Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
Each week during the college season I like to put together a compilation of the highs and lows from the scouting perspective. Here are this week’s rules of thumb:
–Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. He spearheaded the impressive goal line stand against USC that preserved Notre Dame’s undefeated season, while also picking off a pass and making some impressive run fills. Te’o is a legitimate impact player at inside linebacker, something that doesn’t come along very often. I rarely advocate drafting an inside backer in the top 20, but I would not hesitate to pull the trigger on Te’o in the top 10. He will have a much greater impact on his team than Luke Kuechly, who went #9 overall last year and started right away for Carolina. Te’o is more powerful, a better blitzer, and a more natural and transcendent leadership presence.
–Denard Robinson, RB, Michigan. I’ve maintained for over a year that Robinson’s best shot at NFL success is at running back, and his performance against Ohio State did nothing to dispel that notion. Robinson ripped off a 67-yard run that showed great acceleration, excellent vision, and good lower body strength. He has shown these traits as a runner time and again at quarterback, but now that he has taken 2+ games as a pseudo-RB, I really like what I see. I’m always hesitant to take a big gamble on converting a quarterback to any other position (see: Armanti Edwards, Brad Smith, Eric Crouch) but I would be willing to take a third round flier on Robinson as a speed back and return man.
–David Fales, QB, San Jose State. I begin this with the caveat that Fales is only a junior and it’s rare for non-BCS schools to have QB prospects leave early, but should Fales opt to test the waters, I think he’ll swim a lot higher than many might think. In my first extensive look at Fales, he played quite well against a good Louisiana Tech team. He showed good awareness, an excellent zip on his throws, and very good accuracy on both short and longer throws. I am looking forward to watching more of Fales, and he might be wise to declare in what looks to be a wide open year for quarterback prospects.
–Alex Okafor, DE, Texas. Okafor is bothered by a bad ankle injury that kept him largely confined to the sidelines in the Longhorns home loss to TCU. The big, powerful end has been the most dynamic performer for a very disappointing Texas defense, but his inconsistency remains an issue. Getting hurt in his (maybe) final home game erased one last chance to show how much of an impact pass rusher he can be at the next level. He’s already a bit of a difficult sell as a power end with only average burst and lateral agility, not an en vogue speed edge rusher. You have to see Okafor in action to appreciate his all-around talent, but the high ankle injury robbed him of the opportunity. At least he gets a chance to make another impression in the Longhorns’ bowl game.
–Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State. Carradine will not get another chance to make an impression as the senior defensive end tore his ACL in the lopsided loss to Florida. Like Okafor, he is more reliant on power and drive than speedier ends, and an ACL injury really inhibits his ability to anchor and burst on the edge for the next few months. It also wipes out his draft preparation season. Because he’s a relative fresh face, thrust into significant action only because of an injury to more heralded (but inferior) Brandon Jenkins, scouts won’t have a lot to go on with Carradine. He’s got very good potential but needs a lot of technical development and experience, neither of which he’ll get during his recovery period which could very well land him on PUP as a rookie. O’Brien Schofield suffered the same type of injury at the Senior Bowl (thanks Vlad Ducasse) and fell from a top 40 pick to the 4th round, really needing two seasons before he showed much value for the Cardinals. I don’t think Carradine will fall out of the top 75, but the team that drafts him must prepare to not have his services in 2013.
–Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State. The Michigan game was a nice microcosm of Hankins’ season. He flashed utter dominance at times, crashing through the line with rare quickness for a 320+ pounder. He knifed through the “A” gap a couple of times so quickly that neither lineman touched him. But he also showed a disregard for gap integrity on several runs, and Michigan exploited his tendency to try and get into the backfield on every snap. Some question his motor but I see more of a fatigue issue and a player pacing himself, albeit unnecessarily. When he is on his game he is every bit as talented and disruptive as 2010 #3 overall pick Gerald McCoy, but I only see that on about 65% of his plays and fewer than that in the Michigan game. When contrasted with linemate John Simon, who plays every snap like a fireman rushing into a burning building to save a damsel in distress, it really makes Hankins’ inconsistent effort and production look puzzling. Still, there is way too much talent here for coaches to fall in love with for Hankins to fall out of the top 10.
–Khaled Holmes, C, USC. While I’ve never been a big fan, I have at least in some past games seen why some evaluators like Holmes. Against Notre Dame, however, I have to wonder why anyone would consider drafting Holmes at all. Obviously that is an overreaction to one bad game, but oh what a bad game it was! Holmes was continually blasted backwards by Irish defenders (notably Louis Nix) and showed almost no ability to anchor. He also showed very limited range, though a lingering leg injury has something to do with that. For a player with his reputation and credentials heading into this season and even carrying through the year, Holmes might be the most disappointing player in the country. The game tape I’ve seen, and I’ve seen 6 Trojans games, shows a marginal NFL talent that doesn’t deserve to be drafted above the 6th round.