Career FairWith Four Cal Players Participating In the NFL Combine, Here Are the Daily Cal's Predictions for How They'll Fare in the Upcoming Draft
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Category: Sports > Fall > Football
SHANE VEREEN: Running Back
PREDICTION: Early Third Round
It was quarterback Brock Mansion who said: "You have no idea how fun it is to play with Shane." Indeed, without Vereen taking hand-offs, this past season would have been no fun at all for the Cal football team.
On a spectacularly schizophrenic squad, the Valencia, Calif., native was a Mr. Consistency. He shouldered the load all year long in 2010, amassing 1,167 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns despite a patchwork offensive line and little to no support from the passing game. Against Oregon, Washington and Arizona - where the Bears were almost entirely one-dimensional - Vereen eclipsed the 100-yard plateau.
He doesn't possess Jahvid Best's breakaway speed - though they did sprint against each other in high school - but Vereen has proven to be a more reliable threat near the goal line and between the tackles than his former backfield mate. NFL teams can be sure that they'll get a back who fights every extra positive yard, rarely goes down upon first contact, and is able to catch passes out of the backfield.
A solid Sunday workout at the NFL Scouting Combine certainly boosted Vereen's draft stock. His 31 bench-press reps ranked Vereen second among running backs, while his 40-yard dash (4.48) and vertical jump (34 inches) were impressive, as well.
CAMERON JORDAN: Defensive End
PREDICTION: Mid-First Round
This NFL Draft is expected to be possess one of the deepest defensive line classes in recent history, with seven or eight players likely to go in the first round. Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan is one of the highlights of that healthy crop.
After a breakout senior season in which he logged a career-high 62 tackles - 12.5 for loss - the All-Pac-10 first teamer has continued generating hype with a series of impressive offseason showings.
First was the Senior Bowl in January, where his five-tackle performance was nearly universally praised as the standout moment from the week. The 6-foot-4, 283-pound end showed off a versatile array of moves as well as prototypical size and athleticism.
His stock held steady with his performance in the NFL Combine on Monday. While he didn't show off franchise-altering skills in any one area, he was solid across the board, landing in the top 10 in most workouts.
Having steadily moved himself up the draft board, the Chandler, Ariz., native projects well to continue playing in a 3-4 defense at the next level.
If a team bites earlier than expected, he might even follow former teammate Tyson Alualu as a top-10 pick.
MIKE MOHAMED: Linebacker
PREDICTION: Seventh Round
A self-described "tough-nosed and blue-collar" player, Mike Mohamed wasn't expected to be one of the hot names among NFL scouts leading up to the Draft.
The linebacker, who led the Pac-10 in tackles his junior year, has received practically zero buzz since the end of his senior season, and will likely drop deeper into the Draft as Cal's Zack Follett did in 2009.
Like Follett, Mohamed's strengths are his intangibles and his collegiate production. A former two-star recruit and Haas student, there's never been an issue with his work ethic or off-field conduct.
It's his physical tools that are in question. Slightly too tall and too lean, the Brawley, Calif., native likely won't play middle linebacker in the professional ranks.
He's also not fast enough for the position, boasting more quickness than flat-out speed. Additionally, ESPN.com noted his "lack of natural playmaking instincts," which isn't on par with elite linebackers.
For all the knocks on his size and speed, Mohamed did sprint out with better numbers than expected at the NFL Combine.
Mohamed tied for first among all linebackers in both the three-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle.
CHRIS CONTE: Safety
PREDICTION: Late Seventh Round
Say hello to Cal's sleeper pick in this year's NFL Draft.
After three middling years with the Bears, Chris Conte was moved to the strong safety spot his senior year - and oh what a difference it made.
In 2010, Conte made 72 tackles - including a career-high 16 at USC. On special teams, he blocked and returned a kick for a touchdown. Now, he's been "quietly viewed" by some as the top senior free safety in the Draft, according to CBS Sports.
He certainly has an upside. Conte's big (6-foot-2, 197 pounds) and rangy. He's a good defender against the run, as he showed often at Cal. He'll bring physicality and special teams ability to whatever team takes him.
Conte's downside is significant, however. He isn't quick enough to stick with NFL-caliber wide receivers, and he hasn't shown that he can read coverages fast enough either.
That's where inexperience is a plus and minus. Conte only played one year at safety at Cal, but that means he may have more room for growth. His ceiling could be much higher than the potential he showed last year, which is a real recommendation for a player who managed to be a first team all-conference player in his first year at the position.
With so many variables on the table, Conte's measurables at the Combine today could do a lot toward moving him up or down the board.
An earlier version of this article stated that Chris Conte was a free safety at Cal. In fact, he was a strong safety. An earlier version also incorrectly ran a photo of Kevin Riley. In fact, the photo should have been of Mike Mohamed.
The Daily Californian regrets the error.
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