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2012 Players All-Star Classic: Thursday North Practice Notes

Brett RoyIt was the final day for me at the North (and South) Practices, as only myself and SportingNews.com’s Russ Lande were the non-NFL scouts left. It was great to get one final look at these prospects, getting a chance to see every position somewhat in-depth.

The biggest winners were Dominique Davis, Julian Talley, James Hanna, Brett Roy, Tahir Whitehead, and Derrius Brooks.

Dominique Davis had his best day of the week today, hitting his spots, stepping into throws, and displaying some touch all across the board. Spun it well, moved within the pocket subtly to buy time, and looked much more comfortable; I’m expecting a solid game from this very athletic quarterback, who improved as the week went on

Alex Tanney continued to show the best arm of the group, spun the ball well for most of the day, and even flashed some anticipation. A very raw talent that needs time to develop, Tanney proved this week that he has the tools to make it in the NFL.

Matt Blanchard finished well today, throwing with confidence and not fumbling snaps. Though not an NFL guy, Blanchard should provide some intrigue to CFL teams

Running Backs
Derek Coleman has the physical, low center of gravity running style you don’t see often anymore; Coleman drops his shoulders and pad level very low to the ground, creating a low center of gravity, presenting a small target to hit, and accelerating to and through with burst and explosion. Fans shouldn’t be surprised when Coleman makes a camp, performs well, and plays up into the preseason.

Mark Lampford didn’t show me much this week, dropped some passes, ran with high pad level, and didn’t display good feet to bounce in and out of holes.

Michael Smith looked solid today, finishing up a great week of practice. Smith as noted in the notes yesterday, is quite the bowling ball runner with a low center of gravity, plus feet, and good balance through contact

Joe Martinek had a very good week of practice and, while he isn’t incredibly fast or explosive, runs with great quickness and burst to and through the hole, has very good feet, and catches the ball well out of the backfield.

Wide Receiver
-First off, Derek Moye injured his hamstring late in the Wednesday practice and was a no-go today. His replacement, a receiver from Henderson State, was injured after just 3 catches, which was very sad to see; a tough break for both players.

-The receiver’s coach reaffirmed some of my own personal evaluations of Michael Willie, saying to the Arizona State wideout, “You’re quick, but play under control”. Sudden and explosive in tight quarters, Willie needs to sharpen his angles down on in-cuts and be more patient with his routes. Plays too fast for his own balance, struggles with focus drops, and needs coaching to develop consistency with his routes. All that said, Willie performs at his best against top talent and has a very contagious, competitive edge.

Phillip Payne confirmed some film study positives and negatives, and did not do anything to separate himself above the rest of the wideouts this week. Payne catches the ball extraordinarily well with his hands away from his chest, but isn’t a dynamic route runner, struggles to separate, and tends to drift at the point of the catch. Not a draftable guy in my mind, but certainly one to work out and give a shot in the NFL.

Marcus Rivers took a step backwards today, after having a very good first two days of practice. The biggest issue today was focus and concentration; dropped 4 or 5 easy balls today, and struggled to track the ball in receiver drills. Looking at his whole body of work this week, Rivers did a great deal to boost his NFL stock and with a 4.5 40 time, could even get drafted.

-Julian Talley had another sharp practice today, but showed he was human with one drop in the last team session. During receiver drills, Talley put on display plus tracking skills, great acceleration and speed, as well as reliable hands. Gets up to top speed very fast, eats up cushion quickly, and has sudden, stop and go ability to set up man defenders from the slot. This hard working UMass wideout has a bright NFL future, and I fully expect this guy to be drafted in April.

Tight End
James Hanna had a very strong Thursday practice, putting on display firm hands at the point of the catch, suddenness in and out of his cuts, and ability to anchor at the point of attack in the run game.

Anthony Miller from Cal, is a big, very powerful blocker who anchors and holds the point well; seal blocked and down blocked effectively for most of the week, and showed some snap at the point. Caught the football better each day, but wasn’t sharp or good with his distances on 10+ yard routes. A developing receiver but NFL ready blocker, Miller will make a roster as a 3rd tight end.

Garrett Celek underwhelmed pretty much all week and I really didn’t get a great feel for his game. He’ll most certainly get a workout with a team just because his brother is in the league, but I’m not sure if he can last in the league.

Offensive Line
Mark Asper from Oregon, continually improved as the week progressed, snapping the ball at center and started to show some feel for the position. Still, I see Asper as a better guard prospect and was the 2nd best lineman prospect here. Very mature guy, married with kids, genuine, funny, and overall a good person.

-Asper’s teammate from Oregon, Darrion Weems also looks like a fringe NFL guy and had a solid week of practice. Has good feet and athleticism, size you look for, and has a nice initial punch. Should be a priority free agent type of guy.

Defensive Line
Brett Roy kept playing with competitiveness and energy despite the lack of hitting and contact today. Roy is a guy coaches love because he has ideal technique, gives great effort, and takes coaching well. One of the few players here who earned an invite to the NFL combine, Brett Roy could be the highest rated prospect at the Player’s All-Star Classic on some teams’ boards.

Korey Toomer really looked the part of an NFL’er with smooth movement skills, good athletic ability, and overall balance to his game. Understands run fits and displays a solid feel for the game; as of now, a very high UDFA grade with the possibility of being drafted late.

Tahir Whitehead is another player who grew on me as the week progressed. Whitehead was the first backer out on the field, and immediately began working on his footwork and steps, simulating individual linebacker drills by himself. Gets out fast to his hook-to-curl zone, is light on his toes, and looks very natural playing in the bubble. I’ll have to go back to the film room on Whitehead, but on first glance, he could be a “Sam” backer in a 4-3 scheme similar to the Eagles.

D.J. Bryant is a long, linear backer that struggles to sink his hips in coverage and plays too high. Talented linebacker with size that will likely make a practice squad.

-Although he injured his hamstring Thursday, and will likely be out for game, Zach Nash left a great impression on talent evaluators this week with his footwork, balance, and play at inside and outside linebacker.

Defensive Backs
-One scout I spoke to thought Derrius Brooks was without question the top cornerback prospect at the Player’s All-Star Classic. This well built corner, sports an extremely tidy pedal in which he does a great job of keeping his feet underneath his base. Plays with plus balance and comfort, doesn’t bail on his pedal early, and has the speed and hips to turn and run. Brooks’ high level of play all week, will force teams to go back and watch more film on this guy; sure-fire draft pick that improved his stock drastically this week.

Clarence Laster competed all week long and left a very good impression on me; quick footed, sits into his pedal well but can flip to run easily, and isn’t easily fooled by double moves. Inconsistent in driving on routes, but extremely physical and competitive up and down the field, using his hands to jostle receivers in-route.

Cyhl Quarles tends to peak inside at the QB when lined in man coverage, but transitions fairly well from his pedal to close on receivers. Looks the part, has plus size and build at safety, and will be drafted if he runs well.


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