In one of three All-Star games going on this week, the “new game on the block” has done a great job of bringing well-known guys, talented small schoolers, and athletic intriguing prospects to their event.
While the quarterback and linebacker class as a whole isn’t overly impressive, it’s the running backs, safeties, and small school athletes that I’ll be interested to follow.
Keep in mind that these players aren’t ranked by how they are viewed by us/NFL teams, they are ranked by my level of intrigue/excitement about their play this week.
1. BJ Stewart, TE, Cumberland
I haven’t seen enough of Stewart to give an accurate grade, but that’s what makes him so intriguing. The 6’5, 253 pound athletic freak at tight end, Stewart could develop into this year’s Jimmy Graham or Taylor Thompson (of SMU). Both tight ends ended up in the mid-round despite being super raw at the position, and while I hesitate to compare Stewart to him, his size/numbers/athleticism could certainly draw that comparison. Be sure to follow Stewart throughout the process.
2. Kenny Tate, OLB/S, Maryland
Still one of my personal mid-round favorites, Tate has loads of upside to me as a safety/linebacker situational role player. The NFL is moving towards athletic tight ends, and that means NFL teams need to adjust to them by finding linebacker/safety versatile players who can cover tight ends and make things difficult for slot receivers. Tate has the size and experience to cover tight ends, and he also played very well against Tavon Austin of West Virginia this year.
3. Vernon Kearney, S/CB, Lane
As you’ll see with most of this list, Kearney adds another small schooler to this list. Kearney has great length, explosion upfield, and the ability to adjust vertically quickly with great short-area hip fluidity. While some teams may consider him at cornerback, he may be best fit in the Cover 2 safety role. Regardless, he has the athleticism, length, and coverage ability to be a later round draft pick, maybe higher with a good week here.
4. Miguel Maysonet, RB, Stony Brook
Built well in his upper and lower half, Maysonet looks the part of a physical, complete runner. He has the ability to make himself skinny in the hole, lowers his shoulder to drive up field well, and cuts after initial burst through the hole well. He runs a bit upright, doesn’t have a great first gear, and as a result, can’t always get through traffic with his legs. Still, he should certainly impress against a mediocre linebacker and safety group this week.
5. Brent Russell, DT, Georgia Southern
Plays with natural leverage heavy, active hands, Russell has the girth and wide body to hold point inside at 1 technique. Flashes some burst off the line, but more of a one gapper that plugs inside. Works his hands well to disengage, keeping his distance from the opposition and having the technique to disengage. Lacks the length to extend exceptionally well or affect the passing lanes. Creates a strong push with inside hand placement, powerful leg drive, and motor. Very violent and sudden with his hands to knock blocker of his pass set. Lacks quick twitch and lateral agility to stunt across multiple gaps. Motor and effort help him get to the ball carrier. Is regularly a step late in shedding for the tackle. Adds value on special teams with drive and motor to penetrate and block field goals.
6. Damion Square, DE, Alabama
Surprised he didn’t get more looks at the Senior Bowl, Square was a bit unheralded on the Alabama defense, but certainly shows the ability to play 5-technique at the NFL level, a skill set that NFL teams covet in the mid-late rounds. He could show his gap control ability in this 5-technique and maybe strong side 4-3 defensive end role this week.
7. Washaun Ealey, RB, Jacksonville State
The former Georgia transfer, Ealey has enjoyed success these past two seasons at Jacksonville State. The running back, who is moved around as a slot receiver for pass patterns and reverses, has flashed versatility as a running back. While as a runner he flashes the body control necessary to make plays in open field, he doesn’t play with ideal pad level, lacks ideal vision up and through the hole, and has a longer build. But with his experience as a receiver this year in shorter routes, positioning as a receiver, and maybe most impressively, how much he’s been asked (and how well he’s been doing) as a pass protector this year, he could provide enough intrigue as a situational guy at the next level.
8. Zach Rodgers, WR, Tennessee
An Alex Brown late round favorite, Rodgers wouldn’t even have gotten playing time if it wasn’t for Da’Rick Rodgers being forced out of the program. Rodgers doesn’t have all the upside in the world, but NFL teams have given 3rd and 4th college receivers a chance in the NFL, and Rodgers looks like the kind of guy who could stick in the NFL.
9. Eric Brietenstein, FB, Wofford
The feature back in Wofford’s option offense, Brietenstein doesn’t have the speed, explosion in the open field, or the versatility as a pass catcher to play the running back position at the NFL level. And while he has the build of a full back and is a power back, he hasn’t gotten much of a chance as a true lead blocker or in pass protection. He’ll need to show both this week to be a Top 3 full back prospect in this draft.
10. Martin Wallace, OT, Temple
Wallace hasn’t gotten a whole lot of attention this year, likely because he’s not a safe draftable prospect and he’s a right tackle only. But as a plant, pivot, and power run blocker, with flashes of pass protection on the interior, Wallace intrigues me as a late round/UDFA guy that I think will stick in the NFL. Wallace will have a chance to show that ability this week.
Others I’m Excited to Hear About:
Casey Brockman, QB, Murray State
Onterrio McCaleb, RB, Auburn
Derrick Washington, RB, Tuskegee
Josh Jarboe, WR, Arkansas State
Quentin Sims, WR, Tenn-Martin
Roy Roundtree, WR, Michigan
Darius Johnson, WR, SMU
Ryan Griffin, TE, UConn
Ryan Schraeder, OT, Valdosta State
Terren Jones, OT, Alabama State
Josh Dworaczyk, OT/OG, LSU
Roddy Tomlin, OT/OG, Murray State
John Sullen, OG, Auburn
Willie Jefferson, DE, Stephen F. Austin
Omar Hunter, DT, Florida
Montori Hughes, DT, Tenn-Martin
Jeremy Kimbrough, OLB, Appalachian State
Shaq Wilson, ILB, South Carolina
Cameron Lawrence, ILB, Mississippi State
Camerron Cheathem, CB, Cincinnati
Jumal Rolle, CB, Catawaba