Merry Christmas everyone and Happy Holidays! I wanted to wait until after the first wave of bowl games before publishing this piece to see how the players listed below performed, and let me tell you, they didn’t disappoint.
In this article I wanted to stray away from the group of guys that the media and Twitter seemed to have latched themselves upon. Instead, I wanted to explore some of the more under-the-radar guys who might go in the mid-rounds and who fit Ballard’s profile for good prospects.
Feel free to leave comments with the names of players you want me to look at. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Damonte Coxie, WR
Weight: 197 lbs
Statistics: 68 receptions (T-34th) for 1,144 yards (15th) and 9 TD (T-29th)
Cotton Bowl Classic (vs. Penn State): 8 catches for 138 yards
Before I tell you how much I absolutely love Coxie, let me explain to you how I grade college WRs:
- Fundamental ability to catch balls
- Route Running
- Everything else (speed, height, leadership, stats, etc.)
The reason I grade this way is because if you can’t catch the ball you can’t be a receiver in the NFL. I don’t care how high you jump, how fast you run, how crisp your routes are, if the ball hits your hands and then hits the ground on a constant basis you’ve got to go. Then comes route running because it’s the one attribute all great WR have.
Steve Smith Sr., a route running connoisseur, put it best when he said “kids nowadays don’t run routes anymore, they run towards areas”. If you can create separation with your route running you will be an instant play-maker. Everything else are just add-ons that enhance your receiving ability and let you further elevate your game.
Now let me tell you about Coxie.
If I could build a plug-and-play WR for the Colts it would be Coxie. From a measurements standpoint, he hit the jackpot. Tall enough to be able to make a play on 50-50 balls but not so tall that he only relies on jump balls for yardage. Lean but not muscular. Strong but not bulky. A seasoned vet that has back-to-back seasons with more than 1,100 receiving yards. Fast enough to gain separation but not so fast that the only routes he knows is the go and fade. He’s got good, big hands that let him snatch balls out of the air with one hand and he seldom ever has concentration drops.
Nice one-hand catch by Memphis' Damonte Coxie. pic.twitter.com/MW4YDQmWKw— handlit33 (@handlit33) November 3, 2019
There are some questions about his draft outlook because he has yet to declare for the NFL draft, saying he instead wants to focus on his upcoming bowl game (Cotton Bowl vs. Penn State). He does have another year of eligibility left and amongs most draft pundits he isn’t generating a lot of buzz (currently he’s usually in the 15-22 range for WR in the 2020 draft and has a 4-6th round grade).
Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t be mad with Ballard taking him mid Round 3.
Still, Coxie has told media that he’s leaning towards returning for his redshirt senior season and that him and Brady White have to talk about their future plans.
- Maybe be the best run blocking WR in the draft
- Great character, good locker room player, culture builder
- Good height, speed, hands, effort
- Great route runner
- Fast release and can gain separation off LOS
- Best games are under brightest lights
- Can high-point the ball
- Might not declare. If he does, maybe waiting hurts his chances of Senior Bowl appearance.
- Played in AAC against sub-par talent
- Great Bowl game performance.
Jonah Jackson, LG
Weight: 303 lbs
School: Ohio State University
Unlike most people, I actually don’t believe that Mark Glowinski is a tremendous offensive liability that must immediately be replaced. While he is easily the weakest link, he plays among a formidable bunch and in my eyes he is still an average to slightly above-average right guard. However, the Colts are the only team in the NFL who have had the same 5 lineman start every game this season. That not going to happen on a regular basis going forward and building depth in the trenches is a must.
Into the picture comes Jonah Jackson, a player who I absolutely love and is very much a “Ballard guy”. He played for Rutgers for four years until this year when he came to Ohio State as a graduate transfer. There he placed himself among the best Guards in the nation.
Along with Wyatt Davis (who I also like but as a RSo might not declare) and Josh Myer they constructed an elite IOL that allowed OSU to carve up teams. He has received a Senior Bowl invite so make sure to keep an eye out for him there. Mobile will be a pivotal place for him to separate himself from the pack as most NFL scouts are lukewarm on him, giving him a 4th-to-5th round grade.
He would be an absolute steal in that range as a freakishly strong Guard who needs to polish his technique a bit and play with a slightly lower center of gravity. However, after the first 3 rounds, you’re looking for imperfect players who could develop and bloom into starters/rotational players. Jonah Jackson is exactly that.
- Coaches 1st team All-Big Ten
- Has absolute clamps for hands. Once he gets his hands on your inner pads it’s over
- Might be a bit holding/penalty prone in the NFL
- Plays too upright. Leads him to have less lateral mobility, leverage and strength. Makes it that much more impressive that he can stop guys even thought he’s standing up.
- Great football IQ, can see stunts develop and can block in the second level when asked to pull
- Fits a lot of Ballard’s boxes (great culture guy, 5 year player, Senior Bowl, transferred up)
Mekhi Becton, LT
Weight: 369 lbs
Becton is a behemoth of a man. If I turned on Louisville’s game film and told you to find the largest individual on the field you would easily point out Becton. As a Junior he’s already declared for the NFL draft, with most people ranking him in the 3-10 range for his position. The variance is due to the fact that he has the God-given tools to be a Pro-Bowl caliber LT, but he’s still a little bit raw from a technique standpoint. He rarely ever engages with defensive linemen, instead electing to push them, something that will work against small ACC defensive ends but not against freak athletes at the next level.
Secondly, Becton looks like a deer in headlights when he’s blocking at the second level. Absolutely and utterly lost. Often time he’s just running aimlessly forward looking for someone to block while corners and safeties zoom past him to take down the ball carrier. Furthermore, he’s a bit too heavy. People outside Louisville are unsure where he weights in the 340 to 370 range, but if he wants to be an early Day 2 prospect he needs to get sub 345. For reference, Castonzo is 6’7’’ and 305 pounds.
Finally, Becton tends to give up on plays a little too early. His body language conveys exhaustion as the game progresses, probably due to his ridiculous size.
Still, all these critiques are easily solvable. The technique can be easily tweaked so that instead of pushing defenders as they approach him Becton engages and grabs their pads. The weight issue will likely go away once he is under the watchful eye of the team nutritionist and he can dedicate himself full time to getting into shape.
The reason I’m absolutely in love with Becton however, is not just his size but his ability to move. He has a fast kick step off the LOS and his lateral movement would have you think he weights 60 pounds less. Usually when you have a OT as big as Becton there tends to be a red flag the size of Texas because while they’re strong as a bull, they can’t move. That’s not the case with Becton, which makes him one of my top OTs in this draft class.
Louisville OT Mekhi Becton announces that he will forego his senior season and enter his name into the 2020 #NFLDraft— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) December 16, 2019
At 6-7, 360, he’s a mammoth sized OT prospect that packs a powerful punch. pic.twitter.com/6mc03wbWqi
- Freak athlete, looks like a man amongst boys.
- Impossible to bull-rush him
- AMAZING kick step for a player his size
- Might as well work at IHOP. Kid is a pancake machine (30+ that I’ve seen)
- Needs to get his hands on players instead of just pushing them
- There have been some questions about his weight. Did get body-fat down throughout his college career
- Big time upside (Pro-Bowl/Top 10 LT). Low-ish floor considering he will go in the top 70.
- Gets tired easy (due to weight).
- Well below-average when it comes to blocking DBs at the second level.
- Much better in pass pro (0 sacks in 568 snaps) than run blocking.
- Better at run blocking when he leverages DEs towards the guard than when he has to block them outside.
One last pancake before you go.