Having heard a lot of hype about Gesicki as one of the top TEs in the class, I was looking forward to delving gnomishly into his tape. I must confess, I was disappointed. We should start with the positives; he has really good hands , an outstanding catch radius and the ability to make the contested catch on a regular basis. He gives enough effort as a blocker to make him just about serviceable in the Big Ten; in the NFL, however, he will get destroyed. The thing that stood out most to me about Gesicki, though, is his lack of athleticism. There is so little explosion off the line and so little speed that it is very difficult to envisage him winning on a regular basis in the NFL. In the 2016 Michigan game, when he was up against a host of NFL calibre defenders, he looked utterly lost and outmatched. I could perhaps see Gesicki making a team as a third TE who could be considered a red-zone threat but even that is a reach – I like my number 3 TE to be a factor on special teams and I don’t see Gesicki having the speed or physicality to be an effective special teams player at the next level. I can, I fear, see him as one of the big names in the draft who ends up not hearing his name called.
After an injury-plagued redshirt freshman year, Joseph shone as a sophomore last year, with 124 tackles (13.5 of them for a loss) making him a key component in Clemson’s run to the national championship. On tape, there is a lot to like about Joseph’s play. He is very instinctive and athletic – he plays quicker and makes reads faster than a lot of the other LBs in this class. He is an alert, heady player – see for instance, his forced fumble in the Ohio State game (Q3, 13:22), when he very deliberately pokes the ball out of the RB’s grasp in the act of making the tackle. He is very comfortable in space; he is assured in zone coverage and has the speed and agility to match up well with TEs. He is also a technically sound tackler, albeit not a huge hitter. There is, however, no getting around his lack of size. Clemson list him as 6-0, 225 and I’d be surprised if he were that big. This manifests itself against the run; he can use his hands and explosiveness to shed a TE’s block but, all too often, when an OL gets his hands on Joseph, he gets submerged. Overall, though, I like Joseph’s potential as a WLB in a 4-3 base and I could certainly see a team being interested in him on Day 2 of the 2018 draft, should he decide to declare this year.
Lealao is a big (6-5, 317lb) interior lineman, who is equally comfortable as a 3-tech or lining up over the nose. The thing that intrigues me most about Lealao is his speed off the ball; given his size, he is strikingly quick off the snap. Look, for instance, at the 2016 Florida game (Q4, 11:47 is a good example) where he often leaves his teammates in the dust. He also flashes some pass rush ability – I was struck by the quickness of his hands, when he was able to shed the center and effect the sack in the 2016 Missouri game (Q1, 1:21). His motor, however, is inconsistent and too often on tape I see him play far too high and lose leverage. There are definitely traits that suggest that Lealao could have an NFL future but, in the 2017 season, there needs to be a bit more consistency and productivity. Nevertheless, I have seen enough to suggest that an NFL D-Line coach could be genuinely intrigued by what Lealao has to offer – as such, I think he could be an appealing prospect, midway through day three.
It is inevitably tempting to wheel out the usual clichéd platitudes about Linehan – the son of Scott Linehan, OC of the Dallas Cowboys – being a coach’s son, a cerebral player etc. When you watch him on tape, however, his ability to move through his progressions is one of his least impressive traits – he tends to become fixed on his initial read. In the 2017 season opener for the Vandals, against Sacramento State, it looked to me as if Linehan was trying to address this but, as a result, he held on to the ball far too long and took some hefty hits. There are, however, things to like about Linehan as a prospect. He throws a very catchable ball and shows good touch and awareness. He leads his receivers very well on the deep ball and, in general, his ball placement is good. He will never make anyone mistake him for Mariota or Vick, but he has enough athleticism to buy himself time in the pocket. He is, however, a streaky thrower; when he goes cold, he goes very cold indeed and often misses high in an attempt to over-compensate. His arm strength is probably average, although his mechanics are good. I see Linehan as a developmental prospect, who could well stick as a back-up in the NFL – his ceiling, however, is not particularly high, which is why I have nothing more than a Day 3 grade on him.
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.