With Hawkeyes T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant soon (also :: swoon ::) poised to make history as the NFL modern era's first pair of tight ends from the same school to be selected in the first round, it got us thinking: This draft has an unusual number of positional peer collegiate teammates who offer significant intrigue as prospects.
Taking it a step further, we'd even argue that in a number of instances, teams that opt for the "consolation prize," or lesser of the two prospects, might be even happier in the long run with the value they receive. So let's highlight a handful of examples, beginning in Iowa, where Kirk Ferentz program long revered as an NFL OL factory also is developing quite a reputation at the TE position.
PFW appears to be in the minority of outlets with Fant rated slightly higher than Hockenson, an adjustment Greg Gabriel made after the combine, where Fant registered a SPARQ score in the 98th percentile, compared to Hockenson's 85 percent. Make no mistake: PFW absolutely loves both prospects, who are so rare because they profile as complete tight ends, not the one-trick ponies dominating today's NFL.
But we feel like Fant's blocking ability has been undersold by some, and he's the more dynamic receiving option entering the league. Both should become matchup nightmares in the NFL. But there are no shortage of mock drafts predicting Hockenson could go as early as the top 10, where the TE drought spans spans 12 years, while Fant seems ticketed for the latter portion of Round 1. If that scenario comes to fruition, Fant(a), please.
Certainly the gap is a lot wider within our second B1G teammate tandem, with Gary seemingly a top-10 lock while Winovich might last until the top of Round 3. You know where else the gap is substantial? On the stat sheet, where Winovich averaged over 3.5 tackles for loss and an extra sack per season more than Gary. And those who tried pigeon-holing Winovich with the blue-collar, scrapper label look silly because he tested like an exceptional athlete, if not to Gary's superfreak standards.
We'll concede that Gary has more positional versatility — PFW draft expert Greg Gabriel says three-tech is his optimal NFL spot — but we're a lot more comfortable with Winovich's floor — irrespective of draft slot — and gambling on a boom-or-bust talent like Gary in the top 10 could jeopardize a decision maker's NFL future.
Since I first mentioned that Brown will be a better draft value than his teammate, our resident WR expert Marcus Mosher reaffirmed my belief in his 5 bold NFL draft predictions piece this week.
Brown has the unique stop-start suddenness that Metcalf may lack but is so vital for playing inside — where he has vast experience in addition to producing from the perimeter. Brown also was the more reliable Rebel, finishing first in school history in receiving yards and 100-yard games and never missing a contest in his three-year career. Metcalf appeared in only 19 games, suffering season-ending injuries as a true freshman (foot) and redshirt sophomore (neck).
Even if the injuries were flukes, they impeded Metcalf's growth as an overall receiver, as he lined up almost exclusively on the left side and ran a ton of vertical routes. We're not saying Metcalf won't develop into a complete NFL receiver, but that's what Brown is now. And if Metcalf is poised to be the first receiver off the board, potentially as early as the middle of Round 1, while Brown lasts into Day 2, this one's really a no-brainer for us.
Both are legit prospects, but it's a bit odd to us that Jacobs' stock has soared meteorically since the start of the year while Harris seemingly is the footnote on Jacobs' report as the guy whom he could never beat out. Do we prefer Jacobs as a prospect? Yes. He has basically no mileage on his odometer and his blend of power and elusiveness is undoubtedly tantalizing.
But Harris is the more polished back, one who's poised to go late on Day 2 or early on Day 3, where his contract will be a fraction of the one Jacobs is likely to sign if (when) he goes in Round 1. With that likely draft slot for Jacobs comes major expectations to be something he's never been before: a true workhorse in a league where they're largely going by the wayside. Again, this piece is all about value, and getting a productive back with receiving skills on Day 3 undoubtedly for us trumps going all in on Jacobs with a roughly $10 million promise.
A bonus RB tandem, though one whose hill we're not fully prepared to die on: Memphis' Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard.
Henderson is undersized but takes over games with his instant acceleration and scintillating open-field run skills; Pollard is a fearsome triple threat at 6-0, 210 (Henderson is 5-8, 208) with sub 4.4 jets who tallied 25 total scores (9 rushing, 9 receiving, 7 return) in 40 career games and 332 touches.