Like I mentioned in my big draft recap last week – this was a very unique version of the NFL draft with its positives and negatives. So much talent fell down the board and several prospects I really liked didn’t even hear the name called at all. That includes six of my top 120 overall players available. A lot of that was certainly due to the circumstances, where teams weren’t able to conduct personal meetings or let their doctors take a look at these athletes. Some prospects may have fallen for good reason, which we aren’t necessarily aware of, but every year there are a bunch of guys who didn’t get selected, but turn out to make an impact with the teams they sign with shortly after.
Those are the type of names I want to point out in this article. Since I don’t have information on all the medical reports or off-field concerns, this is purely based on my evaluations of these prospects and the situations they find themselves in.
Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington – Lions
Let’s start out with the obvious one. Bryant was the highest player on my board, who did not receive a call. He was my TE4 and 84th overall prospect, who almost had to have some medical concerns for teams not to select him at any point during the draft. While he obviously didn’t test as well as I hoped or expected him to at the combine, he is a much more dynamic player on the field. Bryant is not just a downfield weapon, who the Huskies targeted on corner and even stutter-fade routes from the slot, but he was also utilized on quick screens like actual wide receivers because of what a tackle-breaking machine he was with the ball in his hands (18 broken tackles on 85 career catches). T.J. Hockenson was a top ten pick for Detroit last year and I expect big things out of him going forward, hoping he can stay healthy after showing flashes in a shortened rookie campaign. They also signed Jesse James as a free agent in 2019 and their seventh-rounder from that year Isaac Nauta out of Georgia is a really solid TE3, but I would be shocked if Bryant doesn’t make this roster. He is way more gifted than the other guys outside of Hockenson and gives them kind of a chess piece they can move around. Last year’s first-rounder will play the more traditional Y role, but their new rookie can be flexed out wide, line up at H-back and do a lot of different things with his YACability. Injuries have been the only thing to hold him back since his freshman year and are really all that I see getting in his way as a pro.
Rodrigo Blankenship, K, Georgia – Colts
Now let’s look about a position that isn’t talked about a whole lot – the kicker. This just worked out perfect for Indianapolis, considering there were three kickers drafted and they didn’t have to invest any capital but still might be get the most trustworthy one leaving college. Blankenship converted on 82.5 percent of his career field goal attempts, with just three misses below 40 yards through four years, and he never missed a single extra point as a Bulldog. Last season he won the Lou Groza award for the nation’s top place-kicker, as the first one in UGA’s history to receive those honors, and throughout his time in Athens, he came through with several big kicks, including a 55-yarder to end the half versus Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl to start a big comeback victory as well as holding his end of the deal in the national title game against Alabama, when he actually bailed his squad out with a clutch 51-yarder in overtime, before one of the Georgia safeties allowed Tua Tagovailoa to put his name on the map with the game-winning deep ball to Devonta Smith. Blankenship will likely replace a legend in Adam Vinatieri, who only hit on 68 percent of his field goal attempts and missed six PATs last season. The 24-year veteran has a good case for being the greatest kicker of all time, but his time has come to an end and Blankenship’s is just starting. I think he will immediately help them win some games and be relied upon quite a bit for a team that will want to run the ball at a high rate and cash in on those long possessions.
Joe Bachie, LB, Michigan State – Saints
In my mock draft, I had the Saints selecting LSU linebacker Patrick Queen. However, I think in the end this might have worked out even better, using their first-round pick on my top-rated interior offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz instead and signing one of favorite linebackers after the draft concluded. Bachie was my LB7 and I actually had him right there with Seahawks’ 27th overall pick Jordyn Brooks from Texas Tech, even though they are different types of players. The former Michigan State standout plays with great intelligence, toughness and more athleticism than he gets credit for. The three-year All-Big Ten selection and two-time team captain was the best player on that Spartans team over his entire career basically and while he may not blow you away physically, he is more than capable of playing in the league. Bachie is a highly instinctive and aggressive run-stopper and he made 16 plays on the ball in the air in college. Demario Davis was a first-team All-Pro at WILL last year, but I don’t think anybody else in that LB room has secured the majority of snaps. The only other one at the position to even be on the field more than 30 percent of the defensive plays was A.J. Klein (71%) and he has since moved on in free agency. Kiko Alonso and Craig Robertson were the next ones in line, but neither one of them really made a major impact, while they are still hoping for Alex Anzalone to finally stay healthy. I’m a big fan of third-round pick Zack Baun from Wisconsin, who only fell that far because of a diluted sample at the combine and possibly some injury concerns. We saw him play off the ball during Senior Bowl practices and I expect him to play SAM for the Saints on base packages and rush off the edge on sub. However, I think Bachie’s football IQ and toughness will earn him a spot on the roster and if given the chance, play plenty of snaps right in the middle.
Quartney Davis, WR, Texas A&M – Vikings
The Vikings traded away Stefon Diggs and kind of replaced him with LSU’s Justin Jefferson with that 22nd overall selection they acquired from Buffalo. I think Jefferson is absolutely pro-ready and if he can work on his release in press (after primarily lining up in the slot for the Tigers), he can absolutely play on the outside as well. Still, when you look at that roster, there is no obvious number three receiver. Olabisi Johnson looks like the prime candidate right now after he was relied upon more down the stretch in 201. They also signed former Titans receiver Tajae Sharpe, bring back Chad Beebee and drafted K.J. Osborn in the fifth round, but I would not rule out this undrafted free agent from Texas A&M. Davis might not have the deep speed of somebody like Diggs, but he has similar qualities as a sudden route-runner who attacks the ball outside his frame. He certainly needs polish when it comes to setting up his routes and he did drop six passes last season, but he is pretty shifty after catch and he can create easy yardage on screen passes with the way he reads blockers. That Minnesota offense runs through Dalvin Cook and those other backs when he needs a breather, while those top two receivers will be on the field a whole lot considering how much 21 and 12 personnel they run, but I think Davis may be the third-most talented receiver today. He may have to earn playing time through special teams and possibly show that elusiveness as a returner – which he never really did for the Aggies – but I could definitely see him work his way into the rotation and receive some touches.
Javaris Davis, CB, Auburn – Chiefs
While I had KC selecting Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a lot of mock drafts had them going with a cornerback with that 32nd overall pick. However, I don’t think anybody had them not grab any true corner across the three days. Looking at their roster, they only have three veterans tagged as CB right now with Charvarius Ward, Bashaud Breeland and Rashad Fenton. The Chiefs are clearly happy with that starting trio and those young guys played really well down the road, but after that there are plenty of unknowns. They did select Louisiana Tech’s L’Jarius Sneed, who was on the board as a safety, but he lined up on the outside for the Bulldogs until last season and has 4.37 speed to run with pretty much anybody, but I am looking at a certain UDFA to see the field quite a bit. This year’s 30th overall pick (by the Dolphins) Noah Igbinoghene is the one everybody was talking about and both those Auburn safeties played very well, but Davis was somebody that flashed a lot for me when watching the tape. The cousin of former Pro Bowlers Vernon and Vontae Davis may only be 5’8”, 185 pounds, but he plays bigger and plenty physical. Not only did he run sub-4.4 himself, but he also plenty of experience in press-alignment, which the Chiefs ran more than almost anybody under Steve Spagnuolo, and he split time pretty equally between the outside and slot. There are some things he needs to clean up about his tackling and his size is a bit of a limiting factor, but I could absolutely see him be their first guy off the bench after that starting trio in nickel packages.
Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU – Redskins
I was shocked that this guy didn’t hear his name called at all, especially since everybody recognizes the family name. Moss may not be anything like his dad athletically, but he projects really well a true in-line Y with some of the most natural hands among the entire tight-end class. New offensive coordinator Scott Turner will use his TE like his father did with a guy like Antonio Gates in San Diego, in terms of moving along the formation and running wide receiver-like routes, as well as a diverse running scheme. Moss has experience with both – he was lined up out wide and was productive on slants or whip routes from the slot and then he did an excellent job as an in-line blocker on zone and duo plays. Right now when you look at that Washington roster, that tight-end room is not necessarily star-studded. Vernon Davis was most effective as a receiver for them when he was on the field, but he has now retired, and their leading pass-catcher from last season Jeremy Sprinkle only put up 241 yards. The Skins have added Richard Rodgers, Logan Thomas and Caleb Wilson this offseason, but none of those guys have ever risen above their late-round draft pick status, while Wilson is only one of the group I would actually believe in, but he is equally athletically limited as Moss. The LSU standout to me has clear roads ahead for the starting spot in that offense and unless there are any injuries concern, I could see him become a dependable target for sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
Stanford Samuels, CB/S, Florida State – Packers
Another player I really enjoyed on tape, but did not receive any attention because of his athletic testing is this young man. Right off the bat, Samuels has intriguing size at 6’2”, with just under 32-inch arms and over ten-inch hands. He primarily lined up at boundary corner for the Seminoles, where he frustrated receivers with his physicality off the line in press-man and did a great job maximizing his impact in cover-two, playing in-between receivers and punishing guys breaking out to the flats. The area he excels at to me is the way he uses his length to re-route opponents and feel breaks develop as well as disrupt the catch point. He is also ferocious in run-support and showed great pursuit as a blitzer. The Packers have spent a whole lot of draft capital on their secondary, but other than Jaire Alexander and strong safety/nickel Darnell Savage, none of those guys have really stood out. The coaches will love Samuels’ physicality and knack for the ball, which could allow him to move up the depth chart if he ultimately makes the roster. He would have most likely been a mid-round pick if he timed better at the combine, but that 4.65 in the 40 is certainly concerning. Still, while the speed does leave something to be desired, it didn’t look as bad on tape, and I think he could at least be utilized in certain matchups against bigger bodies. While he almost exclusively lined up on the outside, I could also see Samuels transitioning to safety or a big nickel role, because he certainly has the aggressive mindset to throw his body around and get into the face of guys.
J.J. Taylor, RB, Arizona – Patriots
This was one of my favorite backs in this draft to watch. Taylor is a minature 5’5” and 185 pounds, but he is a very explosive and tough runner. He also caught 33 of 42 targets in the pass game last season and he already a ran a fairly complete route-tree, whilst averaging just under ten yards on them. The Pats’ RB room has plenty of bodies already with 2018 first-round pick Sony Michel, one of the premiere receiving backs in James White, an all-rounder in Rex Burkhead, a goal-line back in Brandon Bolden and last year’s third-rounder Damien Harris. However, when you look at the situation a little more in depth, Taylor may have a role with them. Before anything, the rookie needs to earn a spot on the roster and his best chance is likely to push Bolden off it. I could see them potentially take the out on Burkhead’s contract, but either way one of them has to go. Then the Patriots will want to run the ball 35+ times per game, meaning there will be plenty of touches to go around, and they use several two-back sets. I believe Harris could take on more Michel’s early-down role if the latter continues to have knee issues, but even he and pretty much anybody other than White have been unavailable due to injury. Taylor has missed just one game these last three years and can do a little bit of everything. He plays with a chip on the shoulder and will do everything to impress the coaching staff. I would love for him to get a chance
J.R. Reed, S, Georgia – Jaguars
That Jaguars defense is nothing like the one that went to the AFC Championship game less than two-and-a-half years ago. They have traded away both their star cornerbacks, linebacker Telvin Smith has since retired and been in the news otherwise, maybe their biggest leader Calais Campbell became a cap casualty and their top remaining pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue has been fighting with one of the co-owners on Twitter about how he wants to be traded. With that being said, the team everybody is saying will tank in 2020 (not disagreeing that they will struggle), has quietly been putting together a potential Sacksonville 2.0. In 2018 they drafted Taven Bryan, who they are still hoping to develop into a penetrating three-tech, and last year they selected Josh Allen in the top ten, who was a Pro Bowler as a rookie with double-digit sacks. Now they spend their two first-round picks on a super-talented corner in Florida’s C.J. Henderson and a very dynamic linebacker in LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson. They might have found another gem post-draft. Reed is a really solid safety with plenty of experience in deep coverage. That lanky build limits his ability to change directions, but I think he has underrated closing burst and he has been a playmaker for one of the premiere defenses in college football for the last three years. Ronnie Harrison is a really good young strong safety and fits well in that Kam Chancellor type role with that Seattle-style defense the Jags run, but that second safety spot is still somewhat open. Jarrod Wilson is really the only natural free safety on that roster with interesting guys like Josh Jones and Andrew Wingard behind him, even though of them fit better in the box. Reed was a top-ten safety in this class for me and I could see him become another guy to build around potentially.
Darryl Williams, IOL, Mississippi State – Chiefs
Yes, you read this correctly. The reigning Super Bowl champions double-dipped in the UDFA pool with one of my favorite sleepers in the draft. I had Williams just outside my top 100 prospects and I still don’t understand how he didn’t get a call on day three. Yes, he is a little undersized at 6’2”, just over 300 pounds and without great power, he may be limited to zone-running schemes and somewhat struggle having to anchor against massive nose tackles, but his quickness and lateral agility were huge factors in MSU’s rushing success and he quickly lands those hands inside the chest of defenders as well as get his feet in position to secure the interior of the pocket. Williams was outstanding during East-West Shrine week, stonewalling several talented D-linemen and even putting Broncos’ third-round pick McTelvin Agim from Arkansas on his butt, who put together a personal highlight reel down in St. Petersburg. Kansas City acquired a promising young player in Martinas Rankin in a trade with the Texans in exchange for running back Carlos Hyde and he started five games for them before being put on IR. The Chiefs also signed veteran tackle Mike Remmers, but I actually believe Williams could be better than both their starting left guard Andrew Wylie and center Austin Reiter from last season. That offensive line played very well in the latter parts of 2019 and the playoffs as a unit, so the coaches may not want to mess with it too much, but if they evaluate their depth chart and individual players, I like Williams chances to make the roster and possibly even enter the starting lineup at some point.
Parnell Motley, CB, Oklahoma – Buccaneers
This is another one of those guys to slip through the cracks I just don’t get. Motley is one of the most experienced, smart and physical corners coming out of college. He is not overly impressive physically and he’s not been healthy around the combine, but he has a proven track record in the Big 12. Just last year, in two matchups versus Baylor’s freakish Denzel Mims he held that guy to three totals catches for 33 yards and even in the Peach Bowl, when LSU put 63 points on the board and Joe Burrow just went off, Motley was only responsible for one catch worth seven yards. He utilizes different jams and stabs, while showing patient feet and excellent route-recognition. With Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis being second- and third-round picks last year respectively for the Bucs and showing some signs, to go with Jamel Dean and M.J. Stewart, who I loved as a nickel coming out of North Carolina in 2018, they certainly have a quality room of young DBs after throwing a bunch of draft capital at it. Therefore, Motley obviously will have to prove himself as part of that defensive backfield, but he is one of the few that projects well to play press on the outside, even though he isn’t the biggest guy. Murphy-Bunting had a lot of success in the slot as a rookie and with his body-type, I could see the Bucs match him up against those bigger pass-catchers inside in dime packages. Davis is a true boundary corner, but if Todd Bowles wants to put his four best cover-guys out there in certain situations, I could definitely see Motley be in the mix.
Bryce Huff, Edge, Memphis – Jets
This one I thought was a little more obvious to why a player didn’t get selected. Huff did not receive a combine invite and I wouldn’t have expected him to blow people away necessarily. He doesn’t hold his ground particularly well at the point of attack and he doesn’t win a lot of different ways as a pass-rusher, but I think he can develop into a rotational piece. Huff routinely was the first one off the ball for Memphis and put a bunch of offensive tackles in catch-up mode with his ability to create an angle towards the quarterback and dip that shoulder underneath the blocker. He does need to find a more reliable counter, but I thought during East-West Shrine week he showed the ability to incorporate power, hitting almost like a Reggie White hump-move in his first rep of one-on-one against the O-line, and a nice spin move – now he just needs to transition into those more quickly. While Gregg Williams at heart is a 4-3 specialists, the Jets did incorporate a lot more 3-4 elements last season because of the personnel they had and allowed their edge rusher to stay in a two-point stance, which Huff is most comfortable at. With Quinnen Williams being a natural fit at three-technique and Steve McClendon being a run-plugging shade nose almost exclusively, Gang Green has plenty of beef on the interior. That way they can allow their guys on the edge to get off the ball more aggressively and I think Huff could be rotated in quite a bit. Jordan Jenkins is a viable SAM who doesn’t offer much of a dynamic pass-rush skill set and while there are several bodies on the roster, including this year’s third-round pick Jabari Zuniga from Florida, this guy could carve out a role for himself I believe.
Others names to keep an eye on:
Adrian Killins, RB, UCF – Eagles
Malcolm Roach, IDL, Texas – Saints
Charlie Taumoepeau, TE, Portland State – Cowboys
James Robinson, RB, Illinois State – Jaguars
Benito Jones, IDL, Ole Miss – Dolphins
Dante Olson, LB, Minnesota – Eagles
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington – 49ers
Jace Whittaker, CB/S, Arizona – Cardinals
Cordel Iwuagwu, IOL, TCU – Texans
Jared Pinkney, TE, Vanderbilt – Falcons
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State – Seahawks
Jacob Breeland, TE, Oregon – Ravens
Javin White, LB/S, UNLV – Raiders
Trey Adams, OT, Washington – Bills
Jalen Elliott, S, Notre Dame – Lions
Scottie Phillips, RB, Ole Miss – Texans