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
EJ Manuel (QB, Florida State): Having a cannon for an arm, prototypical size and above average athleticism, EJ Manuel seemed to be the perfect package for today’s NFL game. Unfortunately, he hasn’t lived up to the expectations of being a future first-round draft pick. Against the University of Florida, Manuel was erratic, completing just 18 of 33 pass attempts, with three INTs and one fumble. Manuel’s average depth of target was 10.28 yards downfield, and his average time from snap to pass was an NFL-caliber 2.7 seconds. When given time to stand in the pocket, Manuel can be productive; of the 18 completions on the evening, he experienced pressure on only one. Below is a quick breakdown of Manuel’s throws in the game:
Short Passes (0-5 yards yards): 9 of 13; average snap-to-pass time was 2.46 seconds
Intermediate Passes (6-11 yards): 2 of 5; average snap–to-pass time was 2.83 seconds
Deep Passes (12+ yards): 7 of 15; average snap-to-pass time was 2.66 seconds
His first INT of the game came when Florida brought pressure. Manuel threw off his back foot causing the ball to float and allowing the defender to make a play. Manuel’s critical areas for development are his decision making and the ability to understand his progressions. On his second INT of the game, he completely ignored his other three wideouts and stared down his first read. The defender was reading his eyes the whole time and stepped in front of his pass for an easy interception.
Manuel will need a lot of time to grow and develop as a pocket passer. He is careless with the football when he escapes the pocket, and he needs to learn how to tuck the ball in and not carry it away from his body. He is a developmental quarterback at the next level and someone who I see being a quality backup in the NFL.
Robert Woods (WR, USC): Currently sitting third all-time amongst active FBS players with 249 career receptions, Robert Woods has been an elite performer for the USC Trojans. One of the best route runners in college football, Woods is able to consistently get behind the defensive secondary and come up with the big play. Showcasing his excellent route-running ability this past week against Notre Dame, Woods left his defender flatfooted on a slant-and-go route for a touchdown. Scouts love the fact that he could come in and run the complete route tree at the NFL level.
Woods was targeted eight times, coming away with seven receptions for 92 yards and a TD this past weekend. On a few receptions he showed his athleticism by going up and high-pointing the football for the catch. He is deceptively fast, but he is physically capable of going across the middle for the tough grab. He compares closest to current Eagles wideout Jeremy Maclin.
Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri Tigers): The smaller framed defensive tackle for the Tigers, Sheldon Richardson, had a rough evening trying to contain the Texas A&M rushing offense. Viewed by many in the scouting world as one of the top defensive tackles in the upcoming draft, Richardson failed to showcase any sign of elite speed or power that would make him a first-round selection. He was consistently getting washed down by the interior of the Texas A&M line. As the game wore on, Richardson seemed to let up on his work rate. He will need to work on his conditioning and maintaining his effort at the next level.
Richardson was suspended for one game two weeks ago for failing to accept his punishment for skipping a class. In addition, Missouri has had a sub-par run defense this season; opponents have recorded 1791 yards rushing on the year, with 26 rushing TD’s and 149.3 rushing yards per game on the season. Statistically, Richardson compares to last year’s first-round pick Fletcher Cox.
Three NFL Rookies Who Made Headlines this Weekend
Kendall Reyes (DT, San Diego Chargers): The top defensive tackle on my board this past April, Kendall Reyes has been a pleasant surprise as an interior pass rusher for the Chargers. Last week Reyes was able to record two sacks against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. This week against the Baltimore Ravens, he had one TFL to go along with helping hold Ray Rice under a hundred yards rushing.
The Chargers have the second-best rush defenses in the NFL, giving up an average of only 87.9 yards per game this season, a marked improvement from last season when they gave up an average of 122.2 rushing yards per game. Reyes is showing why he was a valuable pickup as a second-round selection.
Courtney Upshaw (OLB, Baltimore Ravens): Ranked as one of the top pass rushers coming out of the draft, Courtney Upshaw has been a bit of a disappointment for the Ravens this season, registering his first full sack of the season this past weekend against the San Diego Chargers. He was viewed by scouts as a player who needed to improve as a run stopper, because he was consistently failing to hold his ground at the point of attack. On the other hand, Upshaw has pleasantly surprised the Ravens with five TFL so far this season.
With the recent addition of Terrell Suggs, Upshaw should get a few more opportunities to showcase his full arsenal of pass-rushing skills. It sometimes takes a full season before an elite pass rusher finds his groove. The Ravens can be patient for a while, but their defense is getting older and having another dominant pass rusher opposite Suggs would provide some much-needed relief for the aging unit.
Ryan Broyles (WR, Detroit Lions): Ryan Broyles, just a year removed from tearing his ACL, has already started to show signs of why he was the NCAA’s all-time leader in receptions. Broyles stepped up big time with six receptions for 126 yards against Houston. Providing the Lions with a capable, sure-handed receiver who is willing to go across the middle of the field and take advantage of some open holes in the secondary, Broyles’ production should increase as the season continues.