“My Guys” List
In sports when you show an affinity towards a player, or express a higher opinion on him than most of your peers, you become almost linked to that player. This effect becomes amplified in the NFL Draft realm, as being a “draftnik” is far from an exact science, it’s all about projection. Show two evaluators the same tape of a prospect, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if they come to different conclusions. Sometimes the link comes from being at the forefront of recognizing a prospect before he garners major recognition; sometimes it’s about acting like the prospect’s hype man. The exact reason is often unimportant, once others start to pick up on that affinity, or that “link”, the prospect becomes a term we’ve all heard, or have used in describing this connection; the prospect becomes “your guy.”
The idea of a “My Guys” list is something that came to me last year. Everyone has their positional rankings, big board, or something of the sort, but this is something with a different feel to it. Just like the art of evaluation, there is no one and only way to go about this list. There’s no sweet spot for number of prospects, or restrictions to place upon yourself. What I can tell you is that there’s two very easy ways to dilute the value of your list. The first is to simply comprise a list of all sure fire first rounders that everyone likes. We know why you like these guys. It’s because they’ve all established themselves as a head of the pack. Boring. Another way is to simply list just about every prospect you like. It’s not uncommon for an evaluator to like a prospect, but again, this list is about the prospects that you’re banging the table for in the War Room or the prospects that have left an imprint on your 2013 NFL Draft life in some way.
Now that I’ve given a little bit of a preface to the subject, I’ll share with you how I chose to go about the list this year. As previously mentioned, I started this exercise last year, but I composed my list with very little rhyme or reason. I added guys who I thought people were trying too hard to find fault with (Trent Richardson, Robert Griffin III), guys that I had a much higher grade than most on (Devon Wylie, George Iloka), but the two best embodiments of what the list is about for me were Miami RB Lamar Miller and West Virginia DE Bruce Irvin.
Most everyone knew who they were and that they had talent, but I took it upon myself to not only rank them higher than most people did (Note: This is not to say they were players I graded out as the best at their position), but I found myself “defending” them as prospects and taking a legitimate rooting interest in their future NFL success, despite neither being drafted by my favorite team. That’s what I’m trying to do here, and I welcome you to do the same. Not only is it an entertaining exercise in evaluation, but it’s certainly something that’s interesting to look back on. So, without further ado, here’s my 2013 “My Guys” list, with a tad bit more structure this time around…
The Guy You Know:
(One of those sure-fire Top Pick Types)
Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
I’m no different than most of the NFL Draft Twitter Community. I love Geno Smith, Ziggy Ansah, Chance Warmack, and Arthur Brown. They’re all great football players, and I want to see them do well in the future, and have very little doubt about their success. Dion’s a bit of a different case for me though. While I first became infatuated with Warmack after noticing him in a 2012 game against current Philadelphia Eagle, and former Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox, Jordan’s the first 2013 prospect I actually evaluated. I spent a good deal of the summer hyping him up, and getting into spirited discussions about him being a premier edge player in the 2012 draft. I’m not sure if I’m the initial conductor, but I can tell you definitively that I’ve never jumped off the train. This all took place in the beginning of May 2012, so by the time he gets selected, it will be the culmination of nearly a year’s work with him for me. That’s a link.
The Guys You Should Know:
(Guys that some may cast doubt or even make jokes about where they get selected (see Bruce Irvin), but I’d applaud the team that pulled the trigger.)
Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State
One of my favorite comparisons that I’ve made this year is comparing McFadden to Antoine Winfield. He’s on the smaller side, and some of the stronger, more physical receivers in the game could give him some issues going forward. However, I’ll take my chances with McFadden. You won’t see him back down; he’ll use his hands and be aggressive with any receiver. He also possesses smooth hips, light feet, a good feel for zone coverage, and ball skills. As a run defender, he doesn’t have perfect technique. However, he’s more than willing to get involved, and has shown the ability to cut down playmakers in space. Feisty is the best word that I can use to describe McFadden, and this quality is a part of what makes him one of my guys.
Cornelius Washington, DE, Georgia
I’ll be completely honest with you here; this is definitely a recent inclusion. This is not an overreaction to his combine, but I can’t claim that I knew a whole helluva lot about Washington prior to the Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl is exactly where my interest with him was piqued. Every time I saw him in a Senior Bowl practice, he was exploding off the edge, and converting that speed into tremendous power. I remember tweeting out “Cornelius Washington film, now.” When I actually did dive into the film, I saw someone who flashed the same dominance he showed in Mobile, only he was unable to produce consistently due to Georgia playing him at two positions he didn’t belong at (34 SLB, 34 DE). Not to mention the fact that I’d urge you to turn on some 2011 tape, where he looked lighter, more flexible, and much more dynamic overall. The comparison that I’ve placed on him, and like going forward, is Trent Cole.
Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech
“It’s simple, immaturity,” said Rogers, when asked to explain his dismissal from the Vols. “I had to take full responsibility, look in the mirror at who I was and what I was doing wrong. I did those things when I went to Tennessee Tech and it humbled me a lot. I’m still working on those things. It’s a work in progress.
“I play with an edge, and I had to learn to control that edge off the field also. I had to learn how to fix my flaws, and life got easier.”
That’s a quote I pulled from a post combine NFL article , and reading something like that certainly makes it easier to root for Rogers. And I do agree with what he’s saying. He does play with an edge on the field. He reminds of Kansas City Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe in a lot of ways. Da’Rick will likely never be a dominant vertical threat, but he’s a physical force across the middle and is extremely difficult to bring down after the catch. When he’s applying himself, he can also be a tenacious run blocker. His demeanor on the field and lack of effort at times was annoying to watch while scouting him, but hopefully that’s something that’s cured now.
The Guys Not Getting Enough Love:
(Title explains it all. These guys aren’t getting their proper due in my mind, so I’ll give it to them.)
Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
Michael saw a major reduction in touches this past season after falling out of favor with a new coaching staff. The previous two years, he had his season cut short due to injury. It’s been reported that he overslept interviews at the combine. None of this sounds good, but it’s hard to not be a fan of Michael when you turn on the tape. He has a powerful build, and shows an impressive burst. Michael is capable of bowling over defenders, or making them miss in open space. In my mind, he’s clearly the best back in the class. I think his situation could very well play out just like Bryce Brown’s did last year.
Mychal Rivera, TE, Tennessee
It’s a deep tight end class, and Rivera is getting lost in it. He’s not a tremendous athlete, but he has more than enough speed to threaten the seam. Rivera can make the contested catch, and is flexible enough to contort and snag poorly thrown passes. After the catch, he has some ability. He runs with intensity, and can break tackles via leg strength or a solid stiff arm. While he lacks tremendous lateral quickness and strength, he’s a willing blocker who often does enough to get the job done. In a year in which Tennessee had so much talent only to massively disappoint, it’s hard not to like someone like Rivera.
Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh
People have been going crazy (and deservedly so) over how good Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson is with the ball in his hands. It’s an exciting thing to watch, but I’d argue that 2011 Ray Graham was on par in that regard. Graham played with explosion and made lightning quick cuts that left me in awe. Unfortunately, after an ACL tear late in that season, Graham didn’t look like nearly the same guy in 2012. I’ve had to drop him down my rankings a tremendous amount, and it’s not something I was particularly happy to do. I can only hope that he is able to get his chance to rebound, and he makes a full recovery. I thoroughly enjoyed watching 2011 Ray Graham, and I’d like to see that guy again. I can’t help but think that someone with Graham’s toughness will find a way to make some kind of positive impact when the opportunity comes.
(The guys that I have a rooting interest in going forward)
Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
My first true exposure to Williams is when a picture surfaced of him benching 600 pounds this summer. Pretty impressive start. He’s never going to be an elite playmaker, but he’s surprisingly light on his feet and very agile for an imposing 325 pound nose tackle. Williams has quick, but heavy hands, and obviously elite upper body strength. Jesse’s top heavy, but he plays with very good balance along the line of scrimmage. One of my favorite things about Williams is how refined he is technique wise. He’s someone who has obviously been coached extremely well, and in an era where every defensive tackle wants to try and run around like they’re Warren Sapp, Williams understands who he is, and he does his job. He does it damn well too. While it’s tough to get behind someone with a “YOLO” tattoo, I’ll manage.
Matt Elam, S, Florida
Elam’s someone who’s been picked apart throughout the process, and for the most part, deservingly so. While his peaks are high, his valleys are quite low. However, I still can’t help but love the guy. He’s explosive, and he’s a playmaker. Elam plays the game with passion and urgency, and that’s something I always love to see on tape. I think most of his pitfalls are do more to a lack of focus, as opposed to any kind of lack of talent. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with some NFL coaching. I think he’ll prove me right, and develop into the disruptive, playmaking, big hit dropping, Pro Bowl safety every fan wants to have on their team.