Inside the War Room: Week 14


John Blair
Alabama middle linebacker Reuben Foster was named the top senior prospect this week by Inside the War Room. | Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports

In this week’s Inside the War Room, we take a look at some of the most interesting underclassmen and what choices they have made or should make when it comes to the NFL Draft. Then, we take a look at whose stock is rising or falling in the NFL Draft Stock Market. We wrap up this week's article by listing the top 32 seniors in the draft.

 
 

SCOUTING NOTES

 
  • Texas running back D'Onta Foreman decided to enter the draft last week, and while he has been projected as a first-round pick by many people, I am not as high on him. One of the reasons I am not sold on him is that he offers very little in the passing game, as he only caught 13 passes during his career at Texas and has had numerous drops. Another reason I am not sold on Foreman is because I worry about how many times he has fumbled during his time at Texas. Yet another reason is that he is kind of a one-year wonder, as he has never rushed for over 700 yards in a season before he rushed for 2,208 yards this year. The last concern I have with him is how much he was used this season, as he led the FBS in carries with 323 rushes, which is the main reason he was able to put up such impressive stats, as he only finished 27th in yards per carry in the FBS this season. Due to these concerns, I would have a very hard time taking Foreman before the third round.

 
  • While Foreman has decided to enter the draft, one player who looks to be staying in school for at least another year is Ohio State third-year sophomore safety Malik Hooker. In his first year as a starter at Ohio State, Hooker set an Ohio State season record with 6 interceptions on the season, which also led the Big Ten. While he could have been a late first-round draft pick in the 2017 draft, if he has a strong junior season, he could be a top-10 pick in 2018.
 
  • A player who would be best off by staying in school for another year is Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, who was recently projected as a late-round draft pick by one scout according to Matt Miller. While I like the raw tools Rudolph shows, including great size (6'5", 235lbs), NFL-caliber arm strength and nice athletic ability for a pocket passer, I think he would be best off returning for his senior season for a couple of reasons. One area he could improve on as a senior is his accuracy, as he is only average in this area right now. He tends to rush his delivery at times, which forces him to be inaccurate at times, especially on short passes. Another area he could work on is making better reads in the passing game. While he did only throw 4 interceptions this season, he did force some passes and at times looks to lock onto his receivers.
 
  • One of the bigger questions at the tight end position in this year’s draft is where Ole Miss TE Evan Engram fit in. While he has put up outstanding numbers this year, including 65 receptions for 926 yards and 8 touchdowns, I am not sure where he fits at the next level. Even though he is listed as a tight end by Mississippi, I have a hard time seeing him play this position in the NFL. I think it will be hard for him to be a tight end at the next level due to a lack of size, as he is listed at 6'3", 227lbs and is a below-average blocker at best. Some people project Engram as a wide receiver at the next level, and while he did line up in the slot a lot this year, I have questions about his speed allowing him to play this position in the NFL. I also question his hands, even though he was able to put up strong receiving numbers this year he also had his share of drops, especially in the Florida State game. Hopefully, we will be able to get more of an idea of where teams project him by seeing where they line him up during Senior Bowl week.
 
  • While some Chicago Bears fans are high on quarterback Matt Barkley, who had a solid performance against the San Francisco 49ers and a strong fourth quarter versus the Tennessee Titans, I don’t expect it to change the Bears' plans to draft a quarterback early next year. While I do expect them to draft a quarterback high, I think their best option would be to wait until the second round and take the best quarterback left on the board. A prospect who the Bears have shown a strong interest in who could be available in the second round is Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya if he declares for the draft.
 
  • A small-school quarterback starting to get some attention is Tiffin’s Antonio Pipkin. He is a good athlete who can win both in the pocket and on the run. As a passer, he shows impressive arm strength, as he should have no trouble throwing any pass in an NFL offense. He has the speed to make plays with his feet as well, as he runs a 4.55 40-yard dash and rushed for 905 yards this season. While I do like his potential, I do have some concerns with him, including that he is still very raw and must show better pocket presence. I also worry about his ball security, especially when scrambling, as he holds the ball low and with one hand. Then you have the obvious concern of him coming from a small school. If Pipkin can impress at the Senior Bowl, he should have a shot at being a late-round draft pick.
 
 
 

NFL DRAFT STOCK MARKET

 
STOCK UP

Jamal Adams, S, LSU

While Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers gets most of the hype when it comes to the safety position, I expect LSU’s Jamal Adams to be the first safety taken off the board. What is so impressive with Adams is that he has the ability to play the run and pass at a high level. He is an extremely smart player and is widely considered the smartest player on the LSU defense. Adams shows great aggression vs. the run as well and has no trouble coming down and supporting the run, although he does duck his head at times which leads to missed tackles. Adams shows the athletic ability and smooth hips to play in the NFL as well. Look for Adams to earn a top-10 draft grade and he could even earn a top-5 grade if he tests well.

 

Eric Saubert, TE, Drake

A small-school player that reminds me of Engram is Drake tight end Eric Saubert, who recently accepted an invite to the East-West Shrine game. Saubert is an athletic tight end who should be one of the better pass-catchers available late in the draft. This season, he caught 56 receptions for 776 yards and 10 touchdowns. When projecting him to the NFL, he shows several positive traits, with the first one being his athletic ability. He ran a 4.69 40-yard dash going into his senior season, and shows the speed to get downfield. Saubert shows wide receiver-type body control as well, as he can make the diving catch or go up and get the jump ball. He has the size to catch scouts' eyes as well, as he comes in at 6'5" and 250lbs. On the downside, he does not offer much as a blocker and has played at a non-scholarship level of football.

 

Brendan Langley, CB, Lamar

Brendan Langley started his career off at Georgia before transferring to Lamar for the 2015 season. In his one season of starting, he posted 43 tackles and 6 interceptions, showing off the hands that allowed him to start his career as a wide receiver. Langley also has impressed scouts with his ability to return punts, as he finished 12th in the FCS in punt return average and second in the FCS in punts returned for touchdowns with 2.

 

Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado

Another secondary player that has impressed this year is Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. This season, he was a leader of a secondary that led the Pac-12 in pass efficiency and pass defense. One thing that impresses me so much with this prospect is his excellent versatility, as he has the ability to play cornerback, nickel back and even safety, which is the position I project him to play in the NFL. It would not surprise me if a team picked Awuzie at the end of the second round.

 
 
 
STOCK DOWN
 

Wes Lunt, QB, Illinois

A player who did not live up to the expectations I had for him going into the year is Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt, who I had rated as the third-best senior quarterback going into the season. Lunt set a career-low in completion percentage this year, completing only 55% of his passes, although that is significantly better than his backup Jeff George Jr., who only completed 40% of his passes. Lunt also had his lowest totals as a starter in passing yards and touchdowns this season. Part of the reason he had such low production is that he missed four games with a back injury, and another reason his production was down is his poor supporting cast. Even though Lunt has had a disappointing senior season, he could earn a draftable grade if he has a standout East-West Shrine game.

 

Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado

Sefo Liufau was starting to earn praise from draft experts until his last outing of the season against Washington. Versus the Huskies, he completed only 23% of his passes and completed as many passes to his own team as he did to his opponent, as he completed 3 passes and also threw 3 interceptions on the day. While I do like the leadership and toughness Liufau shows, I can’t see him being anything more than a free agent signing, as he lacks the natural passing skills to be anything more than a longshot to make an NFL roster.

 

Damore'ea Stringfellow, WR, Ole Miss

Damore'ea Stringfellow is a player who I think would have been best served by returning for his senior season, as he has questionable production, character and is still raw in a variety of places. This season, he only finished third on the team in receptions with 46 and has never had a season with over 50 receptions or 716 yards. Stringfellow has questionable character as well, as he left the Washington football team in 2014 after he was involved in an off-field incident. One more concern I have with him is that he is still raw when it comes to running routes and has dropped his share of passes this season. With all that being said, I could see a team picking Stringfellow on the third day of the draft due to his nice size and athletic ability.

 

Seth Russell, QB, Baylor

Seth Russell has had his last two seasons cut short by injuries. In 2015, he suffered a neck injury against Iowa State, and in 2016, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Oklahoma. Russell had a down season before his injury this year, as he showed spotty accuracy, completing only 55% of his passes and also threw a career-high 8 interceptions. Even though Russell has struggled over the past couple of seasons, if he can post impressive numbers like he did last July when he ran a 4.40 40-yard dash and had a 40" vertical jump, he could hear his name called in the sixth or seventh round.

 
 
 
THE LIST

Now that the college football season has wrapped up, it is time to release my first big board of the top 32 seniors in the NFL Draft. Please note just because I have a senior listed among the top 32 prospects doesn’t mean they will be first-round picks, as they will likely fall down the draft board after we see which underclassmen declare for the draft.

 

  1. Reuben Foster, MLB, Alabama

  2. Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama

  3. Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama

  4. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

  5. Jake Butt, TE, Michigan

  6. Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama

  7. Vince Biegel, OLB, Wisconsin

  8. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

  9. Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado

  10. Marcus Maye, S, Florida

  11. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan

  12. Desmond King, CB, Iowa

  13. Jarrad Davis, MLB, Florida

  14. DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State

  15. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

  16. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson

  17. Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana

  18. Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

  19. Chris Wormley, DT, Michigan

  20. Davis Webb, QB, California

  21. Pat Elflein, C, Ohio State

  22. Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan

  23. Jaleel Johnson, DT, Iowa

  24. Kevin King, CB, Washington

  25. Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois

  26. Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado

  27. Tanner Vallejo, MLB, Boise State

  28. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma

  29. Ethan Pocic, C, LSU

  30. Eddie Jackson, S, Alabama

  31. Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M

  32. Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State

 

 

Check out previous editions of Inside the War Room:

 

For more NFL Draft updates from John and Pro Football Spot, follow them on Twitter @nfldraftitwr and @spotdraft.





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