Teams are always looking for angles and edges in evaluating players for the NFL Draft process. And, the ones that are the most successful are the those that identify something important and stick with the mindset of taking those types of players.
We have written before that the Patriots, the most successful team in the NFL for the last 18 years, used a philosophy for years about identifying players that had been captains in high school or college levels of football. Then, looking to those players in the draft, due in part to their maturity and leadership qualities.
Now, there’s a new trend and not only are most all of the NFL teams are looking for it, but most all of the drafted players have the quality in their background already: they were or are multi-sport athletes.
And a website/service that keeps track of players drafted and their connection to what sports they played previously in high school and maybe, even college, put out some compelling numbers Monday:
29 of 32 (91%) 2018 NFL Draft 1st round picks were multiple sport athletes in high school, 69% participated in track & field, according to @TrckFootball #NFLDraft #multisport #trackfootballhttps://t.co/MObq7SwvfU pic.twitter.com/JDnrqhad3O
— Tracking Football (@TrckFootball) April 27, 2018
So from their research, nine out of ten players taken round one, and eventually, 88% in the day two 2018 NFL Draft Picks, played at least one other sport in high school. That, is an impressive trend.
Specifically for the state NFL teams (Bucs, Dolphins, Jags), here is the lowdown on their top pick and what they played:
Dolphins- Minkah Fitzpatrick- ran track at St. Peter’s Prep in New Jersey
Jaguars- Taven Bryan- not only was part of the two time state championship football team at Natrona County High School in Wyoming, but also was on the track and field team and played varsity basketball, too.
Further, into the second round, the Bucs second round pick RB Ronald Jones (above) was not surprisingly, a 100m and 200m dash star at McKinney North (TX) High School. Jaguars WR D.J. Chark from Alexandria (LA) High School was a sprinter in the 100m and a long jumper in track, who qualified for the Louisiana State Track Championships in that event.
And, as we profiled this weekend, there’s Dolphins second round pick, TE Mike Gesicki, who was a two sport star in basketball and volleyball at Southern Regional High School in New Jersey.
Most of the players that TrackingFootball.com looked into for the first three rounds, participated in either track and field or basketball, as the primary choices. Their study showed that the only top 10 pick, who did not play another varsity sport in high school, was the Cardinals QB Josh Rosen out of UCLA. However, even though he only played football in high school, Rosen had been a rising star youth tennis player before giving up that sport competitively in high school.
In the end, the message should be clear to parents, coaches, etc. who are involved with teenagers: let them try and play more than one sport. And, then, they can figure out what they like the best.
The evidence is overwhelming that it worked for most of the 100 total first-third round picks taken this year.
Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars rookies take part in “Rookie Premier”
The NFLPA hosted members of the 2018 NFL Draft class in Los Angeles over the course of the last three days, With several Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars represented, there were also state school players there, as well.
First, the 40 rookies attended a seminar, and then all got the opportunity to see their jerseys for the first time together:
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) May 19, 2018
For the Bucs, rookie running back Ronald Jones out of USC has now settled on #27, Dolphins rookie TE Mike Gesicki donned his #86 and new teammate RB Kalen Ballage, his #33, and for the Jaguars rookie D.J. Chark saw his #17 with everyone else, too.
Of course, the marquee quarterbacks from the top ten of last month’s draft have and will continue to grab most of the attention.
This included the Browns #1 overall pick, Baker Mayfield, the Jets and their new “savior” in Josh Darnold, Josh Allen of the Bills and Josh Rosen of the Cardinals.
The guys took a group photo Saturday morning:
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) May 19, 2018
Interesting that there were also several state school players who were out in Southern California taking part in the three day event, and also got the same chance to put their new colors on, etc.
One of those is former USF star receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was taken by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round and he was eager to put on social media his first rookie card:
— Marquez V-S (@MVS__11) May 19, 2018
Also in attendance was former Hurricanes now Bengals running back Mark Walton putting on his #32. And former Louisville Heisman quarter back Lamar Jackson, who’s also a former high school star in Boynton Beach, decided to show some dance moves in his video shoot:
I should’ve did the whole thing just gave a little something 😈 pic.twitter.com/yzRC3MTS52
— Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) May 19, 2018
Did Dolphins and Bucs make mistake passing on FSU’s Derwin James?
Granted we are just after the NFL Draft process late last month and no one has played an actual game, but the analysis continues to pour in on players and the teams that drafted them.
One name that keeps coming up under the heading of “steal” in round one is FSU safety Derwin James.
The L.A. Chargers ended up sitting where they were at #17 and got the Noles All American safety to fill a need.
However, as the draft played out, the Dolphins, were not able to grab a quarterback, and decided with the 11th pick to draft Alabama safety/corner Minknah Fitzpatrick.
As we wrote, Fins owner Stephen Ross was apparently against that decision, but was convinced to let his front office make that pick instead of trading down to get more selections.
The Buccaneers could have also taken James after trading down to in deal with the Bills, but Tampa Bay chose Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.
Both clubs have a mix of veteran and young safeties, but you could make the argument that James would be able to step in and make an immediate huge impact in 2018. And, that’s what Pro Football focus discussed Tuesday:
The Chargers landed one of the biggest potential steals of round one when Derwin James fell into their laps. Here's what we thought about that pick and the rest of their draft:https://t.co/8R1P8awyCF pic.twitter.com/0X2nYzvjBP
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 15, 2018
As PFF points out, that 90.6 grade in pass coverage was #1 in their ranking formula for college safeties, and also his overall grade (92.1) on their scale ranked him #2. And as you can see from their info/photo they had James ranked their fifth best player in the entire draft.
You can also see more about what PFF’s analysts think about James’ game translating to the next level and the fit with the Chargers in their video here:
In the Fins case, they went with a player from Nick Saban’s defensive back factory at Alabama. Again, he’s had 10 defensive backs drafted in the first or second round of his Bama tenure. So, you cannot say that was a bad pick, unless Fitzpatrick is terrible/lost (unlikely), and James is tremendous from year one.
In the Bucs case, they drafted a young physical safety in Justin Evans in the second round last year and eventually took another safety, Jordan Whitehead of Pitt, on day three of the draft this year.
So, both teams would tell you that they addressed the need both last year and this year.
Now, will James’ play make them both regret that they had the chance to take him?
We will find out this fall.
Will Mark Walton get significant carries for the Bengals?
When the Cincinnati Bengals selected Mark Walton in the fourth round it wasn’t just for the former Miami Hurricane to not compete for playing time. You have to understand before his ankle injury which cut short his 2017 season, Walton was projected to be as high as a second round pick. Obviously the injury hurt his stock, but he still could play a significant role in his rookie season.
MARK WALTON, Miami (5-9 ½, 202, 4.59, Round 4): Third-year junior declared early even though ankle surgery ended his final season after four games. “He should have stayed in school,” one scout said. “He’s not very good. Just kind of a one-speed guy and gets tackled easily. No elusiveness.” Had a big season in 2016 (1,117). Finished with just 395 carries for 1,995 (5.1) and 26 TDs along with 56 receptions for 624.
That said another scout didn’t hold the same view of Walton at all.
“He’s got a PhD of football,” said another scout. “Poor, hungry and determined.” From Miami. “He’s explosive as heck,” a third scout said. “Just little. Big-play ability. Effective out of the backfield. He can cut and slide at full speed and can outrun the angles.”
Not sure what tape the first scout watched on Walton, it must have been right after he had his first ankle injury last season, where for a few carries he was a little slow. He did end up with over 200 yards on the ground that day. He’s an explosive player once healthy and can find seems and make the long ball runs.
The Bengals have quite a bit a depth now with Walton at running back. Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard are already there. Plus there’s Brian Hill and Tra Carson. One thing that makes Walton valuable is his special teams abilities.
He’s capable of receiving kickoffs and punts, plus he’s excellent on coverage of both. The fact that he’s also a reliable receiver in the backfield also gives him a nice advantage as far as earning playing time. Considering his diverse value, Mark Walton will be making some kind of impact his rookie season, provided he remains healthy. Not sure what the heck that one scout was talking about.
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