There is a bear-like quality to Nelson’s play – and that is certainly not a criticism when it comes to interior offensive linemen. He is a huge (6-5,330), very physical guard who simply moves people in the run game. Woody Baron of Virginia Tech was one of my favourite college football players in 2016 but Nelson treated Baron like a rag doll at times in the Notre Dame-Virginia Tech game. The ursine comparisons extend to his pulling game – he is not the smoothest athlete but, when he comes lumbering round the corner on the pull, he is an intimidating spectacle. I like the way he sustains his blocks and he gets real explosiveness from his hips. As a pass blocker, he is alert, intelligent and quick to identify threats. He can handle both quick, penetrative DTs and the massive space-eaters with equal confidence. Some people have mentioned Nelson as a potential top 5 pick but that is too rich for my blood; I don’t see the rare athleticism needed to select a G or C that high. I do, however, see a player who could be an immediate, productive starter in the NFL. Nelson reminds me of a less psychotic Richie Incognito and I think he certainly deserves the first round consideration he’s been receiving; I like him in the 15-25 range of the 2018 draft.
It’s easy to see on tape why Pruehs is considered a preseason All-MAC lineman and an Outland Trophy contender. He is a squat, intelligent player, who identifies threats rapidly and, at the MAC level, can get to the edge quickly. As a run blocker, he has a sound grasp of angles and his own responsibilities – this works very well in the Bobcats’ run-heavy offense. In terms of how he projects to the NFL, however, there are some serious concerns. In the passing game, he plays too high and lacks leverage against quick and nimble DTs. This is something that can be addressed by coaching, of course, but I am also unconvinced as to whether Pruehs has the athleticism and strength needed to play at the next level. There are moments on tape (Q2 14:53 v Troy, for example) where he simply gets swatted aside and he struggles to sustain blocks against powerful DTs. I see Pruehs, currently, as a very good center at the MAC level but as someone who could be ruthlessly exposed should he wind up in the NFL. As such, I have a marginal UDFA grade on him at this point in the process.
McGlinchey is an enigmatic prospect. He’s getting some first round buzz and it’s easy to see why; he has size, length, athleticism and alertness. At the same time, however, I felt he was inconsistent in 2016 and he has a lot to prove before he’s vaulted into first round consideration, in my view. If you watch the Stanford game, you can see why he’s so highly regarded. In that game, Notre Dame ran off both his hips with conspicuous success against a good D-Line and he transitioned smoothly between blocks. In order to see what he’s capable of, look at the run block he produces (Q1, 2:03) when he destroys the RDE. I really like him as a run blocker. As a pass blocker, however, he may be a fluid and accomplished athlete but I would like to see more violence and nastiness in his punch and more explosion via his outside leg in his kick-slide. Against better DEs, he can be a bit scrappy and grabby in pass protection – he is so wide-set that he is susceptible to the inside move, leading him to lunge and lose his balance. You could see this in the USC and Virginia Tech games last year. Overall, I think McGlinchey has a lot of promise and, if he can refine his technique, he could see himself in the 1st round discussion. At the moment, however, I see him as more of a Round 2 selection and I wonder if he might be more suited to a RT role in the NFL.
The first word that comes to mind when you see Sanchez play is “opportunistic”. He isn’t the biggest, strongest or quickest LB but he has an instinctive understanding of how to do his job. That works well, of course, in the AAC but I’m sceptical as to how it translates to the NFL. In the running game, I think he’s a step slow to recognise his gap responsibilities. He is a good tackler – not explosive, but dependable – but I still wouldn’t be confident in his ability to make plays against an NFL running game. Against the pass, he is quick to diagnose threats from the WR or TE position but, when it comes to RBs coming out of the backfield, I have major reservations in his ability to react to a play. I like him as a blitzer, though. In the Connecticut game (2Q 6:01 and 1:53) he flies out like a shell from a cannon to make the sack whilst, against Florida State (3Q, 12:44), he demonstrated an abrupt change in direction to enable him to effect the snap. Sanchez, essentially, is a football player – instinctive, scrappy and motivated. It’s easy to see why he’s been so productive at the FBS level. I have my concerns, however, about his athleticism and some of his diagnostic skills, which is why I have a late Day 3 grade on him.
Azeem Victor has had a lot of hype coming in to the 2017 season and, on occasions, you can see why. He has natural playmaking abilities and shows the ability to stack and shed blockers on a pretty consistent basis. In the Utah game, he was all over the field and, if you watched that tape in isolation, I can see why you would see him as a Day 2 pick; he is clearly an athletic and rangy LB, whose tackling technique is basically very sound. At the same time, however, I have two fundamental concerns about Victor. The first is the speed with which he reads his keys and reacts. Time and again, on tape, I see him flat-footed and static while the play unfolds around him. He might be able to use his athleticism to compensate in the Pac-12 but he will be destroyed in the NFL if he adopts the “Let’s have a good, long peer” approach. My second concern is his physicality. There are times when he simply allows RBs to take him along for a ride; Q4, 10:13 v Cal in 2016 is a good example. With the right coaching staff, I can see Victor having a good career in the NFL but there are so many flaws in his game right now that I would be disinclined to spend anything more than a mid-Day 3 pick on him.
I can see why Jewell is a favourite of Iowa fans. He is well-coached, determined, reliable and a technically sound tackler. He is certainly the sort of player who could be in contention for All-Big Ten honours after the 2017 season. Does this make him a good NFL prospect? Unfortunately, I fear, it does not. He is a productive LB at the FBS level but his skills do not naturally translate to the NFL. He is, often, slightly slow to read his keys and, even when he does make a quick read (ie goalline 3Q 7:22 v Wisconsin) he’s not strong or agile enough to make the tackle. He is also a bit of a liability in coverage; he is not a particularly fluid or quick athlete and can quickly be exposed by fast-twitch slot WRs or RBs. I think Jewell could be a good special teams player in the NFL but I don’t see him as much more than that. I fully anticipate that he will have another hugely productive season for the Hawkeyes but, at the same time, it is difficult to see him winning on a consistent basis in the NFL. In light of this, I have a 6th/7th round borderline grade on Jewell, going into the 2017 season.
Rolland-Jones is one of the most productive edge players in the country. He has a total of 30.5 sacks over his first three seasons with the Red Wolves and it’s easy to see why. The thing that stands out most for me about Rolland-Jones is the way he uses his hands. He has one of the most powerful punches I’ve seen this year on tape; on a consistent basis, he hits OTs – who outweigh him by 60lbs or more – with such force that they look like those cartoon characters who have stars and whistle sounds circling their heads. The UCF game (3Q 5:03) is a good example: he sends the RT tottering backwards in so comic a fashion that any Premier League football fan will be immediately reminded of Paolo di Canio sending referee Paul Alcock flying in 1998 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9CLiDqYfLc) . He has quick feet, decent bend around the edge and can convert speed to power – in short, he is a really good pass-rush prospect. My concerns about Rolland-Jones are twofold: 1) he has spent very little time in coverage and, at 6-2, 245lbs, he is going to have to be an OLB in the NFL and 2) I think his closing speed is good but not great. I do, though, really like Rolland-Jones as a prospect. He is relentless, powerful, disruptive and incredibly productive. He reminds me of a smaller version of the Cardinals’ Markus Golden and I would like to see a team take a chance on him on Day 2.