The Eye Test- By: Alex Fleming
What we see is becoming what we accept as our reality. The one consistent moniker in the NFL, is that there is always new talent coming in. Being blessed to attend the NFL Combine, and interviewing/ speaking with the new batch of NFL players, some impressions resonate. After viewing their workouts, and compiling their collegiate accomplishments, one has to gain trust in what the numbers and eyes is showing you. Maybe, one should trust their gut, because looks, can be deceiving. There are players, and then there are standouts. This rookie class is special; they will face the most adversity of any rookie before them. A daunting 17 to 20 game schedule, a shortened resting period, and higher expectations to make an immediate impact. This is my list, of who passed the Eye Test: not only at the NFL Combine, but also the next level.
AJ Dillon: A powerhouse, he made Boston College's offense relevant. A 4.4/ 4.5 runner, he was an amazing pass blocker, and averaged 26 carries a game. He was a standout at the Combine, and can boost any NFL team's running game. His confidence was present, and he's ready for the next level. At 6'0, 249 pounds, he is a wrecking ball. His 1,685 rushing yards, 15 total touchdowns and 5.3 yards a carry are not an accident.
Jonathon Taylor: Another powerback, who benefited from a run-first system in Wisconsin. Some believe that he doesn't have a lot of tread left on the tires. Mr. Taylor, who smiled and proceeded to embrace the question, would tell you otherwise. Yes, his senior campaign he fumbled 6 times. He also had 26 touchdowns, and amassed 2,255 yards. He is a bruiser back, that can change the culture of a team in desperate need of a running game. He has ran for 6,174 yards and had 45 touchdowns collegiately.
D'Andre Swift: Shady 2.0, is a gem for any NFL team. He only increased his scrimmage yards and touches each year he was a Bulldog. His sophomore season was his standout year; snatching 13 touchdowns through rushing and receiving. His hands, like his feet, are quick and elusive. His ability to catch out of the backfield arguably make him the best running back available in this year's draft. His demeanor at the combine was dripping of a humble swagger.
Cee Dee Lamb: Oklahoma produces NFL talent left and right. Last year, it was "Hollywood" Marquise Brown. This year, the can't miss wideout is the man from Richmond Texas. A big target at 6'2, he redefined his craft and proceeded to get better, every year at OU. He does most of his damage in the 1st quarter; gaining 489 of his 1,327 yards at the beginning of the game against his collegiate opponents. His consistency doesn't stop there. His September and October of his Junior year were nearly identical- 414 yards for September, 402 for October. Second quarter yards for the season- 443; 1st quarter yards, 489. 10 of his 14 touchdowns were in the first half; he struck early. Oh, and by the way this man has some hands. 62 catches for his junior year for 21 yards a catch....
Denzel Mims: There's something in the water in the Big 12, because offense is easy to come by because of all of the amazing weapons coming out of Texas. Daingerfield, Texas is his home, where he was a standout in high school, and took his game to new levels under Carolina Panthers Coach Matt Rhule's tutelage. Mims should thank him. Mims is dangerous. Smart, crafty, excellent discipline off the line, a free-runner, who isn't a one-trick pony on single wide coverage. The repertoire is unique; 3 years, 28 touchdowns, 2,881 yards while averaging 16 yards a catch. He's a best kept secret who can easily become your number 1 in an ever-changing NFL. He has 186 catches total. His freshman year, before Matt Rhule arrived; stats were 4 catches for 24 yards total.
Chase Claypool: Once it clicks, and you finally figure it out, the sky is the limit. That is in anything that we do. Claypool had to learn how to enforce his will. It made him a better receiver. The 6'4, 230 problem out of Abbotsford British Columbia is a bruiser. He's going to demand a double team only because he going to wear down your corner. Size matters, and he was smooth like butter at the Combine. Displayed great hands that Thursday as well as for the quarterback drills with Kelly Bryant, Brian Lewerke, Jacob Eason, Aaron Gordon, Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm, Kellen Davison and Jalen Hurts. I can't remember him dropping a pass. That is a corner's worst nightmare; a receiver bigger, faster, stronger, and with better hands than you. His catch radius and yards per junior to senior year increased dramatically.
2018: 50 receptions, 639 yards, 12.8 avg, 4tds, Long-35
2019: 66 receptions, 1,037 yards, 15.7 avg, 13tds, Long-47
I rest my case.
Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovaila are outliers; neither have anything to prove. They both hold a national championship, and will be selected in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. There were other stars in the Indianapolis sky that night. Without naming the other names in the room, I'm surrounded by NFL Royalty. From a mouthpiece to a statistician, the depth of knowledge in the room was astounding. Lucas Oil is a beautiful stadium, with a good hometown feel. Seeing things on tv, and seeing them in person are two completely different experiences. Don't believe everything that you might see on the TV. Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports saw some things completely different, from Espn. Once had an issue with the inconsistency of Mel Kiper's assessment myself, and spoke on it. With that said, how often do your eyes deceive you?
Jalen Hurts: A winner wherever he goes, he displayed a quick release, and power behind his throws. Showed comfort and velocity in his sideline throws. He needs a touch of work on the deep ball, but his throws from deep were in stride; not mechanical deep 7 drops. He was a touch high on comeback throws to his receivers; it was always coming at their heads. Great motor functions and comfortability on right side throws. Also displayed a pretty spiral on Go-routes. He's a starter, but it's all about fit and opportunity.
Jacob Eason: I usually don't have faith in Pac 12 quarterbacks, but if I were to take a chance on one, it would be Jacob Eason. He spent two of his years in Georgia, before taking a year off and becoming a Huskie. He's pretty much immobile; with 2 rushing touchdowns he has -126 yards on the ground. However, his senior year was quite nice under a different system. His completion percentage, yards, average per touchdowns all increased. He finished with a QBR of 143.9. Behind a good offensive line, Eason could be nice. His draft profile is definitely interesting. At times he was sharp, with a good spiral. Accurate and on time on splits and inside slants. A touch high on the deep throw (with an ability to sail), but he has a beautiful spiral. With some work on weakside out throws, he exerts great confidence from short distance. Pretty throws on come-backers and in-field routes. If he can find consistency on his deep go routes, he can be a 2nd year starter.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Gordon
His velocity was amazing. Pinpoint from short distance. Hit his receivers in the breadbasket. Accurate on 20 yard fade and out throws. Kept great cadence with his receivers; and showed accurate anticipation for 40+ yards continuous times. He is a rhythm thrower, and rhythm is a dancer. Although he doesn't boogie across the line of scrimmage, he is down to go down-field. He had 5,579 his senior year, completed 71.6% of his passes, and had a 3-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Does it matter that he threw for 48 touchdowns?
Names to know and remember:
Sterling Dewdney- Wide Receiver Shepherd University
KeOntae Owens- Running Back Urbana University "The U"
Perry Seldon- Running Back University of West Georgia
Tyler Anderson-Running Back Rob Morris, Cincinnati Ohio
Micheal Andrews- Wide Receiver West Texas A&M University