Every year players go to the NFL Combine to show off their talents for the coaches and GM’s who hold the futures of all of them in their collective hands. The media will carve out a few intriguing stories and harp on them ad nauseam, which can leave some of the lesser known players near forgotten.
So I am here today to bring some light to the lesser known players who could be helpful to the Jets. It could be in a starting role, an ancillary position or for depth and future development. This way you can keep a watchful eye on their performances.
- Phil Haynes OG Wake Forest 6’ 4” 310 lbs. #74
Haynes has played in 44 games for the Deamon Deacons after redshirting his freshman year in 2014. He played right tackle in 2015, starting the first 9 games and playing 713 total snaps. He moved to right guard in 2016 starting all 13 games playing 866 snaps. \ His junior year he started 12 of 13 games (An ankle injury kept him out 1 game.) at right guard and was a 3rd team All-ACC performer while playing 815 snaps. He was elected a team captain in 2018 but played in only 8 games.
Haynes is a mauler of a player. It will be interesting to see how he does in the bench press and more importantly the agility drills the linemen are put through. Here he is against Auburn this year. These plays are only about 2 minutes of game time apart.
Haynes is #74, and you can see him drive his man about 8 yards back from the line of scrimmage. Haynes is country strong, and once he gets his hands on you there is little a defense can do. The next clip he just drops his man.
There is not much to say here. He just puts the guy on his back. The concerning thing about Haynes is how good are his lateral movement skills. That’s what we need to watch at the Combine. What you need to observe is the offensive line mirror drill. This is where one lineman is the rabbit running up and down a short line, and the lineman must “mirror” his movements. The player in order to do the drill correctly will need to keep his hands chest high, about a foot away from his body and inside his shoulders. When he moves up and down the line, his feet cannot cross. His shoulders must be level at all times (no leaning), head up, and he shouldn’t bounce like he is riding a horse. You can also check his short shuttle (4.25 or better is hoped for) and 3 cone times (7.25 or better) against other linemen. Haynes will be a day 3 pick but could be a nice find if he can show some good lateral dexterity. I think he has been underappreciated by the draft community which can be an opportunity for the smart GM.
2. Brett Rypien QB Boise State 6’ 2” 205 lbs #4
Brett Rypien is the nephew of former NFL QB Mark Rypien (as many of you remember) and has many of the same qualities of his uncle. In 4 years on the blue turf Brett threw for an unbelievable 13,578 yards, 64.0 %, 90 TDs and 29 INTs. He will make some throws that just look great even though he doesn’t have the ideal arm strength. Here is a nice long throw that hits the receiver nearly in stride.
Brett has good accuracy and great anticipation with his throws. He is tough and will stand in the pocket while going through his entire progressions if needed. He is not the swiftest QB, but he is not a statue and can move around to save plays. He is also cool under pressure as he does a little fumblerooski type play here on short yardage.
The Jets need a quality CHEAP back up for Sam, and Rypien is a smart accurate QB. He could be a excellent 2nd string guy who keeps you in games. The things to watch for with Rypien are the wider field throws and the long ball accuracy on a line (not moon balls). Also watch to see whether he can put some zip on the ball on an easy out route (ball on a line). He doesn’t have to have a great arm. Just average is good enough. If he can do enough he becomes a a day 3 pick who could be worth it just not to have McCown around. This is why it it is nice to have extra late round picks.
3. Christian Miller Edge Alabama 6’ 3” 240 lbs #47
It’s rare when you talk about under the radar type players and have an Alabama guy in the mix. Miller spent 4 years with Nick Saban but played in as many games his senior season as he did in his first 3 years combined. Injuries caused most of the problems, and I wouldn’t be thinking of a guy like that unless he was a day 3 cheapo selection. Here he is against Ole Miss. He beats his guy around the corner easily for a sack.
His senior year he made 34 total tackles with 11 TFL and 8 sacks. He has talent (everybody on Alabama does) and is a smart, well-schooled player. He is strong holding the edge and understands his role in the defense. He is gap sound. He still has the ability to bend the edge. He also makes smart plays. Here he rushes the passer, collapsing the pocket while not allowing the QB and escape route. He continues to depress the pocket until the QB is trapped, and he makes the sack.
Miller to me is a situational rusher and a rotational lineman who will also play smart on special teams. He is a thought if the Jets trade down and pick up some extra 4th or 5th round selections. You need to watch for his strength and his agility to see how he rates next to the other players in similar situations. So his bench reps, his short shuttle, and his 3 cone times are vital to discerning his true potential. You would like a 3-cone time under 7.00 and a short shuttle 4.20 or better (and lower is better).
4. Trayveon Williams RB Texas A&M 5’ 9” 200 lbs #5
Williams had a decent first 3 seasons at Texas A&M, but he really blossomed in 2018. He showed bell cow back type abilities with 260 carries and 1760 rushing yards in 13 games. At 5’ 9” and 200 lbs he is not going to be a featured back in the NFL, but he can be an awesome 3rd down back if he can show enough quickness and speed. Here he catches a screen pass against Auburn and scores from 14 yards out.
Initially he shows some nice hands on the catch, elusiveness to escape the backfield, vision to make it through the line, and toughness to take it into the end zone. Williams had 66 receptions in 3 years (27 in 2018) and looks very comfortable catching the ball. This was his only collegiate receiving TD, though, and he averaged a mediocre 8.5 yards a catch.
There is little room for a RB with just good receiving skills so Williams would need to show the ability to help the offense in other ways.
Like I said earlier. Williams had a nice career in College Station with 600 carries, 3616 yards and 34 TDs so he can handle a decent load. Here he is on a 73 yard TD run showing nice burst though the hole, some decent lateral movement, and the ability to finish.
He shows some modest moves, but he is a diminutive RB so I question his long speed. Also his quickness here is good enough, but will it be enough on Sundays? If he can play a third down role and take over for a short period of time as a featured back in case of injury he would add a lot of value to his team.
A third down back has to block for his QB at times when the defense blitzes numerous players. Can an undersized back stand up to the assault of a linebacker? Here is just such a situation, and Williams steps up well.
Williams does a nice job here of detecting the free rusher, squaring him up, and then attacking him (not letting the LB charge into him). You don’t have to kill the guy, just keep him from your QB. Just give him time and a throwing lane.
So we would want to check Williams’ 40 time for speed, three cone drill and short shuttle for lateral quickness and foot speed. A shuttle of 4.00 and a 3 cone of 6.65 would be nice.
5) Rock Ya-Sin CB Temple 6’ 1” 190 lbs #6
Rock (which is an outstanding name for a football player) played his first 3 years of college ball at Presbyterian College. He played in 33 games, starting 24. He played as a true freshman and was a first team Big South selection his junior year. He came to Temple when his school dropped football.
Rock has shown great coverage skills against the likes of Buffalo’s Anthony Johnson and Tulsa’s Justin Hobbs who is 6’ 4” and 230 lbs. Here you see Rock intercept a back shoulder throw to Hobbs. Hobbs does everything to prevent it, but it was not enough.
Rock stays on the hip of Hobbs all the way down the field in a perfect mirror job. Rock does so without having to hold the receiver, and it actually is Hobbs who is holding Rock. He also makes a nice contested catch while being mugged. Rock’s size is a great advantage with so many taller receivers in the NFL. He is said to have good length so we will want to check his arm length; long arms are a valuable tool for NFL CBs.
The Seahawks will not even look at a CB who has arms shorter than 32”. It is a way to thin the Draft pool. If you believe that 32” arms are a huge advantage, and only 12 of 36 possible players have the length you desire then you have only 1/3 the players to scout in depth.
(BTW Tre Flowers was a safety prospect who had the desired length; the Seahawks drafted him and made him their starting corner. You may miss out on a great player occasionally. but you probably will miss on more if you try and scout 1,000 players. Each team has its own way of doing things.)
I mentioned earlier that Rock played Anthony Johnson tough. Here is a play intended for Johnson that Rock has covered like a blanket. He does a nice job of shadowing Johnson and getting his head around to find the ball.
He has only one year of playing Division I football so we will need to see how he looks next to other CB’s at the Combine. Look at his demeanor to see whether he has no discernable difference or whether is he a fish out of water Being a big kid we will need to see his speed and especially his 10 second split time in the 40. A good split would be around 1.44 secs. Also the tree cone (under 6.45 prefered) and short shuttle (under 4.00 desired) are worth watching. We also want to see how he performs in the drills backing away from the line of scrimmage, He needs to look smooth and rhythmic, not all over the field.
6) Tytus Howard OT Alabama State 6’ 5” 322 lbs #58
Howard is not your typical tackle prospect, a big kid who needs to work on athleticism to have the desired dexterity to play the position. Howard actually has great athletic prowess and should test well at the Combine. Instead he needs a major adjustment in technical refinements. Here is why.
When Howard was in high school he was the QB of his football team and was recruited to Alabama State as a 6’ 4” 230 lbs TE. He continued to grow until he grew out of the TE position, and a smart coach made him into a tackle. So in his football life he went from throwing TDs to catching TDs and to blocking for the QB. Howard was measured at the Senior Bowl at 6’ 5” 322 lbs with 34 3/4” arm length and 10 5/8” hands. That is a glorious size for a tackle prospect, especially one who retained his great athletic skillset. The problem is his technical skill didn’t grow with his body. But he has only been playing tackle for a couple of years. That is a steep learning curve for a player who once was a QB.
Here he is playing against Auburn as the right tackle, and you can see the smooth slide step he has in cutting off the edge rusher. His biggest problem is using his hands well, keeping them inside the edge player and learning how to effectively punch the rusher to stop his momentum.
He does a good job here of guarding the against the inside move and staying square to the DE as he tries to get around the edge. This was a good job, but the QB gets the jitters from the rush on the opposite side and takes off running.
This next play is a zone option play and Howard’s job is to cut off the left inside LB to keep him from the play. Again you see great movement skills from a big man as he uses short choppy steps. He is square to the LB when he takes him on and pushes him back about five yards and right off the screen.
Howard does a good job to bend his knees just before contact to help his leverage. As a tall man he will need to do this often. He could even get a little lower to increase his power, but all in all it was a good effort. You can see Howard’s hands are a little wide on the play, he needs to get them farther inside and grab hold the LB, then drive him back. When he is able to grasp the LB he will have better control of him. At the end you can see the LB break away. With better hand usage and Howard’s plus athleticism he could have pile driven the LB into the turf.
You can see the athletic skill set of Howard. and a really good offensive line coach could turn that athleticism into gold. Howard will be a day 3 pick because he is not ready to play as of yet. How he shows at the Combine will determine which round on day 3he will be picked. (This is why you like to have those extra picks.) Watch him in the mirror drill and the slide step discipline. He should do well. The bench press will be interesting because it is hard to put up solid bench numbers with long arms.
7) Kendall Blanton TE Missouri 6’ 6” 265 lbs #11
Blanton is the son of former NFL Linebacker Jerry Blanton who played with the Chiefs back in the 1980’s. Kendall Blanton played 4 years at Missouri but only amassed 44 receptions and 6 TD’s although he showed good hands. He is just such a good blocking TE who never developed the route skills of other TE’s. Add to that the phenom Missouri added at TE, Albert Okwuegbunam, who will probably be talked about as a top 15 pick next year.
You would think that with all the blocking talk that Blanton is a slow, plowhorse type of a player. Well, you would be wrong. Blanton is a really good athlete who plays as an H-back at times as well as a in-line blocker. Here is Blanton back in 2016 playing in the slot, hauling in a 9 yard TD pass from Drew Lock.
You can see he accelerates well off the line and gains outside position quickly on the corner. He goes up with 2 hands (a little awkwardly) but he gets his head back fast to pick up the ball. From another angle you see he is not easily moved as the corner chucks him.
He fight and wins this contested ball which shows he has some skill if he just is shown how to run good routes and has an opportunity. You can see he is a very lean 265 lbs player that is evenly distributed across his 6’ 6” frame. He is also a good kid and won the Chris Jones Champion of the Year Award given to the player who exhibits strong character on and off the field. Here he is as an H-Back and a nice block.
The line opens a nice hole, but Blanton pins the defensive tackle, turning him back into the line and sealing him off from the play. You can see better from another view;
You can see him zero in on his target, get low to increase his leverage, push back, pin and seal the defensive tackle. He can block from anywhere on the line or as he is here in an H-back role. He is a good athlete. I would like to see his 40 time with anything better than 4.70 is a plus. Also I want to watch him run the gauntlet to see how naturally he catches the ball. Blanton at 6’ 6” would be a tough cover for most of the defensive players if he can become proficient.
I think with Blanton’s physical abilities he could become an option on short and intermediate routes if he can progress with coaching. Until then you will have an inexpensive plus edge blocker for the next 4 years. Blanton will probably be a late day 3 selection, or he could sneak into the late sixth round if he has a good combine.
So there you have it. 7 under the radar type guys who could be an important piece to a rebuilding team or a key cog in a well oiled machine. Do you have a favorite unappreciated player? If you do let us know.
Like always let me know what you think...