The NFL season kicks off tonight! Sort of. Preseason…
For draft guys like myself, preseason is really fun. Guys that I spent way too much time studying will be playing throughout the game as they compete for a role on a 53-man roster. And for that, I am excited.
Over the next 10 days, every NFL team will have made its preseason debut and this week’s column is all about the six rookies I am most looking forward to watching.
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.
Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
There is so much intrigue when it comes to the No. 1 overall pick getting his first taste of preseason action. While it’s always easy to include the top pick in these types of discussions, Murray isn’t exactly the “norm” when it comes to first overall selections.
From his height and limited started experience to his role in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, his acclimation to the league is fascinating. One thing that was abundantly clear from watching Murray at Oklahoma is that he is supremely talented in terms of athletic ability and arm talent, but there is a natural playmaking instinct that exists within him. With no other appealing options on the roster, Murray is set to be Arizona’s starter from Day One and gaining experience in the preseason will be important for him to hit the ground running when the Cardinals take on the Lions at home to kickoff the season.
Montez Sweat, EDGE, Washington Redskins
Sweat adds to a potent Washington pass rush that already features Ryan Kerrigan and Jonathan Allen that helped produce the seventh-most sacks in the NFL last season. While Preston Smith’s departure did leave a void, the Redskins moved back into the first-round to snatch up Sweat who racked up 22.5 sacks across his last two seasons at Mississippi State.
Blessed with exceptional physical traits, Sweat is now part of a defense that has done well to maximize hybrid-type pass rushers in recent years. There’s no doubt Sweat checks the boxes in terms of burst, length and power which serves as a strong foundation to build from. Does he dominate in the NFL like he did in the SEC? I’m looking forward to finding out, starting with the preseason as he earns his role.
DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
My belief in Metcalf becoming an absolute superstar receiver in the NFL is well documented. A height/weight/speed total FREAK, Metcalf’s fit in Seattle’s offense is just perfect. Quarterback Russell Wilson thrives extending plays and pushing the ball down the field and Metcalf is a rare blend of size, speed and power at receiver. With Doug Baldwin no longer in the mix, Metcalf has the opportunity to immediately step in as Seattle’s X-receiver.
All the fuss over his poor agility tests at the NFL Scouting Combine will soon be forgotten. His ceiling is unbelievably high and I’m anxious to see how his rare physical traits translate to the NFL.
Garrett Bradbury, C, Minnesota Vikings
I’ve spent considerable time around the NC State football program in recent years, and it wasn’t hard to evaluate Bradbury and the impact he can make in the NFL. Minnesota made him the No. 18 overall pick in the Draft to fortify its interior offensive line that has limited the offense in recent years. In my 2019 interior offensive line preview for the draft, my summary of Bradbury summarizes exactly what he can mean for the Vikings offensive line moving forward.
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.
A zone rushing offense will have its long-term answer at center by investing in Bradbury.
The Vikings, who are moving to more zone concepts, have found its solution. I’m eager to see him compete in the preseason.
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills
With Frank Gore and Lesean McCoy aging and on expiring contracts, the Bills need to find out what they have in Singletary and the preseason is the perfect opportunity to do just that. Can he be one of Buffalo’s lead backs in 2020 and beyond?
Singletary’s college film is a delight to watch. His elusiveness, vision and contact balance leads to some of the most electric offensive plays you will see from any prospect in the 2019 class. With that said, I have some concerns about how his game translates to the NFL. It must be considered how effective his style will be in the NFL after finding his unique success against Conference USA Competition. Tallying 162 rushing yards on 44 carries across four total games, Singletary did not fare overly well in his games against Power Five competition.
For as agile and dynamic as Singletary is on tape, he just isn’t that explosive. Most of his success came taking horizontal tracks with the football and his receiving output declined every season with it being nearly non-existent in 2018. Will his style, combined with poor physical traits be able to produce in the NFL? What will his receiving impact look like? I’m anxious to find out.
Greg Little, OT, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are going as far as Cam Newton can take them and Newton is going as far as his offensive line holds up. Drafted as the “true left tackle”, Little is in line to be Newton’s blind side protector, but I have my doubts he’s anywhere near ready to handle that responsibility.
I have several concerns about Little and most of them stem from his lack of balance and body control. While it’s good for linemen to set a wide base, Little’s borders on too wide at times and inhibits his ability to redirect and anchor. His weight gets too far forward, leading to folding at the waist and over-extending. His body control on the move disappoints and his overall consistency to play with proper bend leaves much to be desired. I like Little’s foot quickness, but his inconsistent balance robs himself of mobility. I like his natural power but playing with poor leverage steals functional strength.
We’ve seen those concerns already show up in practice reps at camp, while the true test comes within the structure of a game. Little has a lot to prove this preseason and I am eager to see how he evolves.