Friday, October 24, 2014
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Five draft questions

I'm pleased to announce a new weekly feature here at MTC. Starting today, and continuing every week until the NFL draft in April, we will do five questions with Scott Wright, draft analyst and founder of draftcountdown.com. Scott's Web site has a ton of information for draft junkies, including mock drafts, rankings, interviews and more. And unlike some of the other sites out there, it's completely free. Each week, Scott has agreed to answer five questions via e-mail for an MTC post. We'll touch on the latest news, talk about the rise and fall of certain players, and see if we can get a hint as to who the Eagles like. If there are certain issues/players you'd like me to ask Scott about, feel free to e-mail me. Before we get started, please be aware that Scott sent these questions back to me a week ago. However, the Jim Johnson news broke and I didn't think it was appropriate to post them. This past week, with the Trotter/Houshmandzadeh/Dawkins/Boldin posts, MTC had one of its most-read stretches over so we thought we'd save the draft post for the weekend. Going forward, I'll likely post Scott's answers on the same day every week. Q: You were just down at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. What were the two or three biggest things you came away with from your trip? A: The biggest revelation for me was San Jose St. cornerback Coye Francies. He wasn't as impressive as [Cardinals cornerback] Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was last year but he still moved up at least a couple of rounds and I think you can make the case that he is as talented as any senior cornerback in this draft not named [Ohio State's] Malcolm Jenkins. I was also very impressed with Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas, but it wasn't necessarily his physical abilities that caught my attention. Delmas was the player I thought he was but he also showed incredible leadership skills, which is something you can't always evaluate by watching game film. Early in the week Delmas acted as the quarterback of the secondary, directing his teammates and getting them into position. However, later in the week when he was hurt and in street clothes he still stayed involved, encouraging guys as they came off the field. The final thing I'd point out is how I was finally able to see up close what everyone has been so concerned about with Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher. The guy definitely looks the part and for most of the week he was absolutely dominant in practices, appearing to be a top five overall caliber prospect. However, there were a few lapses where he let mid-round pass rushers get the best of him in 1-on-1's and he also really struggled in the game. For the most part I have been a huge Oher fan and to a degree I still am, but I no longer scratch my head in amazement when I hear people talk about him potentially dropping a bit. Still, if he falls out of the top half of round one, he'll be a steal for someone. Q: There has been a lot of talk about where Pat White will go and what position he will play. What are your thoughts on the West Virginia QB? A: For a wide receiver Pat White is a pretty good quarterback. In all seriousness White was an amazing college quarterback and you can't take anything away from him in that regard but I highly doubt he will be able to stay under center at the next level. I actually spoke with White and he is pretty determined to remain at quarterback but when push comes to shove I imagine he'd rather be a wide receiver in the NFL than a quarterback in the CFL. Personally, I think it would have been in White's best interests to at least get a little work in at wideout down in Mobile but he was exclusively a quarterback all week long. Coming out of high school he had offers to play other positions at big-time SEC schools but he chose West Virginia because they were willing to let him play quarterback. I suppose his mindset is that he proved everyone wrong once and he can do it again. However, Rich Rodriquez is at Michigan and nobody runs a spread offense in the NFL. At one point I thought White had a chance to go as high as round three or four as a wide receiver if he embraced the move and showed well at events like the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine. However, since he is obviously extremely reluctant to play anywhere other than quarterback he will probably be a late rounder. Q: This is probably going to be a weekly staple. The Eagles have two first-round picks. What is your early read on what their options might be? Are there specific names fans should frantically be Googling? A: I think the Eagles top priority is going to be offensive tackle since both Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are in their mid-thirties [and free agents] and Winston "I'm Still Having Nightmares about Osi Umenyiora" Justice hasn't shown he can be a starter in the pros. Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith and Andre Smith will all be off the board by the time Philly is on the clock, although with two first-round picks they do have the ammo to move up. The guy I'd keep an eye on at No. 21 is Michael Oher, who is arguably the most talented blocker in this draft. Options at No. 28 could include Arizona's Eben Britton and Connecticut's William Beatty. I think Philly could also consider a defensive back in round one, with Louis Delmas, William Moore of Missouri and Rashad Johnson of Alabama as options at safety and Alphonso Smith of Wake Forest and D.J. Moore of Vanderbilt being possibilities at cornerback. As a darkhorse keep an eye on the top three running backs too (Chris "Beanie Wells of Ohio St., Knowshon Moreno of Georgia and LeSean McCoy of Pittsburgh) because Brian Westbrook always seems to be nicked up and they could use an insurance policy. Q: What player’s stock could rise or fall the most between now and draft day? A: That's kind of relative because guys can go from late-first rounders to mid-first rounders, late-round picks to mid-round picks, etc. With that said here are eight guys who I think could shoot up boards as the draft nears: Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas St. - Prototypical pocket passer with great size (6-6, 250) and a strong arm. Could interest teams like Chicago, Tampa Bay and Minnesota in the late teens or early twenties. Jason Watkins, OT, Florida - A very good athlete with a great frame (6-6, 315) who could emerge as one of the top second-tier offensive tackles in this draft and a legitimate second round pick. Sean Smith, CB, Utah - Hasn't gotten a lot of national attention yet but his combination of size (6-3, 214) and speed (4.4) could send this former wide receiver's stock soaring in the next month or two. Clay Matthews, OLB, USC - Has already improved his stock as much as anyone in the country this year but there is still a chance he could work his way into the first round before all is said and done. Jarron Gilbert, DL, San Jose St. - A bit of a DT / DE 'tweener at 6-6 and 280 pounds but had a monster senior season (22.0 TFL | 9.5 Sacks) and really opened some eyes at the East / West Shrine Game. Jared Cook, TE, South Carolina - This former wide receiver has some question marks but he should blow people away in workouts and could emerge as the No. 2 tight end prospect in this draft. Paul Kruger, DE, Utah - This redshirt sophomore really burst onto the scene in 2008 (16.5 TFL | 7.5 Sacks) and at 6-5 and 265 pounds he has the size to be a true 4-3 defensive end. Bradley Fletcher, CB, Iowa - Is coming off a very impressive showing at the East / West Shrine Game and has the triangle numbers (6-2 | 200 | 4.50) to catch the attention of scouts in workouts. Q: We often hear experts say drafts are deep in certain positions. Are there any positions that are or aren’t deep as you see it? A: There are always positions that are deeper than others and as always the underclassmen helped to address some deficiencies at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. The strongest position in this draft is probably linebacker and in addition to Aaron Curry, Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, James Laurinaitis, and Clint Sintim there are also a bunch of college defensive ends who will likely project to outside linebacker at the next level, namely Everette Brown, Brian Orakpo, Aaron Maybin, Larry English. And that's just the likely first rounders! This is also one of the best groups of centers we've seen in quite some time. I would probably say safety is the weakest position just because there isn't a sure-fire first rounder at this point, although there should be some value and depth later on. Also, after you get past the top five quarterbacks the talent level really falls off the cliff.

Five draft questions

I'm pleased to announce a new weekly feature here at MTC.

Starting today, and continuing every week until the NFL draft in April, we will do five questions with Scott Wright, draft analyst and founder of draftcountdown.com.

Scott's Web site has a ton of information for draft junkies, including mock drafts, rankings, interviews and more. And unlike some of the other sites out there, it's completely free.

Each week, Scott has agreed to answer five questions via e-mail for an MTC post. We'll touch on the latest news, talk about the rise and fall of certain players, and see if we can get a hint as to who the Eagles like.

If there are certain issues/players you'd like me to ask Scott about, feel free to e-mail me.

Before we get started, please be aware that Scott sent these questions back to me a week ago. However, the Jim Johnson news broke and I didn't think it was appropriate to post them. This past week, with the Trotter/Houshmandzadeh/Dawkins/Boldin posts, MTC had one of its most-read stretches over so we thought we'd save the draft post for the weekend. Going forward, I'll likely post Scott's answers on the same day every week.

Q: You were just down at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. What were the two or three biggest things you came away with from your trip?

A: The biggest revelation for me was San Jose St. cornerback Coye Francies. He wasn't as impressive as [Cardinals cornerback] Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was last year but he still moved up at least a couple of rounds and I think you can make the case that he is as talented as any senior cornerback in this draft not named [Ohio State's] Malcolm Jenkins. I was also very impressed with Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas, but it wasn't necessarily his physical abilities that caught my attention. Delmas was the player I thought he was but he also showed incredible leadership skills, which is something you can't always evaluate by watching game film. Early in the week Delmas acted as the quarterback of the secondary, directing his teammates and getting them into position. However, later in the week when he was hurt and in street clothes he still stayed involved, encouraging guys as they came off the field. The final thing I'd point out is how I was finally able to see up close what everyone has been so concerned about with Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher. The guy definitely looks the part and for most of the week he was absolutely dominant in practices, appearing to be a top five overall caliber prospect. However, there were a few lapses where he let mid-round pass rushers get the best of him in 1-on-1's and he also really struggled in the game. For the most part I have been a huge Oher fan and to a degree I still am, but I no longer scratch my head in amazement when I hear people talk about him potentially dropping a bit. Still, if he falls out of the top half of round one, he'll be a steal for someone.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about where Pat White will go and what position he will play. What are your thoughts on the West Virginia QB?

A: For a wide receiver Pat White is a pretty good quarterback. In all seriousness White was an amazing college quarterback and you can't take anything away from him in that regard but I highly doubt he will be able to stay under center at the next level. I actually spoke with White and he is pretty determined to remain at quarterback but when push comes to shove I imagine he'd rather be a wide receiver in the NFL than a quarterback in the CFL. Personally, I think it would have been in White's best interests to at least get a little work in at wideout down in Mobile but he was exclusively a quarterback all week long. Coming out of high school he had offers to play other positions at big-time SEC schools but he chose West Virginia because they were willing to let him play quarterback. I suppose his mindset is that he proved everyone wrong once and he can do it again. However, Rich Rodriquez is at Michigan and nobody runs a spread offense in the NFL. At one point I thought White had a chance to go as high as round three or four as a wide receiver if he embraced the move and showed well at events like the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine. However, since he is obviously extremely reluctant to play anywhere other than quarterback he will probably be a late rounder.

Q: This is probably going to be a weekly staple. The Eagles have two first-round picks. What is your early read on what their options might be? Are there specific names fans should frantically be Googling?

A: I think the Eagles top priority is going to be offensive tackle since both Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are in their mid-thirties [and free agents] and Winston "I'm Still Having Nightmares about Osi Umenyiora" Justice hasn't shown he can be a starter in the pros. Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith and Andre Smith will all be off the board by the time Philly is on the clock, although with two first-round picks they do have the ammo to move up. The guy I'd keep an eye on at No. 21 is Michael Oher, who is arguably the most talented blocker in this draft. Options at No. 28 could include Arizona's Eben Britton and Connecticut's William Beatty. I think Philly could also consider a defensive back in round one, with Louis Delmas, William Moore of Missouri and Rashad Johnson of Alabama as options at safety and Alphonso Smith of Wake Forest and D.J. Moore of Vanderbilt being possibilities at cornerback. As a darkhorse keep an eye on the top three running backs too (Chris "Beanie Wells of Ohio St., Knowshon Moreno of Georgia and LeSean McCoy of Pittsburgh) because Brian Westbrook always seems to be nicked up and they could use an insurance policy.

Q: What player’s stock could rise or fall the most between now and draft day?

A: That's kind of relative because guys can go from late-first rounders to mid-first rounders, late-round picks to mid-round picks, etc. With that said here are eight guys who I think could shoot up boards as the draft nears:

Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas St. - Prototypical pocket passer with great size (6-6, 250) and a strong arm. Could interest teams like Chicago, Tampa Bay and Minnesota in the late teens or early twenties.
 
Jason Watkins, OT, Florida - A very good athlete with a great frame (6-6, 315) who could emerge as one of the top second-tier offensive tackles in this draft and a legitimate second round pick.

Sean Smith, CB, Utah - Hasn't gotten a lot of national attention yet but his combination of size (6-3, 214) and speed (4.4) could send this former wide receiver's stock soaring in the next month or two.

Clay Matthews, OLB, USC - Has already improved his stock as much as anyone in the country this year but there is still a chance he could work his way into the first round before all is said and done.

Jarron Gilbert, DL, San Jose St. - A bit of a DT / DE 'tweener at 6-6 and 280 pounds but had a monster senior season (22.0 TFL | 9.5 Sacks) and really opened some eyes at the East / West Shrine Game.

Jared Cook, TE, South Carolina - This former wide receiver has some question marks but he should blow people away in workouts and could emerge as the No. 2 tight end prospect in this draft.

Paul Kruger, DE, Utah - This redshirt sophomore really burst onto the scene in 2008 (16.5 TFL | 7.5 Sacks) and at 6-5 and 265 pounds he has the size to be a true 4-3 defensive end.

Bradley Fletcher, CB, Iowa - Is coming off a very impressive showing at the East / West Shrine Game and has the triangle numbers (6-2 | 200 | 4.50) to catch the attention of scouts in workouts.

Q: We often hear experts say drafts are deep in certain positions. Are there any positions that are or aren’t deep as you see it?

A: There are always positions that are deeper than others and as always the underclassmen helped to address some deficiencies at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. The strongest position in this draft is probably linebacker and in addition to Aaron Curry, Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, James Laurinaitis, and Clint Sintim there are also a bunch of college defensive ends who will likely project to outside linebacker at the next level, namely Everette Brown, Brian Orakpo, Aaron Maybin, Larry English. And that's just the likely first rounders! This is also one of the best groups of centers we've seen in quite some time. I would probably say safety is the weakest position just because there isn't a sure-fire first rounder at this point, although there should be some value and depth later on. Also, after you get past the top five quarterbacks the talent level really falls off the cliff.

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