NFL Draft Stock Report: Clemson TE Jordan Leggett bolstering NFL resume
A look at NFL prospects who helped and may have hurt themselves this past weekend
Who helped themselves?
Jordan Leggett , TE, Clemson Tigers , SR. (6-5, 258, 4.73, #16)
With a lot of mouths to feed on the offense, Leggett doesn't have gaudy stats on his pro resume, but he is such a valuable resource for Deshaun Watson and Tigers. With 38 catches this season, he is two receptions shy of last year's total. That said, he has been a more dynamic weapon after the catch in 2016, averaging 16.8 yards per grab (up from 13.1 last year).
Against Virginia Tech Hokies , Leggett's package of skills were on display with the route acceleration to win man coverage and the size and ball skills to pluck fastballs from the air. He isn't an overwhelming blocker, but does a great job extending his long arms and delivering a pop at contact to get defenders off-balance. Leggett recorded his first multi-touchdown game against the Hokies with a pair of scores, including one lined up outside as a receiver where he was able to gain a step of separation on a post route and Watson delivered a strike for six. In a stocked tight end class, Leggett secured himself as a Day 2 prospect capable of starter reps as a rookie.
Budda Baker , FS, Washington Huskies , JR. (5-10, 192, 4.52, #32)
When evaluating Baker earlier this season, I wrote "plays with a 'Honey Badger' mentality" in my notes. And on Friday night in the Pac-12 Championship Game against Colorado Buffaloes , he showed that skill set.
While a tad undersized, he has the combination of range, ball awareness and twitchy athleticism to make impact plays in coverage. Baker made a remarkable near-interception, tracking the wide receiver in motion across the formation before reading the receiver, gearing down and turning to find the ball. He undercut the receiver, jumped and plucked the ball in front of him, but his right foot barely caught some of the white sideline for an impressive pass break-up on the stat sheet.
As a nickel defender, Baker showed the impressive start/stop quickness to stay in phase in man coverage, helping to limit the Colorado offense to only eight completions for 81 yards. He can be overpowered at times near the line of scrimmage due to his sub-200 pound frame, but he breaks down well as a tackler and hits more powerful than he looks. Baker is one of the few underclassmen prospects who could help make this safety group go from good to great if he declares early for the NFL Draft.
T.J. Watt , OLB, Wisconsin Badgers , rJR. (6-4, 243, 4.76, #42)
Penn State Nittany Lions was able to score 38 points against Wisconsin on Saturday night to capture the Big Ten Championship. But the issues with the Badgers' defense was more about the poor secondary play than the pass rush as Watt and others were able to put pressure on the pocket. He finished with four tackles, 1.5 for loss, one sack and several other quarterback hurries.
Watt also had a critical strip sack, not only forcing the fumble, but also recovering it. As a redshirt junior, there is a chance this was his final Big Ten game if he decides to go pro, something his brother J.J. did after his redshirt junior year in 2010.
The younger Watt isn't on the same level as a prospect as his brother, but he would still be widely sought after due to his ability to generate pass rush. Watt has the play speed, active hands and instincts to give blockers fits off the edge, leading the Badgers with 14.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks this season. At the time of Watt's forced fumble, the Badgers had a 28-7 lead and it appeared to be a blowout, but to Penn State's credit, they were a different team in the second half.
Who hurt themselves?
Quincy Wilson , CB, Florida Gators , JR. (6-1, 213, 4.54, #6)
As expected, Alabama Crimson Tide dominated Florida in the SEC Championship Game across all phases. Going into the game, one area that I thought the Gators might match up well was with their talented cornerback unit against the Alabama receivers. And while Alabama managed only 138 passing yards, it was a disappointing performance from Wilson, who struggled in coverage and against the run.
On perimeter runs to his side of the field, effort wasn't an issue for him, but execution was as he missed several tackle attempts, failing to finish after making contact. And in coverage, Wilson got himself in trouble due to choppy footwork and inconsistent mechanics, allowing receivers to gain separation and find holes in coverage. While the traits are intriguing, it has been an up-and-down season for Wilson, who will have a tough NFL decision to make after the season.
Other NFL Draft notes
- As expected, LSU Tigers junior RB Leonard Fournette (6-1, 230, 4.45, #7) will enter the 2017 NFL Draft following the Tigers' bowl game. He made the announcement via Twitter on Monday, expressing his thanks to the LSU program and hoping to avoid any distractions as he prepares for the bowl game. If the medicals check out, Fournette will be a top-10 pick in the 2017 class.
- Another SEC skill-player is making the NFL jump as Ole Miss Rebels redshirt junior WR Damore'ea Stringfellow (6-2, 212, 4.58, #3) announced his decision to go pro on Monday. A transfer from Washington, combined for 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns the last two seasons for the Rebels. Although he lacks polish and has only average speed, Stringfellow is well-built with athletic body control, using his frame to leverage defenders and attack the ball.
- Oklahoma Sooners redshirt junior QB Baker Mayfield (6-0, 210, 4.74, #6) announced following the Sooners win over Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday that he will return for his final season of college eligibility. While he isn't a top-tier quarterback prospect, Mayfield does have next level ability and will have a pro future if he wants it. But this news is great for college football as he brings excitement to the sport and the Sooners will need him when they travel to Columbus next September to face Ohio State Buckeyes .
- It wasn't all good news for the Sooners on Saturday as senior WR Dede Westbrook (5-11, 175, 4.39, #11) was knocked out of the game with concussion-like symptoms in the first half. He didn't return, but was in good spirits on the sideline, celebrating the win. While it doesn't appear to be a serious injury, his 175-pound frame is a concern as he makes the jump to the NFL.
- The ACC Championship was a great representation of Clemson senior CB Cordrea Tankersley (6-0, 200, 4.48, #25) as a NFL prospect. On one hand, he had two impressive interceptions, including the game-sealing pick-off in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. However, it wasn't all positive, showing why several scouts have concerns. Tankersley has the long arms that translate well, but he makes it easy on officials to throw the flag with his grabbing and holding when the receiver gains a step on him. He has some tightness in his hips and footwork that hinders his change of direction ability, which led to a few completed passes to WR Isaiah Ford . And then in run support, Tankersley had an embarrassing moment when the perimeter run went by him and instead of attempting a tackle, he simply pushed the ball carrier, barely phasing him as he finished the last 10 years into the end zone.
- With only a quarter of the NFL regular season remaining, it looks like a two-horse race between Cleveland (0-12) and San Francisco (1-11) for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Cleveland Browns , who are already guaranteed a top-seven draft pick, will pick first if they lose their final four games (CIN, at BUF, SD, at PIT). However, if the Browns win a game and the 49ers lose their final four (NYJ, at ATL, at LA, SEA) then San Francisco will own the top pick due to the strength of schedule tie-breake
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