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Draft King Analysis
February 20, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

Reader feedback is always welcomed here on Draft King. Sound off with your thoughts on Twitter (@LouPickney) or via email at LouPickney@gmail.com.


Happy Franchise Tag Day, everyone. Teams have from today through March 5 to use either the franchise tag or the transition tag on one of its players. As yesterday's post explained, the one-year tender for a franchise tagged player will be lower than it was in 2011 and, in many cases, lower than in 2010.

Going into the combine, there are some players who many believe have falling stock and could use a strong performance at the combine to boost themselves. Here's a short list of players who need to perform well in Indianapolis this week:

South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery
Listed at 6'4" 230, Jeffery has great size for the position, and I became a believer in Jeffery when he jumped up and hauled in the go-ahead touchdown against a Mississippi State double-team in Starkville. But there are reports that Jeffery has put on some table weight (reportedly up to 249 pounds) and that his time in the 40-yard-dash was a terrible 4.88 last month. Jeffery has a chance to show otherwise in Indianapolis, but his status has been dropping for some time now and he *really* needs to right the ship to quiet the naysayers.

It's not fair to Jeffery to compare him with past South Carolina wide receivers, but it's noteworthy that the last highly-touted wideout to come out of South Carolina, Sidney Rice, is 6'4" but weighed only 200 pounds going into the 2007 NFL Draft. The extra weight for Jeffery could prove to be a red flag for teams, and while he doesn't appear to be the next iteration of Mike Williams (Michael Troy Williams '84, not to be confused with Buccaneers WR Michael Anthony Williams '87. Mike Williams '84 reportedly was on the wrong side of 270 pounds at one point in his NFL career before slimming down, making a comeback and finding new life in Seattle thanks to his former college coach, Pete Carroll.

Arizona State ILB Vontaze Burfict
It pains me to list Burfict on here since he was so much fun to watch at Arizona State, but it takes more than a great highlight reel to be successful in the NFL. He is considered by many to have a short fuse, and the perceived lack of discipline under Dennis Erickson's watch wasn't particularly beneficial for Burfict from a maturing process. Burfict reportedly punched teammate Kevin Ozier after practice this past summer, and his spree of personal foul penalties on the field has to be frightening to teams that like his big-play ability but fear potential problems that might be associated with him.

The interview process at the combine is going to be important for Burfict, as team representatives will likely be looking to gauge his maturity level, his explanation for the plentiful personal foul penalties, and overall see if he would be a good fit in their locker room.

It doesn't help Burfict that some top-level evaluators are down on him. Albert Breer wrote on Twitter that he sent a mock draft with Burfict in the first round to 6-7 personnel guys and that all of them told him to take out Burfict. NFL Network's Mike Mayock said last week that he isn't a fan of Burfict and that he believes Burfict has poor instincts.

Burfict won't go undrafted -- he has shown too many flashes of brilliance and QB hawking skills for him to free fall into the rookie free agency abyss. But, at least at this point, Burfict appears more likely than not to slide out of round one, and he will need to turn on the charm to win over skeptics in NFL front offices.

Michael Brewster
NFL scouts will be keeping a close eye on Brewster's bench press results at the combine. (Icon SMI)

Ohio State C Michael Brewster
The momentum that Brewster had coming out of the end run of the 2011 Ohio State season was waylaid during practices at the Senior Bowl last month, where several scouts noted concerns about his strength. At 6'4" 310 Brewster has the size to play center in the NFL, but there will be many watching how many reps he can do in the 225-pound bench press in Indianapolis to see if observations about his lack of strength hold up in a controlled setting. And, while bench pressing 225 is arbitrary, so is using the 40-yard-dash as a measuring stick for a player's speed. Fair or not, Brewster will have plenty of people keeping a close watch on his bench press numbers from the combine.

Florida State OT Zebrie Sanders
It doesn't help Sanders that he's had some bad plays during his career, as at 6'6" 305 pounds he has NFL quality size. But there were questions about his motor (internal drive to play hard on every snap) going into the Senior Bowl, and unfortunately for Sanders, he didn't have a particularly good showing in Mobile.

This isn't to say that Sanders won't be a high draft pick, but his ceiling might be high second round as opposed to mid-late first round, even though teams need offensive tackles to pass protect more than ever in the new pass-heavy NFL.

Washington RB Chris Polk
Some scouts believe that Polk hurt his stock at the Senior Bowl, to the point that at least one observer wrote that Polk would have been better served returning to Washington for 2012, though I'm not sure if Polk could have retroactively asked for a medical redshirt for the 2008 season in which he played in two games. It will be tough enough for the second-tier running backs (basically everyone behind Alabama RB Trent Richardson and possibly Virginia Tech RB David Wilson) to break out without having to overcome negative perceptions.

Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick
Kirkpatrick was not charged with any crime relating to his arrest for marijuana possession in Florida last month, but sadly the big headlines stick in people's minds more than the small print noting charges have been dropped. So never mind the charge of possession of a plant that grows naturally out of the ground, even though that will hang over his head going into the draft, and I can assure you he will be asked about it multiple times. How stiff does the questioning get? Consider this: Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland once infamously asked Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute.

The estimated 40-yard-dash time for Kirkpatrick is sub-4.5, with numbers as low as 4.45 being thrown around as a projection time. Kirkpatrick didn't post huge stats for Alabama in 2011, recording zero interceptions, but that's in large part because of how effective he was at covering wide receivers and his ability to stand out despite being on an absolutely loaded Alabama defense. If you are consistently blanketing a WR, odds are that receiver's QB won't throw too many passes his way.

Minimizing the opponent's passing game production is paramount in the modern NFL, and Kirkpatrick will certainly help whichever team selects him on that front. I'm doing so, if for nothing else, since the new NFL priorities are: great passing QB, solid WRs, good offensive line to give the QB time to throw, talented pass rush threats (4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB), and a secondary that can minimize the opposing passing game as much as possible. Kirkpatrick fits in that grouping, which is in part why I rank him higher than most others do.

Washington DT Alameda Ta'amu
Perhaps projecting best as a 3-4 nose tackle, Ta'amu didn't gave a particularly good showing at the Senior Bowl. At 6'3" 340 he has great size and could be a solid presence as a run-stuffer, but some are down on him because of his perceived lack of ability to pressure the quarterback. I don't necessarily buy into the line of thought that a 3-4 NT needs to be skilled at pass rushing, though Baltimore NT Haloti Ngata recorded 10 sacks over the past two seasons, so there may be some validity to it.

Unlike some other draft analysts, I haven't soured on Ta'amu. But with pressuring the quarterback being as vital as ever in the NFL, even nose tackles are being examined for their ability to collapse the pocket and/or crunch the opposing QB. It seems at this point that Ta'amu is be more likely to end up as a second round pick than to go in the top 32, but he could potentially go to a team like the Redskins at #39.

And, yes, I know that the Redskins made a major investment to bring former New York Giant DL Barry Cofield in last year, but there is talk that Dan Snyder's franchise is pondering moving him to defensive end. It's not an impossible idea: Cofield is 6'4" 306 compared with Ta'amu at 6'3" 341, and Cofield at DE along with Ta'amu at NT has potential.


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