In this week’s Inside the War Room I take a look at the top senior centers, take a look at where Jameis Winston may go in the draft, name my All-Small School team, and more.
Top Senior Centers
Last year we saw the top center drafted with the 43rd pick of the draft when Weston Richburg went to the New York Giants. This year’s top center Hroniss Grasu of Oregon should be drafted in the second round as well. Overall, the senior class of centers is not overly deep but it should produce some solid players. If juniors Mike Matthews of Texas A&M, and Nick Martin of Notre Dame declare for the draft they will obviously improve the strength of this position.
1. Hroniss Grasu Oregon 6-3 297
Grasau is the most complete center in the draft. He has the mobility to get to the second level, or be a pulling lineman. He also has the strength to hold up at the point of attack, and to hold up vs. most defensive tackles.
2. Reese Dismukes Auburn 6-3 295
Dismukes had an outstanding junior season grading out at more than 90% in every game he played last season, and being named Sporting News third team All-American. I currently project Dismukes to go in the third or fourth round of the draft.
3. David Andrews Georgia 6-2 295
Andrews is a physical center who has shown excellent durability starting in 27 consecutive games. The biggest concern I have with Andrews is his lack of elite athletic ability.
4. Jake Smith Louisville 6-4 312
Smith is surprisingly athletic player for his size. He has shown the ability to get to the second level, and has nice explosion off the line of scrimmage. He needs to work on his technique though since he tends to be on the ground a lot, and can be overpowered when lineman get under his pads.
5. B.J. Finney Kansas State 6-4 303
Finney is a former walk-on who has been a leader of the offensive line. He was named All-Big 12 in 2012, and 2013. Unfortunately, he lacks outstanding physical tools which will hurt his draft stock significantly.
1. Tom Farniok Iowa State 6-4 300 #6 C
Farniok is one of the most underrated lineman in college football. I love the athletic ability he shows, and his overall tenacity. One concern I have with him is that he bad mouthed his former offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham in a Des Moines Register article which raises some concerns about his coachability.
2. Austin Gund Richmond 6-3 305
Gund was named First Team All-CAA honors after helping Richmond set several school passing records last season. Going into the 2014 season he was named All-American Second Team by Sports Network.
Ten Million Dollar Man
One of the most hyped players going into the 2014 season is Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Winston recently purchased an insurance policy that will pay him between eight and ten million dollars if he falls out of the first round of the draft due to injury or illness according to Yahoo Sports. Yahoo also reports that this insurance policy will cost Winston between $55,000 and $60,000 dollars for each year he has the policy. The fact this insurance has such a high premium, and that he is widely regarded as a first round draft pick makes me think he will enter the 2015 NFL Draft.
When evaluating Winston’s pro potential several positives standout. The first positive that sticks out to me is the fact he is an athletic pocket passer. He has the ability to stand in the pocket and looks to throw while in the pocket. However, he has the ability to take off if there is no place to go with the ball, and he also has the ability to run the read-option which is becoming more popular at the NFL level. Winston is an accurate passer as well. Last season, he completed 67% of his passes, and showed good accuracy on both short and deep passes. One other positive that stands out to me with Winston is his leadership ability. He was considered a team leader as a freshman last year at Florida State, and has a very outgoing personality which allows him to be a team leader.
The biggest negative with Winston also has to do with his character. He has been involved in a sexual assault complaint, and has been involved in two shoplifting incidents during his time at Florida State. These incidents make me wonder if he thinks he is above the law and can do whatever he wants. It also concerns me some that he has never had to overcome the adversity he may see in the NFL, so I am not sure how he will handle a poor situation which he will surely see in the NFL especially if he is a top ten pick. When evaluating him as a player one concern I have with him is his footwork. At times he will throw off his back foot which can lead to poor throws. He also played mainly in the shotgun at Florida State so he will have to adjust to playing under center in the NFL.
Winston is currently considered a top ten draft prospect by a lot of football people, but I am not sure I would spend a top ten pick on this prospect. The fact he has been involved in three different crimes in his two years at Florida State would prevent me from drafting him in the top ten. In my opinion he reminds me a lot of Johnny Manziel which is not a good thing.
All-Small School Offense
The preseason All-Small School offense is made up of the top non-FBS players in college football. The preseason All-Small School defense will be released in late August.
QB Bryan Bennett Southeastern Louisiana
Bennett is my highest rated small school offensive player. He is an athletic player who can make plays with both his feet, and arm. One area he must improve on is his accuracy. He should carry a similar grade to former FCS player Jimmy Garoppolo who went in the second round of the draft.
RB David Johnson Northern Iowa
Johnson is a big physical back who is a threat both in the passing and running game. My biggest concern with this prospect is that his physical running style has led to a lot of injuries. If he can stay healthy this year and put up the numbers he is capable of he should go in the fourth or fifth round of the draft.
FB Zach Zenner South Dakota State
Zenner plays running back at South Dakota State, but due to a lack of great speed and explosiveness projects to fullback in the NFL. He has been extremely productive at SDSU rushing for 2,015 yards last season, and 2,044 yards as a sophomore. One area he needs to work on especially if he move to fullback is his blocking both as a run and pass blocker.
WR Stephen Barnette Richmond
Barnette is a big bodied wide receiver (6-3 190), who excels at going up and getting the jump ball. He also has excellent production in 2013 he set a school record with 1,189 receiving yards, and led the CAA in receptions with 76. One area he needs to focus on this year is his route runner, and making sharper cuts.
WR Tre McBride William and Mary
McBride has NFL size to go along with his NFL speed 4.39-40 yard dash. He shows great body control, and overall ball skills. He has also produced on the field catching 63 passes for 801 yards in 2013. One more positive with McBride is his ability to return kicks. He averaged 27.5 yards on kickoff returns last season.
TE MyCole Pruitt Southern Illinois
Pruitt was the most productive tight end in the Missouri Valley Conference last season hauling in 48 catches, despite missing the last two games of the season with a broken leg. While he has shown he is a capable blocker his lack of ideal size will make teams project him as an H-back in the NFL.
OT Jermaine Barton Illinois State
Barton is a transfer from the University of Miami who had a solid season at the FCS level making the Missouri Valley Conference team. He has good size at 6-7 315 pounds, and good overall strength. Look for Barton to earn a late round draft grade.
OG Antoine Everett McNeese State
Everett was recently named to the 2014 Sport Network FCS Preseason All-American team. In 2013 he was the leader of an offensive line that helped McNesse State set five school records including points in a season. While he plays tackle at McNeese State his lack of height (6-3) will most likely force him to shift inside to offensive guard in the NFL.
C Austin Gund Richmond
Richmond is the only school to get two offensive players on the All-Small School Draft team with center Austin Gund and WR Stephen Barnette making the team. In 2013 Gund was named first team All-CAA, and CAA All-Academic which should impress NFL teams as well. Teams will also like his size, and athletic ability which could lead to him being a mid-round draft pick.
OG Arthur Doakes Stony Brook
Doaks is another former FBS lineman who transferred down to the FCS level. Doakes started his career off at Pittsburgh where he saw significant time, before transferring to Stony Brook. His best asset is his size (6-6 350) which allows him to overpower most defensive lineman at the FCS level.
OT Cole Manhart Nebraska-Kearney
Manhart is the highest rated Division II player on my draft board. He is a physical lineman, who has NFL size coming in at 6-6 300 pounds. His lack of great speed and mobility might require him to shift inside to offensive guard.
Ten Football Thoughts
1. I think one of the questions Clemson DE Vic Beasley will have to answer is how well will he be able to drop in coverage when he make the conversion to OLB in the NFL. If he can prove he can hold up in coverage look for him to be a high first round draft pick.
2. I think a small school nose tackle to keep an eye on is Northern Iowa’s Xavier Williams. Last season Williams recorded 74 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks. Even though he posted impressive sack numbers I would not consider him much of a pass rusher, and think his best fit in the NFL would be in a 3-4 defense or as a two-gap defensive tackle. Williams also should be a solid special teams player having blocked five field goals in 2012.
3. I think Dorial Green-Beckham will stay at Oklahoma for two years, if he can’t play this season. I just can’t see Oklahoma wasting a scholarship on a player who will never play for them. I also think he would have gone the FCS route if he was set on entering the 2015 draft due to the fact he could definitely play right away.
4. I think Oregon State QB Sean Mannion is showing why he is my number one senior quarterback at the Elite 11 quarterback competition. According to NFL.com he has shown tremendous arm strength, and has been focused on improving his footwork, accuracy, and quickening his release this offseason.
5. I think Northwestern LB Collin Ellis reminds me some of former Penn State and current Dallas Cowboy linebacker Sean Lee. Ellis is a very active player who recorded 78 tackles, and three interceptions last season. He needs to work on getting off block though if he wants to have a similar career to Sean Lee.
6. I think a Division III draft prospect to keep an eye on is Wesley linebacker Sosthene Kapepula. Kapepula recorded 110 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and five interceptions. He shows good athletic ability to go along with his impressive stats, and has the physical skills to get invited to an NFL Training Camp. He must be more physical, and improve his recognition skills if he is to make it in the NFL though.
7. I think it will be interesting to see if the NFL makes a developmental leagued. The NFL is considering two options with the first option being to develop a leagued like NFL Europe, but having it in the USA. The second option is to have NFL academies where players go to train in both football and strength and conditioning. It will be interesting to see if players can come right out of high school to this leagued or academy like they can in the NBA D-league.
8. I think it will be interesting to see how many underclassmen that came out for the 204 NFL Draft don’t make a team. If all undrafted underclassmen, seventh round picks, and sixth round picks don’t make a team the percentage of underclassmen not making a team would be 46%. These players would have been much better off staying in the college, instead of trying to find a job outside of football with no college degree. Hopefully this year’s underclassmen will learn from this draft class, and not enter the draft if they are not given a first round draft grade.
9. I think it is no big surprise that no player was drafted in the NFL Supplemental Draft. I could see a couple of these players signing as free agents. I also think North Carolina LB Darius Lipford and Virginia-Lynchburg DT LaKendrick Ross could be interesting prospects as practice squad players. Lipford has earned the nickname Freak due to his impressive athletic ability. He has NFL size at 6-3 245 pounds, and also has good speed for his size. Ross will interest some teams due to his size. He is listed at 6-5 360 pounds, and has good weight room strength bench pressing 225 pounds 46 times.
10. I think I am sick of hearing about football players getting in trouble off the field.
Michigan is moving senior OLB Jake Ryan to MLB this season. … South Florida junior DB Kenneth Durden will transfer to Youngstown State. Durdan was charged with possession of marijuana in January. … Maryland wrestler Spencer Myers has joined the Maryland football program. Meyer won the ACC heavyweight title in 2011 and 2012, and was named Pennsylvania defensive player of the year in high school. … Michigan senior RB Thomas Rawls has transferred to Central Michigan. … Ohio State senior WR Devin Smith was in car accident last month. He will be cited for failure to control, and while alcohol was involved he was under the legal limit. … Alabama junior RB Kenyan Drake was arrested and charged with obstructing government operations last week. … The following quarterbacks will take part in the Manning Passing Academy Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and UCLA’s Brett Hundley. … Look for Costal Carolina LB Quinn Backus and Tennessee Martin LB Tony Bell to move to safety in the NFL due to a lack of size. …
This article was written by John Blair of Inside the War Room. Please follow John on twitter @NFLDraftITWr