Where should La’el Collins sign?

I don’t have anything new to add to the story of La’el Collins and his murdered ex-girlfriend. It’s a tragedy whether or not he was involved; all indicators seem to say he was not, which adds a layer of unfairness to how Collins was treated in this situation.

What I do want to discuss is the silver lining for Collins: He is now free to sign anywhere as an undrafted free agent, and since he is only required to sign a three-year contract, can begin negotiations on his next deal a year sooner.

With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at some ideal landing spots for Collins, keeping two things in mind:

  • I want a spot where he can come in and start from day one. He’s talented enough to do so and this would maximize his earning potential for his next contract, obviously a major concern now that he doesn’t have the guaranteed payday that comes with being a high first-round pick.
  • Along that same vein, reports are suggesting that he wants to go somewhere he can play tackle for that reason, and I agree– both that he should and that he’s capable of it.
  • By most accounts, Collins would fit better in a gap system than in a zone system. While I can’t be 100% certain on what everyone will run or the degree to which that’s true, I’ll keep it in mind.

All depth charts and mention of starting lineups and rosters use information taken from the terrific work done at ourlads.com.

Good fits

Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay had virtually nothing on the offensive line this year (aside from what remains of Logan Mankins), and addressed that problem by drafting Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet. Collins is better than both; I think the line would be more successful with Collins at left tackle and Smith at right. (Much better than the Collins they had there last year, for sure.)

Tampa is installing a youth movement on offense, and protecting Jameis Winston is priority number one. (Winston has reportedly lobbied Collins to sign there.) This would make the line look something like, say, Collins – Mankins – Evan Dietrich-Smith – Marpet – Smith. A vast step up from where they were last year.

Detroit

Detroit has built a surprisingly strong offensive line with good depth. The one question mark is right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who acquitted himself reasonably well last year but is still nowhere near the talent Collins is. This would solidify Riley Reiff, Collins, and Larry Warford at three of the line spots, while Laken Tomlinson, Travis Swanson, and Manny Ramirez compete for the other two.

Oakland

I couldn’t name who Oakland’s tackles are, outside of Menelik Watson (and I’m not even sure he’s a starting-caliber player). After looking it up, I realize the starters are Donald Penn and Austin Howard. Good Lord. This team needs Collins.

San Diego

It becomes a lot easier to kick D.J. Fluker inside to guard if Collins is there to play right tackle. Assuming last year’s third-round pick Chris Watt can play center (as he’s penciled in to do), a line of King Dunlap – Orlando Franklin – Watt – Fluker – Collins is pretty good. Melvin Gordon would like it.

Carolina

Because, duh. I wish I could remember who wrote it, but I read the other day the best description I can think of Carolina’s line: “Carolina is starting possibly the only two offensive tackles in history who are more famous for something other than being good offensive tackles.”

Maybe

Buffalo

Rex Ryan met with Collins in Baton Rouge, so the interest is clear. The “maybe” comes from whether or not Collins would get a legitimate chance to start at tackle. The Bills only have three tackles on the roster, and only Cordy Glenn should really be starting in the NFL. (Seantrel Henderson may get there someday; I think Cyrus Kouandijo’s knee is shot.) They’re thick at guard with the signing of Richie Incognito and the drafting of John Miller. (I don’t think Incognito should be back in the league, but even without him, a line of Glenn – Miller – Eric Wood – Cyril Richardson – Collins isn’t bad– or, if Richardson really stinks, kick Glenn inside and make him one of the best guards in the league.)

Chicago

A very similar situation to Detroit’s: A passable right tackle and a rookie drafted to help solidify the interior line. Collins replacing Jordan Mills would be a solid upgrade.

Washington

Brandon Scherff ain’t gonna work at right tackle. Just move him inside already and add Collins. Adding Scherff and Collins to Trent Williams would give this team three legit offensive linemen, instead of one.

Indianapolis

The real question here is if the team is ready to move on from Gosder Cherilus. Never a world-beating tackle, Cherilus’ microfracture surgery a few years ago may have ended whatever claims he had at having top-flight tackle skills. Enter Collins to step in and replace him.

Collins could also shore up in the interior line, where the Colts have linemen in quantity but questionable quality, but we’re looking for a spot he can play right tackle (or even left tackle, if the team is weak enough there).

Close but no cigar

Atlanta

With yet another serious knee injury, I think the likelihood that Sam Baker’s career is toast is depressingly high. The current listed starter at right tackle is Ryan Schraeder– “Who?” was my reaction as well. Collins could start at right tackle right away.

Unfortunately, new OC Kyle Shanahan is known for using a zone-blocking scheme, and as long as we’re projecting Collins to be a better fit for a gap-based offense, that precludes him signing here.

Miami

Word is that LSU alums Jarvis Landry and Anthony Johnson have been trying to recruit Collins. I’m sure Miami would love to have a tackle of Collins’ caliber as insurance in case Branden Albert’s knee injury is too severe for him to return to his previous level of play. Unfortunately, I doubt Collins is going to want to go anywhere where he’s expected to start at guard (neither Albert nor Ja’Wuan James are kicking inside for him), and even less so that he’ll want to go somewhere he might not start right away.

St. Louis

I think he’s better than anyone they drafted, but they still drafted a bunch of lineman, and they’re going to play them. To be honest, I don’t think Collins should go to a team with as little seeming idea what they’re doing as the Rams (but that’s a story for another column).

 

I’m sure other teams would be interested in La’el Collins. I thought he was a tremendous prospect, and would likely be an upgrade somewhere on the line for any team. But he’s going to have particular needs when choosing the right fit for him, and I think these teams are best poised to offer him what he wants.

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Some helpful charts and spreadsheets for you from Day Two

I’ve linked to four spreadsheets we made over the course of the day to help with your NFL Draft experience.

The first won’t be too much help now, but in case you wanted to view the Day 2 mock vixticator and I made in the afternoon, before proceedings resumed, now you can.

The second is a list of our overall big board, with prospects already drafted marked out in red.

The third is a repeat of what we did on day 1, another list of brief reactions to picks.

And the fourth chart is a list of picks by team, including our grades of each prospect, so you can compare what we thought of them to where they were drafted.

Griddle Takes: Round 1 of the NFL Draft

Fresh off the griddle so you know they’re piping hot, vix and I have our takes on each pick in this draft.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

  • vix: Winston regressed in his soph season. His flaws on tape (decision making, random mechanical lapses) didn’t get as much attention as his off-field concerns. I’d still take him top 5 because I grade him as a 1st round QB, but give me Mariota all day.
  • nath: Obvious pick and the right one in my mind. Winston is an easier evaluation than Mariota, because of the offense he played in, but it’s also the reason it’s easy to see his very high football IQ and innate performance intelligence. Gotta start reading underneath coverages better and leaving the bonehead plays behind, but I feel confident he’ll be a “franchise QB.”

2. Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

  • vix: I’m a fan of Mettenberger and Mariota. They should start Mett in order to showcase him for teams in ’16, and cash him in for some picks. If Mariota reaches his ceiling, or comes remotely close, he’ll turn this franchise around.
  • nath: I’m not as high on Mariota as vix is but I grade him highly enough that you can take him here. He’ll need work; I’m not sure what to make of him with Ken Whisenhunt. He’s not a typical Whisenhunt QB, but then, typical Whisenhunt QBs have mostly been crap.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler Jr., EDGE, Florida

  • vix: How do you not select Leonard Williams? Fowler is capable of leaping off the screen on tape, but his lack of production at Florida is worrisome. Looks fantastic in that suit at least!
  • nath: He’s a guy who jumps out at first on tape but then you realize he actually isn’t making many big plays. Worried that lack of production + relatively ordinary athleticism could add up to a bust.

4. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

  • vix: I would’ve loved to see Williams grow along with Mack. That defense starts looking scary. Except, no. Cooper isn’t as great as his production indicates. Doesn’t dazzle as much as he simply does his job. Unlikely to bust, in any event.
  • nath: Should have taken Kevin White. Cooper is pretty maxed out, but I think White has room to improve into a true #1.

5. Washington Potatoes – Brandon Scherff, G, Iowa

  • vix: He’s the best guard in the draft. Not tackle. An exceptional run blocker who mauls defenders. Footwork in pass protection is too shaky to play left tackle. He’ll help this line though.
  • nath: Safe, solid, dull pick. I would have liked La’el Collins here, although his connection to a recently murdered woman, fairly or not (I lean “not”), has by all accounts made him completely undraftable. Leonard Williams probably a better pick, but damn, their line sucked, so I can’t complain.

6. New York Jets – Leonard Williams, DL, USC

  • vix: I am sitting my quarterback when we play the Jets now. Wilkerson, Richardson, AND Williams? Holy hell. What a nightmare D-FENSE. Bowles worked without elite edge rushers at Arizona last year lest ye forgot.
  • nath: Perfect situation for Williams; surrounded by two stud linemen, he can wreak the most havoc, and probably allay any concerns he doesn’t have the top-flight athleticism you want in the position.

7. Chicago Bears – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

  • vix: Best player available, and fills a giant need. Gotta love when that happens. White is my top receiver in this (really deep) class. His playmaking ability reminds me of Larry Fitzgerald.
  • nath: Should have gone sooner. Great pick for this team. White/Jeffery is a terrifying combo.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Vic Beasley, EDGE, Clemson

  • vix: Easily the most outstanding pass rusher in the nation. Dan Quinn must be doing backflips. Beasley at LEO will be exciting.
  • nath: Love the pick. Hate the team. Boo, screw you, Falcons.

9. New York Giants – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami-FL

  • vix: My top left tackle prospect. His game against South Carolina was flawless. Sure, he needs to improve, and some other tapes aren’t so hot, but Flowers has the highest ceiling of any tackle in the draft. I like this pick.
  • nath: Count me in the group that doubts Flowers– I don’t think he has the agility or footwork to be an NFL left tackle. He played most of the year with a knee brace, and his kick-step looks like the kick-step of a guy with a bum knee. Second time in three years Giants have chosen a non-LT OL in the first round– between you and me, I don’t think they’re very good at drafting.

10. St. Louis Rams – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

  • vix: The best running back since *checks calendar* Jim Brown, y’all. Don’t need no stinkin’ ACL to beast mode all over the NFC West. Right? But seriously, I’m totally on board with selecting Gurley in the top 10. He can be the best runner in the NFL from the first snap he takes.
  • nath: Love Gurley’s talent, but why did a team with a perfectly good starting RB (Tre Mason) and so many other problems take him? Jeff Fisher seems to think the rules haven’t changed since 1978, and running 50 times a game + a defense that beats people up (literally) is enough to win games. Here’s to another 7-9 season.

11. Minnesota Vikings – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

  • vix: He’s my favorite corner by a comfortable margin. I hate the Vikings for being so good at drafting. Good luck covering Megatron though. Waynes is special.
  • nath: Not as high as others on Waynes– DeVante Parker here would have been fantastic. Waynes is very fast but I’m not as sure about his ability to turn, and he played very grabby at MSU which he won’t be able to do in the pros.

12. Cleveland Browns – Danny Shelton, NT, Washington

  • vix: Large and in charge. Beefs up run defense. Has some ability to pass rush, but not enough to be scary. I’m not sold that he’s an every down player. He was gassed after a few drills at the Senior Bowl.
  • nath: Yeah, I just don’t believe two-down defensive tackles are as valuable in this day and age, but Shelton is, uh, fine, I guess. He moves fairly well for a dude his size, but the comparisons to Ngata or Poe are absurd.

13. New Orleans Saints – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

  • vix: Best pass protector at left tackle. He doesn’t get much push in the run game. Must learn to play lower (he’s really, really tall). Saints know how to develop offensive lineman. Peat has plenty of room to improve.
  • nath: Love it. Basically my BPA here (as it seems teams weren’t willing to touch Randy Gregory in round 1). Zach Strief is old and better suited to being a swing tackle. Peat will need some coaching but the Saints are great at coaching linemen– he’s the one guy in this draft I think can be a true blindside protector.

14. Miami Dolphins – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

  • vix: In related news, Greg Jennings has been released by the Dolphins. Parker plays too soft for my liking. Jarvis Landry can school him in the art of badassery perhaps. This is my only concern, otherwise Parker is damn good. Compliments their receiving group well.
  • nath: Love Parker when he’s healthy, love the A.J. Green comps (including the recurring foot problems). Miami had a collection of very good WR2s and 3s. Now they have a 1. Great pick for them.

15. San Diego Chargers (trade with San Francisco) – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

  • vix: The Jamaal Charles comparison is dead on. San Diego needed a running back. Gordon is no Gurley, but he’s ridiculously good as well. Watch him break the single game record for rushing against Nebraska if you have time and haven’t seen it yet.
  • nath: I think Gordon is overrated, but everyone knew San Diego was taking him. The only funny part is that they traded up for him.

16. Houston Texans – Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest

  • vix: I’m a bit surprised to see Johnson picked this high, but the more I think about it the less I am. His tape is excellent, especially that closing speed. How is Dupree still available?
  • nath: Seems fine. Solid. Not sexy. Teams liked him a lot– his film was supposed to be quite good but I never got to watch it. No complaints.

17. San Francisco (via San Diego) – Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon

  • vix: Raw is an understatement with Armstead. Needs a ton of work. He flashes brilliance here and there, with strong hands. I’ll be shocked if he’s ready to start immediately. Pure upside pick.
  • nath: I thought it was funny how many places mocked Armstead to SF consistently, and how mad SF fans were about it. Well, congrats, you got a terribly raw athlete who may or may not develop.

18. Kansas City Chiefs – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington

  • vix: Physical press corner with some off field issues. Should start right away. Chiefs continue to build on strength. Defense, defense, more defense. Alas, Alex Smith.
  • nath: My #1 CB in this draft. Great pick for them. Peters / Gaines / Smith a pretty bad-ass CB trio. Never thought they’d make up for letting Flowers and Carr walk.

19. Cleveland Browns – Cameron Erving, C/G/T, Florida State

  • vix: He’s playing guard with Alex Mack, that’s for sure. The Browns are building a wall around Johnny Manziel so he can escape it and get hit anyways. Brilliant.
  • nath: So, we can all agree he’s moving to center in 2016, after a year of Alex Mack showing he never really recovered from his injury, right? Another fine pick– unspectacular but solid.

20. Philadelphia Eagles – Nelson Agholor, WR, USC

  • vix: I would’ve taken Agholor ahead of Parker. Big fan. I believe he can be a true #1 receiver. Philly was looking weak at the position before today. No longer.
  • nath: Like Agholor a lot. Definitely the best receiver available, and receiver is a huge need for Philadelphia. After all the hoopla about Whirlwind Chip and his Trade Tornados, they stay put and make a smart selection.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M

  • vix: I guess the Bengals aren’t worried about his ACL. Ogbuehi is a ridiculous athlete at tackle, but he isn’t a bully. He will look elite for most of the game and then get destroyed on several plays. Can protect speed better than power.
  • nath: I like Ogbuehi enough that I think it’s a good pick. Likely at least one of Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith will be gone next year. Ogbuehi can recover and then step in as a starter.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Alvin “Bud” Dupree, EDGE, Kentucky

  • vix: Mistakes were made selecting Jarvis Jones. Dupree is much better. I’m angry that the Steelers got him one pick before my beloved Lions.
  • nath: One of the best values so far, although I understand the concerns about “Athlete who can’t play football.” Still, from the team that picked Jarvis Jones and took Ryan Shazier over C.J. Mosley, this is a positive step.

23. Denver Broncos (trade with Detroit) – Shane Ray, EDGE, Missouri

  • vix: Explosive first step, nothing else. He’ll be less dominant in the NFL. Must add a ton of moves to his arsenal. Limited athleticism. Awful combine.
  • nath: Let’s get the bright side out of the way: At least on this team Ray won’t have to be the best pass rusher, and he might be more effective as that third or fourth guy. You can probably infer that I don’t think a team should take a third or fourth guy in the first round, let alone trade up for him.

24. Arizona Cardinals – D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida

  • vix: Someone needs to explain the NFL’s love for Humphries. He was abused by none other than the aforementioned Shane Ray. I’m not seeing whatever is there with him.
  • nath: I like a couple of guys better, but I think Humphries is athletic enough to justify the selection. Still growing– lots of room to improve.

25. Carolina Panthers – Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington

  • vix: My face is officially melted. Didn’t expect Shaq to go this high. Carolina is one of the few teams where I can see him shine. They can protect him with a strong defensive line (Shaq is undersized). He’ll be a special teams ace, and play next to one of the greats in Kuechly.
  • nath: Wat. I heard the rumors, and it makes sense for a team that got so much out of Thomas Davis, but their offensive line is so dire I would have much preferred one of the remaining tackles (Clemmings or Fisher, most likely).

26. Baltimore Ravens – Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF

  • vix: Very raw route runner. Perriman is really strong and fast. Knew he would go around here, but not my favorite receiver on the board. His name is Devin Smith.
  • nath: Looks like a receiver except for the route-running and catching part. Glad it’s not my team that has to worry about whether or not he can do that stuff. Vix is right; Smith would have been a killer fit here.

27. Dallas Cowboys – Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut

  • vix: I wasn’t sold on Jones as a first rounder until I saw his tape against Boise State. It’s an extremely strong game. Still want to see more of him. Worst case scenario: he can jump really far.
  • nath: Good athlete, seems like a good player, not quite as high as I had him ranked, but I don’t hate the selection or anything.

28. Detroit Lions (via Denver) – Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke

  • vix: Well, the Lions sure have a lot of beef inside with Warford, Swanson, and now Tomlinson. Hard to be excited by a Duke guard not named JJ Redick. Wait, Duke has a football team?
  • nath: Not sure he stood out enough from the other guards to merit a first-rounder. Still seemed like a quality player; I hear mixed opinions on him, so I’m not as confident in my lower grade. Probably a good choice.

29. Indianapolis Colts – Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami-FL

  • vix: Hey, this isn’t Devin Smith. I’m a fan of Dorsett too, but not this high. Not a massive blunder given he wouldn’t have been there with their next pick. A reach is still a reach.
  • nath: I guess the thinking is “One T.Y. Hilton worked out great; why not two?” But this team already has Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, and Duron Carter. Did they really need a fifth receiver with their first-rounder?

30. Green Bay Packers – Damarious Randall, S, Arizona State

  • vix: Laugh out loud. Sorry Packer fans, not sorry. Randall cannot cover, tackle, or, well, he’s just not very good. I’ll leave it at that.
  • nath: LOL. I see some impressive statistics on Randall, but when I watch him, I see a guy who takes terrible angles and falls down a lot. Why do teams love him? Why did Green Bay take a bad player with their first-round pick at the same position they took a good player with their first-round pick last year?

31. New Orleans Saints – Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson

  • vix: Versatile linebacker that can play anywhere in a 4-3, or inside as he will with the Saints 3-4 hybrid. Sniffs out screens really well. Smart, tough player.
  • nath: Big fan. Eric Kendricks was my #1 ILB, but his medical has teams scared, and Anthony was my #2. His athleticism shows on the field, and I think he’s a fast, instinctive playmaker. Not quite as high as I graded him but happy to have him on my team.

32. New England Patriots – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

  • vix: He’s not a world beater, but Brown is a nice pick at this point. He can play either 5 tech or 3 tech, it fits with the Patriots defensive philosophy.
  • nath: I literally have no opinion of Malcom Brown. My grade was a guess based on the opinions of others. But I ranked him 31 overall, and he went 32, so I probably guessed well.

Explaining some changes on our Big Board

This will most likely be the last update on our Big Board before the draft (unless something drastic happens before then– discovering a heretofore unknown prospect, or a major piece of news lowering someone’s stock, for example). As such, I feel fairly comfortable with the final decisions we’ve made. Thus, I’d like to explain the ones that don’t seem to jive with popular opinion, and why we settled on the decisions we did.

We’ll start with what probably stands out the most right now, our edge-rusher rankings…

Dante Fowler at 22, a tier behind Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Preston Smith

This one is simple, though oddly controversial. When evaluating edge players, one of our top priorities is: Can he provide pass rush around the corner? Other skills are secondary to this. (That’s why Vic Beasley is our #1 EDGE and Randy Gregory, despite his rawness and potential to smoke his way out of the league, is our #2. More on this in a second.) While Fowler does many things well, is explosive, versatile, and an effective blitzer, he isn’t really a top-quality pass-rushing prospect. On film, he doesn’t show much ability to get around the corner, with a lack of bend and ability to turn while maintaining speed confirmed by his 7.40 3-cone time. Fowler only had 5.5 sacks in the regular season (before three in his bowl game), and a significant number of those came on blitzes. I think Fowler is a guy whose athleticism doesn’t necessarily translate into production. (While you can say the same thing about Bud Dupree, Dupree’s athleticism is off the charts compared to Fowler’s, and even with a similarly poor 3-cone time, Dupree’s other athletic measurements are still good enough to qualify him as one of Justis Mosqueada’s Force Players.)

And speaking of Force Players, Smith and Odighizuwa both qualify. That shows up on film, too: Odighizuwa has some hip problems, but he does a great job converting strength to power and with his bull rush. Meanwhile, Smith is larger than a traditional edge rusher, but he also projects as someone who can move all across the formation, a la Michael Bennett (the current Seahawk, not the Ohio State prospect), and still be effective.

I don’t think those two are necessarily elite prospects– hence why they’re only #4 and #5 on my edge-rusher board. But their ability to rush the passer makes them worthy first-round picks, certainly compared to an edge player I have significant questions about on that point.

Brett Hundley #15 and Dorial Green-Beckham #16

Here’s something to think about: The number of prospects with the talent to be a top-flight NFL player at his position (or, at least, at the quarterback position, a reliable enough guy to be a long-term starter) are rare. (That’s also why we have Todd Gurley so high despite his ACL tear, though that one seems much less controversial.)

Dorial Green-Beckham hasn’t played football in over a year and has some serious questions surrounding his off-field behavior. Nobody denies this. (The domestic violence is much more troubling than the cannabis, certainly.) At the same time, nobody denies that he has the talent to be the best receiver in the league someday.

I’m not in the position where I can adequately assess how risky Green-Beckham’s off-field problems are going forward. To that end, I can’t gauge how they will affect his status as a prospect beyond some vague sense that I should downgrade him. That said, I also believe if he hadn’t been kicked out of school for the off-field incidents, and if he had played football last season, he’d be the #1 prospect in this draft and would go off the board in the first three selections. This ranking attempts to reflect that level of talent, combined with the questions surrounding any prospect who sat out a year and may have had his development stunted.

Brett Hundley does not have those off-field problems, but he has people asking similar questions about his game. Thing is, many of the criticisms I’ve heard don’t seem to stand up to much scrutiny. I hear Hundley is an inaccurate quarterback who makes predetermined throws, who can’t read defenses, who drops his eyes too readily, who has no pocket presence and takes off running at the first sign of pressure, then I watch plays like the ones I just linked.

http://www.draftbreakdown.com/gif-embed/?clip=255672&gif=EnviousSentimentalAsp

Sure, Hundley needs to do those things more consistently. But if the argument is that he can’t do those things, plays like these dispel that notion.

Hundley certainly needs refinement to be a successful NFL quarterback, but that’s true of every prospect in this draft. Jameis Winston needs to learn to read underneath coverage and to learn what kind of windows he can and cannot make throws into. Marcus Mariota needs to fix his mechanics, develop more consistent accuracy, and learn to adapt his play in the moment (which may not be possible). Hundley can do many things at an extremely high level, he just has to learn to do them more consistently, and un-learn any bad habits he may have picked up at UCLA.

Reports are that the coaching staff didn’t allow him freedom to audible; it’s possible that his penchant for running was developed from having to deal with plays he knew were broken. Watching UCLA’s film, it’s clear Hundley often had to run for the sheer reason that the offensive line could not block for him consistently. It’s also clear that the coaches did not adjust their route combinations as they should have to provide Hundley with more ways to get the ball out quickly.

Take a look at how few other offensive prospects UCLA has for this year’s draft, and how they’re rated. Last year, the only drafted players from UCLA’s offense were Xavier Su’a-Filo and Shaq Evans, neither of whom made any sort of impact this past season (we gave Evans a “7th/PFA” grade last year, but the Jets took him in the fourth round anyway).

It’s possible Hundley’s struggles were due to overcompensating for a lack of surrounding talent and a lack of faith shown by the coaching staff. (If you think that’s a bad sign for Hundley, remember that Jim Mora Jr. got the Atlanta Falcons job and immediately tried to turn Michael Vick into a high-accuracy, short-yardage West Coast pocket passer.) While I don’t believe you can cite statistics readily when discussing college players, I do believe they can tell you more about a prospect than people want to believe, given the right context. Hundley’s numbers over three seasons, 40 starts, in a Power 5 conference, and with not a lot of supporting talent on hand to help him are pretty damn good, even we look at only his passing numbers and ignore his prodigious rushing talent:

Brett Hundley college passing statistics

Hundley went 29-11 in those 40 starts as well; he wasn’t inflating his numbers in garbage time. And not only were those numbers very good, they continued to improve in his time at UCLA. (If the touchdown totals seem low, consider his lack of receiving talent and his 30 rushing touchdowns as mitigating.)

It’s the Cam Newton argument: If one player has the talent to carry your team this far despite a weak supporting cast, he has the talent for the NFL. (Hundley didn’t carry UCLA nearly as far as Newton carried Auburn, but I’m also not arguing he should be taken #1 overall.)

All of our scouts who have watched Hundley in detail agree that he’s being underrated by the consensus at large and is worth a first-round pick on Thursday. We’re not the only ones; Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio has Hundley ahead of Marcus Mariota as his #2 QB, having done extensive work writing about, discussing, and analyzing Hundley. (I must tip my hat to him for turning me on to that collection of plays I linked earlier.)

We think both Dorial Green-Beckham and Brett Hundley have much more potential as players than most of the draft community seems to think.

Shaq Thompson as a third-rounder

Okay, I couldn’t think of anything else too controversial (many of our other discrepancies are because we rank raw, unproven prospects like Arik Armstead and Breshad Perriman lower than they will likely go). Considering where Thompson started the draft process ranked, this seems like a good choice.

I didn’t really know in my heart where I regarded Thompson until our Twitter mock draft, where, despite having him listed in the early-to-mid second round on the Big Board, neither of us could pull the trigger until midway through the third. He scares me a bit; he’s too small for linebacker and not athletic enough for safety. He has good instincts, but I have serious questions about his capacity to find a fit in an NFL defense. A creative coach might be able to make the most of him, but he doesn’t have the kind of blow-you-away athleticism that he would need to justify regarding him highly.

The Mountain: Carl Davis

The most consistent thing I hear about Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis is that his tape is inconsistent. Now, I am not calling these draft experts liars; they have more game tapes to watch and more knowledge of the game than myself. I can only go off of what I see, but what I see tells a different story. Draft Breakdown only has two games for Davis from 2014: Nebraska and Indiana. He completely dominates both of these contests. The other chance I had to watch Davis was through NFL Network’s coverage of the Senior Bowl practices. He was named the Most Outstanding Practice Player of the Week by a panel of NFL scouts: Not among defensive lineman; I mean out of every player at the Senior Bowl.

Let’s look at those two games.

Nebraska

We’ll start with a couple of his poorest plays of this game, because they happen right at the beginning. On the first defensive play for Iowa, Davis faces an immediate double team from the center and guard. The guard is able to continue moving Davis away from the point of attack after the center peels off. Nebraska gets a good seven yards on first down behind this block.

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We see a similar outcome two plays later.

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The remainder of this game is essentially a highlight reel with Davis asserting his dominance.

Using a spin move from the inside is generally a bad idea– where can you go with it? It isn’t a play you want a habit of going to, but having it in your repertoire is a good thing. Davis’ spin move here leads to a turnover (and touchdown).

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On the very next play, he swims right around the same guard.

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I also want to bring some attention to this play to the right:

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and this play to the left:

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What do I see on those plays? I see a 320-pound player getting quickly to the outside in both directions.

You hear a lot of talk about ‘stiff hips’ in the draft community. For a guy this big, Davis has remarkable bio-mechanics. Watch how quickly he explodes towards his right on this play and creates a huge lane for his fellow defensive tackle.

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I haven’t even mentioned his strength yet. On this play, he shoves the center four yards behind the line of scrimmage. So much for any cutback lanes.

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He ends that drive in a hurry, and for the cherry on top, he blocks the field goal attempt.

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The last two plays I will show you are among his best in the game. First on a run play, he blows the right guard backwards, and reaches his arm out to bring down the runner for a loss.

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Now, on this pass play, all I can think is how rare it is for a man the size of Davis to come bearing down on the quarterback with such closing speed.

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The game continues into overtime. By no means was he finished putting his mark on the game. In fact, I left out a number of quality plays from this one. Watch all of it and you’ll see even more dominance.

Indiana

Carl Davis wastes no time making an impact against Indiana. Here we see him lined up shading the center, but at the snap he gets completely across the right guard with one swim move. That’s crazy. That pressure forces a bad pass:

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A few plays later he whips around the center with a right swim to get pressure up the middle:

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And then on this play, lined up in a 3-technique, he stunts around towards the right tackle, literally smacks him out of the way, and eats the quarterback for lunch.

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That is my favorite play from Davis, no contest.

The center must know he is defeated on this play as soon as the ball is snapped, right? Davis is too strong at the point of attack:

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Now, this game wasn’t perfect, either. I showed Nebraska successfully double-teaming Davis a few times. In this game, Indiana seals Davis off here from a similar pre-snap alignment by effectively trapping him with the guard:

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They botch the play afterwards, of course.

Late in the game, Davis turns his back to the play on 3rd-and-short, and I assign him the blame for these points. A spin move can work occasionally on passing downs. Against the run, there’s no excuse: Do not turn from the play. Davis’ spin move turns his back to the play, and Tevin Coleman runs right past him:

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The Wrap

Based exclusively on what I’ve seen from Carl Davis, he’s the best defensive tackle in this draft class. I watched the Senior Bowl practices with him and Danny Shelton. While Shelton was no slouch himself, it was clear to me that Davis was the more impressive player that week.

Does this mean Davis is a better prospect? Not necessarily. I continue to read and hear about Davis’ inconsistent tape from the draft community. Having not seen anything from 2014 beyond what I have described, I cannot offer any opinion. What I have seen was a mostly dominant interior force who was consistently effective enough for my needs. At minimum, I know he’s capable of playing at a very high level: You don’t accidentally play as well as he did in these two games. I really want to see more of his 2014 tape before the draft.

The Human Torch: Devin Smith

If you haven’t watched any tape of Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith, then you’re in for a treat. He’s preternaturally gifted when it comes to making catches deep down field. In fact, that’s essentially all he does. He only caught 33 passes as a senior, 12 of which were touchdowns, for an average of 28.2 yards per reception. These numbers are meaningless without context. That’s what the game tape is for, and thanks to Draft Breakdown I’ve been able to watch four of them (Michigan State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Cincinnati).

In the game against Michigan State, Smith makes two beautiful over-the-shoulder catches. On the first play, he starts off standing on the 35-yard line, runs more or less straight down the field, and makes a rather ridiculous reception around at the 20-yard line. I’ll leave the math to you. That’s a big chunk of yards. The most impressive aspect of this play isn’t the speed, but the way he locates¬† the ball midair and plucks it with both hands over his shoulder at an awkward angle. Later in the game he makes this catch for a touchdown. Just another routine over-the-shoulder 45-yard reception. I feel bad for the Michigan State safeties there. That is a touchdown presnap as long as the ball is on target.

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Wisconsin fans might want to skip this next section.

  • Touchdown #1 is all about the adjustment to the ball. He locates it in the air when he turns his head, then he gets his body where it needs to be in order to make the catch. He also plays it like a basketball player boxing out his opponent to snare a rebound.
  • Touchdown #2 is similar to his touchdown in the Michigan State game. This time he gets one-on-one coverage from the slot against a safety. Lamb to the slaughter.
  • Touchdown #3 is a leaping two-handed grab. Smith’s location, location, location abilities are otherworldly. He didn’t drop a single deep bomb in any of the games I watched.

Alright, so he can catch deep bombs. Can we move on? If this is what you are asking, get the hell out of here. Two more. First, this play against Illinois. This guy Devin Smith sure can make deep over-the-shoulder touchdown catches. To prove he is, in fact, human, watch this play. He… almost didn’t catch it! Throwing the ball in the general direction of Smith and letting him do the rest is a foolproof plan I’m tellin’ ya.

He can do a bit other than run deep routes. Not a lot, mind you, but I have some evidence that he can. For instance, there’s this play where he finds the right spot to sit against zone coverage and runs in for a touchdown. Here he makes a catch over the middle on what appears to be a post route. On this play he just comes to a screeching halt. Even though the quarterback is looking the other way, you still need to try to get open if the play breaks down. And, at least to me, both this and this are poorly run routes.

In order to stay on the field (or become elite), Smith must get better at running short to intermediate routes. He will come in on multiple receiver packages and force the defense to respect his deep game, which opens up space for teammates. His deep game is special even among NFL players. He knows how to locate, and, more importantly, to adjust his body in order to make difficult catches with the ball flying 40+ yards. Over and over again.

If you’re going to be a one-trick pony as a rookie wide receiver, this is the best trick to have up your sleeve. Smith has excellent hands. In the four games I watched, he dropped one pass, and the degree of difficulty on his catches were very high indeed. At the end of the first round, I wouldn’t hesitate to send in his name if I needed some help outside. Are you telling me you don’t want to see Devin Smith catch bombs from Andrew Luck, or Russell Wilson, over the next five or more years? Please.

Scouting Jameis Winston

With the combine behind us, it’s time to start taking a deep look at prospects.¬†Quarterbacks always generate the most chatter, as they usually result in the biggest boom or bust outcomes. Everyone has an opinion on each specific individual, whether or not it is informed. This year, the highest profile quarterback is none other than Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

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