I’ve been getting into NFL draft scouting since 2005. Each offseason I do my best to evaluate as many athletes as possible, and as I do my evaluations, I can’t help but come up with guys who I love and guys who I hate.
Generally, I tend to dislike guys who are overhyped as pure athletes who are projected to be drafted highly based on physical ability. On the flip side, I’ve had a tendency to overrate some players based on their intangibles, and overall effort on a game-by-game basis.
So here is my Love/Hate list for the 2011 NFL draft. I’ve also included guys who I’m indifferent about that I feel need to be mentioned.
Prospects I Love
Cameron Jordan, DE/DT, California
What better to kick things off than one of my favorite overall players in the entire 2011 NFL draft? Cameron Jordan is everything you want in a player. He has experience as an under tackle, five technique defensive end in a 3-4 and defensive end in a 4-3. He seems to produce heavily regardless of where he’s playing on the defensive line. He can eat space, penetrate the offensive line and is a pure wrap-up tackler.
Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Liuget’s strength on the defensive line has caused me to fall in love. I see him as an excellent pure 4-3 defensive tackle who can penetrate when needed, but will do the most damage against the run. He is a natural two-gap penetrator who may have some weight issues, but for now they seem to be gone.
Jabaal Sheard, DE/OLB, Pittsburgh
Sheard is the most underrated pass rusher in the entire draft. I’ve had him as a first-round selection since January, and that doesn’t change. He does a nice job of keeping contain, and is a force with great lateral quickness and power at defensive end. While people were talking about Greg Romeus, Sheard was busing racking up sacks and tackles in the backfield. He should be able to make the switch to 3-4 outside linebacker as well.
Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple
Wilkerson’s run stuffing ability has me enamored. His potential to play in as a five technique is extremely high, and he will dominate if drafted to a 4-3 defense as well. He’s a big, wide body who stuffs the run and holds the point of attack very well.
Titus Young, WR, Boise State
While young may not be the most explosive receiver, he is very quick and very tough. Despite his 174-pound frame, Young isn’t afraid to go across the middle to make the tough grab. His ability to run after the catch is huge, and while he has some mental lapses, he’s usually sure handed. Young is quick in and out of his cuts and has the elusiveness to be an ideal West Coast Offense wide receiver.
Marcus Cannon, OT/OG, TCU
I’m a lot higher on Marcus Cannon than many others, but I’m also in the minority who thinks he can play the tackle position. For a 352-pound lineman, he moves his feet very well. He’s a smart player and at the very least could man the right tackle position for a team for many years. Worst-case scenario, he bumps inside to become a mauling guard who doesn’t fare too bad against the pass rush.
Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State
What can’t Kendall Hunter do? Hunter isn’t the biggest running back, but he’s quick, elusive and has above-average vision. He’s a great pass catcher out of the backfield and is fantastic when staying in to block for his quarterback on third downs. His speed is solid, as he ran a 4.53 forty at the NFL scouting combine, and he would complement some of these NFL backs perfectly.
Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina
Burney isn’t the sexy pick for many teams, but if you need a press corner who will jam the receiver at the line and shut down the quick routes, he is your man. What Burney lacks in speed, he makes up with physical presence and intelligence. He’s not a huge playmaker, but he’ll make tackles from the edge and play smart man coverage football.
Ricardo Lockette, WR, Fort Valley State
Usually I don’t go for the combine warriors, but Lockette’s combination of size (6'2") and speed (4.37 forty) can’t be ignored. He’s a home-run threat whose excellent straight line speed will help him get behind even the fastest corners. He doesn’t have the most reliable hands, and he’s more fast than quick, but his potential is through the roof.
Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU
Kelvin Sheppard being drafted as a late second, early third-round selection seems ideal for many teams. He is a tackling machine with excellent intangibles. He’s not the most athletic, but he plays with a lot of heart and is quite physical. He plays smart defense and has a solid ability to read and react.
Prospects I Hate
Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
I’m one of the few not on the Robert Quinn bandwagon. Injury concerns hurt his stock in my eyes, as well as his uncanny ability to disappear. He’s not a consistent threat to sack the quarterback on a game-by-game basis. A severe majority of Quinn’s sacks came against less than stellar FBS schools and even some FCS schools. Add in the fact that he didn’t play for much of 2010, and I have to question his overall football shape.
Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
I love Bowers as a pure pass rusher, but I also think he benefitted from a productive defensive line at Clemson. He has great ability and is potentially a top-10 talent. But the knee issues hurt him severely in my eyes. Even though it’s reported lately that his knee is fine, lingering knee issues will come back. When you’re working in the trenches, trying to get leverage, your knees will face a ton of strain and that doesn’t bode well for Bowers.
Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
Torrey Smith’s ability downfield is unquestionable. But is that all he can do? Smith doesn’t seem to have a clear understanding of many different routes, and isn’t very crisp in and out of his cuts. He has big-play ability, but his small, weak hands (8.625 inches) make me wonder if he’s really going to be a playmaker at the next level.
Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
When you talk about talent wasted, Jon Baldwin is one of the first names that pops in my head. Baldwin has the size (6'4.375", 228) and speed (4.50 forty), but he doesn’t get good separation, often gives up on plays and doesn’t run very crisp routes. He’s a boat load of talent to be tapped into, but also a huge risk and potential diva.
Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
How can we justify drafting a player who hasn’t played football in a full season in the first or early second round of the draft? Austin disappears in games (much like former teammate Robert Quinn), and he takes plays off. He can stuff the run, but has a slow first step and doesn’t take up space consistently enough to warrant a high selection. He’s a potential five technique for a team like New England, but he requires some work.
Rashad Carmichael, CB, Virginia Tech
Carmichael reminds me a lot of DeAngelo Hall. He can be a playmaker and has great speed. But what else does he offer? He’s a liability against the run and struggles jamming receivers at the line. He’s quite prone to the double move and tends to stare in the backfield.
Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
I like Ponder as a third-round pick. But as a second-, or even first-round prospect, I hate the selection. Ponder has the intangibles, and his arm is good enough for a West Coast Offense, but I see a quarterback who struggles to make his reads, gets happy feet in the pocket and isn’t confident in his ability to thread the needle. Ponder is quite a project with great upside, but drafting him in the first two rounds is a mistake.
Brandon Burton, CB, Utah
Burton’s bowl game started to turn me off. He looked sluggish and lacked good awareness of what was really going on. Burton can tackle and help out in run support and can get a decent jam off the line, however, he may be regulated to zone coverage, as his speed and lack of great change of direction will hinder him in a pure man coverage system.
Allen Bailey, DE, Miami (Fl.)
Like Jon Baldwin, Bailey is another prospect stacked with talent who just doesn’t show it. He tends to take plays off and is slow off of the line. He doesn’t do any one thing well in terms of pass rushing or stuffing the run, but he has the potential to be a second-round selection. As of now, I see the fourth round for Bailey, with him being overdrafted by a team optimistic to turn him into a great defensive end.
Chimdi Chekwa, CB, Ohio State
I can already see many teams jumping on the Chekwa bandwagon after his 40 time alone. As a Buckeye fan, I can say first hand that Chekwa’s game speed and track speed are completely different. He is a physical corner who can help out in the run game, and gets a decent jam off the line. But as far as downfield coverage, he’s poor and is a liability outside 15 yards.
Right in the Middle
Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
I love what Jones has to offer as a complete football player. But when I watched him at Alabama, I couldn’t help but see a Braylon Edwards clone when he was at Michigan. He’s physical, strong, fast and an excellent route runner as well as blocker downfield. But while he’ll make all the tough catches, he’ll also drop a few easy ones that no NFL receiver should drop.
Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
I love all of Newton’s tools, and his arm strength and potential accuracy are much better coming out of college than a guy like Vince Young. But the intangibles really have to be taken into account, and Newton has very poor intangibles. I don’t think he can read defenses, and I question his decision making, as he’s not going to have wide-open receivers as often as he did as a junior at Auburn.
Cameron Heyward, DE/DT, Ohio State
Heyward’s play regressed in 2010 as a pass rusher, but he still showed that he can stuff the run and hold the point of attack quite well. I think he will succeed in a 3-4 defense playing the five technique, but his versatility in a 4-3 front also could help him.
Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy
Speed and quickness is everything to some teams. Jernigan is proclaimed as this year’s Dexter McCluster as a guy who will be taken higher because of his ability to play different positions offensively and catch the ball well. But where does his value lie? Is he a slot receiver, could he become a No. 2 for a team? Can you justify a second-round pick on what most likely is a pure slot receiver? That is to be determined.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
I love Kaepernick’s potential. He has a laser for an arm and solid intangibles. He’s a leader on the field and is a smart player. But I question his decision making, as well as his football IQ. He has great speed, but he won’t be outrunning many NFL linebackers, and he’ll have to improve his accuracy greatly to be effective at the next level.
Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State
I’ve been a lot higher on Daniel Thomas than most. I love his overall ability as an every-down back, but the fact that a 228-pound running back runs away from defenders and out of bounds really bothers me. Is he trying to keep himself from getting injured? Doubtful. Some wonder if he’s just a bit scared to take a big hit, which a guy his size shouldn’t be afraid of. He has good north/south ability, but he does have some minor injury issues.
Adrian Clayborn, DE/DT, Iowa
Just like Cameron Heyward, Clayborn’s numbers dropped in 2010. He seemed to be taken out of games as a pass rusher, and while the Hawkeyes tried to move him around to create more mismatches, he couldn’t put together any consistency. He still is an excellent all around talent and has potential as a five technique defensive end, but his calling could be as a rotational defensive end/defensive tackle in a 4-3.
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