If your NFL team is 0-1, back off the ledge. Week 1 will lie to you and there’s a lot of football left to be played. You’ve waited months for the season to kickoff, and football is supposed to be fun. If things don’t get better, the NFL Draft will be here before you know it, and you’ve found the perfect resource to know everything about the prospects that will be selected next April.
Hopefully this column has become a staple for you each week, but just in case you are new, 6-Pack Thursday is my weekly brain dump on six football-related things that involve the NFL, College Football or NFL Draft.
Let’s crack this thing open!
(eyeball emoji) Dwayne Haskins
You gotta see this dude – he just might be the next B1G thing at quarterback. (See what I did there?)
A redshirt sophomore, Haskins is JT Barrett’s successor and my goodness do his traits pop on film. Barrett enjoyed what seemed like a 10-year career for the Buckeyes and set all kinds of records, but Haskins is a superior talent that has a ton of NFL appeal.
I went back and watched every throw he made to start the 2018 season and you can’t help but notice his tools. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Haskins has a sturdy frame and a big arm. He zips the ball with velocity and is rhythmic with his footwork and mechanics. I also really like what I’ve seen from him in terms of accuracy and ball placement.
While he’s played bad defenses in Oregon State and Rutgers to this point, Haskins is feasting on them like he should and taking advantage of the space available to him. So far through two games this season, Haskins has completed 79 percent of his passes for 546 yards (10.3 YPA) with 9 touchdowns and 1 interception. He’s hitting a lot of layups, but his talent is obvious.
Set to play TCU on Saturday, Haskins will take on his first big test of the season and give us an opportunity to evaluate him on a big stage. I don’t want to get too carried away based on his performances against OSU and Rutgers, and the fact that he’s just a redshirt sophomore, but he has tantalizing ability that is impossible to ignore.
This clip is my favorite throw that he’s made so far this season. Notice the rhythm, balance, mechanics, feet, platform, motion and zing on this pass. He perfectly guides the football over the linebacker, in a window in front of the safety with touch and accuracy. This could be QB1 in the making, folks.
Big Boy Football: Bama v. Ole Miss
Speaking of dudes, there will be plenty of them in this contest. This is the premiere scouting matchup of the weekend ahead. Where will my eyes be?
Ole Miss LT Greg Little vs Alabama DL
Little is…interesting. If you ask the hypothetical prospect building machine to produce an NFL offensive tackle, it spits out Little. And not only does he look the part, he has top end mobility, especially for a guy listed at 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds. His feet are quick and there are moments that his power can overwhelm opponents. But man is he a mess technically. His punch is often late and his hands get wide. His upper and lower body are rarely in rhythm and his body control is poor.
Facing the Tide DL that features Raekwon Davis, Isaiah Buggs and Anfernee Jennings, Little is going to have his hands full. You have to be technically sound to fulfill your assignments against this group. I’ll be paying close to attention to his battles with Davis, who has exceptional length and hand technique. Little’s poor punch exposes his chest, which will lead to some poor reps if things don’t improve.
Bama S Deionte Thompson and LB Mack Wilson vs Ole Miss Pass catchers
Talk about big time match-ups! That’s exactly what we are getting when the Rebels are on offense.
After losing their top three corners and two starting safeties to the NFL, we’re still learning about Alabama’s secondary. We do know that Deionte Thompson is premiere talent. His range, physicality and angles to the football are outstanding and he offers ideal physical traits. Given Ole Miss’ ability to hit big plays with so many different options, how Thompson gets used interests me. I can see him playing plenty of man reps against Knox and Brown from the slot, but still getting used as a single high defender in other situations.
Considering how Ole Miss attacks the middle of the field so frequently, Mack Wilson‘s ability in coverage will also be something to monitor. I love what I’ve seen from him in space and Saturday will be a big opportunity for him to shine.
Jessie Bates Shines in NFL Debut
The 2018 safety crop was L-O-A-D-E-D! And the Cincinnati Bengals got a good one in Bates at pick No. 54 overall. My No. 31 overall player in the class. I loved his range, processing skills, awareness and ball skills, but had my reservations about him as a tackler. Looking nothing like a rookie, Bates had no issues in that area on Sunday, racking up eight solo tackles and missing none. He was in control, had excellent spatial awareness and reacted swiftly and properly to what his keys told him.
Here’s my favorite play from studying his tape on Sunday against the Colts.
Notice how fast he processes and closes with a precise angle while breaking down and securing the tackle. It’s textbook.
In a surprise decision heavily affected by finances, the Bengals released S Georgia Illoka during the preseason. At 28 years old and a five-year starter, Illoka was as solid as they come. Bates’ acclimation and skill set made him expendable, and he’s stepped in admirably with a ton of upside moving forward.
I pegged the Bengals as one of the winners in the 2018 Draft after adding Billy Price, Bates and Sam Hubbard — among others — who I believe will be valuable players for years to come. With Price and Bates as Day 1 starters and Hubbard factoring into a good defensive line rotation, the returns are already outstanding from the Bengals class. It’s early but Bates has DROY potential.
The Josh Allen Era in Buffalo is Here
Last week, I wrote about how the Bills made the correct decision to start Nathan Peterman. And I still believe they did. Peterman won the job and deserved the opportunity. He was outstanding in the preseason and I’m sure he is excellent in the classroom. But it didn’t work out. For whatever reason, as we have now seen twice, Peterman doesn’t perform well in games.
Bills HC Sean McDermott didn’t make a mistake in starting Peterman over rookie QB Josh Allen. It would have been a mistake to go back to Peterman and McDermott rightfully didn’t. He couldn’t.
With $50 million in dead cap space, Buffalo is undermanned. The offensive line is bad and the weapons around Allen don’t impress anyone. It’s a 2016 Goff/2017 Trubisky situation, and Buffalo has no choice but to fail forward with Allen.
Is there a concern that Allen could be “ruined” if he doesn’t play well? Let’s be honest: Allen has been arguably the most criticized NFL prospect I’ve ever seen. His last season at Wyoming was in some ways disastrous. I’m not worried about his mental toughness. His experience on a Bills team that is probably going nowhere this season is to his benefit. And quite frankly, Buffalo has no other option. Peterman performed so poorly, there is simply no reasonable explanation for continuing with him as the starting quarterback.
Like starting Peterman last week, moving forward with Allen is the correct move.
Hitting the Road
My scouting trips continue this week with a game I am super excited to watch on Thursday night when Boston College takes on Wake Forest in Winston Salem. Hurricane Florence spoiled my plans for Week 3 double-header with West Virginia vs. NC State being cancelled, but there is a lot of NFL talent to see tonight. Here are the top prospects I’m focusing on:
Zach Allen, DL, Boston College – Allen is a stout player at the point of attack and plays with insane urgency. Wake’s OL is a good unit and the Deac’s offense will challenge Allen’s mobility.
Chris Lindstrom, OL, Boston College – This dude has the makings of a plug and play offensive lineman. Look for him to move bodies all over the field.
Lukas Denis, S, Boston College – Denis has outstanding coverage awareness and is a ball magnet. Facing a true freshman QB in Sam Hartman, he could have some opportunities to break on the ball against a Wake offense that is wide open.
Phil Haynes, G, Wake Forest – Haynes is super underrated. He is big, powerful and moves well for his size. A physical front seven in BC will be a good test.
Essang Bassey, CB, Wake Forest – He’s undersized but Bassey is quick-footed, fluid and plays the ball well in the air. BC’s run-heavy offense will give him plenty of opportunities to prove he is also physical.
Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forest – He’s small but he runs crisp routes and has excellent ball skills. Think Jamison Crowder 2.0 here.
Matt Colburn, RB, Wake Forest – Colburn is compact and competitive runner with good burst, balance and vision. He shares carries with Cade Carney but I love the way he runs.
Best Football Player I Saw This Week: Aaron Rodgers
I did this segment last week and I think I am going to make it a staple moving forward. Between live games and film review, I see a ton of players each week, so forcing myself to consider which was the very best is a fun challenge and exercise for me.
This week it was quite obvious and I’ll take any chance I get to talk about the magician that is Aaron Rodgers. The dude is unbelievable. Not only does he have the best arm on the planet but he can still play the position at an elite level on one leg.
I know you know how it went down, but Rodgers injured his knee in the first half of Sunday night’s game against Chicago. He was carted to the sideline and DeShone Kizer came in and played like DeShone Kizer always does. The Bears extended their lead to 20-0 before Rodgers took the field in the third quarter.
Then the magic began. Engineering the largest comeback of his career, Rodgers was 17 of 23 for 273 yards with three touchdown passes on four second-half scoring drives to complete the 24-23 victory – on one leg.
It doesn’t get better than that.