It was a blur of activity over the course of Thursday-Saturday nights in the NFL Draft and for players from the state of Florida, some heard their name early in the process, and others had to wait later. Some, much later.
Here now is our quick look back at what we feel were the important points from the selection process.
The first: S Derwin James of FSU
James was taken with the 17th pick overall by the L.A. Chargers. After some debate about whether he would last outside of the top 10, James fell right to an AFC West team in need. James comes from a long list of Florida State defenders who have made impacts at the next level. Let’s see how quickly he can help in Hollywood.
The most impressive: UCF with four players in the top 150 picks
After speculation that he might start falling due to character concerns, CB Mike Hughes was taken 30th by the Vikings. Then with WR Tre’Quan Smith (91st to the Saints) pictured above, Jordan Aikens (98th to the Texans) and then, Shaquem Griffin (141 to the Seahawks) clearly showed that they belong with the power programs in the state in terms of talent. As in, the NFL thinks so, too.
Out of the group, it might be the most fascinating to see if Tre’Quan Smith comes in and flourishes with the Sean Payton/Drew Brees offense, first.
The most shocking: WR Antonio Callaway, Florida
We had wondered after his flunked combine test for Marijuana, if talented Callaway would free fall all the way out of the draft. Well, leave it to the always adventurous and comical Browns to take the risk. They drafted the disgraced Gators receiver with the fifth pick of round 4 (#105). Cleveland has another new GM, John Dorsey, and he and his staff had some extra picks to work with, and they made the most of it.
Still, Callaway is a mystery, in that he never set foot on the practice, much less game, field for the Gators last season. The Browns are rooting for him to be motivated to prove the doubters wrong.
Smartest decision: DT Taven Bryan, Florida, turning pro
Bryan ends up a first round pick (great money) with a team/roster on the rise in Jacksonville. He has a great chance to succeed without pressure on his to made a huge impact in year one. It could not have worked out much better for him, including thousands of Gator fans who will be in his corner just north into Duval County on Sundays this fall.
Dumbest decision: WR Auden Tate, FSU, turning pro
After running a slow time in the forty at the NFL Combine and being less than stellar in his workouts, it held true that Tate didn’t go early, or even, middle of the draft. Instead, he went in the 7th round to the Bengals at pick 253. At that point, he was probably better off not getting drafted that late in the final round and being able to pick his situation as a rookie free agent. Alas, the Bengals grabbed him very, very late. Tate might have been better served to come work with Willie Taggart and staff in Tallahassee instead this season.
Best chance for a later round pick to flourish: WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, USF
He has great size 6’5 and speed to burn. And, having a Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers to throw to you means Valdes-Scantling (5th round, #174) gets a great chance to improve. And, other weapons like WR’s DeVante Adams, and Radall Cobb will help take some of the pressure off the bigger Valdes-Scantling to get open and succeed. And, hey, Marquez gets to keep his green and gold scheme, too.
Just some of who did well, and whom can do it better starting, now, with their new club.
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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