PredictionMachine.com’s NFL Draft Expert, Matt Richner, takes his weekly look at three of the most notable college prospects from the weekend as well as three NFL rookies standing out for reasons good or bad.
Three College Prospects Who Made Headlines this Weekend
Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn): Having the 90th ranked defense in the nation, the Auburn Tigers have little talent on the defensive side of the football, with the lone exception of Corey Lemonier. The powerful defensive end possesses an excellent combination of speed and power. With more experience, he could become a destructive force.
Lemonier’s production this season has been inconsistent. In the first four games of the season, he recorded five sacks; in the last six games, he recorded just a half a sack. Unofficially, this past week he recorded five quarterback pressures and four quarterback hits, with the average time from snap to hit being a quality 2.38 seconds. Showing an impressive, quick first step, Lemonier has an equally impressive inside rush move that he continued to display, picking up three of his QB hits using the same move.
Lemonier has the skill set to be a quality defensive end in the NFL. I just believe he needs another year to show he can be a leader and a more consistent force on defense.
Will Sutton (DT, Arizona State): Though typically playing Will Sutton in the defensive tackle position, the Sun Devil coaching staff has moved him around the line looking for the best possible matchup. Sutton displays the athleticism and agility typically shown by outside linebackers, yet he also possesses the power and strength to withstand double teams.
Against USC this past weekend, he had three quarterback hits and one sack, registering an average time from snap to hit of 2.73 seconds, the fastest average time recorded this season from a draft-eligible defensive tackle. The most impressive play on the night happened on third and goal, when Sutton was able to knife into the backfield and force USC’s Matt Barkley into an errant throw that was picked off and returned for a score.
An absolute beast on the defensive line and ranked fourth in country in sacks this season with 10.5, Sutton has all the tools and the consistent motor teams are looking for from an interior lineman.
Giovani Bernard (RB, UNC): There was a lot of talk amongst scouts this offseason that this year’s stable of running backs is as deep and impressive as they have seen in a long time. However, the severe injury to Marcus Lattimore and the mediocre performance by Knile Davis have left scouts searching for the next elite rusher. Giovani Bernard, coming off a spectacular redshirt freshman campaign, has continued to produce at a high level, vaulting him to the top spot amongst draft-eligible running backs.
Listed at 5’10” and 205 lbs., he is elusive and displays excellent vision and patience as a runner. Bernard had 16 carries for 79 yards, with an average of just 1.28 Yards-After-Significant Contact (YASC) against Georgia Tech.
Bernard did showcase soft hands, with his six receptions in the game for 92 yards and one touchdown. Though he didn’t have the opportunity to demonstrate his return skills in the game, Bernard is a highly skilled punt returner, with an average of 17.9, which ranks him fourth in the country.
Bernard’s career statistics match up closely with former UCLA Bruin Maurice Jones-Drew. Bernard lacks the elite ability to break tackles, but he is a complete running back who should receive a second-round grade if he comes out.
Three NFL Rookies Who Made Headlines this Weekend
Michael Brockers (DT, St. Louis Rams): Michael Brockers was viewed as a project coming out of LSU. A player who possesses all the measurables, he had failed to live up to his potential. Going against the San Francisco 49ers, Brockers recorded five tackles, 1.5 sacks and one TFL. For the season, he has recorded 2.5 sacks, which is more than he collected throughout his entire college career.
The St. Louis Rams are expecting Brockers to be the interior disruptive force they desperately need. If Brockers can provide the interior pass rush the Rams are looking for, it will afford outside speed rushers Chris Long and Robert Quinn the opportunity to get to one–on-one situations and, hopefully, put up some big numbers.
Quinton Coples (DE, New York Jets): Blessed with prototypical size, speed and length, it seemed inevitable that Quinton Coples would walk into the NFL landscape and be a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately for Coples and the Jets, that hasn’t happened. With just 17 tackles on the season and only two sacks, Coples has failed to live up to his first round expectations.
Going against the Seattle Seahawks, Coples wasn’t providing the Jets with any consistent pressure from the outside, and he was getting stonewalled by Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung throughout the entire game. Coples will need to work on his condition level this offseason. His effort level throughout the game was inconsistent, and his pass-rushing technique was poor as the game wore on.
Ryan Tannehill (QB, Miami Dolphins): I was wary of Ryan Tannehill coming out of the draft. I felt that he was protected by a dominant offensive line in college, and he only achieved 12 wins as a starter, well below the mark of a future elite NFL quarterback. The Dolphins have achieved some level of success this season with four wins, and three of their losses were by a combined nine points. Tannehill has been inconsistent all year, throwing for 5 TDs and 9 INTs on the year. He has completed 58.9% of his passes, ranking him 26 amongst starting quarterbacks with a rating of 73.2.
In watching Tannehill against the Tennessee Titans, it was obvious he is relying too much on his athletic ability, and he is failing to go through his reads once his first option is taken. There were a number of throws that were off target and uncatchable. The Dolphins have failed to surround him with many weapons, so look for them to upgrade at the wide receiver position this offseason. Expectations will be high next year on Ryan Tannehill taking that next step towards becoming a quality NFL starter, but I’m not convinced he is capable of taking that step.