About 45 years ago, Howard Cosell characterized the NFL Draft this way:
“…the most overrated, over-propagandized annual event in American sport.”
He was probably right. Nevertheless, I will be paying attention to the draft later this week because in 2020 it is sports reality and that is a commodity in rare supply these days. The telecast over a three-day span is not fantasy; it is not bloviating opinion; it is reality and it will take place in the present tense. Hallelujah…
Let me do a quick reset here for those who have joined on in the last year. I like college football, so I watch it on television. As I watch, one of the things I do is to look for players who – I think – have a shot to play in the NFL and I keep a small notepad with me to make notes. Then, I take those notes and relate my impressions and opinions here before the draft takes place.
This is NOT a mock draft; this is just a compendium of notes that I took during college games last Fall. [Aside: There are two players named here because readers informed me of their abilities. They will be clearly indicated.]
Because all this information comes from watching games on TV, there will be plenty of players that I have nothing to say about. Obviously, the Power-5 schools are on TV a lot more than other teams; obviously, I live in the Eastern Time Zone, so I see eastern and midwestern teams more frequently than I do far west teams. Moreover, I often only see a team play one game and maybe that is not the day when a prospect played his best game. I can assure you that any omission of a player from this list is not an act of disrespect.
I notice that I have fewer notes this year as compared to previous years; I have no idea why that is the case, but it is what it is. This year will at least be better than last year when I had to forego this tradition because I accidentally left all my notes in the seatback pocket of an airplane. Time get started…
I shall begin with the Quarterbacks. I will do them in alphabetical order:
- Joe Burrow – LSU: “Very accurate on long throws; hits receivers in stride.” Everyone has him going to the Bengals with the first pick; sounds good to me…
- Jake Fromm – Georgia: “Announcers really love him, he’s OK but not anything better than OK.” If he is still available in the 4th or 5th round, he’s worth a shot.
- Justin Herbert – Oregon: “Love his athleticism and arm strength; he makes the out pattern to the wide side of the field look like an ordinary throw. Not fast but moves in the pocket well.” I think he should go early in the 1st round.
- Jalen Hurts – Oklahoma: “Big question mark. Accurate short passer but long completions were to receivers open by 5 yards. Not a lot of throws like that in the NFL.”
- Jordan Love – Utah State: I mention him here because he has gotten a lot of attention over the past month or so; some reports say that Bill Belichick covets him as Tom Brady’s long-term replacement in New England. I have no notes on him because I don’t think I ever saw a Utah State game last season. Sorry…
- Shea Patterson – Michigan: “Lots of hype coming to college football but looks ordinary to me.”
- Tua Tagovailoa – Alabama: “Good mobility; accurate on short throws and long throws.” “Always finds someone open.”
Injuries are a way of life in football. Tagovailoa will enter the NFL “pre-injured” and that ought to concern a team that takes him early in the draft. When healthy, he is a serious candidate to be a franchise QB for a team for a long while; the problem is that he has already had 3 surgical procedures before taking a snap in an NFL Training Camp.
Let me move on to the Running Backs – again in alphabetical order:
- Eno Benjamin – Arizona State: “Not a big guy; carries the ball a lot; runs hard every down. Quick and decisive cuts. Not so good at pass blocking.” I think he is worth a late round pick.
- AJ Dillon – Boston College: “BIG back; runs hard; not gonna break big runs but looks like a durable back”. [Aside: No notes on pass catching or blocking.]
- JK Dobbins – Ohio State: “Runs hard; runs through contact; always falling forward.” [Aside: No notes on pass catching or blocking.]
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire – LSU: “Big threat as a receiver”. “Quick to the hole”. I think his speed and pass-catching abilities gets him taken late first round or second round.
- Anthony McFarland – Maryland: Not big, but this guy is fast and he can catch the football.” I think he can be a third-down back in the NFL. He could go in the 3rd or 4th round just because of his speed.
- Zac Moss – Utah: “Built like a bowling ball; runs hard; tough to bring down. Not a speed back.” “OK as a blocker.”
- Jonathan Taylor – Wisconsin: “Big back and fast”. “Picks up blitz well.” “Looks like a 1st round pick to me”.
Next up will be the Wide Receivers. For the last couple of months, I have been reading reports that this year’s draft is very deep in quality wide receivers. My notes would seem to agree with that assessment because I have ten WRs with notes on them – – plus one player suggested by a reader.
- Brandon Aiyuk – Arizona State: “Big receiver and VERY fast”. “Also returns kicks for Ariz St.” “Mid-round pick?”
- Chase Claypool – Notre Dame: “Looks more like a TE; said he weighs 230 lbs.”. “Fast enough to be WR in the NFL?” “Worth taking in late round as a TE.”
- KJ Hamler – Penn State: “Small but VERY fast”. “Mid rounder who will either blossom or bust.”
- Tee Higgins – Clemson: “1st or 2nd round for sure.” “Screen graphic said 6’4” and 215 lbs.; I believe it”. “Good hands”.
- Justin Jefferson – LSU: “Versatile – – open on long balls and open in short passing game”. “Excellent hands”. “1st or 2nd round”.
- Jerry Jeudy – Alabama: “Fast and good hands. “Big enough with long arms”. He looks like a first-round pick to me.
- CeeDee Lamb – Oklahoma: “Gets open all the time but not the fastest WR I have ever seen. Good size and hands.” “Has to go in first or second round.”
- Denzel Mims – Baylor: “Big with great hands. Aggressive going for the ball”. “Fast enough to play in the NFL.” “Worth a mid-round pick.”
- Michael Pitman – USC: “Big, long arms, decent speed”. “Possession receiver”. “Late round pick?”
- Henry Ruggs – Alabama: “Super fast but not very big.” “Defense stretcher.” “2nd round pick.”
As promised, here is a player nominated for mention by a reader via email. The player is Stephen Guidry – Mississippi State. Here is the pertinent part of the email I received from the reader:
“You won’t take note of him if you watch the Bulldogs because there isn’t a QB in Starkville who can throw worth a damn. But he has good hands and he’s tough when they get the ball anywhere near him.”
Time for the Tight Ends. It would appear to be a meager crop this year…
- Hunter Bryant – Washington: “Always open and catches anything that comes to him”. “Not a good blocker”. “Mid-round pick?”
- Cole Kmet – Notre Dame: “No speed but good hands for short passing game”. “Blocked well on pass plays where blitz came on his side”. “Maybe a late round pick.”
- Thad Moss – LSU: “Big, strong, good hands.” “Quick but not fast.” “Doesn’t block much”. “Early round pick.”
Before I start with the Offensive Linemen, I need to explain that I lump all of them into one category since the NFL tends to move players from position to position in this unit. In addition, I want to present a cogent observation made by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot about a month ago:
“Great class: As always, attention at the NFL draft will sharply focus on quarterbacks, but what intrigues more teams are the half-dozen or so outstanding offensive tackles worthy of first-round selections. After quarterback, isn’t the O-line the most important element for a contending team?”
- Trey Adams – Washington: “Solid run blocker; not a lot of speed to lead plays to the opposite side”. “Late round pick”.
- Tyler Biadasz – Wisconsin: “Excellent pass blocker.” “Played center for Badgers.” “Early round pick?”
- Shane Lemieux – Oregon: “Excellent power run blocker; solid pass blocker”. “Not very fast”. “Worth a 3rd round pick?”
- Caesar Ruiz – Michigan: “Excellent blocker – quick to get to a double team assignment”. “Late first or second round pick?”
- Andrew Thomas – Georgia: “Big and strong. Really good pass blocker”. “Probably a first-round pick.”
- Jedrick Wills – Alabama: “Big man (screen graphic said 310 lbs.)”. “Quick for his size and blocks well for both run and pass plays”. “Has to be a first-round pick”.
- Isaiah Wilson – Georgia: “Another huge man on UGA OL”. “Excellent blocker on power run; pass blocking is good not great”. “Take in 2nd round?”
I had no Punters in my notes, but this is where that second player mentioned via email enters the picture. Here is the email referring to Alex Pechin – Bucknell.
“Bucknell is never on TV so you won’t see them and besides, they stink. But they have a punter who gets lots of practice and he gets off at least one 50-yard punt every game and sometimes a 60-yarder. Alex Pechin is his name. He won’t get drafted but some team should invite him to camp for a tryout.”
I went and Googled “Alex Pechin Stats” and learned that:
- He averaged 47.6 yards per punt last season. So, he must have had more than a few punts over 50 yards in length.
- Indeed, Bucknell was not very good last year; the record there was 3-8. Pechin did indeed get plenty of practice; he punted 65 times for the season.
- He double majored in biomedical engineering and management for engineers. He also was the Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year in each of the last three seasons.
Tomorrow, I will go through the defensive players from last year’s notes. Until then, let me leave with this definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Doughnut: A food created in response to the notion that if something has 20 grams of sugar, 25 grams of fat and 425 calories, then it should be made available in groups of twelve.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………