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September 13, 2009

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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: 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.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Safety Al Afalava

April 11, 2009

Little has been said about the Bears’ need for a free safety since the signing of Josh Bullocks followed by the signings of OTs Kevin Shaffer and Orlando Pace and the trade for Jay Cutler. Make no mistake though the need for a prospect possibly in the later rounds of the draft that could come in and develop as a free safety is there.

A prospect who caught the eye of the Chicago Bears enough that he earned the right to a private workout invite was Oregon State’s Al Afalava. Instantly people are scratching their heads at a prospect who was not invited to workout at the NFL combine. Furthermore they’re left wondering what level of prospect he is because he didn’t receive much in the way of post-season awards or honors. What is important to take into account though regarding a possible sleeper prospect like Afalava is he came from a conference that is rich in safety talent this year.

Taylor Mays would have been a sure fire first round pick had he come out this year, so he automatically overshadows everyone in the conference. Patrick Chung from Oregon State, who is a second round level prospect and then ASU’s Troy Nolan is another who was invited to the combine to compete and workout for NFL scouts. All are just players from the Pac-10 conference who were recognized for their accomplishments in 2008.

So along comes this Oregon State Beaver prospect from Corvallis Oregon. For those who aren’t familiar with Corvallis, it’s in the middle of no where and to get there is a hike by bus or car because there is no airport nearby. So who emerges from Oregon State’s pro day but a safety who measures a respectable 5-foot-11 comes in at 210-pounds and runs in the 4.46 to 4.48 range in the 40-yard dash. No big deal you say? Okay so he follows it up with 25 reps on the bench press and a broad jump of 10-feet-7 inches. His workout number would have been the best all around effort of any of the safeties invited to the combine.

Okay so he’s a workout warrior, and his senior stats are only 36 tackles and eight pass break ups and two interceptions. Well what do you expect from a sleeper prospect who is slated to go in the later rounds of the NFL draft. Not every prospect on here is going to a first or second round prospect as much as every Bears fan wants them to be. Afalava’s biggest problem was he got into a bit of trouble with a DUI incident where he crashed into a bus stop and then fled the scene of the accident. Scared stupid college kid mistake that will be studied over greatly by the Bears coaching staff. We can go over his character with a fine tooth comb, but all that matter is how he would act if he were a Chicago Bears player.

His best year was his junior year where he raked in 64 total tackles which ranked his third best on the team. The important aspect of Afalava that will probably be overlooked because he doesn’t have all the glitz and glamor of stats that people want to see is that has aspects of his game that can’t be coached, that’s athleticism and speed and strength. Plus there is more than just the Bears looking at this prospect after his pro day workout.

What we do know for certain is this, Jerry Angelo has earned our trust as fans when it comes to judging DB talent in the later rounds. He has had good if not arguably great success at find talent from rounds four on back. Al Afalava of Oregon State is one of those prospects to keep an eye, especially when considering the reputation of the new secondary coach.

O-Lineman TJ Lang Prospect Preview

April 10, 2009

You would think with the additions of Frank Omiyale, Orlando Pace and Kevin Shaffer that the Chicago Bears would not be thinking about getting younger on the offensive line. Given the limited number of draft picks the needs at CB, WR, S, SAM LB, DE, that the Bears would be out of the O-Line draft scouting. That line of thought in not really accurate and to prove it the Bears recently scouted a little known offensive tackle from Eastern Michigan.

TJ Lang is a 6-foot-4 316-pound tackle prospect who moved over to the offensive line from the defensive line. Lang is not one of the top prospects in the draft mind you but he is a prospect that has worked his way up draft boards recently. Lang was not invited to the NFL Combine but he has earned enough respect 22 scouts showed up for his pro day workout. His stock is on the rise and he has ability that measures out well for potential success on the next level.

His positives as a prospect include playing the OT position like a defensive guy. A converted defensive tackle Lang plays with a mean streak and loves to be tough nasty and physical. He is your typical blue collar lineman that initially caught Angelo’s attention at the little known Texas versus the nation All-Star game. Lang also offers a level of versatility in that he could end up playing guard at the next level, his more natural projection is as a guard. Lang is the type of player that works well in limited space as he is not known for being the prototype OT with athleticism and balance.

Some of the aspects that may cause teams to shy away from Lang is his lack of athleticism and some say his lack of ideal size. He may be a bit of a tweener and at times has trouble sustaining his blocks. He has short arms which is why he better projects as a guard.

Some draft boards have him rated as high as a third round prospect but given his lack of an invite to the NFL scouting combine I think it’s likely he’ll fall past the third round as it’s rare that a non-combine invitee is taken as high as the third round. Know this however in the case of TJ Lang he has earned respect and the attention of Jerry Angelo himself.

Given Lang’s invite for a private workout it seems likely that if he has value to some as high as a third round prospect, but he slides into the later due to lack of recognition and exposure he could have some real sleep value in rounds four and five.

Prospect Preview WR Kenny Britt

April 9, 2009

Is it all possible that Kenny Britt will still be on the board when the Bears draft in the second round? The 49th pick overall is the first pick the Bears have in the draft, after the Jay Cutler trade. What is the potential that they would trade up to land a prospect like Britt at the back end of the first round or the front end of the second round?

We won’t have these questions answered until the day of the draft, but this much is certain based on Britt’s size, speed, athletic ability and his rising stock he may be one of the most intriguing prospects the Bears are scouting personally.

Ron Turner took in Kenny Britt’s pro-day personally, plus the Bears worked him out privately to even further evaluate this 6-foot-3 210-pound wide receiver prospect. Britt is intriguing because in everything he does, he does it well. At his pro-day he dropped one pass the entire workout session, and improved his 40-yard-dash time running a 4.48 and a 4.47. He showed solid hands the ability to keep the ball out in front of him instead of letting it get into his body. Plus he is a strong receiver a great prospect for his run after the catch ability and a player who is not afraid to go over the middle and bowl over CBs and safeties to get those tough extra yards. Perhaps the most underrated aspect of his game is his willingness to block in the run game.

Some of the negatives reported by scouts are that at times he drops passes from a lack of concentration and his route running is not as polished as scouts would like. The thing is you really have to dig deep to find negatives about Kenny Britt because he has shown to be productive and consistent. His production level doesn’t lie
rec yards avg TDs
2007 13 62 1,232 19.9 8
2008 12 87 1,371 15.8 7

Plus he is the all-time leading receiver in the Big East conference.

Mike Mayock of the NFL network rates him as the fifth best WR prospect on the draft board which is about as high as I’ve seen him rated.

Areas of concern some scouts say his hands aren’t as consistent as you’d like. Plus there are rumors of attitude problems and a cocky attitude that may cause him to slide on some draft boards.

Personally I don’t think is a real lack of a problem from Britt when you see his level of production throughout his career. Not every prospect the Bears will be scouting will be an ideal top-5 prospect who comes in and makes an immediate impact on the level that a lot of fans are hoping for. Receiver is a very complicated position to learn and develop in, but you take probably the best positives you can find out of a prospect and make your draft decision based on that.

Britt fits that role almost ideally to what the Bears need, he is tall, long arms, big hands and again the willingness to block is what the Bears need in this offense in the first place.

Fans can come along and nitpick Britt for this or that, prospects at this point have been analyzed again and again. Negatives can be found on even the best of them. But for my money I am comfortable with any receiver the Bears go after that has the attributes that Britt brings to the table.

Mohamed Massaquoi Prospect Preview

April 8, 2009

I’ll definitely be focusing in on all of the players that the Bears have lined up for Private workouts and visits to Halas Hall. I’ll do my best to cover each prospect individually and scout their game. There will be close to 30 prospects the Bears are going to evaluate between now and the draft. The draft is right around the corner so I’ll do my best to get as many as two prospect previews up a day.

Today we’re starting with Georgia WR Mohamed Massaquoi who has all the abilities and aspects the Bears are looking for in their next receiver. Massaquoi has size, leaping ability, athleticism and solid route running ability. He brings to the table good body control to make adjustments to the ball and battle defenders when the ball is in the air. While not as polished or as fast some of the others Massaquoi is an option given his stint as a four-year starter for the Bulldogs. That level of experience can’t be discounted for any player especially one that is coming from the SEC.

On the negative side however Massaquoi may not have even been the best receiver on his team in 2008. He was often times overshadowed by freshman sensation A.J. Green. The production between the two was nearly identical both catching in the neighborhood of 59 catches for 968 yards and eight touchdowns. At the scouting combine Massaquoi performed up to expectations running a 4.57 40-yard dash and jumping 10 feet 7 inches in the broad jump. He is explosive and big and has average speed for a WR. The question is can he be a number one receiver at the next level? He also had a previous problem in his career with dropping a lot of passes. 2008 was considered a break out year in the eyes of NFL scouts.

During his Pro-Day the reports were that he caught the ball well and improved upon his 40-yard dash time to as fast as 4.51. This would be speed that would better fit his size. Cementing his status as a leaper, Massaquoi can just about leap out of the stadium wiht his 37 inch vertical jump. Combine that with his 6-foot-2 frame and he would make a sold red zone target.

If the Bears drafted Massquoi they would be landed the aforementioned experienced player who was productive in college. What they wouldn’t be getting is the number one type receiver that Bears fans are hoping unearth. In my opinion I may shy away from a prospect who has a history of dropping passes and wasn overshadowed on his team by a true freshman. He is projected as a third round type of WR prospect someone that could be had at #99. Massquoi is a project, but one player that is worth investing in given the lack of talent at the WR position. If the Bears don’t take a WR in the second round, keep your eye on this kid.

Updated after Massaquoi’s workout with the Bears today. Below is an excerpt from The Chicago Sun Times an interview Massaquoi did after his workout.

HAS THE BIGGEST QUESTION TEAMS HAVE HAD FOR YOU BEEN YOUR SPEED?

No. I think I answered that question at our pro day, I ran a pretty good time [he was timed between 4.47 seconds and 4.53 seconds]. I think I have looked decent on film. That’s where [speed] counts. I think my game speed is up there. No means am I with the Maclins and the Percy Harvins of the world but I feel that I enough speed to do the things that I need to do.

YOU HAVE TO KNOW HAKEEM NICKS, A HIGH SCHOOL TEAMMATE AT INDEPENDENCE HIGH SCHOOL IN CHARLOTTE, N.C. PRETTY WELL. HOW DO YOU COMPARE YOURSELF TO A GUY LIKE HIM?

I think we’re different. I really don’t know what class you would put him in. We do things different. We are from the same mold though just being that we came through the same program and we watched each other grow and develop. We had the same coach. I think we do a lot of things similar but at the same time we each have that little patent to our game that makes us different.

Chicago Bears Pro Prospect Private Workout List

March 30, 2009

Bear with me I am going to attempt to put together a list of prospects that are being invited to Halas Hall for further review beyond just their Pro-Day and combine evaluations. The list will be a constant work in progress and I can promise it won’t be 100% accurate because lists like these are kept pretty quiet for the most part. Some information has been leaked so I’ll attempt to keep a running tab on who is coming and who has been here. The Bears are allowed 30 private workout visits per draft scouting period and are currently at 20.

If there is any player that I missed that you have heard is coming to visit Halas Hall feel free to share you comment in the comment section of this blog post.

Updated April 1st to include WR Mohammed Massaquoi and OL Lance Louis
Updated April 2nd to include WR Derek Kinder
Updated April 4th to include WR Juaqin Iglesias, DB Sherrod Martin, DB Anthony Scirrotto, DT John Gill, WR Brian Robiskie
Updated April 5th to include RB Aaron Brown DB Ellis Lankstser
O-Lineman

Rich Ornberger
Phil Loadholt
Eben Britton
TJ Lang
Lance Louis
Louis Saucedo
Dennis Conley
Mark Lewis

RBs

Aaron Brown
Ellis Lankster

WRs/TE

Hakeem Nicks
Kenny Britt
Brian Hartline
Taurus Johnson
Brandon Myers
Jason Chery
Brandon Gibson
Mike Wallace
Mohammed Massaquoi
Derek Kinder
Juaquin Iglesias
Brian Robiskie
Julian Edelman

QB

Todd Boeckman

D-Lineman

Henry Melton
Jamaal Westerman
John Gill

LBs

Maurice Crum
Nathan Williams
Russell Allen

DBs

Michael Mitchell
Al Afalava
Anthony Scirrotto
Sherrod Martin

Herman Johnson scouting report

March 22, 2009

So I did a little thinking in the way that Jerry Angelo might do some thinking. With Frank Omiyale moving over to RT and the Bears being in need of a left guard now by proxy of the move, who would I target? What better prospect to scout on his pro-day than LSU behemoth Herman Johnson. At 6-foot-7 356-pounds Johnson is a mountain of a man. With that type mountain lined up next to Chris Williams for the next decade the Bears wouldn’t have a lot of problems running left on teams.

Johnson in the same breath would work well for and work against the Bears running scheme. Johnson would be able to help in the running game immediately because he is going to get out and lean on people and lean on them heavy for quite a while. If he keeps his weight down and conditioning up (which he is starting to do) he could develop into a solid prospect.

It’s important to note that not every GREAT O-Lineman comes in the first round. They come from various rounds and their work ethics define what type of player they develop into. Johnson’s weakness is he isn’t very fluid or mobile and may not work out in the Bears’ zone-blocking scheme which requires your lineman to be pretty nimble and to be able a hit a moving target. So while he grades well as a guy that might win a one on one battle against one of the Williams boys form the Vikings, he might struggle against a quick three technique type of DT. Overall he grades out as a mid round level prospect that could be had in the second day.