NFL Draft Notes and Observations 12/13

The 2017 NFL Draft was supposed to be the Year of the Running Back with Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon, Alvin Kamara, Samaje Perine, Jamaal Williams,  Kareem Hunt, Joe Williams, D'onta Foreman, Wayne Gallman, Chris Carson, Marlon Mack, James Conner and Donnell Pumphrey leading the way, but the 2018 crop is strong in its own right with Saquan Barkely of Penn State and Derrius Guice of LSU being surefire 1st Round Draft Choices along with Bryce Love of Stanford, Rashaad Perry of San Diego State, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel both of Georgia, Kerryon Johnson of Auburn, Royce Freeman of Oregon, Ronald Jones of USC, Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris, both of Alabama, Mark Walton of Miami, Josh Adams of Notre Dame and Arum Wadley of Iowa being 2nd, 3rd and 4th Round draft possibilities with a couple even being drafted in the 1st Round.  Redshirt Sophomore Rodney Anderson of Oklahoma is another who is draft eligible and with his current off the field problem might opt for the draft.  However, all of this is provided that they all declare for the draft and only Mark Walton has so far.
Since so many teams need Offensive Tackles, and more specifically Left Tackles, there is much interest in the Tackles that are available and this year the ones that have received the most attention are Orlando Brown, 6-8 340 of Oklahoma; Connor Williams, 6-6 315 of Texas; Mike McGlinchey, 6-7 310 of Notre Dame; Chukwuma Okorafor, 6-5 333 of Western Michigan; Trey Adams, 6-8 309 of Washington; Tyrell Crosby, 6-5 320 of Oregon and Mitch Hyatt, 6-5 295 of Clemson.  However, during the last few weeks I have been impressed with a Left Tackle who I think will surpass all of the above when they reach the next level and that is Kolton Miller, 6-8 310 of UCLA.  His story is that last year he started the first 5 games of the season when he went down with a fractured ankle.  He returned this year and in early season games against Texas A&M and Memphis wasn't that impressive but in the Bruins final two regular season games against USC and California he showed better than any of the above mentioned tackles.  And the reason for his slow start could be that it takes at least a year to recover from a fractured ankle and therefore wasn't 100% in the early going.  And while he is a good run blocker with a nasty demeanor, as are most of the other top tackles, what he does better than the others is Pass Block.  He has the ability to stay with speed rushers around the edge and also has the ability to adjust back to an inside move and does this better than any of the others.  He is a Junior Redshirt and still has the Cactus Bowl on Dec. 26 against Kansas State and he might just leave early for the draft as it is pretty certain that QB Josh Rosen will be leaving early and each player may not want to risk further injury on a mediocre team.  And Miller doesn't need to wait for an  opinion from the Draft Advisory Committee as he can rely on the evaluation in this article that he will be a top 15 pick, provided that he performs well in UCLA's bowl game against Kansas State on December 26.
There are also some lesser known Tackles who could surprise and they are: Yodny Cajuste, 6-5 308 of West Virginia; Brandon Parker, 6-5 309 of North Carolina A&T; Elijah Nkansah, 6-6 315 of Toledo;  Jake Campos, 6-7 305 of Iowa State; Andre Dillard, 6-5 310 of Washington State; Desmond Harrison, 6-7 288 of West Georgia and Will Richardson, 6-5 322 of North Carolina State, who is the only one that plays RT.  David Edwards, 6-6 315 RT of Wisconsin also deserves mention but since only a Sophomore Redshirt is less likely to declare than the others who are underclassmen.
Perhaps the best Tackle of all may not play again and that is Grant Newsome, who at 6-6 and 315, played LT for Michigan but went down with a dislocated kneecap in 2016 and hasn't played since.  He was playing at a high level prior to the injury and is now attempting to return in 2018 but that is problematical at this point.
Sam Darnold's decision to return to USC or turn pro might be influenced by the fact that after 13 games in 2016 he was sacked 6 times and after 13 games this season he has been sacked 21 times.
An interesting player who has been flying under the radar, and I mean flying, is Damion Ratley, 6-1 190 Senior Wide Receiver from Texas A&M who has really come on during his final year.  Having received no Division I offers out of high school he wasn't even sure that he wanted to continue playing football.  But he ended up taking the JC route to Aggie land and only this year shown to be a reliable receiver to go with his great speed.  To date he has 26 receptions for 603 yards but a whopping 23.2 yards per catch average and 6 TDs.  He is one to watch in the Dec. 29 Belk Bowl against Wake Forest.
Also playing under the radar are the brothers Teuhema who both started out at LSU and ended up playing at Southeastern Louisiana.  Maea Teuhema was a 5 Star recruit who played well as a starter at both RT and Guard while at LSU but fell prey to academic issues, while Sione Teuhema was a 3 Star DE recruit who was a backup his first two years and then was suspended for a violation of team rules.  Not wanting to serve his suspension, Sione left for Southeastern where he was joined by his brother.  Both made 1st Team All Southland Conference this year and while Maea is a day two draft possibility, NFL teams will be concerned about the level of competition and the fact that he isn't eligible to play in any of the All Star games.  Since he has already declared for the draft, scouts will be reviewing his old LSU tapes.  Sione Teuhema, who was a backup DE at LSU and switched to OLB at Southeastern and was somewhat limited in 2016 with a knee injury, really broke out in 2017 with 59 Solo Tackles, 9 Sacks, an additional 9.5 Tackles for Loss, 1 Interception, 7 QB Pressures and 2 Forced Fumbles in 11 games.  He has accepted an invitation to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and if he dominates in the practices could be invited up to the East West Shrine Game.  He is 6-3 260 and is listed as a DE for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl which was his position at LSU but played OLB at Southeastern.  Maea at 6-4 315 played LT at Southeastern but more than likely be considered as a Guard who could play Tackle in a pinch.
Florida DT Taven Bryan, who was on my Mid-Season All American Team, has announced that he will leave early for the draft as he probably wants to capitalize on his breakout season and doesn't see a quick turnaround for the Gators.  With his exceptionally quick first step and explosive charge I would place him at Defensive End where he would be tough to control coming around the arc to the QB.
Does Baker Mayfield have the "it" factor that Sam Darnold was thought to have leading into the season?  Mayfield does play with a sense of urgency similar to Drew Brees but he can he read defenses the way that Brees does? 
While the yearly All-Conference Teams always have glaring omissions one that particularly caught my eye this year is the Atlantic Coast Conference where teams were selected by a collaboration of the Coaches and Media.  They selected a first, second and third team along with an Honorable Mention and they couldn't find a spot for Clemson QB Kelly Bryant.  Bryant currently has a passing percentage of 67.4 with 13 TDs to 6 Interceptions along with an additional 10 rushing TDs.  And oh, he has led his team to a No. 1 ranking in the country with a 12 and 1 record with the only loss being to Syracuse in which game he was injured just before half time and didn't return.  If Bryant were to go on and lead Clemson to the National Championship he might possibly declare for the draft, which would shake up the landscape in the QB rankings and overall rankings.  He has not received the attention that he deserves as he is a talented passer and athlete.