (6047/~245) and posted some nice pre-draft workout numbers.

      Essentially, these guys are nothing more than potential depth behind Collins/Hightower, then Skinner/Davis/White. None of them jump out at me as possible immediate contributors.

    • steve earle says:

      Maybe after last night BB will decide to try to do something. Just hope he doesn’t Mtg the farm to do it.

  5. Dan Sullivan says:

    With the injuries here is a list of some free agents I like for Patriots.

    LB
    1 Yawin Smallwood
    2 Pat Angerer
    3 Kevin Reddick
    4 Dan Connor

    RB
    1 Ben Jarvis Green Ellis
    2 Antonio Andrews
    3 George Atkinson
    4 Felix Jones

    Other free agents I like. Emmett Cleary OT, Xavier Gimble TE, Josh Mauro or Michael Sam.

    Please someone from Press help BB with Microphone as he is Very Important in New England.

    Watchout for the Jets I am very worried!

    Dano S

    • Russell says:

      RB Ben J.Green Ellis looks likely, he knows the system. I feel this is Connolly’s last year, he has had these “head” injury’s before, and other injuries. LB Smallwood seems like an interesting prospect.

    • MaineMan says:

      They actually had Smallwood in for a tryout back on Sept. 9th, so he may already be in the running now. Still, he’s a rookie (late 7th-rounder), so mostly developmental depth at the moment.

      Angerer just retired (numerous concussions).

      Connor, though a perennial injury case, has good size, experience (6 years) and a productive resume.

      Reddick (2013 UDFA) has good size and was a productive (12 tackles) special-teamer for the Chargers last season (just released by them last week).

    • steve earle says:

      Green Ellis a consideration but so is bringing Gray up from the p-sqd. I liked what I saw of Gray in pre season and think he would be worth bringing up as depth which is all Green Ellis would be. Plus Gray would come cheaper.

  6. Russell says:

    Patriots need to sign RB Ben Green, and pick-up LB John Simon (Ravens P-Squad) to add depth to the LB position.

    • Russell says:

      LB John Simon was grabbed by Houston. I would look into Dana Patrick LB undrafted played with the bears in preseason, from Bama 6’2″ 245 ran a 4.52 -40yd. 5th year seinor.

    • MaineMan says:

      My guess is that they go with Jonas Gray from the PSQ to fill out the roster for now. Once they start getting 1st-team reps, both Gray and Bolden seem capable of getting what’s blocked for them – which of course is always the NEXT question – blocking. Anyway, though he doesn’t run with quite the same power or quick cut as Ridley, Bolden is the same size and is a better receiver. Gray is the same weight as Ridley (225), but a couple inches shorter. In pre-season, he flashed the same kind of power as Ridley on occasion, but he needs to be more consistent. Toward the end of pre-season Gray had also significantly reduced the “dancing” he was doing early on and his cut started to become more effective.

      White is a completely different type, though – like Vereen, not particularly suited (size-wise or technique-wise) for running up the gut through heavy traffic. OTOH, ~if~ the OL can open decent holes for him, White may have better vision and timing on his cut than Vereen typically shows on inside runs.

      Bottom line for me, I guess, is that it seems doubtful that the Pats will go off-roster for a Ridley replacement, at least for now, though I’d expect them to snag another RB to replace Gray on the PSQ. They had Rajion Neal in for a workout on Sep. 18, so he may be a possibility.

      Meanwhile, I’m combing through OurLads roster listings to see who else is out there for both RB and ILB.

      • MaineMan says:

        Well, THAT was revealing. Currently, the other 31 PSQs contain a TOTAL of 8 LBs, half of them rookies (no help, really). The “veteran” LBs all appear to be 2nd or 3rd-year special-teams types.

        There are maybe 3-4 interesting RBs, all rookies and no power-types. “Interesting” for the PSQ, that is. But, if the Pats “poach” a guy off another team’s PSQ, they have to keep him on the 53-man for at least three games, and none of those RBs are THAT interesting.

        Onward to the free agency lists.

        • Oppitz says:

          What about Mikel Leshoure? He is a free agent and has a very good size. We should at least bring him for a workout.

        • MaineMan says:

          Leshoure (5115/230+) is probably worth a tryout (as is BGE) to see what he has now. He had a history of ball-security issues with the Lions (that he didn’t have in college) and seemed to lose some athleticism after his rookie-year Achilles injury (2011).

          OTOH, Taylor McCuller is actually a bit bigger than Leshoure and pretty close athletically. And he already has experience in the Pats offense. He performed pretty well in limited oportunities both running and receiving in pre-season after converting from ILB to FB in Camp. He was also pretty decent on ST.

          And then there’s Jonas Gray who’s a bit shorter than Ridley, but at about the same weight.

          Just my opinion, but it makes more sense to go with a guy who maybe has less long-term upside but who’s already familiar with the offense and has shown at least some ability to produce. At least until the BYE week (wk-9) when they’ll be able to bring a guy or two in for actual practices with less immediate pressure.

      • steve earle says:

        Your on the right track with the brake down of talent available right now MM. I favor bringing up Jonas Gray who is good sized and a slasher. Blocking up front, as always is key.

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