Happy Independence Day! Belatedly, of course.
For today's Would You Rather column, I decided to rip through some talented teammates: prospects who play the same position on the same team, who are both likely to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft. We still have a year's worth of film to parse, of course, but we can get a feel for where the NFL -- and likewise, where we -- will value these players when they declare in December.
I'll walk through the scouting notes of both players before giving my decision. If you've watched these players, be sure to hit me up on Twitter @BenjaminSolak to chat.
Notre Dame EDGEs: Julian Okwara or Khalid Kareem
I spoke a little bit about Julian Okwara with Jonah Tuls on the Monday episode of Locked On NFL Draft, and got pretty excited about his potential therein. Okwara is a long, lanky, and lightning-quick EDGE rusher who brings surprising power to the position, particularly on stunts as an interior rusher. That's a nice skill to have.
On the outside track, Okwara wins with a strong first step and the shiftiness to go inside and out, but he's in need of more developed hand usage -- right now he too frequently loses at the corner by failing to displace his opponent or clear his inside shoulder.
Okwara apparently got a first-round grade from the NFL advisory committee, which seems rich to me. If he got a first, I have to wonder what teammate Khalid Kareem got.
A rising senior, Kareem doesn't get much of the hype Okwara does, but the film is still there for a potential early-round EDGE selection. Impossibly long, Kareem isn't wanting for hand usage at all: he has a devastating snatch-trap and inside swim that regularly creates quick interior pressure, and can bull rush with one or two arms effectively to collapse the pocket and make life easier on his teammates.
Kareem isn't as explosive as Okwara, but he has a good first step, and his frame is likely more NFL-ready -- Okwara is light in the pants. The lack of bend in Kareem's game limits his usage and likely makes him a candidate for "tweener" style play, rarely getting outside the 5-technique. So Okwara's ceiling is higher, but Kareem deserves his day in the sun as well.
Would Rather Take: Julian Okwara -- but it's close
Michigan State iDLs: Raequan Williams or Mike Panasiuk
The entire Michigan State line is draftable -- and honestly, some of the backups may be as well. While they may not have three first-round selections like Clemson did last year, this line is talented, deep, and can be similarly dominant on a weekly basis.
The straw that stirs the drink might just be Mike Panasiuk, senior defensive tackle who regularly plays the 1-technique for Sparty. Strong throughout a large and thick frame, Panasiuk is an advanced and technically sound tackle in almost every aspect of the game. He anchors on double teams well and knows how to split when the opportunity arises; he can cross face on zone flow and force plays back inside; he can penetrate against down blocks and generate TFLs.
Those are all great things -- but you'll notice none of them are the pass-rush. Panasiuk is a pocket-pusher who can challenge the depth of the pocket with strength, but he lacks any pass-rush arsenal to speak of at this time. But he's not slow or weak -- he just simply doesn't know how to recruit his physical tools on passing downs.
Not much the same can be said about Williams, a longer player with great quickness who knows how to slant into gaps and win at the snap. Regularly the first player off the ball, Williams must fix his pad level to become a more effective player, but when he lands his hands inside his opponent, he can displace them frequently, working to a half-man to force the quarterback off his set point.
Williams isn't the technician and run defender that Panasiuk is, but he brings more on passing downs, and that gives him the edge right now.
Would Rather Take: Raequan Williams
Alabama WRs: Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III
For a lot of people in the draft community, this is Jeudy without hesitation -- and it will be Jeudy for me as well. But Henry Ruggs III is worthy of NFL Draft attention, as well as a legitimate conversion in how he matches up with Jeudy.
Ruggs III has dumb, stupid, ridiculous, absurd, how-dare-you-even-be-alive speed. That speed is a trump card that allows him to win in space almost invariably, but he isn't a one-trick pony. Despite a short history playing the position, Ruggs III understands how to clear off the line of scrimmage and generate throwing windows to all three levels of the field. He doesn't have the suddenness of Jeudy, but Ruggs III is not deficient as a route-runner despite his physical gifts.
As a matter of fact, Ruggs III isn't really deficient anywhere. He is a willing receiver across the middle of the field with physicality, great elevation, and amazing contact balance. With the ball in his hands he's elusive and powerful, regularly breaking tackles. As a blocker he's willing and active.
But where Ruggs III isn't deficient, Jeudy is excellent -- almost artistic. It's very rare to see a player run his routes as soundly, smoothly, and effectively as Jeudy, who is a unique athlete in terms of flexibility, body control, and instant acceleration. Jeudy does not have Ruggs III trump card of speed, but he's pretty dang close, so it's not like too much is lost there in the exchange.
I'm unwilling to call Ruggs III a player exactly of Jeudy's caliber, but he's a Top-5 WR prospect in this class and a potential first rounder. Just worth remembering as well.
Would Rather Take: Jerry Jeudy