Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 NFL Draft 'Underrated' Prospects: 'Ball Don't Lie'

Wright has prototypical NFL slot receiver attributes.
WR - Jarius Wright - Arkansas
5-10 182 Warren H.S./ Warren, AR
2011 Stats: 66 rec., 1,117 yds, 12 TDs

Breakdown:  Get open.  Catch the ball. 
It's harder to do than it sounds but receivers that do those two things consistently, the ball will always find them.  Wright was the main target of Razorbacks quarterback Tyler Wilson in 2011 on a team rich with pass-catching talent because he was the best at doing those two things.  Wright now holds the single-season record for receiving yards (1,117 yards) at Arkansas and in the Oct. 1 Southwest Classic against rival Texas A&M, Wright had a signature game that no Razorback fan will soon forget.  Wilson found Wright again and again against the Aggies defense in clear passing situations as they trailed by as many as 18-points for most of the game.  Wright had 13 catches for a school-record 281 yards en route to a 42-38 come-from-behind win.  He also made the key heads-up play of the game, diving on a fumble by teammate Cobi Hamilton in the end zone that led to a 35-35 tie in the 4th quarter.  Click here to see highlights of Wright 2011 vs. Texas A&M.

NFL Skill Set:  With more NFL teams opting for the spread offense, the value of the slot receiver is at an all-time high.  Wright fits the Wes Welker-mode of receiver with his ability to kill you in the short passing game on crossing routes, finding soft spots in zones, and occasionally burning defenders deep on seem routes.  The 4.42 he ran at the NFL combine combined with his ability to run sharp, precise routes and making catches under duress make him tough for any spread offense system team to overlook.  Click here to see highlights of Wright 2011 vs. Vanderbilt.

Allen's main focus is getting the football.
S - Antonio Allen - South Carolina
6-2 201 Fork Union Military (VA), Trinity Catholic (FL)/ Ocala, FL
2011 Stats: 82 tackles (9 TFL), 3 INTs, 4 FFs, 3 FRs, 1 TD

Breakdown:  Defensive technique can be taught but having a nose for the football is mostly instinctive.  Antonio Allen has the latter in abundance, and when combined with speed, size, and an aggressive attitude, he is well deserving of the 'ball-hawk' safety title.  Allen finished his Gamecock career with 198 tackles, 23 tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks, 4 INTs, 6 FFs, 4 FRs, and 2 TDs.  Not bad for a guy who came into South Carolina as a linebacker and saw limited action his freshman and sophomore years.  Click here to see highlights of Allen 2011 vs. Auburn.

NFL Skill Set:  Allen is always near the football because of his ability to diagnose run or pass quickly.  Showed the speed to beat blockers to the ball carrier in college despite running a mediocre 4.67 second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.  Physical player that will shed blocks quickly (17 reps of 225-lbs. at the combine) and embraces contact rather than avoiding it.  Has a knack for being in the right place at the right time in pass coverage and attacks the ball at its highest point through the receiver. Click here to see highlights of Allen 2011 vs. East Carolina.

Monday, April 23, 2012

2012 NFL Draft 'Underrated' Prospects: 'Size Matters . . . Speed Kills'

Hemingway makes tough catches in traffic.
WR - Junior Hemingway - Michigan
6-1 225 Conway H.S./ Conway, SC (12/27/1988)
2011 Stats: 34 rec., 699 yds, 4 TDs

Breakdown:  Playing receiver in a spread-option offense won't get you many accolades or eye-popping statistics, so it's easy to see why a player like Hemingway can fly under the radar.  It also doesn't help when your quarterback for the past two seasons, Dennard Robinson, broke the FBS single-season rushing mark for a QB and was the primary focus of Big Ten defenses.  What is noticeable though is that when Robinson needed to pass, the guy he felt most comfortable slinging it to was Hemingway.  Robinson is not known for his accuracy as a passer and many of Hemingway's receptions were acrobatic grabs of errand passes.  The fifth-year senior often had to fight off double coverage as it became known that Robinson would try to find him first in passing situations.

NFL Skill Set:  Hemingway is 6-1 but plays more like 6-5 because of his 78-inch wingspan.  Add that the 225-pounder put up 21-reps of 225-pounds at the NFL combine (second best among WRs at the combine) and his potential as a physical possession-type NFL receiver is more solidified.  Hemingway ran an average 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds) at the combine but was the top wide receiver in the 3-cone drill (6.59) and the 20-yard shuttle (3.98), illustrating his agility and his ability to stop-and-start coming out of breaks.  Click here to watch video of Hemingway 2011 vs. Notre Dame and Northwestern.

Pead led the Big East in rushing in 2011.
RB - Isaiah Pead - Cincinnati
5-11 197 Eastmoor Academy (OH)/ Columbus, OH (12/14/1989)
2011 Stats: 237 att., 1,259 yds, 12 TDs/ 39 rec. 319 yds, 3 TDs

Breakdown:  The Bearcats football team bounced back from a down year in 2010 (4-8, 2-5 Big East) and finished with a 10-3 record in 2011 and a share of the Big East Title.  Much of that success has to be credited to Pead's offensive production.  Pead led the conference in rushing and was third on the Bearcats in receptions.  Whats more is that Cincy quarterback Zach Collaros had a below-average season passing (1,940 yards, 20 TDs, 14 INTs in 10 games) and defenses game planned to stop the run.  No problem for Pead, who plays with an unwillingness to be brought down by the first tackler.

NFL Skill Set:  Pead clocked in a solid 4.47 second 40-yard dash time at the combine but it's watching his game tape that makes him stand out.  Pead has a knack for anticipating gaps in the defensive line and cutting back once he reaches the second level; qualities that are good if he goes to a NFL team with a zone blocking scheme. When he finds those gaps, he hits them aggressively and with strong acceleration.  He also implements this ability in the passing game when receiving screen passes.  Pead is a strong runner who keeps his legs moving and showed he can move the pile in college and could not be brought down by arm-tackles.  Click here to watch video of Pead 2011 vs. West Virginia.

Friday, April 13, 2012

2012 NBA Draft Prospects: Austin Rivers

Rivers has good body control when driving the lane.
G - Austin Rivers - Duke - Freshman
6-4 203 Winter Park H.S./Winter Park, FL (8/1/1992)

Breakdown:  Rivers led Duke in scoring (15.5 PPG) while shooting 43-percent from the field, 37-percent from 3-point, and pulling down 3.4 rebounds per game.  Those numbers are decent, but really only begin to illustrate the impact Rivers had on the Blue Devils as a true freshman.  Doc's son was the key offensive option for Coach K, and never seemed to crack under the pressure of being the #1 ranked prospect coming out of high school or crumble when critics often referred to him as a 'ballhog'.  His most briliant college game is indicative of what type of player he can be: 29 points Feb. 8 at the Dean Smith Center against rival North Carolina on 9-for-16 shooting (6-10 on 3's) including a buzzer-beating dagger 3-pointer to give Duke the win, when everyone-and-they-momma knew he was going to shoot it.

NBA Skill Set:  If Rivers works on his ball-handling and decision making (71 assissts versus 79 turnovers in one season at Duke) he will be a solid option off the bench at either guard spot right away.  Adding about 10-15 pounds along with the aformentioned could propel him to be a starter in the league alot sooner than later.  Rivers has shown that he can beat defenders off the dribble one-on-one and score floaters in the lane, catch-and-shoot coming off screens, adjust his body in the lane to absorb contact and get to the line, and even back down smaller college guards when isolated baseline extended.  He has the entire offensive package that you need to be a succesful guard in the NBA, and with a father who is a former player and current coach in the league, there is no reason to believe that he won't continue to develop.

NBA Player could-be-like:  Stephen Curry.  Both are long-range bombers.  Both are slight of frame.  Both have dads who were in the NBA.  Again, Rivers will deal with being sort of a undersized two-guard until he either gains weight or gets his ball-handling to where he can be a viable option at point guard.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

2012 NBA Draft Prospects: Harrison Barnes

Barnes has the ideal NBA physique.
F - Harrison Barnes - North Carolina - Sophomore
6-8 223 Ames H.S./Ames, IA (5/30/1992)

Breakdown:  Barnes showed improvements in FG% (.423 to .440), 3P% (.344 to .358), and PPG (15.7 to 17.1) from his freshman to sophomore years.  That said, it doesn't seem he has had any marked improvements in his draft status by staying the extra year (Currently ranked #7 overall prospect by after being ranked as low as #11 last year). 

NBA Skill Set:  Barnes does have the ideal frame for an NBA small forward at 6-8 and with a wingspan of 6-11, and a well-chiseled 223 pounds.  He doesn't jump out of the gym like other top SF prospects so his role coming out will probably be as a defender first.  Barnes was mainly a catch-and-shoot/ pull-up jumper guy at UNC and will need to work on being able to get to the basket more and take advantage of his size to get to the free throw line.  He also needs to work on being a better passer/facilitator in the framework of an offense as he won't be a primary option right away when he gets to the league.

NBA player could-be-like:  Paul Pierce.  Barnes isn't going to ever 'wow' anyone with his athleticism but Pierce never really did either and is a perennial NBA All-Star.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

You Remind Me: Robert Griffin III . . .

I see PRIDE . . . I see POWAH . . .

Heisman Trophy winner and future NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III reminds me of actor Doug E. Doug a/k/a "Sanka" from the movie Cool Runnings.  RGIII rushed for 2,199 yards and 32 touchdowns in his career at Baylor and clocked a 4.41 40-yard dash time at the 2012 NFL Combine.  It's only fitting that I refer to Griffin as 'Cool Runnings' from here on in.