Media Days Marathon: Draft Questions From The SEC, Day 3
The three days of media madness is over. Hoover, AL, can go back to doing whatever Hoover, AL, does for the 362 days of the year when it’s not hosting SEC Media Days and its credentialed hordes.
Twelve-hundred media members were on hand in Hoover to clarify, multiple times, how old Johnny Manziel is – a crowd of media larger than the one that covered the BCS Championship. That’s right . . . more people covered the start of an SEC conversation than the game at the end of the college football season, when the SEC traditionally gets the last word.
We wrap up SEC Mania Days with the next leg in our Media Days Marathon, and three draft-related questions involving the teams who spent Thursday at the podium.
1. Who is the luckiest person in the SEC?
That would have to be Zach Mettenberger, and not only because he doesn’t have to face Jadeveon Clowney this season.
Mettenberger enters his senior season at LSU as nobody’s All-American. Still, he could wind up helping himself as an NFL draft prospect more than the conference’s more accomplished quarterbacks, Manziel and Aaron Murray and A.J. McCarron.
And that’s because he will get to spend this season under the tutelage of Cam Cameron, LSU’s new offensive coordinator. That would be the same Cam Cameron, born of the legendary Don Coryell coaching tree, whose resume includes the stewardship of the young careers of Gus Frerotte, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco.
It’s not in Mettenberger's mechanics that Cameron will have the biggest influence. It’s in the mental side of playing quarterback.
“He wants me to think like an NFL quarterback and prepare like one,” Mettenberger said form the podium on Thursday.
Mettenberger will learn from Cameron how to break down film, how to read and recognize coverages and how to find the advantageous matchup. He’ll get to play in an NFL system that emphasizes deep and intermediate throws, which will showcase his arm for scouts.
Among SEC quarterbacks, Murray has the stats, McCarron the rings and Manziel the trophy. But Mettenberger has something just as valuable this season: a shot to show what he can do with an NFL offense.
2. Is there a better tandem of receiver prospects anywhere in the country?
There isn't a team anywhere with a pair of prototype receivers like the ones Austyn Carta-Samuels (presumably) will be throwing to at Vanderbilt. Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd are big targets with great hands, even better instincts and big-league speed. They both have size (Matthews is 6-foot-3, 206 pounds; Boyd is 6-4, 205), the toughness to catch balls in traffic and tight coverage, and the athleticism to win jump balls and adjust to the ball in flight. About the only decisive edge Matthews holds over Boyd is bloodlines. His cousin is Jerry Rice.
Boyd's numbers in 2012 (50 catches, 774 yards, 5 TDs) would be impressive almost anywhere, yet they were very nearly doubled by Matthews' (94-1,323-8), during what was perhaps the greatest season spent catching passes in Commodores' history -- and that includes Earl Bennett, the SEC's career leader with 236 receptions. Most teams don't have a true No. 1 receiver; Vandy has two.
Both Matthews and Boyd will be playing on Sundays, likely as X receivers at the next level. Matthews will be a first-round pick next spring, quite possibly as the second receiver to come off the board. Boyd would be a second-day selection should he decide to come out early. Or we could be talking about him as a first-rounder next season, when he'll be back at SEC Media Days, talking about breaking all of Matthews' records..
3. Will Alabama make history this season?
Whether or not the Tide rolls again to the BCS Championship, Alabama could have the makings of a legendary draft class.
Two months ago, in our First Look at the 2014 NFL Draft (http://www.football.com/en-us/2014-nfl-draft-first-round-first-look/), I had four Tide players going in the first round. In truth, there are seven draft-eligible players in Alabama's starting lineup with a shot at playing themselves into the first round, and four of whom might just be the top prospect at their position.
Here’s a quick look at the potential Tidal wave of first-rounders from Alabama, in predicted order that they will come off the board next May:
· C.J. Mosely: One of the top two MLB prospects.
· Cyrus Kouandjio: Could be the best LT in the draft.
· Adrian Hubbard: As promising a 4-3 OLB prospect as Mosely is in the middle.
· Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix: Projects as the nation’s top free safety.
· A.J. McCarron: QBs who win games and don’t make mistakes tend to be high on some NFL team’s list.
· Trey DePriest: A step below Hubbard as an outside backer, but still top-5.
· Anthony Steen: Would need a huge year to avoid becoming the only player n last year’s offensive line not drafted in the first two rounds (this is assuming Kouandjio goes that high this year).