Archive for the ‘NFL Prospect Previews’ Category

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September 13, 2009

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Speed to burn: Bears Draft Pick Johnny Knox

April 27, 2009

One of the three draft picks the Bears used on wide receivers today went to a player from a small school with one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the combine. Abiliene Christian’s Johnny Knox was the Bears’ fifth round draft choice and Bears fans should not be asking why.

Knox is mixture of good size at 6-foot 198-pounds and has shown some pretty good ball skills to go with that speed. He was one of the top performers at the combine that I noticed while scouting it in my live blog earlier this year. He is a very smooth athlete who shows some great athletic promise with an ability to go up and get the ball at it’s highest point and he has excellent body control.

His only downside would be he’s not as strong as you’d like in a receiver. He won’t break a lot of tackles or make a lot of yards after contact because of his small hips and legs.

Overall though he was very productive at a small school. With 118 career catches to go with 2,227 yards and an 18.9 yards per catch average and lastly 30 touchdowns you can see he easily dominated a low level of competition. He may be a bit of a project but he gives the Bears another option in stretch the field.

Reminds me a bit of a young Bernard Berrian a player with a lot of athletic prowess who needs some polish. If he gets that polish and develops he could make an impacct sooner, rather than later.

Juaqin Iglesias good value at 99th overall

April 26, 2009

Earlier this week I was a bit hard on Iglesias in my prospect preview of him. However I was hard on him for being talked about as a prospect at 49th overall, in the second round. I had no problems with him being selected at the 99th slot in the draft which is where he landed.

Iglesias has value for the 99th overall selection, he could have been a small reach at 49 and a player who could have been scooped up in the second round. Some experts had him pegged with second round value, but the safest place to take him was in the third round and beyond. The Bears looked like they knew what they saw in Iglesias snatching him up in the back end of the third round.

The loss of Bernard Berrian in free agency brings the Bears a solid possession receiver who will get get yards and hopefully continue to move the chains. He’s not going to go deep and make big plays, he’s not going to run away from people. But he should be a third down option who keeps the chains moving in important games late in the season. Decent size, good hands and the ability to seperate and mak plays in the soft spots of zones is what the Bears needed at WR and Iglesias brings good value for that at the 99th overall spot.

Prospect Preview: Juaquin Iglesias

April 23, 2009

Finally I get to writing a prospect profile on wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias from the Oklahoma Sooners. I didn’t want to do all of the prospects all lumped together I wanted to try and spread out their prospect previews over a couple weeks time. So I stalled and stalled on doing this write up.

Then I started to do more research on Iglesias who seems like he is quietly the Matt Forte of this year’s draft class. By that I mean the front office seems to like him a lot. They have thoroughly scouted him via the combine, private workouts and the Oklahoma Pro Day. He’s been one of the most talked about possibilities at 49 overall in the draft since the combine.

So I began to ask myself why, why is a receiver from Oklahoma so highly thought of when so many of them have bombed? The more I started to watch Iglesias the more film I watched the more of a sinking feeling I got regarding him possibly being in a Chicago Bears uniform. I’m now officially beginning to wonder if he is so highly rated because he’s from the Sooner nation. I mean his highlight reel isn’t anything spectacular. His production is nothing world beating, he had one big game against Kansas 12 catches for 191 yards ZERO TDs. He makes a lot of catches with defenders hanging on him, which is good but bad at the sametime because it shows he’s not getting a lot of separation.

So I’m looking for the one thing that makes Iglesias worthy of the 49th selection and I have yet to find it. He’s not overly 6-foot-1 210-pounds. He’s not overly fast 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, and his vertical leap isn’t overly special at 34 1/2 inches. So what is it that makes Iglesias an NFL worthy prospect?

He has decent production from 2008 74 catches for 1,150 and 10 touchdowns. His production improved from year to year and he was a three year starter for the Sooners. He sorta does everything average to good but nothing exceptionally well. He’s a good route runner, has good hands, is the same size as Hakeem Nicks so you can’t knock one guy and compliment the other for their size. He is who he is a prospect that is probably a better value later in the third to fourth round and you wonder if you getting a beneficiary of the hype machine that is Oklahoma.

They had a great offense in 2008 arguably the best offense of all time. Against some pretty mediocre competition and they were completely shut down in the National Championship game by the Florida Gators. So you wonder why do so many players get the level of respect that they do coming out of Norman every year?

Some guys just have the benefit of being a good player on a great team therefore that makes them automatically great players compared to the rest of the kids out there.

He has positive attributes that a lot of receivers have but nothing jaw dropping. He doesn’t seem as tough after the catch or even as fast as Hakeem Nicks. He’s not as big or as fast or as polished as Brian Robiskie. So while there is things to like about him, I’m just not feeling it regardin Juaquin Iglesias. If he ends up a Chicago Bear I’ll support him and hope for the best. But if he doesn’t end up sticking around in the league then I won’t be all that shocked either.

Prospect Preview: Hakeem Nicks

April 21, 2009

Hakeem Nicks is an intriguing prospect if there ever was one. He could have been a good pick up for the Bears at the 18th spot in the NFL draft or he could possibly even fall as low as 49th in the draft. There is no way to say where he is better in his game than either Kenny Britt or Brian Robiskie. The three fit well together for the type of receivers they are and the type of receivers the Bears needs.

For starters it’s hard to argue with Nicks’ production, his hands, his work ethic his run after the catch his route running all the things that are far more important than a guy like Heyward-Bey who has built his reputation primarily on speed. Nicks’ intangibles are greater than Heyward Bey’s and that is enough to sell me on him as a prospect. In our receiver combine report we picked up on the scouting report given by Colts GM and receiver evaluator extraordinaire Bill Polian who gave strong compliments to Nicks.

Plus if you’ve seen Nicks play (I saw two of his games) you came away impressed with his ability. Nicks is a receiver who will be productive in the NFL because he is more polished than a lot of the other WRs who have come before him. A lot of Nicks’ yards came from his solid separation in his route running in short passes that he turned into big gains with ability after the catch.

His performance in the Citrus Bowl is all you need to view to know that he is big time receiver. He almost won the game by himself with his three touchdowns and 213 yards receiving. He just would not let his team lose because of something he failed to do.

Big time receivers show up for the big games and this is one game where Nicks was shining through. As well as the conference game against Miami. He made big catches in that game as well to help put his team in position for a win.

There is little doubt that if Nicks were to fall to as low as 49th in the draft he would be considered a steal if the Bears were able to scoop him up.

Prospect Preview: Mike Rivera

April 20, 2009

As previously mentioned most NFL teams are quite enamored with the hybrid OLB/DE types that fit into the 3-4 scheme. It’s all the rage this year with 10 prospects likely to go in the first two rounds of the draft. Thanks can go to Ware and Harrison of Dallas and Pittsburgh respectively.

On the flip side of the equation though is something of a bit of interest. With so many teams looking at the 3-4 hybrid types, the likelihood that some quality 4-3 OLB types slip to the later rounds of the draft are quite good.

One such prospect is Mike Rivera from Kansas University who showed some explosive athleticism at the KU pro day. By LB standards Rivera about jumped out of the gymnasium with his 38 1/2 inch vertical which would have been a full inch and a half better than all of the other LBs at the NFL Scouting combine. More importantly Rivera is not projected as a weak-side prospect with his 6-foot-3 245-pound frame.

Rivera is a converted MIKE ‘backer who started playing the SAM position in 2006. From that point forward he was a tackling machine racking up over 95 tackles per season over three seasons, including an average of 10 tackles for a loss. These are ideal numbers for a SAM ‘backer prospect who needs to be big and physical to match up with the strong-side run formation where the TEs typically line up.

Rivera’s stock is on the rise and rightfully so with his 4.62 speed in the 40-yard dash to go with his vertical leap. That type of straight line speed will help him match up well with TEs in the 4-3 cover-2 the Bears primarily run. He also showed ability against the pass with seven pass break ups in 2007 and four more in 2008. His seven pass break ups were second on the team and is pretty high for a linebacker prospect who is not typically asked to make a lot of plays in the passing game, where it’s not typical for TEs to be a primary receiving option in college.

Rivera is yet another prospect who is being scouted over thoroughly by the coaching staff and looks like he could be brought in in the later rounds of the draft. It’s no secret that these unheralded but productive college players with solid athleticism are being worked over by one of the most productive scouting departments in the league. Productive by defensive standards as Angelo and his crew have shown time and again that they can unearth project players who develop on special teams and turn into above average pros later in their careers. Perhaps Mike Rivera will be just that type of player come the second day of the NFL draft.

Prospect Preview: Safety Troy Nolan

April 19, 2009

Well this one is one of the easiest scouting reports I’d had to do on a player given that I’ve seen him practice and play first hand at ASU games the past two season. The benefit of being an ASU football season ticket holder pay it’s dividends in this case.

So can I put up a non-biased scouting report of Troy Nolan’s talents? Well I’m going to try.

For me personally Nolan can look like Ed Reed in one instant and then look like he’s lost in space the next. Why would I dare mention Ed Reed? Consider just for a moment that he was the Ed Reed of college football, while Ed Reed is the NFL version of well duh Ed Reed. By this I mean Nolan is a ball hawk with 10 career INTs of which five went for touchdowns. 167 yards for those return yards after he picked the ball off so I know Nolan can set up blockers and get into the end zone ala Ed Reed.

Thing is Nolan is not always consistent with his game. Sometimes he over pursues the play and ends up really costing the team. He is a good tackler, will stick his nose in and make a play on the ball carrier. But his most impressive aspect of his game is his ball hawk ability. He has good size, 6-1 209-pounds, but lacks the real speed you’d like to see out of your free safety. He’s not going to light the track on fire with his 4.61 timed 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, but his game speed is better than his timed speed.

His ball hawk skills were pretty consistent although after a big junior it took him awhile to get going for his senior year. He wound up with seven pass break ups to go with his four picks so it as no fluke. He was a second team All-Pac-10 performer which doesn’t say much to most people, until you consider created by god himself as the perfect athlete and safety (if you believe the hype) USC Trojan Taylor Mays plays in the same conference.

The negatives are enough that he likely won’t get sniffed until the later rounds. The 40-yard dash time from the combine will scare some teams as will some of his lost in space lapses in coverage.

The Bears recently worked him out privately at a work out scheduled for another player. Nolan happened to be around so he was put through some positional drills. Since the Bears have a dire need in the secondary for a safety prospect and the Bears are known for finding starting caliber safeties late in the rounds it wouldn’t shock me if he ended up a Bear.

Nolan is another safety prospect that is among the long list of prospects the Bears are scouting seriously. The positions the Bears are scouting the most players at are in no particular order wide receiver, offensive line, safety and strong side outside linebacker. It shouldn’t therefore shock most fans when the Bears go with a number of these scouted prospects that appear on this list.

Prospect Preview: Russell Martin

April 16, 2009

What a frustrating aspect of football the media can be. Generating so much hype about popular this, gimmicky that, in vogue this, successful that, won the Super Bowl with this, dominated the league with that. Everyone is changing to this, the evolution of this team, the direction of the defense’s in the league. Every year it’s something different that contributes to a team’s success in the league. Every year the media hypes up the success of a team utilizing a certain scheme, certain set, formation or even personnel.

When the Bears went to the Super Bowl and had dominating defenses the Cover-2 or Tampa-2 was all the rage. Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl and their OLB finished as the league’s defensive player of the year the 3-4 zone read/scheme/blitz is the popular defense that everyone is mimicking or shifting to or implementing. So naturally you have to shift the personnel to meet the requirements of the 3-4. Everyone needs the hybrid outside linebackers who can both drop into coverage and rush the passer. Teams need the DeMarcus Ware, James Harrison, Terrell Suggs’ of the world to fortify their defense.

So apparently what is a priority in the draft is Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown, Larry English, and of course the unanimous selection of best defensive player available, Aaron Curry. So what ever happened to the Hunter Hillenmeyer’s of the world? The Wilbur Marshall, Junior Seau types who played the SAM position so successfully for years in the NFL?

What happened to all the 4-3 strong side LBs?

Well if you believe the hype those types of players aren’t around anymore, well they are but the analysts just choose to attach a label to those players. Truth be told there isn’t much difference in the responsibilities between the SAM and the hybrid 3-4 types. Both need to be solid against the run, need to cover well in space, and rush the passer. Typically though the responsibilities of the SAM LB are less because he doesn’t have to be the primary pass rusher in a 3 man switch to a four man front.

So given the need the Bears have at the SAM ‘backer position which prospects are they targeting? San Diego State’s Russell Allen is one of the player’s the Bears brought in for an official visit/private workout. Allen is the prototypical SAM, arguably MIKE LB. The most important aspect of a SAM LB is that he has to be pretty big and strong to take on runs to the strong-side of the offensive formation. He needs to be big enough to match up well with the TEs in pass coverage. So you’d like to see them at a minimum of 6-foot-2. Allen is 6-foot-3 and goes 235-pounds and his workout number at the San Diego State pro day were well within the respectable range for a SAM ‘backer prospect. He ran the 40-yard dash in the low 4.6 range, posted a 33.5-inch vertical jump, 9-foot, 10-inch broad jump, 4.34 short shuttle, 7.21 three-cone drill and 24 bench press reps.

Furthermore his production for the Aztecs was acceptable as well. Obivously I’m not going to sit here and sell Allen as a high end prospect or even a mid round prospect. He is what he is but at least he has potential and probably a chip on his shoulder given that he’s not getting as much respect as the other guys out there. He led the defense in tackles with 119 … Ranked first in the MWC in tackles per conference outing (10.6) and was 33rd nationally in overall games (9.9) … MWC all-conference honorable mention pick in 2007.

To help Bears fans rest easy there are also 17 other teams that have shown interest in Allen. Even though he is not a glitzy or glamorous prospect. He is the old worn out cliche, lunch pail type of player who also has experience and value as a long snapper.

Perhaps Martin has played his last real game on the football field and may never set foot on Soldier Field in a regular season game. However if a prospect is going to be given a private workout attended by Jerry Angelo, he deserves his respect here and elsewhere in the realm of Chicago Bears fans.

Prospect Preview: Safety Louis Delmas

April 15, 2009

Of course the headline of this topic doesn’t really mean anything to the Bears since they don’t have a first round draft pick. But what it could mean is that the Bears may have to grab a safety in round two if they want a good one out of this draft. Some of the talk you hear is that there is just not a lot of talent at the safety position in this draft for the second year in a row. No talent whatsoever that is first round worthy. Last year only Kenny Phillips from the Miami Hurricanes went in round one and it was at the end of round one at that.

So for the second consecutive year there is a major void of overall talent in the first round. So where is the talent? Some would say there is good talent to be had in the second and third rounds but then a drop off in talent after that. There is some argument that top corner back prospect Malcom Jenkins may be forced over to free safety due to his lack of pure straight line speed in the 40-yard dash. What helps Jenkins though is his overall athletic ability, which fits in very well with the CB mold.

Beyond that it’s a matter of where you plug in the top safeties available. Louis Delmas from Western Michigan is the top rated safety in the draft by most accounts. Delmas is a four-year starter and a thre-time all conference selection which is impressive by all accounts but some may knock him as being a small conference player. Delmas has been productive all four years of college and when you are named All-Conference it’s important to not that it’s not the fans that participate in this vote, or the media. These selections are made by the head coaches within the MAC, so all the evaluation and respect that these players earn are from the coaches in the league. Men who make a career out of evaluating and coaching football talent.

That’s a fine level of respect for Delmas coming from his conference’s coaches. But to take it up another level Mike Mayock of the NFL Network’s Path to the Draft show said that Delmas is the most aggressive run defending safety he has seen in the draft in the last five years. That may be the biggest compliment that can be paid to a player like coming into the draft. He’s an aggressive tackler, unafraid of coming up and making the hit and perhaps overly so given a tendency to come up in play-action. However that can be coached on and worked on to a nice level of improvement. It’s about reading and making the proper reaction at the right time. Plus trusting that if it is in fact a run, that your front seven will be more likely to stop it without the safety having to get up and make the help.

There are a lot of positives regarding Delmas and not as many negatives as you would think for a safety that may fall out of the first round. It’s hard to call be overly aggressive a negative aspect of a player’s game because you want that in a player. You want to be able to have to perhaps calm a player down a bit rather than have to get him pumped up to make plays or big hits.

There is also talk of what is an ideal size for a free-safety in this league and Louis Delmas doesn’t have the ideal frame. One would argue though that at 6-foot 209-pounds is plenty big enough so long as you’re bring the wood every time you tackle.

Mike Brown wasn’t an ideal size and when healthy played at a Pro Bowl level. Bob Sanders of the Colts is 5-foot-9 206-pounds and is known for his aggressive style of play. He’s is like a human missile is the way he flies up to take on the ball carrier in the run game.

What is important is that Delmas plays the ball well in the air and attacks the line of scrimmage well. He isn’t afraid to make the big hits which is important when considering how WRs can be so easily intimidated to come over the middle by a big hitting safety.

Will Delmas last until the second round? Will he possibly be there at 49 when the Bears select? It’s a possibility if the WR talent pool that is considered first and second round worthy is drained by the time the Bears pick.

Prospect Preview: A poor man’s Larry Fitzgerald?

April 14, 2009

That’s precisely the way one scout described this wide receiver prospect. A top level threat that goes up and catches the ball at it’s highest point with superb body control and hands. He does everything the right way the type of player you want in a receiver. He’s essentially been groomed his whole life to be a wide receiver in the NFL.

Who is this top level prospect who might wind up falling to as low as 49th pick in the second round? None other than Brian Robiskie of Ohio State who stands in at 6-foot-3 209-pounds and runs in the high 4.4 to low 4.5 40-yard dash range. Robiskie is arguably the prospect that is most NFL ready with his superb route running, ability to get off the jam at the line and get down the field and make plays on the football in traffic.

There are not a lot of negatives that scouts have written about in their analysis of Robiskie. His only down fall is that 4.3 40-yard dash speed that Larry Fitzgerald has. Plus he is not known as a great blocker in run plays against bigger players. The biggest thing that is somewhat worrisome is his lack of elite production at the college level. His senior year his production fell off a bit and his junior year production while solid wasn’t jaw dropping.

The consensus is that Robiskie will be a good player in this league for a long time to come. He understands what it takes to be good in the NFL because he’s grown up under an NFL receivers coach his whole life. His father is Terry Robiskie a 26-year coaching veteran in the NFL, who has coached receivers for most of that career. There likely isn’t a prospect more prepared mentally and physically for the NFL than Robiskie is. He knows the preparation level it takes to succeed, knows the work ethic and effort he needs to put forth to succeed.

Robiskie is the opposite of the type of prospect than Darrius Heyward Bey is. While Heyward Bey gets mega hype for his speed and game breaking ability, Robiskie is the type of player that quietly goes about his business of making plays and being consistent with his play.

Path to the Draft analysis had nothing but positives regarding Robiskie as well stating his actualy game speed may be faster than what it looks like he is in the 40-yard dash. Every time you pop in the tape you see him making a unique play, he gets in and out of his breaks well, he gets out of press coverage, he’s always open, he understands all the things you need to do succeed in any passing scheme.

One stat that lends credit to his game playing speed is that he was second in the Big-10 with catches of 20-yards or more. That says that he has the speed to get down the field and then get YAC, plus the all-important ability to go up in a crowd and come down with the football.

The more you read about Robiskie and hear about him the more you get that unanimous type of feeling that he will be a good player in the league. Should he slip far enough in the draft to the neighborhood of where the Bears will select the more important it is the Bears should draft him even if that means moving up in a realistic trade to land him.