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
Xavier Rhodes (DB, Florida State)
Xavier Rhodes is a big, physical corner who is starting to learn the finer details of being a complete shutdown defensive back. Against Wake Forest, Rhodes played mainly man-to-man defense on the outside and effectively shut down his man. Wake Forest only challenged Rhodes five times throughout the game, completing only two of those passes. The first pass attempt really highlights Rhodes’ athletic ability, along with his superior technique. Rhodes ran stride-for-stride with the Wake Forest receiver’s go route, squeezing him toward the sidelines and taking away any open field. At the moment of truth, Rhodes showed his tremendous athletic ability by extending his whole body to make an incredible pass deflection.
Rhodes gave up only two receptions the entire game for an average of 6.5 yards per catch along with his two pass deflections. Because of his 6’2”, 220 lbs frame, Florida State opponents are avoiding his side of the field. Rhodes will have his hands full this week when Clemson comes to town. Don’t be surprised to find him matched up with Clemson’s dynamic wide receiver, Sammy Watkins. NFL teams are always looking for size in the defensive backfield; I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rhodes become a first round pick next April.
Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
Primarily only used as a passing downs defensive end, Bjoern Werner shows above average pass-rushing technique. Werner went into the season with high expectations playing opposite pre-season All-American Brandon Jenkins, who is out for the rest of the year with a foot injury. Rushing from the left-end spot against Wake Forest, Werner had five QB pressures, 1.5 sacks, and three QB hits. The average time from snap to QB hit was 2.85 seconds; his fastest time for the game was 2.52 seconds.
Currently second in the nation in sacks with 6.5 this season, Werner is starting to grow into his responsibilities. To become a complete three-down lineman, he needs to be stouter against the run. He does a decent job using his hands to get off blocks, but he still is susceptible in the run game.
Werner is going to need more time to learn the small details and techniques to become an elite pass rusher. He has some tools but needs time to develop; he will need another year in college before coming out.
Keenan Allen (WR, California)
Keenan Allen is a tall, physical wide receiver who shows a willingness to lower his shoulder and be the player who initiates contact. Allen reminds me of a younger Anquan Boldin. At 6‘3” and 212 lbs he has the strength to take on would-be tacklers. If he stays healthy all season, he should be Cal’s all-time leader in receptions by the end of the season.
Allen does need to work on his route recognition. On an important third down with his team needing six more yards for the first down, Allen missed out by running a five-yard hitch route. He should know to go the extra yard on his route and allow his offense to continue with their drive. He ended up being targeted 10 times with nine receptions, 80 receiving yards and an average of three yards after the catch.
With his size and pass-catching ability, Allen would not be a surprise selection in the late first round or first half of the second round next April.
Three NFL Rookies Who Made Headlines this Weekend
Morris Claiborne (DB, Dallas Cowboys)
Rated the number one corner coming out of the draft, Morris Claiborne has come as advertised. In his first week assignment against the New York Giants, Claiborne and the Cowboys’ secondary were able to hold Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks scoreless and under 100 yards receiving on the night.
This week against the Seattle Seahawks, Claiborne was only targeted two times without giving up a single reception all game and recording one pass deflection. He has lived up to all the hype and has helped transform a secondary that was considered one of the weakest last season into one of the best this year.
Jerel Worthy (DT, Green Bay Packers)
Coming out of Michigan State, Jerel Worthy was the third-highest-rated defensive tackle on my board. He was able to lead a Michigan State rush defense that gave up only 100 rushing yards per game and 11 TD total last season. He met the Packers’ desperate need for a player who could join Ryan Pickett in applying pressure up the middle.
This week versus the Chicago Bears, Worthy had five tackles, one sack and one TFL to go along with four QB pressures. What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is his consistent pressure up the middle, which disrupted Jay Cutler’s ability to step up in the pocket. This allowed pass rusher Clay Matthews to wreak havoc all night long.
Worthy is an excellent addition for the Packers, who should reap the benefits from this fantastic young defensive tackle for years to come.
Trent Richardson (RB, Cleveland Browns)
The difference between last week and this week for the Cleveland Browns is that Brandon Weeden didn’t have to shoulder the entire workload. Trent Richardson proved to everyone that he has the size, power, strength and agility to be a workhorse running back in the NFL. Going against the Cincinnati Bengals this week, Richardson had 19 carries for 109 yards, an impressive 5.7 average.
Last year at Alabama, Richardson gained 1,583 rushing yards, 787 of which were yards after contact. The Browns were in the red zone, and Weeden was able to hit Richardson on a check down, and after breaking five tackles, he made it into the end zone for a score. His ability to stay balanced when getting hit and keep moving forward is second only to that of Adrian Peterson in the NFL.
The Browns are a young team, but if Richardson stays healthy, they have the option of letting their young stud running back shoulder the load for them.