With the college football regular season behind us, it is time to focus on the tape and the scouting reports that come from it. Now until April, many will be tasked with evaluating the newest draft class. With that in mind, I wanted to take this week's edition of 6-Pack Thursday to focus on some of my recent studies and offer thoughts in a different format.
I hope that this column has become a staple for you each week, but just in case you are new, 6-Pack Thursday is a weekly brain dump on six football-related things that involve the NFL, college football or NFL draft.
Let's crack this thing open.
Note: You can click on the name of each prospect to read my full formal film evaluation.
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
You can pop on Derrick Brown’s tape and be impressed by a lot of things, but nothing stood out more than the effort he brings to every single rep. Sure, his size, power and explosiveness are easy to identify, but his unrelenting motor to beat blocks and chase in pursuit is something you cannot always find in an interior defensive lineman. Simply put, Brown is a wrecking ball that disrupts for four quarters in every game without exception.
After averaging 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks per year the last three seasons, his production won’t blow you away. Brown’s barrel chest and modest arm length lead to reps frequently being played close to the vest, which impacted his ability to disengage from blocks.
The 2019 class was loaded with talented defensive tackles including Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence. Brown would have been my No. 2 defensive tackle last year but now he is the clear-cut top guy in 2020.
Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Bryce Hall first caught my eye when I was in the press box for Virginia’s game against NC State in 2018. I was excited to see Kelvin Harmon but came away more impressed by the guy who was defending him. While Harmon made his plays, Hall competed with the eventual NFL wide receiver as well as any cornerback I have seen in two seasons of studying Harmon. Hall battled for four quarters. He went on to be a first-team All-ACC selection as a junior in 2018 and led the nation with 24 passes defended.
While an ankle injury limited his senior season to just six games, Hall continued to show off his physicality and ball skills. I don’t consider Hall to be a universal scheme fit, but his modest quickness and agility make him best suited to perform in a zone heavy scheme at the next level.
On top of being one of the best CBs in the rising class, Hall is known for his leadership, character and work in the community. I’m not certain he is a first-round value, but a team will get an outstanding starter, and person, on Day 2.
Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal
Ashtyn Davis is a great story. He was not recruited to play football but instead earned an opportunity at Cal on the track and field team. He later walked onto the gridiron and developed into one of the Pac 12’s best defensive playmakers.
Don’t slap all the common labels about a track-star-turned-football player onto Davis. He is more than willing to be physical and his coverage instincts are sound. A team in search of a traditional free safety that has exceptional range, man coverage skills and serves as that last line of defense in run support will find Davis an ideal target. I believe he has the makeup of an eventual starter who is an immediate four-phase special teams player.
Nick Harris, C, Washington
After watching Nick Harris’ tape, he would be a perfect fit as the starting center for the Denver Broncos or San Francisco 49ers. Harris, who is tailor-made for a zone-blocking scheme, is excellent working laterally and winning in space. His ability to pull into the perimeter and climb to the second level to connect with moving targets offers a lot of scheme variety.
I do have some minor gripes about his functional strength and anchor, but his performances against Oregon defensive tackle Jordon Scott offers encouragement for his ability to exchange power with bigger, more physical interior linemen. Although Harris has experience at both guard and center, his best role at the next level will come at the latter where he can take advantage of not having defensive linemen stacked over him and can take advantage of angles. Harris’ football IQ is exceptional and I have little doubt he will thrive in the right scenario.
Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State
Kenny Willekes is a good football player with a high floor. But what is his ceiling?
A highly productive defender in the Big 10, Willekes tallied 47.5 tackles for loss and 22 sacks from 2017-2019. I enjoy how he competes for his gap in run support, battles to pressure the passer and pursues the football with unrelenting effort.
However, Willekes’ functional strength is modest and I’m not sure his pass-rushing skill set suggests he will be a high impact rusher at the next level. He is fluid releasing out of his stance as a pass rusher and has good footwork to boot, but his plan is predictable. His approach is based on a long-arm bull rush, and his counters are usually lacking. I’m not convinced he has the juice or flexibility to put stress on NFL offensive tackles to set up roadblocks around the arc.
I do believe Willekes has room to grow and make strides while playing a key role as a 4-3 rotational defensive end, but I also worry that expectations for him maybe too high.
Lamical Perine, RB, Florida
The 2020 class is loaded with talented running backs. While Lamical Perine is not going to be among the top backs off the board, he is a really good football player that should factor into an NFL rotation.
Perine, who has been a staple in Florida’s backfield since 2016, truly developed this year and benefitted from dropping weight in the offseason.
His calling card will always be his physicality and ability to finish runs, but the lost weight enabled Perine to showcase a much more appealing athletic profile on tape. He is a nuanced runner with sound vision, contact balance and physicality but can also help on passing downs as a receiver or blocker. Perine is likely a Day-3 pick who will provide valuable depth while commanding some touches each week. His competitive toughness should make him an asset on special teams too.