The NFL Draft: Scouting the Huskers

Draft day is upon us and Husker fans already have some idea of where or when some of the players are going, but have little to no idea about others. Starting today and ending on Sunday, everyone will find out. Well, we are going to throw our own speculation out there and see if we can answer some of those questions now.

Draft day is always fun, especially when your team has plenty of players as candidates. Nebraska usually finds themselves amongst that group and while this year might be a little lighter than some, there are still enough players to keep the attention of the avid followers of the big red.

First, let's go down those players who are eligible for the draft, which airs today, the first two rounds starting at 11:00 A.M. central time:

Adams, Titus – 6-3.5, 306, 5.13/40 – DT

Pros: Possessing good quickness Adams has been a solid three-technique lineman for the Huskers. He's got good burst off the ball, can split linemen effectively and is at his best in utilizing his quickness, which, despite his size, is one of his biggest strengths. Adams also has the athleticism to run side-to-side and is pretty decent in backside pursuit.

Cons: Adams will have to adjust to the physical rigors of playing in the NFL, because he's probably not strong enough at this point to be an every down player at the position. Plus, stamina could be an issue with Adams, at least at his current weight. He's almost like a thoroughbred at the position, quick, but not great for long distances, which means he's simply not someone you can depend on for consistency or in a variety of situations.

Overall: Adams is a tackling machine, though, and if there is such a thing as a ballhawk from the interior of the defensive line, Adams is it. He won't be an early contributor, but if he gets stronger, maybe even a little leaner, you could have an ideal force in the middle.

Projected Pick: 6th round (possible teams: Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota)

Bullocks, Daniel – 6.0.5, 212, 4.38/40 – Safety

Pros: The homerun for the Huskers this year, Bullocks is physically ideal for his position, possessing great strength at the point of impact, with great closing speed on the ball. You can't fool him in run coverage as he's got a good nose for the ball and in zone coverage, he's adequate against the pass.

Cons: In man-to-man coverage, that's where Bullocks will struggle as teams were able to take advantage of him at times. Bullocks sheer physical size and ability to play the run well could very well be one of his main problems in pass coverage as he's simply not flexible enough to cover many wide receivers.

Overall: When it comes to pure physicality, Bullocks could draw comparisons to the likes of Sean Taylor and Roy Williams. While Bullocks isn't known for hitting people the way that duo does, he certainly has the strength, size and closing speed. He's a realistic player to go contribute his first year, especially on special teams. When he gets his pass coverage skills improved, that's when you will see him in the secondary.

Projected Pick: 2nd round – (possible teams: New Orleans, Green Bay, Atlanta)

Evwaraye, Seppo – 6-5, 330, 5.2/40 – Offensive Line

Pros: There's little doubt that Evwaraye looks the part, possessing long arms, a big body and the strength to do the job. He's pretty quick off the ball and at times has shown he can rotate his hips well, getting position in pass blocking situations. He's aggressive at times, pretty quick on his feet at times and even at his size, he's got fair to good stamina.

Cons: What you don't get from Evwaraye is consistency and he's not real solid run blocking, which stands to mean that he can't get off one block and move onto another. Evwaraye started at Nebraska as a defensive tackle and while on offense, he's switched sides on tackle, played guard and has basically gotten a little education with everything, but not a real education with any one facet of the job. At times he just appears clumsy out there and lost, perhaps having to do with that lack of experience. Fundamentally, he's got a long ways to go in just about every aspect of the position.

Overall: Evwaraye is a project, plain and simple. He's got the frame, quickness and strength to do the job well enough, but he'll have to be taught basically from scratch, once a team actually finds him a position he can play. In time Evwaraye could be a contributor for a team, offering good depth, but I don't think he's far enough along in the eyes of many or perhaps any teams, that it will prompt him getting drafted at all.

Projected Pick: Free Agency (possible teams: New York Jets, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Buffalo)

Koch, Brandon – 6-3, 300, 5.45/40 – Offensive Line

Pros: With his size, Brandon could be a good center prospect for a team and perhaps an adequate guard. Koch has reasonably good quickness off the ball and good feet in run blocking or pulling situations. Koch would fit better in a run oriented offense, as he plays with a fairly narrow base and just doesn't have a lot of pass blocking experience. Koch is also a strong body and he uses his hands fairly well, again, especially in running situations.

Cons: If you want versatile, Koch isn't it, because he just doesn't have the experience of doing everything a lineman has to do at the NFL level. Koch got a crash course education in the west coast offense, but he's basically still raw at this point. Intensity is another issue as there doesn't seem to be that mean streak you want in linemen and if you aren't bigger than the other guy, you better be stronger and meaner. Koch isn't and he's a real reach in even being able to get something he never illustrated while at Nebraska.

Overall: You could pigeonhole Koch as a run blocking lineman if there were teams that needed such one dimensional help. As it is, Koch still isn't perfect in that area and he'll have to get a lot stronger to face the kind of interior defensive tackles there are in the league, especially when facing 3-4 defenses, where the nose tackle is usually a giant. Koch is a work in progress, but I don't know that he'll have the time he needs in the league, to be able to improve like he needs to. In the NFL, the cuts come quickly and ruthlessly and if Koch does get picked up, he might get dropped just not long after

Projected Pick: Free Agency (possible teams: Denver, Dallas, Pittsburgh)

Koch, Sam – 5-11, 225, 5.1/40 – Punter

Pros: You don't have to ask Husker fans the pros of Sam Koch. He was the MVP in perhaps three games this last season. Ranking as the second most prolific punter in the country last year, Koch proved to have a solid leg, with better than average accuracy. John Torp, the punter from the University of Colorado, who has seemingly been the toast of the town when it comes to punters in this year's draft, even in the thin air of Boulder, couldn't better Koch last year, statistically.

Torp averaged 44.59 yards per punt on 71 attempts last year, while Koch averaged 46.5 on 71 attempts. Torp put 24 of his 71 attempts inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Koch put 29. In fact, the only category Torp is better than Koch in is in touchbacks. Torp had nine, while Koch had eight.

Koch is also good at getting the ball off quickly, getting air when he needs to and even in the swirling winds of Memorial Stadium, he kicks for distance extraordinarily well.

Cons: If Size matters, that's Koch's only real downside as he isn't the Ray Guy prototype of this tall-lanky-type, who can get great extension through his kicks and generate incredible leg speed. Because of the success of the coverage teams, Koch's ability to tackle is suspect, although Koch himself would claim that he almost knocked Nebraska wide receiver Terrence Nunn clean out last year in practice.

Overall: There's a love fest with just about every punter other than Sam Koch for this draft and I personally don't get it. He's a proven commodity when it comes to sky kicks, kicking accuracy and getting the ball off quickly. If there is an underrated Husker in this draft, he's it, and I think like most teams have learned, who do get Nebraska kickers, Koch will be just another solid one out of that line.

Projected Pick: 7th round (possible teams: Houston, Washington, Green Bay)

Muhammad, Wali – 6-1, 250, 4.9/40 – Linebacker/Defensive End

Pros: There is one thing that defines Muhammad and that's his motor. It never stops. Quick off the line, Wali flies to the ball carrier or the quarterback, whichever comes first. At his size, he's decent at taking on blockers, but his role has been serving as a defensive end in passing situations, so there's still a big mismatch between him and most offensive tackles. He's a solid hitter and flows to the ball very well and he's very good side-to-side. Muhammad plays fast, which belies some measurables he might put up. As they say, he's got great football speed and his stamina is good, though, we have to qualify that, by reiterating that he was a situational player for the Huskers.

Cons: Muhammad is quick and relentless, but he plays a little out of control at times. He's often found out there in no man's land from over pursuing a player. He's good straight line, but doesn't play that well in space as he doesn't have a real good change of direction. He's quick, but doesn't have great straight line speed, hence the problem he'll have at the next level, depending on which position he might play.

Overall: If he's picked up as a linebacker, the obvious problem is that he hasn't played the position since high school. But it's hard to project him to defensive end, because while he has good quickness, but it's not quite Dwight Freeney-like quickness, which makes him a real ‘tweener at the spot. At linebacker, he'd play middle or inside, depending on the defensive formation, which would suit him ideally. I don't think he has the speed in a 4-3 defense, but in a 3-4, I think he'd be a solid pick up to play in a run stopping role. As it is, he's got a big learning curve ahead of him as he'll be a duck out of water, whichever position he might play.

Projected Pick: Free Agency (possible teams: Dallas, Pittsburgh, New England)

Cory Ross – 5.6.5, 200, 4.6/40 – Running Back

Pros: If you have ankles, Ross can break them with great shiftiness, which he combines with a great view of the field. In space, he's a nightmare for a single defender to even touch, much less get down. He's got a very good burst to the line, has shown himself to be a capable receiver in the west coast offense and while it's usually not pretty, Ross doesn't flinch when he's asked to pick up a blitz. Ross is also as tough as they get, playing through a turf toe for almost the entire season of his junior year. And he still managed to rush for over a thousand yards.

Cons: Well, it's kind of obvious when you look at his size and that's why a smart, quick, tough and elusive back goes from the first round to….wherever. Ross's size limits him in how sturdy he can be against NFL competition and while he proved capable many times blocking in the backfield for the Huskers, he'll get blown to pieces when he hits the pros. Also, Ross is quick, but not necessarily fast. A 4.6/40 will get you beyond, but in the NFL, most of the linebackers you will face run that fast, some much faster.

Overall: Husker fans would ideally like to look at how San Diego has been able to utilize Darren Sproles in seeing the potential of Ross. The unfortunate reality is, though, that Ross doesn't have Sproles' speed. With that being said, Ross will be a definite weapon on special teams in the return game as he'll get to use most of the gifts he has at being able to see the field and make people miss. You don't question the kid's heart, but his size is going to hamper him and it's really questionable whether he'll get any sort of crack at being even a situational back for someone in the future.

Projected Pick: 6th round (possible teams: Buffalo, Arizona, New Orleans)

Le Kevin Smith – 6-2.5, 316, 5.06/40 – Defensive Tackle

Pros: While some have questioned Smith's strength, I think it happens to be one of his, well – strengths. This was one of the few (maybe only) players that could actually push Toniu Fonoti off of the ball. Smith is pretty quick off the line and could be seen as a two-gap player in certain situations. He's got the size, while he's not as tall as the defensive tackles seem to be getting in the league, and he's got decent quickness off the ball. One thing I really like about Smith is when he turns that motor on full, he's a real disruption in the middle. He doesn't have to get up field to be a real nuisance to the offense. He can do that at the line or even in lateral pursuit.

Cons: It wasn't until Smith's senior year that we actually saw him the way everyone saw him when he arrived in Lincoln from Georgia. Injuries took the back flipping DT out of service for an extended time and until Ryon Bingham left. That and the ever changing situation in coaches has made him perhaps a little less consistent than you would like, that motor not always being on full. You can literally watch him dominate a guard at the point of attack one play and then get knocked flat on his back by the same guard the next. Stamina will also be an issue as I don't see Smith at this weight, even with his speed, being an every down kind of player.

Overall: Out of all of the Huskers being drafted, I think Smith has the biggest upside, because I don't think that we have seen what he can really do. The limited time, the injuries, the coaching situation – all have lent itself to anyone on defense being a little sporadic in what they show on the field. For the skill positions, you can find the playmakers, but for the line, it's consistency that counts and Smith won't get that until he gets to the league. He'll be strictly a one-technique player in the NFL.

Projected Pick: 4th round (possible teams: Cleveland, New York Jets, Oakland)

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