For two weeks in a row, the NFL Network’s coverage of an all-star college game spoiled us dynasty enthusiasts. Of course, there are many more draftable players on display in Mobile than there were in St. Petersburg. I will take the time to highlight some of them who made an impression during the game. Many of these players’ values will be greatly affected by the team that drafts them about how they fit the current scheme. Unfortunately, we won’t know that until the end of April. I expect this being a very deep draft at wide receiver, linebacker, and perhaps even defensive line.
Ezekial Ansah, DE BYU
By most accounts, he had a decent week of practice, but something changed when the whistle blew. The defensive end had a dominating game as he got pressure on the quarterback using both brute power, agility and speed. He has a very quick first step and uses good leverage to get underneath whomever gets in his way. Ansah controlled his blocker until he saw the ball and then would discard them – it didn’t matter if it was a run play or a pass play. He amazed me with his determination to never give up on a play as he would chase down a ball carrier ten yards to make the tackle. This included stuffing Michigan’s Denard Robinson on his first carry. Ansah is still a bit on the raw side, but he should be in the conversation as a DE2 for your dynasty team this year and grow into a DE1 in the very near future.
Kenjon Barner, RB ORE
The running back did not display anything of note until the fourth quarter. He caught the ball decently, but did not show much wiggle after the catch. Barner had some ball control issues and did not look physical enough to be a three down back. With his limited skill set, he is better suited as a third down back or returner. He flashed on his touchdown reception with less than two minutes to play. Barner shouldn’t be drafted before the third round in a rookie draft.
Jonathan Cyprien, S FL INT
Despite being from a small school, he was the talk of the practices and the game. Cyprien is a hard hitter who plays very well against the run. He is a solid tackler who doesn’t bite on juke moves. Keep an eye out for him in IDP leagues as he could start for a few NFL teams.
Johnathan Franklin, RB UCLA
I wasn’t overly impressed with any of the running backs in this game; however, Franklin looked the most like an NFL back. He first showed good speed and decent vision on his kickoff return. In a running back role, Franklin ran more effectively on the outside as he got skinny and showed a burst of power and speed. Once he put his foot down and decided where he was going, he was very effective (he flashed that on his touchdown run). He can run inside, but does not generate enough power to be effective in that role despite keeping his legs churning. Franklin might become a starter in the right system.
Mike Gillislee, RB FLA
There are many things to like about this running back. He demonstrates good vision, has good lateral movement and typically makes the first defender miss. I think he is a better space runner than between the tackles as he got caught up in the line of scrimmage when there were bodies around. Gillislee possesses a quick first step, reads his blockers, and has a jump cut at his disposal. There is upside to this running back as he might develop into a three down player in the NFL and your dynasty team.
Mike Glennon, QB NC ST
The young quarterback once again looked good when he wasn’t under pressure save for a phantom throw or two. He has a strong am and is very accurate with the ball if he is given time. There were a few throws that he had amazing placement where only the receiver could make the catch. However, Glennon got rattled by Ansah and awkwardly moved around in the pocket. Unless he gets a strong offensive line and running game to protect him in the NFL, he will struggle. Glennon desperately needs to develop quicker feet to get away from pressure.
Marquise Goodwin, WR TEX
The track star did not disappoint. His biggest play of the night was one of the most boneheaded plays I have ever seen. Goodwin almost muffed a punt in the end zone, but instead brought it out and exploded down the sideline for a 18 yard gain. It’s like the rest of the players are in slow motion and he has warp speed. Goodwin is effective making defenders miss on shorter patterns and gaining yards after the catch using his speed and agility. The coaching staff attempted to get the ball in his hands on long passes, but he struggles with more physical coverage down the field. He is very raw, but could develop into a WR2 in a short time.
Chris Harper, WR KAN ST
Thjs wide receiver has tremendous body control he uses to contort himself to the ball. Harper is a unique receiver as he is close to 230 pounds and only a hair over six feet tall. He uses his physicality to fight off smaller defenders and push the ball down the field. I will be very interested to see what team drafts him as the possibilities are there for him to be a unique playmaker.
E.J. Manuel, QB FL ST
He made the most of his opportunity. Manuel made quick decisions and showed athleticism moving around the pocket or down the field. He was accurate with the football as he threw a beautiful fade route in the end zone where only the receiver could get to it. With his arm and feet, he could fit in most NFL systems. I’m not sure he will be a good starter, but he has potential to grow into a solid NFL quarterback.
Kawann Short, DT PUR
The defensive tackle was very active for most of the night. He was getting good penetration and was a step away on a few occasions from getting a sack. Short mixes up his power and agility to shed blockers and make plays. The zero through two gaps were his playground as he forced the offense to run outside the tackles to get away from him. He did take a few plays off which is concerning, but perhaps in a better rotation, Short will be more efficient.
Stepfan Taylor, RB STAN
This running back appeared to be a product of his offensive line. When they struggled, so did he. I liked the way he squared his shoulders and ran with power on the outside, as he was more effective in space. Ball protection might be an issue as he got rocked by a hard hit. He is versatile enough to use in the pass game as he has decent hands and is good in pass protection. Taylor could become a decent starter in the right system, but he runs a bit stiff for my taste.
Conner Vernon, WR DUKE
He picked up right where he left off from his bowl game. This wide receiver runs crisp routes and knows when to sit down in the route to make the catch. Conner looks back for the ball and will shorten or lengthen his pattern to get in the right spot for his quarterback. I like the way he engages his defenders with his physical play – this sets them up to be blocked by the wide receiver on running plays or creates separation on quick routes. I think he will be a strong WR3 on an NFL team and may become a WR2 in a pass-first system.
Markus Wheaton, WR OR ST- Many draftniks believe he got the biggest boost from this week’s practices. He made the most with his opportunities during the game as well. He has great concentration as he made a tough catch between two defenders and did a good job keeping both feet in bounds. I wasn’t overly impressed with his return skills; however, he has a knack of making the first defender whether it is in the return or passing game. Wheaton attacks the ball in the air and has enough wiggle and toughness to come down with the ball most of the time. He is moving up my draft board as I see him closer to a Steve Smith than a Jeremy Maclin type of player.