Now that college all-star games are in the books and 2012 prospects will more or less be out of the public eye until the NFL combine later this month, we at Scouts Inc. are diving into in-depth film study on a number of prospects.
We're giving some players full evaluations for the first time, and updating our preseason profiles for others. Here are four prospects who I believe have stood out in recent days, for reasons good and bad.
Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy
(Scouts Inc. grade: 88)
On one hand, Worthy (6-foot-3, 305 pounds) has active hands and a quick first step, and is at his best against the run when moving laterally. He is good on twists and stunts, and shows the ability to redirect and make plays outside the tackle box. However, Worthy struggles to anchor when taking on blocks straight ahead, and will have trouble functioning as a two-gap run-stopper at the next level.
And while he shows effective hands as a pass-rusher, with a good club/swim move and good closing speed, Worthy lacks the power to consistently collapse the pocket from the inside.
Most concerning, though, is Worthy's inconsistent motor. He's a Jekyll-and-Hyde player who looks great in one game and very average in others. Given that inconsistency and the fact that he'll be limited to a role as a one-gap, penetrating 3-technique in a 4-3 defense, Worthy likely won't crack the first round and will come off the board in the early- to mid-second round.
Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler (80)
Zeitler is another in a long line of quality offensive linemen to come out of Wisconsin, and he adds depth to what is becoming a very strong overall guard class. He's a technician with good smarts and instincts, showing the ability to quickly locate and cover up his assignments. Zeitler isn't a dominating presence, but he plays with balance, stays engaged with defenders, and is adept identifying and hitting moving targets on the second level when coming off combo blocks or pulling.
He could be more patient in his pass sets and can be exposed at times by quicker pass-rushers, but Zeitler doesn't panic when caught out of position and shows the ability to recover and regain positioning. He's the kind of player who can add depth right away and become a starter early in his career, and he could bring excellent value somewhere in the third round.
McNeese State S Janzen Jackson (66)
Jackson is an interesting prospect who started his career at Tennessee before off-field issues, multiple suspensions and violations of team rules led to his dismissal from the program after the 2010 season. He had a so-so year at McNeese State in 2011 (nine games, three starts), but based on his 2010 tape, he has top-40 physical skills.
There's not much Jackson can't do. He's instinctive with tremendous closing burst and lots of range in zone coverage, is able to match up in man coverage, and is a natural playmaker who can turn and run with receivers before locating and playing the ball. Jackson is also effective blitzing off the edge and a violent, physical player who's unafraid to lay his body on the line in run support. It'll be interesting to see how far he falls because of his character issues, but Jackson is clearly one of the more talented defensive backs on the board and someone to keep an eye on as the draft process unfolds.
Virginia Tech WR Danny Coale (61)
There's a lot to like about Coale's overall skill set. He's a smart, competitive player who contributes in a variety of ways. He's a valuable special teams player who is reliable fielding punts and can get positive yards on returns, is solid on coverage teams, and has also filled in as a punter during his career.
However, it's his skills as a receiver that are the real selling point. Coale is a good route-runner who tempos routes well, uses head and shoulder fakes to create separation out of breaks, and shows good sideline awareness. He can read coverages and get open against zone looks, and he has some of the best hands in the 2012 class. There is some tightness out of his breaks, but Coale can work outside or inside the numbers and has the look of a good No. 3/slot receiver in the NFL. He averaged at least 15 yards per catch in each of his last three seasons, and it won't surprise me at all if Coale comes off the board in the third round.