The Pro Day circuit continues and as we inch closer and closer to draft weekend. Players all over the country are striving to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack. Once again, we look to our panel of Draft Insiders to see who is standing out at each position. Here, we focus on the offensive positions …
Quarterback (Rob Rang – CBS Sportsline)
There has been plenty of talk as to how record-breaking quarterbacks Kellen Moore (Boise State) and Case Keenum (Houston) would be graded different if they were just a few inches taller. In reality, besides size, neither possesses the athleticism or the arm strength scouts look for. Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, on the other hand, truly has the arm strength, mobility, accuracy, intangibles and production of a first-round pick, but at just 5-11, 204 pounds he may still be available on day three. Like Moore and Keenum, Wilson produced jaw-dropping numbers in college. Wilson played in 50 college games, scoring over four times as many touchdowns (109 throwing, 23 rushing) as interceptions thrown (30).
Two important distinctions should be made before comparing Wilson's production to that from Moore, Keenum and others. For one, Wilson played in pro-style offenses while at Wisconsin and North Carolina State. Secondly, the level of competition he faced in the Big 10 and ACC is significantly better than that of the WAC (Moore) and Conference USA (Keenum). Sure, Wilson was protected by an NFL-caliber offensive line and rushing attack during his senior season at Wisconsin. The intelligence and dedication he showed in handling the conversion to the Badgers offense from the one he starred at while with the Wolfpack, however, speaks to his potential to quickly acclimate to an NFL offense. At his size, Wilson may look like a career backup. He may be drafted like a career backup. Don't be surprised, however, if he proves significantly more than that.
Our Take: Russell Wilson has been a personal favorite of mine, especially since getting to meet him down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. He's a guy with an electric personality that I'm sure many coaches and personnel men will fall in love with during the draft process because of his attitude and his abilities on the football field. As Rang pointed out, if he was a couple inches taller, you could be talking about Wilson as one of the top five signal callers in this class because of everything he brings to the table. Instead, look for him to come off the board in the middle rounds, and be a player fans will root for from the jump.
Running Back (Paul Guillemette – PigskinPaul.com)
Once running back Trent Richardson is taken in the top of the first round there may not be a strike at another prospect until round two. By the same token, there are multiple running back candidates that should be able to come into the NFL and contribute significantly, and immediately, if chosen by the right teams. LeSean McCoy wasn't a universally loved prospect in scouting circles heading into the 2009 Draft, but the Eagles are well pleased with what he has brought to their them the past couple of seasons.
I have been intrigued by Isaiah Pead of Cincinnati for the past three years. He's not a big guy, measuring 5-10, 197 pounds at the Combine, but he runs tough for his size, with burst and with good balance. He may not be considered a blazer, but his 4.47 40-yard dash time at the Combine was only .02 seconds slower than that of proclaimed speedster Chris Rainey of Florida. Pead averaged an even 6.0 yards per carry over the course of his college career, and caught 39 balls as a senior, further displaying his versatility. As a rotational player in a West Coast-type scheme, he should have excellent value by the third round. I currently have Pead ranked as my No. 6 running back prospect and 79th ranked player overall.
Our Take: Watching Pead on film, you can't help but feel good about his prospects at the next level. A player who does everything well, the versatile former Bearcat proved to also be a dynamo on special teams in Mobile, recording two extraordinary punt returns during the game. He catches the ball well, can make the first (and second) defender miss in the hole, isn't afraid to go between the tackles and has great vision. He should come off the board sometime in the second day.
Wide Receiver (Alex Brown – Optimum Scouting)
An FCS player that has helped his draft stock dramatically in the past year, with both his on field performances throughout the 2011 season and his all-star week performance at the East West Shrine game, is Dale Moss from South Dakota State. Moss, who just a season ago was a key contributor for South Dakota State's basketball squad, has rare athleticism, elite size and upside to develop into a legitimate receiver in the NFL. His ability to climb the ladder and grab contested throws away from his body, both over the middle of the field as well as in the red-zone, showcase his outstanding coordination, body control, and hands at the point of the catch.
Padding up for the first time since high school, Moss, who utilized a fifth and final year of eligibility after four years of college hoops, hauled in more than 5 catches in every single game. He finished the year eclipsing the 100-yard receiving mark four times, averaging over 15 yards per catch over the span of 61 receptions, 949 yards and 6 touchdowns. His immediate success can be attributed to his coachability, high learning capacity and excellent work ethic. Moss is a big, long and smooth athlete that transitions well in and out of his cuts, has an innate understanding of how to position himself in order make contested catches and has quickly made himself into a very adept route runner. While there is still work to be done and he is a developmental, late-round prospect right now, the size and speed Moss possesses (6-3, 220 pounds, 4.4 40-yard dash), will make NFL teams think twice about passing on him come April 28.
Our Take: Moss was one of the more intriguing participants at the East-West Shrine Game in January, and since then his name has been buzzing in the scouting community. While it's possible he may go undrafted, there's no denying his potential to come into the NFL and have an impact if he's put with the right coach that can take advantage of his raw abilities. Moss is definitely one of the biggest sleepers in this draft, and one of my favorite prospects for the last day.
Tight End (Joe Everett – Rookie Draft)
One tight end that, despite being invited to the Senior Bowl, still isn't getting a ton of love in scouting circles is Brian Linthicum from Michigan State. The former Clemson Tiger was an NFL Combine "snub" after participating in Mobile, but took advantage of his recent Pro Day to help elevate his draft stock. His 28 bench press reps at Michigan State's pro day would have been second best at the tight end position behind Georgia's Orson Charles' 35 reps at the Combine. Linthicum wowed scouts in pass catching drills at the end of the workout by displaying great route running ability and natural ball skills. Linthicum is definitely in the top ten tight ends this year despite not being one of the more flashy pass catchers. He a more traditional inline player who can help contribute in the running game and he's a much better receiver than he's given credit for.
Our Take: While the tight end position has developed into one comprised of pseudo-wide receivers and former basketball players, there are still some prospects that come out with the ability to be a "complete" tight end. Linthicum is one of those rare players. A big body with soft hands and the willingness to block, Linthicum was a solid player for the Spartans and should serve as a good backup early on in the NFL. Look for the Michigan State alum to come off the board sometime on Day Three.
Offensive Line (Josh Buchanan – JoshBDraft)
Everyone is talking about the names Brandon Brooks of Miami (Ohio), Cordy Glenn of Georgia and even Jeff Allen of Illinois as players standing out on the offensive line, but two names to monitor that aren't getting buzz in the media are Portland State's Dustin Waldron and Western Oregon's Jason Slowey. Waldron missed four games due to injury this year so he was not honored as a first-team All-Big Sky selection and surprised some when he got a Combine invite, but he certainly played like an All-American and future draft pick when he stepped on the field last fall.
Waldron (6-5, 305 pounds) may not be outstanding in any one aspect, but he is a solid pass and run blocker with good strength (29 reps on the bench press). After improving on several numbers at his pro day his stock has begun to rise a bit more, as he showed that he was perhaps more athletic than some originally thought. Waldron has shorter arms (32 3/4 inches) than you would like at the tackle position, so it will be interesting to see if someone takes him in the later rounds to slide him inside to guard.
Slowey (6-2, 304 pounds), ran in the 4.9-5.0 range at his recent Pro Day. His 38 bench reps and 32 7/8 inch arms make him a guy with the strength, size and length to kick inside to guard or center. He was a three-time All-GNAC selection at left tackle and 2011 GNAC Offensive Lineman of the Year. Keep an eye on Slowey as a guy who has risen from a camp body grade entering the year to a late-round or priority free agent grade after his pro day.
Our Take: Every year there are "small-school" offensive linemen that get drafted earlier than people expect and go into the league and make an impact. Offensive tackle Todd Herremans was one example of that a few years ago coming out of Saginaw Valley State. Waldron went to the Combine and performed well enough that I believe he's secured a spot in the middle rounds. Slowey is a player that may be going under the radar, but I wouldn't be shocked in the least bit to see him stick with a roster out of training camp.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider