What we see is becoming what we accept as our reality. The one consistent moniker in the NFL is that there is always new talent coming in.
After viewing their workouts and compiling their collegiate accomplishments, one has to gain trust in what the numbers and eyes are showing you. Maybe one should trust their gut, looks, can be deceiving. There are players and then there are standouts.
This rookie class is special. They will face the most adversity of any rookie before them. A daunting 17 to 20 game schedule, a shortened resting period and higher expectations to make an immediate impact. This is my list of who passed the “Eye Test”, not only at the NFL Combine but also at the next level.
A.J. Dillon: A powerhouse, he made Boston College’s offense relevant. A 4.4/ 4.5 runner, he was an amazing pass blocker and averaged 26 carries a game. Dillon was a standout at the Combine and can boost any NFL team’s running game. His confidence was present, and he’s ready for the next level. At 6’0″, 249 pounds, he is a wrecking ball. His 1,685 rushing yards, 15 total touchdowns and 5.3 yards a carry are not an accident.
Another power back who benefited from a run-first system in Wisconsin. Some believe that he doesn’t have a lot of tread left on the tires. Mr. Taylor, who smiled and proceeded to embrace the question, would tell you otherwise. Yes, his senior campaign he did fumble six times, but he also had 26 touchdowns and amassed 2,255 yards. He is a bruiser back that can change the culture of a team in desperate need of a running game. He has run for 6,174 yards and had 45 touchdowns collegiately.
D’Andre Swift: Shady 2.0, is a gem for any NFL team. He only increased his scrimmage yards and touches each year he was a Bulldog. Swift’s sophomore season was his standout year, snatching 13 touchdowns through rushing and receiving. Swift’s hands, like his feet, are quick and elusive. His ability to catch out of the backfield arguably makes him the best running back available in this year’s draft. His demeanor at the combine was dripping of a humble swagger.
Cee Dee Lamb: Oklahoma produces NFL talent left and right. Last year it was “Hollywood” Marquise Brown. This year, the can’t miss wideout is the man from Richmond Texas. A big target at 6’2″, he redefined his craft and proceeded to get better every year at OU. He does most of his damage in the first quarter, gaining 489 of his 1,327 yards at the beginning of the game against his collegiate opponents.
His consistency doesn’t stop there. September and October of his Junior year were nearly identical- 414 yards for September and 402 for October. Second-quarter yards for the season- 443; 1st quarter yards 489. 10 of his 14 touchdowns were in the first half showing he struck early. Oh, and by the way, this man has some hands. 62 catches for his junior year for 21 yards a catch…
Denzel Mims: There’s something in the water in the Big 12. Offense is easy to come by because of all of the amazing weapons coming out of Texas. Daingerfield, Texas is his home, where he was a standout in high school, and took his game to new levels under Carolina Panthers Coach Matt Rhule’s tutelage. Mims should thank him. He is dangerous.
Smart, crafty, excellent discipline off the line, a free-runner, who isn’t a one-trick pony on single wide coverage. The repertoire is unique; three years, 28 touchdowns, 2,881 yards while averaging 16 yards a catch. He’s a best-kept secret who can easily become your number one in an ever-changing NFL. He had 186 catches total. His freshman year, before Matt Rhule arrived, stats were four catches for 24 yards total.
Chase Claypool: Once it clicks, and you finally figure it out, the sky is the limit. That is in anything that we do. Claypool had to learn how to enforce his will. It made him a better receiver. The 6’4″, 230 problem out of Abbotsford British Columbia is a bruiser. He’s going to demand a double team only because he going to wear down your corner. Size matters, and he was smooth like butter at the Combine.
Displayed great hands that Thursday as well as for the quarterback drills with Kelly Bryant, Brian Lewerke, Jacob Eason, Aaron Gordon, Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm, Kellen Davison, and Jalen Hurts. I can’t remember him dropping a pass. That is a corner’s worst nightmare; a receiver bigger, faster, stronger, and with better hands than you. His catch radius and yards per junior to senior year increased dramatically.
– 2018: 50 receptions, 639 yards, 12.8 avg, 4 TDs
– 2019: 66 receptions, 1,037 yards, 15.7 avg, 13 TDs
I rest my case.
Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovaila are outliers; neither have anything to prove. They both hold a National Championship and will be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. There were other stars in the Indianapolis sky that night. Without naming the other names in the room, I’m surrounded by NFL Royalty. From a mouthpiece to a statistician, the depth of knowledge in the room was astounding.
Jalen Hurts: A winner wherever he goes, he displayed a quick release and power behind his throws. Hurts showed comfort and velocity in his sideline throws. He needs a touch of work on the deep ball, but his throws from deep were in stride; not mechanical deep seven-step drops. He was a touch high on comeback throws to his receivers; it was always coming at their heads. Great motor functions and comfortability on right side throws. Also, he displayed a pretty spiral on go-routes. He’s a starter, but it’s all about fit and opportunity.
Jacob Eason: I usually don’t have faith in Pac 12 quarterbacks, but if I were to take a chance on one, it would be Jacob Eason. He spent two of his years in Georgia before taking a year off and becoming a Huskie. He’s pretty much immobile with two rushing touchdowns and had 126 yards on the ground. However, his senior year was quite nice under a different system. His completion percentage, yards, and average per touchdowns all increased. He finished with a QBR of 143.9.
Behind a good offensive line, Eason could be nice. His draft profile is definitely interesting. At times he was sharp, with a good spiral, and accurate and on-time on splits and inside slants. A touch high on the deep throw (with an ability to sail), but he has a beautiful spiral. With some work on weakside out throws, he exerts great confidence from short distances. Pretty throws on come-backers and in-field routes. If he can find consistency on his deep go routes, he can be a second-year starter.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Gordon
His velocity was amazing. Pinpoint from short distances. Hit his receivers in the breadbasket. Accurate on 20-yard fade and out throws. Kept great cadence with his receivers and showed accurate anticipation for 40+ yards continuous times. He is a rhythm thrower, and rhythm is a dancer. Although he doesn’t boogie across the line of scrimmage, he is down to go down-field. He had 5,579 yards his senior year, completing 71.6% of his passes, and had a 3-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Does it matter that he threw for 48 touchdowns?
Names to know and remember
Sterling Dewdney- Wide Receiver Shepherd University
KeOntae Owens- Running Back Urbana University “The U”
Perry Seldon- Running Back University of West Georgia
Tyler Anderson- Running Back, Cincinnati Ohio
Micheal Andrews- Wide Receiver West Texas A&M University
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