Clay Smarslok \ Aug 13th, 2019
Can’t you just smell the burgers and chicken wings in the air? Football season is right around the corner, and I say that literally for me, as the first game of the season between Florida and Miami will be less than ten minutes away from my house. As close as it is, the season cannot come soon enough. Right now all we have is the NFL preseason, but think of that as the bread you get when seated at a restaurant, it’s good and all but it’s not what you go to the restaurant for unless it’s Olive Garden. Now that I got enough food mentioned in my first piece, let’s move onto some real football stuff.
In order to help fulfill some of my football needs, and maybe yours, we should get a better idea of what players we could be hearing all about over these next eight months. Leading up to the first weekend of the season, or “Week Zero,” I will be highlighting the top 2020 NFL draft prospects from each of the top 25 teams in the preseason rankings, starting this week with teams ranked 25 to 21. Some will be well known, others may not. Either way, this will give you an idea of who to watch whenever their respective team graces your television screens this year.
25. Northwestern Wildcats – LB Paddy Fisher
Entering last season, Paddy Fisher was a big name in the scouting community. It was not necessarily a top-heavy class at the linebacker position and the then redshirt sophomore had a chance to put his name near the top, if not at the top of that list. But then the 2018 season happened and it did not go as planned for Fisher. In the first game alone, I accounted for three missed tackles on his part and after that, he kind of fell off my map, until now. His best quality is that he is an imposing player being listed at 6’3 245 who also has the athleticism NFL teams want to see. With racking up over 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons, he gets to the ball carrier but his ability to finish more consistently and seeing improvement of his skills in coverage, particularly in man, will be important to show off. If he can develop these skills this season, he can get back to the hype we saw for him pre-2018, rather than post.
24. Iowa State Cyclones – S Greg Eisworth
To be honest, there won’t be much to talk about when it comes to the 2020 draft and the Cyclones. It was tough to find which players are names to watch for the upcoming draft, but one stood out above the rest. Iowa State runs a weird defense, often having three deep safeties and when they have that setup, Eisworth is usually in the middle of the three. He will not be up there with the Delpit’s of the world but he does have some versatility to his game. You probably won’t be asking him to play deep very often as his diagnosing skills can be a little slow at times and him not being the greatest of athletes back there. However, he looks like a very sure tackler, at least when he puts his arms into it. He also takes good angles and packs a punch behind some of his hits. The greatest thing about his game is his motor, always playing at 100 percent. Eisworth will need to prove some things this year if he wants to get drafted but on a team lacking a lot of NFL talent, he should be the one to watch.
23. Stanford Cardinal – CB Paulson Adebo
I know our editor is the president of the Paulson Adebo fan club and all so I am sure he is thrilled to be reading this. However, while Adebo may be the top prospect for Stanford, it is more because of the disappointment there was from watching Walker Little and the positional value of Colby Parkinson. That is not to say there is dislike in Adebo’s game because that is not the case in the slightest. There are a lot of positives to take away from his tape. First off, his length sticks out right away. His long body and arms on top of his physicality are something that is hard not to love out of a cornerback. Really like his fluidity in space, showing quick hips and the ability to drop them to close on the receiver. One area he will need some work on is his footwork, particularly in press coverage. He often has a false step right in the beginning which could lead to an early defeat in a route. Lastly, his ball skills could stand some improvement as well. As great as it is to play tight coverage, being able to turn and find the ball could pay huge dividends for not only his draft stock but his defense as well.
22. Syracuse Orange – EDGE Alton Robinson
Robinson was a highly recruited talent from Texas out of high school. Due to a felony charge, his offer from Texas A&M was rescinded and was forced to play a year of JUCO before transferring to Syracuse. Now back for his third year, Robinson is looking to build off a great 2018 both for him and the Orange. He is built like a prototypical edge, it would be wise to keep him as a 4-3 end. With Robinson, it is all about his speed. However, it seems that if the tackle can match it, Robinson will struggle. He does not seem to rush with a plan, he is not overly strong, he runs with an inconsistent motor and can get taken out of the run game pretty often. What he does have is a quality long arm move as well as some pretty good bend around the edge. He has the tools and potential but it will be important for him to build on his repertoire as a pass rusher for 2019.
21. Washington State Cougars – C Frederick Mauigoa
This is not a team that is deep in terms of NFL talent, so when looking up players to watch it was tough to find one but it’s safe to say that Mauigoa was the one I was most pleasantly surprised with. Let’s not go crazy with this saying he will be a highly ranked prospect, but I do think there is a chance the senior center could get drafted next April. The Samoan native has started every game in each of the last two seasons for Mike Leach, making this his third season as a starter. He will have a ton of experience which is always great to see. What we now need to see next season is that he adds a little muscle. Mauigoa is more of a mover than a mover of men. His anchor isn’t encouraging but I like his athleticism, technique and how he keeps his head up and on a swivel. It also doesn’t hurt that he always seems to give his quarterback a good ball out of shotgun. If I’m being honest, he probably won’t get drafted but he should definitely see a camp next summer.
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