Every year, draft websites and draft coverage is always focused on the Joe Burrows and the Chase Youngs of the world but often there’s some amazing talent hiding in days 2 and 3 of the draft. So today we’re going to break down some of the top Dark Horses in this year’s draft – These guys are players that I think should be rated higher than they are or players who are going to really prove that they really are a first round talent.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
If we’re talking underrated players going into the 2020 draft Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a talent that needs a lot more attention, because I think personally he’s a first round talent and should be picked on day one. The Baton Rouge native was nothing short of electric this year picking up 1,414 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns, accompanied by 453 receiving yards and a singular touchdown.
You didn’t come here to read stats though, you came here to hear exactly why these players deserve to have more eyes on them.
The most impressive thing about Edwards-Helaire is his lateral movement and vision, which is why you’ll see his best moments at LSU when they run gap schemes. Edwards-Helaire doesn’t possess the necessary downhill speed to tear off big 50-60 yard touchdown runs, he has the hips and lateral speed to exploit gaps and give you 10-20 yards on a play.
There is no other player in this draft that can spot a gap, pop his hips and make a play like Edwards-Helaire.
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State
Gordon battled Gardner Minshew for the Washington State starting job in 2018 and only just fell short to the eventual NCAA passing leader.
Despite a 3 year wait before he won the starting job Gordon proved he was worth the wait, with 5,579 passing yards, 48 passing touchdowns with only 16 interceptions and was named second team all Pac-12. Gordon possesses a ton of traits that set him up well for when he makes it to the pros and not just in a gunslinging air raid system like the one Mike Leach ran with Gordon at the helm.
Although sometimes rattled by interior pressure, Gordon is willing to take a hit to deliver a pass and makes some great anticipatory throws in the middle of the field. His delivery is compact, efficient and he can really lead receivers in stride underneath when it is called for.
While Gordon is on some teams boards as early as the 3rd round I personally think Gordon is a day one talent.
Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford
In his last season at Stanford, Parkinson put up very average numbers with 29 catches, 485 yards and 7 touchdowns, however Parkinson didn’t drop a pass and came down with the most contested catches amongst draft eligible tight ends.
So besides being a huge target with safe hands what does Parkinson do to set himself apart from the other tight ends in this class? Physically, his height and length create some huge matchup issues in the red area and he is able to extend the high point to play over safeties – Parkinson has incredible body control to help him make adjustments downfield. My only real issue with his size as I think he needs to bulk up a little bit to really be a top level tight end in the NFL.
Parkinson certainly has day one talent and a bunch of upside with very little downside, if you want a big pass catching tight end this is the player for you!
Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
Despite being a two time All-State player coming out of high school Logan Wilson only had two scholarship offers, Weber State and Wyoming. I’m sure plenty of colleges were kicking themselves after seeing this kid play.
Cementing himself as one of the best linebackers in college football and by far the best linebacker in the Mountain Western Conference (MWC), Logan Wilson has been nothing short of amazing.
Yet still some mocks have him going as late as the 4th round and I have no idea how!
In his 2019 campaign Wilson tallied 62 solo tackles (105 total), 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 4 interceptions. While the MWC not exactly being stacked with top tier teams is still very very impressive.
Colleagues at the Full 10 Yards joke that I use the word “Instinct” too much but if I’m being honest, Wilson has it. His build and ability would allow him to play MIKE or SAM linebacker and he has a high motor runs hot and means that Wilson is getting after it on every single down he’s on the field. Lastly, Wilson has elite fundamentals and impressive recognition that help him diagnose and shut down plays easily.
However, Wilson’s high motor can cause some jitters meaning he will need to balance his activity level with patience – That’s another small downside that can be worked out early in NFL training camps. This can also lead to Wilson being baited out of position with some false keys by more complex offences but once again…training will fix that.
Hopefully Wilson lands with a team that recognizes his talent and gives him the chance to shine, maybe the Patriots…please Bill!
If there’s any players I’ve missed feel free to message me on social media with anyone I could possibly add to a part 2!
Whilst we’re all currently bound to the constraints of our homes at the moment due to the outbreak of Covid-19, so what better way to wait for the apocalypse than watch tape of college players that’ll never play in the NFL?
That is not because these players aren’t good enough but because the world is going to succumb to our new viral overlords and mankind will cease to be, therefore no more NFL.
Today I’m going to bring you my thoughts on Wyoming linebacker, Logan Wilson.
This is a player whom I was recommended to watch by Logan Wilson fan, Simon Carroll (@NFLDraftSi on Twitter).
Before I get going I have to make a small disclaimer – I’m not a huge fan of this linebacker class this year, so with that, I wasn’t expecting a great deal from Wilson when I pressed play on the tap this morning. I did, however, put my prejudices aside and tried to watch and note-take with a clear mind, and be as candid as possible.
Unfortunately there isn’t a great deal of tape available for Wilson – I was only able to find two games; New Mexico State from 2018 and San Diego State from this past season. Usually I like to watch at least 4 games of a player before making a solid judgement, so I can’t really be completely happy, or indeed complete in my judgement due to the small sample size.
I was pleasantly surprised.
I’m not head-over-heels with Wilson by any stretch of the imagination, but in a linebacker class that I’m not a massive fan of, he probably stands out more than most and I actually would love to see more film on him to expand on what I’ve seen – Please hit me up @Wakefield90 on Twitter if you know of any other cuts of Wilson.
I’m going to break this report down into three segments, in a different way than I usually do due to the lack of tape; each of the two games and then off the field – this will be interviews I watched, his athletic testing numbers, stats and background information.
Let’s start at the end of that list with the off field stuff.
So what do I like about him when it comes to the number and off the field?
I really like the way Wilson talks in interviews, I feel like he considers his answers, he takes pause before answering the question at times and gets to the heart of what he’s saying and speaks in a measured and concise manner. I’ve seen interviews with him when he’s been asked about why he didn’t skip the bowl game this past year, why he chose Wyoming and what it was like to play for his home state university and each interview has impressed me with his maturity and his honesty. I feel like Wilson speaks with a good amount of gratitude and he realises what football has given him, but also what he has put into football and seems to know what he can get from it in return. From this, it’s easy to see why Wilson was a 3 year captain for the Cowboys.
Wilson came to Wyoming as a safety, having grown up in Casper Wyoming, around 150 miles north of the Cowboys’ campus in Laramie. He has spoken about the transformation his body has gone through in order to transition from safety to linebacker – Offering praise to the university, its facilities and the coaching staff at Wyoming. It just feels like he’s gone about things in the right way and has taken good advice from good people, and is now reaping the benefits. For reference Wilson said he arrived on campus as a 195lb safety, 5 years later he’s a 241lb linebacker.
When you are looking at late day 2, early day 3 players, this is the kind of attitude and the kind of guy you want on your football team – honest, hard-working and selfless. These are your grinders, your culture guys and the guys that back the back end of your roster better than other teams, and really elevate the overall level of your team.
Let’s talk numbers.
Stats and production get two big check marks here. Whilst I’m not an advocate of tackles as a high value stat without context, Wilson has been the model of consistency in his four years as a starting linebacker – the lowest number of total tackles that he registered in a season was 94, in his Freshman year. He racked up 111 in his Sophomore year, 99 as a Junior and finished off with 105 last season.
The tackles for loss numbers were consistent too, 7.5, 8, 10.5 and 8 in each year chronologically.
Wilson also affected the game in a number of ways, something I always like to see from defenders; he registered 10 interceptions throughout his college career and has a further 14 pass deflections – You can see that safety background in these numbers a mile away.
5 forced fumbles and 7 sacks in four years aren’t gaudy numbers but they add a little something on top of what is four years of very solid production. A multi-faceted, multi-dimensional prospect on the defensive side of the ball. Nice.
Let’s talk about athletic testing.
Wilson measured 6’2 and 241lbs in Indy, with 32 ⅜” arms and 9 ½” hands. All of which range from slightly above average to slightly below average for an NFL linebacker and that’s going to be the theme of this segment, average.
A quite nippy, 40 yards time of 4.63 second (74th percentile), was kind of cancelled out by a poor vertical jump of 32” (28th percentile) and aside from a nice performance in the broad 121” (76th percentile), every other event was just ok throughout the combine.
Which is all, well… fine. The lack of high end explosivity shows up on tape and is there for all to see, I’m not saying Wilson is a bad athlete – He’s not – He’s just not great either.
I don’t see this getting much better either unfortunately, the reason being, the one number I’m not least keen on of all, 24 – The age Wilson will turn in July. So we’re looking at one of the older rookies in the league, plus I also feel his frame is pretty maxed out considering he’s already packed on just over 45lbs since coming out of high school.
In summary, I like what I have heard and the production but not blown away by the athletic ability or age, but as I said, this is all fine for a mid round linebacker.
Anway, let’s talk football…
Game 1: New Mexico State, 2018
Wilson played mainly as a SAM or Mike linebacker in this game, which is where I feel he is most suited to playing at the next level. Wyoming trusted Wilson a lot in coverage throughout this game, which against New Mexico’s offense which on all but one play, lined up with either 4 or 5 wide receivers. Wilson’s flexibility and ability to guard running backs or tight ends when they flexed out wide was valuable – New Mexico ran a fair few times out of these spread formations, so Wyoming was able to keep another thumper out there instead of having 6 defensive backs and potentially getting eaten up in the run game.
This versatility is a great trait to have when you’re a back-up at the next level. As a mid round selection, you’re not a certainty to make the final 53 but being able perform a wider spectrum of duties definitely raises your odds of making it – for this reason, I definitely think that Wilson makes a final 53 man roster come the start of the season.
Throughout the game, I noted Wilson’s solid coverage ability in short zones and also his ability to keep his eyes on the backfield and where the ball was – His read and react skills were apparent in the game, as he was able to break off the man he was covering and head towards the action quickly once the ball was caught in another area of the field.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all great news against New Mexico. It was quite apparent that at this time, Wilson struggled to get off blocks and on a couple of occasions, he was completely eaten up by a block and gains were made in his vicinity.
Overall, a solid if not spectacular outing.
Game 2: San Diego State, 2019
In this game, I saw many of the same positives that I saw in the previous game – Wyoming trusted him in coverage, he barely ever came off the field and he was proficient when defending both the pass and the run.
There was even an occasion early when Wyoming was trying to sell an exotic blitz package which Wilson appeared to be a part of, but were actually sending just one lineback as a 5th rusher, along with a safety as a 6th – Wilson bailed deep and was actually asked to play deep middle of the field, with the other four defensive backs playing man coverage underneath him. I feel that this shows that Wilson is able to grasp complexities in the defensive scheme and also gained a lot of trust in his coverage ability from coaches.
A more traditional positive aspect of his play was that I feel that I saw a good amount of evidence that Wilson is able to set the edge and contain against the run, without ball watching and ruining the integrity of the defense. Wilson is also able to stop the run and has really good form as a tackler on top of this.
When dropping into short zones, I noted Wilson’s eyes are in the backfield and when they aren’t, his head is on a swivel as he’s looking for receivers coming his way – This shows up in his excellent reading of the game, I no longer felt like he overpersued plays, something I did see once or twice in the first game I watched.
Physically, I feel like Wilson had developed from the first game too and no longer found it so difficult to get off blocks in the run game, he’s still not too great at playing through the trees but he doesn’t have the elite physical tools to do so, however he definitely seems to have the strength to break free from blocks nowadays.
One thing I would love to see from Wilson is the development of some kind of pass rush move or plan – This is part of his game I simply don’t see anything in, aside from a basic bull rush. Wyoming rushed him a couple of times in his outing but I just had a sense that he was there to make up the numbers.
It would really add another string to his bow if he was able to show some hand-fighting proficiency and perhaps put some pressure on the passer from time-to-time and become more of an all around player.
To Sum Up
To sum up, I see Logan Wilson as a nice mid-round linebacker prospect who will be a hard worker and certainly add to a team’s locker room, but also be able to make some contribution on the field too.
I feel like this type of linebacker is definitely in vogue at the moment when it comes to him being comfortable in coverage but also good at traditional linebacking duties such as coming downhill to stop a ball carrier or maintaining edge and gap discipline in the run game.
Due to his relatively average athleticism I’m not too sure how high the ceiling is for Wilson but due to the football IQ, versatility and experience, the floor is fairly high.
If Wilson can contribute in limited snaps on defense and also as a special teamer, I feel he could earn the trust and respect of coaches and his peers quite quickly leading to an increased role and a solid NFL career long term.
There we have it then, some words on a potential pick that rounds out a team’s overall draft and makes a GM look pretty smart – If you would like to see more words on mid to late round picks who you like or feel could make a difference – get in touch on Twitter and I’ll put something together.
Follow Lee on Twitter @Wakefied90
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