This pretty much wraps up our weekly prospect thumbnails of the week since the 2016 College football season is now over. But wait, in a couple of weeks the Bowl season gets underway and will provide us with more prospect play to review.
TARELL BASHAM/DE/OHIO 6’4/265 OHIO #93 There may be almost as many questions about BASHAM’s pro potential as their are actual positives. He has been a reliable player for FRANK SOLICH at Ohio, and has some nice pass-rush moves, not to mention a very high rev motor. He tries to set the edge against the run, but he’s pretty lean. So an immediate question is whether he can pack on 10 or more pounds and hold up in a pro 4-3 scheme. He had a solid effort in the MAC Championship game against Western Michigan, being credited with 5 tackles, including 1 TFL & 1/2 Sack. To his credit I would also estimate another 3 QBH as he and his teammates on D forced WMU QB/ZACH TERRELL to play under pressure all night and have his most mediocre performance of the season. With a Bowl game still to play BASHAM has 10 1/2 Sacks on the season. I expect him to be a Saturday Draftee. He is committed to the Senior Bowl and I will be curious to see how they work with him in practice with a possible OLB job in mind.
RUEBEN FOSTER/ILB/ALABAMA 6’1/240 #10 In the 2015 season ‘Bama’s Alpha Dog of Defense was REGGIE RAGLAND, who has moved on to the pro game. In 2016 another ILB, FOSTER has taken over the lead dog role for the Tide D. FOSTER is a savvy, instinctive, high FBI player who holds the unit together. During the Tides 13 game roll to the SEC title, FOSTER racked a total of 94 tackles. He is slightly undersized by NFL standards bit he is certainly big enough to play ILB in a base 3-4 scheme. In the anti-climactic SEC title game with Florida he amassed 11 tackles, including 2.5 TFL and 2 Sacks. I don’t expect him to be taken in Round 1, but if he makes it to Round 3 some NFL team likely gets a steal. If he has to wait his turn at a starting job, I would project he will star on multiple Special Teams units. Don’t expect him to rock the Combine in his underwear. I could picture him as a slightly lesser version of MOSLEY of the RAVENS, in an NFL Defense.
MATT GESICKI/TE/PENN STATE 6’6/255 #88 JR Just like the Penn State team overall GESICKI really blossomed during the surprisingly successful 2016 season for the Nittany Lions. He’s a full sized guy, who is a solid inline blocker. But he has also shown that he has the perhaps surprising speed to get separation downfield, as well as excellent hands to make catches. He is also almost acrobatic on the sidelines and in the red zone. His 1st Quarter TD catch of 33 yards in the end zone broke the early game dominance of the Badgers. For the game he had 3 catches for 58 yards and 1 TD. On the season, he pulled in 47 catches for 668 yards and 4 TD. That’s a solid 14.2 ypc for a 255-pounder. My gut says he’s staying in school for another season, but I would also expect that he will have voices in his ear telling him he can be a Top 5 TE if he comes out now. Those voices might be correct. After a couple of recent years of relatively few full-sized TE prospects, his presence might be welcomed by the 3rd Round for some NFL teams without a young TE on their roster.
FORREST LAMP/OG/WESTERN KENTUCKY 6’3/300 2016 was LAMP’s 3rd straight season as a starting OT for the Hilltoppers. He has developed as both a run blocker and a pass protector in the wide open WKU offense. He is quick off the snap of the ball and easily gets to second level blocks. He has a strong upper body, with a devastating hand punch. He put several defenders on their butts with his explosive hand punch, in the win over LA TECH that I watched. He is projected by most to be moving inside at the next level, because he is only about 6’3 and has less than ideal arm length. In reality that may make him one of the top 5 OG prospects, because he has shown more than enough athleticism to play well at LT the past 2 seasons. He looks to be a natural knee bender who fires out to get to second level blocks. His initial role in the NFL may be as a 3-4 position backup on a game day roster. He has accepted an invitation to appear in the 2017 Senior Bowl game in Mobile. Can’t wait. Could he be the next JOE HAEG to emerge there against the big boy competition?!
JOE MIXON/RB/OKLAHOMA 6’1/225 #25 RSO I am surprised I don’t see MIXON on more prospect sheets since he is indeed Draft eligible, after sitting out the 2014 college season for qualifying reasons. MIXON has been almost the perfect compliment to SAMAJE PERINE in the Sooners running attack. While PERINE pounds opponents’ Defenses, MIXON is the big play waiting to happen. He is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield. The big instate W over Oklahoma State was a great example of his value and multiple skills. PERINE was carrying the ball and the day as the Sooners pulled ahead in the 3rd Quarter. But then he got nicked and went to the locker room for repairs. In comes MIXON and immediately breaks off a 79 TD run, winding his way through the entire State D. For the game MIXON carried 11 times for 99 yards and that TD. He also caught 2 balls for 19 yards and another TD. On the season MIXON now has 1183 yards rushing, at 7.0 ypc and 8 TD. He also has 32 catches for 449 yards and 5 TD. I do NOT see him as the new ADRIAN PETERSON, but he’s damn close. I hate to say it SOONER fans, but I could see you losing both PERINE & MIXON to the 2017 Draft. I would guess MIXON would be a monster in underwear at the Combine. Athletically, I’d see him as a First Rounder if he comes out early.
TAYWON TAYLOR/WR/WESTERN KENTUCKY 6’1/190 #2 This guy is close to being a first rounder IMO. Chances are a Senior Bowl appearance and his Combine work will decide that. But I have little doubt that his combination of speed, good hands and elusiveness after the catch will add up to an immediate role as a top 3 receiver on an NFL roster. He’s not one of the “big” receivers, but he will work the middle of the field and will bounce off contact in the secondary, picking up significant after the catch yardage. He had a typical day, for him, in the Conference USA Championship Game victory for the Hilltoppers. He caught 7 balls, for 194 yards and 2 TD. On the season he posted 89 catches for 1586 yards and 16 TD, in 13 games. That yielded a yards/catch average of 17.8, making it 3 years in a row of over 17 yards per catch. He has accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl. he should show well there, and in Indy.
TRENT TAYLOR/WR/LOUISIANA TECH 5’8/178 #5 It has become much more common place in the NFL these days to have a smaller framed guy like TRENT on their roster to compliment a team’s full sized WRs. TAYLOR is as quick as a hiccup, and just as fearless. He did not handle return work this season, but I can envision him as a potential Punt Returner with his quickness and explosiveness. He was Mr. Reliable in the Championship game against WKU, hauling in 11 balls for 108 yards. For the 2016 season he has totaled 124 caches for 1570 yards and 10 TD. Happily for those of us wondering how he potentially fits against the truly big boy defenses he is currently listed as a Senior Bowl attendee. We can dredge up names like WLEKER, AMENDOLA and more, but more smurf guys have slipped away quietly than succeeded as pros. Let’s just say right now that to my eyes TRENT has more than a few of the qualities the League seeks, and should be draftable, albeit late.
ANTHONY WALES/RB/WESTERN KENTUCKY 5’10/195 #20 I watched the final two games (sans Bowl season) of the season for the WKU team and came away the most impressed with the productivity of WALES. This dual purpose back may not have the size to tote the rock 20 times per game as a pro, but he has the versatility to see a lot of action in a RB rotation. He gained 1376 yards rushing on the season, at an average of 6.8 ypc. He also found the end zone 28 times, including 24 on the ground. He was indeed a workhorse in the Conference championship game touching the ball 41 times while rushing for 209 yards and 4 TD, plus catching 5 balls for another TD. He’s not a speed burner, but is light on his feet and can get to the corner. He also picks his running lanes well between the tackles for tough inside yards. His cutback moves are swift and decisive. Good balance allows him to get significant yards after contact. It will be a gross oversight if he’s not at the Combine and an All-Star game.
T.J. WATT/OLB/WISCONSIN 6’5/247 #42 JR Will the supply of players to the NFL from the WATT family never end? Not any time soon, and that’s a good thing for the pro talent pool. T.J. is the next in line and if not for some injury issues during his stay in Madison this guy would have been garnering more serious pub prior to this season. He’s not J.J. on a pure talent basis, but he certainly has enough ability and the high rev energy level that J.J. and DEREK have displayed, to be highly sought after in the 2017 Draft if he declares. He shows natural pass-rush ability and has a long frame. He and VINCE BIEGEL could arguably be the best pair of OLB in college football this year. WATT had 4 tackles, including 1/2 TFL and 1 Sack, and 2 QBH in the Big Ten championship game. He was close to recording sacks on multiple additional occasions. He is above average in coverage, although he was caught in man-coverage on a RB out of the backfield, which resulted in a Penn State TD. The other issue on this day was that TRACE McSORLEY/QB may be more dangerous on the run than when he stays in the pocket. But WATT had a very solid Junior season, and certainly has to be considered as a possible early entry for the 2017 NFL Draft. He’s a Top 100 prospect.