Let’s take a look at the remainder of the offensive position groups..
RB GROUP As often happens in the NFL, it appears to me that the importance of the running back positions is back on the uptick. The passing game can be more exciting to fans than a good run game, but depending upon the opponent’s defensive scheme, and the scoreboard, having a run game to balance an offensive attack can be critical to success. Having diversity in your your RB corps is also key to forcing defenses to respect your entire offense.
Thanks to a glut of quality RB a lot of NFL teams should be able to augment their RB stable throughout the 2017 Draft. We actually went through several drafts in recent years where no RB were selected in Round 1. EZEKIEL ELLIOTT showed clearly in 2016 that a stud RB can still have a huge impact on games from week to week. I am thinking that 3 RB clearly appear to be First Rounders heading into the Combine: DALVIN COOK/Florida State, LEONARD FOURNETTE/LSU & CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY/Stanford. The clear beauty of this trio is their different skill sets.
COOK is the best overall, looking an awful lot to me like ELLIOTT from this past season. He’s explosive with the ball in his hands and a threat to score from almost anywhere on the field. He is adept as a receiver and understands how to block in pass-pro.
FOURNETTE, is the more traditional bell-cow power back who runs over and through people, and is able to break big gains because of his balance and straight line speed once he gets his momentum going. But he’ll be coming off the field on 3rd and long because of deficiencies as a receiver. FOURNETTE reminds me a lot of HERSHEL WALKER, and as great as he was, fitting into today’s NFL as the go-to guy would be a challenge even for WALKER.
McCAFFREY is the most versatile weapon in the group. He can run, catch and return kicks. But he will have to be used selectively because his frame is pretty lean overall. He may be good for about 25 total touches per game at the next level. His 40-time will be watched most closely of the three at the Combine. He shows a bit of the LeVEON BELL slide & pick your hole type of running style.
The same kind of skill-set variety can be found throughout the RB group, of which I can easily see 8 of the Top 100, and 25 picks overall being used on RB. Normally 22 RB are drafted each year, 23 being taken last year.
The real Big One this year could be JOE MIXON/Oklahoma. MIXON may be more talented and explosive than my top 3 above. In fact he reminds me a lot of ADRIAN PETERSON coming out of Norman a decade-plus ago. He’s about 6’1/225 and combines the power and explosiveness of an uncommon level. He’s a touchdown waiting to happen whenever he touches the ball. But he won’t even be at the Combine because he cold-cocked a female student as a Frosh at OKlahoma. HC STOOPS suspended MIXON for his entire freshman campaign, but now that a tape has gone viral showing ‘the punch’, some people are screaming for the death penalty for MIXON. Some team will eventually have the courage to draft him, and they may get the steal of the decade on the playing field.
Grade: A, exceptional quality and depth. Something for everyone.
OT GROUP This could be the thinnest and least impressive OT group of the current decade. At least 3 of the Top 10 in this group have pretty much been relegated to consideration at the less glamorous OG slots. Lack of ideal height and/or arm length seems to be the criteria robbing this group of some serious talent. Outstanding college OT LAMP, DAWKINS & MOTON are all being shoved inside in most scouts’ notebooks. As a result I have never seen such limited resumes’ at the top of the OT group. RYAN RAMCZYK/Wisconsin & GARRETT BOLLES/Utah both made their D1 debuts last season. Their potential is solid and both are likely to be starting NFL LT in a couple of seasons, but may not be quite ready to step in immediately.
I see those two and CAM ROBINSON/Alabama as the 3 first round OT this year. CAM has started for 3 years at ‘Bama but is lacking a bit in body flexibility in his overall frame and may need to play on the right side of the line. Noted Draftnik MIKE MAYOCK has CAM sliding inside to OG in his current rankings.
Those 3 look like solid first rounders to me, but we may be into the second half of Round 1 before the first OT is taken. I can also see as many as 7 OT in the Top 100 right now. 23 OT are drafted in an average year, with 22 in 2016. I’d bet that number slips back into the teens for the 2017 Draft, with another couple of those ending up sliding into the Interior at Training Camp.
A real late bloomer, who should sneak into the Top 100 is ANTONIO GARCIA/Troy, who is raw but shows picture book form as he drops into pass pro. But he has some physical limitations that do catch your eye. He was at the Senior Bowl and by weeks end he was catching up to his peers real quickly. But at 6’6, he weighed only 293 lbs., and looks like he needs a lot of time in the weight room. His arms are also a touch under 33″ at a position where scouts fret arm length under 34″. Long range he has starting pro potential, but it’s not a slam dunk.
Grade: C, and that may be a generous grade.
OG/C GROUP The Interior OL is the stepchild of offense in Round 1. But as defensive schemes are developed to put more pressure on the pocket up the middle the importance of interior blocking and athleticism is picking up. Most of the NFL’s premier, mobile QB will admit pressure up the middle is more unsettling than edge rushers. If the QB cannot step up into a stable pocket to buy time then chaos often ensues.
I have 2 OG likely going in Round 1 this year: DAN FEENEY/Indiana, FORREST LAMP/W Kentucky. LAMP is the best athlete, having played very well at LT in a passing offense in college. His shorter arms 31 1/8″ absolutely force the move inside, which automatically makes him an athletic freak for the inside. He could be the next ZACK MARTIN/Cowboys.
FEENEY had a tough luck 2016 season, which included an early season concussion which will be scrutinized heavily at the Combine medical. But he’s a good athlete and a tough guy. He also has some petty nice measurables for an OG. He measured 6’044″ and 306 lbs. at the Senior Bowl weigh-in, with 10″ hands and 34″ arms. Put FEENEY’s numbers back on LAMP and FORREST is probably a Top 12 draftee at LT.
My estimate is that we will see about 7 OG/C taken in the Top 100 come April. The yearly average for the two slots is 20/year, with 19 being taken in 2016. With the glut of OT moving inside I’d say the average looks like a solid projection for 2017.
Keep your eyes peeled on Day 3 for OC/JON TOTH/Kentucky, who impressed at the Senior Bowl. He looked solid all week and he won big time at the weigh-in on Monday in Mobile. He had a nicely proportioned and conditioned body at 6’047″ & 308 lbs. He also had 10″ hands and 33 1/8″arm length, with an 80 1’4″ wingspan.
Grade: B, aided greatly by those short armed OT sliding inside.
That’s it for the Offense folks. Next week I will get to my Defensive overview.