Inside the War Room: Week 9
In this week’s Inside the War Room John Blair highlights several small school prospects in his weekly scouting notes. He then lists the top senior performers in college football last week led by a small school prospect for the first time this year. To wrap up his weekly article he talks about how it looks like the Titans have won the blockbuster trade for the 2016 first overall draft pick this year and how some teams might approach this year’s draft.
The reports coming in on Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson off the field behavior have been less than stellar as a scout told Matt Miller of Bleacher Report that he is a nightmare off the field. Robinson has also been in trouble with the law as he was arrested last summer on gun and marijuana charges although the case was later dismissed. He has also had troubles this season on the field especially with quick pass rushers and there are concerns about him having the quickness and athletic ability to play left tackle in the NFL. Due to these concerns, it should not come as a big surprise if he slips to the second round if the top junior offensive tackles enter the draft.
Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs is one of the prospects who has seen his stock fall the most this season. Going into the year he was rated as Inside the War Room’s second best senior quarterback and a player carrying a mid-round draft grade but now looks like a player who will be very lucky to get drafted. In his latest performance against South Carolina, he completed 46% of his passes and threw two interceptions. This is just not one bad game for Dobbs either as he has completed under 60% of his passes in six of his eight games and has also thrown 11 interceptions on the season. Part of the reason he has struggled so much this season is due to the fact that he is more of an athlete than a quarterback as he lacks the accuracy, and coverage reading ability to play at the next level.
Western Kentucky’s Keith Brown has to be happy with the way his graduate transfer has seen his production increase this year. Last year at Louisville he only recorded 33 tackles yet this season he has established himself as one of the leading tacklers in college football as he has recorded 87 tackles already this season. He has been able to produce in the passing game as well as the running game this year as he has recorded 2.5 sacks and one interception to go along with his seven tackles for loss. When watching film of Brown the first thing that sticks out is his athletic ability as he is able to play sideline to sideline. While he has put up solid numbers and shows the athletic ability I like, I would like to see him do a better job of getting off blocks.
Speaking of players putting up impressive tackle totals this year another player putting up impressive stats is safety Nate Holley of Kent State. So far this season he has recorded 111 tackles and has already become the first player since 1993 to reach over 400 tackles during his career at Kent State. While Holley might not be the highest regarded safety in the class due to a lack of cover skills he does have the aggressive approach to possibly make an impact on special teams at the next level.
Bucknell offensive tackle Julie’n Davenport is starting to draw his share of NFL interest. Recently Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage visited Bucknell to get an up-close look at him and it would come as a surprise if an invite was not coming for Davenport to the premier all-star game. To go along with the interest he has drawn from the Senior Bowl scouts have also been high on him as he shows excellent quickness and an overall athletic ability for someone six-foot-seven and 315 pounds. While he possesses the feet and agility to play left tackle in the NFL he will most likely need some time to adjust to the NFL as he lacks great power and will need to spend plenty of time in the weight room before he can hold up at the NFL level. With that being said I could see a team taking Davenport in the late second round as he shows promising potential and because it is a weak offensive tackle class.
Even though Pittsburgh defensive end Ejuan Price is one of the most productive players in college football he lacks the pro potential to be anything more than a fifth-round draft pick. When looking at his pro potential several things raises a concern with me including his lack of size as he is only six-foot 255 pounds. He lacks the athleticism and overall speed to move to outside linebacker as well. On the positive side, he has produced at a very high level as he is second in the FBS in sacks per game and has also forced three fumbles this year. He shows a nice first step off the line of scrimmage as well and has a variety of pass-rushing moves. While I have a hard time seeing him earning a starting job he might be able to find a spot on a roster as a situational pass rusher.
Jackson State linebacker Javancy Jones has been one of the most productive players in college football over the past two season. He currently ranks eighth in the FCS in tackles for loss with 13 and last season led the FCS with 24 tackles for loss. He has proven to be a pass rushing threat as well as he finished with nine sacks last year. While he has the ability to get after the passer teams will also like the versatility he has shown as he has played all four linebacker positions in the Tigers 3-4 defense and has even lined up as a defensive end at times. Another positive with Jones is his size as Jackson State lists him at six-foot-two and 245 pounds and he shows solid athletic ability for someone his size. He has seen his share of NFL interest with the Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, and New York Jets having shown a strong interest in him. His stock could rise even more if he impresses at an all-star game like the Dream Bowl, FCS Bowl, or HBCU All-Star Game as all three of these all-star games have shown an interest in him.
UNC Pembroke kicker Matt Davis is quickly becoming one of my favorite sleepers in this year’s draft. In last week’s Inside the War Room, I highlighted how Davis has excelled at the Division II level and has the tools to get NFL looks. Davis had another strong week last week when he converted on his two field goal attempts including a 58 yarder which would have been the second-longest field goal in the NFL this year. In addition to his impressive work kicking field goals he also had four of his eight kickoffs go for touchbacks and averaged 64 yards on his kickoffs.
This past weekend I went to the Colorado School of Mines to check out one of the top quarterbacks in Division II in Justin Dvorak and while he may have a hard time making the move to the NFL due to size concerns I did come away thinking left tackle Justin Traxinger has a shot of making it into an NFL camp. The first thing that stood out to me with him is his size as he is listed at six-foot-seven and 310 pounds and while I can’t see him playing left tackle in the NFL due to a lack of quick feet he should get looks as an offensive guard. One thing that concerns me with Traxinger is that he is rarely asked to run block and plays mainly in a two-point stance. A player to watch for the future from Colorado School of the Mines is sophomore wide receiver Brody Oliver who has 61 receptions, 1,197 yards, and 20 touchdowns on the season and has the size (6-3 195) to catch NFL scouts attention as well.
Top Senior Performers for Week 9
1. Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
Kupp is the top small school receiver in this class and one of the top small school players overall. This season he is leading the FCS in receiving yards per game and is tied for first in receptions per game. In his latest game against Montana he recorded 8 receptions for 140 yards and three touchdowns, he was also able to throw for 54 yards as he threw one pass in a throwback to his quarterback. Look for Kupp to be a late third or fourth round draft pick.
2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook is making a strong argument on why he should be the first running back drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. Against Clemson last Saturday, he set career highs in rushing yards with 169 and in touchdowns with four. His game against the Tigers is his fifth straight game of over 100 yards and he has over 150 yards in three of those five games. While I personally would take Leonard Fournette over Cook it should not come as a major shock if a wider open passing team picked Cook before Fournette is off the board.
3. Jarron Jones, DT, Notre Dame
Jones had by far the best game of his career as he was able to register six tackles for loss and one sack against Miami and was able to post these stats despite not doing much in the second or third quarter of the game. While these are impressive numbers look for Jones to draw his share of concern from scouts as he missed part of the 2014 season and all of the 2015 season due to injury. He has also only had one great game this year as he had only 2.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack before the Miami game. Due to these concerns I look for Jones to be a third-day draft pick.
4. D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
Foreman has burst onto the scene this year as he is currently second in the FBS in rushing yards per game after only having 754 yards going into the season. In his most impressive game of the season against Baylor, he rushed for 250 yards and two touchdowns which allowed him to be the first Texas running back since Jamaal Charles in 2007 to rush for over 1,000 yards on the season. While I love the production I have seen from Foreman this year I would have a hard time spending a high pick on him if he entered the 2017 NFL Draft due to a lack of explosion and questionable hands in the passing game.
Nate Gerry was named to Pro Football Focus's Midseason All-American team last week as he was graded as the top cover safety in college football. His grade should only go up after his strong performance against Wisconsin last week as he was able to come away with two critical interceptions in the fourth quarter which allowed Nebraska to take Wisconsin into overtime.
It is more of a surprise when Pumphrey doesn’t make this list then when he does as he is one of the most productive players in football and is the leading rusher in the FBS. This week he was able to rush for 223 yards against Utah State which allowed him to crack the top five of all-time leading rushers in the FBS. If Pumphrey continues on his current pass he should have an outstanding shot of becoming the FBS all-time leading rusher as he is only 656 yards away from breaking Ron Dayne’s record.
7. Jabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan
The most versatile player in college football has to be Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers who has lined up at linebacker, safety, cornerback, running back, quarterback, wide receiver, punt returner and kick returner this year. To go along with his versatility is excellent production as he was able to record seven tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and one rushing touchdown against Michigan State last week. If Peppers comes out this year it should be very interesting to see what position NFL teams project him at.
8. Jahad Thomas, RB, Temple
While Thomas may not be living up the expectations people had for him entering the season after he rushed for 1,262 yards as a junior he has had his moments this year. One of these moments came last week when he rushed for 151 yards on only 17 carries against Cincinnati. Even though he has had a down year this year I still would bring him in as a priority free agent due to the quickness he shows and because of his ability to be productive in the passing game.
9. Nolan Saraceni, RB, Montana Tech
I currently have two offensive players on my board from the NAIA ranks and Montana Tech running back Nolan Saraceni is one of those players. While he may play at a low level of competition his size, speed and vision make him a viable prospect for the NFL. Teams will also love his production as he leads the NAIA in rushing last season with 1,683 yards and in his latest game rushed for 197 yards and three touchdowns on only 14 carries.
Despite playing in only three and a half quarters against Connecticut, Jones was able to catch 19 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown. He was also able to throw one touchdown in the game. His strong game against the Huskies is only the latest impressive performance of the season for Jones as he currently leads the FBS in receptions per game by four catches a game and is only 32 receptions away from breaking the NCAA career record for receptions.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Joe Williams, RB, Utah
Pharaoh Brown, TE, Oregon
Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan
Dylan Cole, OLB, Missouri State
Adam Brenerman, TE, UMass
Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech
Raven Greene, S, James Madison
Donald Payne, S, Stetson
Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
Austin Carr, WR, Northwestern
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Micah Kiser, MLB, Virginia
Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
KD Humphries, QB, Murray State
Justin Dvorak, QB, Colorado Mines
It should be interesting to see if teams are scared off of taking an Air Raid quarterback high in the draft with the lack of success Jared Goff is having. While Goff still has intriguing potential he is showing that making the transition from an Air Raid offense to a pro style offense is a big adjustment. While there're obvious changes when it comes to footwork from being in the shotgun compared to under center it is also a big adjustment for players coming from this offense when it comes to reading a defense and understanding the verbiage of an NFL offense.
Tennessee Titans rookie offensive tackle Jack Conklin is quietly having an outstanding rookie season as he had yet to allow a sack this season and has proven to be a solid run blocker. It is definitely looking like the Titans have come out the early winner of the trade for last year's first overall draft pick as Conklin has been one of the best rookies in the class and Jared Goff has yet to see any playing time. Then when you factor in Tennessee was able to pick up Derrick Henry who is averaging over four yards per carry and a first round pick in 2017 the trade looks even better for the Titans.
Now that the Denver Broncos have placed C.J. Anderson on injured reserve it will be up to rookie running back Devontae Booker to fill the void. Booker was named one of Inside the War Room’s best value picks after the 2016 draft and Booker has lived up to this billing so far as he has been able to contribute in both the running game and pass game. If Denver is to make the playoffs this year they will need to continue to see the solid play out of Booker as he will need to take some of the pressure off of second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian.
Another rookie running back Inside the War Room was high on who is being counted on more as we enter the second part of the season is Daniel Lasco of the New Orleans Saints. In a recent New Orleans Times-Picayune article, Saint’s head coach Sean Payton said he has been extremely impressed with the progress Lasco has made this year and Lasco has seen increased playing time over the past few weeks as well including a career high in carries last week. In addition, to seeing more playing time on offense Lasco has played an important role on the team’s special teams unit.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has to be one of the most disappointing players in the NFL this year. After a promising season in 2015 when he set team records for touchdowns and passing yards he has seen his share of struggles this season with accuracy, decision making, and mechanics. Due to his struggles this season the team could look to take a quarterback in the mid-rounds, especially when you see the lack of potential behind Bortles as Chad Henne and last year's sixth-round draft pick Brandon Allen are his backups.
One of the most disappointing first round draft picks in this year’s class has to be New York Jets linebacker Darron Lee. In his first seven weeks of action Lee has allowed three passing touchdowns and according to Pro Football Focus has allowed the most receiving yards of any linebacker in coverage so far this year. While he has yet to live up to expectations it has also been a relatively weak outside linebacker class as both Leonard Floyd and Myles Jack have underperformed this year.
This past week I took a look at how the players that were named to the Inside the War Room All-Undrafted Team are doing and the results were mixed with 59% of the player making an NFL team’s active roster or practice squad. Overall, seven players made their team’s active roster while five are on team’s practice squads. The position I missed on the most with this team was the offensive line as three of the five players who made the team are no longer in the NFL and only one player is on a team’s active roster. The breakdown is listed below
Jake Coker, QB, Alabama not in the NFL
Josh Ferguson, RB, Illinois, On the Colts roster
Drew Ott, DE, Iowa, not in the NFL
Lawrence Thomas, DT, Michigan State, on Jets IR