A little more than a week away from the NFL Scouting Combine, I wanted to take a look at some of the prospects I think would match very well with certain teams. This may be because of certain needs, scheme fits or just the type of players they are looking for. Since picks one and two seem to be set in stone pretty much, unless somebody shakes things up completely by trading up until then, we are starting with the team selecting at number three and work our way down the board, taking stops where I see a certain fit. Obviously this still heavily depends on what’s going to happen in free agency and the positions that will be filled up to that point, but for now these prospect-team pairings would make a lot of sense.
With the NFL season now in the books, we have officially entered the pre-draft process. While the combine and pro days are still ahead, the evaluation period has already started with the three major all-star games for upcoming NFL prospects – the East-West Shrine game, NFPA Bowl and the Senior Bowl of course. I re-watched all the practices and now I can tell you who stood out to me the most.
With that being said, this list is about who has boosted their draft stock the most so far, instead of simply telling you who the best players were. South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw for example looked like the baddest dude on the field down in Mobile, but he only practiced two days and didn’t show anything we hadn’t seen, which validated more what most people already thought of him, instead of really taking him to a different level. Other guys might not have been on some teams’ draft board at all because of where they come from, but now scouts will look more into them because of what they showcased against a different level of competition.
A lot has been made about the value of preseason and there are teams who largely keep their starters out of for the most part, but every year there are guys who stand out when they finally get a chance to prove themselves on the field and they deserve to get their props. So this list doesn’t include any actual star players and in a lot of cases not even starters at this point. You won’t hear me talk about Patrick Mahomes looking nearly flawless in limited action or how a star pass rusher beat up some kind of third-string tackle. Usually I like to give guys credit who play the less-heralded positions, but with how many young quarterbacks have made an impression on me, they had to be the main topic of this article. Of course you have to take some performances with a grain of salt because we haven’t seen any game-planning or schemes being utilized, but what you can evaluate is physical ability, energy and play-making ability. So here are some of the guys who have stood out to me:
After talking about the top offensive players at each position a couple of days ago, we now switch to the defensive side of the ball. So we are looking at the best edge rushers (meaning 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers primarily), interior defensive linemen (everything from nose tackle to 5-technique), off-ball linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties. Some of these guys are hybrid players, so I judged them according to where they line up primarily and what their best spot is. Once again, my criteria for which I judge them is their tape from their collegiate career so far, including the potential I see for them heading into this season, and I evaluate them as college players instead of NFL prospects, where they might fall a little lower because they don’t have pro measurements or athleticism necessarily.
A few weeks into the black hole of the offseason, which is filled with overblown reports from OTAs and media analysts coming up with crazy ideas for discussions, I had the time to go back and analyze which moves teams have made to improve a specific area of their football team. However, this is not about the most improved team overall, such as the Browns who added on several fronts, and I won’t name any teams that only added one superstar at a position and nothing else. This list is more about how these front offices made it a priority to invest into a unit that either needed to get better anyway or might have been solid to this point, but could be a true strength for them in 2019. These are the ten position groups I came up with and I added a few units at the bottom, who didn’t quite make the cut.
We have spent a lot of time talking about the NFL draft, handing out grades and pointing out steals from that weekend. With that being said, even after 254 picks there still was a lot of talent left out there and some prospects, who I had rated pretty high, never heard their names called on those three days. Instead they are now entering some team’s practice squad, looking to prove themselves and carve out a role. These ten names I think have the talent and/or are in a situation where they could contribute early on and be valuable pieces for their respective franchise. Every year there are some undrafted free agents I see making an early impact, who actually end up doing so – Phillip Lindsay and J.C. Jackson in 2018 for example.
Another draft is in the books and once again there are all these grades being handed out and experts criticizing what teams did. While I don’t think you can properly evaluate prospects until they turn into actual player on the field and even then it takes some time, I do believe we can look at how these teams stuck with the principle of “best player available”, if they reached to fill needs and how their draft picks could help them out going forward. Not only that, we can also look at specific players or coaches and how these selections will impact them directly. Therefore, I listed my biggest winners, losers, steals and reaches from draft weekend, considering the information we have at this moment and the rankings I had put together.