Buzz Keeps Building For Prospects
Here's a look at some of the odds and ends making the rounds in scouting circles as the college football season winds down. As always, underclassmen are noted with an asterisk.
Steve Muench's Stock Report
Up: Oklahoma DE Frank Alexander
Alexander doesn't have the ability to bend back inside or the closing burst teams covet at defensive end, which is why his name doesn't come up in first- or second-round conversations. On the other hand, he is capable of contributing as a wave defensive end and developing into a starter on the left side for a base four-man front. While Alexander would do well to improve his lower-body strength and play with better pad level at times, he is tough, and has adequate size and upper-body strength to set the edge. He makes up for his lack of elite natural ability as a pass-rusher with technique, most notably his active hands and effort. The Sooners have also lined Alexander up at defensive tackle, where his initial quickness can give interior offensive linemen problems on passing downs. Finally, Alexander has shown a knack for getting his hands up in passing lanes and forcing fumbles. He carries a mid-round grade and is solidifying his standing in recent weeks.
Down: Texas DT Kheeston Randall
At 6-4 and 297 pounds, Randall is strong enough to hold up against double teams as a 4-3 defensive tackle, and he has the frame to move to defensive end in a 3-4 front. He also shows above-average upper-body strength and flashed the ability to shed blocks in time to make the play. So why is his stock down? Randall had a chance to move into the first-round conversation with a strong senior campaign, but simply has not capitalized. He remains a relatively one-dimensional power rusher who takes too long to get off blocks and struggles to get to the quarterback. In addition, there are concerns about his gap discipline and instincts. He can get caught out of position and had some problems locating the ball. Add it all up and Randall projects as a late-second or early-third-round pick after entering the season with a lot of positive buzz.
Kevin Weidl's Stock Report
I saw Sanders live against Duke and recently came away very impressed after watching his tape against Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis. Sanders is a big (6-5¾ , 307) and strong, with the in-line power base and long frame to set the edge against the run. He also has enough foot quickness to get into good position as a pass-blocker, and his aggressive and physical style is a perfect fit on the right side. Sanders has emerged as a better prospect than heralded teammate Andrew Datko, and now ranks as the No. 4 tackle on our board and a solid second-rounder.
Down: Penn State DT Devon Still
Still has been productive this season (55 tackles, 17.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks), but he was very underwhelming in the blowout loss to Wisconsin. Still was seen on the ground far too often, played too high for much of the game, and seemed to wear down against the most physical offensive line he's faced this season. He was easily cut off on many plays, and Still's performance contributed to Penn State allowing 264 rushing yards to the Badgers, including four rushing touchdowns to RB Montee Ball. The overall defensive tackle class is down this season, so Still's production has gotten him into the first-round discussion, but I see more of a Day 2 prospect on film. He could very well end up being a first-rounder, but in a stronger year for his position that wouldn't be the case.
Scouts Inc. Observations
Muench: Let's assume the Green Bay Packers' magical season ends with a second straight Super Bowl victory. Who might the Packers take with the 32nd and final pick in the first round? Free agency will play a role, with C Scott Wells and TE Jermichael Finley both set to become free agents. Green Bay is expected to try to re-sign both, and could very well use the franchise tag on Finley. Should both get away, there would be no center available worth a first-round pick, but a tight end like Clemson's Dwayne Allen* or Stanford's Coby Fleener would be a possibility. Packers RB Ryan Grant is also due to be a free agent, and a talented young runner like Miami's Lamar Miller* or Virginia Tech's David Wilson* could give the ground game a boost. However, adding a defensive back would make the most sense in this scenario. Green Bay CB Charles Woodson is 35, and two of the team's reserve corners are free agents-to-be. Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick* has the size (6-2, 190) to fit well in the aggressive scheme of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, and the Packers would do well to get him if he slides that far. Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard is another option, and while Dennard's not as tall as Kirkpatrick he's thicker, shows toughness and is strong for his size. Finally, Alabama S Mark Barron will be tough to pass on should he slide to the end of the first. He's by far the best safety on our board thanks to versatility, instincts and an aggressive nature, and capable of pushing for immediate playing time.
Weidl: Plenty of prospects will be on the field in this weekend's conference championship games, and it's a shame their efforts likely won't matter in the BCS title picture. It looks at this point as if Alabama and LSU are virtual locks to stage a rematch of their overtime thriller from earlier this season in the national championship game, and that's a shame because it sucks some of the life out of the conference title games. Unless Oklahoma State -- ranked third by the computers -- blows Oklahoma's doors off in the Bedlam Game, none of what happens over the weekend will be of consequence. Even if LSU should lose in the SEC championship game, it would still have a stronger case than the rest of the numerous one-loss teams in the nation. All of this adds up to another argument in favor of a playoff system.