You know the drill. Tuesday morning means one thing, and one thing only…it’s time for the seventh edition of Draft Class Heroes!
After an NFL-heavy focus last week, we’re back to a prospect-led DCH this week, as an edge rusher you should know put his name on the league’s watch list last Saturday. Plus, an annual NFL powerhouse is crumbling, and the sight is an especially painful one for this writer.
Draft Class Superhero of the Week: Jordan Brailford, EDGE, Oklahoma State
To call Brailford’s performance against Boise State “Herculean” would be an understatement. The redshirt junior was a complete monster, with five tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss and two sacks with a multitude of additional pressures. He was straight-up unblockable, showing a quick get-off and the ability to eat up the arc in just a few strides.
Pretty nice get-off by Jordan Brailford. Dude can eat up distance too. Clearing the OT on his third stride pic.twitter.com/KO3qsVH8eN
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) September 18, 2018
He may have been jumping the snap, but Brailford still was clearing the offensive tackle by his third stride on a consistent basis. For some edges that aren’t super flexible, getting hips and feet turned to the pocket in order to corner is difficult. But Brailford takes terrific angles, showing enough lean and shoulder dip to trim a tight path to Brett Rypien for sack no. 2.
Brailford looks like he’s jumping these snaps off a tell from the center, but terrific job getting feet and hips turned to the pocket to corner here. pic.twitter.com/O66BYbnL1U
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) September 18, 2018
Oklahoma State moves Brailford all over their defense, including playing him at middle linebacker for a handful of snaps. He has been off-the-ball, on the edge standing up, in a 3-point stance and has even seen some standup 3-technique looks. I’m very intrigued by his tape, and while he may not be a great athlete, there are enough traits for me to want a deeper look at his skill set.
1. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Nine catches for 191 yards and a touchdown against the first legitimate test he’s faced this season? Sheesh, Marquise Brown is good at this thing. He’s also 5-10, 170 pounds, and it remains to be seen how highly the NFL could possibly regard the junior at that size. He’s unbelievably fast, but raw as a route runner and has not faced press coverage anywhere close to what he’ll see in the NFL.
Only a junior, it will be very interesting to see what direction the advisory board urges him when the season winds down. Brown may never get a super high-end assessment from the committee, but he’s currently ranked sixth in college football in receiving yards, averaging almost 22 yards per catch. I’m not sure there is any benefit to him going back to school to face soft Big 12 defenses and pad his stats more, even if he doesn’t get a first round grade from the advisory board.
2. Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan
Don’t look now, but a strong tight end class could get even stronger if Gentry continues to build on his early season success. At 6-foot-7, 250 pounds, Gentry has elite size for a tight end prospect, and enough speed and athleticism to be a vertical threat. Michigan opened up their offensive attack against Southern Methodist, and Gentry was the main recipient with four grabs for 95 yards.
After averaging 18 yards per catch on 17 receptions last season, Gentry is hitting at almost 17 yards a pop through three weeks this year. If Michigan keeps targeting him in the passing game, he should be able to build a resume that will be appealing to NFL teams after limited usage early in his career.
3. Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Delpit? But he’s not draft-eligible yet!
I know. I don’t care. This kid is a baller. His performance against Auburn was one for the ages. 10 tackles, a tackle-for-loss, a pass breakup and an interception highlighted Delpit’s ridiculous performance, where it felt like he was in on every stop. He truly is the complete safety prospect, able to play single-high with range and ball skills, while also being a monster running the alley and in run defense around the box.
Can’t wait for the 2020 draft.
Villain of the Week: The Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s a strange combination of sad and incredible that we’re here, looking at a winless Steelers team for which the worst may still be yet to come. The product on the field has been terrible, but that may be the least surprising aspect of this team’s struggles in 2018.
The Le’Veon Bell saga, for which the Steelers actually hold little blame, continues to flounder with no sign of resolve. Antonio Brown, after a verbal altercation with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner on the sideline Sunday, decided to skip work on Monday after a former Steelers employee idiotically tweeted the following, to which Brown replied:
Trade me let’s find out https://t.co/4OeepI78zy
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) September 17, 2018
The implication that Brown is “made” by anyone other than his own hard work and skill is a completely laughable one, especially when made by someone who was around the organization every day for years and saw firsthand the type of work the receiver put in.
Still, Brown can’t get caught up in that stuff, especially given the two threatening tweets to journalists that he has already made in the past month, and the incidents he has had in the past on social media. His immaturity seems to be spiraling this offseason, despite being quite manageable in the past.
“Losing the locker room” is a lazy phrase, but there is plenty of cause for concern that extends beyond the field in Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin has never been a schematically strong head coach, but at least he implemented and consistently instilled a culture of mutual respect and camaraderie in Pittsburgh. Now even that seems to be going out the window.
There are still plenty of good apples in the barrel for the Steelers, but the issues on the field aren’t going away, and the issues off of it will only get worse as a result. The AFC is bad enough that Pittsburgh should still contend for a playoff spot, but their schedule is increasingly difficult, and if they fall to 0-2-1 this week, things could get ugly.
In the lair this week…
- I’m focused on putting together something on Josh Allen’s miserable first start this season, while also taking an extended look at Sam Darnold against Miami on Wednesday.
- Quinnen Williams has been killing it for Alabama, and as a redshirt sophomore, it is my duty to get a scouting report up on him soon.
- Huge tests coming up this week for Drew Lock and Justin Herbert, among the two biggest each quarterback will face during the 2018 season. That will be a focus of mine for Thursday’s piece.
- The Draft Network mailbag will run on Friday morning, as I answer all of your NFL, college football and NFL Draft-related questions.
- As for Saturday, you can expect my focus to be deadlocked to these three games: Missouri-Georgia at noon, Alabama-Texas A&M (until that game becomes a blowout, then switch to Kansas State-WVU) and Stanford-Oregon at 8pm. For the late slate of games, Arizona State-Washington at 10:30 should be an awesome chance to see N’Keal Harry vs a rare group of good corners in the Pac-12.