You know the drill, my people! Tuesday means it’s time for another edition of Draft Class Heroes!
A Vanderbilt corner on the rise, three other big corners elevating their stock this season and one horrendous NFL “analyst” is on his usual B.S. We’re back with a vengeance after a week off from DCH, folks.
Draft Class Superhero of the Week: Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
Going into the 2018 college football season, I only viewed one cornerback as a potential first rounder, and even he concerned me in several facets of the game. Outside of Greedy Williams, I struggled with Deandre Baker’s athleticism, Amani Oruwariye’s long speed and inability to earn a full-time starting role until his redshirt senior year and Michael Jackson and Kris Boyd’s stiffness.
Fast-forward a few months, and all of sudden a once incompetent cornerback class now has a bunch of names creeping into the top-60 conversation. Virginia’s Bryce Hall and LSU’s Kristian Fulton have come out of nowhere to rocket up my rankings, while Byron Murphy has put together a masterful season at Washington. Baker’s decision to return to school looks brilliant considering his lock-down season, and Julian Love has played at a high level more consistently this season than any other.
One player not getting any love in the national spotlight is Vanderbilt cornerback Joejuan Williams, who I reported yesterday currently plans to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft as a junior. Williams’ play has been up-and-down this season, but he saved his best performance for one the scouts would be watching, locking down A.J. Brown when tasked with the big receiver in man coverage and holding his own against DaMarkus Lodge most of the game.
Williams finished the Commodores victory over the Rebels with an interception and four pass breakups, one of which was the game-winner on fourth down. He was absolutely instrumental in thwarting Ole Miss’ scoring efforts late in the game, as his end zone interception with three minutes left in regulation thwarted another scoring attempt.
When Williams is at his best, he’s patient and physical from a press position, capable of mirroring receivers off the line of scrimmage and defending the catch point from their hip pocket.
Exceptional patience by Joejuan Williams to stay square on AJ Brown and mirror his inside release in press man here pic.twitter.com/v4VApPoXMU
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) November 19, 2018
On the flipside, Williams is still pretty inconsistent from a press alignment, opening early at times and allowing receivers to cross his face and create early separation. Florida’s Van Jefferson cooked him earlier in the season.
Here come the Gators 🐊
— All-American Bowl (@19AllAmerican) October 13, 2018
Williams is huge, confident, experienced and smart, but he’ll need to test well to get himself in the top 50 conversation. One of the players he models his game after is Richard Sherman, which is very fitting, because Seattle is one place that will absolutely covet what he brings to the table physically. There will be other suitors of course, but Williams will certainly need some development at the next level to reach his peak. I finished his formal scouting report earlier today if you’re interested in a more in-depth look.
Three corners outside of Williams have seen their stock rise from anonymity this season.
1. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Hall is a former wide receiver who plays the ball vertically like one. He’s exceptional at taking away space along the sideline and using his long 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame to close down throwing windows and contest catch points. He’s broken up an absurd 19 passes this season to go with two interceptions.
Hall’s question marks will be the short-area agility, click-and-close type of stuff, but I’m impressed with his press technique for a relatively inexperienced corner, and you can’t teach his ability to make plays on the ball. His stock will skyrocket if he runs well.
2. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
I wrote about Fulton two weeks ago, so I won’t belabor his evaluation here. He might be playing better football than any corner in college football over the past month, and his size, length and athleticism could all lead to an early draft spot if he declares as a junior. It is somewhat unusual for one-year starters to do so, but the pedigree of LSU defensive backs plus Fulton’s tape against elite competition could negate concerns about his lack of experience.
3. Derrick Baity, CB, Kentucky
I should preface Baity’s inclusion with the disclaimer that I actually don’t know if his stock is rising in the minds of the NFL or not (I’ve heard from scouts that Fulton and Hall absolutely are), but it should be. Baity was good a year ago as a junior and elected to return to school, and he’s been impressive in almost every game I’ve watched Kentucky this season.
Josh Allen gets all the buzz, but the Wildcats secondary has four players who will get NFL looks, and Baity may be the best of them. I don’t know that there is anything transcendent about his skill set, but he also doesn’t have many weaknesses. Baity is 6-foot-2, 186 pounds and will lay the wood as a tackler, while also challenging receivers physically at the line of scrimmage. His athletic testing and weigh-in will be big, as he appears slighter than his listed weight on tape.
Villain of the Week: Jason McIntyre, The Worst Sports Media Analyst In The World
Was that harsh? Oh, I’m sorry. I just cannot think of any other acceptable words in the English language to describe this dude. He is truly, unequivocally, the WORST.
“If you watch Tom Brady closely, he has not been great the last three weeks,” McIntyre said. “The book is out on Tom Brady. Get pressure on him. Get him off his spot. He ain’t going to beat you running the football. I’m not concerned he’s a terrible quarterback. That’s not accurate. But he certainly has not been great the last three weeks. And if you’re the Patriots and Bill Belichick, you have to wonder, ‘Where do we go from here?’”
The book is out on Tom Brady? Are you kidding me? He’s played in the league for 19 years, the fact that anyone thinks there is a book for how to stop someone who has spanked the NFL for that long is completely asinine by itself. If there was a consistent way to stop the man, everyone would have done it by now.
On top of that, McIntyre’s plan is to pressure Brady? Oh, gee, wow, nobody has ever tried to do that on Brady’s way to being the winningest quarterback of all time. What quarterback does a team not want to pressure? I mean, come on with this. “He isn’t going to beat you running the football!” No, really??
The best (read: worst) part is the end. Imagine Bill Belichick thinking for one second that Tom Brady is the problem. Imagine him ever wringing his hands and asking “where do we go from here?”, especially when here is 7-3 and looking another division title square in the face.
Never let McIntyre near a mic again, please God.
We’ve been very bold with the teams we’re burying in this column, and it could come back to bite us. And by us I mean me.
Already deceased: Giants, Cardinals, 49ers, Bills, Colts, Jets, Browns, Broncos, Cowboys, Lions and Raiders.
The Colts have won four straight, to get back to 5-5. Only one team since 1990 has started 1-5 and made the playoffs. The numbers are on our side, but the Colts look very, very dangerous. Not to slight what they’ve done however, but something to consider: the four teams they’ve beaten are the Bills, Raiders, Jaguars and Titans.
Not exactly a murderer’s row, but their next two opponents are the Dolphins and Jaguars again, so 7-5 seems likely. Texans, Cowboys, Giants, Titans to finish the season. It’s a very friendly slate.
The only other team to worry about is the Cowboys, not because we were wrong in projecting them to suck the rest of the season, but because the rest of the NFC East is on IR. The Eagles have been completely decimated with injuries to the point of being unrecognizable, and Washington has lost much of their offensive line and now Alex Smith for the rest of the year. Cowboys-Redskins on Thanksgiving could determine the division winner.
I’m ready to add two new teams to the morgue. Back-to-back losses have the Atlanta Falcons reeling, and the Saints in New Orleans is next on the docket. 4-6 in the NFC South is tough to come back from.
The Jaguars incredible late-game collapse to the Pittsburgh Steelers solidified their spot on this list at 3-7. To go from an ascending power to a complete disaster in one season is impressive. Jacksonville has some work to do, starting at the quarterback position.
The Eagles stay alive for now, but if they lose to the Giants on Sunday, it’s over for the Super Bowl champs.