With the NFL Draft a little over a month away teams are evaluating every piece of information they have about NCAA standouts, analyzing the potential risks or rewards of off adding them to their teams.
This year Nevada has several players who we could see playing on Sundays next fall (assuming there are NFL games to be played in 2011), those players being Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Defensive End Dontay Moch, Tight End Virgil Green, Running Back Vai Taua and Offensive Lineman Johnathon Bender.
Where they will go will be a mystery at least until Thursday, and it is likely all will have to wait a day or two longer. Right now however is the time for predictions, so I figured I would do so with all of the Nevada players.
Running Back Vai Taua.
Strengths- Taua is a consistent runner with excellent vision, throughout his NCAA career he has helped provided Nevada with an unprecedented rushing attack, teaming up with fellow running back Luke Lippincott and Quarterback Colin Kaepernick to make the Wolf Pack the first team in history to have three one thousand-yard rushers in the same season in 2009.
Weaknesses- Lacks the speed and quick burst to take advantage of the holes he finds.
Projected by CBSSports.com to be picked in round seven or undrafted.
Prediction- Undrafted Free Agent, Washington Redskins or Cincinnati Bengals
Both the Redskins and Bengals are in need of a backup tailback, and both may cut ties with their current starters. The emergence of Ryan Torrain last season for the Redskins makes Clinton Portis expendable, and Taua would be a perfect backup for him. Similarly, if the Bengals choose to bring back Cedric Benson, Taua would back him up nicely as well.
There is a good chance that Taua starts his career on a team's practice squad and not their active roster, but I expect him to contribute significantly as a backup running back in the NFL in a year or two.
Strengths- Blocked for one of the best rushing offenses in the NCAA, including Quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Also versatility, as he played both at guard and tackle for Nevada's offense. At 6'8" and 325 pounds he also has the size NFL teams look for in a lineman.
Weaknesses- Injury history. He missed parts of two of his three starting seasons at Nevada due to injury.Height, Some teams with shorter Quarterbacks may be concerned about them being able to see over the guys in front.
Prediction- Undrafted, Philadelphia Eagles
Sometimes it is best for a player like Bender to start their NFL careers in a situation where they are most comfortable. Although he wouldn't likely start right away, the Eagles offense centers around a rushing QB much like Nevada's did. A team like that may be where Bender is most comfortable starting, and would give him a better chance at developing into a contributor in the NFL.
Strengths- Virgil is an athletic tight end who provided quarterback Colin Kaepernick with one of his favorite targets over his career. He was a standout at the NFL combine, wherein most of his workouts he performed better than every tight end in this draft. On some drills he had the best measurables of any TE since San Francisco's Vernon Davis
Weaknesses- Inconsistent hands. Too often passes would hit Green right in the numbers and he would fail to come down with the ball. His blocking may also be a question, but he has the potential to be an average to good blocker in the NFL
CBSSports.com projection- Round 3-4
Prediction-Round 4, Denver Broncos
The Broncos are in need of a tight end, but they won't invest in one in the first two rounds. If they target Green and get too nervous they may trade back up into round three to take him. If they plan to continue developing Tim Tebow into a franchise QB it would be best for his development to have a safety, which for a young QB is very often a tight end.
Strengths-Moch is an athletically gifted defensive end who more than proved himself in his time at Nevada. With constant sacks and Quarterback hurries, he wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. Like Nevada TE Virgil Green he is also a workout warrior, posting some of the best combine measurables of anyone at his position. His best attribute though may be his knack for showing up in big games, as in 2010 he led a defense that got to Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore more often than he was used to, and harassed him into making uncharacteristic mistakes.
Weaknesses- Size. At around 6'1"& 250 pounds Moch does not have the size most teams would like on their defensive line. Though he may play there as he did in college, there is a lot of talk of a team converting him into a linebacker.
Prediction- Round 2 Atlanta Falcons
I think in Atlanta's defense Moch would stay on the defensive line, where they he will be most comfortable. He has the ability and speed to beat linemen off the edge, and Atlanta has shown that they don't mind Undersized lineman (John Abraham is listed at 6'4", 263).
Strengths- Scouts have been drooling of Kaepernick's arm strength all off-season, many saying he may be the strongest quarterback in the draft. He is also extremely mobile, toching defenses as often with his feet as he did with his arm. In 2010 he finally started to pile up the big wisn beating respected teams, including Cal, Boston College, and rival Boise State in route to Nevada's best season ever.
Weaknesses- Thoguh he has elite arm strength, accuracy has been an issue for Kapernick throughout his career. What's even more concerning is this accuracy gets worse in big games, and he often had to rely on his feet to keep Nevada in them. As with akll running quarterbacks, there is also concern about how that part of his game will translate to the pros, where faster and stronger athletes make it harder and more dangerous for a QB to take of scrambling. There are also problems with his footwork and throwing mechanics that may take time to iron out.
Prediction- Round 3 Buffalo Bills.
Much of the talk around Cam Newton early on in the draft proccess had the Bills taking him 3rd overall because Chan Gailey loves athletic QBs, well it looks more and more like that wont happen. There is every possibility however that the Bills take a QB later on to develop behind capable starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Kaepernick obviously fits the mold Gailey is looking for, and although many people nelieve up to eight QBs will be taken in the first two rounds I don't see it happening. Look for Kaepernick to go to Buffalo at the beginning of the 3rd round.