Today officially marks the start of the Draft Season on every NFL Draft Analysts calendar. Right now scouts all over the country are continuing to review tapes, beginning to assemble boards, and getting ready to not sleep for about 5 months straight. One of the greatest parts about the kick-off the draft season is the both the bowl games that we will all enjoy and the all-star games that all fit neatly into one jam packed schedule.
The first game on our schedule happens to be in our hometown of Atlanta, Georgia and that’s the HBCU Bowl. The HBCU Bowl brings together the top talents from the SWAC, MEAC, CIAA, and SIAC conferences in an effort to put the best of the best on the field and have them face off. It’s a weeklong event that will start tonight with an official weigh-in, and a full week of practices, a combine, and finally the game on Sunday the 18th of December.
We are fortunate enough to have been granted a credential for this week of events and have our Scouting Director Matthew Elder there to personally watch and note all the players who are making noise over the course of the week. He has promised to live tweet as much of the events as possible so make sure you follow him on twitter @Matthewcelder and we will also be bringing you daily practice reports, hopefully a few interviews, and of course a full scouting write-up from the game on Sunday. In other words, it’s on.
In order to get you ready for this week long set of events we are going to be previewing both the East and the West rosters with a few of the guys we will be watching closely. The players below aren’t the only prospects there but these are players we know have been talked about should be on your radars.
QB David Legree-Hampton/Syracuse
Weight: 235 lbs.
Widely considered to be one of the best QB’s at this event, Legree has the desirable height and bulk that you want in a QB. He is athletic enough to make things happen with his legs when plays break down. Legree has a big arm that he likes to use down the field. Didn’t have the best outside options while at Hampton but should have plenty of players to throw it to in this game.
2011 Stats: 141 of 229 (61.5%), 1,636 yards, 10 TD, 4 INT, 85 carries, 299 yards, 4 TD
QB Chris Walley-Norfolk St
Weight: 200 lbs.
Walley was widely considered the top QB in the MEAC this year thanks to his accuracy and pocket poise. He does a good job standing tall in the pocket and reading the field. He played in a run heavy offense so it will be interesting to see how he translates that. Questions linger about his arm strength and he’ll need to put those to bed during the week of practice.
2011 Stats: 239 of 348 (68.6%), 2,672 yards, 19 TD, 6 INT, 98 carries, 287 yards, 5 TD
QB Michael Johnson-North Carolina Central
Weight: 225 lbs.
Johnson is a complete sleeper at QB coming into this game, he’s an athletic QB option that few people have seen. Really came into his own this year when he passing attack expanded and looked more comfortable doing that. Still a developing passer but the raw tools are there. We need to see him be accurate with the football this week and really drive it down the field. He could really distinguish himself but making noise in an absolutely loaded QB class.
2011 Stats: 196 of 368 (53.2%), 2,113 yards, 16 TD, 8 INT
RB Nicholas Cooper-Winston-Salem St
Weight: 240 lbs.
The big back from Winston-Salem State has been crushing defenses this year in Division II. His team is actually playing this weekend for the right to go to the Division II National Championship. Cooper uses a bruising style of running that allows him to bounce off of would be tacklers and pick up most of his yards after contact. We’ll be curious to see an official time on him from the combine but we think it could be faster than some projections.
2011 Stats: 246 carries, 1,712 yards, 21 TD’s, 18 receptions, 208 yards, 2 TD’s
WR Kevin Elliot-Florida A&M
Weight: 200 lbs.
This is one of our personal sleepers from early in the preseason. We think Elliot has big time ability down the field due to his athleticism and ability to track the ball. We like the way he high points passes and uses his traditional size advantage to catch the ball over his competition. We think he could really flourish this week and turn some heads.
2011 Stats: 41 receptions, 720 yards, 5 TD
WR Willie Carter-Howard
Weight: 205 lbs.
Howard is another guy who is very similar to Elliott but may be a bit further along in his development. Carter may have one of the most well developed route trees of any WR in this game and he has the polish that you don’t always see at this level. He runs clean routes, shows good hip fluidity and has good deep speed. It will be fun to watch him and Elliot this week.
2011 Stats: 60 receptions, 731 yards, 7 TD
OL Brandon Curry-Florida A&M/Marshall
Weight: 320 lbs.
Big time prospect who we’ve been high on for months. The former Thundering Herd OT was a beast at FAMU the past two seasons and uses his size to his advantage. It takes a long time to get around Curry and he’s athletic enough to stick with most of the speed rushers he faced this year. Curry has good strength and plays with decent leverage but doesn’t have that consistent technique yet that we look for. He could do himself a lot good by dominating in the pit this week.
2011 Stats: 112.09 rushing ypg average, 2.18 sacks per game allowed average (team)
DL Ryan Davis-Bethune Cookman
Weight: 260 lbs.
The defensive line class in this game is so loaded it’s hard to even know where to begin. Davis is a pass rusher extraordinaire, who excels at getting off the ball. He has a lightning quick first step and has been known to give OT’s nightmares. Davis is a versatile player who some see more as a 34 OLB, he is a guy we really hope to see in a stand up OLB position during drills and we wouldn’t be shocked if he blows up the combine.
2011 Stats: 65 tackles, 21.5 TFL, 12 sacks, 3 PBU, 8 FF, 17 QBH
DL Charles Deas-Shaw
Weight: 305 lbs.
If you follow recruiting you may know this name already, Charles Deas was a former top level recruit who committed to play at LSU coming out of High School. Due to academic issues that never worked out but what was LSU’s loss was Shaw’s gain as Deas dominated the CIAA competition. Deas utilized raw strength and size to bull rush his way into the offensive backfield and dominate the middle of the line.
2011 Stats: 37 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 sacks, 3 QBH, 1 FF
DL Josh Turner-Norfolk State
Weight: 315 lbs.
The big man in the middle, Turner like Nicholls will be auditioning for the 34 NT spot that is such a hot commodity in the NFL right now. Turner has shown the ability to take on the double team and still generate some push. He’ll be taking on some of the biggest and best OL in the country in this game and it will be a great test for him. We look for him to be a stand out performer this week.
2011 Stats: 51 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 2 QBH
LB Reggie Sandilands-Bethune Cookman
Weight: 230 lbs.
Sandilands is quite possibly the most instinctive LB in this game, he relies on pre-snap reads to determine where the play is going before the ball is snapped. He’s going to get the undersized label but he has a nose for the football and does a good job working in traffic to slip blocks and make plays. He’s a very athletic LB who probably would fit best in an ILB scheme where the gaps can be controlled by big lineman.
2011 Stats: 56 tackles, 11 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 4 QBH
LB Donovan Richard-South Carolina St
Weight: 220 lbs.
Undersized LB prospect who will need a big week if he hopes to avoid the tweener label. We want to see Richard more in the DB role than at LB, we think he has the athleticism to possibly play DB but we want to see how stiff he is in the hips. Richard is a good tackler who has sound technique and really drives through the ball carrier.
2011 Stats: 119 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 0.5 sack, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF, 1 QBH
LB Ryan Lewis-Bethune Cookman
Weight: 245 lbs.
Lewis is an athletically gifted LB who is the Ying to Sandilands Yang. Lewis is a downhill attacking LB who loves to get into the backfield and make plays. He is excellent at getting into the gaps and bringing pressure onto the QB. We would like to see his awareness raised a little bit this week as he has a tendency to over pursue and lose backside contain.
2011 Stats: 41 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 0.5 sack, 3 FF, 2 PBU, 4 QBH
LB Brandon Harvey-Delaware St
Weight: 240 lbs.
Harvey is a LB who could go a long way to distinguish himself on a team loaded with star defensive players. Harvey is a classic read and react LB who relies on speed and athleticism to get to spots before the ball carrier does. We want to see more of him on his drop into coverage. His instincts are a maybe slightly below average but his athleticism makes up for that.
2011 Stats: 87 tackles, 16.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 2 FF, 3 QBH
DB Andre Lyles-Fayetteville St
Weight: 212 lbs.
Big safety prospect who made plays all over the field this past season. Lyles has terrific range and size to go along with his athleticism. Shows good ball skills and a willingness to go up in the air and attack the ball. He is also a sound tackler who wraps up well in the open field.
2011 Stats: 60 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FF
DB Micah Pellerin-Hampton/Southern Miss
Weight: 200 lbs.
Pellerin may be one of the most under the radar prospects heading into this game. His name has been whispered around for a while due to his size and speed combination. He has smooth hips that allow him to transition easily from his back pedal to his sprint. Has a good shot to get into the draftable range with a good week.
2011 Stats: 51 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 4 INT, 15 PBU, 1 FF
DB Christian Thompson-South Carolina St
Weight: 210 lbs.
A safety with good size, Thompson is a very good tackler and does a good job coming up into the box to make plays. He is an effective blitzer who shoots gaps and was used at times as an extra LB in the Rover role. Not as fluid as you would like so he will be closely watched during drills but if he can run a nice time at the combine it will go a long way to helping him secure his status.
2011 Stats: 66 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PBU, 1 QBH
DB Antonio Dennard-Langston University
Weight: 190 lbs.
Almost nobody will know this name coming in, but you will soon enough. Dennard is actually a NAIA prospect and his selection goes to show the depth of knowledge this HBCU selection committee has. Dennard has great size and speed and will wow some people with his ball skills at this game. This will be a big jump for him in competition but if he can hold his own, his name will become more popular.
2011 Stats: 27 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 INT, 8 PBU