Meet the Freshmen (4/4) – Buzz Names

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By Jacob Bourgeois; Twitter: @JacobBourgieFFB

This is the fourth and final installment of the series introducing the 2021 rookie class in anticipation of the NFL draft.  For a review of the previously covered tiers, check out “ The Consensus ,” “The Next Best of the Rest,” and “Beta Positions and Risers.”  In a way, this is the most exciting of the four segments as it covers names that have been buzzing about, but that we may not know too much about.  Again, the goal here is only a brief introduction to acquaint readers with the players covered. 

Statistics, unless otherwise noted, are from or derived from www.Sports-Reference.com 

Kylin Hill – RB – Mississippi State

Age: 22, Senior

Height: 5’11”

Weight:  209 lbs.

Pro Day 40 Time: 4.51

Summary: For Kylin Hill it’s all about that Junior season in 2019 where he took on a work-horse roll and finished 13 games, at a 20 touch, 118 yard (5.6 YPC rushing), 0.85 TD clip.  He’s a great pass catcher who actually was set-up a lot in the slot in 2020 before getting injured early in the season and opting out.  Running the 40 at his pro day, one could see that he’s fully recovered from that injury (undisclosed) and an absolutely chiseled 214.  No concerns from the size, speed, stats categories.  Otherwise at his pro day, he had a slower 3-cone drill at 7.13, a better 4.35 short shuttle, but put up an impressive 22 on the bench and jumped well with a 36” vert, and hitting 10-2 on the broad jump.  Decision making is something he needs to work on, but shows he’s able to protect the football, run well in open space, block and pick up blitzes, and give his QB an outlet option in the passing game – at times he’s a little more jukey than he is north-south, but otherwise shows a nice combo of elusiveness and power for his size. 

Comparison:  He’s in the Miles Sanders, Sony Michel range for size and speed, but would need draft capital to help his overall outlook into that level. 

Landing Spot:  I like Cincinnati where he’ll get a chance to claim that uber-valuable Joe Mixon hand-cuff role.   

Rhamondre Stevenson – RB – Oklahoma

Age: 23, Senior

Height: 6’0”

Weight:  247 lbs.

Pro Day 40 Time: 4.63 (not bad for a big guy)

Summary: Stevenson came on the scene late, as he spent two years at Cerritos College (likely getting his grades up) before transferring to Oklahoma University, where he joined Trey Sermon, Kennedy Brooks, and Jalen Hurts in 2019.  Despite the talent around him he was able to handle 64 snaps and bang out 515 yards on an 8 YPC clip.  With Brooks opting out, Hurts being drafted to the Eagles, and Trey Sermon transferring to Ohio State, the door was wide open for Stevenson in 2020, but he was serving a suspension from the end of the 2019 season (failed drug test), missing the first 6 games.  Despite his suspension he showed up and played for the scout team every week in practice.  This turn-around gave him momentum to dominate from first game of his return on.  Finishing 2020 with a 6.6 YPC, 7 TDs and 18 catches (3 per game) in 6 games.  At his size, he’s someone who needs to be stopped at the line of scrimmage or with a small army, because when he got a head of steam in space, he carried.  I saw one play where he was left iso towards the goal line with a Texas Tech DB and the DB didn’t even both getting in the way.  Outside of that, he doesn’t have tremendous contact balance – but is one of the better Round Two upside plays in your late summer rookie draft.

Comparison:  He’s slower and less athletic than both AJ Dillon and Derrick Henry, but shows excellent ball skills, and better hands – I’d put his range of outcomes between the two. 

Landing Spot: New England who would give him the Blount Force Trauma treatment. 

Khalil Herbert – RB – Virginia Tech

Age: 23, Senior

Height: 5’9”

Weight:  210 lbs.

Pro Day 40 Time: 4.50

Summary:  A rare 5-year runner, who started his career at Kansas in 2016 where he played until 2019.  He broke out as a sophomore with 663 yards on 120 carries in 11 games (5.5 YPC).  He took a step back as a junior going 4.4 YPC.  And then as a senior, after a hot start, he red-shirted and entered the transfer portal, winding up at Virginia Tech.  At Virginia Tech he had 154 carries for 1182 yards (7.7 YPC), 8 TDs, and 10 catches for 179 yards, all with no fumbles in 10 games.  A sub-7 3 cone and 22 reps on the bench were highlights form his pro day, along with his 4.48ish 40 time.  He plays with patience and vision but shows up as an average athlete on paper and on film. 

Comparison: Marlon Mack

Landing Spot: Arizona who don’t have much draft capital but would give him a chance to break out of the mix into a starting role by year 2.

Jaret Patterson – RB – Buffalo

Age: 21, Junior

Height: 5’7”

Weight:  195 lbs.

Pro Day 40 Time: 4.52

Summary: Patterson got started early with 183 attempts as a freshman and stayed consistent throughout his career finishing with 6.1 YPC and an astonishing 52 career touchdowns in only three seasons.  He’s a very little nonsense runner who when he hits open space runs like someone is chasing him.  Only knocks on him are his size and the level of competition at UB, but look at his 2020 game log: 

//via espn.com.

Comparison: Philip Lindsey and without draft capital, he’s going to have a similar fight up the depth chart.

Landing Spot: Jacksonville to stack with James Robinson in the underappreciated club, or Houston for that matter.  

Jaelon Darden – WR – North Texas

Age: 22, Senior

Height: 5’8”

Weight: 174 lbs.

Pro Day 40 Time: 4.46

College Dominator Ranking (PlayerProfiler) 61.1%, 99th Percentile.

Summary: Despite the best dominator ranking I think I’ve ever seen, Darden didn’t breakout until he was a Junior at 21 years old.  He came on strong for his final season with almost 1200 yards on 74 catches in only 9 games (133 YPG).  He had 31 Touchdowns in his final two seasons (12,19), which is a statistic that is said to correlate well to NFL success.  High school QB turned slot receiver (stop me if you’ve heard this before) could be some of the accounting for his later breakout.  He’s super shifty and tries to be shifty maybe just a little too much, reminding me of Jerry Jeudy in that way.  His pro day numbers are excellent even when you account for his size.  He’s only 67.5” tall and he has a 35.6” vertical and 10’2” broad jump. 

Comparison: Isaiah “Lil Dirty” McKenzie, who was coming on before BUF added Cole Beasley and Stef Diggs.

Landing Spot: I’d love to see him in either Minnesota, Seattle, or San Francisco to give a stronger underneath dimension to those teams who have QBs who thrive on placement. 

D’Wayne Eskridge – WR – Western Michigan

Age: 24, Super Senior

Height: 5’9”

Weight:  190 lbs.

Pro Day 40 Time: 4.35

Summary: The opposite of an early declare, Eskridge missed most of his senior season with a broken collarbone, and decided he wanted to come back to put together more tape together for NFL scouts in 2020.  He only played 6 games but went for 784 yards and 8 TDs on 23.1 YPR.  He’s not just a burner though – you regularly see him getting inside leverage on crossing routes and slants and then breaking off for big plays after the catch with his speed.  Despite his age coming out, he did manage a sophomore season breakout and has an early birthday, so played most of that season while he was 20.  The last thing I noticed watching his tape was, after he made a nice contested catch in traffic, he lobbed the ball to the ref.  He then realized the ref hadn’t been looking and the ball went bouncing off the field.  Eskridge, quickly turned back to gather up the ball and gave it to the ref. Not sure why it stands out, but he had just made a big play, but didn’t lose himself (or let his ego take over) in the moment.  I like that.     

Comparison: The style of use reminds me of the way KCC used Tyreek Hill against Buffalo in the AFC championship game, eating up yards underneath abusing off-coverage.  He’s no Cheetah, but I think his ceiling is somewhere between Marquise Brown and Jalen Reagor.    

Landing Spot: KCC, where it’s another shot on replacing Tyreek post-contract or gaining a small amount of leverage if Eskridge pans out. 

Tutu Atwell – WR – Louisville

Age: 21, Junior

Height: 5’9”

Weight:  160 lbs.

Pro Day 40 Time: 4.32

Summary: Tutu had a major breakout as a 20-year-old sophomore putting up 100 yards and almost 1 TD per game.  He’s little and speedy, which means I’m a huge fan, and like Jaylen Waddle is one of my favorite prospects in the class.  The thing you love watching his tape is his fluidity, and the ease at which he floats to the ball and avoids defenders.  Not quite as effective in his junior season with a 4.2% drop rate, but aside from that and his size, there are no real red flags. 

Comparison: J.J. Nelson

Landing Spot: Let’s see him compliment Zach Wilson’s cannon in NYJ.

That’s it, thanks for following along in this series, I hope it makes the April 29-May 01 draft more enjoyable as a result.  Notable players not profiled: Sage Surrat (WR, Wake Forest), Anthony Schwartz (WR, Auburn), Shi Smith (WR, S. Carolina), Marquez Stevenson (WR, Houston), Nico Collins (WR, Michigan), Jamie Newman (QB, Wake Forest), Kenny Yeboah (TE, Ole Miss) and Dazz Newsome (WR, Carolina). Check out their stats at www.sports-reference.com and www.playerprofiler.com.