Our analysts are constantly talking to their NFL and college sources about players in the college game. In this space each week, Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks and Charles Davis share some of what NFL folks are discussing in their circles.
The scoop: Pac-12 quarterbacks Brett Hundley (UCLA) and Marcus Mariota (Oregon) rank as minor disappointments this season, according to an AFC personnel executive for a team that could be in the quarterback market in the spring. The long-time scout has been disappointed by the quarterbacks' lack of progress as pocket passers and wonders if they will ever be able to fully function within a pro-style offense. Although he is still intrigued by their tremendous upside and athletic potential, he wonders if both players will need to play in schemes that feature several of the concepts from their collegiate system.
The skinny: Young NFL quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and even Andrew Luck (the Colts added his former offensive coordinator to the staff before his second season) have benefitted from this kind of approach. Mariota and Hundley no longer appear to be the slam dunks that many observers had expressed throughout the last 12 months. Teams in need of a quarterback must have a clear plan for getting their young quarterback ready to play at a high level. And scouts must clearly understand the weaknesses of each player. With the pressure that comes with taking a quarterback early in the draft, the vetting of Mariota and Hundley will be a top priority for several franchises this spring.
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The scoop: "Shawn Oakman is a tough guy to evaluate. He's a physical freak, but he's not a great player. He gets blocked a lot more than he should." -- AFC scout
The skinny: At 6-foot-9 and 280 pounds, the Baylor defensive end is a physical freak. He has a 34-inch vertical jump, was a high school basketball player of some renown (he started at center for his Philadelphia-area high school, which won a state title and also was runner-up during his time at the school) and has been clocked as fast as 4.82 seconds in the 40, which is flying for a man of his size. He remains raw as a player, but his athleticism gives him a huge upside. There is some baggage there; Oakman signed with Penn State out of high school but was dismissed in March 2012 for a violation of team rules.
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The scoop: With Treon Harrissuspended indefinitely, Florida needs QB Jeff Driskel to step up, but an NFC player personnel director isn't expecting much. "(Driskel) looks the part, but he's exhibited almost no feel for playing the position," the source said. "I've been very patiently waiting to be impressed, but ..."
The skinny: There have long been high expectations for Driskel, the top-rated QB in the 2011 recruiting class, but he hasn't lived up to them. He's shown flashes, but no real consistency. Last week, the Gators responded to Harris after Driskel was benched. Driskel has to rise to the occasion now if he's ever going to change the way scouts feel about him.
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The scoop: Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was considered the premier cover corner in the draft, but scouts are beginning to question whether he is really a shutdown corner at the next level. An AFC personnel director recently voiced concerns about Ekpre-Olomu's "ball skills" and "transitions" in space. The long-time executive cited Ekpre-Olomu's poor game against Washington State (he allowed three touchdowns) and questioned whether he has the size to battle the big-bodied receivers thriving in the NFL.
The skinny: Ekpre-Olomu is a talented cover corner, but his size (5-10, 185) will drop him down the charts in some war rooms. Several NFL teams have height standards a defensive back must meet (5-10 or taller), so Ekpre-Olomu's measurements at the NFL Combine will play a major role in his final evaluation. Additionally, scouts will scour his game tapes against big-bodied receivers in the Pac-12 to see if he struggled against size. If he grades out well in those areas, he is still a legitimate possibility as a mid-to-late first-round selection.
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The scoop: At 4-2, Virginia might not be satisfied with its record, but the Cavaliers have made great strides on defense this year, an AFC East scout said. "If I'm an offensive coach, I'm up all night trying to figure out how to block them, especially middle linebacker Henry Coley, who was a force against UCLA," the scout said. "Safety Anthony Harris is a good player, too."
The skinny: Coley and Harris both are seniors and NFL-caliber players, and Harris' future looks particularly bright. Harris is establishing himself as one of the better safeties in college football, and Coley stood out in the opener against UCLA, when Virginia nearly pulled off an upset and gave Bruins QB Brett Hundley fits.
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The scoop: "(Samford's) Jaquiski Tartt is one of the best safeties in the country. He was a sleeper candidate at the beginning of the season, but the buzz is building and now every team is on him. He's big, physical and very explosive." -- AFC scout
The skinny: The highest a Samford player has ever been drafted is the fifth round (SS Corey White by the Saints in 2012), but Tartt should easily top that. He has good size (6-foot-1, 218 pounds) and runs well (he has been clocked as fast as 4.46 in the 40). He is extremely active in run support; he had 98 tackles last season for the Bulldogs and is second on the team with 22 this season (half of those came in a season-opening loss to TCU, the only FBS team on Samford's schedule). Tartt has scored three defensive touchdowns since the beginning of the 2012 season. He played only one season of high school football in Mobile, Ala., and still is learning the nuances of the position.