5 Red Flags NFL Scouts Should Take More Seriously
In the course of evaluating prospects for the NFL Draft, scouts do the work of a private investigator— researching background information, off-the-field behavior and attitudes of prospective players. The full detail on a player's "mental makeup", can make or break said player's opportunity at being drafted in April.
The following prospects have earned red flag distinctions due to off-the-field arrests, lack of coachability, injury and even on-field struggles. These significant developments regarding highly touted prospects from the SEC, Big 12, PAC 12, ACC and Big Ten, have certainly altered the preseason evaluations of scouts across the country.
North Carolina State Cornerback David Amerson
Leading the NCAA with 13 interceptions, 206 return yards, and two interceptions returned for touchdown, David Amerson's elite level production, as the 2011 Jim Thorpe Award winner, placed him atop many preseason big boards.
Understood to be the top junior cornerback for possessing a combination of plus size, ball skills and instincts, Amerson even drew comparisons to current All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Fast forward to the 2012 season and much of the preseason hype has come to a screeching halt. Giving up two long touchdown passes in the season opener versus Tennessee, David Amerson allowed two touchdowns and the game winning score against Miami.
Exposed in the back half for only average hip fluidity, late reaction time, as well as marginal top end speed, Amerson appears very limited schematically for the next level. Lacking the turn and run speed or the quick hip turn to stay in the receiver's hip pocket, Amerson will be unable to play press, off-man or cover 3, versus NFL-caliber receivers.
And beyond on-field disappointment, substantiated rumors have tied David Amerson to former NC State player and disassociated booster, Eric Leak. While no violations have officially occurred, the simple fact that Amerson was openly communicating with Leak has to be concerning for scouts and evaluators.
Leak has already been prohibited from contacting NC State student athletes after providing two basketball players with illegal benefits.
North Carolina Inside Linebacker Kevin Reddick
Excelling in 2010 and 2011 as a play-making, inside linebacker, Kevin Reddick appears to be merely a shell of his old self in 2012.
Kevin Reddick's inability to break down and finish open field tackles has been accentuated by his role within the Tar Heels' new 4-2-5 base defense. Grading all draft eligible prospects from the ACC, Optimum Scouting's Head East Scout Jimmy O'Brien wrote in his preseason evaluations that Kevin Reddick compensated for his only average athleticism by being an effective play-reader, high motor player and solid downhill run fitter.
What concerned Jimmy O'Brien, and what is now quite evident based off of early 2012 tape, is Reddick's lack of ideal playing speed. A step too slow in chasing runs to the perimeter, Reddick simply isn't fast enough to chase down next level ball carriers.
Reddick, who lacks the functional strength to stand his ground and work off blocks from uncovered guards, is limited to a 4-3 middle linebacker position-only at the next level. With his lack of speed evidencing itself in his senior season, Reddick is sliding down draft boards.
Texas Christian Quarterback Casey Pachall
During the summer months leading up to the 2012 season, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall admitted to narcotics usage involving marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy. Despite failing a February drug test, Pachall did not receive a suspension and quickly changed his behavior, or so we were led to believe.
Appearing honest and contrite with authorities, Pachall completed a university drug and alcohol awareness program.
Flipping ahead, not even two months into his junior season, and Pachall held the 5th highest quarterback rating among eligible throwers at 180.0. Completing 66% of his passes for 948 yards, 10 touchdowns and only one interception, Pachall shredded opposing secondaries through the month of September.
All that production aside, one foolish mistake may keep Pachall from declaring early for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Arrested at 1 a.m. on a Thursday morning, two days before game day, Pachall was arrested near the TCU campus for driving while intoxicated. Lacking any self control or maturity, Pachall again chose the route of substance abuse.
Suspended indefinitely for his actions, it remains to be seen whether Casey Pachall will be allowed to return to the team this season. More important than his professional football career is the well-being of Pachall as a person. I hope that Pachall surrounds himself with the guidance and support needed to overcome this personal struggle.
Wisconsin Running Back Montee Ball
The target of a vicious, on-campus assault in August, former Heisman finalist Montee Ball suffered a concussion and facial wounds prior to the 2012 season ever starting. Missing the first week of preseason camp, Montee Ball was given time to fully heal in order to be ready for game one.
Experiencing anything but the 2011 production that placed him among the nation's elite running backs, Montee Ball has proven to be scheme dependent, limited in his overall skill set and lacking any one impressive attribute.
A solid back that can take advantage of good blocking, Ball has a difficult time creating yards for himself in the form of broken or missed tackles, not having plus power or plus elusiveness.
Considering his lack of any elite traits, Montee Ball can expect his draft stock to fall as April approaches. Given a 3rd round grade by the NFL Advisory Committee prior to the 2012 draft, Ball would have been better off declaring as an underclassman and striking the iron while was hot.
His 2.8 yards per carry on 32 rushes versus Big Ten opponent Nebraska, only spells continued hardship for the highly touted senior running back.
Tennessee Quarterback Tyler Bray
While I was not sold on Tyler Bray based off of 2011 game studied—I graded him below Georgia's Aaron Murray during the preseason—many believed the Tennessee Volunteer had the potential to be a 2013 draft early declarer and top-10 overall pick.
Without question, Bray possesses top-10 upside and talent but muscle memory and mechanical flaws have kept him from tapping into his full potential. Bray, at 6’6 and 210 pounds, possesses great height to stand tall in the pocket, see the field and create throwing lanes with ease.
In terms of pure arm talent, there aren’t many quarterbacks in the country that can call themselves his equal. However, Bray's undeveloped footwork, inconsistent mechanics and penchant for staring down primary targets have culminated in scattershot accuracy across the board.
Now in the heat of conference play, the tide has quickly turned against the Vols' starting quarterback; barring a turnaround of incredible proportions, Tyler Bray would do himself a favor by returning for his senior season.
Needing to refine his mechanics, consistently set his feet to the throw and be more active through his progressional reads, Bray simply isn't ready to play against NFL defenses.
Against a Georgia defense that boasts 10 potential NFL draft picks, Bray struggled mightily in correctly diagnosing the coverage and decisively delivering the football to his receivers at the intended route break.
Bray's elite arm talent flashed in the first half of play, but cold-streaks of accuracy plagued the performance as a whole. The ability is unquestionably there with Tyler Bray, but the main concerning issue is his lack of developed mechanics and lack of progression from last season to this season.