2015 NFL Draft: Week 9 NFL Prospects

Week 9 NFL Prospects

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The FCS does not usually churn out future NFL starting quarterbacks. However, if this draft class does include a future NFL starter from the FCS, it won’t be first time in recent memory. Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco actually calls Delaware, an FCS school, his alma mater. To the average NFL Draft fan, Southeastern Louisiana signal caller Bryan Bennett is just a quarterback from an FCS school that they have never heard of before. However, those in the know are keeping a close eye on the development of Bennett. He’s got a very strong arm to go with elite athleticism for the position and rare improvisational skills. He even has that hard to find “it” factor. Against Stephen F. Austin on Saturday, Bennett did not start the game due to an injury to his throwing shoulder. However, after seeing the Southeastern Louisiana offense fail to score in the first half, Bennett was allowed to play. His team got the ball to open the second half and methodically drove right down the field. After being down 17 points at halftime, Bennett was almost able to bring them back only to throw a costly interception in the end zone after not leading his receiver enough. Overall though, he looked very good and showed a lot of toughness playing through the injury after his coach finally relented and let him play. Although Bennett has many traits of a top five pick, it is his current weaknesses that are limiting his current draft stock. His primary issue is inconsistent footwork where he often does not set his feet or step into his throws. To his credit this issue has dramatically improved since last year. Furthermore, he forces too many balls into coverage. If he wants to get in the conversation to be a first round pick then he will have to show improved footwork to close the season.

Watching an NFL prospect in-person is always the best way to gauge his physical attributes as well picking up little details about him. Thus, I was very excited to finally see the electric Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs against the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday. Unfortunately, his play left a lot to be desired. First, he did not show the great speed and agility I had seen on film. Instead, both attributes were merely very good. Most concerning though was the fact that he only showed an average ability to separate. He really does not understand the nuances of running routes and using his excellent athleticism to beat cornerbacks. Additionally, he dropped two passes that really were primarily a lack of concentration. This continues a trend he has shown throughout this year. Furthermore, he only has an average catch radius. To add injury to insult, he did appear to get shaken up after falling awkwardly after going up to get a pass after failing to catch it. Though this was after I had already made my aforementioned observations. Before the game he looked like a borderline number one wide receiver at the next level, but after continuing to show these concerning weaknesses, he may be more of a number two or number three option.

In comparison, his teammate Deon Long put in a solid showing. He may lack the very good overall athleticism of Diggs but he is much more polished as a route runner and shows reliable hands. Long probably will never be a household name in the NFL but he should definitely be able to be a number three or number four wide receiver on most pro teams.

Shilique Calhoun is probably the most overrated player in college football as well as the 2015 NFL Draft. The Michigan State defensive end rarely flashes on film. He has made a few big plays in big moments in his career, hence his big reputation. However, watching the film tells a much different story throughout the game. He has a good first step but has a raw pass rush repertoire, average hand usage, and not enough flexibility to bend around the edge. Calhoun is very disciplined though and almost always in his gap. However, he is below average at holding the point of attack and is often blown off the ball when a team runs his way. His merely average ability to get off blockers coupled with his very average pass rush ability suggest he is at best a solid starter or a backup defensive end in the NFL and nowhere near the first round pass rushing phenom that many make him out to be. He has had good stats though, which fools many people that do not watch film into thinking he must be a very good player. However, getting one sack in a game but getting no pressure on the quarterback the rest of the game as well as being only average stopping the run is not a good overall game. Shilique Calhoun is the classic player that is nowhere near as good as his stat line may suggest. He does have the physical tools to improve a little bit, but even still, he lacks the necessary ability to ever be a Pro Bowl caliber defensive end in the NFL. Thus, drafting him based on assumed improvement should still limit him to being a third round pick. Any team that picks him any higher than the third or fourth round is going to be highly disappointed.

On the other hand, Michigan defensive end Frank Clark has the tools to be a Pro Bowl caliber pass rusher in the NFL. He has a very good first step and good hand usage. His best position for the next level, be it outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or defensive end in a 4-3 defense, is still an unknown. Clark definitely needs to be more consistent game to game, but flashed a lot against the Spartans and had a very nice game.

East Carolina wide receiver Justin Hardy has had one of the most productive careers in college football history. Though he probably will never be a premier receiver in the NFL, he appears to be a very solid future slot wide receiver that should have a very long career running routes underneath.

So far this season in the media, the battle to be the first halfback taken in the 2014 NFL Draft has centered around Georgia Bulldog Todd Gurley and Wisconsin Badger Melvin Gordon. Though those are the two best backs in my mind, there is a third back that is not all that far behind those two studs and is not nearly getting the media attention that he deserves. That player is Boise State halfback Jay Ajayi. He is a complete back with all of the necessary physical tools to be a top-notch halfback in the NFL. Even more indicative of his future potential success is his unwillingness to be tackled by defenders. He treats each play like its a life and death situation, refusing to give up until the whistle blows. Unfortunately, this occasionally leads to him exposing the football where has definitely shown a propensity to fumble the ball.

 

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