I watch Practice Squad Power Rankings alumni like a proud parent sitting in the stands of their son's first NFL game. And with 17 call-ups in the last three weeks, I've been crying tears of joy every Sunday of late. Now, a chunk of the PSPR belongs full-time to their respective team's 53-man roster. Magnificent. For as much as I love adding someone to the PSPR, the ultimate goal is to watch them make plays in a meaningful game.
So, let's run through recent performances of some of the most decorated PSPR alumni, which were integral to them sticking on the game-day roster.
Chargers running back Kalen Ballage had 18 carries for 68 yards and added another 34 yards on five grabs in Los Angeles' loss to the Dolphins in Week 10. As an injury replacement for Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, the former PSPR cover guy has amassed 186 yards on 40 touches in two games
Steelers defender Antoine Brooks played 28 snaps against the Bengals in Week 10, his first time getting action on defense in the NFL. And his versatility couldn't have been more obvious. Brooks played 19 snaps as a slot corner, five on the line of scrimmage as an outside linebacker, two as an outside corner, and even one at free safety. Just like he was at Maryland, Brooks was ev-ery-where.
Vikings defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa has registered 10 quarterback pressures in his last 67 pass-rush snaps over the past three games (since initially receiving The Call), good for a hefty 14.9% pressure-creation rate. He has two sacks on the year and is starting to produce like the small but powerful player he was at Washington State.
Buffalo corner Dane Jackson, called up for another outing against a high-flying offense, played well beyond his seventh-round draft status once again. In the first half, he knocked away a jump-ball fade to DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone. He also recovered a fumble and allowed just three catches for 27 yards on four targets. Even when the Bills cornerback group gets healthier, Jackson deserves more playing time and is likely to get it.
Forget the Madden Curse. I'm starting the PSPR Cover Guy Blessing movement. Ballage, Mata'afa, Brooks, and Jackson all graced the cover of PSPR this season, and all are thriving.
For those keeping score at home, the PSPR tracker reads 32 call-ups, and we very well could see another wave of call-ups over the weekend.
This year, I'm only including practice squadders who are rookies, second-year players, or third-year players. That's it. And it aligns perfectly with my niche area of expertise because the 2018 draft class is the first I fully evaluated as CBS Sports' NFL Draft analyst.
And as you'll see below, I couldn't resist ranking more players, given the increase in practice squad sizes this season. To run parallel with the league's figure, I hope to write about 16 individuals every Friday, 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.
1. Jaleel Scott, WR, Jets
The Jets should completely be in play-young-players mode, and Scott is only in his third season. He really hasn't gotten a chance to play much in the regular season either. Originally a fourth-round pick by the Ravens, he essentially had a redshirt year to get stronger as a rookie, then in Year 2 led the Ravens in receiving during the preseason. Scott is nearly 6-5 and 218 pounds and excels when he needs to extend to make a catch outside his frame.
2. Josiah Coatney, DT, 49ers
Coatney was the other Ole Miss defensive tackle on the draft radar a season ago -- the initial one behind Miami's Benito Jones. Coatney was a late add to the Senior Bowl and impressed me in one-on-one drills with his low-center-of-gravity push and pop on contact because of his quick first step. He looks stockier than 6-3 and 308 pounds and isn't anything close to a rare athlete for the position. But I believe he can generate some disruption if given an opportunity on San Francisco's defensive line.
3. Hakeem Butler, TE, Eagles
Mr. Butler is back on the Eagles practice squad after two weeks on the 53-man roster and just one target to show for it. He's a tight end now, so there should be better matchups for him against linebackers and safeties inside of ultra-twitchy corners who can stay in his hip pocket. Philadelphia's getting healthier now at receiver and tight end, but I still believe Butler can make plays after the catch and when Carson Wentz simply throws it up to him.
4. Will Clapp, C, Saints
Clapp was my No. 107 prospect in the 2018 class after a long and reliable career at LSU with the Tigers. A mostly poor combine led to a drop to the seventh round. His film was clean as a while. I gave New Orleans an "A" for grabbing him as offensive line depth at No. 245 overall, writing the following in my live draft grades: "Very experienced, more of a technician than spectacular athlete. Sturdy against bull rushes. Can be susceptible to counters. Accurate at the second level."
5. Juwan Johnson, WR, Saints
Johnson has a fascinating story. It seems like he was in college for a decade because there was draft buzz for the 6-4, 230-pound wideout after the 2017 season -- his redshirt sophomore year -- when he caught 54 passes for 701 yards with a score. Unfortunately, his statistics dipped in each of the following two seasons but, after a transfer to Oregon, Johnson did have four touchdowns in his final collegiate campaign. He had a flair for the dramatic catch and had a three-cone drill of 6.94 seconds at his mammoth size. He could be a fun big slot receiver in New Orleans.
6. Saquan Hampton, S, Jets
After Saquon Barkley went No. 2 overall to the Giants in 2018 another Saquan went No. 177 overall to the Saints. Hampton enjoyed a productive career as a do-everything safety at Rutgers that largely went unnoticed because it coincided with the program's entry into the Big 10. He had 13 pass breakups, three picks and 64 tackles in his final season with the Scarlet Knights before rocking at the 2019 Senior Bowl en route to winning Player of the Week down in Mobile, Alabama. Then, at the combine, he ran 4.48 at just over 6-1 and 207 pounds. He deserves a shot on the Jets defense down the stretch.
7. Sewo Olonilua, RB, Cowboys
Zeke Elliott should be a little healthier now, and Tony Pollard proved he can shoulder the load in Dallas' lead back isn't 100%, but I'm throwing Olonilua here because he's a large, athletic back who deserves some burn down the stretch for the Cowboys. At 6-3 and 232 pounds, he had a vertical in the 70th percentile and a broad jump in the 80th percentile at the combine. While never a star at TCU, he demonstrated the ability to make defenders miss well for a big back when he wasn't running through them. I'd like to see him be the hammer to lighten the workload for Elliott over the next two months.
8. Raequan Williams, DT, Eagles
After Derrick Brown, Williams was the best pure run-stopping defensive tackle in the 2020 class. Just devoured inside run plays with an awesome blend of balance, strength, block-shedding ability, and the quick reaction to know in which direction to remove those blocks. Philadelphia's defensive line is sturdy but is fresh off a game in which it allowed 151 yards to on the ground to the Giants.
9. Beau Benzschawel, OG, Lions
Benzschawel was a draft mirage during the 2019 process. He entered his final season at Wisconsin with loads of early-round buzz, and had a strong senior season. He mostly looked the part at the Senior Bowl. Then he went undrafted when two of his teammates, Michael Deiter and David Edwards got drafted. Mostly being a technical run-blocking specialist likely precipitated the fall out of the draft entirely, but Benzschawel has the polish to be, at the very least, an adequate stand-in for the time being.
10. Mike Love, EDGE, Bills
I remember watching Love late in the 2018 pre-draft process and loving what I saw. The summary of my evaluation of him was as follows "strong, well-built defensive end with good suddenness but not the ability to sustain speed chasing from the backside. Uses his relatively heavy hands well as a pass-rusher and when shedding against the run." And Love had seven pressures in three preseason games in Buffalo last year. Buffalo has a collection of edge rushers in front of him who play in a heavy rotation, but if there's ever a need at the position, Love can produce in a limited role.
Brown wasn't in my Top 150 back in 2018, because the more tape I watched, the less impressed I was with Brown. But I'm including him in this week's PSPR because I remember he was a five-star recruit -- the top defensive tackle in the country in 2014 -- and he had strong practice sessions at the 2018 Senior Bowl. And scouts and GMs love strong showings at the Senior Bowl. Brown didn't test well at the combine despite carrying the "raw athlete" label, but there is some pop in his hands and he plays quicker through a gap than his workout numbers indicate.
Clemons was a late watch for me and instantly found himself inside my Top 175. Talk about coverage range and ball skill as a safety, Clemons has both, and they were on full display in a very productive career at SMU. After three interceptions and 18 pass breakups in his first three years with the Mustangs, Clemons hauled in four picks and defended nine passes as a senior. In my notes I wrote "keenly aware of route concepts and where the next progression may be, so he routinely finds the football."
Duke Williams, WR, Bills
Williams was signed by the Bills in early January of 2019 to one of those futures contracts that are almost always overlooked and lead nowhere. But the physical rebounder made the team, scored a game-winning touchdown in a vital win over the Titans in Tennessee and had four catches for 49 yards in Buffalo's playoff defeat at the hands of the Texans. He can play and saw his first action -- albeit very limited -- in Buffalo's Week 7 win over the Jets. But no targets.
Motley was my No. 249 prospect on my 2020 Big Board, and while I obviously didn't love him as a prospect, I felt he deserved to be included in my Top 250. Truthfully, he was a very difficult evaluation. All Motley did was make plays on an otherwise brutal Oklahoma defense in his career with the Sooners. He registered 33 pass breakups over his last three seasons in Norman and snagged six picks. In 2019, he forced five fumbles. Incredible. But he's small and tested very poorly at the Oklahoma Pro Day. I don't know if he has the physical tools to contribute on a steady basis in the NFL. But I know Motley's instincts and ball skills can translate.
Apparently, in the most Seahawks move ever, Sullivan is practicing as a defensive end and tight end in Seattle. Of course, Sullivan didn't receive many targets in 2019 at LSU given the presence of Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Terrace Marshall, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the roster. He's a fine candidate to be a better pro than he was a college player because of his size/speed combination and the fact he's playing with Russell Wilson, probably the best deep-ball thrower in the NFL. Sullivan blew away everyone at the Senior Bowl by continually winning down the field then ran 4.66 at 6-5 and 248 pounds at the combine. There's not much nuance to his game right now, but Sullivan is magnificently long -- 35 3/8-inch arms -- and can really run.
J.R. Reed, S, Rams
Reed has NFL bloodlines -- his dad Jake Reed was Cris Carter's sidekick for a period in Minnesota -- and the former Georgia safety has similar speed when ranging from the deep middle in coverage. He intercepted five passes and broke up 14 more in three years with the Bulldogs and is a big safety at 6-1, 202. There's not one area in which he particularly excels. Reed's specialty is that he's extremely well-rounded in all phases of the game.