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Seaside NFL Draft Thoughts, 4/24
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NFL Draft Thoughts
Another rumor: Patriots showing interest in Kyle Trask. He seems like a QB who would slot into Bill Belichick’s plan more easily and functionally than some of the expected first round QBs, even if he projected to have a lower chance of reaching his ceiling than they are.
I keep saying that in most years, Mac Jones would be treated like Baker Mayfield or Joe Burrow.
I understand what PFF Moo is saying here but I don’t believe that picks actually do “cancel each other out.” Especially this year, teams might and probably should value midround picks in 2021 more so than any other draft before it. One team gets two players, the other team gets one player (if we’re talking specifically about “58” and “94, 136”) and I don’t think we should be boiling players down to numbers and that alone.58 and 94, 136 cancel each other out pretty well. So it's basically Orlando Brown for a late 1stKansas City gets: 🏈 OT Orlando Brown 🏈 2021 second-round pick (No. 58) 🏈 2022 6th round pick. Baltimore gets: 🏈 2021 first-round pick (No. 31) 🏈 third-round pick (No. 94) 🏈 fourth-round pick (No. 136) 🏈 2022 fifth-round pickAdam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Former Seahawks front office person Scott Fitterer has a big board of 155 players.
The fact that Bucky Brooks suggested that the Ravens should trade up for Justin Fields and let Lamar Jackson “graduate” to another team…the amount of thoughts that I have for that would take up an entire other Substack. But most of all, the saga of Bucky Brooks this draft season has been almost as interesting as Fields’ own journey these last two months. Take it away, Bucky…
Here’s the face that the person talking to Bucky was making when the video cut from highlights to him:
a) If Bucky thinks that the Ravens can get Fields because they have picks 27 and 31, well, is he admitting now that the 49ers are going to draft Mac Jones and that Fields will go outside of the top-ten? You can’t trade up to four with 27 and 31. You can maybe get to 12. Which is about where my draft value has been for Justin Fields for over a month, at least. But we’ll see, maybe I’m completely wrong and Fields goes third.
b) I actually do not hate the idea of the Ravens drafting a quarterback in the first round, including Fields or Trey Lance. I think Lance might definitely be available at 27 because that’s when he should be available. I liked Lamar a lot before his MVP season, I think he’s capable of bringing the Ravens a championship, but the passing isn’t there yet and it might not ever be. We have to understand — and apparently Bucky does — that the bar for “greatness” as a passer is higher than ever and Lamar had average rate stats and bad volume stats: he completed the same number of passes last season as Cam Newton and barely had more passing yards. Neither went over 2,800 passing yards. And you know that I hate relying on stats alone. Here’s Lamar’s 2020 pocket passing highlights:
He can whip it. He can bend the ball over and around defenders. He’s got artistry to some of his passes, like Patrick Mahomes does. He can make the accurate deep bomb. He’s got to have some of the best highlights of a quarterback making the most out of pressure in the pocket, whether he’s scrambling for yards or finding an open-enough receiver to throw to while being hit. Jackson has got phenomenal highlights. I hightalicize that word because we always have to remember the difference between a highlight reel and game footage that contains all the plays. This leads me to Jackson’s faults and limitations. Every single highlight is out of shotgun, and I can’t understand why Pro-Football-Reference says that one-third of Jackson’s attempts came under center last season. I went back to 2019 and found two under center snaps, both at the one-yard line for easy play action touchdown throws. This is a shotgun offense and therefore, a limited offense. The reason that Greg Roman’s offensive designs get so much credit for being “creative” is because with players like Colin Kaepernick and Jackson, who don’t pass the ball as well as many of their QB counterparts, it has to be. When Bucky Brooks says that a team should draft Justin Fields, as high as number three even, I see that Fields’ best case scenario is like Lamar: in three years, Bucky Brooks will be telling people that it is time for him to “graduate” to a different team. Which is essentially Brooks saying that the Ravens need to get out while they can. And Jackson is a better athlete, runner, overall player than Justin Fields appears to be. By a lot.
People say that Baltimore should draft a receiver, as if all the issues come from the fact that Jackson has nobody to throw to. But if a team builds around a quarterback with passing deficiencies, it won’t even matter if you add DeAndre Hopkins (which I think is what we’re seeing with Kyler Murray in Arizona, though I’d take Murray over Jackson). The Ravens drafting a quarterback this year might be a less wasteful move than drafting a receiver. Jackson needs to improve as a pocket passer and that’s going to be a tall order at 24. The only quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft who don’t seem to have a lot left to develop as passers are Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones. “Impressive arm” does not equal “Impressive passer.” Lamar Jackson has an impressive arm, it doesn’t mean that I’d want him throwing it a lot if he was my quarterback.
c) There are so many teams between the 49ers and the Ravens that need a quarterback, why stop at Baltimore needing to transition from the current starter to Fields or Lance? For example, why are the Colts getting left out of these discussions? Carson Wentz is much worse than Lamar Jackson and Indianapolis went 11-5 last season so presumably with their offensive line and maybe a WR/TE in the second round, the Colts could have a pretty good situation for a first round QB.
PFF’s Mike Renner with the youngest players in the draft:
Yet another reason that any team drafting Lance should have a set-in-stone starter at quarterback. Which should rule out: Panthers, Broncos, Dolphins, Eagles, Giants, Patriots, Football, Bears, Saints, Texans. I guess Wentz isn’t that set-in-stone if the Colts draft Lance, but maybe he’s more solid than Sam Darnold, Drew Lock, Jalen Hurts, Daniel Jones… Any of those guys would get benched by October for Lance. If he goes to the Steelers, the Buccaneers, the Vikings, or even the Raiders, he should be buried on the depth chart short of injury. That’ll be good for him, I bet.
Pitts is 20. I wouldn’t bet on him for Offensive Rookie of the Year, even if he’s the first non-QB offensive player taken. As you know, I’m betting on Mac Jones for OROY. Too good of a situation if San Francisco takes him.
Jalen Mayfield might be the best second round target along the offensive line. Mayfield, at 18/19 years old, against Alabama.
The fact that Tommy Tremble is 20 is yet another reason this guy could turn out to be the best tight end in this class eventually. 6’3, 241 lbs, 4.65 40.
20-year-old DT Alim McNeill:
A former high school running back, McNeill is now 317 lbs and he broke five seconds in the 40 (4.94) with 27 reps on the bench press. Maybe a little short-armed, but seems powerful and agile. Interesting day two target.
Another 20-year-old is WR Anthony Schwartz of Auburn. He ran a reported 4.26 at his pro day, one of the fastest of all-time. There should be some skepticism with pro day numbers but there was always reason to be skeptical of combine numbers also. Shaquem Griffin did not run as fast as his reported time. Sorry. He didn’t. But the reason to be skeptical is not that people are lying, which is the assumption people have, it’s that when you’re comparing times between prospects it matters what their environment is. That’s why the combine takes place in one building on the same day for the guys at the same position. It’s why the Olympics can’t be done virtually. It doesn’t matter if Schwartz ran a 4.26 or a 4.35, we know that he’s extremely fast. Can he play?
Schwartz is 6’, 186 lbs (again proving that ‘undersized’ at receiver is a word with a new definition now) and his 32” vertical is a little underwhelming. His 10’3 broad is great though. Not that productive but had 54 catches for 636 yards and three touchdowns as a junior. He was only 19/20 playing in the SEC though. Could have a much higher ceiling than what he produced in college, as DK Metcalf did. I don’t know if I see “NFL receiver” but he has a high probability of scoring a couple of touchdowns next year. The draftees want him to be the next Tyreek Hill, which is a plan that never works out. Don’t look for “the next” of anyone, just appreciate each player for what he is.
Bobby Brown is a defensive tackle from Texas A&M and Warren Sapp shouted him out as “pretty good” apparently. Sapp had previously criticized top-ranked Christian Barmore as a “day three pick.” Bobby Brown had 5.5 sacks last year, which is an impressive number for a teenage defensive tackle in the SEC. Apparently good defense too. Surprised he hasn’t gotten more attention.
I rarely highlight a good tweet from Adam Schefter.
I wonder if anyone will tell Kevin Cole about my theory about why all the receivers are “lighter than ever.” (It’s because they don’t want to play running back.)
Reading an article at ESPN about Kwity Paye. You’d think that with all the ‘content warnings’ for “graphic” words in articles these days that ESPN would have popped one into a piece that practically starts with this: “Soldiers had captured her cousin and taken a machete to his head, leaving a gash across his forehead and a pool of blood spilling out, then strapped a tire to his body to burn him alive.” Oh right, violence isn’t graphic.
I first heard of Paye from Bruce Feldman’s “athletic freaks” list. At his pro day, he went 6’2, 261, 4.51 40-yard dash, 35.5” vertical, 36 reps on the bench. That’s speed and strength. Can he play though? He has 8.5 sacks in the last 16 games, but his two sacks in 2020 both came in the first game of the year against Minnesota. Hard for me to see this as a resume that gets him to the Cowboys at 10. I’d rather have Jaelan Phillips and his medical history. If you want an athlete, why not Jayson Oweh? Paye might fit more in the 20s than the teens.
However, Kwity’s 4.52 is super fast for a player at 262 lbs. Who are some of the other “fast” players based on 2021 pro day 40 times? Specifically, I’m going to list players I know little or nothing about who had fast 40-yard times for their weight this year:
WR Jalen Camp, Georgia Tech: 6’1, 226 lbs, 4.48 40-yard dash. Camp had almost no production in college though. Career-high 27 catches for 417 yards in 2020, which is more than his first three years combined. Obviously not many highlights. Career-best five catches for 97 yards in college finale against Pitt.
DE Shaka Toney, Penn State: 6’2, 242 lbs, 4.51 40-yard dash. Toney had five sacks, 6.5 sacks, five sacks in the last three years. Pretty productive from that point of view. Only eight games in 2020, so the sack totals are more impressive. Hard to not wonder what the hell was going on at Penn State because Oweh and Micah Parson also had historic measurables. Viewed as a pass rush specialist, not a run defender with three down abilities unless he puts on weight without losing speed. Could be a good choice on day three.
LB Nick Niemann, Iowa: 6’3, 234 lbs, 4.45, 6.67 3-cone, 4.14 short shuttle. That’s some crazy speed. Consider that 155 lb Tutu Atwell ran a 4.14 short shuttle and a 6.89 3-cone. Niemann has practically the same measurements as Atwell but is 80 POUNDS heavier. A breakdown of his play against USC:
Niemann is a productive, versatile linebacker. High character guy, academics focused in college. 77 tackles in eight games last season. Projected as a day 3/UDFA perhaps because of injuries and he wasn’t a regular until last year. Seems like a high priority late draft pick. But could he go higher than that?
RB Travis Etienne, Clemson: 5’10, 215 lbs, 4.45 40-yard dash. Obviously people do know about Etienne, but this is really impressive speed at his size and I didn’t quite know that. Etienne was so productive in college too. Tough call to know when to draft a running back anymore.
LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky: 6’3, 234 lbs, 4.47 40-yard dash.
CB Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky: 6’1, 192 lbs, 4.34 40-yard dash.
CB Brandin Echols, Kentucky: 5’10, 179 lbs, 4.34 40-yard dash.
Penn State wasn’t the only school with moving walkways on the pro day field. Kentucky had these three players post wild times on their 40 times. Frankly, I think the case for the rise of Jamin Davis should be somewhat hurt by the times for Joseph and Echols. Only three prospects in the entire country have run faster than 4.34 this year: Schwartz, Rondale Moore, and Eric Stokes. Ja’Marr Chase also ran a 4.34 at LSU’s super fast pro day (Kary Vincent and Racey McMath both ran a 4.36). And Joseph was a transfer from LSU to Kentucky.
Kelvin Joseph (31 7/8” arms) is being projected between rounds 2-3, though he really only has one season of experience. He had four picks for Kentucky last year. Some think he could go at the end of day one. Will Jamin Davis or Joseph go first?
Jamin Davis highlights:
Kentucky’s D vs Alabama’s O:
Lance Zierlein on Brandin Echols (30.25” arms): “Outside cornerback with thin build, good length and solid ball skills to make effective challenges on the football when he's in position. His slim frame can be exploited by bigger wide receivers, not only when stacking him in tight quarters, but also when driving him around the field as a run blocker. He's a linear cover man with tight hips who is best-suited to side-shuffle coverages that allow him to stay on top of the route and drive forward on route turns to maintain his fluidity. Echols has some holes in his coverage but he's an aggressive ball-challenger with elite athletic traits who should be a Day 3 selection.”
CB Ambry Thomas, Michigan: 5’11, 191 lbs, 4.37 40-yard dash. Thomas is also an accomplished returner. Opted out of 2020. LZ: “Feisty press-man cornerback who plays the role of nuisance underneath. Plays with good patience and feel for mirroring the release and gets hands on his target within the first five yards. Thomas tends to be physical in coverage, which sometimes leads to penalties. He's a former high school receiver with natural tracking and ball skills. He does a solid job of crowding opponents down the field. He's not as long or explosive as teams might like outside and might lack the twitch to handle certain slot receivers as a nickel. Thomas plays with above-average awareness and consistency, though, and he's a very willing and capable tackler who can also play on special teams. His best fit could be as a future starting nickel back for a zone-heavy cover unit.”
Off-topic, but everybody should watch this house tour video of a $500,000,000 home in Bel Air. Not just the house tour itself, which is worth it, but the interview in Part 3 is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Works even better if you watch parts 1 and 2 though, which are worth it. If you don’t have time to watch these now (about 80 minutes in total but it turns into a A+ movie experience, I promise) then save them for later!
Oweh only had zero sacks last season, but he did have 6.5 TFL in seven games. Can’t overthink sacks too much, though I don’t think a lack of production should be ignored either.
S James Wiggins, Cincinnati: 5’11, 209 lbs, 4.4 40-yard dash, 10’7 broad, 38” vertical. 54 tackles and four interceptions as a sophomore in 2018. Torn ACL in 2019. Then 32 tackles in nine games in 2020 before suffering another injury late in the year. Obvious red flag is injuries, lack of size would be another for a potential strong safety, looking like a priority free agent with wild athleticism.
CB Dicaprio Bootle, Nebraska: 5’9. 180 lbs, 4.38 40-yard dash, 10’6, 36.5” vertical, 4.03 short shuttle, 6.77 three-cone. Hard to projected as a future starting cornerback or safety at 5’9, 180 lbs. I see three cornerbacks in the last 20 years to go in the first round at that size: Adam Jones, Jason Verrett, Jamar Fletcher. Then you’ve got Tyrann Mathieu at 5’9, 186 lbs, and he only ran a 4.5. But the vast majority of players I find at this size are either not starters or not in the league. Many short careers. Then there’s also D.J. Reed at 5’9, 188 lbs, 4.51. Bootle is draftable, but where and for what role?
As to his name, we as a people have to do better than the lowest common denominator of a “joke” that his name is unusual. Unfortunately, I have to predict that the media/twitter users won’t agree.
I’ll post some more “fast guys” and other draft-related content in a part 2 later today.