Quarterback: Tyree Jackson (Buffalo) | 6'7/249 | SPARQ percentile: 94.6
Since the combine, we’ve seen Day 2 and even a dusting of late Day 1 talk for Jackson. Insanity. Madness. The NFL. Jackson’s physical traits -- his huge size, his canon of an arm, his ability to get up and go -- are more than offset by his game traits. To list a few: His poor accuracy (53.3-percent completions in 2018), his decision-making (12 interceptions in 2018) and his actual running output (55 carries for 161 yards in 2018). Maybe an NFL team figures out how to put this all into a neat, tidy little package and suddenly an intriguing quarterback emerges, but that development will require the kind of extreme patience that most teams simply don’t have, at the premier position in sports. Jackson would have been better off holstering the draft declaration and transferring for 2019.
Running back: Rodney Anderson (Oklahoma) | 6'0/224 | SPARQ percentile: NA
If the NFL Draft is essentially an educated dart-throwing contest -- and it is, in many ways -- then the goal should be to eliminate undue risks where possible. We would take a chance with a player like Jefferey Simmons, who has one major injury to his name in the torn ACL, but otherwise has no such health question marks. Anderson (who tore his ACL in September) is not Simmons. Anderson is Lance Murdock in a full-body cast. Just to tick off the injuries for the sake of record: Broken leg (2015), fractured vertebrae (2016), torn ACL (2018). Our only -- read: only -- real sample on Anderson came in 2017, when he rushed for 1,161 yards (6.2 YPC) and 13 touchdowns. Those are fine numbers. Broken leg, fractured vertebrae, torn ACL.
Running back: Josh Jacobs (Alabama) | 5'10/220 | SPARQ percentile: 18.9
There was a point in January or early February when it seemed that the entire world was on Josh Jacobs as the lone stud muffin in this running back class. The former zero-star recruit was going to crash into the NFL and finally take on that lead mantle that had never quite come his way at Alabama. Then came a combine no-show due to a groin injury, and then came a really, really disappointing pro day. Jacobs came out running at 4.60 seconds flat and a broad jump of just 9-foot-4. Now, we never viewed Jacobs as an explosive back in the same way of say, Darrell Henderson, as he was never going to star in the Springsteen song “Breakaway.” Jacobs’ game is far more predicated on his ability to make things happen as a receiver -- he very much has what you might call “building speed” once he gets into the open field -- and as a bulldog blocker. We were never sold on him as clear-cut RB1, though, and nothing in his testing pushes him into that territory for us.
Wide receiver: D.K. Metcalf (Ole Miss) | 6'3/228 | SPARQ percentile: 97.5
Watching Metcalf truck down the track in the 40-yard dash during the combine was a thrill, regardless of where he falls on your board. Seeing that kind of speed from a human being that size was like something out of a video game. We wouldn’t spend a first-round pick on him. Again, going back to our draft philosophy with Anderson -- minimizing uncertainty and risk. To put it frankly, the neck injury which cut Metcalf’s 2018 season terrified us. Nothing does more to put the fear of the Guy Upstairs into us than serious neck and back injuries. Metcalf is big and fast and hey, maybe those agility tests don’t actually matter. The medical ones, really, are the only ones that do. Without access to those, we’ll stay away altogether. It’s a deep receiver class. We would feel more comfortable with A.J. Brown, in all honesty.
Wide receiver: Riley Ridley (Georgia) | 6'1/199 | SPARQ percentile: 15.4
Yawn. Ridley failed to show out in any real way in college, even during the only year that could even remotely be termed a “breakout” year. This past season, he logged a 43-559-9 receiving line. That’s the high-water mark in Athens right there. Jake Fromm’s fault? We beg to differ. Fromm was a perfectly dependable quarterback in a run-oriented, somewhat paint-by-numbers offense last fall, and beyond that, Ridley has never shown any true signs that there’s a monster lurking just below the surface. Coming into 2018, his total receiving line through two active seasons was 26-454-4. Maybe we could have gotten behind him with a strong combine, but his Indianapolis show -- as with several notable NFL hopefuls from Georgia -- netted him a composite SPARQ score in just the 15th percentile of pro wideouts. We didn’t understand the hype to begin with during the season. Would it be presumptuous of us to take a victory lap now?
WR: Kelvin Harmon (NC State) | 6'2/221 | SPARQ percentile: 18.9
We tried to get there on Harmon, we really did. Prototypical size for the NFL, back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to close out his collegiate career, a career-best 81 catches in 2018. All of this, very encouraging. And yet, something about his game always left us a little cold. Maybe it came in his inability to consistently create separation -- sure he can jump-ball it up pretty nicely, but what’s the cushion he’s getting his quarterback -- or an obvious-even-on-film lack of a sixth gear. Maybe it came in his lack of shake ‘n’ bake in the middle of the field. Maybe a lot of things. Harmon more or less dug his own grave in our minds when he failed to show any sort of defining characteristics at the combine, where he finished out with a SPARQ score in just the 18th percentile of NFL wideouts. We just don’t see the separation coming at the next level.
Tight end: Caleb Wilson (UCLA) | 6'4/240 | SPARQ percentile: 29.3
Oh sure, there’s a lot of sparkle on the outside, here. It’s only after you start to squint a little more that you begin to see the flaws. Let’s be clear, for all of his offensive output (60-965-4 for a bad UCLA team in 2018), Caleb Wilson is not Noah Fant. He may have tested second-only to Fant in the 40-yard dash at the combine (4.56 seconds to 4.50) but that’s about where the athletic similarities end. Both guys can, indeed, motor when they’ve got space. It’s just that Wilson can’t do much else. His final testing results placed him in the 29th percentile of pro tight ends, a far cry from Fant’s 98th percentile show, but our issues with Wilson go far beyond the basic athletic results. Stronger corners will give him fits bouncing him off his routes, his hands are far, far less reliable than those of say, Josh Oliver, with PFF grading him as the 37th tight end in the country in terms of drop rate and he is a non-blocker. Don’t be fooled by the nice stat lines or the fast 40. There are real flaws boiling underneath the surface, here.
Tackle: Greg Little (Ole Miss) | 6'5/310 | SPARQ percentile: 31.5
When you begin your college career as the No. 4 recruit in the country, it can take a while for that flashy five-star rating to dim. Apparently. Even after a let-down 2018 season and a laughably bad combine (31st percentile) we are still somehow seeing first-round projections. One of draft faves, Lance Zierlein, mocks Little to the Texans at No. 23, while Walter Football’s Charlie Campbell mocks the Ole Miss disappointment to the Packers at No. 30. Both of these came after the combine. And it’s completely not on these fair analysts, we should say -- mock drafts are pieced together in part based on what is being heard from NFL sources. We talk about body control with wide receivers all the time, because it is obvious, but it’s important across the board, regardless of position. Little’s is awful. The tangible offshoot is that Little can be schooled by quicker, more athletic defensive linemen who can combo their moves like a teen at an 80’s arcade. All you have to do is get him off-balance, get him leaning and guessing, and he will have issues keeping pace. If Little does go off the board on Day 1, our condolences to whichever fanbase has to endure over the coming years. We would not draft him before Round 3.
Guard: Cody Ford (Oklahoma) | 6'4/329 | SPARQ percentile: 34
It's not even that we distrust Ford. We like Ford. We think Ford can forge a career. We just can't get on board the Day 1 hype train. Especially if the drafting team plans on trying Ford and tackle, rather than guard -- he has just one season (2018) of experience at tackle, for one thing. On the field, as with Greg Little and the aforementioned topic of body control, Ford can be fooled, manipulated and misdirected. Take a look at his Alabama film if you want to see what a smart defensive line can do to him. Our preference off of OU's stacked line? Not Ford, but Bobby Evans
Tackle: David Edwards (Wisconsin) | 6'6/308 | SPARQ percentile: 10
In anonymous sources season, Edwards has been clipped a few times. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller spoke with one AFC area scout who “love(s) the hype” on Edwards not because he agrees with it, but because it means that somebody better will fall to his team while referring to him as “all-day average.” One other thing that area scout mentioned -- the allure of “Wisconsin” when it comes to linemen. Scout the player, not the helmet. And if you’re scouting the helmet, actually scout the helmet. Wisconsin went just 8-5 during the 2018 season and QB Alex Hornibrook missed much of the back half of the season due to a concussion -- this wasn’t a fireproof offensive line. Walter Football Charlie Campbell adds to the fire, writing to the outlet that an AFC national scout texted him that Edwards “played like s---” during the 2018 season. Edwards tested in just the 10th percentile of NFL offensive linemen at the combine.