What’s that? You thought I’d come out of the TDN gates firing something other than this hot take cannon? Take that idea and shove it. I’m here for the truth, and nothing but. Some of these prospects y’all like ain’t worth the cleats they’re getting knocked on their backside in.
Here’s five draft-eligible players getting top 20 hype when the tape suggests they’ve got a lot of work to do.
1. Derrick Brown, IDL, Auburn
I get the infatuation with Derrick Brown. He’s huge (6-foot-4, 316 pounds), he moves pretty well for his size and he’s a former five-star prospect. But the tape shows a player struggling mightily to hit his stride in SEC play, consistently bullied about up front due to poor pad level and a troubling lack of mental processing.
Brown doesn’t ID blocking schemes well, which leaves him physically unprepared for what is coming on a snap-to-snap basis. His technique also leaves a lot to be desired, as he’ll fail to gain inside control of his opponent, resulting in a lot of body-to-body reps and struggles to get off blocks. It’s all a recipe for the most troubling aspect of Brown’s game: the amount of time he spends on the ground.
We shouldn’t rule out the possibility of Brown getting better, and there certainly are flashes on tape. But when a player is getting first round hype like Brown is, he should be a lot closer to playing at a level indicative of that billing, especially heading into what should be his final collegiate season.
2. DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia
There are some things I really like about Baker. His mental processing is good, he plays with a chip on his shoulder and flashes instincts that could thrive in a zone-heavy scheme. Baker reminds me a little bit of Desmond King, a scheme-protected nickel corner for the Chargers that fell in the draft because of athleticism and size concerns.
Baker is listed 5-foot-11, 180 pounds (I think he’s heavier) and I won’t be surprised if he runs in the 4.6s. Speed is a legitimate concern for him in press or off man coverage, and his overall athleticism leaves something to be desired. First round corners are typically press-man cover guys with high-end athletic ability and legit ball skills. I don’t see Baker as that kind of a player. He’ll have a solid NFL career, but enough with the top 20 talk.
3. Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan
Gary made Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks” list, and will reportedly destroy the NFL Combine, at least in some events. That’s nice and all, but his athleticism is still extremely raw, and does not yet convert to on-field success.
Gary is listed at 282 pounds, which is far too heavy to be playing on the edge in the NFL. He’s reportedly shed a few pounds this offseason, but watching him on All or Nothing he looked like a defensive tackle. It was also clear from watching him walk on the show that he is severely duck-footed (s/o John Owning), with both feet naturally turning out when he walks or runs. This was also evident on his tape, and is one reason why he struggled to corner as a sophomore. Getting his hips and feet in line with the pocket is a lot tougher for him to do than many other edge defenders.
Ultimately however, Gary’s lack of hand usage and plan of attack as a pass rusher are his real undoing right now. He’s big, physical and flashes a quick first step when he times up the snap right, but his game needs massive amounts of polish before he can even begin to be considered a potential top 10 pick.
4. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
I actually think Brown is talented, and the glimpses of catch-point prowess and post-catch creativity have me very intrigued. But he’s not even the best prospect on Ole Miss receiving corps, and I would argue he’s the least polished of their 3 future NFL players at the position.
Ole Miss plays Brown exclusively in the slot, which is the most heavily-targeted position in their offense. He never had to work off of press coverage, often didn’t even need to separate from man coverage and showed very little attention to detail as a route runner. There are flashes of course, but Brown’s tape revealed a player who benefited more from his opponents mistakes in coverage than him creating space on his own.
A.J. Brown had 75 catches, 1,252 yards and 11 TDs last season.
38 catches, 748 yards and 8 TDs came against South Alabama, Tennessee-Martin, Louisiana and Vanderbilt 👀
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) August 5, 2018
There’s also the matter of his production. The vast majority of it came against Ole Miss’ worst competition. Against Alabama, one catch for six yards. Against LSU, four for 39 yards. Consistency is the one word I kept coming back to with Brown, as well as the unknowns of his game like how he plays against press coverage, what percentage of the time he could win vertically on the outside (he was rarely asked to do so in Ole Miss’ offense) and whether he can make a living off contested catches. His evaluation is far from complete, and I’m hoping 2018 answers some of these questions for us.
5. Christian Wilkins, IDL, Clemson
I’ve spared Dexter Lawrence for the time being, as he was playing injured last season and I should probably let him get healthy before I judge his worth as a prospect. Wilkins on the other hand, I’ve seen enough of to know exactly what I’m getting. He’s physical, plays hard and can out-athlete some of the stiffs at the college level. But against the big boys in the NFL, Wilkins’ traits look like they will come up lacking.
What is the one ability Wilkins has that you can hang your hat on being his calling card in the NFL? Explosiveness? He’s not threatening off the ball at all right now, showing a lot of inconsistencies in his get-off. Power? Pad level? Hand usage? If he’s elite in any of those areas, why doesn’t he control more blockers? Instead it is Wilkins who is always chest-to-chest, struggling to get off contact to make stops or occupy his gap.
Too many of his pass rushes come up empty, and Wilkins doesn’t have a go-to move to win with consistently. There’s a spot for him in an NFL rotation, but to be the top 15 player he’s been billed as for years now, 2018 needs to show us something we haven’t seen before from him.