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
Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame): The top senior middle linebacker in the country, Manti Te’o has been a consistent four-year starter and team leader for the Fighting Irish. His instincts and play recognition are of elite status and are unmatched at the collegiate level. As the leader of the defense, he is responsible for making the defensive calls throughout the game. So far this season, the Notre Dame defense has not given up a rushing touchdown.
Great players have a knack of coming up with the big play during critical moments of the game. Te’o was able to show why he is a great player when he confronted Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor, who tried to leap over the pile for the game winning touchdown; Te’o met him midair and stuffed him at the line of scrimmage. Te’o’s strength is incredible; he was credited with seven tackles on the night and only gave up a single yard after making contact with the ball carrier.
In pass defense, Te’o was able to run stride-for-stride with one of the most heralded tight ends in the country in Zac Ertz. Unofficially he had two pass breakups, both coming on critical third downs. He does a good job at dropping to the correct depth and is able to flip his hips and run with his man downfield stride for stride.
His play and statistical achievements in college are similar to 13-year NFL veteran Derrick Brooks. Te’o will most likely be a first-round selection come next April’s NFL Draft.
Trent Murphy (OLB, Stanford): The Cardinal’s two-year starter at outside linebacker Trent Murphy has started to take advantage of more one on one opportunities as a pass rusher as opponents slide their protection to minimize Murphy’s pass- rushing counterpart, Chase Thomas. Against Notre Dame, Murphy recorded 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL and nine tackles on the evening.
Murphy shows above average speed, and his main pass-rushing move is the outside speed rush. At 6’6” and 261 lbs, Murphy should develop a bull rush. Too many times the offensive lineman was able to hold his ground and not be pushed back into the pocket. Murphy had four QB hits on the evening, with an average time of 3.10 seconds from snap to contact with the QB.
He does a good job at holding the edge on running plays and limiting opposing ball carriers’ opportunities to cut it back. Overall, as a long, athletic linebacker who can play in space, with above-average sideline-to-sideline speed, Murphy has the tools and ability. He just needs to learn how to put everything together to be a more complete player.
Quinton Patton (WR, La. Tech): Going against Texas A&M, Quinton Patton was able to record 21 receptions, 233 receiving yards and four TDs. Patton runs few deep route combinations, opting for mostly shorter routes, such as slants, quick hitches and bubble screens, all intended to get the ball into his hands as quickly as possible. The average pass attempt to Patton was only 5.93 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and he had only 19 yards-after-significant-contact on the night.
Patton has incredibly quick feet and is able to pick up needed yards once he has secured the ball. He ended the evening with 131 yards-after-the-catch.
Patton compares statistically to current NFL standouts Danny Amendola and Davone Bess. Patton would be best suited to slide inside and play the slot position in the NFL.
Three NFL Rookies Who Made Headlines this Weekend
Fletcher Cox (DT, Philadelphia Eagles): Fletcher Cox’s name rose on the draft boards after he displayed tremendous athleticism and strength at the NFL Combine. My 4th rated defensive tackle this past draft, Cox was taken as the 12th overall selection by the Philadelphia Eagles. At the time, I said Cox needed more time in college to improve his pass-rushing technique.
On the season Cox has 10.5 tackles, one sack and one pass deflection. Going against the Detroit Lions, the Eagles were already playing with a thin defensive line when the immature Cox was tossed out of the game for taking a swing at the Lions’ right tackle, Gosder Cherilus. It is hard to help out your team and justify your coaches’ decision to trade up to select you when you’re getting ejected from the game.
Mike Martin (DT, Tennessee Titans): The Titans understand that you can find quality depth at the defensive tackle position in the later rounds of the draft. In recent years they have selected Jurrell Casey (3rd round), Sen’Derricks Marks (2nd round) and Karl Klug (5th round). It looks like they have found another quality addition to their defensive front with their third-round selection this year of former Michigan Wolverine defensive tackle, Mike Martin.
Making his first career start against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Martin registered four tackles on the evening. On the season, Martin has recorded two sacks and 17.5 tackles. Coming out of Michigan, Martin had the highest number of career tackles of any defensive tackle in this past draft class. Pairing Martin with Klug gives the Titans two of the fastest young interior pass rushers in the NFL.
Josh Gordon (WR, Cleveland Browns): The Browns took a big risk in selecting Josh Gordon with a second-round selection in the NFL Supplemental Draft. Gordon sat out last year after transferring from Baylor to Utah. Having missed out on OTAs with the Browns, it took a while for Gordon to catch up, but I think it is safe to say that he has caught up with his teammates. These past two weeks, he had five receptions, three touchdowns and 174 receiving yards.
Playing against the Cincinnati Bengals, Gordon was able to record three catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Gordon and rookie QB Brandon Weeden are starting to develop some trust and chemistry. As the season progresses, watch for Weeden to target Gordon early and often, trying to get the ball to the team’s lone outside playmaker.