Each week, the On The Radar series will bring a unique look across both the college and NFL levels of football. Which prospects are on the rise? What are scouts and execs around the league buzzing about? What can we learn from the past?
While the college football season is still a few weeks away, the NFL rookies are officially getting their first action at the next level.
The preseason might not count in the standings, but it provides vital game reps for those looking to make an instant impact.
In this week’s edition I’ll break down early NFL rookie debuts, dive into one prospect that could shine in his first year starting, reveal early draft buzz and breakdown a lesson from the past.
It took Saquon Barkley one carry to remind everyone why he was the highest selected running back since Reggie Bush came off the board second overall in 2006.
He finished the night with five carries for 43 yards (39 on the play shown above.
In the same game, number one overall pick Baker Mayfield looked extremely sharp for the Browns. He appeared comfortable in the pocket, bought himself plenty of time, moved the chains with his mobility and had plenty of fine throws, two of which went for touchdowns.
A final stat line of 11/22 for 212 yards and two touchdowns is a nice night for the number one pick, but it would be shocking if Hue Jackson doesn’t stick with Tyrod Taylor early on.
Lamar Jackson is still developing as a passer, but his touchdown run Thursday night (his second NFL action) reminded everyone how he can impact a game right now.
If you listened to Stick to Football this week, you heard me gush about the instant impact Harold Landry can have. Well, that didn’t take long:
That is elite bend and ability to turn the corner. Don’t sleep on him having 5-8 sacks as a rookie, which would be an incredible return on a second round investment.
What’s The Buzz?
Even without games being played, chatter around the league picks up over Summer throughout both the college and NFL landscape. Let’s dive into some early buzz I’ve heard.
For fans of Locked On NFL Draft hosted by the fantastic duo of Jon Ledyard and Trevor Sikkema, you’ve heard this one from me before: The NFL isn’t sold LSU linebacker Devin White is a round one prospect…not yet at least.
Talking to multiple scouts, they love the athlete and potential of White, a converted running back. His instincts and ability to take on blocks needs to improve during his junior year, where his stock could rise from a Top 75 pick firmly into round one.
Elsewhere around the scouting community, there’s no unanimous QB1 coming out of summer. While this may not be a shock, it’s interesting how this group is viewed.
Missouri’s Drew Lock has a ton of eyes on him as a prospect with a ton of raw ability, most notably arm strength and size. Before you say it, the answer is no: he’s not Josh Allen, but he does have to make significant jumps with his accuracy.
Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald had his season end with a disastrous ankle injury and many are anxious to see how he bounces back.
*If* Nick Fitzgerald comes back healthy this year he's going to be one of the more fun QBs in this class – athletic, great size and +arm. Love the placement on this throw even though it wasn't hauled in: pic.twitter.com/vHmsXGZ5Vx
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) June 18, 2018
He’s raw as a passer, but at 6-foot-5 with a thick frame he displayed excellent athleticism against superb competition last year. There’s splash throws on film, but can he put it all together to become a legitimate quarterback prospect? I certainly wouldn’t bet against him.
You won’t find two prospects higher on the radar amongst NFL scouting circles right now and it only takes a few games of watching each to figure out why. If I was a betting man, I’d have both of them going in the top five for the 2019 Draft right now.
On the NFL side of things, everyone is wondering which rookie signal callers will see significant playing time this year. While Tyrod Taylor and Joe Flacco seem locked in to start over Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson, it’s safe to say the door is wide open for the other three first rounders in Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen.
The favorite of the group? Look no further than Sam Darnold. He’ll get significant reps right away this preseason and if looks capable, he should be under center week one in Detroit for Monday Night Football.
One Year Wonder Candidate Of The Week
Plenty of stars that aren’t draft eligible find the field on Saturdays, but what about the players that don’t? Mitch Trubisky is one of the most recent examples of this, going from one year starter at North Carolina to second overall selection in the NFL Draft.
Each summer I do my best to examine new candidates that have a chance to accomplish a similar rise. This year one of my favorite potential one year wonders is Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound pocket passer is only a redshirt sophomore, but he possesses a strong arm, throws with touch and has the mobility to buy himself more time to throw.
Even more impressive than the raw talent was his second half cameo against Michigan last season, where he filled in for an injured J.T. Barrett. He completed six of his seven passing attempts for 94 yards along with 24 rushing yards en route to a 31-20 Buckeyes win on the road.
Surrounded by playmakers in an offensive system that should benefit him, Haskins is poised for a huge year, his first as the starting signal caller. If he shines, don’t sleep on him finding his way into the 2019 Draft conversation.
Draft History: 2013’s Top 10, The Great Depression
We can learn a lot from the past. Thanks to The Draft Network’s Bert Bell Historical Library, it’s now easier than ever.
This week’s lesson raises a question many teams might not want to revisit: what the heck went wrong with (most of) the top 10 picks from the 2013 NFL Draft?
While a small sample size, there’s a ton to unpack here from this group. After a few years of disappointment, Eric Fisher has developed into an average at best starter. The Chiefs bet on Fisher, a ‘late bloomer’ (was 250 pound OL recruit), to reach a high level starter ceiling. He was the first player selected number one overall from the MAC.
It wasn’t the worst bet as he was an above average athlete for the position coming off of a dominant senior season, but there was no sample of tape that indicated he could hold up against upper tier competition at the college level.
On the flip side, Luke Joeckel ended up being a significantly worse pick than Fisher. The latter improved over time, while the former quickly proved he could not survive at left tackle in the NFL. Play strength and technique issues were abundant for the number two overall pick, even before significant injury hit.
Dion Jordan was arguably the freakiest prospect in this draft class and talent did not disrupt his career. With length, speed and explosiveness, the Oregon product could get after the quarterback, stop the run and even cover in space.
The problem? His life off the field became a disaster. For teams that did their homework, a prospect with Jordan’s character concerns would drop all the way down the board. This is where having a scouting department with reliable connections to gather information is vital. On the flip side, it’s great to see Jordan back on the field (healthy) and rebuilding his career with the Seahawks after a lot of time away from the game.
Barkevious Mingo was an early break out star for LSU and a huge NFL Combine winner. Outside of that, the issues were significant. He was extremely lean, did not significantly improve throughout his time at LSU and struggled to get off blockers, lacking any kind of creativity as a pass rusher.
In a way, he was the defensive version of Luke Joeckel in this class: a productive college player that got on the field quickly, but his raw skill set did not translate to the NFL level.
A devastating broken leg in the preseason of Jonathan Cooper’s career was not only a case of bad luck, but most likely forever ruined his ability to be a Pro Bowl level starter.
Tavon Austin was the odd case of taking an extremely athletic gadget player and hoping he transforms into a true number one wide receiver. His return ability and open field running has flashed, but his pass catching flopped.
Dee Milliner might be the easiest bust to explain of this group by a simple rule: if a player is consistently injured in college, that’s not going to change in the NFL. He had five surgeries before hearing his name called in the first round. It’s not like teams missed this in Combine medicals, the Jets were just insane enough to take the risk.
The pay off? An ankle injury, a torn achilles tendon and wrist surgery throughout three dismal seasons where he appeared in a total of 21 games.
Chance Warmack was billed as an elite guard prospect due to being a powerhouse at the college level, but his lack of athleticism and tougher competition led to a mediocre-at-best career in Tennessee before signing with the Eagles as depth.
Lane Johnson and Ezekiel Ansah are the outliers of this group, with both having extremely successful careers. A 20% hit rate in the top ten picks? Not great, Bob!