We're inching ever so close to the 2013 NFL Draft and to bring you the latest buzz around the league on the top draft prospects we've consulted with our panel of national draft insiders once again to keep you up to date ...
Quarterback: Arizona's Matt Scott
One quarterback who has slowly moved his way up the board in the court of public opinion is former Arizona signal caller Matt Scott. Nick Foles' former backup with the Wildcats, Scott is what some might call the anti-Foles, in that he is on the smaller side but is incredibly light on his feet, showing great ability to move outside of the pocket. Scott's mobility is what has put him on the radar of Eagles fans and after a good showing at the East-West Shrine Game and at February's NFL Scouting Combine, the arrow appears to be pointing up. Where will he get drafted? Is he a good fit for Chip Kelly? To answer that and more we asked to National Football Post's Russ Lande ...
"Scott is an underrated prospect with the talent to start in the NFL. Although he looks thin on film, he shows a strong arm to make all the NFL throws. Calm under pressure, Scott will stand strong as pressure closes on him and makes good, accurate throws before getting hit. He consistently has displayed the arm strength and touch to make accurate throws along the sideline 20-plus yards down the field. At times he makes throws into bad spots and defenders are able to makes a play on the ball. In addition to his passing skills, Scott is a good athlete who can make plays with his feet and could likely function well in Chip Kelly's adjusted offense. He will likely be a third-round pick, but could be a surprise pick in the bottom half of the second round."
Running Back: Florida State's Chris Thompson
One of the most dynamic ball carriers in the 2013 NFL Draft, Chris Thompson isn't quite the household name he should be. If he had stayed healthy, rest assured Thompson would be a popular topic of conversation. A history of knee and neck injuries stunted his production during his time in Tallahassee, however, and the medical concerns will certainly affect his draft status. How far could he Thompson fall, and more importantly could he fit here in Philadelphia with Chip Kelly? We asked Optimum Scouting's Jared Counterman ...
"There actually might not be a better fit for Chip Kelly's offense in this entire running back class than Chris Thompson. If healthy, Thompson has the vision, explosion and lateral ability to be effective in both inside and outside zone read concepts Kelly is sure to bring over from college. His health is going to play a huge role where exactly he'll be selected after tearing his ACL against Miami in October. He's likely a mid-to-late-round target at this point."
Wide Receiver: Duke's Conner Vernon
One of the most productive wideouts to ever play college football, Duke's Conner Vernon has been a model of consistency during his time with the Blue Devils as he became the of all-time receiver in the history of the ACC. A savvy player with a knack for creating separation at the next level, Vernon exhibited sticky hands throughout the draft process at the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Scouting Combine and is a proven commodity at the wide receiver position. Do his talents translate to the next level? Or will he go down the road of productive college players who don't amount to much in the league? For that and more we asked the man who breaks down all the tape, NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell ...
"The first thing that jumps out is that Vernon almost always lined on the left side of the formation. He knew how to set up defensive backs with his vertical stem and how to break down cushions. It was easy to see that he understood the technical aspect of running routes. On tape, while he's not necessarily fast, he showed that he could separate with the ball in the air, which is a more necessary trait than just 40-time speed. Even though he at times separated with the ball in the air, one concern I had with him is that he seemed very much to be a 'one-speed' guy. He didn't always show a great burst when he just ran his normal routes. That was one concern that I had. I made the note after one game that he aligned primarily on the outside and I think he's capable of doing that in the NFL, but he has the look of a slot receiver at the next level.
"Overall, I thought he was as good a pure route runner as there is in this draft class. He had very good hands. He caught the ball very easily. I thought he had very good body control and flexibility to adjust to the ball. I think he fits in any offense because he can line up both outside and in the slot. If you're talking about offenses in which you often line three receivers to one side, as Chip Kelly did a lot of at Oregon and a lot of teams do around the league, I think he certainly fits that type of role. I don't think he fits the 'X iso' receiver in that set because I don't think he's quite that type of player, but I think on the three-receiver side he could either be the No. 2 or No. 3 and be very effective. "
Tight End: Florida's Jordan Reed
The addition of James Casey to the offense suggests that the use of more dynamic players at the tight end position is in store for the Eagles in 2013. Luckily, this is as deep of a class at the position as we have seen in recent years in the NFL Draft. There are options from top to bottom. One player who will be very attractive to teams looking for an athletic "chess piece" type of prospect is Florida's Jordan Reed. The former quarterback only has a couple of years of experience at the position, but has made strides as a receiver and route runner. For more on Reed we checked in with Universal Draft's Chris Kouffman, who gave a different perspective on the former Gator ...
"The installation of Chip Kelly's fast-paced, wide-open offensive attack naturally leaves Eagles fans curious about what kind of tight ends would thrive in the new system. Reed is one player who seems to fit that profile. Hailing from the same school as Aaron Hernandez, Reed fits the mold of a smaller, athletic pass catching tight end with some run-after-catch skills that could catch quick passes in Kelly's offense, especially in the flats, and do some damage. Closer examination shows that Reed is an uninteresting match for the system. He is too small and weak to be any more than a speed bump as a blocker. That can be forgiven if he made up for it in other ways. However, his athleticism is overrated and his run-after-catch ability, though befitting an experienced and athletic ball carrier his size, is not special. He doesn't have a knack for adjusting on the football in the air, coming back to the ball or presenting his numbers to the passer so as to make himself quarterback-friendly.
"Vance McDonald (who we discussed in last week's Draft Buzz), on the other hand, fits the system perfectly. McDonald breaks the profile by being nearly 270 pounds and is built like a chest of drawers, but he is more athletic than Reed while also being smoother, more balanced and more explosive with the football in his hands after the catch. He gets into and out of his breaks quickly and presents his numbers to the quarterback. He comes back to the football. He runs through catches and transitions from the catch to the run as quickly as wide receivers. He has the lower body explosion and bubble to stick with blocks and bury opponents, unlike Jordan Reed who cannot sustain. If you can live with a few drops here and there, you're getting a more physical player who is the most polished run after catch tight end in the Draft yet also runs routes with the polish and 'my ball' mentality that will make him an effective quarterback helper."
Offensive Line: North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper
While a lot of talk has centered around the possibility of the team taking an offensive tackle with the fourth overall pick, not as much discussion has been given inside to the guard spot. Obviously Chance Warmack's name has been thrown around a bit, and his relationship with new offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is significant, but would he be the best fit in Philadelphia? North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper is a superior athlete, and his movement skills make him one of the most sought after linemen in the class. Is he a better fit in Chip Kelly's offense? Who else could possibly make sense for the Eagles at that position? Who better to ask than The Sideline View's Lance Zierlein ...
"The Eagles obviously need a talent infusion on the offensive line, but there will be specific types of players they have to look for now. In Chip Kelly's offense, foot quickness and stamina will be at a premium and Cooper fits the bill. Cooper was able to play in the mid 280-pound range in college, but would likely be asked to play closer to his natural weight of 300 in the pros. His feet are absolutely special. He has the ability to turn the corner as a pulling guard as quickly as anyone I've seen and he is tailor-made for outside zone plays as he's quick enough to get up to the second level and get 'Mike' linebackers blocked.
"Unless the Eagles trade back, they won't have a shot at drafting Cooper since he'll be gone by the middle of the first round. Syracuse tackle Justin Pugh will have to bump down inside to guard, but he has the foot quickness and toughness that would be a fit in the Eagles new offense as a potential second-round selection. For that matter, former Oregon tackle Kyle Long is another tackle who is projected to bump inside as a guard as well and he could be a target for the Eagles in the second round. Other guards who fit the bill in Rounds 4-6 include J.C. Tretter from Cornell who is another tackle-turned-guard and Garrett Gilkey from Chadron State who is a good athlete and who had a nice week of practice at the Senior Bowl."
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