Let me do a quick reset here for new readers. I watch a lot of college football on TV in the Fall for one simple reason:
I like college football.
One of the things I like to do is to watch for players who I think can play at the NFL level and so I keep a notepad beside me and jot down things I see. With the NFL Draft upon me, I then go back and cut up the pieces of paper with the commentary on players and arrange them by position in order to create this feature.
That is really all there is to this. I am not a scout; I do not have access to inside information; I do my observing from the comfort of my living room; no NFL GM or personnel guy would waste even a nanosecond considering any of my commentary here. Importantly, my data source is my cable TV provider combined with my personal/family schedule regarding when I am free to sit down and watch a game or two. That means:
Living in the DC area, I am going to see East Coast teams more frequently than West Coast teams. I have no rooting interest that creates an East Coast bias but the time zone where I live creates a de facto bias of that type.
I am more likely to tune in to watch “major” schools play each other as opposed to “minor” schools. Villanova versus Syracuse might be an enticing game to see if the game is basketball; for football, not so much. Moreover, my cable provider tends to show lots more games involving “major” schools than “minor” schools. Hey, I am not a programming director.
Often, I only see a team play one time in a season. A really good player may have had his worst game of his career on that day or missed that game with an injury and so I never noticed him as a “draft prospect”. If I ignored him, it is not due to any bias on my part.
The most logical way to do this is to go position-by-position and so I shall start with quarterbacks. Obviously, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be drafted early; they were the two best QBs I saw last year but that is not to say they are mortal locks for stardom in the NFL.
Jameis Winston has a great arm; he made a couple of deep throws last year that made me say “Wow!” He is big and strong and knows how to play in the pocket. He is not, however, a scrambler; when forced to move and under pressure, he makes some throws that look like a high school QB on the run. He has plenty of “upside” and he also seems to bring plenty of off-field “baggage” to the party.
Marcus Mariota is more accurate than Winston but cannot throw the deep ball nearly as deep. On the run, he is much more composed and accurate with his throws than Winston and he is faster. If he is going to be an early success in the NFL, he needs to go to a program that will allow him to continue to play the wide-open option offense that he knows. If he goes to a straight “drop-back passing offense”, it might take him a few years to blossom.
If I were the Bucs with the first pick and with Lovie Smith as the coach, I would take Winston over Mariota because Lovie Smith is more likely to run a standard pro offense than an option-pistol offense.
Brett Hundley (UCLA): This is the summary of my notes on Hundley: He is really fast; “if he had good hands he would have been a WR”; he locks in on his receiver awfully quick; not as accurate as he should be. I think he might be a good pick in Round 3.
Bryce Petty (Baylor): He has a big arm that can throw darts and he can put air under a ball when that is needed. He is not as good under pressure and reports say he never had to call plays or memorize a play book playing in the spread offense at Baylor. Given the way that has hampered RG3, that would give me pause – except for that big-time arm. My note says “Round 3 or 4”.
Sean Mannion (Oregon St.): “Tall and immobile” summarizes what I saw here. He is an accurate passer unless protection breaks down and then he is nothing special at all. “Late round pick” is what I have.
Blake Simms (Alabama): Here is my note on him: “Does he look good because he has Amari Cooper to throw to?” That situation has obtained in the past and it could well be the case here. I doubt he is worth taking before Round 7 and maybe he goes somewhere as an undrafted free agent.
Shane Carden (E. Carolina): He has a “better than average arm” and is “OK throwing on the run”. One question mark was “big enough???” One more note I had was that he might need to “cut down on the caffeine” a bit; he sometimes plays “out of control”. I think he will go very late in the draft or possibly be an undrafted free agent.
Staying in the backfield, here are my notes on running backs:
Todd Gurley (Georgia): I did not see Gurley play last year due to his suspension and subsequent injury. I did see him a year ago and remember that I was impressed. However, how teams will weigh his injury history is a mystery to me. If he is fully ready to play the way he did in 2013, he should be a first round pick; otherwise …
Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin): “Hits the hole quickly” and if he “gets through clean = BIG gain.” Looks “big enough” to take the abuse a RB gets in the NFL. Here is a note I have that might be important: “They do not ask him to do much pass blocking. Is that because he can’t?” He will go in the first round of the draft.
Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska): Here is the dichotomy represented by my notes. “Really fast, very elusive” and “Looks awfully small”. My guess is second or third round.
David Cobb (Minnesota): He is “built like a bowling ball and runs like one.” He showed “plenty of power/not much speed”. For the right team, he could be a valuable asset worth a third round pick; in a more general sense, he is more likely to go fifth or sixth round.
Duke Johnson (Miami): He has “plenty of speed” but “not much of a power runner”. I also said “looks too small to be more than a 3rd down back”. I could see him going in the third or fourth round.
Jawan Edwards (Ball State): He is “built low to the road” and is a “strong runner between tackles.” MAC defenses are a far cry from NFL defenses so he is likely to be taken very late in the draft if at all.
I only saw two fullbacks that caught my attention sufficiently to make me take pen in hand and both of them played in the SEC:
Connor Neighbors (LSU): “Good lead blocker” and “good pass blocker” are things you want to see on your notes for a potential fullback. I have no mention here of his running ability or pass-catching ability so that must mean his real value is as a blocker. Where he might go in the draft really depends on how many teams are looking for blocking fullbacks this year.
Jalston Fowler (Alabama): “Good pass blocker” and “power runner” are my two notes as to his football skills. My other note about him says “big bruiser” which is good for a potential fullback. As with Connor Neighbors above, where he goes in the draft depends on how many teams are shopping for fullbacks this year.
I shall now move along to the wide receivers where I have plenty of notes about players coming out this year. Before getting to the listing here, I realize that lots of folks have Devante Parker and Rashad Greene listed among the elite WRs. I saw Louisville play but made no notes about Parker; I saw Florida State play several times and made no notes about Greene. Make of that what you will… Nonetheless, I do have comments about 8 WRs in this year’s draft.
Amari Cooper (Alabama): I have lots of notes about his play and his abilities but there is one note that sort of summarizes it all:
“Only injury can stop this guy.”
He definitely goes in the Top Ten picks.
Devin Funchess (Michigan): He is “very big for a WR” and he has the speed and hands to play the position. He will be a good “possession receiver”. I would put him in the second round.
Kevin White (WVU): “Tall and very fast” with “great hands” means he ought to be a first round pick.
Tyler Lockett (K-State): “Undersized” but “finds ways to get open” and “good hands” means he is worth a look as a WR. He also played on return teams for K-state. Third or fourth round seems right to me.
Dres Anderson (Utah): The announcers said he was Flipper Anderson’s son and so I paid attention to him. He has “good speed” but he “missed a couple of passes he got both hands on”. If you like football bloodlines, you might take this guy late in the draft but not much before that.
Davaris Daniels (Notre Dame): Announcers said he was Phillip Daniels’ son and so I paid attention to see how the son of a defensive lineman played WR. My only note was “good hands”. Once again, if you like football bloodlines…
Devin Smith (Ohio State): “Makes big plays when team needs it”. That is sort of what you would want a WR to do, right? He is “not as big as other WRs” but he can play. Probably a good bargain in the third round…
Keith Mumphrey (Mich St.): “Good blocker on run plays to his side” and “good run after catch” are the positives. “Not very big” is the negative. That sounds like a late round pick to me…
Readers who have been around these analyses for several years might notice a glaring absence this year. Normally, I have e-mail notes from folks who have seen players at small schools in their area – or at their old alma mater – telling me about players I never get a chance to see. Indeed, I had about a half dozen of them but they went to the great bit-box in the sky when my previous computer went paws up. Therefore, to the folks who sent me those e-mails, I am not ignoring your comments nor am I “dissing’ your astute observations; your observations are not here because I lost them.
[Aside: It is a good thing I create my notes with paper and pencil or I would have lost an entire season’s worth of notes with the demise of my computer. Then again, you would have been spared one of these draft analyses if that had that happened. You can decide among yourselves if you came out ahead in that calculus…]
Moving along to the tight ends…
Jesse James (Penn State): Seriously, how can you not pay attention to a player named Jesse James? Too bad Penn State does not run the pistol offense… My notes say “made a nice catch” and “mediocre blocker on run plays”. That sounds like a low round pick to me if he gets picked at all.
Blake Bell (Oklahoma): He is a “very large man” who “blocks very well” but who “looks awfully slow”. I would put him as a mid-to-late round pick.
Max Williams (Minnesota): “Pass catching TE” who gains “lots of RAC”. “Seems not too interested in blocking” but “gets in defenders way”. With the emphasis on tight ends who can catch the ball down the seams these days, he will probably go by the end of the second round.
I do not try to make distinctions between guards and tackles on the offensive line because I have seen plenty of players move from one position to another going from college to the NFL. I do tend to think about centers as a unique position but I will lump them in here with offensive lineman:
Brandon Scherff (Iowa): Most of the draft mavens think he will be the first offensive lineman taken this year. My notes may not reflect that same enthusiasm. I noted that he is “very big and very strong” and that he “leads runners 10 yards downfield” when the play is blocked correctly. However, I also noted “outside pass rushers give him problems”. If you are going to be a successful offensive tackle (his college position) in the NFL, you have to be able to handle the outside pass rushers. Everyone else thinks he is a sure-thing prospect; I think he needs more coaching to be a quality NFL player.
La’el Collins (LSU): “Power blocker” and “big guy” are the plusses. “Not real good with the blitz” is the negative. Probably a late first round pick.
Corey Robinson (S. Carolina): He is “a huge man” who is a “good pass blocker”. However, he is “rarely out in front on a wide run to his side”. Probably a good pick in the third round.
Jake Fischer (Oregon): He is “very big and very fast”. He blocks his man and then races to find someone else to block and after a big gain he is “first OL to the new line of scrimmage.” Chip Kelly ought to be highly attracted to this guy. My guess is that he will be taken in the second or third round.
Tyrus Thompson (Oklahoma): “Good run blocker” and “not so good pass blocker” makes him seem like project to me. However, he is a big guy from a big time program so he may be worth taking late in the draft for developmental purposes.
Shaq Mason (Ga Tech): “Very good drive blocker” and “quick enough to lead outside run plays” from center position are very positive things. The issue with just about any lineman from Ga Tech is that the Yellow Jackets rarely throw the football except when they absolutely have to. Ergo, “can he pass block at all”?
Leon Brown (Alabama): He is a “good run blocker” who “pushes his man backward most of the time”. However, “not much speed to lead outside runs”. He should be a mid-to-late round pick.
Trenton Brown (Florida): A “HUGE man – screen graphic says 6’ 8” tall”. “Very strong and very stationary”. “Not much speed” so this guy would be a real project for a team. But he is big and strong… Probably sixth or seventh round if he is drafted at all.
Before moving on to the defense, let me say that I have no notes regarding any punters in this year’s draft and only two notes on placekickers neither of which indicates to me that you will hear their names called from the podium until late on the last day of the draft:
Sam Ficken (Penn State): “Got good depth on kickoffs in not great weather conditions”
Kyle Brindiza (Notre Dame): “Big man/big leg”.
Now, for the defense, let me start with the defensive linemen and say unequivocally that Leonard Williams (USC) is going to be an impact player in the NFL unless he has a limb amputated. He is not only big and strong and a form tackler, he is also too fast to be a 300-lb man. He reminds me of a younger and faster version of Richard Seymour – and that is high praise for a guy who has never played a down in the NFL. If he does not go in the Top Five in the draft, there is some dark information out there related to Leonard Williams.
Michael Bennett (Ohio State): “Very quick” and “plays to the whistle” on every play. My notes say “should be first-rounder”.
Malcom Brown (Texas): I have two notes: “Big man to stop the run” and “reminds me of Vince Wilfork”. That sounds like a first-round pick to me…
Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma): “Really big guy – screen graphic said 325 lbs”. Maybe that was before breakfast? He was “born to stuff the run”. Probably gone by the third round.
Shane Ray (Mizzou): “Really good pass rusher” but “does not seem like he has run play responsibility”. If he is as one-dimensional as he looked to me, he could last until the third or fourth round.
Here are my notes on linebackers:
Dante Fowler (Florida): “Super quick at the snap” and “hustles every play” combined with “sure tackler” makes him a candidate to go in the Top Ten in the draft.
Bernardrick McKinney (Miss St.): “Meets runners head-on” and he is a “real bruiser”. A team needing an inside linebacker for a 3-4 defense can use him right away. Probably second or third round…
Denzel Perryman (Miami): “Sure tackler – when he gets more than a finger on ball carrier it’s all over”. However, he is “not great in pass coverage” and “maybe too small?” I think he goes somewhere around the third round.
Ramik Wilson (Georgia): He has “good size” and “good speed for a guy his size”. He “tackles well” but “struggles to defend passes”. I think he too goes somewhere around the third round.
Taiwan Jones (Michigan St.): “Good against the run” and “already has NFL size” means he might be ready to play from the get-go. However, he “cannot cover receivers”. Probably another “thirdish rounder”.
Marcus Rush (Michigan St.): What a great name for an outside linebacker…! He “needs to add some weight” but he is “very fast” which lets him cover backs out of the backfield. Probably a project so put him in the sixth or seventh round.
I have left two linebackers off the list above because I want to say something about each of them that goes beyond my notes. Randy Gregory (Nebraska) is a top-shelf NFL prospect. He went to the Combine and tested positive for drugs; reports say it was marijuana. I am not going to all moralistic on you here, but Gregory knew he would be tested and knew he would be tested for marijuana at the Combine in February. And he still got caught. That would lead me to wonder:
Can he stay off the stuff enough in the future to avoid further positive tests when those tests are random? A suspended player is of little value to a team.
Does he care enough about football to stay eligible?
Is he so entitled that he does not care about the rules because they just do not matter to him?
Is he dumber than a garden hose?
If Randy Gregory simply made a “youthful error” – as opposed to being an Olympic-class moron – he ought to be taken in the Top Ten in this draft. He is that good. However…
The other linebacker that really intrigued me was Shaq Thompson (Washington). Thompson has played linebacker, safety and running back at Washington and has been accomplished at all three positions. The screen graphic said he weighed 218 lbs which is generally too small to play linebacker at the PAC-12 level – but he not only played linebacker there, he played linebacker really well. I am skeptical that he can add enough weight to play linebacker in the NFL for very long but he is so athletic that he might actually be able to carry more weight effectively. And he can also be a safety of a running back too. They do not generally have slots on NFL teams for “utility player” as they do in baseball, but that is what Thompson seems to be. I have no idea how teams are going to view this kind of multi-dimensional player so I have no idea where he might go in the draft.
However, it would not surprise me even a little bit if Bill Belichick took Shaq Thompson somewhere along the line with the idea of making him into multi-dimensional player. If that were to happen, it would be interesting to watch and see how the Pats might use him.
I saved the defensive backs for last for a simple reason. If my notes are any guide, this is going to be a good year for teams to rebuild or add depth to their secondaries. Here are my notes on 14 defensive backs.
Jalen Collins (LSU): “Big, strong and fast”, “plays the run well”, ‘good tackler”. First or second round pick.
Landon Collins (Alabama): “Hits like a train”, aggressive in run defense”. Should go in the first or second round.
Cody Prewett (Ole Miss): “Big hitter”, “covers back out of backfield”, “speed?” Second or third round pick.
Cody Riggs (Notre Dame): “Good in coverage” “looks awfully small to play in NFL”. Probably a late round pick.
Gerod Holliman (Louisville): “Big and fast”, “playing safety instead of corner, why?” I think he should go around the third round because he has versatility.
Trae Waynes (Michigan St.): “Play’s press coverage most of the time”, “can also play off his man”, “did not see him in a zone defense”, “sure tackler”. Probably a first round pick.
Doran Grant (Ohio State): “Sure tackler”, “good in man coverage”. Gone in the second round.
Kyshoen Jarett (Va Tech): “Not very big but hits hard”; “covers backs and TEs – a safety in NFL”. Possibly third or fourth round.
Eric Rowe (Utah): “Aggressive in man coverage”; “sure tackler”, “closes on ball”. Maybe first or second round?
Erik Dargan (Oregon): “Strong against the run”, “good size/decent speed”. Should go in third or fourth round.
Julian Wilson (Oklahoma): “Big CB good tackler”; “good in coverage”. Maybe second round?
PJ Williams (Florida State): “Good size and good instincts”. Should go in second round.
Ronald Darby (Florida State): “Looks like [PJ] Williams’ twin brother”, “aggressive in man coverage”. Should go in second round.
Adrian Amos (Penn State): “Big kid who hits hard”, “good in coverage”, not super-fast”. Perhaps third of fourth round.
So now you are prepared to watch as much – or as little – of the NFL Draft as you want on TV. I am sure that the guys covering the Draft for ESPN and NFL Network will have volumes more to say about each player that I named here plus the 200 other guys who will have their names called. Trust me, I am not angling for a spot on those telecasts. Actually, I admire ESPN for taking the Draft and making it into a benchmark sports TV event every year; in reality, I think the NFL Draft itself is very close to the way Howard Cosell described it about 30 years ago:
“…the most overrated, over-propagandized annual event in American sport.”
Nevertheless, ESPN and the relentless NFL promotional machine have turned it into something that draws the attention of millions of fans. So who am I to fight against that juggernaut…?
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………