The word that springs to mind when you watch Damon Webb is “good”. That is, by antithetical definition, not a bad thing but, at the same time, it wouldn’t have me banging down the door to draft him, were I an NFL GM. He is good in coverage, he is a good athlete, he is good in run support – he is not, however, exceptional in any of these areas, which leaves me unsure as to where he fits in the NFL. The corollary from this is that he is probably a fifth or sixth round pick, who can make your team as a third or fourth safety and a special teams player; indeed, his ability to come downhill and fill makes me pretty comfortable with the idea of Webb as a core special teams player. His ball skills are decent but not spectacular, as his career interception tally would indicate. Ultimately, I would probably be happy if my team took Webb in round six; my instinct, however, is that he will be taken a round or two higher than this and that he will only ever be one of those players who is struggling to make the roster at the conclusion of training camp.
There is a lot to like about Igwebuike. Entrance to Northwestern, of course, intimates that his brain contains more than a grey, nebulous mist and you can see evidence of this on the field. He is impressively instinctive against the run and, once he diagnoses a play, his closing speed is certainly of an NFL calibre – he is genuinely quick for a safety. He reads a QB’s eyes well, which enables him to get into position to make the tackle with an economy of effort. His tackling technique is sound, particularly against the run, where he takes excellent angles, enabling him to explode into contact. Against the pass, he has a tendency to wrestle people to the ground but I won’t criticise him too much for this; he does, at least, do it consistently, unlike Armani Watts of Texas A&M. I like his quickness and flexibility in man coverage; in zone, however, he is, on occasion, hesitant when it comes to diagnosing his responsibilities. He looks like a fluid, able athlete, with sufficient size to play well in the NFL and the attitude and intelligence to accept coaching. He is also an alpha-male leader, who should be a very positive addition to any locker room. I am not sure about his 6-0, 200lb measurable, which look a little generous; at the same time, I would be happy if my team were to draft Igwebuike somewhere on Day 2.
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.
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.
Fant is a quick, althletic, play-making CB, who is the current NCAA leader amongst active players in passes broken up. It is easy to see why on tape; Fant has very good ball skills and has an aggressive mentality, leading him to attack the ball. This mentality has its drawbacks, however; he is prone to peeking into the backfield and losing phase and he is also susceptible to the double move. In the second quarter (1:21) of the Duke game, for instance, you can see him bite on the double move, before using his 4:37 speed to compensate and get back to make the play. He is undersized (5-10, 180) and, as a result, struggles in press-man coverage; he is scrappy and grabby but can get rag-dolled at the line. I like him better in trail coverage, where he can use his instincts and athleticism more effectively. He hasn’t played a huge amount of zone at Indiana but I believe he has the traits to do well in a zone heavy defense such as Carolina’s or Cincinnati’s. Although not the biggest or most physical CB, Fant has found a way to be effective as a one-to-one tackler. He invariably goes for the ankles of bigger RBs and wraps them up pretty effectively. Fant’s lack of size and strength will probably preclude him from being chosen on the first two days of the draft but he is a player whom I could certainly see making an NFL roster and, as a result, I can see him being taken early to mid-Day 3,