SoCon Players Ready to Tackle NFL
By Russell V.
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12 players from the Southern Conference were either drafted or signed as free agents in the NFL this year.
To call last week ‘eventful’ for the following 12 players would be an understatement. It was a life-changing weekend. They are now that much closer to their ultimate goal of suiting up on a Sunday in the fall and joining the elite fraternity of the NFL.
But how did each player come out? How will they fit in in their new home? What are the chances that they stick with the team? Well, that’s exactly what I tried to take into consideration when formulating these grades.
Brian Quick, Rams – Friday was a historic day for Quick, who now holds the honor of being the highest draft pick in Appalachian State history. He was taken with the first pick of the second round (33rd overall), just beating out linebacker Dino Hackett, who was taken 35th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1986. By now, you know all the records he holds if you are an App fan, and if you are not, you are just happy to see him go. Quick has a solid chance to be starting come Opening Weekend as the Rams receiving corps is a little bare to put it nicely. Arguably the best returning wide out currently on the roster is Brandon Gibson and the talent level drops noticeably after him. Quick and quarterback Sam Bradford could form a solid chemistry and became a duo that gives NFC West opponents nightmares for years to come. Grade: A+
Travaris Cadet, Saints – This will be the first of many times you see the New Orleans Saints on this list, as they picked up a total of four players from the Southern Conference over the weekend. The first player we will look at is do-everything athlete Travaris Cadet, whose versatility could give him an ultimate edge over his competition for a roster spot. Unfortunately, it could still be an uphill battle. If the Saints plan to use him as a running back, he’ll need all the help he can get to break into the rotation of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram. If they want to use him at wide receiver though, his chances increase, as the Saints are thin on receivers for a team that routinely runs four or five-receiver sets. Then there’s always the chance he makes the team as a special teams ace, though he will face some familiar competition for that spot (more on that later). Grade: B-
DeAndre Presley, Chargers – Much like Cadet, Presley’s versatility will be his biggest asset. It is rare that you find a player who played quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and special teams in his collegiate career. If I had to guess, I’d assume the Chargers plan on bringing Presley up as a defensive back, special teams ace and possibly a wildcat quarterback. After the top three CB spots, the Chargers do seem a little weak. With a strong training camp, Presley could solidify his spot on the team no problem. Grade: B-
Kevin Hardy, Saints – The Saints looked to the SoCon again for some wide receiver/special teams help, signing former Bulldog Kevin Hardy to a deal. While Hardy may have not done much as a receiver (which is to be expected in most triple option offenses), he made his impact on special teams, where he was able to show off the speed that helped make him a track and field star with the Bulldogs. A very strong camp will be imperative for Hardy in order for him to keep his roster spot. If he can find a way on the field, he will be sure to flourish with Drew Brees throwing him the ball. Hardy’s biggest problem will be getting on the field in the first place though. I think that will ultimately cost him a spot on the team. Grade: D+
Rodney Austin, Lions – It’s great to see someone like Rodney Austin get signed to an NFL contract. Austin was one of the top guards in the country coming into the 2011 season, according to some scouts. Unfortunately, his season lasted only three games because of an injury. Right now, the Lions’ depth chart seems ripe for Austin, as they are lacking a backup center (the position he played in college) and, at least to me, seem a little weak in the backup guard position. Versatility (and yes, I love versatility. Hence why I mention it often) will again be big, as what NFL GM doesn’t love a player who can play multiple positions? The biggest worry will be how he transitions from FCS defensive linemen to NFL defensive linemen and if there are any lingering effects to his injury. If not, I think he has a good chance to make the team. Grade: B-
Laron Scott, Saints – The third Saints’ signing of a SoCon special teams monster, Scott is probably the best of the three when it comes to returning kicks. After all, he did set a school-record with 2,257 kickoff return yards and was third in the FCS last year with his 30.6 yards per return average. Bringing in all these special teams players tells me the Saints want to take some of the returning duties away from Darren Sproles, so Cadet, Hardy and Scott all have that playing to their advantage. The biggest difference between the three though is an obvious one – the positions they play. While there may be a logjam at receiver, the cupboard at cornerback is much more bare, particularly after the loss of Tracy Porter in free agency. Scott has been a solid corner during his time as an Eagle (40 starts, 12 interceptions) and I think will earn himself a spot on the Saints because of that. Grade: B+
Ryan Steed, Jets – If you read my question and answer session with Rotoworld’s Josh Norris (http://www.southernpigskin.com/SOCON/view/show-them-the-money1), you will remember Mr. Norris saying that Steed would need to be in a pressing defense in order to reach his full potential. Well, the Jets are exactly that, a team that loves to press receivers at the line. The fit here is great for Steed – a chance to work with Darrelle Revis, one of the best corners in the game, and play in New York City. The problem is that the Jets already have a fair number of corners on the roster, putting Steed in an even deeper hole. But hey, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, right? And call me crazy, but I say that Ryan Steed will make it there. Grade: B
Ryan Lee, Steelers – The Steelers have had a good recent history with offensive lineman, so things are looking up for Ryan Lee already. The 2011 All-SoCon selection obviously has the size and strength to succeed at the next level (6’3, 309 pounds), and saw time at both tackle and guard in college. Unfortunately for him, Pittsburgh used three of their nine draft picks on offensive linemen, including their first and second rounders. Lee’s best hope may be to impress someone in preseason and hope he ends up with that team, because it is going to be hard to find a spot on Pittsburgh’s roster. Grade: D+
Kadarron Anderson, Saints – If I am New Orleans, I do everything I can to make sure Kadarron Anderson gets a spot on their roster. The three-time All-SoCon selection is a playmaker and someone I am a big fan of. Surely, a team that has Will Herring and Scott Shanle listed as starters can find room on the roster for someone who totaled 372 tackles in his career, including 111 last season, right? Excellent job by the Saints (the Panther fan in me just died a little writing that) in making sure they got Anderson. If he doesn’t make the team, there is something very wrong here. Grade: A-
Corey White, Saints – Corey White also made some history last weekend, as he became just the fourth Samford player ever to be drafted (first since Cortlan Finnegan in 2007) and the highest drafted Bulldog ever. He will be expected to play back up for the Saints at the safety position, where they are set soundly with starters Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper. I’d expect White, who was tied for second in the conference with four interceptions to go along with his five pass break-ups and 58 tackles, to be able to slot himself in quite nicely between Jenkins and/or Harper though. Grade: A
BJ Coleman, Packers – Ok, so it’s not backing up Peyton Manning for the Broncos like Mr. Norris predicted, but it’s still pretty darn good. He will fight to take the title of Aaron Rodgers’ backup against former Texas Tech star Graham Harrell and he should have a good chance to grab it, since incumbent backup Matt Flynn has moved on to Seattle. I think talent-wise, the two are relatively close, which means if Coleman can pick up the playbook quickly, he’ll be able to enjoy that title very early in his career. If not, he’s still learning from Aaron Rodgers, which isn’t all that bad. Grade: B+
Brenton Bersin, Panthers – I’m sure this was a dream come true for Bersin, who starred at Charlotte Latin High School. Much like Hardy, he didn’t have too many chances to shine playing in a triple option offense. But when he did, he made the most of it. Just look at this year’s Shrine Bowl for instance, where he was named offensive MVP. Like with most triple option receivers, when he does get his hands on the ball, it was for big yardage on some deep throws. Deep throws that a quarterback like Cam Newton loves to throw. It could be a challenge to make the squad, but if he does, it would be a picture-perfect dream come true for the former Terrier. Grade: C