FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• One of the biggest risers among media draft pundits is East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones, who had a good showing at the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl where he caught six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Jones had two other touchdowns that didn’t count – one that was negated due to a penalty and one that should have counted in the back of the end zone, but there wasn’t instant replay reviews available for the college all-star game. Jones set FBS records for the most catches in a career (399) and the most catches in a single season (158) in the Pirates’ pass-happy offense last year.
But Jones isn’t worth the hype he’s getting. The problem with the 6-foot-1, 202-pound Jones is that he has pedestrian speed and is expected to run in the high 4.5s at the NFL Scouting Combine. Jones is not considered to be a big receiver, nor is he a blazer.
Jones racked up a lot of those catches on bubble screens and smoke routes at the line of scrimmage, and averaged just 10.7 yards per catch in his career, which is nothing to get excited about. Also consider that out of 399 catches, Jones had just four catches of 40 yards or more in his East Carolina career with just two over 50 yards. That’s one catch of 40 yards or more for every 99 catches, which is a terrible big-play average.
Louisiana Tech junior wide receiver Carlos Henderson, who also came from a pass-happy offense and is similarly built at 5-foot-11, 193, had 147 career catches for the Bulldogs, including 82 catches for 1,535 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. Henderson averaged 19.5 yards per catch in his three years at Louisiana Tech and had 13 receptions of 50 yards or more in his career. Henderson, who averages one big-play catch for every 11 receptions he makes, is expected to run 4.5 or lower in the 40-yard dash and has much more big-play production than Jones does.
Jones is regarded as a third-rounder by some NFL Draft pundits, but ESPN’s Mel Kiper has him going in the first round for some strange reason. I just don’t see it. Jones is good, but he’s not worth going in the first 64 picks.
• Why hasn’t there been more buzz on Washington wide receiver John Ross from yours truly or the other PewterReport.com Bucs beat writers? I did write about Ross quite a bit during college football season in previous SR’s Fab 5 columns, but as I’ve come to learn more about him in the offseason, he’s become quite an injury risk.
Ross tore the meniscus in his right knee in 2013, and then blew out the ACL and meniscus in his left knee in 2014. That caused him to miss the entire 2015 season before returning in 2016 to catch 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns. Now Ross needs shoulder surgery this offseason to repair a torn labrum. Ross won’t be benching at the NFL Scouting Combine and will have surgery right after his trip to Indianapolis where his medical evaluation will mean the difference between him going in the first, second or third round.
Ross is often compared to DeSean Jackson due to his 4.25 hand-timed speed at Washington last year, but Jackson, who was drafted in the second round in 2008, didn’t have Ross’ injury history coming out of California. And Jackson, who turned 30 in December, is entering his 10th season in the NFL. Ross had microfracture knee surgery to repair his meniscus and ACL in 2014 and that is expected to shorten his NFL career, which will undoubtedly affect his draft status.
• One player that could blow up at the NFL Scouting Combine and solidify a first-round grade is UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley, who also has position flexibility as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. The 6-foot-2, 258-pound McKinley would be wise to enter the Combine as a defensive end because his sub-4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash will certainly rank among the best at that position.
McKinley, a junior entry, notched 16 sacks and 28 tackles for loss for the Bruins. He had 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in 2016, while forcing three fumbles. McKinley had six total forced fumbles and one recovery to go along with 10 passes defensed in three years at UCLA.
“Takk is tenacious, Takk is a dog,” UCLA defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes said. “I would take that dude to war anytime, anywhere. The dude goes hard on every play. He brings a good emotion to the table that gets the whole defense fired up just based on how he plays. He’s very, very, very competitive. If he loses a down he goes psycho. It’s like somebody punched him in the face for no reason. If you see him lose a few reps then all of a sudden he can get three straight sacks. Takk is an animal. He’s a first-round pick. He’s the best defensive end in the country by far in my opinion.
“Takk is special. He did all that this year and he’s still raw. His ceiling is very high. When the Combine comes around he’s going to run a 4.4. The dude is a track star as well. He’s fast, he’s strong and he’s physical. He can do it all. He’s an NFL defensive end.”
• Like PewterReport.com’s Trevor Sikkema, I’m not buying the hype on Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara, who was projected to Tampa Bay with the 19th overall pick in the draft in Daniel Jeremiah’s mock draft on NFL.com. Kamara, who split carries with Jalen Hurd, is a third-round back at best in my opinion.
He only rushed for 596 yards and nine touchdowns in 2016 after rushing for 698 yards and seven scores as a sophomore following a transfer from Alabama. The appeal with Kamara is his all-around ability as a running back, receiving threat out of the backfield and a punt returner. But what I don’t like is his production as a running back against top-flight competition.
Kamara only had four yards on four carries against Oklahoma and eight yards on seven carries versus Georgia in 2015. Last year, Kamara had nine yards on three carries against Virginia Tech, six yards on two carries versus Florida and 21 yards on eight carries against Alabama.
The fact that he couldn’t beat out Hurd for more carries is a bit disturbing, as are the lack of opportunities he got to run the ball. Kamara only had four 100-yard games in two years at Tennessee, and three games with 15 carries or more. Three!
How do I know he can be a feature back in the NFL, which is what he would have to be to warrant a first-round pick, as Jeremiah suggests he’s worth? Kamara had 19 games with less than 15 carries and 16 games with less than 10 carries.
Sorry, I want a proven guy to tote the rock on a full-time basis. If the Bucs draft Kamara in the third round to be a pass-catching weapon the way the team uses Charles Sims, a former third-round pick himself, that’s fine. But there are eight other running backs I would rather see in Tampa Bay instead, including Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon, Toledo’s Kareem Hunt, USF’s Marlon Mack, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine and Wyoming’s Brian Hill.
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