Joe Marino’s Talent Watch: Week Two

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will contend to be the top cornerback in the 2015 NFL draft class. (Photo: Scott Olmos — USA Today Sports)

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will contend to be the top cornerback in the 2015 NFL draft class. (Photo: Scott Olmos — USA Today Sports)

Initial Senior Cornerback Rankings

1. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon: Ekpre-Olomu is far and away the top senior cornerback in the nation. He possesses nearly ever trait desired to become a high-level NFL starter.

2. Steven Nelson, Oregon State: Nelson will have his fair share of matchups against the prolific passing offenses in the Pac-12. He has the size, footwork, ball skills and athletically to hold his own.

3. Josh Shaw, USC: Shaw is a versatile defensive back with terrific size and good instincts. That is completely overshadowed by the story he recently fabricated in regards to double high ankle sprains. However, I chalk that up to immaturity and he is still a day two prospect in my view.

4. Doran Grant, Ohio State: A versatile defensive back whose best fit might actually be at safety. Grant is a secure tackler who is best in off-man coverage.

5. Byron Jones, Connecticut: A former safety, Jones is entering his second season as a starting cornerback. Jones has good ball skills and fluidity but his overall athletic ability and burst need improvement. He has great size for the position.

6. Damian Swann, Georgia: Best suited for the slot, Swann is competitive with good ball skills and is a solid tackler who also excels as a blitzer.

7. Ladarius Gunter, Miami: Gunter is intriguing because of his length, flashy ball skills and physicality. He needs to develop further in his ability to sink his hips and drive on the football.

8. Quandre Diggs, Texas: Despite showing good burst and field awareness, Diggs must improve his overall physicality. He struggles to get any jam at the line when playing press and is extremely timid as a tackler.

9. Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest: Johnson has sound coverage ability and instincts but he must become more compact and fluid in his movement. I like his aggressiveness.

10. Tim Scott, North Carolina: Another cornerback whose best position at the next level might be safety. Scott allows too much cushion in coverage but has a chance if he moves to safety.

Twitter Hot Takes

Johnson was certainly impressive in Tenneessee’s convincing victory over Utah State. He was productive as a run defender, flashed coverage skills and made plays on special teams. Johnson was viewed as a limited, two-down player entering the season so it was a positive for him to display a wider skillset in week one.

I like this comparison a lot. Greene is recognized as one of the nation’s top senior receivers but I am not sure he is more than a third receiver in the NFL. His production will exceed his pro potential.

It certainly was not the performance Chuckie Keeton was hoping for against Tennessee but I compare his outing to that of Derek Carr in the Las Vegas Bowl last season against USC. In both cases, the entire team was overmatched and was not the ideal game to gather any real evaluation.

Six Pack of Questions With Bryan Perez

Bryan Perez, the founder of First Round Grade Scouting, joins me this week as our guest for a six-pack of questions. Bryan is a Canadian Football League scout and was also the 2014 winner of The Huddle Report Mock Draft Contest. Be sure to visit Bryan’s website,, and follow him on Twitter @FirstRoundGrade.

What drew you into scouting prospects?

I’ve always been a fan of the game but when I was growing up, my cousin Frank Giannetti was an all-American defensive lineman for Penn State. My father ended up representing him (was his agent) and I got a bird’s eye view of the 1991 NFL Draft process. The experience planted the seeds of interest for me and I’ve never looked back.

If you could only listen to only one band or singer for the rest of your life, who would that be?

I’m not a huge music fan and don’t have any one band or artist that I couldn’t live without. I could live with anything but country music.

Pick one: Bruce Smith or Reggie White?

Reggie White.

Predict the NFL Playoff Teams and Super Bowl Matchup/Winner.

Playoff teams from AFC: Colts, Patriots, Broncos, Bengals, Steelers, Jets.
Playoff teams from NFC: Seahawks, 49ers, Bears, Packers, Falcons, Eagles.
Super Bowl matchup: Broncos vs. Bears.
Winner: Bears
Disclaimer: I bleed blue and orange.

What’s the last movie, TV show or book that made you tear up?

That’s a tough question and one that I have to take a pass on. Not trying to duck it; I simply can’t remember the last time a movie or TV show brought me to tears. I am generally drawn to comedy or suspense, so the sappy story lines are usually avoided.

2015 NFL Draft prospects that are flying under the radar right now?

Last year this time I loved Jimmy Garoppolo. There’s nobody on that level for me right now (for the 2015 NFL Draft) as we begin the 2014 season. My summer scouting has focused on a lot of the more popular/well-known prospects, so as the season goes on I’m sure I’ll have my cluster of favorites that are flying under the radar.

Prediction Center

I had a so-so opening week performance with my predictions as I carry a 3-3 record into Week 2. South Carolina and Miami let me down while I also whiffed badly on my upset prediction of Rice to defeat Notre Dame.

USC at Stanford: In closely matched rivalry games, it’s difficult to pick against the home team. Combine that with a toe injury to USC quarterback Cody Kessler and my bet is on Stanford. Stanford 27, USC 20

Michigan State at Oregon: Our first matchup of the season featuring two top-10 teams comes with two polar opposite styles. I am siding with the better defensive team that plays with more physicality in Michigan State. Oregon has struggled to defeat those types of teams in the past and I expect that to continue. Michigan State 30, Oregon 24

Michigan at Notre Dame: Both teams had convincing Week 1 victories over lesser competition. Notre Dame was embarrassed last year at the Big House and I think they will avenge that loss at home this year. Notre Dame 28, Michigan 21

Virginia Tech at Ohio State: Virginia Tech will be a much more difficult test defensively than Navy for Braxton Miller’s replacement JT Barrett, but in the first-ever matchup between these two schools, I like the home team, which has far more collective talent. Ohio State 31, Virginia Tech 20

BYU at Texas: The Texas seniors probably had this game circled on their schedule entering the season after their disappointing loss to BYU in 2013. That said, the Longhorns are without quarterback David Ash, which could prove to be too difficult to overcome. BYU 23, Texas 14

Upset Alert: After giving strong consideration to East Carolina defeating South Carolina, I cannot convince myself of the Gamecocks dropping consecutive games at home. I expect them to regroup and have a much better showing this week, although a close game against an experienced East Carolina team would not surprise me.

I will settle on a Thursday night victory for UT-San Antonio over Arizona. UTSA has won six consecutive contests dating back to last season and have the benefit of playing at home. Its defense has been outstanding over that stretch and I can envision the Roadrunners getting a statement win for a program that is only in its fourth year in existence. UTSA 24, Arizona 21

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Tags: Arizona, Austin Hill, Ben Koyack, Byron Jones, Cedric Ogbuehi, Cody Fajardo, Cody Prewitt, Damian Swann, Doran Grant, East Carolina, Frank Clark, Hayes Pullard, Hroniss Grasu, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jordan Richards, Josh Shaw, Justin Hardy, Kevin Johnson, Ladarius Gunter, Leonard Floyd, Michigan, Nevada, Notre Dame, Oregon, Quandre Diggs, Rashad Greene, Shane Carden, Stanford, Steven Nelson, Talent Watch, Tim Scott, Todd Gurley, Ty Montgomery, USC

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