Like we did last year, we will take an in-depth look at some of the most talked-about NFL draft prospects from each week. Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner recaps Week 11 and looks ahead to Week 12. As the season progresses, we will highlight prospects who are rising up the draft boards along with others who are starting to fall off the radar due to their poor performances.
Landon Collins (SS, Alabama):
In what has become an almost certainty like life, death and taxes, an Alabama defensive secondary player is considered a lock to be a first round selection. This year's candidate is strong saftey Landon Collins, a versatile player who can function inside the tackle box and can match up against top tier tight ends and slot receivers.
At 6'0” and 215 pounds, he has the quickness to get in and out of his breaks, quickly recognizes plays and has the quick instincts to make a play on the football. With a stocky build, Collins can lay the lumber on players who dare to cross his path over the middle of the field.
After an injury to starter Vinnie Sunseri last season, Collins has locked down the strong saftey position for the last season and a half. NFL teams are a bit concerned about his lack of experience, but his athleticism is readily apparent. Teams will have to live with a few growing pains as he gains experience, but there is no denying Collins' ability to be a lockdown defender.
Collins has the second most tackles (60) on Alabama to go along with 2 INT, 5 PB and 2 TFL. In addition to being a starter on defense, Collins also plays special teams.
Alabama went on the road this past weekend and took on LSU. Collins, and the rest of the Alabama defensive, held the Tigers' offensive passing attack in check, allowing just eight receptions on 26 attempts, 76 yards for a 2.9 YPA average, 1 TD and 1 INT. LSU had the lowest passing yards, completion percentage and quarterback rating of any game this season.
Collins was targeted a total of eight times, allowing two receptions for a total of 10 yards. His average yards per attempt were 14.5 yards. In an example of Collins showing his improved maturity and experience, LSU ran two wide receivers to his side with one running a shallow cross while the other ran a deep post and instead of biting on the shallow crossing route, Collins stayed with his assignment and took away the deep post. He stayed stride for stride with the wide receiver and almost came away with an interception.
In terms of stopping the run, Collins has the instincts to see the holes along with the lighting quick speed to fill them and shut down an opponent's rushing attack. In one of the more impressive plays of the game, LSU's premier running back Leonard Fournette took the handoff and came barreling through the line of scrimmage but Collins, who was ten yards downfield, saw the hole opening up and came in like a missile and stonewalled Fournette for no gain.
As one of the leaders on the fourth overall ranked defense in the country, it's easy to see why Collins is talked about as the nation's top saftey prospect. He is still raw and makes a few mental mistakes each game, but rarely makes the same mistake twice. Even with his lack of experience, Collins will most likely be the top saftey selected should he choose to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft.
Shilique Calhoun (DE, Michigan State):
Some players look the part, as though they were built in a lab, and Michigan State defensive end and reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the year, Shilique Calhoun, has everything that you would want from a premier defensive end. At 6'4” and 257 pounds, he has the frame and muscle structure that screams elite athlete.
Last year was his first as a starter and he was thrust into the starting role and proved he was more than capable of holding his own. He finished last season with 7.5 sacks, 14 TFL, two FF and one interception returned for a touchdown. He possesses good speed around the corner and his ability to bend underneath an offensive tackles' reach allows him to slip under blockers and get around the corner to attack an opponent's quarterback.
Calhoun's biggest area of improvement from last season to now is his hand technique; he has learned to quickly shed blockers and get upfield to make a play. Against Ohio State this past weekend, Calhoun was able to register a TFL by shedding his blocker and getting outside to the pitch man on an option run. Few defensive ends have the speed and power to disengage from a blocker and get outside to make the tackle.
Calhoun had a half sack and two quarterback hits against Ohio State. His half sack came on a snap to sack time of 3.24 seconds. He played in over 95% of the defensive snaps during the entire game even though he was battling with a leg injury throughout most of the game. His two quarterback hits came on an average snap-to-hit time of 2.58 seconds. He has registered 6.5 sacks and ten TFL this season.
His ability as a run defender was put to the test this past weekend. Ohio State ran to Calhoun's gap on ten carries, resulting in 79 yards. The majority of these yards came on a 47-yard run when Calhoun was unable to shed his blocker and allowed the ball carrier to get up the field. The rest of the carries towards Calhoun's gap resulted in a 3.5 YPC average.
One area of improvement for the rest of this season would be his ability to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage. For a player of his size and with such long arms, which scouts typically love from a defensive end, he has only two career pass breakups and both of those came during his freshman season.
If he can maintain his level of production throughout the rest of the season, look for Calhoun to be a top-20 pick if he declares for next year's NFL Draft.
Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State):
In some cases, the lack of statistics is indicative of how much an opponent respects you. Trae Waynes, a cornerback for the Michigan State Spartans, is quickly rising on draft boards for his ability to shut down opponents' top wide receivers. Playing in a defense that puts him out on an island, he is able to showcase impressive one-on-one cover skills and the ability to press his man at the line of scrimmage.
At 6'1” and only 182 pounds, Waynes is built like a fireman's pole, but don't let his lack of bulk fool you. He is more than willing to sacrifice his body and mix it up in piles and he doesn't shy away from contact. He is at his best when he can press his man on the outside, run stride for stride and does a fantastic job of locating the ball in the air.
Against Ohio State, Waynes was barley tested. While he participated in almost every defensive snap, he was only targeted twice all game long. He allowed two receptions for a total of 12 yards and didn't surrender any yards after the catch.
Waynes' one major mistake came on the 55 yard run by Ohio State's quarterback J.T. Barrett's 55 yard run when Waynes missed a tackle just past the line of scrimmage and allowed Barrett to get out into the open field.
In terms of both his size and style of play, Waynes reminds me of this year's first round selection for the San Diego Chargers, Jason Verrett. Few players come into the NFL with the experience and ability to play both man-to-man and press corner. Waynes has the ability and experience. Don't be shocked if he is a first round selection in next year's NFL Draft.
Jalen Mills (CB, LSU):
One of the most experienced starters coming into this season for LSU, Mills has 36 career starts. Primarily playing the nickel corner position, he showed great quickness and the ability to break on the football. At 6'0” and 194 pounds, he is quick enough to cover the slot receiver along with being a secure tackler in the open field.
LSU brought Mills on a corner blitz on a couple of occasions against Alabama last weekend. While he didn't register a sack, he was able to apply pressure on the quarterback in a few instances. In coverage, Mills was targeted four times, allowing two receptions for a total of 14 yards. His average depth of targeted pass was 8.3 yards past the line of scrimmage.
The critical reception he allowed was in overtime for a touchdown. It was a pick route and Mills was slowed in traffic which freed the receiver for just enough time to make the catch in the end zone for the game winning touchdown.
Mills' ability in run support allows him to stay on the field throughout most of the game. He does a good job in run support and as a willing tackler, he wraps up the ball carrier.
Mills plays primarily in man-to-man coverage. He doesn't panic when the ball is in the air and he gets his hands on the football to knock down passes. Last season, he played a few games at saftey and this versatility is what intrigues most scouts.
Mills does have a red flag on his record; he was charged with second degree battery of a women last May. He was initially suspended from the team, but they have allowed him back on the team. He has entered a not guilty plea and his next court date is set for Jan. 27th.
For his performance on the field, Miles is considered a possible second or third rounder, but his off-field concerns could possibly drop his draft stock into the later rounds.
Who to Watch This Week:
Brandon Scherff (OT, Iowa):
While he could have been a top-15 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the massive offensive tackle for Iowa decided to return to school. At 6'5” and 320 pounds, Scherff has the ability to play in either a power or zone blocking scheme. He has wonderful lateral quickness along with the power to be a classic road grader. He has had some struggles this season; he allowed a sack and a few quarterback pressures when Iowa faced off against Maryland. Scherff has also battled through some injuries this season. Scouts will be watching to see if he can return to form and lock down the blind side when Iowa faces off against Illinois this weekend.
Denzel Perryman (ILB, Miami): A tackling machine for the Hurricanes
, Perryman will need to have one of his best games if the Hurricanes have any chance to take down the number two ranked Florida State Seminoles. With 313 career tackles, six FF, nine PB, two INT, 22.5 TFL, and 4.5 sacks on his resume, Perryman has been one of the most consistent producers for Miami over the past couple of seasons. At 6'0” and 245 pounds, he is a compact inside linebacker capable of taking on bigger blockers and shedding them easily. He does well dropping into coverage and with the interception-prone Jameis Winston at the helm for the Seminoles, Perryman might have a few chances to get his hands on a couple of balls.
Cedric Reed (DT, Texas): In what had to be his coming out party, Cedric Reed was an absolute monster last week when Texas upset West Virgini
a. Reed had 12 tackles, four TFL, three sacks, and one forced fumble against the Mountaineers. Reed is a bit of a tweener, not big enough to play a classic 4-3 defensive tackle, but also doesn't possess the speed and quickness to play a 4-3 defensive end. His best position will probably be as a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. Reed and the rest of Longhorns will take on an Oklahoma State squad that is coming off a bye week and will be looking to stop a three game losing streak. It will be interesting to see if Reed can continue with his dominant performance and shut down the Cowboys' rushing attack.