Sheldon Richardson-Defensive Tackle Missouri Richardson reminds me a lot of former Mississippi State and Philadelphia Eagles 2012 first round choice Fletcher Cox. The 6-3, 310 pound interior performer is quick, active, a disruptive presence in the middle and he is a good inside pass rusher. The very athletic interior performer has recorded 112 tackles, 18 ½ tackles for losses, forced 4 fumbles and recorded 6 QB. sacks over the past two seasons for Missouri. Richardson looks to be selected anywhere from 8-15 in the first round.
Johnathan Hankins-Defensive Tackle Ohio State Hankins did not have a great junior campaign, but make no mistake about his talent. He is a huge space-eater in the middle and he does an excellent job clogging up the inside rushing lanes. The 6-3, 325 pounder has recorded 122 tackles, 4 QB. sacks and 19 tackles for losses the past two seasons. He still needs some technical work as a pass rusher, but he is quick off the snap for a big man. He has similar traits to that of current Cleveland Browns standout DT. Ahtyba Rubin. Look for Hankins to be selected between 12-16 in Round One.
Keenan Allen-Wide Receiver California Allen injured a knee late in the 2012 season, but if he is completely healthy he is a faster version of South Carolina and Chicago Bears 2012 second round choice Alshon Jeffery. Has excellent size and positioning skills and Allen has an extra gear to kick into in space. The former standout defensive back in high school has caught 205 passes for 2,570 yards and 17 TD’s during his college career. If his knee tests out OK Allen projects as a late teens or early 20’s pick in Round One.
Giovani Bernard-Halfback North Carolina Bernard has been set back at times in college due to injuries, but when he is healthy he is a bigger and faster version of what the Saints have in Darren Sproles. Bernard is a very good edge runner, a tremendous receiver coming out of the backfield and a dangerous punt/kickoff return man. In 2012 the super quick halfback rushed for 122.8 yards per game and 6.7 yards per rush from scrimmage. Bernard was also regarded as one of college football’s best punt returner specialists and he averaged 16.4 yards per runback and ran 2 back for scores. Teams will drop him a little due to his injuries, but he will go early in Round 2 in April and he could well sneak into the latter part of Round One for a team looking for a back similar to Tampa Bay Buccaneers halfback Doug Martin.
Da’Rick Rogers-Wide Receiver Tennessee Tech Make no mistake about the football skills and athleticism of this former Tennessee Volunteer standout. Rogers has excellent size, sure hands and very good positioning skills to make the tough grab in traffic. Rogers is a very physical end who can also stretch a defense with his deep speed. He will be downgraded due to his off the field issues and at times not being fully concentrated on his craft, but this 6-2, 220 pound end is very talented. Talent wise Rogers is the most gifted wide receiver in this draft class. Over the last two seasons Rogers has caught 128 passes for 1,933 yards and 19 TD’s.. Look for a team to draft Rogers early in the second round.
Brandon Jenkins-Defensive End/Outside Linebacker Florida State The 6-3, 262 pound defensive end played in just one game in 2012, but he has built a reputation as a very good edge pass rusher and someone who has excellent closing skills to the QB. and ballcarrier. Suffered a Lisfranc left foot injury that derailed his senior season after the first game of the season, but he declined to go after a medical redshirt. Jenkins has excellent foot speed and quickness coming off the corner and he has good play recognition skills. Has recorded 37 ½ tackles for losses and 22 ½ QB. sacks during his stay at FSU. Could project to either defensive end in a 4-3 alignment or as a standup outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Projects as a late 2nd or early 3rd round selection.
Stedman Bailey-Wide Receiver West Virginia Bailey has put up some huge numbers for WVU the past two seasons. The 5-10, 190 pound end has caught 178 passes for 2,780 yards and 35 touchdowns the past two seasons - he caught a nation leading 23 touchdown passes in 2012. Bailey has outstanding eye-hand coordination, he has excellent get-up-the-field skills and he is elusive in space. While he will need some work on pro-style route running, but Bailey does a nice job setting up a cornerback and gaining space in tight coverage sets and he rarely gets brought down by the first man with an opportunity to catch him. His game is similar to that of Washington Redskins WR. Pierre Garcon. Bailey has a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick grade.
Akeem Spence-Defensive Tackle Illinois Spence, a 6-1, 310 pound defensive tackle, is stout against the run and he also has good inside penetration skills. He is built low to the ground and he is hard to move off the mark. Very consistent performer, who has started 38 consecutive games for Illinois and recorded 186 tackles, 16 ½ tackles for losses, and 3 ½ QB. sacks. I like his ability to quickly diagnose a play and make the key tackle. Spence reminds me a lot of former California and current Seattle Seahawks starting DT. Brandon Mebane. This real tough run defender is a solid 3rd round draft projection.
Alvin Bailey-Offensive Guard Arkansas Bailey, a 6-4, 315 pound road-grader, has flashed skills of being both a dominant run blocker and stellar pass protector. He must control his weight and better his conditioning, but he has the skills to be an upper-echelon offensive guard at the next level due to his power, physical play and his ability to get excellent movement with his drive blocks. Needs some work on his pass blocking techniques, but he is a real load to beat at the point of attack and he has quick feet for a big man. Bailey’s dad, Alvin, Sr., was a very good college basketball player at Arkansas in the late 1970’s. He has similar traits to current Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive guard Davin Joseph when he came out of Oklahoma. 3rd round pick draft projection.
Tyrann Mathieu-Cornerback/Return Man LSU Mathieu has had issues off the field that he seemingly just has not been able to shake, but he is still looked at highly by the pros due to his return skills, his playmaking ability on defense and he looks to be a perfect fit as a nickel/dime cover cornerback. Mathieu is tough, very instinctive, he just has a knack for turning up with a game-changing play on defense, and he changes field position in a heartbeat due to his return abilities. The one thing that is obvious is that Mathieu is a playmaker at the highest level. In just two college seasons “The Honey Badger” registered 133 tackles, 16 tackles for losses, 6 QB. sacks, 16 pass break-ups, 11 forced fumbles and he intercepted 4 passes. Throw in the fact that he averaged 15.6 yards per runback on punt returns, 2 of them he brought back for touchdowns and he is indeed a “special” athlete out on the field. He lacks great size and he will need some work on his footwork as a cover man, but you can’t teach great instincts and openfield running skills as a punt returner and his value in those two areas will get him drafted in Round 3 or very early in Round 4. His off the field issues will make a difference for some teams to select him or rate him as a top 60 pick, but he has skills to be put in that draft range.
Knile Davis-Halfback Arkansas Davis is a heavy duty power runner, who has excellent run between the tackles skills and field vision. He is a strong athlete in the lower body to break tackles and he has really improved his pass catching skills. Seems to be almost 100% back from a serious ankle injury he suffered in 2011. Davis has excellent breakaway speed, but you rarely saw that portion of his game this season when he rushed for just 377 yards and averaged 3.4 yards per carry. He seemed indecisive as a runner in 2012 after racking up 1,322 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and scoring 13 TD’s in 2010. If the ankle injury that kept him from playing in 2011 is healed Davis will quickly rise up the draft charts. I see Davis going late in Round 3 or early in Round 4.
Trabis Ward-Halfback Tennessee State Ward, a 5-10, 210 pound halfback, has been a hidden gem at Tennessee State. He rushed for 1,422 yards and scored 15 touchdowns this season and he is a real tough and hard-nosed inside runner with the speed to make big plays on the edge. He seemingly is always falling forward for extra yardage and he is very strong in the lower-body. Tries to pattern his game after Seattle Seahawks All-Pro halfback Marshawn Lynch. Ward caught 21 passes for 248 yards coming out of the backfield and he has sure hands as a receiver coming out of the backfield. Look for Ward to get selected late in Round 4 or early in Round 5. He currently is working out with Patrick Peterson, Sr., the father of former LSU and current Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, in Boca Raton. Ward and former Tiger standout Tyrann Mathieu are working out together at the Florida facilities.
Marcus Lattimore-Halfback South Carolina Lattimore sustained a horrendous knee injury in the later stages of the 2012 season and many expected him to return to South Carolina in 2013. It’s been back to back seasons that he has missed the later stages of a season due to serious knee injuries. The excellent all-purpose back decided to cast his lot early for the 2013 draft last week and he brings very good inside rushing skills, outstanding field vision and first-rate pass catching skills coming out of the backfield. Lattimore, who was considered the best running back in the high school ranks as a senior, has missed considerable time due to injuries, but he has still amassed 2,677 yards on 555 carries, averaged 4.8 yards per carry and scored 38 TD’s in the toughest conference in college football. Lattimore also caught 74 passes as a receiver coming out of the backfield for South Carolina. He may need a redshirt season in 2013 to fully rehab the knee injury, but don’t be surprised to see a team select him in Round 5 or early in Round 6 come April. He reminds me a lot of former Clemson standout running back Terry Allen, who also sustained numerous knee injuries, but yet played in the NFL for 11 seasons.
I will update juniors that declare early each weekend into mid-January…