I’ve had a fun week of evaluating prospects and want to talk about some of those players I studied. This week’s 6-Pack is again focused on discussing players I recently evaluated in a different format.
I hope that this column has become a staple for you each week, but just in case you are new, 6-Pack Thursday is my weekly brain dump on six football-related things that involve the NFL, college football or NFL draft.
Let's crack this thing open.
Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Jedrick Wills is a joy to watch on tape. His performances against Auburn and LSU were arguably the best two games of film I’ve watched for any offensive linemen in the 2019 or 2020 class. Wills displayed plenty of flashes in 2018 and his power was easy to fall in love with last season, but he put together the technical side of things this year. I believe he’s the best offensive linemen in the class.
Wills is so smooth. His ability to frame rushers on the perimeter, stay square and stymie rushers is second to none. Rushers literally come to a halt with the roadblocks Wills sets up by reaching his set points and taking away rush angles. He is outstanding in space and is truly a fit for all schemes.
Don’t get hung up that he played exclusively on the right side in Alabama. First, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is left-handed so he was the blindside protector. Secondly, Wills progress at right tackle makes me want to leave him there, but there’s nothing about his skill set that suggests he couldn’t play left tackle if that’s where his NFL team needed him to play. He’s OT1.
Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
Like most, I was lukewarm on Damon Arnette entering 2019 but he had a terrific season and now I view him as a top-five cornerback in this year’s class. No, his shaky moments in 2017 and 2018 shouldn’t be forgotten but I love to see upward growth from prospects who ascend throughout their career and play their best football as a senior. That’s Arnette.
The first game I watched from him was versus Michigan State and let me just tell you I’m certain Spartans wide receiver No. 7 is still having nightmares about how to beat Arnette’s jams in press coverage. He is dominant both in soft press or when tasked with truly creating jams at the release. Arnette is suffocating with his ability to crowd routes and disrupt timing. He’s patient and fluid in his pedal and you can just tell he has a natural ability to mirror routes.
For a defense look for a press corner that also thrives in zone, Arnette should be an early starter. He’d be a dream top half of the second pick.
Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
I love urgent defensive football players and that’s exactly what you get from Neville Gallimore. It wasn’t always the case when studying him last seasons but Gallimore flipped the switch in 2019 and put some incredible hustle plays on tape. Gallimore is one of those players that “brings the juice.”
While Gallimore does attack the line of scrimmage with reckless abandon, he generally stays under control and shows strong penetration skills. His hands are powerful and he really developed counters to help him clear contact. His ability to rush the passer from the interior is really exciting and something that is of great value in the NFL.
I don’t love Gallimore against the run. He has some inconsistency anchoring at the point and not getting washed against drive blocks. He’s one of those guys that brings the fight and a lot of power when in attack mode but if he has to fight for his gap there is something to be desired. But the things Gallimore does well can help an NFL defense get pressure in the face of the quarterback and that trumps some concerns about his ability to defend the run.
A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
The Bill Belichick disciples are going to love A.J. Epenesa. He’s long, heavy-handed and has all the power in the world to defend the run and compromise the width of the pocket as a pass rusher.
Epenesa stacked consecutive seasons of dominant tape in 2018 and 2019 but I really appreciate his technical growth this season. His pass rush arsenal and hand technique took a major step forward. He became more consistent with the timing and placement of his hands while taking full advantage of his length to play with extension and control blocks. Epenesa’s bull rush and push-pull moves are devastating. He simply puts a lot of stress on offensive tackles to anchor because of his blend of length, size and power.
You won’t come away from Epenesa falling for his burst or flexibility, but that’s not why he wins. While he eats up ground with his stride length and moves well, he wins because of power, length and technique. I think he’s such a clean evaluation and prospect to figure out. Epenesa has inside/outside rush ability in even fronts and there’s no doubt he can also play five-technique all at a high level.
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
Good luck trying to poke holes in J.K. Dobbins’ game — he’s such a complete running back. Dobbins is another prospect that improved throughout his career and dominated in his final year racking up 2,250 yards from scrimmage with 23 touchdowns.
I love Dobbins’ vision, decision-making, pace, physicality and burst. That blend of traits enables him to effectively pound the rock between the tackles while also working off-tackle. He’s very natural and that becomes apparent by how he addresses late-flashing defenders. Dobbins is incredibly savvy in how quickly he responds to those situations and the comfort he shows adjusting his course.
Dobbins has outstanding contact balance and he battles for every inch he can gain. For a back listed at 5-foot-10, 217 pounds, Dobbins has more twitch and wiggle than expected. He’s good in pass protection and is a reliable receiver although I think he has room to grow as a route runner. Dobbins is the total package and will most likely be my RB1.
Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Mekhi Becton is one of those prospects that I wound up watching way more film than necessary to figure him out because he’s just so damn fun. He is 6-foot-7, 370 pounds and takes up two full yards when in a two-point stance. Becton plays with a nasty demeanor and has mobility I never expected to find.
The power components of his game are easy to spot. His punches are devastating and he drives men against their will with ease in the run game. If you need a vertical push, just run the ball behind Becton and prosper. He ragdolled college defensive ends and widened gaps to the point that an 18-wheeler can fit through them sideways. But what’s fascinating is how much lateral mobility Becton has. His reach and movement skills make him an outstanding zone blocker in addition to his obvious ability to move bodies in power concepts.
In pass protection, I love Becton’s upside. He is a smooth operator that functions with body control and balance that you’d never expect for a man of his stature. He has no issues redirecting, sliding his feet and keeping pace up the arc. And of course, his ridiculous length and functional strength increase his overall margin for error if his technique fails him.
The 2020 offensive tackle class is loaded. But don’t assume anything about Becton because of his listed measurements. He has a high ceiling with more versatility than expected.
I do think it is fair to mention his struggles with maintaining his weight in the past and how he performed prior to 2019. But the coaching staff under Scott Satterfield got the best out of Becton and his arrow is pointing up.