The 2017 Cornerback Class is Legendary (And Might Just Be On Par with the 2014 WR Class)

By John Camera

One you rattle off the Wide Receivers taken in the 2014 NFL Draft, it sounds like you’re listing the best receivers in the game today. Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Kelvin Benjamin, Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, etc. To prevent this article from being a list I will direct you to all the WRs taken in the 2014 draft. The class wasn’t just deep at the top, everyone single Round 1 receiver hit, but the depth is impressive as well. That very same attribute could be applied to a similarly ridiculously-loaded Cornerback class this year.

Starting off at the top of this Cornerback class are two familiar names from familiar schools; Marshon Lattimore from The Ohio State and Marlon Humphrey from Alabama. Lattimore, despite some injury red flags over his hamstrings, should go first just because of his combination of speed, fluidness, technique, and ball skills. Simply put, Lattimore is the complete package. Humphrey is also rock-solid and is my favorite Alabama CB to date. He’s very good in both man and zone coverage and is super aggressive attacking the ball; his run defense has even made some draft evaluators see him as a Strong Safety. I think both of these guys will go in the top 15 as likely the first two CBs off the board.

Some of the depth players that should also go in the first and second rounds include Lattimore’s teammate Gareon Conley, Florida CBs Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor, Washington’s Sidney Jones, and Colorado’s Chidobe Azuwie. Excepting Azuwie, all of these CBs fit the new mold of big, tall athletes who can run with and cover the biggest, most freakish athletes the NFL has to offer today. Any one of them would be considered CB1 in a regular draft class; but this is no regular draft class.

The sleepers to look for in this year’s class include UCLA’s Fabian Moreau and teammate of Chidobe Awuzie, Ahkello Witherspoon. Moreau is sort of Marshon Lattimore-lite; speedy, smooth, and just generally does a great job of locking his man down in coverage. He should be a total steal for whoever can steal him on Day 2. Witherspoon is a huge 6’3” freak with good speed and surprisingly good polish. He could be very similar to Sean Smith and be a huge asset to a team like New Orleans or Tampa Bay, who are tasked with facing Julio Jones twice a year.

Just to show off the insane depth of this class, here are a few more names that could be the Donte Moncriefs and Quincy Enunwas of this year’s CB class; guys who are underappreciated because of the sheer talent ahead of them. Be on the look out for UT’s Cameron Sutton, LSU’s Tre’Davious White, Miami’s Corn Elder, and WVU’s Rasul Douglas. If your team drafts a CB this year, you’d be safe to assume he’s going to be a good one.

Meet Budda Baker | The High-Flying Safety Soaring Under the Radar

By Jack Drapkin

Here’s the thing about Budda Baker, if you saw him standing on the street you would walk right past him. At 5’10” 180lbs, Baker is not the size you are accustomed to seeing out of NFL players. Don’t let this fool you, it will be a grave mistake.

What Baker lacks in size, he makes up for with speed, intelligence and confidence.

Speed. Baker won’t run the fastest 40 yard dash at the combine but he sure flies around the field. With quick feet he is able to not only  play from his usual safety perch but also come up to the line of scrimmage and play in the slot. This versatility makes him extremely valuable in a league where teams are now in the nickel at least 60% of the time.

His speed continues to be important when you discuss his closing speed. He is usually on top of ball carriers and potential pass-catchers, before they even know what hit them. This is a special trait that you do not find in many college football players.

Intelligence. Baker as the center fielder of the defense, needs to be in the right place at the right time more often than not. He shows a great ability to diagnose plays and is constantly around the ball. He knows his own limitations with his size, so he is always tackling with some momentum and is a good open field tackler to boot.

Confidence. Budda Baker is decivise. The key about playing in the NFL is that the game is so fast you don’t have time to be deciding what to do. You need to have that decision already made by diagnosing the play in front of you. Baker does a great of making a decision and immediately reacting to the football.

In short don’t expect Budda Baker to blow up the NFL Combine, but do expect him to blow up opposing teams plays on Sundays this fall.

 

 

Meet the Best-Valued WR this Year: Jalen Robinette

Corey Davis. Mike Williams. John Ross. Those are arguably the three biggest names in the 2017 NFL Draft class of Wide Receiver and for good reason. Davis is the all-around threat, Williams is the gigantic red-zone monster, and Ross is the deep-threat speedster. But the sleeper and overlooked guy who could greatly reward the team that picks him is Jalen Robinette, the senior Wideout from Air Force.

Robinette is listed at 6’4″ and 215 pounds; he’s the type of guy who you’d have come off the bus first. Despite playing in a triple option offense while at Air Force, Robinette regularly showed off his tremendous skillset for a receiver his size. He has great speed as a long strider, almost deceptively fast for CBs who give him cushion. He’s also shown some good change of direction ability, especially in his route-running, one of the best facets of his game. Robinette is a triple threat when it comes to running routes; good head fakes and shoulder leans to disguise his routes, excellent hand technique and strength to defeat jams, and explosive when dropping his hips to get into his breaks.

The Air Force senior also has good hands with the ability to come down with the most difficult of contested catches. He high points the ball well and uses that 6’4” frame to out-rebound defenders for the ball like a Power Forward. And once the ball is in Robinette’s hands, he doesn’t go down easily, using good leg drive to power through tackles. It also should not be overlooked that he is the type of aggressive and technically-sound run blocker that will endear him to coaches right away.

Still, there are some flaws in Robinette’s game that will likely limit his overall ceiling. Chief among them is that he is not a natural hands catcher and will allow some passes to get into his pads and even double catch or bobble some. Generally, Jalen Robinette is reliable when the ball is thrown in his direction but he does need to do a better job of extending his arms out to snatch the ball. Playing in a triple option offense also means that while his blocking game is polished, his route running is not. At the NFL level he’ll need to learn to run more routes than just posts, corners, and go’s.

In short, Robinette is a height/weight/speed specimen who is also very polished in what he has been able to do at Air Force. His biggest problem is that Air Force is far from a traditional offense and the type of scheme he’ll run in the NFL. I compared Robinette to former Georgia Tech and current Denver Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas and I think it’s an almost scary-accurate comp. Both Thomas and Robinette came from triple option offenses and were height/weight/speed guys. Both did have issues with route variety and not quite being natural hands catchers; Thomas still has drops issues today and it has led to Emmanuel Sanders taking over as the lead receiver in Denver. Robinette hasn’t been talked about much but seems to be a late Day 2-early Day 3 option among draft media. In my opinion, Robinette’s value is in the second round. I think Robinette can be a high-end No. 2 WR at the next level with a ceiling as a mid-range no. 1 option.

Can Brad Kaaya Be a Franchise QB?

By Alexander C. Lawrence

NCAA Football Player Profile – Brad Kaaya, Quarterback

School: Miami (FL)
Year:
Junior
Height: 6’4
Weight:
210lbs

Brad Kaaya has been a three-year starter for a major football program which is something we don’t see too often. For that reason alone I like him because he has big-time college experience. We saw some great stuff in the second half of his freshman year. He had a ton of talent around him. That could likely mean he needs a good supporting cast around him, because his production went down in his second year as a starter (2015) when he didn’t have the pieces around him that had helped him succeed previously. That was part of the reason Miami HC Al Golden was fired. Kaaya did improve his junior year under new HC Mark Richt.

One thing that scares me is when under pressure he doesn’t focus well on his receivers, instead focusing too much on defenders. He doesn’t have good mobility and he’s clearly aware of that judging by the fact that he sometimes gives up on the down too early. He takes sacks rather than looking at receivers for an extra second or two. Over the last two seasons we’ve seen him protect the ball well which we saw was an issue for his first year when he was somewhat careless. To see that type of improvement is what coaches like. He showed he can improve from his past mistakes. He faced some good teams his junior year most notably FSU and Notre Dame. He didn’t really do anything special to make himself stand out which were the games scouts were looking for him to make an impact.

One thing you see is that yes, he’s a big guy but, he’s also deadly in the pocket when given time. He shows the potential to be a good pocket packer in the NFL since he can’t rely on his feet. He gets the ball out and places it perfectly into receiver’s hands. He’ll need to figure out how to get himself out of trouble and avoid taking huge sacks. I do think he has the skill-set to be drafted on day 2 of the NFL draft.

Pros:

  • Good pocket passer
  • Good size
  • Good accuracy with a clean pocket
  • Three-year starter
  • Throws catchable passes
  • Makes throws into tight windows
  • Showed he can be a leader
  • Great work ethic to improve himself

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have much mobility
  • Takes too many sacks
  • Can’t focus when under pressure
  • Doesn’t have a big arm

When you watch his performance in the Russell Athletic Bowl against #16 West Virginia you see how well he stood out and ended a 10-year drought at Miami in a 31-14 win. For most players I’d say the bowl doesn’t matter as much, but Kaaya showed his big time skill set when it mattered and brought his A-game. With time and patience from an NFL team he can be a solid back-up and even be groomed to be a star caliber play caller. He’s a smooth pocket passer. I don’t think he’ll be the face of a franchise, but with the right coaching staff he can work his way up to be being a leader of an NFL team.

Draft projection: 2nd round-3rd round

Comparison: Jared Goff

2017 New York Giants Mock Draft 1.0

By John Camera

The New York Giants returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 last season and enter this year with some needs but few glaring red flags. This is a team that could very well draft by best player available, which is difficult to project. Here is my take on what the Giants could do to improve their roster for 2017 and beyond.

1st Round: David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fl.)

Njoku is one of the most athletic Tight Ends in this year’s class and would give this Giants offense the extra dimension they were lacking this past season over the middle. Njoku would feast on single coverage from Linebackers and Safeties and give Eli Manning a dual threat up the seam and in the flat.

2nd Round: Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (Fl.)

The Giants double up on Miami prospects and get their QB of the future in Kaaya. Eli Manning isn’t getting any younger and steps into a nearly perfect situation. He’ll have some dangerous weapons at receiver and an O-line that is getting better around him. He can sit for a year or two and be the Aaron Rodgers to Eli’s Brett Favre.

3rd Round: Antonio Garcia, OL, Troy

Garcia has showed a lot of promise playing tackle at Sun Belt standout Troy. He could stand to add more weight and strength but Garcia is a lot closer to being a polished, starting-caliber Tackle than most seem to think. He could compete right away for a starting tackle job.

4th Round: Duke Reily, LB, LSU

Reily is exactly what the Giants need at Linebacker; youth and speed. He brings both in spades and ought to be New York’s starting WILL for the long term. He’s an underrated player who was overshadowed by bigger names like Jamal Adams and Kendell Beckwith on his team. He was arguably the best linebacker on his team on the tape I’ve watched.

5th Round: Matthew Dayes, RB, North Carolina State

The Giants have one half of their backfield future filled out when Paul Perkins grabbed the starting job late in the year. Matt Dayes is the perfect change of pace, power back to complement Perkins. While Dayes isn’t the biggest RB in the world, he has good strength to push the pile and succeed as a short yardage and goal line runner.

6th Round: Carroll Phillips, EDGE, Illinois

Although teammate Dawuane Smoot may be getting more pub from the draft media, Phillips could turn out to be the better NFL player. He’s a lot more athletic than Smoot and while he is a project pass rusher, he is worth drafting and developing.

7th Round: Aarion Penton, CB, Missouri

New York has their  CBs of the future in Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie likely lasting one more year. The Giants should keep DRC but drafting his replacement is a good idea. Penton is a good fit in Steve Spagnuolo’s aggressive defense and despite being just 5’9″, the feisty corner could develop into a productive third CB.

The 2017 QB Class Isn’t Terrible…Here’s Why

By John Camera

This year’s crop of Quarterbacks has been slandered up and down. Most contend that this group lacks star power and doesn’t have a first round caliber talent. Some have even gone so far as to call it as bad or worse than the scarily-bad 2013 class (which included EJ Manuel, Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, and Mike Glennon among others). That’s libel as far as I’m concerned. Plenty of QB classes have produced one or even no starting quarterbacks but 2017’s group has five potential starters if the teams who pick them are smart.

The best Quarterback in this year’s class is Brad Kaaya, the Junior signal caller from Miami who is the most pro-ready and has a very high ceiling. Kaaya could start from day one with the right team, but could sit for a year or two and potentially become what Aaron Rodgers was for Green Bay once Brett Favre retired. Following Kaaya on my rankings are most people’s no. 1 and 2 QBs; Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer, respectively. Trubisky has most of the traits you look for in young quarterbacks but he’s a one year wonder who will need some seasoning. Kizer is similar but brings better athleticism albeit with less refined mechanics and footwork.

The top three are each their own flavor of QB. Want a pro-ready QB with great accuracy and anticipation? Go ahead and pick Kaaya, just make sure you have a good O-line in place and a reliable receiver or two. Would you rather wait a year and pick a fundamentally sound and accurate QB in the mold of Matt Ryan? Take Trubisky but realize he’ll need time to develop. Still willing to wait but you’d prefer someone like Steve McNair? DeShone Kizer is your guy but he may need a little more time to develop than Kaaya or Trubisky.

And beyond the top three there are exciting prospects like Clemson’s national champion Deshaun Watson and Texas Tech star Patrick Mahomes. So don’t believe the (lack of) hype from draft media. If the teams that draft these young QBs are patient, they will end up with some surefire stars.

Is Mitch Trubisky a One-Year Wonder?

By Alexander C. Lawrence 

NCAA Football Player Profile – Mitch Trubisky, Quarterback

School: North Carolina
Year:
Junior (redshirt)
Height: 6’3
Weight:
220lbs

Mitch Trubisky was phenomenal for UNC in his one full year as a starter. He has shown that he has what it takes to be successful in college despite his bowl loss to Stanford in which they failed to convert a game-tying 2pt conversion. If you really look at that game and the play of Trubisky down the stretch he showed the skills of being a good game manager when it mattered, but came up short. He’s been one of the breakout players in college football this year and some will argue he is the best QB in the country this season. Should he be the number one QB taken in the draft though?

One thing I love about Mitch Trubisky is his arm strength. He has a cannon for an arm. His does a great job of seeing his open receiver and placing the football in their hands. He knows how to extend plays and makes it look easy. His success will be determined based on how his head coach develops him. Whoever drafts Trubisky has to make it priority to get him a vertical weapon because that’s where Trubisky will shine. Down the road he could be the best signal caller in this draft if the team that drafts him really is patient and willing to work with him as they go. Looking at how he handles himself you see a natural calmness and he has a short memory after interceptions. His accuracy is just scary good at the college level and with that polished skill already obtained expect to see his accuracy get better.

With that being said let’s take a look at some areas of concern. Two major things to me are his fumbling issues and inability to perform when his team needs him most.

Pros:

  • Quick delivery
  • Accuracy
  • Strong arm
  • Makes good reads and finds his open receivers
  • Has the size to be a successful QB
  • Has good field vision
  • Good pocket presence
  • Throws catchable passes

Cons:

  • Inability to perform in the clutch
  • Only has one full season as a starter
  • Fumbling issues
  • Must learn an NFL-pro style offense
  • Weather conditions may affect game
  • Takes risky throws at times

Mitch Trubisky has the skill set to be successful, but every team considering drafting will be thinking “is he a one-hit wonder?” and that is what each team scouting him will have to look at. He didn’t struggle much aside from tough weather conditions and in the 4th quarter of a handful of games. I am personally worried about him being able to solve his fumbling issues and how he’ll do adjusting to NFL defenses. He won’t get away with high risk throws that don’t have much room for error. I’m not sure I would draft him if I were the Browns or Jets just because there isn’t enough film and stats don’t signify how good someone will be at the next level. If I were the 49ers or Bears though I’d draft him because both teams have good running backs who will back-up Trubisky and be there to catch those check-down passes that he loves so much. Not to mention that both are also in desperate need of a QB. He may very well be the first QB taken, but also carries high risk with him.

Draft projection: Top 5

Comparison: Donovan McNabb

Can JuJu Smith Break the USC WR Curse?

By Alexander C. Lawrence

NCAA Football Player Profile – JuJu Smith-Schuster, Wide Receiver

School: USC
Year:
Junior
Height: 6’2
Weight:
220lbs

JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the best wide receivers in this draft class. We’ve seen him time and time again make huge plays throughout his Trojan career. He showed quickly he had what it took to be a playmaker, rising to SC’s top WR, drawing opposing team’s number one cornerback and even double coverage match-ups during his junior year at The University of Southern California. The nation took notice. One thing in particular that proved to be one of Smith-Schuster’s better skills was his ability to get downfield and be a vertical threat.

When you look at him you love his upside. He has great speed and with his size combination, he possess the skills to be a successful number one WR for a team. There were times he was shut out. Most notably in the season opener against Alabama while starting the year with a new QB. Scouts were looking to see if he could develop into that receiver with great break-away speed from NFL corners and in that regard he didn’t show it. That game alone may seriously take a hit on his draft stock and force him into a day-2 selection. People feared he was going to suffer and see a significant production decrease like his former teammates; NFL pros Marqise Lee (Jaguars) and Robert Woods (Bills). Yes that did happen, but remember he went through three different QBs over the course of two seasons which is why looking at numbers doesn’t do him justice to showcase the athlete he is.

Pros:

  • Knows how to block on run plays
  • Big middle-of-the-field target
  • Can be a vertical threat
  • Physicality
  • Good upside to be number one WR
  • Gets a lot of yards after the catch
  • Reliable pass-catcher
  • Good size makes him an effective redzone target
  • Above average route-runner

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have elite speed
  • Needs to improve on getting out of breaks
  • Has been shut-down against top college CBs

 

JuJu Smith-Schuster has the ability to be a steal in the draft because he doesn’t have elite speed to prove he can separate himself from top DBs. That being said I think he’d make an excellent second or third receiver because he knows how to hold on to the ball and get yards after the catch. He has a natural nose for the end-zone and shows his quickness along with play-making ability make him a nice big target for a team.Watch for him if he gets drafted by the right team as he could pan out similiar to Saints 2nd Round pick in 2016,  Michael Thomas. You can’t deny the high upside.

Draft projection: Late 1st round-mid 2nd round

Comparison: Laquan Treadwell

 

5 Breakout Players at the 2017 Senior Bowl

By John Camera

It’s one of the most exciting weeks of the year for NFL Draft enthusiasts, as the entirety of the football universe descends upon Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl. This year’s roster is chock full of talent and although it doesn’t have the QB star power of last year with Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott (not quite an MVP candidate at that time) there are a lot of draftable players at every other position. Here are just some of the guys you’ll want to keep your eyes on.


Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington – This small school, FCS WR is not someone to be overlooked. It’s actually kind of hard to do so, considering he stands at 6’2”, 198. But beyond great size, Kupp has consistently shown on tape to be an all-around receiver. His speed, route-running, and hands are all good enough to get Day 1 consideration especially if he has a strong Senior Bowl week and rolls through the Combine.

O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama – The true Senior didn’t have to travel too far from campus to get here but it seems like returning for 2016 really paid off for him. Although the Crimson Tide didn’t utilize him very often in 2016, it wasn’t for lack of talent as a pass catcher. Howard fits the new TE mold that guys like Vernon Davis, Jordan Reed, and Jimmy Graham have sparked. He’s got great speed, good hands, and shows good effort as a blocker. He might be the most talented pass catcher at Mobile this week.

Montravius Adams, DL, Auburn – Adams may not get as much pub as his teammate Carl Lawson but the hulking defensive lineman should move up draft boards after this week. Adams is a high-effort, thickly-built Nose Tackle with quickness to wreck plays in the backfield or chase RBs down the line of scrimmage. He could move into first round consideration with a strong performance against an offensive line group that is lacking for the most part.

Conner Harris, LB, Lindenwood – Another small school player but different from Kupp, Harris is trying to prove he’s draftable. He is extremely small at 5’11” and despite some good speed, instincts, and tackling fundamentals, the Linebacker out of Lindenwood just may not have enough size to start in the NFL. However, he will try to change that perception against higher level of competition in Mobile. He could potentially latch on as a special teams ace considering his high effort and do-anything attitude.

Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU – White was another player who chose to stay for his Senior year and his patience has paid off. The LSU Corner is rangy and fast, a bigger CB in the mold of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He’s got good ball skills that will occasionally get him in trouble; he’s a bit of a gambler. Teams will want to see if his footwork, which can be out of control, has improved since the end of the season.