We’re going to keep adding names to this IDP report over the final month of the season. We’ll start with adding candidates in the order we’re perceiving them and then eventually assigning numerical values when the list gets up to 15-20+ names.
LB Jatavis Brown, LA Chargers (2018: Age 24, Free Agent 2020)
I don’t know what the hell has happened here. One of 2-3 best rookie defenders in the NFL in 2016, out of nowhere (except to us). He then starts out 2017 as one of the leagues leading tacklers and is his usual collector of tackles (several 10+ tackle games) and showing great coverage in the pass game. A few weeks into this season, he has his snaps cut in half…he was kinda banged up so there was an excuse…but then he apparently loses his job -- for reasons, I cannot get a straight answer on. He’s too good to be benched.
At some point, Brown will either reclaim his job or get it due to injury and then be a monster in IDP again – or you wait until he is traded or leaves in free agency in 2020…a long time to wait. He’s too good/great to just disappear like this. When/if he gets back in he’s instantly a top 10 IDP linebacker…so you’re holding a nuclear bomb just waiting for LAC to hit the detonator.
LB Dylan Cole, Houston (2018: Age 24, Restricted FA 2020)
The most physically gifted defensive player I’ve seen from this 2017 rookie class on tape in the preseason. I liked some of his work from his college tape and then loved his measurables – 4.54 40-time, 32 bench reps, 39.0” vertical, 6.82 three-cone…but it was his preseason tape that changed everything.
Cole looked like an athletic OLB that I wasn’t sure if he’d be a safety or an OLB. He bulked up to move to ILB and I couldn’t believe my eyes watching him in the preseason. I’m not sure I’ve seen any rookie linebacker move that fast and be that aggressive at ILB.
Cole forced his way onto the Texans’ roster and then into playing time in the regular-season and all he does is make plays – in limited time this season he has 2 INTs, a TD return, and a couple of 5 tackle games…playing part-time. He’s been banged up so he’s off the radar. I’m telling you – this is as good as it gets. You are talking about a Jatavis Brown-esque superstar out of nowhere coming here. A guy who can get to tackles quickly, but is also a menace getting into the backfield and in coverage.
I suspect he’ll be a starter in 2018 for Houston…and that will start with more work late 2017.
DB Desmond King, LA Chargers (2018: Age 24, Restricted FA 2021)
Desmond King was a high-quality cover corner for Iowa who also returned kicks and punts at a high level. He tested with so-so 40-time speed pre-draft (4.60), so he was downgraded from a CB prospect to thought to be more of a sketchy safety prospect…thus falling to the 5th-round.
Our grades on him at College Football Metrics were higher than what the NFL had. We thought his cover skills made up for the perceived lack of speed, but that you could see his tackle ability…so a move to safety was fine as well. You had a guy who could be useful all over the secondary.
King hits the pros and instantly showed he belonged. He’s been making plays all over as a safety and occasional corner, plus in the return game. He’s been a menace. A tough, smart player…the kind of guy you build championship defenses with – never known as a superstar but he does all the little things that make the team better.
For IDP, King has upside as a guy who can get tackles, pick off passes, and adds a threat to the return game. He’s been so good, savvy on defense that he has 4.0 sacks (as of this writing) for the season…a wild number of sacks for a DB. He’s going to be a nice player for years.
DB Obi Melifonwu, Oakland (2018: Age 24, Restricted FA 2021)
Due to an early injury, we haven’t got to see Obi play much. A little preseason work and then just back in Week 9 with limited playing time. The is strictly a bet on Melifonwu as a total freak of a defensive player, on paper…and was a high-end producer in college.
What you crave: 4.40 40-time, 1.15 10-yard time, 44.0” vertical, 11’08” broad jump…some major numbers from him as an athlete…like ‘freakish’ athleticism. Combine that with the fact that he’s physical, he’s a hitter…and that he stands 6’4”/220. He’s a radical safety prospect, but could play corner…and could be an OLB.
CB Jamal Agnew, Detroit (2018: Age 23, Restricted FA 2021)
Agnew has hit the NFL with a flurry – a top kick and punt returner in the NFL…likely a Pro Bowl’er as a return man. He’s probably been the best runner of the ball for Detroit, seriously, on offense…2 carries for 9 yards, 1 rec. for 12 yards. He’s electric every time he touches the ball.
The thing is…Agnew hasn’t been given much chance to play corner…and he’s a good, possibly great cover man. A 4.34 40-time with 6.92 three-cone at 5’9”+/186…either a small corner or neat slot cover guy.
Some guys are just football talents…better on the field than measurables, etc., and Agnew is one of those guys. If your league favors IDPs with return skills…here you go.
LB Elandon Roberts, New England (2018: Age 24, Restricted FA 2020)
We thought he was arguably the best LB prospect from the 2016 NFL Draft…an overlooked 6th-round pick out of Houston. He hits like a ton of bricks. His anticipation is terrific in the run game. Roberts was getting solid work as a rookie and has bounced in and out of the lineup due to injuries above him on the depth chart the past two seasons. He’s a talent + 2018 will mark his third year in the Belichick system…giving him a huge advantage over many other young LBs in the league.
(new) DL Taco Charlton, Dallas (2018: Age 24, Free Agent 2022)
I love the upside here. I know a lot of people are down on him but I think they have no idea what they are talking about. I think Charlton is one of the most skilled pass rushers I’ve ever scouted. Athletically, he’s average, on paper, but he makes up for that with crazy-great technique. I think Charlton will be an 8+ sack a season bookend with Demarcus Lawrence easily.
What gets me excited is that Charlton can be so terrific against the run. He has great vision and pursuit with incredibly long arms/reach to grab/corral ball carriers. I just see Charlton as a DL who doesn’t come off the field much and accumulates numbers for IDP.
DT Larry Ogunjobi, Cleveland (2018: Age 24, Restricted FA 2021)
There were times this preseason where I thought Ogunjobi flashed some Aaron Donald skills this preseason…so fast, powerful a burst off the snap. It’s been a mixed bag in the regular-season – a nice start then put into a rotation where he didn’t play much, then hurt and getting back starting Week 11.
Ogunjobi was one of our highest rated DT prospects from the 2017 NFL Draft… a top 30-40 overall prospect. He was a stud in college. He impressed in the Senior Bowl drills during the week. I see flashes of a top DT for the future here enough to want to stash him.
LB Tyrus Bowser, Baltimore (2018: Age 23, Free Agent 2021)
A highly athletic OLB from the 2017 NFL Draft. He could be a DE/OLB pass rusher or could change his body and work more as a 4-3 linebacker. He has higher-end measurables – 6’2”+/247, runs a 4.65 40-time with a 1.59 10-yard and a 37.5” vertical. He’s a bit of a ‘freak’ athlete. I thought he was too much a pass rusher in college, not a playmaker…but in the NFL preseason, I saw a playmaker…a guy all over the field chasing the ball/ballcarriers. He can tackle and cover.
With another year in the system, we’ll probably see Bowser step up in 2018. If forced into the starting lineup due to injury…he may never give up the job.
LB Tyler Matakevich, Pittsburgh (2018: Age 25, Free Agent 2020)
I’m a big fan of Matakevich but he can’t get onto the field for the Steelers. He sits behind Ryan Shazier, which is logical…but once Shazier got hurt Matakevich came in and also got hurt that same game and Week 14.
I don’t know if Matakevich is more future Sean Lee or future Ben Heeney, but I can see his tackle and anticipation skills on tape. He’s been a tackling machine going back to his college days at Temple. There’s something here and he may have to leave Pittsburgh to find it…or the door just opened if Shazier cannot return to the field.
DB Justin Simmons, Denver (2018: Age 25, Free Agent 2020)
Just went on the IR Week 14 into 15. It’s a shame, he was just starting to really become a consistent producer for the Broncos – 6.3 tackles per game his four games before getting hurt Week 14. In Week 13 he had a 65-yard INT return TD.
Simmons is a bit of a physical freak safety – long and wiry at 6’2”+/205, running a so-so 4.61 40-time, but a stellar 6.58 three-cone/3.85 short shuttle and posted a 40.0” vertical pre-draft. He's known for his athleticism, but he’s also a physical player/tackler even though he looks a little thin-framed.
Simmons is going to be a starter for Denver for a while…the downside risk is he is a little thin upper and lower body; injuries will be a concern.
SS Clayton Geathers, Indianapolis (2018: Age 26, Free Agent 2019)
Finished the 2016 season strong averaging 7.5 tackles per game over his final 6 games of the campaign, but then got hurt and was lost for the 6 games of the season. Geathers had a neck injury…and that held him out well into the 2017 season as well. He returned in Week 11, and has been playing a low amount of snaps through Week 14…either he’s getting back up to speed or the coaches are down on him. I’ll assume they're bringing him along slowly.
Geathers is a high effort, solid athlete, fantastic tackling safety and could easily bag 100+ tackles if he played a full season but we’ll have to see if he ever gets back to 100%, and what the new Colts coaches in 2018 think of him.
(new) DB Josh Jones, Green Bay (2018: Age 24, Free Agent 2021)
Josh Jones has the athleticism metrics of a star safety/linebacker hybrid – 6’1”/220 and runs a 4.41 40-time, with a 37.5” vertical, 11’0” broad jump, and a 7.05 three-cone. The problem with Jones is he’s been an inconsistent cornerback and safety in college.
I’ve seen tape where I’d swear Jones is a superstar defender…power and speed. Then, I’ll see other tape and he’s lost/out to lunch, not interested in tackling. This NFL season, he came on with a flurry early on…looked like a for sure star, but then kinda blended into the background. He runs hot and cold. You’ll love the hot and hate the cold. The hot keeps you chained to him and keeps him on this list.
LB Jayon Brown, Tennessee (2018: Age 23, Free Agent 2021)
The Titans could let Avery Williamson walk in free agency and Jayon Brown could take over in 2018. Brown is a high effort, quality tackling inside linebacker but he’s not bad in coverage either. He has a good feel for the run game/inside backer play and flashed skills in the preseason but has been a backup most of 2017.
Solid speed, solid agility…nothing special athletically but makes up for some of that with instincts and tackle skills.
119 tackles, 7.0 TFLs, 3 INTs (12 games) in his 2016 senior season at UCLA…led the Pac-12 in tackles that season.
(new) CB Will Jackson, Cincinnati (2018: Age 26, Free Agent 2021)
One of the best young cover corners out there. 6’0”+/200, a 4.37 runner with 6.86 three-cone agility…he’s big, athletic, has longer arms/reach, but most importantly he has the mentality of a shutdown corner. He’s aggressive and will take on anyone…sometimes to his own detriment.
He may be so great in coverage, and thus not thrown at…and thus lose out on IDP numbers. That day will come but he’ll probably get tested a bunch in 2018 and rack PDs and a decent amount of tackles before getting full respect. He had 5 picks and 23 PDs (#1 in NCAA) his 2015 season at the University of Houston.
(new) LB Jordan Willis, Cincinnati (2018: Age 23, Free Agent 2021)
Jordan Willis is playing snaps in all the games this season, but he just isn’t playing a ton of them or having any signature moments to get excited about. He feels lost in the shuffle.
Coming into the 2017 NFL Draft, we had ‘potential star’ grades on Willis – a guy with athleticism that rivaled Myles Garrett among the top pass-rushing prospects. So far, neither of them has lit up the world as rookies, especially not Willis.
On paper, Willis can be a star. A change at head coach might help push that narrative in 2018. We’re not dismayed but rather waiting for his breakout. 6’4”/255 and runs a 4.53 40-time with a 39.0” vertical is something special ‘on paper’.
(new) LB Haason Reddick, Arizona (2018: Age 24, Free Agent 2022)
Another ‘on paper’ prospect…great measurables as a convert from pass rush DE in college to NFL inside linebacker. The transition didn’t go as planned. He was forced into a starting role when Deone Bucannon wasn’t ready to start the season, and it just never worked out. Reddick was struggling seeking out and getting in on plays.
He’s a backup working his way into more playing time now but it’s scary the Reddick floundered in this transition opportunity and a guy like Joe Schobert has a similar situation transitioning from OLB into ILB -- and becomes a Pro Bowl’er on the fly.
There’s still hope here but man it looks like it might not be at ILB.
(new) DL Chris Wormley, Baltimore (2018: Age 25, Free Agent 2021)
We graded Wormley as one of the best DT prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft…some potential Aaron Donald parallels. However, Wormley was a split DE/DT in college and the Ravens seemed to use him more as a DE this season. We are smitten with a full conversion to DT, not him playing DE.
He barely played in the preseason and even less in the regular season. He either didn’t catch anyone’s attention with the coaching staff or he’s lost…or he isn’t as good as we graded. Could just be an adjustment year.
The fact that he has not stood out in the pre- or regular season spooks me a little. I like what I see in our metrics and on my tape scouting from college, but his pro work has been ‘blah’.
I’m only interested here if he is a full-time 4-3 DT.