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OLB Bruce Carter's toughness an issue

11/24/2010

There is a lot to like about the athleticism and change-of-direction skills North Carolina OLB Bruce Carter shows on film, and at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds Carter certainly passes the eyeball test.

However, after film study I have concerns about his toughness and the consistency of his effort. Carter struggles to get off blocks at times, doesn't always lay the wood when he tackles and is easily sealed by blockers on the outside.

Carter makes splash plays at times, but for every impressive play there are others that leave you wanting more. There will surely be teams that fall in love with his athletic ability during the pre-draft process but the holes we've seen in his game have dropped his grade from the first round entering the season to the late second round at this point.

Tar Heels CB Kendric Burney is also dropping after missing time early in the season due to the NCAA investigations surrounding the program and his struggles when he got back on the field.

Burney has shown poor footwork and technique and failed to maintain proper position in coverage. He was beaten twice for touchdowns against Virgnia Tech after giving up inside leverage, at one point falling when trying to open his hips.

After failing to live up to expectations Burney has fallen into the mid-third round area.

Baldwin can overcome limiations

We've talked recently about Pittsbugh WR Jon Baldwin's lack of polish as a route-runner, inconsistent effort and seeming lack of toughness, but after a deeper look at the film it's even more clear that he is a rare physical talent.

Baldwin is exactly what NFL teams want in a wide receiver with his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame and ability to track and bring in the ball down the field. He takes a little time to get to full speed but once there his long strides eat up ground, and his size and body control make him a matchup nightmare for defensive backs.

His long frame will always make it difficult to drop his weight in and out of breaks and Baldwin will likely never master the entire route tree, but his overall talent will almost surely keep him on the fringe of the first round or early in the second.

Reisner getting on the radar

One player we'll be keeping an eye on as the pre-draft process unfolds is Iowa TE Allen Reisner, who caught only 26 passes in his first three seasons with the Hawkeyes but has hauled in 37 so far in 2010.

Reisner (6-2, 240) does not have great size and thus projects as an H-back type in the NFL, but he has good hands, catches the ball well in traffic and has the tools to develop into a good route-runner. If he can improve his savvy as a blocker Reisner could work his way into the Day 3 mix.

Small-school standouts getting noticed

As the college season enters the home stretch we're hearing more about postseason all-star games, and one of the more interesting nuggets we've heard is that two players from Division II Villanova have been invited to the Senior Bowl.

Wildcats OT Benjamin Ijalana is one of our top five small-school prospects and carries a third-round grade at this point, so his inclusion isn't much of a shock. Ijalana (6-foot-34, 317 pounds) has good size and strength and plays with an edge, though his lack of ideal athleticism could force him to slide inside to guard in the NFL.

The invitation extended to WR Matt Szczur is more surprising. Szczur missed six games this season due to a high ankle sprain, but he can make tough catches in traffic and flashes some open-field running ability.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that in Szczur was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the First Year Player draft this past June.

Szczur signed for $100,000 up frontand is guaranteed another $500,000 on February 10 as long as he is planning on reporting to spring training. That means he will likely attend the Senior Bowl in late January and then have a decision to make based on what he hears from NFL talent evaluators about his performance there.

Szczur projects as a Day 3 pick right now so he would have to make an NFL roster and hang on for at least a couple years to make the same money the Cubs would hand him in February, so he'll likely have a touch choice to make in a couple months.