Welcome to the first ever TDN Mailbag! Every Friday I’ll be taking questions from our elite fans about the NFL, NFL Draft and college football landscape, looking to provide you with the type of insight you desire into all three realms. If I don’t get to your question on here, Trevor and I will more than likely answer on the Locked on NFL Draft podcast Fan Friday or Spectator Saturday episode.
Y’all killed it with the questions this week!
Who are your current top 3 deep safety prospects? Like if you need a rangy centerfielder, who are your guys?
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) September 13, 2018
Answer: There aren’t many in this class, at least not many that are obvious to us right now. Alabama’s Deionte Thompson is becoming the big name, and rightfully so. He has the range, athleticism and emerging ball skills to play a single-high safety role in the NFL.
The others to keep an eye on are Boston College’s Lukas Denis and Miami’s Jaquan Johnson. Denis has outstanding ball skills, but gambles too much and has to learn to play more under control. Johnson has range and physicality, but his instincts seem to be lacking, as he frequently arrives too late to make plays on the ball.
3 best prospects in MAC schools not named Buffalo?
— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) September 13, 2018
Answer: Tough one! Of the players I’ve seen so far, Northern Illinois edge defender Sutton Smith (who has reportedly bulked up to 245 pounds), Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson and Northern Illinois offensive lineman Max Scharping. Also curious about Ball State QB Riley Neal, Toledo OT Brock Ruble, Western Michigan CB Justin Tranquill and Akron LB Ulysses Gilbert, but I haven’t gotten to study them yet.
N’Keal Harry, ASU—a first round talent. Where does he go and whom does he most resemble from the NFL today?
— Brendan Walker (@BWalkerNFL) September 13, 2018
Answer: I personally do not currently see him as a first round talent, but I’m excited to see how he progresses this season. N’Keal Harry’s biggest concern is his ability to separate with quickness and/or nuance as a route runner. He’s a little bit raw, and not the most explosive threat off the line of scrimmage against press coverage. Also, he doesn’t always play like an alpha.
Of course, his ability to make high-degree of difficulty catches in the air, his physical build and his post-catch ability will probably interest the NFL enough to make him a high pick, provided he runs an adequate 40.
As for a comp, I don’t have one yet. Some have said Laquon Treadwell, but Harry is better after the catch than Treadwell. The broadcast team for the Michigan State-Arizona State game said Julio Jones, and they can MISS ME WITH THAT BS.
Who has been a draft prospect, if there is one, that has sort of jumped out of nowhere in the first few weeks at you? Someone you maybe weren’t high on or didn’t have on your radar that has worked their way on?
— Bill Riccette (@Bill_Riccette) September 13, 2018
Answer: Two guys stand out. Arizona State defensive tackle Renell Wren is an explosively athletic freak with a rare physique for the position. And Virginia Tech edge rusher Trevon Hill is bendy to a degree that I was not expecting to see. Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has impressed me compared to his 2017 tape as well, showing excellent touch and placement on the deep ball.
Who are your favorite slot CBs, so far, in the 2019 class?
— William S. Carroll (@BCarroll138) September 13, 2018
Answer: Levonta Taylor?
Y’all can laugh, but he’s 5-9 at best. He ain’t playing outside in the NFL, and he has excellent instincts and burst to the ball from off-man or zone coverage. The scheme will matter, but in the right role he can still be effective in the NFL.
Any offensive linemen that could step in and start right away? Tackles especially … asking as a #Bills fan, so, you know … we kinda need that
— Eddie Hilton (@mykidsdaad) September 13, 2018
Answer: Alabama OT Jonah Williams, Wisconsin C Tyler Biadasz, Kansas State OT Dalton Risner and Boston College OG Chris Lindstrom look like early starters. Not sure any of them have great ceilings, but Williams is a technical wizard. Wisconsin tackle David Edwards and Mississippi State guard Darryl Williams are growing on me as well.
Trace McSorley. Does he have what it takes not only to get drafted but play in the NFL? I think people are sleeping on him.
— Alexander Drake (@TheMaddKing317) September 13, 2018
Answer: Going into this season, I didn’t consider Trace McSorely a legitimate NFL prospect. But in 2018 he’s shown some growth in his processing and progression work. I’m looking forward to bigger tests for him, but he might have a shot at a roster spot if he can prove capable of making better decisions and showing more accuracy down the field.
Take your pick: Will Denzel Ward keep up this production? -OR- Who will benefit more from their surrounding elite talent: Roquan Smith or Bradley Chubb?
— E.C. Larson (@eclarsonbooks) September 13, 2018
Answer: I’ll answer both! No, two interceptions a game is an unsustainable level of production. Haha. But he’s going to be a stud. Top 15 player for me in the 2018 class. He’s the real deal. All the traits you want except elite size, and he still plays big.
I think Chubb does. Most NFL teams don’t have a right tackle that can handle Von Miller 1v1, so they have to scheme protection help on that side for certain passing concepts. It’s pretty difficult to help both offensive tackles in protection and have an effective passing attack (Mike Mularkey is the prime example of this), so I bet Chubb benefits from being in a lot of 1v1 situations with blockers.
How will the Browns survive the departure of my Pro Bowler Spencer Drango?
— Brittany Ledyard (@b_ledyard) September 13, 2018
Answer: Always good to get a question from your wife in the first TDN mailbag! So, for those who don’t recall, every year Brit and I vote for the Pro Bowl together (separate ballots) near the end of the regular season. Brit is an avid football fan, has been her whole life, so she knows most of the league and can easily vote for the Pro Bowl on her own. She also won last year’s fantasy football league with myself, my college buddies and their wives, but don’t tell her I told you that.
The one area where her expertise falls short is at the offensive line. She knows some of the top players, but when I refuse to help her with that part of the ballot, she picks a couple players at random. One of those players from last year was Browns backup offensive tackle Spencer Drango, since cut, who was forced into a starting role due to the injury to Joe Thomas.
Brit knows most skill players in NFL, well enough to join me in voting for Pro Bowl every year. Her expertise falls short when it comes to OTs, so she just picks them semi-randomly. Overheard from her voting:
"Spencer Drango, congrats, you're going to the Pro Bowl"
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) December 4, 2017
Yikes. She’s been an avid Drango fan since, and was saddened to see him get released following a few cameo appearances on Hard Knocks.