Lions receiver Tom Kennedy has a lot going for him.
He's not only the first Bryant University alum to record a statistic in an NFL game, Kennedy was a Practice Squad Power Rankings cover guy all the way back in Week 2. A dazzling preseason with 16 receptions for 143 yards and two scores got him there. Yes, he was in the 2019 class, which would normally disqualify him from 2022 PSPR inclusion, but the sheer underdog nature of his story granted him a roster exemption.
Since his time on the PSPR cover, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound receiver who screams DAN CAMPBELL by way of his grit and overachieving football-guy vibe, has scratched and clawed his way to full-time 53-man roster status. In that the-over-certainly-hit early October 48-45 loss to the Seahawks, Kennedy hauled in three passes for 54 yards. He's made at least one catch in three games after that, none bigger than a simple dig route from the slot on 3rd-and-8 down six with under four minutes to play that Kennedy morphed into a 44-yard gain.
A few plays later, the Lions punched the ball into the end zone with a Jamaal Williams one-yard run, and the Lions secured victory over the Bears on the east side of Chicago.
By the way, this isn't some Rudy-esque story with Kennedy. Check his pro-day workout back in 2019, and how it compares to another grit legend.
The Lions have an Edelman clone on their hands, people.
Remember, Edelman didn't truly erupt until his age-27 season.
Of course, I'd love to have more PSPR alums who become legitimate stars. But the Kennedy-like contributions are the meat and potatoes of The Practice Squad Power Rankings. Each week I carefully select men I believe are capable of making that one play -- or maybe two or three plays -- in a critical moment that yields a major positive for their respective team. And the best part is these are players who their own club thinks are best suited for practice only, as their title suggests.
Well let me tell you, Kennedy's PSPR-to-reliable-crunch-time-player success story is one of many for the PSPR, and it absolutely will not be the last. Duke Johnson, Dane Jackson, Jauan Jennings, Juwan Johnson and Hjalte Froholdt are a few of the others who proudly graduated from The PSPR with the highest honors.
While the retro article last week was fun, it didn't get short-term results. Dolphins safety Verone McKinley was the only call-up last week. The PSPR Call-Up Tally (The CUT) is at 19 call-ups after 10 weeks of regular-season action. Always room for improvement, and at The PSPR, we aim for an average of two call-ups per week. Here's to a Thanksgiving feast-sized Practice Squad Elevation Saturday. Remember don't be shy to hit me up on Twitter @ChrisTrapasso to alert me about any PSPR members getting the glorious call.
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The expanded, 16-man practice squads are about the only good thing to come out of the pandemic, and they're here to stay in the NFL. Because of this, I run the Practice Squad Power Rankings parallel to the league. I write about 16 individuals every Friday, 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.
Here's to the Practice Squad Power Rankings flourishing this season, emerging as a legitimate superstar, earning a massive payday and starting to cement its legacy in the hallowed halls of the internet's football-media industry.
10. Jimmy Moreland, CB, Jets
Moreland made his PSPR debut in the inaugural season -- 2019 -- after a tremendously productive career at James Madison. There, he had 18 interceptions (including six house calls)
The Jets are his fourth team, and their defense is rock solid. But D.J. Reed got a little banged up in Gang Green's home victory over Buffalo in Week 9. Moreland is actually stylistically similar to Reed. They're both ultra-feisty, super-confident nickel corners with a knack to get their hands on the football.
9. Kingsley Jonathan, EDGE, Bills
Jonathan has around-the-corner juice. He made that clear in the preseason with five pressures on 39 pass-rushing snaps. He was waived by the Saints earlier this week, and Buffalo jumped at the opportunity to re-add him to the practice squad again. The former Syracuse standout feels like a late-season call-up who very well could generate a key pressure late in a game for the Bills.
8. Frank Darby, WR, Falcons
The Falcons have to take to the air. It's in their name. They're birds. Marcus Mariota's only averaging 23 pass attempts and 174 passing yards per contested. Darby was a big-play specialist during his career at Arizona State and could help to round out Atlanta's pass-catching contingent that features Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Bryan Edwards.
7. Fred Johnson, OL, Eagles
Johnson is a larger-than-life blocker from Florida. It feels like that program pumps out plenty of those types, doesn't it? Anyway, the 6-foot-7, 330-pounder with an incredibly long reach went undrafted in 2019 despite a quality final season with the Gators and popped up on the PSPR on occasion over the past few years.
Now, I know what you're thinking -- the Eagles don't need any offensive line reinforcement. Well, while that's undeniably true in regards to the starting unit, Johnson can be the consummate extra blocker to step onto the field in jumbo-package situations.
6. Juanyeh Thomas, S/LB, Cowboys
The Cowboys have had some run-stopping issues of late. They've surrendered at least 130 yards on the ground in each of the last five contests -- I know, total yards aren't the ultimate determining factor in run-defense quality -- but anyone who's watched Dallas attempt to halt the run of late can clearly see there are problems.
That's where Thomas can come be of service. An oversized safety at Georgia Tech, he routinely thumped downhill on run plays in the ACC. At just under 6-1 and 212 pounds, he's closely sized to most linebackers in today's NFL and was super active in his final season for the Yellow Jackets with 76 tackles and five tackles for loss in 11 contests.
5. Jermar Jefferson, RB, Lions
The Lions are working D'Andre Swift back into the lineup. Slowly. Very slowly. Jamaal Williams is a workable backup, yet No. 3 runner Craig Reynolds just went on IR. Jefferson is a vision-based runner with impressive contact balance who rushed for nearly 1,400 yards at 5.8 yards per as a freshman at Oregon State and maintained similar efficiency his entire collegiate career.
4. Jashaun Corbin, RB, Giants
I've loved witnessing the Saquon Barkley Comeback Tour. Just like you have. But the Giants are extraordinarily Barkley-reliant on the ground. Daniel Jones is second on the team in rushing with 363 yards. Matt Breida is third in rushing yards with 73 total yards. And I don't want to see Barkley wear down -- although his legs should be fresh -- as the season progresses. Corbin was a shifty, decently explosive rusher at Florida State. Let's get him into the Giants' backfield rotation.
3. Cade Johnson, WR, Seahawks
Johnson was the Deebo Samuel of the FBS while at North Dakota State. He was a weapon underneath and in the jet-sweep game because of his immense YAC ability and made routine snags down the football field. Johnson had back-to-back 1,200-plus yard seasons and scored 17 touchdowns in 2018. Geno Smith's been tremendous this season yet could use another bouncy wideout to pair with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in Seattle.
2. Deven Thompkins, WR, Buccaneers
Thompkins had five catches for 53 yards -- including two contested-catch wins! -- during the 2022 preseason. He's also a Brady-type, too, in that he was a 0-star recruit when he joined the Utah State program in 2018. Brady loves an underdog's underdog, and that's precisely what Thompkins is. Lastly, Tampa Bay could use more juice at receiver, especially given how pedestrian the offense has been of late. He has 4.44 speed, had a 38.5-inch vertical and a 132-inch broad jump at his pro day.
1. Josh Johnson, WR, Lions
Yessir, another Lions receiver at No. 1 in The PSPR. D.J. Chark and Jameson Williams are close to returning but are probably a few weeks out yet. And I vividly remember the job he did on the Ohio State secondary in Tulsa's outing in Columbus last fall. In that game, Johnson had eight grabs for 149 yards and a score. He glides on the field as a savvy and deceptively smooth athlete despite his lanky frame. He ended the season on a tear with three consecutive games with at least six catches and 115 yards.
Johnson was a stat-sheet filler at Marshall with 302 tackles, seven picks and 19 pass breakups in five seasons. He can man the nickel corner spot. Free safety. Strong safety. He tackles well and plays with authority on every snap.
Prince Emili, DT, Saints
Earlier this season, while with the Bills, Emili had a key tipped pass that led to a Jordan Poyer interception in Buffalo's huge comeback win over the Ravens. The Penn grade is a twitchy up-the-field, no-hesitation rusher -- the exact type of player New Orleans could use on its defense right now.
No idea is a bad idea when it comes to how to fix the run game. Now, of course, a running back himself cannot single-handedly fix an NFL team's rushing attack. But it won't hurt to incorporate the small, ultra-shifty Patterson into this offense, although the inspiring return of Brian Robinson Jr. to the lineup has certainly helped boost the run game.
Brooks was a late bloomer at Cincinnati but may boast the most dynamic purely pass-rushing three technique in the 2022 class. I mean that. On just 304 pass-rushing snaps, Brooks registered 43 pressures, thanks to an awesome blend of first-step quickness, leverage and power at the point of attack.
Hawkins steadily got better as his role increased at Michigan, and he finished with a 63-tackle, three-tackle-for-loss, four-pass-breakup, two-forced-fumble stat-stuffing season in his final year in Ann Arbor. The Patriots are dealing with an injury to Kyle Dugger. The time to call up Hawkins is now.