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
Mike Glennon (QB, North Carolina State): With prototypical size (6’6, 232 lbs.) and an absolute cannon for an arm, Mike Glennon is quickly becoming one of college football’s fastest rising prospects. He doesn’t have great wheels, but he does show above average functional pocket mobility, meaning he does a good job at avoiding pressure by slide-stepping or stepping up into the pocket to make a throw.
He doesn’t have a strong supporting cast around him; on the season Glennon has been sacked 36 times. Against the Clemson Tigers this past week, Glennon was 29 for 53 in pass attempts for 493 yards and five TDs, with his average snap-to-pass time being 2.60 seconds. Showing a lot of self-confidence in his arm strength, Glennon’s average depth of target (how far downfield his passes are touched or land on the ground) was 9.6 yards past the line of scrimmage, one of the highest amongst draft-eligible quarterbacks in college football this season. Below is a quick breakdown of Glennon’s throws on the game:
Short passes (0-5 yards): 10 of 16; average snap-to-pass time was 2.67 seconds
Intermediate passes (6-11 yards): 9 of 17; average snap-to-pass time was 2.40 seconds
Deep passes (12+ yards): 10 of 20; average snap-to-pass time was 2.67 seconds
There is no doubt that Glennon has the all the measurables, along with a few of the intangibles, to be a successful NFL quarterback. I do think he needs to come in and sit for a few years to work on his mechanics and understanding of an offense. There are a number of NFL teams that have Mike Glennon ahead of Matt Barkley on their draft boards.
Andre Ellington (RB, Clemson Tigers): With multiple weapons at the skill positions, Clemson’s offense is being driven by the workhorse running back Andre Ellington. Blessed with incredible speed and the ability to plant his foot to make a cut and quickly get downfield, Ellington is being pushed into the discussion of a second-round prospect. Ellington is a more patient runner this season; he understands where his cut-back lanes are and waits for his opportunity to make a big play.
A matchup nightmare for any linebacker in the open field, Ellington shows great hands and is a valuable weapon as a pass-catcher. Against West Virginia, Ellington had 3 receptions for 47 yards, most of those coming on a checkdown, where he broke a tackle and picked up 30 yards. For the game, he averaged 2.59 yards-after-significant contact, an impressive average for a smaller running back.
Ellington is a versatile running back who excels in space; with his speed and acceleration ability he could be the second running back off the board.
Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia): Geno Smith is being talked about as the first quarterback to be selected in the upcoming NFL Draft. Scouts are looking at Smith as a top five selection because of his size (6’3”, 220 lbs.), arm strength, athletic ability and experience.
Going against Oklahoma, whose pass defense ranked 18th in the country, Smith was going to have to show scouts that he was capable of standing in the pocket and making the critical throws into some tight windows. Smith was 20 for 35 for 320 yards passing and 4 TDs. Smith doesn’t take a lot of chances with the football; only five of his pass attempts on the night were thrown towards the middle of the field, instead focusing more on sideline or quick bubble screens. There were 10 pass attempts on the evening that didn’t even cross the line of scrimmage. Of Smith’s 320 yards passing, 182 came as run after the catch by his receivers.
Short passes (0-5 yards): 10 of 13 (six left, one middle, six right); average snap-to-pass time was 1.64 seconds
Intermediate passes (6-11 yards): 5 of 11 (seven left, one middle, three right); average snap-to-pass time was 2.71 seconds
Deep passes (12+ yards): 5 of 11 (six left, three middle, two right); average snap-to-pass time was 2.56 seconds
The Senior Bowl will be Smith’s first opportunity to show scouts he is capable of running a pro-style offense. I’m not completely convinced Smith is an NFL-caliber quarterback. There are more questions than answers with him when you break down his game tape. He will need to work on going through his progressions, time after time he stares down his receivers. Secondly, Smith completed 4 of 8 passes in the game when under pressure, he will need to improve his ability to step up into the pocket evade the rush and make the critical throws.
Three NFL Rookies Who Made Headlines this Weekend
Ronnie Hillman (RB, Denver Broncos): The Broncos brought Ronnie Hillman in to be a change-of-pace back, who would also be a matchup issue for opposing teams when coming out of the backfield. With Willis McGahee leaving the game due to a knee injury, Hillman stepped up and took the lead as the Broncos’ primary running back, finishing the game with 12 carries for 43 yards to go along with his 2 receptions for 16 yards.
Hillman proved to be very effective as a pass protector, consistently picking up the blitz coverage. A running back who can pick up the blitz and at the same time get out into flat and make himself available as a pass-catcher is invaluable. Every team is looking for a well-rounded backup running back, and the Broncos seem to have found one in Ronnie Hillman.
Keshawn Martin (WR/KR/PR, Houston Texans): The Texans scraped by the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars, thanks in large part to the play of Keshawn Martin. Still learning how to be an effective wide receiver in the NFL, Martin came away with one reception for a TD in the game.
It was his play as a return specialist that helped the Texans win the field position battle throughout the entire game. Martin had two punt returns and five kickoff returns for a total of 238 yards in the game. As a fourth-round draft pick, Martin still has a lot of work to do to become an effective slot receiver.
Cordy Glenn (LT, Buffalo Bills): Leading up to the NFL Draft, the Bills recognized the mammoth offensive lineman Cordy Glenn had the athletic ability to be placed out on the island of left tackle and be more than capable of handling himself with the league’s best pass rushers.
The Bills are ranked fourth overall with 5.2 yards-per-carry, up from last season’s 4.89 yards-per-carry average. On multiple occasions this past week, Glenn was able to get to the corner and seal an edge on run plays designed for the left side of the line. He has given up a few sacks this season, showing a tendency to get a little high on his blocks, but with some more experience and a full offseason program, it looks like he could help the Bills achieve their objective of finding a cornerstone to their offensive line.