Today marks just 27 days left until the first pick of the NFL draft. To this point, we have now covered 8 weeks of players at a pace of a player per weekday. That brings our total to 40 players through the 8 weeks with hopes of getting to 55 or 60 players. This certainly shows the realities of our time constraints and the further reality that NFL teams have about 500-1,000 players graded and scouted at a much greater depth.
This reiterates the overall point to this exercise. I am not a scout or a general manager, and I hope it is clear that I am not even trying to be a "scout-wannabe". I wish to do my best to be an informed media guy, but I am under no misplaced idea that I can do what they do. The fact is that what those guys do requires countless hours of effort from a whole staff of scouts and personnel experts. They have years of information on each guy that begins long before their draft year. Ask any scout about his files and he will tell you that he has already done plenty of work on the 2018 and even the 2019 drafts. He has massive files on all corners of the football world so that no organization feels out-flanked by their competition.
They meet with coaches, dig into the background of a player going back to high school, learn about every aspect of their medical files, and, of course, try to study the tape and hold their own workouts. The files are enormous and the information is incredible in volume. They do so much more than anyone in the media could ever dream of doing that it is important to understand the differences between those who really do this for a living and those who do player profiles (like me), mock drafts, and anything revolving around the NFL Draft.
It is a vital part of the NFL game and the media does more work than ever before, but that should not get anyone to mistake us for "experts" on the topic. I have been doing this for years and feel like I gain a lot from it, but that doesn't in any way delude me into thinking that there is a level of expertise that is a fraction of the guys who really do this for a living.
So, as I am asked all of the time, why try to "break down" prospects? Well, without question, even though I am not a scout, I do love football. In the spring, I love to learn about the new players coming into the league and I love to compare them with their fellow draftees and players form previous years that I have also studied.
The process I have adopted is the 200-play treatment. You watch a player for 200 plays and you should get a pretty good idea of what he does well and not so well. What he does and what he doesn't do. I try to use All-22 coaches tape, which is far preferable to TV games, which are miles better than nothing or highlight tapes. We need to see all the plays. The bad ones, the good ones, the indifferent ones. Now, that doesn't mean I know about his medicals, his personality, his intangibles, his backstory, his family, or anything like that. I know how he looks in 3-4 games of his last year in school.
So, 200 plays is about 3 games of a full-time player. If you study 3 games of a college player and take careful notes as well as read as much as you can about the player, you can then start to form an opinion of how he compares to the others in the group. You must consider quality of opponents, quality of team-mates, scheme, injuries, and all sorts of nuances, but I believe, if you dedicate a day to a player, you can get a decent read on how he compares to others.
I know some people in my line of work give grades, but I have a hard time offering relative grades based on hard ideas about what constitutes a 3rd round grade versus a 4th. Frankly, every year, due to the candidates available, the quality of the 4th round varies. Also, if you only give 19 1st round grades, but there are 32 1st round picks, then what? In my opinion, if there are 32 picks in the 1st round, then the best 32 players get 1st round grades. It is like suggesting that some marathons are only 19 miles long and others are 37 miles. No, they aren't. All marathons are 26.2 miles. We can't decide that it is shorter this year and longer next year.
Again, these are all just things I have picked up over the years. I believe Football Media guys should watch football and make up their minds on players rather than take someone else's word for it in a magazine or a website. And while we are all under qualified to do so, shouldn't we try to become more qualified every year? Shouldn't we do what teams do on a much lesser scale? Learn, study, make decisions, see our mistakes, alter our process, and try to not make the same mistakes year after year? I think so. And, for that matter, what else are we supposed to do from February until August, anyway? I am a football fan. I like to watch and learn about football. And that explains what I have been doing for years on the NFL Draft.
And with that in mind, here is another batch of players to be familiar with for this year:
DESMOND KING - IOWA
CB - SENIOR- #14
5'11 - 203 - 4.58 pro day
Last 2 years stats - 27 games, 11 Interceptions, 130 tackles 4.5 TFL, 20 PBU, FF
King won the Jim Thorpe and Jack Tatum Awards in 2015 when he was a Consensus All American.
POSITIVES: King is a corner who has excelled at the college level for a long time. He has been Iowa's lead player in the secondary for over 50 games and also adds the component of kick and punt returns at a solid level over the last two seasons as well. He competes very hard and looks comfortable and confident in the predominantly zone defenses that Iowa runs, allowing him to be a ballhawk and read the QB eyes to find the ball. He plays with a physical edge and many in the NFL see him as more of a safety than a corner, but he seems like the type who is more than capable at both spots if you need a wildcard in the secondary over the course of a season. He is a clear team leader and a guy defenses seemed to try to avoid quite a bit this season.
CONCERNS: He did not run particularly well at the Combine and when you add that too his smaller stature, he likely is not in the top class of corner prospects, which likely puts him in Day 2 as a converted safety. He does seem susceptible to "eating the cheese" and falling for pump fakes or double moves when he is in full ball hawking mode, allowing for the occasional big play over the top. I was unable to see him in too much man to man coverage, aside from chasing a Tight End down the field. Teams are concerned about his long speed on the edge, which is curious, given his punt and kick return duties.
I think the total package that King brings to the table offers a guy with positional flex and good mentality to be a contributor in someone's secondary for a long time. He is a football player with the perfect mentality and I would not allow measurables to talk me out of that kind of prospect at the right price.
CHIDOBE AWUZIE - COLORADO
CB - SENIOR - #4
6'0 - 202 - 4.43 40
Last 2 years - 27 games, 3 interceptions, 150 tackles, 18 TFL, 8 sack, 19 PBU, 4 FF
Awuzie has been a bit of a fast riser as he developed from a 3-star recruit to 1st Team All Pac 12
POSITIVES: Awuzie is the type of corner that always attracts the attention of the public with his style of play. He is a "line of scrimmage" corner - slot guy at times - who is brought on blitzes and dive bombs run plays or WR screens to make plays behind the line of scrimmage on a regular basis as his 26 plays behind the line in the last 2 seasons would indicate. He has very nice size and speed with a 40 of 4.43 that plays with aggressiveness that is revved all the way up. It is clear Colorado wanted their flanks to force action into very tight spaces rather than "off and soft" a lot of times. There are some games where they seem to blitz him over and over again. In fact, his deployment and his production both put him in a similar class with Jabrill Peppers as a safety who seems to be playing more of a hybrid near the line, but also has some more slot ability than Peppers has shown.
CONCERNS: For a player with these types of skills, you would think he would be a candidate to be a corner on the outside, but that seems like a bit of a projection at this juncture based on the tape I have seen. I don't know if he can follow a top WR around the field because he wasn't asked to do that. I also want to know about his ability against double moves and play-action because he is so aggressive it seems he is jumping everything which will make him a target on Sundays if he doesn't clean that up. Also, if converted to safety at the next level, is he merely in the box? At barely 200 pounds, I think that can work, but you would love to see someone with a bit more size for durability issues.
Otherwise, there are so many things to like. I think Awuzie is the type of player I tend to over-value, because I love a player at his size who plays with reckless abandon and aggressiveness. He will also be a force on coverage teams, too. This is a very nice football player.
GAREON CONLEY - OHIO STATE
CB - Junior - #8
6'0 - 195 - 4.44 40
Last 2 years stats - 26 games, 6 Interceptions, 75 tackles, 13 PBU
Conley is yet another member of this Ohio State secondary that is expected to go quickly this year.
POSITIVES: He is a candidate to be a #1 corner with his total package that includes good size, great speed, tremendous athleticism with elite hips, and the mentality that he believes he is on an island out there locked up against your #1 WR. He is not worried about too much beyond his guy and can mirror that player pretty well. He also can look convincing when used on a corner blitz. He competes well on passes to his side and gets his hands around a player without making contact that draws penalties. He has tremendous tools that seem to put him right in the mix on Day 1.
CONCERNS: I will confess I have been burned by over-valuing a player's reluctance to participate in team-defending activities like run support and showing any desire whatsoever to take part in the physical side of defense, so Marcus Peters proved to me that this isn't always a deal breaker. That said, Conley has very little interest in hitting anything. In fact, he had a free run at DeShaun Watson from Clemson and was unable to knock him over from the blindside. It wasn't a great demonstration of physicality and to play Ohio State's long season and only have 26 tackles credited in 13 games says you better be Deion Sanders to get away with that at the next level. There were times against Clemson's Mike Williams where he did not look up to the task and overall, he will lose guys chasing crossers. He isn't my favorite prospect.
Conley will go early for sure and things might work out, but I really don't generally like his type and am suspicious of how well he will translate.
KEVIN KING - WASHINGTON
CB - Senior - #20
6'3 - 206 - 4.43 40
Last 2 years stats - 25 games, 5 Interceptions, 83 tackles, 8 TFL, 18 PBU
King is a very tall cornerback who moved from safety to find a real home at corner.
POSITIVES: I think he is a corner who for some reason is slipping under the radar this season, but I would value him quite highly as he seems to do just about everything well. His physical traits are unreal as a 6'3 guy who runs a 4.43 with a 39" vertical. Add to that he is a safety that moved to cornerback a few years ago, so he loves contact of a safety but has the characteristics of a cornerback. Very appealing combination. Add in to that he has demonstrated some very impressive ball skills to pull down an interception that comes near him. He dive bombs on run plays on the edge and is battling through blocks to get to the ball. He will also engage hard with WRs at the snap as he is looking to rumble when possible.
CONCERNS: There isn't much that I don't like in the games I tracked, but for the occasional time he was beaten over the top (it appeared he thought he had some safety help). At times, you might prefer he dials back his aggressiveness a bit because he will fly in there and miss. But, overall, he is a player I am wondering why others don't have him as high as I do.
I think King is on my short list of corners I would really like to slide to Dallas if possible. He seems the type of corner they really lack.
FABIAN MOREAU - UCLA
CB - Senior - #10
6'0 - 206 - Has Not Run 40
Last 2 years - 15 games, 2 interceptions, 39 tackles, 10 PBU, 1 TFL, FF
Moreau has battled injuries to emerge as a real interesting and physical prospect at corner.
POSITIVES: Moreau has a lot to like and on his best plays looks like the belle of the ball. Moreau is a big and confident corner with nice traits and a guy who wants to contest on inside routes while having the catch up speed to help when someone gets behind the defense. His motor runs hot and he is a confident player who wants to defend your best guy. He also baits the QB to try to fit a throw in there and jumps it with very good smarts and cleverness. He is a convincing player who makes you recognize his smooth ability and his willingness to step in there when the situation calls for him to put his body in harm's way.
CONCERNS: Unfortunately, his body seems to not appreciate his style where he has missed considerable time due to injuries and is presently recovering again from an injury suffered at his pro day. It is not thought of as a deal breaker, but after missing most of 2015, he is developing a bit of a reputation. He is also 23 years old which isn't a deal breaker, either, but he is the oldest in this group by a bit. He also seems to lose the ball on fades and verticals. This is something that is often difficult to pick up at the next level. Finding the ball is often considered instinctual and given rather than developed. He is physical enough that he will pick up some penalties down the field for overdoing it for sure.
I like him quite a bit, but I will have him down a bit with the corner class as deep as it is. He will be a nice player when healthy, but like so many on the list, it will come down to the price he costs.