Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
I’ve had a chance to watch just about every position group on both rosters over the first two days. Here are my takeaways so far:
–The centers are separating themselves into classes. Colorado State’s Weston Richburg and Florida State’s Bryan Stork have risen to the top, followed pretty closely by Travis Swanson from Arkansas. Utah State’s Tyler Larsen has settled in fairly far below them, and then there’s Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard. I will advocate the Lions drafting Richburg in the third round from now until May. I strongly suspect Swanson will be drafted earlier than that.
–I’m not a big fan of evaluating quarterbacks; too many people have too many opinions that are all over the map on those guys. But I will say with complete confidence that Tajh Boyd is not a NFL-caliber quarterback. Both Keith Wenning and Jordan Lynch, let alone Jimmy Garoppolo and Jeff Mathews, from the Shrine Game are all better NFL prospects than Boyd. I like Wenning as a 7th-round flyer for Detroit.
–One school of thought for the Lions second-round pick is to take a pass rushing OLB. If BYU’s Kyle Van Noy is there–and I’m guessing it’s about 60/40 he won’t be–he would make a very nice choice. He’s consistently demonstrated enough athleticism to play in space. He’s been decent in coverage, but he’s at his best using his loose ankles and sneaky power to get to the QB.
–In terms of Michigan interest, I paid quite a bit of attention to Saginaw Valley State’s Jeff Janis. The wideout came in at 6’2”, a little shorter than expected, but he’s got a legit NFL body. There is not a great deal of lateral agility, but saying he’s straight-line is incorrect; he has a little wiggle, but he’s better at using his strength and bulk to help him leverage off coverage. He made a very nice sideline catch on a terrible throw from Miami’s Stephen Morris. Not sure he’s draftable until he runs, and thus far he has not had much to do down the field. On a side and completely hetero note, he’s a very good looking young man.
–In the battle of bigger corners on the North, Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir has outshined Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Desir is clearly more agile, with looser ankles and hips, and he also runs with more control. Jean-Baptiste locates the ball better, however, and is better at using his body to steer the receiver off the desired path. He’s got a major problem with holding on cuts, however, and in team drills he could not get off blocks from smaller receivers. I saw the same issue there in games against Michigan and Michigan State this fall, too. It’s an odd problem for a giant corner.
–Auburn DE Dee Ford is turning heads and opening eyes. His ability to generate force from his core strength is impressive, and he’s shown he can rush inside as well as turning the corner.
–None of the specialists here appear worthy of a draft pick. The winds on Tuesday really played havoc with them. Auburn PK Cody Parkey has been the best of the lot.
–I haven’t mentioned him earlier or Tweeted about him, but Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler is quietly impressing me. He’s shown range, balance, and a good feel for coverage pickups. He’s got some Don Carey to his game, though on tape he hits harder. Tuesday’s blitz drill was not his forte, however.
–In terms of disruptive interior defensive linemen, nobody here is close to Aaron Donald. He’s been outstanding. Will Sutton has some hits and some misses, and I suspect that will be his NFL caste as well. It is important to note that run support from the DL is not something that gets much attention here, so keep the jets cooled on top 15 status for Donald. Caraun Reid and Deandre Coleman have both flashed but are nothing more than reserves at the next level.
–Florida guard Jon Halapio is going to make some team very, very happy in the 4th or 5th round. He struggled during the season with a pec injury. He’s healed, and he’s been fantastic. He has pancaked big Dan McCullers three times, and he forklifted Will Sutton on another rep after making batter of him as well. He has a very natural ability to fire from his stance with violent hands.
–Wyoming WR Robert Herron has been exemplary. He has incredible explosion off the line. He can also change direction on a dime without gearing down, a very important attribute for a receiver. His hands are soft but strong. His catch radius isn’t all that big, but he’s been largely uncoverable here.
–One player I hadn’t spent much time on but really want to check out a lot more extensively is Utah State CB Nevin Lawson. As I tweeted on Tuesday:
Liking Nevin Lawson CB Utah State more every day. Impressed me last week at Shrine, building on it here
— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) January 21, 2014
He’s done nothing but impress with his quickness. I like his eyes and instincts too. I don’t have any notes from game tape on him yet, but I like what I see.
–Biggest disappointment for me thus far has been Missouri DE Michael Sam. Part of the issue is that he is working at LB here. He’s as much of a linebacker as Dwight Howard is a point guard. His ankles and hips are tight, and he struggles with change of direction. Part of the issue is that he relies so much on forward lean and momentum be effective. When he’s not going straight forward, his athleticism evaporates. Looks like a limited rush end. I was hopeful to see more.
–Really enjoying interacting with all sorts of new friends and colleagues here. I also appreciate the interactions and support on Twitter. Thanks!
Tags: Aaron Donald, Bryan Stork, Cody Parkey, Gabe Ikard, Jeff Janis, Jon Halapio, Kenny Ladler, Kyle Van Noy, Michael Sam, Nevin Lawson, Pierre Desir, Robert Herron, Senior Bowl, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Tajh Boyd, Travis Swanson, Tyler Larsen, Weston Richburg, Will Sutton