The 2019 draft class has been headlined by it’s promise along the defensive line, but it’s deeper than the household names Nick Bosa and Ed Oliver. I’ll break down three underrated players on the rise early this month.
With four of the five first round rookie quarterbacks having at least one NFL start on their resume, it’s time to stack them up. This will be fluid all year, but it’s worth monitoring the highs and lows of the league’s new era at signal caller.
Finally, as always, I’ll close this week out with the buzz I’m hearing in the scouting community.
Stock Watch: Early October Risers
Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn ↑↑↑
The former five star recruit has been everything Auburn could’ve hoped for. At 6-5, 325 lbs. Brown is a powerhouse in the trenches, but don’t let that size fool you: this dude can move. He makes a living the backfield, coming off of a season where he had 9.5 tackles for a loss as a sophomore and already has 3.5 this year.
The play above shows it all: the patience and eyes on the potential reverse, the leverage and ability to drive the offensive tackle backwards, disengaging from the block and giving maximum effort to leap over the second blocker (who is literally half his size) to finish for a sack.
This is as loaded of a defensive line class we have seen in quite some time, not just on the edge but also at the interior spots. Even with that high of caliber of competition around him, Brown is a riser looking to solidify a spot in round one.
Zach Allen, DE, Boston College ↑↑↑
Unblockable. That’s how I’d describe Zach Allen’s performance against Temple last weekend, where Pro Football Focus had him tallied for 12 pressures.
It’s been a stellar season both in the box score and on film for Allen, where he has been one of the best seniors in the country.
He’s showing more as a pass rusher this season, has great awareness to get his hands up into passing lanes to tip passes and is often a shutdown run defender. After joining me on the Stick to Football podcast this Summer, it’s pretty evident he’s all business and all football. I’d consider him a lock for a Senior Bowl invite where his stock can continue to climb.
Jachai Polite, EDGE , Florida ↑↑↑
Quarterbacks beware: Jachai Polite is heating up. With four sacks in his last three games, the Gators edge pass rusher is displaying a high level skill set to wreak havoc.
With explosiveness off the snap along with the ability to dip and bend, Polite has little trouble turning the corner to get into the pocket. You’ve heard all about Nick Bosa, Clelin Ferrell, Montez Sweat and Brian Burns. It’s time we start talking about Jachai Polite.
NFL Rookie QB Power Rankings Heading Into Week 5
1) Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals
Sure, the stat line of 15/27 for 180 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception might not jump out, but the film did. As our very own Jon Ledyard wrote this week, the box score doesn’t tell the story of Rosen’s first NFL start.
Six of those 12 incompletions were flat out drops, leaving a lot of big plays on the field. It’s no secret the Cardinals have one of the worst offenses on paper in all of football, but Rosen is going to keep them in games. Now his playmakers need to step up.
2) Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
After ripping apart the Jets nonstop in a little more than one half of play the week before, Mayfield came back down to earth against Oakland. Even with four turnovers (two interceptions and two fumbles), the first overall pick was still extremely impressive for a rookie.
The Browns offense has gained a much needed boost with him under center and he could very well finish the season at the top of this list.
3) Sam Darnold, New York Jets
If facing the Browns front seven wasn’t a welcome to the league moment for Sam Darnold, he certainly got one against Jacksonville.
The Jets defense got torched by Blake Bortles and their own offense had no answers to counter.
Darnold was running for his life in most of this one and to be fair he missed some throws, but this was a beauty to Kearse pic.twitter.com/ypEHuc0l3d
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) October 3, 2018
He finished the day 17 of 34 for 167 yards with a touchdown and one big bright side was he didn’t turn the ball over.
4) Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
One week after demolishing the Minnesota Vikings on the road, everything fell apart for the Bills against Green Bay. Allen couldn’t get anything going, completing under 50% of his throws with no touchdowns and three total turnovers.
Even though he’s running for his life in an offense that gives him zero help, Allen is still making the same mistakes he did at Wyoming. He’s a reckless quarterback and while that can lead to spectacular plays, it often leads to what you see above.
- Surprisingly, the tight end position has been highly valued over the last two drafts with eight prospects going in the top 50 picks between both 2017 and 2018. That trend might not fall off this year as scouting circles are buzzing about both Iowa’s Noah Fant and Stanford’s Kaden Smith. Each have the potential to be impact pass catchers, especially Fant who could sneak into the back end of round one.
- One of the most interesting names in this year’s class for reasons on and off the field is Mississippi State defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons. He has first round talent, but a video online from before his enrollment shows him striking a woman while attempting to break up an altercation involving his sister. This is being taken seriously by NFL teams, but from what I’ve gathered it won’t keep him off boards. His interview schedule will be quite full during the combine, but I’d be shocked if he makes it out of the top 50.
- Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry has done his part to carry the Sun Devil’s offense this season, but pump the breaks on assuming he’s a round one player. The main concern around his game is overall speed in his routes, affecting his ability to separate from NFL caliber defensive backs. With other receivers such as Ole Miss’s D.K. Metcalf and Oklahoma’s Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown on the rise, this is a battle worth keeping an eye on all season.