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,
What I like most about Cichy is that, the bigger the game, the better he plays. His most impressive performances on tape have come against USC (where he earned his nickname, ‘Three Sack Jack’), Ohio State and Iowa – that is really encouraging and tells me a lot about his competitiveness. He is slightly undersized at 6-2, 234lb, but I could see him carrying 245-250lb comfortably at the next level. Cichy is, by all accounts, a natural leader and he’s certainly a natural playmaker. He has good instincts and an almost maniacal determination to make a hit. At the same time, though, his tackling technique is erratic; he often goes very low and, in the NFL, it is easy to imagine RBs, in space, simply jumping over him. He will occasionally guess, when it comes to run fills, but, more often than not, his instincts are impressively sound. I’m not convinced of his functional strength when it comes to shedding and stacking, though, and I think this is something he will need to address prior to the combine. In coverage, he can become somewhat fixated on the QB and allow receivers to slip behind him. When he keeps his head on a swivel, however, he shows really good range and ball skills – he has the traits to make NFL teams very interested. He is not a 1st rounder for me – there are too many issues with strength and technique – but, nevertheless, I do really like Cichy as a mid-day 2 prospect. At the very least, he will be a special teams dervish; equally, though, I can see him developing into a good starting LB at the next level.
Blanton has shown considerable versatility at Missouri – he has lined up as a conventional TE, a slot receiver, an H-Back and a FB. He has an imposing frame (6-6, 265lb) and is a fluid, powerful athlete. So far in his career, he has been part of a 3 or 4 man platoon of TEs, which has limited his opportunities to shine; he did, however, show enough in the 2016 season to suggest that he could be a major sleeper in what is a markedly less impressive 2018 TE draft class than the 2017 equivalent. Blanton has very good hands and will make the contested catch; his TD catch in the South Carolina game is a good example. He uses his frame well and will bully smaller DBs. His route running, however, can be a bit sloppy and he needs to become more precise in his breaks. At the moment, he is more polished as a pass blocker than in the running game. In pass protection, he anchors well and shows a strong punch, whereas he lacks a bit of explosiveness as a run blocker; I’d like to see a bit more aggression in the running game. With Sean Culkin, last year’s starting TE for Mizzou, in camp with the LA Chargers, Blanton should get more opportunities this season and I have a funny feeling that this current 5th/6th round borderline grade might improve dramatically over the course of the 2017 season.
Briscoe won the Walter Payton award (FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy) after a record-breaking 2016 season, in which he threw for 4602 yards and an eye-watering 57 touchdowns. I was struck by his completion percentage of 62.6% , however, which, given these gaudy numbers, struck me as a little bit on the low side. Looking at the tape, you can see exactly why he put up the numbers he did. Briscoe is essentially a risk-taker; he frequently throws to covered receivers, trusting in their athleticism and ability. Much of the time, it pays off, as the Sam Houston players are often a lot more talented than their opponents. When he faces better competition, however, his accuracy becomes erratic. His best throws tend to be when he leads his receiver – he is very good at this. When he has to throw to a fixed spot, however, when a receiver has sat down in a zone, he is much less reliable – particularly when throwing to the middle of the field. In general, he looks far more comfortable throwing the ball outside the hash-marks. His arm is by no means elite but I think it’s just good enough to earn him a living in the NFL. He goes through progressions pretty well and I was impressed by his ability to look off defenders. He’s not a dynamic athlete but he’s quick and nimble enough to enable him to escape pressure. One area where he will definitely have to improve, though, is ball security – too often, relatively innocuous blows caused him to fumble the football. Briscoe has the size (6-2, 225) and the stats to get a look from NFL teams but I would see him more as a developmental prospect, whose NFL ceiling is probably as a back-up.
Gelen Robinson has excellent athletic bloodlines – he is the son of former NBA star Glenn Robinson, who himself excelled at Purdue. Gelen also has a strong wrestling background, which you can see in how he uses his hands and engages blockers. In 2016, he played as both an orthodox DE in a 4-3 and also as a five-tech DL. At 6-1, 280lb, he is a bit of a tweener, without quite enough size to hold up inside or the speed necessary to excel on the edge. He shows flashes against the run; he is a disciplined and physical defender with sound tackling technique. He also has a knack for the big play – see his interception return for a TD vs Eastern Kentucky and what proved to be a game-winning forced fumble in overtime vs Illinois. I don’t see much pass-rush potential, however; he has very limited repertoire of pass-rush moves and relies on his wrestling skills to throw off blockers. It doesn’t work with that much regularity in the Big 10 and I can’t see it being any more successful in the NFL. He lacks an explosive – or even vaguely quick – first step and he is not powerful enough to bull rush NFL defensive linemen. As such, it is hard to see where he would win in the NFL and, for this reason, I would see him primarily as an undrafted free agent.
When it comes to FCS prospects, you want to see them dominating their competition and there is no doubt that Edmonds does that. Watching him run against Patriot League competition is video game stuff; he runs over, around and away from them with ridiculous ease. I was keen, therefore, to watch Edmonds play against a higher level of competition, so I paid careful attention to the 2016 Navy game. I came away very impressed. For a 5-9, 205lb back, he runs with power and determination. Even though his O-Line was overmatched in that game, you saw a lot of Edmonds’ strengths; he has great vision and fights through first contact. In space, he has very quick feet – I love watching his jump-cut – and will often make the first defender miss. He makes the most out of each play and has a sound understanding of the context of a play; on 3rd and 1 he is powerful and direct, whereas on earlier downs, he is a bit more patient in setting up blocks. He is willing to block in pass protection but there is work to do in that area – he is too upright and would benefit from sinking lower and exploding into the blitzer, in order to prevent himself from being bullied. He has good hands as a receiver and can certainly help in the passing game. NFL teams may well be wary of Edmonds’ size and small-school background and he is slightly unlucky, in that there are some bona fide superstars in the 2018 draft class. Nevertheless, he should definitely get a shot in the NFL and I could certainly see him being drafted on Day 3 – I think he’s a real sleeper in this year’s draft.
Derwin James is a simply outstanding prospect. The thing that stands out most for me is his versatility as a safety; whether he’s blitzing, filling in against the run, covering TEs close to the line of scrimmage or playing the deep ball, he does it with remarkable aplomb. He appears to be playing, at times, at a different speed to everyone else on the field and I can only imagine how intimidating it must be for a RB or TE to see #3 roaming the defensive backfield, like a lion with its eye on a gazelle. He is one of those players for whom an offensive co-ordinator has to account on every play and there are really very few flaws in his game. I particularly enjoy watching him blitz – he has great size for a safety (6-3, 210) but, even so, there is no way he should be able to run through Power 5 offensive linemen the way that he can; as an example, look at how ,as a true freshman, he split the LG and LT of North Carolina State in 2015 (6:37, 3rd Quarter). When he gets home, he wreaks absolute havoc; see, again in 2015, his sack of Lamar Jackson and forced fumble ( 4:59, 3rd Quarter). Just occasionally, he is overly reliant on his physicality to make a tackle and will not wrap up effectively; this is, however, a minor quibble as, for the most part, his tackling is both powerful and dependable. He also had to redshirt the 2016 season, having torn his meniscus in Week 2 of 2016, and it will be important for him to show that he has lost none of his explosiveness. These are my only two caveats – otherwise, I would have considered giving him 100/100. Needless to say, therefore, James is, for me, one of the very top players in the 2018 draft.