June 16, 2014

NFL Scout: UT's talent on the way back

This year's NFL draft was uneventful for the University of Texas. There is no need to rehash what did not occur, or revisit the historic significance. 
It is over. 
Time to move on. 
Yet, when the Longhorns start practice this fall, there are a few players who will erase April's disappointing outcome and likely hear their names called during next year's draft. Anything can happen before next year - good or bad - but Marist College will probably not have a player selected before a Longhorn in 2015, and order will be restored to the universe. 
WalterFootball.com's Charlie Campbell does not have Mel Kiper Jr. or Mike Mayock's popularity, but is one of the most knowledgeable draft analysts in the country.  Campbell believes at least one player has a shot to become a first-round pick, while there are six players who could be selected overall. Each player will be one to watch when Longhorns practice begins. 
"Texas should definitely produce some draft prospects in 2015," Campbell said. "They could easily return to the early rounds with both defensive end Cedric Reed and cornerback Quandre Diggs having the potential to go in the first three rounds."
Here is Campbell's breakdown of each Longhorns draft prospect:
Cedric Reed, 6-6, 271, Sr., DE

"Reed was very impressive last season with superb production of 10 sacks, 68 tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss, four passes batted and four forced fumbles.  At 6-foot-6, 271-pounds Reed is Texas' best shot at being a first-round pick."
Quandre Diggs, 5-10, 204, Sr., CB

: "Diggs is similar size to former TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, a first-round pick by the Chargers this year. Diggs has had three quality seasons for Texas. Nobody looked good against BYU and Diggs had some issues with Kansas State's Tyler Lockett, but I thought Diggs played really well to close out the season.  With 10 passes broken up and zero interceptions, some might question his ball skills but he had four interceptions as a sophomore and freshman. I think Diggs didn't' get many interception chances because his coverage was sound, and opponents threw at other defenders."
Malcolm Brown, 6-4, 320, Jr., DT 

"I think defensive tackle Malcom Brown is a potential second or third-round prospect. I think he could help his draft stock if he shows more pass rush production."
Jaxon Shipley, 6-1, 193, Sr., WR; Malcolm Brown, 6-foot, 228, Sr. RB

"Wide receiver Jaxon Shipley and running back Malcolm Brown are a potential late-rounders. If Texas had more consistent quarterback play during his collegiate career. I think Shipley could be considered earlier in the draft. Brown is an intriguing sleeper back with his strength and receiving ability. 
Jordan Hicks, 6-2, 244, Sr., LB

"Hicks is another possibility as a late-rounder. He's played well when healthy, but Hicks has missed so much time with injuries. If he can stay healthy and productive some team could look past the medical folder and take a chance on him."
Reed was a four-star recruit by Rivals.com as a senior and committed very early to Texas. He played basketball in high school and fully dedicated himself to football after arriving in Austin. 
Throughout Reed's tenure with the Longhorns, he has improved each year. Reed appeared in seven games during the 2011 season, started in six games in 2012, and did not miss a start last season. It is debatable whether Reed had had more of an impact on Texas' defensive line than Jackson Jeffcoat, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent this offseason. 
However, Campbell believes Reed needs to have another performance similar to last season to solidify his potential first-round selection. 
"For Reed it is all about consistency," Campbell said. "He's going to see more blocking attention, but he needs to still produce some quality sack numbers and pressure on the quarterback. In the passing driven Big 12, I think he'll be able to do it. He's already filled out his frame and has perfect size to be a base end in a 4-3 defense. It would help Reed if he continues to develop and add to his pass rushing moves. If he comes close to his 2013 numbers that should send his stock on the rise and well into the first round." 
Diggs is the young brother to former Texas standout Quentin Jammer, who is currently a free agent after spending last season with the Denver Broncos. Jammer, a former All-American at Texas, was a first-round pick by San Diego in 2002, and spent 11 seasons with the Chargers before signing with Denver. 
When Diggs signed with Texas, he was a high school athlete with the ability to play quarterback, running, receiver and defensive back. Diggs eventually evolved into a standout defensive back, replacing Kenny Vaccaro as Texas' nickleback, the marquee spot in Longhorns' defense, last season.  
"For Diggs, I think that it's important for him to show that he can line up on the outside and cover big receivers," Campbell said. "Diggs can definitely play in the slot, but at his size teams will question his ability to line up on the outside and handle bigger, physical wide outs. Some cornerbacks Diggs' dimensions can rise up to that challenge while others are only capable of playing in the slot. If Diggs can show that his stock should definitely rise."
Longhorns coach Charlie Strong will receive some credit for their success, but to be fair, Mack Brown recruited those players. Strong's coach staff may give each player the final push to NFL success, but Brown deserves credit for getting his former players to this point. 
Strong's ability to put players in the NFL has been well-documented, but he has only one recruiting class under his belt at Texas. He needs two more years before NFL observers are willing to give him full credit for developing his own players into draft picks. 
Nevertheless, Campbell believes it is just a matter of time before it occurs. 
"I definitely think that Charlie Strong will get the Texas program back to being one of the elite producers of NFL talent," Campbell said. "It's only a matter of time. I think Strong will develop the players he inherited well and Texas players will be a factor in the 2015 NFL Draft. After that I wouldn't be surprised if they have a dip of NFL prospects for a year or two while Strong restocks the talent on the roster. Once Strong gets a few of his recruiting classes through the program I think they'll consistently have first-round talents coming out of Texas."

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