Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
On Friday the 13th I got the chance to have an extended conversation with an area scout for a NFC team. Here is some of what we talked about.
On Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater:
He was very quick to pronounce Bridgewater as the “firm” top QB in this draft class. His team believes he will be a top 5 pick “at minimum”. We talked about Bridgewater’s performances, including one this scout saw in person, and the scout praised his patience in the pocket and the consistency of his mechanics.
We talked some about where Bridgewater would fit, and he said something that made a lot of sense.
“He’s Houston’s carrot. Some coach is gonna go in there and say ‘I can win right away with this guy’ and their owner is gonna eat that up. I haven’t seen them very much this year but there is still a lot of real good players (sic) there. The new coach is gonna get a franchise quarterback with the number one pick and they still got J.J. Watt. They get Duane Brown back healthy, and Cush (Brian Cushing) and that’s elite talent at key spots.”
On Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas:
Contrary to what the internet draft community would like to believe, both this scout and his team remain pretty bullish on Thomas. How bullish?
“I think he goes top 60.”
I called BS, but he was insistent.
“I know he’s had decision making issues. It’s easy to see he holds the ball too damn long.” After a few comments about some of Thomas’ issues, he continued:
“There is so much to work with (on Thomas)…he can hit every throw the NFL demands. He hit a route against Pitt that looked like Aaron Rodgers throwing it. Rolled out, set up and let it fly over the under coverage and outside the safety. Hit his man in the hands on the dead run. I’m telling you man, when he gets to Mobile (for the Senior Bowl) the coaches are gonna look at him and see how much bigger and stronger he is than everyone else and they’re gonna see him drop rockets in drills and they’re gonna love that, man.”
We talked about why Thomas has struggled so badly at times. Without going into great or explicit detail, the scout intimated that Virginia Tech’s offense and coaching staff did not help Thomas.
As an aside, in my first preseason mock draft for the 2012 draft, I had Logan Thomas as my top overall pick. Since that time I’ve been bitterly disappointed with the Hokies signal caller and his maddening lack of progress, if not outright regression. I love a great reclamation story angle, but other than sporadic drives within a handful of games Logan Thomas has not even looked like a worthy backup QB at the next level over the last two seasons.
On Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin:
We got to talking about the BCS title game and who he was most excited to see in the game. Before I barely finished the sentence he had a ready answer: Kelvin Benjamin.
“I saw him at Pitt back in September and I didn’t know anything about him. FSU goes out on offense and this monster lines up split wide. He runs a sluggo and his feet are clean, the hips are free and I’m like, no way that’s the same guy. I was sitting with (Dir. Of Collegiate Scouting for a team) and he’s already texting his area scout for info on this guy.”
“I was at their games against Va Tech and Maryland last year and he didn’t do sh**, just some big guy they used as a decoy. That’s what I thought he was gonna be again. But man, his light bulb lit up, man.”
He went on to talk about how much quicker Benjamin looked in getting off the line and out of breaks. But it’s the redshirt sophomore’s ability to make tough catches in traffic that impressed him the most.
“He’s like Calvin (Johnson), you just chuck it up near him and he’s gonna come down with it, man.” I brought up a catch Alshon Jeffery made where Lions CB Darius Slay had a full hand on the ball and tried to knock it away but Jeffery still held on in the end zone and he smiled, “Yup man, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.”
I asked him about projected draft range should Benjamin declare for the draft. His answer caught me a little off-guard:
“First wide receiver taken. Real chance for that guy.”
I brought up other prominent receivers, including Sammy Watkins from Clemson, USC’s Marqise Lee, and Mike Evans from Texas A&M. He thought it would come down to Watkins or Benjamin. It’s worth noting he is quite fond of Watkins, as is his general manager, who attended a recent Clemson game specifically to watch Watkins.
In the further discourse on Benjamin he brought up an interesting name. That would be Saints TE Jimmy Graham. The parallel he drew was of where Graham was when New Orleans drafted him (3rd round in 2010) and how everyone could see the physical potential, but his rawness scared teams off. He strongly believes teams will try and avoid that mistake with Benjamin, who has visibly improved even from September through the ACC Championship devastation of Duke.
On Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde:
He was quick to point out that he had not seen him in person, but added, “He’s been the best surprise of the year, man. Anyone who tells you he’s not just as talented as Eddie Lacy was don’t know what they’re (sic) talking about. You’re talking about a rocked up, 225-pound guy with feet that quick? Watch him hit the hole and keep those feet shuffling. He doesn’t lose momentum at all.”
This led to a conversation which I found very interesting, talking about players who transform themselves both physically and personally. We talked about how Hyde worked hard at getting more functionally strong but also leaner. We also talked about guys who mature late, and Vontaze Burfict came up as an example.
“(his team) look at guys like that, like, every guy is different. Some guys need to fall before they can rise up. (Burfict) f***** up his way off our draft board, and our area scout was pissed about it too. He said he was a first round talent, but he got overruled, man. (The GM) didn’t think he could hack it mentally. (The coaches) agreed, didn’t want the headaches, man.”
So what about Hyde, who has had some maturity issues?
“Like I said, we’ll dig on him. I know we talked to guys at Ohio State. We’ve talked to people around him already, and we’ll talk to more along the way.”
How do they evaluate him as a talent?
“Right now I would call him the best running back in this draft. He’s the best I’ve watched this year.” But he did note he has not spent much, if any, time on west coast backs Marion Grice, Bishop Sankey or Ka’Deem Carey. Hyde currently ranks 2nd on our own running back big board.
Some other quick bites:
–even though their board hasn’t even begun to get set, he strongly believes the top-rated player at the end of their evaluation process will not be Jadeveon Clowney but rather Jake Matthews, the Texas A&M tackle. “He’s a lot better than any of the guys that went high last year. A lot better. He’s Joe Thomas good out of the box.” That seems lofty to me, though I do love the Matthews family. I got the impression that lineage plays a role in the glowing evaluation.
–on Clowney: “Too many people that don’t know what they’re talking about, trying to bring him down. Football people know.” He called him a “very special talent” with “game changing ability.”
It’s important here to put some context to his words. This man speaks with very discernible differentiation between potential and ability. When he says ability, it means it’s there already and will translate to the NFL.
–on Kain Colter, the Northwestern quarterback who will switch to wide receiver in the NFL. “People don’t know about him but he can ball, man. The issue is his health. I know he’s had at least two concussions.”
He continued, “We’re not even sure he wants to keep on playing. You remember Myron Rolle (the Florida State safety and Rhodes Scholar)? That’s who I think of when I look at him. You know he’s got bigger things to do in life than football. I hope he goes after it in the NFL, man, because that guy can do a lot for a team.”
–on North Carolina TE Eric Ebron: “He’s the best tight end I saw this year or last year.” I still prefer Jace Amaro from Texas Tech, however.
–on Furman OT Dakota Dozier, who recently accepted a spot in the Shrine Game: “You will like this guy. His punch needs some work but he’s got NFL tackle feet. There’s a lot to work with on that guy.” I have not seen Dozier play, but I’m really looking forward to seeing him in person in St. Pete next month.
In the next version of the mock draft here, which should be completed by this Wednesday, I will include some other comments from my scouting friend on certain players as well. As a teaser, he thinks the Lions would be very fortunate to wind up with the player I currently have slotted there. Hint–it’s not a cornerback.
You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffRisdon