Draft Dish: Penn State's Williams muffs his chance
Feb. 8, 2009 Print it
By Russ Lande
As NFL teams gather all their scouts, coaches and personnel men to discuss prospects before heading to the NFL Scouting Combine on Feb. 18, many players are being heavily debated. Perhaps no player is in question more than Penn State WR Derrick Williams.
At the end of the college season, he was viewed as a third-round prospect who could move into the second round with a strong series of pre-draft workouts. However, his poor Senior Bowl performance raised a big concern.
At Penn State, Williams was a big-play receiver and dangerous punt returner who consistently helped Penn State win the field position battle and changed games with a number of returns for touchdowns. However, during the entire week of practice at the Senior Bowl, people were shocked at how awkward and uncomfortable Williams looked fielding punts. He might not be a viable punt returner in the NFL, so unless he can ease these concerns he will slide to the fourth round or beyond.
Eager to see Coffman
Scouts and coaches alike are eager to see Missouri TE Chase Coffman work at the Combine. He is a good prospect but is not getting much hype because of the number of quality tight ends in the Class of '09.
Coffman must pass a thorough physical to make sure he is healthy after injuring his foot and ankle last season. If he is cleared to work out, personnel men want to see how well he runs the 40-yard dash and how quick and athletic he looks in receiving drills.
If he checks out as healthy and performs well, he could move back up draft boards to be in the group of tight ends right behind No. 1 TE Brandon Pettigrew of Oklahoma State.
Unger on film vs. Unger in person
Scouts and personnel men around the league are conflicted about Oregon C/G Max Unger. Heading to the Senior Bowl, Unger was viewed as a disappointing prospect who did not look or play as athletically as expected in the '08 season. He was by no means a dominant blocker.
After a solid week of work at the Senior Bowl, Unger had many NFL line coaches talking about his athleticism, competitiveness and versatility. Line coaches are going to bat for him in meetings around the league, saying he is undervalued.
This sort of conflict happens this time of year, as scouts who base most of their evaluation on film study go head-to-head with coaches who base most of their opinions on a few workouts.
If Unger performs well at the Combine, he could move way up draft boards and make GMs overlook his inconsistent play at Oregon.
The No. 1 OT is ...
There is no consensus about who is the top left tackle prospect. It seems as if the votes are evenly split among Alabama's Andre Smith, Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe.
Andre Smith (6-5, 340) has the best size and athleticism, but there are concerns about his weight and conditioning. He did not dominate as consistently last season as he did in '07, which has led to some questions about whether he still should be atop the tackle rankings.
Jason Smith (6-4 5/8, 299) is the most interesting of the Class of '09 tackles because he began his college career at tight end and switched to tackle in '06. He is an elite athlete with rare footwork, natural agility and flexibility for a tackle. The concern is his on-field production does not come close to matching his athleticism, and he lacks the bulk NFL coaches covet. Despite not producing at the level of Andre Smith or Monroe, Jason Smith has a legit chance to be the No. 1 tackle drafted because NFL coaches will fall in love with his unbelievable athleticism.
Monroe (6-5, 311) has not received the hype of the other two but might move to the top of the list because he is the safest pick. Monroe lacks the upside but is NFL-ready and there are few concerns about him being able to maintain his production as a pro.
Where does A&M's Bennett fit?
Texas A&M's Michael Bennett switched to defensive end for his senior season and flashed the talent to be an NFL prospect. He also played DE at the East-West Shrine Game. However, he did not wow anyone with his explosiveness off the edge or pass-rush skills.
Many scouts are having coaches evaluate film of his '07 season, when he played middle linebacker. Most NFL teams that play a 4-3 defense will not feel comfortable projecting him back to linebacker and will keep him on their draft boards at defensive end. However, teams that play a 3-4 defense will put him at linebacker; based on his Combine and other pre-draft workouts, 3-4 personnel men will put him either at inside linebacker or at rush linebacker.
It takes a genius to whine appealingly.