Player Analysis: Tre Mason, RB, Auburn

image via Yahoo! Sports and USA Today Sports

Name: Tre Mason

Class: Junior
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 207 lbs.
School: Auburn

image via fifthquarter.org

Strengths: Mason has good burst off the snap, has the vision to read where the hole is and punches through it. He doesn’t waste any time in the backfield, doesn’t dance or hesitate—Mason just plants his foot and goes. That decisiveness along with his vision makes him hard to contain in the backfield and with his low pad level, he’s hard to tackle. When you do get a hand on him, Mason will spin out of the way. He’s not shy about contact, bringing a nice physical style to finish his runs, which also seems to translate to some very good pass blocking—a huge bonus for any rookie running back. Mason carried a heavy workload at Auburn without wearing down, so he could potentially do that at the pro level. He also showed good hands receiving out of the backfield, though saw limited use in that area. Mason is also a strong kickoff returner.

Weakness: Mason’s shorter than what teams look for in a prototypical back, but has enough mass to where durability isn’t a concern.

While he is fast, Mason only seems to have one speed so once he tops out, he isn’t adding more burst to get away from tacklers. We know he can catch the ball, but our ability to really examine that is limited because he just didn’t get used in the receiving game often enough to get a firm grasp on it.

image via AuburnTigers.com and the AP

Mason has had some ball security issues the last two years and will need to take better care of the ball at the pro level. There might be some question about his potential effectiveness depending on where he lands because he may have benefited a bit from a very good offensive line and an up-tempo scheme which wore down defenses.

On the other hand, if he’s in a scheme which does that,  it’s going to be a strong fit.

Intangibles: Mason is reportedly a hard-working player and a pretty good guy but did have some off-the-field issues in 2013 (see below).

Notes: Even in a year where we know running backs will slide because of the decrease in relative value at the position, Mason wouldn’t have gone as high as, say Trent Richardson did a few years back. He might have snuck into the first round—and may yet because this is the draft and wackiness ensues—but he’s not what we used to see as an elite back. That’s not to say he won’t be very good though and I like what he brings to the table a lot.

Player Analysis: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

image via the Columbus Dispatch and Dispatch.com

Name: Carlos Hyde

Class: Senior
Height: 6’
Weight: 230 lbs.
School: Ohio State

image via SportsIllustrated.com, shot by Jamie Sabau of Getty Images

Strengths: Hyde is a big, thick, bruising running back who will lower his pads and hammer through a hole (or through someone blocking a hole). He keeps his legs churning after contact, shows great balance and footwork through trash and will stay on his feet even with tacklers trying to drag him down. Hyde has a real “can’t stop/won’t stop” attitude which makes him very effective in goal-line and short yardage situations. His brutal running style will wear a defensive front down, so he gets better as a game goes on. Hyde is also a lot quicker than he appears upon first glance and moves swiftly and with agility through small holes and traffic and will plant his foot and spring in another direction with speed. Hyde is also a solid receiver as well, showing soft hands. Finally, Hyde is an instinctive blocker

Weakness: Mason’s shorter than what teams look for in a prototypical back, but has enough mass to where durability isn’t a concern. While he is fast, Mason only seems to have one speed so once he tops out, he isn’t adding more burst to get away from tacklers. While we know he can catch the ball, our ability to really examine

image via WKYC.com

that is limited because he just didn’t get used in the receiving game often enough to get a firm grasp on it. Mason has had some ball security issues the last two years and will need to take better care of the ball at the pro level. There might be some question about his potential effectiveness depending on where he lands because he may have benefited a bit from a very good offensive line and an up-tempo scheme which wore down defenses.

On the other hand, if he’s in a scheme which does that—well that’s a strong fit.

Intangibles: By all accounts, Hyde is a good worker and teammate. He was suspended for three games (via USAToday.com) in 2013 after an incident with a woman at a nightclub. The case was dropped but Urban Meyer still suspended him. He appeared to be remorseful and aware of what he cost his teammates and himself (via SportingNews.com), and it sounds as though he learned from his mistake.

Notes: Hyde is a guy who could easily be a workhorse back at the Pro level, and he showed that when he was the first Urban Meyer back to total 1,000 yards in a season, despite missing three games. After pulling a hamstring at the combine, Hyde bounced back and performed well in some private workouts at the end of March. He breaks a lot of tackles and runs hard, which should translate to some nice games at the pro level.

 

Player Analysis: Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona

image via ESPN.com

Name: Ka’Deem Carey

Class: Junior
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 207 lbs.
School: Arizona

Strengths: Carey had a very productive career as a Wildcat, even more impressive for the fact that he only got significant carries two of the three years he played. Possess great vision and can see a hole forming, then bursts to it and through it quickly. Carey can easily cut back across the grain and shows the ability to make sharp cuts and jump cuts with ease.

image via TusconCitizen.com, photo by Mark J. Rebilas – USA Today Sports

Once past the line, Carey does an excellent job spinning off tacklers and breaking arm tackles as well. Carey runs with a punishing style and will run over tacklers when he needs to, wearing down defenses. It’s not easy to take him down and he keeps his legs pumping well after contact—especially when he is close to the first down marker. Keeps his pads level to deliver the big hit and finish a run.

A solid receiver, Carey does a good job of getting upfield after the catch and shows some shiftiness in space.

 

Carey also does a good job pass-blocking, locating and sealing off blitzing defenders and delivering a big hit or cut-block.

He’s a three-down player, something teams will find very valuable.

Weakness: As nice as it is to see him run tough and deliver hits, he leaves himself open to big hits too often. He needs to run smarter or he could end up with some injury issues. While his frame is good, Carey is a bit shorter than ideal height for his position, and his legs appear to be a bit thin. His high number of carries in a short time might be a concern for some teams as he carried the ball 652 times in the past two seasons.

On the other hand, some teams may be more worried that he only has two years of experience as a starter.

While he can be elusive, he lacks breakaway speed or the extra gear needed to break a big run off. Carey also rarely faced stacked boxes as Arizona’s spread offense kept the defense out of the tackle box.

Intangibles: Carey has had some off-the-field issues—a quick google search for “Ka’Deem Carey” and “arrest”

image via Yahoo.com, photo by USA Today Sports Images

brings up numerous issues. He was suspended for the first game of the 2013 season (via Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star)due to the amount of issues that off-season, the worst of which was a domestic violence charge against his ex-girlfriend which was later dropped according to James Kelley of Arizona’s student newspaper, the Daily Wildcat.

Still, you know teams will take along look at him and his past, asking a lot of pointed questions about that offseason in particular.

How he answers can go a long way towards securing a second or third round grade or dropping him down boards.

Notes:It’s hard to know what goes through the minds of a GM or team regarding things like Carey’s off-the-field issues but know that the teams know virtually everything about the players by now and if they have questions, they’ve asked them. A lot. It doesn’t mean they won’t miss on occasion *coughAaron Hernandezcough* but more often than not it gets done right. On the field, Carey is very talented and ultimately that will get him drafted as—in the NFL—talent wins out. I’m concerned about the repeated issues , however hopeful that given that it appears as if the issues were over one unfortunate offseason, that it was just that—a really bad offseason—and not reflective of a wider issue.

Edited to add: Was forwarded this interview by Zoltan Buday, a journalist who has a lot of good coaches interviews on his site, InsideHandoff.com. Here’s Buday’s interview with Carey’s position coach (and Wildcat offensive coordinator) Calvin Magee.

Player Analysis: Odell Beckham Jr, WR, LSU

image via SportsNola.com

Name: Odell Beckham Jr

Class: Junior
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 198 lbs.
School: LSU

image by Morgan Searles courtesy lsureveille.com

Strengths: Beckham is fast, but not just in a straight line. He can use his speed to gain separation, yes, but his routes are quick as well and he can accelerate through his breaks, making it easy for defensive backs to fall behind and stumble. Beckham is able to change gears both during routes as well as after the catch, making him a slippery guy to cover and contain. He’s worked to improve his hands as well (though he still has work to do), and does a good job going up and getting the ball in the air. Beckham has a nice, big catch radius as well, despite not having above-average height and adjusts well to the ball in the air and can catch it in stride without losing speed. He can also contribute on kickoff and punt returns, but was much less effective on the latter.

Weakness: Beckham has average height and not a ton of strength, but he does seem to have the frame to get bigger/stronger. The 4.43 speed at the combine was nice, but it doesn’t always translate on the field and he could get caught from behind by NFL-level defensive backs. While Beckham has improved hands, he still struggles with some drops and can’t be relied on across the middle where he sometimes seems to hear footsteps. Beckham doesn’t always come down with balls he needs to fight for and I’d like to see more toughness in that area of his game—a little more “my ball” mentality. He’s not great at blocking and needs to improve that aspect of his game. Struggled against top teams like Alabama and Florida as well as Texas A&M though he did well against a No. 9 ranked Georgia. And while he can shag punts and kicks, his work on punt returns leaves something to be desired. Rarely found the end zone before this year, scoring just 12 touchdowns on 143 receptions.

Intangibles: By all accounts, Beckham is a very dedicated, very hard-working receiver. He also certainly shows a passion for the game, which translates into more focus on both of the above traits..

Notes: If he were more consistent or fought harder for the ball, Beckham would probably be higher on the list, but that, his height and lack of elite game speed drag his value down. It will be interesting to see how the acceleration and extra gears he shows on film are enough to get past faster corners in the NFL. I could see him out of the slot or maybe as the “Z” if he can show that the speed he flashed at the combine—and what he showed on tape—combine to work at the pro level.

image by Jerry Ward via SportsNola.com

 

Player Analysis: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

screen cap via FOX Sports

Name: Brandin Cooks

Class: Junior
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 189 lbs.
School: Oregon State

Strengths: Cooks nearly beat Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record time at the combine, running a 4.33. Cooks isn’t just fast going in a straight line though—he shows explosiveness off the line, great ability to start and stop when

screen cap via FOX Sports

cutting during a route and smooth action when running. He has an extra gear to escape pursuit after the catch as well and is a threat to turn a short catch into a long gain on every pass. Aside from speed, he brings great route running as well, using nice footwork and shoulder jukes to confuse defenders to gain separation. This is something you see build over his time at OSU, and a clear sign that not only will he work, he can be—and is will to be— taught. Cooks also has great hands, fantastic body control and great concentration. Cooks does an equally good job tracking the ball and adjusting to a throw. Cooks will not shy away from bigger defenders and is very competitive, though at times he will avoid contact. That may be why he was so productive (setting Pac-12 and school records for catches, receiving yards while also setting an OSU record for touchdown receptions) and missed no games while in college. That’s not to say he isn’t tough—he is, very much so—just that he will ditch out of bounds rather than lower his shoulder. At his stature, I mark that down as a plus, to be honest. Cooks can return punts, so he brings an added bonus to a team though he isn’t extraordinary at it.

Weakness: He’s a bit small, so he can be knocked around a bit on routes and may get consumed in man coverage at the NFL level. Cooks’ size and build also limit him as a blocker and he needs to improve in that area. Doesn’t have a huge catch radius due to size and arm-length (just 30 ¾ while the similarly sized Odell Beckham has 32 ¾ length arms). His hand size is also a concern, as they are on the small size (9 5/8) and he has had some issues securing the ball with them. At his size, there are bound to be durability concerns, despite the fact that he has always been healthy in his college career.

Intangibles: The one thing you hear about Cooks over and over again is how tough and competitive he is. At his

image via Chiefs360.com

size, he’d need to be to have the measure of success he’s had. As mentioned in an earlier section, Cooks improved his technique going into and coming out of breaks, as well as running his routes in general. That willingness and ability to improve is a big deal and shows he is coachable, something teams like to see.

Notes: The only thing which could hold Cooks back is that size. He’s got natural ability and athleticism and is dangerous after the catch, but he has to prove he can hold up physically at the pro level where defenders are bigger, faster and nastier. I’m not terribly concerned, and don’t think a wise team will use him in a role where he is going to take a pounding. His size does make him much more of a complimentary receiver though, rather than a No. 1, as he could struggle to get off a No. 1 cornerback and get free. Then again, there are plenty of teams who get by without a “classic” No.1. Cooks would be a great addition to any of the teams in the draft in need of a playmaking wide receiver.

 

Player Analysis: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

screencap via FOX Sports

Name: Marqise Lee

Class: Junior
Height: 6′
Weight: 192 lbs.
School: USC

Strengths: Lee is overlooked a little due to a down season with USC, though it’s in part because the departure of Robert Woods allowed defenses to key on him alone. Having sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler replace Matt Barkley was an issue as well.

screen cap via CBS Sports

While he lacks elite speed, Lee has great acceleration, getting up to top his speed quickly. His explosiveness, along with savvy route running, and his ability to read coverages make him able to find open space to make a catch or navigate through traffic afterwards. Those same skills allow him to create separation even without blinding speed. Lee will attack the ball in the air and does a great job snagging a pass at a high point. Lee is also a good kick returner and adds something to special teams.

 

Weakness: While part of his down junior year came because defenses had only him to key on. Much of it was because of constant injuries and inconsistency. The injuries, in particular, will bother scouts as Lee isn’t incredibly big, which was certainly a factor in his knee issues this year. It’s going to make some ding him for durability. He also doesn’t show a ton of strength, and won’t break many tackles. Along with the injuries come the consistency issues and he had some real problems with drops and, at times, ball security. The drops weren’t merely an issue in 2013 either—even in his fantastic 2012 season, Lee had too many drops, many of which seem to be focus drops. He needs to change that at the next level, especially as he will see an increase in contested catches. We also see that Lee has a tendency to run backwards and give ground at times to try and get around defenders which might cost his team valuable yards at the NFL level. Overall, while he’s definitely got ability, Lee isn’t a polished, finished product.

Intangibles: By all accounts, Lee is a very motivated, hard-working player. His background shows someone willing to fight for what he wants and overcome obstacles. Lee’s home life wasn’t particularly stable—he moved between his grandparents and mother’s house, ending up in foster care and his older brothers were both in gangs and had trouble with the law (one dying in a gang-related shooting).

screen cap via FOX Sports

Despite all that, Lee made his way through the world, taking help from family and friends and worked hard to achieve his dreams. Lee doesn’t appear to be the type of person who will allow a setback to destroy him—either on the field or off of it.

Notes: The durability concerns are certainly valid after last year, though he never missed a game during the previous two seasons at USC. A lot of people dropped him significantly in their rankings because of it, and in a class as tightly knit as this one, I can’t blame them. We’re all looking for reasons to separate one player from another. Ultimately though, I believe the drop issues will be overcome and the durability issues not as big a deal as people believe. The fact that his knee might have been acting up during the draft analysis process gives me pause, but ultimately I still feel confident that 2-3 years down the road, we’ll be talking about a very good—and healthy—wide receiver.

Player Analysis: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

image via CBS

Name: Mike Evans

Class: Redshirt Sophomore
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 231 lbs.
School: Texas A&M

Strengths: Evans is an absolutely huge receiver in every sense of the word. A former basketball player who uses his size to box out defenders and can go up and highpoint the ball, Evans also makes big catches when the offense needs him to. When he goes up for a catch, his strong hands make it very hard for defensive backs to come down with the ball. All of that makes him a ridiculous red zone target.

image via CBS

After the catch, Evans is awfully hard to take down as his strength and body size allow him to plow through would-be tacklers, dismissing any attempts to arm tackle. Evans’ size and physicality also help him blocking, something he does effectively and aggressively.

Evans is not just physically tough, but mentally tough as well, having stepped up when his team needed him to in big moments throughout his college career. On top of that, he is the type of receiver with a big catch radius and was the recipient of more than a few Johnny Manziel throws where the quarterback put the ball up in the air knowing Evans would make a play.

Weakness: Evans’ speed is does not help him separate and he doesn’t quite have the explosion off the line to force a defender backwards or get past him quickly. A lot of his catches and routes and he needs to refine his route running. Because he gets very little separation, Evans has to rely on his physicality to win catches—sometimes that’s fine, but it often makes his job harder than it needs to be. Evans didn’t have to run a full route tree so there is some concern he might need to catch up at the NFL level.

image via CBS

 

Intangibles: Everything you see and hear about Evans tells you he is a tough player, emotional and fiery during the game and enthusiastic off the field. On occasion, that can get him into trouble and we’ve seen other receivers (the Chicago Bears Alshon Jeffery comes to mind) who struggled against savvy defensive backs who could get in their head. That’s a maturity thing and the best receivers get over it (Jeffery did) but might curtail his success early on. Still, you like a guy who is passionate about the game and if he can keep his emotions under control, that enthusiasm will be an asset to an NFL franchise.

Notes: An interesting though occurred to me about Evans while I was doing an article this week. Daniel Jeremiah and Curtis Conway of NFL Network were discussing Evans recently and the idea came up that, as good as Manziel was, Evans may have made him more than Manziel made Evans.

While we could debate that all day, it reminded me of the 2008 NFL draft, the first year I really covered the draft intently. Early on in the draft process, people were fawning all over Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson.

image via CBS

As I started to watch Kentucky games, I began to notice Steve Johnson and Keenan Burton making a tremendous amount of plays on balls that were not well thrown. After seeing Johnson work out with Travelle Gaines in Los Angeles, I remember discussing with the people I was with (ESPN Denver Radio’s Cecil Lammey and former BR writer and Footballguys co-owner Sigmund Bloom among them) about how we were getting the feeling that Johnson and Burton were the only reason anyone was talking about Woodson.

Now, this is not to compare Manziel and Woodson—Manziel is a ton more talented and will be a much better NFL player than Woodson ever was. Put that aside.

This is more about things which jumped out at me in terms of what Evans can do for an offense and a young quarterback. I think in our zeal to discuss Manziel, we’ve missed just how vital Evans was to that offense, much like we initially missed how critical Stevie Johnson was to Woodson.

And while Manziel is far more talented than Woodson, he certainly hauls the ball into the air with reckless abandon at times, knowing full well he has a receiver who can make the catch.

Consider that Evans’ 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns are far and away the best totals on the team. The next closest receiver was Derel Walker, who I don’t have ranked in my top 25, CBS Sports has ranked as their No. 54 receiver and Draftcountdown.com’s Scott Wright doesn’t even have ranked.

And Walker still falls short of Evans’ by 576 yards, 18 catches and seven touchdowns (though his 800 plus receiving yards are worthy of note). Evans accounted for just under a third of Manziel’s 37 touchdown passes and 33 percent of his 4114 passing yards.

Again, this isn’t to downplay what Manziel did, as if he couldn’t have without Evans (an interesting but off-topic discussion)m so much as to point out how important Evans was—and how important he could be for his new quarterback.

image via CBS