The rule of thumb in the scouting world is that NFL players need three years of tenure before it is the appropriate time to crack open the time capsule that holds their pre-draft reports and make judgement. Do we, collectively, do this? Hell no. Today's society is all about instant gratification -- people were dunking on the perceived accuracy of their prognostication of these 2016 NFL Draft prospects from the moment they stepped on the field.
I've been writing NFL Draft reports since the 2014 NFL Draft and scouting the NFL Draft since the prior year. In that timeframe, I've logged over 1,800 scouting reports on the talent that is now littered on teams throughout the entire league. And the CFL. And the AAF. And the XFL. There are plenty of lessons to be learned from each and every report you write.
I'm here to cover what I've learned through 3 years of the 2016 NFL Draft's 1st-round. In the first, second and third parts of this series, I covered the first 24 selections of the 2016 NFL Draft. If you need a refresher or want to see what I had to say before the 2016 Draft on each of those prospects -- here's what you've missed so far.
Let's continue, shall we? Today, I inspect the players drafted 25th through 32nd in the 2016 NFL Draft order.
25TH OVERALL - CB Artie Burns, Pittsburgh Steelers
I said: "Miami (FL) Cornerback Artie Burns has ample potential as a Cover 2 Corner; playing in a heavy Cover 2 pass defensive scheme would allow Burns to maximize his abilities to play physical on the release of routes into the field of play and challenge receivers before squatting down in the flats to read and break on throws in the short areas of the field. Burns struggles most with transitioning out of press or aggressive coverage early in reps and flipping the hips open to play from the trail position. While Burns has optimal length and ball skills to be successful in this role; he is going to require a fair amount of refinement and coaching to minimize the false steps and diminish the impact some of his natural movement deficiencies cause in his game. Burns has strong starter potential but is going to need a fair amount of polish; he should be valued early on Day 3."
I learned: That Artie Burns is a confirmed bust. You understandably want to give players enough time to marinate and come into their own, but Burns has regressed consistently and ultimately is on the bubble in Pittsburgh entering his fourth season. This one is weird -- as it isn't even like Burns tested as a high end athlete coming out of the NFL Draft process. So we have bad tape, average to bad athleticism (31.5" vertical is putrid) and...Pittsburgh takes him 25th?
Thank GOODNESS he has those 33.25" arms though! Here's the concerning thing for Steelers fans. They've continued to invest in defensive backs -- and haven't been able to develop any of them with any consistency.
2015 - Senquez Golson (2nd round), Gerod Holliman (7th round) and Doran Grant (4th round)...a combined three games played at the NFL level.
2016 - Artie Burns (1st round) and Sean Davis (2nd round). Both had their best overall seasons as rookies and have been less consistent and less stable in the years since.
2017 - Cameron Sutton (3rd round) and Brian Allen (5th round). Allen has played in two games and Sutton was a pro-ready nickel defender coming out of Tennessee who conceded receptions on 23 of his 30 targets last year.
2018 - Terrell Edmunds (1st round). A de facto starter who come on strong in the second half of 2018 -- but still felt like a notable reach when they drafted him in the first round.
Maybe part of the problem is the way the Steelers are coaching and developing their defensive backs.
26TH OVERALL - QB Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos
I said: "Memphis Quarterback Paxton Lynch has a strong amount of upside but similar to Central Florida’s Blake Bortles two years ago will need a notable amount of development. Lynch is an impressive physical specimen with athleticism to be a major headache for would be pass rushers. Lynch is erratic at times with his mechanics, causing variability in how reliable he is targeting receivers down the field or even in the short areas. Lynch’s feet need to be more consistent to generate greater weight transfer to allow more spin on the ball and supplement his arm strength. Lynch has the potential to be a strong NFL starter but as is has far too many warts to justify coveting early on in the Draft. Lynch should be valued on in Day 2, where a team can get a much more realistic return for a player that likely should not see the field at all during his rookie season."
I learned: That once again, just because you did something at a high level doesn't mean you can identify that in others. Paxton Lynch is perhaps the most unforgivable of John Elway's quarterback investments -- and if there's any justice in the football world then Peyton Manning will be remembered for bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Denver -- and not Elway.
Elway's laundry list of bad quarterback investments gets the benefit of the doubt because he signed *squints* arguably the second greatest quarterback of all time to a free agent contract.
Ah. Well then. Lynch has been a total bomb -- even more so than the comparison I made to Blake Bortles. Sure, Bortles started two years too long and cost the Jaguars a Super Bowl appearance as a result -- but who is counting?
Like the Steelers with defensive backs, the Broncos couldn't develop Lynch into anything worth a damn -- so much so that Lynch spent the 2018 season out of football all together.
27TH OVERALL - DL Kenny Clark, Green Bay Packers
I said: "UCLA Defensive Tackle Kenny Clark is an impressive two gapping run defender with just enough versatility and physical upside to be considered a scheme diverse player. Clark’s ability to attack with surprising burst makes him an attractive option for a 1T in a 4 man defensive front. His comfort and patience at the LOS to stack blocks, read the action of the play and subsequently shed and pursue is a rarity for a player at this age. Clark will never be a dynamic TFL or penetration player; he does not have the quick twitch ability to win in that regard consistently. But Clark does offer value as a potential 1T, 3T or 5T in any particular front that values linemen capable of eating blocks and keeping their LBs free to roam. Clark carries the weight on his frame extremely well; teams should encourage him to stay exactly where he is and embrace his 2-gap style of play."
I learned: That there's still a place in the NFL for some good, old fashioned two-gapping. Clark's ability to control the point of attack is terrific, as is his ability to shed blocks and make plays on the football. Would Clark be good anywhere? Yes -- and I suggested as much by calling him a scheme diverse player.
But him in Green Bay? This is another one of those "perfect pairings" that the team got right. Clark was an effective presence in both the pass and run game -- logging pressure on 11% of his pass rushes and notching 35 stops in the run game.
28TH OVERALL - OG Joshua Garnett, San Francisco 49ers
I said: "Stanford Guard Joshua Garnett is a perfect fit for a team heavy with power runs and man blocking concepts. Garnett plays with heavy hands and a road grader mentality. One of several standouts from the 2016 Reese’s Senior Bowl, Garnett affirmed what his film suggested: his physical power is capable of taking control in a very large amount of one on one situations. Garnett does have some additional polish required to take his game to the next level, he can get more efficient to play balanced in space with his footwork. Physical limitations on foot quickness will force him to have to adapt to eliminate many of the poor reps he has shown on film to date. Overall, Garnett should be valued as a plug and play starter at Right Guard for a NFL franchise, he appears to have the mental acumen and functional strength to be an asset immediately in the right situation."
I learned: To never trust anything Chip Kelly thinks is a good idea offensively. After watching his college spread go over like a fart in church during his time with the Eagles, Chip helped facilitate a trade up here for Garnett -- who struggled through 11 starts as a rookie and hasn't started a single football game since.
29TH OVERALL - *Forfeited by New England Patriots*
I said: "You hate to see it, you really do."
I learned: That crime does, in fact, pay. The Patriots have played in three straight Super Bowls (and won two of them) since having this pick taken from them.
30TH OVERALL - DL Robert Nkemdiche, Arizona Cardinals
I said: "Defensive Lineman Robert Nkemdiche is a rare prospect in terms of the size and athletic combination he presents to NFL franchises. Nkemdiche is still growing into a football player; flashing more regularly technique and calculated measures to win reps on a snap by snap basis. With that said, there is some level of projection involved because Nkemdiche currently does possess some limitations in the way he attacks offensive linemen with his hands and the speed in which he engages in pass rush counter moves. Nkemdiche, with proper coaching, could easily develop into an elite caliber player; the explosiveness present is a rare trait. Nkemdiche would be best served in a defense that allows him to fire off of the ball and penetrate the offensive backfield, where his limitations can be masked early on in his career and he can make the most of his special athletic talents to disrupt plays."
I learned: That you can't always get what you want. I wanted Nkemdiche to be good. Badly. He had fun tape. Just a whole bunch of raw power and explosiveness wound up into a prototypical build. Checked all the boxes from a tools perspective.
But those "limitations" I mentioned? They handcuffed his game from the very beginning. And Nkemdiche was so far behind from a technical standpoint that not even his natural ability could bail him out. He couldn't get and stay on the field.
It took Nkemdiche until last fall (his third year) to log his first career sack. Interestingly enough, he did log 4.5 before an injury in Week 14 put him on the shelf. Nkemdiche is showing some late signs of life but with this steep of a developmental curve, he never should've been a top-30 pick.
31ST OVERALL - DL Vernon Butler, Carolina Panthers
I said: "Louisiana Tech Defensive Tackle Vernon Butler is an excellent interior DL prospect for a four man front system. His length/frame, penetration skills, hand technique and ability to pressure as a pass rusher are a rare blend for defenders toppling the scales at over 320 lbs. Butler has stood out in every opportunity given against better competition, having played extremely well vs. Mississippi State in 2015 and having been a standout for the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Butler’s ceiling is fairly high thanks to the athletic profile he presents but he will need to clean up some lapses in body posture at the snap and staying square to the LOS when such lapses occur. Butler is not the most physically overwhelming defender at initial contact but his massive frame eats a lot of contact and allows him to sustain an advantageous posture. Should be in consideration for a Day 1 selection."
I learned: That no one is safe from being a miss. Man, was Butler's college tape awesome! I never would've guessed that Butler would flounder the way he has. No career starts in Carolina, only 3 career tackles for loss in 38 football games.
It's not great.
Sure, the presence of Kawann Short complicates matters a bit -- as it eats up a lot of opportunity for Butler. It turns out I should've picked up more on Butler's athletic profile and how it would limit him as a pass rusher -- he didn't display a lot of explosiveness in the pre-draft process and Butler bullied a lot of smaller competition for his productive play at Louisiana Tech.
32ND OVERALL - OT Germain Ifedi, Seattle Seahawks
I said: "Texas A&M Offensive Tackle Germain Ifedi is the latest OL to come through the Aggie pipeline into the NFL Draft, following the footsteps of Joeckel, Matthews and Ogbuehi in recent years. Ifedi is unique in that he was not tested at RT in comparison to the other Aggie OT; for the better. Ifedi has a ton of likable skills and traits: namely his movement skills offer a lot of athleticism along the OL and the ability to mirror in space. Ifedi is strong as a bull and capable of absorbing contact prior to anchoring and holding ground to protect the pocket in pass protection. Two areas Ifedi will need to improve upon? His hand placement on initial strikes and his between the ears approach to the game. Ifedi is currently too impatient and will put himself in poor position due to chasing defenders. Ifedi should be regarded as a scheme diverse prospect with some wrinkles requiring polish."
I learned: That hand strikes and mental processing are kind of important. Ifedi has been a consistent starter for the Seattle Seahawks -- but they've had consistent issues with his play at right tackle.
Ifedi has been frustrating in both pass protection and run blocking alike -- thanks in large part to the same issues that dogged him at the college level. Perhaps offensive line coach Mike Solari can continue to pull improvement out of Ifedi in a contract year -- Solari took over for Tom Cable last year after several years of frustrating developmental efforts along the offensive line from Cable.