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.
The first thing that stands out about White – a JUCO transfer from Lackawanna CC – is his physicality. He absolutely loves contact and will hit ball carriers with an abandon that goes beyond the merely reckless. He has the size (6-2, 215) and speed to do so – as a result, he is an absolute force in the run game, where his closing speed is extremely impressive. He seems to take a block as a personal affront and I love the way he attacks blockers. He times his blitzes very well and is explosive coming off the edge – see, for example, his sack v Texas in 2016 (Q4, 13:08), where he just traumatizes Shane Buechele. He is not used as much in coverage as a conventional strong safety would be. When called upon to cover, he has a tendency to virtually gallop in his back pedal and he looks much more comfortable in zone coverage than in man. He didn’t record an interception in 2016 and that’s no great surprise, as he’s rarely in a position to contend for one. His limitations in coverage will, of course, impact his draft stock but an imaginative defensive co-ordinator could certainly use a player like White – perhaps, even, in a nickel-backer role. If nothing else, he should be an enormous asset on special teams and, if I were a general manager, I would be very happy to see him on the board midway through day three.
Statistics can be deceiving. Looking at Goedert’s gaudy numbers (92 catches for 1293yds and 11tds as a junior), I expected him to be essentially an oversized WR who played mainly in the slot. What I found, when I examined his tape, was one of the most talented all-round TE prospects in the 2018 draft class. His ability as a receiver, of course, stands out. He isn’t huge but, at 6-4, 250 he is big enough to be a match-up problem for NFL defences. He is a very smooth, fluid athlete with good speed, who is extremely physical after the catch – he has no interest in going down on first contact. He also has the body control to make absolute circus catches – see Q1 5:06 of the 2016 Villanova game for a superb example. It was, however, as a blocker that Goedert surprised me. He shows desire, good technique and the ability to sustain blocks – indeed, there were times when he was positively dominant. I haven’t seen a better TE block this year than the one he made in the 2016 North Dakota State game (Q3, 6:08), where he gives a clinic in how to open up a hole in the run game. He can occasionally over-extend as a blocker but this is a minor quibble; in essence, his blocking is really very good. Goedert will, of course, have to overcome questions about the level of competition he faced and I think he is a very good athlete without being an outstanding one. Overall, though, I think he has the skill-set and attitude to be a very good starting TE in the NFL and I would not be at all surprised to find him in the discussion for a 1st round pick, come next year.
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.
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.