2015 Draft Class NFL Player Comps
Often the easiest way to explain a draft pick to a fan is to compare a player (favorably or not) to a current NFL player. You can take a look at how I pegged last year’s class here. As I said last year comparisons aren’t always perfect, and often they are a “poor man’s version” or a “rich man’s version” of that player. The fact is that all these players are unique, and bring unique skill sets to the league.
By rules it seems like my comparisons are optimistic. I often select the prototype for the playing style that I see from that player. Sometimes it leads me to compare Carl Bradford to Lamarr Woodley (whoops, maybe) and sometimes it leads me to trumpet Corey Linsley as a stronger version of Scott Wells (spot-on, maybe).
Round 1- Damarious Randall: Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Arizona Cardinals
The selection of Randall was met with a lot of confusion by Packers fans and analysts alike. Why on earth would the Packers select a free safety with two selections in a row? HaHa Clinton-Dix certainly worked out last year and projects as a Pro Bowl caliber safety. It certainly didn’t seem to make a lot of sense at the time and inspired a “Ted’s gonna Ted” tweet out of this writer.
When you dig into Randall’s history, though, you find that he’s not shoehorned into the position. He quite obviously was marketing himself as a free safety. That’s a popular position in the NFL and considering his combine performance (#1 in the 40, #1 in the vertical jump, #1 in the 3 cone drill and #1 in the 20 yd. shuttle) it would make sense. In fact, as far as player comparisons are concerned he compared himself to the ultimate “centerfielder” in the NFL, the Seahawks’ Earl Thomas.
Randall can actually play corner, and might just end up being a super-elite slot cornerback if he doesn’t make it on the outside. While he did miss 12 tackles last season, his best tape can be found with flying into bubble screens and destroying them at the line. Arizona State played tons of cover zero due to their propensity to blitz. Randall is capable of covering and has the long speed (4.46) to avoid getting beaten deep. He’s a playmaker. So is Mathieu. The “Honey Badger” made the positional switch from corner to a hybrid safety role in the NFL, because of Randall’s athleticism he should be able to do the opposite.
Round 2- Quentin Rollins: Jeremy Lane, CB, Seattle Seahawks
Quentin Rollins was a very difficult comparison to figure out. Mostly because I couldn’t think of a current Pro Bowl caliber corner that Rollins reminds me of. That’s how much I think of Rollins. He was my #4 CB in the pre-draft process. That was before Florida State’s PJ Williams got busted in Tallahassee for DUI. The thing that reminds me of Lane is how I don’t expect Rollins to contribute in a huge way in 2015, but he could be a Pro Bowl player as soon as 2016. Lane didn’t contribute right away for the Seahawks either, but after the defections of Brandon Browner and Byron Maxwell he’s going to have to.
Both players have exceptional feet. Rollins maybe even more so. A lot of evaluators attribute that to his time as a basketball player, specifically a point guard. Both players also show exceptional ball skills. Jeremy Lane was injured after a big interception of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. Rollins, in his first year of college football, had an unbelievable 16 combined interceptions/passes defensed as he learned the position on the fly.
The next pick that I’ll cover is my favorite pick of the draft by the Packers, but Rollins is my favorite player. His potential is almost completely untapped. I really do believe he could be a Pro Bowl caliber player down the road for the Packers. If the Seahawks are going to continue to be the Legion of Boom, Lane has to contribute to their efforts as well.
Round 3- Ty Montgomery: Percy Harvin, WR, Buffalo Bills
The popular comparison for Montgomery has largely been Minnesota’s Cordarelle Patterson for a number of reasons. First of all, Montgomery is an elite athlete and a fantastic kick returner. So is Patterson. Montgomery (at least last season) really struggled as a receiver, both getting open on more than just screens and pop passes and catching the football. Patterson struggles with both.
The difference that I see though, is in body type. Patterson, despite being 2 (probably 3) inches taller than Montgomery actually weighs less than he does. He’s a longer athlete than Montgomery (which should make it easier to play receiver for Patterson, but it doesn’t) and while they both excel at returning kicks Montgomery is a much thicker athlete.
Who does that remind you of? Percy Harvin. Montgomery might be an inch or two taller than Harvin, but both players have a thicker body than most receiver prospects. Like Patterson, both Montgomery and Harvin are exceptional kick returners. Montgomery is just a touch slower than both of his comps but that might be what makes him a 3rd round pick instead of a first round pick.
It also might be more palatable if Montgomery doesn’t make it as an elite receiver and is relegated to hand-offs, jet sweeps, screens and pops. That’s what Patterson and Harvin are, despite what you might hear from analysts and fans of their team Harvin’s season averages are 55 catches for 633 yards per season and Patterson’s are 39 for 427. If that’s where Montgomery gets in his career he won’t be viewed as a bust, because he was a third round pick. Maybe it’s time to realize that Harvin and Patterson were reaches.
Round 4- Jake Ryan: Desmond Bishop, LB, San Francisco 49ers
It’s hard not to compare Jake Ryan to AJ Hawk. Look at the picture. Look at the number he’s wearing. Look at the conference he played in. Listen to people talk about how good of a person he is, how he was a team captain for two years. Every nice thing that you hear about Jake Ryan, how he’s “solid” and “dependable” just screams AJ Hawk. A lot of people that cover or follow the team have wondered aloud whether this is our chance to see what kind of reception a player of Hawk’s caliber would get had he been the mid-round pick that he played like.
I do see those comparisons and believe me, if Ryan gives the Packers the 9 solid seasons the way that AJ Hawk did he’s a helluva 4th round pick. But I see more. I see Desmond Bishop. Jake Ryan is faster than Bishop, but not quite as strong. They’re both broadly framed players. Both players check in at 6’2″, around 240 pounds and have arms that are around 32″ long.
What’s important is that both players make plays. Bishop may be a little more of a thumper and Ryan might be more of a cover linebacker, but both guys are always around the ball. Packers fans will never forget Desmond Bishop’s fumble recovery in Super Bowl XLV or his Pick-6 that allowed the Packers to finally put down Favre at Lambeau in his more traitorous colors. In 4 years at Michigan, Ryan created 45.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles and an interception. Yes he might be “rock-solid” or “assignment-sure” like Hawk, but we can hope for more.
Round 5- Brett Hundley: Jake Locker, QB, Retired
Jake Locker has retired just a few seasons after being selected in the top 15 by the Tennessee Titans to be their QB of the future. There’s a lot of comparisons to draw between the two. Both are extremely athletic. Hundley was an elite performer at the combine in the 40 (4.63) the vertical jump (36″) as well as the broad jump, 3 cone drill and 20 yard shuttle. Locker excelled at the combine as well. Both Hundley and Locker have exceptional arm strength Both players operated Pac 12 offenses and were allowed to take the ball on a lot of designed runs.
Locker’s tale is sad. He never made it Tennessee and the Titans have obviously moved on, taking Zach Mettenberger last year and Marcus Mariota during the 2015 draft. He probably wasn’t afforded the coaching staff that would have allowed him to develop and almost certainly wasn’t afforded the time that he actually needed to develop.
The obvious hope is that Hundley will have that opportunity in Green Bay. He’s just so talented that working with Rodgers, McCarthy and Clements should result in a usable NFL quarterback, which is something that is in short supply. A lot of Packers fans will point to the failures of Matt Flynn outside of Green Bay or the flat-out failures of Ingle Martin, Graham Harrell and BJ Coleman, but Hundley’s different. If you want to talk about “tools”, these are first round tools.
The only sad thing is that it’s unlikely Hundley is the successor to Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers will likely play at least 8 more seasons. That’s at least a second contract for Hundley if not more. Also, if Hundley is the competitor that you hope he is, why in the world would he stay? The hope must be that Green Bay develops Hundley, has the best backup of Rodgers’ career, and either trades him outright for a high pick, or receives a good compensatory pick based on a big free agent contract (based on preseason work or spot duty).
Round 6- Aaron Ripkowski: John Kuhn, FB, Green Bay Packers
This is an easy comparison. Aaron Ripkowski is the next John Kuhn. Like Kuhn, Ripkowski is a triple threat (run, receive, block) at the fullback position but he might not be elite at any of the three. Kuhn is a question to even make this roster this year. Ripkowski should eventually be his replacement.
What Ripkowski does have is a cool name, what he doesn’t have is something you can chant. Very sad.
Round 6- Christian Ringo: Mike Daniels, DL, Green Bay Packers
Another Packers comparison, which is not what seemed to happen in last year’s piece. It makes sense though, that most of these players taken by the same general manager would start to fall into the same molds. With the success of Daniels it makes sense that Thompson would take another flier on a guy that doesn’t have ideal length for his position.
Don’t sleep too hard on Ringo, though. He graded out as College Football Focus’ #1 non-Power 5 interior defensive lineman. He’s a quick-twitch player who attempts to split double teams but isn’t useless if he doesn’t. If it were me, I’d have selected Ringo if I was a 4-3 team and utilized the 3 technique more often than Green Bay does, but if he can spell Daniels, or better yet, team with Daniels to provide an interior pass rush on a regular basis he’s a phenomenal 6th round pick.
Round 6- Kennard Backman: Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills
The measurables are so similar that it’s frightening. Both players check in at a shade over 6’3″ and right at 245 pounds. Backman is a little faster than Clay, jumps a little bit higher and was able to do one more rep on the bench than Clay was. Clay is just a touch quicker with a better short shuttle and 3 cone time. Every single test these two performed were almost identical. Obviously athletic testing doesn’t make Kennard Backman Charles Clay but it’s a start.
If the Packers are going to start utilizing an H-back, Clay is the prototype. These guys are the exact same build, have almost the exact same athletic talents and they played in the same conference in college. It could be argued that Backman is going into the superior situation. The difference then becomes which one is a better football player. Which one catches the ball better, which one uses better blocking technique, which one understands the subtleties of route-running better. If Backman can get to Clay’s level he’ll be very useful to the Packers.