Yes, this came out December 1, but all of the work was done in November!
This is not going to be an in-depth series on the capabilities of players. Rather, I'm just using this space to make some quick notes on a few guys who have caught my eye as I watch tape this College Football season. This isn't meant to be a "stand on soapbox" for these players. I've watched at least three games on each of the players. What I saw I thought was special enough that it deserved letting other people know about.
To stick with the theme, I'm only going to Pick 6 players to talk about this month's discussion. I'm also going to limit myself to guys who are juniors or seniors (and have a real chance of being in the 2024 Draft).
If you have other guys that you want to discuss, leave them in the comments below
With the pleasantries out of the way, let's get into this . . .
RB Ray Davis (Kentucky):
We are likely to loss Zack Moss this offseason, as he has earned the opportunity to get #1 touches. His replacement could be found in the draft in 5’ 10" 216 lb. Kentucky RB, Ray Davis. Davis’s physical profile is ideal for the modern NFL, as he is more compact and harder to tackle. He can do a little bit of everything. You need power, he can do that. You need a back with vision for zone plays, he can do that. Want some "wiggle" or "moves" in the open field, he has shown it. Need a competent receiver out of the backfield, he can do that too. In fact, this might be an underutilized part of his game. Davis has good but not great long speed, but he shows great acceleration. He’s had some wide open holes to run through this year, but Davis is hitting them hard and running with power. He isn’t really phased by contact, so he easily generates extra yards. I think Davis will be—at minimum—Jordan Howard and maybe a David Montgomery type of back in the NFL.
I really love what Davis did against Florida this year as emblematic of his game: Ray Davis v. Florida (2023).
WR Silas Bolden (Oregon State):
At 5’8", 157 lb., he's a slot guy, right? Wrong! Boldin is a really good route runner with good vertical speed. Bolden shows a lot of the same traits as Tank Dell--amazing agility / short-area quickness; good route running; and solid hands. Like Dell, Bolden rarely has a defender within 2 yards of himself when he catches the ball. Bolden likely has better deep speed than Tank Dell, and I think Bolden adjusts to the ball well, like Downs does. Like Dell, if you put Bolden in motion, no one is touching him. Reports say that Bolden has really long arms that permit him to play bigger than he is. Yet, I also think that Bolden is a lot like TY Hilton too, in that both could succeed in a variety of WR roles and are not confined to the slot. The best part about watching Bolden is that he has a "Little Man" complex and is looking to prove himself on every play. He is a willing, though physically limited blocker. He is also a very capable returner (averaging 23 yards per punt return—limited sample size—and 25 yards for his career on kick returns). Bolden is also used as a jet motion rusher, and his versatility is what further makes me believe that he can find a home in the NFL.
Isaiah McKenzie is not under contract for 2024, per OTC and Spotrac, despite initial reports on his contract calling his signing a two-year deal, and I could see Bolden easily filling that role.
This game vs. Utah really made me see Bolden’s value: Silas Bolden v. Utah (2023).
TE Brevyn Spann-Ford (Minnesota):
After covering a shrimp, let’s go for a giant next! At 6’7", 270 pounds, Spann-Ford is a massive player, but he is still a great athlete. With (1) CB’s penchant for RAS, (2) drafting TEs, and (3) MAC being on the final year of his contract, it seems very likely that Spann-Ford could garner a lot of attention from the Colts. Spann-Ford really should have come out last year when Tanner Morgan graduated, but BSF returned thinking that he could be a focal point of the offense and boost his draft stock. While Minnesota has tried making him such, the rest of the team has really faltered this year—leaving BSF’s production, overall, down. BSF is an Academic Big Ten Player for 4 years running.
He is a unique TE, who is a good (but not great) run blocker, and he is at his best in-line at the Y. As an H-back, he shows the raw power to drive guys two yards off the ball but can struggle to play with the same leverage when moving in space on slice blocks (where it’s harder for a 6’7" guy to break down as easily).
I don’t love BSF’s hands, and he will need to clean them up to get a larger amount of reps in the NFL; he also needs to handle contact at his legs better for a man of his size. He shows a surprisingly strong capacity as a route runner when put in the slot or put out at flanker. Minnesota would line him up on the backside of 3 x1 sets, by himself, to see how the defense would matchup, and BSF looked pretty good running slants against LBs and safeties.
Overall, BSF is a bit of a conundrum, but he is one that I fully believe is worth taking a risk on in Day 3. Bring him in to provide an immediate TE2 role and hope he develops into your full-time Y-TE, while also using him as a matchup piece.
Check out the 2022 Highlights to get a better feel of why I’m a believer in BSF: Brevyn Spann-Ford (2022 Highlights).
DT McKinnley Jackson (Texas A&M):
A combo defensive tackle, who can play both Nose and 3T well. When getting one-on-one opportunities, McKinnley uses his athleticism to either: (1) slant causing disruption or (2) jolt the guard back and hold the LOS. I love the way that Jackson reads the play after establishing position and how he disengages from blocks. When taking on double teams, he shows a strong ability to anchor down and not be moved. He flashes upside as a rusher too (both with his athleticism and with a highlight worthy spin that he can use when playing from a wider 4i alignment). When he gets one-on-one opportunities against guards, Jackson also shows a really nice bull rush. A team, like the Colts, that wants to slant and stunt a lot, while only rushing with 4, are really going to like Jackson's versatility.
Grover is technically in the last year of his contract, and he could get a high value contract elsewhere next year. Ade Ade strikes me more as a 3T, where Jackson would give the Colts a more true NT capability. Jackson would be asked to push Eric Johnson heading into next year for DT4/DT5. I'm assuming Taven Bryan will be brought back, if his pricetag is reasonable, so Jackson would then have an eye toward replacing Taven Bryan in 2025 (at minimum). I really hope the Colts are prioritizing bringing back Grover to play the Nose; but if they don’t, I do think Jackson could learn on the job with some hiccups along the way.
This junior year highlight reel demonstrates Jackson’s ability to work as a slanter, spin as a rusher, pop with power, and disengage. The tape this year continues to show the same: McKinnley Jackson (Junior Highlights).
CB Khyree Jackson (Oregon):
The 6’3", 195 lb. corner (with good length, vertical speed, and jumping ability to match) will be a Ballard and Gus Bradley darling. Jackson excels in press coverage—whether press man or press bail Cover 3. When he gets his hands on the WR at the line, there is little that a receiver is going to do in the route. The only significant loss that I saw in three games was when Jackson failed to press at the line and instead tried to just turn and run with a speedier receiver for 40 yards.
Jackson understands football and plays very assignment sound. You regularly see him communicating with teammates, passing off a receiver leaving his zone. He handled his assignments against the PAC-12’s best (Bolden, Polk, Williams, Rice, and Odunze) very well this year. But, in playing assignment sound football, he is sometimes willing to give up receptions on plays underneath. If you believe in "bend but don’t break" defense, you can live with this. If you believe in a "fight them every down" defense, you may be a little more frustrated with him. Technique-wise there are a few things to clean up—especially when playing off, but they are the same things that most bigger CBs have to work on when entering the NFL.
The main drawback on Khyree is that he is not that active in the run game—hopefully the Colts’s culture of rallying to the football would motivate him a little more. It’s not to say that Jackson is unwilling—watch the firtst half of the Utah game. Jackson is an excellent blitzer as a CB—his size and length cause huge problems whenever he blitzes. Jackson merely doesn’t always exhibit a high level of desire consistently.
With Moore and Baker’s contract’s expiring and Flowers coming off injury, the Colts need to be looking at the CB position, despite having two younger players (Brents and Jones) that they are excited about. I think Jones could move inside and play slot if asked to, which would leave Jackson competing for a boundary CB position.
Here is some video to get you excited: Kyree Jackson v. Colorado (2023).
S Tyler Nubin (Minnesota):
Do you love bigger, hard hitting safeties? Nubin (6"2", 210 lbs.) is for you! The four year starter plays a myriad of roles for the Gophers’s defense, but I can’t decide where I like him the most. As a boundary and free safety, he flashes his ability to hit with power in the run game. He is such a good tackler and diagnoser of action (and sifts through traffic so well), that I would almost consider asking him to put on 10 more pounds to play the WILL. Nubin regularly rotates to FS spot post-snap and shows good range to make plays on deep thrown balls.
I’m not quite sure that I would want him matching up on pure vertical speed threats, but Nubin is not slow by any means. He reminds me a bit of Talanoa Hufanga, in run defense play style, but I think Nubin is better as a pass defender.
With this being the final year of Julian Blackmon’s deal; Nick Cross still not seeing a lot of snaps (meaning he doesn’t have the coaches’ trust); and Rodney Thomas being a question mark (with his moderate sophomore slump), it could make some sense to add Nubin to the safety room.
Nubin’s highlight package shows off the hitting ability really well: Tyler Nubin Highlights.