It’s players like Baylor’s Terrance Williams that make me very excited for the potential of players that won’t be taken on day one of the NFL draft. Williams is not a name that is mentioned when talking about top wide receivers in this year’s class, but when you look at his film (never mind his numbers) Williams becomes an extremely intriguing prospect with the potential to make a big splash in the NFL.

All of Williams’ measurables are pretty much on average with today’s wide receiver in the NFL. He’s 6’2”, about 210 pounds and runs around the 40-yard dash in around 4.5 seconds (ran a 4.52 at the combine). When you look at his numbers though, it becomes obvious that Williams is not your average, every day receiver. In 2012, he had 1832 yards receiving with about 90 catches, the best in the nation last year. Williams also managed 12 touchdowns to go along with his gaudy yardage total. He is not the best all-around receiver you will ever see, but what he does he does pretty damn well.

A lot of the catches he made for the Bears came off of button hooks and on the sideline. Very often on film you’ll see him run just around to where the first down marker is, stop and turn to the ball which was probably already on its way to his chest. Williams did a good job of consistently make this type of catch and getting the fist down in these kinds of situations, and it’s the kind of play he may be asked to make at the next level so he needs to continue to be consistent with it.

Williams did just about everything he could to help the Bears with some football games. He primarily played outside receiver, but he would on occasion move into the slot. He’d run the occasional in-route or slant route. He’d catch a screen pass every now and then. But that is not where Williams made his name; where Williams really shines is with the deep ball. For someone who doesn’t have world-class speed, it was very impressive to see how easily he was able to get behind the defense and make the big play deep down the field. A legitimate deep threat is a hot commodity in the NFL, and if Williams can translate his collegiate success into the NFL, he will have a very successful, and lucrative, professional career as well.

A key characteristic of a great deep threat receiver though is their willingness to go up and make the tough catch. Williams is not afraid to do that in the slightest. It’s apparent to me that he is not at all scared to jump up and fight with the defender for the ball. Fearlessness is a great quality in a wide receiver, and not just in a deep threat.

You also need to be fearless in the blocking aspect of the position. And, again, Williams is not at all afraid to block for his teammates. For someone who doesn’t, on the surface or otherwise, seem to have superhuman strength, his blocking ability is quite impressive. Whether it’s for his running back or a fellow wide receiver, Williams blocked well on an extremely consistent basis and helps his teammates get those extra yards.

One other thing that should probably be mentioned is the quality of his quarterback. While Nick Florence’s numbers were not terrible, I saw him on more than one occasion flat out miss Williams. From what I saw, and to be fair it was not a full analysis, Florence is not extremely accurate nor does he have a very strong arm. So, with that being said, I am extremely interested to see how Williams will perform if he is picked by a team with a top-caliber quarterback to throw him the ball.

Williams isn’t the world’s most perfect receiver. He has a habit of dropping open passes. He is not the world’s crispest route runner (although he did run a stop & go route vs. Texas that should be put in the Smithsonian). There are some good reasons why Williams isn’t the top wide receiver prospect in this year’s class, but there are some decent arguments for why he should be.

Terrance Williams reminds me a little bit of Ravens’ receiver Torrey Smith; he simply makes plays for his football team. Whether it’s in the middle of the field or in the redzone, Williams will do anything to help his team win. He is a very good deep threat with some good hands and tracks the ball well. Williams also does a good job at adjusting to the poorly thrown ball even with defenders on top of him.

Williams isn’t exactly a “sleeper” pick, but I think a team picking him in the middle to late second round (or even the third) could be getting a steal. I think there is a decent chance that Williams will make a big splash at the next level for any team looking to add some playmakers to their offense. Teams like the Dolphins, Patriots, or even the Browns or Eagles (among others) should all have Terrance Williams on their radar.

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Alabama CB runs the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis

Alabama CB Dee Milliner runs the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis

The annual NFL scouting combine came to a close Tuesday as the nation’s top defensive backs took to the field in Indianapolis to show off their talents in front of the league’s talent evaluators. There were few surprises on the last day as the top prospects showed the world why they are the best and those fighting to gain some notoriety did little if anything to help their draft stock.

Starting with the top, Dee Milliner was and still is the best DB in this year’s class; it’s really not even close. I did a profile of Milliner last week and fell in love with the guy from what I saw on film. He solidified himself as a probable top-5 pick with his performance today on the field.

Milliner started off the day right with a very impressive showing in the 40-yard dash. He officially clocked in at 4.37 seconds, just .01 seconds slower than the fastest defensive back of the day, Darius Slay of Mississippi State. Where Milliner really shined though was in drills. He showed great hands, fluid hip movement, and great ability to change speed and direction. If he doesn’t go in the top-5 in April I’d be shocked and disappointed in the NFL’s scouts. I think the Lions right at that 5th pick makes a lot of sense for both parties.

The other story of the day came from former LSU Tiger Tyrann Mathieu, the player formally known as “The Honey Badger”. After managing a pathetic 4 reps in the bench press on Monday, Mathieu needed to do a lot to prove himself in the defensive back drills, and he did just that. He ran a solid time in the 40, officially clocking in at 4.5 seconds. But, like Milliner, where Mathieu really brought it was in the drill portion of the day. He showed good quickness and hands in the drills along with good movement in his hips, something I thought he needed to work on when I watched him on film. With his performance in Lucas Oil, Mathieu might have solidified himself as a third round draft choice. He showed good speed and quickness, so at the very least he has some good value as a kick returner. And all Mathieu needs to do is make a roster so he can begin to prove to the world he can make plays in the NFL like he did while at LSU.

Tyrann Mathieu participates in a defensive back drill at the NFL combine

Tyrann Mathieu participates in a defensive back drill at the NFL combine

A couple of other names that stood out today were Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes and Washington’s Desmond Trufant. Considering his size, Rhodes ran a pretty impressive 40 time at 4.43 seconds. I didn’t realize that Rhodes brought that combination of both physicality and speed to the table, and NFL teams are really going to like that. Trufant on the other hand probably solidified himself as, at worst, the third corner in the class with his performance today. He ran an official 40 time of 4.38, one of the top marks of the day, and had some good times in the shuttles. Trufant, like Rhodes, is slightly bigger than your average corner and should be a very intriguing prospect for teams looking to add someone to their secondary.

One player who fell slightly short of expectations was Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. In what is generally considered a very deep safety class, Vaccaro has been the consensus #1 at the position. He fell short of that label in Indy, running a pedestrian 4.63 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He redeemed himself somewhat in the 3-cone drill, and looked decent in the defensive back drills. Vaccaro probably didn’t hurt his draft stock much, if at all, with his combine performance, but he needs to pick it up at his pro day if he wants to remain the top safety in this year’s class.

One of the lesser-known names who showed up in Indy was cornerback Steve Williams out of the University of California – Berkeley. Williams didn’t make any all-conference teams this season, but he did garner a lot of praise from coaches in the Pac-12. He showed that at least some of that praise was deserved at the combine, running a good 40 at 4.42 seconds, having one of the best vertical leaps at 40.5 inches, and looking solid in the defensive back drills. Williams could be a very good pickup later in the draft for a team looking to add someone with a lot potential in the defensive backfield to their roster.

The annual NFL scouting combine is a very good resource for NFL talent evaluators, but it is far from their only resource. There is still plenty to be learned about these and the rest of the player available in this year’s class. Pro days, individual meetings and workouts, and more are still to come for these players..

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By Jeff Vinton, blogger/editor On the Clock

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, above, had a horrible showing at the NFL Combine Monday that include a 4.82 second 40-yard dash, .17 seconds more than his pre-Combine time.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, above, had a horrible showing at the NFL Combine Monday that include a 4.82 second 40-yard dash, .17 seconds more than his pre-Combine time. Source: BleacherReport.com

The third day of the combine kicked off with linebackers and defensive linemen going through drills at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and all eyes focused mainly on one player. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.

By now everyone knows Te’o’s story. Heisman trophy candidate (finished 2nd), winner of the Maxwell, Walter Camp, Bednarik, Lombardi, Nagurski and Butkus awards, had to play the Michigan State game the week when his “girlfriend” (who later turned out to be fake, made up by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo as part of a “catfish” scam) and grandmother died within hours of each other. He was on top of the college football world. Notre Dame was undefeated, #1 in the nation for the first time since 1993, and then, January hit.

Alabama throttled Notre Dame in the National Championship game 42-14. Deadspin.com published the story about the catfish scam. Te’o began to drop down draft boards, and his life began to unravel.

What happened today is not going to help his cause. Today, Te’o posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.82 seconds. That is .17 seconds slower than his CBSSports.com Draft Profile had recorded for him on Sunday. And when one is in the middle of a field trying to catch a running back or keep up with a wide receiver, that .17 seconds can be an eternity.

Thanks to what Te’o is referring to as “the incident,” he was already a fringe first round pick, down from a top 10 selection in December. Now that he has posted that 40 time, it is unlikely that he will even be selected in the first round. John Harbaugh, coach of the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, the team best suited to draft Te’o (and the team I chose as my pick to draft him in my preview Saturday) at the beginning of the day due to the retirement of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, looked disappointed and disinterested in Te’o during coverage of the combine on NFL.com.

After today’s performance, it is likely that some of the lesser known linebackers will have a golden opportunity to jump up and take Te’o’s position in the first round. Te’o may drop to the second half of the second round, and maybe even the third round if he cannot improve on today’s performance at Notre Dame’s pro day on March 26.

Outside of Te’o’s debacle, there were great performances put on today. Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden put in the top 40 time for the day with a time of 4.47 seconds. The top defensive lineman in the 40 was Trevardo Williams of Connecticut with a time of 4.57. Top draft pick Barkevious Mingo of LSU put up a time of 4.58 and Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah ran a time of 4.63.

Three defensive linemen led the pack in the bench press with Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern State and Margus Hunt of SMU benching 225 pounds 38 times and Akeem Spence of Illinois benching it 37 times. Bjoern Werner (whose preview can be found in the Florida State, Linebacker, or Player Preview categories) benched 25 times and Ansah benched 21 times.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (right) was not impressed with the showing of Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, running the 40-yard dash (left) at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Monday. Source: thebiglead.com

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (right) was not impressed with the showing of Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, running the 40-yard dash (left) at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Monday.
Source: thebiglead.com

Conversely, three linebackers had the highest verticals today. Jamie Collins of Southern Miss jumped 41.5 inches, while Cornelius Washington of Georgia jumped 39 inches and Sio Moore of UConn jumped 38 inches. Mingo jumped 37 inches in the air and Te’o jumped 33.

A mix of linemen and linebackers led the group in the broad jump. Collins leaped 139 inches (11’ 7”), which was a Combine record, Gooden leaped 131 inches (10’ 11”), South Carolina defensive lineman Devin Taylor, Washington and Mingo all flew 128 inches (10’ 8”). Ansah and Florida linebacker Jon Bostic leaped 118 inches (9’ 10”).

Another story coming in to the day was that Utah defensive lineman and potential top five draft pick Star Loutlelei was pulled out of participating in drills due to a heart condition. That condition has yet to be specified and coverage on that and all other things NFL Draft will continue through April 27 on On the Clock: Your NFL Draft Destination.

Tomorrow, the defensive backs will take the field in Indianapolis for drills to close out the combine. On the Clock’s Bill Slane will have the coverage.

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Florida strong safety Matt Elam takes Louisville running back Jeremy Wright in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 2, 2013. The #21 Cardinals upset the #3 Gators, 33-23.

Florida strong safety Matt Elam knocks Louisville running back Jeremy Wright’s helmet off of his head during the Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans Jan. 2, 2013. The #21 Cardinals upset the #3 Gators, 33-23.

Matt Elam (5′ 10″, 202 lbs.) is one of the top safeties going into April’s draft. Elam was know for his highlight-reel hits during his time at Florida. He was a spark plug on their defense who kept the team excited and helped make Will Muschamp’s defense one of the best in the country this past fall. Elam was someone that even from just watching his tape, was easily found on the field from his excited and passionate play. He truly cares about his team and wants to do whatever it takes to help them succeed.

Here are his stats from Florida:

Career: 176 total tackles, 124 unassisted, 52 assisted, 23.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 13 passes defended, 6 interceptions.

2012: 76 total tackles, 58 unassisted, 18 assisted, 11 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 5 passes defended, 4 interceptions

Now that Elam (who will participate in drills at the Combine this morning) has declared for the NFL Draft, I will evaluate him. My evaluation will be based on these categories: Agility, Run Defense, Blitz, Range, Coverage, Tackle, Ball Skills, Speed, Completion Percentage and Health.

AGILITY: 

Matt Elam has pretty dang good agility. He is insanely quick as a runner, tackler and coverage man. He is balanced, he can keep up with any move that a receiver or running back tries to put on him, and he can change direction on a dime. Long story short, Elam possesses top of the line agility. 9.0/10.0

RUN DEFENSE:

Elam can attack the line and the ball carrier with the best of them. He takes on blocks head on and throws them with quick jukes and strong throws, but he sucks (and I am not using that word lightly) at bringing down the ball carrier. I’ll get to this more in the tackle section, but all he does is go for the big hit. This is NOT going to work in the NFL. I don’t know what it is going to take, but someone needs to teach Elam how to bring down a ball carrier correctly. I maybe saw him wrap up a ball carrier correctly five times in his tape. It infuriated me, and I would second guess drafting him in the first or second round because of it. 8.0/10.0

BLITZ: 

When asked to blitz and bring down the quarterback, Elam does fairly well. He is usually asked to blitz on the outside and beat the tackle around the edge, and when he does, he tries to put a huge hit on the QB. But this is where that whole tackle thing comes into play. Sometimes he puts a huge hit on the QB and other times the QB squats, lowers his shoulder, and bounces away from Elam. There are other times (and all of this happens in his run defense too) where the QB will break Elam’s tackle. Most of these times he strings the QB to the edge and Florida’s defense would swarm the ball carrier, which helped him out, but he still needs to get better at bringing down the ball carrier. 8.0/10.0

RANGE:

Since Elam is pretty dang fast (pre-Combine 40 time: 4.53) he moves pretty damn well in space. He can read where the QB is throwing the ball and closes in on it very fast, and when he sees a fumble he is usually one of the first defenders to get there because he takes great angles. Elam has very impressive range. 9.0/10.0

COVERAGE: 

Elam is a much better zone coverage man that a man to man coverage man. In coverage he can read the throw and the QB’s eyes and see where it is going and react much quicker. In man, he doesn’t have that opportunity and has to keep up with a receiver, who is usually at full sprint when Elam meets him down the field. He is pretty good at both, but he is much better when he combines with a corner in man coverage. QB’s like to take shots at receivers that Elam is covering, but few of them get completed. I wish I knew the actual statistic, but I’ll keep it at this. Elam is a pretty damn good coverage guy. 8.5/10.0

TACKLE: 

Here’s the section I’ve already mentioned twice and have been waiting to get to. And I’m going to put this bluntly. Matt Elam cannot tackle. I don’t know what it is. I’m wondering if he ever even learned how to tackle when he was younger. I was taught how to tackle almost every single year I played football, so I have no idea how Elam is so bad. All I saw in Elam’s tape is him trying to make big hits on guys and receivers, running backs and quarterbacks all just bouncing off of him and getting first downs or huge gains. I said this earlier, but I’m going to say it again. This absolutely infuriated me. These plays can work in high school where he was probably one of the best defensive players in his league, but it sure as hell didn’t work in college and it’s not going to work in the pros. Elam

needs to be taken aside and taught how to wrap up on a ball carrier. Going for big hits may work once a game, but a defensive player has to be able to WRAP UP! Honestly, if I were a GM in the NFL, I would pass on Elam because of this in the first few rounds. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t take him until rounds four or five. That’s how big of an issue this is. There’s plenty of teams that could use a good safety, but I’m not sure that Elam can do that unless he learns how to tackle. 5.0/10.0

BALL SKILLS: 

matt elam 2When Elam has the opportunity to create a turnover, whether that be an interception or fumble, he relishes the opportunity. He, like any defender, loves to create turnovers and give the ball and some momentum to his offense. He is also a pretty good defender on balls in the air. He’s not afraid to jump to hit a ball out of the air or dive to knock a ball that’s in front of him down. I like Elam’s ball skills. 8.25/10.00

SPEED: 

With a pre-combine time of 4.53, Elam is up with the some of the best safeties in the draft when it comes to speed. He has a great burst when he is blitzing and his acceleration is top of the line. Elam can catch up to just about anyone on the field and NFL teams will love that. 8.75/10.00

COMPLETION PERCENTAGE:

QB’s like to take shots at receivers that Elam is covering, but few of them get completed. I wish I knew the actual statistic, but I’ll keep it at this. When it comes to completion percentage, Elam’s is pretty low for a safety. 8.5/10.0

HEALTH:

No injury problems here. 10.0/10.0

OVERALL: 

Overall, Elam gets an 8.3/10.0 from me, but I just cannot get past his tackling ability. It’s just missing. I understand that as as player, one would want to make big hits because it gets them on SportsCenter and it gets them noticed by scouts, but when scouts dive into the players tape and see like I have that he can’t tackle, I can’t see scouts recommending that their team draft Elam in the first few rounds in April. I went into this thinking that Elam, from what I had seen this past season, was one of the top safeties in college football. He’s fast, he has good ball skills and he can read and react with the best of them. But he just can’t tackle. If it were me, I wouldn’t draft Elam until the 5th round, but I know that he’ll be gone by the end of the 2nd. Good Luck to whichever team drafts him. You have a project on your hands and I wish you luck. Maybe you’ll come out on top and make a great pick. Maybe he’ll be a bust. Just don’t pay him too much.

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Next, I will be previewing Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU!

“One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” –Benjamin Disraeli

Sharrif Floyd is being given a golden opportunity, and the defensive tackle out of Florida needs to really step up in his drills and in his pro day to prove he can play. The big news late today was Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei will not be participating in drills at the combine due to a heart condition that was discovered in Indianapolis. Star was on top of most people draft boards in terms of defensive tackles, with Floyd trailing close behind him. With this news that Lotulelei could drop due to medical concerns, Floyd could shoot up to the top spot if he proves himself.

On film Floyd looks pretty impressive. The first thing I always look for in defensive lineman is their ability to push the line of scrimmage, and Floyd does that very well. He seems to have a good combination of strength and speed that makes it hard for some offensive lineman to block. While I saw him struggle with some double teams, he does occasionally split double teams with some great technique and he gets off blocks well.

Like with many young players, a problem Floyd needs to work on is his consistency. On the film that I watched, it seemed like he would disappear for some plays. Of course in those same games he would burst through the line and make a tackle in the backfield, but I would still feel better about him if he showed a consistent effort.

While I am slightly concerned about Floyd’s ability, you cannot doubt his heart. In Florida’s game against Texas A&M, Floyd was hurt early on in the game and returned later to make some big plays en route to a 20-17 Gator victory against the Aggies. NFL scouts have to like seeing a player come back and help their team win a big game like that against an SEC opponent on the road.

I think that part of Floyd’s inconsistency problems have to do with his conditioning. I noticed that the later the game wore on, the less of a presence Floyd was in the game. Of course, getting with a strength and conditioning coach at the NFL will help him learn to both pace himself, and train so that he doesn’t get worn down later in games.

Floyd also impressed by his versatility on the defensive line. Floyd played on the inside as well as the outside of the defensive line. This has to be something that NFL scouts will love as they will be comfortable putting him high on their boards despite of the style of defense their team runs. Floyd could probably play both defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense or a defensive end in a 3-4 defense.

Floyd was going to be a first rounder even before the situation with Star Lotulelei. What is going to be very interesting is to see how Floyd responds tomorrow. Whether or not he sinks or swims is going to be a very good sign of how Floyd will respond to the pressures of the NFL. Athletes who are invited to the NFL combine already have enough pressure on them, the added spotlight on Floyd just adds more pressure to the young man from Florida, I can’t wait to see how he takes it.

If Floyd impresses enough tomorrow, and if the medical problems with Lotulelei is enough of a problem that he drops, he could go in the top 10 to a team looking to add a very solid defensive lineman who can make some big plays for your football team.

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