How Deandre Baker landed with the Chiefs just one year after being picked by the Giants in the first round has all the ingredients to be a hit Netflix series someday. New York released him almost immediately after his involvement in an alleged armed robbery in the offseason. He was facing a minimum of 10 years in prison if convicted. But on Nov. 16, the charges were dropped against him and the victims' attorney was charged with extortion.
William Dean, the representation for three men who accused Baker of the armed robbery at a house party in Florida, told Baker's attorney Bradford Cohen that statements would be recanted for a price. According to the New York Post the financial demand started at $1.5 million and was negotiated down to $800k before the extortion charge.
Suddenly, the dark legal cloud evaporated over Baker's head. But he was without an NFL job -- for less than a week. On Nov. 19, Baker was signed to Kansas City's practice squad and was one of the easiest No. 1 picks for the Practice Squad Power Rankings in PSPR history.
In the 2019 class, Baker was my No. 2 cornerback, and I compared him to Tre'Davious White, a smooth, scheme-versatile cornerback with all the tools to be an All-Pro. Now, I will say, Baker's rookie season paled in comparison to the one White had in 2017. However, Baker started to the look like the lockdown corner he was at Georgia over the final six games of the seasons with five pass breakups in that span.
And now he's part of the reigning Super Bowl champs, and No. 1 in the PSPR. Things are looking up for Baker after a nightmarish few months.
There was just one call-up last week -- Andrew Brown got snagged from the Bengals practice squad by the Houston Texans before their Thanksgiving smackdown of the Lions in Detroit. For those keeping score at home, the PSPR tracker reads 33 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. Deandre Baker, CB, Chiefs
While it may take a week or two for Baker to learn the nuances of the Chiefs' scheme, he's as talented as anyone in Kansas City's cornerback room and will be fresh for the latter part of the regular season and playoffs, a nice boost for the Steve Spagnuolo's defense.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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."
6. Cohl Cabral, C, Texans
I remember watching Cabral at Arizona State and being enamored with how well he moved at the guard position. Now he's a center, which makes perfect sense. Houston's playing better football now and just brought in the undrafted free agent this week. If there are any dings up front, the rookie has the athleticism to be a productive stand-in.
7. 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.
8. 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.
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.
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.
The Buccaneers just aren't the same when Ali Marpet isn't on the field. The veteran guard is one of the better players at his position and Tampa's depth behind him has been disastrous in relief appearances this season. I'm not insinuating Molchon absolutely would be better than the previous Marpet replacements, but it might be worth it giving him a shot at this point.
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.
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.
Prince Tega-Wanogho, OL, Egales
Early in the 2020 pre-draft process, there was an early-round buzz for Wanogho. Injuries led to a precipitous fall to the sixth round, but the tools are there for the Nigeria-born former Auburn star to ultimately be the bookend tackle to Andre Dillard in Philadelphia, a club that's been outstanding at the tackle positions for a while now. Wanogho plays with requisite knee bend, so he's not easily fork-lifted by smaller rushers, and he's explosive off the snap and in the screen game. With better punch timing and added weight, he can be a consistent pass-protecting tackle in the NFL. This season, he'd mostly be useful getting to the second level in the run game.