Who Caught My Eye Week 7

October 17, 2018

BEAU BENZSCHAWEL #66 OG 6’6/320 Wisconsin
Yes, the Badgers laid an egg against Michigan, but much of the discredit for that goes on a way too conservative game plan from HC PAUL CHRYST, and a very bad performance from uneven QB ALEX HORNIBROOK, in this observer”s opinion. It’s hard for an O-Line to look its best when their QB is running scared, like a deer in the headlights. BENZSCHAWEL is the next in a long line of superior Badgers’ OL headed to an NFL starting career, in this man’s opinion. The only reason that BEAU is not playing out at OT is a lack of foot speed and nimbleness, especially for pass pro. He is a big, long, athletic guy in a short area. I am most anxious to see what his arms and hands measure up to at a Star Game in January and/or the Combine in February. BEAU is now up to 42 starts for the Badgers in his career. He is always moving and seeking another block to carry out in game action. He looks like a natural knee bender, but plays a bit high at times, which is somewhat natural for his body size. I think he’s a better pro prospect than KEVIN ZEITLER was, who is now in his 7th season as an NFL starting OG. Look for BEAU to be gone in the Round 2/3 area.

T.J. EDWARDS #53 IB 6’1/240 Wisconsin
Clearly one of the most underrated LB in the nation, despite solid athleticism and outstanding productivity out on the field. EDWARDS was projected to be a possible early entrant for the 2018 NFL Draft, but chose to return to the Badgers. And yet his name was missing from more than a few 2018 prospect watch lists. I’ve already eyeballed EDWARDS 3 times this season, and I see great versatility. He’s effective in both run stuffing, as well as playing in reverse in pass coverage. In 2017, he recorded 81 tackles, but also was credited with 7 PBU and 4 INT. Go check some stat lists folks, and you will find that his pass defense work is higher than a lot of S in college football. The Badgers got bulldozed by Michigan Saturday night, but that was primarily because of questionable offensive game planning and QB play. On the evening, EDWARDS was credited with 10 tackles, 7 of them solo. He also recorded 3 TFL, 1 sack and 1 QBH. This guy is as steady as they come folks. Top 100 prospect, no question for me. Late 2nd, early 3rd Round, if he shows good workout numbers at the Combine. Some team gets a starting LB with this guy in the next Draft.

NOAH FANT #84 TE 6’5/240 Iowa JR
As I mentioned last week, while featuring 2 underclassmen, the senior class offers up a fairly unimpressive TE class for the 2019 NFL Draft. Therefore, any player who sees the NFL in his future, and happens to play the TE position, would be wise to give the idea of going pro early some serious thought. FANT would likely be at, or near the top, of many a scout’s wish list for 2019. His athleticism and skill set remind me some of TONY GONZALEZ coming out of CAL a couple of decades ago now. FANT looks and moves like an athlete who would make a really nice Small Forward on the Hawkeyes basketball team. FANT caught 30 balls last season, including 11 for TD. He is primed for more this year, although he’s battling some nagging injury issues that limit his playing time. He is a relaxed, hands receiver who has nice speed for his size. In limited playing time against Indiana, he caught 4 balls, for 101 yards, and 1 TD. The TD catch was a beauty, as he dove to reach the ball, then held on as he crashed to the ground in the end zone. The Hawkeyes are doing more passing this season as their QB STANLEY, does more Big Ben impersonations each game. If FANT can get healthy, and stay on the field full-time, he could cement himself as the top TE prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft. This is a “smooth athlete”, who shows a competitive edge. At the least, he could be an EVAN ENGRAM pro.

MONTRE HARTAGE #24 CB 6’0/195 Northwestern
HARTAGE is a solid all-around CB, who displays good ball skills in coverage, and is also very aggressive against the run. Against Nebraska, I felt he had some solid moments in coverage, even though he had no PBU numbers credited to his play. But he more than made up for it in his run support, where he seemed to be all over the field. Knowing that the Huskers were more likely to run the ball than throw it, (especially early on), he was very aggressive in coming up for tackles, especially out on the edge. He totaled 9 tackles, 7 of which were solo. He also was credited with 2 TFL. He has good size and a nice solid frame. His 2017 numbers clearly indicate he has basic coverage skills, having been credited with 7 PBU and 3 INT. With his size and style of play, HARTAGE might be able to play some S if his quicks don’t quite measure up to NFL standards. Mark him down as a Day Three, draftable player. Looking forward to seeing him in person in St. Pete or Mobile this January.

JAUAN JENNINGS WR #15 6’3/210 Tennessee JR
My guess is an awful lot of VOL fans are still celebrating this morning after the team’s upset win at Auburn. The Vols talent base looks to be on the upswing again, including a Top 20 recruiting class in Knoxville this season. The passing attack features a couple of potential pros and the guy I like the most right now is Jennings. He’s a long, solid receiver who presents a large target area to his QB, as well as deep speed and dependable hands. He played only 1 game in 2017 before going down with an injury. He looks fully recovered this year and was a big help in the win over Auburn. His big catch was a 42-yard gain, on which he won a jump ball battle with his defender. On the day, he collected 5 receptions for 71 yards and 1 TD. I am highlighting him in part because given that this is already his 4th season with the Vols, he may forgo a fifth college year to head for the NFL. I would look for him early on Day Three if he comes out.

ALEXIS JOHNSON DL #98 6’4/310 Tennessee
I really like the JOHNSON story of a senior who looked like he had lost his starting job under a new coaching staff and scheme. But in the upset win over Auburn, he got lots of playing time and acquitted himself quite well. He showed some serious quicks on the snap of the ball and nice penetration into the Auburn backfield. On the day, he was credited with 6 tackles, 2 solo, including 1/2 TFL, 1/2 Sacks and 1 QBH. He might have had a couple more tackles, but he failed to wrap up and bring down ball carriers several times, that I noticed. He has nice size, including some length. He used his size, on several occasions, to clog things up when Auburn tried to establish their running game. He might be draftable late, and a good fit in a 3-4 base scheme at DE, not to mention a nice plug-in in a basic 2-man front. Looks like a potential late rounder, who might find a job in a rotational DL system at the next level.

GREG LITTLE OT #74 6’6/325 Ole Miss JR
The easy, perhaps lazy, comp for LITTLE is former Ole Miss star LAREMY TUNSIL. It is not a perfect fit, but damn close. Like TUNSIL, LITTLE is a really good athlete and a very effective player in a man-sized body. He’s been out at LT for Ole Miss since his freshman year, and has done a fine job. He carries his weight well, and moves nicely for a man his size. I wish he had a stronger hand punch, but beyond that, he has good functional strength and has active feet. He is almost effortless getting to the second level, and is a natural knee bender. He does a nice job staying off the ground, and is always looking for another block to make. Against Arkansas, I thought he did a nice job mirroring some smaller edge-rushers, and was very effective on seal blocks in the run game. If defenders don’t come to him, he goes out to get them. Of great value is his versatility, in both the running game, and pass pro. LITTLE is likely to be the top OT prospect for the 2019 Draft, and given the sanctions Ole Miss is under, I am guessing that this will be his final season at Oxford. If he does come out, I would expect to hear his name called in the Top 12 Picks of the Draft. He is more athletic than, but equally effective as, Mike McGlinchey, who was selected in the Top 10 this past April.

TYRE McCANTS WR/RS #8 5’11/240 South Florida
This young man makes a hard case that he has NFL receiving talent, but to my eyes he has lost control of his weight. What in the hell are they feeding their guys at the USF chow hall these days? An awful lot of guys looked soft and slow, and way overweight, not just McCants. That 240 looks to be accurate from what I saw of him in action against Tulsa. And that’s a shame. This guy can run routes, and catches the ball very well. He can also add yards after the catch. But he needs to get back down to 215 lbs to live up to the TV announcer’s comp of NFL great Anquan Boldin. McCants caught 36 balls in 2017, for an average of 19.1 ypc and 7 TD. Against Tulsa, he had 8 catches for 91 yards, with a long catch/run of 32 yards. At his current weight, he is NOT going to uncover on patterns against most NFL LB, never mind S. In shape, he has solid NFL potential. Job one for his Agent come January, is to get him to lose at least 15 lbs in a performance camp setting. Then he needs to attend the Senior Bowl or Shrine Game and show off in his new/old body. TYRE, wake up man, and get in shape ASAP. You can play at the next level, but not in your current body configuration. C’mon Man!

RYAN PULLEY #11 CB 5’11/198 Arkansas
Pulley missed most of 2017 with injury, and the Razorbacks really needed him to come back strong this season to fortify their CB group. He has done just that, and I was impressed with his play against an explosive Ole Miss receiving corps. He is a nice sized, smooth running DB, who can locate the ball in the air. That was in evidence near the end of the 1st Quarter, when he made a diving, contested, end zone INT to keep Ole Miss from scoring, and get the ball back into the hands of his offensive mates.
He was also credited with a PBU later in the contest. He is not afraid to throw his body into run support, as he totaled 3 tackles, 2 of them solo, for the game. GREENLAW, HARRIS and RAMIREZ collect a lot of tackles, but PULLEY fits right in with them talent wise, and provides above average cover skills on the Corner. He has pro potential, and should be on scouts’ radar as we head to the off-season. Star Game action and the Combine will be critical for PULLEY’s draft chances, since the Razorbacks are not going to see any post-season bowl action. Slot him for Day Three of the Draft, Round TBD.

CLAYTON THORSON QB #18 6’4/225 Northwestern
I was glad to see THORSON have such an effective game against Nebraska as he did. I think we saw the pros and cons of his playing ability. To my eyes, he confirmed my opinion that he reminds me of quite a few Big Ten QB who are decent athletes, but take way too long to process what they see in a Defense, thus causing them to miss targets and be INT prone. For the day, CLAYTON was 41/64, 64%, 455 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT. Overall, that was some nice work and he led a comeback win. Granted, he was not facing a top notch D, but his own Offense has no legit running game, and pretty average receivers. However, his 2 INT are rather indicative of his delayed delivery, which can be a fatal flaw in the NFL. He throws a catchable ball, when it is on target. But if you watch the film, you see receivers stretching for catches with balls behind them, or bouncing in the grass way too often. He is also a decent athlete who can extend plays at time, but he’s not nifty at all with his scrambling or running with the ball. Given his size, and a better than average arm when he keeps his mechanics clean, I can see him being drafted next April. But in my eyes, it should be late, Round 5 or after, and with him being perceived as a back-up project. Someone in the NFL will decide they can coach him up, and that might be. But what I see, is the next Ricky Stanzi project as a pro.

MITCHELL WILCOX #89 TE 6’4/245 South Florida JR
This big guy made some of the most acrobatic catches of any of the receivers in the USF/Tulsa tussle last Saturday. He ran crossing patterns along with seam routes most of the game. Just about every catch he made was with defenders in his area. He ended up with 5 catches for 95 yards, including a long catch/run of 45 yards. His diving catches bailed out his QB several times. He also showed some blocking ability and want-to on the evening. He has a nice thick body for inline TE work. I have decided that we don’t have a lack of quality TE pro prospects around, it’s just that only a handful are actual seniors. If he declares, I see him as a legit Day 3, mid-Round prospect.