East-West Shrine Game

Over the weekend the East-West Shrine Game featured a number of nice players.  While the commentators admitted that “this game isn’t for guys that will get drafted in the first two rounds,” they did go on to say that many solid mid-round prospects were present.  Below, I list specific players who had cleared some draftability-hurdles in my system and who I wanted to scout further with my own two eyes.

Quarterbacks

West: Matt Scott (Arizona), Seth Doege (Texas Tech)

East: Colby Cameron (La Tech)

———-

Arizona QB Matt Scott showed the most physical talent, in my opinion, but was far from stellar.  He made several strong throws immediately after hitting the 3rd or 5th step of his dropback.  He showed a strong arm on a 35 yard throw from the opposite hash, although it probably should have been intercepted on a nice jump by the defender.  On one drive, he made a nice decision when a 1-man route was covered, tucking to run for positive yardage and show off his wheels.  On two occasions he failed to get the play in, requiring his team to take a timeout.  The announcers pointed out that Arizona operated with a ‘check with us’ sideline playcalling system.  Yes, this is a knock, but surely someone will draft him on the physical tools, hoping to coach him up on the terminology.

Needing to overcome his ‘smallish’ size and ‘system QB label, Seth Doege failed to deliver.  While the commentators praised Doege’s arm strength, it was hardly on display.  He one-hopped a deep comeback on the first drive and had a pass deflected at the line on second drive.  While he showed nice pocket presence, eluding the rush, he under threw a receiver on a crossing route, nearly getting intercepted.  On at least three occasions, he failed to ‘pull the trigger’ on time, once resulting in a sack/fumble and another time in an interception on a late throw to the endzone.  The one bright spot came from on a 40 yard pass down the sideline which was broken up via pass interference.  Doege seemed uncomfortable ‘out of his system’.

Colby Cameron was rough too.  He seemed to labor on an opposite hash 5 yd curl, one hopped an 8 yard curl route, and was late/off target on an out route that was intercepted & returned for a touchdown.  The one ‘nice’ throw he made was a 40 yard streak down the sideline, but the defender routed the receiver outside and the pass ended up off target.  Similar to Matt Scott, Cameron is a one-year wonder from a high powered system, but I would say that Cameron showed less physical talent than Scott.

Collin Klein did nothing to help his case.  He seemed to labor on medium range throws and was intercepted on an underthrow on a deep route.  He missed Emory Blake on a deep-out that seemed like it should have been routine.  He struggled to square his shoulders rolling left.  He flashed as a runner, so maybe their is a niche/wildcat role for him, but I don’t believe he has any future as an every down QB in the NFL

While he grades very poorly in my system, credit to Nathan Stanley for being the first QB to air it out, showing some arm strength and livening up the game.

Wide Receivers

west: Chad Bumphis (Mississippi State), Anthony Amos (MTSU), Jasper Collins (Mt Union)

east: Corey Fuller (Va Tech), Marcus Davis (Va Tech), Emory Blake (Auburn)

———-

Chad Bumphis struck me as the best receiver in the game.  He showed quick-start speed coming off the line of scrimmage and strong change of direction ability.  On three occasions he threatened the defensive backs, slammed on the breaks, and caught passes on comeback passes.  On one play he challenged the outside shoulder of the defender, got the DB to flip his hips, and broke hard to the inside, wide open for a deep ball.  Unfortunately Seth Doege didn’t pull the trigger.  Bumphis showed good concentration on his touchdown, catching the ball with a CB flashing in front of his face, turning and getting into the end zone.  He’ll have work to do with his run blocking, but showed the receiving skills to be a threat in the slot.

Corey Fuller explodes off the line of scrimmage.  His track background and 6′ 2” frame ooze of upside.  His best play was a deep out that he caught, spun upfield, and showed good acceleration while picking up 21 yards.  He has a

Jasper Collins showed some intangibles that I liked, but had minimal production.  He showed good effort while sealing of the edge with two blocks on end around that scored.  He was also quick to pounce on a fumble.  Unfortunately, he muffed a punt and turned in a so-so 3 catches for 17 yards.

Emory Blake looks like a sharp route tunner.  While he is definitely not a blazer, he showed polish on the two routes in which he was targeted.  Also, he showed up as a blocker.

MTSU WR Anthony Amos continued his march from anonymity to the NFL.  He showed nice concentration hauling in a slant between defenders.  He made nice play in a scramble-drill situation, moving with the QB and coming back to the ball.  He tracked the ball well on a 40 yard throw down the sideline but was the victim of PI.  He looks to have some open field moves and should hear his name called on draft day.

It will be interesting to see what happens with former Army QB Trent Steelman.  He certainly seems to have some ‘shake’ to him, looked fast, and was–unsurprisingly–a high effort player.

Running Backs

West: Kerwynn Williams (Utah State)

East:  Ray Graham (Pitt)

———-

The game got off to a rough start for Ray Graham.  On the first play from scrimmage he dropped the ball while switching hands, resulting in a turnover.  As a smaller back, Graham would seem to have an opportunity to contribute on special teams, but he seemed slow to reach top speed.  From the line of scrimmage, he showed good change of direction, picking his way for positive yardage. He also showed nice skills on a swing pass, making first guy miss and moving the chains on 3rd down.

Unlike Graham, Kerwynn Williams showed nice return skills and seemed to have more ‘shake’ in the open field.  As a runner, he had a couple nice 7+ yard runs.  Despite his small stature, the announcers praised his pass protection skills, a critical aspect if he is to carve out a niche role in an NFL offense.  I think we’ll hear more from Williams.

Tight Ends

West: Joseph Fauria (UCLA), Zach Sudfeld (Nevada)

East:

———-

Disappointingly, Joseph Fauria from UCLA had to pull out of the game with a hip injury.  He caught an outstanding 11 touchdowns in 2012 and, on size alone (6′ 7”), should find a place on an NFL roster.

Zach Sudfeld looked slow off the line and seemed to have his routes easily altered by linebackers.  On several occasions he was seen lumbering down the field, blocking nobody in particular, or whiffing on blocks completely.  He also dropped a pass inside the redzone on a nice throw from Matt Scott.  This was a disappointing effort.

Should you fold your Ace (Sanders)?

Ace Sanders pulled the ol’ switcheroo, deciding to declare for the NFL draft after it was originally reported that he would return for his senior season.  Let’s take him into The Lab and examine his NFL prospects.

Can’t read his poker face

In 37 career games at South Carolina, Sanders only went over 60 yards receiving on six occasions.

2010:  twice in 13 games

2011: once in 12 games

2012: three times in 12 games

Hardly inspiring…

In 2012, his average stat line was 3.7 catches, 44 yards, and .75 touchdowns.  Now, before you come at me with “South Carolina isn’t a passing team,” consider that Sanders productivity grade was only a 51, which accounts for strength of passing game.  Normally, you want to see numbers of a least 60+ with elite prospects scoring in the 80+ range.

The other knock I have on Sanders is his 5’8”  175 lb frame.  Not many guys that small are making it happen in the NFL on a consistent basis.

In his last two games of the season, Sanders posted the two best games of his career:

  • @Clemson: 6 receptions, 119 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Michigan (bowl game): 9 receptions, 92 yards, 2 touchdowns

Given that Sanders ended 2012 with a bang, it’s not surprising to see him ‘sell high.’  The only problem is that I’m not sure I would buy him as a wide receiver prospect.  He might be a useful return man, but otherwise his NFL value is limited.

Cordarrelle Patterson–Have You All Gone Mad?

Last night on the NFL network I saw a mock draft that had Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson going in the top 10 of the NFL Draft.  Let’s take him into The Lab and dissect his 2012 season.

Patterson arrived at Tennessee with much fan fare.  He was a highly touted JUCO prospect after posting a 61 catches-924 yards-15 TDs in 12 games for Hutchinson Community College.  With two years of eligibility remaining, he was poised to join the high-powered Vols aerial game led by fellow WR Justin Hunter and QB Tyler Bray (lol).

His 2012 season was a moderate success, posting 46 catches, 778 yards, and 5 touchdowns, but he was still second fiddle to Justin Hunter, who stats were at least 40% higher than Patterson in each category.  Does anyone else find it strange that the ‘best WR in the 2013 draft’ was maybe not even the best WR on his own team?

I would run away from selecting Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round (Credit: Parker Edison, The Daily Beacon)

On a per game basis, Patterson’s numbers look something like this:  3.8 catches,  64 yards,  .42 TD.  For historical perspective, those are comparable to SEC guys like Early Doucet (81st pick, 2008 draft) and Earl Bennett (70th pick, 2008 draft).  What have those guys done in the NFL?

And you’re thinking of taking Patterson in the top 10?

  • Tennessee fan: But he’s bigger than those guys! He’s a redzone threat!
  • Me: Oh, so then why did he only catch 5 touchdowns all season, and never in back-to-back games?

Let’s compare him to another ‘bigger’ SEC wide receiver, Mohamed Massaquoi (50th pick, 2009 draft).  Massaquoi actually posted better numbers than Patterson, with 4.5 catches, 70 yards and .6 TDs per game.  Looks like Massaquoi wins out in this contest.

And you’re thinking of taking Patterson in the top 10?

I wish I was joking, but I honestly don’t see how Patterson is any better of a pass catcher than Auburn’s SR Emory Blake, who is ranked 30th of the Senior Wide Receivers… not all wide receivers…. 30th of the SENIORS!  And in fairness to Blake, he was playing in a far worse passing attack.

Average Season Stat Line:

  • Blake– 4.1 catches,  65 yards,  .25 TD
  • Patterson– 3.8 catches,  64 yards,  .42 TD

Games vs BCS conf opponents with 4+ catches

  • Blake– 7
  • Patterson– 3

Games vs BCS conf opponents with 60+ receiving yards

  • Blake– 4
  • Patterson– 3

Games vs BCS conf opponents with 1+TD

  • Blake– 3
  • Patterson– 4

And you’re thinking of taking Patterson in the top 10?

Okay fine, so I can’t be 100% hate.  The youtube highlight reels are impressive.  He shows outstanding change of direction and open field skills.  But, the thing that bugs me is that they’re almost all on runs and kick off returns.  For the season, Patterson ran it 25 times for 308 yards and 3 TDs while also amassing ~800 return yards.

(Continuation piece on Patterson’s historical unworthiness here)

The passes he does catch are mostly in favorable matchups when the defense is scheming to stop Justin Hunter.  For ‘the best WR in the 2013 draft,’ he doesn’t do a lot of receiving.  And you certainly can’t draft a guy in the top 10 to be a kick returner, can you, Miami Dolphins?

Funny I should mention that incident and Tedd Ginn.  Yes, Patterson is bigger, but his highlight reel looks a lot like Tedd Ginn’s.  In fact, so do his receiving numbers.  How’d that Tedd Ginn thing work out?

Why I think AJ McCarron is a better quarterback than Johnny Manziel.

I posted this on Facebook prior to the National Championship game:

  • “Four hours from now, college football watchers will be thinking either “Brian Kelly is the best college coach in America,” or “A.J. McCarron is the best college quarterback in America”. What say you?”

First of all, note that I didn’t explicitly say “AJ McCarron is the best QB in America,” but this would later be the position I came to defend.

The next morning a smartass friend posted the results of a google search for “AJ McCarron best qb”  with the comment “Why is everyone thinking it and no one saying it? WEIRD.”  After initially bashing my argument without his own answer to the best-QB question, this person stated that Johnny Manziel was the better quarterback.

Johnny Manziel is a more exciting player than McCarron.  But you could also say that Michael Vick is more exciting than Peyton Manning.  At the end of the day, here’s why I believe AJ McCarron is a better quarterback than Johnny Manziel.

Key Games with 2+ TD passes

  • McCarron– 5  (of 8)
  • Manziel– 4  (of 8)

Key Games with 3+ TD passes

  • McCarron– 2  (of 8)
  • Manziel– 2  (of 8)

Passes/game

  • McCarron– 25.4
  • Manziel– 36.1

completion %

  • McCarron– 64.5%
  • Manziel– 65.4%

yards/ completion

  • McCarron– 13
  • Manziel– 11.5

TD %

  • McCarron– 8.4%
  • Manziel– 4.1%

INT % 

  • McCarron– 1.5% 
  • Manziel– 2.4%

Passer grade:

  • McCarron– 112.5
  • Manziel– 91.7

As with everything you will encounter on this site, we’re trying to project college players to the NFL.  Sorry I’m not sorry, but NFL QBs that run have minimal shelf life.  I need a guy that can throw the ball.  With the exception of pass attempts, almost every passing indicator is even or favors McCarron.  Because pass attempts can be attributable to style of offense, game situation, etc., I do not think of it as a good or bad thing, but instead is just a thing.

When you equalize pass attempts and just focus on rates, the system I use to grade quarterbacks says McCarron is a 112, Manziel is a 92.  Relatively speaking, they’re both outstanding players, with a score of 95 being my cutoff for an ‘elite QB prospect.’  I just think AJ McCarron is the better quarterback, and certainly the better quarterback prospect.

And while we’re on the subject: why is Case Keenum a ‘system QB’ when he puts up huge numbers in Sumlin’s offense, but nobody would ever dare to call Manziel a ‘system QB’ in Sumlin’s offense?

Who to watch: Alabama v. Notre Dame (BCS Championship)

BCS National Championship

Monday, January 7, 8:00pm EST

ESPN

The #1 RB and (probably) the #1 QB on the soon-to-be #1 team.

Alabama

Eddie Lacy, #42, Junior, RB

If I ran an NFL team, Eddie Lacy would be the top running back on my board.  While the video below will show you everything you need to see, let’s preface that with some evidence…

Of the 50+ running backs I studied in key game situations, Lacy found the end zone every 11.2 carries, which trailed only Stefphon Jefferson of Nevada, who wasn’t exactly playing against SEC competition.  Also,  Lacy’s average of 7 yards per carry trails only UNC’s Giovani Bernard (7.4) among the top RB prospects.

Another reason why he is so incredibly valuable is freshness–he has only 368 career touches at Alabama, having played behind Trent Richardson.    For perspective consider:

Eddie Lacy– 368 career touches at Alabama

Leveon Bell414 touches in 2012 alone for MSU

Montee Ball366 touches in 2012 alone for Wisconsin

To seal the deal, watch his outstanding performance in the SEC championship game:

AJ McCarron, #10, Junior, QB

In the BCS era (since 1998) every BCS National championship team was led by a junior or senior quarterback; that is, until AJ McCarron bucked the trend last year, becoming the first sophomore to do so.  While many would argue that he didn’t have much to do and it was his team that carried him, the fact remains that he is the ONLY sophomore QB to win a national championship in the BCS era.

In 2012, McCarron went from a good player on a great team, to a great player.  McCarron graded as the 4th best passer of the 2012 season, and by far the best QB in the SEC.  In fact, when isolating on SEC QBs that threw at least 25 passes/game, McCarron’s 2012 ranks as the highest season that I’ve graded.  Let’s compare him to probably the best recent SEC QB to make a splash in the NFL, Matt Stafford (2008)

Pass attempts

  • McCarron– 25.7
  • Stafford– 30.4

completion %

  • McCarron– 63.6
  • Stafford– 60.6

yards/completion

  • McCarron– 13.1
  • Stafford– 14.3

td%

  • McCarron– 7.8%
  • Stafford– 6.9%

int%

  • McCarron– 1.3%
  • Stafford– 2.9%

Grade in my system (anything above 95 is a potentially elite prospect)

  • McCarron–  110.4 
  • Stafford– 99.6

While it looks like AJ will return for his senior year–and perhaps an immortal third national championship–for comparison purposes I will say that he should be seen as a far superior prospect to Tyler Wilson, Tyler Bray, and Aaron Murray.  I’d draft him comfortable in the first 40 picks of the draft.

Watch him lead Alabama on a CLUTCH game winning drive on the road against LSU.