For NFL teams, hitting or missing on draft picks 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 the matchups that caught my eye in Week 13 and what I took from the film of each performance:
Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham vs. Texas Tech's pass defense
Gresham caught five passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in Oklahoma's 65-21 win over Texas Tech, and the Sooners' play-action package played a big role in his success. His 42-yard catch in the first quarter on a second-and-5 play set up Oklahoma's second touchdown. Gresham lines up on the left side of the formation in the traditional tight end spot and the Sooners run play-action to the right. Red Raiders MLB Brian Duncan bites on the play fake, creating space over the middle. Gresham exploits his mistake by dragging across the field and catching the ball in stride. The 261-pound tight end then outruns Duncan and uses a strong stiff arm to keep Tech SS Daniel Charbonnet off his legs. However, it's worth pointing out that he ran out of bounds when he could have picked up a few more yards by lowering his shoulder into 195-pound CB Jamar Wall.
Gresham put Oklahoma up 21 points with a 19-yard touchdown pass on a first-and-10 play in the second quarter. This time Gresham lines up in the left slot and the Sooners again run play-action. Gresham runs a streak and Texas Tech S Anthony Hines jumps up because he reads run. As a result, Hines can't get his outstretched hands on the ball when Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford lofts it to Gresham in the end zone. Red Raiders FS Darcel McBath is supposed to give Hines help over the top but arrives too late, and Gresham does a nice job of ignoring the fast-closing McBath and looking the ball into his hands.
Jerry recorded 2.5 tackles for loss, including one sack, and did an excellent job of clogging the middle in the Rebels' 31-13 win over the Tigers. Let's start with a third-and-9 play in the first-quarter with the ball at LSU's 28-yard line. The Tigers try to catch Ole Miss off guard by running a draw to RB Charles Scott with QB Jarrett Lee lined up in a spread shotgun formation. Jerry lines up directly over LSU C Brett Helms and fellow DT Lawon Scott is head-up over Tigers LG Herman Johnson. At the snap of the ball, Jerry shoots outside and engages Johnson while Lawon Scott loops behind him. Jerry does an excellent job of keeping Johnson at bay by extending his arm and quickly locates the ball. He fights to the outside when he sees Charles Scott bounce off-tackle and forces him back inside, where SS Jamarca Sanford wraps him up for no gain. Though he didn't make the tackle, Jerry did a great job of disrupting the play and the effort is a testament to Jerry's upper-body strength considering Johnson tips the scales at 386 pounds.
Jerry's sack comes in the third quarter on a third-and-6 play with the ball at LSU's 24-yardline. This time Jerry lines up over RG Lyle Hitt, who lunges at Jerry at the snap and loses his balance. Jerry takes advantage by clubbing Hitt inside with his left hand and then ripping though Hitt's right shoulder with his right arm. Once he discards Hitt, Jerry shows better-than-expected closing speed and wraps QB Jordan Jefferson up for a nine-yard loss. The only concern I have with this play is that the hit appears to be helmet-to-helmet, and with the NFL fiercely protecting its quarterbacks these days Jerry has to work on breaking down into a better tackling position.
Steve Muench has evaluated both NFL and college players for Scouts Inc. since 2002.