This one might be the toughest one yet.
After big weeks in Orlando and Mobile, there’s still another All-Star Game for National Football League hopefuls to make a statement at the start of NFL Draft season.
The NFLPA Game is Saturday in San Antonio, Texas (2pm-CBS College Sports) at the Alomodome. You’ll remember the game previously being known as the “Texas vs. The Nation” game. Well, you MIGHT remember the game previously being known as that.
The game will still keep the “Team Texas” vs. “Team USA format”, but the Draft showcase surrounding the game is significantly more important than the game itself.
This one isn’t quite at the level of the other All-Star Games, but it’s just as important for the players involved. These players are mostly guys who are currently on the outside l
QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada)
FB-Anthony Sherman (UConn)
RB-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma)
WR-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State)
OT-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado)
DE-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami)
LB-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon)
S-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple)
The only player movement for the Baltimore Ravens since our last post has been the re-signing of Punter Sam Koch, so my team needs remain the same…
1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
6. Inside Linebacker
9. Running Back
Here’s a look at 10 players to keep an eye on during the NFLPA Game…
QB Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania)
Yep. Same guy.
After a six year NCAA career that saw him frustrate Gators fans in Gainesville and Terrapins fans in College Park before finally settling in with the Vulcans, Portis is suddenly now thought of as a potential NFL player.
There’s good reason for it.
Portis completed 205 of his 335 passing attempts in 2010, tossing 33 touchdowns and throwing just seven interceptions along the way. He threw for 6,072 yards combined over his junior and senior seasons.
And despite how many times his design run plays went wrong at Byrd Stadium, Portis is still just as dangerous with his feet.
Portis has the look of a QB. He’s 6’4″, 208 pounds, fast and is the cousin of outstanding Washington Redskins RB Clinton Portis. He received an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where he’ll have the chance to make a further impact for NFL personnel. His California coach was Dwain Painter-who coached NFL quarterbacks for some 20 years.
He’s taking the draft process seriously, having opened JoshPortis.com to help gain a more significant profile.
Fans in the Old Line State have a bitter taste about him because things didn’t work out for Portis in James Franklin’s offense. That doesn’t necessarily mean he was a bad quarterback. His numbers clearly reflect the fact that he played at the D2 level, but there’s still a chance he could be a late round option in Charm City as they try to stabilize the position behind Joe Flacco.
QB Taylor Potts (Texas Tech)
The great thing about Taylor Potts is that he’s the first Red Raiders quarterback in a number of years whose big numbers can’t immediately be dismissed by saying something along the lines of “that’s just because he played in a Mike Leach offense.”
That being said, the numbers for Potts were still prolific after Tommy Tubberville replaced Leach. Between his junior and senior seasons, Potts threw for 7,166 yards, tossing 57 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Unlike the QB who came to Lubbock before him (Graham Harrell), Potts didn’t have the pleasure of throwing the ball to now San Francisco 49ers WR Michael Crabtree.
Harrell (and fellow former TTU QB’s Kliff Kingsbury & Sonny Cumbie) haven’t exactly built a pipeline from Lubbock to the NFL. Potts is the first quarterback to come after the Leach era. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome will have to determine if that makes him worth taking a late round (or free agent) shot on to complement Flacco.
WR Denarius Moore (Tennessee)
Moore is going to run one of the most important 40 yard dashes this year at LucasOil Stadium.
If he slides under 4.40, he’ll give himself a great opportunity to be a high pick. If he can’t get under 4.40; folks like Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz will have to wonder if he’s really capable of addressing a speed receiver need.
Moore had an outstanding senior season for the Volunteers, catching 47 balls for 981 yards and nine touchdowns. He finished his career in Knoxville with a very respectable 112 catches for 2,004 yards and 18 TD’s.
But he HAS to be the speed guy. At 6’0″-6’1″, 191 pounds-if he can’t stretch the field he wouldn’t separate himself from Derrick Mason or Anquan Boldin. The problem is that if he does-the former Vols star probably won’t be around on Saturday when the Ravens might like to pick him.
DE Eddie Jones (Texas)
Until his senior season, Jones had not exactly proved to anyone outside of Austin that he was capable of generating a QB rush from the edge.
But in 2010, Jones was able to tally six sacks (and a forced fumble) for a Longhorns squad that underperformed greatly.
Jones will have to use the stop in San An and other stops during Draft season to show that he is still developing as a rusher. If he does, a team like the Ravens could very well choose to snap him up late in the Draft.
At 6’2″ and 258 pounds he’ll have to bulk up a bit, but the team won’t want to see him lose speed in the process. My guess is that the team wouldn’t select Jones with the idea that he’ll be the primary rusher-but he could team with Paul Kruger to give them depth behind a higher pick or a free agent addition.
S Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette)
I know what you’re wondering and the answer is “no.”
Despite playing in the defensive backfield and having the last name “Rolle”, Maurice Rolle is not related to either former Ravens CB Samari Rolle or Tennessee Titans S Myron Rolle.
Rolle started to develop a bit of a nose for the football over his last two seasons with the Ragin Cajuns. He collected four interceptions but battled some leg injury issues, which cut his 2010 season short.
Rolle isn’t a likely draft pick as of this moment, but he’s the type of player that can work that way with a good trip to Indy. His size (6’1″, 197 pounds) gives him the look of a NFL player, he just has to prove to folks (like Ravens Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta) that he can make a transition from Sun Belt Conference to NFL.
C Zane Taylor (Utah)
As the Ravens look for a center of the future behind Matt Birk, Taylor is certainly going to be a viable option.
Taylor is 6’3″ and 313 pounds but battled some minor knee injuries in 2010. In 2010 he also helped lead the way for a Utes rushing attack that tallied nearly 2,000 yards.
Plus…he’s STRONG. According to the team’s official website, he can bench 440 pounds and squat 565 pounds. Impressive, yes.
The Ravens aren’t likely to go center early in this draft, but they might think about Taylor as the Draft moves toward Saturday.
RB Damien Berry (Miami)
Statistically, Berry’s 2010 campaign for the Hurricanes was not all that impressive.
He finished with just 899 yards and 5 touchdowns; although he did average 4.7 yards per carry and managed four games of 100 yards or more.
NFL personnel folks are going to really have to look at the hard running ability of Berry to determine where he might fit in during the Draft process.
He has decent size (6’0″, 215 pounds) and has the look/feel of a back who can take a bunch of handoffs. In fact, he had 15 or more carries in nine of 12 games for the ‘Canes in 2010. Berry should be a hit during the interview process in Indy, as he was voted as the team’s “Good Guy” by Miami media during his senior year.
Berry has the feel of a back who could be a sleeper on Saturday. The Ravens have to make a decision regarding fellow former ‘Cane Willis McGahee; and Berry might be the exact type of back who could complement Ray Rice in a positive way.
WR Owen Spencer (North Carolina State)
One of the most under-the-radar screen receivers on the board in 2011, Spencer has the opportunity to wow personnel folks over the next few months.
Spencer never really posted explosive numbers during his four years in Raleigh, but he was nothing if not solid. Between his junior and senior seasons with the Wolfpack, Spencer caught 90 balls for 1,677 yards and 10 TD’s, including the goofy deflection of a Russell Wilson desperate heave seen above.
Wilson has size (6’3″, 191 pounds) but could use a little more speed (he’s expected to post a 40 time in the 4.5 range at the Combine) if he’s going to be counted on to extend the field for a team like the Ravens. He was certainly capable of posting big plays for NC State, averaging 22.3 yards per catch in ’08, 25.5 yards per catch in ’09 and 15.2 yards per catch in ’10.
With TJ Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth serious question marks to return, a player like Spencer could be the exact addition the Ravens need. But Spencer has a lot of work to do between now and the last weekend of April to prove he’s a solid option.
WR Jock Sanders (West Virginia)
If nothing else, the former Mountaineers standout might very well have the best name in the NFL Draft.
Sanders’ size (5’7″, 179 pounds) is an issue. His athleticism is not. He’ll be expected to post a very quick time in the 40 at the Combine/and or his own Pro Timing Day in Morgantown. He’ll also be expected to be involved in the return game no matter where he ends up being selected.
He’s absolutely an athlete, having also lettered in basketball at St. Petersburg Catholic High School in Florida. The question now is whether or not he’s really a football player-particularly at the NFL level.
He can certainly stretch the field; but his size will mean he absolutely HAS to be behind defensive backs to be able to make plays. If he ends up in one on one battles with defenders, he’s going to lose. That’s problematic for teams like the Ravens who don’t want to risk turnovers.
He’ll stick around later into the draft; maybe even after that. At some point, he’ll be a player the Ravens will at least want to consider.
LB Adrian Moten (Maryland)
He might not be a natural rush backer, but Moten certainly showed the ability at times (despite battling wrist injuries) to get to the quarterback. During four seasons under Ralph Friedgen, Moten tallied 15 sacks.
Not only did he show an ability to pressure QB’s, Moten also finished his four year career with 205 tackles, two forced fumbles and six interceptions-including four in his senior campaign.
Moten is a player who will be available late in the draft and could fit a need for the Ravens if any of their current restricted free agent LB’s depart this offseason. He has good size (6’2″, 230 pounds); but would benefit well from shaving his 40 time under 4.6.
He’s no slam dunk to get picked, but the former Terp could well be an option for Baltimore.
Thanks to WNST.net (The AP), NFLDraftScout.com/CBSSports.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official Athletic sites for helping us put together the profiles
Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…