Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Notes on LSU prospects.

I was paying particular attention to three intriguing LSU prospects in the game against Washington. Here are my thoughts on the next big things from Baton Rouge, based on this game and other tape.

Zach Mettenberger, QB

Jr., 21 years old, 6-5/230

It's really too early to see what kind of Quarterback Zach's really going to be. After two starts, he could be a 7th rounder, or he could be the first overall pick. Anything is possible for Mettenberger, but he would be foolish to declare this year. The former University of Georgia and Butler Community College quarterback has an NFL calibre arm, but needs to work on his game before he'll be ready to make the jump. Nevertheless, I really like his arm strength, and he's young so he has plenty of time to clean up a slightly laborious release. He did a great job moving around in the pocket and finding the open man against Washington, although he wasn't under very much pressure. Crucially, he didn't make any costly mistakes. His strong arm, and prototypical size, means he has the physical tools to push himself into first round consideration in the 2014 NFL draft.

Comparisons in the NFL?: It's really too early to see what kind of Quarterback Zach's really going to be. However, his physical tools means he's comparable to Brandon Weeden as a recent prospect, and Philip Rivers as a veteran.

Good Fits for Zach: We don't really know who'll still need a Quarterback in 2014, but I really like the idea of putting him in the mix in either Denver or New England. Especially if he declares this year, he'll need to work behind a veteran for a time, but should be a starter down the line.

Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB

Jr., 22 years old, 6-5/240, 8 sacks in 2011

Barkevious Mingo is fast. Really, really, blindingly fast. You can be watching him run on film, think, "he's fast, but he's only quite fast", and then you realise tha you're watching the slow motion replay and everyone else looks like they're playing with their feet in cement blocks. The LSU pass rusher has great size and a first step to die for. Those tackles that do get their hands on him can end up on the receiving end of a pretty nasty spin move. If that doesn't work, he's still going to keep coming, because he's got a phenomenal motor. I'm not sure I've ever seen him give up on a play. Once he's got a lane to the Quarterback, he's on him like lightning. He's also tough to trick, and consistently shows a great ability to key in on what the offense is doing. He does very well blowing up play-action, and doesn't bite on fakes very often.Mingo's going to be a top ten pick, because he has the ability to come in to a team and put up double digit sacks as a rookie. He's only two games into his junior season, but he already looks ready to compete in the NFL. However, the team that does acquire him would be smart to use him as Aldon Smith was used in his first season in San Francisco. Though capable of making a big impact when unleashed at a passer, his strength at the point of attack leaves something to be desired. Physically he'll be more than capable of being a 3 down player in the long term, but he might well get abused in the running game early on. He may well have to bulk up at the NFL, especially if he's going to play DE in a 4-3. He can do this, or play as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Comparisons in the NFL: Mingo suffers from a comparison to Bruce Irvin or Vinny Curry. He's a more complete prospect than either, but he shares their electric speed. When it comes to comparing him to a veteran,  he needs to bulk up. If he does, he'll earn comparison to rushers like Robert Mathis and Shawn Philips.

Good fits for Barkevious: There'll be a bunch of teams on the look out for a guy like Mingo in April. The Jets still need a pass rusher, and the Steelers need a long term replacement for James Harrison. However, Mingo will be gone long before he gets to either of these teams. Both the Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts should be on the look out for edge rushers high in next year's draft, and they'll both take a long hard look at Mingo.

Sam Montgomery, DE/OLB

Jr., 22 years old, 6-5/260, 9 sacks in 2011

Sam Montgomery is not quite as fast as Mingo, but is, to me, the more impressive player. Mingo gets to the quarterback, and terrorises bad tackles, but Montgomery is more well rounded and dominant in every phase. Two plays against Washington stand out, even though Montgomery achieved little of real impact on either. On the first, Montgomery applies pressure to the Washington Quarterback Keith Price deep in his own half. Montgomery gets off the line of scrimmage and round the edge so quickly that the tackle just never gets his hands on him. Price gets the ball away, but Montgomery gets in a hit. Only a few plays later, the Huskies decide to run a rollout play-action away from Montgomery's side. Montgomery is trying to chase it down, so he comes across the face of the tackle and instead engages with the guard. When I say engages, I mean ploughs through him so hard that the guard is tossed into his own running back. Montgomery has that unreal mix of strength and speed that allows him to be a terrifying force whatever the offense is trying to do to him. He might not blow up the combine as much as his pass rush partner Mingo, but he's the Senior partner on tape.

Comparisons in the NFL: No pass rush prospect as good as Montgomery was available in the 2012 draft. He's perhaps most similar to Robert Quinn from 2011. In the NFL, if he develops as I expect him to, I think he can be a DeMarcus Ware type player.

Good fits for Sam: Pretty much every team in the NFL could use a stud pass rusher like Montgomery. The Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders could all really use him. Montgomery could, and should, go in the top five based on what I've seen so far.

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