2014 NFL Draft: Week 4 Scouting Notes from Across the Country

Jeremiah AttaochuGame recaps/scouting notes from North Carolina/Georgia Tech, Texas/Kansas State, Rutgers/Arkansas, San Diego State/Oregon State, and UConn/Michigan, brought to you by OS evaluators Dan Claycomb, Alex Brown, Chris Tripodi, and Mark Dulgerian.

North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech

Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech (#45), 6’3, 240
Attaochu and James Hurst are two of the top prospects in the AC, so the chance to see them go against each other was something I couldn’t miss. Unfortunately I didn’t see as much of it as I would have liked. Attaochu played away from Hurst on most downs. Attaochu had a sack going against Hurst, as well as multiple pressures and forcing a holding penalty on the other side of the line. He shows a great burst of the line and great speed and hand use to get around the edge. What I haven’t seen from him is much use of a bull rush or spin move. Not sure if he has it in his arsenal or not but would like to see him develop another move. He continues to look like a top prospect for next year’s draft.  

Brandon Watts, ILB, Georgia Tech (#11), 6’2, 238
With Isaiah Johnson out, I decided to watch Watts. Watts is considered an undrafted free agent for next year’s draft and I didn’t see anything to change my mind. Looked good dropping into coverage but he never seemed to be around the ball. Lacked the ability to get off blocks in run game. Didn’t display much side-to-sideline speed. He seems to be limited as both an athlete and a football player to compete at the next level.

James Hurst, OT, North Carolina (#68), 6’7, 305?
Other than giving up one sack to Attaochu, Hurst played a good game. He looked great in the running game especially in his ability to get to the 2nd level. He still appears to lack the ability to stand his ground when pass blocking, instead focusing on pushing the pass rusher outside of the QB. I feel like a strong player who uses more power moves, like a bull rush, could give him problems. Still see him as a late 1st to mid 2nd round guy.

Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina (#95), 6’6, 265 – Martin started off the game poorly, missing a tackle, running out of position, and being moved off the line. He did appear to improve as the game went on, using his speed to beat the lineman inside, as well as using his hands more. He lacked the consistency and motor that you’d hope to see, specifically when plays went away from him. None of his skills ‘wow’ me enough to get excited about him in the NFL. With games coming up against Miami(Seantrel Henderson) and Virginia (Morgan Moses), I’m hoping to get a better idea of where Martin could land in the draft.

Tre Boston, S, North Carolina (#10), 6’1, 205 – As a big Tre Boston fan, I was really disappointed in this game. Boston skills translate so well to allowing him to show off against an offense like Georgia Tech. I felt like his speed would translate to a high tackle total and possible a few turnovers. The game opened with Boston getting away with a pass interference call after getting beat, as well as two missed tackles. He showed a few positives when he sniffed out a fake punt call to force a holding call, as well as made a big hit at the goal line that almost caused a fumble (play was review and called a touchdown, but it was close). Overall, Boston wasn’t much of a factor in a game where his playmaking ability should have stood out. As far as I could tell he didn’t play the 2nd half on defense or special teams, which leads me to believe he had an injury. That may explain some of the inconsistency in the game today. Will keep an eye out for injury reports, but Boston still has time to make an impact and help his draft status, which as of right now is completely up in the air.


Texas vs. Kansas State

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas – #44, 6’5, 250
Continuing to showcase the gap integrity and assignment sound play that stood out on 2012 film study, Jeffcoat used his hands very effectively to keep blockers out of his framework and remain disengaged. As a speed rusher, however, Jeffcoat couldn’t quite turn the corner against talented senior Cornelius Lucas and was ridden out of the pocket. Jeffcoat presents good, not great athleticism and speed off the edge, and brought the most pressure when lined up across Kansas State’s right tackle Tavon Rooks. Jeffcoat’s lack of an elite first step makes him reliant upon inside to outside or vice versa, counter moves on the edge. He’s well versed at using his hands, locking out and disengaging, but wide, broad shoulders present a large target to hit for blockers when he’s attempting to speed rush.  Finally healthy and playing every down, Jeffcoat looks like a solid 2nd or 3rd round prospect.

Cornelius Lucas, OT, Kansas State – #78, 6’9, 328
Supremely athletic for his size, Lucas was impressively utilized as a lead blocker on quarterback counter runs. He’s becoming more proficient with jabs and punches out of his pass set, initiating contact early and keeping distance with his overall length. Most important to the left tackle position, Lucas can kick out and protect the arc against a pure speed rush, as he routinely ran All-American and likely top 64 overall selection Jackson Jeffcoat down and out of the pocket for most of the night. As a long, athletic tackle prospect, Cornelius Lucas will be one of the more impressive one-on-one blockers during the all-star game/predraft circuit. 

(JR) B.J. Finney, OC, Kansas State – #66, 6’4, 303
Facing the toughest interior competition so far this season for Kansas State, center B.J. Finney consistently secured his assignment, latched on with ideal hand placement and even displayed drive power to move defenders off the line. On limited pull assignments, Finney also showcased the ability to reach his target and turn the defender to provide a running lane. Dating back to his redshirt freshman season when he opened as a right guard for Kansas State, Finney has started 29 consecutive ball games and earned back-to-back All-Big 12 honors. Although he doesn’t receive the pub he deserves, Finney very much is a top 100 type of prospect that could wind up declaring.


 

Rutgers vs. Arkansas

Travis Swanson, OC, Arkansas – #64, 6’5, 315
Although we knew Swanson was one of the top centers in college football prior to the season, I had my reservations about his leg drive and ability to move defenders off the line. From a football intelligence, leadership, athleticism and blocking fundamentals standpoint, Swanson graded out as an elite center; the issue in 2012 was an inability to create push or showcase power in the run game. As a senior, Swanson has dramatically improved in this area, blocking with far more aggressiveness to the whistle and the power to finish knockdown blocks. Swanson is asked to move and pull more frequently than most centers at the college ranks, and excels on the move thanks to his plus vision as a blocker and ability to redirect, set his feet and land his hands to secure the block. Whether he was pulling to the edge, climbing to the second level, crashing down hard on nose tackles or playing head up in pass protection, Swanson consistently secured his assignment. Entering the season with a 2nd round grade here at Optimum Scouting, there’s a distinct possibility that Swanson could work himself into a first round grade by season’s end.

Robert Thomas, DT, Arkansas – #98, 6’3, 325
A player that flew under my radar in preseason evaluations, Robert Thomas is an intriguing interior lineman that plays with very active hands, good anchor strength and nice burst off the line for a 325-pound tackle. Working hard to cross face and split double teams versus Rutgers, Thomas certainly could stand to improve his pad level but nevertheless impressed with his strong, quick hands at the point of attack. Thomas even implemented a few counter moves to set up and defeat blockers in one-on-one situations, flashing just enough pass rush skills to warrant day 3 consideration.

(JR) Tyler Kroft, TE, Rutgers – #86, 6’6, 240
Impressing throughout the contest, Arkansas’ defense had no answer for this athletic tight end prospect. Coming in at 6’6, 240 pounds, Kroft presents a plus blend of size and speed to attack the vertically down the seams, where he did most of his damage during a 6 catch, 133 yard performance that included 2 touchdown receptions. Working in-line and in the slot at times, Kroft even displayed the route balance and subtle head fakes to create separation versus man coverage. Watch out for this junior, as he certainly looks the part of a Sunday player. 


 

Oregon State at San Diego State

(JR) Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State, (#95), 6’3, 260
Based on 2012 and early 2013 film, it wouldn’t be surprising if Crichton declares for the draft after the season.  He was mostly dominant against the Aztecs’ offensive line.  He’s a violent puncher with impressive upper body strength and was consistently jolting opponents at the point of contact.  His hands are developed and he can sink and dip to turn the edge.  He managed 2.5 tackles for loss while fighting through doubles all night.  He can play the 3 or 5 technique at the next level.

(JR) Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State, (#7), 5’10, 185
Cooks had another huge game for the Beavers.  His speed and acceleration are really impressive to see in person and he’s a lot thicker than he was a year ago.  He gets to full speed in 3 steps which, combined with his route running ability and underrated strength, made him virtually impossible to defend one on one Saturday night.  Mostly facing bracket coverage, Cooks still hauled in 14 passes.  Most impressive were his hands, which he consistently extends away from his body and sees the ball all the way in.  He reacted quickly to a couple of acrobatic catches in traffic and showed strong hands to win contested balls.  As far as Pac 12 receiver prospects go, he’s shown the best hands and focus of any of them this year.

Rashaad Reynolds, CB, Oregon State, (#16), 5’11, 190
With Jordan Poyer gone to the NFL, Reynolds was expected to be build from last year as a promising defensive playmaker.  He hasn’t been as impactful as some expected but he’s quietly been solid outside.  He lined up across from the Aztecs’ X and slot receivers Saturday and displayed quick hips turning and running with receivers as well as breaking on plays in front of him.  He showed impressive closing speed when asked to blitz and made some plays behind the line of scrimmage.

 

Other Notes:
Junior quarterback Sean Mannion (#4) continues to play with confidence and efficiency.  He had several well-placed deep completions Saturday.  Another junior, offensive tackle Michael Philipp (#77), wasn’t challenged much but looks the part and showed nice feet and hand placement throughout the game.

Bryce Quigley, OT, San Diego State, (#78), 6’5, 295
Quigley is a possible developmental prospect who had his hands full against Crichton.  He is undersized and lacks the functional strength to anchor against powerful rush defenders but he shows good footwork and hand technique to think he could add depth with more coaching and weight room hours.   

Colin Lockett, WR, San Diego State, (#24), 6’0, 180
Lockett is another Aztec who fits the NFL mold athletically but is raw as a route runner.  He generally shows solid hands but it’s his run after catch ability that gets him noticed.  Against the Beavers, Lockett scored on an 80 yard catch and run in which he showed tackle-breaking ability as well as acceleration and long speed to outrun angles.  He is also a standout in the return game.

Other Notes:
Junior running back Adam Muema (#4) has had a disappointing season thus far but much of that has to do with a below average offensive line. He showed very good suddenness and change of direction against the Beavers.

 

Michigan vs. UConn

Lyle McCombs, RB, Connecticut (#43), 5’8, 175
We try to focus on senior prospects here at Optimum Scouting, but unfortunately UConn doesn’t really have any standouts in their senior class. McCombs, a redshirt junior, shows more similaries to Darren Sproles than just his number and diminutive stature. He doesn’t have the same short, quick strides as Sproles but shows the same ability to quickly cut into the hole and make defenders miss in the open field with jukes and spin moves, putting together multiple moves in one play. Like Sproles, McCombs is a threat in the passing game as well and shows good hands extending away from his body, something he has to do often with an inaccurate quarterback like Chandler Whitmer. McCombs is a mismatch out of the backfield for any linebacker and despite his lack of size, shows the ability to effectively cut blitzers and push them off their spot in pass protection.

Geremy Davis, WR, Connecticut (#85), 6’3, 215
Davis is a big, tough possession receiver who makes life easy on his quarterback. Davis does a great job securing catches through contact and almost made a great diving catch in the endzone on a slightly overthrown ball from Whitmer. He extended well and kept his hands underneath the ball, but it slipped through and barely hit the ground, leading to his touchdown being overturned. A redshirt junior as well, Davis came right back the next play to get separation on a double move for another catch. His route running could use some refinement and he doesn’t have game-breaking ability, but Davis is a reliable receiver who could hear his name called on Day 3 if he declares for the 2014 draft.

Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut (#33), 6’4, 236
The star of the UConn defense and their only shot at a Day 2 pick, Smallwood was all over the field as usual against Michigan. He showed the speed to stay with Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner and while he doesn’t have the same stop-and-start athleticism, not many linebackers do. Smallwood is a sure tackler who can also lay a big hit, as Gardner learned when Smallwood forced a fumble on a fourth-down attempt in the fourth quarter. Smallwood also shows great timing on blitzes and closes quickly once on the quarterback once he’s in the backfield. UConn has some very good defensive players leave after the 2012 season, but Smallwood’s presence has made replacing them easier.

Other Notes
-The lone senior to grab my eye, defensive tackles Shamar Stephen (6’5, 313) shows impressive quickness and pursuit ability for his size. He can bull rush or swim his way into the backfield and shows good play recognition ability.

-Redshirt junior defensive tackle Angelo Pruitt (6’3, 297) uses good hand extension to shed blocks and get into the backfield and made multiple tackles for loss against the Wolverines.

-Redshirt junior defensive backs Byron Jones (6’1, 191) and Ty-Meer Brown (6’0, 201) made a few plays as well. Jones showed great skills to come down with a contested interception and fights hard to bring down ballcarriers.

-Brown makes some big plays, including a fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the third quarter, but plays undisciplined at times. He got caught inside trying to make a play and let Fitzgerald Toussaint break contain on the game-tying touchdown and must improve to play his way onto the late-round radar.

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