DT SHELDON DAY, NOTRE DAME

DT #91 Sheldon Day, Notre Dame

6’2” – 285 lbs. – 4.95e

Appeared in a rotational capacity over thirteen games as a true freshman, then started eight games as a sophomore, eleven as a junior, and all thirteen as a senior. Has a thick, somewhat top-heavy build which looks pretty much maxed out; height and arms are a bit below average. Is a five-technique defensive end in Notre Dame’s odd defensive front; most of his snaps come as a right end, but will slide to the left side as well and occasionally takes snaps out of a two-point stance. Team captain with a tenacious on-field temperament; has a high motor and will pursue sideline-to-sideline. Takes a high percentage of his team’s defensive snaps. Has good play recognition skills and is rarely caught out of position. Scrapes down the line well to defend the run. Anchor isn’t great and can be pushed off the line; best chance of creating problems in run defense is by lowering his shoulder and attempting to create congestion with his body. Also struggles to reestablish the line of scrimmage with his bull rush; not really a two-gap player, although he does shed blocks well. Lacks the length to make tackles while engaged and gets preoccupied with blockers at times, missing opportunities to make tackles. Could do a better job of protecting his legs against cut blocks. Very good penetrator who creates consistent pressure throughout the game; will probably be more useful on passing downs than anything else. Draws extra attention on a handful of plays each game. Excellent first step; is often the first player to react to the ball being snapped. Can challenge the edge with his speed, but sometimes rushes too deep, creating a hole for ballcarriers to run through; also has a bit of trouble bending back on a consistent basis and would probably benefit from working inside moves into his game more often. Has active hands and can slap an opposing offensive linemen’s punch away on a regular basis; best move is his overhand swim, but also works a rip move in. Spin is a bit too deliberate to be considered a weapon at this stage. When he has a clear path to the quarterback, has the closing burst to finish plays with sacks; however, a fair amount of his opportunities are the result of finding a clear lane on a stunt. Generates some force on contact, more of a thud than a whip. Gets his hands up to contest passing lanes when he’s unable to get into the backfield. Has also made a few zone drops and looks surprisingly capable in that capacity. A likely second-day pick who would be best as a one-gap penetrator in an even front.

Games watched: Clemson (’15), Southern California (’15), Texas (’15)

OT JERALD HAWKINS, LOUISIANA ST.*

OT #65 Jerald Hawkins, Louisiana St.*

6’6” – 305 lbs. – 5.25e

Redshirted in 2012, then took over as the team’s starting right tackle in the following season, with one start at left tackle (Furman.) Reprised his role as a sophomore, then slid over to the left side to replace La’el Collins as a junior. Tall offensive linemen with reasonable bulk, although his weight distribution is slightly off; looks a bit top-heavy with thinner legs. Because lack of lower-body strength carries over into his game, will probably need to spend some time in a pro strength program before he’s ready to contribute. Competitive on-field temperament, although he doesn’t appear to have much of a killer instinct. Has trouble with balance, is a waist-bender who tends to overextend in an attempt to engage opponents. Consequently, ends up on the ground far more often than he should. Also falls off blocks by lowering his head into contact or missing his initial punch; questionable hand placement. When he is positioned well, however, has active feet and enough strength to drive opponents off the line as a run blocker. Rarely asked to get out to the second level or lead the way by pulling for a screen, although he has some short-area quickness when asked to hook an opponent; a lot of his run-blocking work comes on slants as opposed to drive blocking. On passing downs, often works with help on the edge. Has some trouble with awareness in blitz pickup; allowed a few clear paths to the quarterback by blocking down and missing an opponent rushing off the edge. Can get enough depth to protect the edge against speed, although his technique looks somewhat mechanical; somewhat of a lumbering and rigid mover. More likely to attempt to “catch” opponents with his body rather than extending his arms; consequently, as a relatively thin-legged tackle, can often be walked back into the quarterback, or at the very least driven a few yards into the backfield. A pretty raw player despite spending four years in college and three years in the starting lineup of an SEC team; whether that’s due to poor coaching or reflects negatively on Hawkins himself is something to be determined by pro teams. Most of his major weaknesses can be traced back to either poor technique or a lack of lower-body strength, so there’s some potential for improvement if teams are willing to be patient. Experience on both sides of the line will help, although he looked more comfortable on the right side and will probably be limited there as a pro as well. Probably more of a third-day value, especially given the depth at tackle this year.

Games watched: Auburn (’14), Alabama (’15), Mississippi St. (’15)

OB DEION JONES, LOUISIANA ST.

OB #45 Deion Jones, Louisiana St.

6’1” – 227 lbs. – 4.65e

Appeared in thirteen games as a freshman, primarily on kick coverage units, a role which he reprised over thirteen games the following season. Started one of thirteen games the following season, at weakside linebacker (injury replacement for Kwon Alexander.) Became the team’s leading tackler as a senior after replacing Alexander on the weakside. Plays weakside linebacker for the Tigers, with their most common defensive front being a sub package featuring just two linebackers. Undersized with a muscular build, although he compensates somewhat with good leverage; nonetheless, will be restricted to playing on the weakside in even fronts, with little value in odd base defenses. Athletic player who’s at his best when allowed to play downhill; however, effort wanes with distance and isn’t a true sideline-to-sideline player. Recognition skills leave something to be desired; takes plenty of false steps, getting fooled by play-action and misdirection. Consequently, looks best given simplistic responsibilities, such as blitzing off the edge (four sacks as a senior.) Works through trash better than he takes it on; lacks the strength to anchor when engaged, although his ability to shed blocks is better than anticipated when he extends his arms into contact rather than using his body. Overruns too many spots and struggles to break down in the open field. Poor tackler who acts as more of a projectile, especially around the sidelines, and lets too many opposing ballcarriers through his grasp; doesn’t generate much force, unsurprising given his size (however, has a reputation as a special-teams hitter.) Will defer tackling responsibilities to teammates in the area. Runs well enough to cover, but typically has basic short-zone responsibilities, exhibiting questionable awareness; may be better with simple man-coverage duties on halfbacks and H-backs. When targeted, showcased soft hands and good ball skills. Has extensive special-teams experience, the area where he initially made his name, and looks likely to follow a similar trajectory at the pro level. However, may struggle to develop into more than that, as his athletic ability is mitigated by his poor instincts and inability to consistently make tackles when given the opportunity. Has some potential as a man coverage specialist, where his frame and movement skills are adequate for defense on running backs and H-backs, and which would simplify his responsibilities. Probably unlikely to draw much interest before the third day, although he seems like the type of player who’d benefit from the pre-draft process.

Games watched: Alabama (’15), Eastern Michigan (’15), Florida (’15)

QB CARDALE JONES, OHIO ST.*

QB #12 Cardale Jones, Ohio St.*

6’5” – 250 lbs. – 4.65e

Redshirted as a true freshman, then took thirty-nine snaps the following season in mop-up duty. Replaced J.T. Barrett the following season, taking over as the team’s starting quarterback for the final three games of the season and guiding the Buckeye to a national championship victory over the Ducks. Shared starting duties over what many considered to be a disappointing junior campaign. Big, thickly-built quarterback who looks more like a tight end; might benefit athletically from losing a bit of excess weight. Works out of the power spread offense, taking most of his snaps from the shotgun and not being asked to go through many progressions or anticipate throwing lanes; learning curve upon reaching the pros figures to be fairly steep. Does a lot of running, both by design (power options, etc.) or in an attempt to escape the rush. Has a good combination of power and elusiveness, although he’s not overwhelmingly fast; more of a threat to gain chunks of yardage than to break big runs. Has pretty good vision and feel for movement, maximizing his ability as a runner. Capable of absorbing hits from defenders without going down; the kind of quarterback who can break containment and extend the play while keeping his eyes downfield. However, can get into trouble by refusing to give up on a play, throwing into some tight windows when under pressure rather than getting rid of it. Tends to leave the pocket preemptively. Doesn’t always transfer his weight effectively, but will step into throws from time to time and can make all the throws regardless; might be a little bit complacent in developing his fundamentals because of his natural gifts. Throws a tight spiral from a delivery which is midway between a three-quarters delivery and an over-the-top one; nonetheless, has some passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. Ball placement is adequate, with good touch; doesn’t exactly spray the ball, but will make his receivers work for catches which are slightly high or low. Can make throws while rolling out to his right; has the arm strength to power the ball downfield without setting his feet. A prospect who might have gone higher last year when there was something of a mystique to him, but whose lack of development and limited starting experience makes him a long-term project at the pro level. Size, athletic ability, and raw arm talent are very attractive tools for teams who believe he is going to work hard enough to make the requisite mental and technical improvements. May lack the experience and floor to make it into the second day.

Games watched: Alabama (’14), Maryland (’15), Virginia Tech (’15)

QB CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG, PENN ST.*

QB #14 Christian Hackenberg, Penn St.*

6’4” – 228 lbs. – 4.80e

Took over the team’s starting quarterback job as a true freshman, a role which he reprised in each of his three seasons with the Nittany Lions, albeit with production which was only somewhat impressive as a freshman. Has adequate height for a pro quarterback, with an adequate build and the frame to accommodate additional bulk; probably listed above his playing weight. Was asked to play in a few different offensive schemes, his greatest successes coming in a pro-style offense under current Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. Recently has spent most of his snaps out of the shotgun, however. Doesn’t do a great job of feeling pressure; will occasionally run himself into trouble. However, has a little bit of escapability; not much of a threat with his feet, but can pick up a few yards when he’s forced to do so. Capable of making some throws while rolling to his right. Has experience going through progressions, although he doesn’t tend to make very good decisions with the ball. Takes a lot of chances into coverage, which have caused a worrisome amount of turnovers in recent years. Uses a three-quarters delivery, although he can alter his arm angle when necessary. Lacks strong throwing fundamentals, which have significantly deteriorated during his time in college; uses torque in his torso to generate velocity, without setting his feet and stepping into his throws consistently (many passes come off of his back foot.) Consequently sprays throws all over the field, missing receivers long, short, and wide; many of his passes aren’t catchable balls. That said, does actually have a strong arm, which allows him to compensate for some of his technical shortcomings; gets enough on the ball to complete throws outside the hashes. Probably at his best when he’s throwing routine screens and slants with zip; most of his production as a junior came on throws less than ten yards downfield. A prospect whose development trajectory is disconcerting, but who may still interest some teams early because of how promising he looked as a freshman in a more pro-style system, Hackenberg is one of this class’ true mysteries. Typically, prospects who complete a low percentage of passes at the college level rarely improve when becoming a pro, and the amount of mechanical problems in his game makes him a significant gamble. Even as a junior, it’s possible to see flashes of the old Hackenberg, but that may not be enough to solidify a spot on the second day of this year’s draft.

Games watched: Illinois (’15), Michigan St. (’15), Temple (’15)

QB CARSON WENTZ, NORTH DAKOTA ST.

QB #11 Carson Wentz, North Dakota St.

6’6” – 235 lbs. – 4.75e

Redshirted in 2011, then spent the next two seasons as a backup. Took over the starting job as a redshirt junior, a role he reprised for his senior season; however, missed a handful of games after breaking his wrist. Led the Bison to championships in each of his final two seasons, their fourth and fifth consecutive titles. Two-time captain. Operates out of a hybrid offense which asks him to take snaps from under center; scheme involves plenty of read-options and package plays in which he’s given the opportunity of handing off or throwing the ball. Fairly athletic quarterback who has the ability to roll out from the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield; also carries the ball sometimes on read options, with more agility than many passers of similar stature. Can complete passes while moving to either the left or right. Footwork in the pocket needs to be cleaned up; looks too deliberate when dropping back and doesn’t step into his throws, generating most of his velocity with his arm as opposed to effective weight transfer. Moves pretty well to avoid rushers in the pocket, although he often runs instead of going through his progressions. Has an elongated delivery, which is exacerbated by a tendency to stare down his first option; could be preyed upon by faster pro defensive backs. Throws a catchable ball with a tight spiral and good touch, but overall ball placement is suffers the further he’s asked to throw; often lets his deep ball sail beyond his receiver. A bit of a gunslinger who’s at his best when he’s throwing bullets at the short-to-intermediate level; capable of fitting the ball into some tight windows with accuracy, albeit against a lower level of competition. Takes a bit more punishment than you’d like to see, with a competitive on-field demeanor that makes him reluctant to slide at the end of his runs; teams may wonder if the injury he sustained as a senior is a hint of what’s to come given his style of play. A tall, athletic quarterback with a good arm (if not an elite one) and a competitive temperament, Wentz should attract plenty of interest early in the draft owing to the position he plays; having taken snaps from under center will certainly help his cause, although he didn’t go through too many progressions at the college level and needs to clean up his footwork, both in terms of dropping back and transferring weight, not to mention the difficulties he may have in playing against a significantly higher level of competition. Could end up as a starter, but will probably need a year or two of grooming first.

Games watched: Montana (’15), North Dakota (’15), South Dakota St. (’15)

OT SHON COLEMAN, AUBURN*

LT #72 Shon Coleman, Auburn*

6’6” – 313 lbs. – 5.15e

Missed his first two collegiate seasons while making an incredible comeback from leukemia, something pro teams will want to examine him closely for. Ended up as the team’s backup left tackle in 2013 before taking over the job as a redshirt sophomore; declared after his junior season. Very big, thick offensive tackle with length that’s probably about average for the position; really looks the part of a pro left tackle. Typically lines up at left tackle but will shift to the right side periodically to serve as the team’s third tackle in jumbo sets. Looks a little bit mechanical in his kickslide, with shorter steps that force him to rely on his bulk. Does, however, get low enough to gain favorable leverage on opponents. Often had some help on his side of the line, with tight ends blocking against speed rushers; that way, he could concentrate on handling any power that came on an inside rush. Looks a bit lumbering when asked to get depth, but showed that he can still get the job done because of his natural physical and athletic gifts. Anchors very well when put in that situation. However, ability to sustain blocks is just average. Has pretty quick hands, but can be beat to either side, explaining how often he gets a chip from a teammate. Often has some trouble locating someone to block; could improve his awareness in blitz pickup, as teams have been able to take advantage of him on delayed rushes. Looks dominant from time to time in the run game; can toss opponents to the ground or drive them well off the ball when he’s moving his feet, making them look like blocking sleds. Must be more consistently active in order to do that, however; often lets his feet go dead on contact, and has some issues with his hand placement and grip that prevent him from sustaining as well as he could. Has been asked to execute various blocks which require him to cover some ground. Can get around to the opposite side of an opponent and execute a hook block, or interfere with defenders at the second level; doesn’t always actually secure a block, but dominates when he does. Could do a better job of keeping his legs under him; technique wanes with distance. Raw player who has flashed dominance in the run game and has a very appealing combination of size and athleticism; perennial need for quality offensive linemen should get him into the first round of the draft, although he’s hardly a lock to remain on the blindside and might be best-served playing inside in a relatively simplistic inline scheme to begin with. Won’t be helped by Greg Robinson’s struggles as a pro.

Games watched: Alabama (’15), Mississippi (’15), Texas A&M (’15)

CB KEIVARAE RUSSELL, NOTRE DAME*

CB #6 KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame*

5’11” – 196 lbs. – 4.55e

Began his collegiate career as a running back, but converted to cornerback during his first camp. Started all twenty-six games at the position in his first two seasons before being suspended from the team for the 2014-15 season for academic violations. Was readmitted to the school last year, starting eleven games before sustaining a broken shin. Tall, leggy cornerback with good bulk for the position; looks almost like a free safety. Usually plays on the left side of the line, aligning tight to the formation when there isn’t a receiver to defend against; however, also slides into the slot from time to time, shifting back and forth between the left and right sides of the line. Often asked to play in press-man coverage, turning and running rather than being asked to backpedal (although his footwork and balance looked patient on the few occasions in which he was asked to handle those responsibilities); has the length to intrigue teams who are looking for cornerbacks that can jam at the line of scrimmage. Pretty physical player who might need to be a little bit careful about the amount of contact he creates down the field; gets a little bit grabby in an attempt to compensate for his average speed. However, has a bit of trouble sticking with faster defenders downfield from such an alignment, which will probably cause him to need safety help over the top. Also a little bit susceptible to quick comebacks and other routes of that nature, possibly because of an unwillingness to risk deep completions; fortunately, doesn’t make many mental mistakes in coverage, forcing opponents to beat him athletically instead. Sniffs out screens quickly, with adequate ability to plant and drive on the ball. Wasn’t often working in zone coverage. Asked to rush out of the slot a few times per game, although he didn’t have much success in the games reviewed. Aggressive, physical temperament in coverage carries over into the running game, where he is willing to come up and engage ballcarriers. Generates some pop on contact, getting low and exploding into opponents without forgetting to wrap. Gets extension with his arms when taking on blocks from opposing receivers. Made some additional contributions on kick coverage units. A polished cornerback with a high football IQ, a good build, and varied responsibilities, the main things working against Russell are his season-long suspension for academic dishonesty and his recent injury; that said, still stands a good shot at going on the second day of the draft if endorsed by teammates and coaches.

Games watched: Massachusetts (’15), Southern California (’15), Texas (’15)

RB KENNETH DIXON, LOUISIANA TECH

RB #28 Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech

5’10” – 213 lbs. – 4.55e

Incredibly productive as a freshman, scoring twenty-seven touchdowns, a record for first-year players. Started eight of ten games the following season; worked through a knee injury early in the year and was eventually shut down because of a knee injury later. Ended up putting together two more productive seasons and was the NCAA’s all-time touchdown leader when he left school, although the record has since been surpassed. Has average height and weight for a pro back, with a somewhat thick build; might be a little bit smaller than teams like their primary backs to be. Gets a lot of his carries out of the shotgun or pistol. Not overwhelmingly fast or explosive, but is a smooth runner with the patience to wait for blocks to develop; has just enough speed to beat defenders to the corner, but isn’t much of a threat to break big runs. Hard runner who will lower his shoulder into contact and fight to gain yards after contact; more powerful than his size would indicate. Very competitive near the end zone; worked in some interesting formations, including one featuring three backs lined up shoulder-to-shoulder in three-point stances. Pretty elusive player with a nice stutter-step, regularly making the first man miss; works a nice spin into his repertoire which allows him to absorb hits without going down. Was often brought down in the backfield during the games reviewed, but that was mostly a consequence of poor offensive line play leading to multiple defenders penetrating quickly. Has quick feet when asked to stay back in pass protection; shuffles well and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in and engage a blocker. However, will leave his feet at times, occasionally clearing an easy path to his quarterback. Will also work out of the backfield as a receiving option, whether releasing into the flats or running wheel routes to challenge defenses downfield. Aligned in the slot from time to time as a joker, but wasn’t much more of a decoy in his team’s offense; lack of height and length also aren’t ideal for that type of role. Catches the ball pretty well, hauling on one pass for a long catch-and-run touchdown and being let down by a poor throw on another likely touchdown. A runner with a well-rounded skillset, reasonable build, and incredible collegiate production, his ability to run, block, and catch reasonably well should make him an attractive option for teams seeking a possible workhorse, although he’s more of a jack-of-all-trades than a truly dynamic runner. Could have been even more productive with a serviceable offensive line and passing game.

Games watched: Illinois (’14), Marshall (’14), Oklahoma (’14)

WR DE’RUNNYA WILSON, MISSISSIPPI ST.*

WR #1 De’Runnya Wilson, Mississippi St.*

6’5” – 215 lbs. – 4.65e

Was an accomplished basketball player in high school and also played some collegiate ball for the Bulldogs. Worked into the wide receiver rotation as a freshman, then became a starter the following season, reprising his role as a junior before declaring for the draft. Very tall, long-limbed wide receiver with good bulk, although he looks to have some bad weight as well; nonetheless, presents a size mismatch for many cornerbacks. Lines up all over the field, including in the middle of spacious trips formations; in more traditional sets, serves as a split end on either side of the formation. Not really targeted as frequently as most top picks are; goes for long stretches without being looked at much. Often worked into the game via screens, with the wide receivers to either side of him responsible for blocking. Also runs a variety of other routes, typically shorter patterns such as shallow crosses, slants, or in-routes; however, lacks suddenness and doesn’t create a ton of separation on his own. Instead, uses his frame to shield defenders from the ball, albeit inconsistently; needs to do a better job of coming back to the ball rather than allowing defenders to outwork him. Length gives him a pretty wide catch radius; can pluck the ball out of the air away from his frame, although he’s occasionally prone to cradling the ball against his body. Body control is impressive; capable of making the occasional highlight grab while twisting in the air (see early third quarter catch in Louisiana St. game.) Has just average speed and suddenness, but can be a handful to bring down when he’s built up a head of steam and will end many of runs falling forward, lowering his shoulder into contact. A little bit dirty as a blocker, but doesn’t give very consistent effort or drive his feet; prone to shoving defenders in the back and after the snap, even headbutting an opponent at one point. Still has some success because his sheer size and length make him difficult to get around. Also used as an obstacle on some pick plays. Despite his frame, has had some minor injuries which could call his toughness into question. Production has increased each season, but isn’t really a consistent factor like you’d expect from a potential second-day pick; some teams may be willing to gamble on his size and length, but his lack of speed and explosiveness may make him nothing more than a possession receiver with red-zone potential. Pretty raw and would represent a gamble.

Games watched: Mississippi (’14), Louisiana St. (’15), Mississippi (’15)