Akin to many 0-2 NFL teams right now, it looks like The Practice Squad Power Rankings needs a shake up.
Week 1 PSPR member Zonovan Knight, who I removed before Week 2, was called up to the Lions 53-man roster before Detroit's second game of the season last Sunday. Damn. I'm adding that as half an elevation to the Call-Up Tracker, which now sits at 0.5 entering Week 3's Call-Up Saturday. But not one legitimate call up through two weeks? Evolving quickly is a must.
You can always trust I'll stay true the the core values of The PSPR, and in this case, I'm referencing that I'll only write about practice squad players I remember scouting and liked/loved during the evaluation process, or those who've already proven to be competent as professionals. It'd be easy to inflate the Call-Up Tracker by only hand-picking players at positions in which teams are dealing with injury, but what fun would that be? No fun at all. I'm here to hype, campaign, and push for the players I genuinely believe can contribute off the practice squad!
Now, am I strategic with placement into the PSPR at times? Of course. Strategizing like Kyle Shanahan over here. For example, when a team is laboring through a litany of, say, receiver injuries, heck yeah I'm going to suggest the two practice-squad wideouts who were former draft crushes of mine. Ab-so-lutely. It would be doing a disservice to the NFL, you know, with all the GMs reading the PSPR to help them guide practice-squad elevation decisions each Saturday.
We need what has become an elusive first official elevation of the 2023 season. Gotta have it. That's why I've made widespread changes to this week's PSPR, which of course, you'll find below.
Famous Practice Squad Power Ranking alums like Saints TE Juwan Johnson, Ravens cornerback/safety Ar'Darius Washington, Buccaneers wideout Deven Thompkins, Cardinals center Hjalte Froholdt, and Giants receiver Isaiah Hodgins (among many others) have all graduated to become important mainstays on the clubs' respective 53-man rosters and contribute in their own ways each weekend. Remember that.
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 and write about 16 individuals every Friday, 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.
Further: To get back to the true origins of The PSPR, which were to highlight young players, I won't be featuring "veterans" this season. Selecting someone like Phillip Dorsett -- currently on the Broncos practice squad -- would not embody the fundamental intention of The PSPR.
So for the sake of The Practice Squad Power Rankings' dignity, I'll only be including practice-squaders who are rookies, second-year players, third-year players, or fourth-year pros. Players drafted from 2020 on. That's it.
What I'm asking of you as a loyal PSPR patron -- alert me on X/Twitter @ChrisTrapasso if you see a tweet about a PSPR getting The Call so I can add to The CUT.
Here's to a bounce back from an arduous start to the 2023 season and a wild ride of a season here at The Practice Squad Power Rankings as we continue to carve our own niche in the Internet's ever-expanding football-media industry.
10. Marquis Hayes, OG, Cardinals
It was a rollercoaster of a preseason for Hayes, who struggled mightily against the Broncos but was brilliant in the second exhibition outing against the Chiefs. That inconsistency is likely what led to his current status on Arizona's practice squad. And that's fine. I know he has the balance and low-center-of-gravity power to be a swing interior blocker for the Cardinals as they navigate this rebuilding season.
9. Logan Bruss, OG, Rams
Bruss feels like a sizable draft miss for the Rams, as he was snagged in the third round a year ago and is only on the practice squad to begin his second NFL season. Let's not forgot he tore his MCL and ACL before his rookie campaign, so his maturation process was delayed. And with Bruss, the Rams have a unique former Wisconsin blocker. Not a stiff, powerful run blocker who tries to win with torque and leg churn. He's a highly capable athlete who excelled as a run and pass blocker in college.
8. Trey Sermon, RB, Colts
What a strange start to Sermon's NFL career. A third-round pick by the 49ers, set up to star in Shanahan's offense. Then he got in the doghouse and was hardly let out. Sermon finished his San Francisco tenure with just 41 carries to his name. Last year in Philadelphia, two carries for 19 yards. This is a highly athletic power back with plus vision to sneak around amongst the trees between the tackles, and Indianapolis is featuring mostly unproven runners in the backfield right now.
7. Matthew Butler, DL, Raiders
A fifth-round pick by the Raiders just a year ago, Butler should be on this 53-man roster already. It's The Maxx Crosby Show through two weeks, and not much else defensively. Butler's Tennessee film had me instantly writing "plays with his hair on fire," thanks to his intense motor and powerful hands at the point of attack. Las Vegas needs another jolt along the defensive line, Butler can provide that.
6. Jaret Patterson, RB, Chargers
Austin Ekeler was dynamic to start his 2023 campaign -- 16 carries for 117 yards and a ground-game touchdown along with four receptions for 47 yards -- but injured his ankle and didn't play for the Chargers in Week 2 against the Titans. His backup, Joshua Kelley also was productive against Miami and there's 2022 fourth-round pick Isaiah Spiller on the roster. Los Angeles would be smart to think about elevating newly signed Patterson -- a lateral dynamo -- for that third-down, pass-catching back role.
5. Brandon Joseph, S, Lions
With Chauncey Gardner-Johnson out for a while with a torn pectoral muscle, Detroit's secondary depth -- which is quite good -- will now be tested. For added insurance, they should look to Joseph, a rookie who had a stellar career at Northwestern before transferring to Notre Dame for his final collegiate campaign in 2022. He didn't test particularly well at the combine, yet the film showed a heady three-down back-end defender. He had 10 interceptions and 155 tackles in his final three seasons in college.
4. Seth Williams, WR, Jaguars
Williams is a classic, big-bodied, physical boundary wideout who saw a plethora of future NFL cornerbacks in the SEC while at Auburn. While he did flame out at Denver -- with brutal quarterback play there I must add -- he had seven grabs for 109 yards in the preseason with Jacksonville this August and registered 10 catches for 104 yards with a score with the Broncos in three exhibition games a year ago.
With Zay Jones ailing, this is the outside wideout Jacksonville should turn to in Week 3.
3. Jeremiah Moon, LB, Ravens
Moon should not have gone undrafted. A travesty, really. At a somewhat spindly 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds, Moon nearly jumped out of Lucas Oil Stadium with a 41-inch vertical and 11-foot-1 inch broad jump. Ba-nanas. At Florida, he was Gumby-like around the corner, and while he cleary must add weight to his lower half for more torque generation, his explosiveness and hand work are legitimate assets to his game right now. He'll eventually make an impact around the corner in Baltimore. Or somewhere else.
2. Raymond Johnson III, EDGE, Lions
Of course, the PSPR were born out of an innate desire to highlight underappreciated players, and it's hard to get more underappreciated than Johnson. A Georgia Southern alum, he's right around 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds and went undrafted in 2021. Since then, he's rocked in three-consecutive preseasons with eight pressures in each of them. In 2023, the wins were outrageously good. The Bengals decided against keeping him, and, astutely, the Lions jumped on the chance to obtain his services. Johnson simply knows how to beat blockers with calculated pass-rush moves and leveraged power.
1. Darius Rush, CB, Chiefs
Do the Chiefs need cornerback help right now? No, not necessarily. Did I love Rush as a prospect? Majorly. I can feel the adrenaline surging through my body as I'm preparing to type this sentence -- Rush is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound SEC cornerback with arms nearly 34 inches long who boasts 4.36 speed. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. OK, so he allowed some catches in the preseason. I do not care. In his last two seasons at South Carolina, Rush countered the six touchdowns credited to his coverage area with 15 pass breakups and three interceptions. He was built to play boundary corner in the NFL.
Whiteheart was a blast of a YAC specialist at Wake Forest over the past few years, and he flashed in the preseason. The Cardinals roster is the most underwhelming in the NFL, so don't be surprised if he's one of the first call-ups of the year.
Lonnie Phelps, EDGE, Browns
The Browns don't appear to need defensive line help whatsoever after their demolition of the Bengals offensive front to start the season. But if they do so happen to want an outside pass-rushing jolt, Phelps is waiting patiently on the practice squad. At Kansas in 2022, after amazing quarterback-disrupting productivity at Miami of Ohio, Phelps was again a menace around the corner. I love his ability to use powerful hands while bending the edge.
Cropper was a tiny, bouncy, big-play waiting to happen at Fresno State in 2022. He had 80-plus grabs in each of his final seasons for the Bulldogs and scored 16 touchdowns. Being that productive of a touchdown-creator at 5-foot-11 and 172 pounds indicates Cropper is a gifted separator. That indication is correct. He's sudden at all three levels.
Rayshad Nichols, DT, Ravens
Nichols is a wide-bodied force on the interior. He just feels like a Ravens defensive tackle. He did miss some tackles in the preseason, but I love his ability to shed blocks and get upfield when needed at 6-foot-3 and 305-310 pounds.
Patmon was a seventh-round pick by the Colts a few years ago, and has an intriguing size-speed profile at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds with 4.48 speed. In Buffalo this summer, Patmon enjoyed a strong camp, as he had three grabs for 35 yards and touchdown against his former team to begin the preseason.
Austin Watkins Jr., WR, Browns
Watkins led all players in receiving yards during the regular season, and I remember him being a blast at UAB. Decently twitchy -- despite a blah workout -- Watkins can eventually contribute for someone this season. He's strong in contested-catch scenarios, too.