For NFL teams, hitting or missing on a draft pick can be the difference between making the playoffs and playing golf in January, so it should come as no surprise that scouts leave no stone unturned when evaluating players' skill sets. It's a grueling process that involves seemingly endless film sessions, but there are games that can make scouts sit up and pay particular attention.
These are the games that feature a prospect who's lining up against one of the best units or players in the nation and/or playing in a game with substantial implications for his team.
Here are five such matchups that caught my eye in Week 10 and what I took from the film of each performance, as well as notes on contributions from younger players:
Johnson intercepted three of Lee's passes in Alabama's 27-21 overtime win against LSU, returning one of them 54 yards for a touchdown. Johnson's first pick comes on third-and-7 with the ball on the Tigers' 13-yard line in the first quarter. The Crimson Tide bluff blitz and then drop eight men into coverage after the snap. Lee tries to thread the ball between three defenders to WR Demetrius Byrd on a slant, but the ball is behind Byrd and MLB Rolando McCain hits him before he can bring the ball in. Meanwhile, Johnson has dropped into a Cover 2 look and quickly closes on Byrd when the ball is released, putting himself in position to make the pay when the ball pops into the air.
The second interception happens on third-and-8 in the second quarter with the ball at the LSU 36-yard line. Alabama rushes five this time, with CB Javier Arenas blitzing off the left edge of the offensive formation. That blitz creates space over the middle and single coverage for Tigers WR Terrance Toliver against Tide SS Justin Woodall. Toliver takes advantage by running a slant and beats Woodall to the inside, and while Lee makes the proper read, the ball sails on him. Johnson reads Lee's eyes from his center-fielder role in Cover 1, makes a relatively easy catch and follows his blocks into the end zone to tie the score at 14.
Johnson's third interception comes on third-and-6 during LSU's only possession of overtime. WR Brandon LaFell lines up in the right slot opposite Arenas, and at the snap Lee rolls right. Johnson sprints in the same direction in order to provide Arenas with help over the top. Lee either fails to see Johnson rolling over the top or thinks he can drop the ball between the two defenders, and makes the poor decision to throw the ball in LaFell's direction. Johnson does a good job of staying deeper than LaFell and catches the ball in the corner of the end zone, setting up the game-winning possession for Alabama.
Steve Muench has evaluated both NFL and college players for Scouts Inc. since 2002.