With the NFL Combine having just wrapped-up, the projections, analysis and evaluation of NFL Draft prospects kicks into another gear.
Analysts now have to see these players at their pro days, study more tape and re-evaluate their evaluations leading up to the draft, May 8-10.
NFL Network Analyst Daniel Jeremiah joined the News Sentinel Sports Page on “The Sports Animal” in Knoxville to discuss the University of Tennessee players with draft potential, this year’s crop of QBs including the ones from the SEC, his favorite running back in the draft, a Vols freshman that’s already wowed him and a trait of Butch Jones-coached players going into the NFL.
Antonio “Tiny” Richardson (6’6, 339), according to Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, is one of the more polarizing offensive linemen in this draft.
Jeremiah liked him last summer, but his opinion of him has changed since.
“I thought he played much better the year before,” Jeremiah said. “This year I thought he struggled. Just really didn’t have a great year in my opinion. I thought he overset a lot, he got beat a lot, and he ducked his head a lot. He just didn’t play as well.”
John Adams asked Jeremiah if he were advising Richardson, would he have told him to return for his senior season at Tennessee.
“I would have, just because of the fact that we have a very deep crop of tackles this year. If you haven’t put your best foot forward, haven’t played your best football, and you’re in a position that’s loaded, I think it makes more sense to come back and train. I don’t know if it’s a health issue or what. He needed to come back and have a better year. I think he could have helped himself.”
Richardson was projected as a consensus mid-first round pick entering the 2013 season, but since has slipped out of most first-round mock drafts. “Based off of tape we saw this year, I thought we were talking about a third round pick,” Jeremiah said. “Now, I don’t know with the health issues where he’s going to be in terms of passing physicals and all that.”
How does Richardson compare to UT’s starting right tackle during his time at Tennessee, Ja’Wuan James, according to Jeremiah?
“Ja’Wuan James (6’6, 311), in my opinion, just played a lot better than he did this year when you watch game after game after game. I thought he out-played him consistently.”
Jeremiah has James listed as his #50 overall prospect in his player rankings.
“I think he’s got a really, really good shot at being a second round pick, I really do,” Jeremiah said. “He played really consistent this year. I think he’s a really good pass protector. I wish he were a little more nasty, a little more physical. But, what he does is: he’s long, he locks people out and he doesn’t get beat.”
Jeremiah sees a quick impact from James in the NFL.
“To me I think he can come in and be a right tackle. I think he can start fairly early in his career.”
Daniel Jeremiah already has his eyes on one of Tennessee’s freshmen from last season.
“That freshmen wide receiver (Marquez North)…holy cow! That one wasn’t tough to notice. I want to say it was the South Carolina game…I literally paused the tape, and sent my buddy (Bob Welton – Tennessee’s Director of Player Personnel) a text and said ‘what grade is this kid in?”
Daniel Jeremiah is also a former NFL scout. I asked him what stands out about Butch Jones-coached players going back to his time as head coach at the University of Cincinnati.
“Toughness. That was a tough group of guys. I was in Philadelphia; we drafted Jason Kelce, our center, who they just signed to a multi-million dollar extension, who was really tough. His brother (Travis) who was a tight end there was a really, really tough kid. All these guys that come through that program, you knew what you were going to get. You were getting tough guys.”
During our conversation, Daniel Jeremiah discussed other Vols prospects: OL – Zach Fulton (6’5, 316), OL – James Stone (6’4, 306) and DT – Daniel McCullers (6’7, 352) during our visit.
He also shared position and player options for the Tennessee Titans with the 11th pick.
Hear our entire almost 16 minute visit with the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah HERE.
Join me and Knoxville News Sentinel sports writers host the News Sentinel Sports Page, weekdays 10am – Noon on The Sports Animal!