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Monday, December 1, 2008

Dawgs in the Draft

I spoke with Todd McShay, ESPN's director of college football scouting, last week for a story on Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford's potential departure to the NFL. While he was kind enough to give me plenty of insight into those two players, we also talked about some of Georgia's other NFL prospects, too. Here's a run down of McShay's thoughts...

On Matthew Stafford's strengths:
"He has a big arm. If it's not the best in college football, it's among the top three or four. Physically he has everything you look for in terms of the size and enough mobility. Obviously he's not a running threat, but he can move his feet inside the pocket and move around a little bit. Working in that offense, taking snaps under center, it's not a traditional pro style, but it's certainly a lot more than what a lot of quarterbacks are playing coming out of college, which should really help him."

On Stafford's weaknesses:
"The downside his decision making is inconsistent. I would say the overall criticism of him is the inconsistency. There are times when he looks great, and there are times when you wonder why he made that throw. He needs to become more consistent with his decisions, and I think as a result, his accuracy will become more consistent. He'll make a throw that a lot of guys can't make and put it in a spot that a lot of guys can't put it, but he'll then miss a wide-open target every once in a while, and you just wonder why the inconsistency?"

On where Stafford will go in the draft:
"I think he'll be the first quarterback taken if he comes out. It's an awful senior class of quarterbacks, and even with the other juniors, I think NFL scouts love him. I'm a mixed bag on him for those reasons. I wouldn't compare him to Matt Ryan from a year ago."

On whether Stafford might return to school:

"You can't sell him on it. It's crazy. I think he has a lot more to learn on the college level, and the numbers are staggering in terms of guys that make it and are effective in the league who came back for their senior season the extra starts and all of that. But how do you tell a guy to turn down tens of millions of dollars as a top-10 pick. It's a tug-of-war that he has to be going through. I'm sure he wants to come back to college for his senior season and finish on a brighter note, but how do you turn down that money? I hate it because I do think he could benefit from coming back, but I'd have a hard time selling him on it."

"The bottom line is that Matthew Stafford would only benefit from returning to school as long as he doesn't get injured and continues to make any kind of improvement."

On Knowshon Moreno:
"I think he's prepared. Running backs are a little different situation because of the pounding they take, I recommend every position to return to school outside of running back. If they think they're ready to make the jump and they're convinced they're going to go in the first couple rounds from good sources and I'm sure Knowshon will put him name in and get good feedback from the NFL advisory committee I think he'll be, if not the first back taken, probably the second and the worst case third depending on who comes out."

On Moreno's upside:
"I love his competitiveness as a runner. I don't think he's going to be Adrian Peterson at the combine, putting together a 4.39 at his ridiculous size. But he's plenty tall enough, he's probably going to run in the 4.5 range, and his instincts, his competitiveness, everything you look for in terms of a running style, I think he has. I think he's going to be a very good back in the NFL."

On Asher Allen:
"I like Asher. I think he could benefit again from another year of school. I think every once in a while he'll make a mistake, and I think he could continue to improve his recognition skills. He's quick, he's fluid as an athlete, he has adequate size. He's got good solid speed, probably in the 4.4 range. I have him in the early to mid second round."

On Dannell Ellerbe:
"I worry about his instincts a little bit, and I worry about the fact that he tries to run around a block sometimes rather than taking him on, but he's a very good athlete and his size-speed ratio is huge. If he's healthy and his workout he can do at 100 percent, there's a lot to like about a guy who runs a 4.6 at 6-1, 245. I think he will be helped by the workout process, but the injuries kind of counterbalance that. I think when teams look at him, they'll see maybe a third, possibly a fourth-rounder because of the instincts."

On Jeff Owens:
"I've heard he's leaning toward leaving, which I think would be a big mistake, but it's not my decision to make. I would say third round. I had him as high on the defensive tackle list coming into the year, but it's just a bad class of senior defensive tackles. I would say third round if he checks out medically and everything is good. He's not a big playmaker, he missed all but one game, I just think he would be smart to go back."

On Brannan Southerland:
"Southerland could be the first, second, maybe third fullback taken. I'm thinking maybe fifth round. He doesn't have great versatility, but he's a better athlete than people think, and he's a good blocker, I formation, lead blocker type. He'd be good on special teams. He has some durability issues, but he'll be among the top three fullbacks taken."

On Mo Massaquoi:
"He's had a much better year this year than year's past, which is big for him because he has some tools. I wouldn't be surprised if he went as high as the fourth round. I think the drops, inconsistency, the fumbles he had two fumbles in two series in the one game this year those things frustrate the heck out of scouts and coaches. But I do think he has elevated his stock this year, and it wouldn't surprise me if he went as high as the fourth round."

Just of note, I didn't inquire about Geno Atkins, who has already said he will return to school. I did, however, ask about Rennie Curran, if only because I was curious what kind of NFL future he has. Here's what McShay had to say...

"I love him. I think he's a great, great college football player, but obviously his size is an issue. I think he lacks measurables which will keep him out of the first round, but it wouldn't shock me at all if he gets to the NFL and becomes a very productive six-, seven-, eight-year starter, a very high contributor. He's instinctive, he's always around the ball all around the field. I'm not sure if he can take on bigger guys at safety. I think his only fit in terms of getting the most out of his skills in the NFL is at that weakside linebacker spot in a Tampa-two scheme like the Colts have. That cover-two where they can use an undersized player like a Kato June type. I think he can play at the next level, and I think he'll wind up going a lot higher than people might expect because of his instincts and recognition skills, but his size will probably keep him out of the first round I guess."

3 comments:

bamadog said...

Thank you for putting some thoughts about Rennie in there! I'm a huge fan of the Colts, and I'd love to see him in the horseshoe blue and white. He's exactly the kind of defensive player Dungy would love too: quick, athletic, intelligent and a sure tackler. Perfect fit.

Bernie said...

Great insight. Thanks for sharing David.

I think Stafford and Moreno are gone unfortunately. But like McShay said, how can you really blame them with the new rookie cap likely on the horizon. I really hope Owens and Allen return; mostly for selfish reasons I'll admit. This defense needs some physicality to it. Asher is a rare physical corner and Owens was really missed this season.

MaconDawg said...

I have to agree with McShay about Knowshon. The average NFL tailback's career is three years. Every year in college is another year of abuse which could instead be putting him one year closer to an NFL pension or one year closer to that first post-rookie contract, the one most players look at as their "retirement contract".

The only way Stafford stays in Athens is if the Mannings and Gil Brandt convince him to, and he decides that he's just enjoying college too much to leave. I doubt it will happen, but I'm hoping for the best.