While the Chargers’ awful 2012 campaign has driven most armchair sports commentators in the 619 to the bottle, I’m taking to the Internet. Not to blog about the Bolts — talk to me when someone has unleashed a smacking on Philip Rivers that will reign in his wild, 4th quarter passes under duress. Rather, I’m going 2013 NFL Draft on y’all in December!
I am intent on staying away from Mel-Kuiper-type draft projections before doing my own assessments this year. I find it corrupts my own opinion. Also, I don’t want to prematurely cut off the hilarity of a blog post projecting Mantei Te’o as a huge bust. (Okay, I do know people think that guy’s good.)
I’ll start with a couple of mid-size school standouts who played their bowl game already — Bernard Reedy and David Fluellen of Toledo. Reedy put on a good performance in the Idaho Potato Bowl; unfortunately for Fluellen, he has to rely on me to advertise his skills, because he left early in the game with a leg injury. I went back and watched a bit of 2012 tape on both. Assuming Fluellen’s injury is not serious, here’s how I come down on the pair.
While Reedy has the highlight reel full of eye-popping catches and returns, Fluellen is the one who actually jumps off the screen for me. Fluellen is tough to bring down. He shows good balance and a knack for staying upright after contact, both in the open field and in short yardage situations. He also seems to read blocking well and, even if forced to change direction, moves upfield quickly afterwards.
I’m also convinced that Fluellen will make himself serviceable on third down in the NFL. He was an asset in Toledo’s spread passing attack when they could not commit to the run. (Note that many of his lower-volume catch games came when the team had more success with the run, and accordingly did not have to turn to the pass as often.) He also gets high praise for his blocking.
Fluellen also sustained a heavy workload this year, but still has a ton of tread on his tires because he sat behind more senior backs his first two years.
He does lack the traditional size of a power back, and lacks the high end speed and quickness of more elusive runner. Luckily, we’ve seen this mold before: think productive-if-not-spectacular runners like Alfred Morris or Andre Brown. The most troubling aspect to Fluellen’s game is his three fumbles this year.
Particularly due to the fumbling issues, I would not commit more than a late-second round draft pick to Fluellen. But he represents value after that.
Reedy makes impressive plays, but still almost always manages to seem under control. He obviously displays good burst, and has great instincts for making tacklers miss while still getting upfield, particularly on returns. He easily outruns MAC defenses — not sure how that translates to NFL speed. He has also shown flashes of impressive body control on a few acrobatic catches.
The Youtube films rarely show drops, so it’s hard to gauge his hands, but at least he catches the ball away from his body. He did fumble three times this year — too many for a receiver. He also seems to double clutch on long catches, which makes me wonder if his hands are too small to get a good grip on the ball. Of course, Reedy also lacks height and weight of a dominant receiver at next level.
That said, good NFL coaches find a way for someone of Reedy’s profile to contribute — think a more slight version of Darren Sproles. (Reedy even ran the ball 10 times in the bowl game!) He will add value as a slot receiver and return specialist. Depending on the wide receiver class and his 40 time at the combine, Reedy could move up boards. Because he can contribute in multiple ways, third round on probably represents good value for him.