The “Let’s Talk Prospects” editions of this column have been really popular so I wanted to keep the train rolling and discuss some of my recent studies, offering thoughts on them in a non-scouting report type format. More conversation style, if you will.
I hope that 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.
**You can click on the name of each prospect to read my full formal film evaluation on them**
Bruce Anderson, RB, North Dakota State
This was one of my favorite evals in recent weeks, probably because I wasn’t familiar with him at all prior to studying him. After it was announced that he was accepting a Senior Bowl invitation, I wanted to get eyes on him in advance of seeing him in Mobile and I’m glad I did.
There are several things that pop with Anderson but my favorite traits are his contact balance and competitive toughness. His ability to keep his feet moving through contact while remaining upright and battling/wiggling for more yards is very impressive. I’m not calling him Alvin Kamara but there were moments while studying his tape where I got that vibe. Exhibit A –
OK, Bruce Anderson – you have my attention pic.twitter.com/d5ssleKdka
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) January 1, 2019
Anderson blends that balance and competitive toughness with good acceleration and elusive traits that give him some dynamic upside. I want to see him improve a touch as a decision maker as there are times that he is quick to bounce runs and slow to cut back, taking advantage of outstanding run blocking in front of him. He should be a productive receiving threat, giving him every down playmaking ability. Oh, and he’s been a standout kick returner as well. I want to get a better feel for him in Mobile but he looks like a late 3/early 4 that can help round out a stable of backs with a versatile weapon.
Nate Davis, iOL, Charlotte
Let me give you an important piece of advice to keep in mind if you are going to study Davis’ tape: immediately get it out of your mind that he is an option to play offensive tackle. His feet are quick enough but his pass sets to keep pace around the arc are really sloppy, often getting his feet crossed. With that out of the way, he’s a really intriguing guard prospect.
There is a lot of power and nasty to the way Davis works. As a drive blocker, I love how Davis gets his hands fit, uncoils his hips, accelerates his hips and blocks through the whistle.
Charlotte RT Nate Davis (No. 64), who has accepted his #SeniorBowl invite, has some nasty to him in the run game. Powerful drive blocker. Finds a leverage point, fits his hands, accelerates his feet, stays square and drives his man 9 yards off the ball. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/1L7nuB7VJx
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) December 28, 2018
Davis complements his power with good mobility, heavy hands and the ability to connect with moving targets in space. He does have some body control/weight distribution stuff to clean up but I like his upside as a legitimate developmental prospect with the upside to become a productive NFL starter.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
So here’s the thing with Stidham that makes his eval weird: I think he’s an accurate passer that places the ball well to all 3 levels of the field and flashes good anticipation throws. He also features fairly sound throwing mechanics. Normally those are very good things to say about a prospect, but I am not high on the Auburn product.
Why is that? His results under pressure and in big moments continue to disappoint. Whenever Stidham is forced to speed up his process, thing fall off the rails. He panics under pressure and and his decision making can become careless. I worry about a quarterbacks ability to improve in that area. For the great ones, they thrive in those moments but Stidham flounders.
I do think there is a big curve ahead for Stidham transitioning from Auburn’s scheme to the NFL. He enjoyed frequent schemed and one-read throws in college and did very little to manipulate coverage with reading his progressions.
Given the context of the event, I expect Stidham to shine at the Senior Bowl. Those mechanics and accuracy will look pretty against air, 7-on-7 and against vanilla defenses. But his tape screams backup.
D’Andre Walker, EDGE, Georgia
While everyone would love to see a prospect dominate from Day 1, I also like seeing those that improve steadily and peak in their final season. It took four seasons for Walker to earn a starting gig at Georgia, but he made the most of it with 11 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.
I love his ability as a run defender to set a firm edge, squeeze gaps and play disciplined by maintaining his run fits. His pass rushing skill set features a lot of tools but development is needed. His length, flexibility and burst serve as a strong foundation but developing his footwork, counters, plan and stance will be critical for him to find production in the NFL.
For a team that is multiple with its fronts, Walker has the upside to function as a standup 3-4 outside backer or stick his hand in the dirt on even fronts. With continued growth, Walker can carve out a niche early in his career and challenge for a starting role by Year 2/3.
Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami
Given how physical and aggressive he is playing forward, Johnson is an extremely likable football player in that regard. And the comments Jim Nagy made here are very much in line with the people around the Miami program have said to me about Johnson. I’ll get into his deficiencies in a moment but physical players with high football character will have a place on an NFL roster.
Here’s a look at our latest @seniorbowl addition, @CanesFootball DB #4 Jaquan Johnson (@AuthenticMade_Q). NFL scouts want to see him play nickel during Senior Bowl week. He’s a unique person and leader and he’ll immediately make any DB room better. #PinstripeBowl pic.twitter.com/MBE9M5GZyD
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) December 27, 2018
I have questions about the coverage instincts Johnson illustrates given his experience and his ability to play the ball. And for a physical player, his frame meshes poorly with that style of play. Nagy alluded to some reps at nickel at the Senior Bowl which is interesting to me. He didn’t play much in man coverage in college so hopefully he is more sound mirroring routes than what we’ve seen from him in zone. I know he can play the run and tackle.
Johnson is an interesting player and monitoring him at the Senior Bowl will factor heavily into his overall valuation. No doubt he has a role on special teams and sub-packages, but can he be more than that?
Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State
Bradbury is one of my favorite prospects that I’ve studied over the last two seasons. Over that span, I made 6 different trips to Raleigh to cover NC State games and feel very comfortable with the Wolfpack talent.
A converted tight end in 2015, Bradbury’s technical refinement is highly impressive given his relative newness to the position. What really pops on film is his movement skills. His lateral mobility that leads to hitting reach blocks on three techniques is unbelievable. I love his range and ability to work in space. And while he isn’t the most powerful blocker, he has a knack for finding leverage points on defenders and creating movement. Watch this play:
Reaching 3-techniques as a center is hard but NC State C Garrett Bradbury does it routinely. One of the IOL studs in this year's class. pic.twitter.com/oiOAm2Zm4h
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) October 8, 2018
And this one:
Love this rep from NC State C Garrett Bradbury. Helps secure the first level before taking a perfect angle to get ahead of the second level pursuit and seals. Timing and execution is perfect. pic.twitter.com/zjwU3nSywQ
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) October 8, 2018
In the conversation to be the top center in the class, I get really excited about Bradbury’s ceiling and what he can become with added strength and more time at the position. He should stand out in a big way at the Senior Bowl and make a team that features a zone rushing offense very happy. I think he can become the next Alex Mack.