(This post originally appeared at NFLDraftMonsters.com. Be sure to check both sites for my latest posts)
Last season the Texas A&M began the season with the bar set high. The Aggies started the year ranked 8th overall in the preseason AP poll, and 9th overall by the coaches. By Week Nine of the season, A&M had dropped out of both polls; and by December 1st, Head Coach Mike Sherman had been relieved of his duties. They finished 2011 with a disappointing 7-6 record. This season the Aggies, led by new head man Kevin Sumlin, join the big boys in the SEC. Along with a new coaching staff, they’ll be breaking in a novice starting quarterback. And although they most likely have growing pains ahead, A&M still brings back a good amount of NFL caliber talent. Here’s a look at some of the top 2013 NFL Draft prospects on the A&M roster. Underclassmen are designated with an asterisk…
Christine Michael RB 5’11 213 – Michael was highly-touted out of high school, but now carries a medical red flag, as his last two seasons have been shortened by injuries. Last season he ran for 899 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and scored nine total touchdowns in nine games before tearing his left ACL. The year before, Michael’s sophomore season was cut short by a broken tibia. The injuries are unrelated, and by most indications, Michael has already made a speedy recovery. Health issues aside, Michael is a patient runner who does an outstanding job finding cutback lanes. He has excellent balance and forward lean that allows him to work his way through narrow holes and stay on his feet. Once he’s into the open field, Michael has breakaway speed to outrun the defense and break off long gainers. Michael has limited experience in pass protection but does a capable job when called upon. He has only 36 career pass receptions, with just eight last season, but he shows soft hands and makes the most of his limited opportunities. With his combination of solid build, speed and natural running ability, Michael will be able to erase many of the doubts about his durability with a strong senior season.
Sean Porter OLB 6’2 230 – Last season Porter followed in the footsteps of former Aggie teammate Von Miller, and racked up 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss in 13 games. His efforts on the field earned him first team All-Big 12 honors. This year A&M has a new head coach and a new defensive scheme. Porter, who made his mark as a pass rusher in the 3-4 base favored by former Head Coach Mike Sherman, moves to a more tradition linebacker role in the team’s new 4-3 defense. Porter is an exceptional athlete who is capable of various pass rush moves, but who usually relies on a speed rush. He is able to alternate between taking on blockers with power and finessing his way around and through traffic to get to the quarterback. Porter’s power game would benefit from added strength and bulk as he can tend to get swallowed up against much larger offensive linemen. But his speed and fluidity allow him to look comfortable in pass coverage even though he hasn’t been called upon to do it very often. This season’s scheme change will afford him more opportunities to showcase these skills; and ideally that versatility will make him a good fit for any NFL defense.
Luke Joeckel* OT 6’6 310 – Joeckel stepped in immediately as a freshman, started all 13 games for the Aggies at left tackle, and was named honorable mention All-Big 12. Last season, as sophomore, Joeckel earned first team All-Big 12 honors. Now he enters his junior season as one of the top rated offensive line prospects in the country. Joeckel doesn’t possess the quickest first step, but he’s able to slide into pass protection with ease and stay with his man. He could stand to add some strength, as he does get pushed into the backfield on occasion. When he does get beat off the edge, Joeckel can use his athleticism and long arms to recover sufficiently. He’s a strong run blocker who can sustain his blocks and get to the second level. He seems ideally suited to operate in a zone blocking running offense. For a detailed scouting report on Joeckel click here.
Jake Matthews* OT 6’5 305 – Matthews started seven games as a freshman and was named honorable mention All-Big 12. Last season he started every game at right tackle on a line that allowed just nine sacks all season long. Matthews has long arms and a nasty demeanor. He’s able to slide in front of pass rushers and frustrate them with his strength and active hands. He excels at cut blocking to the point where he can pick off two guys at a time on occasion. It seems strange to say, but Matthews lacks ideal size for a traditional right tackle. Like Joeckel, his build and style of play is best suited for an offense that utilizes zone blocking concepts. Unlike Joeckel, Matthews lacks the athleticism that allows him to recover when he’s beat on a speed rush. Still, should he enter the draft after the season, Matthews has the ability to be a likely Day Two draft choice.
Ryan Swope WR 6’0 206 – As a sophomore for the Aggies, Swope caught 72 passes for 825 yards and four touchdowns. Last season he topped those numbers with 89 receptions for 1207 yards and 11 scores. Swope is able to turn quick hit passes into bigger gains with superb run after the catch ability. In these instances it becomes evident how he was able to excel as a running back in high school. Swope is not a burner but he’s a strong runner who can be elusive in the open field. He’ll draw comparisons to Wes Welker because folks love to compare all white, slot receivers to the Patriots’ star. But Swope possesses a bigger build and lacks Welker’s quickness and precision change of direction skills. With Jeff Fuller gone to the NFL, Swope becomes the de facto number one receiver for his new head coach and new quarterback, Johnny Manziel. He’s likely to put up big numbers in his senior season and his first in the SEC. Still Swope most likely translates to a slot/possession receiver role at the NFL level. At this point he appears to be worthy of draft choice in the early stages of Day Three.
Damontre Moore* DE 6’4 250 – As a freshman in 2010, while backing up Von Miller, Moore burst onto the scene with 5.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and an interception. As a sophomore, Moore played in 12 games – starting ten – and tallied 8.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. Moore has spent most of his time standing up and being used primarily as a pass rusher. Occasionally he will drop into coverage but he never looks quite comfortable there. He doesn’t possess great speed but he has a consistent motor. He’ll stay on running plays or continue to get after the quarterback when receivers are covered down the field. This year, with the Aggies changing to a 4-3 scheme, Moore will be used as a defensive end. While he would seem a bit undersized at his listed playing weight, Moore has a big frame and looks capable of adding muscle bulk. Moore has the talent and the demeanor necessary for his new role; and while his sack total may take a dip, he’s gifted enough to make a smooth transition.
Dustin Harris CB 6’0 175 – Harris is one of the “under the radar” defensive players mentioned here.
Also keep an eye on: Spencer Nealy DE 6’5 277, Patrick Lewis G 6’2 312, Steven Jenkins OLB 6’2 220, Jonathan Stewart ILB 6’4 244, Caleb Russell OLB 6’2 248, Steven Terrell SS 5’10 193, Kenric McNeal WR 6’1 184, Brandal Jackson WR 6’1 191, Steven Campbell FS 6’0 201, Michael Lamothe TE 6’3 235, Uzoma Nwachukwu WR 6’0 194, Ryan Epperson P 6’2 195