While waiting in line for tickets to the NFL Draft a few years ago at 4:45 AM (which still wasn't early enough - I should have shown up at 3), a cab driver pulled up and asked a guy standing next to me, "Why is everyone here? What's everyone waiting for?"
"We're watching college kids get jobs."
How true. So let's take a look at the job prospects of a few of our Golden Bears, with prognostications, opinions, and predictions after the jump.
The headliner of our team last year, it may come as a surprise that he may not even be our highest drafted Golden Bear this year - that distinction might fall to monstrous defensive lineman, Tyson Alualu. We'll get to him later.
But here's a quick sampling of thoughts about our Jahvid. First, the positives:
Turns the corner swiftly, shows a second gear after turning shoulders upfield and is a threat to go the distance when gets a seam. Great wiggle in space. Can make defenders miss by changing speed and direction in a flash. Above-average sideline awareness and shows good balance when tip-toeing down the line. Generally carries the ball in the outside hand.
Best’s game is all about speed, quickness, acceleration and elusiveness making him a home run threat from the running back position. Is a high-character guy, who will compete and fight for extra yards despite size. Does a good job reading his blocks, shows patience and can find the cutback lane. Very dangerous open field runner. Exhibits solid receiving skills.
Elusive ball-carrier who consistently displays the ability to create his own yardage. Terrific athlete who combines quickness, speed, and explosion. Patient, effectively uses his blocks and weaves his way on the inside, picking and choosing his spots. Finds the cutback lanes, quickly gets through them and has a burst of speed. Beats defenders in the open field and then runs to daylight. Loses no momentum when he must immediately change direction, and easily beats defenders around the corner. Quick-footed, sets up defenders and then makes them miss. Slides to the inside and squirts through the small openings of the defense. Terrific pass catcher who lines up on the flanks and displays the ability to get downfield to make game-changing receptions.
Outside: His most impressive area. Good speed to beat the linebacker to the edge and is dazzling in the open field. Rare lateral agility and balance to elude in tight quarters and when running at full speed in the open field. Very quick to accelerate out of line and has rare top-end speed to pull away. Good vision for the cutback. Legitimate start-stop-accelerate move to allow his pursuers to fly past him. Switches the ball to his outside arm when he gets into the open field.
Breaking tackles: Spins and dances his way out of more tackles than his size would indicate. Keeps his feet moving after contact and flashes a decent stiff-arm to push free. Doesn't have the leg drive, however, to consistently break NFL caliber tackles.
Receiving: Soft, reliable hands out of the backfield. Has the burst out of his cuts to line up out wide, but was typically used on underneath dumpoffs, screens and an occasional wheel route. Tracks the ball and catches it cleanly. Can adjust his body to catch poorly thrown passes due to good body control and hand-eye coordination for the position.
That all sounds well and good. But we all know what the negatives are:
2007: Misses three games with hip injury. 2008: Misses spring practices with hip injury. Dislocates left elbow and misses Arizona state game. 2009: Misses spring practices recovering from foot and elbow surgeries. Misses practice time with a toe injury during preseason. Sustains a concussion and injures his back during Oregon State game, misses the final three games of the season.
Explodes through the hole and can hit the second level going full speed but he needs a seam to be effective. Drives legs after contact and finishes runs but lacks ideal lower-body strength and is not going to push the pile in short-yardage/goal line situations.
Best lacks the prototypical size of an every down NFL running back. Does not have the strength to consistently break tackles or push the pile. Durability is a real concern after missing time due to various ailments throughout career. Is not a power runner. Will need to improve his blocking ability in the passing game.
Inside: Lacks the size and strength to consistently be effective in this area, though he isn't intimidated by the big bodies inside and is a threat to break off a big run due to his burst to and through the hole. Prefers to attack the gap and squirt through, but has learned to run with patience and will take advantage of cutback lanes.
The end result is a player ranked by ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. as the 36th best prospect in this year's draft and the third rated RB overall - behind C.J. Spiller of Clemson and Ryan Mathews of Fresno State - and he would almost certainly be higher than Mathews and on par with Spiller had it not been for that nasty fall against Oregon State. So what does this portend for Best's NFL future? The consensus seems to be that he's an explosive playmaker who shouldn't be thrust into a role as a 250-carry back.
That isn't as much of a knock on Best as it would have been years ago, as the trend has been away from using one primary back and giving him 85-90% of his team's carries for years now. Of the 32 teams in the NFL last year, only six teams had backs who had as many as 300 carries last year, and six more had a single player with at least 240 rushing attempts. Can Jahvid handle 15 carries and 3-4 receptions a game? I think it's fair to say that he can, even with his injury concerns.
So where might he end up? A quick look at the previous link also helps reveal some of the teams that might be targeting Jahvid as either a complement to their primary back or as a replacement altogether. He's also expected to go somewhere early the second round (though it wouldn't be an outright shock if he went late in the first), so let's take a look at a few of the possible destinations:
- San Diego Chargers (pick 28) - The earliest that Best could reasonably expect to go assuming there isn't a trade late into the first round. RB is a need for the Chargers with the release of the dessicated remains of LaDainian Tomlinson, but there's a case to be made that he wouldn't offer enough of a change of pace from incumbent Darren Sproles for the pick to be worthwhile. Most drafts that have the Chargers taking a RB here have Ryan Mathews going in this spot, and that makes sense given the different running styles that he and Sproles have. So is it out of the question that Best winds up here? It's unlikely, but given the team's need at the position, and the fact that Sproles is working without a long-term deal, it's not impossible. yellow fever's odds: 10%
- Indianapolis Colts (pick 31) - Lost in the fact that the Colts have picked two first-round RBs since 2006 is that neither of them did a very good job last year. Joseph Addai's career fell off to the point that the Colts felt the need to push him by drafting Donald Brown out of Connecticut last year, but Brown didn't put forth a convincing argument to take over the job either. So while the Colts have employed a relatively even two-back rotation since the departure of Edgerrin James, the question worth asking here is whether Best represents enough of an upgrade to either of the two parts of this timeshare for the Colts to invest yet another first-round pick in their woeful running game. The answer to that is probably not, given the team's pressing need at DT, but Addai, like Sproles, is working in the last year of his contract and the team may want to bring his heir apparent onboard sooner than rather than later. yellow fever's odds: 5%
- Detroit Lions (pick 34) - SBN's Mocking the Draft has Best going here, and for good reason. Kevin Smith hasn't shown he's the answer, and the team has a dire need for more playmakers on offense besides Calvin Johnson. Best can help out here and would likely have a bigger role than he would for most of the other teams listed here. It's probably unlikely he slips past the Lions (where he can hang out with the Pain Train) but the team may want to go OL or WR to help Matthew Stafford as well depending on who's available. yellow fever's odds: 70%
- Cleveland Browns (pick 38) - The Browns let former 2,000 yard RB Jamal Lewis ride off into the sunset this past offseason, and brought in former LSU FB Peyton Hillis. That's not quite filling the void, but they do have Jerome Harrison and his 286-yard day on hand. The rest of the team's RB corps consists of guys who used to be decent down at southern colleges (James Davis of Clemson and Thomas Brown of Georgia), but aren't projected to have a huge role. It wouldn't be a bad idea for the Chiefs to snap up Best and put him in a timeshare with Harrison until one of them proves that he deserves the majority of the touches, especially given Harrison's complete and utter lack of a track record of NFL success prior to his big day. yellow fever's odds: 10%
- Oakland Raiders (pick 39) - We all know Al Davis loves athletes, and if he were to add Bruce Campbell in the first round to go along with Best in the second, the Raiders would continue to have one hell of a relay team. There is no chance Best gets past the Raiders. yellow fever's odds: 5%
I love this kid. He's got a great motor. Heavy hands. Tough kid. He played a little out of position at the 5-technique in
Cal's 3-4. I think he's a 3-technique in a four-man front. But even the 3-4 teams like him. They would play him on first and second down at the 5, then kick him inside on third down. He's a guy who's really risen since the end of the season.
Plays with an edge and looks to drive offensive linemen back when he gets under their pads. Both upper- and lower-body strength appear above-average on film. Strong and heavy handed. Displays a violent and powerful initial punch Plays with a relentless motor as a pass rusher but he will sometimes gear down prematurely when pursuing the run.More stout than his size suggests and even flashes the ability to hold ground against double teams. Generally stays low and gets under the blocker's pads. Plays with a wide base and keeps his head up so he can locate the ball. Flashes the ability to shed blocks in time to make plays at the line of scrimmage and is a powerful tackler who wraps up on contact. Takes adequate pursuit angles but lacks elite range and is not going to chase down many backs. Footwork is inconsistent. Lunges at times and can lose balance.
Productive talent who played at a high level throughout career earning all-conference recognition. Uses his power to hold up at the point of attack and to push the pocket. Displays the pass rush ability necessary to stay on the field on third down. Exhibits impressive hand use to gain leverage and shed blockers. Is a tough, relentless player.
Strong, nasty defender with the ability to be used at several spots on the line. Displays good first-step quickness, keeps his pads low to the ground, and gets leverage on opponents. Breaks down well, rarely off his feet, and quickly locates the ball. Smart football player, keeps his feet driving on contact, and fires through gaps up the field. Consistently focused on or double teamed by opponents in the middle of the line. Displays good hand technique and an array of moves getting off blocks. Chases the action hard and plays with a non-stop motor.
Good initial quickness off the snap. Good lateral agility and balance to slide down the line against the toss and make the tackle at or near the line of scrimmage. Uses his natural leverage advantage and overall strength to anchor at the point of attack. Good upper-body strength to stack and shed in the running game.
Looks lighter on film than his listed weight, but plays with good strength at the point of attack. Relies on his lower-body drive and natural leverage advantage to anchor. Doesn't give up much room and has the quick, strong hands to disengage to make plays at or near the line of scrimmage.
Locates the ball quickly and flies to the action. Only marginal flexibility to break down in space, but he's a high-effort pursuit defender willing to launch his body into the air to knock down the ballcarrier. Good strength for the drag-down tackle.
High-intensity player who plays with reckless abandon. Seems to enjoy the physical aspect of the game and is willing to throw his body into the pile. Team captain. Given the team's Brick Muller Award as the defensive line MVP the past three years. Played in all 51 games of his career. Earned Joe Roth Award for best exemplifying courage, attitude and sportsmanship, as well as the Senior Lifter of the Year. Married with two children.
After all that would Tyson only be a second rounder then? Because like everyone else, he has some negatives:
Adequate bull rusher who flashes the ability to collapse the pocket. Does a good job of getting his hands up when he sees the quarterback start his throwing motion. Fights to get off blocks and can make plays with second effort but doesn't force offensive linemen to move their feet enough. Doesn't show a variety of double moves and needs to do a better job of setting offensive linemen up. Would struggle to turn the corner if asked to line up at end in the NFL and is not going to win many battles with his first step when lined up on the inside. Can get caught out of his rush lane.
Only possesses average size. Lacks the ideal bulk to play inside and the height of a defensive end. Average change of direction in space and doesn’t always locate the football quickly. Only has average range in pursuit and won’t chase down plays from the backside.
Has a good initial burst and hand placement to get into the pads of the offensive tackle and drive him into the pocket. Lacks sustained speed off the edge to rush the passer as a defensive end and likely will be moved inside to tackle in the NFL. Marginal technique as a pass rusher. Relies on a bull rush and strong hands to disengage and uses mostly effort to collapse the pocket. Shows a spin move, but it is slow to develop and generally ineffective.
Provides good initial pop when meeting the blocker. Shows explosiveness in his hands with his ability to shed blocks and gives high effort to close, but only marginal burst.
The consensus here seems to be that Alualu is a high-energy player who is versatile enough to play any position on the defensive line, but will likely be a much better defender against the run than against the pass, as he isn't expected to provide much of a pass rush. Each of these analyses also included the caveat that Alualu's production likely would have been greater had he not played in a 3-4 alignment and as a 4-3 defender, more people would know his name.
- St. Louis Rams (33rd pick) - The Rams are widely expected to take Sam Bradford first overall, but that isn't going to solve all of their problems. The Rams could use a lot of help on their defensive line (though to be fair, they could use a lot of help everywhere) as Adam Carriker and Chris Long haven't quite panned out the way they would like. Leonard Little finally said good bye this past offseason as well. It's not the most pressing of needs, but given that Steve Spagnuolo had a wealth of riches on his defensive line with the Giants before taking the Rams head job and that there's a vacancy in the DL rotation with Carriker having been traded to the Redskins just days ago, he may want to go that route again. yellow fever's odds: 5%
- Kansas City Chiefs (36th pick) - Glenn Dorsey hasn't panned out since being picked fourth overall in 2008, and Tyson Jackson didn't light the world on fire either last year. Without a top DT prospect from LSU to choose from this year, what will the Chiefs do? Given the reports that Dorsey is on the trading block and how atrocious the team's rushing defense was last year at 31st in the league, more help along the defensive line should be a priority. Then again, the team needs help all over the defense, and may opt for a LB (Sean Weatherspoon?) if a highly rated prospect slips a little bit. Safety is also a need and has been for years, and the Chiefs may not want to go for another DL again for fear of turning into the DL version of Matt Millen and his WRs. Still, if they do want to go this route, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to choose someone who has experience in the 3-4 already. yellow fever's odds: 5%
- New England Patriots (44th pick) - After trading Richard Seymour last year and seeing Jarvis Green head for Denver this offseason, the Patriots could use an infusion of new blood along their defensive line (and another Cal alum for Tully Banta-Cain to hang out with). Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton says the Patriots could use a powerful 3-4 DE who can play in a two-gap scheme, and who is athletic enough to rush the QB in a 4-3 front. While the pass rushing part may be in question, the versatility and athleticism are not, so this would seem to be a good fit. yellow fever's odds: 60%
- New York Giants (46th pick) - It's hard to imagine Alualu slipping past the Giants here, because this would be a good match of need and skills. The Giants defensive line has fallen off from where it was in the past, with Osi Umenyiora having a terribly disappointing year, Justin Tuck failing to continue his rise to superstar status, and free agent imports Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard not living up to expectations. Mainstay Fred Robbins left this offseason for greener pastures in St. Louis to be reunited with Spagnuolo, leaving a relatively thin group of defensive tackles for new coordinator Perry Fewell to tinker with. The Giants are likely going to spend most of this draft rebuilding their defense, and as it always has in New York, that starts with the defensive line. yellow fever's odds: 30%
Thompson's metrics in the Maryland and Minnesota contests were excellent. He allowed only 22 yards on eight passes thrown his way, or a minuscule 3.1 yards per attempt. Thompson knocked down three of the incompletions, so it wasn't a matter of poor passes or drops. He was dominant, albeit in a small sample size.
Thompson also performed quite well against the run. He won three of the five point of attack (POA) blocks he was involved in and he also had two of what I call "crashes." A crash is credited when a cornerback is lined up in an outside position at the snap (i.e. he isn't in the box) and closes to make contact with the ball carrier within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. This is the way I measure a cornerback's run-stuffing ability on plays where he isn't blocked. Thompson showed absolutely no hesitation to stick his head into a runner and it is a key reason he is among the leading tacklers on the Golden Bears.
Two more inches in height would add an extra digit that makes a psychological difference but it doesn't really make any difference in the final analysis. Everything my metric and scouting eyes have seen thus far say that he should be considered an early-mid first-round prospect.
Explodes out of his backpedal and is at his best playing off-man coverage. Shows excellent burst coming off the edge and can get to the quarterback when asked to blitz. Adequate but not great recovery speed.Gets his head turned in time to locate the ball and tracks it well. Times jumps well and flashes the ability to high-point the ball. Shows above-average sideline awareness. Does a good job of getting a hand on ball without drawing pass-interference flags. Field punts well but is a bit inconsistent and can drop errant passes he should catch.Plays with confidence. Appears to read QBs well and can jump underneath routes. Time hits well and can separate receivers from the ball. Does an above-average job of sniffing out bubble screens. On the other hand, he lets receivers dictate routes and makes it too easy for them to get inside leverage on slants.
Thompson is an athletic corner despite not having great top end speed. He’s a durable, productive talent who did not miss any games in Berkeley where he was a three-year starter. Makes up for lack of ideal size with toughness. Has shown impressive instincts throughout his career. Has experience in the punt return game.
Aggressive cornerback with a polished game. Effectively diagnoses the action, shows a physical nature to his game, and stays with assignments. Fast up the field defending the run, forceful on the blitz, and has a nice burst to the play. Works well with teammates, displays a good head for the position, and works hard to defend passes. Fluid pedaling in reverse, smooth turning his hips, and displays a quick burst to the throw out of his plant. Sure-handed wrap-up tackler in the open field.
Alert, diagnoses the action quickly. Reacts quickly to wide receiver screens and see plays develop in the running game. Aggressive to jump routes with the agility and straight-line speed to recover from missteps.
Flashes a good initial jam at the line of scrimmage. Smooth in his backpedal and can turn and run with receivers in man coverage. Good lateral agility. Shows an explosive burst to close on the ball with good technique in deep coverage. Squeezes the receiver toward the sideline and plays the ball. Rarely flagged for pass interference in three years as a starter.
Plays with better physicality than expected for his size. Good read-and-react skills. Can read the quarterback and make a play on the ball when in zone coverage. Good agility to change direction. Efficient and reliable open-field tackler.
Very good straight-line speed to recover if beaten initially. Explosive burst to close. Competitive. Will fight for the jump ball and rip passes out of the hands of receivers. Showed improved hands as a junior (four interceptions), but only has six career picks despite his talent for breaking on the ball (30 passes broken up in 39 starts).
Above-average top-end speed but lacks ideal bulk and height.Frequently plays off the line in California's scheme so there are concerns about his ability to open his hips when asked to turn and run at the NFL level. Fluid getting in and out of cuts.Takes too long to shed blocks and can create running lanes for the ball carrier by turning his shoulders, but he is an effective wrap-up tackler who isn't afraid to throw his body around and flashes the ability to deliver the big hit despite his size.
Lacks the size NFL scouts prefer for the position, but is a natural playmaker with the secure hands, elusiveness and burst as cornerback and returner in the NFL. Earned a second-round grade from NFL scouts last year. Four-year starter with no games lost to injury. High-effort defender with no known off-field issues. Comparison to Jones is strictly based on size and athletic ability as a cornerback and returner.
- Philadelphia Eagles - Trading Sheldon Brown left the CB cupboard a little bare, and the team could use reinforcements for depth. He could help out in the return game (though the Eagles do have a pretty good PR already) and he's already a much better tackler than Asante Samuel could ever dream to be. He would probably need to bulk up a little bit more if possible, but he should be able to help as a good extra CB with the potential to develop into more down the road. And besides, watching Squid vs. THA1 might be the only thing that gets me to go to Eagles training camp again this summer.
- Minnesota Vikings - Antoine Winfield is the prototypical short run-supporting corner with decent coverage skills, so why not send him there to learn from the blueprint? Both of their starting corners are still recovering from injury and Syd's experience in a zone-based scheme means he wouldn't likely have to alter his playing style much.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Syd could also pick up a thing or two from Ronde Barber, who only feels like he's been playing the Cover 2 in Tampa Bay forever. Of course, it's no surprise that Barber is now 35 and the team could be looking for a replacement soon. Other than Aqib Talib, no other Bucs CB has truly distinguished himself, so it might be worth it to add one with starting potential who has shown the ability to play well in zone schemes and support the run - the two main responsibilities of the CB position in the Tampa 2.