It was one for the Practice Squad Power Rankings history books. In Week 8 alone, a record-shattering five members received The Call to the 53-man roster. I soaked it all in with my feet up smoking a cigar as the games kicked off. Not really, but you get how I was feeling.
For the second-straight week, the Bills elevated cornerback Dane Jackson. He didn't get defensive snaps but proudly played on special teams in Buffalo's massive win over the Patriots. In the varsity vs. junior varsity outing between the Chiefs and Jets, New York brought up towering wideout Jaleel Scott, but he was neither a game-day inactive nor did he play any snaps. He got Adam Gase'd. Gang Green lost 35-6.
For a chilly, windy contest in Chicago, the Saints called on PSPR member and mammoth wideout Juwan Johnson for active duty. He caught one pass for five yards but was a wrecking ball as a run blocker at 6-foot-4 and 231 pounds. New Orleans ran it 30 times for 122 yards in the hard-fought overtime victory.
The Vikings have had to dig deep for defensive back help in 2020 given how ravaged with injury their secondary has been, and corner Mark Fields saw his first action for Minnesota in the club's gigantic upset over the arch nemesis Packers. On 15 coverage snaps, he allowed just one reception for 12 yards and had a tackle before puncturing his lung. Ouch.
Lastly, out of the bye, the Dolphins elevated high-energy gap-plugger Benito Jones to get some run on the defensive line against the Rams. He played 12 snaps and didn't make his way onto the stat sheet, but altogether, Miami pressured Jared Goff on a rather high 38% of his drop backs. The veteran quarterback went just 9-of-22 for 90 yards with two interceptions in those situations.
While I'm not expecting five call-ups again in Week 9, with the way injuries have piled up and the impact of COVID-19 on the NFL, multiple members receiving The Call each week will not be surprising.
For those keeping score at home, the PSPR tracker reads 19 call-ups, and we very well could see another wave of call-ups over the weekend.
For those who missed it in the PSPR's 2020 debut, 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. Dane Jackson, CB, Bills
Jackson should've been a PSPR member a lot earlier than this. After all, he was my No. 92 overall prospect in the 2020 class and my 16th cornerback. In Week 7, as a practice squad call-up against a beleaguered Jets team, Jackson had two pass breakups and an interception on a savvy zone sink near the sideline that fooled Sam Darnold. Yes, I know. This is a bit of a cherry-pick. But Jackson was a favorite of mine as a prospect and crushed his time at the Senior Bowl. While not a freaky, super-fast athlete for the cornerback spot, he plays a tick faster due to his instincts and has high-level awareness and ball skills when the pass is arriving.
2. Antoine Brooks, S, Steelers
While Robert Spillane has played well, with Devin Bush out for the season with a torn knee ligament, Brooks is the type of second-level defender Pittsburgh should consider calling up. He looks the part of a trendy safety-linebacker hybrid at 5-11 and 220 pounds. He's not fast -- he ran 4.64 at the combine -- but his short-area quickness and instincts were both outstanding on film at Maryland. Brooks overflowed the stat sheet in 2018 and 2019 with a combined 155 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two picks, and eight pass breakups. He's often the first to (correctly) react to where the offense plans to go with the football and will make plays in coverage at the short-to-intermediate level. And he's a sure tackler. Brooks has the athleticism to sift through the traffic to get the ball carrier too.
3. Benito Jones, DL, Dolphins
Jones popped at the Senior Bowl, and I remember being impressed watching him on the flight down to Mobile, Alabama. He finished as my No. 198 overall prospect in the 2020 class -- ironically one spot ahead of PSPR alum Ron'Dell Carter -- but went undrafted. At 6-1 and 316 pounds with a poor combine performance on his resume, Jones doesn't look like he'd fit in today's NFL. But there is plenty of power in his hands, and some first-step quickness to threaten through one of the middle gaps.
4. Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Eagles
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.
5. Hercules Mata'afa, DL/EDGE, Vikings
A contender for the best name for a defensive player in the NFL, Mata'afa was a fascinating prospect and is still an intriguing player residing on Minnesota's practice squad right now. Regardless of where Minnesota aligns him before the snap, Mata'afa has the juice to threaten the foot quickness of offensive linemen.
6. Geno Stone S, Ravens
Stone as a difficult evaluation this past draft season because his film showed a savvy zone-based defensive back with impressive range and playmaking ability in coverage and as a box defender. Then, at 5-10 and 207 pounds at the combine, he had a dreadful performance across the board. His best percentile finish among safeties in officially recorded combine history was 27th, a 4.62 time in the 40-yard dash. Unsurprisingly, Stone lasted until the seventh round. He's yet to see the field for Baltimore, but his name just sounds like a good Ravens safety, doesn't it? Stone plays faster and more explosive than his combine indicates, anyway.
7. Juwan Johnson, WR, Saints
Johnson has a fascinating story. It seems like he was in college for a decade because there was draft buzz for the 6-4, 230-pound wideout after the 2017 season -- his redshirt sophomore year -- when he caught 54 passes for 701 yards with a score. Unfortunately, his statistics dipped in each of the following two seasons but, after a transfer to Oregon, Johnson did have four touchdowns in his final collegiate campaign. He had a flair for the dramatic catch and had a three cone drill of 6.94 seconds at his mammoth size. He could be a fun big slot receiver in New Orleans.
8. Kalen Ballage, RB, Chargers
If you read Practice Squad Power Rankings a few weeks ago, you know everything you never cared to know about Ballage. He needed a change of scenery and had to move across the entire country to free himself from Adam Gase with the Jets and any residual Gase aura still floating around in Miami.
9. Saquan Hampton, S, Jets
After Saquon Barkley went No. 2 overall to the Giants in 2018, 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.
10. Deontay Burnett, WR, Eagles
Burnett was one of my first draft crushes, someone who finished as a second-round talent on my first Big Board at CBS Sports in 2018. At USC, he often was Sam Darnold's first read. In 2017, he caught 86 passes for 1,114 yards with nine touchdowns. He's a small but sudden slot wideout who can separate underneath and at the intermediate level. Why did I like him so much more than your average inside receiver? Burnett played bigger than his nearly 6-0, 186-pound frame. No pass was seemingly too far out in front of him. Burnett has played sparingly through two seasons, but later in his rookie season, he was elevated to the Jets active roster and demonstrated he still had a connection with Darnold. He had a four-catch, 61-yard effort in late October and a five-grab, 73-yard performance against the Patriots to end the year. Burnett's gotten called up this season but now as the Eagles get healthier at receiver, the chance he gets another call is slim..
Jaleel Scott, WR, Jets
Scott, originally a fourth-round pick by the Ravens, 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.
Brown wasn't in my Top 150 back in 2018, because the more tape I watched, the less impressed I was with Brown. But I'm including him in this week's PSPR because I remember he was a five-star recruit -- the top defensive tackle in the country in 2014 -- and he had strong practice sessions at the 2018 Senior Bowl. And scouts and GMs love strong showings at the Senior Bowl. Brown didn't test well at the combine despite carrying the "raw athlete" label, but there is some pop in his hands and he plays quicker through a gap than his workout numbers indicate.
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.
Apparently, in the most Seahawks move ever, Sullivan is practicing as a defensive end and tight end in Seattle. Of course, Sullivan didn't receive many targets in 2019 at LSU given the presence of Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Terrace Marshall, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the roster. He's a fine candidate to be a better pro than he was a college player because of his size/speed combination and the fact he's playing with Russell Wilson, probably the best deep-ball thrower in the NFL. Sullivan blew away everyone at the Senior Bowl by continually winning down the field then ran 4.66 at 6-5 and 248 pounds at the combine. There's not much nuance to his game right now, but Sullivan is magnificently long -- 35 3/8-inch arms -- and can really run.
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.