Rob Rang breaks down Coug trio at NFL Combine

FEW ARE BETTER at breaking down NFL draft prospects than Rob Rang of nfldraftscout and CBSSports.com. And perhaps none sport his Northwest connection: a teacher at Tahoma High in Tacoma. Cougfan.com caught up with Rang hours after the NFL Combine began in Indianapolis to ask where QB Connor Halliday, WR Vince Mayle and DL Xavier Cooper stand in the eyes of the league’s talent evaluators.

Among the topics broached in the wide-ranging, 20-minute discussion: Halliday’s durability and footwork, how Cooper projects at the next level and if Mayle’s occasional case of the drops the past two years will hurt his NFL chances.


CF.C: The obvious question surrounding Halliday is will his injury affect how high he goes in the NFL Draft assuming he recovers, as planned, from the broken leg that cut his senior season short?

Rang: It will affect his draft status. Obviously, whenever a player’s season is cut short, you have a limited ability/time to show scouts what you can do. Because of that fact, I think it will impact his draft status but I don’t think it will eliminate his draft status if he can prove that he is on the road to recovery, as we’ve all seen at this point.

CF.C: Since Halliday isn’t throwing or competing in any drills this week, what will this process be like for him? What can he do to make teams think he’s draft-able?

Rang: Because he can’t throw, the biggest thing is he’ll be participating in the medical testing to give NFL doctors the opportunity to see if he is in fact recovering as expected. Or more optimistically, even faster than he expected, or that if he can demonstrate, by the measurements, that he is the height expected, the weight expected. Obviously, he’s a long, lanky kind of a player. There’s expected to be some muscle development. NFL teams know he’s been limited, but they’d like to see if he’s been working hard. A big part of it is going through the interview process and how he is able to articulate his leadership ability and his intelligence on the whiteboard from his understanding of what it takes to be an NFL quarterback.

CF.C: Besides his injury, what’s the biggest thing in his way of becoming an NFL QB? Running the Air Raid offense doesn’t seem the same as anything used by teams in the NFL.

Rang: That’s going to be the biggest thing. There have been so few quarterbacks that I have played in spread schemes at the collegiate level that have gone on to success in a traditional, NFL Pro-style offense. So he’s going to have demonstrate his understanding of where to go with the football very quickly. Even if it’s just on a whiteboard. He’s going to be asked quick-fire questions.

That’s something I think Mike Leach and his program have helped Halliday and other quarterbacks be successful at the NFL level. Because there is a great deal of pressure (on a QB) in Leach’s system compared to a traditional spread offense. Once he gets an opportunity to work out for scouts, that’s obviously going to be critical.

CF.C: Despite playing in an offense with a lot of short throws, Halliday was proficient throughout his career at making the tough ones. Have scouts taken notice?

Rang: I think that’s why Connor remains a legitimate draftable prospect. In fact, he was asked to make a variety of throws and he showed he could make those challenging throws when he had the opportunity. I think that’s one of the things that is working in his favor.

CF.C: How would you assess his footwork?

Rang: I would say Halliday has average footwork at this point. He’s not a dynamic athlete, but he’s a better athlete than a lot of guys with his long stature than you might anticipate. At the same time, because he did not take snaps from under center and drop back as often, that’s definitely something that he’s going to have to work on. Granted, he is a good enough athlete and a hard enough worker that he can certainly improve in those areas.

CF.C How does this class of quarterbacks stack up with others historically?

Rang: It’s a very weak class. That’s one thing that helps any injured player like Halliday. NFL teams are going to be looking for those late-round prospects. They might provide be able find a late-round quarterback that provide them better value than some of the mid-round prospects.

This looks like one of the worst senior class of quarterbacks that we’ve seen in quite some time. Since 1994, there’s been at least one senior quarterback ranked in the Top 100. I don’t believe that is going to happen this year. I think that helps out some of those senior quarterbacks that are just looking to get an opportunity.

CF.C: What round, if any, do you project Halliday goes in?

Rang: I think he’s a seventh-round pick. He’s good enough to get drafted. If he had been healthy, it would have been a couple rounds earlier than that. I would have loved to see him in a Senior All-Star game in a traditional pro-style offense because I do believe he has the accuracy and the arm strength to surprise some people. But when you have not only the injury, not only making the transition from that spread offense, but also the slim build that looks like it’s going to invite injuries, then he’s got some significant things working against him. I’m confident he’ll get an opportunity, but I can’t guarantee he’s going to get drafted.


CF.C: Mayle hadn’t played a lot of football prior to arriving at WSU as a JUCO transfer. But is it possible to quantify how much he improved in just two seasons?

Rang: I thought he just became a more well-rounded wide receiver in terms of his route running, in terms of his confidence, in terms of catching footballs with his hands and his ability to make defenders miss and use his somewhat surprising lateral agility and burst for a player of his frame. The simplest aspect of it is he just caught the ball a little cleaner. Any time you have a player who comes from the basketball court to play football, they generally catch the ball with their hands, you don’t see a lot basketball players catch the ball with their chest. There were still a number of times when he let the balls slip through his hands and created some ugly drops. I saw some improvement in that regard during his senior year.

CF.C: How will NFL teams weigh his numbers in Leach’s system?

Rang: Mayle and any receiver who’s a top target in a pass-happy offense, you essentially have to watch as many catches as you can and throw out the statistics. Nobody’s going to draft Mayle based on the fact that he was among college football’s leaders in catches. They’re going to draft him based on the fact that at his size (6-foot-3, 219-pounds), he has pretty impressive lateral agility and burst and that he is still a relatively raw prospect whose best football is still ahead of him.

CF.C: How would you assess his blocking ability? With that size, it would seem like NFL teams would love him in that role.

Rang: I think that’s an area that he’s developing in. I don’t think that he’s as productive as a blocker as you might think based on his size and broad shoulders. But I think that’s an area he has shown improvement, not only in his effectiveness, but in his tenacity. It just seems like he takes that job a little bit more seriously now.

CF.C: Any teams in particular where you can really see him fitting a need?

Rang: I think it’s too early to gauge any one particular team but I think it’s a reflection of his talent is such that every NFL offense would be intrigued by a player with broad shoulders, who’s 215-pounds roughly, with good lateral agility. There isn’t an NFL team out there who wouldn’t be intrigued by an athlete like Vince Mayle.

CF.C: How does Mayle stack up with the rest of this receiving class?

Rang: This 2015 class is again a very strong group but it’s not as strong as the 2014 class. That was an exceptional group and we saw that play out with (New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr., Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin and Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans). All of these players came to the NFL and proved themselves to be Pro Bowlers, in some cases as rookies. I don’t think this group will have the same level of success but if the 2014 class was a five-star group, then this is a four-star group. Therefore, I think Mayle, as talented as he is, we’re talking about a middle-round prospect. He is not a first or second-round pick despite the fact he had such incredible statistics.

CF.C: Is there a chance he can improve that stock with a strong showing at The Combine?

Rang: He absolutely has a chance. That’s what makes the Combine very interesting for a player like Mayle. This receiver class is a little bit jumbled up. If any of these bigger receivers put up athletic numbers, they certainly could boost their stock.


CF.C: The latest CBSSports.com mock draft has Cooper going as high as late in the second round? Is that where you have him pegged?

Rang: I feel more confident in Cooper as a third-round prospect. He is a player that if he works out as well as I think he could, then he’s going to receive some second-round talk. For a big man he moves very well, so he has that athletic ability you’re looking for. He has the long arms that you’re looking for. He has experience playing inside and outside so that’s going to project well to the 3-4 and 4-3 (schemes)… at the same time his production was a little inconsistent and I don’t know that he has the strength at this point to come into an NFL team and be a starter. That’s why I’m excited about his potential but at the same time cautious.

He’s got to demonstrate some pretty remarkable athleticism during the Combine to really guarantee that he’s going to be a Top 64 prospect. Entering the year I graded him as a third-round prospect and I still think that’s what he’s going to be at this point.

But at the same time I think maybe he has a little bit of buzz about him and that a lot of people across the country are recognizing that he’s a legitimate talent… there’s no question that he’s a legitimate middle-round prospect. The question is whether he is a top 50 or top 60 prospect that it takes to be a first or second-round pick.

CF.C: Is his versatility his biggest asset?

Every 300-pounder is a little bit different of course, but you don’t see a lot of extra weight hanging over his belt… He’s a tenacious player that’s able to pursue. He’s got enough burst to be able to get to the quarterback. All those assets are very intriguing. He could play in either scheme and because of his athletic ability, he might be a guy that’s just scratching the surface of his potential.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Scout.com has a crew of folks covering the combine this week. Your one-stop shop and combine content portal can be found HERE.

  • The on-field workouts at the combine are scheduled like this:
    Friday - Kickers, Offensive Linemen & Tight Ends
    Saturday - Running Backs, Quarterbacks & Wide Receivers
    Sunday - Defensive Linemen & Linebackers
    Monday - Defensive Backs

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