Welcome to The 3-4, a website dedicated to NFL analysis, predictions and recent events. We wrote 32 extensive team previews and will be writing about all things football throughout the year. We will be scouting players off game tape, evaluating them, predicting NFL and NCAA games, and much more! If you would like us to write about something in particular, let us know!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Week 8: NFL Draft Stock Watch for 2011

Each and every week, on Wednesday nights, I will update The 3-4 readers on movements within my Big Board. Previous week's performances will dictate which players are labeled, stock up/down.
Stock Up
Ryan Kerrigan
Kerrigan was just about the only bright spot in the destruction of Purdue at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes. In this game, Kerrigan showed very promising signs with his elite pass rushing ability. Not only does he use his hands very well, Kerrigan has the speed to beat his man straight up. Kerrigan has impressive closing speed as well, both in the open field and in the backfield. Drawing double teams almost the entire game, as well as Ohio State game-planning away from him, it was clear that Kerrigan put a scare in OSU coaches from past film study. Kerrigan gives full effort on every snap, and seems to be in excellent condition. His strength is evident in how he is able to stand up double teams at the point of attack, clogging up running lanes. All in all, a solid defensive end who is breaking into the top 10 of overall draft prospects.

Nick Fairley
Fairley has been sensational this season for the now #1 ranked Auburn Tigers, leading the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss. His explosiveness off the line, combined with his elite pass rush moves, have made him a deadly force to be reckoned with. Fairley’s quick feet and strong arms allow him to generate a consistent pass rush. Strength at the POA is another reason for his climb on draft boards, and Fairley is now considered a top 3 DT for the 2011 NFL Draft.

Blaine Gabbert
In another upset of a #1 BCS ranked team, Oklahoma this past week, Blaine Gabbert played above and beyond my previous conceptions about his skill level. Prototypical in size and arm strength, Gabbert was poised and firm within the pocket. He handled OU’s pressure like a savvy veteran, and picked apart the Sooner secondary. In what may have been Gabbert’s biggest stage on national television, Blaine stepped to the forefront and pretty much told the country that, “Hey! Luck, Locker, and Mallet aren’t the only quarterbacks going into the NFL draft, count me in!” It will be interesting to see how he handles the media now, as Missouri has made itself a viable BCS contender. Will they continue their winning ways next week, as Wisconsin did by 1 point following their upset of then #1 Ohio State? Or will Gabbert and the Tigers have a letdown, like South Carolina did following their defeat of then top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide? What remains to be seen is Gabbert’s play for the rest of the season. Things could get very interesting.

Demarco Murray
Although he wasn’t dominant in the running game as I expected, Murray lined up at receiver for a stint of the Missouri game and looked like a natural route runner. Catching passes and running sharp routes, Murray could end up having a Reggie Bush like impact in the NFL, heavily involved in a team’s passing game. The next best thing at tailback behind Mark Ingram, somebody is going to get very lucky when they draft Murray late in the 1st round.

Stock Down
Cameron Heyward
At this point I see Heyward as a 3-4 DE due to his size and strength at the point of attack. That being said, I have noticed deficiencies in some key areas of his skill set. Most notably his lack of pass rush moves, aside from the bull rush. If Heyward expects to be successful in the NFL, he will have to develop an ability to successfully shed blockers with his hands, play in and play out. He flashes athleticism, including hurdling a cut block last week versus Purdue to force an errant throw, however his impact is sparse at times. He needs to improve his foot quicks dramatically, as struggles to move fluidly on any sort of box stunt. Heyward still maintains as much upside as any DE in the upcoming draft, due to his size/strength combo, yet he needs to improve and show me he is a complete DE.

Prince Amukamara
After shutting down just about every opponent so far this season and doing so with flying colors, Amukamara was exposed by a physically imposing deep threat named Justin Blackmon. Mentioned in last week’s stock up/stock down column, Blackmon is the nation’s leading wide receiver stat-wise (Also got arrested for DUI this week). Blackmon toasted Prince to the tune of 150+ receiving yards and 3 TDs. What scares me is the fact that essentially every starting NFL receiver is as good or better than Blackmon, and will Amukamara be able to play shutdown defense on more physically stronger receivers? His pro-day should answer those questions, and hopefully he will impress with improved strength.

Jake Locker
In a letdown loss, Locker was extremely inconsistent. He started the game 4-4 passing and looked brilliant. Then he went 1-6 passing and looked awful. Then he went 5-5 looking as good as ever… At that point I went to bed (11 or so at night), hoping that because I quit watching he would continue to throw well. I was wrong, he finished 17-29, however red flags shoot up because of 6 sacks allowed. His footwork continues to be an issue, and at this point he remains a risky draft pick; limitless upside, mind boggling uncertainties, and a lack of an ability to play inside the pocket. Locker has a rocket arm, extremely fast legs, quick feet, strong will, and intangibles (work ethic mostly), however he has to put forth his best game yet next week against now #1 rated prospect Andrew Luck and the Stanford football team.

*Noteable additions to Big Board: Blaine Gabbert and Akeem Ayers
*Noteable dropoffs from the Big Board: Ryan Williams and Michael Floyd

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