With college football and the NFL in their respective offseasons, the only way for nerds like me to get their fix is to watch last year’s tape in preparation for the 2022 season and 2023 NFL Draft. Below are my abbreviated thoughts on each of the players I’ve watched in the last ten days or so. Note that this may seem like an eclectic collection of names because I use a randomizer with about 1,600 prospects to decide who I’m going to watch on a particular day. Expect this to become a (roughly) weekly column where you can catch up with who I’ve been watching.
Mason Brooks, OT, Mississippi
First thing that stuck out to me was the run blocking, even though it came in small doses while in Western Kentucky’s Air Raid offense. Excited to see how that aspect of his game comes along in the SEC with a (slightly) more rushing-based attack. Feet are a bit slow – he’s got a very good sense of snap timing, which helps him get to the corner before his matchup does. That said, if he takes any false step, he’s pretty much cooked on that rep. Liked the awareness on stunts to pass his assignments off and pick up the looping defender. Struggled with the two hand rip of Michigan State DE Jacub Panasiuk, who signed a UDFA deal with the Commanders. Possible guard convert to help mask the movement issues on the perimeter and highlight the run blocking chops.
Summer Grade: 5.69 (Day 3)
Bralen Trahan, S, Louisiana
Primarily a Cover 2 deep half safety or Cover 1 deep man who flexed into the box or slot on occasion. Slender frame from his background as a corner probably will prevent him from playing anything but deep halves as a pro. Instinctive player who really impressed me with his ability to stick to responsibilities against the triple option of Georgia Southern. Doesn’t have the mass to consistently impact the game as a tackler. Don’t mind him as a cover guy when the action stays in front of him, but he lacks the top-end speed to keep up with deep threat receivers. Likely a career special teamer if he cracks a roster, but could shine in that role thanks to plus instincts.
Summer Grade: 4.10 (UDFA)
Seth Benson, LB, Iowa
Least heralded name of the Hawkeye linebackers, with Jack Campbell and Jestin Jacobs soaking up most of the draftnik attention. Mostly lined up at WILL in Iowa’s 3-4, but also has experience at MIKE and as an overhang defender. A bit undersized at 6’0”, 229, which sometimes shows up when trying to finish tackles. Thought for a moment he’d be a MIKE in the NFL because of how natural he looks as a run defender from the box, but he definitely has the change of direction and quicks to stick at WILL. Instincts fail him far less frequently than his finishing ability does, and he still had over 100 tackles in 2021. Size may hamper pro projection but should get drafted if I had to guess today. Want to see some more pass rush reps in 2022. Day 3 guy for now who could climb with another productive season. Imagine he’ll be on all-star radars.
Summer Grade: 6.41 (Day 3)
Henry To’o To’o, LB, Alabama
High-end recruit with three years of starting experience across Tennessee and Alabama. Has primarily played MIKE, where he’s a bit more free to read and react. Consistency is his big issue – one play he looks like a world-beater, the next he looks like he’s never seen the offensive formation in his life. Slimmer frame limits him as a blitzer and causes some missed tackles against more powerful backs in the SEC. Tends to drift upfield to try to avoid and outrun linemen in space rather than engaging and shedding, which leaves yards on the table. Likely MIKE only in the NFL due to gullible eyes in coverage. Not a top-end athlete, but overall an acceptable one. Lacks the extra gear needed to be classified as a sideline-to-sideline range player. Showing a more consistent game down-to-down in 2022 could get him into the upper half of Day 2.
Summer Grade: 7.05 (Day 2)
Kavosiey Smoke, RB, Kentucky
Rotational big-play back who has struggled a bit with injuries while at Kentucky – broken rib in 2020 and missed time during preseason camp in 2021. Coaches have praised his receiving ability but only 8 career receptions due to the structure of Kentucky’s offense. Despite the reputation as a big-play threat, isn’t an overly creative runner. Sees holes well and gets as many yards as the defense gives him. Rarely advances beyond the point of first contact. Has the explosiveness and long speed to bust plays open when given the opportunity. Needs to stay healthy in 2022 and contribute in a big way to elevate his reputation to that of a draftable prospect. Could be hurt by a crowded backfield at Kentucky, as Chris Rodriguez Jr. will return and likely soak up the bulk of the carries.
Summer Grade: 4.17 (UDFA)
Dwight McGlothern, CB, Arkansas
LSU transfer who rotated in as the third boundary corner behind Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks. Taller corner with a slimmer frame. Not an overly productive player on the ball – 1 career interception and 8 passes defended over two seasons. Lack of mass translates to a lack of functional strength: not a good tackler or effective player as a press man corner. Sometimes struggles to keep inside leverage in man. Like his instincts out of zone; shows good understanding of developing route combinations and has above average burst to close on receivers with the ball in the air. Smooth footwork and change of direction ability always keeps him in the vicinity of the play. Likely the guy at Arkansas this season. Some stellar performances with a full complement of snaps against SEC talent and improved tackling could catapult him into the middle rounds. More likely that he returns for senior season and enters the draft in 2024.
Summer Grade: 4.43 (UDFA)
Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Pitt transfer coming off the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver. Slender frame that keeps him mostly to the slot, but versatility is upped by his utility as a return man. Noticeable burst off the snap and straight line speed that makes him a bona fide deep threat. Runs routes without any wasted steps and employs head fakes and ankle-breaking cuts to create further separation across the middle. Uses his length well to create additional separation. Gets open with ease due to his understanding of the gaps in zone coverage. Possesses unreal body control and explosiveness after the catch. Wonder if his slighter frame will present issues in the NFL, where defenders may have the oomph to knock him off his intended paths. Another dominant season at USC should cement him as a top 20-ish pick.
Summer Grade: 8.17 (First Round)
Luke Wypler, IOL, Ohio State
Center who stepped in to start 13 games in 2021 following Josh Myers’ departure for the NFL. Solid, if not remarkable, player who rarely loses reps but also rarely wins them in convincing fashion. Limited range as a run blocker, prefers to double team defensive linemen rather than climb to the second level and take on linebackers. Light on his feet in short areas with a good ability to mirror defenders at the line of scrimmage. Bit of a waist bender, especially in space, which often negates his plus footwork. No experience playing guard and very little experience as a puller, which could hinder pro projection. Lacks either the power or the finishing mentality to deliver highlight-reel type blocks. Could land on more radars with another good season in 2022, but as of now seems like a likely senior returnee or Day 3 pick if he declares.