Tom Brady does a lot on the football field. Something he does not do is discriminate against short receivers.
In fact, I'll argue that what Brady has adored more than anything else in his two-decade long NFL career is... short pass catchers! From 5-foot-10 Troy Brown to 5-9 Deion Branch and then of course to the not-quite 5-9 Wes Welker and 5-10 Julian Edelman to 5-11 Danny Amendola and the countless checkdowns to 5-8 Kevin Faulk, 5-9 James White, and 5-7 Dion Lewis, Brady clearly as an affinity for targets under 6-0.
If there's one quarterback who can be trusted to feature the short receiver and routinely throw with surgical accuracy to those types, it's Brady. He's done those things his entire NFL career.
Which is precisely why the Buccaneers should not only feel comfortable but compelled to elevate just-shy-of-5-7 wideout Deven Thompkins from the practice squad right this very instant. OK, so Mike Evans is back from suspension this week, which alleviates some of the pressure on the passing game. And Julio Jones should play against the Chiefs after missing the last two weeks, but he's 33 and dealing with a partially torn PCL. But there's been no indication of Chris Godwin returning anytime soon from the injury he suffered Week 1 against the Cowboys.
In the Bucs' Week 3's home loss to the Packers, Russell Gage led the team with 12 catches for 87 yards. Yes, a 7.3 yards-per-catch average. Altogether, Tampa Bay's backup wideout group struggled against a stingy Packers secondary. Not totally shocking. But I was expecting a little more from the likes of veteran Scotty Miller, who had one catch for four yards. Heck, 33-year-old Cole Beasley was sitting on his couch Tuesday then was targeted four times on Sunday against Jaire Alexander and Co. He's 5-8; no wonder Brady pushed the Buccaneers to sign him!
With Thompkins, Tampa Bay would be getting a young and fresh, awesomely springy wideout who went for 1,704 yards on 102 receptions last season at Utah State. He's not necessarily a YAC specialist -- only eight forced missed tackles in 2021 -- but there's serious burst to his game, and he runs crisp, sudden routes. Plus, Thompkins dropped just five passes on 161 targets. Brady would love Thompkins' reliability.
He ran 4.44 and registered an enormous 11-foot broad jump at his pro day. And those workout metrics translated to the most receptions of 20-plus yards in FBS last season (24). And guess what? The Buccaneers only have eight offensive plays of 20 or more yards through three contests. Just eight teams have generated less.
It's time to give the explosive and diminutive Thompkins an opportunity. Brady might pepper him with 10 targets in his NFL debut.
The PSPR call-up trackers is buzzing. We're at six call-ups on the young season (!), including three heading into Week 4. Let's keep it rolling, NFL front offices.
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.
But I'll always stay true to the origins of The PSPR, which were to highlight young players. That means I won't be featuring "veterans" this season. Selecting someone like Josh Gordon - currently on the Titans 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 2019 on. That's it.
As always, I'll track every single PSPR member who gets The Call -- aka elevated to his respective team's 53-man roster on gameday. At that stage, said player moves from being a PSPR member into the exclusive Practice Squad Power Ranking alumni fraternity. The running count will be known as the "Call Up Tally" or "The CUT" for short.
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.
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10. Josh Johnson, WR, Lions
My ears perked when I saw the tweet about Johnson being added to the Lions practice squad. 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. I'd like to see even more weaponry for Jared Goff in Detroit.
9. Netane Muti, OL, Broncos
Muti was my No. 1 interior offensive lineman in the 2020 class. Mind you, it was not a stellar draft at those positions, but the effortless people-moving capabilities and balance in pass pro and for the run game appealed to me with Muti more so than anyone else playing guard or center. He went in the sixth round and has battled injuries early in his career. However, last season, the former Fresno State stud got an opportunity and shined in his final two starts, allowing one pressure on 61 pass-blocking snaps. Now, Muti underwent knee surgery recently, but his initial time frame to return was three-to-four weeks, and Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett announced it a month ago. If Quinn Meinerz's injury lingers, Denver has the perfect stand-in for the guard job.
8. Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Bills
Hodgins had to have been one of the Bills' final cuts after the preseason he pieced together. He had 16 grabs for 124 yards and a few of those receptions were of the highlight-reel variety. A sixth-round pick in 2020, Hodgins got early buzz as a rookie in training camp before two injuries derailed his debut NFL season. He spent the 2021 on Buffalo's practice squad, and now finally healthy, he showcased to Buffalo coaches the amazingly good ball skills he repeatedly demonstrated during his illustrious career at Oregon State. At 6-4, he'd give the Bills major size out wide.
7. Jayden Peevy, DT, Titans
Peevy had a long and reliable career at Texas A&M battling against powerful centers and guards in the SEC, and he's a specimen at nearly 6-6 and 310 pounds with arms over 35 inches. He uses those tentacles outstandingly against the run, to keep blockers off his chest before dispatching them en route to the ball-carrier. Peevy plays more athletic than his combine would indicate, with good range between the tackles. Tennessee has quality players inside along their defensive line, but Peevy can add more sturdiness on the interior if needed.
6. Tyler Shelvin, NT, Bengals
D.J. Reader will be on the shelf for a while with injury -- who isn't injured in the NFL today?! -- and he's been a flat-out stud in all phases for the Bengals to begin the season. Now, I'm not attempting to put massive pressure on Shelvin to replace the impact Reader has on a game. But the former LSU product is an enormous, athletic nose tackle on the Bengals practice squad ready to be called upon in this very scenario.
5. Ar'Darius Washington, DB, Ravens
Washington can be the Ravens multi-dimensional weapon in the secondary, and Baltimore's scheme asks a lot of its defensive backs. Cover the slot one play, range deep down the field the next. He can do it. And it'd help Washington's transition playing with veteran Marcus Williams at the other safety spot.
4. Tom Kennedy, WR, Lions
There's a saying that a team ultimately becomes an embodiment of their head coach. Kennedy is the receiver version of Dan Campbell. This is a 5-10, 190-ish pound former undrafted free agent from Bryant College who roasted NFL cornerbacks in the preseason to the tune of 16 catches for 143 yards with two touchdowns. Gritty. Football. Guy. Kennedy can give the Lions a two-headed monster in the slot with Amon-Ra St. Brown. He just needs to get THE CALL.
3. Zonovan Knight, RB, Jets
Knight only averaged 3.8 yards per carry in the preseason I'm fine with that. He had no business going undrafted out of NC State, where he was bounced his way to three consecutive 700-plus yard seasons at 5.5 yards per and did accumulate 31 yards on four rushes in the preseason finale for Gang Green. This is compact runner with an exquisite blend of power through contact and elusiveness to avoid said contact in tight spaces.
2. Travis Fulgham, WR, Packers
Fulgham, man did he ever get a raw deal over the past few seasons. And we're a game away from everyone in Wisconsin losing their minds about the youthful Packers receiving corps that's not quite on the same page as Aaron Rodgers. Now, sure, Fulgham and Rodgers don't have a connection. Yet. Fulgham is at least experienced and feels like a relative unknown Rodgers would gravitate toward after a couple of beautifully executed back-shoulder grabs.
1. Deven Thompkins, WR, Buccaneers
What more can I tell you about Thompkins? How about that he 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.
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.
White was the No. 1 junior-college running back recruit in the class of 2020. On 88 totes for South Carolina last season, he averaged 6.6 yards per. And, on film, his juice jumps off the screen. Dynamic cuts, Tesla-like acceleration, power through contact. It's still a shock he went undrafted. I guess teams like to see more of a workload in college for a runner? I love the minimal wear on his body. The Dolphins have Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds in their backfield. White can step in and contribute in Year 1. He's very talented.
We have Mercer on the PSPR board! Poe, a Mercer alum, was a wrecking ball in college, and he tested like a high-caliber athlete at the Georgia Pro Day. Yeah, the Bulldogs gave him the opportunity to showcase his skills, and he thoroughly impressed. Poe feels like an athletic brawler of a guard Kyle Shanahan will eventually get the most out of in San Francisco.
The Commanders are averaging 3.5 yards per carry through two contests. 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, particularly if the coaching staff is not going to trust J.D. McKissic to handle any normal running back duties. He forced four missed tackles on his 16 attempts during the preseason.
Brooks was a late-bloomer at Cincinnati but may have been 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.
OK, Curtis. You get one more opportunity on The PSPR. An enormous draft crush of mine just a few years ago, Weaver broke his foot while training before the start of his first NFL season, and he's never been quite the same dynamic, bendy rusher he was at Boise State, when he was a fixture on the stat sheet with a litany of pressures, tackles for loss, and sacks.