The NFL draft is basically one month away. Whew. What a tiresome draft cycle it has been, but the takes are still heating up all over draft coverage. I would not call myself an “outsider” of the process, as I have my own hand in evaluation and such, but it is interesting to see how differently “Big Draft“, the NFL and the rest of the football community, interact with prospects and philosophies.
Here are a collection of thoughts, or thots, on the process, players and the like.
The Paul Dawson Discussion: Paul Dawson has taken the world by storm, albeit very, very slowly. After a highly regarded season at TCU, Dawson has bombed the draft process, posting an atrocious combine after months of questions surfacing about his character and work ethic. A lot of people attributed his combine to ill preparation, but a second glance at the tape revealed a player who was never athletic to begin with. Dawson often would make gambles in terms of play direction and attempt to make the play before it happened. This would sometimes result in a “wow” play that created the illusion of an intelligent linebacker with good burst.
However, there were often times where he miscalculated and ended up on the complete opposite end of the play, making himself a liability at the least. It is also worrying that he constantly got washed out in the run game, that he had difficulty bringing down running backs, and had issues dropping into coverage… Basically, Dawson is a bad athlete at linebacker who was getting hype by many (me, for a bit, even) by being a gambler.
If this is the type of player you want, a playmaker at linebacker, look no further than Clemson’s Stephone Anthony.
Anthony is a bit of the same linebacker from a style perspective, but he has much better burst closing on the ball and is actually a good athlete. I am one of the biggest proponents of football IQ when evaluating a prospect, but Dawson’s mental game is way overstated and he is just not an NFL athlete.
Melvin Gordon and Variance at Running back: This running back class is so, so good and whom people have as the top guy really comes down to preference (unless it is Tevin Coleman, that makes no sense). A big knock on Gordon as a prospect is that he varies too much from down to down and that his style is not conducive to an every down running back. Now, I think that Gordon has much better vision and creativity as a running back than given credit for, but even so, I think knocks on him are flawed from a philosophical perspective.
Obviously, everyone has different ideas on what they want from players, so maybe this is just my perspective: For the most part, I hate high variance in players.
I do not like number one receivers who drop passes or give up on routes, I do not like corners who lose themselves in zone coverage from time to time, and I do not like tackles who get crossed up in pass protection or have bad technique, etc. However, if you want high variance from any position on a football team, I do not think that trait has any more value than it would with running backs. A running back will likely touch the ball 20-30 times a game and if they have the ability to break off a 15 yard run on five or six of those carries, that is a pretty deadly dynamic to have on a team. Also, running the football in the NFL is a game of attrition, and running backs have the chance at bigger runs later in the game, so why not take a guy who bust everything wide open on any given down?
Once again, I do not think Gordon is a boom or bust type of runner as much as many, but his home run threat ability is what makes him my favorite back in the class and it is an incredibly valuable trait.
The Curious Case of Dorial Green Beckham: Beckham is by far the most polarizing prospect in this year’s class. A lot of people view him as a top-tier prospect and arguably the best receiver in this class if not for his off field incident. Beckham is certainly intriguing as he has a gigantic frame (6-5, 237 pounds), he is a smooth mover in the open field and flashes the ability to dominate the catch point. He has garnered incredibly high praise, with some idiots mentioning him in the same breath as Calvin Johnson, but I do not get this level of hype.
Looking at his tape, I see a big guy who can move well for his size, but his movement skills in a vacuum are not much more than above average. He has issues separating due to poor route running and field awareness and is inconsistent playing the ball in the air. Sometimes we see dominating ability at the catch point, but it is not nearly as present as it is being played out. He then showed up to the combine and posted the worst combine by a wide receiver this year.
Looking at his resume as a player, there is very little to suggest he is a top-tier talent, even a first round talent, besides the fact that he was a top player coming out of high school. Oh, and going back to his off the field incident, he has absolutely no place on an NFL roster. *Climbs onto high horse*: Beckham was involved in a terrifying incident in which he trespassed and endangered the life of another person… That, combined with multiple failed drug tests at Mizzou, paints the picture of a very violent person with horribly poor judgement, but yeah, lets give him millions of dollars. The NFL continues to garner bad press for the Greg Hardy’s, Ray Rice’s and Daryl Washington’s of the league, yet continues to add more potentially dangerous individuals because they “can make plays on Sundays.” Grow up, NFL. There is no point in spending a pick on this overrated sociopath.
Glad to have gotten that off my chest.
I do not understand Shane Ray love: A couple of months ago, Mel Kiper had Shane Ray as one of the best players in the draft. Months later, I still see him getting hype over Vic Beasley and Bud Dupree, which baffles me. Ray absolutely has a place in the NFL, don’t get me wrong. He does a very good job of anticipating the snap count and allowing himself to get a good jump on an offensive line. That, combined with an incredibly high motor, allowed him to be incredibly productive his final year in the SEC.
Besides those two traits, I really do not see anything else that makes him stand out. He is not a good athlete, lacking true burst, bend, and functional strength against the run. His game can translate to the NFL, but not nearly at the level that he was able to produce in college. I like him, but only as a sub package player who can contribute on passing downs only. He is a limited role player and that is certainly not worth a premium pick. However, Jarvis Jones was the same thing and he went top fifteen.
Never forget, the NFL is dumb.
This class is not bad: I see a lot of people say that this class is bad, which is stupid. In relation to last year’s class, which is potentially historic, it does not compare. Bad, however, is not accurate. The draft lacks top-tier talent or depth at both safety and quarterback. Due to the premium nature of those positions, it is possible that people underrate this class even more. However, this class is about 20 deep with running backs who have starter potential. The class has around 25 wide receivers whose talent warrants top 75 selection.
The class is loaded with edge rushers and corner backs and has plenty of intriguing interior defensive linemen. There are also five or so tackles who could go top 40 and plenty of interesting players behind them. This cornerback class is loaded with long (pause), physical athletes who can man up and hit. There are loads of talented players and if you think this class is bad, pls go.
My Top 32: I am doing my best to be a lot more thorough with my process than I was last year, that combined with some obnoxious real life issues have reduced the number of prospects I have been able to evaluate at this point. I have around 140 prospects evaluated at the moment and I am hoping to get to 150 by draft day. This is over 100 less than I was able to do last year, but I am hoping a more focused process leads to better evaluations.
To give you a taste, here is my view of the top talents in the NFL draft with some quick hit thoughts on each player.
- Vic Beasley- Hyper athletic speed rusher with Demarcus Ware level potential.
- Leonard Williams- Disruptive and versatile defensive linemen with game changing strength and size.
- Shaq Thompson- Undersized linebacker, but has top-notch playing speed and instincts. A true play maker at linebacker.
- Marcus Mariota- Incredibly intelligent and efficient passer who can take over a game through the air or with his feet.
- La’el Collins- Long (pause) and powerful offensive linemen who dominates in the run game and has great potential in pass protection.
- Dante Fowler- Powerful edge rusher with a great motor, active hands and good playing speed.
- Kevin White- Physical wide receiver with incredibly strong hands, aggressive ball skills and play making ability after the catch.
- Amari Cooper- Incredibly polished route runner with game breaking agility from all over the field. Barely edged out for top receiver due to hands and physicality.
- TJ Clemmings- Raw, but powerful and athletic offensive tackle who can maul in the run game. Sky is the limit for Clemmings.
- Jameis Winston- High variance passer, but possesses elite poise in the pocket and is dominant through the air at times.
- Melvin Gordon- Game breaking running back with size, speed agility and incredible burst.
- Bud Dupree- A bit raw mentally, but is the best athlete in this class and is a hellion as a pass rusher when he can just pin his ears back.
- Trae Waynes- Long, physical and intelligent corner who can physically dominate opponents at the line.
- Eric Kendricks- Another undersized linebacker, but Kendricks is great in space and has a nose for the ball.
- Todd Gurley- Physical running back with incredible strength and a violent running style. Durability is the only thing standing in his way.
- Ty Sambrailo- Not the most athletic tackle, but a top-level technician with a nasty streak.
- Brandon Scherff- Probably has elite potential as a guard, Scherff has great downhill athletic ability, game changing strength and a violent demeanor on the field. I worry about lateral movement at tackle.
- Ifo Ekpre Olomu- His stock has taken a hit in the eyes of many, but Olomu still has top-level footwork, physicality and ball skills. Could end up being a top-tier free safety in the NFL.
- Duke Johnson- Incredible pass catching running back with speed, agility and leg drive. Brian Westbrook clone.
- Preston Smith- Versatile defensive linemen with every tool in the book and a great on field attitude.
- Justin Hardy- Some of the best hands in the class and does a great job of creating separation through his routes. Did an outstanding job with terrible quarterback play in college.
- Laken Tomlinson- Intelligent guard with great size, athletic ability and power. Footwork needs fixing.
- PJ Williams- Physical corner with good athletic ability and violent tackling skills. Needs to get better at the line of scrimmage in the NFL.
- Maxx Williams- Reliable target in the passing game and a major threat in the redone, complimented by dependable blocking ability.
- Marcus Peters- Great size and physicality with as much talent as any corner in the class, but needs to clean up his mental lapses.
- Kevin White (The Corner)- Not the best athlete, but possesses footwork, physicality, intelligence and ball skills to be a top-level slot corner.
- Senquez Golson- Diminutive in size, but not in play, Golson has the best ball skills of any defensive back in the class and outstanding closing speed.
- Randy Gregory-Some questions about playing size and refinement as a player, but Gregory flashes dominance as a speed rusher off the edge.
- Jake Fisher- Fisher is an elite athlete at tackle with great hand placement and a mean streak, but there are questions about his ability to anchor and create push as a run blocker.
- Michael Bennett- Undersized, tweener type of defensive linemen, Bennett has a future as a penetrating three-technique in the NFL. First step quickness and hand usage make him a handful on passing downs.
- Eric Rowe- Great build and physicality with questions about long speed at corner. Could be a very good safety as well.
- Tyler Lockett- Undersized receiver, but has incredible footwork, agility and long speed. Hopefully his athletic ability and refinement can make up for his size and lack of strength. High potential in the slot.
The draft is closing in quickly and as the takes get hotter, I am sure I will have more “thots” to share with you savages.