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Winner: Nate Peterman, Pitt
Loser: Sefo Liufau, Colorado
Analysis: If anyone was good among this group, it was only relative to the others, as all six signal callers spent most of the week struggling or, at least, failing to stand out. Peterman displayed enough arm strength and a good command of the offense to be the week’s biggest winner, making one terrific practice throw to Jonnu Smith on an out route during a simulated 3rd-and-9 for a first down. Peterman also was terrific with fakes and ball handling, a detailed area of his game that may seem inconsequential, but impressed me nonetheless. His accuracy waned at times, however, including during the game, and when Peterman was asked to stretch the field vertically, the results were typically poor. I think he’s a West Coast or Erhardt-Perkins fit, but probably doesn’t have enough special traits or consistent accuracy to be anything more than a capable starter, preferably coming off the bench.
Davis Webb played much better in the game than he did all week in practice. His best throw is the nine route, but even there he is inconsistent, and he really struggles to do anything on the move or execute short-intermediate throws with timing. The first day of practice Webb looked totally lost, throwing a couple near-interceptions and generally looking skittish in the pocket. Webb needs to go somewhere with a strong offensive line that runs a downfield attack in a Coryell-style offense, and even then he needs to sit for a while. If Peterman is an early day 3 value who will likely get pushed into the draft’s second day because of quarterback needs, Webb might end up in the same range. He’s worse than Peterman, but teams could like his tools more.
The rest of the bunch is going to have a hard time making an NFL roster. Josh Dobbs may have had a better week than Webb overall, but his accuracy is wild, and his field vision continues to be an issue. One of his first passes of the week was a deep comeback route that he was late on, allowing Tre’davious White to jump for a would-be pick six. His demeanor, work ethic, and high character may get teams interested on the draft’s third day. C.J. Beathard was a mess all week, and barely threw the ball in the game. Antonio Pipkin had one standout throw, a dime down the seam to Evan Engram on Wednesday, but was inconsistent the rest of the week and put forth a disaster performance in the game on Saturday, throwing two interceptions on four passes. And we’re not talking about just any interceptions, these things were ducks. Sefo Liufau was the worst of the bunch all week, as his arm and accuracy looked terrible from the start of practice on Monday all the way through the end of the practice week (he didn’t throw a pass in the game itself). I’ll be floored if he or Pipkin are drafted, and Beathard is probably in that same boat for me right now.
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Winner: Kareem Hunt, Toledo
Loser: Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State
Analysis: Running backs are easily the toughest position to evaluate during practices, because rarely is the tackling truly live, and the angle I’m typically watching from makes it difficult to see what they’re seeing. I snuck into the All-22 film room for a bit and got a glimpse of a couple of the backs from a better vantage point, and Hunt had some inconsistencies there. Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot and I noticed him spinning to get to his “bend-it-back” read on one outside zone run, which is a technical no-no in that situation. Always keep your eyes and shoulders pointing upfield, and cut quickly on the move when choosing a backside gap. But while no running back really stood out in practice, Hunt was electric in the game, running through arm tackles and showing good burst at the line of scrimmage. Fifteen carries for 118 yards should have made him a candidate for the player of the game, as Hunt carried the North offense, albeit behind the better of the offensive lines.
Matt Dayes and Jamaal Williams both stood out in the receiving drills and in pass protection one-on-ones, which is unsurprising if you study their tape. Williams stoned linebackers and safeties in backs-on-backers, while Dayes showed off his shiftiness to separate against man coverage even out of the slot. I didn’t get to see any All-22 tape of the two in practice, but they both ran hard behind a struggling offensive line on Saturday. Williams consistently broke first contact, while Dayes found daylight a few times for 66 yards on seven carries. I barely noticed Corey Clement throughout the week, but a few analysts that I watched practice with thought he helped himself a little bit.
Donnel Pumphrey is the loser, not because he was terrible on the field, but mainly because he checked in at 169 pounds at 5-8. He’ll get comped to Darren Sproles, which is woefully inaccurate as Sproles was 20 pounds heavier despite being two inches shorter. He was also far more electric than Pumphrey, who struggled with his vision at the line of scrimmage and at the second level, and rarely ran through contact. Pass protection drills were worse, as Pumphrey was literally run over on several occasions, showing an area of his game that is unlikely to improve much at his size. He’s got to stand out significantly as a receiver or a return man, neither of which I thought happened this week, as well as blowing up the combine to get teams to believe he’s an elite athlete worth taking a shot on late on day three.
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Winner: Zay Jones, East Carolina
Loser: Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse
Analysis: I thought Ryan Switzer was the best receiver during the week of practice, showing crisp routes, electric footwork, and even the ability to make a few tough catches through tight coverage on poorly thrown balls. But he didn’t show up in the box score at all during the game, while Zay Jones dominated, catching six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Jones had two other touchdowns called off, one on a juggling grab where he had both feet down but was ruled a no-catch, and the other because of a penalty on Baylor’s Kyle Fuller. For a big, long receiver, Jones runs really hard, crisp routes, and sinks his hips well in and out of his cuts. He displayed on tape the ability to make contested grabs through contact, and, for the most part, Jones did the same thing here. I don’t think he’s going to run a great 40, but I like his ability to adjust down the field and make tough catches outside his frame. In a vacuum he and Switzer are probably early day three picks, but maybe a weaker class bumps them up the board a bit.
I think people are seeing what they want to see with Cooper Kupp, who came into the week way overhyped by some of the bigger media outlets. Kupp had a decent week of practice, but lacked the same explosiveness in and out of his route breaks that Switzer, Jones, and even Trent Taylor had, while also struggling to catch the ball cleanly or consistently. Kupp has good concentration to snare off-target throws when facing the pocket, but has a much harder time adjusting down the field to make tough catches because he isn’t an overly fluid athlete. He is very technical and crisp on his double moves and routes in general, but I don’t think he has the speed to win vertically very often in the NFL. The combine is probably going to expose him a little, but Kupp is likely a solid, mid-round possession target in the NFL, who lacks the ability or special traits to be a big-time playmaker.
Halfway through the week, Trent Taylor was having an excellent showing, snagging balls outside his 5-7 frame on the run and generally catching everything thrown his way. He’s very quick in his route breaks, as a smooth and fluid athlete who looks very natural in a slot role. He’s tiny, and he’ll get drafted on day three, but Taylor might just be able to find his way onto an NFL roster this summer.
Taywan Taylor, like Kupp, was billed as one of the best receivers in Mobile by some, but failed to show much during the week of practice. He’s a pretty good athlete, but doesn’t consistently run the most precise routes, gets beat up by physical corners, and struggled to make plays vertically this week, albeit on several balls that weren’t exactly perfect. Taylor will probably test well in Indy, but his NFL projection is likely as a slot, and I’m not sure he’s technical enough to win there right away.
Artavis Scott’s week in Mobile was pretty similar to his Clemson career: solid and unspectacular. Scott was a decent college wide receiver who I just don’t think is a good enough athlete for his style of play to succeed in the NFL. He’s not a speedster, he doesn’t win a lot of contested catch situations, and he’s probably not refined enough as a route runner to win from the slot. Scott was used heavily as a space player on screens and end-arounds at Clemson, but really lacks the juice to project well to the NFL in that role. I think his lack of playmaking ability and a true strength at wide receiver could hurt him as the draft approaches.
I really enjoyed Josh Reynolds’ performance this week and I thought he helped himself a lot. There were two big concerns with Reynolds in college, however, that he got bodied by physical corners and that he was too inconsistent and would disappear. Those misgivings weren’t really alleviated this week in a practice setting, or in a game where Reynolds made big plays against overwhelmed, out-of-place corners, but I thought the big receiver accentuated his strengths nonetheless. Reynolds isn’t a burner, but he’s fast enough to win vertically, and has a massive catch radius to track and adjust to the ball smoothly. He made a number of tough catches, and got better as the week went on as well. I think there will be a few teams that fall in love with him enough to pull the trigger on day two if Reynolds is able to test well.
Amba Etta-Tawo was the week’s biggest loser, as he looked slow and lethargic in and out of his routes, while also dropping a ridiculous number of targets. He alligator-armed a dig route on air during Wednesday’s individual drills, which is when I stopped being interested. Jalen Robinette from Air Force was probably the only worse route runner there, but that was more from lack of experience in the Falcons triple option offense than anything else. Robinette only ran a few routes there, and really rounded off his cuts in Mobile, displaying a complete inability to separate from man coverage. He’ll be a receiver that separates in the air and at the catch point however, as Robinette snagged a few off-target throws with high, leaping grabs this week.
Amara Darboh ran good routes, but didn’t have same burst out of his cuts that Jones did. He’s not a field-stretcher, but Darboh is a good technician with solid hands based on what he showed this week. I didn’t notice Fred Ross or Chad Williams very often, but many I trust told me the former struggled to separate, while the latter flashed a lot and really helped his stock. Travin Dural seemed to struggle to separate vertically all week, but I admittedly saw very little of him or Jamari Staples, who looked like a very linear receiver in my few views of him.
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Winner: O.J. Howard, Alabama
Loser: Gerald Everett, South Alabama/Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas
Analysis: O.J. Howard was the best player down here and it wasn’t particularly close. I had two major questions about Howard coming into the week, and he managed to answer them both to a degree. I knew he was a great blocker as well as a great athlete, but how nuanced was he as a route runner, and did he have the ability to make tough catches despite tight coverage down the field? He rarely had to separate on his own at Alabama (in part because he was rarely thrown to), and when he was targeted he was often wide open due to scheme or blown coverages. However, Howard was dominant in Mobile, catching almost everything and consistently defeating man coverage against linebackers and safeties. He was terrific down the field, tracking a deep ball over his head into a crowd of offensive linemen at one point on Tuesday. Howard is promising a 4.58 40 at the combine, and if he delivers on that, it’ll lock him in as a top 20 pick.
Evan Engram may have been the best route runner here – wide receivers included – as he displayed the ability to separate consistently in the short and intermediate portions of the field, as well as the skill to win vertically. He was uncoverable during one-on-ones, but did drop a couple passes. I wish he made more tough catches down the field this week, because his tape at Ole Miss certainly shows he has the ability to do so. Engram’s weigh-ins were excellent too, as he came in just a couple pounds under 240, and right at 6-3. His hands are the same size as Howard’s, and Engram looked every bit the part of a tight end (not a “big receiver”) throughout the week. The perceived weakest aspect of his game was as a blocker, but even in backs-on-backers Engram more than held his own, despite the drill being slanted for the defensive players to win.
Gerald Everett is only a loser in that he was banged up this week and did very little in practice, while also weighing in at just 227 pounds with 8 1/4-inch hands. There were a couple drops as well, but the biggest question is whether Everett is big enough to play in-line against NFL defensive ends and outside linebackers at the next level.
Jeremy Sprinkle had a couple drops and was clearly the least athletic tight end amid a strong group. He drops his head and gets over-extended as a blocker at times as well. Jonnu Smith had a couple nice grabs down the field and was a better blocker than I expected to see in practices and during the game. Mike Roberts’ flashes continue to be intriguing, but he’s a little inconsistent and not the best route runner. Eric Saubert and Blake Jarwin were late additions that I didn’t notice and that didn’t record a stat in the game on Saturday.
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Winner: Taylor Moton, Western Michigan
Loser: Justin Senior, Mississippi State
Analysis: Moton may have been the best offensive lineman here during the week of practice, but he did get flagged twice during the game on Saturday. One call was pretty bogus in my opinion, and Moton consistently took away the two-way go for pass rushers with efficient footwork and a solid punch. I studied his bucket step on outside zone runs extensively in the film room, and came away really impressed with his attention to detail. I think he’s going to be a very solid right tackle in the NFL.
Antonio Garcia was far and away the next best tackle, and while he did get beat a couple times in one-on-ones by Daeshon Hall and Tanoh Kpassagnon, he was terrific in the team periods and during the game on Saturday. His punch is one of the most violent I’ve seen for a college player, he just needs some work with strike timing and winning with his outside hand. Garcia is an awesome athlete with the size and power you want in a left tackle. He may not be ready to start Week 1, but he’s a first-round talent with a crazy high ceiling.
Julie’n Davenport has the length and movement skills teams want, but his footwork in the run game is poor, and his pass sets need a ton of work. He gotten beaten to the edge far too often, and Dawuane Smoot had a field day against him in one-on-ones and in the team sessions. Davenport’s a developmental third day talent who will probably get over-drafted because of his tools.
After that, the tackle group falls off a cliff. Zach Banner and Adam Bisnowaty looked undraftable most of the week, as both players are poor athletes who struggle in space on the edge. The duo will need to move inside at the next level, but even there concerns exist. Conor McDermott was beaten inside all week, as he struggles to stop counters on his stilt-like legs.
No one was worse than Justin Senior, however, whose pillow hands got him killed time and time again. I came in thinking he was OT3 among the group, but instead Senior looked lost, getting beat cleanly on four straight reps during Tuesday’s practice. Inside counters killed him, but Senior also got pushed around by bull rushes and struggled to anchor in pass protection all week long. His performance was so bad that I wouldn’t be surprised if some teams took him off their board entirely.
Robert Leff was actually solid during the one practice I watched him, while Eric Smith was thoroughly worked over as a guard during Thursday’s session.
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Winner: Dan Feeney, Indiana
Loser: Jordan Morgan, Kutztown
Analysis: After watching him get beat a few times in one-on-ones, I was a little lower on Feeney’s week than most seemed to be, that is, until I got to the film room. Watching Feeney on the All-22, I was blown away with his prowess in the run game, displaying the athleticism and power to dominate on gap and zone runs. He planted Lindenwood linebacker Connor Harris with a ferocious fold block on one play, just one of a number of highlight blocks the Indiana product made. Feeney isn’t the perfect guard prospect, but he was the best one here by a long shot.
Both Dion Dawkins and Kyle Kalis were solid this week, improving as the week wore on. Dawkins was an offensive tackle at Temple, but played well at guard and better at tackle than almost everyone in Mobile listed at the position. I like his tools a lot and thought he opened some eyes with his play this week. Kalis is a tough, physical guard who moved better than I thought he would.
Jordan Morgan genuinely looked like he didn’t know what he was doing on most snaps, even running into his teammates several times on pulls. He was a mess during team sessions, and struggled a lot in the one-on-ones. Some mentioned his performance in the game was his best showing of the week, but I didn’t notice him. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Danny Isidora struggled in one-on-ones against power, and seems more built for a gap-heavy scheme in the run game. I didn’t think he was bad, but he certainly didn’t distinguish himself as a guy who should be anything more than a day 3 pick. Jessamen Dunker was someone I genuinely didn’t notice very often after a rough first day, but several people I trust told me he was the worst guard here.
I was bummed we didn’t get to see much of Forrest Lamp, Isaac Asiata, or Nico Siragusa after all three were injured during the first practice. Will Holden was solid during the one day of practice I saw from him, handling power rushes like a pro in one-on-ones. It was a small sample size, but it made me look forward to getting into his tape.
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Winner: Ethan Pocic, LSU
Loser: Kyle Fuller, Baylor
Analysis: There probably shouldn’t be a loser amidst this group, but Fuller seemed to struggle as the week went on, both in one-on-ones and during the team periods. He had trouble taking proper angles and hitting second level targets in the run game, and he couldn’t match more explosive players in pass protection. Again, he wasn’t awful, but didn’t do anything to suggest he should be a day two guy.
Pocic was the big winner, especially in the 11-on-11 sessions, where he really showed off his prowess as a run blocker. There isn’t much precedent for a guy his height at center (6’7”), and there were certainly times Pocic was stood up by power rushes as a pass protector, but he plays with good bend and sinks his hips really well at the point of attack. His frame just works against him sometimes, which is where teams are going to have to determine how concerned they are about it. Ultimately he might end up moving to guard at the next level.
Jon Toth and Tyler Orlosky were both OK to me, but their tape is going to tell me a lot more about them as players. I thought Orlosky was a solid prospect in my brief WVU viewing this week, but didn’t look as explosive in Mobile. Toth I probably saw the least of the centers, but some down here really like him as a pro prospect.