Ahem. Hello? You’re all still here? It’s been a hot sec since I dropped a Monday Studs & Duds column. As you all know, we’ve been on the road for the better half of January, traveling to the East/West Shrine and the Senior Bowl.
But with these staples of the NFL Draft process behind us, it’s back to our regularly scheduled programming. This week’s column is dedicated to the risers and fallers of my February positional rankings update.
If you’ve followed my personal work in years past, you’ll know I wasn’t someone to put up big boards on a month basis. Why? Because by the end of the process, the result is so drastically different than what you started with that you typically don’t even recognize your own rankings.
But that was before The Draft Network, where our job is to cover the Draft, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Penning monthly boards and rankings is still new, but it’s led to a revelation about how scouts and analysts know players. As I work through the film of this year’s group (grinding the tape, for the win), it’s apparent that you can think you know a player, but until you commit a few hours to watch a guy and collect his info, you really don’t.
It’s why you need to bear with any analyst: this is a fluid process. We evolve from generally knowing players to intimately knowing them.
Who, in the past month, has made an impression? Welcome back to Studs & Duds. Let’s find out.
STUD – Florida OT Jawaan Taylor
February Rank: OT2
January Rank: OT6
I spoke at length about the hype of Taylor and why he’s such an ascending prospect to me. I generally knew Taylor as the big bodied, athletic big man who had all the tools.
And then I watched his tape in depth and saw so much growth in 2018. The pass sets are cleaner. His angles are better. He’s anchoring more. Is there still work to be done? Absolutely. I want to see his hand carriage higher to quicken his stun punch.
But my goodness, Taylor (even at Right Tackle) has the tools to be a weapon up front in the run/screen game and has enough qualities to mask some of his technical “works in progress” in pass protection.
DUD – Iowa State RB David Montgomery
February Rank: RB4
January Rank: RB1
I mean…I still like D-Mo. I still have a RD2 grade on him. But when I watched his film, I was disappointed in two things: his vision at the LOS wasn’t great and I saw zero burst. Like, at all.
Now, I’m fairly high on another one speed back, Benny Snell (RB3). What is the difference? I liked Snell’s work behind the line of scrimmage much more.
Montgomery has wonderful contact balance and eye-popping highlights. He’s just not as well rounded as those highlights had me anticipating.
STUD – Iowa S Amani Hooker
February Rank: S4
January Rank: Unranked
I had a Hawkeye fan tip me off on Hooker in the pre-season but he A.) wasn’t expected to leave and B.) wasn’t super flashy as a back-end athlete, so I kinda put him on the back burner.
Shame on me. When I finally got around to watching Hooker, I was super impressed. No, he isn’t a free ranging safety to cover sizable portions of the field. But he’s super disciplined, in control, shows good foot speed and is terrific in shallow zones and as a deep half defender.
Oh, and he’s got super ball skills. Those guys move the needle more than good athletes.
DUD – Washington State OT Andre Dillard
February Rank: OT9
January Rank: Unranked
Huh? How did a guy that went from unranked to OT9 a dud? I’m glad you asked. Because the hype train on Dillard had me expecting we were getting a much better product than the one I saw.
Ultimately it’s my own fault, I took the cheese. But when I watched Dillard, I thought it was apparent that he’s got the feet to play Left Tackle in the NFL. But his hands? I want more. More punch. More power. More extension. Dillard makes a lot of sense in a 3-step heavy passing offense, his best set is is short set.
But if you run a lot of vertical concepts and 5-7 drops, Dillard had better be a work in progress for you. That isn’t to say he can’t do it. I’m just not inspired as is.
STUD – Utah State TE Dax Raymond
February Rank: TE4
January Rank: TE9
First of all: badass name, sir. First round name. And when Dax declared, I took a little peep at his film and liked what I saw. He’s not a super explosive dude but really smooth. And then, as I watched more, I felt this guy really has the traits needed to be an effective starting TE in today’s NFL.
Raymond is pretty savvy in the shallows and I like his ability to be a headache after the catch. I scored Raymond as a RD3 prospect on film, so why the big jump? He owes some guys who I had ranked ahead of them fruit baskets for Christmas this year: some of those guys are more sizzle than steak.
DUD – Duke QB Daniel Jones
February Rank: QB5
January Rank: QB4
I’m out. There’s plenty to like about Daniel’s game…but we’re talking about a potential first round player? Jones was pretty pedestrian at the Senior Bowl and he’s about as far down as I can put him in this year’s class as someone with some starter upside.
The Senior Bowl served as a selling point for me to put Drew Lock over Jones. I’m not even overly high on Lock (RD3 grade).
From here, I don’t expect much to change on Jones. He’s fairly erratic as a passer and while he’s a very good athlete for his stature, that isn’t where he’ll make his hay in the NFL.