North Practice: Day 1
No quarterback really separated himself today in my opinion, but Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) looked solid as far as arm strength and accuracy. A couple of his deep balls wobbled a bit and two of them weren’t thrown to the correct shoulder that I saw, but it’s the first day and the QB’s and WR’s have no chemistry together yet. Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) struggled a bit and threw a number of passes that were either behind his intended receiver or they were not in stride so they had to slow down. Again, it comes down to a lack of chemistry, but he had his flashes. I think Wilson has the strongest arm of the group, but it’s not a very strong-armed group of quarterbacks. Kellen Moore (Boise State) looks like he is in for a bit of a tough week. His arm strength is very average and while he threw a few nice balls today I just don’t think he has the arm to be a starter. You can overcome a lot of things with football IQ and intangibles but that lack of arm strength will limit him and any offense that chooses to make him their starter.
It’s tough to evaluate running backs when they aren’t wearing pads and there’s barely any contact allowed, but I am very high on Doug Martin (Boise State) and Chris Polk (Washington) and have been for a while. Martin looked natural catching passes out of the backfield and showed quality burst whenever he had the ball in his hands. Polk did the same and I really think that is going to be a fantastic battle to see who ends up getting drafted earlier. Very lucky to be able to see both of them. Dan “Boom” Herron (Ohio State) and Isaiah Pead (Cincinnati) rounded out this group, a very talented group of running backs all who have plus burst in my opinion. I think Martin and Polk are the better backs and they have feature back written all over them. Can’t say I feel the same about Herron and Pead at this point.
It was a pretty easy day for the receivers today, but I think the guy that stuck out most to me was TJ Graham (North Carolina State). He clearly has 4.4 speed (could run as fast as a 4.35 in my opinion) and his explosiveness and burst was on full display today. He created separation nearly every time I watched him run a route and he caught the ball cleanly every single rep I saw of him. He has the potential to be a HUGE riser this week, especially if he plays like this every day of practice. Obviously this was just one day, but this definitely showed the upside Graham has as a receiver. Don’t forget he’s also a valuable return man. Marvin Jones (California) also had a good day. He was able to beat Alfonzo Dennard a couple times in 1 on 1 drills and caught the ball cleanly every time I saw him. He’s got above average hands and he’s definitely draftable in the 5th round range, but he could help himself this week. On tape he doesn’t look like much more than a complementary receiver to me and having Keenan Allen opposite him really helped, but he’s a solid, draftable player. Marvin McNutt (Iowa) struggled to create consistent separation today and I have a feeling that may be a theme of the week. He doesn’t look natural as a route runner and while the effort is there he just doesn’t have the speed. As one scout said “He’s moving his arms and hustling, but he’s not going anywhere.” His stock has been in decline all year, and he’s looking like a receiver who is going to get graded in the 5th-7th range for sure to me.
One player I was interested to see was Brian Quick (Appalachian State) but he didn’t impress me too much today. He looked a bit leggy when he was running routes and while he looked smooth at times he had three drops today that hit him right in the hands. He has ability, and he likely had some first day jitters now that he was called up to the big leagues, but it wasn’t a great first impression. He did have a very nice catch on a deep ball from Cousins where he showed some ability to adjust to a poorly thrown ball, track it through the air and catch it cleanly. DeVier Posey (Ohio State) also had positive flashes like Quick did, but as is customary he dropped a number of balls. It was either three or four that he dropped on the day, but either way scouts definitely noticed. It’s easy to love his athleticism because he has explosiveness and burst, ran good routes in 1 on 1’s today and flashes the ability to catch the ball outside of his frame too. But too many times he lets the ball hit him right in the hands and fall incomplete. He’s got upside, but if he can’t catch the ball it’s worth nothing. I think it’s a mixture of not having great hands and having concentration issues to be honest with you, but that’s still not reassuring.
Michael Egnew (Missouri) looked like the more impressive tight end in this group, but it was really only between him and Brian Linthicum (Michigan State) because Emil Igwenagu (Massachusetts), as expected, was taking snaps as a fullback. He was at the East-West Shrine Game last week and while he didn’t really impress me, he got snaps at fullback and I expected the same to hold true this week. Egnew looked smooth running routes, caught the ball cleanly each time I saw him and I have to say I was very impressed that he was up to 251 pounds. He’s been working, and I think it will help his stock. Linthicum didn’t look bad as a receiver, but he didn’t look good. He dropped a pass or two and doesn’t look as smooth or as natural running routes as Egnew does.
Mike Adams (Ohio State) was the star of the offensive line today. He had a great showing at the weigh-in when he measured in at 6’7”, 323 pounds with just under 34 inch arms, and his good day continued at practice. He consistently used his length and athleticism to his advantage and I didn’t see him get beat once in pass protection. He did get bull-rushed a bit once, and could stand to get stronger in the lower body (one reason I worry about him if he tried to move to right tackle) but he looked like a left tackle all practice today. Mike Brewster (Ohio State) didn’t impress me as much, though I wasn’t very high on him coming into practice. He looks like a 3rd or 4th round center to me, and I question his ability to anchor when beaten initially. He’s got a solid build, but he just hasn’t lived up to the 2nd round hype that he was getting for a long time at the beginning of the season. Kelechi Osemele (Iowa State) showed some ability in the run game today using his elite combination of size, strength and length to engulf defenders and even pancake one of them in the run game. However, the play after he pancaked a defender in the run game at right tackle he got beat off the edge by a speed rush and didn’t even get his hands on the defender. I thought he might be able to stick at right tackle, and there’s still a chance of that, but he will need to do a lot better than that against speed to remain on the outside. And, as expected, Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin) had a good day today. He’s not as flashy as some of the other offensive line prospects here but he is the best guard on either roster in my opinion. He may not have the insane upside of Kelechi Osemele or Cordy Glenn, but he looked good in drills today and can hold his own 1 on 1 against defensive tackles. He will rise this week.
Unfortunately I didn’t see much of the defensive line or linebackers at all today, but I heard that Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati) looked good from Shawn Zobel (@ShawnZobel_DHQ follow him) and didn’t hear rave reviews on Alameda Ta’amu (Washington) which was not very surprising. I’ll have notes on them the rest of the week though.
Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska) didn’t have a great day as he struggled to keep up with the faster receivers. The most troubling play was when Marvin McNutt got behind him in man coverage on a deep route down the seam. He doesn’t look like he has fluid hips, and struggled to turn and run with receivers downfield today. 1st round corners should not be getting beat deep by receivers that might run a 4.6 in the 40 yard dash, and his lack of recovery speed was pretty evident on that play. I think that Dennard’s upside is highest when he is able to be physical at the line of scrimmage and when he is defending slower, bigger receivers. He frustrated Alshon Jeffrey but he couldn’t keep up with TJ Graham. I feel similarly about Leonard Johnson (Iowa State). He was good against Justin Blackmon and Marvin McNutt on film, but TJ Graham created separation despite his impressive ability to mirror routes in man coverage (at least when I saw him today). I think he might struggle with the speed demon receivers, and matches up better with possession type players. Jamell Fleming (Oklahoma) didn’t look great to me as he struggled to close quickly on curl routes a couple of times. I’ve seen him close on tape though and he’s looked good in man coverage on tape to me as well, so I expect him to have better days than he had today later on in the week.