FanPost

Mid Round players to keep an eye on.

This is my first fan post so I hope people find it informative or at least worth a good argument. I have watched these players pretty thoroughly but welcome outside opinions to my evaluations. I will not bad mouth any opinion brought forth but may disagree strongly.

Most of my "scouting prowess" was developed by playing football in high school and helping teammates prepare when they were at college. I played all positions on the OL and DL. I even spent some time at FB and TE. I had to study a lot more than everyone else because I was undersized. I had a lot of strength but not enough weight to really anchor so I needed to be a technician and learn everything I could.

For each player I list special qualities relative to others I evaluated at the position. I think this is easier than just saying big/fast/athletic. There are the skills where they are average and can still improve. Then finally there are areas where if they really do the work they can step up their game big time.

I am better at judging relative talent than "finding talent" as some like to do. This is not my attempt at finding talent haha.

Gabe Ikard
Center: Oklahoma, 6'3" 300+ lbs. #64

When reveiwing the OC position in this draft I ended up liking Ikard the most. He has the least flaws of the group.
I personally think he can play in any scheme he is drafted in. Ikard would excel in zone blocking scheme immediately but is intelligent enough to pick up any system and has room to add weight for possible power blocking schemes.


Special skills:

Combo blocking.

This area of his game is superb. He works well with either OG and can move his man off the ball and get to the next level. He almost senses when to peel off and go get the next man. Really impressive to watch.

Short area quickness.

I saw him getting to the second level repeatedly and turning a 1-2 yard play into 4+ because of this. Ikard can be a real asset in the screen game as well. He is a really good pulling Center which is not easy to find.

Protection assignments.

He is an Academic All American and made the line calls for the Sooners. Ikard adjusted well when blitz or unbalanced attacks were brough pre-snap.

Sealing a run lane.

Ikard does not always get a great push but can seal his man off and make an instant lane. This may be more to do with Oklahoma's scheme but he is very talented at walling the defender off.

Footwork.

From what I can tell, his feet are rarely out of place when run blocking or pass blocking. He can get bulled back in pass pro but catches himself and gets reset before any damage is done.

Average skills:

Functional strength.

He will not bowl over defenders but can move his man from their spot when called upon. Decent initial punch and good leg drive keep it from being an area that he is lacking. His speed compensates for strength. This may improve in the NFL.

Pass pro.

Ikard fully extends his arms and keeps players from getting into his pads. His base is low but he can sometimes be pushed back. He has decent recovery when being bull rushed or double moved. His hand fighting could use improvement but is not a glaring hole.

Power run blocking.

Ikard can blow his man off the ball but rarely does. A lot of Oklahoma's plays called for lateral movement over pushing their man downfield so this could be more scheme related. Bulking up may help this and eventually make it a strength.

Needs improvement:

Post snap blitz pickup.

Ikard struggles a bit to adjust with blitzers and stunts that come from outside of the DT box. Repetition and film study can help alleviate these concerns.

Weight/Body composition.

He is around 300 lbs and could do to gain another 10-15. This will help in his pass pro base by having more "junk in the trunk". It will also enable him to play OG if need be and not get bullied.
The only caveat is I never saw him get blown up this season which would be a welcome sight at OG. Kalil was under 300 when he came out of college so this should not be an issue if given a good offseason.

Wrap up:
With all of these things outlined I would be interested in him at the 4th round and pounding the table to get him in the 5th. Some outlets have him rated as 6th best center and others as #1. Not sure why such a discrepancy but it could be he is not a huge upside guy. With Ikard you know you get a smart, hard working player that understands the game and fundamentals. He is a high character person and extremely high football IQ that has what it takes to put in the work to get better.

Alabama got surprisingly little pressure against Oklahoma up the middle. Ikard only had 1-2 bad plays in the entire game.

Video link: Ikard vs. Alabama

Christian Kirksey
OLB, Iowa, 6'1" 230+ lbs. #20

I watch Iowa football every now and then but wanted to watch some of CJ Fiedorwicz since I did not know much about him. I ended up being more interested in Christian Kirksey. He is a playmaker and very athletic.
His speed and power jumped out at me. It looks like he has a slight frame and could add weight but that may take away from his natural athleticism.

Special skills:

Speed/explosiveness.

Kirksey has exceptional game speed for being 235 or so pounds. He can make up bad reads with his straight line speed and pursuit angles. He has a lot of explosiveness when trying to seal an edge or taking on blockers. This leaves him with more margin of error than someone of less athletic ability.

Motor.

He has a high motor which only accentuates his speed. He normally does better as the game goes on because he does not quit and keeps his speed through 4 quarters.

Pass rush.

Kirksey has great first step quickness and uses his hands well to keep hands off of his pads. He needs to develop some moves but being able to bend the corner is reason enough to see this as a strength.

Pursuit.

Kirksey's pursuit is impressive. He is routinely around the ball even if the play went to the opposite side. He played up on the line often on the strong side. I think he could be WLB or SLB because of speed/strength/pursuit qualities.

Block Shedding.

He rarely gets washed out of plays and man handled by opposing blockers. Good hand fight and keeps his chest clean. Out of the 5 games I "scouted" he never got rag dolled or pancaked. I think this may be a reason why he is a more reactive player instead of instinctual because he can make up for his mistakes more easily.

Average skills:

Tackling.

He sometimes goes for the big hit or fails to wrap up but he makes more tackles than blows. This is one of the easier things to fix with repetition.

Zone coverage.

Iowa played a base zone where he would go out and cover the TE or WR if it was unbalanced. Sometimes he failed to recognize the routes in front of him. He does have some ball skills and when he reads it right he breaks on the play well.


Needs improvement:

Play recognition.

Sometimes it seems like Kirksey has trouble recognizing what is going on in front of him. He keeps his responsibilities well but does not always recognize when to peel off of assignment and pursue the ball carrier/QB. This hesitation can cause him to miss a big opportunity, be it sacks, TFL or interception.

Man coverage.

This is more of an assumption on my part. He did not play much man coverage but when he did I thought he was average. Considering how predominantly Iowa ran zone I think this part of his game will need development. But it is just assumption.

Wrap up:
In summation I think Kirksey is a player with a ton of potential. Once he gets a better feel for the game he could be dominant. He may struggle his first year if not given specific assignments but will eventually thrive with proper film review and coaching.
He reminds me a lot of Kam Chancellor coming out in the fact that they are both tweeners. Kind of heavy for a SS and a little light for SLB. Chancellor's instincts were better but I could easily see Kirksey being converted to a SS dependent upon the team and scheme.
He fits in to the Panthers schemes by being familiar with zone heavy coverage, great pass rusher and does not blow assignments giving up large plays.
Kirksey will make big plays but not get burned at the same juncture. I think some teams will fall in love with his speed and may over draft him. I think he is a 3-5 round prospect. If he was available in the 4th I would be banging the table dependent on the board.

I recommend watching the video of Iowa vs LSU in the Capital One Bowl for 2014. Near the end of the 1st quarter he starts to get his feet under him and wreak havoc on the QB and run game.


Video link: Kirksey vs Nebraska

Antone Exum
CB/S, Virginia Tech, 6'1" 220+ lbs. #1


I will admit I am much less skilled at evaluating CB's and Safeties because I never played the position but I have watched come to appreciate the art from years of watching VT. Exum is one of those players where injuries derailed his college career. If he can recover than he could be a steal at the pro level. Before injuries he was seen as a day 2 pick. Now he is seen as a 3rd day because of said injuries.
I watch a large amount of VT and this is not a homer pick as much as an informed one. I watch every game I can and re-watch even when they brutally rip my heart out.

Special skills:

Play recognition.

Virginia Tech runs mostly off man and zone. To be productive in their system you have to have play recognition and be able to break on the ball. He can see the receivers break off routes and move to the ball quickly.

Tackling.

For a CB/S, Exum is a fantastic tackler. He can make big hits or wrap up and make that shoe string stop. He is not afraid to put his body on the line and refrains from making "business decisions."

Ball skills.

This transcends what most DB's can do. He can bat down balls and make highlight reel interceptions. The reason his is remarkable is because of the forced fumbles he accrues. There are multiple occasions tape where he gets beat on the route and then rips the ball from the WR's arms when he catches up. He did this more as a S than CB.

Ability to be put on an island.

Exum and Fuller were often left on islands in the VT system where safeties usually patrolled the middle or were blitzing. He functions very well knowing that he is the only line of defense. He is less likely to gamble and give up a touchdown when no help is afforded. I fully believe that he could function on his own with minimal intervention. However, he is not a shutdown corner.


Average skills:

Speed/athleticism.

Exum does have athleticism but it is not eye popping. He will not run a sub 4.4 and probably will be low 4.5's. Sometimes his recovery speed is lacking dependent upon the WR.

Versatility.

His versatility is a bonus but I think it also hindered his development at being either a full time CB or S. This may mean he needs more time to learn whatever position he is asked to play and not be an out of the box starter.

Jam coverage.

He was not asked to do it frequently at VT. Exum has a tendency to overextend or try to bench press the player instead of just re-routing them. The result was a mixed bag and cannot say it was a strength or weakness.

Needs improvement:

Inside routes.

Exum had a tendency to get beat on inside routes. He was great at using the sideline to his advantage but may have played to that too often instead of using it appropriately.

Gambling.

Sometimes he can be a gambler. This is part of the system for VT in trying to constantly create turnovers. It can be a detriment to the team but he has a short memory and can recover the next play. This mostly occurs when there is help over the top or the defense is pressing because of poor offensive performance (often).

Injuries.

I know he cannot really "improve" this part but there is something to be said about being seemingly injury prone or consistently dinged up. Does he need to lose weight? Workout more? Make sure to stretch properly? I cannot say but I know when healthy, he is dynamic.


Wrap up:
If Antone Exum's medical checks out I think he would be well worth a 4-5th round pick. Lingering injuries may drive his stock down but I would be willing to gamble a mid/low round pick on him. It could be a way to fill 2 needs because of the versatility.
Exum fits the VT scheme very well and his tackling makes him a more attractive prospect. There are a lot of similarities between him and Kyle Fuller his teammate. I think Fuller is more polished and athletic of the 2 which is reflected in his "draft stock."
If the Panthers are looking for a CB with size and versatility than Exum would be an excellent choice later in the draft. Exum can be a playmaker at CB or S at the next level because of his tangibles.

Video link: Antone Exum from Draft Breakdown


There are 7 videos to watch. A lot more on him than the other prospects I highlight.
Easier to make your own conclusions that way.


Enjoy and please do not eviscerate me.

The content of these posts are those of the user/fan making the post only

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