Friday, September 22, 2017

2018 NFL Draft Prospects: Week 2-Running Backs

  The running back position has enjoyed a resurgence in the past few years.  After a couple years of not seeing a running back taken in the first round we have seen five taken in top 15 picks over the last three drafts.  This year's class definitely does not seem as deep as other drafts and with the top prospects being underclassmen the pool can get even shallower.  Here is a look at how a few prospects performed during week 2.

Royce Freeman-Oregon RB, Sr, 5-11, 231lbs
Opponent: Nebraska

Freeman runs with great patience and intelligence.  He showed that he can wait for his blocker to get into their blocks then make the right choice of how to attack the defense.  Seeing his listed weight I expected him to be a powerful runner and he didn't disappoint.  When Freemen gets north and south he is a load to handle and will run through arm tackles. 

Being able to sharply change direction is not one of Freeman's strengths.  Freeman will not be a "stick your foot in the ground and go" type runner.  His footwork approaching the line is a little sloppy and led to him stumbling a few times.  There were too many instances of Freeman having to take an extra step in order to change direction.  Also, he did not show the ability to jump cut.


 It will be hard for a NFL team to judge how Freeman will fit into their passing scheme, if at all.   His involvement in the game was extremely minimal with only 1 catch and very few targets.  I would question his ability to be on the field on third down due to his poor blocking technique.  Even more troubling was that Freeman looked almost disinterested in running pass routes.  

As it stands Freeman looks to be a situational "downhill thumper" type back.  I do not see him being a feature back at the next level but can still have some success.    Look for him to be drafted in the middle rounds of the NFL draft.

Nick Chubb-UGA RB, Sr, 5-10, 225lbs
Opponent: Notre Dame

Chubb ran with good vision and was able to find alternate holes when primary hole was plugged.  Unlike Freeman, Chubb did show that he has the agility and footwork to make jump cuts at the line and bounce outside.  

There was something missing from Chubb's carries vs ND.  Chubb didn't look to have blazing speed last year but he had an ability for using his quickness and strength to shed tacklers and create big runs.  While he broke a few tackles, defenders were not bouncing off of him like they did last year.  It almost looked as though he was running cautiously.

The timeshare in the UGA backfield is maddening for someone evaluating the game.  Both Sony Michel and Nick Chub had exactly 13 carries and a reception each.  What stood out in this timeshare is that Michel was hands down the choice for obvious passing downs and 3rd downs.  If this continues, Chubb will undoubtedly will have questions swirling around him regarding his pass catching and pass protection abilities.         

Chub showed enough of his cutting ability and vision to keep him in the upper tier of running back prospects.  However, if he does not take on more of a role in the passing game it will limit his stock come draft day.                                                       

Friday, September 8, 2017

2018 NFL Draft Spotlight: Week 1-Quarterbacks

The long and tedious road of evaluating footwork, instincts, vision, body type and dozens of other traits has begun....and I couldn't be happier. Throughout the college football season we will look at some of the top prospects eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft.  For the opening week of the football season what better position to start with than the heavily valued and scrutinized quarterback position.

Mason Rudolph, QB, Sr, Oklahoma State, 6-5, 230lbs

THE GOOD:  Rudolph showed off his solid arm strength in this game.  The Cowboys like to push the ball downfield so Rudolph will have plenty of opportunities to show NFL scouts his deep ball.  Rudolph did a great job at working through his progressions when needed and finding the open man.  He also showed off his lead blocking ability. Late in the first half he threw a huge block to spring his WR for a first down.  That type of leadership and toughness will go a long way in a NFL locker room.

THE BAD:  When you see a quarterback complete over 80% of his throws you would not expect his accuracy to be questioned.  However, Rudolph's ball placement was poor throughout the game so you cant help but question.  There were far too many balls that were thrown short or behind the receiver for my liking.  It was hard not to wonder if the opposition was better would he have had such a good stat line.

THE UGLY:  Tulsa was outmatched in most aspects of the game but they did just enough to expose a glaring weakness in Rudolph's game.  Rudolph looked uncomfortable, uncoordinated and most of all lumbering when he had to make throws on the run.  His lack of mobility was responsible for an awful fumble late in the first half.  It also led to an atrocious attempt at a throw on the run in the middle of the third quarter.

IN THE END:  Rudolph had an impressive 2016 for the Cowboys and I was very high on Rudolph coming into the season.  After seeing Rudolph struggle with his ability to make plays outside of the pocket I have tempered my expectations.  It is hard envision a senior QB all of a sudden being able to correct a major issue like this but it is early in the season and anything can happen.  Based on this game I cannot see Rudolph being an early round selection in the draft.

Josh Allen, QB, Jr, Wyoming, 6-5, 233lbs

Opponent: Iowa
THE GOOD: Allen lived up to the hype about his arm strength.  A majority of Wyoming's pass plays were 10+ yard out routes and Allen made them with ease.  The throws to the far sideline were especially impressive.  When Allen was under center he dropped back smoothly.  He showed poise on a play action pass where he had to climb the pocket to avoid pressure and make a throw.  Allen also showed he is a big athletic quarterback that can make plays with his feet.

THE BAD:  Allen's mechanics gave me flashbacks of Jay Cutler in Chicago.  There were throws that he made off his back foot, including his interceptions, that should have never happened.  Allen knows he has a strong arm but may have fallen in love with it a little too much.  I did not see much ability to work through progressions and find the open man from Allen.  I understand that many throws were one read options but he failed to impress on plays that were not.

THE UGLY: From the onset of the game it was clear Allen was worried about the Iowa pressure.  By the 2nd half Allen was feeling phantom pressure and bailing out of the pocket earlier than he had to.  Allen's offensive line didn't do him any favors but there were plays to be made if he was willing to stand in the face of the rush and deliver the ball.

IN THE END: This was the game I was most excited about during opening weekend.  It was the small school QB with top prospect hype from draft gurus versus a major conference defense.  Allen's talent was evident but I came away feeling that he is far from deserving of the top QB prospect ranking.  If he is not able to stay composed and be productive under pressure then he will have an extremely hard time making the transition to the NFL.  I do not see Allen declaring for the draft this year but staying for his senior year to improve his skill set.
Week 2 Spotlight: Royce Freeman (RB-Oregon), Nick Chubb (RB-Georgia)