After watching Twitter and the internet since returning from Mobile, there is a consensus of people’s opinions on the so-called best NFL Draft and fantasy prospects. Much of their talents get debated over and over. I want to take a few articles to discuss the “undiscovered country” These are the players that have talent, but maybe play in smaller schools or are just less publicized than a Teddy Bridgewater, Carlos Hyde, Sammy Watkins, etc.
There are a lot of player evaluations from many sources, so make sure you know your sources. Like everyone reading this, I am a football fan who started watching the game at age five (I’m 44 now). Football is in my blood as I have an uncle who coaches at the Ohio Division One high school level, two brothers that made the all-state team at running back, and a cousin that played in the Mid-American Conference. Speaking for myself, I played high school football in Ohio around the Canton area on the offensive line: center, right guard, and right tackle. On the defensive front, I was an inside and outside linebacker who started off my career at defensive end. During college, I worked as a football official for the college intramural program for two years as well as played in that program for three. I started writing my scouting thoughts down about three years ago and shared my evaluations with Shane Hallam and Joe Everett. We discussed players at length and I got a better idea of what to look for while scouting. Last year I took the National Football Post’s two month scouting class, also attended by Bryan Perez aka @FirstRoundGrade on Twitter, right before I attended the East/West Shrine game. This season I went to the Senior Bowl and all the practices I could attend with both Hallam and Everett to confer. Scouting is about not only what you can see, but what you can “prove” with the numbers. Being an accountant by day is quite helpful, but enough of my ramblings, on to the players:
Brett Smith, QB WYO
Here is a quarterback that you don’t hear much about, even now. When I first watched Smith, the first thought that jumped to my mind was Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico. They both have a sidearm delivery that is off-balance and unorthodox. He throws mostly with his upper body, despite setting his feet, and lifts the back foot in the air to complete his throw. The funny thing is he is fairly accurate with a better than average arm. Smith doesn’t toss many frozen ropes, instead he prefers to get some air underneath his attempts. That is a little concerning as he did not face the best level of defensive back competition playing in the Mountain West Conference and he may need to adjust his arch to avoid turnovers.
The young signal caller gets the ball out fast. He will either throw or turn and run quickly. Despite his 6′ 3″ 206 lbs. size, Smith is a very mobile athlete who is quite good at making defenders miss with his quick feet and good balance. I am a bit concerned that his body is not built to take the punishments that an NFL defense will dish out during a game though. The quarterback has a good internal clock as he senses pressure fairly well and is just as accurate on the run as he is in the pocket. If the play needs extended, the quarterback will use his feet to create more time. Smith can fit the ball in tight coverage and isn’t afraid to throw the ball away if the pass isn’t there. He had a tendency to throw the ball short on bubble screens than to attempt down field passes, so Smith might need to get focused by his NFL coaching staff in that regard. If his “Uncle Rico-ness” can be coached out of him, I think he could be a nice developmental quarterback who could start a year or two down the road. Smith would be ideal for leagues with taxi squads that give you time to develop players.
Richard Rodgers, TE CAL
The 6′ 4″ 245 lbs. tight end is more suited for a role as a Joker move tight end than an inline blocker. He lined up as a slot receiver, on the line, and a handful of times as a tailback this past season (total failure as a tailback). Rodgers was effective cut blocking, but struggled keeping his feet and driving defenders back. The tight end showed various levels of effort especially while blocking. I’m not crazy about his stance on the line either as it almost looks like a sprinter’s stance, right before they come out of the blocks waiting to hear the starter’s gun. As a route runner, Rodgers comes across sloppy as he seemed to round off quite a few. He is scary fast when the quarterback hits him in stride on the open field though. The tight end seems to find a special burst into second gear that makes him hard to track down when he has nothing but air between him and the goal line.
Rodgers has quick feet, uses a spin move at times, and can make the first guy miss. The tight end makes contested catches with safeties or linebackers on top of him, but tends to let the ball into his body instead of making the reception with his hands. His best routes are the post, and quick seven yard hooks. There were a few times Rodgers looked like his head was on a swivel too much, almost obsessing about when he would get hit. I think he would flourish in a two tight end system like New England where he would not be a defense’s focus.
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