19

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: TE Troy Niklas

Player Information:

Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame, 6-6, 270 pounds

Hometown: Fullerton, CA

 

Troy Niklas' physique is so imposing that his teammates have nicknamed him "Hercules."

Troy Niklas’ physique is so imposing that his teammates have nicknamed him “Hercules.”

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.84

Vertical jump: 32″

225 lb. bench: 27 reps

Broad jump: 9’06″

News and Notes:

Began his career at Notre Dame as an outside linebacker and started one game as a freshman. … One of five Notre Dame receivers to tally multiple catches of 25 yards or more in 2012 … Had a career-high six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown in a  41-30 loss at Michigan on Sept. 7, 2013.

 What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com: Prototypical build for today’s matchup nightmare at tight end. Excellent height, long arms and a well-built frame. Experience on the defensive side of the ball is shown with his physical nature on the field. Uses his height and strength to get open against tight coverage, consistently winning the physical battle with opponents to create space. Good leaping ability, flashing the ability to extend and pluck. Used in a variety of roles for the Irish, including as an inline blocker from both sides, split out wide and even used as an occasional H-back or as a third tackle in pass protection. Secures the football quickly and turns aggressively upfield, dragging would-be tacklers along the way. Good bloodlines. Nephew of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews.
  • NFL.com:   Work in progress as an in-line blocker — lacks ideal base strength, grip strength and overall body power. Bends at the waist and falls off some blocks. Route running needs refinement. Is still learning to use his frame advantageously — inconsistent traffic player. Lacks elite top-end speed. Average elusiveness and creativity after the catch. Could stand to play with more physicality and become a better finisher

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • This is a highlight reel so don’t forget, it doesn’t show the plays he missed.
  • It is scary how much Niklas resembles Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
  • Does a good job of coming back to the ball.
  • Has developed soft hands after transitioning over from defense.
  • Sheds and can give blocks with ease.
  • Is a little slow getting out of his break, which forces him to post-up his huge frame.

If drafted by the Packers:

18

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: LB Ryan Shazier

 

Ryan Shazier

LB Ryan Shazier

Packers prospect profile:  LB Ryan Shazier

Player Information:

Ryan Shazier  LB, Ohio State,  6-1, 237 pounds  Hometown: Pompano Beach, FL

STATS

NFL Scouting Combine:

40 time: 4.36 (unofficial at Pro Day)

Vertical jump: 42″

225 lb. bench: 25 reps

Broad jump: 10’10″

News and Notes:

Declared for NFL draft following his junior season at Ohio State. . . had over 100 tackles during his sophomore and junior years. . .44.5 tackles for loss during college career. . .Two-time first-team All Big-10 in 2012 and 2013. . .Butkus award finalist (nation’s top college linebacker) in 2013. . .tied an Ohio State record with a 20-tackle game vs. Indiana and first time a Buckeye defender had 20 tackles in a game since A.J. Hawk vs. Wisconsin in 2004.

What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com:  Rangy athlete with terrific closing acceleration and burst. Explosive first step as a blitzer to force the QB from his spot. Very good bend off the edge with momentum to fight through blocks and disrupt the pocket. Flexible ankles and flattens easily. Uses his length well at the point of attack with good take-on strength to deliver a pop, filling hard vs. the run. Eyes are always elevated with good ball vision and anticipation. Breaks down well on the move and gets low, showing clear improvement with his tackling technique. Smart and puts himself in correct position to make plays. Sniffs out the ball and almost always finishes when he’s in the area. Never quits working to the ball and relentless in pursuit. Team leader and uplifting teammate with strong personal and football character. Versatile skill-set to drop in coverage, blitz and cover both sidelines. Lean frame and lacks elite bulk. Doesn’t have the body type to get too much bigger. Needs to continue to get stronger to better shed at the point of attack. Too easily engulfed when attacking the line of scrimmage. Sometimes content throwing his shoulder and not wrapping up. Overaggressive at times in coverage and needs patient and alert. Will lose track of his assignment in man. Needs to stay disciplined and tidy up his timing to avoid late hits and unnecessary flags. Needs to keep his composure and keep his emotions in check.
17

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: WR Jared Abbrederis

NFL, Green Bay Packers, 2014 Packers draft, Jared Abbrederis, Jared Abbrederis draft profile, Packers draft profiles

Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis

2014 NFL Draft prospect profile: WR Jared Abbrederis Player Information: Jared Abbrederis, WR Wisconsin, 6-1, 195 pounds, Hometown: Wautoma, WI

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 YARD DASH: 4.50 SEC

BENCH PRESS: 4 REPS

VERTICAL JUMP: 30.5 INCH

BROAD JUMP: 117.0 INCH

3 CONE DRILL: 6.80 SEC

20 YARD SHUTTLE: 4.08 SEC

60 YARD SHUTTLE: 11.39 SEC

News and Notes: Former walk on, led the Badgers in receiving yards the past two seasons. Started 12 of 13 games each of the past two seasons. Will go down as one of the most pproductive receivers in school history despite walking on and redshirting 2009. Won the Burlsworth Trophy in 2013 for most outstanding college player that began his career as a walk on. First team All-Big Ten in 2012 and 2013.

What they’re saying about him:

NFL.com: Uses his hands well to swat away press. Stems his routes. Sells his patterns. Nice hands. Good field and boundary awareness. Gives effort to engage and shield cornerbacks as a blocker. Outstanding football intelligence — like a quarterback on the outside. Productive three-year starter. Mature and humble. Hardworking and coachable.

Has a slender build and needs to bulk up and get stronger. Ordinary pop off the line. Builds to average speed. Could struggle to separate vs. quick-twitch covermen. Lets throws into his body and breaks stride to catch.Not a jumpball player (30 1/2-inch vertical jump). Straightlinish after the catch — pedestrian agility and elusiveness. Has a history of concussions. Bench-pressed 225 pounds just four times, lowest of all combine participants.

CBSSports.com: Sneaky quickness to get behind the secondary. He does a nice job selling routes and is able to create separation with his footwork, most notably a stutter-and-go double move that he uses to burst past corner. Sets up his moves and understands how to deceive defensive backs. Abbrederis displays excellent field savvy, tracks the ball very well and makes the proper adjustments to extend and pluck with his quick, soft hands. He has excellent field awareness and always appears to know where he is on the field.

Only an average athlete with ordinary straight-line speed. Lacks ideal size. Very little muscle definition.

Video:

Video Analysis:

Lines up all over the field, versatile in formations

15

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: CB Justin Gilbert

Justin Gilbert

CB Justin Gilbert

Packers prospect profile:  CB Justin Gilbert

Player Information:

Justin Gilbert,  CB, Oklahoma St.,  6-0, 202 pounds  Hometown: Huntsville, TX

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.37

Vertical jump: 35.5 inches

225 lb. bench: 20 reps

Broad jump: 126 inches

News and Notes:

Second team All-American in 2013. … Averaged 26.8 yards per kickoff return, second all-time at Oklahoma St. … Six kickoff returns for touchdowns in college. … Picked off 12 passes during his career. … Fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine among defensive backs. … One of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation’s top cornerback. … Appeared in 51 games and started his final 39. … A former track star in Texas.

What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com:  Gilbert changes directions fluidly and has impressive acceleration to handle deep coverage responsibilities against speedy receivers. Gilbert possesses prototypical height and overall frame for the position with broad shoulders and long arms. He extends well to snatch the ball out of the air and times his leap well. Gilbert is a willing tackler, who closes quickly and effectively…Gilbert can be physical and tough in press coverage, but his technique and footwork are inconsistent. He is too grabby in tight coverage, and his contact downfield will easily attract penalties at the next level.
  • NFL.com:  The most talented cover corner in this year’s draft class, Gilbert has size, speed and flexibility to blanket receivers at the next level. Also brings impact ability as a kick returner. Is capable of stepping into the starting lineup from Day One and playing at a high level if he adheres to a professional approach to the craft. Could stand to improve in run support.
  • Ninersnation.com: The tape says he may have a rough rookie year, but has potential to be pretty good. I’m souring on the idea of taking him in the mid-first round, though someone probably will. If he falls to 30, I’m OK with it, but not jumping up and down. In the 2nd I think you’re starting to talk about a real value with what he brings to the table, though there’s likely a fat chance of that happening.

Video:

 

Video Analysis:.

  • His speed is no joke. Appears to be as fast on the field as he was at the NFL Combine.
13

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Last season it was Mike Daniels. The season before it was Randall Cobb. If the Packers are going to contend for a Super Bowl in 2014, at least one player will have to make the leap from potential to breakout star.

Here are the top contenders:

WR Jarrett Boykin
Boykin is probably at the top of most people’s most likely to break out lists. He was successful last season and he has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Teams will be ready for him in 2014, though. If he’s going to make the leap, he’ll have to do a better job of getting separation.

DL Datone Jones
Unlike Boykin, Jones is probably near the bottom of most people’s lists. Fans soured on Jones late last season and, apparently, so did the coaching staff as fellow rookie Josh Boyd got more snaps down the stretch. I still have high hopes for Jones and I think he can fulfill those hopes. You need to be patient with young defensive linemen. They rarely break out in their rookie seasons. Let’s see what year two brings for Jones.

CB Davon House
We’ve been waiting for House to take the next step for a while now, haven’t we? If he doesn’t take it in 2014, he probably never will. House’s size appears to make him an ideal fit in Green Bay’s defense, but whenever he strings together some good plays, he follows it up with a couple of stinkers and winds up on the bench. With Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward on the roster, House doesn’t have much room for error.

LT David Bakhtiari
We all groaned when Bryan Bulaga went down and the rookie Bakhtiari ended up starting at left tackle. By the end of the season, those groans turned into “Huh. That kid can play.” Yes, it was a good debut for the kid whose last name I hate spelling, but his ceiling is higher than just a feel-good, surprising rookie playing well in a tough spot. The Packers offense can be a whole lot better if Bakhtiari transforms from promising rookie to left-tackle anchor.

TE Brandon Bostick
Based on what little I’ve seen of him, Bostick seems to do everything well except catch the ball. He especially seems to struggle with drops in traffic. If he develops his hands, especially in tight spaces, I like what he can do in the passing game.

11

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: RB Marion Grice

Marion Grice

RB Marion Grice

Packers prospect profile:  RB Marion Grice

Player Information:

Marion Grice  RB, Arizona State,  6-0, 208 pounds  Hometown: Houston, TX

STATS

Personal Pro Day:

40 time: 4.61 (unofficial)

Vertical jump: 32″

225 lb. bench: 14 reps

Broad jump: 8′ 01″

News and Notes:

Did not participate in NFL Combine or ASU’s Pro Day workouts due to a leg injury suffered late last season. . .Second team All Pac-12 in 2013. . . scored 20 touchdowns in 2013, one of only fifteen backs in the Pac-10/12 to accomplish that feat in the last 36 seasons. . . 2013 Hornung award finalist (nation’s most versatile player). . .scored at least one touchdown in 10 straight games in 2013. . .507 kick return yards in 2013

What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com:  Shows good plant-and-go burst with the patience and instant acceleration to let defenders over-pursue before surging for positive yardage. Talented ballcarrier, willing blocker and reliable pass catcher out of the backfield. Isn’t the most impressive-looking prospect with a lean body type and upright running style. Needs to show more finishing toughness and lacks many distinguishable traits.
  • NFL.com:  Good balance and body control. Has loose ankles and very good lateral agility. Explosive one-cut ability. Displays vision and elusiveness in the open field. Sees the cutback and weaves in and out of traffic. Has some wiggle to shake tacklers in space. Good receiver — bursts into routes, adjusts to passes and has soft hands. Fumbled only once the last two seasons. Blue-collar work ethic. Solid character. Has a lean, narrow frame. Needs to bulk up and get stronger. Not equipped to pound between the tackles — gets tall inside and doesn’t push the pile (soft on contact). Weak tackle-breaker who cannot be counted on for yards after contact. Can become a more disciplined route runner. Questionable awareness in pass protection. Statistical production belies inconsistency.

Video:

 

Video Analysis:.

  • Has quickness and can elude tacklers despite a lack of burning speed
  • Here’s the versatility: runner and pass catcher.  Good hands and ability to find an open spot in passing game
  • Very poor in pass protection and could be a liability in that area
  • Has a decent burst through the hole but doesn’t create much for himself.  Not always very decisive
6

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Take a look at this NFL mock draft at Drafttek.com. There are three tight ends selected before a running back is chosen with the 50th overall pick.

Last year in the actual NFL draft there were two tight ends selected before the first running back was snatched off the board (Giovani Bernard at No. 37).

When I was growing up, running back was the glamour position. When we went out for recess to play football (this was back when you could still play tackle football at recess), everyone pretended to be Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith, not some tight end. Most teams wouldn’t dream of taking a tight end over a promising running back in the draft.

Times have changed. Running back is a de-valued position in today’s NFL. That’s not breaking news. But has the de-valuing gone too far?

The top two teams in the NFC last season, Seattle and San Francisco, based their offense around bruising running games. The Packers turned to rookie Eddie Lacy to keep their heads above water after Aaron Rodgers broke his collar bone. Even with Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots pounded the ball on the ground early in the season, outrushing opponents in three of the first four games and starting 4-0.

Even on pass-happy Denver, with Peyton Manning at quarterback and a stable of exceptional receivers and tight ends, running back Knowshon Moreno finished with almost 1,600 total yards from scrimmage.

For a while, the NFL also appeared to be de-valuing the safety position, but that might be changing.

Only three safeties were picked in the first round from 2008-11. In the last two drafts, four safeties have gone in the first. In the opening days of NFL free agency, the top safeties on the board flew off the shelf for big money.

I think a lot of teams are emphasizing the safety position again because they see the importance of versatility in today’s game. Safeties are often best suited to handle multiple tasks: provide coverage over the top, match up against a tight end, play the slot, stop the run, drill whoever has the ball, occasionally blitz, etc. Take a look at the Seahawks and 49ers again — both were strong at safety.