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
Zach Ertz (TE Stanford)
There is not an offense in football in either the NFL or college that utilizes the TE position more than Stanford, which runs multiple tight end formations, and sometimes has as many as four tight end out on the field. The leader of the group is Zach Ertz, whose long frame (6’6”, 252 lbs) and great pass catching ability has NFL scouts swarming on over to Palo Alto.
Going against the University of Washington and their overall defense—ranked 42nd in the nation—Ertz was a match-up nightmare for the undersized and underperforming Huskies defense. Ertz was targeted 14 times, making six catches for 106 yards. He typically lines up away from the box, almost as if he’s playing the split end position usually reserved for wide receivers. Of the 14 targeted passes, he was lined up on the outside on 12 of them.
Whether outside or inside, Ertz shows great pass-catching abilities. On all six receptions, he never trapped the ball into his body, always catching it with his hands away from his chest. His run-after-the-catch ability leaves a lot to be desired; he averaged just 4.6 after-the-catch yards in this game. He is not a physical presence in terms of his blocking abilities, but he was adequate enough to record three knockdown blocks in this week’s game.
Le’Veon Bell (RB, Michigan State)
A punishing runner who has the strength to move a pile, Le’Veon Bell also possesses soft hands that make him an asset in the passing game. At 6’-2” and 242 lbs., Bell will be one of the biggest backs to come out in the draft over the last decade.
Though he is not blessed with explosive speed, Bell relies on his power and strength to get through would-be tacklers. With 103 all-purpose yards in this week’s game, Bell was able to achieve an impressive total of 58 Yards-After-Significant-Contact (YASC). He is a patient runner, who waits for his holes to open but does not show a quick burst through the line of scrimmage.
Bell shows very reliable hands in terms of his pass-catching abilities. He had eight receptions for 45 yards this week. Though seven of his eight receptions came from behind the line of scrimmage, he failed to show adequate pass-route-running ability in this game. For being a bigger running back, Bell is subpar in his pass-blocking abilities, giving up a sack and two quarterback pressures.
NFL teams will love his size and his pass-catching ability. He is most likely a third down and short-yardage running back in a role similar to former Spartan T.J. Duckett.
Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas)
Last year as a sophomore, Jackson Jeffcoat had a breakout season, with 7.5 sacks and 16.5 TFL. This week, going against the nation’s top-rated offense in the country, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Jeffcoat needed to be quick in getting to the QB.
Oklahoma State had an average of 1.79 seconds from snap to release from their quarterback, one of the fastest times in the country. Jeffcoat was able to achieve three quarterback pressures, two quarterback hits and one sack in the game. The average time on his two quarterback hits was 3.36 seconds.
Jeffcoat will need to work on getting stronger at the point of attack and not allowing linemen to push him off his line. Highly regarded in scouting circles for his size and athletic ability, Jeffcoat will need another year to develop into a premier pass rusher.
Three NFL Rookies Who Made Headlines this Weekend
Kelechi Osemele (OT, Baltimore Ravens)
The Ravens look for specific qualities from all their draft selections, and one of those is a tough, physical attitude. Kelechi Osemele has that attitude and is not only willing to enforce his dominance on opposing defenders but is like a prize fighter who relishes the opportunity to knock someone out.
Going against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens finished with 101 rushing yards on the night, including 25 rushing yards on plays run toward Osemele’s side of the line. On numerous occasions Osemele showed his tremendous athletic ability by getting to the second level to make a critical downfield block.
Still a young lineman, Osemele gave up one sack to Jabal Sheard to go along with one false start penalty.
The addition of Osemele has allowed the Ravens to slide Michael Oher over to the left tackle spot, giving the team two young bookend tackles.
Lavonte David (LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Lavonte David, the former Blackshirt linebacker, has been a tackling force for the Buccaneers. In this weekend’s matchup against the Washington Redskins, David recorded 14 tackles and three TFL. Though a bit undersized, he utilizes his speed and perfect technique to make plays all across the field.
Going into the draft, David was viewed by scouts as one of the most prepared linebackers in terms of staying on the field for third down and dropping into coverage. He has not disappointed scouts or the Bucs; in this week’s game, he routinely showed excellent depth when dropping into coverage.
The Bucs have now teamed up second-year inside linebacker Mason Foster with David and first-round draft pick Safety Mark Barron. The Bucs have the makings of a young, dominant defense.
Frank Alexander (DE, Carolina Panthers)
Coming out of Oklahoma, Frank Alexander was able to register 20.5 career sacks, 44 TFL and six career forced fumbles. Though he put up impressive numbers in college and became someone that Paul Bessire projected to be the 7th best DE in the 2012 draft, Alexander eventually fell in the draft, and the Panthers look to have found a gem in the fourth round.
Atlanta had only allowed four sacks all season, but this week Alexander was able to register 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits. Alexander has three pass deflections this season, second to only J.J. Watt among defensive lineman.