Richner: Week 14 Prospects

PredictionMachine.com’s NFL Draft Expert, Matt Richner, takes his weekly look at three of the most notable college prospects from the weekend as well as three NFL rookies standing out for reasons good or bad.

Three College Prospects Who Made Headlines this Weekend

Chase Thomas (OLB, Stanford): The leader of college football’s 21st ranked defense, Chase Thomas is a five-tool player who can do it all. He has the ability to flip his hips and run stride-for-stride with the best tight ends in the country. He has the strength to hold the edge and limit outside speed rushers, such as Oregon’s Kenjon Barner, from getting around the corner and getting up field.

What impresses me the most about Thomas is his unique skill set as a pass rusher. He has only been used as a pass rusher on 20 percent of the defensive snaps, yet Thomas has recorded 7.5 sacks this season; for his career Thomas has 27.5 sacks. This past weekend against UCLA, Thomas recorded two sacks, 10 tackles and one PD. Unofficially, Thomas recorded four QB hits, and his average snap-to-QB contact was an impressive 2.57 seconds. Thomas displays an advanced pass-rushing technique, showcasing a powerful outside swim move that he utilized to record his first sack. He understands how to set up his opponent with an outside speed rush, show the speed rush on the next play and come back with a counter inside spin move.

From a scouting and statistical comparison, Thomas compares favorably to current Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham.

Johnathan Franklin (RB, UCLA): Johnathan Franklin recently launched himself to the top of the UCLA career record books as the all-time leader in rushing yards. After battling injuries early in his career, Franklin has come on strong during his senior season. He is a smaller, more compact runner who is elusive and has the speed to gain separation in the open field. Franklin is willing to run between the tackles and fight for extra yards.

Against Stanford, Franklin had 19 carries for 194 yards and two TDs; 15 of his carries were in between the tackle box. As an elusive runner, he showcases a perfect jump-cut move that allows him to hit the hole and get upfield. For the game, Franklin averaged 3.4 YASC (yards-after-significant-contact), the highest YSAC for any running back this season against Stanford.

Franklin is an exciting tailback, who always seems close to breaking into a long run. From a statistical standpoint, he compares to current Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers): Last year’s Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Khaseem Greene, picked up where he left off as the leader of the nation’s 14th ranked defense. Greene can be categorized as a tackling machine, currently ranking 15th in the country. He has led the Big East conference in tackles these past two seasons. In only two years as a linebacker, Greene, a converted safety, has become capable of dropping into coverage or sliding over and covering the slot receiver.

Being a former free safety, Greene’s frame is small for a linebacker; he will need to add some size. He projects out as a strong-side linebacker in the NFL. He displays good instincts and play recognition and excels at always playing fast. He will need to work on disengaging from blockers. When offensive linemen were able to get their hands on him, he was taken out of a number of plays. With his speed, he could be an effective special teams player. He compares to current Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebackers Lavonte David and Mason Foster.

Three NFL Rookies Who Made Headlines this Weekend

Alfonzo Dennard (DB, New England Patriots): Viewed by scouts and NFL front offices as a possible first-round selection this time last year, Alfonzo Dennard’s stock took a major hit when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer just prior to the NFL draft. Teams were scared away from the talented defensive back, but the Patriots took a flier on him in the seventh round, and they look to have found themselves another late-round gem.

Dennard has taken over one of the starting corner spots for the Patriots, who love his ability in man-to-man coverage. Earlier this season, Dennard was tested against Peyton Manning, where he gave up only two completions on five attempts, with two pass deflections. So far this season, Dennard has three INTs and six PDs along with 30 tackles.

Ryan Lindley (QB, Arizona Cardinals): Viewed by scouts and draft pundits as a developmental project, Ryan Lindley is a player who is going to need a few seasons to fix some flaws in his mechanics and learn a pro-style offense. Coming out of San Diego State, where he ran a quarterback-friendly spread offense and stuck to short passing routes, Lindley still left with a pedestrian completion of 55.4 percent.

Thrust into the starting role, Lindley is having a difficult time adjusting to the speed and complexities of the NFL game. Against the beleaguered New York Jets defense, Lindley completed just 10 of 31 passes for 72 yards, one INT and a QB rating of 28. He consistently failed to deliver catchable balls to his receivers, typically missing high and putting his receivers in danger of getting knocked out. Lindley has a long way to go before he can develop into a serviceable backup.

Stephon Gilmore (DB, Buffalo Bills): The big-framed corner back Stephon Gilmore was viewed by scouts during the draft as a shutdown corner who excelled in zone coverage but an average defender in man-to-man cover skills. So far this season, Gilmore has been asked to cover some of the NFL’s best wideouts, such as Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. With each battle, Gilmore is showing why he was a first-round draft selection. Against Fitzgerald, Gilmore was targeted 12 times, giving up six receptions for 93 yards and one TD.

This past week, Gilmore was matched up with the first wideout selected last April, Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon. Gilmore was able to hold Blackmon to one reception for nine yards; he was targeted six times throughout the game. The Bills look to have found themselves one of the league’s most coveted commodities, a shutdown corner. They just need to find some offense to go along with a pretty good defense.

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