QBs Moving Up And Down
I spent time this week watching three games worth of coach-copy tape on four big-name quarterbacks, and I also spoke to two different scouts who cover each prospect for their scouting areas. Here's an updated breakdown of how each player fares in the position-specific categories we use to evaluate quarterbacks, and a sense for where each projects in the 2012 draft at this point.
Steve Muench's Stock Report
Up: Wisconsin WR Nick Toon
Toon is showing NFL teams he's capable of stretching the field at the next level, and it's not just about his above-average top-end speed and ability to get on top of coverage. The Minnesota game shows he can also make plays downfield when corners give him a cushion. Toon is doing a better job getting off the line and into his routes against off coverage, driving corners back and even forcing them to open their hips before he reaches the top of his stem. Then he changes direction and exploits corners who are off-balance. Toon has also improved his short-to-intermediate routes, though he is just average in terms of burst. However, he masks his lack of explosiveness by setting up breaks well and changing speeds effectively. Toon is making a case to come off the board in the second round.
Florida State DE Brandon Jenkins
Jenkins flashes the burst to turn the corner at the next level and can bend back inside once he gets even with the offensive tackle. He also shows above-average closing speed, but his first step is inconsistent. He appears to be a quarter-count late off the ball at times, and his lack of inside moves is also an issue. Jenkins doesn't use his hands that well, and tackles can knock him off-balance with a strong punch when he looks to redirect inside. Position fit is also an issue. Jenkins is average at best dropping into coverage, raising questions about his ability to hold up at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. And while he has the frame (6-3, 255), quickness and upper-body strength to line up at right end in a 4-3 defense, his pad level is inconsistent and he needs to improve his anchor against the run. He grades out in the mid-second-round area right now, but could slip if these issues continue to show up.
Kevin Weidl's Stock Report
Fleener had a couple of uncharacteristic drops against Oregon, but his overall body of work is impressive. I gave him a high-third-round grade during preseason film study but Fleener has outplayed that evaluation. He has a quick release off the line, runs polished routes and has the top-end speed to stretch the deep seam. And at 6-6 and 252 pounds, Fleener is an improved blocker with the frame to add some bulk without losing speed. He is a more complete tight end this season, and with his wide catching radius he excels in the red zone as a receiver. Fleener worked his way into our top 32 in recent weeks and is solidly in the second round at this point.
Down: Virginia Tech WR Jarrett Boykin
I've now seen Boykin live three times this season, and while I like his size (6-16, 215) there are questions about his speed and suddenness. He flashes the ability to make tough catches, but his hands are inconsistent and he drops his share of routine throws. Boykin is a possession-receiver type who averages just over 12 yards per catch, and if he reaches his full potential, he could possibly become a No. 3 receiver in the NFL. However, he's more likely a No. 4-5 receiver in terms of skills, and he hasn't shown the kind of special-teams ability NFL teams look for at the end of their wide receiver depth chart. Boykin looks like no better than a mid-to-late-round prospect.
Scouts Inc. Observations
Muench: Teams with a pressing need at center have found early-round help in recent years in players like Alex Mack, Eric Wood, Mike Pouncey and Maurkice Pouncey, but that won't be the case in 2012. Georgia'’s Ben Jones is the top center on our board and he projects as a fringe second-round pick as things stand right now. Jones has the tenacity and strength teams covet, but his athletic limitations raise questions about his ability to hold up in pass protection and reach linebackers as a second-level run blocker. Beyond Jones, there isn't another center who grades out higher than the fifth round, so teams looking for interior help had better make other plans.
Weidl: I watched film of Oklahoma's defensive line this week and came away very impressed. The best defensive front in the nation belongs to LSU, but the Sooners aren't far behind. It all starts with an impressive pair of defensive ends in Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander. Lewis is an athletic, versatile prospect with quick-twitch ability, and he will likely transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. The light has come on as a senior for Alexander, who is a bit bigger and more powerful than Lewis. Also keep an eye on junior DT Casey Walker, a powerful presence in the middle who can collapse the pocket as a pass-rusher. There are also capable backup ends like David King and R.J. Washington who can provide some pass rush when Alexander slides inside to tackle. This depth and talent is a big reason the Sooners lead the nation in sacks, and the defensive line as a whole deserves a little more credit for the Sooners' success.