In this week’s Inside the War Room I look at the top safeties and kickers in the draft, name this week’s prospect of the week, and much more.
Top Senior Safeties
- Kurtis Drummond Michigan State 6-1 200
Drummond is a big natural athlete who recorded 91 tackles, and four interceptions last season. I think his best fit in the NFL will be as a strong safety due to his aggressive playing style.
- Josh Shaw USC 6-1 200
Shaw is another good size defensive back who has a bright future in the NFL. Unlike, Drummond though Shaw is better in coverage then in run support having started 11 games at cornerback last season.
- Jordan Richards Stanford 5-11 208
Richards is one of the better athletes in the draft, and his stock would have been much higher if he was an inch or two taller.
- Anthony Harris Virginia 6-1 190
Harris is a proven ball hawk leading the nation with eight interceptions last season. He also recorded 80 tackles last year, and was name Sports Illustrated All-American.
- Justin Cox Mississippi State 6-3 192
Cox is a hard hitting defensive back who will make the transition from cornerback to safety in the NFL. He only started one game last season, so he will have to prove he can hold up vs. top-level competition on a weekly bases.
- Derron Smith Fresno State 5-11 197 #6 Safety
Smith is another ball hawking safety in this year’s draft class. He has more career interceptions than any player in FBS football with 14 picks. His lack of great size is the only reason he is this low on my draft board.
- Corey Cooper Nebraska 6-1 215 #8 Safety
Cooper is a big safety who excels in run support leading Nebraska in tackles last year with 91 tackles. I would like to see him more productive in coverage since he only recorded one interception and one pass breakup last season.
- Keeston Terry Pitt State 6-3 198 #11 Safety
Terry is one of the top small school safeties in this year’s draft class being named to Inside the War Room’s All-Small School Defensive Team, and he already has several NFL teams inquiring about him.
Specialists to keep an eye on
One of the most overlooked positions in football is kicker and punter. In the 2014 NFL Draft we saw two kickers, and one punter drafted with the first player going off the board in the sixth round when the Chicago Bears drafted Pat O’Donnell in the sixth round.
This year’s kicker class is led by Notre Dame’s Kyle Brindza who made 77% of his field goals including three field goals of over 50 yards. He kicked off for the Irish as well and 47% of his kickoffs went for touchbacks, so he defiantly has the leg to kick in the NFL. Another kicker who could get drafted this season is Michael Hunnicutt of Oklahoma. Hunnicutt made an impressive 89% of his field goals last season, although his longest field goal was only 47 yards.
The top punter in the 2015 draft class is Spencer Ross of Baylor. Last season Ross averaged 46 yards per punt, and had four punts of over 60 yards. He also kicked off last season and led the Big 12 in kickoff average averaging 45.7 yards per kickoff. Michigan State’s Mike Sadler is the second rated punter on my board. Sadler was named first team All-American by ESPN last season after averaging 42.5 yard per punt. He also placed an impressive 43% of his punts inside the 20 yard line. A couple of small school punters to keep an eye on this season are Kyle Loomis of Portland State, and Matt Klingler of St. Ambrose.
One of the most talented defenses in college football last season was Florida State, which was a major reason why the Seminoles won the national championship last season. However, the Seminoles lost two outstanding defensive backs to the NFL in Terrence Brooks and Lamarcus Joyner. The man who is expected to fill these players’ shoes is this week’s Player of the Week Tyler Hunter.
Hunter missed all but three games last season with a neck injury which he suffered vs. Bethune-Cookman. This neck injury was caused by a condition called cervical spinal stenosis which is a narrowing of the spine near the neck. He still played a significant role on the Florida State team though acting as a coach on the field. He helped teammates such as Terrence Brooks have the best season of his career, and also mentored several younger players. Hunter also spent a ton of time in the film room, and Jimbo Fisher told ESPN that he can’t recall a player spending more time in the film room on their own time then Hunter. This season Hunter will be looked to provide leadership to a young defense that looks to repeat last year’s success.
When looking at Hunter as a prospect the first thing that stands out to me is his coverage ability. He tied for the team led in interceptions in 2012 with 2013 first round draft pick Xavier Rhodes with three interceptions. In coverage he shows good agility, and has very good change of direction skills. Hunter has good quickness as well, and shows nice closing speed which is the main reason he has been able to be such a ball hawk in the secondary. I am also impressed with the mentality Hunter brings to the game. He is one of the hardest workers on the Florida State football team, and is a proven leader who leads with both his strong work ethic and overall football intelligence. One more positive with this prospect is his kick return ability. In 2012 he averaged a very impressive 15.8 yards on eight punt returns.
The biggest concern with Hunter is his medical history. The fact he missed all but three games last season with a serious neck injury is a major concern. He has also battled a knee injury during his time at Florida State, although this injury did not cause him to miss any games. He lacks the size and strength to be a great defender vs. the run as well. In 2012 he only recorded 26 tackles, and last season in the three games he played in he only recorded eight tackles.
While Hunter is only a junior he is defiantly a player worth keeping an eye on. I love his approach to the game, and he defiantly has the ability to cover in the NFL as a free safety. However, to earn a high draft grade he must stay healthy for the rest of his time at Florida State, and also prove he can be a force vs. the run and have an impact covering kicks on special teams. I think it is in Hunter’s best interest to stay at Florida State for the next two seasons, since he currently carries a fourth round draft grade on my board.
Ten Football Thoughts
- I think one of the best quarterbacks in Division II football is Chris Bonner of Colorado State-Pueblo. Booner threw for 3,413 yards 33 touchdowns and only nine interceptions last season. He shows good mobility for a player his size 6-7 230 pounds. He will need to have another big year this season, and play in an All-Star game to show he can play against top level competition.
- I think Johnny Manziel is reminding me more and more of Ryan Leaf every day. He lacks the composer you need in an NFL starting quarterback, and him flipping off the opposing team reminds me of when Leaf blew up at a member of the press. He also missed a meeting last week, and looked far from spectacular against Washington completing fewer than 50% of his passes. It also makes me nervous that he seems to have an excuse for every mistake he makes.
- I think it will be interesting to see how well Texas Tech RB Kenny Williams makes the move to OLB. He was my number five senior running back, and with his lack of size I am not sure if he will stick at OLB in the NFL. That being said I do like the team first attitude Williams showed to make this move, I am just not sure it was a good move for his draft stock.
- I think with the amount of illegal contact we see on defensive backs this preseason we could see teams moving away from big physical defensive backs for smaller quicker defensive backs. I also think how close referees are calling illegal contact is absolutely ridiculous.
- I think Ohio State could be in for a down season this year with Braxton Miller reinjuring his shoulder, and being out for the season. Miller was the leader of the Ohio State offense that lost some key weapons this offseason, and that relies heavily on a mobile quarterback to run the offense efficiently. I could see Ohio State finishing as low as third in the Big Ten East behind Michigan, and Michigan State.
- I think going into the 2014 season the most underrated offensive player is Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Bryan Bennett. Bennett is still extremely raw as a passer, and must improve his accuracy. However, he is one of the few senior quarterbacks that I think has the overall skill set to eventually develop into a starting quarterback.
- I think going into the 2014 season the most overrated offensive player is TE Nick O’Leary of Florida State. At 6-3 224 pounds he is an undersized player who lacks great speed. While he has been productive at Florida State catching 33 passes last season, I don’t think he has the skills to start in the NFL like many people who have him rated as the top tight end in the draft think he can.
- I think the Senior Bowl needs to add the following Division II quarterbacks to their watch list Henderson State QB Kevin Rodgers, and Colorado State-Pueblo QB Chris Bonner.
- I think one player that stood out to me on film this week is North Dakota State RB John Crockett. He has impressive quickness, and overall athletic ability for a back that comes in at 6-0 202 pounds. He can block as well, and should be able to hold up in pass protection in the NFL. I will get an up-close look at Crockett on August 30th when he plays against Iowa State.
- I think my Twitter following exploded this week. I started the week with around 320 followers, and now have over 950 followers. I would like to thank all the new people who have followed me this week, and as always appreciate the people who continue to follow me.
USC OG Aundrey Walker is not recovering very quickly from his fractured ankle he suffered last season. … Look for Richmond QB Michael Strauss to split time with Michael Rocco. … Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah has been practicing as a punt returner. … Duke TE Braxton Deaver tore his ACL, and will be out for the year. … Auburn S Robenson Therezie might miss the season opener due to eligibility issues. … Missouri has moved RB Marcus Murphy to wide receiver. … Tulsa WR Keyarris Garrett receiver a medical redshirt for the 2013 season due to a broken leg, and will only be a junior this season. … In a bit of a surprise move Michigan State did not name quarterback Connor Cook a team captain.
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