While compiling research and watching tape of the draft prospects for my Mock Draft post, I came across a ton of players. Full disclosure I am a draft nerd and former college player, so I really enjoy watching prospects and creating my opinions on them before I look for analysis from other evaluators. This post looks to identify those players who are projected to be drafted outside the top 50. The "BOOM" players are those that I believe have the potential to be future above average starting players, "BUSTS" are those that will not pan out and "VALUE" are those players that will perform better than their projected draft range. I will break them into position groups with my reasoning behind each selection. As always, let me know in the comments where I hit or missed and if you have any players not mentioned that you think fit here.
** I will also be doing a defensive outlook for this series, but here we focus on the offense.
What has been mentioned most, and was confirmed amongst my preparation, is that this class is not as talented as past years, nor is it very deep with draft worthy players. This led me to go deeper than most positions to find players.
BOOM: Sam Howell, North Carolina
Howell has better than expected arm strength is an underrated athlete at the position. While he would prefer to make throws from the pocket he has shown the ability to incorporate his legs more as evidenced by the amount of QB power NC added into their offensive set. This ability makes him even more appealing to an RPO heavy scheme offense where his running ability adds another dimension to the script. While he will not be a day one starter, with a season or two of grooming in the offense he could be ready to step into the starting role and has the smarts and toughness to thrive.
Bust: Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
From a player that I have seen mocked as high as the third round, Zappe has no physical trait from a QB perspective that stands out. While he did make some decent throws at the Senior Bowl, I saw nothing on regular season game tape that was overly impressive, but the kid is tough. With a workman like skill set and the lower level of competition that he played in, I have a hard time believing he will be anything more than a QB3/PS type player.
Value: Jack Coan, Notre Dame
While slightly smaller than your prototypical franchise QB (6"3, 217), Coan's best attributes are his great footwork, release, and accuracy especially on deep balls displaying a slightly above average arm. While not the best athlete at the position, he has enough elusiveness and pocket awareness to avoid pressure and take off when absolutely necessary. He will not be overwhelmed at the NFL level by his playing in high profile games at Wisconsin and Notre Dame. His best fit would be a play action based offense where he can use his deep ball acumen for success. At worst he would be a QB2, down the road, that could come in and win games in place of the starter.
The biggest takeaway from this RB class is that it is top heavy. If you are looking for a starter or a rotational RB2 this draft is very thin. Factor in the pass catching abilities and pass protection responsibilities required from RB in today's NFL and the pickings get even slimmer.
Boom: Rachaad White, Arizona State
White IMO is the prototypical RB in todays NFL. He has good size (6'0, 215), and exceptional footwork and cutting ability, but his best attribute is his vision. He has good peripheral vision which allows him to use his lateral cutting ability to find holes and get to the second level where he sets up blocks extremely well. He is also an exceptional pass catcher out of the backfield and could even be split out wide or in the slot in some offensive sets. He is a "willing" pass blocker but will need NFL coaching to become functional in that area. While lacking elite burst, he is not a threat to be a home run hitter, but has plenty of speed to pick up chunk yardage. His best fit would be in a wide zone scheme where he can use his vision and cutting ability to find running lanes.
Bust: James Cook, Georgia
The brother of NFL star Dalvin Cook, James did not see regular playing time at Georgia until his senior season. If he is being drafted as a starting or rotational back you will be disappointed. While he is a very good receiver out of the backfield, he does not possess much power, tackle breaking ability or top end speed. He is more elusive than powerful so he will have a hard time being a 3 down back at the next level. His best role would be as a third down/pass catching back who will need to improve greatly in pass pro to see the field regularly.
Value: Ty Chandler, North Carolina
Chandler really popped on tape watching his game against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech while evaluating Howell. IMO he is the most under valued RB in this class. He has elite burst, vision and contact balance. Once he identifies the hole he displays the ability to get small to break arm tackles, cut away from defenders and kick into another gear for big gains. He is a ferocious blocker in pass pro and can also add return ability on punts and kicks. While he has shown the ability as a pass catcher, that is the area he needs to refine to become a complete back. IMO he projects to be a day one rotational piece with lead potential. He would be a steal in round 4 or later.
The WR class is one of the deepest in recent years and is rich in speed. Whether you take an elite talent in the early rounds or wait until later, you should be able to bring a decent player into the fold.
Boom: Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
Pierce has a great combination of size, speed and ball skills. His ability to fluidly break on routes is what moves the defenders to create space. Pierce might have the best hands in this class as he is a natural catcher of the football and rarely has it caught in his frame. Even though the best part of his game might be his route running separation he is extremely good at high pointing the ball in contested catch situations. While he can generate big plays down the field with shot plays I do not think he will be a big YAC receiver. He will need to improve his releases and handwork on jams at the line to become a more complete WR. He projects to start immediately in the big slot role and will transition out wide sooner than later.
Bust: Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
This evaluation is the first to take medicals into consideration as Ross missed time with a spinal fusion surgery in 2020. For a player who wins more with physicality than nuance only amplifies the injury red flag more. Making matters worse, is that he is at his best in the short to intermediate area of the defense opening him up to more big hits. He could be effective in the red zone on outside fades or jump balls with his size, but is that enough to overlook the medicals and invest a decent draft pick on him?
Value: Velus Jones, Tennessee
If you are looking for a combo WR/KR/PR Jones is your man. He is best with the ball in his hands on manufactured touches and will need more work to diversify his route tree to be a regular in the WR rotation. He projects best in a West Coast offense where he can be used on screens and quick slants to utilize his elite speed and elusiveness to separate from defenders. He will be 25 in May which might turn some GM's off, but if you are looking for a player who excels with the ball in his hands, Jones can deliver.
Offensive Tackle is not deep on elite talent, but does have a decent amount of players who can work into starting roles in the near future and features quite a few players from non traditional schools.
Boom: Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State
Watching tape of him was very boring and that's a compliment when watching OL film. He is sound in every area, and has the frame and feet to win on the edge. While not a mauler in the ground game, his exceptional athleticism shines in pulls and cutoffs and he has no issue releasing to the next level. He consistently plays with great pad level which helps him anchor quickly and reset after his initial first punch. He could play in any offensive scheme, but a zone based running attack would maximize his footwork and athleticism to win in open space. He could be a starting RT immediately and in the right scheme he could push to be a day one LT.
Bust: Obinna Eze, TCU
Eze has prototypical size at 6'6, 327, but did not play football until senior year in high school which could be the cause of his lack of fundamentals. He consistently plays with a high pad level, which leads him to lose often at the POA. He to often relies on his size to win instead of using a hard punch and footwork to sustain blocks and has a difficult time with speed rushers who can use bend to beat him off the edge.
Value: Max Mitchell
The more I watched Mitchell the more I liked him. Mitchell has great athleticism and lateral movement that helps him mirror defenders in pass pro. He has some issues with rushers who convert speed to power which is why adding functional strength in an NFL weight program will be necessary. This added weight will help his anchor and also improve his downhill blocking in the run game where he can be stalled on engagement. He will probably not be a LT at the next level but could eventually be an above average RT in a pass heavy attack who could slide to LT in a pinch.
Interior Offensive Line
The IOL group is not flush with elite talent but has a decent amount of players that can contribute to a team either as a swing piece or rotational starter. When watching the tape it seems like IOL is becoming more of a single position as a whole rather than separating players as either G or C. Plenty of players seem to be able to rotate to all three interior positions making positional flexibility a commodity.
Boom: Dylan Parham, Memphis
Parham initially came to Memphis as a TE, but was not viewed there by the staff so he was moved to LB. Again, the coaches liked his athleticism but didn't think he fit there so he was kicked into OG to become a 4 year starter. As expected being a converted TE, Parham has quick feet and fluidity that stands out in pass pro and has the lateral movement and agility to block in space, on the move or in the open field. He is a tactician in his fundamentals but will need to add functional strength for the next level. Any zone blocking scheme should fit him well.
Bust: Cole Strange, Chattanooga
Positional versatility makes Strange an attractive draft option. He has some good strength, anchor and awareness and can handle bull rush power well, but his biggest flaw is his lateral movement in pass pro on the interior. Interior DL players who win with hands and quick feet to his edges give him fits and can yield immediate pressure into the pocket. His best fit would be OG a run heavy attack with a mobile QB to elude up the middle pressure, but not every team is the Ravens.
Value: Ben Brown, Ole Miss
While watching 2020 tape of Corral I first noticed Brown at C. He has positional versatility since he played both G and C last two seasons for Ole Miss, but I liked him more at C. He has active feet and keeps his head on a swivel looking for work and he is at his best on inside traps and zone runs where he can get to the next level and engage quickly. He has a good base and anchor in his pass sets, but has a habit of dropping his head at times at initial POA. This can make him susceptible to swims and sweeps, which lead to him being off balance and grabby. With only one year at C in 2020 he will need to improve his shotgun snaps to be more consistent as he rushes them in order get into his assignment if he has a defender over his nose. I project him to be swing IOL to start, but would groom him to be an ideal C in a zone heavy run scheme who should be a starter in a year or two with more consistent reps.
The college spread offense is killing the traditional TE. The days of finding an inline TE who is a competent blocker, but has enough athleticism to threaten the seam of a defense are fading away. If you are a football traditionalist and your vision at TE is Jason Witten, prepare to be disappointed in todays NFL.
Boom: Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State
Untapped potential is the best way to describe Ruckert. He was a 4 star athlete out of High School who didn't necessarily have a set position going into Ohio State, but his size and skill set translated to TE for the Buckeyes. Playing on loaded offenses that featured elite talent at the skill positions, which did not feature the TE, limited his touches. However, he made the most of them with 12 TD from 54 receptions. Ruckert has arguably the best hands in this class and his pass catching ability is extremely underrated. He is a willing blocker who can hold the POA and is at his best in play action situations where he can block release and use his big frame on quick hits to vacated spaces. He was not asked to run varied routes, so he will most likely need to improve his route tree, but he has the speed, size and fluidity to incorporate vertical routes to his repertoire at the next level. Sleeper immediate starting TE.
Bust: Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M
Lack of testing during at NFL Combine was a red flag that was backed up by his horrendous Pro Day at Texas A&M. At an event that is scripted to highlight a prospects best features, he showed terrible explosiveness and fluidity. For NFL teams who believe less in testing and more in game tape and production, Wydermyer could still be relatively high on some boards. He is an average blocker with a slow first step and lacks turn of foot to get to top speed quickly. With the ball in his hands he displays good cutting ability and direction, the problem is getting him there. If a team found a way to get him the ball out of a flex position in space he could be useful, but for my money, that is not enough of a skill set to warrant a decent draft pick.
Value: Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
If you are looking for a flex tight end in the mold of Travis Kelce, Kolar is your man. While I am not declaring that he will be as successful as the perennial All Pro, his game is fashioned much in the same way. He is a good athlete and has good body control and guile to create space in the intermediate portion of the field and he catches everything. He is a willing blocker who has a problem sustaining the POA on longer pass sets, but can get to the next level in the run game for screens and outside sweeps. He would be best used as a flex TE and inline on play action where he is adept at finding the zone and sitting, then turning upfield for yardage. His lack of explosion limits his ability in straight man coverage or after the catch for RAC yards but he has enough speed to get to a zone and haul it in.