MARK ANDREWS #81 TE 6’4/254 OKLAHOMA JR ANDREWS has made his mark for the Sooners as a very athletic receiver in a big boy body, ever since his true frosh season in 2014. He is a two-time, all Big 12 1st teamer. This season, with the graduation of WESTBROOK/LEWIS at WR he has become Baker Mayfield’s top target. As a prospect he has the size and skills to be a 3-down TE, no matter his team’s field position. Even though he’s a big guy, who is more than adequate as an inline blocker, he has spent a lot of time this season as a slot receiver to get him out into his patterns more quickly. Once again he was Mayfield’s favorite target most of the day against K-State with 7 catches for 61 yards. I actually saw him drop a ball in this game. But fear not, it doesn’t happen very often. If he chooses to come out for the 2018 Draft he will be in the Top 3 at the TE position and most likely will be selected in Round 2.
BO BOWER #41 LB 6’2/235 IOWA BOWER fits the mold of a lot of Big 10 players who were not elite 5-Star recruits coming out of high school, but have been very productive players all their football lives. He has played Special Teams his entire career at Iowa and will excel in that role as a pro. In fact that will provide a big boost in helping him get his foot in the door at the bottom of a roster in The League. He finally saw starting duty in 2016 and responded by being second on the team with 91 tackles and 4 PBU. He was outstanding in his play against Northwestern helping to pick up the slack with JOSEY JEWELL out with an injury. BOWER roamed the entire field, including dropping into shallow pass coverage and led the team in tackles with 12, 8 of them solo. He’s one of those guys who finds the ball and gets to it. It is questionable whether he gets drafted next Spring, but I would certainly put a couple of bucks on him making a pro roster next Fall. This guy should be a great candidate for the Shrine Game come January.
JASON CABINDA #40 IB 6’1/240 PENN STATE What with the majority of NFL teams using a base 3-4 scheme for their defense these days there is a big need for quality ILB in the pro game. Here is another player who has worked his way to the top of his craft with dedication and hard work and a high FBI. CABINDA had 100 tackles in 2015, and was on his way to even more in 2016, but injury limited him to 9 games, in which he still totaled 81 tackles. He also shows some ability to drop into short area, middle of the field pass coverage. Watching carefully for the first time last weekend against Michigan, I decided he’s a better athlete than I had given him credit for. He can even provide some pass-rush potential in selected blitz situations. Against Michigan he tallied 13 tackles, which included 1 TFL/1 sack. He will have achieved his degree in 3 1/2 years in State College. I am marking CABINDA down as a late round draftee, if not an URFA. Numbers at the Combine may be the final deciding factor as to whether he is a late draftee or not.
MICHAEL DEITER #63 OT 6’6/329 WISCONSIN JR One of the big talent surprises of 2016 in college ball was the play of first year LT RYAN RAMCZYK of the Badgers, who then went out early for the 2017 Draft and was taken in Round 1 by the Saints. My first thought was that a big hole had been created in the Badgers OL group for 2017 when he departed. So what the team did was move DEITER from OC out to LT. And they have not had to look back since. DEITER is playing at an All-Conference level IMO, and looks like a Round 2 guy if he leaves school after this season. He has the feet of an OT, not an OC. He slides and mirrors well in pass-pro and uses his arm length and hands to push DL around. He’s still a work in progress at LT overall, but is better than the majority of OT starting in the Big Ten this season. He dominated just about every Maryland defender he came into contact with last Saturday at Camp Randall. He’s on the ground a bit too often, as he seems to lean forward a bit when he gets nervous about being beaten with speed. That can, and will be fixed with coaching and reps as well as the confidence that will come with more playing experience outside. He carries his weight well on a long frame and does not looked pumped up at all. If he’s still too early in his development to plug and play at the NFL level, he should initially provide a pro team with a 5 position quality back-up, having stated at both OG and OC prior to this season.
POONA FORD #95 DT 5’11/305 TEXAS I was prepared to thumbnail FORD way back at the beginning of the season for his solid play against U.S.C., but I held back thumb-nailing him, waiting for the Red River Rivalry game with Oklahoma last weekend. What I saw from FORD is what I have seen in all 3 Texas games I have watched this season. Let’s start with the Big C he wears on his chest, indicating he’s a team captain. His coaches will tell you that he is a dominant presence in the locker room and an impact player on game days. He’s short and stout, but not a true Nose Tackle in my opinion. He can play zero-technique, but will be most effective doing so in a base 4-3 scheme. He’s built low, and plays low at the line of scrimmage. But he does more than that. He is quite skilled at shooting gaps up the middle and disrupting the pocket. For the game with the Sooners he was credited with 4 tackles, which is adequate for an interior DL who plays in a rotation system, but let’s make note that of those 4 tackles; 3 were solo and he was credited with 2.5 TFL. He also blocked a field goal attempt earlier in the season. I see a high energy/effort young man who is likely to wow personnel people in the post-season All-Star games and Combine both on the practice field and in the interview process. He may have to wait a lot longer than he would like, but watch for his name as being drafted late in the process. Every NFL team can use high energy, high character players at the bottom end of their roster, and POONA fits that bill!
TROY FUMAGALLI #81 6’6/249 WISCONSIN It becomes very difficult to adequately rate TE prospects because in the run/pass option crazy college game the TE are usually an after thought. Those that stand out and put up some serious catch numbers cry out for attention. FUMAGALLI is such a player. Overall he is the best receiving option in the Badgers Offense just about every week. He has dependable hands and runs his routes well, creating separation, especially on crossing routes. He can rumble for extra yards after the catch if he gets into stride running upfield. He has been nicked up some this season, but was back to pretty much full speed for the game with Maryland. He ended the day with 7 catches for 83 yards and helped the Badgers balance their attack a bit, even though they depend on pounding the rock as their first option. He can, and will run block, but if he wants to stay on the field for red zone possessions at the next level he will have to raise his blocking up a notch. FUMAGALLI is one of the top 3 TE in the country this season IMO, and should be a Day Two Draftee for the 2018 NFL Draft. Here’s hoping we get to see TROY in Mobile for Senior Bowl week next January.
HILTON HILL #5 CB 6’2/195 TEXAS JR The Longhorns have already progressed beyond respectable under new HC TOM HERMAN and his staff. They took Oklahoma State to the limit last Saturday before losing 13-10 in OT. Their Defense really put the clamps on QB/RUDOLPH and the Cowboys passing attack, by collapsing the pocket around a less than mobile RUDOLPH. But the real heroes forcing Oklahoma State to almost abandon the pass for the run were the Longhorns CB group as led by HILL. I’ve watched Texas hang tough in 3 big games this season thanks in good part to their shutdown Corners. HILL is an excellent athlete with speed and instincts, and just as importantly has supreme confidence in his ability to shut down receivers all day long out on the grass. He has elite coverage ability in press coverage, and is an aggressive, sure tackler in support of the run defense. He closed the day off with 9 tackles on the game, 8 of them solo. I also counted 3 PBU for him, even though RUDOLPH threw his way sparingly by the second quarter. His biggest play of the game was without a doubt his PBU in the end zone, denying State a 4th quarter TD. His length will be very attractive to NFL personnel people. He’s not even at his peak yet as he tries to adjust to lots of zone coverage in the new Texas defensive scheme. If he comes out early for the 2018 Draft I would project to the first round, unless he disappoints at the Combine.
JUSTIN JACKSON #21 RB 5’11/200 NORTHWESTERN JACKSON is what I would label as a multi-dimensional, talented college RB. He is not a speedster, but sees the hole and will gain what is blocked. He has some nice cut moves, but will not pull away from defenders in the secondary. He shows very nice hands and should well leave Northwestern with over 100 career catches. He shows a very high FBI and according to his coaches attends any meeting room he is allowed into. I smell a future HS/College coach in the making. But I am not sold on him as a pro prospect. His size is an issue, and he does not look like a guy whose frame can add another 10-15 lbs.to it. He tires hard in pass-pro, but his body just cannot handle the size/speed combo of most blitzers. I think his nice work in the W over Iowa is typical of what he brings to the football field. He carried 25 times for 93 yards, with a long run of 11 yards. JACKSON also caught 5 balls for another 38 yards. He was the top individual offensive weapon on the field, but did not have a huge impact on the game. In fairness to him it was a defense dominated match-up with both teams employing very conservative offensive game plans. Woody Hayes would have been proud. I think JACKSON will be drafted by an NFL team, but I doubt it happens before Round 5. His versatility and positive attitude will make him a welcome addition in an NFL locker room. But he’ll be at the bottom of the RB depth chart, with his team looking for a more explosive weapon to replace him just about every Training Camp.
EVAN MARTIN #71 OG 6’3/295 NAVY There has been a considerable amount of ink dedicated to the praises of this young man and his blocking in the Navy run-oriented Offense. He’s a great looking athlete and can really run well. His foot work is excellent. He accelerates to second level blocks and on wide, pulling assignments handily. When he finally fulfills his military commitments and shows up in an NFL camp I think he has the potential to adjust to a pro style offense ala SHAQ MASON of the Patriots. Now for the disappointing news. I was surprised at how often MARTIN failed to get his body into defenders once he got to his assigned block. He’s excellent at the “search” part of his job, but very seldom “destroyed” anyone with his block. Based on what I saw against UCF he needs to get down and dirty more often to finish off his blocks. I doubt he gets drafted, but watch for his name to emerge on a Training Camp in a couple of seasons, perhaps for big Navy booster Belichick in New England.
RAMON RICHARDS #7 FS 5’11/185 OKLAHOMA STATE I really enjoy watching the performances of defenders like RICHARDS, who get moved from CB to S. Especially, when they carry those cover skills over and develop a search and destroy tackling mentality like he has. That is RICHARDS style of play. He’s probably the best all-around tackler on that State D, and they needed more like him as they squeezed out a win in OT against Texas. In fact, it was RICHARDS who ended the contest with an INT in the end zone on the Longhorns first possession of OT. His stat line was pretty typical of his play in the Oklahoma State games I have watched this season: 6 T- 5 solo- 1 TFL- 1 INT. In essence he has the coverage skills of a CB, and the tackling mentality of a S. In 2016 he showed his all-around ability posting the following stats: 64 T- 6 PBU- 3 INT- 1 sack. In today’s NFL when teams put 5-6-7 DB out on the field as soon as second down, a guy like RICHARDS should easily find a job, not to mention Special Teams roles. But I do not look for him to be drafted anytime before Rounds 5-7.
SEAN WELSH #79 OG 6’3/295 IOWA Just about every time I write about an Iowa OL prospect I refer to him as a finished product, with little or no upside. That’s because they are usually maxed out physically and won’t get better OL coaching at the pro level than they did from HC FERENTZ and his staff in college. WELSH is a perfect example of that principle. He has been tried at OT, but was moved back inside to OG because he was overmatched outside, especially by speed rushers. Now at RG I could count on one hand the times he struggled against the Wildcat DL last Saturday. He blocked well in both the run game and on limited pass-pro plays. His feet are functional in the small box area of the Interior OL. If you look around NFL rosters you will find a serious number of former Iowa players listed as OL. There are a few standouts, like Brandon Scherff/Redskins, but by and large they are versatile backups. Most Iowa OL are accountable and available as pro back-ups and utility men. I think WELSH will fit that mold next season. He can likely be serviceable as a back-up at every OL slot except LT. He’s a really solid OG right now and will help his team get to another Bowl Game this season. Draftable, but late, Round 6-7.