Thomas Graham Jr.'s NFL debut against the Vikings warmed my soul.
One of my largest 2021 draft crushes turned fixture of this season's Practice Squad Power Rankings FINALLY got an opportunity -- on a Bears team rife with issues at cornerback all year nonetheless -- and looked like a damn All-Pro against Justin Jefferson and the rest of Minnesota's pass-catching contingent.
Three pass breakups -- one a near highlight-reel diving interception in the end zone -- to go along with seven total tackles. Masterful.
On cornerback scouting in general: it's extraordinarily difficult. To be able to discern the difference in football quickness, hip fluidity, and the other physical traits needed to be a legitimate NFL prospect at the position is a challenge. Why? Because they're all quick and flip their hips faster than Doja Cat.
However, the production at cornerback can't be ignored. I always pay close attention to it. I'm not advocating we should all box-score scout and be done with it, but if you're a collegiate cornerback, like Graham was, with 32 pass breakups and eight interceptions in three years, you can play. Period.
He proved as such Monday night against the Vikings. Zone awareness, ball skills, leaping ability, recovery skills -- Graham put it all on display for the entire football-watching country to see. As the PSPR founder, it was glorious. And it's a reminder to all you NFL GMs out there reading The PSPR each week: give these members an opportunity!
Heading into the weekend, THE CUT -- aka The Call-Up Tracker -- has gone off the charts. And I love it. Graham, Dazz Newsome, Willie Snead, Hjalte Froholdt and Ronald Blair. Oh, and I originally missed Phil Haynes getting the call in Week 14. That makes 15 call-ups this season. If we can get to averaging one per week by the end of the regular season, I'll be ecstatic.
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.
With COVID-19 running rampant, I've decided to continue the more accepting PSPR. All players, regardless of how many seasons they've been in the league, are eligible, although I will lean toward those in their first three seasons as professionals.
1. Nick Mullens, QB, Browns
Mullens stepped into a difficult environment and was halfway decent for the Browns in the crushing defeat at the hands of the Raiders on Tuesday. Was he phenomenal, an obvious upgrade over Baker Mayfield? No. But 20-of-30 for 147 yards (not great) with a touchdown was respectable. Mullens has proven he can be a low-end starter or high-caliber backup.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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. Cornell Powell, WR, Chiefs
Powell is a big body at the receiver spot who the Chiefs could use. Of course, he'll really be needed if Tyreek Hill can't go on Sunday against the Steelers. A one-year wonder at Clemson, Powell excels in the back-shoulder game and is deceptively fast down the field for a thicker receiver.
7. Hjalte Froholdt, OG, Browns
Froholdt is strong, balanced, and equally as good as a pass blocker as he is for the run.
8. Pharoh Cooper, WR, Giants
I remember loving Cooper's film at South Carolina back in the day (see: six years ago). He's bounced around the league, and was even a first-team All-Pro return man in 2017 with the Rams. There's still some juice in those legs, and the Giants just lost Sterling Shepard last week.
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.
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.
Darwin Thompson, RB, Buccaneers
Giovani Bernard went down with an injury in the Buccaneers' win over the Bills in Week 14, and 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.
Kawaan Baker, WR, Saints
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.
Stephen Sullivan, TE, Panthers
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.
Luq Barcoo, CB, 49ers
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.
Jeremy Reaves, S, Washington Football Team
Reaves is a PSPR OG, as I remember placing him on the list many times during its inaugural season in 2019. He's gotten a few calls in his day, and has mostly impressed. The Football Team could do a lot worse at safety, and that position has been a problem this year.
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