2006 NFL Draft Blog Day 29

For the third year in a row, NFL Draft expert Rob Curtis shares his insight on the top prospects eligible for April's two-day event, sleeper prospects and some that the Raiders should shy away from when their selection hits. Updated Daily!

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

Florida State DT Brodrick Bunkley is a very interesting player. You watched him this last year and it is hard to believe the level of improvement as a pro prospect from earlier in his career. He is built like an Adonis and has athleticism to spare. He is quick and extremely explosive off the ball. He does a good job of keeping leverage and uses his hands well. He can throw blockers off of him and make the play on a consistent basis and unlike most top DT prospects; he makes plays down the line. He is not the biggest player on the planet and does not protect his legs as well as he needs, but he's as productive as Haloti Ngata when you consider their overall game. A team needing a dominant pass rusher from a 4-3 set or a 3-4 DE, would be wise to look at him.

Monday, April 10th, 2006

Southern Cal OG Deuce Lutui is a popular OG these days. Many want to compare him to Toniu Fonoti, but I do not believe he is nearly as talented. He is a gifted one on one run blocker. He gets a lot of movement in the run and he is a decent position blocker who uses his strength against the pass if he is disciplined enough to set up properly. The problem is that he does not get to the second level or pull as well as Fonoti who is a more nimble player in space. He really needs a lot of work, but he has the tools to be a good OG in this league especially for a team that does a lot of in line run blocking against 4-3 defenses. I would not select him in the first two rounds, but he is my number four OG. He is well behind Max Jean Gilles and Davin Joseph, but in the same category as Charles Spencer.

Sunday, April 9th, 2006

DE Tamba Hali was a big reason for Penn State's resurgence finishing his senior year as a first team All American with 65 tackles, 17 TFL and 11 sacks. He is not the tall, rangy DE that other more highly regarded players are and he could be faster; but the guy has an explosive initial burst. He fires out of his stance with good leverage and is a "lithe" pass rusher. Some guys have the ability to make themselves smaller and Hali is one of them. He uses a lot of spin moves and double moves, while displaying a good power rush. He is more of a 4-3 DE than a 3-4 OLB, but his production is definitely something that Al Davis will look toward. His work ethic is second to none and he has a good motor.

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

Northwestern DE Barry Cofield was overshadowed by Luis Castillo and Loren Howard. That said, I believe this kid has real potential as a 3-4 DE and is an underrated guy in this draft. He is a good athlete at 6'4" 305 pounds with good quickness off the ball who gives very good effort. He plays with solid leverage and can make plays down the line. He is a tweener. He is not a 4-3 DE and he might not be ideally suited for a 3-4 position.

Friday, April 7th, 2006

Minnesota RB Lawrence Maroney was the best RB in the Big 10 last year and the second most explosive RB in the country behind Reggie Bush. He is a RB with tremendous instincts who can cut on a dime. Give him space and he will take it the distance. He knows how to use angles to run away from defenders and you need to form tackle him. He gives you a hip and then takes it away. He does not have great size and is more of a Clinton Portis type make you miss back than a physically imposing RB. His blocking will also be an issue, but put him in the right system and you could have a very dangerous NFL player. He ran for 1464 yards and 10 TD's for a mediocre Golden Gopher team.

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

LB Keith Ellison started his career as a DB at SDSU before transferring to a JUCO and ending up at Oregon State. He is an interesting, productive 4-3 OLB who finished with 99 tackles, 15 TFL, five sacks and one interception in his senior year. He is a quick, agile player with good range. He matches up in coverage with most backs and is an asset in zone coverage. While he is a little undersized at 6'1" 235 pounds, he is a very physical tackler and does a good job of wading through traffic.

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

California OT Ryan O'Callaghan is an underrated RT prospect who is a lot like another Philadelphia OT, Jon Runyan coming out of Michigan. He is the definition of a mauler in the run game. Once he locks on, the battle is generally over. As a pass protector, he is not the most mobile of players, but uses his long arms and a quick set to keep rushers from getting past him. He has had some health issues. He's broken his hand, had surgery on both shoulders, and has had some concussions. If he checks out, he is a first day pick. If not, he could be a guy that falls.

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

When I watch Tennessee OLB Parys Haralson play, he plays much faster than his 4.84 forty. I was very surprised by a poor combine performance. He is a rush LB prospect with good quickness, agility, and a pretty explosive first step. He also has good change of direction and shows very good instincts along with a very good motor. With 8.5 sacks, 16.5 TFL, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries; Haralson was highly productive on a Tennessee defense that lacked talent outside of him in the front seven. This is a guy who might drop because of his size/speed combination and I worry about his ability to disengage from blockers.

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

Auburn OT Marcus McNeill reminds me a great deal of Philadelphia OT Tra Thomas. In my opinion, McNeil would be a top ten pick if not for a medical condition regarding his spine. He is tall (6-foot-7), massive (332 pounds), and has good athleticism (around a 5.0 forty). He knows how to use his frame, long arms, and athleticism to keep pass rushers at bay. He is also a pretty physical OT who creates a new line of scrimmage. He does have to work harder on his conditioning and he will play too high as he gets tired. That said, Thomas is an experienced player who has played at a very high level in college. I think he would be a worthy selection in the middle of round one if his health checks out and an absolute steal at the top of round two if he sits there at the Raiders pick. He is a RT prospect and would pair with Robert Gallery on the flip side to make a young tandem.

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

Boston College CB William Blackmon was a very promising CB who took one for the team and moved to WR as a senior. To be honest, I do not know why the Boston College coaches let him do this. He has good size at the CB position, decent speed, and a solid tackler. The problem is that he desperately needs a good CB coach. His technique isn't that great and he doesn't show good recognition. Blackmon is an interesting athlete with upside, but the coaches at BC did not let him develop into that potential and he will take a lot of time to develop into a CB at the NFL level.

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Minnesota C Greg Eslinger reminds me of former Cowboy Center Mark Stepnoski when he was coming out of Pittsburgh (despite the fact that he played OG for the Panthers). The undersized Eslinger is very athletic and understands how to use positioning, toughness, and an uncanny knowledge of where his guy is going to be. He simply knows how to get to his player and his range is obvious getting to the MLB. As a pass protector, he is fundamentally sound and works extremely hard. He will never be a road grader and he can be dominated by bigger players. He simply does not recreate the line of scrimmage. I am not sure I would take him high enough to prevent another team to select him. I would not be surprised to see him in a Broncos uniform.

Friday, March 31st, 2006

Notre Dame TE Anthony Fasano surprised me when he came out in this draft. After all, this is a very good group of TE's with huge upside and Fasano is not very athletic. Despite the limitations in his game, Fasano is a smart player who has become a very effective player. He is a terrific route runner who can release from the line and get open. He does not drop many passes and runs extremely hard once he catches the ball. While he does not have great blocking "tools", he is a technically sound blocker who gives great effort. He could be a very effective player for the Raiders if he falls to the third round, but I doubt he does.

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Maryland LB D'Qwell Jackson has been a great college player, but people focus on the fact that he was undersized and does not have elite speed. When offensive guards get to him, Jackson gets blown out of the hole creating potentially big plays. That said, there is a reason why he held his own with some very talented teammates. Jackson has good athleticism and fabulous instincts. He takes great angles to the ball and knows how to use big DT's and traffic to shield him. He knows how to prevent OG's from getting to him and a FB is often rendered useless because he knows how to skirt them.

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

A couple of years, Pittsburgh OG Charles Spencer, was converted from DT to OG. He played OT last year and I believe he can play either position in the NFL. An explosive run blocker, the 6'4", 352 pound Spencer also moves extremely well. He needs a lot of work in pass protection. He does not take good angles in pass protection, which can negate his great athleticism. He is not the technician of other OT's rated in round 1. Despite the negatives, this guy has size and strength. If he ends up in the right situation with the right coach, he has a tremendous upside.

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

Alabama QB Brodie Croyle is an interesting case. The negatives are obvious. He is not a physically impressive guy (6'2" 200) and has had a horrible time staying healthy throughout his career. That said; the positives are pretty impressive. Croyle is a bright leader with a good arm, solid accuracy, and leads his receivers well. He also protects the ball. He needs a lot of time in an NFL weight room, but given time I believe he is an NFL starter in a couple of years.

Monday, March 27th, 2006

Before the beginning of the year, Boston College DE Mathias Kiwanuka was rated as a top 5 pick. The belief was that the 6'6" 266 pound defender had the frame to add weight, but his inability to do so is a concern. He is an athletic pass rusher who has dominated at the college level. He was dominated by D'Brickashaw Ferguson, but the guy can still play at the NFL level. He will never be a good run defender, but he is quick off the ball and has great chase skills.

Sunday, March 26th , 2006

Purdue DE Ray Edwards is arguably the biggest enigma in this draft. He replaced All American DE and current Charger Shaun Phillips as a sophomore and looked like he would follow in his footsteps with 11 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He has all the attributes you look for in a 4-3 DE. He is very athletic and can change direction. He turns the corner and has enough speed to chase the ball carrier down. Despite these skills, Ray Edwards needs a ton of work on his technique and his performance did not improve as a junior. He does not always locate the ball quickly and is wildly inconsistent. It will require a lot of patience, but he could develop into a fine player. He is a boom or bust type prospect who has great upside and downside.

Saturday, March 25th , 2006

There are some players who lack the physical attributes you look for, but consistently grade out as the best player on the field. Virginia Tech DE Darryl Tapp is one such player. Despite pedestrian speed, he displays wonderful anticipation and explosion off the ball. He outworks most OT's and displays good strength on the field. I believe this kid has watched a lot of film, because he is an adept pass rusher at a young age. He is not as long as some linebackers, which might impact his overall effectiveness comparatively; however, I believe he can develop into a starting 3-4 OLB. He is not as fast as SD Charger LB Steve Foley, but there are a lot of similarities.

Friday, March 24th, 2006

A lot of people will look at Tennessee S Jason Allen's combine stats and suggest he is a CB. He is a FS with optimal size, strength, speed, and athleticism. His flaws at CB are noticeable and he is a much better S prospect displaying above average cover skills for a FS. He breaks on the ball well and really does a good job of playing CF. He is not a huge hitter, but he is a good tackler and a big play guy. The biggest issue is a serious dislocation of his hip, but he came back and performed well at the combine. If not for the injury, he probably would have been a top 20 pick.

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

Iowa LB Chad Greenway came into Iowa as a QB and left as one of the best LB's in the Big 10. He is not the biggest, strongest, or fastest LB in this draft, but he is the most instinctive. He has great diagnosis skills and understands angles. He breaks down well, is a very good form tackler, and displays solid coverage skills. You probably do not want him on taking on OL if you can avoid it, because he has some trouble getting off blocks. That said, he should be a very useful player as either the weak side ILB in a 3-4 or a 4-3 OLB.

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

LSU OT Andrew Whitworth is a big (6'7" 335 pound), physical OT who has developed into a very good player. He is a mauler who gets into a defender quickly and really understands how to drive block. He generates a lot of movement and could be a very effective right tackle in this league. As a pass blocker, he can short set and does a good job of using angles to overcome a lack of recovery ability. That said, he is not very fluid in space and will overextend when he gets beat. In the end, you have a smart, hard working player. He has developed into a better player than his athletic talent suggests and could become a rookie starter.

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

One of my favorite players to watch last year was Florida State LB Ernie Sims. He is a shorter LB (5-foot-11, 232-pounds), which might make him drop. In my opinion, Ernie Sims is one of the top 15 players in the draft regardless of size. He is a fast, extremely physical player who plays with a reckless abandon that not many guys in the league come close to and he has the position versatility to play S or OLB. I would play him at SS and watch him become a pro bowler. He has the athleticism to play the position from a coverage perspective and he would be a run stuffer in the Roy Williams mold. He is a steal waiting to happen for the team that helps with his transition to SS. Are the Raiders willing to make that move at the top of round two?

Monday, March 20th, 2006

A couple of years ago, Miami's Eric Winston looked poised to become the "next great OT". The converted TE had all the athleticism in the world, a great frame, and an attitude to match. He was being coached by Art Kehoe, so it was a foregone conclusion that he would develop into a top 10 pick once he improved his technique and footwork. Something happened on the way to stardom. Eric Winston suffered a serious knee injury in 2004. While the combine results were extremely impressive, he has not been the same. As a pass blocker, he has quick feet and great body control, however he is very susceptible to inside pass rush moves and allows people into his body. In the NFL, that will get him killed. As a run blocker, he is an effective player who tries to wall off rather than go for the throat. It is almost as if he is still playing scared. He is still a first round pick and still has phenomenal upside potential, but he needs a good coach to push him. Unfortunately, the Raiders are in a terrible position to select him and remain confident in Robert Gallery. A team like San Diego with the 19th pick in the draft could be a great situation with Jack Henry as his coach and an aging Roman Oben at left tackle.

Sunday, March 19th, 2006

Michigan defensive tackle Gabriel Watson is an intriguing player. He is a two gap DT that dominates from time to time. He was absolutely unblockable at the Senior Bowl. He gets off the ball well, fills space, and does a good job of sealing off the inside run. While some question his effort, I do not think that is nearly the problem after watching him closely for four years. In my opinion, he simply is not in the type of condition to maintain his stamina and he becomes a completely different player when he is tired. He is not a pass rusher, but he has enough athleticism to be decent in that role. The plain and simple fact is that if Gabe Watson becomes serious and gets in condition, he has Jamal Williams type potential. Based on his career at Michigan, I question whether he will display that type of conditioning.

Saturday, March 18th, 2006

Florida wide receiver Chad Jackson was underrated throughout the year. When I watched him, I saw a fluid WR with good hands that ran solid routes. Unlike most Florida WR's of the past, he showed pretty good strength and the ability to fight off jams. Despite the fact that he looked like a great athlete, you did not see a big play player. Then the combine happened and he had a lights out workout. At 6-foot-1, 213-pounds, Jackson ran a mind boggling 4.32. Now, he has NFL teams salivating. He is a guy with possession receiver skills and great speed. He should be the number one WR in the draft and could go higher than anticipated.

Friday, March 17th, 2006

In my opinion, DeAngelo Williams is a very intriguing player in this draft. He is talented and has that "it factor" that most marketing people love. He is charismatic and will immediately become one of the most quotable players around. He is simply a highly intelligent, class kid. That said, there are other RB's I like more than him. For as talented as he is, DeAngelo has been snake bitten with injuries and will need a lot of work on his pass protection. He is a very instinctive RB who runs with speed and power. He has great cutback skills with superb change of direction, body control, and balance. He runs low, can really hurt LB's who misjudge his speed, and has decent hands.

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler has become a media darling after choosing to work out at the combine and some people are actually comparing him to Brett Favre. Outside of being a reckless QB with some questionable decision making skills, I fail to see the comparison. While he lacks glaring weaknesses and I admire his toughness, he is more like Jake Plummer than Brett Favre. He is a good athlete with good size and a pretty quick, fundamentally sound release. He shows solid accuracy and timing. My biggest problem is that he tries to do too much and throws off his back foot way too often. Maybe that is a byproduct of playing with inferior talent, but the team that gets him will need to be patient. Good QB prospect, but a little overrated. I would rate him higher than Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith, but lower than Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Matt Leinart, and Philip Rivers.

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

Anyone who watched NC State play defense saw two players creating a ton of havoc. I know Mario Williams gets all the publicity and it is well deserved, but NC State had another great pass rusher in Manny Lawson. They are different players. Lawson is a terrific athlete showing good instincts and taking great angles. In many ways, he will remind you of Jason Taylor coming out of Akron. He is not great against the run, but put him outside in a 3-4 WOLB and he might not be better suited to play against the run. With 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, Lawson was an extremely underrated player before the combine. After measuring in at 6-foot-5, 241-pounds with a 4.45 speed at the combine, he is no longer underrated.

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

The first time I saw USC OT Winston Justice play was in High School. I was amazed at how much talent was in this big, 17-year old kid. In many ways, he will remind you of former Arizona State and current Cincinnati left tackle Levi Jones. At 6-foot-6, 320-pounds, he is an excellent overall athlete, solid competitor, and plays with good toughness. He is a strong run blocker for a LT with good initial quickness and the ability to get to the backside cut off block. The primary problem is that he is still a very raw pass protector who can get his feet tangled when going against a superior athlete. The promising component is that he takes pretty good angles in pass protection.


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