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
Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU): In many scouts’ eyes, Barkevious Mingo could be the first defensive end selected in next April’s NFL draft. Blessed with exceptional length and size, combined with outstanding overall athletic ability, Mingo has all the tools to be a dominant force off the edge in the NFL. This past weekend provided a good litmus test to the pass-rushing ability of Mingo, who was primarily matched up against the top-rated right tackle in college football, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews. Unofficially, Mingo recorded three tackles, one sack, four quarterback hurries and one batted-down ball. For all the talk about Mingo’s speed, though, his average time from snap to contact with the quarterback was a pedestrian 3.46 seconds, not the elite time one would expect from a future top ten selection.
Jake Matthews was able to stonewall Mingo for most of the game. On a number of designed run plays, Matthews drove Mingo ten yards down field. Mingo was consistently getting blown up at the line of scrimmage and unable to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. The lone sack he registered came when the Aggies were blocking him with their backup tight end.
Mingo will need to raise his level of play over these next five or six games and start becoming the dominant force scouts are expecting him to be. As of right now, NFL teams would be wise to focus more attention on Mingo’s pass-rushing counterpart, Sam Montgomery.
Ryan Swope (WR, Texas A&M): A fearless slot receiver who is not afraid to go over the middle and sacrifice his body to make the tough catch, Ryan Swope is as sure-handed a receiver as there is currently in college football. He will likely go down as the record holder for every major receiving statistical category in Texas A&M football history.
Blessed with terrific hands, Swope also displays precision route-running ability and has a great understanding of the soft spots in zones. He was targeted 15 times in this weekend’s game, coming away with 10 receptions for 81 yards. His average reception came just 5.2 yards past the line of scrimmage, though, and he was only able to pick up 9 yards after significant contact in the game.
A consistent, reliable, durable wideout who possesses terrific hands and elite route-running ability is what NFL teams should be looking for in their next slot receiver. Swope will most likely be taken in the later rounds, but he could be end up being a steal for one NFL club.
Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama): In what was probably his toughest matchup all season, Dee Milliner had the responsibility to shut down dynamic wideouts Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson in Alabama’s game against the Tennessee Volunteers. Milliner is stocky for a defensive back at 6’1” and 198 lbs. Primarily playing zone coverage on the night, the Vols targeted his side of the field 9 times, yet only came away with four receptions for 66 yards. Milliner showed his athletic ability by going one-on-one with the 6’4” Justin Hunter for a jump ball in the end zone, knocking the ball away and saving a touchdown.
Milliner doesn’t show the same killer instinct and shutdown capabilities as last year’s first-round pick, former Crimson Tide cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. A good corner, but not a great one, Milliner is more than likely a second-round draft pick.
Three NFL Rookies Who Made Headlines this Weekend
Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State): There were high expectations for Justin Blackmon, rated as the number one wide receiver in last year’s draft class, to step in and become the big play wide receiver the Jacksonville Jaguars have been missing since the days of Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. Considering Blackmon’s elite physical skill set and dominant production at Oklahoma State, it was no surprise he was the first wideout selected last April.
In six games this season, Blackmon has recorded 14 receptions, while being targeted 37 times, a receptions/targeted percentage of 35%. Elite receivers in the NFL, such as Larry Fitzgerald (62%) and Andre Johnson (58%), usually have a reception/targeted percentage around the 60% mark.
The Jaguars are in desperate need of an upgrade at the quarterback position, and Blackmon will need a more accomplished quarterback to aid in his development as a wide receiver. Look for the Jaguars to select either Matt Barkley or Geno Smith next April.
Miles Burris (LB, Oakland Raiders): Hamstrung with a lack of draft selections last April, Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie needed to find some hidden gems in the later rounds of the draft. It looks as though he found one in middle linebacker Miles Burris out of San Diego State University. It shouldn’t come as a shock to see Burris step in and be a consistent producer for the Raiders; Burris had the highest number of career TFL’s of any player in last year’s draft class, with 67.
This past week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Burris had seven tackles and a sack. Burris moved up the depth chart and is now replacing former first-round pick Rolando McClain in nickel situations. The Raiders have a number of holes on both sides of the ball but look to have found a hidden gem at the linebacker position in Miles Burris.
Chandler Jones (DE, New England Patriots): Though he was a bit raw coming out of Syracuse, Chandler Jones has given a lift to the New England Patriots, who were in desperate need of upgrading their defensive front. Last season, New England’s pass defense ranked second to last in the NFL. Through seven games this season, Jones has recorded 31 tackles, five sacks and three forced fumbles. Showing a full arsenal of power and speed in his pass-rushing skill set, Jones has given Head Coach Bill Belichick the opportunity to have him play outside on both first and third down and slide him inside on third down. As he gains more experience, don’t be surprised to see Jones match the production of a J.J. Watts or Justin Smith.