The "Pro Day" season is upon us, and as draft prospects across the country begin to make impressions on some teams for the final time before the draft, we once again hear from our series of draft insiders to break down who the hot names are at each position. First, we start with the offense ...
Quarterback (Chris Kouffman – Universal Draft):
The most controversial quarterback prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft has to be Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State. His situation compares oddly to Ryan Mallett's situation from a year ago in that he has tremendous football talent, but one large overhang suppressing his Draft stock. For Mallett, that overhang was character related. Weeden's problems are a little less insidious: the numbers on his birth certificate don't look good. Brandon will turn 29 by Week 6 of the upcoming NFL season. He is not the kind of player who will scramble around and create big plays with his feet, and sometimes his accuracy does diminish if you get him into scramble mode. However, the little things he does before the pressure gets to him are what matter most. He was only sacked 20 times at Oklahoma State, once every 57 pass attempts, playing behind an offensive line whose best player over those two seasons (Levy Adcock) is projected to perhaps be a late sixth- or seventh-round project. Weeden handles pressure like a pro quarterback, dodging bullets from inside a phone booth. His feet are perfectly in tune with his reads, and he focuses on buying just enough time to get the ball where it needs to be with his tremendous arm strength. He throws with as much confidence as I have ever seen at the college level, and his accuracy is superb. Because of this, he does not get into many situations where he is being pressured at all, even though his offense asked him to stand in the pocket and wing the ball into all of the deep quarters of the field. His age, an extremely difficult issue to frame from a valuation standpoint, should not prevent him from being drafted in the first round.
Our Take: In a quarterback class that is highlighted by Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, Brandon Weeden is another option for teams looking for help under center. He performed well at the Senior Bowl in Mobile and was one of the few top passers to actually throw the football at the Combine, which was good to see. Where he gets selected will be one of the biggest questions as we approach draft weekend.
Running Back (Cory Bonini – KFFL):
Virginia Tech's David Wilson was off the charts, for the most part, at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. His 40 time was an average 4.49, but he led all running backs in vertical jump (41.0 inches) and broad jump (11-feet). Wilson finished in the top 10 among running backs in the three-cone drill (7.09 seconds), short shuttle (4.12 seconds) and long shuttle (11.59). His unconventional running style may turn off some teams, but Wilson's lower-body explosiveness was beyond evident in Indianapolis. Nothing was more impressive than his on-field drills, as Wilson was fluid, ran great routes and displayed natural hands catching the ball. He has locked himself into the top three backs of the class.
Our Take: Wilson's abilities out of the backfield as a receiver as well as on special teams as a kick returner make him an interesting prospect to watch for the Eagles in particular. Wilson's a downhill runner who makes one cut and gets upfield in a hurry, and should come off the board sometime during round two.
Wide Receiver (Shane Hallam – Draft Countdown):
One of the top receiver names buzzing is Notre Dame's Michael Floyd. After a great Combine filled with smooth routes, undropped passes and a 4.47 40 time, there is some talk that the 6-3 220-pound wideout may have the most upside of any wideout in the draft, even over Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon. As Floyd makes a case to be a Top-15 pick, his name is buzzing around the league. Miami wide receiver Tommy Streeter has also started plenty of talk in NFL circles, though that conversation revolves around why he wasn't as productive for the Hurricanes as his Combine numbers suggest (a 4.40 40-year-dash time, impressive for a 6-4, 219-pound player). Streeter had some issues grasping the playbook, but the upside is there for a potential NFL starter. He may very well be moving into the second day of the draft as his stock rises.
Our Take: While everyone was impressed with Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech, Floyd's performance in Indianapolis was equally noteworthy. He's a big prospect who has strong hands, good straight-line speed and the ability to beat you after the catch as well. Chances are that Floyd more than secured himself as a first-round selection in April.
Tight End (Matt Alkire – Scouts Notebook / Maxwell Club):
While many focus on Dwayne Allen and Orson Charles due to their athleticism, Stanford tight end Coby Fleener is a prospect I'm hearing a great deal of buzz about simply because of what he can develop into. Sure, he was primarily a move tight end in college, but at 6-6, 247 Fleener has a big frame to add weight, unlike the aforementioned prospects. Fleener is already a very good receiver and is a willing blocker and the thought of him being able to add weight and get better at the point of attack is intriguing people. Not surprisingly, Ladarius Green is a hot topic right now. A former basketball phenom from Germany, Green went to play for the Rajin' Cajuns as a wide receiver. He's an outstanding receiver, ran a tremendous 40-yard dash (4.53) and has a 6-6 frame. In an NFL where Jimmy Graham bursts out so quickly, players like Green are at a premium. I wouldn't be surprised to see him come off the board much earlier than expected.
Our Take: Obviously being on the other end of passes from the most talked-about quarterback prospect in years helps get his name out there, but Fleener is more than deserving of the praise he gets. A big target with long arms, strong hands, and the ability to get down the seam as well as anyone in the league, he will undoubtedly be one of the top tight ends taken in the class. Green was impressive down in Mobile, not just with his athletic ability but with his willingness to block, though he wasn't always successful in his attempts. Still, he will be a valuable weapon to whichever offense he ends up with this fall.
Offensive Line (Wes Bunting – Natioal Football Post):
The one offensive lineman I'd like to focus on is Amini Silatolu from Midwestern State. He didn't run the most impressive of 40 times (5.4 range). However, he showcased the ability to drop his pad level, maintain his balance and cleanly change directions laterally during position drills. He's got an explosive element to his game when asked to mirror and re-direct and he looks like a guy capable of starting early during his NFL career. I don't think he lasts long into round two and is an ideal fit for an angle or power scheme in the NFL as there is a real violent element about his game.
Our Take: Silatolu has had his name tossed around in draft circles, but due to an offseason injury he was unable to participate in the Senior Bowl as well as the Combine. A tough, ferocious mauler in the run game, the former Nevada signee is one of the top "small-school" prospects in this draft class and is one of my favorite interior linemen.