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.
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.
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.
There are a lot of good corners eligible for the 2018 draft but Jaire Alexander is right up there with the very best. As a cover CB, there are few, if any, better. The smoothness of his back-pedal, his route recognition and the rapidity with which he closes on a receiver coming out of his break are all superb but what I admire most about Alexander is his ability to locate the ball. So many CBs flail, grab and face-guard when the ball is in the air; Alexander, when the QB lets it go, possesses the casual sang-froid of a French flaneur choosing between escargots and moules – or, in his case, between a PBU and an interception. You can see his athleticism with absolute clarity in the return game – crystal, in fact, would be opaque by comparison. His interception return in the Virginia game (Q4, 14:45), for instance, looks like some divine being is playing Madden with him, whilst off His face on speed. It might be nice if he were a bit bigger and a bit more physical in the run game but he’s certainly willing to come up and make a tackle. In any case, given the emphasis on being able to cover in the NFL today, I have no doubt that Alexander’s skill set will be drooled over by GMs, to such an extent that a “GM Napkin Company” might make a fortune when the pros delve into the Louisville CB’s tape. If he continues to play the way he did last year, I would see him as a Top 10 pick and I’d be surprised and dismayed if he went outside the top 20.
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.
There is nothing particularly fashionable about the way Lutulelei plays DT. You will never mistake him for an Aaron Donald or a Geno Atkins – he will never be a double digit sack guy. At the same time, though, there will always be a market for people who play DT the way Utah’s #93 does. Lutulelei consistently plugs gaps and eats up space and, for a team with athletic, playmaking LBs, that’s a very attractive skill-set. He is clearly very strong; it is almost comical how many times he seems to simply absorb double teams and it’s also worth pointing out that, in 2016, he was doing so with a shoulder injury. For a 6-2, 320 DT, he has an impressive array of successful pass rush moves; I have seen him use a swim, a rip and a bull rush with great effectiveness. He is not, however, a particularly impressive athlete, which means he will not always get home, despite his skill-set. Nevertheless, watching Lutulelei on tape, you are left with the impression that this is a player who will make a big impact on an NFL defensive line. Against the run, he can just bully guards and centers and can single-handedly ruin run plays. His relatively low ceiling as a pass rusher makes me reluctant to give him a first round grade but a lot of teams would, I suspect, be delighted to see him on the board somewhere in the second.
Not many people are talking about Hungalu as we go into the 2017 season but, in my view, he’s one of the most underrated linebackers in college football. The thing that stands out most when you watch Hungalu is how quick he is to diagnose a play. Both against the pass and the run, it looks like he there is an iron filing in the ball, with Hungalu playing the role of the magnet. This means one of two things; he is either a “first-in, last-out” type in the film room, or he is quite incredibly instinctive – perhaps it’s both. There are plenty of examples; the obvious one is the touchdown return in the UCLA game but one of my favourites is his pass break up at the 1:56 mark of the 3rd quarter of the Minnesota game. He is also a very good athlete; the rapidity with which he chases down Royce Freeman at the start of the Oregon game speaks volumes for his quickness. The other thing I love about Hungalu is the ferocity with which he takes on blockers. Drew Sample, the Washington TE, was simply abused at times last year, even in a game in which the Beavers were outmatched. There are, of course, things he needs to work on. Hungalu is a really unrefined pass rusher when he comes on the blitz and, like many college linebackers, he could benefit from being bigger and stronger. I do, however, really like his skill-set, which I think translates really well to the next level; he probably fits best as a WILB in a 3-4 defence. I suspect I’m much higher on Hungalu than many others but I think he could be an excellent NFL player and I currently have a second round grade on him.