Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pinstripe Bowl Preview: Notre Dame vs. Rutgers

After playing for the BCS Championship last season, Notre Dame finds themselves in Yankee Stadium this year for the Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers. The Fighting Irish started the season 7-2 before dropping two of their final three games at Pittsburgh and Stanford.

The Scarlet Knights come in struggling as well but their problems have persisted over the season’s final two months, losing 5 of their final 7 games after a 4-1 start. Just once during that stretch has the offense scored more than 23 points and considering the talent on Notre Dame’s defense, Rutgers may have trouble moving the football even without Louis Nix III on the other side.

This is one of the more lopsided bowl matchups with the Irish favored by more than two touchdowns and after looking at the NFL talent on the field, it’s easy to see why.

(JR) Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame (#1), 6’3, 342

Considered a potential top 10 pick early in the season, Nix lost some momentum throughout the season but is still considered a virtual lock to be taken in the first round. He played in just eight games before undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus and acknowledged battling knee tendinitis since the BCS Championship last season. A powerful tackle with great athleticism for his size, Nix flashes speed in pursuit and explosive power when left one on one. He faced consistent double teams this season when he was on the field but plays with good extension and fights hard with his hands, which should allow Nix to transition to the NFL without being over reliant on his physical skills if he comes back fully healthy.

Read the rest at Optimum Scouting

Military Bowl Preview: Marshall vs. Maryland

After a three-game losing streak in ACC play that coincided with star receiver Stefon Diggs going down for the season and quarterback C.J. Brown missing two games, Maryland bounced back to win two of their final three games and secure a bowl berth for the first time since 2010, when they also paid the Military Bowl a visit with a 51-20 victory over Conference USA representative East Carolina.

On the other hand, Marshall’s bowl status was never in doubt as the Thundering Herd went 9-4 including seven wins by four scores or more. They were humbled by a Rice team with a good amount of NFL talent in the Conference USA Championship game and come into the Military Bowl looking to avoid a second consecutive loss.

This game lacks star power as far as prospects are concerned and although Diggs isn’t draft eligible as a true sophomore, he certainly would have been the player with the brightest future in this matchup. Both Maryland and Marshall do have a few players who could get a look late in the draft or in free agency.

Read the rest at Optimum Scouting

Monday, December 23, 2013

Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl Prospect Preview: ECU-Ohio

East Carolina enters the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl as a 14-point favorite over an Ohio team that has made a bad habit of being on the wrong end of blowout losses this season. The Pirates have blown out their share of opponents with an explosive offense led by quarterback Shane Carden, who ranks in the top 10 nationally in both passing yards and touchdowns.

The Pirates come off a 59-28 loss to a Marshall team that Ohio beat early in the season, while the Bobcats lost three of their last four games by a combined score of 123-16 before beating Massachusetts in their final game. If East Carolina can bounce back after almost four weeks off, they have the better team and the majority of this bowl’s draftable players. 

(JR) Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina (#2), 6’0, 186

Hardy came to East Carolina as a quarterback but quickly made a smooth transition to wide receiver. His greatest advantage is his quickness in the short field, creating consistent yardage after the catch with sudden plants and cuts. He catches the ball away from his body nicely and looks both comfortable and smooth in the air, snatching balls above his head and securing the ball in traffic. Hardy is a great underneath playmaker for the Pirates and if he finds himself in an NFL offense that can challenge vertically, has the potential to be effective down the field as well. Hardy carries a Day 3 grade at the moment that he can improve if he returns for his senior season.

Read the rest at Optimum Scouting

Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Orleans Bowl Preview: Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

Both Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette will be in familiar territory for the 2013 New Orleans Bowl in the Superdome. The Green Wave will have home field advantage for their first bowl appearance since 2002 but Louisiana-Lafayette returns to the postseason game they’ve won two seasons in a row.

Ragin Cajuns’ dual threat quarterback Terrance Broadway is unlikely to play thanks to a broken arm suffered on November 30 against Louisiana-Monroe, leading the way for backup Brooks Haack to start under center. That likely means even more reliance on Louisiana Lafayette’s top-30 thunder-and-lightning rushing attack led by Alonzo Harris and Elijah McGuire. Joe Montana’s son Nick quarterbacks the Green Wave, who rank 116th out of 123 FCS teams on offense. Despite his team’s struggles lately, senior WR Ryan Grant is a prospect to watch in this game.

Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane, (#3), 6’1, 191
Grant is just outside the top 50 in receiving yards per game in spite of the team’s offense, catching more than twice as many passes as anybody else on the team. A tough, reliable receiver on third downs, Grant’s quickness allows him to both get open and gain extra yards after the catch. He makes catches in traffic and is Montana’s most trusted target in the passing game. He’s also a player scouts will want to see dominate this game and make a true name for himself as a mid-round pick in a deep receiver class.

Read the rest at Optimum Scouting

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Week 15 Rookie Report: Lacy and Stacy's Big Days, More Rookie Cornerbacks Struggle

A couple of rhyming rookie running backs and unheralded tight ends highlight the offensive side of Week 15’s Rookie Report, while a couple of Day 2 cornerbacks struggled with increase playing time on defense. Strong performances are very important for rookies at this time of the year, whether their team is heading for the playoffs or the top five in next May’s draft. Chris Tripodi will break down what he saw from select first-year players this week and how their performances may affect their evaluation heading into the offseason.

Eddie Lacy (RB-GB)

The top running back on Draft Insider’s board before April’s draft, Lacy has been the top rookie runner at the NFL level so far this season. As the only first-year back over 1,000 yards through 15 weeks, Lacy has proven his skills as a runner weren’t just a product of a dominant offensive line at Alabama. A great combination of patience, burst and power has made Lacy effective even with opposing defenses focusing on stopping him with Aaron Rodgers out of the lineup.

Lacy had five runs of 10-plus yards against a Cowboys defense that hasn’t stopped anybody of late, finishing with 141 rushing yards on 21 carries. His 60-yard run on the first play of the third quarter gave Green Bay momentum after being down 26-3 at the half. Lacy showed enough speed through the hole to get beyond the second level but his lack of breakaway speed led to him being caught from behind before he reached the end zone. Lacy’s other big runs were similar as he waited for his blocks to develop before planting and exploding through the hole, running violently enough to carry tacklers while showing enough agility to make a second quick cut for a few extra yards.

Lacy did have a bad drop early on a 3rd-and-1 pass that could have picked up a first down and had a few big losses, which were more a product of his line allowing quick penetration that he couldn’t avoid in the backfield. He did get Matt Flynn knocked down once but that was the first time all season he allowed his quarterback to get hit as Lacy has played well in all facets, pass blocking included. As long as he can stay healthy at the NFL level with his hard-charging style, Lacy should give Green Bay the multi-faceted offense they’ve been lacking in recent seasons.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Week 14 Rookie Report: Smith's Bounceback, Pugh's Improvement and Rogers' Breakout

With the 2013 NFL season winding down, it’s that time where many rookies around the league need to impress to earn roster spots or starting positions for 2014. From first and second-round draft picks to undrafted free agents, the time for evaluation is now as playoff teams look for players who can help them in the postseason and non-contenders look to evaluate their own young talent and decide whether they have enough to lead the team to the playoffs in the future. Chris Tripodi is back with another set of rookies from around the NFL.

Geno Smith (QB-NYJ)

After four straight games of completing less than 10 passes, it turns out all the Jets’ rookie quarterback needed was a healthy Jeremy Kerley. With his only reliable wide receiver returning to the lineup and some help from a shaky Raiders defense, Smith bounced back with his first passing touchdown since Week 7 and added a rushing score as well, completing 16-of-25 passes for 219 yards.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Friday, December 6, 2013

2014 NFL Draft: Who Should the Jets Be Looking at in the First Round?

COMMENTARY | To say the Jets have struggled on offense, especially in the passing game, may qualify for "understatement of the year." While much of the blame is falling on the shoulders of rookie quarterback Geno Smith, he's far from the only player at fault. New York's offensive line has struggled to give him time to throw, which he needs without receivers who can create separation consistently.

The return of Jeremy Kerley this weekend should help Smith get back to playing as he did in the first eight games of the season, as the rookie hasn't completed more than nine passes in a game since Kerley went down with injury. For comparison, he completed no fewer than 15 any game that Kerley started and finished.

After drafting two defensive players in the first round of the 2013 draft, it's imperative that the Jets look to improve their passing game early in this year's draft. It's the one aspect holding this team back from being truly competitive and with a projected top 12 pick at the moment, there will be difference makers on the board.

Read the rest at Yahoo

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Week 13 Rookie Report: Offensive Linemen Come Into Focus, Kiko Alonso Slows Down

This week was light on rookie impact around the league, at least from players who haven’t already been heard from in some way this season. A few more undrafted players showed off their skills this past week along with a couple of early-round picks who have bounced back nicely after early-season struggles. Chris Tripodi takes a look at which rookies are making a big impact as the NFL playoff picture takes shape.

Le’Veon Bell (RB-Pit)

A scary moment towards the end of last Thursday’s Steelers-Ravens game took some of the attention away from a great game by Bell, as he was involved in a late helmet-to-helmet collision that concussed him, caused memory loss and took away a touchdown. Bell looks like he will be fine to play this week which is great news for the suddenly competitive Steelers, who will need their new workhorse back to put together more games like he did against a strong Baltimore run defense with 136 total yards and a touchdown.

Bell’s 43-yard third quarter run was a great display of the various skills he’s shown this season. Starting by taking a handoff to the right, Bell stutter stepped and waited for the hole to open before quickly busting through to the second level. Using his vision to recognize Antonio Brown’s block developing, Bell stopped and juked at the last moment to avoid crashing into Brown’s defender and was in the open field. While he lacks the breakaway speed to take this play to the house, he showed good strength at the end of the run and fought for an extra 10 yards to finish the play.

Read the read at Draft Insider