We're just a couple weeks away from the 2012 NFL Draft now, and we continue to bring you the hot names making the rounds as we conclude Pro Days from around the country. We once again go to our panel of NFL Draft Insiders to see which players at each position are seeing their proverbial "stock" rise by the week. First, with the offense...
Quarterback (Cecil Lammey – ESPN Denver):
One quarterback who has gotten a lot of buzz as of late has been B.J. Coleman from Tennessee-Chattanooga. The Mocs had their pro day at the beginning of this month and Coleman impressed the group of scouts in attendance with his passing skills. He was completely recovered from a broken bone in his throwing hand that kept him from fully participating at the NFL Scouting Combine back in February. Coleman is tall, has a strong arm, and looks a lot like Peyton Manning when he drops back and sets up to throw. He originally began his college career at Tennessee and studied game tape of Manning extensively to learn the position. His play fakes look eerily like Manning too, but Coleman isn't as accurate on his short and underneath routes. Coleman looked good at the East-West Shrine Game earlier this year, and there is a lot of buzz building about him in the scouting community. Once thought of as a fifth- or sixth-round pick, Coleman now could be selected as high as the third-round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Our Take: In a top-heavy quarterback class, Coleman has quietly asserted himself as one of the best options in the middle rounds. He's got a strong arm as well as tons of potential and room to grow. Coleman is one of several Tennessee transfers in this year's draft and the expectation is that this former Volunteer to come off the board no later than the end of the fourth round.
Running Back (Tony Pauline – SI.com):
Probably no running back is drawing such a large contrast in opinions as is Florida's Chris Rainey. A skill player with home-run speed, Rainey is slight of size at 5-9, 180, yet has big time play-making ability. He's a dangerous open-field ball-carrier who looked like a polished receiver during the Senior Bowl. Rainey is a multipurpose threat who can beat defenders around the corner, make them miss in the open field or be used as a legitimate down-field pass-catching threat. He also adds the element of game breaking return specialist to his resume. Rainey comes with a few off the field issues but if he's coached correctly and is focused on football, he's one of the most lethal ball-handling threats in this draft.
Our Take: There aren't as many backs in this draft class who are as versatile as Rainey, who, as Tony said, stood out in receiver drills down in Mobile during the week of Senior Bowl practices. His particular value to the Eagles could be as a return specialist, where he thrived during his career with the Florida Gators. In a deep running back class, Rainey should come off the board at some point on the draft's third day.
Wide Receiver (Tommy Lawlor – Scouts Notebook):
One of the best things about the NFL Draft is that good players can be very different even in a similar role. Two receivers right now who have generated some buzz are East Carolina's Lance Lewis and Fresno State's Devon Wylie. Both guys project very well to the slot position. Lewis is big at 6-3, 208. He lacks the speed to play outside, but had a good pro day workout and showed the athleticism needed for the slot. He had a three-cone time of 6.94 seconds, very good for a big receiver. He had a 34-inch vertical jump. That allows him to go up and play the ball in the air. Wylie, meanwhile, has the speed to play outside, but not the size at just 5-9,182. He had a three-cone time of 6.82 seconds at his pro day and that quickness/agility definitely shows up on game tape. Both Wylie and Lewis can be good role players in the NFL. Wylie will be drafted higher because he's got big play potential as a slot guy and returner. Lewis you could think of as a poor man's Jason Avant. He'll move the chains, but isn't going to be a big play threat. Both players are generating a lot of interest by coaches and scouts.
Our Take: Wylie is a personal favorite. Of all the receivers who have come out of college the last few years that have drawn comparisons to Wes Welker, Wylie is the one who most fits the bill in my mind. He's a very dangerous punt returner, can be a dynamic option in the slot, and can win on the outside as well when given the opportunity. Lewis was one of the big surprises to not be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine this year. He's got a ton of ability, and I think the comparison Tommy made to Jason Avant is a fair one. Both of these players should be available on the third day, though I would expect Wylie to hear his name called first of the two.
Tight End (Matt Waldman – Football Outsiders):
Dwayne Allen is the safest and most versatile tight end in this draft. The Clemson tight end is used as the lead blocker in the running game on both inside and outside runs and does a sound job as an in-line tight end and wing back. This year, Clemson made changes to its offense. Due to weaknesses in pass protection, Allen was kept at the line of scrimmage on roll outs and in max-protect situations. He's good at diagnosing first- and second-level blocks in the run game and he consistently gets his hands into the defender's body while using his strong base to get wide and anchor or drive the defender off his spot. He's a high-effort player who will work to overcome any issues with maintaining leverage due to sloppy technique. Allen is a quicker than fast as a receiver, so he's not regarded as a hybrid tight end. However, he's a fluid, strong receiver who catches the ball with his hands while showing the ability to make athletic - and often dynamic - adjustments to the ball in the air. While he won't blow by most NFL linebackers and safeties in man coverage, he is adept at the back-shoulder fade and his strength and quickness will prove to be a match up advantage if paired with a confident, accurate quarterback. After the catch, Allen has the agility and power to get yardage after contact. I think the Clemson tight end is one of the better all-around prospects at the position in the past five years. His strengths and dimensions remind me of former Falcons Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler, a player with good short-to-intermediate skills in the passing game, red zone production, and versatility that helped an offense maintain an unpredictable game plan because he excelled in all three phases of the game at his position: pass protection, run blocking, and receiving.
Our Take: Allen has been my favorite tight end in this draft class for quite some time, and Matt nailed all the reasons why. He's the most complete player at the position with his abilities as both a blocker and a receiver. While he may not be the athlete of a Coby Fleener, Ladarius Green, or even Michael Egnew, he's more athletic than some give him credit for. Allen accelerates well down the field, excelling particularly in vertical wheel routes from the tight end spot. He's got great ball skills with soft hands, and is a very tenacious blocker. Pair his blocking with his toughness after the catch, and I think he will be a fan favorite wherever he ends up.
Offensive Line (Lanze Zierlein – The Sideline View):
If you are looking for an offensive line prospect who is shooting up the boards, look no further than Midwestern State tackle turned guard, Amini Silatolu. Silatolu may lack experience against the same level of competition that David Decastro and Cordy Glenn faced, but NFL scouts tell me that Silatolu might be better than both as an NFL guard within a few years. The first thing that caught my eye when I watched No. 57 (Silatolu) man the left tackle position at Midwestern State was his foot quickness in space. He is very fluid laterally and was able to use his feet to put himself in position to make tough blocks all game long including difficult "second-level" blocks. The next thing that caught my attention was his combination of power, ability to finish and nasty streak. Silatolu will bump down inside to guard and can play in a man blocking scheme or a zone scheme. He shows very good flexibility and bend and my guess is that he'll be better in space at hitting a moving target than any guard in the 2012 draft - including DeCastro.
Our Take: Other than maybe quarterback Ryan Tannehill, there was no player I was more sorry to see bow out of the Senior Bowl due to injury than Silatolu. The Midwestern State mauler would have been put on full display in Mobile, and we may have heard his name more frequently in the first-round discussion. Silatolu is a bit raw, and can stand to be a bit more disciplined on the field in terms of penalties, but there's no question the tools are there for him to be an excellent pro. I would expect Silatolu to come off the board no later than the middle stages of the second round when it's all said and done.