NFL Pre-Draft Analysis 2017

Just a quick introduction here for new readers who do not recognize what this annual occurrence is.

  • It is NOT a mock draft;
  • It is NOT an expert opinion;
  • It is NOT the result of contacts throughout the country in the world of college/NFL football.

This is nothing more than a compilation of some notes I took while watching college football games on TV last year.

Because I like college football, I watch lots of games.  Over the years, I have formed the habit of keeping a notepad next to me as I am watching and when I see a player who I think might “graduate” to the NFL, I make some notes.  At this time of year, I dig those note up and try to decipher my handwriting – which is not always easy and may result in some transcription errors – to put together my sense of some names that should be called during the NFL Draft sessions.

My “methodology” here has several humongous flaws that need to be stated clearly and unambiguously:

  1. Since I am doing this by making notes on games I watched on TV, that limits the players I see to ones on the larger schools and better teams.  Let me be clear here; if I have the choice of watching a game between two SEC teams or a game between two Sun Belt teams, I will watch the SEC game 99 times out of 100.
  2. I live on the East Coast.  I am more likely to see a game that starts at noon Eastern Time between two Big 10 teams than I am to see a game that starts at 10:30 PM Eastern Time between two PAC-12 teams or two Mountain West teams.  I really do not have an “East Coast bias”; what I have is an “East Coast biological clock”.
  3. For some teams, I will only see them play once; I do not pretend to have seen every play for any team in the country last year.  That means there may be an excellent pro prospect on one of those teams that I did not notice.  Maybe that is because I am a doofus; maybe the player had a sub-standard game; maybe he was injured for that game.  Whatever…
  4. I am not connected with nor privy to any sort of extended network of people who scout football.  The only opinions in here that are not my own will be clearly marked as such.  Some long-term readers of these rants know that I do this every Spring and when they think they saw someone at a small school or at a school that might not be on my “go to list”, they will send me an e-mail and I will excerpt it here.

Now that the purpose and the limitations of what is to follow are out in the open, let me begin with my notes on Quarterbacks.

Various commentators have said that this year’s crop of QBs entering the Draft is not a good one.  I guess I have to agree with them because as I went through my notes filtering the players into position categories, I discovered that I only had made notes on 2 QBs:

  1. Chad Kelly (Ole Miss):  My notes say he is “big enough” because he can throw the football “accurately” and “with touch when needed”.  I said he might be a late first round pick based on what I saw.  That is unlikely to be the case now because he tore up his ACL in a game after the one I saw and he was subsequently “dis-invited” to the NFL Combine due to an off-field issue regarding a bar fight.  If I were a GM and the medical folks told me that it looks as his knee is going to be OK and the background investigators told me that the bar fight was unlikely to be repeated, I would surely look closely at Kelly in the 3rd round.
  2. Deshaun Watson (Clemson):  My notes say he is “big and mobile” and that he is “poised when pressure is on”.  [For the record, that note was made during the late stages of the CFP Championship Game against Alabama.]  I also said – from a previous game – that he is “not consistently accurate” with his throws and “does not always lead receivers well”.  I said he was probably a “2nd or 3rd round pick”.  If you believe the mock drafts, he will be gone sometime early in the 1st round.  Whatever…

Just for the record, there are a bunch of other QBs who are getting a following as the Draft approaches.  I saw lots of them and made no notes about them last year.  I saw Josh Dobbs; I saw Brad Kaaya; I saw Deshone Kizer; I saw Pat Mahomes.  I have no notes on any of them.  I am not sure I saw Mitch Trubisky at all because I have no notes on any other UNC players here.

Just as the draft experts are “down” on this year’s QB entries in the draft, those same experts say that there is quality and depth in the Running Backs coming out.  My notes would tend to agree what that overall assessment:

  1. Leonard Fournette (LSU):  It does not take a lot of genius to watch him play and realize he is a big, fast, strong running back who can “run over people and run around people too”.  I also noted that he is a “powerful and effective pass blocker” who “picks up blitzes well”.  I said he is “definitely a 1st round pick”.
  2. Dalvin Cook (Fla St.):  My notes say that his “acceleration through the hole is outstanding” and that he is “elusive once in the secondary”.  I also had him as “1st round pick”.
  3. Christian McCaffrey (Stanford):  His “speed” and “cutting ability” make him a prospect as a 3rd down back or a slot receiver.  I also noted that he is a “good pass receiver”.  I did note that he does not appear to be the sort of back would turn out to be a “featured RB in the pros”.   I had him as a “late 1st round pick or a 2nd round pick.”
  4. Joe Mixon (Oklahoma):  “Excellent runner and good pass catcher” along with “breakaway speed” indicate that Mixon has a future in the NFL.  I said he was “late 1st round pick or a 2nd round pick” – – but that did not take into account his off-field/character issue which could make him drop a round or so.
  5. Samaje Perine (Oklahoma):  He is a “power runner” and “runs over defenders not around them”.  He is “not a breakaway threat” but he will “get tough yards inside”.  Screen graphic had him as 6’ tall and 235 lbs.  That is a reasonable size for a power runner in the NFL.  I said “3rd to 5th round pick?”
  6. Alvin Kamara (Tennessee):  My notes say, “he is a slasher but not big enough to play all the time” but he “might be a great 3rd down back because he is a really good receiver”.  I had him as a “late round pick”.
  7. Jamaal Williams (BYU):  He looked very good in the BYU bowl game and gained about 200 yards.  I said “always makes another yard or two after contact”.  “Tough runner” and “good enough speed” were two other comments.  I said “late round pick”.
  8. D’Onta Foreman (Texas):  He is a big back with “surprising speed” but “not elusive”.  My notes say “third day pick”.
  9. Devine Redding (Indiana):  My notes say he is “built like a bowling ball” so he is “hard to hit”.  He is “not big enough or fast enough to be a feature back” but he is a guy who just “keeps on plugging”.  “Might make a team if he can play special teams?”  I said “7th round pick or UFA”.

Let me move on here to Tight Ends.  I only have notes on three players at this position.

  1. OJ Howard (Alabama):  I was impressed with his “really good speed for a man as big as he is” and his “good hands”.  He is a tight end who “can get deep”.  He “blocks well enough” in the run game but his “value is as a receiver”.  I said “1st round or 2nd round pick.
  2. Jordan Leggett (Clemson):  He is “big and fast with good hands”.  He also “takes plays off/does not block much”.  Assuming teams are convinced that he will give full effort all the time, I had him as a “3rd day pick”.  If they think he is going to be a malingerer, he will need to find another way to make a living.
  3. Jeremy Sprinkle (Arkansas):  He is “big, strong and excellent blocker for run game”.  “Catches well but not a lot of speed” makes him more of a possession receiver than a deep threat.  My notes say “third day pick”.

Before leaving the Tight Ends, I have to include here a message from a reader of these rants who lives in a suburb of Akron, OH.  He tends to be upset with me when I do not take MAC football as seriously as he does but our exchanges tend to be sarcastically tolerant.

“You never see Division II football so you never see Ashland University.  [Absolutely correct.]

“So, you never heard of Adam Shaheen the [Ashland] Eagles tight end.  [Once again, absolutely correct.]

“Put his name in your draft column next year and you will look smarter than you are.  [OK, I did that.  Looking smarter than I am is not all that difficult.]

I went and looked up Adam Shaheen’s stats; he caught 57 passes and 16 TDs last year.  More interesting from a draft potential standpoint is that he is 6’6” tall and weighs 275 lbs.  It is a big step from Division II football to the NFL, but this is a big man.  I will listen for his name…

Now on to the Wide Receivers…  Before I go through my notes, I have to admit that I am rooting for Cooper Kupp (E. Washington) to go in the early rounds.  After Dwight Perry (Seattle Times) urged me to follow his exploits in Division 1-A last year, I saw that he put up some prodigious stats against defenders who will never see the field in an NFL uniform.  I have no idea if he can play on Sundays, but I am rooting for him…

  1. Corey Davis (W. Michigan):  I saw him play twice last year – in the MAC Championship Game and against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.  He was the best WR on the field in both games.  My notes say “great hands” and “really fast out of his cuts”.  Wisconsin game showed “he can play against top college defenders”.  I said “1st round pick”.  For the record, he caught 97 passes for 1500 yards in 2016.
  2. Mike Williams (Clemson):  He has “excellent hands” and “makes plays on poorly thrown balls”.  I said he “helps pad stats for [Deshaun] Watson.”  I said “1st round”.
  3. Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma):  He is a “little guy who is always getting behind the defender”.  He has “good hands and good speed”.  I said “2nd round maybe 3rd”.
  4. Chris Goodwin (Penn St.):  My notes say “big enough and probably fast enough” and “has good hands”.  He also “blocks downfield”.  I had him “going in 4th or 5th round”.
  5. Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M):  I said he is “tall and skinny” but “has glue on his hands/catches everything”.  Looking at the stats, he is only 185 lbs and in the NFL if you are going to be that small as a WR, you need to be really tough and/or really fast.  In my notes I said “maybe 4th round/probably lower.”
  6. Gabe Marks (Washington St.): “Not very big but quick with good hands” is my comment.  “Worth a shot in the late rounds”

Before leaving the Wide Receivers, I am aware that John Ross (Washington) has gotten a lot of attention after breaking the NFL Combine record for time in the 40-yard dash.  I saw Washington play last year and I have no notes on Ross.  Maybe I was up getting a snack when he made some dazzling plays…?

Next up are the Offensive Linemen.  I used to try to differentiate them by position but over the past several years I have seen that NFL teams move these “big uglies” [ /Keith Jackson ] around from place to place on the line.  So, I’ll just combine them here:

  1. Cam Robinson (Alabama):  He is “big and strong and a good run blocker”.  He is “not agile in pass blocking but makes up for it with strength”.  I said, “Good enough to start for Alabama = 2nd round or better”.
  2. Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin):  My notes say he is “big and strong and plays hard all the time”.  “Pass blocking is good and run blocking is better”.  I had him as a “1st or 2nd round pick”.
  3. Erik Magnuson (Michigan):    I said, “excellent run blocking” and “good enough pass blocking”.  “Got outside to lead running plays to his side”.  I said, “probably goes around 3rd round”.
  4. Pat Elfein (Ohio St.):  He is a “bulldozer as a run blocker” and “adequate in pass blocking – missed a blitz badly”.  I noted, “3rd round”.
  5. Isaac Asiata (Utah):  My notes say “really good interior run blocker and good enough as a pass blocker”.  I said he would go “3rd round or 4th round?”
  6. David Sharpe (Florida):  He is a “huge man” who is “dominant run blocking”.  “Needs work in pass blocking against speed rushers/not very quick” is the reason he will not go early.  I said, “late round pick”.
  7. Taylor Moton (W. Michigan):  I was much more focused on watching Corey Davis when I tuned into a W. Michigan game but I also made this note about Moton – –  “he is a good run blocker and a better pass blocker”.  I said, “could be a bargain in 5th or 6th round”.
  8. Damien Mama (USC):  I noted that he was “very big and very effective at power blocking” but that “he isn’t very mobile”.  My assessment was that he “can start at USC so that means some team will probably take him late in the draft”.
  9. Jermaine Eluemunor (Texas A&M): “Big strong run blocker but not so good in pass protection”.  “Should get a tryout”; “final round pick”?
  10. Josh Boutte (LSU):  My notes say “just a huge man who is not fast but awfully strong”.  His “lack of speed/quickness will drop him in the draft”.  I said he is “worth a pick in the final round just because of his size.”

Before leaving the offensive side of the ball, let me share part of another e-mail dealing with an offensive lineman.

“IUP [Indiana University of Pennsylvania] guard, Ethan Cooper, is athletic and quick even though he is 320 lbs …  He dominates D-II [Division II] opponents and if he does well at the [NFL] Combine, he could be drafted.”

And now, I shall proceed to the defensive side of the ball and focus on Defensive Backs first.  As with offensive lineman, I have given up on trying to figure out if NFL teams will take a DB and play him at cornerback or at safety; so, all I am doing here is to give you an idea of what I saw in terms of secondary players.

  1. Jamal Adams (LSU):  He is “big and athletic” and he “plays both run and pass very well”.  I did not see him do anything that he did not do well.  I said “1st round pick”.
  2. Marshawn Lattimore (Ohio St.):  He “covers really well” and “kept up with every fly pattern run by Michigan”.  I think he will “go in the 1st round”.
  3. Malik Hooker (Ohio State):  My notes say “big” “quick” and “very athletic”.  My assessment was simple, “Has to go in 1st round”.
  4. Marlon Humprhey (Alabama):  My notes were totally positive.  “Fast and athletic” … “great in coverage” … “sure tackler” … you get the idea.  Naturally, I thought he was a “1st round pick”.
  5. Jabril Peppers (Michigan):  He “is everywhere on the field” doing “everything except punting”.  His versatility should mean “he is gone somewhere in the 1st or 2nd round”.
  6. Adoree Jackson (USC):  My notes say “very fast and good in coverage” and “only question is size – big enough for NFL?”  Overall, I thought 3rd round”.
  7. Kai Nacua (BYU):  He is a “big hitter as a safety who covers well enough to be a corner(?)”.  He was “also out there on special teams”.  I said, “3rd or 4th round”.
  8. Sojourn Shelton (Wisconsin):  He played well against Cory Davis in the Cotton Bowl and my comment was “is he big enough to be a DB in the NFL?”  The trend in the NFL now is for tall/rangy cornerbacks and Shelton is neither.  Thus, I said “probably late rounds”.
  9. Corn Elder (Miami):  In addition to a great name, he is “great against the run” with “good speed”.  However, he is “not quick to react to cuts made by receivers” so “he is a project” for an NFL coaching staff.  My guess was “4th or 5th round”.
  10. Nate Gerry (Nebraska):  My notes say he is a “big hitter” and “quick to fill on run plays”.  I also noted he “might not be fast enough to play CB in the NFL”.  So, maybe he is a safety?  My assessment was “late round pick”.
  11. Justin Evans (Texas A&M):  He is “strong against the run” but “not so good against the pass”.  The NFL is a passing league so my guess was “late rounds”.

Now let us look at the Linebackers.  I will mix together guys who played inside linebacker and outside linebacker and even some defensive ends whose real chance to make an NFL roster would be as an outside linebacker/edge rusher.

  1. Reuben Foster (Alabama):  Here is my opening comment, “If the ball carrier is there, Foster is there.”  He is a “big hitter” and “fast and athletic”.  My assessment was “has to be a 1st rounder”.
  2. TJ Watt (Wisconsin):  Somebody is likely to draft him simply for genetic reasons; yes, he and JJ Watt have DNA similarities.  My notes say that TJ Watt is a “sure tackler” and a “good edge rusher on blitzes”.  Overall I thought he would be “gone by round 2”.
  3. Derek Barnett ( Tennessee):  He is “strong against the run” and an “excellent pass rusher from the outside”.  I had him as a “2nd or 3rd round pick”.
  4. Solomon Thomas (Stanford):  Maybe he is a DE; maybe he is an OLB; definitely, he is “big, strong, fast”.  He “plays run very well” so he is “not a liability when doing something other than rushing the passer”.  I thought he was a “3rd round pick”.
  5. Taco Charlton (Michigan):  He is a “pass rusher first and foremost”; his defense against the run is “adequate”.  I said “3rd round pick”.
  6. Takarist McKinley (UCLA):  He is a “pass rusher off the edge – nothing more” but he has “exceptional speed around the OTs”.  I also noted that he “chased down two plays to the opposite side of the field for short gains”.  However, “run defense is not very good/gets pushed around”.  My assessment was “3rd day pick”.
  7. Rich Brown (Mississippi St.):  He is big and strong and a “run-stuffer”.  I also wondered “can he cover NFL TEs?”  My guess was 5th or 6th round”.
  8. Jordan Evans (Oklahoma):  He has “good speed for pass coverage” and “plays the run adequately”.  His pass rush seemed “half-hearted”.  The Big 12 does not yield a lot of defensive players so my guess was “late round pick”.
  9. Ben Boulware (Clemson):  My notes say “strong against the run and not real good against the pass”.  That probably makes him a “late round pick” at best.

Before leaving these linebackers/defensive ends/hybrid players, I have another e-mail to share with you.  This comes from a long-time friend who is a Villanova alum:

“While you are busy slurping Cooper Kupp in FCS football [what I always call Division 1-AA football], there is a real pro prospect from that level here in Philadelphia at Villanova.  Tanoh Kpassagnon could be a defensive end or an outside linebacker for an NFL team.  [Aside:  I would not even try to pronounce that name or give it a phonetic spelling here.]

“He dominates opponents in the run game and rushes the passer to (sic).  And he plays on most of the Nova special teams too.”

OK, so now you know about another small school player that I never saw even one time.  Make of those comments what you will and keep an ear out for his name in the draft.

In terms of Defensive Linemen, here are my notes.  There are not a lot of them but I do like the ones I have on this list.

  1. Myles Garrett (Texas A&M):  He is an “excellent pass rusher” and “he plays the run very well too”.  He “plays hard on every play”.  My assessment is 1st round pick guaranteed”.
  2. Jonathan Allen (Alabama):  He is a “monster against the run” and he “generates serious pass rush right up the gut of the offense”.  A screen graphic said he was 285 lbs; my comment is “he plays bigger and stronger than that” and “he plays faster than 285 too”.  My comment was “he has to go in the 1st round”.
  3. Dalvin Tomlinson (Alabama):  He is a “run-stuffer but not a pass rusher inside”.  He would probably be better appreciated if he were not playing next to Jonathan Allen all the time.  I said, “3rd round pick”.
  4. Malik McDowell (Michigan St.):  He is a “big strong run defender” who can “generate some pass pressure inside”.  I said he was a “2nd round pick maybe 1st”.
  5. Ryan Glasgow (Michigan):  He is a “300 lb. nose tackle who stops the run”.  He has a “low center of gravity so he can add weight upstairs to become immoveable”.   I said “gone by 3rd round”.
  6. Jarron Jones (Notre Dame): He “spends a lot of time in the offensive backfield” and he “can put pressure on the QB outside”.  He is “big and quick but not fast”.  I said he was a “3rd/4th round pick”.

I only had one note on a Punter:

  • Toby Baker (Arkansas):  My notes say he is a “big kid” who “has lots of hang time on punts”.

I had a note on only one Kicker:

  • Andy Phillips (Utah): “Kickers are little guys; this guy is short and stocky – unusual.”  He “provided the margin of victory over BYU” last year.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the speed shown by WR John Ross at the NFL Combine:

“Ex-Washington receiver John Ross set an NFL combine record by running a 4.22 40. For perspective that’s how long it takes the Cleveland Browns to be mathematically eliminated most seasons.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



5 thoughts on “NFL Pre-Draft Analysis 2017”

  1. This is a slighted edited version of an AJC blog paragraph:
    Georgia Tech kicker Harrison Butker aced drills administered to him and the three other kicking hopefuls at the NFL combine, a performance that his agent said has spurred interest in him for the draft in late April. Butker hit cannon shots on his kickoffs and made 14 of 15 field-goal attempts on kicks between 30 and 50 yards, doing so with a snapper and holder that he’d never worked with prior to the session. Plus, he has made a bunch of clutch kicks for Tech in his four years there, including a 53 yard kick with no time left in 2014 to send the Tech-UGA game to OT.

    1. Doug:

      That is a more impressive endorsement than the one I gave to my only Kicker in this rant!!

  2. The kickers that make FGs are kept. I remember when longtime Saints kicker Doug Brien had briefly been with the Niners, missed a few and was sent on his way with a couple of comments about guys wearing Birkenstocks trotting on the field to blow the games (paraphrasing here). Mr. Brien then went to the Saints where he delighted in tormenting the Niners with clutch kicks over the years. Those are the ones that feel good to make.

    One thing I noted about McCaffrey (though he IS a Cardinal) is that I never saw the first guy hit him hard as a rule. That kind of elusiveness is not something that can be tested in the combine because the threats come from the 200 or so degrees in front in random directions and its more about sensing it and reacting to get a glancing blow at least. As a rugby scrum half, it is a skill that must be developed quickly because you’re usually the smallest guy on the pitch targeted by insane loosies.

    1. rugger9:

      I agree that McCaffrey seems to avoid taking the big hit. Nevertheless, I do not think he is built to be a feature-back/inside runner in the NFL for more than a season or two.

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