As I attempted to master the landscape of the Packers current 2009 roster, I noticed some obvious areas that required improvement in order to become legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Areas that I'd focus on throughout the upcoming college season as I continue my amateur scouting status. I feel the Packers are still lacking the speedy, home run threat out of the backfield. We're also in need of a Strong Safety. Ras-A-tari's ability to recover from injury is a concern for me. We need a solid blocking TE that is a consistent chain mover, possession style receiver. We also need another big body on the DL. As the season wears on, it might be determined that we need help at LB and at OT. For now, I'm going to assume that our LB's can make a smooth switch to the 3-4 and I'm going to assume that between Lang, Meredith, Barbre and Giacomini, we have 2 starting tackles.
At this stage, I'm limited with the number of players that truly excite me as the 2009 college football season nears. Admittedly, I'm a little behind. Oh well, I've got a full season to catch up. However, I've gone through my notes from the previous year and here are some thoughts:
If the NFL Draft were tomorrow, I'd want a SS. I believe the Packers will be a playoff team in 2009. Taylor Mays will be the top S in college football. Eric Berry, from Tennessee, will be a legitimate NFL S. But, the guy I'll be watching most closely is Reshad Jones, SS, Georgia. He follows the ball in the air. He'll lay you out. He looks for contact. He's a lethal tackler. He plays with aggression. I plan on watching as much Georgia football as possible in 2009. Other safeties that I feel are worth mentioning at this point are Myron Rolle, FSU. He's not worth a 1st round pick at this stage, but he could show growth. Major Wright, UF, is a classic speedster Florida DB. Quinten Andrews, WVU, is a solid S, but he has character issues and I'd never want him in Green & Gold.
As for DT, Terrence Cody from Alabama really excites me. Cody is massive. Hard to push around. I'll be interested to see Jeff Owens from Georgia. He would have been a 1st day pick last year had it not been for a season ending injury. Quick as a cat. Not great size. He'd probably have to be a DE in the 3-4. The same could be said for his teammate Geno Atkins. He, too, plays DT for the 'Dogs. Atkins is a better pass rusher than Owens. Owens has been the better run stopper. Both will be worth watching in '09. Other guys that I have my eye on at this point are Doug Worthington, Ohio State, Scotter Berry, WVU, and Dan Williams from Tennessee.
CJ Spiller from Clemson is a superstar, HR style RB. He can score from anywhere on the field. He's exactly what I'd be looking for. He'll probably end up as a top-10 pick - if he stays healthy this year. Noel Devine, WVU, might have that capability. I'll be interested to see what he does without Pat White. Joe McKnight is terrific, but does he have the size to do it in the NFL? CJ Gable, McKnight's teammate has more weight, so it'll be interesting to see if he has the tools to be the better NFL back. Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray from Oklahoma have been a magnificent college combo. It'll be fun to follow them this year. Mikell Simpson, from Virginia, has not shown that he is the HR hitter that I want, but he's been a fighter that has had the athleticism and the football wherewithal to find the 1st down stick. Two guys that I'm really interested in watching are Keith Toston, OK State, and Vondrell McGee, Texas. Both showed flashes of brilliance, but will now given the full reigns as featured backs. Evan Royster, PSU, and Charles Scott, LSU, are prime for big time seasons. I'm not positive that either will fit our scheme. I'll follow it. Miami RB's Greg Cooper and Javarris Jackson have the speed to make it at the next level. They need to show that they have the production to go with it. Ben Tate, Auburn, has the talent and is a patient runner. Needs to stay healthy. If so, he'll be a name to follow in '09. Finally, Brandon James, UF, has been one of my favorite players in college football for the last couple of years. He's displayed limited offensive skills, but he's an electric kick returner.
Two guys that I'm stoked about play for Oklahoma State; Dez Bryant and Perrish Cox. One is a WR and one is a CB. Dez Bryant might be the best player that no one has heard of. Pay attention. He'll be all over the highlight films in '09. At this point, Dez Bryant is unquestionably my favorite player in college football. Perrish Cox is a football player. He'll be an elite kick returner. He'll also get in your face and play bump-and-run cover corner. Great size. Great speed. Good instincts. Worth a look. Just watching him move - you see he's a football player.
At TE, I'd take Garrett Graham today. Don't get me wrong, I like the Packers TE's. Lee & J-Mike are ballers, but Graham has heavy potential. Great hands. Great blocker. Finds the hole in the defense. He'd compliment our current stable wonderfully. Jermaine Gresham, OK, is the best TE in college football. I'm also looking at Aaron Hernandez, UF, Jeff Cottam, Tenn, and Rob Gronkowski, AZ. All guys that have possession-style TE written all over them. Cottam is a big target that'll warrant a lot of attention. Gronkowski is a legit athlete with all the tools to play at the next level.
DE is one area that I don't present know a whole lot about. I like George Selvie from South Florida, but I thought he was better as a Sophomore than as a Junior. He might end up as an ideal 3-4 end. Brandon Lang, from Michigan, was a terrific pass rusher last year. Greg Hardy, Ole Miss, might end up being the best DE in the country. He's undersized and a speed guy. Gets the corner. Rahim Alem, LSU, is also an undersized, speed rusher who relishes in the notion of attacking the QB. Koa Misi, Utah, is a guy that impressed Stack when Utah destroyed 'Bama in the Bowl game.
Lord knows that I've always followed CB's. Closely. Two years ago, I was stunned by the aggressive nature of Syd'Quan Thompson, CB, CAL. Dude is tiny. But, plays large. Now, he's a Senior. Keep an eye on him. I mentioned Perrish Cox earlier. Javier Arenas, BAMA, is a classic Nick Saban - in your face style CB. Plays with a mean streak. Joe Haden, UF, is another one of the speedy, cocky Florida DB's. True that most have come from either UM or FSU, but you get the point. Alterraun Verner, UCLA, is a guy that I wrote about early last year. He took control of the game against Tennessee last year in the 1st half. I did not get a chance to watch him much after that game, but I expect big things out of him this year. Finds the ball. Good at reading the QB's eyes and jumping routes. Guy can dance. And, on principal, I have to write down Ras-I Dowling, Virginia. Love his name. And can play.
Now that we've transitioned to the 3-4, I'll take a whole new perspective on LB's. Of course, you have the studs: Brandon Spikes, UF, Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri, Dekoda Watson, FSU, and Greg Jones, Michigan State. But, I'm interested in Stevenson Sylvester, Utah. Stack and I discussed him at length after the Utah vs Alabama game. Admittedly, I was intoxicated and watching without volume, but when Stack and I talked, he asked me if I saw the game. I said to him, "#'s 4 & 10 from Utah jumped out at me." #4 was Sean Smith, the 2nd round pick for the Dolphins. #10 was Stevenson Sylvester. Stack can provide a much more detailed analysis of Sylvester. All I know is that he was all over the field. He was quick. He was punishing. Other names to follow: Rico McCoy, Tennessee, Rennie Curran, Georgia and Quan Sturdivant, UNC.
Hopefully, we'll have no interest in drafting a QB. But, if we do, I love Todd Reesing. He'll probably go undrafted. But, man, his heart is worth a late round pick. He's heroic for Jayhawks fans. He's an ultimate entertainer. He might be too small for the NFL, but man, he's instinctive. Lethal. At times, uncontainable. Of course, names like Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, and Sam Bradford will be at the top of Draft Boards. Dan LeFevour is from Central Michigan. A client of mine has been talking to me about him for two years. Check him out. Other names that are worthy of attention: Tony Pike, Cincy, and Matt Grothe from South Florida. Could Juice Williams and Daryll Clark, PSU, have careers in the WildCat formation?
Finally, at WR. This year's WR class is loaded with top talent. Again, Dez Bryant from OK State can flat out play. The real deal. Mardy Gilyard, Cincy, is a great WR. He's also a terrific kick returner. He might be the best kick returner in the land. Brandon Lafell, LSU, would have been a 1st day pick if he would have come out last year. He'll probably be the most sparkling WR in the SEC. Jordan Shipley, Texas, is an all-around talent. He's had a flair for making the big play in big games for the Longhorns. Dezmon Briscoe has been phenomenal for Kansas. Great size. Good ability in the air. Very good in traffic. Damian Williams is next in the line of highly skilled college style WR's at USC. Golden Tate, ND, is your classic overachiever. One of those guys that consistently gets the job done. David Gilreath will continue to bring life to the Wisconsin Badger offense. It's always fun when the Badgers have an athletic WR. Gilreath has made a believer out of me.
To close, in order, my favorite players as we enter the college football season (not necessarily the way that I'd draft them - just games that I admire):
1.) Dez Bryant
2.) Resahd Jones - he's probably not better than Mays or Berry, but I like him better.
3.) Taylor Mays
4.) Eric Berry
5.) CJ Spiller
6.) Mardy Gilyard
7.) Terrence Cody
8.) Brandon Lafell
9.) Perrish Cox
10.)Stevenson Sylvester - yes, I need to see more of him, but I'm enchanted both by my blurred vision and by Stack's blessing.
Until Training Camp,