by Dave Syvertsen, Ourlads’ Draft Analyst
The WR group strengthened (not that I needed it) my notion that this could be a special group. I think there are 20 guys in this class that would have been in the top 10 WR list last year. The name that keeps jumping out at me that doesn’t get a lot of attention is Corey Latimer (Indiana). He does everything what I want out of a WR on tape…very physical and aggressive with sneaky speed and quickness. He’s got really good length and thickness to him, I think he is NFL-ready pretty quick. A comparable player to him but ona slightly lesser scale is Bennie Fowler (Michigan State). I raved about him during the season as he stood out in every game tape I saw this year. Another one that does the little things right on top of being a physical player. His workout was impressive and I think he is a sneaky guy that can be had in the mid-to-late rounds.
I’ve had a thing for Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) since September and he actually came in to the weekend as my top graded WR on tape by a thin margin and he only strengthened that spot in Indy. He is a strong but short athlete…but his real asset is the ability to change direction and explode. A 3.81 short shuttle? Are you kidding me? That is ridiculous. If he is thrown in to the slot within the right offense, you are looking at a better version of Wes Welker.
I was disappointed in what we saw out of Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State). I knew he wouldn’t move that well but he looked really stiff and awkward at times. I had a few grades on him during the season that led me to believe it could be a top 15 pick….but I’m not sure about top 45 now. He just doesn’t have the fluidity and even though his size is top notch, he’s gotta move better.
This RB group is not an impressive one at the top. I only have one first round grade going out and that is to Tre Mason (Auburn). He has the frame I want out of a back and his vision/ability to locate lanes is something you don’t see at the Combine. He anticipates the action as well as anyone. Beyond him, I have a bunch of RBs stacked together in that 2nd/3rd round tier. The common theme I see is a back with good ability, whether it be power/size or explosion/speed, but lacks the other. I like, but don’t love, Carlos Hyde (Ohio State), Storm Johnson (UCF), and Bishop Sankey (Washington). Those guys have ability but the gap between them and the guys 5-6 spots behind them, that can be had much later, isn’t all the large.
There are two small school names that I’ve liked for a few months now. Many didn’t know who they were until their impressive workouts raised a few eyebrows. The first is Jerick McKinnon (Georgia Southern). Interesting path to where he is now. Comes from an old school, Wing T offense where he used to play QB. He is thick and country strong but can explode in to the running lanes and in to the open field with the best in this class. Lorenzo Taliaferro (Coastal Carolina) has big time size that is proportioned well, but plays a low game with the ball in his hands. He is a terror to tackle for defenders, even the bigger ones.
Really interesting group here that is a little top heavy. Jace Amaro (Texas Tech) is enormous. He is put together like an NFL TE right now and won’t have a problem with the physical side of the game. He lacks experience as an in-line blocker though, and that can take a lot of time for some guys. Strength/power wise he can handle it, but that is only half the equation here. I’ve been vocal about my support of Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas but he was underwhelming at the Combine. His movement skills were average to below average, I was expecting better. With that said, he has the most impressive frame of the group and he game tapes are outstanding. At the very worst, you are talking about one of the top blocking tight ends in the league with him. He still has a first round grade on my sheet and may be the top TE when all is said and done.
There is a lot of positive talk about Eric Ebron (UNC) but I haven’t caught up yet. I still view him as a 2nd rounder. He has speed and catching ability but I don’t see the explosive athlete here that makes up for the size/power issues he presents to an offense. I think he is limited but can still be a solid player from a receiving perspective. I just want more from a TE than running ability though.
Two mammoth TEs that I really like are Marcel Jensen (Fresno State) and CJ Fiedorowicz (Iowa). They are big bodies that move exceptionally well in small space. They can get open underneath and catch the ball in traffic comfortably. Their upside as blockers is high as well. After round 2 if teams are looking for a TE, this is a value opportunity. These guys are the classic high floor, low ceiling types that stick around in the league for 10 years.
There are always darkhorses at this position that will make some salivate over their potential. Everyone is still looking for the next Antonio Gates and it forces a lot of teams in to drafting guys way over their actual value. Did AC Leonard (Tennessee State) put together an impressive workout? Absolutely. But it’s not enough for me to upgrade him from the late day three discussion. The late round guy I like is Joe Don Duncan from Dixie State. He has legit top 100 talent but played at a low level of college ball for family reasons. From, a girth/power/speed perspective, he is a freak. He catches the ball well too and he works hard to dominate as a blocker.
Nothing new with my outlook on this group…as the workouts here won’t really impact my view of this position, more so than others. The OT and OG class is strong throughout and you can find day one starters in to the 3rd round. Taylor Lewan is a guy that should be absolutely crushing it on film week in, week out when looking at his workout numbers. Why doesn’t he? What is going on with him? It’s odd to me and it really scares me off a bit to be honest. Lewan has a higher grade than Notre Dame’s Zach Martin, but I am actually more confident that Martin can at least be a, no matter what, reliable player. I’ve watched all the tape I can on Lewan and I still an unsure about where he should stand.
Cyril Richardson (Baylor) has taken a step back on my sheet but I still like him. I just don’t see him as a 1st rounder anymore. David Yankey (Stanford)is up there though, as I think he is another reliable but maybe not a spectacular player at the next level. His game is sheer power but his reaction to lateral quickness can kill an OL in the league. If he can get that figured out, and he physically as the capability, he can be a really good one.
If Seantrel Henderson (Miami) could ever get his head on straight…watch out. He is a special athlete but he has more than that to him…he has legit football talent. He is as powerful as they come and might be the best space blocker of any OT in this class. I would not take a chance on someone that can’t hold on to a starting spot because of work ethic/alertness/the little things but someone will…and he could be the top guy here in a few years.
REALY tough break for Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio with his knee issue. I personally had to downgrade him a significant amount and it probably moved him down 70-80 spots on the big board.
A name I still have not warmed up to yet is Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State). I’ve seen so many of his game tapes over the past two seasons and I just can’t seem to get over the movement issues. We all know he is good straight ahead and even as a stretch blocker. But man, he looks like a horror show when it comes to quick reactions and awareness. I would take Mason Walters (Texas) over him any day…and Walters wasn’t even at the Combine.