Leonard Hankerson WR Miami
Coming into the season, very few draft analysts had Hankerson rated highly; the folks at National Scouting gave the Miami wideout a 5th to 7th round grade. However, Hankerson’s quieted many of his critics with a strong start to the 2010 season, including a 147 yard, 3 touchdown performance against Clemson.
Though he lacks elite speed, Hankerson has enough quicks to separate from defensive backs and out-muscle them to the ball. Both qualities showed up in the Clemson game, but it was his ability to make the tough grab in traffic that was the most important part of his day. On his last TD reception, Hankerson plucked the ball away from his body, then took a hit without coughing up the pigskin.
Hankerson’s been drop-prone in the past, so it’s important that he prove to scouts that he’ll be a reliable receiver at the next level. His performance Saturday was a very positive step in that direction.
Jeremy Beal DE/OLB Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s high-powered offense took center stage at this year’s Red River Shootout, but Beal also played a large role in securing a win for the Sooners. The defensive end notched two sacks, forced a fumble, and generally did an excellent job of disrupting Garrett Gilbert’s rhythm in the pocket.
Beal has a good first step, which enables him to run the arc around offensive tackles. His thick build and low center of gravity allow him to get under offensive tackles’ pads and knock them off balance, and he deftly uses his strong hands to disengage from blocks. As a result, Beal isn’t shut down the second an offensive lineman gets his hands on him; instead, he can counter and beat them both inside and out.
Beal isn’t an elite athlete, but his pass rush ability should appeal to plenty of. Though most likely a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level, Beal also could play right defensive end in a 4-3 defense. Either way, his experience and success rushing from a three point stance will add to his versatility and help make him a solid pro.
Christian Ballard DL Iowa
Adrian Clayborn’s tremendous performance against Penn State garnered a lot of attention, but Ballard’s effort deserved just as much praise. The explosive d-lineman was quick off the snap and made several great plays in pursuit, including an epic stop on 4th and goal.
If he keeps up his excellent play, Ballard could be a major draft riser. He’s expected to kill at the Combine: the 6’4″, 298 pound big man reportedly runs a 4.85 40. In addition, his intriguing skill set makes him a good fit for a number of schemes: he could rotate between end and tackle in a 4-3 or play five-technique in a 3-4.
Ultimately, his best fit may be as an end for a team that runs an “attacking” 3-4; the Jets and Ravens should be among the teams most interested in his services. And his quickness could help distinguish him from other five techniques in what appears to be a very good 2011 group of 3-4 ends.
Jerrod Johnson QB Texas A&M
Many had high hopes that Johnson would emerge as one of the top senior QBs. Instead, Johnson appears to be regressing and sliding down draft boards. Despite being groomed by former NFL coach Mike Sherman, Johnson’s mechanics still are a mess. His low release points leads to a lot of issues: balls batted down at the line, overthrown passes, and floating deep balls.
In addition, Johnson’s physical tools haven’t appeared to be quite as good as advertised. While a mobile QB, Johnson isn’t an exceptional athlete. Also, there are questions as to whether the shoulder injury he suffered last year sapped some of his arm strength.
While still an appealing developmental QB prospect, Johnson’s physical tools won’t floor NFL teams, and his still problematic mechanics make him a very low ceiling prospect. He could be a couple years away from starting, or — like Andre Woodson — he could find himself out of the league in just a few years.