A bunch of NFL teams are scrambling. Scrambling to find eligible players to suit up for a pivotal Week 15 amid COVID-19 outbreaks popping up around the league this week.
And because of the craziness occurring roster-wise, I feel compelled to call an audible at the line of scrimmage. For this week -- and hopefully this week only -- I'm opening up the prestigious Practice Squad Power Rankings to all players, regardless of how many seasons they've accrued in the NFL. Have to do it.
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. And, don't worry, as soon as things subside on the COVID-19 front in the NFL, we'll be right back to only highlighting young players in the PSPR. However, I have an inkling the expanded practice squad sizes and rules might be here to stay. I'll reconvene in the offseason to determine the best course of action for my passion project.
Therefore, instead of focusing on a specific player this week, I'll kindly ask you to scroll down to see which veterans made this special edition of the PSPR.
Heading into the weekend, Kenny Willekes remains the recent savior of THE CUT -- aka The Call-Up Tracker. He was the ninth call up of the season when he was elevated in Week 14 and had a solid outing in the very Vikings-esque win over the Steelers last Thursday night. 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.
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. Golden Tate, WR, Titans
Yes, Tate is employed by the Titans in the Year 2021. Awesome. The 33-year-old was useful the past two years with the Giants, and while he's not as explosive as he once was, he still has some YAC specialization to his game. With A.J. Brown still on the shelf, the Titans should give Tate an opportunity.
4. Willie Snead, WR, Panthers
In New Orleans and Baltimore, Snead was that possession slot receiver I believe every team needs. Because he's never been an intimidating athletic specimen, he's bounced around a bit. And with the Panthers current two-quarterback system that includes Cam Newton who was just signed a few weeks ago and former undrafted free agent P.J. Walker, they could use more talent at receiver to complement D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson.
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. 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 its guard position.
7. Hjalte Froholdt, OG, Browns
Cleveland is one of the team's hardest hit by COVID-19 heading into Week 15. Now's the perfect time to give Froholdt an opportunity at guard if star blocker Wyatt Teller can't go. Froholdt is strong, balanced, and equally as good as a pass blocker as he is for the run.
8. Darwin Thompson, RB, Buccaneers
Giovani Bernard went down with an injury in the Buccaneers' win over the Bills in Week 14, while he was used sparingly, we know Tom Brady loves the small, water-bug pass-catching backs to dump it down to in a pinch. That's precisely what Thompson can be for this offense.
9. Tony Jefferson, S, Ravens
Jefferson's been around forever, and he's always been productive when on the field. The Ravens are reeling slightly after back-to-back AFC North defeats. Given his vast experience and athleticism, Jefferson can be a valuable piece in Wink Martindale's blitz-happy defenses that adore the blitz.
10. Ronald Blair, DL, Jets
Blair has a unique body type at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds with the strength and length to win on the inside of a defensive line. He has 34-inch arms! There's a nonstop motor to his game, and he was a productive rotational piece in San Francisco before landing with the Jets.
Thomas Graham Jr., CB, Bears
Graham Jr. 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 Oregon. 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.
Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Bills
With Emmanuel Sanders down for a few weeks with a knee injury, the Bills may be looking for more receiver help, and while they have Isaiah McKenzie and Marquez Stevenson technically ahead of Hodgins on the roster, the former Oregon State star would provide Buffalo with the size and large catch radius its high-level receiver group doesn't have right now.
Barcoo had nine interceptions and 16 pass breakups in his final season at San Diego State. That's otherworldly ball production. He's a little lanky but plays with good burst and, as evidenced by that masterful campaign in 2019, is very aware when the ball is arriving. The 49ers could use more productivity in their secondary.
Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Browns
On the surface, Weaver feels like your classic fifth-round underachiever who was generally liked much more by #DraftTwitter than the NFL. And maybe that was the case -- I had a first-round grade on him. However, a broken foot before the start of his rookie season provided Weaver with a gigantic setback he was never able to recover from as a member of the Dolphins.
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