Richner: Week 4 Prospects

Last Updated: 2/25/2016 7:35 PM ET
Like we did last year, we will take an in-depth look at some of the most talked-about NFL draft prospects from each week. Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner recaps Week 3 and looks ahead to Week 4. As the season progresses, we will highlight prospects who are rising up the draft boards along with others who are starting to fall off the radar due to their poor performances.



Player of The Week: Dante Fowler Jr. (DE, Florida): A physical freak who is reminiscent of former Florida Gator Jevon Kearse, Dante Fowler Jr. is one of, if not the best, pass rusher in college football. At 6'3” and 260 pounds, Fowler Jr. has the agility and long arms that scouts routinely look for in a premier pass rusher.

He has the speed to get around the edge and quickness to beat his man inside. Fowler Jr. displayed the technique that is needed to win at the point of attack. He is capable of dropping into coverage or chasing down a tailback on the backside of a play.

Against Kentucky this past weekend, a game that went into triple overtime, Fowler, Jr. finished with 4.5 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 FF, and 1 sack. He was constantly switching sides from left defensive end to right defense end and, in some cases, lining up at defensive tackle. The defensive coaches at Florida give him the freedom to pick his spots to get after the quarterback. His versatility to play multiple fronts and positions will entice NFL defensive coordinators.

Fowler Jr. rushed the quarterback from a two point stance over 60% of the time against Kentucky. While Kentucky was down to their backup right tackle, he took advantage, consistently beating him on consecutive plays. Fearing his speed to the outside, opposing linemen were called twice for false starts this past weekend.

Here is a video of Fowler using his speed to force a fumble on a quarterback-running back exchange last season against Tennessee. I can only remember a handful of times seeing a player get into the backfield as quickly as he did on this play.

Fowler Jr. had four quarterback hits and one sack in the game. His snap-to-sack time was an NFL caliber 2.35 seconds. He was able to record the sack and, at the same time, separate the ball from the quarterback causing a fumble. On his four quarterback hits, he averaged a snap-to-hit time of 2.29 seconds. There is no denying that he has the speed and quickness, which is rarely seen from a defensive end.

A sure handed tackler, Fowler Jr. had no missed or broken tackles this past weekend and gave up only 22 yards on the ground on six designed carries to his assigned gap. He does a good job of chasing the ball down on the opposite side of the field and not giving up on plays.

Fowler Jr. will have to show scouts that he can be a consistent difference maker throughout the season. He only had 3.5 sacks last season despite starting all 12 games. He will need to increase his production and efficiency as a pass rusher. With arguably the best defensive secondary in college football around him, Fowler Jr. should have the extra time he might need to get after opposing quarterbacks.

Alvin Dupree (DE/OLB, Kentucky): With 29 consecutive starts, Alvin Dupree is the captain and vocal leader of the Kentucky defense. This is a Kentucky defense that is quietly becoming a physical group who can fly around the field and is built around speed and attacking the ball carrier. Dupree came into this season with 16 career sacks.

A finesse style player, Dupree is one of the few Wildcats who would rather run around a blocker than through him. He possesses tremendous speed and quickness for a 6'4”, 264 pound defensive end/outside linebacker. He can attack an opposing quarterback or drop off into coverage. It's his initial first step and quickness that he typically utilizes to get after quarterbacks.

Though he has the frame and size, Dupree lacks the strength to fight through blockers and has a hard time disengaging from linemen once they get their hands on him. Against Florida this past weekend, Dupree had 5 tackles and 2 quarterback hits. His average snap-to-hit time was 2.12 seconds.

Dupree's ability to drop into coverage and run stride for stride with both a tight end and, in some cases a running back, was the most impressive part of Dupree's game. He has put on 15 pounds of muscle during the past two seasons to become a better defensive end. I think he might be more naturally suited as a strong side linebacker in the NFL. His size and strength would match up well against bigger, stronger tight ends. He could also be used in different sub-packages as a pass rusher.

Deontay Greenberry (WR, Houston): A former five-star recruit, and the first one to sign with the University of Houston, Greenberry has slowly developed into their top wide receiver target. He was the 2013 leader in receiving yards in the American Athletic Conference, with 1,202 yards on 82 receptions and 11 touchdowns.

At 6'3” and 200 pounds, he is a big-bodied wide receiver capable of going over the middle and making the catch in traffic. He has the long arms and the reach to climb the ladder and just pluck the ball out of air. In the Houston offense, Greenberry typically lines up in the slot position and most often runs the slant routes.

Against BYU this last weekend, Greenberry finished with six receptions, for 74 yards and two touchdowns. He was targeted 12 times, with three drops; one of his drops would have resulted in a touchdown. His average depth of target was only 8.9 yards downfield. Greenberry had three drops the previous game against Grambling. BYU did a good job of shutting him down once he caught the ball. He only had six yards-after-the-catch during the entire game.

Greenberry will need to work on his concentration as he consistently drops too many passes. He is playing with an erratic quarterback who doesn't always throw the cleanest ball. Scouts will appreciate Greenberry's toughness and willingness to go across the middle. Seven of his targets last week were in the middle of the field. Scouts will also want to see him take over and dominate opposing cornerbacks. With his size and speed, Greenberry should be able to gain separation at the line of scrimmage and break through tackles.

Playing in a spread offense he doesn't get much of an opportunity to show if he can run block or not. He isn't afraid to mix it up and get physical with defensive backs. Until proven otherwise we won't know how his run blocking ability matches up with the other wide receivers around the country.

Justin Hardy (WR, East Carolina): The smaller, speedy slot receiver for East Carolina had a great first quarter but really failed to make much of an impact during the rest of the game. Last season Hardy finished third in the nation with 114 receptions.

At 6'0” and 188 pounds, Hardy utilizes his quickness to gain separation; he is a good route-runner and is able to quickly get in and out of his breaks. Playing out of the slot, he does a good job of finding the holes in zone coverage and making himself available for his quarterback.

Against Virginia Tech, Hardy had four receptions for 47 yards, 22 yards came as yards-after-the-catch, with an average of 5.5 YAC. Hardly the performance that one would expect from one of the top senior slot wide receiver prospects in the country. He had two drops in the game and allowed the defensive back to have two pass break ups against him. His average depth of target was 9.7 yards downfield.

One of the top defensive backs in college football, Virginia Tech's Kendall Fuller, bottled Hardy up after the first quarter. Fuller, who isn't draft eligible till the 2016 NFL Draft, was physically more dominant than Hardy at the line of scrimmage, routinely bumping him off his route.

Hardy is limited in terms of the number of routes he can run as he is mostly suited for a short to intermediate passing game and teams will be put off by his lack of size and strength. He can be a liability as a run blocker and has a hard time with more physical corners. After speaking with scouts, there is more interest in Hardy's teammate and fellow wide receiver Cam Worthy.

Players to Watch Next Week


Eric Striker (OLB, Oklahoma): Striker finished last season strong collecting three sacks against Alabama in the BCS Sugar Bowl. Although he is undersized and can be a liability as a run defender, he is lethal as a pass rusher. Against West Virginia (WVU) this upcoming week, Striker should get plenty of opportunities to register his first sack on the season. WVU is averaging 46 pass attempts per game so far this season. At 6'0” and 221 pounds, Striker is primarily an outside linebacker and would be suited to play in a 3-4 defensive scheme once he enters the NFL. Being a slow starter is nothing new to Striker, he failed to register his first sack until October of last season. Last week against Tennessee he had three quarterback hurries, as a defensive unit the Sooners finished the game with five sacks.

Benardrick McKinney (OLB, Mississippi State): McKinney is a versatile athlete who the Mississippi State defensive coaches line up all over the field. He currently leads his team in tackles (20) and is tied for the team lead in sacks (2). At 6'4” and 245 pounds, he has a hard time keeping his pad level low, which will allow ball carriers to pick up extra yards after contact. He has been the leading tackler during the past two seasons. Limited as a pass rusher, McKinney relies on speed versus technique or power. Against LSU, he will have a lot of scouts watching how he is able to handle going against one of the top offensive line prospects, La'El Collins. If McKinney can have a big game and prove to scouts that he is a three down linebacker, he could cement his status as a first round NFL prospect.

Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama): There is no denying that Cooper will most likely be one of the top wide receivers taken off the board if he decides to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft. He possess superior route-running ability, speed, and has some of the best hands in college football. This week the Crimson Tide face Florida, who have one of the best pass defenses in the country, only allowed just three passing touchdowns with four interceptions so far this season. Cooper will be matched up against Vernon Hargreaves III, a sophomore cornerback for the Gators who just might be the best corner in college football. Scouts will be keeping a close eye on this matchup. Look for Cooper to rely on his size and strength at gaining separation at the line of scrimmage. Look for Alabama to get the ball into Cooper's hands in multiple ways, either as a receiver or as a rusher.