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Thread: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

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    NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects
    By Bucky Brooks
    Analyst, NFL.com and NFL Network
    Published: April 12, 2013 at 01:02 p.m.
    Updated: April 12, 2013 at 02:22 p.m.

    I've always wondered how different the NFL draft would be if it were conducted immediately after the regular season. Evaluators would make draft decisions based solely on grades compiled from film study, avoiding the influence of spectacular workouts conducted in shorts and T-shirts. Now, I'm not suggesting that workouts aren't important, but I do believe scouts' evaluations are frequently clouded by impressive displays of athleticism in the months leading up to the draft.

    I've had some time to reflect on the 2013 NFL Draft's fastest risers since the end of the college season. Here are five guys I believe are overrated at this point in the process:

    1) Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

    The hottest prospect in this draft class has been on a meteoric climb up the charts since putting on a spectacular show at the NFL Scouting Combine. Austin's 4.34-second speed (in the 40-yard dash) and remarkable change-of-direction quickness (4.01-second short shuttle) complemented an impressive résumé tape that showcased his versatility as a receiver/running back/returner at West Virginia. This combination of skills, playmaking ability and explosiveness has sparked comparisons to Percy Harvin and DeSean Jackson from coaches and scouts around the league.

    Now, I definitely see the similarities in playing styles, but neither Harvin nor Jackson has made a significant impact as a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. (Harvin has never posted a 1,000-yard season, while Jackson has surpassed that mark just twice in five years.) And there haven't been many 5-foot-8, 174-pound receivers who have taken the league by storm. That's why I can't fully endorse Austin's rise as a potential top-10 pick, even with his ability to score from anywhere on the field. The NFL remains a big man's game, and it's hard for a diminutive pass catcher to function as a legitimate No. 1 receiver. I believe Austin can be an explosive complementary player, but you don't take role players early in the draft.

    2) Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

    I know Lotulelei's inclusion on this list will raise eyebrows, based on dominant flashes throughout his tenure at Utah. The 6-foot-3, 311-pound defensive lineman shows the capacity to own the point of attack when focused and engaged. He finished 2012 with five sacks and 11 tackles for loss, putting together some impressive stretches on tape. Lotulelei pummeled USC in a nationally televised contest while facing one of the better offensive centers in college football (Khaled Holmes). He primarily won with strength and power, though he also displayed enough agility to win with finesse on the interior.

    Unfortunately, I didn't see Lotulelei play with the same intensity and passion in other tapes I watched. He seemingly cruised through most of the Utes' games, showing just occasional flashes of supremacy. This is more disconcerting than his brief heart issue, which has since been cleared. I understand the difficulty of playing with tremendous effort as a big man, but I believe a prospect pegged for No. 1 consideration should give me more on tape. I'm also a little concerned that Lotulelei didn't play football in 2009 because he reportedly lost his passion for the game. Given the challenges and expectations associated with entering the NFL as a top pick, I would worry about his capacity to handle the pressure in key moments. More importantly, I would wonder about his willingness to grind it out in tough times. That's not enough to drop Lotulelei's overall grade, but it makes it tough for me to fully jump on board when it comes to his candidacy as the potential top pick of the draft.

    3) Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse

    No quarterback has enjoyed a bigger rise up the charts than Nassib since the end of the college season. The Syracuse standout was considered a mid-to-late-round selection for most of the fall before shooting toward the front of the class based on a potential tie-in with the Buffalo Bills' new head coach: Doug Marrone, Nassib's coach in college. When I look at Nassib's game on tape, I see that he's a quick-rhythm passer with a great feel for the short and intermediate passing game. He's comfortable working from the shotgun, where he can catch, rock and throw following a quick reset or one-step drop. Nassib had a thorough understanding of the Orange's no-huddle offense; this mastery made it easy for him to pick apart defenses with pinpoint throws following proper pre- and post-snap reads.

    Those traits are, of course, respected by evaluators, but they are not enough to support his consideration as a top pick. Nassib simply lacks the arm strength to make pro throws consistently; defensive backs will squat on receivers once they've determined he can't make deep throws. Not only will this condense the field for the offense, it'll restrict the catalog of plays an offensive coordinator can feature in the game plan. Furthermore, it is hard for a team to make a deep postseason run with a game manager rather than a playmaker at quarterback. In my mind, Nassib falls into the former category, which makes it tough for me to view him as a legitimate first-round prospect.

    4) John Cyprien, S, Florida International

    The star of Senior Bowl practices has emerged as one of the top prospects in the draft after displaying a menacing game built on toughness and physicality. In Mobile, Ala., Cyprien repeatedly punished receivers between the hashes and laid big hits on runners in the hole. That aggressiveness earned Cyprien high marks from coaches and scouts looking for an enforcer in the middle of the field. When I popped in tape of Cyprien at FIU, I saw the same tenacity and reckless abandon on display. He flashed the athleticism and range to get over the top on vertical routes, nabbing four interceptions in 2012.

    I certainly appreciate Cyprien's hard-hitting ways and competitiveness, as he plays with passion and is a tone-setter in the back end. But a closer look at the tape reveals an overaggressive defender susceptible to giving up big gains in the passing game. Cyprien reacts strongly to play-action in the backfield, and opponents have been able to throw balls over his head in zone coverage. Moreover, he displayed late reactions and instincts in the deep middle, sparking questions about his ability to thrive as a defender in a pass-first league.

    Additionally, Cyprien's toughness and physicality might work against him as a pro. The league has implemented strict rules against launching yourself at and hitting defenseless receivers; Cyprien will have to change key parts of his game to avoid penalties and fines. It's possible that he'll make that adjustment without incident, but the transition must be factored into his evaluation as a potential first-round selection. Given the list of concerns accompanying his game, I believe he should come off the board at some point on Day 2.

    5) Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

    The former Bruin has been ascending since his strong performance at the Senior Bowl. Evaluators are intrigued by his first-step quickness and relentless motor, and he's been projected as a Justin Tuck-like pass rusher on a four-man front. Factoring in Jones' versatility (he spent 2012 playing multiple positions along the front line) and production (6.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss last season), it's easy to understand why defensive coordinators have fallen in love with him during the pre-draft process.

    However, I'm not as excited about Jones' game as some of my colleagues are. I believe his production was slightly inflated, thanks to a talented supporting cast (namely, Anthony Barr); also, his size (6-foot-4, 283 pounds) will make it hard for him to fill a role as a utility player along the line. On tape, Jones doesn't strike me as a big player; he gets rag-dolled a bit by physical blockers on the interior. Additionally, I don't believe he has the potential to develop into a double-digit sack artist as a pro. He has always benefitted from playing alongside talented defenders (before Barr, there was Brian Price and Akeem Ayers), but he's never accounted for significant sack production on his own accord. With Jones' size and tweener status making it tough to project a full-time role for him in the NFL, it's difficult for me to give him a Round 1 grade at this point.


    FIVE UNDERRATED PROSPECTS

    In contrast to the five overhyped guys above, the following five prospects merit more attention:

    1) Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State: A talented cover corner with the size and speed to develop into a Johnathan Joseph-like playmaker.

    2) EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State: A big, athletic quarterback with impressive physical tools. I compared Manuel to Josh Freeman back in January, though in the right offense, he could develop into a poor man's Daunte Culpepper.

    3) DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson: If not for a slower-than-anticipated 40-yard dash (4.57 seconds), Hopkins would be considered the most complete receiver in the draft. He has all of the tools to be special at the next level as an explosive No. 1 option.

    4) Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State: Though Bell has rarely been mentioned as one of the top backs in the 2013 class, RB coaches around the league repeatedly have told me that he could be a star in a zone-based system.

    5) Duke Williams, S, Nevada: Williams has flown under the radar despite an impressive overall game that should make him an immediate-impact player at the next level. Few safeties can rival his ability to thrive as both a run defender and cover man in the back end.


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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    surprised robert woods isn't in the underrated...dude will be a very nice surprise for whoever drafts him
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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Quote Originally Posted by citr92 View Post
    surprised robert woods isn't in the underrated...dude will be a very nice surprise for whoever drafts him
    Couldn't agree more with you citr92. Really hope we get Woods in round 2. Disappointed to read about RB Bell as a star for a zone system, because as much as I would like to see the Rams draft him too, we play a power blocking scheme, making him not ideally suited for us. Interesting to read about Duke Williams at safety as we may be addressing that spot in the middle rounds, if it's not addressed early.

    Certainly don't disagree about Austin. Not our best option IMO.

    Go Rams!
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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    First of all who cares if he is labled a #1 receiver or not. That is not important.

    He's not a potential top ten pick because you can put a #1 WR label on him. Honestly who gives a $&#! what his label is as long as he produces on the field?

    What makes Tavon Austin special, is his ability to line up anywhere on the field and create a mismatch, while at the same time being one of the most explosive KR/PRs. Not a lot of NFL players can boast that.

    What's not top ten about a guy who could potentially lead the league in all-purpose yards.

    If you want to label him, label him the #1 playmaker on a given team.

    Isn't that just as important?
    Last edited by Fortuninerhater; -04-13-2013 at 09:16 PM.
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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Quote Originally Posted by Fortuninerhater View Post
    If you want to label him, label him the #1 playmaker on a given team.

    Isn't that just as important?
    It is when you're looking at a guy who put up 572 all-purpose yards in a single game against OU, including 344 rushing. Pretty good for a wide receiver. The sum of Austin's abilities make him special.
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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Quote Originally Posted by mde8352gorams View Post
    Couldn't agree more with you citr92. Really hope we get Woods in round 2. Disappointed to read about RB Bell as a star for a zone system, because as much as I would like to see the Rams draft him too, we play a power blocking scheme, making him not ideally suited for us. Interesting to read about Duke Williams at safety as we may be addressing that spot in the middle rounds, if it's not addressed early.

    Certainly don't disagree about Austin. Not our best option IMO.

    Go Rams!
    i'm just really surprised woods has gotten practically no love besides a little on SC's pro day, but matt barkley was the headline so he was mostly looked over, that's pretty much all i'm surprised on since he was talked about so much last year

    as for austin, i love seeing guys my size succeed, but idk
    not to take away anything from his performances...West Virginia didn't necessarily face defenses that were all that great, but i don't think the rams would benefit the most from drafting him

    i think a number 1 wide receiver is more important, even a number 2 as i think jared cook could very well play the slot good enough for the rams to not have to use an earlier pick on it

    i mean i think he could be a great playmaker...just eh...

    i see pros and cons for drafting him, but for me, i just don't think the rams NEED him

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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Quote Originally Posted by Fortuninerhater View Post
    First of all who cares if he is labled a #1 receiver or not. That is not important.

    He's not a potential top ten pick because you can put a #1 WR label on him. Honestly who gives a $&#! what his label is as long as he produces on the field?

    What makes Tavon Austin special, is his ability to line up anywhere on the field and create a mismatch, while at the same time being one of the most explosive KR/PRs. Not a lot of NFL players can boast that.

    What's not top ten about a guy who could potentially lead the league in all-purpose yards.

    If you want to label him, label him the #1 playmaker on a given team.

    Isn't that just as important?
    Danny Amendola led the leagues in all-purpose yards in 2010 while as a Ram, and our offense wasn't exactly imposing its will on defenses. Point is that just that having a guy that is leading the league in all-purpose yards most certainly does not mean your offense is rolling and scoring whenever it wants.

    I'd hesitate to go ahead and anoint Austin the #1 playmaker on the team. He's electric, but short, and hasn't yet played in the NFL. The fact he projects as a role player that you have to design plays for in order for him to be effective worries me. I'd rather have a traditional #1 receiver than a gimmick receiver who gets half his yards on punt returns instead of making catches. A player like Austin? Love to have him. At 16? Not so much for me. And certainly not a trade up.

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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Quote Originally Posted by berg8309 View Post
    I'd hesitate to go ahead and anoint Austin the #1 playmaker on the team. He's electric, but short, and hasn't yet played in the NFL. The fact he projects as a role player that you have to design plays for in order for him to be effective worries me. I'd rather have a traditional #1 receiver than a gimmick receiver who gets half his yards on punt returns instead of making catches. A player like Austin? Love to have him. At 16? Not so much for me. And certainly not a trade up.
    A role player who can line up in the slot, outside the numbers, in the backfield, return kicks, and return punts, translates to a valuable weapon IMO, and much more than a gimmick. As I said earlier, it's the sum of his abilities that make him special, and a first round talent. The rub is, you don't know if you're getting Percy Harvin, DeSean Jackson, or Ted Ginn, Jr. I'd be fine with taking him at 22.

    I'm not sure if he's addressed Austin, but I'd love to hear what Nick thinks. He's the closest thing we have to an authority.

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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    I'm not sure if he's addressed Austin, but I'd love to hear what Nick thinks. He's the closest thing we have to an authority.
    Best case scenario: Austin is Percy Harvin without the off the field issues. Worst case scenario: Austin is Dexter McCluster.

    Austin was a great college football player, but he's been able to be successful in part because he plays in an offense predicated on getting him the ball in space - quick slants or drag routes, screens, sweep passes, pistol bunch formations, etc.

    He's not a traditional wide receiver, so teams are going to have to be willing to tweak their traditional offenses to fit him. You've got to be committed to putting him in motion often, calling plays specifically designed to go to him in the open field, and making that a focal point of your offense.

    If you're willing to do that, then he will probably be a successful player. But I question whether the Rams are willing to go that direction after giving Cook big money to come here as an option in the slot, and I wonder if a more conservative coach like Fisher is willing to venture outside the box enough to use Austin how he ought to be used, at least to make him worth that selection.

    He is an electrifying athlete though, and dangerous every time he has the ball. If the Rams draft him, I hope it's because they have a plan of how to maximize his production, and I'll be excited to see how it turns out.

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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Quote Originally Posted by berg8309 View Post
    Danny Amendola led the leagues in all-purpose yards in 2010 while as a Ram, and our offense wasn't exactly imposing its will on defenses. Point is that just that having a guy that is leading the league in all-purpose yards most certainly does not mean your offense is rolling and scoring whenever it wants.

    I'd hesitate to go ahead and anoint Austin the #1 playmaker on the team. He's electric, but short, and hasn't yet played in the NFL. The fact he projects as a role player that you have to design plays for in order for him to be effective worries me. I'd rather have a traditional #1 receiver than a gimmick receiver who gets half his yards on punt returns instead of making catches. A player like Austin? Love to have him. At 16? Not so much for me. And certainly not a trade up.
    So does that mean we should stray away from players who could possibly lead the league in all-purpose yards? Of course not, that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it?. Me thinks so.

    So point taken but retorted.

    Besides, we're talking about an undrafted rookie vs a potential top ten pick here.

    Not to take anything away from Danny, but there has to be some difference in ability, doesn't it?

    Put Austin in Danny's role on this Ram team, and they instantly become more dynamic, more explosive, and some of those short passes that were 10,15,20 yards to Amendola, suddenly become 30 and 40 yard gains with Austin. Some even ending up in the endzone. That to me, is a huge difference.

    He's electric, but short?:eek: Wow.......not sure what that means, but for what it's worth, he's taller than Darren Sproles.

    Everybody on given team is a "role player", because no one player can do diddly squat without his teammates. Even if he's labeled the #1 WR. If he doesn't do his part, the team suffers. So point taken, but retorted.

    And finally, it is an O-coordinators job to design plays. That's what he does for a living. So I doubt that Schottenheimer would be doing anything out of the ordinary.

    But If he should have a problem designing plays for a player of Austin's ability, then perhaps he should give up his post.

    Besides, players like Austin are who really make coordinators look like geniuses.

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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Fortune... I like Austin a lot (he's the #3 player on my Rams draft board). I do think, however, that its dangerous to get too attached to one player. If some other team is willing to invest a top 10 pick on him, you'll have to move on to Plan B.
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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    He is an electrifying athlete though, and dangerous every time he has the ball. If the Rams draft him, I hope it's because they have a plan of how to maximize his production, and I'll be excited to see how it turns out.
    I figured you'd have an accurate take on Austin, since I'm assuming you've seen almost all his games as a Mountaineer in their entirety, as opposed to just highlights or a few performances.

    With that in mind, what is your opinion on the notion that Austin could be considered a fumbler? Did you see it that way? Would you feel comfortable with him returning kicks and punts for the Rams?

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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    Fortune... I like Austin a lot (he's the #3 player on my Rams draft board). I do think, however, that its dangerous to get too attached to one player. If some other team is willing to invest a top 10 pick on him, you'll have to move on to Plan B.
    I absolutely agree. That's why I'd only consider moving up in the draft to get him if it's SF I'm moving in front of. Otherwise I'm perfectly fine standing pat and drafting Patterson if he's there.

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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    I figured you'd have an accurate take on Austin, since I'm assuming you've seen almost all his games as a Mountaineer in their entirety, as opposed to just highlights or a few performances.

    With that in mind, what is your opinion on the notion that Austin could be considered a fumbler? Did you see it that way? Would you feel comfortable with him returning kicks and punts for the Rams?
    He's had some muffs in the past but my recollection is not a significant amount more than any other player at the position. I'd feel comfortable with him back there.


    Quote Originally Posted by Fortuninerhater View Post
    I absolutely agree. That's why I'd only consider moving up in the draft to get him if it's SF I'm moving in front of. Otherwise I'm perfectly fine standing pat and drafting Patterson if he's there.
    But that's pretty unlikely to happen. If they were to move up, it likely wouldn't be until their trade partner is on the clock, making it impossible for the Rams to respond and trade to a spot in front of them.
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    Re: NFL.com: Tavon Austin, Star Lotulelei top NFL Draft's overrated prospects

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    But that's pretty unlikely to happen. If they were to move up, it likely wouldn't be until their trade partner is on the clock, making it impossible for the Rams to respond and trade to a spot in front of them.
    That's true, and I did think about that.

    Maybe the Rams could put a tap on SF phones. Lol
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