Notes from Catchup Games – Part 1

With the limitations of UK TV, I’ve done okay in terms of watching three full games of the big teams/prospects, but in some cases I need to do some catchup work.  This is the first column – some notes will come from full games – others from Draft Breakdown style videos as I aim to get everyone watched.  The media is always behind the NFL in terms of names, but this year it’s even more the case.  CBS’ draft site looks like it’s being run by someone new and he’s still getting caught up.  The previous guys Rang and Brugler, seem to be back on the old NFL Draft Scout site, which hasn’t been updated for the current decade!  I think CBS probably made the right call though long term, as since Chad Reuter left CBS, the quality of the coverage there had gone south.  I expect to be watching tape into March as the media gets caught up with names and I get to watch them.

I found the full Big 10 Championship game on YouTube, and watched what was a good game.  I had a close look at a few Buckeyes – the first LB Jerome Baker.  Baker has a thin frame, but can move.  Late in the game he closed on a rolling QB nicely and got the sack.  He looks comfortable in space and coverage, although he did get sucked in by play action at times.  Physically against TEs in coverage, he might struggle against the bigger players at the position – but speed wise he can deal with the best the NFL can offer.  He was a little hit and miss getting off blocks, but that’s to be expected for a 225 lb linebacker.  Overall, he fits what the league is looking for and I think would be a top 100 pick if he declared early.

Ohio State CB Denzel Ward is the latest prospect from a school that has produced some high picks.  He looks to be a lockdown man coverage corner – and I would expect him to be a first round pick as long as his 40 time is fast.  He had a nice INT, an easy matchup speed wise against a TE, but he got his head around to find the ball nicely.  It was a little tough to tell, but I did see a closing burst, which will always be needed at times.  He was willing to tackle and overall looked exciting.

I’ve seen Ohio Price C Billy Price before, but gave him another look.  He does duck his head into contact a little too often, but he can get movement in the running game.  As a zone blocker, he works square nicely – including when he pulls, so he has quick feet.  He’s feisty and has active hands.  His base can be a little too wide in pass protection, so perhaps he doesn’t trust his anchor – a little bulk and strength would help – but I think he looks like a top 100 talent, possibly for a zone blocking scheme heavy team.

Jamarco Jones plays LT for the Buckeyes, and while he held his own against Wisconsin, I will circle back and watch him against some edge speed as I think he might struggle.  In pass protection when he gets locked onto his man, he’s tenacious and no one was able to shed him all night.  As with Price, he can duck his head into contact at times, more often in the running game than in pass protection.  You saw that when he was called for holding, hooking his man’s arm.  I liked his solid base in pass protection and his hand placement.  I’d need to see at least twice more, but I would say there’s something and borderline top 100.

YouTube also gave me the Big 12 Championship Game.  I can’t decide on Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield.  I’d watched him last season and thought he was a day three guy, but he’s had a nice year.  There’s talk his 40 time isn’t going to be great – but really I couldn’t care one bit about that for a QB – he can move well enough on the field.  The height against TCU was an issue only on one play – a crossing route where he had to find a window, which made him late with the throw.  A 6’5″ QB would have made the throw.  You would think with his rather sidearm delivery he would have batted passes, but like Russell Wilson, it’s not an issue.  His strength also might be his weakness.  He can buy time and find his man – but there’s a lot of think, think, throw and I can’t help but worry NFL DBs will sucker him in and break on the ball.  I’ll watch again in the Rose Bowl and perhaps the Championship Game, and then watch a bunch of Draft Breakdown stuff – but he’s better than I thought coming into the year.

Protecting Mayfield’s blind side is OT Orlando Brown, who is no Lane Johnson – he’s a big man.  In pass protection, I would say top NFL edge speed is going to give him an issue – but in this one he only looked in trouble once.  His base is solid and he’s a guy who locks onto his man and gives them nothing.  He’s not as good as a run blocker.  I thought he was rather passive, and when getting to the second level, he seemed to over run things and struggle to change directions in a short area.  I have yet to see all the OTs this year, but so far it doesn’t look like a great year, so he may get pushed up the board a little higher than he deserves.

Oklahoma TE Mark Andrews had a big day.  He looks athletic, catches the ball naturally and has a nice feel against zone coverage.  He’s mostly in the slot, so there aren’t a great many inline blocking opportunities – but there’s plenty of demand for such a college player and in a thin TE class, you can see him coming out and going pretty high.  I would imagine the Combine would help his stock, should he declare.

One TCU prospect from that game, and a nice surprise in OT Joseph Noteboom.  I thought against a good player in Ogbonnia Okoronkwo he had a fine game.  His set up in pass protection looked excellent and really stood out.  Okoronkwo used speed to power quite a few times, the first surprised him, but after that he dealt with it well.  I’m going to make a note to carefully watch him against Stanford in the Bowl game as I think he looks like someone who could push for day two.

Two of the FCS quarter-finals were on UK TV, so I took the opportunity to watch Weber State/James Madison and Wofford/North Dakota State.  Weber State CB Taron Johnson has been invited to the Senior Bowl, so he must have something about him.  He played mainly off man or zone, he lined up close to the line, but tended to be in bail, where he got good depth quickly.  It looked like he has a nice break on the ball on plays in front of him, so he would fit an off man or zone heavy team.  He needs to get his head around to find the ball quicker and also be a little physical as a tackler, he doesn’t tend to wrap.  But he’s got solid coverage skills and if he runs fast, you never know.

It was my second watch of Weber State TE/HB Andrew Vollert, and he had a good game.  I would say he’s a smoother more than explosive athlete, and it was using his body well more than his quickness and route running ability that got him catches.  I’d worry he wouldn’t separate consistently on the next level.  However, he catches the ball smoothly and has a nice feel against zone coverage.  As a blocker he’s often stalk blocking DBs, but as an inline TE or HB, he can wash defenders up the field, but isn’t a great blocker.  I’ll be interested in his 40 time.

For James Madison, OT Aaron Stinnue is a name I’ve seen a couple of times elsewhere.  Something wasn’t quite right when watching him and I think it’s his body type.  He has long legs and a shorter torso (high cut) and it makes it hard for him to really sit and win the leverage battle.  I liked his feisty nature in the running game, where he showed he can move people, but in pass protection he look awkward at times.  He didn’t always plays square to his man and always seemed to be high in his stance, even when he was trying to bend to get low.  I watched him again in the Semi-Final against South Dakota State – and again there were good moments, but at times he waist bent because he’s high cut and was off balance.

I was a big fan of North Dakota State LB Nick DeLuca coming into last season, but a shoulder injury ended it early on.  He’s had some injury issues this year, so durability is a problem – although it’s worth remembering Alex Anzalone went at pick 76 despite having far worse durability concerns.  An option offense is always difficult to face, but DeLuca showed his range, ability to fill and also a closing burst on a blitz.  I gave DeLuca another watch in the Semi-Final against Sam Houston State – where he showed an ability to move and fill in the box.  The game was over pretty quickly, so tough to get much from it…

In the FCS Semi-Final -I gave Sam Houston State DT P.J. Hall a watch.  He has received press from the Draft community.  There were flashes of an ability to penetrate, but NDSU played him very well.  He was washed away from plays far too easily and he struggled to counter when an OL got into his chest as a pass rusher.  In some ways, it wasn’t a good game to watch for him as he was quiet – but in others, against a big and physical O-Line, it was exactly the right one.

It was my first chance this season to watch South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert, who I was aware of last season and liked.  It was clear he wasn’t 100%.  Early on, he seemed tentative, but seemed to move pretty well.  The problem came when he had to change direction sharply – he really struggled to do it.  It was clear he has good size and hands, but I will dive into his healthy tape before I rank.

Another SDSU player I was aware of was WR Jake Wieneke, who had a nice day.  He had 7 catches for 105 yards, and with better QB play would have had another 2 or 3 catches.  Wieneke is not going to run a 4.3 at the Combine – unfortunately, it will go a long way to determining his Draft stock.  If he runs low/mid 4.5’s, he’ll be fine – if he gets up into the mid/high 4.6’s you might not see him drafted.  I saw evidence of craft in his route running, setting up a CB nicely on a post route – and he also showed a nice ability to get inside the CB when they pressed him.  Separation wasn’t consistent, but he’s 6’4″ and looks to be able to track the ball well, so he can make a living in the league.  He’s not Cooper Kupp, who I loved last year, but he’s still good.

In the modern day NFL, the old-fashioned NT/1 technique who clogs up the middle can be forgotten.  SDSU DT Kellen Soulek might not be drafted, but I thought he was tough to move, showed he can get off blocks and move outside the tackle box.  He’s not a dynamic pass rusher, but there were a couple of flashes.  I hope he can make a camp, at the very least.

Updated: December 18, 2017 — 8:25 pm

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