Notes from Bowl Games – Part 2

When I watched Utah DT Lowell Lotulelei last season, he was a flash player.  I was hoping to see more consistency from him in 2017, which was the case, but unfortunately he was consistently non-existent!  The Bowl game however was better.  The old flashes were back, including as a pass rusher, which is highly encouraging.  He will have questions to answer in the post-season process – was he too heavy – and if so, was it a coaches request?  However, scouts always grade the flashes – in which case Lotulelei might be a day two talent despite a down season.

West Virginia safety Kyzir White is the brother of the #7 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, WR Kevin.  White plays a varied role, like many modern day safeties.  He’ll line up over the slot receiver, in the box or in a old-fashioned two deep spot.  He has experience blitzing and in this one had a nice sack where he timed his rush well.  He can get downhill and strike – and his angles are good.  In man coverage, he gave up a 25 yard catch, allowing the receiver across his face too easily, but looked comfortable in zone coverage.  From my watches, I think he’s a day two talent pending his Combine numbers.

In the post-season process, certain QBs are going to be featured.  This year, I suspect Josh Rosen might be the most talked about.  His character is going to be discussed and now you can throw in medical, as he didn’t clear concussion protocol, which is a concern considering the gap between regular season and Bowl game.  In terms of pure tape, which is what I do, he’s the #1 QB in this class for me – but the other stuff might see him slide a little.  We’ll see.

I took the opportunity to look at UCLA LT Kolton Miller, a name I saw as I checked a few sites for names.  He has “First Round,” tags, but from this watch I thought borderline top 100, but I do need to watch him more.  I came away not thinking he was an elite athlete.  He lacks an elite first step in pass protection, but I really like how his hands are up ready to strike and remain so.  However, I thought top NFL speed would give him problems.  You also saw on a 3rd and 2, how a LB beat him to the point of attack in the running game.  He has a solid base in pass protection, but in the running game he ducks his head into contact.  I suspect in this weak OT class he would be a top 100 pick, but I’m afraid he didn’t scream “First Round,” to me…

I guess I like UCLA LB Kenny Young more than most.  When you watch certain players you can see they are well coached and get the game, and Young qualifies here.  I’m not sure he’s an elite athlete, but he’s better than other LBs in this class.  He can get good depth in his zone drop – and indeed, did so to break up a pass nicely.  It took him a little time to start to get off blocks in this one – but I thought in the second half he played really well.  He clearly knew how to attack the ball carrier – funneling them either to the sideline, or inside to his pursuit.  He clearly reads his keys, so must have watched a lot of tape.  I’ll be interested to see his Combine numbers – if he can work out well, I hope NFL teams see the same as me and look at him in the middle rounds.

With respect to Southern Miss, Florida State WR Auden Tate was way too much for the opposition.  It was like watching a man against boys – Tate’s big body was impossible to defend and he had a massive day.  This would be a nice platform for the post-season if he does declare early, but we’ll see what he decides.

This game was a microcosm of Tarvarus McFadden’s season.  The FSU CB had good moments, but also bad.  He’s physical with receivers, but not always at the line, despite being up i press position.  On one such instance his man got across his face with ease and caught a 12 yard slant – way too easy.  He also gave up a TD, where he looked over the wrong shoulder, expecting a back shoulder throw and was nowhere for the score.  On the plus side, he almost had a pick with a nice break on the ball and showed flashes of “plus” man coverage ability.  I applaud him for playing, when others on his team didn’t, but it was quite the springboard game of Tate.

It was my first chance to see Southern Miss and RB Ito Smith, who will be at the Senior Bowl.  Given the matchup, I did wonder how he would show and outside of his fumble, I came away impressed.  His size is a concern in Draft terms – but I loved how he stayed on his feet in pass protection – Mr. Mayock will love the little man putting his “face in the fan” in Mobile.  As a runner, he’s electric.  His jump cut is outstanding and he is very difficult to tackle.  He is also patient – and is hard to find behind his line.  He’s also a plus receiver and was split out wide at times.  It’s not always easy for RBs to show well in such a matchup, but Smith showed he belonged.

The Iowa/Boston College was a little difficult to scout as it was played on a frozen field.  However, if I was a cold weather team NFL scout, I would put a lot of weight on this as it was clear some players handled the skating rink better than others (despite both being cold weather teams).  Iowa RB Akrum Wadley might not run a 4.3 40 and might be a day three pick, but he looked at home – showing an ability to cut on a difficult surface.  He had a big game, not making Ito Smith cuts, but subtle ones to get him through the line of scrimmage.

I’ve seen the name Sean Welsh in a few places, and that’s to be expected with Iowa OL giving scouts a certain comfort level.  Playing right guard, he also has experience at Center.  The reason for scout’s comfort is the skill as zone blockers – and Welsh qualifies.  It’s not all finesse with him either, he can get movement – although he has to be mindful not to get his head out in front of him.  It was hard to anchor in the conditions, but he battled away well in pass protection.  I would expect him to be a mid-round pick and perhaps sneak into day two.

I wanted to look at Iowa CB Joshua Jackson, but BC stayed away from him – although he did have an INT on a tipped pass.  I’ll go back and watch him on YouTube if he declares.

I don’t know where the first round talk came from for Iowa LB Josey Jewell, but it’s safe to say it wasn’t from me.  To be clear, I actually enjoy watching him – but he’s not the biggest, and despite a thin frame, he’s not the fastest either – and that creates matchup concerns in man coverage.  That was evident in this one against a TE down the field.  Jewell also missed a couple of tackles, including one that resulted in a long gain.  On the positive side, he’s like Kenny Young in that he’s well coached and has a great feel for the game.  I loved how he saw a crossing route and took it away in matchup zone coverage (Patriots will love him).  He was hit and miss getting off blocks – he tries to use his arms to disengage, but sometimes gets swallowed.  He gets through traffic well and is disciplined on wider runs, not allowing the cutback.  If he runs faster than I expect at the Combine, I’ll push him up my top 100 – but I think he might be a 4.8 guy and at his size, he needs to be much faster.

Missouri have placed a lot of DEs in the NFL and the latest prospect is Marcell Frazier.  He’s not had a double digit sack season, but has 7 this season, down a touch from 8.5 last year.  Listed at 265 lbs, he looks lighter, like 15-20 lbs lighter.  He has speed off the edge, but has tightness in his hips, meaning he struggles to break down and turn the corner.  He could have had a couple of sacks in this one, but couldn’t stop quickly enough to make the tackle.  In flashes, he has this little short area burst, which you see from the elite pass rushers – but only in flashes.  There’s something there, but I will be paying close attention to his 3-Cone time at the Combine, as I would guess it will be slower than ideal.

Texas were missing three early entries, but senior NT Poona Ford put on the burnt orange one last time, and did what Draft prospects should in Bowl games – put together a good game to use a springboard for the long post-season process.  He’s a power player, winning by getting push – and there are flashes of penetration as a one gap 0 or 1 technique.  He’s listed at 6’0″, which is smaller than ideal even for a NT, so he might be day three, but in a one gap system, he has a chance.

Virginia QB Kurt Benkert on the other hand didn’t have a good game against Navy.  He seemed to be struggling big time with his accuracy in the cold conditions and I would want to check his hand size measurement.  He’s got a big arm and there’s a little Matt Moore about him, but this was a game he’ll want to forget.

Virginia ILB Micah Kiser won the Campbell Trophy (the academic Heisman), so is clearly smart and is able to cope with the demands of being a student athlete.  Unfortunately, I’m here to say what I see on tape.  I usually keep things positive, but where I disagree with others, I will mention it.  I’ve seen Kiser with top 100 grades, but I would say he’s going to run a slow 40 time at the Combine, which will push him into day three.  Every time I’ve seen him, there are examples where he needs to kick it into an extra gear to make a play, and unfortunately, it’s just not there.  He’d be a matchup weakness in man schemes – and the days of the two down “thumpers” are long gone in the league.

I watched safety Quin Blanding last year, but he elected to return.  I’m not sure he’s gained a whole bunch on the field, particularly in a scheme which isn’t as demanding for a safety as the old Mike London scheme.  My main concern with Blanding was poor tackling, but I felt he fixed it this year.  With Navy running the ball on most plays, he wasn’t called upon in coverage, but he was as a tackler.  He missed a couple of big ones, where he was in the gap and had to make the play – so they were bad ones.  So, just down a tick in a game where you wouldn’t expect to have learned anything with a DB.

I’ve seen a few times now that some sites think Oklahoma State WR Marcell Ateman is going to be drafted ahead of team mate James Washington.  I’m sticking with Washington ahead of Ateman because he’s faster – and not by 0.05 seconds or something – I think it’s low 4.4’s vs high 4.5/low4.6.  Separation is a concern for Ateman, and for now I’ll keep him outside my top 100.  Washington was quiet in the first half, but had a big second, including a long TD where he just ran by the slot WR.

I’ve moved Oklahoma State OT Zachary Crabtree down on my board, as I thought he struggled.  He was called for holding, getting knocked on his butt and grabbing the DE and he gave up a sack (or 0.5 a sack as the LT got beaten too), just not dealing with edge speed.  He could be a pro guard, I’ve never been a huge fan of tall guards and at a listed 6’7″ he might not work for all, but some teams don’t care, so he’ll be OK.  I do like his feisty nature, but it will lead me to pay extra careful attention to his Combine numbers.

Prospects can’t do much about scheme.  My perception is Virginia Tech are pressing less with their CB’s – and so Brandon Facyson was in off coverage much of the night.  He doesn’t seem to have an elite “click and close” which an off CB needs.  I think his game is more get up at the line and use his length to press.  He showed he could stick with James Washington on a deep post early in the game, so he should test well.  I would imagine off man/off zone teams might look elsewhere if they have a need at the position – but press heavy teams will like him a lot more.

It seems the rest didn’t mean Stanford RB Bryce Love wasn’t limping – but it doesn’t stop him from making cuts most healthy runnings backs can only dream of.  He’s electric and a threat to take it the distance as he did in the second half.  He’s not the biggest, so pass protection is a question – and isn’t used much as a receiver, so he’ll need to show scouts he can catch at his pro day.  It might not mean first round, but I can’t see him sliding too much as he’s special.

I gave junior Stanford TE Dalton Schultz a long look as I haven’t to date and came away impressed with his all-around game.  He can pass protect, he can run block (including second level blocks) and he can catch.  He’s smooth more than explosive as an athlete, so I don’t think he’ll be an elite Combine should he decide to leave early, but he’ll be fine.  His routes are solid, showing the ability to make double moves to get separation.  It’s not the best TE class for me, so I could see him sneaking into the back end of day two because of need – and because he can do a lot of things well, although he does lack an elite area.

I have TCU OT Joseph Noteboom in my top 100 – I guess I’m in the minority, as I’ve not seen his name at all.  I wrote about the UCLA OT Kolton Miller above – I don’t think he has NFL LT feet.  Noteboom, in my opinion does.  Now, he’s not the biggest – but that’s demanded of him by the offensive scheme – and he can add weight, but no one is going to add LT feet overnight.  Early in the game, Noteboom struggled with Stanford’s power – he got pushed around a bit.  I was impressed with how he rebounded and after adjusting, he played really well.  We’ll see what happens stock wise in the coming weeks, but hopefully he’ll get some love!

Updated: December 29, 2017 — 3:48 pm

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