BISON TO BUC?Do you like bone-crushers for offensive lineman? I thought so. Every power running game is looking for aggressive, hole-opening offensive guards that pave the way for their running backs, and a name that has captivating the NFL scene because of his power and aggressiveness is North Dakota State’s Billy Turner.
As a run blocker, Turner is one of the most dominant in the class. He excels because of his tremendous strength, leg-drive and NFL coaches and talent evaluators will love the fact that he always stays aggressive and blocks through the whistle. Playing with leverage and bending also comes naturally to the 6-foot-5, 314-pound offensive lineman.
Turner does have some noticeable flaws in his game and they were exposed early on in the week at the Senior Bowl. The North Dakota State senior has trouble maintaining a wide base during his pass protection kick-slide, which kills his balance and ability to deliver a good punch to pass-rushers. At the Senior Bowl, he simply didn’t have quick enough feet to match the speed of the edge-rusher he went against when he was lined up as a tackle.
Turner’s natural power and aggressiveness make him an ideal candidate for a potential switch to the guard position. Perhaps a coaching staff will be interested in cross-training him at both guard and tackle, making him even more value in NFL circles.
The Buccaneers have a huge need at the guard position and could use some extra depth at tackle as well, making Turner a potential target on day two of the draft. Scott Reynolds recently mocked Turner to the Buccaneers in the third round of his latest 7-round mock draft and Tampa Bay has shown interest in the North Dakota State tackle throughout the pre-draft process, including bringing him in for one of their visits. Without a fourth-round pick, the Buccaneers would likely have to use their third-round selection in order to nab Turner’s services.
TIGHT END GEM?It seems like every draft there is a new Cincinnati tight end I fall in love with. Two years ago, it was Adrien Robinson, who was drafted in the fourth round by the New York Giants. Last year it was Travis Kelce, who ended up being selected in the third round by the Kansas City Chiefs. Senior tight end Blake Annen could be the next Bearcat tight end to be drafted into the league.
Annen is an extremely athletic tight end. He lit the field on fire during his pro-day, as a he ran a blazing 4.41 in the 40-yard dash. That time would have been the fastest of any tight end at the NFL Scouting Combine had he been invited. He also bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times and recorded a 34-inch vertical leap. At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Annen has ideal size for the NFL level, and paired with his incredible athleticism NFL teams are sure to take a hard look at the Cincinnati product.
On film, Annen is a versatile tight end that did a lot of blocking. Cincinnati’s offense requires their tight ends to move around quite often, sometimes trap-blocking or even split out as a receiver. Annen showcases good blocking technique and shows the ability to consistently seal of edges and drive defenders backwards. Although he didn’t have a productive collegiate receiving career, Annen has the physical skills to become a valuable receiving threat.
In last year’s draft, a tight end by the name of Luke Willson was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round. Willson ran times of 4.46 and 4.57 in the 40-yard dash at Rice’s pro-day. Overshadowed by San Francisco tight end Vance McDonald in college, Willson ended up having the more productive rookie season as a receiver. Willson was a late-riser in last year’s draft class after performing well at his pro-day. Perhaps Annen could have a similar route into the NFL.
With Tim Wright and Brandon Myers on the roster, the Buccaneers don’t have use a premium pick on a tight end, but adding a young, promising tight end like Annen to compete would be a smart move. The Seattle tight end situation looked very similar to Tampa Bay’s heading into last year’s draft. Willson was drafted by the Seahawks who already had veteran tight end Zach Miller and promising receiving tight end Anthony McCoy. Bringing Annen or another late round tight end to Raymond James Stadium makes a lot of sense for Tampa Bay in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Some other intriguing late-round tight prospects to check out are Bowling Green’s Alex Bayer, Massachusetts’ Rob Blanchflower, Dixie State’s Joe Don Duncan, and Baylor’s Jordan Najvar. BURIED TREASURESEvery year there are players that are selected on Day 3 – rounds four through seven – of the NFL Draft that surprise and contribute early on in their pro careers. This section will cover three players that PewterReport.com believes could be late-round picks that contribute early on in their NFL careers. Last year, PewterReport.com listed former Vanderbilt and current St. Louis Rams running back Zac Stacy as a potential buried treasure of the 2013 NFL Draft. We’ve already discussed the following players in previous “Draft Discussion” articles: Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis, Tulane WR Ryan Grant and Buffalo RB Branden Oliver
Here are three players that should be on your draft radars heading into Day 3 of the draft:
IOWA STATE LB JEREMIAH GEORGEProjected to be a undrafted free agent, Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George offers some valuable tools at a potentially great price. George has very good instincts and is a scrappy player, making him at worst a valuable special teamer. He plays with tremendous balance and has great closing speed in pursuit of the target.
The Cyclone linebacker looks like he could fit at middle and strongside linebacker in a base 4-3 defense or as a inside linebacker in a 3-4. His versatility should make him even more valuable as a potential backup or special teamer, perhaps in the mold of an Adam Hayward-type player.
George earned an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine but disappointed in the on-field drills. Athleticism isn’t one of his great attributes but his speed and quickness are suitable for the NFL game. He isn’t a very long linebacker, standing just 5-foot-11, 230 pounds.
PewterReport.com has learned from sources that the Bucs are interested in George, who worked out with the team on April 11. The senior linebacker is also a hometown guy who played his high school football at Clearwater.
ALABAMA WR KEVIN NORWOODOvershadowed by fellow wide receiver Amari Cooper and running backs Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon, and Trent Richardson over the course of his college career, wideout Kevin Norwood is a well-rounded prospect that has starting potential at the NFL level.
Norwood has great body control, allowing him to make awkward contortions to catch the ball in high-point situations. His soft hands and tendency to catch the ball away from his body stand out on film, just like they did during his Senior Bowl practices in January.
It’s pretty hard to find a glaring weakness in Norwood’s game. The Alabama receiver reminds PewterReport.com of Cincinnati receiver Marvin Jones, who blossomed into a threat opposite A.J. Green for the Bengals. Currently projected as a fifth-round selection, Norwood is an NFL-ready receiver with a very reasonable draft price tag.
SOUTHERN MISS DT KHYRI THORNTONDisruption from interior defensive linemen is vital to the success of an NFL defense, and a player that can wreck havoc and move quarterbacks of their spots are always in high demand. Southern Miss defensive tackle Khyri Thornton is a player that can stir things up in the middle of a defense.
Thornton is extremely quick off of the snap, which allows him to get the first crack at engagement. Revving under his hood is an excellent motor, and finding him chasing down ball-carriers way downfield is not an unusual sight. He uses his hands relatively well and can disengage effectively, but he could still use some work in that department.
Thornton’s rare combination of size, athleticism, and power is something scouts and talent evaluators will love, and despite those qualities he’s still quite underrated by most in the media. As a projected fourth or fifth-round pick, Thornton offers starting quality traits at great value. Bucs quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo was the offensive coordinator last year at Southern Miss and knows Thornton well.
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