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Titus Young is an Explosive Playmaker

Posted on 06 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Titus Young out of Boise State has had two back to back seasons of 70 plus receptions and 1,000 plus yards.  Last year, Young broke Boise’s singe season receiving yards mark with 1,215 and finished his career as the all-time receiving yards leader with 3,063.  His production numbers could be a little inflated based on the passing system the Broncos utilize, but I think he has the skill-set to be a fine receiver in the NFL.

Young has good top end speed (4.53 forty-yard dash), but his quickness and ability to snap in and out of breaks is what sets him apart.  He may have been the best route runner at the Senior Bowl, easily breaking off routes and creating instant separation from the defensive backs in one-on-one drills.  He has great hips and head motion out of his plant and drives his body back to the ball.  He is a little undersized (5’11 3/4, 174 pounds) for a prototypical outside receiver in the NFL, but he could be a DeSean Jackson type if plugged into the right system.  He has the similar ability to stretch the field and break games wide open.  With 71 receptions last year, it is hard to suggest he could have more consistent hands, but he appears to have some concentration lapses which lead to drops on what should be easy catches.

I had the chance to do an on-field demo with Titus about a week ago, and he proved to me that he was an intelligent receiver that studies defenses and techniques.  He was an impressive young man (especially for someone that has some maturity concerns coming into the draft).   I look for him to go somewhere in the middle of the second round.

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Don’t Forget About UNC’s Greg Little

Posted on 06 April 2011 by Brian Billick

UNC’s Greg Little is often forgot about in this year’s crop of wide recover prospects, but he has a skill-set and body type that could make him very memorable player in the NFL.  Like many other Tarheels, Little was suspended for the entire 2010 college football season.

During the NFL Scouting Combine and North Carolina’s pro-day, Little showed off his very well put together 6’2 1/2 231 pound frame.  He is a very smooth and fluid athlete that display very natural hands.  Mike Mayock even suggests that he has the best hands in the draft.  He doesn’t have an elite burst and acceleration off the ball, but he does get in and out of his breaks efficiently and has the body type to seal defenders away from the ball.  While he won’t be a consistent deep threat, he is physical enough to get tough yardage and runs through tacklers once the ball is in his hands.  He also shows the threat to be a great jump ball recover threat in the redone as he adjusts well to the ball in the air and attacks it at it highest point.

Greg Little has the prototypical NFL size that will make him an attractive prospect on the draft board, but not having an entire year’s worth of tape are going to make some teams nervous.  I think he will fall into the late 2nd or possibly early third round, and whoever gets him that late, may be getting a huge value.  I liken him to Andre Johnson with his physical playing style and body type.

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Randall Cobb is “do it all” Percy Harvin Type

Posted on 06 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Kentucky’s Randall Cobb has a similar skill-set to Percy Harvin when he was coming out a couple years ago.  in 2010, Cobb broke the SEC single-season record for all-purpose yardage with 2,396 including 1,017 receiving and 424 rushing.  Last season, he scored at least one touchdown as a receiver, running back, quarterback, and returner…accounting for 16 touchdowns overall.

As expected, when watching him on the field, you see an extremely versatile athlete that displays very natal movements on the field.  He catches the ball with ease, extending his arms out fully to catch the ball away from his body and the defender.  He runs crisp routes and adjusts and tracks the ball in the air extremely well.  He shows the skill to play either outside or as a slot receiver, but I think he would be best suited inside.  This way, he can get the ball quickly and use his run after catch ability to make big plays in the passing game.  He has great acceleration in short bursts that make him tough to tackle in the open field.  Outside of his playmaking ability, I really like the fact that he is a tough and willing blocker to help spring his teammates for bigger gains.  He also will be a special teams contributor from day one on the return teams.

With the “wildcat” offense still being prevalent in today’s NFL, this former Kentucky Wildcat will give his future team a ton of versatility and productivity.  Most teams will be looking for him as the fifth best receiver in this draft.

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Concerns about Maryland’s Torrey Smith

Posted on 05 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Maryland’s Torrey Smith reminds me of another speedy Terrapin, Darrius Heyward Bey, and not just because of their college roots.  They are both straight-line speedsters that can be explosive playmakers, but inconsistently taints their overall ability.

On tape, Smith appears to be a little tight in his routes and struggles maintaining his elite speed in and out of his breaks.  Additionally, he shows a lack of flexibility when trying to adjust to poorly thrown balls.  On a field stretching “go” route, his best, he seems uncomfortable adjusting to balls thrown over his outside shoulder, losing track of the ball when rolling his head inside out.  Also on deeper routes, he has a tendency to attack the ball with just on arm, he will need to reach out with two to consistently bring balls down in the NFL.

I do like how Smith eats up cushion off the snap, but he will need to prove he can snap off a comeback route for the deep threat to be more meaningful.  He is better at running by defenders in man coverage, but has shown the awareness to throttle down in zone coverage.  After the catch, he is a major threat, as it was very difficult for tacklers to bring him down with just an arm tackle.  Once in the open field, there won’t be many that can chase him down.

Some talent evaluators have Smith as the third best wide receiver int he draft, but I hesitate to give him such a high grade.  HIs speed with be enticing, but I would encourage teams to look at the full tape before using a first round pick on him.

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Hankerson may be Third Best WR in Draft

Posted on 05 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Miami’s Leonard Hankerson has been a budding prospect since his 2009 season of 45 receptions for 801 yards and six touchdowns.  He followed that up with a senior year campaign in which he broke the single season records for receptions (72), receiving yards (1,156), and receiving touchdowns (13).  Hankerson is a two-year starter for the Hurricanes and a team captain.

On the field, he is surprisingly quick in and out of breaks and catches the football with his hands rather than in hid body.  He is a big frame target that has a nice long arms to make for a big catch radius for the quarterback to throw into.  Additionally, he uses those long arms to get off press coverage by holding the corner off his pads.  He wasn’t just a one trick pony that caught deep jump balls over and over, he ran routes of the passing tree, very similar to what NFL teams will ask of him.

Hankerson backed up his very productive final year, with a stellar performance at the Senior Bowl in Mobile.  He quickly became one of the more trusted receivers and was targeted frequently in practice and in the game.

The biggest question mark for Hankerson was his top end speed, but he quickly dissolved those doubts by running a 4.43 forty-yard dash at the Scouting Combine.  4.43 was the exact time of Maryland’s Torrey Smith, the supposed burner of the draft.  In comparison, Hankerson gives an NFL team much more diversity and consistency at the wide receiver position.

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Jon Baldwin uses Basketball Skills on Football Field

Posted on 05 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Jon Baldwin is an athletic wide receiver that was a two year starter for the Pittsburgh Panthers.  Before college, Baldwin was quite the high school basketball player and was selected to the McDonald’a All America team.  I had the chance to meet Jon at the NFL Combine, and he shared with me that his high school coach is the one that encouraged him to pursue football at the next level.  His coach told him there were “100 other kids in New York City that could do what he does on a basketball court.”

You can see those basketball influences in him as a football player.  He tracks and adjusts to the ball well in the air and attacks at it’s highest point in jump ball situations.  He is a big physical receiver that uses his body to “box out” defenders and shield them from the ball.  Similar to most tall rookie receivers, he will need to learn how to get off press coverage that is more prominent in the NFL game than college.  He is a little upright in his stance at the line of scrimmage, exposing a lot of shoulder with gives the corner a big target to jam him out of his route.   Having top end speed was a huge question mark going into the combine, but he did run a better than expected 4.5 forty-yard dash.  That speed combined with his 6’4 3/8 and 228 pound frame will make him an intriguing prospect at the draft.

Baldwin is in the discussion as the third best WR prospect in this year’s draft class, but some teams think of him as having a “diva” personality.  He will continue to address those concerns during visits and individual workouts with teams prior to the draft, and I look for him to be selected in the second round.

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Julio Jones Pushing Green as Top WR Prospect

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Julio Jones is a three year starter from Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.  He measures in at 6’2 3/4 and 220 pounds.  Jones has always been considered an elite prospect with a high first round grade, but he raised his stock even more during the NFL Scouting Combine.  It was there that he ran a 4.39 forty-yard dash and jumped a 38.5 inch vertical, all while having a bone injury in his foot.  Not only does that show supreme athleticism, but also a certain level of toughness that some NFL prima donnas at the wide receiver position lack.

Jones carries that toughness onto the field as well.  He shows a no fear mentality when going across the middle, and often gives up his body in order to make a catch.  He also displays that 4.39 speed in his route running by maintaining close to full speed when coming in and out of breaks.  He also shows the ability to be a great double move receiver that is so often used in NFL passing systems.  When the ball is in his possession, he runs “angry” and often picks up yards after contact.  Jones is best when the defensive back tries to play press coverage, but could work on his technique to eat up separation when the corner is playing off coverage.  He has above average hands, but will sometimes drop an easy pass by letting it get into his body.

Jones’ combine workout was very impressive, and encouraged NFL scouts and talent evaluators to go back and look at additional tape.  Some teams have claimed to move him ahead of AJ Green on their draft board, but I would still consider him a close second.   I believe Jones to be very comparable to Anquan Boldin and will give his future team that tough presence at the wide receiver position.

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Georgia’s AJ Green is Still Best WR Prospect

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Georgia’s AJ Green has been considered the top wide receiver prospect since the day he became eligible for the NFL Draft.  While, Alabama’s Julio Jones is gaining ground, Green still remains at the top of the list.

Green measures in at 6’3 5/8 and 211 pounds.  He ran a 4.5 forty-yard dash and jumped a 34.5 inch vertical.  He uses that height, size, speed, and jumping ability very effectively on the field.  He attacks the ball in the air and often catches the ball at its heights point in the air, making it very difficult for defenders to get a hand on the ball.  He has a good burst into his routes and great body control to adjust to poorly thrown balls, making a tough catch look almost effortless.  HE shows good agility and running skills to gain yards after the catch and make the most out of his touches.  Even with his height, he shows above average ability to get off bump coverage and get back into his route quickly.  All in all, he is a big threat receiver that will have an early impact on whatever team selects him.

He has been drawing comparisons anywhere from Calvin Johnson to Randy Moss, but I am not quite ready to go that far.  For now, I liken his game play to Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams.  Coming out of Syracuse, Williams had first round talent, but dropped into the fourth round due to off the field concerns.  Last year, as a rookie, Williams had 65 receptions for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns.  I would look for Green to have a similar impact to his respective team next year.

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Two Exceptional Guards from “Smaller” Schools: Ijalana and Rackley

Posted on 01 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Ben Ijalana is coming off a double hernia surgery which prevented him from playing in the Senior Bowl, but he shows promise coming out of Villanova.  He dominated the sub-division conference and regularly dominated weaker defenders.

Ijalana started all 52 college games at tackle, but he will most likely kick inside at the NFL level.  While he is only 6’3 5/8, he makes up for it with his 36 inch long arms.  Those arms were the third longest of all offensive lineman at the NFL, and even longer than 6’8 Nate Solder’s.  He will use that length to stifle the defenders initial force coming out of their stance and prevent them from getting into his body.

On the field, Ijalana shows good foot quickness and agility for a big man.  He uses that quickness to in the run game to explode out and shoot his hands inside to deliver a pop on the defenders chest.  Unfortunately, you won’t always see that same explosion in his kick slide protection in the passing game.  Additionally, he was occasionally burned by inside stunts/twists because he turned his shoulders trying to protect against the speed rush off the edge.  That lack of pass protection consistency is why he will be a better interior lineman in the NFL.

One other thing to note, Ijalana seemed to have an above average amount of false start penalties which shows a lack of focus throughout the entire game.  Those mental lapses will get him beat at the next level.

Will Rackley of Lehigh is another small school prospect that has a great shot at being an impact player in the NFL.  Rackley finished his college career with 40 consecutive starts in the Patriot League and his Lehigh team only gave up a total of 14 sacks last year.  That durability and consistency is very encouraging to NFL scouts.

Rackley shows superior arm and hand strength and initial quickness off the snap.  He shuffle slides his feet with a low center of gravity and a good solid base.  While engaged in a block, he has better than expected athleticism and body control, but he looks a little uncomfortable when pulling through the to second level of the defense.   I would have liked to see him drive his man off the line a little more than just control him at the line of scrimmage, especially with the caliber of defenders he went up against on a weekly basis.  He, like Ijalana of Villanova, played tackle in college, but projects much better as a guard in the NFL.

Rackley had a good start to the pre-draft season, as he performed solidly at the East West game, but then was overshadowed by the bigger name prospects at the NFL combine.  I think Rackley is a very good looking “value” pick somewhere in the middle rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft.

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Team Needs: Washington Redskins

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Brian Billick

When Mike Shanahan took over the Washington Redskins last year, this couldn’t have been what he had in mind.

With a top ten defense and the presence of an elite quarterback in Donavan McNabb, the Redskins were sure to improve their 27th ranked rushing attack.  Shanahan alone, whose teams have historically run the ball well, was sure to produce better numbers.

Now, a year later, they are 30th in the NFL in rushing, 31st in total defense, and most likely absent of that elite quarterback presence.

From my perspective they will need to address the quarterback, wide receiver, and offensive line positions sometime this offseason.  Picking tenth in April’s draft will give Washington plenty of options.

Defensively, they have added O.J. Atogwe via free agency and if they can keep Carlos Rogers, their first round pick in 2005, that should improve the secondary and the 31st ranked pass defense in the league.

2009 first round choice, Brian Orakpo is already of Pro-Bowl caliber, but they could use another rush presence at outside linebacker to fit in Jim Haslett’s version of the 34 defense.

If Maake Kemoeatu returns fully healthy that will help to firm up the nose tackle position, but getting depth in the draft wouldn’t hurt.  I not even going to attempt to predict or pretend to know what will happen with Albert Haynesworth.

Coach Shanahan has said the tight end is the only position on the team he has total confidence.  So that appears to be the only position that is not an option in the draft.

Washington does get a break after facing the tough AFC East in their out of conference schedule, then they pick up the NFC West, Minnesota and Carolina in their out of division games.

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