Who Caught My Eye Week 5

October 3, 2018

2018 was a veritable bonanza year for Rookie kicking and punting prospects on NFL Training Camp rosters. And more than a few of them made the 53-man roster cut-downs. Any team with a big need going forward on their Special Teams better get lucky and/or risk a fairly early Pick for a guy like BAILEY. BAILEY had an outstanding season in 2017 with a 45.4-yd/punt gross average and a 41.0 net. He was a big weapon for Stanford on a night where the Fighting Irish Defense dominated most of the game, including field position. BAILEY had to punt 8 times at an average of 45.6-yds/punt. He boomed one punt, to flip the field, of 64 yards. BAILEY is normally good at placing his punts inside opponents’ 20, but never really had much of a chance on this night. This guy and Utah’s MITCH WISHNOWSKY are likely to be battling for the honor of being the first Punter taken in the 2019 NFL Draft. They both might be gone before the end of Round 5. Get ’em while you can, needy teams.

For those who don’t think history repeats itself in more ways than one, I would say your powers of memory and observation are sadly lacking. In 2017, LSU thought that the loss of LEONARD FOURNETTE to the NFL was not a major deal because of the presence of a guy named GUICE on their roster. Then GUICE spent much of the season injured, and a fifth year senior named DARREL WILLIAMS stepped up and had a monster season in Guice’s absence. He rushed for 820 yards and 9 TD’s, as well as catching 23 balls for another 331 yards. He’s now on the CHIEFS roster in the NFL. This season the RB spot was up for grabs at LSU and dependable career back-up NICK BROSSETTE has stepped up to fill the void. Surprisingly, LSU is still undefeated and a Top 10 ranked team. And NICK has been leading the charge. Last Saturday, against the high-powered Offense of Ole Miss, BROSSETTE ran for 72 yards and a TD. Through the 5-0 season start, BROSSETTE is on pace for a solid chance at 1,000-yards rushing for the season. He is also a solid blocker in pass-pro. Just like WILLIAMS last year, he may go undrafted next April, but I can see an undrafted guy named BROSSETTE making an NFL roster come 2019.

With 2018 not looking like the banner pro QB prospect class of 2017, it gives players like FINLEY more of a chance to shine during the college season. After leading the Wolf Pack to their 4th Win against 0 Losses last Saturday, he should be looking pretty good to some teams, though I still can’t see him in Round One next April. Against the Virginia Cavaliers last week, FINLEY put together a very solid day’s work. He went 22/32, 68.7%, for 257 yards and 3 TD’s. He looks to have good mechanics in the pocket, and has an above average arm. It looks as though he throws a very catchable ball. He also seems to throw a few too many balls into fairly tight coverage situations, which makes me wonder if he is seeing the field really well. He has decent pocket awareness, and the ability to extend plays with his legs. But he’s certainly not what I would call a running QB. He needs a good pocket to succeed. He might go as high as the 2nd Round in the 2019 Draft, but might never be more than a back-up in the NFL, rather than a starter. On the other hand, I see some serious similarities to DEREK CARR in FINLEY, and if that holds up he just may be a riser as aQB Prospect next Spring.

HARMON is the best receiver the Wolfpack has had since a guy named KOREN ROBINSON. And in fact, he reminds me of ROBINSON, who went on to an NFL career with mixed results, in part due to some injury issues. HARMON is a smooth route runner, and he locates the ball very nicely in the air. He has dependable hands and great hand-eye-foot coordination along the sidelines. He has enough speed to stretch opposing defenses. He is also not likely to lose very many battles on jump ball throws. Against Virginia, he caught 6 balls for 94 yards and 1 TD. In 2017, he led State wideouts with 69 catches for 1,017 yards and 4 TD’s. I look for him to exceed those numbers this season, and if he declares for the NFL Draft, (count on it), I fully expect him to be a first rounder. If you have a chance to watch an ACC contest with NC State in it, do your self a favor and watch it, to get a look at this guy strut his stuff.

This player was a prize recruit five years ago. And he has been a steady starting OT during his career as a Gator. But he has not raised his game to star level for the Gators. And I think part of the issue for him is footwork that is just not good/quick enough to excel out on the edge. He started his college career primarily inside at OG, but had to move out to OT to help out the Gators who were quite thin along the OL the past two seasons. It appears to me that if drafted and groomed as an Interior O-lineman, he can be a solid NFL starter for years to come. One of the biggest advantages he has heading to the NFL, is that the Gators run a balanced run/pass ratio so he has had plenty of work in both run blocking and pass protection. He shows very well in pass-pro with good footwork for a guy his size. But he doesn’t dominate in the run game like you might expect. He is a small-area player for the pro game. He might be a good enough value to crack the Top 100 prospect list by next April.

The 2019 NFL Draft is going to be on the weak side at the TE position, in my eyes. That means scouting the TE prospect group will be very challenging and require much diligence. For teams that need an inline blocking TE, it could well be that the underrated Mr. Moreau deserves some serious film study. The blocking work he does is fairly easy to see on game tape. But his receiving talent will require digging, since any TE at LSU is lucky to be targeted 3 times a game. Even though transfer QB JOE MORROW had a record day for himself throwing, MOREAU caught one ball for 9 yards against MISS STATE. He had only 24 catches last season. But he’s a solid looking route runner, and I have seen him make some nice grabs the past two seasons. I think in projecting him to the NFL level, I can see similarities to current PACKERS, and former JAGUARS TE MARCEDES LEWIS. Unless the TE talent search turns into a holy grail obsession by next April, I think MOREAU will be a 5th Round, or later, Pick. Pros are gonna luv his work in the Red Zone, IMO.

TYREE ST. LOUIS #78 OT 6’5/315 MIAMI (F)
ST. LOUIS started 13 games at RT for the Hurricanes in 2017. This season he is serving as the starting LT and doing quite well, thank you. He’s the definition of “long”, in both his upper and lower body. He’s a natural knee bender who uses his long arms very effectively to steer defenders away from an inside rush on the ‘Canes pocket. TYREE got very little pub heading into the season, but looked very effective to me against the Tar Heels. He might be able to beef up a bit and gain a bit more muscle mass, especially in his upper body, but his length and agility are big pluses in today’s pass-happy NFL. He looked pretty solid all night in a very convincing MIAMI victory. Again, not an elite prospect, but he should have a shot to get drafted.

In today’s NFL, where the criteria for S play has turned from head-hunter to coverage guy, it is always worth watching when you find a S, who has previously played CB. Meet Juan Thornhill, who is patrolling the deep secondary and knows how to cover receivers. Not only did THORNHILL have 63 tackles last season for UVA, but he also had 4 INT’s, and was credited with 12 PD’s. That’s a lot of productivity back deep in the secondary. VIRGINIA really put a scare in NC State before falling to the Wolfpack. But Juan was doing his job all day long. He was credited with 7 tackles, 5 of them solo. He also had a TFL on one of those tackles. Back in coverage he was credited with 2 PD’s. I would expect to see Thornhill at the Senior Bowl or Shrine Game come January. It will also be interesting to see what kind of workout number he puts up at the Combine. Right now I project him to the 4th or 5th Round in next April’s Draft.

I have been thinking for several seasons that TILLERY had more in the tank than he was showing us each game day. Looking at that long, lean body in pads, it seemed like a dominant player might be hiding in there somewhere. He has been having a nice season, as his team went undefeated for September, but it was the TILLERY in the second half against Stanford that I have been waiting to see. With a combo of length, surprising strength, leverage, and burst in his take-off, he had a game of 6 tackles, 4 TFL, all 4 of them sacks. He also supplied some pressure on the QB. Given that at 6’7 he fights to hover around 300 lbs, I see a position change in his future as a pro. If you are a true pro football fan, you must remember the dominant duo of big oaks that manned the DE slots on the STEELERS 3-4 front back in the first decade of this century: AARON SMITH/BRETT KEISEL. They held the line of scrimmage, and got a decent number of sacks for their positions, but also blocked the eyesight and passing lanes for many an opposing QB, both being 6’7 or more. To me, that is what TILLERY will do as a pro. My eyes saw his determined play against Stanford. My mind saw those two ex-Steelers in action. If he can post another couple of performances like last Saturday night, he should grab himself a 3rd Round Draft position next April.

I watched the Miami D closely in this game, with DE JOE JACKSON my likely thumbnail subject. But despite JACKSON’s excellent effort, it was WILLIS who I ended up taking notes on. Heading into the game, WILLIS was the NCAA D1 leader in TFL from his DT slot in 2018. The Florida transfer did not play in 2017, but came on to win a starting job for his work in August after being absolutely dominant as a scout team player in 2017. He uses a combination of quickness off the snap, gap shooting, and hand action to get past Interior OL and disrupt the pocket and running plays. He was credited with 4 tackles, with 2 solo efforts, and 1/2 TFL in their DL rotation against an overmatched UNC squad. In fact, after watching the replay several times, it was pressure from WILLIS that put the UNC QB on his back and allowed JACKSON to grab a desperation heave and turn it into a pick-6. In my opinion, JACKSON should have shared the turnover chain on that play with WILLIS. I expect WILLIS to steadily rise up prospect lists this season and get himself drafted on Day Three. He could turn into a very solid contributor to an NFL DL rotation in 2019.

The trend in the NFL is clear. Every receiving corps in the League needs to have one undersized, quicker than fast, jitter bug member, most of whom play much of the time in the slot. OLAMIDE fits that criteria to a tee, based on what I saw of him in a losing effort to NC State. His main stat line was 9 catches for 109 yards and 2 TD. But he also touched the ball another two times as he rushed for 39 yards. I would also venture a guess that he might make a decent Return Man option for some NFL team. He is certainly not slow, but his quickness and cutting ability really set him apart from bigger wideouts. He also showed very good hands. He clearly caught my eye in a losing cause, and can’t imagine him not getting selected late on Day Three of the Draft. If he doesn’t, his agent may be very busy with phone calls from teams after the Draft. This is an exciting little guy, who looks to be able to fill multiple roles for some NFL team next year.