Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, May 7, 2015
The 2015 NFL draft is history. But, the analysis continues.
I caught up with draft expert Charles Davis of the NFL Network to get his views on the 2015 draft from a Big Ten angle, while also looking ahead to 2016.
Q: How did the Big Ten talent in the 2015 draft stack up with the SEC?
A: If you talked to coaches about a defensive end who could rush the passer, he is described as an SEC-type defensive end. That drives people crazy across the country. But I think that gap is narrowing in a lot of ways. I?ve said it before and I?ll stand by it: I don?t think there is a hotter conference than the Big Ten right now. What it has done with coaching, Ohio State?s run to the title. ? This conference was left for dead, especially after Week Two last year. You look around now, and the SEC doesn?t have a complete market on everything.
Q: Any positions from the Big Ten stand out?
A: Not in particular. But where the jump is taking place is on the interior. Everyone has fast guys. Not only Southern kids can run. That?s not true. But with the interior guys, were they as fast? When you look now ? I am still shocked (Ohio State DT) Michael Bennett lasted as long as he did to the sixth round. Corey Linsley (fifth-round pick in 2014) is another guy who lasted long last year. I thought he was a heck of a good player. Now he starts for a team (Packers) that played in the NFC Championship game. I think the linemen are getting better, faster. (Ohio State DE) Joey Bosa? Is there any better combo kid now in the country?
Q: Could Joey Bosa be the first pick in the 2016 draft?
A: I?ve seen that. It will be interesting. But at the end of the day, we are always going to come back to quarterbacks. If Cardale Jones wins that job at Ohio State and plays throughout the year, you will be talking about his name being mentioned. You also can talk about (Michigan State QB) Connor Cook being mentioned as the No. 1 pick in the draft. Bosa as a non-quarterback is definitely in that conversation. If Braxton Miller wins the job at Ohio State, we won?t be talking about him as the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Q: What do you think of Penn State?s Christian Hackenberg?
A: Love him. For him to operate as he has, given some of his circumstances, has been impressive. He just screams big-time quarterback watching him play and maneuver. He?ll be mentioned highly if he has a big year.
Q: Did you think Indiana running back Tevin Coleman would go sooner than the third round?
A: I think the third round was right. He?s a high-volume runner. He could make that one cut and go. Kevin Wilson told me among backs he has coached he?s only second to Adrian Peterson, who as a worker is underrated. Running backs aren?t highly regarded anyway. Coleman probably is disappointed he didn?t go higher, but he went to an ideal place in Atlanta. Coleman is an outstanding runner who can be a recreation of Michael Turner in Atlanta.
Jeremy Langford (fourth round) probably feels like he was underrated in the draft, but he can battle to back up Matt Forte, who is approaching 30. That is a good spot for Langford.
Q: Were you surprised Georgia?s Todd Gurley was the first back picked instead of Wisconsin?s Melvin Gordon, given the fact Gurley hurt his knee last season?
A: No, I wasn?t. Minus the knee injury, 32 teams out of 32 had Gurley as their top back. But San Diego may not tell you that because they drafted Gordon. But the impression was Gurley was the best back in the draft and Gordon was second. There wasn?t a huge gap between them. When you saw Gurley at 100 percent, his speed gets to the end zone. His speed is the difference. And Gurley caught the ball more. Melvin had to develop that.
What I liked about Gordon is that he added something to his game every year-like Kobe Bryant, who added to his game each summer. Catching the ball became a bigger deal for Gordon this past year. As a freshman, he was almost a gimmick runner, jet sweeps, fly sweeps ? he was the third running back. He became more physical running inside and he caught the ball more this past year. Plus, he?s a tremendous pass protector. As a three-down back, he?s what you?re looking for-like Gurley. But Gurley?s knee checked out, which is what made him the top back in the draft.
Q: Does any Big Ten program develop players better than Michigan State?
A: They do such a great job of coaching and developing talent. It may not develop to NFL levels (based on recent draft numbers). But they take guys to the limit of their athletic ability. Shilique Calhoun is a good example. They identified him when he weighed 215 in high school, basketball player. Now look at what they have. He is a great example of the Michigan State way.
Q: Were you surprised where ex-Michigan DE Frank Clark (second round) and Nebraska DE Randy Gregory (second round) went in the draft?
A: Gregory, less so. I wouldn?t have been shocked if someone had taken him in the first round. That would not have surprised me. I was even less surprised that he ended up in Dallas. The Cowboys believe they can work with anyone. But there is a lot of baggage with Gregory. I believe he said (in an interview with NFL Network) there were two documented failed drug tests at Nebraska and one at the Combine. Teams I talked to said they thought there was more going on there than just that. When you put it all together, it makes sense he slid out of the first round. If he wasn?t as talented as he is, a lot of people never would have drafted him. He is such an overwhelming talent, people want to take the chance he can get everything fixed. A lot of people think these guys mature and make it, but you and I both know that isn?t true. If one makes it, that encourages other teams to take a shot at another because the payoff is big.
The Frank Clark thing, that one is gonna be a mess. What is coming out since Seattle drafted him ? What I am seeing so far isn?t good. But, talent gets you extra looks. Seattle didn?t have a first-round pick. Clark fits what Seattle looks for in a player-size, speed, measurements, pass-rushing ability. But I want to see how this plays out with the conflicting reports I am seeing.
Q: What impact will Jim Harbaugh have on Michigan and its talent development?
A: It is massive. From the outside in, Michigan tried to be Michigan for so long. The thinking always was: ?We are Michigan ? everything works out.? Everyone else was doing things to propel themselves forward, but they always felt ?it?s Michigan, it?s fine.? But it wasn?t fine. Harbaugh won?t back down from anyone. He loves the place. It comes out of every pore of who he is.
I want to be in the room when Harbaugh, Urban Meyer, James Franklin and Mark Dantonio are together. You talk about four alphas, all in the same division. This is no slam on the other coaches, but the truth is that the rock stars are in the East. Those four are rock stars. In the West, you have a ton of respected coaches. But would you call any of them a rock star?
The recruiting battles, the games ? they are going go at it. The other schools benefit from those four coaches. I?d be thanking my lucky stars if I was in the West. Because I have a shot.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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