Jarvis Jones-Outside Linebacker Georgia Jones just wrecked havoc on opposing players and teams each of the last two seasons. His pass rush skills and quickness were very hard to deal with from play to play and he has improved upon his ability to play stronger when running plays are directed right at him. Jones has good power skills and the Bulldog coaches rave about his work ethic and attention to detail. Has outstanding pass rush moves and countermoves and his closing speed to the quarterback are at the highest level. His game is very similar to that of K.C. Chiefs All-Pro outside linebacker Tamba Hali. NFL teams will want to take a close look at the neck injury he had at USC earlier in his career. Jones is my highest ranked defensive player and the 2nd ranked overall player in the 2013 draft class.
Damontre Moore-Defensive End Texas A&M Dynamic pass rusher with outstanding foot speed and closing skills to the QB.. Moore, a former outside linebacker, racked up a team-leading 80 tackles, 20 tackles for losses and 12 ½ QB. sacks. Moore has excellent track down skills, 1st rate football instincts and he not only can get after the quarterback, but he is also stout in run defense. The 6-4, 260 pound defensive end is a top five pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and my top rated defensive end prospect.
Bjoern Werner-Defensive End Florida State German exchange student who blossomed into one of the most feared defenders in college football in 2012. The 6-4, 260 pound defensive end is still learning the finer points of playing the game, but he has great strength at the point of attack, he is very quick off the snap and he has 1st rate closing speed to the football. Really has impressed with his ability to play off of would be blockers and using his hands and strong arms better at the point of attack. Totaled 42 tackles, 18 tackles for losses, 13 pass break-ups and 13 QB. sacks in 2012. Werner will test athletically through the roof and he will be a top -10 pick. Just a shade below Moore as the best defensive end in this draft class.
Barkevious Mingo-Outside Linebacker LSU Looks a lot like current S.F. 49er and former Missouri standout outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Long, real lean athlete, who has tremendous edge speed and quickness and very agile to move around from sideline to sideline. The 6-4 ½, 245 pounder had a monster sophomore season totaling 15 tackles for losses and 8 QB. sacks along with 11 QB. hurries, but injuries and inconsistent play had his numbers down in 2012. His pass rush potential and huge wingspan will make him a highly coveted defender and while he needs to get stronger and play a more disciplined game he is a top-10 pick and my 2nd ranked outside linebacker prospect behind Georgia’s Jarvis Jones.
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.
Sam Montgomery-Defensive End LSU The 6-4, 268 pound defensive end has been a real tower of strength upfront for the Tigers over the past 2 ½ years that he has started. Montgomery has totaled 25 ½ tackles for losses and 16 QB. sacks over the past two seasons. Montgomery added about 20 pounds of muscle during the 2012 off-season and he became a more stout run defender as a junior. Runs the field well for a big man and he has a huge wingspan to play off of blockers and disrupt the view of a QB. downfield when he throws those long arms up in the air. Has a red hot motor on each play and in many ways he reminds me a lot of N.Y. Giants DE. Osi Umenyiora. He will be selected in Round One as a (15-20) pick.
Alec Ogletree-Inside/Outside Linebacker Georgia Alec is one of the best athletes in this draft class and this guy is a terrific football player with a huge upside. The 6-3, 235 pound former safety has played inside linebacker for Georgia, but he could also project to the outside slot also due to his excellent coverage skills. The former standout in track and basketball in high school is fast, instinctive, he really sticks opponents with the ball in their hands and he drops back smoothly in his pass coverage sets. He was overshadowed due to the exploits of Jarvis Jones at UGA, but he racked up 111 tackles, 11 ½ tackles for losses, 3 QB. sacks and 5 pass break-ups this season. He will go in Round One also and be selected as a (15-20) pick. He also is a terrific special teams performer.
Sharrif Floyd-Defensive Tackle Florida Floyd was regarded as the top prep defensive tackle in the nation when he came out of George Washington High School in Philadelphia and he lived up to those lofty prep press clippings. Floyd is a versatile D-Lineman who could project to either defensive end or defensive tackle in the pros. I like his disruptive nature and he is cat-quick off the snap. Very good inside penetrator and he has very good play diagnostic skills. Racked up 46 tackles and 13 tackles for losses in 2012. I like his excellent combination of power and speed and he is a playmaker along the defensive line. Projects as a pick from (16-22) 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.
Xavier Rhodes-Cornerback Florida State Rhodes has the size (6-1 ½, 215) and the huge wingspan and speed that the pros covet. While he is a bit of a gambler and he needs work on his coverage techniques and foot work, I like his ball reaction skills and his physicality with receivers at the line of scrimmage to redirect their routes. Was in on 39 tackles, 3 pass interceptions and 7 pass break-ups in 2012. Look for Rhodes to go in the late teens or early 20’s in Round One of the 2013 NFL draft and he is currently my 2nd ranked cornerback behind Alabama’s Dee Milliner.
Matt Elam-Strong Safety Florida Elam developed into college football’s version of Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers) in 2012. The 5-11 ½, 205 pounder is a hammer in run support and a tremendous openfield tackler. Has excellent play diagnostic skills and he has really bettered his overall pass coverage skills and techniques. Intimidating defender when receivers cross over his area out on the field. Recorded 58 solo tackles, 4 pass interceptions, 11 tackles for losses and 5 pass break-ups in 2012. Elam is a late teens or early 20’s pick in Round One. Like his teammate Floyd, he lived up to his lengthy and extensive prep press clippings.
Eric Reid-Free Safety LSU Eric, the son of former LSU track star Eric Reid, Sr., has made his own niche in Baton Rouge. Reid, who earned consensus 1st team All-American honors in 2012 actually played better in 2011. Reid has excellent size, tremendous range from sideline to sideline, 1st rate ball skills and he is a real force in run support. The hard-hitting Tiger was in on 81 tackles, had 6 pass break-ups and 2 pass interceptions during the regular season. His greatest strength, (his aggressive play) is also his biggest weakness. He has a tendency to play out of control and he will pull himself out of position. Needs to develop a more disciplined game, especially in pass coverage spots, but he has excellent athletic tools, he is a ballhawk and he comes up in a flash in run support. Edges out Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro for the top free safety spot. Reid grades out as a mid 20’s to early 30’s pick in Round One.
Bennie Logan-Defensive Tackle LSU In my opinion Bennie Logan is the most underrated defensive player in college football in 2011 and 2012. Very strong player, who has quick feet, excellent inside penetration skills, he is a very good interior pass rusher and he has 1st rate chase down skills. Does a nice job splitting double team blocks and in many ways reminds me of former N.O. Saints and Dallas Cowboys DT. La’Roi Glover. Has very good hand usage and I thought he was a better player than St. Louis Rams 2012 1st round pick Michael Brockers in 2011. Logan grades out as a late 20’s to early 30’s pick in Round One.
Robert Woods-Wide Receiver USC Woods over the last three seasons has become college football’s new version of Percy Harvin. Woods, a 6-0 ½, 195 pound wide receiver, punt and kickoff return man, has big play skills, sure hands, he is a skilled route runner and a natural at the game. The former track standout didn’t put up the gaudy numbers he had as a sophomore, but he caught 73 passes for an average of 11.1 yards per catch and scored 11 TD’s in 2012. During his career Woods has caught 249 passes and 32 touchdown passes. Slot-receiver, who is very intelligent and he will be an instant impact performer in the return game. Woods looks to be a late 20’s or early 30’s pick in Round One in the 2013 NFL draft.
Zach Ertz-Tight End Stanford Ertz emerged out of the shadow of Coby Fleener in 2012 and he has developed into one of the top pass catching TE’s in the nation. Ertz has excellent size, terrific eye-hand coordination and he runs hard with the ball after the catch. Knows how to use his big body to the fullest to gain position on defenders and he is a very effective short-yardage and redzone receiver. Caught 66 passes for 837 yards and 6 scores in 2012. Has worked hard to upgrade his run blocking skills, but he needs to get stronger and become a more physical player at the point of attack. Will battle Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert for the top spot at TE. and he projects as a late 20’s or early 30’s pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
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.
Kevin Minter-Inside Linebacker LSU Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o earned all his accolades in 2012, but Minter was a force along the same lines in the SEC. Minter racked up 130 tackles, 15 tackles for losses and 4 QB. sacks in 2012. On a team with four potential first round picks on defense Minter was the most productive and the best player on a very talented Tiger team. The 6-1, 245 pound inside linebacker is strong at the point of attack, he does a good job getting around heavy football traffic and he has outstanding football instincts. Still needs some work on dropping back into his pass coverage areas smoother, but he really excelled in 2012 as an inside blitzer. Minter ranks 3rd as an inside linebacker prospect for the 2013 NFL draft behind Notre Dame’s Te’o and Georgia’s Alec Ogletree. Minter is an early to mid 2nd round projection.
Logan Ryan-Cornerback Rutgers Not a lot of people have heard about Ryan unless you live in the Northeast, but he has developed into one of the toughest and sharpest one-on-one cover cornerbacks in college football. The 5-11 ½, 192 pound cornerback has been a 2-time All Big-East Conference selection and someone that does an excellent job jamming receivers hard off the line of scrimmage and rearranging their pass routes. He is also stout in run defense and a sure openfield tackler. Last season Ryan recorded 94 tackles, 18 pass defense plays and 4 pass interceptions. The former prep quarterback has very good ball skills and he finds the football quickly in flight. Good cover cornerbacks are hard to come by and while I have him rated as an early 2nd round choice don’t be surprised to see him get selected in the bottom part of Round One.
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, but his off the field issues could push him down some draft charts.
Jordan Reed-Tight End Florida Reed, a 6-3, 240 pound former QB. has developed into one of the top pass catching tight ends in college football. Jordan uses his big body and long arms to keep defenders away from the football and he has excellent eye/hand coordination. Reed caught 45 passes for over 600 yards as a junior. Has really upgraded his route running skills and he is a big feature in the redzone and short-yardage areas of the field. Still developing his overall run blocking skills and techniques, but he works hard at improving in this area. NFL teams are looking hard at pass catching tight ends that can stretch the deep middle of the field and Reed brings that feature to a squad. Middle to late 2nd round pick projection.
Justin Pugh-Offensive Tackle Syracuse Pugh has fought off injuries during his college career, but when healthy the 6-4 ½, 298 pounder is a quality left tackle prospect. Justin has been a 1st team All-Big East honoree each of the last two seasons. Pugh has quick feet, he has very good hand usage skills and he does a good job mirroring defensive ends in pass protection situations. Missed 4 games in 2012 with a shoulder injury and his NFL Combine physical will be critical on just how high he goes on draft day. Justin needs to physically get stronger and become more of a “masher” in the running game, but he has been well schooled in college and he is a fine technician. If he clears medically and there are no major health issues look for Pugh to go late in Round 2 or early in Round 3.
Travis Frederick-Offensive Center Wisconsin The 6-4 ½, 330 pound center is a tremendous one-on-one run blocker and a fine technician. Moves his feet very well for a big man and he has really upgraded his pass protection techniques and his ability to pick up the inside blitzes. Former top rated prep wrestler who uses his arms and hands very well to keep defenders at bay and he is a good leverage athlete. Needs to continue to upgrade his pass protection skills and be more of a knee-bender than a waist bender, but I like his physical style of play and his ability to get good movement with his drive blocks. Late 2nd or early 3rd round pick projection.
William Gholston-Defensive End Michigan State The 6-6 ½, 280 pounder has been an inconsistent performer, but he brings to the table great size, a huge wingspan to throw over and he can play defensive end in a 4-3 or a 3-4 alignment. Has good mobility skills running the field from side to side and when the spirit really moves him he is a good edge pass rusher. Power player at the point of attack. Needs to learn how to play lower and use his long arms and strong hands better to get off of blockers, but he has the potential to be a good starting defensive end in the pros. William is the cousin of former Ohio State DE. Vernon Gholston, who the NY Jets took with the 6th overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Projects as a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick.
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.
Corey Lemonier-Defensive End/Outside Linebacker Auburn Corey, a 6-3, 250 pound defensive end/outside linebacker, didn’t post huge numbers as a junior, (5 ½ QB. sacks and 12 QB. hurries), but he possesses excellent foot speed and chase down skills from the backside. In his three-year career at Auburn Lemonier posted 24 tackles for losses, 17 QB. sacks and 33 QB. hurries. Corey has excellent athletic skills and football instincts, but he needs to develop a better array of moves and countermoves to get off of offensive linemen quicker and physically get stronger. In many ways Lemonier reminds me a lot of Seattle Seahawks DE. Chris Clemons when he came out of Georgia. Corey projects as a late 2nd round or early 3rd round pick.
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.
Kenny Stills-Wide Receiver Oklahoma Stills is a very skilled route runner who runs sharp routes and gets excellent separation downfield. The 6-0 ¾, 195 pounder gets into and out of his cuts and breaks quickly and he is a 1st rate receiver in the short to medium range areas of the field. The sure-handed target has totaled 197 catches for 2,527 yards and 24 TD’s over the past three seasons. Tough guy who will go over the middle for the difficult catch. Stills has a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick projection.
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.
Tharold Simon-Cornerback LSU There aren’t a lot of 6-2 ¼, 195 pound cornerbacks out on the open market and Simon’s size and physical style of play will get him picked early in Round 3. Simon excels in tight man-to-man coverage sets and he has the size and aggressive nature to reroute receivers coming off the line of scrimmage. I also like his ball reaction skills and his ability to get his hands on a football due to his huge wingspan. You can see the former prep wide receiver in his skills in playing the ball in flight. Needs work on his “off” or zone coverage techniques and foot work. Has a bit of a high backpedal technique and he must play lower and learn how to plant and drive quicker to the football. Tharold does a solid job in run support and he is a good openfield tackler. How well he runs for the clock will determine just how high he will go when the draft rolls around.
Joe Kruger-Defensive End Utah Joe, the younger brother of Paul Kruger who is an outstanding pass rushing OLB. with the Baltimore Ravens, has not put up gaudy numbers at Utah, but he is a 1st class athlete and has tremendous upside and pass rush potential. The 6-6 ½, 275 pound defensive end is super quick off the snap and he can motor like a linebacker (has been timed in the 40-yard dash in 4.79). Needs to learn how to use his long arms and strong hands better at the point of attack and play with a lower center of gravity, but he has flashed big time skills. Has recorded 65 tackles, 9 QB. sacks and 13 tackles for losses over the past two seasons. Great athlete, who has just been a good college player, but he has a huge upside and some NFL team will grab him in Round 3 and he maybe sneaks into the latter part of Round 2 due to a run on defensive ends.
Dion Sims-Tight End Michigan State Sims is a king-sized TE, (6-5, 275) who has been beset by injuries in college, but when healthy he has been a terrific in-line blocker and a very effective short to medium range downfield target. Sims has excellent size, good foot speed and he uses his extensive basketball background very well to get positioning between himself and the defender. Has a chance to move up the charts with excellent off-season workouts, but his long series of injuries will lower his draft position. Needs to get some weight off and physically get stronger, but he is a very good NFL tight end prospect. Look for Sims to go in Round 3 of the 2013 NFL draft.
Tony Jefferson-Free Safety Oklahoma There are bigger and faster free safeties in the 2013 draft class, but Jefferson is a very smart and instinctive football player with a nose for the football and he is a very good in both run support situations and also in deep coverage sets. Totaled 113 tackles, 3 ½ tackles for losses, 2 pass interceptions and 3 pass break-ups in 2012. Needs to get stronger and be a more secure openfield tackler, but he is aggressive and he flies up the field in a flash to help out in run support. Really works well in zone coverage situations against the pass. Early to mid 3rd round 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.
Le’Veon Bell-Halfback Michigan State Heavy-duty runner with great size (6-2, 240) and he just keeps coming at you from play to play. Super productive college runner and you better not try and tackle him high or he will run you over. Bell has excellent field vision and he is a double-tough runner between the tackles. Gets over 65% of his yardage after first contact and he has a bit of a kick in the openfield. He is no speedster and he doesn’t pretend that he will give you a lot of openfield moves. Needs some work on catching the ball cleaner coming out of the backfield. In many ways he brings to the table power skills and stamina in carrying a heavyload like Brandon Jacobs did for a stretch with the New York Giants. Middle to late 3rd round projection.
Spencer Ware-Halfback LSU The former high school QB. from Cincinnati, Ohio has turned into one of the most violent and reliable between-the-tackles type runner in college football. Has gained 68% of his rushing yardage at LSU after first contact. Ware has good field vision, solid shake and bake openfield moves, but what sticks out is his very physical rushing style and he gives out just as much punishment as he takes. Ware also doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear on his rushing wheels playing in a platoon rushing system at LSU. Fine receiver coming out of the backfield and he is also a very good pass protector. I truly believe he is a better overall halfback prospect than former Tiger and current N.E. Patriots 1000-yard rusher Stevan Ridley. Middle to late 3rd round projection.
Tyler Bray-Quarterback Tennessee Tyler has put up some eye-catching numbers at Tennessee, but when you closely watch the film on him he is a very streaky signal-caller who at times will throw off his back foot and he is not the most focused player on and off the field. Bray has above-average arm strength, can really light up a defense when he is in the groove and when throwing the ball on balance he is a very accurate downfield passer, but that doesn’t happen all the time. Reminds me a lot of former Notre Dame QB. Jimmy Clausen. Bray has the tools to play and play well at the NFL level, but I wonder about his commitment to be the best he can be and will he be a “grinder” at the NFL level. Middle to late 3rd round 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.
Jawan Jamison-Halfback Rutgers Jamison, a 5-8, 205 pound halfback, has been a very productive performer for the Scarlet Knights despite fighting off an ankle injury that troubled him the final three games of the year. The very shifty and quick runner rushed for 1,075 yards and he scored 4 TD’s in 2012. Jamison also has excellent field vision, explosive qualities in the openfield and the ability to make the first man miss in space. Jawan is also a very good receiver coming out of the backfield and he catches the ball cleanly with his hands. Jawan is a very underrated football player who could be a steal of a pick late in Round 3 or early in Round 4.
Mike Edwards-Cornerback Hawaii Edwards, a former prep All-American from Glenville High School in Ohio, was a top freshman performer at Tennessee before being charged with attempted arm robbery. The fleet-footed cover man played one season at Coffeyville Community College before going to Hawaii. Mike lacks great size at 5-9 ¾, 180 pounds, but he is technically sound, finds the ball quickly in flight and he has very good recovery speed. Was in on 16 pass defended plays and picked off 2 passes in 2012. He is also a very good kickoff return man who averaged 30.4 yards per runback in 2012 and was the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year. Outstanding athlete and cover cornerback, who brings a lot to the table as a special teams performer, but his off the field issues and a lack of great height will lower his draft stock some. Like Mathieu, I see Edwards going late in Round 3 or early in Round 4.
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.
Michael Ford-Halfback LSU Versatile performer, who has been the Tigers’ edge rusher, kickoff return man and he is a good receiver coming out of the backfield. Ford cuts the edge hard and he runs with good body balance and control. Very strong athlete in both the upper and lower body. Has not been used as a heavy-duty runner, but Stevan Ridley wasn’t a bellcow runner for any length of time at LSU either. I like Ford’s athleticism, his speed, his versatility as a return man and kickoff returner. Doesn’t have much thread off the football tires as a college runner for someone who broke former LSU halfback Cecil Collins’ season-single rushing mark at Leesville High School. Late 4th or early 5th round pick.
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.
Brad Wing-Punter LSU Wing is the best punter in the 2013 NFL draft class. Strong legged punter who gets great hangtime and he is terrific in letting his coverage unit get down quickly to the return man under his booming punts. Averaged 44.4 yards per punt in 2011 and 27 of his 59 punts were placed inside the 20-yard line. In 2012 Wing averaged 44.8 yards per punt and had 21 of his 59 punts placed inside the 20-yard line and 17 of them were fair-catch situations. The best directional punter I have graded in the past ten years. Late 4th to early 5th round choice. The Australian-born punter has Pro Bowl caliber skills.
Stefphon Jefferson-Halfback Nevada Jefferson, a former California prep standout runner, really developed into one of the toughest and most productive backs in the nation in 2012. The 5-10 ¾, 208 pounder has excellent running vision, he is well built and he runs with a nice combination of power and quickness. Does a nice job getting extra yardage after initial contact. In 2012 Jefferson rushed for 1,883 yards on 375 carries, averaged 5.0 yards per rush and scored 24 TD’s. He has a nose for the goalline and in many ways looks like a faster version of what the Redskins have in Alfred Morris. Jefferson is also a good receiver coming out of the backfield. Look for Jefferson to be selected in Round 5.
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…