Monday, February 23, 2009

Evaluating Chris Wells And Other Buckeye Draft Hopefuls

I haven't been watching much of the combine, but I've kept up with it a little bit. As always, I have particular interest in Ohio State players. With the draft fast approaching, I thought it was time for me to break down the noteworthy draft-eligible Bucks. Here goes nothing...

QB Todd Boeckman: I wouldn't touch him in a fifty-round draft. Or, for that matter, a 7 billion-round draft.

DT Nader Abdallah: Ditto. The guy has worlds of ability, but waited four-and-a-half years to apply himself. No thank you.

RB Maurice Wells: You might laugh at his name being on this list, but let's not forget that, as of mid-season, he was considered a late-round possibility because of his supposed versatility. What was rarely mentioned was that he was terrible and wouldn't have started at Akron (or Kent, or wherever). Math: No vision + no balance + zero career broken tackles = undrafted free agent who doesn't make it through mini camp.

OT Alex Boone: Maybe the all-time most overrated Buckeye. Came in with a ton of hype, was handed a starting job early and never once did he make you think, "Well, at least they have Boone protecting the QB's blind side." In fact, if you're anything like me, you probably wondered how a guy with (allegedly) high-end athletic ability was constantly whiffing on speed rushers coming off the edge. I never felt like he gave a crap about football.

CB Donald Washington: Buckeye homers bash the guy for coming out instead of playing his senior year, and while he should have returned to Columbus it doesn't change the fact that he's an immensely talented corner, and one of the true sleepers in this draft. Washington could be out of the league in three years -- the knucklehead factor -- but he could also be a month removed from playing in his second Pro Bowl. Getting this guy in the third round would be a steal.

WR Brian Robiskie: Seems destined to be a No. 4 wide receiver who catches 18 balls a season----all of them going for first downs. I haven't seen his combine results, other than an impressive 37-inch vertical leap, but even if he runs a fast forty I'm not buying it; the guy can't get separation from anyone. Pros: Good guy; likable; smart; dependable. Cons: Slow; not fast; lacks quickness

WR Brian Hartline: This man is turning heads at the combine and I might be the only person (other than maybe his teammates) who isn't surprised. He came out early, which was stupid (although he appeared to have a shaky relationship with Tressel, so maybe that contributed to his departure), but he's always been the more talented (in terms of raw athleticism) of the Brians, and the better bet to make a mark at the next level. Should he be drafted higher than the fifth round? Hell no. Is there a chance he could carve out a Darnay Scott-type career? You betcha.

LB Marcus Freeman: Destined to be a special teamer. But...similar to the Hartline-could-be-better-than-Robiskie-in-the-NFL argument, Freeman has a chance to be a better pro than James Laurinaitis, simply because of his athleticism. Now, I don't think it will happen (mostly because he was never very good), but it could. Just saying.

Now for the big guns...

LB James Laurinaitis: I get tired just looking at his name. Hell, thinking about him puts me to sleep. He was really productive, but I was never blown away by his performance. I can't remember a single time when he altered the course of a game with a monster hit or shocked you with a display of athleticism the way Katzenmoyer, Hawk or Carpenter did. He does a lot of things solidly, but none of them remarkably. That he is slipping to the middle of second round in mock drafts shouldn't come as a surprise. If you're a GM on draft day, yes better be the only answer to the following question regarding your first round pick: "Is he talented enough to play in a Pro Bowl?" With Laurinaitis, it's unequivocally no. Sorry.

CB Malcolm Jenkins: This dude is awesome, although I can't really pinpoint one area where he leaps off the page. The following piece of information might shock you, but I haven't spoken to Jim Tressel in a while (and by "a while," I mean never)...but if I did, I'm sure he would tell me that Jenkins is among the smartest players he's ever coached. He is always -- always -- in the right place. And he's so smooth with everything he does. There is some debate about whether he's a pure corner or more of a ball-hawking safety, and that's understandable: while he was certainly a stand-out corner, he was beat deep more than you'd like from a top-ten pick at that position. However, you put him in the middle of the field -- flanked by a concussion-producing strong safety -- and you're defense gets a lot better overnight.

RB Chris Wells: Aside from Connor Barwin, who's ripping up the combine, Wells might be the most interesting of all draft prspects. From the time the ball is snapped until the whistle blows, I've never been more in love with a running back. The man is perfect. Absolutely perfect. His combination of feet, vision, balance, strength and quickness-through-the-hole is as good as I've ever seen. Hell, I'd go so far to say that he has a tad more natural ability than Adrian Peterson----the only thing separating Peterson is the legitimate sprinter speed. But even if you think that statement is ludicrous, and before we shine a light on the obvious question marks surrounding Wells, I'd like you to focus on three short videos that point to No. 28's unique skill set.

The first comes from his freshman year versus Michigan:

If this were the only run of his career longer than two inches he'd still get drafted; that's how impressive this play was. First, anyone who plays basketball will be able to tell you that a reverse pivot (which is precisely what Wells did immediately after being handed the ball), for a right-hander (which I'm assuming he is), is much harder than spinning the other way. The left foot will always be the dominant foot for both leaping and planting/spinning. That's just the way it is. And to think that Wells, at 235 lbs., could not only avoid the oncoming tackler with a usually-awkward spin and turn his back to the play, but instantly get up to top speed and break through the front seven is nothing short of amazing. He ran a 4.59 forty at the combine, but I'd bet his first ten or fifteen were off the charts.

The second video is a collection of straight-arm clips:

The sheer power of a Wells stiff arm isn't the most impressive aspect of this video, it's his impeccable balance. Remember how Ki-Jana Carter would go down like a ton of bicks if his feet got tangled up a little bit? Well, that never happens with Wells. And he anticipates the contact perfectly and positions his body accordingly, to the point that he's rarely knocked even slightly off balance. I mean, watch the video over...sure, he's a big strong man and everything, but he throws guys out of the way with ease and almost always maintains his stride and speed.

The third video is one of those shaky, shot-from-a-camcorder videos, but don't let that screw you up. It's his 65-yard TD vs. LSU in the '07 championship game:

Unlike most of his long runs, in this one he showed top-end speed in yards 40 through 60. And he did it against a lightning-fast LSU defense. But that's not what causes me to faint every time I watch this video. When you watch the first fifteen yards of the run, Wells looks like Darren Sproles out there. Seriously, go watch it again and tell me if he looks like a 235-lb. bruiser or a 170-lb. scatback. His feet are truly remarkable. The choppy steps through the hole and the subtle cut outside that allowed him to maintain speed are jaw-dropping, especially when you consider his size.

Knowshown Moreno and LeSean McCoy (aka "LeBlack McBlack") are really nice players, but neither approach Chris Wells in terms of natural running ability. And I will push you down the steps if you disagree with me.

Of course, Wells might not hear his name called on draft day before Moreno and McBlack. The reason: Durability concerns. Well, that's what the experts say. To me, it's Will his act fly in the NFL?

I'll explain that in a second. Before that, let's briefly examine the three most publicized injuries from his three-year Buckeye career:

1. Broken wrist, 2007. I ask you, should a broken wrist be in the same category as nagging hamstring and groin problems? I say no. And plus, it's not like he was merely pretty good in '07...he was -- simply my opinion here -- the best RB in the entire country----better than Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, better than Mendenhall, better than all of 'em. Regardless, he was tremendously productive, never really missed significant time and carried an unworthy (in terms of talent) squad to the title game.

2. Non-contact toe injury, 2008. I don't know what to make of this. It reminded me of so many ACL tears, where the guy plants his foot and crashes to Earth. It was bizarre more than anything. But does that mean he's injury prone? Maybe, I do we know? But once it happened the "injury prone" label officially stuck to him, but I think it's unfair, and kind of a subconscious mistake (I'll explain in a minute).

3. Concussion, Orange Bowl vs. Texas, 2009. To the best of my knowledge, Wells had never suffered a concussion prior to this. But he picked the worst time to get one----especially since it was just a mild concussion and he seemed fine on the sideline. I know I've defended the guy a lot, but how can anyone knock a guy for not playing the rest of the game with a concussion? Chris Wells always played hard. Always.

After the whistle, however, was a whole other story...

Listen, I think the man's durability concerns are legit (as are his pass-catching abilities, which I failed to mention), although I really think he just suffered some fluky injuries that don't prove whether he's injury prone or not. The whole issue with Wells is why does he act like a baby after being tackled? It was often said that Jim Brown played possum and limped back to every huddle; let me assure you, Chris Wells has played possum about as many times as I've had unprotected intercourse with Serena Williams.

I still don't get it. After every one of his carries (minus the TDs and plays he ran out of bounds), Wells would never pop right up: he'd stay on the ground for an extra few seconds, get helped by a teammate and limp back to the huddle or (far too regularly) the sideline. The crazy thing is that he'd run just as hard the next play or jog back to the huddle after taking one play off. I'm sure he was in pain -- after all, football hurts -- but there's no room for that behavior in the NFL. Can you imagine Wells playing for the Ravens next year? Do you have any idea how Ray Lewis would react towards Wells in practice if he stayed on the ground an extra second or constantly limped off the field? It'd be a full-fledged riot. There's no room for soft in the NFL, and while Wells is 100 percent MAN from snap to whistle, he acts like a baby way too much.

Which is what I was saying when I suggested it might be a subconscious mistake to suggest he has durability concerns. Aside from a random toe injury, he always played hard (and at a consistently high level.) Saying "ouch, I need to come out," followed by 19 more carries for 145 yards, isn't the same as being injured all the time. I get that it looks like he's injured all the time, but that's not really the case. Since it seems like he's hurt all the time, we question his durability, but the reality is that most of his issues stem from his toughness between plays (which might be a draft first).

So, where should he be drafted? That's the question, Jimmy. My answer: I really don't know. On talent alone, he's one of the rare running backs who warrant being a top-five selection. But talent's never been the issue with Wells. And at some point, probably starting around the twelfth pick, GMs everywhere are going to start saying things like, "How do we pass this guy up?" and "Can we really justify taking Moreno over Wells?" Draft day will be interesting.

Maybe he's injury prone, and maybe he'll always limp back to the huddle (or sideline), but maybe not----maybe he can change his ways and silence the doubters. Or maybe Wells will be the exact same guy he's always been (i.e., superstar numbers, questionable pain tolerance) and be accepted in the locker room because of his obvious ability. Who the hell knows? But I can't wait to find out.

Either way, I'm rooting for Wells.

***End of Ohio State discussion***

Maybe I'm a little late to the party here, but did you see the video of draft prospect Jarron Gilbert leaping out of the shallow end of a pool onto the ledge surrounding it? This is unbelievable. I hope you're sitting down, boys and girls...

If I were that dude, I wouldn't even bother using pick-up lines on the ladies, I'd simply show them video of me jumping out of pool.

That is all.

Actually, let's bang out the


Georgetown (+1.5)
vs. The 'Ville


Sacto (+8.5)
vs. Chris Paul plays sports!

Yesterday: 4-2
Overall: 360-301-18

-Brad Spieser (


daniel said...

That statement about Wells is ludicrous. It's a total slap in the face to Peterson. Wells is a first round pick, but lets not get carried away. I actually think Jenkins is the best at his position out of all of the players you mentioned. If my Cowboys didn't already have 8508340580 million cornerbacks, i'd say they should draft him. I just want Ray Lewis this offseason, the draft is pointless for me this year.