Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What we learned from Jets' season finale

The Jets ended a dismal 2014 season in impressive fashion with a 37-24 comeback victory over the Miami Dolphins. Unfortunately for head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik, their fates had already been decided by owner Woody Johnson, who fired the duo early Monday morning. After a 4-12 campaign that netted Gang Green the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the roster holds far more questions than answers heading into what will be the Jets' most interesting offseason in a long time, but their meaningless Week 17 win provided a few potential glimpses into the team's future.

Read the rest at YES Network

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2015 NFL Draft: Military Bowl Scouting Preview – Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech

After a 2-3 start to the season, Cincinnati won their last seven games to finish 9-3 and 7-1 in the AAC. While the Bearcats enter the Military Bowl hot, Virginia Tech needed a win over Virginia in their final game to become bowl eligible. Even with that victory, the Hokies have lost four of their last six games, including a 6-3 double-OT loss to Wake Forest on Nov. 22.

While this year’s Military Bowl doesn’t feature any legitimate top-100 prospects, each team has a few players that could attract attention from NFL teams in the later rounds. 

Virginia Tech

Detrick Bonner, S, #8
Tasked mostly with playing centerfield for the Hokies, Bonner shows the skills to make an impact against the run and the pass. The 6-0, 195-pound safety comes up quickly in run support, but has a tendency to overpursue plays and doesn’t always break down effectively. His light frame is a detriment to his tackling ability, as most of the time he slides down to the ballcarrier’s legs to take them down.

Read the rest at Optimum Scouting

Friday, December 26, 2014

2015 NFL Draft: St. Petersburg Bowl Scouting Preview – Central Florida vs. NC State

Clayton Geathers will look to lead UCF to a Bowl win Friday.
Both Central Florida (9-3) and N.C. State (7-5) enter Friday’s St. Petersburg Bowl on winning streaks, with the Knights winning their last four games by a combined 88 points and N.C. State emerging victorious in their last two by 57 points. UCF is coming off an exciting 32-30 victory over East Carolina that earned them a share of the AAC title, while N.C. State rolled in-state rival North Carolina, 35-7, to cap a 7-5 season that would’ve been even better if not for a four-game losing streak in the middle of the year.

The impact NFL prospects in this game will be wearing UCF uniforms tomorrow, with two players who will find themselves in the top 100 of many big boards this offseason leading the way, one on each side of the football. 


Breshad Perriman, WR, #11
The son of former Lions wide receiver and 1988 second-round pick Brett Perriman, Breshad brings a similar draft grade to the table as his father once did. At 6-2, 209 pounds, Perriman high points the ball well and has very good hands, although he could improve his aggressiveness at the catch point. A deep threat that can get behind the defense, Perriman averaged over 22 yards per catch this year with nine touchdowns.

While Perriman is far from raw as a receiver and should be able to contribute early in his NFL career, he does need to develop better technique to reach his full potential as a pro. A junior who’s expected to declare for the draft, Perriman is one of two top-100 prospects on UCF’s roster.

Read the rest at Optimum Scouting

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Week 14 Rookie Report: Secondary focus discusses Roby, Gilbert and others

By the end of the NFL season, most of the league’s impact rookies have already made themselves known to the public. Some came out of the gates hot, like Kelvin Benjamin and C.J. Mosley, while others didn’t make an impact until the second of third month of the season, like Odell Beckham Jr. and Isaiah Crowell. With that in mind, Chris Tripodi takes a look at how some prominent defensive backs performed last week, as well as a few late-round picks that have seen a recent increase in opportunity thanks to injury. 

Bradley Roby (CB-Den)

Like most rookie cornerbacks, Bradley Roby has experienced an up-and-down year in his first NFL season. The 31st overall pick out of Ohio State has played behind Aqib Talib and Chris Harris this season, mixing in a few solid performances with some stinkers as well. Roby did battle with fellow first-round rookie Sammy Watkins on Sunday, and while the former Clemson star got the better of Roby for most of the afternoon, the first-year corner didn’t allow much to the Bills’ other receivers and made a great play to force an early turnover.

On the game’s first possession, Roby lined up in press coverage against Watkins. Beaten badly by a sudden slant route to the inside, Roby had to make up ground to catch up to Watkins after he made the catch. The corner noticed Watkins holding the ball in his left arm while he cut back towards him, and Roby smartly clubbed his arm down on the ball to force a fumble that was recovered by Denver in Buffalo territory. The drive resulted in no points for the Broncos, but it was a big play that helped set the tone for the Bills’ rough day on offense.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Friday, December 5, 2014

2014 ACC Championship Game Scouting Preview

Despite entering Saturday’s ACC Championship Game with an undefeated record, the defending-champion Florida State Seminoles are barely hanging onto the final spot in the inaugural college football playoff. A loss to Georgia Tech would most likely bump them out of the playoff picture, fairly or unfairly, but it will be a tough task for the Yellow Jackets to knock off the Seminoles without arguably their top prospect, senior wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who tore his ACL last weekend against Georgia. At 6-2 and 233 pounds with game-breaking speed, Smelter has accounted for 44 percent of Georgia Tech’s receiving yardage and 41 percent of their touchdowns through the air.

While the Yellow Jackets are a run-heavy team, ranking third in FBS with 333.8 rushing yards per game, the dynamic skill set of Smelter will be missed in the red zone, on third downs and on gadget plays that help their offense move down the field. Florida State has a few good prospects on their defensive line, but the Seminoles rank just 42nd in FBS against the run, allowing just over 145 yards per game on the ground. Georgia Tech will need to dominate the ground game and keep the ball away from Florida St. to have a chance to win this ballgame.

Florida State

Jameis Winston, QB, #5

One of the more divisive prospects eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft, redshirt sophomore Winston has endured a bumpy road on the field as well as off it lately. A four-interception performance against Florida last weekend marked the sixth consecutive game with a pick for Winston, including three games with multiple turnovers. Winston continues to show impressive memory loss and refuses to fold late despite his mistakes, but his decision-making and accuracy need to improve if the Seminoles want a legitimate chance at another title. Winston is the only QB with a chance to unseat Marcus Mariota at the top of the position rankings, but will need to clean up his play down the stretch.

Read the rest at Optimum Scouting

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Week 12 Rookie Report: Isaiah Crowell headlines a pair of Browns rookies

A few highly drafted offensive linemen have been stellar all season for their teams on the inside, and Chris Tripodi returns to give Browns guard Joel Bitonio and Cowboys guard Zack Martin their due. As usual, a few skill players have seen their opportunities increase over the past few weeks as well, and two came through with their best games of the season in Week 12.

Isaiah Crowell (RB-Cle)

With last week’s release of veteran running back Ben Tate, who entered the season as the Browns’ starter, extra playing time opened up for rookie third-round pick Terrance West (profiled here after Week 2) and the undrafted Isaiah Crowell. While West handled 15 touches to Crowell’s 12, the latter played 16 more snaps by a count of 47-31 after starting the game and was easily the more effective back. That’s not a knock on West, who ran well, but Crowell’s talent pops off the screen every time you watch him play. His 12 carries went for 88 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 12 win over Atlanta, compared to 62 yards on 14 carries for West.

Crowell got off to a slow start early, as his first three runs went for zero yards, but an 11-yard touchdown late in the first quarter got his day going nicely. Backfield penetration from the Falcons’ defensive line threatened to shut down a run to the right, but Crowell’s quick feet allowed him to quickly cut away from the lineman towards an open hole on the left side. Spotting a Miles Austin seal block on the edge, Crowell cut upfield and showed elite burst and acceleration to get through the hole before it closed on his way to the end zone. His hip flexibility is also top-notch, which allows him to cut laterally with ease and get skinny through tight creases.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Week 11 Rookie Report: More WRs bust out, Devon Kennard fills in well for NYG

More first-year receivers made Chris Tripodi’s Rookie Report this week, and that is most certainly a trend that has been set throughout the entire 2014 season. Many are referring to this receiver class as one of the best of all time, and it’s becoming more difficult to argue with that statement as the season goes on. But this week wasn’t all about wide receivers, as a late-round quarterback turned in one of the better performances for a first-year signal caller this season and another Day 3 pick showed well in his opportunity on the defensive side of the ball.

Zach Mettenberger (QB-Ten)

A sixth-round pick out of LSU, Mettenberger became the fourth rookie quarterback to start for his team this season before the Titans’ Week 8 game against the Texans. A strong-armed, statuesque passer who fits the old-school quarterback prototype, Mettenberger dropped in the draft after tearing his ACL during his senior season. He also had a few off-field issues dating back to his days at Georgia that had teams worried as well. Through three starts, the first-year passer has played relatively well, especially considering the struggles of his rookie counterparts with much higher draft pedigree. The “Mett Show” almost led Tennessee to an upset of Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football, finishing his best game with 15 completions on 24 attempts, 263 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Week 12 ACC Notes: Cameron Erving's position switch helps draft stock

Heading into the season as a Day 2 offensive tackle prospect, Florida State senior Cameron Erving was exposed against Vic Beasley’s speed off the edge earlier this season against Clemson. His struggles continued in the following weeks, but an experiment made necessary by Florida State’s issues replacing center Bryan Stork – who was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round this season – may help to resuscitate his draft stock.

True freshman Roderick Johnson made his first career start at left tackle as Erving shifted to center for Saturday night’s matchup with Miami, and the move paid immediate dividends for the Seminoles. The offensive line, which has struggled to meet expectations this season despite having multiple NFL prospects, allowed just one sack and paved the way for 114 rushing yards on 19 carries. Erving’s athleticism has always been apparent at left tackle, but it looks to be a huge asset at the center position.

Freshman running Dalvin Cook hit the Hurricanes for two touchdowns of 25 or more yards, and Erving made key blocks on both runs, sealing off holes for the lightning-fast Cook to hit and reach the second level. Erving himself was quick out of his stance and showed more aggression playing inside than he has on the edge, and the senior used his athleticism to make a few nice blocks of his own at the second level. His movement skills fit very well at center and, as pro stars like Alex Mack and Jason Kelce prove, athletic centers can be extremely key pieces to NFL offensive lines.

Read the rest at Optimum Scouting

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Week 9 Rookie Report: More WRs bust loose, and an underrated LB gets his due

After an impressive Week 8 showing by first-year wide receivers, two more made a big impact for their teams during Week 9. One was a first-round pick who had been waiting for a breakout game up until this point, while the other wasn’t drafted at all and had to fight his way onto an NFL roster during training camp and preseason. There were a few other impact rookies around the league as well, including a second-round running back and third-round linebacker taking advantage of injuries to turn in productive games. Chris Tripodi will tell you who showed out to him in this week’s Rookie Report.

Jeremy Hill (RB-Cin)

With a banged-up Giovani Bernard sitting out the Bengals’ Week 9 game against the Jaguars, the second running back drafted this past May was thrust into a starting role. Coming into the game with just one outing of 40 yards or more this season, Cincinnati’s second-round pick exploded for 154 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries to help the Bengals win in the absence of their 2013 second-round pick. With Bernard looking doubtful to play on Thursday Night Football this week as well, Hill should get another shot to show off his skills.

The skills that Hill put on tape against Jacksonville were highly impressive, especially his change of direction ability as a 238-pound running back. The LSU product showed the ability to quickly alter his path against backfield penetration and cut against the grain, even completely reversing field on one run to pick up 11 yards. A toss play to the right side was going nowhere and Hill stopped moving, recognized the defense’s overpursuit on the backside and ran back parallel to the line of scrimmage and around the corner for the first down. Hill accelerated better than a back his size would be expected to, which allows him to trust his quick feet.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Week 8 Rookie Report: Rookie WRs dominate the Week 8 headlines

What a showing for rookie wide receivers in Week 8. While Sammy Watkins and Kelvin Benjamin have dominated the headlines for first-year pass catchers, and rightfully so, they aren’t the only notable receivers to make a big impact for their teams this season. They’ve been the most consistent, but have also been given the biggest opportunity as No. 1 targets on their respective teams. Chris Tripodi breaks down what he saw from four other rookie wideouts who enjoyed their best performances of the season in Week 8.

Brandin Cooks (WR-NO)

After a big Week 1 that saw Cooks burst onto the scene in Atlanta with seven receptions for 77 yards and his first career touchdown, many expected him to continue that success through the first half of the season. Like the Saints, however, the speedy Cooks struggled away from the Superdome turf and caught just 10 passes for 71 yards in his next three road games. The first-round rookie did put up 17 receptions for 130 yards in two home games before Sunday, but even those performance were underwhelming in terms of a lack of big plays. That certainly wasn’t the case Sunday against the Packers, as Cooks caught six balls for a career-high 94 yards and a touchdown, while adding a rushing score as well.

On the Saints’ first possession, Drew Brees drove the team inside the Packers’ five-yard line to set up Cooks’ first touchdown, a jet sweep to the left where the rookie scored untouched. Cooks motioned from the right slot and the Green Bay defense didn’t keep outside contain on the quick snap and handoff, giving Cooks an easy lane to quickly speed through. Two possessions later, Cooks got a step deep on a post route against Davon House and Brees hit him perfectly in stride for what would’ve been a 45-yard catch. Unfortunately, Cooks couldn’t hang onto the pass as he fell to the turf.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Friday, October 24, 2014

Timing of Kerley's Extension Curious for New York Jets

Four days after trading a conditional sixth-round draft pick -- a pick that becomes a fourth-rounder if Harvin is on their roster next season -- to the Seattle Seahawks for slot weapon Percy Harvin, the New York Jets extended the contract of current slot receiver Jeremy Kerley for four years and $16 million, with $5.4 million of that guaranteed. While the trade for Harvin seemed to signal the potential end of Kerley in New York, it instead was simply a precursor towards Kerley's return through 2018, which had been in the works for "a little while," according to the receiver.

While Kerley has endured his share of struggles this season, particularly when asked to be the team's No. 1 receiver when Eric Decker was sidelined due to injury, he has been an extremely dependable player for the Jets since being drafted in the fifth round in 2011. With the lack of dependable receivers the team has had during that time span, it's understandable the Jets would want to keep Kerley around and build continuity in the passing game to aid the development of second-year quarterback Geno Smith.

What is more difficult to understand is trading for an explosive slot receiver who has elite speed and ability after the catch, then re-signing a possession-focused slot man who acts as more of a chain mover. Every offense needs reliable receivers that can convert third downs and keep drives alive, but where will Kerley get his work if Harvin takes over the slot?

Read the rest at Pro Football Spot

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Week 7 Rookie Report: Two Rams lead the way after Sunday's upset of Seattle

The Rams upset the Seahawks on Sunday, thanks to trick plays on special teams and the emergence of two rookies, one on each side of the ball. Running back Tre Mason and defensive tackle Aaron Donald have seen their playing time increase over the past two weeks, and both are taking advantage of their newfound opportunities in the starting lineup. Two first-year linebackers also caught Chris Tripodi’s eye this week, one taken fifth overall and another in the fifth round.

Tre Mason (RB-StL)

A third-round pick out of Auburn, Mason was active for the first time this season in Week 6 against the 49ers, playing the first nine snaps of his career and turning five carries into 40 yards. After passing the eye test as easily the Rams’ most explosive running back, Mason looked to have earned more playing time heading into Week 7 against the Seahawks. While the former SEC star played just over half of St. Louis’ offensive snaps (27 of 51), he led the Rams with 18 carries, which he turned into 85 yards and a touchdown. Former starter and second-year runner Zac Stacy played just one snap and fellow sophomore Benny Cunningham rotating in on passing downs, leaving feature-back duties to the rookie.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Week 8 ACC Scouting Notes: Louisville’s Devante Parker Shows No Rust in Return

A broken bone in his left foot cost Louisville star wide receiver DeVante Parker almost two months of action, including seven games of his senior season. Parker proved his health is no longer an issue Saturday and made up for lost time, taking a quick slant on the second play from scrimmage for 37 yards to make his presence felt. A potential first-round prospect in the 2015 class, Parker tied his career-high with nine receptions, totaling 132 yards in his 2014 debut.

Parker’s strong hands and impressive catch radius were on display early and often against N.C. State, as the receiver hung onto the ball through contact on a third-and-four slant route and snatched a few high passes from quarterback Will Gardner out of the air. Parker also showed off his playmaking ability after the catch, breaking tackles on multiple short routes to create extra yardage.

Read the rest at Optimum Scouting

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Week 6 Rookie Report: Jets' Amaro breaks out, while Jags' Johnson disappoints

Week 6 saw some impressive performances from rookies around the NFL, with Jets tight end Jace Amaro becoming the fifth tight end this season to pull down 10 receptions in a game and Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett intercepting his first career pass and setting a new career-high in tackles. Chris Tripodi returns again to break down what he saw from Amaro, Verrett and a couple of other rookies who had opportunities to impress this weekend.

Storm Johnson (RB-Jax)

A seventh-round pick out of Central Florida, Johnson got the start for the Jaguars in Week 6 thanks to Toby Gerhart’s foot injury and general ineffectiveness. The question for Johnson was whether he could overcome Jacksonville’s poor run blocking up front when Gerhart couldn’t, considering many (myself included) believe Johnson is the most talented runner in the Jaguars’ backfield, despite his low draft status. With college teammates Blake Bortles under center as well, Johnson had the advantage of being comfortable with his quarterback in his first start. Coach Gus Bradley said after the game that the goal was to give Johnson 10 carries, and he ended up with exactly 10 carries for 21 yards and a touchdown. While Johnson started and received the bulk of Jacksonville’s carries, he played just 19 snaps in total.

The rookie’s first carry of the game went for just one yard, but could’ve hit for a few more if Johnson had been more patient. Instead of waiting an extra split-second behind his fullback and seeing a small hole develop on the backside, Johnson charged forward into multiple Titans defenders. Johnson corrected this issue later in the first half on his longest run of the game, a six-yard carry from a single back formation. Without a fullback block to read in the backfield, Johnson recognized penetration on the right side of the line, cut quickly to the back side and showed nice burst through the crease before falling forward for extra yardage on first contact.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Eric Decker Effect

For all the hoopla surrounding the Jets' quarterback situation, and whether Geno Smith or Michael Vick should be under center, many fans and pundits are overlooking the key piece to the puzzle. While most are willing to lament the team's general lack of offensive weaponry, few specifically mention the positive effect free-agent acquisition Eric Decker has had on New York' offense.

When the Jets signed Decker to a five-year, $36.25 million contract, most said the money was right. I would agree, especially considering what the division-rival Dolphins are (over)paying their starting receivers - Mike Wallace makes $60 million over five years, while Brian Hartline makes $30.77 million over the same length.

Somehow, Decker makes only slightly more than Hartline despite being a far better receiver. And while you can argue that Wallace is a better player this season, he was terrible last year and makes almost twice as much money. Decker wins the battle of value, and it's not really close.

The only potential knock on the Decker deal was that it wasn't enough for the Jets, which isn't a knock on Decker at all. General manager John Idzik didn't address the wide receiver position until the fourth round of this year's draft, and Shaq Evans is on injured reserve while Jalen Saunders was recently cut. Second-round tight end Jace Amaro has been predictably slow to develop like most rookie tight ends, especially ones that excelled in a spread offense in college.

To say that New York lacks weapons behind Decker is to state the obvious, as starting slot receiver Jeremy Kerley on the outside and bottom-of-the-roster players like David Nelson and Greg Salas behind him is just unacceptable.

Read the rest at Pro Football Spot

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Week 5 Rookie Report: Giants set to rely on rookies offensively

Week 5 of the NFL season brought us the same thing we see almost every week: Injuries to multiple running backs, and late-round picks and undrafted free agents unknown to the common fan making a name for themselves. Only one player drafted in the first 100 picks made the list this week, and Chris Tripodi returns to tell you who it was and break down what he saw from a few players taken outside the first three rounds that are making an impact for their teams.

Branden Oliver (RB-SD)

With the San Diego backfield beset by injuries to Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead and ineffectiveness from free-agent acquisition Donald Brown, Oliver provided Chargers fans with glimpses of another diminutive back that used to wear #43 in powder-and-blue, Darren Sproles. Standing at just 5-8, the undrafted Oliver took over after Brown suffered a first-half concussion against the Jets. After rushing for 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and adding 68 yards and another score on four receptions, Oliver is likely to take over as San Diego’s lead back until Mathews returns to the field, regardless of Brown’s status.

Read the rest at Draft Insider