It’s been two weeks since we opened ITPDraftGuide.com for pre-orders on the 2018 Draft Guide and we could not be more excited about the product we are putting together for you. As I’m writing this, our scouts have written 923 reports on 539 players. The scope, rigor, and detail in our process is unmatched. Personally, I haven’t written any of those reports, having moved from grinding tape on defensive backs to overseeing a lot of the back end process. But as I read the reports, see the Slack channel discussions, and begin production, I see some intriguing stories developing and patterns emerging.
As it stands now, we expect a whopping 29 receivers to make the guide. This is a deep class, but a curious one. Many of the top receivers - Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, Maryland’s D.J. Moore, Memphis’ Anthony Miller - are shorter than the classic “X” receiver prototype (think A.J. Green or Julio Jones). In fact, we currently project only eight of the 29 receivers to match the ideal X receiver. Contrast that with 15 who fit into a “Z” role and 15 who project as slot receivers (some players fit into more than one category). This might wind up elevating the draft stock of prospects with more size like SMU’s Courtland Sutton, Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown, and Colorado State’s Michael Gallup.
Jeff Wilson … Who?
Since we follow the draft and college football closely, we are aware of virtually everyone invited to the Combine, but there are occasional head-scratchers. One is North Texas running back Jeff Wilson, whose injury-abridged college career flew under our radar. Our evaluators dug in on his tape and were wowed with his burst, vision, and power, giving him a high grade after an initial review and two cross-checks. But not so fast! Two more evaluators chimed in with dimmer views of his vision and power against top competition, as well as serious concerns about Wilson’s ball security. Where will he end up ranking among our running backs? You’ll have to purchase the guide to find out for sure, but Wilson is an intriguing prospect, especially for teams that run inside zone.
When Combine Doesn’t Match
The bulk of the scouting was done pre-Combine, so sometimes the testing results match our perception of the tape, and sometimes it doesn’t. Edge scout Nick Falato was really high on the athletic ability of Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard, citing his “rare change-of-direction and very good explosiveness. Others were more tepid. NFL.com describes Hubbard as “more worker bee than twitchy athlete.” The testing backed Nick’s assessment, as Hubbard posted the best 3-cone time among front-seven players, while also rating above-average in the shuttle drills and jumps and measuring at 6’5” and 270 lbs. Hubbard does possess an excellent motor, but his tape and Combine reveals a great athlete as well.
One player that surprised, however, was Jacksonville State’s Darius Jackson, who won the Buck Buchanan Award for the top defensive player in FCS. Nick noted Jackson’s “excellent initial burst and lateral agility,” but Jackson’s vertical jump and 3-cone were both in the 10th percentile. Overall he rated a 0.91 RAS in Kent Lee Platte’s Relative Athletic Scores, putting him in the 10th percentile there as well. Our DL team will have to head back to the film room to see whether the tape or the metrics are misleading.
A music major, Miami edge rusher prospect Chad Thomas is also a local music producer known as “Major Nine” and produced the opening track on Rick Ross’s new album.
Tight Ends or Power Forwards?
The “basketball on grass” revolution has spawned a new breed of tight ends who are essentially oversized slot receivers. It is hard to find tight end prospects who are proficient both in the passing game and at blocking, and the 2018 class is no exception. We try to tease out some of these factors with our trait grades, in which every prospect is rated between 1 (“rare”) and 7 (“marginal”) in at least 10 different categories. Five of our top six tight ends rated 3 (“very good”) or better in “athletic ability,” four of six rated 3 or better in “play speed,” and four of six rated 3 or better in “hands.” None of the six had worse than a 4 in those categories. However, all six rated a 5 (“solid”) or 6 (“adequate”) in run blocking, and none was better than a 4 in pass blocking. The top receiving tight ends were not good blockers.
At the bottom of the TE rankings, we have players with the opposite problem - effective blockers (especially run blockers) who lack the athleticism to be dangerous receiving threats. One player who didn’t quite make our 6.49 cutoff is Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli, who fits this mold. His report appears below.
I’m still working on the WR group and plan to start the defensive backs in the next week. Ryan Dukarm will be producing the QBs and interior offensive linemen. Who do you want to hear about? I’ll also have some thoughts on our “bonus content” - essays and other pieces of analysis you won’t find anywhere else. There’s still time to pre-order your copy of the ITP Draft Guide today! Use the promo code “DRAFTME18” for $5 off.