You know the drill. Tuesday morning means one thing, and one thing only…it’s time for the sixth edition of Draft Class Heroes!
NFL-heavy focus today, but I snuck two prospects in that I need to watch more of this week. In the meantime, this week’s Draft Class Superhero is getting no buzz right now, and that needs to change.
Draft Class Superhero of the Week: Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers may be cursed, but you can bet James is going to do everything in his power to reverse that misfortune. He was brilliant on Sunday, showing off range, ball skills and blitzing ability that will surely make him an impact player in Los Angeles.
— NFL France (@FirstDownFR) September 10, 2018
Just an outstanding play not to panic with his back to the ball, get his head around and break up the pass. Patrick Mahomes admitted after the game he thought it was a touchdown when he threw it. Also of note, that’s 4.34 40-yard dash receiver De’Anthony Thomas that James is running with, in case there was any question about his speed or matchup ability in man coverage.
James has the all-around skill set the NFL covets at the position, and he’s already showing off the instincts to make splash plays. With Roquan Smith, Harold Landry, Rashaan Evans and others off to slow starts due to contract situation/injuries, James has moved to the top of the defensive rookie of the year candidates.
1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Miami Dolphins
One of James’ primary challengers for DROY? Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins safety made several huge stops during Sunday’s action, including this goal-line stick on fourth down to save a touchdown.
Minkah Fitzpatrick already showed why he could be a pro bowler in the @NFL week 1. If Tennessee scores here it changes the whole game. Heck of a play by the rookie to not only recognize it, but make the tackle @PhinPhanatic pic.twitter.com/PZRhbPOWKk
— Gabe Genovesi (@gabegeno13) September 10, 2018
Exceptional mental processing and awareness there, as well as the physicality to fight through the pick and still arrive at the proper angle to make an impactful tackle. Fitzpatrick is playing mostly in the slot for Miami right now, but he was still on the field for 44 of 69 defensive snaps. If he keeps playing that much, he’ll have a shot at DROY too.
2. Emmanuel Hall, WR, Missouri
Watching Drew Lock against Wyoming, I was blown away by how often Hall stood out. Not only is he a deadly deep threat due to his elite speed and acceleration, but Hall showed strong releases and the ability to create separation in his route tree as well.
— Mizzou Football (@MizzouFootball) September 9, 2018
The senior is lanky at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, listed measurements that may be pretty generous compared to his actual size. Hall probably isn’t going to dominate contested catch spots, but I’m very anxious to get to more of his tape tomorrow. I don’t think speed is the only asset in his bag of tricks.
3. Renell Wren, IDL, Arizona State
This kid was a straight-up blur off the ball on Saturday night, wrecking Michigan State’s interior defensive line with his first step, leverage and incredible snap anticipation.
ASU's DL at it again 😲 this time #95 6'5 297 Renell Wren tossing MSU's center pic.twitter.com/ND8jZxXqZS
— Kyle (@marblekyle) September 9, 2018
That is crazy. Look at him fire his hands off the snap too. He’s not just bursting upfield and running into people, he’s looking to control blockers and make plays. This is more than just a bull in a china shop.
Wren has already been included in Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks” list this past offseason, largely due to his ability to run a 4.85 40 at 6-5, 301 pounds. He can also reportedly jump just under 35 inches in the vertical. That is crazy. You can expect my scouting thoughts on Wren by the end of Wednesday.
Villain of the Week: Rodney Harrison, Clueless Analyst, NBC
With a full week to prepare to say something intelligent about a Le’Veon Bell-less Pittsburgh Steelers team, you’ll be shocked to learn that Harrison came up empty. Rather than offer real analysis for the Steelers struggles against the Cleveland Browns, Harrison opted for the tried-and-true “distraction” line, and said that nobody in the Steelers locker room should have criticized Bell’s decision to not show up last week.
First, what Harrison and every other numbskull ripping the Steelers’ offensive line for speaking out about Bell’s situation need to realize is that his teammates’ frustration has nothing to do with the running back’s contract situation. If this were a holdout, nobody would have said anything. But it isn’t. The Steelers can’t give Bell what he’s looking for right now, under league rules. How that is being missed by so many in the national media, Harrison included, is beyond me.
Second, what about the fact that Bell repeatedly said he would be there for Week 1, both publicly and privately based on the comments from some of his teammates, and then bailed on that promise? How are they not entitled to be frustrated about that? But you didn’t hear Harrison mention that part of it.
Third, the “distraction” line is such BS for situations like this. Bell hasn’t been there all year. It’s not like he was gone and then took off. Maybe there is, I don’t know, football-related reasons why the Steelers sucked on Sunday. Did Ben Roethlisberger turn the ball over five times because he was “distracted” by Bell’s absence? I mean, give me a break. It’s such lazy analysis when all it would take is a little effort to give fans something better.
In the lair this week…
- Tomorrow (Wednesday) I’m focusing on getting the following players scouted and written up for the prospect database: Mississippi State center Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State guard Deion Calhoun, Missouri WR Emanuel Hall, Auburn WR Darius Slayton. Also, I want to add my Wren thoughts to Ben Solak’s report on the Arizona State defensive tackle.
- Also on Wednesday: the first TDN NFL Draft IG Live at 12:30 pm EST, talking about prospects in college football that have stood out so far this season. Paige Dimakos will be hosting, and I’ll be analyzing and answering questions on the The Draft Network IG. Hope you tune in!
- I’m gonna write about Justin Herbert on Thursday, I think. He’s played outstanding football, but it has been against poor competition. I’m going to talk about the difficulties in his evaluation in conjunction with his obviously elite traits.
- On Saturday night I’ll be dropping my What We Learned: CFB Week 3 edition, so make sure you stay up late with me!