PredictionMachine.com’s NFL Draft Expert, Matt Richner, takes his final weekly look at three notable college prospects who stood out in recent bowl games. He also hands out his awards for valuable NFL Rookies.
Three College Prospects Who Made Headlines this Week
Kenjon Barner (RB, Oregon): Barner set a number of personal records this season. He had over 200 carries in a season for the first time, racking up 1,767 rushing yards for 21 rushing touchdowns. He has speed in the open field that is rarely tracked down from behind by a defender. Against Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, Barner had 30 carries for 143 yards, one reception for 24 yards, and a TD.
Breaking down his performance, Barner is not a tough physical runner who can handle a steady workload in the NFL. Against Kansas State, of his 143 rushing yards in the game, 37 of them came as yards-after-significant contact, an average of just 1.2 YPC. Barner consistently tries to cut his runs to the outside, instead of taking what the defense has given him. Barner will sometimes go backwards to try to go for big play. He had four carries in the game where he ran for negative yardage.
His lack of power and strength will really limit his potential in the NFL. He displayed good hands and will most likely be a third-down back as well as a kick returner. He reminds me a little bit of a Leon Washington type of player.
Stedman Bailey (WR, West Virginia): The Mountaineer pass offense finished the season ranked tenth in the nation. One of the leaders of this unit is playmaking wideout Stedman Bailey. Bailey, who ranks third in the country this season with 124.8 receiving yards per game, is a fleet-footed wideout capable of breaking tackles and picking up some extra yards after the catch.
Against Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, Bailey was targeted nine times, coming away with eight receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns. He doesn’t run a full arsenal of NFL routes, primarily running short to intermediate screen routes. For the game, his average depth of target was only 2.1 yards past the line of scrimmage on his receptions. He was able to pick up 78 yards-after-significant contact, an average of 9.8 yards per reception for the game.
NFL teams are going to want to see him develop into a more accomplished route runner. He is small, but has the strength to fight his way through bump-and-run coverage. Bailey compares statistically to current Saints wide receiver Lance Moore.
Xavier Rhodes (DB, Florida State): The potent attack of the Northern Illinois offense couldn’t handle the power and speed of the Florida State defense, which ranked as the number two defense in the country this season. Xavier Rhodes is part of that defense. At 6’2” and 220 lbs, he had three interceptions this season and finished his career at FSU with eight career interceptions.
Rhodes was hardly tested on the evening. Playing man-to-man coverage on the night, Rhodes was only challenged seven times giving up just two pass completions for 13 yards in the game. A run stopper on the edge, Rhodes had a one TFL; he consistently held his ground, not allowing the ball carriers to get outside the numbers throughout the game. A likely first-round pick, Rhodes could have played his way into being a top-15 selection.
Three NFL Rookies Who Made Headlines this Season
NFL Offensive Rookie (T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts): There is no arguing that Andrew Luck, RGIII and Russell Wilson were groundbreaking in their performances this season. As a third-round pick out of Florida International, T.Y. Hilton has brought that needed spark to the Colts offense and has given them a dynamic playmaker that they can move around the field to be a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. Hilton is the Colts X factor, an explosive weapon out of the slot position. Hilton ranked thirteenth in the AFC in receiving yards this season with 861 coming on 50 receptions, with seven TDs. A sure-handed receiver, Hilton only dropped six passes, even though he was targeted 90 times throughout the season.
Hilton is also a difference maker on special teams. With 26 punt returns for 300 yards and one touchdown, teams are routinely kicking the ball away from him. He was a steal in the third round, and teams will be looking for a player like him earlier in the draft this year.
NFL Defensive Rookie (Casey Hayward, DB, Green Bay): This ball-hawking cornerback has come on strong with six interceptions on the season, leading all NFL rookies. Paul Bessire, whose projections were spot on, predicted Hayward would finish his rookie year with roughly six interceptions. Last season, the Packers ranked dead last in the NFL in pass defense. QBs were completing 61.2 percent of their passes, with an average QB rating of 80.6. This season, Green Bay has the eleventh-ranked pass defense in the league, with QBs completing 60.1 percent of their passes, for an average QB rating of 76.8.
Defensive Coordinator Don Campers puts his secondary players in tough one-on-one situations, which allows for an extra rush defender to get after the quarterback. Hayward has been able to handle this responsibility, and he is starting to show that he can be a lock-down defender on the outside.
Poor Rookie Performance (Dontari Poe, DT, K.C. Chiefs): There have been a number of subpar performances this year from the 2012 NFL rookie class. Dontari Poe, the defensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, has been the player who has seen the most amount of playing time, yet he has been unable to make any sort of measurable impact for his team. Last season, the Chiefs ranked 26 in rush defense in the NFL, giving up 2,112 rushing yards, averaging 4.2 YPC. This season, the Chiefs rank 27 in the NFL in rush defense, giving up 2,171 rushing yards, an average of 4.3 YPC.
Poe failed to start a single game this season, getting beat out by an undrafted free agent and a former seventh-round selection. Poe, who was taken with the eleventh overall selection last April, was expected to be the run-stuffing force in the mold of a Vince Wilfork. On the season, Poe racked up only 33 tackles and had zero sacks.