Notes from Catchup Games – Part 5

UTEP OG Will Hernandez came out of Senior Bowl week with positive reviews, so it was high time I got to him.  I watched the New Mexico State and Army full games, as well as the Oklahoma Draft Breakdown “Cup-up” game.  In the full games I watched, he was dominant.  He’s a big man, with a solid build and he was too much for both teams.  For such a big man, it was nice to see him used as a pulling guard frequently – and he moved well for a big man.  In pass protection he was outstanding, with a solid base and excellent hand placement.  My one thing to check was against a better/faster defense in Oklahoma and he might even have played better, rising to the level of the competition.  Some of the Oklahoma players were getting frustrated when he got his hands on them – they couldn’t get off him.  When the Sooners tried stunts, he was untroubled.  The NFL game is based more on speed than size at the moment, so he’s a bit of throwback, but he can play in the modern day NFL for me.

I also took the opportunity to look at New Mexico State RB Larry Rose III – and he looks like a smaller RB who land a roster spot and make some splash plays.  He had one “Wow!” play, getting low to duck under a tackle, keeping his balance and then running for a 27 yard score.  He can catch, return punts and gives effort in pass protection, although his size is a limiting factor.  He was exciting to watch and I could see him being drafted on day three.

Also for New Mexico State WR Jaleel Scott should be in a camp.  He’s not likely to run a blazing 40 time, but he’s 6’6″ 215 lbs and therefore can find a role as a red zone target.  He has enough quickness at the line to escape press coverage – and if that body gets on top of you as a CB, you are in trouble.  He made a really nice over the shoulder catch on one such play.  He’s willing to come over the middle, making a nice low catch with the safety flashing out the corner of his eye.  The Pro Day 40 time will be important for him – if he can run in the 4.5’s, he should make a camp.

The second full UTEP game I watched gave me the chance to look at Army OT Brett Toth who did well at the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl.  Army only threw the ball six times in this one, and two of these were run fakes where Toth was run blocking, so for him to come out of the All-Star setting with good reviews “in the pit” shows he has natural pass blocking skill.  From what I could see on the four sets, he can use his long arms well, but he needs to watch he’s not bending at the waist.  Clearly in the Army offense, some of his skills won’t translate to the NFL (the first movement is often down) – but there are things that very much translate to a zone blocking scheme, where he showed he has quick feet to work square.  He’s athletic to get to the second and third levels quickly – he overran a couple of blocks – but the movement skills should mean we can expect a “plus” Combine workout.  His Army service commitment may be stumbling block to him being drafted too high – but it might be waved, in which case he could be looking at the middle rounds.

Being British, a trip to the Senior Bowl is out.  I’ve long since given up with the NFL Network coverage, which just gets interesting and they go commerical break or interview with someone who you don’t care about!  That leaves me in a difficult spot though.  Take Oklahoma OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo – one of the big boys listed him as a Senior Bowl week winner, while another basically said he struggled all week!  It’s a nonsense.  I wanted to watch Oklahoma again anyway, for Baker Mayfield and Mark Andrews, but I have Okoronkwo another watch as I found Bedlam on YouTube (it was on Fox, so didn’t make it onto UK TV).  This was the worst game I’ve seen from him.  He had an INT on a tip and a sack, but the tackle whiffed on an inside move and I might have beaten him!  Outside of that, he was controlled.  Over the last few days I’ve been doing some self-evaluation, after working out my recent record with the edge rushers was poor.  I was originally high on Okoronkwo, but since the Ohio State, he’s been slipping down my board.  I’ll be paying close attention to shuttle and cone times at the Combine as he might be a fast, but linear athlete.  Certainly when a blocker got on him in this one, he had no counter.  As for the Senior Bowl, flip a coin!

Right, Baker Mayfield.  There’s no question he’s one of the more difficult evaluations this year.  Judging from the circus around his weigh-in at the Senior Bowl, people are worried about the height.  He has a side arm delivery, so one would think it would be a big problem.  Not the case – he’s skilled at finding windows – so it doesn’t worry me.  In this one he had two INT’s where he didn’t see underneath coverage – now that might be a problem – but I don’t think his height was the reason.  Mayfield might be one of those players whose greatest strength is also his greatest weakness.  He can extend plays and make the impossible happen – or he can try to do too much and take a sack or force a ball.  In this one I didn’t like his red zone play – he took sacks (one knocking them out of FG range) and threw a pick on a force.  At times he double pumps and holds the ball too long – and that worries me more than anything with him.  Faced with complex NFL defenses, which will morph post-snap, he’s going to have be far quicker of mind.  To be honest, I have no idea where the rate him.  However, if you gave me a first round pick and said “Pick a QB”, I don’t think I would pick him – somehow I don’t think he’s going to be a Kirk Cousins/Andy Dalton type – he’ll either be a star or be a bust…

Mayfield’s slot WR, Mark Andrews, is apparently a TE – but he wasn’t on the field in short yardage packages and was in the slot most of the time.  Andrews is not going to test as an elite athlete at the Combine, I don’t believe.  I didn’t see an extra gear from him – and that might be a problem in terms of NFL separation.  At times he looks like a below average athlete with his release from the line, so I’ll be interested to see his 10 yard split time.  His routes were decent, although I’m wouldn’t say he was crisp on his breaks – so his shuttle/cone times will be of interest at the Combine.  As a blocker, he’s not much – even against DB’s from the slot, he’s more seal than maul – and as mentioned he wasn’t in the short yardage package, which will be a concern to any team looking for an all-around TE.  I’ve seen first round buzz with him, but I would have a tough time thinking he’ll go that high, but I will wait on the Combine.

Completing my theme (sorry, Oklahoma fans), I was keeping an eye on OT Orlando Brown – and he didn’t change my opinion.  Brown is a big man, but he plays like a 290 lb finesse zone blocking scheme prospect.  There was an occasional flash as a down blocker, but too often he’s just sealing and not using his mammoth size to punish his opponent.  In pass protection, he’s all over the place.  He struggled against Calvin Bundage coming off the edge as he’s fast and can get low – on one play he didn’t even get a hand on him.  His hands are low in setup, exposing his chest – and when a defender took it, he then has too narrow a base and can get put on skates.  Attempting to deal with speed, his narrow base means one thing – waist bending.  Maybe I’m just grumpy today, but I wouldn’t want to draft him if I was a GM – although I have no doubt someone will.

I wanted to give Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson another full game watch, as I appear to be the only person on the planet who doesn’t list him as a top 10 talent.  As I wanted to watch Harold Landry again as well, I watched the Boston College game.  When they used zone concepts in the running game, Nelson was outstanding.  He pulled some and then worked himself square to seal the edge.  He’s clearly well coached.  When he was attempting to move people, at times he got his head out in front of him too much and one time ducked his head into contact, ending up on the ground.  But he has pop and works to finish really well.  In pass protection, he wasn’t quite as good.  When I looked at Iowa C James Daniels, he shot his hands out into his man’s chest quickly – perhaps Nelson’s arms are shorter, but he doesn’t.  As he’s reaching, he can’t sit at the start of the play and it means he can be high and/or off balance.  This was better, but I’m still not sold on him as a high first round pick – particularly in this strong interior O-Line class, where I can get some else on day two, likely who I might personally like a little more.

I’m not sure if Boston College DE Harold Landry wasn’t 100% for this game, but he was basically used as a situational pass rusher.  His go to move was the speed rush – his get off is good and he can dip and turn the corner.  The problem in this one was that was about all he showed.  When he attacked his man square on, he was high and had no real plan.  The other problem with just the speed rush, is the Notre Dame RT knew what was coming – and when he settled down and worked out one shove would wash him up, he kept Landry quiet.  I love players who return for their senior years, but unfortunately for Landry it hasn’t panned out.  I don’t know he’s developed where he needed (a greater array of pass rush moves) and with the injury problems, his stock has likely gone south.  He can still rescue thing with the Combine and Pro Day, but he might be waiting for day two for a call.

This game also gave me the chance to look at early entry Equanimeous St. Brown (WR, Notre Dame).  He only caught one swing pass, so it wasn’t a great game.  The QB play wasn’t great, but he looked clunky out of his breaks and on an in route, he was late to get his head around, waved one hand at the ball, deflecting it to a BC DB for the pick.  I also watched cup-up the LSU and Stanford games, where he looked better.  Once he gets into gear, the size/speed combination is clear to see – and that athletic upside will see him go higher than his production suggests.  At times he tries for the one-handed grab and his routes do need work, but he’s dangerous on crossing routes and would be perfect for a team featuring them.  I would say borderline top 100, but near the bottom of my list of such players.

As noted, it’s difficult to work out who played well at the Senior Bowl, but unheralded Boston College CB Isaac Yiadom seemed to come out with solid reviews.  I watched him in the full Notre Dame game and then cup-up Iowa, Clemson and Virginia Tech.  Yiadom has a nice frame and he can press.  He looks best as a press man corner, for me.  When in zone, he doesn’t display that “click and close” to break quickly on balls – and indeed he seems a little slow to react to what is going on in front of him.  He does need to be a little more consistent with his press – at times it’s not clean and he can get beaten across his face, but he does recover and stay on the back hip.  There’s always a CB or two that rises in the media post-season, and with a fast 40 time, that could be Yiadom this year.

Quick Notes from YouTube “Cut-up” Videos

UTSA edge rusher Marcus Davenport had serious buzz before the Senior Bowl, but that seems to have cooled after an average week in Mobile.  Davenport is easy to spot – he’s tall and has the frame to carry more weight.  He plays mostly standing up, but could add bulk to his frame and put his hand in the dirt.  His go to move as a pass rusher is to use his power to win.  He can be a little upright and expose his chest – so he’ll need to develop a wider array of moves to have success in the NFL.  Right now, he’s generally attacking his man square on, rather than the outside half.  In one of the three cut-up games I watched, he attacked the outside half a couple of times, and showed he can dip/rip – and I’d like to see more of that.  His motor is high and his raw power is evident – but he needs a little refinement.  Still, these kind of athletic upside prospect shouldn’t last too long into day two, if he falls that far.

I watched three games of Florida DT Taven Bryan – Florida State, Missouri and Kentucky.  Bryan, right now, is a pure one gap penetrator.  He has the frame to be more at a listed 6’5″, but he has yet to figure that area of the game out.  He’s quick off the ball and in all three games he was disrupting.  However, he plays with blinkers and often struggles to find the ball – therefore running by draws etc.  Savvy offensive lineman can also wash him up the field and out of plays.  He doesn’t have great sack production, but there were flashes as a pass rusher, particularly when he attacks the outside half of his man.  When he attacks square on, he’s a bit high and has no counter to hands on his chest plate.  He has clear upside, but needs the right system to have an impact early in his career – a one gap system for sure – but even so, he’ll need to be better with his hands and play a little lower to become something in the league.  I would see him as a day two talent pending the Combine.

Updated: January 31, 2018 — 9:32 pm

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