In this week’s chat with Rotoworld.com NFL draft writer Josh Norris, we look at how the kind of gutsy performance Connor Shaw had against Vanderbilt can catch a scout’s eye, what players on this week’s opposing team (East Carolina) could have a pro future, and why former Gamecock Antonio Allen didn’t make it with the New York Jets.
Gamecock fans will be happy to hear that Norris is a big fan of Allen and doesn’t think his NFL future is necessarily bleak. Follow all of Josh’s work at Rotoworld.com and follow him on Twitter (@JoshNorris).
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Q&A with Josh Norris
Connor Shaw’s performance against East Carolina got me thinking about something. I realize that Connor Shaw is not an NFL draft prospect right now, or probably at any point, but how much credence do scouts give to what you would call a “gutsy” performance?
It’s a question that is asked a lot. All evaluators, all scouts, were and still are fans. Obviously, everybody who is a fan loves to see those components, loves to see somebody who can’t make it work with his arms so he makes it work with his legs. Then gets hurts, hurts his shoulder and comes up kind of limping every single run but stays in the game and keeps it going and wins the game. They love things like that. Connor Shaw is never going to be an NFL prospect. He just isn’t. He doesn’t have the arm talent like a shorter quarterback like Russell Wilson does. He’s not a throwing quarterback. He fits what they want to do in that he can stretch the field and he can take some defensive attention away from (Marcus) Lattimore and away from everybody else in that offense. In terms of a gritty performance, teams love players who can play through pain. The worst thing that they have happen is draft a guy and all he does is sit in the training room with a pulled hamstring. He just can’t get out of the training room and he can’t get on the field. That’s just a waste of money at that point. Conversely, let’s say someone has a ton of injuries throughout their entire career – I am going to point to a guy like Tony Moeaki who was a tight end at Iowa. He is still having those injury problems, but everything I heard about the NFL coaches who went to his pro day just put him through the wringer, put him through all this stuff. Any other prospect at his position would have given up, passed out, whatever, but he just completed the whole workout. They loved that, and that’s why he was drafted, I think in the fourth round. It hasn’t truly worked out for him. He’s a talent on the field, but he still has those injuries troubles. I think a gritty performance, a guy who can play through pain, has a high tolerance, and is not afraid to work through it, can change the way a scout forms his opinion, and it really does help.
When you look at South Carolina’s opponent this week, East Carolina, do they have anybody who is going to catch the NFL’s eye?
(South Carolina) started off with two weird weeks. I usually can list a few more guys than this. This week, somebody who is going to catch your eye right away is tight end Justin Jones. He’s a big guy, 6-8. He’s one of these big blocking guys, but he has the length that can maybe mismatch if they put (D.J.) Swearinger on him or (DeVonte) Holloman on him. Who knows who they are going to put on him because he can really outmuscle someone at the catch point, and he can really blow up anyone who is trying to jam him at the line of scrimmage. Going back to last year, Dominique Davis who came for ECU has really come on for the Atlanta Falcons, and I like a guy like Lance Lewis, who really stuck it to Stephon Gilmore last year in Charlotte. That may have been Gilmore’s worst performance all year. I don’t know if they are going to have a receiver quite at Lewis’ talent level who will be able to go down the field and adjust to some poorly thrown balls, but they do have a guy named Andrew Bodenheimer and he plays the slot and outside. I don’t think he’s the talent of Lewis, but I don’t know if South Carolina has a Stephon Gilmore out there either. I think the main guy to watch is Justin Jones, you can’t miss him, and see who they try to match him up with. That’s the best matchup to watch.
Let me ask you a little bit of old business. We were talking about secondary players and South Carolina had a guy last year in Antonio Allen who played near an All-America level, made play after play, seemingly has the kind of body type that could fit in in the NFL somewhere but he gets cut by the New York Jets. Explain for those of us who don’t understand why a guy who can play so well at a major college can’t necessarily translate that to an NFL position.
I’m kind of with you on this. He was a top 100 prospect going into the draft, and I was shocked that he lasted so long. He was waived this past week, and I believe he landed on the Jets’ practice squad. I really liked him. (Minnesota Vikings coach) Leslie Frazier was one of the coaches at the Senior Bowl. They had George Iloka and Antonio Allen on the same squad, and he mentioned that the NFL is really going to have to start creating a position on defense that can stop these new joker tight ends, these new hybrid type receivers, and I thought Antonio Allen was the perfect match for that. He has great length. He wasn’t the quickest guy in catch-up speed or all of that, but his length really helped him get three more inches than another defensive back could have. I think Antonio Allen, they just don’t know what to do with him yet. I think coming from an odd position like he played at South Carolina, and right now he’s just a role player. I think it’s smart for them to stash him on the practice squad and see what they can turn him into. The practice squad is not a bad deal for a player, not at all. I think he can find a role with them. They are not the deepest team at safety, at least in previous years. I was surprised, but I don’t think production is even top five on a checklist when evaluating a player. I think we haven’t heard the last of him in the NFL.