Summer in my world is all about getting a feel for the rising draft class and analyzing NFL rosters/depth charts to get a feel for what we can expect in the coming season. With that in mind, let’s talk about my top takeaways from the last week.
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.
We Gotta Talk About The Bengals
It was announced yesterday that Bengals first-round pick Jonah Williams is likely to miss the 2019 season with a shoulder injury and that totally sucks. My No. 13 overall prospect in the 2019 class, I had very high hopes for Williams as a rookie and his upside to become a franchise left tackle.
I’m not sure if it was just a product of it being late June and people are starving for NFL news, but the Twitter reaction to Williams’ injury was wild. Numerous tweets proclaiming the Bengals were now “on the clock” populated my timeline and I can’t help but try and figure out what people's expectations for Cincinnati in 2019 was prior to the injury.
Williams has the upside to be a high-quality starter and core nucleus piece of the roster for years to come. With that said, my outlook on the Bengals in 2019 is not impacted at all by him not being available. Sure, the depth at tackle is a major concern and important development time is lost for Williams, but I don’t think it affects the win column in 2019.
Projected to start at guard, Cordy Glenn will now kick over to left tackle where he’s proven to be an outstanding starter in previous years. I am way more concerned about what is happening at right tackle in Cincinnati.
Paulson Adebo Is Awesome
What a treat Adebo’s film was to watch this week. After redshirting in 2018, Adebo became a starter for Stanford in 2018 and was dominant. An All-Pac-12 first team selection, Adebo led the nation with 24 passes defended. In studying his tape, his ball skills are notable but it's his physicality and coverage skills that have me convinced that he’s a first round talent.
Pros - Love his physicality. Aggressive run defender that knifes through creases and finishes. Tremendous processing skills as a d-gap defender or when lined up in the box. Tenaciously works through contact in pursuit and is a strong tackler. Very confident when driving on the football. Love his technique and results in press coverage. Has redirect power in his hands to disrupt timing in the release. Super aggressive to crowd receivers and suffocate routes early. Does well to leverage outside releases and pin them to the sideline. Excellent mirror of routes down the field and he often finishes routes for receivers. Astute route anticipation skills. Clean footwork and change of direction skills. Smooth pedal and loose hips to turn and run. Takes tight angles and remains sticky. Ball skills are a plus trait. Timing and technique to break on the football and disrupt at the catch point are usually precise. Flashes impressive hands and he catches the football like a receiver, which he also played in high school. For a one-year starter, it's obvious the amount of trust Stanford’s defense has in him. Often left on an island in man coverage and is placed in aggressive situations as a blitzer/positions to defend the run.
Cons - Only one year of experience at this point, but he is surprisingly good despite limited time on the field. Specifically in man coverage, there are times he is tardy to get his head around and locate the football in the air.
Different Defensive Ends
The defensive end position is one that has been on my mind lately. Like many positions, DEs come in a variety of sizes, physical traits and skill sets. While we all love to see a DE have a blazing first step, hit a sudden pass rush move, bend the outside edge track and accelerate to sack the quarterback, that isn’t the only way its done. Pressure and sacks are generated in a variety of ways.
Seattle didn’t draft LJ Collier in the first round for his insane quickness and flexibility. There is a growing market for edge rushers that possess heavy hands, outstanding play strength and a hot motor. The width of the pocket can be compromised in multiple ways and as an evaluator, I am going to be more careful to not discriminate against stylistic differences that I prefer. My job is to consider their ideal NFL scheme fit and project/evaluate accordingly.
CeeDee Lamb WOW
Earlier this week I studied Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb and oh my what a talent he is. In two seasons at Oklahoma, Lamb racked up 111 receptions for 1,965 yards (17.7 average) and 18 touchdowns despite not necessarily being the No. 1 receiver with Marquise Brown also in the mix.
Pros - Exceptional ball skills. Elite ability to track the football in the air and adjust. Does a wonderful job of positioning his frame at the catch point to win with consistency. Hands are secure and he routinely wins through contact. Concentration and body control are outstanding. One of the most natural receivers I have ever seen in terms of hands, ball skills and tracking. Spectacular in the air. Gets after it as a blocker - collapses, keeps his frame square and engages his hands. Tough to tackle after the catch - features good contact balance, vision, acceleration and creativity with the ball in his hands. Showcases a variety of techniques to beat press coverage including angles, footwork and hand usage. Easily deals with physicality in the contact window and does well to diminish his surface area and clear contact. Sudden in and out of breaks and is capable of creating separation with fluidity and burst. Does a terrific job of altering his route pace to create leverage. Makes wonderful adjustments on the fly to find space and make himself available.
Cons - While he has plenty of speed, I don’t think he has elite speed. Has some room to grow as a route runner in terms of selling breaks and being more deceptive overall. Route tree on his plate at Oklahoma has been fairly basic.
I’m Not Crowning the 49ers Yet
I understand Kyle Shannahan has a lot of fans and the 49ers have a talented roster, but some of the hype surrounding San Francisco is out of control. While the injury bug has certainly hit the 49ers, San Francisco is 10-22 over the last two seasons and there is a lot to prove.
Jimmy Garoppolo has started only 10 games in the NFL. For perspective, 2018 first round quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen have each already started more games in the NFL than Garoppolo. Garoppolo’s had some exciting flashes but there has been nothing sustained to reflect on as he enters the sixth year of his career.
I get that San Francisco ranked No. 16 offensively and No. 13 defensively last season, Jimmy G is healthy and the overall roster is improved, but what is the course to the playoffs in 2019 for the 49ers? The Rams are the class of the NFC West so I don’t see it happening as Division Champs. Can they really beat out all the other competitive teams in the NFC to claim a wild card berth? I’m not saying they can’t, but I am also not crowning this team until they prove they deserve it.
Yetur-Gross Matos Has The Tools
The Big Ten is LOADED with edge rushers and Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos has the upside to lead the conference in sacks this season. While he has room for growth, Gross-Matos’ film resume from 2018 revealed an exciting skill set:
Pros - Long levers and he knows how to use them. Fairly effective at winning with first contact, using his length and playing with extension. For a taller, longer defender he’s generally committed to keeping his pad level down. Absolutely love his motor - relentless pursuer of the football and he makes his share of plays based on effort alone and chasing down from distance. Eats up turf with his initial steps as a pass rusher. Has the ability to turn, flatten and win around the outside hip of the offensive tackle. Has rushed from a variety of alignments, including on the interior. Showcases good hand combating skills to keep his pads clear. Deploys a variety of swipes, counters and combinations to clear contact. Has enough power the point of attack to set a firm edge, fight pressure with pressure and squeeze gaps. Features a massive wingspan and it shows up when tackling. Routinely makes tackles outside his frame and he has excellent range.
Cons - Want to see him play faster and process quicker in 2019. There is some calculation to his execution and once the switch flips, he has the physical tools to really emerge as an impact playmaker. Can afford to add play strength and get more stout at the point of attack, particularly when attacking as a power-style rusher.