In this weeks conversation with Rotoworld.com NFL Draft writer Josh Norris (@JoshNorris on Twitter), we talk about Arkansas talent, specifically quarterback Tyler Wilson, how bad the Razorbacks offensive line has been and why Norris thinks Marcus Lattimore should enter the upcoming NFL Draft rather than try to return to college football.
Josh, this Arkansas roster has a lot more talent than four wins doesnt it?
They do. Coming into the year, I thought one of the biggest storylines was this Arkansas team and really Tyler Wilson. You lose an offensive-minded head coach in Bobby Petrino and then also you lose three stud collegiate receivers in Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Joe Adams. Those three were outstanding.
Now, Tyler Wilson this year, I still think he has all the tools. I absolutely love him. Tyler Wilson before the year was my No. 1 quarterback, senior quarterback, junior quarterback, anything. I think he gives a positive connotation of the word gunslinger because he loves the stick to the pocket, and he doesnt mind taking a big hit because of it. This year he has probably take more big hits than he should because that Arkansas offensive line has just been abysmal. He loves to test downfield, but thats gotten him into some bad decisions this year. Maybe thats because of a lack of weapons, and maybe because hes having to throw the ball a lot quicker. This year the ball seems to float a lot more, and he also took a concussion. That concussion was his second I think in the last calendar year. In the past couple weeks, I think hes done a lot better. His footwork is great. Hes obviously comfortable from center, which is something you dont see a lot from the college quarterbacks coming out now. A lot of people will be talking about the concussions from a pro prospective and think its going to hurt him a lot. Im not saying its going to help him, but I disagree because you look in the past couple drafts at quarterback prospects and injury concerns havent mattered at all. You look at Robert Griffin III, he missed an entire season. You look at Sam Bradford, coming off of shoulder surgery. Christian Ponder has had some major shoulder issues. I think Tyler Wilson, the ability he has just to stick to the pocket and look at downfield receivers is something that I covet and that evaluators covet because now you see quarterbacks get really tentative and back away from pressure and Tyler Wilson certainly doesnt do that.
After that, I would say their next best prospect is a running back, but its not Knile Davis, its Dennis Johnson. Dennis Johnson is a guy who was my fourth senior running back heading into the season. Hes only about 5-8, 212 pounds, but he is the best third down back in college football right now. I think he can produce in that role in the NFL immediately. Hes got the leverage for blocking and the physicalness for blocking, and hes an excellent receiver. Hes now the starter, and hes added that primary ball-carrying role to his arsenal. He did it last year when Davis was out, but hes done it a lot better this year. The thing I like most about him is his short and choppy footwork. Hes not Darren Sproles because Darren Sproles is leaner and quicker, but Sproles has that same quickness, same burst because of their short strides and choppy footwork. When you look at Johnson, hes very think and he breaks plenty of arm tackles. The biggest issue with him, and you might see South Carolina targeting it this week, is that he has a plethora of fumbles. He has bad fumbling issues. I think its 12 in the last two years. But I really do think Dennis Johnson is their second-best offensive weapon.
Cobi Hamilton is another one. Hes a guy that Tyler Wilson loves to stare down and maybe too much. Hes not the same receivers that Joe Adams and Jarius Wright were at all because those were quicker guys that win with separation. Cobi can go up and get the ball, hes not afraid of contact, but hes a much bigger target. Hes about 6-2, 210 pounds. I like him. I think hes a third day pick. He doesnt really flash anywhere, but hes reliable.
Finally is Alvin Bailey, their guard. Coming into the year, a lot of people liked him. Arkansas does a weird thing for college football in that they flip sides with their offensive linemen. A lot of people liked him and hes been pretty bad this year to be perfectly honest. That whole offensive line has been really terrible. It seems like I predict it every week, but I think the Gamecock defensive line is going to have a big day, and honestly these guys have no one on defense. I dont think South Carolina is going to have a problem moving the ball Saturday.
Last week, we talked about Marcus Lattimore and how complicated his future was at that point. Now we are talking about a totally different thing after the Tennessee game. If he is able to play again, how will the NFL people evaluate him?
Willis McGahee is the poster child for it. After the injury didnt Coach Spurrier get up there and say not only will Lattimore play football but that he will back to college and play again? To me that would be the wrong move.
The reasoning is, the way that contracts are shaping up for draft picks, how they are slotted and already pre-determined, there is no real benefit to coming back and trying to earn yourself a top two round draft slot. Lattimore is in a position now to play for that second contract and get healthy enough for that second contract. I really think his best option might to just go to the NFL Draft now. Thats me saying that from completely outside, but teams redshirt plenty of people, plenty of people less talented than Marcus Lattimore that were just injured, maybe not as severe an injury. Teams will (know the severity of the injury). Along with character and scheme fit, medicals are a big thing on if a kid can be drafted or not by that team or not. From my experience for one year in a draft room, there were about 10 players that were injury concerns and were undraftable because of that.
Lattimore will certainly be that for some teams, but there have been plenty of success stories. So get all the medical things he needs and then redshirt, but redshirt in the NFL because hell get that contract while hes redshirting and there is no chance of being re-injured in college football, and hell be looking forward to that second contract when he does step foot on the field in the NFL.
So you think somebody would take a chance on him just to stash him away?
Absolutely. I mean, when you get to the sixth and seventh round, maybe 25 percent of those guys are on and NFL roster three years down the line, and I would absolutely take that shot. Even with the medicals, why not take the shot? Somebody is going to be like, Its a sixth or seventh round pick, why not? Id just take the chance.