Collegefootballfan.com’s post-draft 2016 observations:
Last week, we showed pictures of 17 potential NFL draft selections we’d seen play in person during the last two season. It indicates that we’ve seen some of the best talent out there (and more to be shown below). We can say that all seventeen eventually signed with an NFL team. Of the players we posted pictures of, three went in the first round, three in the second, two in the third, two in the fourth, none in the fifth, and three in the sixth. The three remaining signed as free agents with teams within the next 48 hours. RB Devon Johnson of Marshall signed with the Panthers. Injuries during his senior season dropped him down. If the Panthers can get him fully healthy, we say watch out! When we saw him play his junior season against Old Dominion, we saw him run over, through, around, and past people. Thundering Herd fans there told us beforehand that “he’s a horse.” We think the Panther fans will be pleasantly surprised to have picked him up out of free agency. Hunter Sharp, the WR from Utah State had 11 snags in a game saw him play at Air Force. He signed a contract with the Atlanta Falcons. And lastly, the San Diego Chargers signed Navy FB Chris Swain. They evidently did some in-depth scouting. Swain’s service selection in the Navy was to become a Marine Corps officer. How likely is it that he will be assigned to duty in nearby Camp Pendleton or somewhere else near the huge navy base on the west coast? Ooh-rah! Well see if the US Navy actually complies, but in actuality, it’s a great plug for navy recruiting (not just for Navy football, but for enlisting recruits for naval and marine duty) to have officers serve and play pro football at the same time as long as their priorities are with the Navy. It’ll be better than TV commercials for that branch of the service.
What do supposed football experts see that the common football fans like me and others supposedly can’t? Take the New York Jets trading up to get Christian Hackenberg, QB of Penn State. Now I’ve seen him play nine games in person during his PSU career as well as games on TV and highlights (and lowlights). His first year was very good under HC Bill O’Brien, known previously as Tom Brady’s QB coach with the New England Patriots. He showed great signs of things to come. However O’Brien left to take over the HC position with the Houston Texans. Under new Penn State HC James Franklin who wanted to run a read-option type of offense at State College, he kept the pro style offense intact based on Hackenberg’s skills. “Hack” had a faulty offensive line to say the least over two years, but I’ve got to say that even when he did have time and wide open receivers, I watched one of the most inaccurate passers of all time play at the collegiate level. Over-throws and under- throws way off the mark in both cases were witnessed all too often. Had anyone even close to his skills and experience been on the bench, he would have been grounded. So what did the Jets see that made them trade up? Either their QB coach Kevin Patullo is supposed to be some kind of miracle worker to develop Hackenberg’s throwing accuracy, or they have some superior sports shrink who is going to get inside Hackenberg’s head to step up in the pocket without any fear of the defenders around him. What we really can’t understand is why the Jets traded up to take him instead of a Connor Cook of Michigan State who went later in the fourth, or possibly Kevin Hogan out of Stanford. Hogan led Stanford to a 36-10 record over four years at Stanford surpassing Andrew Luck’s career total of the most wins there by a QB. He played under a solid coaching staff run by HC David Shaw. His passing stats are superior. He’s gotten his team into major bowl games. He’s a proven leader, and he’s supposedly a very smart, young man – one of the key reasons why Andy Reid picked him to play for the Chiefs in Round 5. His flaw is supposedly his throwing motion. I’ve seen him throw on TV, but I thought if anyone had a worse throwing motion than his coming out of college, I thought it was that of Phillip Rivers when I saw him play collegiately for NC State. I thought this guy would never make it in the pros throwing like that in a big, slow motion. But look how he’s done. I think Hogan has a quick release and doesn’t wind up anything like Rivers used to do. But I’m just a fan, and evidently the people managing this talent at the pro level know a lot more than I do. I’m looking forward to monitor the pro careers of Hackenberg and Hogan over the next few years and find out who’s going to be the better pro. I called a couple of “sure shots” like Jake Locker and Jadaveon Clowney identified by the so-called experts definitive busts after having seen them play in person at Washington and at South Carolina respectively, and I feel good about my accuracy on those calls a few years later. We’ll see what happens with these two taken in the same draft with significantly different results at the college level though I only saw Hackenberg play in person.
I can’t figure out our other local team, the New York Giants, either. They were all set and salivating to pick Michigan State OT Jack Conklin at number eight. They certainly need to rebuild the offensive line, one of their biggest priorities. However, the Titans pull off a trade to select at number seven right before them and snap up Conklin. So I would figure, hey! we need the lineman who’s next on our list. Laremy Tunsil’s off the field celebrity cast him as a somewhat less than desirable, but who else is on that list? Well there had to be OT Taylor Decker of Ohio State of comparable size, experience, and success in the same conference compared to Conklin, so why not take him? Well, I’m evidently not that smart, so the Giants take Decker’s teammate CB Eli Apple who’s highly thought of at that position, a very good choice, and another area where the Giants were looking for some help. He could become a great pro player, but the Giants never filled that hole in the offensive line later in the draft to give them the new talent they could use up front. This draft seemed to have depth in the secondary positions, but the Giants didn’t fill a gaping need on the offensive line. Decker went later to the Detroit Lions in Round 1. This could be the big mistake by the Giants that gets GM Jerry Reese looking for employment elsewhere if the Giants don’t see significant improvement this year, or even worse, get QB Eli Manning injured during a pass rush.
We mentioned that the San Diego Chargers selected Navy FB Chris Swain with the knowledge that he’s going Marine Corps which is beneficial to the Chargers in close proximity to the huge Marine Corps bases close to San Diego. Navy QB Keenan Reynolds got drafted as a RB in Round 6 by the Baltimore Ravens. It would be convenient to assign the new Navy Information Warfare ensign to a position nearby in the Pentagon. We’ll see if that works out for the Ravens. Reynolds, the Sullivan Trophy Award winner, is tough, no doubt, but his frame to us doesn’t seem to warrant being an every down player. We see him as a third down situation slot back. Several people have likened him to Slot back Julian Edelman of the Patriots. He was drafted out of Kent State where he also played quarterback. Reynolds might play the same role for Baltimore if he makes the cut. We think he will if he gets the chance, but that will be the Navy’s call. All Midshipman owe five years of active duty for their free four-year undergraduate degree from The Naval Academy.
We like what we saw in LB Trevor Matakevich of Temple when we saw him play last season against Penn State and Notre Dame. He was the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Our findings were confirmed when the Pittsburgh Steelers picked him up late in the final round. We think the Steelers do some of the best drafting every year. We look forward to seeing him make the Steelers and show everyone they know what they’re doing once again when it comes to evaluating talent. It’ll show that we may know what we’re talking about, too.
Prediction: Montana State TE Beau Sandland, drafted in Round 7 by the Carolina Panthers, will some day be a head football coach at a major university. We precinct this because Sandland played for four years under Bobcat HC Robb Ash. Before taking over at Montana State, Rob Ash coached at Drake University and at The Alma Mater, Juniata College. His current career record stands as 247-137-5. During his years at Drake, he coached three players who are now head coaches at the FBS level: Chris Ash of Rutgers, Dave Doeren of NC State, and Charlie Partridge of Florida Atlantic. We’ll see if Ash’s coaching capabilities can be reflected in Sandland as well.
Here are some more pictorials of players we watched the last few years and where they are going, why, and what we may expect: