Let me give you a little peek into one of the harsh realities that come as part of being an NFL Draft analyst, a job I never, not for one second, take for granted and absolutely adore.
A lot of times you get blindsided with what transpires on draft weekend regarding a specific prospect. And you have to just roll with it. Let me tell you a story on this. One of the Practice Squad Power Rankings additions this week is Dolphins defensive back Javaris Davis (he was a 2020 member too). And I'll always remember Davis. Why? Well, after an illustrious four-year stint at Auburn, that saw him intercept eight passes -- two each season -- while breaking up 27 others, my layered grading system ranked Davis as the 86th-best prospect in the 2020 class (of course the system simply spits out a number based on me attempting to quantify my observations).
He was a combine invite. At a small-but-not-ridiculously-tiny 5-foot-8 and 183 pounds, Davis ran 4.39 with an average 35.5-inch vertical and an above-average broad jump of 124 inches. He felt like a Day 2 lock, but into my third full draft class with CBS Sports and my seventh full examining draft classes in general, I knew it was conceivable he'd slip onto Day 3. Good film. Good production. SEC. NFL bloodlines. No worries.
Oh and he delivered this hit on Joe Burrow. Still the hardest I've ever seen the now Bengals quarterback get hit.
Davis went undrafted. And, of course, it wasn't the first time a prospect I graded as a Day 2 talent went undrafted. But, for some reason, Davis' plummet -- that to me was completely unfathomable -- stuck with me.
When you scout an entire draft class you have to be prepared for everything. And not just the obvious pitfalls of, say, being totally wrong on a quarterback. You have to enter the ultimate marathon that is draft weekend ready to see one of your draft crushes go in Round 6 and the guy(s) you just didn't see "it" with get picked early in the second. It happens a lot more than you'd think. It's a little jarring, but you know what? A prospect free-falling like Davis did does make him a tremendous PSPR candidate. And stories similar to Davis were part of the idea for The Practice Squad Power Rankings altogether.
And, finally, after waiting as patiently as possible on the Dolphins practice squad all last season, Davis got onto the field for Miami's Week 12 game against the Carolina Panthers. And Davis looked good! He registered four tackles and allowed two catches on four targets for 32 yards.
Hats off to one of my randomly never-forgotten former prospects who can now say he's made an impact in an NFL regular season game. He's back on Miami's practice squad, but, yeah, the Dolphins should give him The Call again.
Heading into the weekend, THE CUT -- aka The Call-Up Tracker -- has gotten stagnant. Still at seven. Use The Practice Squad Power Rankings as a resource, NFL front offices. If I've missed anyone, or you hear of a PSPR member getting The Call, alert me @ChrisTrapasso on Twitter, and feel free to use the hashtag #PSPR. Thank you in advance. Your next drink's on me.
In a sense, I'm running the Practice Squad Power Rankings parallel to the NFL. That means, as was the case last year, I'm not going to feature "veterans." To continue to maintain the PSPR's sterling integrity, I'll only be including practice-squadders who are rookies, second-year players, or third-year players. That's it.
And as you'll see below, I couldn't resist ranking more players, given the increase in practice squad sizes this season. To stay in line with the league's figure, I hope to write about 16 individuals every Friday: 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.
1. Dazz Newsome, WR, Bears
It's going to take more than a first-year cut for me to drop my #TrustTheTape draft crush from the 2021 class. He recovered from a broken collarbone early in the offseason to get limited reps in the preseason. Get Newsome in the slot and let him work, Nagy.
2. Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Vikings
Willekes was the PSPR Cover Guy just a few weeks ago. Dude can get after the quarterback. I'm telling you! Against the Ravens in Week 9, the former Michigan State standout had four pressures of Lamar Jackson. Minnesota is in the thick of the NFC wild card hunt and needs as much pass-rush productivity it can get.
3. Phil Haynes, OG, Seahawks
Haynes is a thick, springy athlete with about as much collegiate experience as humanly possible. I'm actually surprised he's on the Seahawks' practice squad, but Seattle did sign Gabe Jackson this offseason to elevate the floor of their guard position.
4. Javaris Davis, CB, Dolphins
Davis is the cousin of Vontae and Vernon Davis, he was a four-star recruit and actually had seven pass breakups as a redshirt freshman in 2017. He played with a variety of future early-round picks in the Auburn secondary during his time with the Tigers -- Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis, Noah Igbinoghene, Jamien Sherwood -- but for some reason unbeknownst to me, Davis was the one ultimately overlooked.
5. Carson Green, OT, Texans
I had a fourth-round grade on Green just a few months ago. He checked most of the boxes I have for a mid-round blocker who can come in and start right away. And he tested like a high-caliber athlete. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Green went undrafted. But he protected like a -- you guessed it -- early Day 3 pick in the preseason with one allowed pressure on 43 pass-blocking snaps. Naturally, the Texans released him on cutdown day, because Houston is completely set on its offensive line and doesn't need any young and talented blockers. Yeah, right.
6. Rodney Smith, RB, Titans
Smith battled in his college career that spanned six seasons at Minnesota. He stayed for his super senior year in 2019 and ran for over 1,000 yards at 5.1 yards per. He actually eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark all the way back in 2016 too. A boulder of a back, Smith is a powerful one-cut runner.
7. Cade Johnson, WR, Seahawks
The Seahawks are the Patriots of the NFC in that they adore late-round and undrafted free agent receivers. Johnson will be the next against-all-odds story in Seattle, a small, crisp route-runner who's feisty after the catch and hauls in everything thrown in his direction. Sound like any recently productive Seahawks receiver?
8. Ron'Dell Carter, EDGE, Cardinals
With J.J. Watt out for the remainder of the season, the Cardinals could use more pass-rush help on the outside, right? Carter has the girth, leverage, burst, and just enough pass-rush moves to be a productive contributor Arizona. I'm very high on him.
9. David Moore, OG, Browns
Moore is a mauler with a natural center of gravity that offensive line coaches dream about during REM sleep. He was just under 6-2 and 330 pounds at his pro day before the draft. After a dazzling career at Grambling State, Moore got a Senior Bowl invite and thrived in Mobile. He's not going to be the most athletic blocker if you're running a zone scheme, but he's quick enough off the ball to be effective on gap runs, and he's very close to being NFL strong already. Plus, no defensive tackle is going to get up and underneath him to drive him into the quarterback
10. Easop Winston Jr., WR, Saints
Winston Jr. had 137 receptions for 1,624 yards with 19 touchdowns in two seasons at Washington State. And he was so good getting open. To this day, I'm not sure why he was barely on the draft radar in 2020 and why he's yet to appear in an NFL game. He's pretty quick and ran a variety of intricate routes in college. And New Orleans needs a pick-me-up offensively.
Thomas Graham, CB, Bears
Graham was exposed a bit at the Senior Bowl. A lot of (mostly zone) cornerbacks are. But this is a savage defensive back who tallied eight interceptions and 32 pass breakups in his three seasons with the Ducks. What Graham lacks in size and pure explosion he more than makes up for with speedy processing and tenacity.
Baker had three years of solid-albeit-unspectacular production at South Alabama but failed to get named to the hometown Senior Bowl. But at his pro day, he got everyone's attention, running 4.45 with a 39.5-inch vertical and 129-inch broad jump. His slow three-cone placed him in the second percentile among receivers over the past 21 years, but the explosion that was evident on vertical routes and in contested-catch situations in college was clear at his pre-draft workout.
Sullivan was buried on the receiving pecking order at LSU, and the Seahawks tried to morph him into a defensive end after picking him in the seventh round two years ago. Back to his natural position in Carolina, Sullivan has a chance to make a splash without a bunch of stars in front of him. He's 6-5 and 248 pounds with 4.66 speed and a catch radius the size of a Chevy Tahoe.
Jalen Camp, WR, Texans
Camp is about as raw as they come at the receiver position. He spent his collegiate years in Georgia Tech's triple-option based offense and posted solid numbers in 2020 as the program transitioned to a more traditional offensive style. But Camp was picked because of his athletic attributes. At just under 6-2 and 226 pounds -- love that stocky build -- he had a 39.5-inch vertical and ran 4.48. At this point in the season, the Texans should give him an opportunity.
Tyrone Wheatley, OT, Giants
I'm fascinated by Wheatley's journey, from marquee tight end recruit -- who was massive entering the Michigan campus -- to beefed up offensive tackle. The tight end to tackle converts are always compelling to me because the I know athletic traits needed to excel blocking on the edge are there.
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