It’s time to wrap up the 2019 College Football season, with the FBS Championship game between perennials Clemson and L.S.U. While we wait, I am still reviewing my copious Bowl Season player notes. Here are my latest thumbnails.
LYNN BOWDEN #1 WR/KR Kentucky 6’1/199 Jr. BOWDEN has already declared for the 2020 Draft after a very interesting season for the Wildcats. For pretty much the second half of the 2019 season, BOWDEN was the team’s starting QB. And he starred in the heavily run-based Offense. BOWDEN looks to have good speed, and it will indeed be interesting to see what kind of workout numbers he posts at the Combine. QB is a thing of the past. Wideout will be his pro position. He is a fiery personality with flapping gums, which will have to be harnessed in the NFL, with its many rules to punish taunting and showboating. BOWDEN has proven to be incredibly elusive once in the open field, with surprising strength to power thru would be tacklers. In order to get a feel for his talent as an actual wideout, which was his position in 2018, let’s look at his numbers in ’18: 67 catches for 745 yards and 5 TD’s. I would suspect that he will also have Special Teams talent to display. If he blows up the Combine with speed and quickness, this guy could easily be gone by the end of Day Two of the 2020 Draft. It may take a little while, but I expect great things from this young man in the NFL.
JONATHAN GREENARD #58 DE/ER Florida 6’4/263 Sr. GREENARD is a Louisville transfer, who basically followed his former DC TODD GRANTHAM to Gainesville. GREENARD has never been short of talent, or leadership qualities. He missed the entire 2018 season to injury and has been nicked up throughout his career. He was hurting by the time of the Orange Bowl, but with sideline repair work, he got back on the field on multiple occasions against Virginia. His final game stats: 1 tackle, which was a sack, and 1 PD. However, his explosive nature influenced multiple plays in the Cavaliers backfield. Medical questions will abound at the Combine, but not questions about his attitude and ability. In his senior season at Florida, he recorded 50 T’s, 9.5 sacks, 3 FF’s, 1 FR, 1 Int, and 4 PD. It’s that kind of talent and all-around play that cannot be ignored. He is a team leader and a great locker room presence. He’s on the Senior Bowl roster. He had actually been cleared for another year of eligibility by the NCAA, but has indicated that he has no interest in another season of college ball. Thus, he does not have to apply for early Draft entry. He’s NFL bound.
JERRY JEUDY #4 WR Alabama 6’1/195 Jr Many folks think that JEUDY is the best pro prospect in this year’s WR Draft class. His smooth execution reminds me quite a bit of AMARI COOPER. I think JEUDY’s speed is underestimated. I also agree with the general assessment that he is one of the elites at route running. From what I have seen of him, his biggest edge over the former ‘Bama star COOPER, is that he shows much better concentration, and drops very few balls. His 2019 season included 77 catches for 1,163-yards, (that’s 15.1 ypc), and 10 TD’s. He was a star in the Tide’s Bowl W over Michigan, with 6 catches for 204-yards and 1 TD. That comes out to 34-ypc, with a long, early game TD catch and run of 85 yards. There is enough receiving talent out there for 6-plus First Rounders this year, but there likely will not be that many taken. Good receivers will still be waiting for their names to be called well into Round 4, but based on the multiple skills JEUDY shows, he should indeed be the first wideout taken, (just a tick above LAMB), and I still see him as a Top 10 talent.
COLLIN JOHNSON #9 WR Texas 6’6/220 Sr. I think JOHNSON is severely underrated, and much of it is not his own fault. He just happens to play for a team under TOM HERMAN that runs the ball almost 67% of the time when they have a healthy stable of RB’s, and their Defense is keeping the score down. Let’s use his most recent game as an example. The Longhorns handled the Utes and were able to get themselves into a solid lead fairly early in the contest. Immediately, the play calling switched to almost exclusively run, run, and run some more. And Utah could not stop the run. So JOHNSON had 3 catches for 62-yards and a TD early on, and got nothing more in almost the final 3 quarters of play. In part, that was because his main receiving partner, DEVIN DUVERNAY, got hot, but the final stats told the true story. TEXAS ran 56 plays from scrimmage, and only threw 19 times. Add to the mix that their QB, SAM EHLINGER, is most happy to tuck the ball and run when the pocket gets a bit hot, and a talented receiving corps has to share a small number of balls thrown their way. JOHNSON is a graceful target with his length and smooth running stride. Overall, he shows good hands and great jumping ability to go with his height. Watch carefully when Combine measuring gets underway. He shows good ball skills and will out jump almost every defender on 50/50 balls. I look for him to be gone by the end of Day Two. He too is listed on the current Senior Bowl acceptance list. He is the son of former 2-Time All-American and College Football Hall of Fame DB, JOHNNIE JOHNSON of Texas, who was a 1980 1st round draft selection of the L.A. Rams who also played for the Seahawks in his NFL career.
XAVIER McKINNEY #15 S Alabama 6’1/200 Jr The very talented McKINNEY has already stated his intentions to enter the 2020 NFL Draft. His play had flashed by me on multiple occasions, while I watched ‘Bama in action this past season. In that Citrus Bowl game, he led the Tide with 10 tackles, which included 1 sack. He was also flying around the secondary and caused several incompletions, IMO. With all the talent at Alabama during the SABAN era, it is very difficult for any single defender to amass huge stats for tackles and the like. But McKINNEY was a fine tuned machine in 2019. His final stats: 95 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 FF’s, 1 FR, 5 PD, and 3 INT’s. Rightly so, these numbers clearly led him to the conclusion that now was his time to head for the NFL. He is the best S coming out of ‘Bama since LANDON COLLINS, now with the Redskins, in my eyes. Or MINKAH, who played CB and S for the Tide. He is an aggressive tackler. He shows good ball skills. He makes a dangerous weapon in zone blitzes. He does it all, at a very high level. His presence likely means there will by 2 First Round S this year, with Grant Delpit/LSU looking like an almost sure thing to declare for the Draft after the big game tonight.
CHRIS ORR #54 LB Wisconsin 6’0/215 Sr. One of the factors I like about today’s NFL, compared to say a decade or more ago, is the trashing, by most teams, of the almost exclusive use of size stereotypes by position. In today’s game, teams and coaches are more willing to add a productive player to their roster, even if size is a bit of an issue. Thanks to the willingness of the Badger coaching philosophy of developing players, in the absence of 5-Star recruits, a player like ORR not only makes the team, but gets his chance to contribute. And DC JIM LEONHARD found very productive ways to use ORR. In 2018, as a part time player, ORR recorded 27 tackles and 1 TFL. After the 2018 season LEONHARD lost his starting LB crew of EDWARDS, CONNELLY & VAN GINKEL, who all made NFL rosters in 2019. ORR won himself a full time job and improved his stat sheet to read 78 T’s, 11.5 Sacks, 2 FF’s, 1 FR, and 5 PD. Not bad for a guy playing undersized, at D1 level football. He hustles, but understands his job. His Sacks exploded because his DC saw the quickness to get into the backfield and around the pocket. Against Oregon, in the Rose Bowl, ORR recorded 4 tackles, which included 1/2 TFL. He is still probably not going to get drafted, but his agent is likely to field more than a few phone calls after the 2020 Draft concludes. Gotta luv when players like ORR get their chance to play and seize the opportunity. You just know that he will make a key Special Teamer and will never be caught giving less than 100% out on the football field. ORR is currently listed on the NFLPA roster.
MALCOLM ROACH #32 DE Texas 6’3/290 Sr. In this day and age of so many underclassmen declaring for early entry into the Draft, one of my favorite watches during games is to see seniors emerge with more playing time and bloom before our eyes as legit pro prospects. ROACH would appear to fit that bill in 2019. He has started part-time since his freshman year, but has taken a while to emerge as a contributor. He certainly is not a superstar even now, but he has improved each season, and was the vet anchor for their DL this past season, IMO. As a part timer in 2018, ROACH had 24 tackles, 0 sacks, 1.5 TFL, and 1 PBU. In 2019, he recorded 40 Tackles, 3 sacks, and 1 PD. I think he best fits the mold as a solid starter in a DL rotation when the 3-4 scheme is in use. He could also fit the bill if/when a pro team goes to a 2-man DL, Eagle set. He showed well against Utah with 4 tackles, 1.5 TFL, and 1 Sack. He was also in relentless pursuit of the QB, and/or the ball, against the Utes. I would look for him to get a call from an NFL team needing fresh blood in its DL group, in the late Rounds of the 2020 Draft. You can currently find ROACH listed on the NFLPA roster.
CESAR RUIZ #51 OC Michigan 6’4/315 Jr. It was while watching that same Citrus Bowl game where JEUDY starred, that I developed a scouting crush on RUIZ. I had noticed him on several occasions during the regular season, but had only decided to concentrate on his play the week of the Citrus Bowl. He started 5 games at RG as a true frosh, and has been their starting OC the past two seasons. I saw a very explosive, powerful player, who also displays very good athleticism. He is as stout and strong as even the biggest, and best, DL that he plays against. He looks like a natural knee-bender in pass pro, who uses his hands well to shock defenders with his initial punch. He shows very good footwork for an Interior OL, in either the run game or pass-pro. RUIZ is very smooth at pulling or getting upfield for second level blocks. I luv me some RUIZ by Round 2 of the 2020 Draft. I firmly believe that he will be a standout at the Combine, and may even generate late First Round discussion. He’s just behind BIADASZ of Wisconsin as a prospect at the OC position. He has clearly stated his intentions to apply for inclusion in the 2020 Draft.
DARRELL TAYLOR #19 ER/OB Tennessee 6’4/255 Sr. This is the year that CHARLES DAVIS gets his chance to gloat a bit over NFLN colleague DANIEL JEREMIAH, that the VOLS football program is back with more Draft talent than App State. Even though App State had more W’s, the Vols got back to major Bowl action with a successful appearance in the Gator Bowl. Mr. TAYLOR was a big part of that victory and the team’s winning season record of 8-5. In their Bowl game, he recorded 6 Tackles, 2 TFL, 1.5 Sacks, and 1 QBH. He had an additional Sack in the 2nd Quarter but it was wiped out by a penalty in the secondary. TAYLOR looks like a sculpture of a football player. TAYLOR uses his hands well to manipulate would-be blockers and keep them off of his body. He seems to cover a lot of ground with his long stride. He has nicely proportioned size, and will likely post some seriously good workout numbers at the Combine. He. TAYLOR can set the edge adequately, but that is not his primary strength. I felt like I saw enough of him this season to project a successful transition to primarily a 3-4 OB and edge-rush specialist in the NFL. Against Indiana in the Gator Bowl, he played both roles of DE and stand-up LB without any apparent drop in effectiveness. He is currently listed on the Senior Bowl player list. I will be anxious to see how pro coaches move him around in practices at that venue. I will be very surprised if he does NOT post some nice numbers at the Combine. I feel the stage is set for him to push himself onto the edge of a possible late Round 1 selection in the Draft, but I would certainly project him to Round 2 right now. Smile when you say his name, CHARLES DAVIS.
Keep an eye peeled, as the post-season scouting period develops over the next few months, on Kentucky DE CALVIN TAYLOR, #91, a large, long player at 6’8/310. He has had a solid playing career for the Wildcats on defense, but I am hearing rumblings that some scouts see him as a serious conversion project to an OT slot as a pro. The kind of player NFL Practice Squads were created for.
Just an “I told you so” about Florida’s LAMICAL PERINE/RB. I told you this guy was a talented all-around RB prospect, who was undervalued as a pro prospect. He sure made me proud, and did himself a big favor, by having an excellent Orange Bowl performance. He rushed 13 times for 138 yards and 2 TD’s. He also caught 5 balls and did some serious pass-pro work for QB/TRASK. Some smart NFL team is going to get an all purpose RB in this guy. Just don’t count on him being around on Day 3, if he has good numbers from Indy. He is also on the Senior Bowl roster.
Given the time missed because of blood clotting issues a couple years ago, I would have expected Tennessee OG TREY SMITH to leave school for the NFL. But word has just come out from SMITH himself, that he’s headed back to Tennessee for another season. He played well this season, and if he repeats that in 2020, and passes medical muster, he’ll likely be a Top 100 draftee in 2021. He’s a huge (6’6/330) man who pushes defenders around on the Interior of the line-of-scrimmage. Great to see him come back from physical adversity in 2019.