Coleman is a heady, productive CB who won 1st Team All-MAC honours as a junior. In the MAC, you can see why; he is an intelligent CB who reads routes well and who will bait QBs into making unwise throws. Against Ohio, for instance, last year, he had 4 passes defended. Those quick diagnostic skills were also evident against a higher standard of competition; in his interception return for a TD against Virginia, he read the QB perfectly, stepping in front of a screen pass and coasting to the end zone. I was most interested, however, in watching Coleman against Oklahoma State’s top tier passing attack and, in this game, his limitations as an athlete were pretty brutally exposed. He was constantly out of phase with the OSU WRs and lacked the speed and agility to cope with their threat. I really like Coleman’s effort and intelligence but I just don’t think he has the raw athletic skills or physical presence needed to be an effective contributor at the highest level. As such, I see him as an undrafted free agent prospect at this point in time.
There are players in every draft class for whom you develop a sneaking affection when you watch them on tape and, for me, Jeremy Reaves is one. The reason is this: Reaves is one of the most physical CBs I have ever seen. This man loves to hit receivers and comes at them like an exocet missile carrying a grievance. He is 5-11, 185lb but he can hit like a 6-2, 235lb linebacker. I loved the play he made against Nicholls State (1Q, 6:59), when he flies into the hole to destroy a running play and prevent a 3rd down; it’s one of my favourite plays I’ve seen watching film this year. Yes, he can be reckless, yes, he can over-extend and miss tackles (3Q, 9:43, Idaho game) but, in a world in which Akhello Witherspoon and Tarvaris McFadden are either being paid or going to be paid a lot of money to play CB, watching Reaves hit makes a refreshing change. Now the bad news, : Reaves is not a great coverage guy. He does not turn his hips well at all and, as a result, really struggles with quicker, more agile WRs. South Alabama have lined him up as nickel-backer, free safety and boundary corner to enable him to make hits and not get too exposed one-on-one but he doesn’t have the size or range to play safety in the NFL. Ultimately, though, I don’t care if he ever plays a snap in the defensive secondary; this is a guy who is made to play all four phases of special teams in the NFL and do it very, very well. Some people may not see that as a draftable commodity but I disagree. Personally, I would draft Jeremy Reaves in the 6th or 7th round because he is a tone-setter, a tackling machine and someone I would want on my team.
Orlando Brown, the son of former NFL starting OT, Orlando ‘Zeus’ Brown (he of Jeff Triplett/yellow flag/eyeball fame), is a chip off the old, extremely large, block. I love offensive linemen who play with fire and aggression and Brown certainly does that. He plays LT for Oklahoma and, in pass protection, he is technically good. He has excellent length and really quick feet for such a big man, enabling him to mirror and finish very effectively. I thought he put on a bit of a clinic in the Ohio State game last year, when he gave Sam Hubbard a pretty torrid time. In the running game, he seems to view his opposite number through a prism of hatred and rage. Blocking is not enough for Brown; he is set upon humiliating his man and reducing him to a whimpering wreck. Again, I think this is utterly commendable in an OT. So, why do I not have a top 10 grade on Orlando Brown Jr? Primarily because I worry about his agility and flexibility. I think a really good speed rusher could give him problems in the NFL and I think he might ultimately be more comfortable at RT. That transition sounds a lot easier than it actually is, however, and, as a result, Brown might have his struggles in the first year or two. By 2020, however, I believe he will be a good starting OT in the league and, as such, I have a first round grade on him.
Watching Cody O’Connell reminds us of Bill Parcells’ planet theory; there are simply not very men on the planet who have the size (6-7, 350lb), strength and athleticism of Washington State’s #76. If you try to bull rush O’Connell, you would expend as much fruitful energy by sitting on the ground, waving energetically to your friends on the sidelines. He simply engulfs power rushers – he almost absorbs them! It’s difficult to assess O’Connell’s potential in the running game, due to the infrequency with which Wazzou QBs hand the thing off. From a small sample size, however, he looks impressive; he reminds me, at times, of Jaws from the Bond films, in the way in which he disposes of enemy threats. My issue with O’Connell, however, is his agility. He can appear a bit lumbering and slow to pick up stunts, blitzes and twists. A good example comes at 9:19 of the 1st quarter of the 2016 Arizona State game, when he is very slow to react to what the defence is doing. I’d be intrigued to see O’Connell in the Titans’ exotic smash mouth scheme; I think he could wreak havoc in that sort of offence. He is, to me, a boom or bust prospect. If he can adjust to NFL veterans’ wiliness, he certainly has the power and size to excel at the next level. Equally, however, that lack of agility could see him exposed in the NFL. There is enough here, though, for me to give careful consideration to selecting O’Connell on Day2 of the 2018 draft.
I saw enough of Harold Landry’s highlights on ESPN last year to know that he was a disruptive player. When I got into his tape, however, I was even more impressed than I had anticipated. Landry, at 6-2, 250lb, will be an OLB in the NFL and I think he’ll be an outstanding one. He is, of course, an exceptional pass rusher, with a quick first step, the ability to bend the edge and a desire to hurt QBs when he gets there – some of his sacks against North Carolina State, Connecticut and Wake Forest are absolutely bone-shuddering. Against top-tier competition, there was no demonstrable drop-off in productivity; he was a disruptive force against Clemson throughout the game, against a top-tier Division 1 offense. It is rare to see a player single-handedly take over a game the way he did in the 4th quarter against Maryland in 2016 – all told, I think he’s an exceptional player. He is far more physical against the run than I’d anticipated and has the strength to stack and shed blockers and set a physical edge. He may not be an elite athlete but he’s at least a very good one and, to my mind, he’s one of the very best players in the 2018 draft. I see him as a top 15 pick and, personally, I’d take him in the top 10 – Harold Landry is an explosive playmaker, with the skill-set to excel in the NFL.
I believe that PFF have Ragnow as a 1st round prospect in the 2018 draft but I’m afraid I see that as an indication of that website prioritising statistics over what you see on tape. I appreciate the thoroughness of their analysis but, at the same time, one of Benjamin Disraeli, Mark Twain or the Duke of Wellington was absolutely right when he pontificated about lies, damned lies and statistics. At least, that is, when they were talking about the blocking percentages of SEC centers. Anyway, enough of such fiddle-faddle. Let’s start off with Ragnow’s strengths. He is a physically imposing, powerful center who, when he is up against college-level talent, can overwhelm defenders at the point of attack. He is quick and athletic enough to get out and pull in the running game, although a lack of flexibility when it comes to sealing means it’s unlikely he’ll remind anyone of Dermontti Dawson. Nevertheless, there are a fair few starting centers in the NFL who lack this ability, so it’s not to be underestimated. He is also a smart, alert veteran, who identifies targets quickly and easily, both in the run game and when it comes to blitz pick-up. I do, though, have a couple of concerns about Ragnow. He is at least 6-5 and, as a result, he plays too high at times, especially against squat, fire-plug DTs. He really struggled at times against Daylon Mack, of Texas A&M, for instance, where his lack of leverage told against him. I would also like to see him sustain blocks more consistently. There are enough positives with Ragnow to suggest that he could potentially be a good starting center in the NFL but, at this stage, there are also sufficient doubts for me to be disinclined to take him any higher than the 3rd round.
Townsend is, more than anything else, a skilful punter. His placement of the ball and his drop are technically very good, which gives him considerable control over where he lands the ball. 27 of his 64 punts last year ended up inside the 20 and only 7 went for touchbacks – indicative of a master of his trade. He has a very good leg. It’s not freakish, like Shane Lechler’s, but it’s certainly good enough for him to earn a living on Sundays; he averaged a fraction under 48 yards per punt as a junior and, given that his longest was 62, his consistency is evident. In fact, he had seven games in which he had a longest punt of at least 59 yards. His hang time is also impressive and, although it’s not particularly fashionable to draft punters these days, I can definitely see his name being called in 2018. For punters and kickers, the grading system deviates slightly; the grade reflects their draft worth, rather than their quality per se. Certainly, though, if I were GM of an NFL team in need of a punter, I would give Townsend a good, long look in rounds 5 or 6.