Practice Squad Wide Receivers Matter. I need to slap that on a T-shirt. Seriously.
Last night, in one of the more compelling Thursday Night Football games I can remember, the Packers got four receptions and 30 yards from practice-squad call up Juwann Winfree. Those figures came in a contest that featured an uncharacteristic performance from Aaron Rodgers. He finished with a yards-per-attempt average under 5.0 for just the 11th time in his illustrious tenure as the Packers starter.
Winfree was the leading yardage accumulator at the receiver position for Green Bay in Week 8, which of course was helped by the fact that Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling were sidelined. Winfree's effort piggybacks off last week's illumination of more-than-just-capable practice squad running backs, and boils down to this -- ancillary production in the NFL can be generated by simple opportunity.
Plug in your hungry practice squad wideout who's been going hard during the week, give him some looks as either the first or second read on a pass play, and he will make an impact. Trust me.
Therefore, to push forward the Practice Squad Receivers Matter movement, I'm giving a little extra attention to those wideouts patiently waiting on practice squads across the league, who I am absolutely positive could provide, at the very least, a Winfree-esque performance if called upon.
Dazz Newsome needs a chance in Chicago. He ascends the rankings this week because, well, the Bears need to do things differently on offense. My 4 year old can see that. And Newsome is a young quarterback's best friend. He can get open in a hurry underneath, and his YAC abilities can turn three-yard routes into 10-yard gains.
I feel similarly about Seahawks rookie receiver Cade Johnson, and how he could help Seattle's anemic Geno Smith-led attack. He's a compact, crafty route runner with just enough juice needed to generate sizable gains on high-percentage throws.
Added to The PSPR for Week 8 is Kawaan Baker of the Saints, a seventh-round selection in April. The Saints are another NFC team that, my word, must make some changes offensively. They're unrecognizable. The Bears are averaging 124.4 passing yards per game, which feels like a misprint. The Saints are 31st in passing yards per outing, at a pedestrian 176.2. Sean Payton cannot be happy.
And hats off to New Orleans for grinding out wins during this aerially challenged period. But they have the Buccaneers, Bills, and Cowboys within their next six games. They're going to need to crank things up on offense or they'll get their doors blown off.
Heading into the weekend, THE CALL -- call-ups from The PSPR list -- remains at five. We've hit a little snag. Derrek Tuszka in Pittsburgh. Hjalte Froholdt from Houston to Cleveland. Cam Lewis with the Bills. Kenny Robinson and James Wiggins last week.
If 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. As a refresher, teams can have up to 16 players on the practice squad with up to six "veterans" on it, players with no limitations as to their number of accrued seasons in the NFL.
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. Phil Haynes, OG, Seahawks
Haynes was Seattle's fourth-round pick in 2019, and after beginning his rookie season on PUP due to a sports hernia surgery, he was thrust onto the field in the Seahawks' wild-card round win over the Eagles in Philadelphia. And he looked solid! He spent most of last season on IR with another injury, but he's healthy now and was dominant -- mostly against backups -- in the preseason. Plus, he tested like a highly explosive guard prospect at the combine.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Charles Snowden, EDGE, Bears
Snowden is impossibly long at over 6-foot-6 with 34-inch arms. He's essentially the size of some of the longer offensive tackles in the NFL, except he's probably playing somewhere in the 240s. So he clearly needs to add weight. But Snowden understands how to use his length to keep blockers from obliterating him. At Virginia, he had 28.5 tackles for loss in his final three seasons. The Bears have two high-end edge players in Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. But Snowden can be a hybrid overhang player to create even more mismatches for Chicago's defense.
5. Cam Lewis, CB, Bills
The Bills grabbed Lewis from nearby University at Buffalo during the undrafted free agency frenzy immediately following the 2019 draft. And he's quietly gone about his business in two preseasons by allowing just 91 yards on 10 receptions, and he's clung to a practice-squad spot in Buffalo because he's a super-steady tackler in space. Head coach Sean McDermott loves that from his corners.
6. 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?
7. Gerrid Doaks, RB, Dolphins
Doaks' yards-per-carry averaged dipped in each of his three seasons with the Bearcats, but the 5.9 yards-per-carry clip as a freshman indicates he's had "it" from a young age. And his film was loaded with seriously powerful finishes through contact. Plus, he's a reliable receiver, and the Dolphins utilize their backs as pass-catchers often.
8. Ron'Dell Carter, EDGE, Cardinals
With J.J. Watt out for the monstrous Week 8 outing, why didn't Arizona give Carter a shout? I know, they don't play the exact same positions, but the Cardinals needed as many pass-rushing bodies as they could get for their matchup against Aaron Rodgers. The Call was never made, and, Arizona lost. SMH. 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. Spencer Brown, RB, Panthers
Brown had a long and illustrious career at UAB. He brought a solid 4.7 yards-per-carry average in 858 carries across four seasons into the NFL. He's a hybrid-type back who's not incredibly shifty nor overwhelmingly powerful, but there's some juice in his lower half and he can occasionally make tackle attempts look extremely weak.
10. 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.
Moore is a mauler with a natural center of gravity 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.
Holyfield averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 20 totes this preseason in Philadelphia and 4.0 yards per with the Panthers in 2020. He's a compactly built, decently shifty back with light feet and good vision. The Bengals backfield's a little banged up right now. Holyfield can help.
Olaijah Griffin, CB, Bills
I had a late fifth-round grade on Griffin after a steady career with the Trojans in Southern California. He had nine pass breakups in 2019 and three more in a shortened 2020 campaign. He's a fluid mover with serious striking ability when planting and driving on the football.
In the preseason, he accumulated 97 yards on 20 carries with a score, and three of those 20 carries went over 10 yards. And it's not as if he's only a low-volume scat back with fantastic speed. Hawkins toted the rock 264 times at a 5.8 yards-per-carry clip in 2019 at Louisville. He plays bigger than his size too.
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.
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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