Due to a well-deserved snow day in the mid-Atlantic, I was able to catch the South squad’s final practice in full pads. As always, there were both pleasant and unpleasant surprises.
Quarterbacks: TCU’s Andy Dalton was impressive, and I think he’s deserving of second round consideration. He isn’t all that physically gifted, but is accurate, smart, and knows the game. Greg McElroy doesn’t seem to have the arm strength to be more than your average backup at the next level, and Christian Ponder didn’t jump out at me either although he has more upside than McElroy.
Running backs: Noel Devine was only 160 pounds at the weigh in, but had incredible burst. He’s clearly not an every down back, but should be a quality pickup late in the draft as a change-of-pace back and kick returner. Georgia Tech’s Anthony Allen looks like a good downhill, physical runner who will make a roster if he can play special teams. Bilal Powell and Derrick Locke didn’t really stand out.
Wide receiver: Hawaii’s Greg Salas displayed some amazingly soft hands today and looks like a quality NFL receiver. I would draft him as a third or fourth receiver in the middle rounds. Miami’s Leonard Hankerson impressed as well, looking very big and athletic and coming back to the football naturally. He’s a fringe second round pick.
Tight end: Luke Stocker looks like the most NFL-ready tight end out there, but defensive backs do not respect his speed one bit. He struggles to separate from safeties. Arkansas’ D.J. Williams is a great route runner, but is he big enough to play tight end? Is he a good enough blocker to play fullback? Is he quick enough to play receiver? He’s a good player, but he’ll have a hard time fitting into an NFL offense.
Offensive line: Auburn’s Lee Ziemba was absolutely terrible, and there’s no way he should be drafted in the first three rounds. Same goes for USC’s Kris O’Dowd. Florida State’s Rodney Hudson was inconsistent, and looks like a third rounder at this point. I liked what I saw out of Arkansas’ DeMarcus Love and Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod. Love is a second rounder who is probably a right tackle whereas Sherrod is a late first rounder who has left tackle potential. I liked Love’s nastiness, and he could play guard if he struggles outside.
Defensive line: Allen Bailey was completely ineffective, and I think the only position he could play is the 3-4 end spot. He can’t get a pass rush and is not particularly stout against the run, so he should not be drafted until round 3. Clemson’s Jarvis Jenkins was not all that powerful, and neither was West Virginia nose tackle Chris Neild. Mississippi State’s Pernell McPhee is showing that he can be a solid 4-3 left end for somebody and has worked himself into second round consideration. Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor was the most impressive defensive lineman though, moving very well when he wants to and holding his ground well when blockers want to move. I’m beginning to believe that Taylor will be a first round pick, possibly going to the Jets at 29.
Linebackers: I didn’t really pay attention to the linebackers, but Von Miller looked quite fluid dropping into coverage, and I like the way Miami’s Colin McCarthy filled his run gaps.
Defensive backs: I loved Florida’s Ahmad Black during the season, but he was beaten a few times today. I still think he’s a solid third round pick. I liked Clemson’s Marcus Gilchrist, who can play corner or safety. He read a double move perfectly and made a play on the ball. Two guys who really impressed me were Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel and USC’s Shareece Wright. Wright is a very athletic corner who receivers struggled to separate from. McDaniel is a physical safety who has great awareness and showed the ability to blanket tight ends without much problem. Both guys are players that the Eagles should look at if they last until the fourth round.