Who Caught My Eye Bowl Edition 2.0

January 6, 2019

At the beginning of the 2018 college football season, I was of the opinion that OC was not going to be a particularly strong 2019 Draft position group. Two things have changed my mind since then. The first is the opinion of many personnel people, that a good number of other OL players are going to end up switching inside to OC as pros. A good example of that might be MICHAEL DEITER of Wisconsin, but I have also been influenced by the standout play of some of the OC’s who I had not paid close attention to in the past. BRADBURY would be chief among those. NC State may not be a perennial power house like Clemson, but under HC DAVE DOEREN the Wolfpack has become a strong, winning team most seasons, and he’s not doing it with smoke and mirrors. He has some solid talent on his teams. They won 9 regular season games in 2018. Progressing from OG to OC, and starting full-time since his Soph season, BRADBURY strikes me as the kind of heady, stout OC who can make the OL blocking calls, and help cement the entire Interior OL. He may not be a monster, but his technique and FBI have impressed me this past season. Against A&M in the Gator Bowl, BRADBURY was almost a blur as his head was on a swivel, and his feet were scurrying to help out both of his Guards with blocking assignments. He showed good staying power in several blitz calls on the inside. I also like his straight back style of blocking, and natural knee-bender style. He is exactly the kind of guy I have seen win OC jobs in the NFL, more because of smarts and attitude than athleticism. Two fairly recent examples of that would be Jeff Saturday and Shaun O’Hara. I don’t see BRADBURY until Day 3 of the NFL Draft, but I like his chances of winning an NFL roster spot, and perhaps starting some day. BRADBURY is scheduled to appear at the Senior Bowl.

It is a bit difficult to make a really strong case for BROWN based on his statistical numbers as a senior. However, he is a true press cover Corner that the NFL can never get enough of. He is also a very good, smooth athlete, who should test very well at the Combine. Right now, he is scheduled to play in the Shrine Game, but it would only take one injury at CB for the Senior Bowl to be eyeing him for a call-up to that venue. He recorded 6 INT’s as a soph, and 5 more as a junior. At first blush, his 2018 stats were quite the let down, but keep in mind that he suffered an ACL injury at the end of 2017. Also, be aware that opposing teams threw away from him much of this season. For 2018, he recorded 44 tackles, had 6 PD and 1 INT. In the Dollar General Bowl, he was initially matched up on BUFFALO WR Anthony Johnson. After a frustrating 2 quarters-plus with only 3 catches, the Bulls moved JOHNSON around to get him away from BROWN’s coverage. BROWN had a big 4th Quarter PBU, but was later called on an end-zone PI on Johnson, though I would project a strong likelihood, that call would not have occurred at the NFL level. One more item that I like about BROWN, is the fact that his uncle is a guy named Herschel Walker. Now that is some kind of gene pool. Watch this guy in the off-season leading up to the Draft. He could easily end up in Round 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft.

It is pretty clear to my eyes that HASKINS is, hands down, the top QB prospect in 2019, if he declares for the Draft, and if you watched him carefully in the Rose Bowl, then you realize he is not Cardale Jones. He is more of a complete QB, and relies almost as much on his mind as he does on his arm. Let’s start by saying that his arm is above average, and he can make all the throws in a pro route tree. His accuracy is good and can get better. I saw him throw from multiple arm angles, without abandoning his motion fundamentals. When he had time in the pocket to do so, he clearly was going through his progressions before throws. I might also add, that in this man’s opinion, he played this season behind a very mediocre OL group. He is not a great runner, but can save plays with his legs and eyes when needed. Now, let’s look at his Rose Bowl numbers against a very solid Washington team, especially in the secondary. HASKINS went 25/37 – 67.6% – 251 yards – 3 TD’s, and 0 INT’s. I think it is worth mentioning that for the 13-1 Buckeyes season, HASKINS threw 50 TD passes, with only 8 INT’s. If HASKINS comes out early, he could be a serious QB upgrade for about 6 teams, and that is being conservative. The CARDINALS franchise may be the biggest supporters of his anticipated college exit, having the first pick in the Draft and JOSH ROSEN already their franchise QB for the next decade, most likely. HASKINS has yet to declare, but I’ll bet the Cards have already gotten a few calls to declare interest in that pick, when/if HASKINS does opt in for the 2019 Draft. My advice to HASKINS to strike while the iron is hot.

It might seem odd to project a perennial 3rd string RB as a serious Draft prospect, who might come out early, but if you watched his play in the Final Four contest with Oklahoma, you had to be impressed. The Tulsa kid with some serious issues in his childhood, played angry, with a big chip on his shoulder in the Orange Bowl, against his home state team that failed to recruit him. And he showed repeatedly what he can do with the ball in his hands. He’s short, but not too short, with a powerful punch packed into those 215 lbs. He has good speed, and very fast change-of-direction cutting ability. He twisted some Sooner defender’s ankles with his cuts, as well as running through a few tacklers for extra yards. On the night, he carried 18 times for 98 yards, and caught 4 balls for another 60 yards. After watching him in the Oklahoma game I am taking his pro chances a lot more seriously than I had previously. Whether or not he comes out early is still to be decided, but if he does, I want you to be ready to give him some additional serious study.

Compared to this time last year, NFL Personnel people are tossing in their sleep trying to find serious Round 1 QB Draft prospects, and those teams that passed on a QB last Draft, must literally be on suicide watches as they envision themselves explaining why they may have passed on any of last year’s Top 5 QB prospects. Given his size and the mentorship of his HC DAVID CUTCLIFFE, JONES is getting some serious attention. Also, it turned out that the big come from behind Bowl Win by Duke, 56-27 over Temple, was a great platform for JONES. He began the day by throwing two INT’s in the first quarter, and leaving the game, after a big hit by the aggressive Owls D. He sat out a series while trainers massaged and re-taped an ankle/foot that bothered him much of the 2018 season. A new man re-entered the game, and boosted his team to a 56-27 Win with a dazzling throwing display, including some very accurate deep throws. By the end of the day, JONES was 30/41 – 73.2% – 423 yards – 5 TD’s, and 2 INT’s. I loved his toughness and his ability to suck it up and shine for 3 Quarters, after a miserable start. He reads defenses well, and does a good job going through his progressions. He also showed an arm that may not be a cannon, but can make all the throws in a pro route tree. I do think JONES can become a starter in the NFL, and may earn some serious, albeit late, First Round consideration. His Combine throwing will be important, now that he has declared for the 2019 Draft. Because JONES has his degree he just got and accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl.

RUSSELL played a big role on a dominant DL, in Auburn’s dismantling of Purdue in the Music City Bowl. His stats will seldom wow you, but he is a space eater deluxe, who seems to make a couple of significant plays in every game. However, I have seldom seen him dominate the line-of-scrimmage for consecutive possessions. He reminds me of former Tiger, and current Packers DT, MONTRAVIUS ADAMS, which is not a large compliment. ADAMS is a hot/cold player who seems to need constant pushing from his coaches. He has seldom seen actual game action in his two years with the PACK. RUSSELL seems quite similar to my eyes. He needs to go to a Defensive scheme that relies on a DL rotation to keep players fresh. RUSSELL gets tired with too many reps and disappears. He is probably worth a middle round Pick with realistic expectations for his pro impact. Watch the game tape of this Bowl Game, and you’ll see the good and the bad for Russell, who finished the game with 2 Tackles. He probably gets drafted, but it is well into Day 3 of the Draft, IMO. He will have a chance to sell himself at the Senior Bowl later this month.

One has to be careful not to automatically decide that guys we identify as tackling machines, will be good fits as a pro. The NFL is assignment sure, situation based play by everyone, but especially for LB’s, who spend more time dropping into coverage than chasing runners near the line of scrimmage these days, and though I have my doubts that TAKITAKI can handle the pass coverage assignments of today’s NFL, his outstanding play, as a chase-and-run LB in BYU’s Bowl Game win over Western Michigan, was too good to ignore. For that game, SIONE was credited with 19 Tackles, 9 of them solo, including 1 TFL and 1 Sack. That is one heck of a performance, and worth a free order of french fries. The first tackle that he recorded in the game, was his 100th of the season. Not bad for a guy who was playing back-up DE as a soph. He had 79 tackles his first year at LB, in 2017, second only to the 87 recorded by, now NFL-er, FRED WARNER. I am also convinced that TAKITAKI will have very little difficulty earning himself roles as a Special Teamer at the pro level. Post season workout numbers will determine whether he gets drafted, but count on him being on an NFL roster somewhere in 2019.

These thumbnails are done in alphabetical order, but I find it ironic that we follow RUSSELL, with a super energetic player in Van Ginkel. He was an absolute star in the dominant defensive effort the Badgers threw at Miami, in part, precipitating MARK RICHT’s sudden retirement. The edge-rushing OLB recorded 8 tackles, 4 of them solo, including 2 TFL and 1 Sack, while recording 5 1/2 sacks for the season. He also provides pressure on opposing QB’s multiple times each game. He runs very well, and will pursue all day long. ANDREW was a solid JC transfer into the Badgers program. He is currently listed as a Shrine Game participant. His performance there, and at the Combine, could well define whether he’s a 3rd Round Pick, or goes early on Day Three. This guy is athletic and plays with high energy, which many NFL teams could use more of. If the Packers part ways with Clay Matthews this off-season, VAN GINKEL, and his long flowing locks, might well soothe some Cheesehead fan anxiety out on the field of play. Just saying, Mr. Gutekunst.

I was always taught to make an especially strong impression at the end of a job interview. WILLIAMS certainly made a big impression, with a record setting Bowl performance. He is another low slung, quick and powerful RB, ala other Jr. declarees, HENDERSON/Memphis & SINGLETARY/FAU. WILLIAMS has been a solid performer in his career for the Aggies, but he really blossomed in the Offensive scheme of new HC JIMBO FISHER in 2018, rushing for 1,750 yards at basically 6.5 yards per carry, not to mention scoring 18 TD’s. His Bowl game stats of 236 yards rushing on only 19 carries, including 3 TD,s, was record setting. He decided to strike while the iron is hot, and is moving on to a pro career. I do not think many teams will be scared off by his lack of height. He shows balance, field vision, quick cut ability, and the strength to break tackles. He has also shown decent hands as a receiver for the Aggies. He caught 27 balls in 2018. His workout 40-time will, of course, be scrutinized, but I will note that on his 93-yard TD run, no one caught him from behind. I would expect him to be drafted early on Day Three, if not earlier in Round 2/3.

WILLIS caught 42 passes as a JC transfer in 2017 for the Trojans. In 2018, he broke out as Troy’s leading receiver with 56 receptions, including 10 for TD’s. He was absolutely Troy’s top weapon in their Bowl Win over NIU. In that contest, WILLIS caught 13 passes for 101 yards and 2 TD’s. He was most often, the most open receiver, and/or was most likely to win a 50/50 ball. He’s a long, smooth striding receiver, who provides a large target area to his QB. He also is a leaper, who will win those jump ball throws most of the time. He showed very good hands in this contest, with only one ball that I would classify as a flat drop. For a relatively thin lad, he is not afraid to run patterns across the middle of the field. I am most anxious to see what his numbers reveal to us at his Pro Day, or the Combine. Things like his hand size, wingspan, vertical, and speed numbers, could be very tempting to an NFL team or two, if my estimates are correct for those numbers. Right now, let’s say I can easily see him as a late Day Three Draftee come April.

That’s it for now folks. I still have Bowl Game notes left over, so perhaps I will do one more batch of prospect thumbnails this coming week, before heading for the Shrine venue.



Thanks again to LP, the 3rd musketeer here at the GBN Report, for his proofing and feedback in contributing to this report.