Jaxon Smith-Njigba Profile
By: Lucas Kochevar
#11 Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State, 6’1’’ 196 lbs.
Jaxon Smith-Nijigba missed nearly all of 2022 a lingering hamstring issue and decided to shut down his season prior to the Peach Bowl versus Georgia. That’s a decision that people might hold over his head, however, JaMarr Chase sat out the entire 2020 season and it didn’t really matter at all for him. That’s my view on his decision for 2022. Either way, his film basically is all from the 2021 season where he was the primary slot guy on Ohio State until he played his best game against Utah in the Rose Bowl. Smith-Njigba isn’t huge and doesn’t have track speed, but his great hands and fantastic route running make him my favorite receiver in the years draft. He changes direction on a dime with or without the ball. He’s not a huge jump ball receiver but has a decent catch radius to handle himself in traffic. He likely needs to work on his blocking, but I think in the right scheme he can be a legitimate threat catching the ball.
Sources: Image via Jay LaPrete, AP
Chase Brown Profile
By: Lucas Kochevar
#2 Chase Brown, Illinois, 5’9’’ 209 lbs.
Chase Brown was a consistent performer for the Fighting Illini in 2022 and often put-up high numbers. Brown strikes me as the most well-rounded running back outside of Bijan Robinson. He takes big, long strides and makes quick decisions in traffic. His decisiveness with his cuts is very good as it helps him reach the second level with conviction. I think his patience is also a big strength of his and that helps with the decisions I mentioned earlier. I think he has a good stiff arm and good speed. The acceleration isn’t exceptional but his ability to hit cuts quickly helps cover that up. He doesn’t have much power in his running, but he is effective as a pass catcher. I think Brown can be an great option on day two or day three and work his way into a starting role during the season.
Sources: Image via Charles Rex Arbogast, AP
Devon Achane Profile
By: Lucas Kochevar
#6 Devon Achane, Texas A&M, 5’8’’ 188lbs.
Devon Achane is smaller than I thought he was when I first started watching running backs, but it doesn’t take away from his game. He was never a strong power guy or a guy that shrugs off tacklers. He’s a one cut back that worked behind a mediocre offensive line and subpar scheme. He has strong speed and great acceleration that helps him separate from defenders. He runs smart East-to-West and can find his way to the next level. He doesn’t have a signature move that takes defenders off him, but he slips through cracks to find his spaces to run. I think he has solid vision too to find those spots. He needs to put on size to be successful at the next level, as well as a zone scheme that can utilize him properly.
Sources: Image via Maria Lysaker, USA TODAY Sports
Tyjae Spears Profile
By: Lucas Kochevar
#22 Tyjae Spears, Tulane, 5’10’’ 201lbs.
Tyjae Spears was a key player in Tulane’s incredible season last year that was capped off with a win over USC in the Cotton Bowl. Spears runs with incredible force and balance. He’s a bashful runner that can crank it up a notch when he’s in open space. He slides in and out of traffic with great finesse and has a knack for finding the crease. He doesn’t have great vision immediately when finding the hole, but ends up finding the lane regardless. He makes good cuts and his stiff arm is strong, but those are his primary moves. He needs to work on ball security and his hands, but other than that he reminds me of Doug Martin. I think he can play in a number of schemes and make an impact.
Sources: Image via Sophia Germer, NOLA.com
Jahmyr Gibbs Profile
By: Lucas Kochevar
#1 Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama, 5’9’’ 199 lbs.
Film Thoughts: Follows blockers well, Finds the running lanes. Keeps legs moving, but not very strong/power runner. Great hands, light on the feet like a wide receiver. A patient runner that can make the one cut and zoom away. The speed is one of his strengths and accelerates strong too. Arkansas game a great example of this. His vision is a big strength for him. Doesn’t use a lot of moves to escape tacklers, tends to go down after one or two tacklers. Can bounce outside if absolutely needed. Would absolutely thrive in a wide zone scheme. Didn’t see much pass blocking in film. Every college running back needs to work on pass blocking out of college.
Jahmyr Gibbs came over to Alabama after a successful run at Georgia Tech and immediately shot up draft rankings for running backs. Gibbs isn’t a power back at all, but his elusiveness and ability as a receiver makes him a highly-demanded back for a pass-happy team. He’s light on the feet and his vision makes him very appealing prospect, but he tends to fall after contact. He runs similar to a manual engine to me with different gears and his speed is great once he hits that top gear. He doesn’t have a big repertoire of moves to get tacklers off of him, but the way he finds running lanes and makes cuts is how he breaks off big runs. I think he can find great success in zone-blocking scheme.
Bijan Robinson Profile
By: Lucas Kochevar
#5 Bijan Robinson, Texas, 6’0’’ 215 lbs.
Bijan Robinson is one of the most complete and best prospects at the running back position that I’ve seen. He glides between tacklers and his running after contact is superb. It takes a gang to take him down. His arsenal is full of every move in the book and even though he doesn’t bulldoze tacklers time after time, he still runs with force and power. His legs never stop moving. His best ability is his jump cuts as that’s his number one move to evade tacklers. He has solid speed with decent acceleration. His vision is strong too as he fines the running lanes and bursts through them. Sometimes I think he waits too long to make that one cut and will get caught up in the pile. He’s a work-in-progress on his pass blocking and pass catching, but he can be effective in that department too.
Sources: Image via Tim Warner, Getty Images
Jacksonville's Forgotten Star
By: Lucas Kochevar
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been a very forgettable franchise since they entered the league. Even the 2017 team, which had a terrifying defense, is not talked about ever, despite making the AFC Championship and nearly knocking off the Patriots. However, something has changed in Duvall county with the arrival with the first overall pick, Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars have a potential star at QB but, the weapons around him have to perform. Jacksonville has plenty of playmakers on the team for him to succeed such as, WR's DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault Jr., and Marvin Jones. The one player that I think will be a game changer is RB James Robinson.
In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jags selected Travis Etienne with the 25th pick and it was a true head-scratcher. Robinson had just rushed 1,070 yards, which was tied for 5th in the league. He was clearly a top rookie running back in his class and they drafted someone to replace him? Alas, Etienne fractured a bone in his foot and will miss the entire season. This opens up what should be another huge year for Robinson. The undrafted RB led all rookies in rushing yards and was the only appealing part of that Jacksonville offense.
The Jaguars hired former Ohio State HC Urban Meyer over the off-season and one thing Meyer always had at Ohio State was a solid running game. Meyer will likely bring some of these value with him from college and should keep Robinson moving. Darrell Bevell is the new offensive coordinator and he spent the past years between Detroit and Seattle. His history with the run game isn't very inspiring, however, he has a good history with the passing attack. Robinson was a very reliable dump-off target for Jacksonville last season and this should keep that part of his game valuable. Robinson is a smaller built back, but runs with some aggression and lowers his shoulders often into his opponent. Robinson reminds me of a smaller and faster Michael Turner. He churns his legs through contact, but has more speed to slide through the gap and break off big runs.
Lawrence will be the storyline in Jacksonville, for good reason, but do not underestimate Robinson and his impact on this offense. He has great potential for a similar year and could find himself in the pro bowl.
The Julio Jones Trade
By: Lucas Kochevar
The unthinkable happened this week as Julio Jones won't be finishing his career in a Falcons uniform. As a Falcons fan through and through, this was something that I refused to believe until it happened. The Falcons were looking for ways to squeeze under the cap and shopping Julio was a possibility. It never made sense to trade the 10-year veteran as the offense would go from elite to okay. Trading Julio only made sense for money purposes. Then, he made the quote to Shannon Sharpe regarding his future in Atlanta, "I'm outta there," The flurry of reports made the rounds from Adam Schefter to Ian Rapoport. Apparently, Jones made the request to Atlanta months ago. It made sense that him requesting the trade was the driving force to start the trade talks with other teams. Personally, this one hurt. It really sucked to hear him basically call Atlanta some losers, although he didn't directly say that. Jones has been the prime example of how any superstar should act throughout his career. Atlanta's all-time leading receiver will return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium one day to become apart of the Falcons Ring of Honor, guaranteed.
Lets take a look at the deal and how it affects both teams involved. The Falcons ended up trading Jones to the Tennessee Titans for what presumably was their best offer. Atlanta received a 2022 2nd round pick, 2023 4th rounder for Julio and a 2023 6th rounder. The biggest part of the deal for Atlanta is the fact that the Titans take on Jones' salary of $15.3M and the remaining years. This always seemed like the most likely compensation for a WR that just turned 32, missed seven games in 2020, and earns that much money. The market was strong, but majority of the teams never seemed serious about taking on the contract. Luckily for the Falcons, Tennessee was willing and able after a Ryan Tannehill restructure.
The Falcons behind the scenes are able to clear up enough cap space to finally sign their rookie class. They also will have a chance to have some leftover cash with approximately $8M. This gives them the ability to sign a veteran edge rusher or cornerback. They aren't out of the woods yet, as they owe a ton of money to around five players for next year. Atlanta's on-the-field product will take a hit on the offensive side of the ball, but they are far from a bad unit. The Falcons' receiver group was pretty solid without Jones last year and they bring in stud rookie TE Kyle Pitts. They are far from bad with Calvin Ridley, Pitts, Hayden Hurst, and Russell Gage. Ridley slides into the spotlight at WR1 and should put up great numbers. Last season, he put up over 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. Gage was a great WR3, but he'll have to step up into that WR2 spot. Arthur Smith loves using two TE sets so Pitts and Hurst should be on the field together for plenty of snaps during passing downs. Pitts could even bump to the outside, if needed. Atlanta will be fine without Julio. It would have been a great unit with Jones, but they are still a talented core without him.
The Titans receive a boost to their team with the addition of Jones. The Titans form a terrifying trio of Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and Jones. With emerging star A.J. Brown, Jones should get plenty of targets and opportunities to run free. Something that I think is being overlooked is the departure of Arthur Smith, who is ironically the Falcons HC. The Titans promoted TE coach Todd Downing to the new spot as OC. Downing has experience as an OC back from 2017 when he was promoted to OC for the Raiders. The staff got fired after that season so he never really got to establish himself, but in his first full-time gig his offense ranked 18th in total offense and 23rd in scoring. That Raiders team wasn't as good as this Titans team, but changing teams doesn't work for every OC. That is my biggest concern for Tennessee. I think they can figure it out, but it wouldn't be surprising if they started slower than anticipated. I also don't think this move suddenly bumps the Titans to a Super Bowl Contender. Their defense isn't that improved from last year and they have a hole at RT to figure out. The Titans have a much better shot at winning the AFC South, but I don't think their ceiling is that much higher. I am excited to see what this offense will look on the field in 2021.
You can listen to more thoughts on Julio here -> anchor.fm/lkandb
By: Lucas Kochevar
The free agent market for WR is actually pretty deep this year with big names like Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and Juju Smith-Schuster. Allen Robinson is one of the most intriguing guys in this FA class. He has put up top receiver numbers on the Bears with QB play that screams inconsistency. Robinson put up the second best season of his career this past year and proved to be dominant in certain games.
Allen Robinson suffered a torn ACL in 2017, but you would never notice that because of how he runs routes. He stops with no issues on routes that require quick stops. He displays double moves on inside routes that give him the separation he needs to make strong catches over the middle. In zones he is able to find the sweet spots to get the ball, but against man coverage is where you get to see his best trait, his jump ball skills. Robinson excels in these situations. Bears QBs the past year often would throw the ball at Robinson, expecting a miracle and he would deliver. They refused to throw him open and forced him to go up and take the ball away from the defender. Robinson does a good job at high pointing the ball as he normally extends right over the defender or defenders. There is a touchdown catch he makes against the Colts near the end of the game that really shows off this skill as he reaches over the player, somehow makes the grab, and gets both feet down.
According to PFF, since 2017 Allen Robinson has the 2nd lowest drop rate in the NFL at 2.2% right behind Larry Fitzgerald. Robinson also has the most contested catches since 2018 with 65. These two stats describe what type of guy he is at his best. The parts in his game that aren't very good is is YAC, yards after catch. It was noticeable that once he catches the ball, he does not get much further. This might be where the ACL injury has taken its toll on his body. He doesn't show killer speed as his game is much more technically sound. He normally catches the ball and falls, sometimes due to where the ball is thrown and sometimes it is due to him just accepting his fate. This isn't a horrible a trait, but in a league that is more explosive than ever before this is something to note when evaluating his value.
Sportrac.com has his market value at somewhere around 4/yrs and $80 million. There is definitely no guarantee that he will get this, but you have to imagine at 27, this will be his last big shot at a large payday. He seems like a standup guy so it is hard to evaluate whether his priority is getting paid or winning. If he wants to get paid, the obvious options are both New York teams as they have big needs at WR and they would likely have to overpay in order to get a big name like Robinson. If winning is more important, then I would suggest teams like Indianapolis or Baltimore. These two teams have the need at WR. Indy is losing T.Y. Hilton to free agency, likely, and Baltimore needs a big catch WR on the opposite side of speedster Marquise Brown to help Lamar Jackson.
The best of both worlds would be New England. The Patriots certainly have a hole at WR and they have for a couple of years, outside of Julian Edelman. New England has a long established record of missing in the draft and trades, but free agency could provide NE their next big playmaker. The Pats history of winning is well-known and they could find themselves competing again with a strong offseason. They don't have the QB position fully figure out yet, but whoever they end up rolling with could greatly benefit from having Robinson. The Pats will be one of the teams with the most cap space. New England and Robinson seem like the best match for each other and this is where I would project him with that price tag of around 4/yrs. and $75-$80 million. Quickly, another scenario would be the Bears franchise tagging Robinson in hopes or working out something or trading him to one of the teams listed above. Very excited to see where the Bears pass catcher ends up this offseason.
By: Lucas Kochevar
Another Chargers player is in the spotlight on this page and this time it is RB Melvin Gordon. Gordon is the topic of today as he has been holding out for a new contract. Gordon has been vocal about wanting to get paid more before his rookie deal is up. The issue that Gordon has is that he has a history of injuries and the RB position has gotten very replaceable i.e Leveon Bell/James Conner in Pitt.
The Chargers are having pause on a deal that would keep Gordon in LA for the future. I do not blame them, however I would pay the man. Gordon has been one of the best backs in football since entering the league. The two-time pro bowler has 3,628 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns in his four year career. He has shown in multiple ways that he thrives in stretch plays off tackle. Once he gets to the outside he can be a threat to OLB and secondary players. Gordon can run in between the tackles too even if it isn't his strength. He has a very balanced attack running the ball.
The second reason they should sign him is that he provides another element in the passing game. He has a career number of 1,577 yards including a career-high 490 last season in just 12 games. His versatility is huge in the Chargers offense too. The Chargers feature a lot of short/dump off passes to the RB. They leave it up to their backs to make plays once Phillip Rivers swings it out to them. Rivers only has a number of years left as he is 37 and surrounding him with as much talent as possible should be their strategy to push for a Super Bowl. The only risk they have is if he gets hurt, but that is just a risk you have to take because any player can get hurt any time. Best of luck to Gordon as he looks for his deal.