On August 30, 2014, the Florida State Seminoles squared off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Advocare Classic. The result? A hard-fought 37-31 victory for the top-ranked Seminoles. The game within the game featured two future NFL All-Pros matching up at different positions then they would eventually star at in the NFL. At the time, current Kansas City WR Tyreek Hill was a running back/return specialist and Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey was starring in a safety/nickel back role. In what proved to be a precursor for the future, Hill tallied an incredible total of 278 all-purpose yards. Ramsey contributed 12 tackles and 1/2 tackle for loss, while displaying outstanding agility and body control. We go inside one of college football’s best matchups of the past decade.
|Arizona Cardinals||Notable Pick: The pick of Simmons has major significance because the Cardinals drafted former Temple linebacker Haason Reddick just three seasons ago. DC Vance Joseph has to move Simmons around, but will it be natural within his defensive structure?|
|Round, Selection, ||Player||School||DN Big Board Rank/ Grade||‘Nasty’ Take:|
|1 (8)||Isaiah Simmons||6’4 238|
|4/1st Round||Simmons is clearly one of the more talented defenders to come into the league in quite some time. The consensus first-team All-American seems intent on wanting to play linebacker at the next level.|
|3 (72)||Josh Jones||6’5 311|
|71/2nd Round||After just an okay junior campaign, the first-team All-AAC tackle took his game to another level in 2019. It easily could have resulted in him going off the board much earlier than 72nd.|
|4 (114)||Leki Fotu||6’5 327|
|46/2nd Round||Fotu’s value should not be diminished in today’s pass-happy NFL. He is still an important entity and routinely handled double teams in school.|
|4 (131)||Rashard Lawrence II||6’2 308|
|274/4th Round||Lawrence is a heavy-handed player who will surprise on occasion with his snap count reactions. His balance on line games proved to be up-and-down in the film viewed.|
|6 (202)||Evan Weaver||6’2 237|
|102/3rd Round||Arguably the most active collegiate linebacker in the country the last two years, Weaver slipped because there are questions about his ability to transition into a three-down linebacker.|
|7 (222)||Eno Benjamin||5’9 207|
|117/3rd Round||Benjamin can catch, run in-between the tackles bigger than his size and he’s slippery. It was a surprise that he lasted until Round 7.|
|Seattle Seahawks||Notable Pick: The Seahawks have traditionally found a way to involve the tight end and Parkinson’s arrival means that trend will continue. He expands the team’s Red Zone capability while also extending the seams of the field.|
|Round, Selection, ||Player||School||DN Big Board Rank/ Grade||‘Nasty’ Take:|
|1 (27)||Jordyn Brooks||6’1 240|
|116/3rd Round||Brooks is fast, long and generally at his best going forward. He became the team’s first All-American LB since former Red Raider and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Zach Thomas.|
|2 (48)||Darrell Taylor||6’4 253|
|185/4th Round||Taylor had a knack for punching balls loose in school (six forced fumbles) and played two-to-three different spots for the Vols. He was equally effective from a two-point or three-point stance.|
|3 (69)||Damien Lewis||6’2 327|
|60/2nd Round||Lewis provides options at any of the three interior line spots. His heavy nature belies his movement skills. The former junior college All-American has to improve picking up line games.|
|4 (133)||Colby Parkinson||6’7 252|
|191/4th Round||Parkinson (see above) finished his career averaging 13.5 yards per reception with 12 touchdowns.|
|4 (144)||DeeJay Dallas||5’10 217|
|38/2nd Round||Dallas -a former WR for the Hurricanes- averaged 17 yards per punt return in 2018. He is excellent in the screen game and has positive contact balance.|
|5 (148)||Alton Robinson||6’3 264 DE-Syracuse||169/4th Round||Robinson did not match his breakout junior year with a sparkling senior campaign. Nevertheless, his ability to generate speed-to-power will make him a challenge for offensive tackles.|
|6 (214)||Freddie Swain||6’0 199|
|176/4th Round||Swain carries his equipment on game day and provides savvy as a slot receiver. In addition -particularly at this point in the draft- his value comes on special teams, where he was solid as a punt returner.|
|7 (251)||Stephen Sullivan||6’5 245|
|386/5th Round||Sullivan -a former four-star recruit at WR- was satisfactory at that position in school. He is a flex option either on the outside or in the slot.|
|San Francisco 49ers||Notable Pick: Of the draft’s first three selections, McKivitz will be in the battle for a roster spot with the 49ers depth at tackle. He has improved as a run blocker, but his ability to slide down to guard, if necessary, will likely determine his fate. The fact that NFL teams can now have three extra offensive linemen helps his charge.|
|Round, Selection, ||Player||School||DN Big Board Rank/ Grade||‘Nasty’ Take:|
|1 (14)||Javon Kinlaw||6’5 324|
|5/1st Round||Kinlaw was an effective player in school but it could be argued that he can give even more. His quickness is supplemented by heavy hands. His fit into the 49ers defensive line rotation should be something to monitor in 2020…and beyond.|
|1 (25)||Brandon Aiyuk||6’0 205|
|20/2nd Round||Aiyuk got more opportunities as a featured receiver in 2019 but it did not take away from his impact in the return game. The positive aspect of this draft pick is that he has yet to fully tap his vast upside at the receiver spot.|
|5 (153)||Colton McKivitz||OT-West Virginia||204/4th Round||McKivitz was a durable 47-game starter in school. He added positive play strength as he went along. He fits the profile the 49ers seek in their tackles.|
|6 (190)||Charlie Woerner||6’5 244|
|427/5th Round||One of the top recruits in the Class of 2016 when he came out of Rabun County HS (Ga.), Woerner had limited opportunities in school. He still flashed all of the skills that made him a four-star recruit at the prep level when given his opportunities. Very good blocker on the move|
|7 (217)||Jauan Jennings||6’3 215|
|331/5th Round||Jennings dealt with injuries, suspensions and inconsistency but, when wired, he was one of the nation’s most competitive players. His run after the catch ability and field speed eases concern over average workout testing numbers.|
|Los Angeles Rams||Notable Pick: The Rams got to a Super Bowl on the strength of former PK Greg Zuerlein. He came from a small school and now the team will give Sloman a look late in the draft. The former Redhawk took his game to another level in 2019.|
|Round, Selection, ||Player||School||DN Big Board Rank/ Grade||‘Nasty’ Take:|
|2 (52)||Cam Akers||5’10 217|
|58/2nd Round||The former five-star recruit out of Mississippi averaged just under five yards per carry in school but was effective as a runner, receiver and passer during his three-year run in Tallahassee. Akers is stronger than his frame suggests.|
|2 (57)||Van Jefferson||6’1 197 |
WR-Florida, Ole Miss
|17/2nd Round||Jefferson was productive at two different stops in the SEC due to his combination of body control and football intelligence. Some of his press-man releases have been unorthodox, yet sudden and effective.|
|3 (84)||Terrell Lewis||6’5 258|
|48/2nd Round||It would have been interesting to see how Lewis’ career would have gone had he not been sidelined by injury in two consecutive seasons. He uses 83 1/2-inch wingspan to pole OTs back into the lap of QBs. Can he stay healthy?|
|3 (104)||Terrell Burgess||6’0 202|
|285/4th Round||Burgess’ movement skills gives the team options with him as a nickel, outside cornerback or safety. He largely was drafted off of one productive year, but his skills translate to the next level.|
|4 (136)||Brycen Hopkins||6’4 245 TE-Purdue||135/3rd Round||Hopkins had some issues with the occasional concentration lapse, but the Big Ten’s Kwallick-Clark TE of the Year in 2019 averaged 17 yards per reception as a junior (2018). his speed and ability to stretch the seams of the field adds yet another layer to the Rams attack.|
|6 (199)||Jordan Fuller||6’2 203|
|279/4th Round||Fuller generally played a sound game in school. His movement skills for a taller safety were substantiated by some of the tough coverage assignments Ohio State gave him early in his career.|
|7 (234) ||Clay Johnston||6’0 229|
|301/5th Round||Johnston’s impressive start to the 2019 season was upended by a midseason knee injury. Prior to the injury, he had already posted four double-digit tackle games. |
| 7 (248)||Sam Sloman||5’8 207|
|586/7th Round ||Sloman connected on 87-percent of his field goals in school, but it was his senior year uptick in range that caught the eyes of scouts. Prior to 2018 he was not as effective as a kickoff specialist. Over the last two years, he posted a 63-percent touchback percentage on kickoffs.|
|7 (250) ||Tremayne Anchrum||6’2 314|
|241/4th Round||For a player who operated exclusively on the edge in school, Anchrum was fairly impressive turning out the opposition on designed runs to his side. In pass protection (either outside or inside), he will have to get better at handling inside movement. |
|Notable Picks: Two-time executive of the year Steve Keim let the draft come to the team patiently. It is a big reason he picked up a center who we felt was one of the best overall players in the draft in Gaillard. He may be able to battle for a backup spot. Miles was an underrated athlete and collegiate left tackle with a legitimate six-inch punch. The trade of 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen to the Miami Dolphins netted the team its second round pick (62nd overall), UMass WR Andy Isabella, and a fifth-round pick in 2020. Allen is a heck of a football player and may have to provide a presence as an interior pass rusher after the team didn’t pick up a true outside rusher in the draft.
|Player||School||DN Big Board
|1 (1)||Kyler Murray||QB/||17/1st Round||Murray’s disciplined pocket approach is complemented by an ability to create once the pocket breaks down. Whether or not the team did enough to address its offensive line is to debate, but it could be argued that its starting five is already in place.|
|24/2nd Round||DraftNasty’s top-ranked corner has all of the tools to develop into a frontline starter. For this to be a value pick, he has to develop into at least an immediate starting nickel.|
Acquired from Miami in the Josh Rosen trade
|WR/UMass||137/3rd Round||For better or worse, Isabella’s name will always be associated with Josh Rosen’s in terms of who got the better end of the deal. In an offense where slot wide receivers have had large degrees of success on fade routes from the slot, Isabella’s speed will put pressure on defenses. He has been inconsistent tracking the ball down the field.|
|3 (65)||Zach Allen||DE/Boston College||190/3rd Round||Allen gets as many points for batting down footballs as he does putting the quarterback on the ground. In school he notched 14 pass break-ups, but he also tallied 40.5 tackles for losses. He is a feisty defensive end who excels at playing to half a man.|
|5 (139)||Deionte Thompson||S/Alabama||66/2nd Round||Although he is somewhat of a shoulder-block tackler, the 195-pound Thompson rarely runs away from contact. Injuries clouded his postseason and left scouts wondering about his durability.|
|6 (174)||KeeSean Johnson||WR/Fresno State||175/3rd Round||One of the draft’s best route runners, Johnson plays a game that doesn’t rely completely on long speed. He is adept at changing his speeds to achieve separation at the top of routes. His ball skills are above average.|
|OL/Georgia||51/2nd Round||We were bullish on Gaillard’s stock and certainly ranked him higher than most teams. We like the fact that the former four-star recruit has experience at both OG and OC. He has finishing DNA as a football player.|
|7 (248)||Joshua Miles||OL/Morgan State||227/4th Round||Not many 314-pounders notch 36-inch vertical jumps. This is a mere additive for the former Morgan State left tackle. He became the first player from the school drafted since Visanthe Shiancoe in 2003 and just the second since 1982.|
|7 (249)||Michael Dogbe||DL/Temple||235/4th Round||Dogbe translates perfectly as a four-technique DE for the Cardinals and his quick, slippery nature could get him looks at a three-technique position in Bear fronts. He can play a number of spots in obvious pass rush situations, but he is sound defending the run versus reach or angle blocks.|
|7 (254)||Caleb Wilson||TE/UCLA||207/4th Round||Mr. Irrelevant has 4.56 speed but limited thump as a point of attack blocker. He became more willing in this regard as a cross-blocker when at the fullback or U-off position, but he is at his best after the catch or when working the seams of the field.|
|Seattle Seahawks||Notable Picks: Fair or unfair, this draft may very well come down to a comparison between the team’s first-round pick L.J. Collier and the departed Frank Clark (Chiefs). It shouldn’t. GM John Schneider used the trade to pick up a 2020 second-round pick, swapped a third-rounder in 2019, and then traded its own first-rounder (21st overall) to the Green Bay Packers for its 30th pick in the first round and then picked up the 114th overall pick (4th round) and 118th overall pick (4th round). After that, the ‘Hawks traded the 30th overall pick in the first round to the New York Giants for the 37th overall pick (2nd Round), a fourth-round pick (132nd overall) and a fifth-rounder (142nd overall). They used that fifth-round pick to select Washington LB Ben Burr-Kirven. What did they do with the 37th overall pick? They traded it to the Panthers to get the 47th overall pick (Marquise Blair) and the 77th overall pick (3rd Rounder). They used their other draft capital to trade back up into the third round with the Vikings to select Barton 88th overall while receiving the 209th overall pick (Christmas). There were other trades and moves that allowed a team with limited selections to end up grabbing 11 players, but you get the point.
|Player||School||DN Big Board
|1(29)||L.J. Collier||DE/TCU||125/3rd Round||Collier was always a flex player for the Horned Frogs, but he arguably turned in his best season in 2018. His improved play defending the run complemented an improvement when it came to setting up his pass rush moves. He had two sacks, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble in the 2019 Senior Bowl.|
|2 (47)||Marquise Blair||S/Utah||58/2nd Round||It would not at all be a surprise to see Blair employed as a potential cornerback. We felt as if his fluidity could work at the position, much like the safety the Seahawks took a season ago in Tre Flowers. Blair, however, is unique in his skill at translating speed-to-power on contact as a tackler. Will his frame hold up with his violent playing style?|
|2 (64)||D.K. Metcalf||WR/Ole Miss||37/2nd Round||Metcalf’s lack of production can be attributed to a lack of repetitions due to injuries, some of them fairly major in nature. When healthy, the former Rebel has demonstrated range, power and tracking skill down the field. Can he put it all together as a route runner?|
|3 (88)||Cody Barton||LB/Utah||177/3rd Round||Although Barton presents a tad bit of stiffness, he often corrects his angles of pursuit. Barton projects as a Will linebacker. The former high school DB has awareness in coverage and can contribute in sub-packages.|
|4 (120)||Gary Jennings||WR/West Virginia||116/3rd Round||The Seahawks continue to load up on wideouts with the uncertain status of WR Doug Baldwin. Jennings impressed outside the numbers in the postseason after winning for most of his career in the slot with toughness and 4.4 speed.|
|4 (124)||Phil Haynes||OL/Wake Forest||165/3rd Round||Haynes competed well at the guard spot after initially playing the right tackle position earlier in his career. His length will serve him well as a backup at both guard spots initially, but he has starting potential.|
|4 (132)||Ugo Amadi||All-Purpose/Oregon||271/4th Round||Amadi’s ability to return punts is supplemented with an ability to cover the slot, contribute off the hash and as an eighth man in the box.|
|LB/||200/4th Round||The former high school track & field runner was often a blur running by his teammates on his way to an FBS-best 176 tackles. His segmented nature, however, does result in some misses in space. The former Husky reads the eyes of the QB well in zone coverage.|
|6 (204)||Travis Homer||RB/Miami (Fla.)||170/3rd Round||The team values special teams production and it doesn’t get much better than Homer’s 22 career tackles. In-between running down at the gunner spot or on kickoff coverage, Homer used his 4.4 speed to rush for over 900 yards in back-to-back seasons.|
Compensatory pick acquired via Minnesota
|Demarcus Christmas||DL/Florida State||254/4th Round||There is still a place for Christmas on an NFL roster. While most point to his lack of sack production, it is worth noting that he broke up 13 passes in his career.|
Acquired from Jacksonville via Baltimore
|John Ursua||WR/Hawaii||413/5th Round||Ursua finished his career with 189 receptions and 24 TDs while averaging over 14 yards per catch. He has been an effective slot receiver and could add a different element of quickness in the slot. His injury history is a concern at just 178 pounds.|
|Notable Pick: Over the last three years GM John Lynch has put together a talented roster. His draft picks from this year continue to indicate he is intent on building it through the draft. Samuel and Bosa are the headliners, but both have extensive injury histories. They need to stay healthy. If he has as much success with his 2019 third round pick (Hurd) as he had with his 2018 selection (Fred Warner), this draft could land high marks in a couple of years.|
|Player||School||DN Big Board
|1 (2)||Nick Bosa||Ohio State||3/1st Round||Bosa has all of the tools to become a potent bookend at the DE spot opposite Dee Ford. We think he will provide matchup problems if aligned on the left side versus the tackles of the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals. Can he stay healthy?|
|2 (36)||Deebo Samuel||All-Purpose/
|69/2nd Round||In 30 career games, Samuel scored 32 touchdowns. There was a marked difference when we viewed him early in the season as opposed to the postseason (due to past injury issues). He has had injury scrapes in each of his seasons on campus. If not, he may have been a Top 15 pick.|
|3 (67)||Jalen Hurd||WR/Baylor, Tennessee||97/3rd Round||Hurd could have made an impact at the 2019 Senior Bowl, but was unable to participate due to injury. After starring as a running back early in his career at Tennessee, he impressed with his work in the slot at Baylor in 2018. The big question he faces is whether he can be as effective outside the numbers.|
Acquired from Cincinnati
|P/Utah||451/5th Round||Wishnowsky has a wide repertoire of punts. From the running rugby-style (which he won’t use) version, he’s executed the now popular hook punt. We think he can perfect this and some of his other punts from a traditional punting platform, which he executed from on occasion with success. His highest hang times got up into the high 4-second range, but he was generally capable in the 4.6-range depending on the style of kick. He can also kickoff.|
Acquired from Denver
|LB/Arkansas||186/3rd Round||The operative thinking is that Greenlaw will just provide depth as a fourth or fifth LB who could see time in sub-packages. However, we think he could challenge Malcolm Smith in due time.|
|6 (176)||Kaden Smith||TE/Stanford||241/4th Round||Smith was one of the best tight ends in this year’s draft at making contested catches on seam passes. If he can overcome his pedestrian speed to earn a roster spot, he could allow Kyle Shanahan to incorporate some two tight end receiving sets.|
Acquired from Cincinnati
|Justin Skule||OT/Vanderbilt||389/5th Round||Skule will have every opportunity to grab the third tackle spot behind Staley and McGlinchey. He’s probably best suited to backup McGlinchey, who he is nearly identical to in terms of size and quickness. He played LT as a senior at Vanderbilt, but he did start at RT in school.|
Acquired from Cincinnati via Dallas
|Tim Harris||CB/Virginia||226/4th Round||Harris is a developmental draft pick in the mold of former third-rounders Tarvarius Moore and Ahkeilo Witherspoon. Moore started two games in 2018 and Witherspoon has quietly started 21 games in two seasons. Harris’ durability question marks overshadowed 4.4 speed and decent foot quickness.|
|Los Angeles Rams||Notable Picks: Despite not having a first-round pick, many would argue that the Rams got better value than each of their picks in the first three rounds. We had Rapp ranked lower than some teams and Long earned a second-round grade from us. Grabbing Gaines in the third round had to feel like a coup for the team. The pick of Scott in the seventh round was the classic ode to special teams coordinator John Fassel, a future NFL head coach. Scott was Penn State’s best special teams player in each of the last two seasons.|
|Player||School||DN Big Board
|2 (61)||Taylor Rapp||S/
|94/3rd Round||Rapp had a chance to go even higher had he put together a better 40-yard dash time (4.7), but he excelled in short area change of direction drills (3.99 20-yd SS, 6.82 3-cone). On the field, he is a player who carries his pads. He needs a lot of work timing his breaks when working off the hash marks.|
|154/3rd Round||We spotlighted the explosive Henderson early in the year when he was averaging an insane amount of yards per carry. In years past, the Rams have had bigger runners backing up Todd Gurley but this is a departure from that philosophy. Henderson is an underrated receiver out of the backfield (15.5 YPR in 2018).|
|3 (79)||David Long||CB/Michigan||79/2nd Round||The former high school wideout and U.S. Army All-American displays outstanding competitiveness in man coverage. He didn’t play quite as big as he measured in at during the postseason, but his flexibility is above average.|
Acquired from New England
|Greg Gaines||DT/||106/3rd Round||The nimble Gaines can translate speed-to-power when pushing the pocket and is underrated as a two-gapping force. Gaines has even stood up to rush from the edge.|
|OT/||288/4th Round||Edwards has some technique flaws but his hip flexibility and footwork are both adequate. The light-footed former TE battled through injury in 2018. He needs to play lower to earn a roster spot.|
|7 (243)||Nick Scott||S/Penn State||438/5th Round||The pick of Scott in the seventh round was the classic ode to special teams coordinator John Fassel, a future NFL head coach. Scott was Penn State’s best special teams player in each of the last two seasons. In 2018, he began to find another gear in pass coverage as well.|
|7 (251)||Dakota Allen||LB/Texas Tech||218/4th Round||Allen trusts his eyes and delivers on contact at a violent clip. The two-time team captain overcame off the field troubles to become one of the Red Raiders team leaders. His short area change of direction rivals that of many of the class’ top defensive backs.|
The NFL is always looking for versatile performers capable of transitioning to the next level. Here are three prospects who bring value to teams on fourth down and beyond.
Travis Homer 5’10 201 Miami (Fla.)
Homer took his game to another level the last two seasons at the running back spot. He averaged nearly six yards per carry in 2017 and followed that up with nearly the same yards per carry average in 2018. The former four-star recruit was a team captain for the ‘Canes and one of its best leaders.
As a freshman in 2016, he rushed for just 44 yards. During that same season, however, he notched eight special teams tackles. He used his 4.48 speed for three seasons to continue to perform admirably at the gunner position, which essentially is a displaced wide receiver on the punt team used to run down and cover punts.
In 2018, despite starting at running back, Homer posted 10 tackles.
He has also lined up inside on the punt team. You can look at his work on the punt return unit as a hold-up guy and laud his work as well (see Berrios big punt return, Russell Athletic Bowl ’16). When former Miami (Fla.) head coach Mark Richt was asked about why Homer remained on the special teams, he had the perfect response:
“We need good players on there (special teams) and he’s one our best at it. You better have guys who know what they’re doing and can get people on the ground.” (https://www.foxsports.com/florida/video/1102010435956).
Isaiah Johnson 6’2 207 CB-Houston
There aren’t many prospects who have run a hitch route, covered the opposing team’s top receiver and run down at the gunner position. Johnson is one of those prospects. The former 110-meter hurdler at Rudder HS (Tex.) contains one of the more intriguing profiles in the 2019 NFL Draft. Blessed with 33-inch arms, he is still rounding out his game at cornerback. The former collegiate wide receiver does, however, exhibit a feel for recognizing route combinations.
In-between repetitions at cornerback and wide receiver, Johnson managed to sneak into the 2019 Senior Bowl despite just 15 career starts at cornerback. He also managed to sneak in time on special teams. In the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl, he consistently defeated one-on-one hold-ups at the gunner spot and he also stood out against SMU in that same year (tackle, SMU ’16). The upside in developing Johnson as an outside corner is that he can instantly be a special teams contributor. He has also shown up as an L2 on the kickoff team and was often the first player down the field. His size and 4.4 speed make him tough to grasp in either facet of his game.
Blake Cashman 6’1 237 Minnesota
Cashman impressed NFL personnel at the NFL Combine with his 4.5 speed and lower body agility. It all came after a third-team All-Big Ten campaign that featured 104 tackles, 2.5 quarterback sacks and 15 tackles for losses. He also scored on a fumble return and notched five pass break-ups.
The former Eden Prairie High School star won four straight state titles at the prep level. It took him until the spring of 2017 to even earn a scholarship from the Golden Gophers. When we covered him in the 2016 Holiday Bowl, he earned MVP honors after dominating the game against Washington State on both special teams and defense (12 tackles, QB sack, two tackles for losses).
As an R2 on the kickoff team, he ran by multiple blockers for most of the night and posted three tackles on the kickoff team. He generally plays faster than everyone else in either punt (where he has forced several fair catches, see Northwestern ’16) or kickoff coverage. As a linebacker, he trusts his first read and believes what he’s seeing on the field. We think Cashman is one of the true value picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Cody Barton is a Utah Ute through and through.
The Utah linebacker is the son of two former Utes: his mother, Mikki, played basketball and volleyball. In 1993, she was named the WAC Player of the Year in basketball and led the nation in blocks in volleyball to earn all-conference honors. His father, Paul, played football and baseball in Salt Lake City. He went on to spend a year in the minors with the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization.
Paul and Mikki not only passed on the Utes genes to Cody but his older brother, Jackson, and his younger sister, Dani, also donned the red and white.
Dani plays volleyball while Jackson played offensive tackle for the last four years. Jackson finished this season as a first team All-Pac-12 performer while Cody was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
Despite having a brother on the team and a family of Utes, the person on campus Cody Barton might be closest to is linebacker Chase Hansen.
Last offseason, Barton helped Chase in his transition from safety to fellow linebacker.
“We had a strong bond,” said Barton during the week of the East West Shrine Game. “Me and Chase were very close. He’s one of my best friends on the team besides my brother, I stayed at his house a couple nights during the week.”
Barton said he and Chase would compete in everything from lifting in the weight room to running in the hallways.
The bond translated from Chase’s studio apartment all the way to the gridiron. The pair finished as the team’s two leading tacklers.
Barton finished with 117 tackles while Hansen added 114. Barton also bested Hansen with four sacks to two. He added another piece of hardware to his trophy case during the week of the 2019 East-West Shrine game, when he won the Pat Tillman Award, which is given to a player who best exemplifies intelligence, sportsmanship and service.
“Throughout his career, Barton has demonstrated a relentless drive and great awareness on the field, frustrating offenses like the man for which the award is named,” stated a press release from the East West Shrine Game.
The Utes finished 13th overall in yards allowed per contest and that mark could be attributed in part to Barton’s work as the commander of the defense.
“Just about every play we’re communicating with (the defensive line),” Barton said. He also on occasion talks with the back end of the defense.
The communication between the three levels of the defense allows the Utes to run various stunts and shades in the front while timing blitzes between the linebackers.
The NFL prospect credited Utah Utes defensive coordinator and safeties coach Morgan Scalley for the harmony among the Utes defense.
“We’re always disguising,” Barton said. “Everything we were doing we were always disguising.”
One thing Barton doesn’t disguise is the brotherhood he has with his fellow Utes and the personal competition he has with Chase.
“I hope he sees this and knows I’m faster,” said Barton. It’s worth noting, Barton finished with a 4.64 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, while Hansen didn’t participate due to a hip injury.
Fresno State doesn’t have the name recognition of other West Coast powers like USC or Stanford but one thing can’t be ignored, the Bulldogs have shown a propensity for producing NFL wide receivers.
Henry Ellard, Adam Jennings, Paul Williams, Devon Wylie, Davante Adams, Bernard Berrian, Rodney Wright… the list of receivers drafted from Fresno goes on and on.
Former Bulldog great Stephone Paige set an NFL single-game receiving yardage record in 1985 with 309 yards against the San Diego Chargers. The record stood until it was broken by Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Willie ‘Flipper’ Anderson in 1989 (336).
The next in the lineage could be KeeSean Johnson and he doesn’t need a history lesson, he knows the guys who have come before him.
“I learned about their stats and learned what they did,” Johnson said during the week of the 2019 East-West Shrine Game. “Those type of guys come back to the school and talk to you and you have to take it all in.”
One person Johnson said he models his game after is Davante Adams, who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers before Johnson’s freshman season.
Adams went from Fresno to the NFL and worked his way into a reliable target for Aaron Rodgers, producing two Pro Bowl seasons.
Adams and Johnson also both attended Palo Alto High School, where Johnson played both football and basketball.
The 6-foot-1, 201-pound prospect said Adams’ clean release off the line is what stands out to him. Johnson is a good route runner in his own right and says he also likes watching Cooper Kupp (LA Rams) and Keenan Allen (LA Chargers).
“You can learn anything from anybody on the field just by watching them,” Johnson said. “That’s how I learned and that’s what helped me.”
The film study has paid off for Johnson, who says he can see himself playing in either the slot or on the outside.
“Whatever team I get a chance to play for hopefully I get a chance to make an impact at wherever (position) they play me,” Johnson said.
He finished his senior season with 95 catches for 1,340 yards and eight touchdowns.
Among his other accomplishments include back-to-back nominations to the All-Mountain West second teams.
Over the last three seasons, Johnson has started all 40 games and has amassed 238 receptions, 3,126 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Three things are certain. Death, taxes and Fresno State will produce an NFL wide receiver. And if Johnson can produce like he did for the Bulldogs at the next level, look for him to return to Fresno and groom the next pup.
Chicago used a physical defense and excellent special teams play to defeat the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football. The Bears topped the Rams, 15-6, and are on the doorstep of winning the NFC North. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in- game report:
The Sunday night showdown was largely about the defensive efforts of the respective teams but running back Tarik Cohen left his mark on the contest. Head coach Matt Nagy is as creative a playcaller as there is in the NFL, he follows his mentor, Andy Reid’s philosophy of getting your best players the ball in space. Cohen can make plays in the passing game, the running game and through his return ability. Cohen (5’6 179) is one of the smaller players in the league but he is built well and has very strong legs. The back isn’t afraid to lower his shoulders and run behind his pads and between tackles. Coupled with his acceleration, Cohen is a hard cover. His running back mate, Jordan Howard, runs most of the power running plays between the tackles but Cohen can run the same concepts but at a lower rate. The former North Carolina A&T running back makes his money on the outside and in space. The Bears running back finished with 111 all-purpose yards, and the team as a whole put up 336.
A mark of a good defense is the ability to make the opposing offense uncomfortable and force them to find new ways to score. Chicago forced Rams quarterback Jared Goff to throw four interceptions and held Los Angeles to 214 yards of total offense. The pocket was rarely clean for Goff, who was sacked three times and when it was clean, he rushed throws and made errant reads. Chicago didn’t do much better than the Rams offensively (294 total yards) but the Bears have the type of defense that can carry its football team. Khalil Mack stirs the drink but the Bears possess playmakers at all three levels of the defense.
Rams play calling
The Rams rank in the top five in scoring per game, passing yards per game and rushing yards per game but looked ordinary against the Bears. Sean McVay is a Coach of the Year candidate and the honor is warranted but his play calling was suspect on Sunday night. The Rams best player offensively, Todd Gurley, carried the ball just 11 times and he finished with just three receptions despite being targeted seven times in the passing game. The passing numbers aside, Gurley should’ve seen more touches in the running game. On 2nd and 15 to start the third quarter, McVay opted for a shotgun set when his team was on its own five-yard line. Bears defensive lineman Eddie Goldman capitalized and sacked Goff for a safety.
“Really, consistently over and over I continue to put our players in bad spots,” McVay said during the postgame press conference. “Certainly a humbling night, but it’s one you get a chance to look at yourself critically, find a way to get better and move forward accordingly and that’s exactly what we’re going to do and that’s all I know how to do. And I have to be better for our football team. This loss is on me. I didn’t do a nearly good enough job for us today. I trust we will respond the right way.”
The Rams coach accepted blame for the loss. Look for Los Angeles to establish the running game early in their next game against the Eagles.
The Carolina Panthers inability to convert on third down and score touchdowns in the red zone, doomed them in a key NFC matchup. The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Panthers, 30-27. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:
The term “all-purpose” may be thrown around a little too much. However, it certainly applies to McCaffrey, who finished with 125 rushing yards and 112 yards receiving against the Seahawks. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner used McCaffrey every which way against the Seahawks: swing passes, runs between the tackles, single back in the option game, split out wide and on screens. The main cause for concern in Carolina is that the offense could be seen as too vanilla. Besides McCaffrey and D.J. Moore, who caught eight passes for 91 yards, no other player tallied more than 50 yards. The Panthers looked predictable at times, especially on 3rd down (3-of-8 against the Seahawks) and in the red zone (3 touchdowns on 7 attempts). In his first season as coordinator, Turner has showed the ability to put his playmakers in position to make plays, however, he needs more players to step up in both third down and Red Zone situations.
“McCaffrey was awesome. Cam (Newton) was awesome. But when they got into the red zone, we stopped them. We had four big stops, and they were all crucial,” said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll during the postgame press conference.
Middle linebackers duel
A game might not feature a better matchup of opposing middle linebackers than Sunday’s contest, Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly combined for 25 tackles and one tackle for loss. Both players led their teams in tackles and are the best players on their respective defenses. Wagner was able to stand Cam Newton up at the line of scrimmage on a critical 4th and 2, preventing the Panthers from scoring on their first drive. On the other side of the ball, Kuechly helped hold the Seahawks number one ranked rushing offense to just 75 yards.
“Luke Kuechly (pictured left) is one of the best linebackers in the game, so you know he’s going to make a couple plays,” Seahawks running back Chris Carson said during the postgame press conference. “For the most part we did what we could do in the run game.”
You can tell a lot about the quarterback’s trust factor by looking at who he throws to on third down. By that measure, Tyler Lockett was Russell Wilson’s best friend against the Panthers. The Seahawks receiver caught five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, three of which came on third down including his touchdown in the third quarter. On the final drive of the game, Lockett caught a deep pass for 43 yards on 3rd down after Russell Wilson was able to buy some extra time in the pocket, ultimately setting up the Seawhawks game winning field goal.
“When Russell (Wilson) keeps it alive, we understand how hard it is for defenders to try to guard somebody more than five seconds,” Lockett said. “If it is longer than four or five seconds, it puts us in a better position to get open.”
A battle of the Bay Area featured two of the worst teams in the NFL. However, San Francisco thoroughly dominated its area rivals on Thursday Night Football, winning 34-3. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in game report:
Undrafted second-year quarterbacks don’t usually complete 16-of-22 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns in their first career start. But thanks to a poor defense and an excellent game plan, Mullens was aided in his debut. Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s first 15 script of play calls allowed his quarterback to get comfortable through the use of bootlegs, screens and power running. The 49ers scored their first touchdown of the game with a play action pass from Mullens to wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who ran wide open over the middle. Mullens’ teammates said his ability to perform on the primetime Thursday night stage didn’t surprise them.
“It was cool that he didn’t change under the big lights and these circumstances,” cornerback Richard Sherman said, during a postgame press conference according to ESPN. “We’re not really surprised. We’ve seen him do it in practice. He plays with a lot of confidence.”
Mullens executed the game plan to perfection and might see additional playing time as the team’s primary backup, thanks to a strong performance.
Mullens looked to tight end George Kittle whenever he needed a big play. Kittle finished with four catches on four targets for 108 yards and one touchdown. The second-year tight end made an impressive one-handed grab over the middle on 2nd and 12 and sprinted for a 71-yard gain to open the third quarter. On the season, Kittle has caught 41 passes for 692 yards and three touchdowns. As the 49ers cycle through quarterbacks, Kittle has remained a constant at tight end and his production hasn’t slipped no matter who has been behind center.
The 49ers had their way with the Raiders but Oakland committed more than their fair share of mental mistakes. On offense, Derek Carr was harassed all evening due to a shuffling offensive line because of injuries. The Raiders gave up eight sacks and as a team totaled just 242 yards of total offense. Defensively, the Raiders were penalized for having too many men on the field in the second half, left receivers wide open on bootlegs and couldn’t set the edge to prevent long runs. Oakland traded away young talent in Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack and it looks like their eyes are on the future. The Raiders might not win many games in 2018 thanks to a lack of talent but that doesn’t excuse the mental errors that plagued both sides of the ball against the 49ers.
Missed tackles and poor special teams play was enough to cost the Seahawks against the Rams. Los Angeles defeated Seattle, 33-31, to remain undefeated. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:
The Seahawks secondary was dealt another blow last week when Earl Thomas broke his left leg. The losses in the secondary have been noticeable as the Seahawks now rank in the middle of the pack in terms of completion percentage against and yards per attempt, categories where they normally hover around the top of the league. Seattle has also struggled tackling on the back end, which caused them precious yards after the catch against the Rams. A bright spot for the Seahawks has been rookie cornerback Tre Flowers (6’3, 194), a converted safety out of Oklahoma State, who against the Cardinals forced a fumble and then broke up a pass against the Rams that led to a Frank Clark interception. Head coach Pete Carroll got his start as a defensive backs coach and he will have to continue to mold the young players in the secondary if Seattle wants to return to its defensive glory.
Rams depth at receiver
Starting receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp are currently in the concussion protocol after suffering concussions against the Seahawks on Sunday during the first half. Head coach Sean McVay has impressed early in his coaching tenure because of his ability to put his skill players in positions to be successful. Second-year receiver Josh Reynolds and rookie KhaDarel Hodge combined to fill in for 53 yards on three catches. The Rams should be fine in the short term because as running back Todd Gurley showed in the first quarter, he can take a swing pass and pick up 17 yards to convert 3rd down and long. Gurley is a workhorse running back who draws so much attention that it will force the opposing defenses to cater to him leaving room for the receivers on the outside to work. If Kupp or Cooks miss Sunday’s game against the Broncos, look for the Rams to run the ball early and often as McVay finds more creative ways to get Gurley the ball in the passing game.
Seahawks running game
Russell Wilson’s dual-threat ability is the foundation of the Seahawks offense. However, in order to truly be successful on the offensive end, Seattle needs production at running back. Chris Carson and Mike Davis have stepped up over the last two weeks. Carson rushed for 116 yards on 19 carries against the Rams and Davis added 68 yards on 12 touches after rushing for 101 yards against Arizona a week before. The Seahawks rely on bootlegs, RPOs (run-pass options) and play actions but in order to draw the defense in, the Seahawks have to establish a threat from the running back position. Currently sitting at 2-3, the team will have to continue to groom its running backs in order to enter the playoff conversation by December.