HOLLINS RISES TO THE OCCASION!
WINS EAST-WEST SHRINE DEFENSIVE MVP AND TURNS HEADS
Justin Hollins was dominant at the East-West Shrine Game last week. He not only stood out in practice, but he was a force to be reckoned with has he had 10 tackles, 2 sacks and a fumble recovery on his way to the Defensive MVP award in the 21-17 East win. Hollins got the start at the SAM outside linebacker, but he lined up at defensive end and even inside as a three technique in pass rush situations. At 6’5 - 245lbs he brings both speed off the edge as a pass rusher, and length as an outside linebacker. Events like the East-West Shrine Game, NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and Senior Bowl are great ways to evaluate these young players. You get to take official measurements, put them in NFL schemes and see how fast they absorb the information. Hollins showed he could handle anything that was thrown at him.
Hollins was used in multiple ways at Oregon. As a Duck he started games at outside linebacker and defensive end. Hollins has a long list of accolades to go with it. His awards include Associated Press Pac-12 All-Conference first team, Phil Steele Pac-12 All-Conference third team, Pro Football Focus Pac-12 All-Conference team and Coaches Pac-12 All-Conference honorable mention. While he has the resume, there were questions about him that many scouts wanted to answer. Can he hold up on the line of scrimmage against the run. Is he every bit of his listed size. Does he have the frame to handle the move to defensive end in a 4-3 scheme? Both 3-4 and 4-3 teams are looking at him as a potential edge player.
I caught with Justin during shrine week and he is very confident that whatever teams gives him the opportunity he will succeed. Hollins believes his experience as a defensive end and outside linebacker have prepared him for the next level. He held up well at SAM backer setting the edge and was ferocious rushing the quarterback that week. No matter the tackle he won consistently on the edge. The two sacks in the game were just a way to show that he was capable of more than the 13+ sacks he had the last two seasons combined. He feels he is cerebral enough to read tackles’ drops to set up his pass rush. He understands run blocking schemes enough to squeeze down on zone runs and play with a low base on power and trap runs. We even had the chance to see him drop in coverage and lock onto a few running backs. He weighed in seven pounds heavier than his listed weight at Oregon, plus he has more room on his frame.
Hollins boosted his stock with a strong week. Things are far from over as he look to post big numbers at his workouts to boost it even further. Hollins took advantage of a big opportunity by destroying it like he did opposing tackles in Saint Petersburg. It will be interesting to see how many teams will look to secure his talents in April.
By Jeff Barnes
EAST -WEST SHRINE GAME
DAY - 3 NOTES
I spent the day with the West defensive linemen today to get a good look at this group. There are some players that are being closely watched by scouts. There were several that stood out today so we will focus on those guys in what is their last padded practice. It will most likely be their last chance before gameday to impress the scouts and in some cases executives in attendance. Almost every defensive lineman had a play or two that were positive. Here are the guys that stood out the most to me.
Kansas Defensive Tackle Daniel Wise: Wise has been the most watched defensive line prospect in West practices. He has an explosive first step and high motor. He does need to improve his hands and disengaging if he doesn’t win off the rip. He has three technique written all over him. He has drawn a crowd of scouts at the end of practices so he is definitely making an impression with teams. This is usually a good sign for a player to hear his name called as teams will have to compete for him as a priority free agent.
Texas Defensive Tackle Chris Nelson: Nelson is a powerful wrecking ball of a player. He doesn’t massive size, but he is a compact and stout run defender that is not easily moved. He is able to get a push on offensive linemen and collapse the pocket. Nelson can fight off double teams as he works down the line of scrimmage on runs away from him. He does need to get better at disengaging from blockers. He tends to keep pushing the man where he wants to go instead of pushing, getting off the block and finding the football.
Oregon Edge Justin Hollins: Hollins is that tweener that has the length you like in a defensive end or Sam Outside backer, but he also has a tall and lean build. Hollins lined up at the SAM backer and rushed from a standup defensive end spot. I loved his speed on the edge as he was able to win multiple times and get to the passer. On one play he had QB Easton Stick dead to rights from the blindside. He was athletic enough to match up in coverage with running backs out of the backfield. He did have some issues setting the edge against the run. 3-4 teams wouldn’t need to do much with him, but 4-3 teams would need him to add a little weight if he is going to play with his hand on the ground.
Angelo State Defensive End Markus Jones: Jones was able to win on the outside during two-minute drills. He has surprising power when he rushes tackles down the middle. He can get swallowed by tight ends who get square on him when he tries to set the edge. He needs to use his hands better to disengage, but he did impress me with his power and motor.
Texas A&M Defensive Tackle Daylon Mack: Mack is another strong one technique that can bulldoze his way into the backfield. He wreaks havoc when he is able to fight off blockers with his hands. He also flashed some first step quickness in 1 on 1 drills as well as team scrimmage. He needs to be a little more consistent with his hands. He can push the pocket.
DAY - 2 NOTES
Matchups at the Line of scrimmage: The East squad has an athletic and disruptive group of defensive linemen. The West squad has the bigger and extremely physical group of offensive linemen. That will be an interesting thing to watch Saturday when the game kicks off as that will be a battle of speed vs. brute strength. Center Nick Linder (Indiana) has been solid inside showing movement to the second level. He has had some battles inside against Texas DT Chris Nelson. Tackles Brian Wallace (Arkansas), Jackson Barton (Utah) and Ryan Pope have won their fair share of practice battles as well. All are long players that have the length to keep edge rushers wide of the pocket. The East has some players that will test these guys like DE Michael Dogbe (Temple). His first step quickness has been very visible after a lackluster Bowl performance against Duke. Mathieu Betts (Laval) has been showing his speed on the edge as he put T Olisaemeka Udoh (Elon) on skates with a spin move Monday, then used his hands and speed to win the edge on Tuesday.
Arms race: The quarterbacks had their share of moments today for the West squad. Brett Rypien (Boise State) had some very good throws from the pocket. He looked sharp at times, but there were some growing pains as well. He tried to throw the slant on back to back plays challenging CB Jordan Wyatt (SMU) only to have the first pass intercepted by Wyatt for what would have been a pick six. The second also thrown behind the receiver fell to the turf. Marcus McMaryion (Fresno State) had some excellent throws and a very nice run on a zone read. Many throws are in rhythm and have a lot of zip. Easton Stick has been solid as well. He had his struggles in early drills, but he turned it around completing some passes in different parts of the field. His biggest mistake was a late throw to the sideline in team drills that was intercepted by Wyoming Safety Andrew Wingard.
Almost missed him: Defensive end Daniel Wise (Kansas) was able to wreak havoc today. He was highly active against the bigger offensive line. His athleticism and speed created difficult matchups for the line to win. He was just what they needed to face to prepare them for Saturday. DT Chris Nelson (Texas) was stout as a run defender. Playing the nose tackle or 1 technique, he ate up blocks allowing the linebackers to flow and fill. He wasn’t easily moved.
Blanket Party: There were some feisty defensive backs out there. With CB Donnie Lewis (Tulane) and S D’Cota Dixon (Wisconsin) both missing practice today, it just meant more reps for the rest. CB Blace Brown (Troy) was able to matchup on the outside. Brown showed improved footwork and positioning. He also showed improved ball skills along with Jordan Wyatt. Wyatt had the pick of Brett Rypien and was in tight coverage all day. Both played with confidence. CB Montre Hartage had some flashy plays as well. He was in position to get a nice pass breakup in team drills, and later had a big interception in coverage on Cody Thompson during the final compete period.
by Jeff Barnes
DAY - 1 NOTES
Tight Ends make an impact: East TE C.J. Conrad (Kentucky) looked quite impressive catching the football and blocking at the point of attack. He released well and most importantly got open and caught the football with the chance to turn and get yards. He is your traditional inline Y that can flex out as well. Michigan State TE Matthew Sokol also had a good day as well with some impressive catches and blocking. West TE’s Kano Dillon (Oregon) and Andrew Beck both looked smooth catching the football as well. Beck had a leaping grab in drills that showed off his athleticism. He doesn’t have Dillon’s size however. Dillon has the size and athleticism that I saw on tape. Every time I see him catch a ball it makes me wonder why wasn’t the production there? I had the chance to talk to him about it after practice.
Stretching the field: There were a few wideouts that stood out today. Terry Godwin II (Georgia) showed the explosiveness that made him an impressive prospect. He won from the slot often and on the outside in 1 on 1 drills. Jesper Horsted (Princeton) is a big wideout that also had some nice catches. He was able to separate downfield and ran smooth routes. KeeSean Johnson (CSU Fresno) was impressive as he pulled in passes during 7 on 7 and 1 on 1 drills. Shawn Poindexter (Arizona) showed more speed than I saw on film. He made several plays, but his most impressive was a 9 route in 1 on 1 drills where he beat the corner off the line and pulled away as he tracked down the deep ball. Ryan Davis (Auburn) flashed some nice moves escaping press coverage. He is a player that is trying to break the slot only label.
Getting defensive: Defensive linemen Michael Dogbe (Temple) and Kevin Wilkins (Rutgers) both had some shining moments. Both showed a quick first step that allows them to get penetration. Both had moments where they blow up plays with their speed. Derrick Baity (Kentucky) was very impressive and he showed off his speed and athleticism as he was able to use his length to blanket receivers on the outside and in the slot. Tulane DB Donnie Lewis Jr. also showed well as he lined up in the slot. He was able to match up in the slot, and be physical in run support. Blace Brown (Troy) also had some good moments in practice. He has quick feet and was able to match up with the different receivers that lined up against him.
Last but not Least: Can’t leave out the offensive line. Olisaemeka Udoh (Elon) was impressive today in drills. He had quicker feet than he showed on film. He was able to kick and gain position on pas rushers. In 1 on 1 drills he cut off rushers with his slide and used his punch to control them on the edge. He also got some work at guard. Martez Ivey (Florida) and Tyree St. Louis (Miami) both had their best reps at right tackle. Came away very impressed with Nick Linder (Indiana) as he displayed the smart and instinctive player I saw on film. He was able to work second level blocks and recognize defensive fronts.
by Jeff Barnes
EAST - WEST SHRINE PREVIEW
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
The college football season in officially over and the NFL Playoffs are in full swing. The pre-draft evaluation process is in full swing. College All-Star Games are quickly approaching. Next week we will be attending the East-West Shrine Game practices and game to evaluate some of the players in person. As expected many pro scouts are expected to attend. The Shrine has been one of college football’s premier all star games that showcases top talent. It is also the kickoff of two big weeks of evaluation as the Reese’s Senior Bowl is the following week. While we will be looking to see which players stand out, we have a list of players we are looking forward to seeing in action.
WR JESPER HORSTED, PRINCETON
Jesper earned our FCS Player of the week in the past as he had some amazing performances in the Ivy League. The 6’4 receiver was a favorite target of starting quarterbacks Chad Kanoff in 2017, and John Lovett in 2018. Horsted is a big body receiver that has run after the catch ability as well as the ability to climb the ladder to make big catches. Horsted is one of the new wave of Ivy league skill players that have next level ability.
TE C.J. CONRAD, KENTUCKY
Conrad has been an unheralded prospect. Kentucky wasn’t known for their dynamic passing game. However, Conrad was a solid receiving option as well as a quality blocker in the run game. He had his best season with 30 catches in 2018. Conrad has averages double digit yards per catch in three of his four seasons.
LB TRE WATSON, MARYLAND
Watson is a tackling machine with a nose for the football. Not only did he accumulate 114 tackles, but he also managed to intercept 5 passes. Watson isn’t a big linebacker, but his ability to play in coverage and his range are traits that scouts like. Watching him in a pro style defense will give us a clear view of his ability to fit and shed at the next level.
LB ANDREW VAN GINKEL, WISCONSIN
Van Ginkel is the big linebacker that 3-4 teams are looking for. You can stand him up as an outside linebacker and let him take on tight ends as well as let him rush the edge. You can also bump him inside as he is strong and instinctive enough to be a stout inside run defender. His 12 combined sacks over two seasons are a strong indicator that he can impact the pocket.
CB DERRICK BAITY JR., KENTUCKY
The first thing that grabs your attention is a 6’3 corner. Pro teams love length. Baity has that. A key member in a very stout Kentucky defense, Baity will look to showcase his coverage ability. Baity has 23 passes defensed and 6 interceptions over the past three seasons. Expecting a lot of eyes on him during 1 on 1 drills.
QB EASTON STICK, NORTH DAKOTA STATE
Stick is the latest product that the Bison have produced. While he doesn’t have Carson Wentz’s size, he does have the ability to make plays. For Stick, the size factor will be huge next week. If he looks comfortable in the pocket and makes throws down the field he will silence a lot of doubters. He has a major box checked when it comes to evaluating quarterbacks and that is he is a winner.
TE KANO DILLON, OREGON
Dillon is a big body tight end who is also very athletic. He never seemed to have the production many scouts hoped he would. Dillon is still a little raw when it comes to route running. However, his ability to catch passes away from his frame is a valuable trait. Expect him to have eyes on him during blocking drills as well.
WR CODY THOMPSON, TOLEDO
Thompson was having a great year in 2017 before suffering season ending injury. He returned in 2018 to grab 48 passes to go with 10 touchdowns. Thompson wasn’t as explosive in 2018. That will be the most watched part of his game in St. Pete. He will have to show consistent separation and explosiveness.
CB JAMAL PETERS, MISSISSIPPI STATE
Another big and athletic corner that has the ability to blanket receivers. His stats are not as impressive as his film. Look for Peters to try and impress during 1 on 1 drills and 7 on 7. He needs a big week to boost his stock from a Day 3.
FCS NATIONAL BOWL WEEKEND RECAP
Daytona Beach hosted some of the best talent the FCS, Division II and Division III had to offer as scouts gathered to see players make their case for pro opportunities. After two days of practices, the players took the field Sunday for two games. Our Southeast scout Jeff Barnes was in attendance to evaluate players that we don’t get a chance to see much of in person. You want to see with your own eyes their tendencies, traits and technique. You want to see their interaction with coaches and teammates. Here are the biggest takeaways from this weekend.
Pass rush- Offensive lines and quarterbacks did not have it easy. The pass rushers found ways to create pressure with power and speed. The National Bowl had a lot of smaller players that were quick off the ball. There were two edge rushers that caught my eye. Defensive ends Anthony Walker (Arkansas at Monticello) and Jordan Pryce (Carson Newman) both were standouts for the American team. Pryce has impressive size (6’4 - 260) combined with solid edge speed. He has power to bull rush and collapse the pocket. He bullied plenty of tackles in one on ones with his power. He was stout against the run in the game. He struggled to capture the edge in the game. He has the speed to gain the advantage, but struggles to disengage. Walker was the exact opposite. His tweener size shows when he gets overwhelmed against the run. However his edge rush ability is understated. He was able to apply significant pressure off the edge in practice and in the game. He nearly had two sacks in the game, but struggled to stay on his feet as he reached the QB and allowed him to escape twice. The FCS Bowl had some quality edge rushers as well. Rickym Holmes (Benedict College) is a big man with a good first step. He plays stout against the run. Uses his hands well. Like many tall defenders he needs to play with more bend when trying to turn the corner. He has the power to bull rush, but will need to get stronger if he is to face next level lineman consistently. He is scheme diverse and position flexible as he can play end in a 3-4 or 4-3. He can kick inside as a three technique as well. Conner Christian (Jacksonville State) was also impressive in 1 on 1 drills. His quickness off the ball was often too much for many interior linemen. The most impressive trait was his power. He was able to collapse the pocket from the inside. He did not flash as much in the game, but he was able to make in impact on some plays. His play inside allowed the edge rushers to play fast upfield. He is a smaller interior player that would make sense for teams looking for quick three technique players. Chase DeMoor (Central Washington) has impressive size and edge speed. He showed the quickness and bend to capture the edge. He showed quality football intelligence to read tackles drops and get his hands into the passing lanes. He is an athlete we had on our radar since 2017. Grambling State had two edge rushers here that peaked my interest. Brandon Varner despite his tweener size (6’1 - 255) played with his hand on the ground in Grambling’s three down line scheme. Varner has edge speed and was able to get some wins on the edge. He was able to get in on a sack in the second half. The player that got the most buzz this weekend was Caleb Wells. Plenty of scouts wanted to see him in action since he had limited playing time at Grambling. He is a tall and lean edge rusher who also has some background as a tight end has excellent quickness. His lean upper body limits his power rush ability. One of the coaches raved to me about his athleticism. He won on the edge often, but lost contain when Lincoln University QB and game MVP Vincent Espinoza was in the game. Wells has to win on the edge as he won’t be able to rush tackles down the middle and disengage in time to make a sack. Popular sentiment among scouts is he needs to get stronger.
Towing the line- There were some standouts on the offensive line as well. The National Bowl had a couple of developmental prospects that stuck with me. Christopher Neu (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) showed good feet and balance. Neu has a strong base and punch as he maintained leverage on rushers. He is a quality guard prospect that has potential. Tyler Adamson (Whitworth University) was also solid for the National team. He worked best inside at guard. He opens up well on pulls and gets to the second level on zone runs. He showed good hands. His struggles came with finishing blocks in the running game and defenders rushing him down the middle. He is needs to add some more muscle as he will struggle at his current weight. On the FCS side, center John Yarbrough (Richmond) was very impressive in the middle. He like many will need to body development as he will need to get stronger to match up with bigger bodies than he saw this weekend. Yarbrough showed good feet and good awareness at the line of scrimmage. Same can be said for center Matthew Pyke (East Tennessee State). Pyke is a little undersized (6’1 - 301), but plays tough inside. Matthew was one of the few interior linemen I saw in 1 on 1 drills avoid getting walked back into the QB consistently. He has short arms which causes him to get overextended at times which got him beat in a drill badly. However, he recovered on the next rep. He moves well in space as he displayed on the screen pass for a touchdown when he was 30 yards downfield blocking. Tackle Noah Beh (Delaware) has the size to compete as a tackle or guard. He has the measurables but needs to get stronger. He moved well protecting the edge and had good hand placement. His punch just was not neutralizing the speed of the rushers coming around the corner.
Pleasant surprises- While I mostly watched the linemen, I did get to see some of the skill players in drills. I was surprised be some of what I saw as it left me with a better opinion from what I saw on film. QB Ajee Patterson (New Haven) is one of those players that on film he isn’t as impressive as he is in person. Patterson lacks ideal height, but plays well from the pocket. He was sharp and accurate early in practices. He struggles Day 1 in team drills as the pass rush effected his throws. He started the game erratic as the mixture of the rush and weather effected him early. He did manage to get in rhythm later in the game and make some very good throws. His arm is more impressive live than on film. Canadian QB Michael O’Conner (British Columbia) also threw the ball well in practice. O’Connor has ideal size (6’4) and very good arm strength. He was able to throw the ball well in practice. He was harassed often in the game and was unable to sustain many drives.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE GATORS?
Florida has been trying to get their football program back on track for several years. Since the departure of Urban Meyer they not contended for a National Title. They have made very few appearances in the SEC Championship. A program that was always competing for their conference title and attending major bowl games has fallen into mediocrity. They pried Dan Mullen away from Mississippi State to coach the Gators. They thought that an established coach like Mullen with a track record of finding ways to win with lesser talent could turn their program around. Some analysts believed that Florida was a preseason sleeper in the SEC. Then came Kentucky. Kentucky not only ended the Gators dominance of them by defeating them 27-16, but they also did in in Florida’s house breaking their 31 games winning streak in the series. To make matters worse the Gators young running back Adarius Lemons has announced his intention to transfer to none other than Kentucky. That has to sting. Not only did they end the streak, but they took a very talented player on the way back. What has caused the Gators to fall into the abyss of mediocrity?
Jim McElwain was the last Florida Coach to get them to a bowl. McElwain took the Gators to back to back bowl appearances in 2015 and 2016. He had a combined record of 19-8 in those two seasons. Coach McElwain struggled to connect with alumni and fans ultimately leading to his ousting after a 3-4 start in 2017. Will Muschamp was the lost coach to make a serious run at a national title since the Urban Meyer era. Muschamp went 11-2 in 2012 leading the Gators to the Sugar Bowl. Muschamp could only hang his hat on that season as he barely won enough games to qualify for a bowl in two of his three other seasons as head coach. Muschamp was relived of his duties in 2014 before their win in the Alabama Bowl. You have to win in the SEC. Being a solid program is not enough to compete with the big dog that is Alabama. Being an average or above average program will not keep the masses happy. Mullen is feeling this pressure already after two games. A humiliating loss to Kentucky already has the vultures circling. We have to ask ourselves why? Why replace Mullen? He has coached just two games at Florida. Just because of a loss the masses are calling for revolution. They want their contender back. They want to challenge Bama. Instead they are falling into sacrificial lamb territory. Even if they finish 7-5 or 8-4 the fans will not be happy with just a bowl appearance. They want to be the top dog of the SEC Conference. Florida has not lacked talent. A total of 58 former Gators have been taken in the NFL draft from 2009 to 2018. They are producing top level talent. If that is the case then why can’t they compete? One reason could be the culture. For the third straight year the Gators have started the season with a rash of suspensions. For various reasons over the years this has become a common occurrence. Many programs have players that get into some kind of trouble. Mullen is trying to restore the standards of Florida football. McElwain tried to do it and failed. You have a hard time winning big games when your best players are in street clothes on gameday. In the case of Antonio Callaway it was a whole season in 2017.
The talent still is there. They do not possess an elite prospect at quarterback, but their is plenty of talent on this roster. While quarterback play is premium for many programs, if you have the ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball you can win without one. They have talented passers, but they are not elite arms. Very few programs have a defensive backfield that averages 6’1 - 197 across the board. They do not have a senior in their crowded group of running backs. Redshirt Junior Jordan Scarlett needs to step up his game. He has been onmany scouts radar for a while but he has not performed to his potential. The loss of Lemons does drop the group a little. Feleipe Franks is the veteran of the quarterback group. This is a young team. There isn’t a ton of senior leadership. That can lead to some of the off the field issues. The regime change also means a scheme change. This group might still be adapting to the new culture under Mullen. The inconsistent performances of the Gators is something that will test the patience of the athletic department. Will they allow this process to take hold, or will they decide if things do not dramatically turn out to jettison their coach and reboot the program again?
Round 1, Pick 1: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Round 1, Pick 4: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
Round 2, Pick 33: OL Austin Corbett, Nevada
Round 2, Pick 35: RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
Round 3, Pick 67 (from Colts): DE/EDGE Chad Thomas, Miami
Round 4, Pick 105 (from Patriots): WR Antonio Callaway, Florida
Round 5, Pick 150: LB Genard Avery, Memphis
Round 6, Pick 175: WR Damion Ratley, Texas A&M
Round 6, Pick 188: DB Simeon Thomas, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Browns and General Manager John Dorsey have made significant strides to improve the roster. They added some major talent to the starting lineup as well as quality depth. The addition of Baker Mayfield gives them the player they believe can be a starting quarterback for this franchise for years to come. He will not be forced to play right away as Tyrod Taylor is currently at the top of the QB depth chart. While Baker will have time to from the sidelines, fellow Top 5 pick Denzel Ward will not have the same scenario. Ward no doubt will be pressed into action right away. Ward is considered an upgrade over the veterans and will help not only the starting lineup, but create competition for the nickel spot.
Joe Thomas decided to retire leaving the Browns with a difficult choice to replace him. They draft Austin Corbett to compete with their veterans for the vacant left tackle position. Corbett has started at center, guard and tackle at Nevada. His versatility caught a lot of teams' eye. Is he ready to immediately start at the left tackle position? If he isn't I expect him to either move to the right side or kick inside to guard until they feel he is ready. Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango can help fill in the gaps. Signing Carlos Hyde to go with Duke Johnson was not the only thing the Browns had in mind to fill the depth at running back. Drafting Georgia star Nick Chubb adds another back that has proven value to the backfield. Chubb will give the Browns more juice between the tackles and in short yardage situations. It also affirms that there is not real long-term commitment to Hyde since he is an older back. Hyde turns 28 in September.
Chad Thomas gives them depth at the end position to go with the young talent they have. With Miles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib already on the roster, they can always add more pass rush. Antonio Callaway adds a valuable slot player if he can stay out of trouble of the field. If he can avoid more trouble off the field then his on the field talent will be the only thing creating news. Genard Avery and Simeon Thomas are quality depth players that can help on special teams. Avery will add depth to a top heavy outside linebacker depth chart. Ratley give them another quality depth player at receiver and on special teams. Expect him and Thomas to compete to remain on the 53 man roster.
Round 1, Ohio State C/OG Billy Price (No. 21 overall)
Round 2, Wake Forest S Jessie Bates (No. 54 overall)
Round 3, Ohio State DE Sam Hubbard (No. 77 overall)
Round 3, Texas LB Malik Jefferson (No. 78 overall)
Round 4, Miami RB Mark Walton (No. 112 overall)
Round 5, Illinois State DB Davontae Harris (No. 151 overall)
Round 5, Virginia DT Andrew Brown (No. 158 overall)
Round 5, Western Michigan CB Darius Phillips (No. 170 overall)
Round 7, Toledo QB Logan Woodside (No. 249 overall)
Round 7, Mississippi OG Rod Taylor (No. 252 overall)
Round 7, Florida State WR Auden Tate (No. 253 overall).
The Bengals started out by taking the top center in the draft. Billy Price was easily the top player at the position. The injury at the combine will sideline him early, but I expect him to contribute once healthy this season. His ability to play center and guard will factor into the Bengals plans. It also gives them a rock to build on for the future of this offensive line makeover. This is the kind of player new offensive line coach Frank Pollack likes. Safety Jessie Bates is an immediate starter in this Bengals secondary. Two starters in two rounds as Bates will come in and bring youth and talent to a position lacking those qualities. Sam Hubbard will bring a blue collar work ethic to the edge of this defense. The combination of him and Carl Lawson putting heat on opposing passers will help Cincy boost their defensive sacks totals. Hubbard also does a great job setting the edge in the running game. Malik Jefferson give the Bengals the Will linebacker they need. He is a very good chase defender. He can fit right in and make plays for them especially with the suspension history of Vontaze Burfict.
Mark Walton and Davontae Harris are solid additions to add some youth and depth to this roster. Although we had other backs higher on our board available at this point he does give the Bengals another back to give them juice off the bench. Giovanni Bernard can't play forever. Harris gives them the third corner you need to match up with all of the multiple receiver offenses in the NFL. Harris can play outside or eventually move into the slot to match up with team's tricky slot players. He isn't the tallest outside corner, but he has the ability to match up with bigger players.
Andrew Brown adds depth to the interior line rotation. He is a one gap plugger that can provide some push in the pocket. Darius Phillips is a tremendous special teams talent. He won't challenge for a starting corner spot right away, but he is a solid man cover corner. He has some room to improve as a defender. Logan Woodside won't light up many preseason games this year, but he will be a good replacement for A.J. McCarron once he adjusts to the NFL game. Rod Taylor and Auden Tate will look to solidify roster spots as depth players. Both have some physical challenges the will make it difficult to win significant playing time early.
Round 1, Pick 25, Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Round 1, Pick 32, Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Round 3, Pick 83, Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Round 3, Pick 86, Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
Round 4, Pick 118, Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama
Round 4, Pick 122, Kenny Young, LB, UCLA
Round 4, Pick 132, Jaleel Scott, WR, New Mexico State
Round 5, Pick 162, Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
Round 6, Pick 190, DeShon Elliott, S, Texas
Round 6, Pick 212, Greg Senat, T, Wagner
Round 6, Pick 215, Bradley Bozeman, C, Alabama
Round 7, Pick 238, Zach Sieler, DL, Ferris State
After bouncing around the 1st round the Ravens added too very good players. TE Hayden Hurst got his name called first. Hurst is an older rookie that can contribute right away. His hands and route running will help improve an inconsistent passing attack. Joe Flacco has been the face of the franchise for ten seasons. If people were wondering what the Ravens plans were going forward then they just answered you with the pick of Lamar Jackson. Jackson will not be pressured to start right away. This gives them a future after Flacco, which might come sooner than Joe Flacco wants. The Ravens believed in this idea so much they back into the first round to take Jackson.
Ozzie Newsome spent his third round picks on a pair of Oklahoma teammates. They took T Orlando Brown and TE Mark Andrews. Both were at the top of they positions coming into the pre-draft season. Brown was the top tackle on our draft board before he bombed at the combine. He comes to a team that has two good starting tackles. This will give Brown a chance to improve his game adjust to NFL competition. He will provide depth until the Ravens decide to part ways with one of their starters, or he gets his chance to test free agency when his rookie contract expires. Andrews gives them another big threat at tight end to go with Hurst. Andrews has to tools to be a tough blocker, but needs to show the will. His receiving ability is definitely a strength any team couldn't ignore at the time he was taken. Anthony Averett and Kenny Young will look to fill roles on the defense. Young will try to not only improve the depth, but contend for playing time Day 1. Averett will look to do the same. He will get more chances in sub packages to play right away. Jaleel Scott will try to earn time at wide receiver. Scott is a big target but lacks the ability to separate down the field. He is athletic enough to climb the ladder and make the big red zone catch. Jordan Lasley is another talented receiver that is haunted by off the field concerns. He has the pedigree to play the position, but is he willing to work for it? Deshon Elliott will provide special teams help and safety depth. Greg Senat is a big athlete that will fight to earn a spot on the 53 man roster. He is raw and will have an uphill battle with the tackle talent ahead of him. Bradley Bozeman isn't the most athletic lineman, but he is intelligent and very technical. He should make the roster and provide some very quality depth. Don't rule him out as a starter a few years down the road when the have to start paying offensive linemen to stay.
Round 1, Pick 28: Terrell Edmunds, S Virginia Tech
Round 2, pick 60: James Washington, WR Oklahoma State
Round 3, pick 76: Mason Rudolph, QB Oklahoma State
Round 3, pick 92: Chukwuma Okorafor, T, Western Michigan
Round 5, pick 148: Marcus Allen, S,Penn State
Round 5, pick 165: Jaylen Samuels, TE NC State
Round 7, pick 246: Joshua Frazier, DT Alabama
Every Pick the Steelers had was used to take an immediate impact player. Whether as a starter or key role player they all will contribute. They took safety Terrell Edmunds first. Edmunds was overdrafted in my opinion. He is a good player, but not the playmaker with the upside of his brother Tremaine. He will need to be paired with the right player. James Washington adds more pop to the receiving core. Brown, Smith-Schuster and now Washington give you impact players capable of making plays at anytime all in formation at the same time. Big Ben initially hated the pick of Mason Rudolph and I understand why. He controlled the position and the franchise as long as there wasn't another quarterback capable of winning games longterm. They have that now with Mason Rudolph. Now the retirement talk will start to dwindle if he wants to remain a Steeler. Tackle Chukwuma Okorafor adds another longterm starter to the bench. Eventually he will be a starting left tackle in Pittsburgh. Marcus Allen might be just the guy to pair with Edmunds. If Edmunds can show he can play over the top then Allen will be the strong safety to go with him. He is best playing close to the box being physical. Jaylen Samuels was listed in our draft guide as the top fullback. He played tight end, fullback and running back. He fits the Steeler offense because they will use him in every way possible. Joshua Frazier was buried in a talented rotation at Alabama. He is a quality depth player that will work well as a backup nose tackle
Round 1: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame (No. 6 overall)
Round 2: Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State (No. 36) | Braden Smith, G, Auburn (No. 37) | Kemoko Turay, EDGE, Rutgers (No. 52) | Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State (No. 64)
Round 4: Nyheim Hines, RB, N.C. State (No. 104)
Round 5: Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa (No. 159) | Jordan Wilkins, RB, Mississippi (No. 169)
Round 6: Deon Cain, WR, Clemson (No. 185)
Round 7: Matthew Adams, LB, Houston (No. 221) | Zaire Franklin, LB, Syracuse (No. 235)
In this year’s draft, we saw the Indianapolis Colts make the picks necessary to protect their franchise QB in Andrew Luck. Drafting the top Guards, Nelson and Smith, in this year’s class is an automatic upgrade to the line when compared to their make shift lines of the past. Building up that Offensive Line was clearly a priority for GM Chris Ballard, but they added pieces to the defense which can help with their 31st ranked sack total.
Round 1: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida (No. 29 overall)
Round 2: D.J. Chark, WR, LSU (No. 61)
Round 3: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama (No. 93)
Round 4: Will Richardson, T, N.C. State (No. 129)
Round 6: Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska (No. 203)
Round 7: Leon Jacobs, EDGE, Wisconsin (No. 230) | Logan Cooke, P, Mississippi State (No. 247)
In a shocking pick, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell looked to build up an already strong defensive front with selecting Taven Bryan with their first pick. Many thought they would go with a WR in the 1st Round with the departure of Allen Robinson, but they were able to do so in the 2nd Round with the selection of the big speedster D.J Chark. The Jaguars also looked to strengthen their secondary with the selection of Ronnie Harrison who could end up becoming the starter by Week 1.
Round 3: Justin Reid, S, Stanford (No. 68 overall) | Martinas Rankin, OL, Mississippi State (No. 80) | Jordan Akins, TE, Central Florida (No. 98)
Round 4: Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech (No. 103)
Round 6: Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest (No. 177) | Jordan Thomas, TE, Mississippi State (No. 211) | Peter Kalambayi, EDGE, Stanford (No. 214)
Round 7: Jermaine Kelly, DB, San Jose State (No. 222)
The Houston Texans didn’t have many picks this year due to the moves to obtain Deshaun Watson and release Brock Osweiler. With their limited amount of picks, they were able to draft positions where they saw fit. Martinas Rankin is a versatile lineman who can have some value, especially at Tackle with the departure of Duane Brown and Keke Coutee adds more speed to an already WR corps in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V.
Round 1: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama (No. 22 overall)
Round 2: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College (No. 41)
Round 5: Dane Cruikshank, S, Arizona (No. 152)
Round 6: Luke Falk, QB, Washington State (No. 199)
The Tennessee Titans did not have too many picks, but GM Jon Robinson was able to make moves that allowed them to draft efficiently and strengthen areas they sought improvement. Rashaan Evans can immediately fill the void left by Avery Williamson, and Harold Landry, a 1st Round Talent, can see himself in a rotation with an aging Orakpo and Morgan. They’re last 2 picks can potentially serve as solid backups.
by Alex Alston III
COMBINE DL/LB NOTES
ABOUT THE DEFENSIVE LINE
Edge rushers were the biggest performers on the defensive line front. However some of the interior defenders had great workouts. B.J. Hill and Rasheem Green were the top performers of the defensive tackles. Both displayed good movement and timed well. Greene also did some extra work in some linebacker drills with Steelers coaches. Nathan Shepherd and Da'Ron Payne also performed well. Payne continued his momentum from the playoffs. Shepherd displayed movement and skill rarely seen in a FCS player his size. Vita Vea was doing well before leaving with an injury. Harrison Phillips has been another riser. Showed some great change of direction as well. Some that struggled are Tim Settle and Derrick Nnadi. Both had issues with their change of direction because their lack of fluidity in their hips.
When it came to the edge rushers the best three performers were Bradley Chubb, Marcus Davenport and Harold Landry. Chubb and Davenport maintained their momentum with great number and work in both their d-line drills as well as extra work at linebacker drills. Landry had the performance you wanted to see from the player that had such a tremendous 2016 season. He ran some really good times, and ran with some smooth hips in change of direction drills. He showed the traits that make him valuable to both 4-3 and 3-4 teams. Dorance Armstrong has a very strong performance. While he is an undersized defensive end, he flashed the ability to stand up as a 3-4 outside backer. The same can be said for Arden Key. His performance today was pretty good, but he interviews were the pivotal portion of is week. Marquise Haynes had a solid performance. Like Armstrong and Key, he needed to display the movement and quickness to stand up in a 3-4. Hercules Mata'Afa needed to have a strong showing. He is transitioning from defensive tackle to edge. Showed some athleticism, but also showed he isn't totally comfortable in reaction drills just yet.
ABOUT THE LINEBACKERS
Without a doubt Shaquem Griffin was the talk of the town. From his bench press to the 40 time, he made a big splash. He did well in drills to add the cherry on top. Tremaine Edmunds also had a great day. Posted a very good 40 time. Then proceeded to smash the linebacker drills. Smoth hips allowed him to change direction with ease. Lorenzo Carter made a very good impression as well with his 40 time and work in drills. Carter didn't post big numbers since he was used rather conservatively in Georgia's defense. His work today shows he is capable of more. Malik Jefferson also timed well and added some great field work. Jefferson is making the case to many teams that he can be an immediate impact player. Jerome Baker sold many teams today on his athleticism. His film was impressive, but he added some high quality work today. Josey Jewell didn't time very well, but displayed some very good reaction work in drills. Very instinctive player that reacts quicker than he runs. Leighton Vander Esch put up some good numbers. Solid in drill, his size and ability match his film. Peter Kalambayi also added some good number to match a very solid field performance. Another big player that should get the chance to plug and play into somebody's defense. We los several players to injury during the 40 yard dash portion including Roquan Smith. He posted a very good time before he shut it down. Nobody ever denied his speed and athleticism. He and many others will look to heal up and show off their skills at their Pro Days.
COMBINE QB/WR/TE NOTES
ABOUT THE QUARTERBACKS
Josh Allen was the star of the show early. His arm quickly distinguished him from the other passers. He as many quarterbacks at the combine do have some misses, but his power on the deep pass was unrivaled. In this environment it was just the thing he needed to stand above the rest. His footwork was better today than on film. This was a big day for him.
Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield each had good performances. Both has some misses, but showed their composure and ability on most throws. They looked good during the passing section. Each had throws that wowed evaluators in the second session. Both mingled with the other players and looked comfortable. For Rosen this was a bigger deal as people have been digging into how he interacts with his peers and coaches.
Lamar Jackson had some good points and bad. He made some big throws. He also missed some opportunities. The best part about his game was the some improvement in his game. He still doesn't bring his back foot forward consistently causing him to throw inaccurately especially to his left. When he did he threw some good balls.
Mason Rudolph quietly had a good workout. He had good ball placement on many throws. Even when he was out of sync with the receiver he put the ball usually in the spot it needed to be. Rarely did he underthrow or throw late. He set up in the pocket well which is his strength.
Woodside, Lauletta and White didn't look like they were on the same plain today. All just looked average in an on air workout. White and Lauletta had excellent Senior Bowl performances, but were underwhelming today.
ABOUT THE WIDE RECEIVERS
DJ Moore, DJ Chark and Christian Kirk all had excellent workouts. They all caught the ball well and timed well. All are trending upward in the process and will continue to do so. Chark has been amazing since the Senior Bowl. Moore and Kirk got their first chance to boost their stock. They did that with their performance today.
Calvin Ridley had a good start to the day but had some struggles in his routes. He had several times where he has issues in his breaks maintain speed and balance. Ridley is considered by many the top WR in the draft. Today during drills one of his strongest attributes was his weakest.
Keke Coutee was excellent in the timing session. He was barely noticeable during drills. Coutee is trying to boost his stock as he is in a log jam of receivers outside the first round looking to move up. His routes today did little to move him up.
ABOUT THE TIGHT ENDS
Mike Gesicki and Mark Andrews both had great days. The times they posted and their route running were top notch. Both ran some good times on their 40 yard dashes. Also they run some very good routes. They both have questions about their blocking, but today would do little to change that. Their size and speed are some of the main things scouts love. Now you can see their speed and athleticism are certified. Hayden Hurst also had a good workout.
FINAL THOUGHTS- SENIOR BOWL 2018
Another Senior Bowl is in the books. We got to see some of the big names in action, while some were out due to injuries and personal issues. There were some impressive performances as well as some unimpressive ones. Baker Mayfield played just two series and left just around halftime. Josh Allen came in to relieve him and was shaky to start, but he got going in the 2nd half. Mike White started strong for the South, but was upstaged by Kyle Lauletta. Marcus Davenport turned up the pressure, while the South offensive line struggled to protect their quarterbacks. Let's look at who had the impressions of this year's Senior Bowl.
- The biggest stories all week were the North quarterbacks. Luke Falk left late in the week to attend his teammate's funeral. Mayfield, Allen, Falk and Lee were the talk of the week. Mayfield started the game and played the first two series. He led them to a field goal while going 3-7 for just 9 yards passing. Allen would struggle in the first half as well. He regrouped to throw two second half touchdowns. No such luck for Tanner Lee. He struggled throughout the second half as he was 8-19 for 86 yards and a touchdown. Two South quarterbacks won the day. Mike White came out and led the South to the end zone and found UCF Tre'Quan Smith for a touchdown. Kurt Benkert had one signature drive where he escaped the pocket to the left and found Rashaad Penny running up the sideline. Penny broke away for a big 73 yard TD catch. It was Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta who was the star of the day. Lauletta would go 8-12 for 198 yards passing with 3 touchdowns. Lauletta played with confidence and didn't let the moment get too big for him.
- Marcus Davenport led the South defense in a stout performance. After grabbing a sack on Baker Mayfield on the first series, Davenport harassed the North passers all game. He even added a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. Davenport was a constant force in the backfield contrary to his practice performance all week. In practice he had his moments, but Saturday he was dominant. He played up to the hype on Saturday. He showed the speed, strength and hand skills many scouts loved about him.
- The North offensive line had it's ups and downs. The interior with Mason Cole and Will Hernandez played extremely well. Alex Cappa played well inside at guard and right tackle, but struggled protecting the edge at left tackle. Brian O'Neill struggled holding the edge as well. While he did a good job matching defenders speed, he was overpowered on more than one occasion. Davenport walked him back into Baker Mayfield for a sack to end the first series. He then was overpowered again on a key third down the following series that impacted Mayfield's throw. O'Neill's struggles opened to door to some questions about his ability to have an immediate impact as a rookie.
- Tight ends Durham Smythe and Mike Gesicki had solid performances. Gesicki had 3 catches for 39 yards with a dropped pass, while Smythe added 3 catches for 48 yards and a 27 yard touchdown. Gesicki was more productive during the season and was expected to produce. Smythe underutilized at Notre Dame, showed he can produce despite playing limited snaps. Smythe is the better blocker of the two. Both made a good case for themselves and Pass catching tight ends like Dallas Goedert and Adam Breneman were both out with injuries. Ian Thomas and Jordan Akins chipped in for the South combining for 3 catches for 59 yards.
- Tre'Quan Smith and D.J. Chark both had big games. Chark had 5 catches for 160 yards to lead all receivers. He was able to not only make the big play, but also grab some big possession catches. Smith also had 5 catches to go with 79 yards receiving. Both found the end zone. Smith was a key weapon in the UCF offense all season, while Chark had modest numbers at LSU. Chark showed an explosiveness that wasn't featured a lot in LUS's run heavy offense.
SENIOR BOWL PRACTICE NOTES- DAY 2
I only got to sit in on the North practice as It was time to fly back to home base. I took the time to watch the skill positions this time. I watched the quarterbacks to see what improvement was made from Tuesday. Also wanted to see the receivers, tight ends and backs. I took a limited look at them Tuesday as I focused on the offensive line. This time I wanted to some these players in person instead of on film. It was a bit windy so the quarterbacks would be challenged throwing the football. Here are my observations from Day 2:
- Iowa State WR Allen Lazard stole the day for me. Lazard has a big frame and runs very well. He showed the ability to breakdown a defender's cushion as well as beat the press. He was one of the best at creating separation. He was able to get in and out of his breaks well. His lone struggles yesterday were when he didn't create separation on his shorter routes. The defenders were able to get physical with him at the break point knocking him off his route. His best play was beating the DB off the line on a go route and pulling it in for a TD in 1 on 1 drills. He has a chance to one up that as he broke down a 8 yard cushion and beat the defender by 3 yards, but the ball was underthrown and eventually broken up by the beaten corner..
- Josh Allen had another rough day. A lot of inaccuracy and inconsistency have plagued him this week. He has been billed as a top pick by many analysts and scouts. So far his performance has been throwing up red flags. The arm strength is there. the Accuracy and decision making are still concerns. A second day of overthrows and a bad interception make you question do you spend a pick that high. Allen must get a handle on these issues.
- While Allen has struggled, Baker Mayfield has kept things interesting. Mayfield hasn't lit it up, but he has been solid. It almost looks like he is playin it safe not to make the big mistake. He has struggled with his reads at times causing him to be tentative throwing the ball. One play was in their 3rd down segment where Mayfield dropped back and missed an open receiver up the seam. He rolled left, tucked and ran for a big gain. As practice wore on he picked it up a bit making some of the key throws of the day. His best throw of the day was when he was patient in the pocket and found TE Mike Gesicki on the wheel route all alone up the sideline. It was a perfectly placed ball going across his body, and hitting his tight end in stride.
- Colorado State Michael Gallup had an up and down practice. Struggled early in 1 on 1 drills with the shorter routes especially to the outside. Turned it on when he was asked to go vertical, grabbing a touchdown in the process. Had a bad rep on a deep ball in team drills at the defender was physical with him all the way preventing him from locating the ball leading to an interception. He did redeem himself later with a curl route, breaking a tackle and running for yards after the catch.
SENIOR BOWL PRACTICE NOTES- DAY 1
Both teams took the field for the first time yesterday with all 32 teams and a ton of media in attendance Senior Bowl practices were finally underway. We got to get a look at the players we have wanted to see one last time in uniform before the workouts begin. There was a lot of buzz around the quarterbacks in the North practice as Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield took the field. Every scout will have a bunch of different guys that they highlight. Most of my time was with the offensive line so I will have a bunch of impressions there. Let's get started.
- The South suffered two big losses yesterday as both Dallas Goedert and Breneman left practice with injuries. They are not out of the game. That leaves them With Indiana's Ian Thomas and UCF's Jordan Akins. Goedert and Breneman made some nice plays 7 on 7 drills before the injuries. Goedert and Breneman were tops at the tight end position the past two seasons. Both at going to fit into pro offenses well. Shame that we won't see them all week.
- James Washington showed improved route running early. His short and intermediate routes were crisper than on film. He grabbed a few passes early in drills and looked smooth. We did see him work against press and had his struggles. He didn't get the DBs hands off him and fought with him for about 7 yards. He will have to improve in that area. His Oklahoma State counterpart Marcel Ateman had some struggles as well. He had a couple of drops yesterday. The catch radius on Ateman is a big sell. Looking for a better Day 2 there.
- The offensive line had a few stars yesterday. Bradley Bozeman, Alex Cappa and Colby Gossett all had shining moments in practice. Bozeman showed he can anchor the middle of a line. Doesn't allow a lot of push up the middle and has the size to hold up against bigger nose tackles. Cappa showed good feet and technique. He also showed the will to finish blocks that you like in your offensive linemen. He is a gritty player that is rising fast. Colby Gossett also worked well inside. Gossett wasn't overwhelmed by the jump in competition. He stoned a few defenders in 1 on 1 drills. He does need to improve his reach blocking. Isaiah Wynn looked good at guard but had some struggles. He just needs to fix some leverage issues and he should be fine. The biggest struggles were with North Carolina A&T tackle Brandon Parker. Parker has some lower body stiffness that limits his movement. He had his struggles on the edge with protection as he lined up and both right and left tackle. Totally whiffing on a speed rush, then losing the inside as the defender spun back inside after forcing him to protect the edge.
- Got to watch some 7 on 7 work and saw Mayfield and Allen throw. Falk was steady but had some struggles with processing his reads. Mayfield processed his reads quickly but did not take any risks. Chose to check down or hold on to the football. Allen was all over the map. In one sequence of throws he threads a needle on a go route between two defenders for a big completion. The following play he throws a interception to the blindside curl as he stared down a crossing route. After that he has Dallas Goedert open on a corner route and overthrows him by a mile out of bounds. Allen will need to fix these accuracy issues if he wants to be a starter as a rookie.
- Ogbonnia Okoronkwo had his ups and downs in 1 on 1 drills. Showed his speed on the edge in pass rush drills. Beat a few prospects in 1 on 1 drills. Had his struggles setting the edge in run drills. He tries to muscle bigger tackles causing him to get his hands high into the head and neck area. Those can end up being hands to the face penalties. He has his work cut out for him with the offensive linemen he will face in practice.
- The offensive line had some of the major players other than quarterback. Mason Cole, Will Hernandez and Brian O'Neill were all impressive. All had good workouts and looked good. Each had a bad snap, but were consistent. Scott Quessenberry deserved mention as well as his work was good. This unit not only performed well in drills, but gutted the interior run defense for running back Kalen Ballage. Biggest struggles were as expected for Army tackle Brian Toth. He is big and strong, but unrefined. His technique will need a ton of work and his footwork just isn't there. It was nice to see him and some of the other linemen working independently after practice for a few minutes before the media segment. --
WHO TO WATCH FOR IN THE SHRINE GAME
The East/West Shrine game is upon us and we have several players we have been keeping an eye on. As we prepare to head to Mobile for the Senior Bowl, the Shrine gives us some more players we have been watching all year. Now seeing them in an environment other than their college atmosphere is big. We can see them adjust to NFL coaching, They are practicing at a different pace and with players from all over the country trying to make the same leap. Some are playing the last football they will ever play. Others are getting a chance to prove they deserve serious consideration. Over 20 NFL teams and scouts from across the nation have watched the practices all week. While there are some names you have heard here on the rosters whether it was an article or player of the week, there is more than enough talent to see i this game. Let's take a look at some of the players we've been watching closely.
Quarterbacks Quinton Flowers, Riley Ferguson, J.T. Barrett, Jeremiah Briscoe, Nick Stevens & Nik Shimonek- When you mention the top picks of this class, names get overlooked. Each of these quarterbacks brings some important traits to the table. I have never seen a Shrine Game with this much talent at quarterback. Flowers and Barrett are both undersized by NFL standards but are athletic and proven winners. Flowers especially will have to prove himself after measuring in at just over 5'10. Both are 20+ game winners the past two seasons. Riley Ferguson out shined many of the top arms in this class head to head. He outdueled Josh Rosen in a high scoring affair vs UCLA. Big player with a strong arm, Ferguson is a more polished passer than his predecessor Paxton Lynch. Jeremiah Briscoe is one of the top FCS quarterbacks in my opinion. Briscoe quietly threw for 119 TDs over his four year college career. Briscoe was truly the heart of the Sam Houston State offense averaging almost 42 attempts per game. Nick Stevens had a hot start to the 2017 season but cooled off. He is a very underrated passer with decent size. Nik Shimonek broke out of Pat Mahomes' shadow passing for 33 TDs.
Marcus Martin, DE, Slippery Rock- Martin was a force in 2017. He has been a tough defender throughout his college career. He topped it off by adding 15.5 sacks and 10 QB hurries to his resume. In other words he gets to the quarterback and finishes. If there are any doubts about his ability to play the run then just add to those pass rush numbers 82 total tackles. Now we get to see him work against some of the better tackles in the nation. Big test for him.
Chase Edmonds, RB, Fordham- Edmonds struggled in 2017 with injuries and overall performance. He managed to play in just 7 games in 2017 rushing for just 577 yards. His best performance of the season was his last one against Bucknell with 185 yards on 21 carries. He added 2 touchdowns to his total on that day boosting him to just 5 on the season. This is a far cry from his previous seasons where he rushed for 1838 (2014), 1648 (2015) and 1799 (2016). He needs to prove that the 938 carries in college haven't taken a toll on him.
Cornerbacks Deatrich Nichols & Malik Reeves- Both players come in without a ton of fanfare. Both have been very good players for their programs. Nichols is a valuable player as he plays outside and well as in the slot. His film is very important as I do not expect spectacular number from him at hte combine or pro day. Reeves is now the second player from Villanova in the past two season to hit a lot of the national scouts radar. He has been very good so far in practices and is a major talking point for scouts all week.
Andrew Vollert, TE, Weber state- Vollert was an X factor for Weber State. Can play in-line or flexed. Has good size and catch radius. Will now get to see if he can be the blocker most expect of a pro TE. Used in a variety of ways at Weber State. Will show he can be equally effective in a traditional role as the Move tights ends are becoming increasingly common.
Jason Cabinda, LB, Penn State- Cabinda will look to push his name up above the crowd at linebacker. After names like Smith and Thompson there is a log jam at linebacker. Cabinda can separate himself from the crowd with a strong performance. Cabinda will have to prove himself in pass coverage to match his run support skills. HE will want to show teams he is more than a base package player.
NFL TEAMS THAT COULD BE IN THE QB MARKET DRAFT DAY
With the NFL's regular season now over and the playoffs in full swing, we take a look at teams that are in the hunt to fill their rosters with young quarterbacks. Good passers are always at a premium in the NFL. It is a very rare thing that a team can have a winning season with a sub-par quarterback. Sometimes a team's problems are more than just the passer. Sometimes it is the passer that holds a team back. Nevertheless the NFL is considered a passing league, and you need a passer to compete for a Super Bowl. Since the merger there have been only a handful of teams that have one the Super Bowl without a good or established quarterback. The 2000 Ravens won with Trent Dilfer under center. Dilfer was a former 1st round draft pick in Tampa Bay in 1994. He spent 6 seasons in Tampa where he was 38-38 as a starting quarterback. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 and would take over the starting job from Tony Banks after Banks struggled early in the season. Dilfer would lead the Ravens to a 34-7 victory of the Giants in Super Bowl XXXVII. You could say the same for Brad Johnson in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Both the Ravens and Bucs Super Bowl team had elite defenses that made impact plays in those games. Their QB play was minimized. Looking at the last few Super Bowl Champions, every team has had an established passer at the helm. The last few champions have had names like Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Wilson, and Roethlesberger. Naturally teams are looking for that QB in any round that will give them the edge they need to hoist the Lombardi trophy. Let's examine a few teams that should be drafting QBs during the draft.
Current- DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Pat Develin. UFA- Kevin Hogan
The Browns hold the #1 and #4 picks in the first round. They currently have 12 total draft picks with 5 picks in coming in rounds 1 and 2. The Browns selected DeShone Kiser from Notre Dame last year and went 0-16 in 2017. With so many needs do they go QB again in the 1st round? New General Manager John Dorsey has some difficult choices to make. He is not married to Kizer. That was not his pick. Although it is hardly fair to judge Kizer solely on this dismal year, a new administration will look to move in whatever direction it chooses. Dorsey can draft a QB at the 1st pick or 4th. He can even wait until Round 2 where the Browns have 3 picks. Rumor has it the Browns like Josh Allen from Wyoming as well as Sam Darnold. There migt even be a veteran QB in the mix as well. All of this revolves around John Dorsey and if he believes Kizer is the long term solution.
Current- None. UFA- Drew Stanton, Matt Barkley, Blaine Gabbert. Retired- Carson Palmer
The Cardinals are hurting at quarterback. Head Coach Bruce Arians retired along with starting quarterback Carson Palmer. Every backup is an unrestricted free agent. Now I am sure signing at least one of them won't be too hard as they are not highly sought after prospects. Drafting a QB of the future is high priority. It doesn't rule out a run at a veteran starter such as Sam Bradford whom they are rumored to have interest in. Another Minnesota quarterback that fits there is Teddy Bridgewater. Minnesota never picked up his 5th year option so he is an unrestricted free agent. This move would make sense since Bridgewater has experience and can start right away. He isn't on the downside of his career like many starts that switch teams late in their career. Bridgewater was trending up prior to his knee injury. If they stand pat at Pick 15 there should be a passer there. The question is will it be the passer they want. QB needy teams like Cleveland, Denver, Giants and Jets, Redskins and Dolphins picking ahead of them a move up could be in the works. The Cards still have not named a head coach, so it will be dificult to say who fits there yet until one is hired.
Current- Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Chad Kelly. UFA- Brock Osweiler
John Elway is looking for the QB to hitch the franchise to much like it did with him years ago. Trevor Siemian has been inconsistent. Paxton Lynch has not developed quickly enough, and Chad Kelly isn't in the picture right now as far as starting quarterback. Elway has been making the rounds at looking at young passers most notably Josh Allen. With the 5th overall pick It would be ideal to grab a passer. If they are worried about someone jumping ahead I am sure that either the Giants or Colts would trade with them to secure the QB they want if he is available. Elways is in a good place to get what he wants to fix his team.
New York Jets
Current- Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg, Joel Stave. UFA- Josh McCown
The Jets have been throwing bodies at the QB Situation for over three administrations now. Most recently they drafted Geno Smith as the future. That didn't work. They drafted Petty and Hackenberg hoping they would develop into a starter. So far that hasn't panned out either. Josh McCown was a scab on the wound. Now they will look to see if they can get it right again. The Jets should invest in a QB with the 6th pick. With the Browns at #1 , the Giants at #2 and the Broncos at #5 they might have to maneuver a bit to get what they want. The Jets do not need another developmental quarterback. They need a day 1 starter. Even if they sign a veteran. They need a rookie that can be good enough to play year 1 as either a starter or insurance for a veteran that struggles or gets injured. For the Jets the future is now.
New York Giants
Current- Eli Manning & Davis Webb. UFA- Geno Smith
The magic question will be ansered before we get to free agency. Will the Giants move on with Eli Manning or a rookie? Manning is in the last two years of his deal. The way Manning's 2017 season went the writing on the wall was that his days as a Giant are over. Enter general manager Dave Gettleman. He has not confirmed or denied that Manning will be back. That is a smart move. By confirming Manning's future departure, he would kill any trade value Manning has. No team would give you anything for him. By saying you want him to return, a team would have to give you a fair offer. It doesn't hurt to draft a QB at #2 and having Manning as a mentor wouldn't hurt either. Another option is to trade back and pick up more picks. If you aren't ready to move on from Manning and believe in David Webb, then this gives the Giants the opportunity to improve their poor offensive line. The last thing you want is to have Manning or a rookie playing behind anything that resembles what we saw in 2017.
Current- Colt McCoy, Stephen Morris. UFA- Kirk Cousins
This rests on the negotiations with Kirk Cousins. Washington has opted to Franchise tag Cousins the past two seasons. This time Cousins wants a long term deal. If the Skins are still reluctant to give him the deal he wants, then there is a chance he walks. Should that be the case, they do not have another long term option on the roster. Unless that chase another free agent, they will most likely turn to the draft. This will be interesting as they have the 13th overall pick. Like Arizona it may take some maneuvering to get what they want. There are few Day 1 starter options, but there are plenty of talented quarterbacks. The problem is that there are QB hungry teams ahead of them. It would be in Washington's best interest to re-sign Cousins and load up on more talent as opposed to moving on.
COULD ORLANDO BROWN BE THE FIRST TACKLE TAKEN?
The consensus 2017 Top Tackle all year wore a Notre Dame helmet. As we prepare the close out the 2017 college football season we see a possible change in the top of the tackle hierarchy. Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown could be claiming that top spot. Brown has protected the blind side of Heisman winner Baker Mayfield the past two seasons. This year was his finest as he dominated his competition on the left side. Mike McGlinchey has put together another good year at Notre Dame, but some scouts have concerns about him being the top tackle taken. When you look at their performances the more dominant player was Brown. McGlinchey has been good, even when the Notre Dame offensive line struggled against defenses like Georgia and Miami. McGlinchey was good, but not dominant. Brown has been dominant against big time competition including the vaunted Ohio State Pass rush. He will get another shot to prove he can be dominant as he will face the same Georgia defense that McGlinchey faced. Oklahoma's offense has rolled along all season. Mayfield has been protected well especially on his blindside. Brown has been flawless protecting the quarterback. He has limited his mean streak to punishing defenders between the whistles. He has issues with penalties in 2016. He erased that problem in 2017. The hulking 6'8, tackle is making believers out of many people.
Brown has been more polished this year. He uses his length very well. He has kept some feared pass rushers at bay. He has improved his footwork and technique to stone defenders in their tracks with his long arms without overextending. You rarely see a defender capture the edge now on him. While some like Rankin over him, Brown's kick step and punch are better. The length is almost unmatched. Despite being 6'8, you rarely see a defender get under his pads and walk him back into the QB. That is a common theme with bigger tackles like Nate Solder. Brown can rag doll defenders in the run game. There is are few plug and play tackles in this class. There are plenty of guys you develop into your starting tackle, or kick inside to guard to adapt to the NFL game. Brown is a Day 1 starter in my book. Yeah, he can still be more refined in protection. Sure he hasn't faced many players with the power to rush him down the middle. The fact is in 2017, he has been the force at left tackle. A force that can still get better. People thought Ronnie Stanley was too soft to start in the NFL. He has been a Day 1 starter and the rock of the Ravens offensive line. Brown's dominance will be tested against Georgia New Year's Day.
Brown is the son of former Browns and Ravens tackle Orlando Brown Sr. The elder Brown passed away in 2011. He would be the second member of the Brown family to play in the NFL. Unlike his dad, he should get his chance to walk across the stage after hearing the commissioner announce his name. Just like his father he has monster size. He is more athletic than his late father. A good sign for a young man playing some excellent football right now.
SIZE MATTERS ......... SOMETIMES?
When it comes to evaluating quarterbacks there are many traits and variables. One trait that is often debated is size. This can be a major sticking point for many scouts. The traditional view is that quarterbacks under 6'2 are considered undersized and that is a negative trait that hurts their draft stock. While there have been successful quarterbacks under 6'2, there have been many that haven't. The truth is that size isn't a deal breaker. You have to take each player on a case by case basis or otherwise you will miss on a special player because he is too small, or you will reach for a player who will underperform because he "fits the mold". You can understand why the NFL wants the bigger quarterbacks. The average size of NFL offensive lines are 6'4 - 328 lbs. To stick a 6'0 quarterback behind that in many cases would cause many quarterbacks to struggle with vision from the pocket. While you can make a case against the "short QB", there is no evidence that the tall QB is a sure thing to succeed either. Brock Osweiler (6'7), Brandon Weeden (6'4), David Carr (6'3), Jamarcus Russell (6'6) and David Klingler (6'3) to name a few are all highly drafted quarterbacks that fit the height and still never found success. What makes a successful quarterback? Many teams are still trying to figure that out. The formula that everyone has isn't fool proof. Especially when it comes to height. One of the top passers in the NFL right now is under 6'2. Drew Brees stands only 6'0 and yet he has amassed over 68,000 yards passing. That's more yards than many of his taller contemporaries like Philip Rivers (6'5), Eli Manning (6'5), Vinny Testaverde (6'5) and Kurt Warner (6'2). Russell Wilson at 5'11 is far from the regular mold of quarterback, and yet he led the Seahawks to back to back Super Bowl appearances. The difference is style of play between Brees and Wilson is big. Brees will stand tall in the pocket and deliver passes consistently from the pocket while using his mobility to evade pressure. Wilson uses his mobility more as he often senses his pocket breaking down, and has better skills as a runner. Both have won Super Bowls for their franchises.
Why does this matter you might ask? We again have a class of quarterbacks that have some passers under that mark. Passers like Baker Mayfield (6'1), Quinton Flowers (6'0), Kenny Hill (6'1), J.T. Barrett (6'1), Austin Allen (6'1) and Devonte Kincade (6'1) are all considered undersized. All of whom have scouts watching every throw. Recently Mayfield has become a Heisman favorite. As we all know being a Heisman winning quarterback doesn't guarantee success on the NFL level, but it raises the question can Mayfield be successful? All of the fore-mentioned quarterbacks are talented players. Some are more polished passers than others. Mayfield is the most highly touted of the group. His arm is unquestionable. His mobility continues to impress. His football intelligence continues to grow. His desire to win is undeniable. Can all of this translate to the NFL? Many thought the same thing about Johnny Manziel. Despite the character issues Manziel had, his game never elevated from the college level making him just another small quarterback. One glaring hole in Manziel's game that continually goes unnoticed is the constant worry that comes from shorter quarterbacks. He struggled with finding open receivers from the pocket. Manziel at Texas A&M had two 1st round left tackles drafted and a 1st round wide receiver, yet he consistently missed open receivers from the pocket causing him to scramble. A flaw that many scouts usually catch was drowned out by his magnetic personality. That personality is what chased him from the NFL. Mayfield has a similar charisma, but a less self destructive temperament. Flowers, who is shorter than Mayfield must still prove he can be that elite passer. So far his legs have been exceptional. He has shown abilities closer to Russell Wilson, although his accuracy is not on Wilson's level. Flowers might just be the next quarterback like Wilson and Vick to have his legs be just as dangerous as his arm. It goes to question does size really matter? The jury is still out.