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Draft Talk With Will Spencer

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Continuing our draft coverage here at GGN, we are proud to present a discussion with Will Spencer. Will is the founder and lead writer for Draft Breakdown, his work has been published on the Baltimore Ravens official website, Scout.com, Orange and Brown Report as well as Ravens Insider. Will is also a member of the Football Writers Association of America and graduated from the Sports Management Worldwide Scouting and General Manager class in 2009. Scouting prospects since 2002, anything he doesn't know draft related, is probably not worth knowing.

In between his trip to Mobile, Alabama to cover the Senior Bowl, and covering the Scouting Combine, he has kindly agreed to sit down with GGN and discuss some of the prospects we have been talking about. If you are on twitter be sure to follow Will for the latest draft coverage, and instant updates from the Combine. As someone who followed his Senior Bowl updates throughout the week, I can assure you that it is well worth it.

GGN-In your opinion which one player helped his stock the most at the Senior Bowl last week, and which one player hurt his stock?

W.Spencer-To me, no player helped their stock more than Michigan DE Brandon Graham. Graham was absolutely dominate in both practices and the game, which led to him being named the game's MVP. Brandon showed a terrific motor and a decent array of pass rushing moves. On one occasion, Graham put a spin move on Utah OL Zane Beadles in practice, leaving him blocking nothing but air and literally making scouts in the stands gasp. Graham is a bit undersized at 6'1", but he could fit in nicely as a 3-4 rush linebacker in the NFL. I've held Graham in high regard from even before the Senior Bowl due to his knack for getting into the backfield on almost every play, but his performance in Mobile put him into the top 25-30 on many big boards.
 
As for what player hurt their stock, I'd have to say Florida QB Tim Tebow. It was a surprise that Tebow even accepted the invite but scouts were going to get to see him play eventually. Before the Senior Bowl, many wanted to hold onto the notion that Tebow could be a first round pick based on his intangibles alone and that he could be "coached up" as a quarterback. After just the first day of practice, most of those folks changed their opinions. Tebow had a tremendous amount of trouble taking snaps from under center early in the week, but did improve as the week went on. What really hurt him the most was watching him in team drills and game play. Tebow was unable to read coverages while dropping back from under center and never looked comfortable while on the field. What stuck out the most to me was his inability to throw to the sidelines. Tebow's elongated throwing motion delays the pass long enough, but he didn't show the arm strength to get the ball to the receiver in time.

Join us after the jump for more draft discussion

GGN-A lot of talk on Gang Green Nation recently has centred on Jordan Shipley, can you give us your impressions of him, and where he is likely to be selected come April?
W.Spencer-As of right now, I have Shipley ranked as the #9 overall wide receiver in this class, which of course is subject to change with more workouts coming. Shipley is one of those guys that does all the little things right. A crisp route runner and a sure handed receiver, he'll find a spot on an NFL team with ease, probably as a slot receiver. Shipley has shown the ability to find holes in coverage and does a nice job coming back to the quarterback when the play starts to break up. I look for Shipley to go somewhere in the mid 3rd to early 4th round at this point. Depending on how he works out at the Combine, and almost as  important, how other receivers work out, will determine his final ranking.

GGN-You had a chance to interview Jared Odrick at the senior bowl, what were your impressions of him, and how successful do you think he could be as a 3-4 DE?

W.Spencer- Odrick was great to talk to. He's very candid about his abilities but knows that he always needs to strive to get better. Odrick impressed me in practices at the Senior Bowl, holding up well against double teams and disrupting the center of the pocket. I think Odrick is one of those guys that can be successful as either a 4-3 DT or a 3-4 DE, but I think he might have the most potential as a 5 technique in the entire draft. He needs to get a little bit stronger at the point of attack, but an NFL weight training program will make that happen

GGN-Cornerback is an area of need for this team, aside from Joe Haden, which Cornerback has impressed you the most for you to put them as the #2 CB in the draft?

W.Spencer- Kyle Wilson has seemingly locked up the #2 cornerback spot in my eyes. Wilson is a smart and physical player and what impressed me most was his abilities in press man coverage. The Senior Bowl only allows press coverage while close to the goal line, but they still ran drills in practice that showed his abilities. Wilson shut down both Mardy Gilyard and Danario Alexander in practice, showing that he can match up against bigger, physical receivers as well as smaller, quick receivers. I think Wilson will slide into the bottom of round 1 when all is said and done.

GGN-Perrish Cox seems to be one of the popular choices to be selected by Jets fans, how do you view his game, and will he still be around come our 2nd round selection?

W.Spencer- Cox is actually my third ranked cornerback in this class. He knows how to use his body well and has solid size at over 5'11" and 189 pounds. Cox is a willing tackler and isn't afraid of contact, something that seems to be lacking in the play of many college defensive backs. Perrish is also a very solid return man, taking back 2 punts and 4 kickoffs for touchdowns in his career at Oklahoma State. I've heard the are some maturity concerns with Perrish and he's been addressing the bowl game suspension head on to NFL scouts. All things considered, I think Cox will be taken at the top of the 2nd round

GGN-Of the possible OLB's that will be available at 29, which one do you see being a good fit in Rex Ryan's aggressive 3-4 system?

W.Spencer- We all know Rex loves guys that can get to the quarterback, so if someone like Brandon Graham is available, I think the Jets would snatch him up. However, I don't think Graham will last that far, so they'd have to look a little lower down the totem pole. Jerry Hughes of TCU is a guy that has a lot of value at the 29th pick. I was disappointed that Hughes decided not to play in the Senior Bowl and I think that actually hurt his stock a little bit, especially with the strong performance by Graham. However, Hughes was used in interesting ways at TCU that I think will help him transition quicker to a 3-4 rush linebacker. TCU had Hughes rush from a 2 point stance on many ocassions and also had him dropping into coverage, which is usually the hardest part of the transition for college defensive ends.

GGN-Looking a little further down the draft, are there any players at the CB/OLB/DE positions that are likely to be available late that you are personally high on?

W.Spencer- One guy that I was really high on as a later round pick was Wisconsin DE/OLB O'Brien Schofield. O'Brien had a nice senior season at defensive end but made had to make the transition to OLB in the Shrine Game, where he absolutely shined. Schofield showed his quickness and flowed to the ball well for someone who hadn't played OLB before. His strong performance at the Shrine Game got him an invite to the Senior Bowl and he and I were actually on the same flight into Mobile. Sadly, O'Brien tore his ACL in the first day of practice at the Senior Bowl, so his stock came to a screeching hault. However, if he can recover successfully, he'll be a very nice developmental pass rusher and should make an immediate impact on special teams

GGN- The Jets may be looking for a solid slot receiver, if we decide against picking Shipley, or any other WR early, who has the potential later to fill this role?

W.Spencer- I'd take a look at a guy like Jacoby Ford of Clemson in the later rounds. He really impressed me at the Senior Bowl showing very consistent hands and good route running. He was more of a sudden route runner than I expected and several other players talked about his impressive play to me. Emmanuel Sanders of SMU is another late round receiver that has potential as a slot guy. Sanders might have been the most impressive receiver during Shrine Game practices, but is pretty raw in some of the finer aspects of playing the position. The Jets have also had some success with prior quarterbacks and another guy that will be making that transition is Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards. Edwards was a very versatile threat and is hoping to make the transition to WR in the NFL.

GGN-While interviewing Danario Alexander, you asked him why with his talents he wasn't being talked about much, why do you think that is?

W.Spencer- The biggest concern with Alexander is his injury history. Alexander has a nagging knee injury and it popped up again during Senior Bowl week, keeping him out of the final practice and limiting him in the game. Aside from the injury concerns, Alexander isn't the best route runner. His size and senior season production will get him drafted somewhere in the 3rd-4th round area and if he can stay healthy, he has a lot of developmental potential.

GGN- I've personally been quite critical of Taylor Mays's coverage skills, do you think his coverage skills are going to be a problem as an NFL safety?

W.Spencer- Yes. Mays has a lot of trouble gathering his feet, flipping his hips and running in coverage. This was displayed over and over during practices as the deep, sideline passes were quite effective against Mays. There is a common misconception that Mays quited concerns about his coverage by making the interception during the Senior Bowl game, but don't be fooled. A high school freshman could have read the quarterback on that play and Mays basically only had to stay in one spot and catch the ball. If Mays was more of a sure tackler, there would be more talks of trying to move him to an outside linebacker position. Sadly, Mays isn't a sure tackler. He goes for the big hit instead of wrapping guys up. The comment I heard most frequently from scouts at the Senior Bowl about Mays is "he should be better than he is with his physical skill set," a statement I totally agree with.

GGN-We had a look this week at Dekoda Watson, and several people were concerned about his size, how much will that effect him at the next level?

W.Spencer- Watson is a little undersized for a 4-3 OLB at 6'1" 232 lbs, but I don't think it will affect him as much as you might think at the next level. If he can improve his quickness and develop some pass rushing moves, a transition to a 3-4 OLB might be in order. If Watson is to stay at his regular position, he'll need to further develop his strength and spend more time in the film room to further develop his abilities to diagnose plays

GGN-The idea of trading back with the Jets 29th pick seems to be popular with fans right now, with only 2 selections in the first four rounds, would this be a good idea to add picks?

W.Spencer-Trading back is always an option and it may work out for the Jets. However, Tannenbaum has shown that when he has his sites set on a particular player, he's willing to move to get him. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Jets targeted a particular player in the first round and did what it takes to move and grab him. Trading back into the top of round 2 to acquire a 3rd round pick could be a good move for the team, and I'm sure Tannenbaum will be blowing up the phones of other GMs to make the moves he needs to make.

GGN-Greg Hardy seems to have Julius Pepper type skills, but how much are his injuries going to hurt his draft position in April?

W.Spencer- Hardy's injuries are hurting his position a lot. But it's not just his injuries, it's his motor. Hardy is a hot and cold player. When he's on, he can be dominate. When he's not on, you barely notice him. The combination of injuries and a lackluster senior season led to him not even receiving an invitation to the Senior Bowl, which I was a little shocked by. What hurts even more is that Hardy was unable to really stand out at the Shrine Game. He didn't show up in practice all week and only showed up in the 4th quarter of the game. I could easily see Hardy as a 3rd round pick at this point.

GGN- Of all the players that you have interviewed this week, who did you most enjoy chatting to?

W.Spencer- My top three were Brandon Graham, Dexter McCluster and Mardy Gilyard. Gilyard was very vocal and doesn't seem afraid to speak his mind. With the "cookie cutter" answers that agents teach their clients to give, talking to Gilyard was refreshing. He was pretty vocal about the distraction from all the Tebow hype. Dexter McCluster is just a fun guy overall. He's 100% heart and very likeable. Brandon Graham was someone that almost seemed to seek me out after practices and even after the game and seemed to be really enjoying himself all week long. Though I didn't do an actual interview with him while in Mobile (one is coming soon), Sean Weatherspoon was an absolute treat. "Spoon" was a vocal leader for the North team and had a lot of fun while motivating his team mates on the sidelines.

GGN-The first round of the NFL nearly always offers a shock selection, where do you see that coming from this Year?

W.Spencer- It's easy to say that the Raiders will provide another "shock selection," but I think the biggest surprise will come from the quarterbacks. Personally, I dont hold Clausen or Bradford as high as some and I think they are benefiting from a relatively weak QB class. Due to that, I could easily see a team taking a quarterback much earlier than expected and passing on more of a sure-fire pick. For example, I wouldn't be surprised if the Rams took a QB with the first overall pick, even though neither Clausen or Bradford are worth the pick and Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy would be a much safer pick. I could also see a team like Seattle or Buffalo taking a quarterback with their first pick, even though they have serviceable quarterbacks on their roster

GGN-Vernon Gholston, can we give up on him, or does he just need more time?

W.Spencer- I think Gholston has had enough time. I thought of him as a workout warrior when he was drafted and was never really impressed by his play at Ohio State. He wasn't able to perform against top offensive tackles and seemed pretty limited in his pass rushing skills. If I were the Jets, I'd be utilizing the uncapped year to absorb his cap hit and part ways with him. A guy like Rex Ryan is a master at finding late round talent that can rush the passer, so no need to keep an expensive guy around that won't even see the field.

GGN- What can we expect from Draft Breakdown regarding coverage of the scouting combine?

W.Spencer- I plan on doing a daily Combine blog, similar to what I had going while at the Senior Bowl. Sadly, the NFL does not allow media (other than NFL Network) into the actual Combine events, so I won't be attending. However, I'll be discussing the performance of players throughout the process and be bringing readers news, notes or rumors that I hear

GGN-Who are you expecting to have the best combine, and elevate his stock to a position that his play probably doesn't warrant?

W.Spencer- Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida will probably be a workout warrior. He is freakishly athletic and that will boost his draft stock even more. He could wind up being the first defensive end taken in the draft, which I believe would be a mistake. I could easily see a team like Oakland taking Pierre-Paul with their pick, even though Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech is a much more polished and talented defensive end

GGN-One final question and we will let you go, you're Mike Tannanbaum, you hold the 29th selection in the 2010 NFL draft, what do you do with it?

W.Spencer- A lot would depend on who is there. However, if the first round goes without any major surprises and I'm not trading out of that pick, there are a few players I'm looking at; Jerry Hughes, Jared Odrick and Kyle Wilson. I don't see any wide receivers worth the pick and Rex Ryan loves pass rushers and cornerbacks. If the Jets could get another high quality corner to play opposite Revis, it'd be almost impossible to for opposing teams to pass the ball. I think the Jets could use some help with their rotational defensive linemen and Odrick would fit in well as a 5 technique. Finally, a 3-4 defense can never have too many pass rushers and Hughes has a lot of value at the 29th pick in the draft.


Will has recently posted his latest interviews with Florida State's Patrick Robinson, and Miami's (FL) Jimmy Graham.

Just also like to take this time to thank him for taking time out to speak with us here for what was an excellent discussion, and I'm sure all our members will feel similar. A final reminder to follow him on twitter and make sure to check out Draft Breakdown for interviews, analyse, recaps, and instant coverage.