Mike Gesicki (TE, Penn State) – 53

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.

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Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State) – 94

This is quite a year for RBs. Plenty of NFL experts will doubtless be examining the relative merits of Barclay and Derrius Guice over the next few months and they are indubitably both 1st round prospects. Personally, however, I prefer Guice because, at the moment, I think that he’s a more complete RB. Barclay is a really powerful, dynamic runner, with elite speed, power and vision. I love how he finishes his runs; there will be DBs all over the country who will be offering up little prayers that Barclay simply trots out of bounds at the end of a run and, beyond question, he shows the sort of explosion that you want in a starting RB. I do, however, have some minor quibbles about Barclay. He may well have had a father or grandfather who was a big Marcus Allen fan but, for me, he leaves his feet and goes airborne far too often. He has a wonderful jump-cut but, more often than not, it is to his right; if I were an NFL defensive co-ordinator, I would ensure that he has to run to his left. Finally, I have slight reservations regarding his pass protection.   In the second quarter of the Wisconsin game, he was a bit of a liability against NFL calibre defenders coming off the edge. It is fair to say, in mitigation, that he was dealing with an injury throughout that game but, nevertheless, it set a few alarm bells ringing. Overall, though, I have no doubt that Barclay is a 1st round talent and I look forward to charting his progress with interest in the 2017 season.

Adam Breneman (TE, Massachusetts) – 70

This is a TE class with some fascinating tales to tell.  Breneman was a blue-chip recruit coming out of high school, who went on to flash enormous potential as a freshman at Penn State.  After a couple of serious knee injuries, he had virtually retired from football and was preparing for life as a political campaign manager, when he received a text from his best friend at high school, who was about to start spring practice at U-Mass.  The rest is history – Breneman, in his comeback season, caught 70 passes for 808 yards and 8 touchdowns, catapulting him back into the mix for an NFL future that he had given up as lost.  On tape, you can see why he was so highly rated coming out of high school; he has extremely soft hands for a 6-4, 250lb TE and can make highlight reel catches.  He has a natural feel for the soft spot in a zone and is a real threat in the red zone.  He doesn’t get much separation, however, and, in 2016, looked like a good athlete but not a great one.  His blocking in 2016 also left something to be desired; he played too high and found himself being propelled backwards with tedious regularity in the running game.  He looks like a skinny 250, however, and it will be interesting to see if, with a whole off-season behind him, he can a) demonstrate a bit more explosion as a route runner and b) build enough muscle and hone his technique sufficiently to demonstrate the sort of  functional strength he will need to be an effective blocker at the next level.  If he can do so, he could conceivably vault himself into the Day 2 discussion, as he has some very desirable traits as a pass catcher.