Following up on the first part of the series “Know the Board, Draft Value,” I look to find more players with similar skill sets who teams can get later in the draft. With a class as deep as the 2017 NFL Draft Class, good players will slip down draft boards. Being in a position to take advantage of that is crucial to a successful draft. Understanding both the depth of a class and what positions will have players who project as future starters later in the draft can give you the edge to build a franchise in just one draft.
Raekwon McMillan vs Blair Brown at Linebacker
McMillan is a natural inside linebacker who is everything you could want for stopping the run. He plays his gaps well, he can take on fullbacks, and he reads his run keys extremely well. He is rarely out of position and is an excellent form tackler. He shows the ability to stand up backs, and can drive through ball carriers. He is a perfect fit in a 4-3 system where he has linemen keep him clean so he can slide into his gap and meet the ball carrier head on.
Where he struggles is in taking on an offensive lineman who can overwhelm him at times. He also struggles covering running backs and tight ends in passing situations, and is limited in his zone capabilities. He is limited in his pass rush ability, as most of his success comes from timing and attacking open gaps. His lateral quickness will leave him limited in these areas throughout his career.
McMillan is a prospect all over team boards, as high as the first round and as low as the third. I think he will end up in the second round, where he will be viewed as an excellent two down linebacker who may have to come off the field on third downs, or will give up plays in coverage.
While McMillan’s size gives him an advantage over Blair Brown, Brown’s athletic numbers were superior. His play on film is also fantastic. He had 128 total tackles to McMillan’s 102. Brown also plays in a very similar fashion to McMillan. He plays his gaps extremely well, consistently making plays and wrapping up ball carriers. He uses his athleticism to attack pulling lineman and make plays in the backfield. He has better sideline to sideline range than McMillan, though he doesn’t take on fullbacks nearly as well.
Brown’s size will give him issues versus linemen who can swallow him up. He will also struggle in both zone and man to man coverage. He does a good job reading and reacting to plays in front of him, but turning and running with tight ends will be an issue because of his size, and covering running backs will cause him issues because he lacks the recovery speed. Brown has a similar career outlook to McMillan as a two down, run-stuffing linebacker who will struggle some in coverage. However, your team can likely can him two rounds later, making him the better value.
Quincy Wilson vs Howard Wilson at Corner
Quincy Wilson is a big physical corner at 6’1”, 211 lbs who excels in cover 3 and can play press man coverage. He has great range when he is in zone, playing the quarterbacks eyes. He shows the ability to layer coverage and even handle multiple guys in his zone. He has good speed and solid feet, although he is a little tight hipped. This can lead to issues in the press, where if he misses with his punch he can get beat, especially inside. He will need to clean up his press technique, but at his size he has the potential to improve in this area.
Like most corners in this draft, Quincy Wilson struggles with tackling. At his size, he should do a better job not only tackling but holding his gap and getting off blocks. Where Wilson excels is his range in zone coverage and his ball skills. Wilson is a natural with his eyes on the quarterback, intercepting 3 passes and breaking up another 6. Wilson is a very popular corner among some of the top draft experts and is expected to hear his name called in the first 50 picks.
Howard Wilson weighs 27 lbs less than Wilson, but is very similar everywhere else, including the football field. He excels in cover 3, showing an ability to play a quarterback’s eyes extremely well. He picked off a pass once every 15 targets in his direction; he had 5 interceptions and 10 passes broken up on the season. He shows great break on the ball and consistently keeps receivers in front of him in zone, driving on either the man or the ball whichever the situation calls for.
Howard Wilson is very good playing off in zone coverage and shows good situational and stick knowledge. Like Quincy Wilson, at his size Howard Wilson profiles as a press man corner. He showed flashes of ability in this area, but needs to improve his technique and strength at the line of scrimmage. He uses his feet in press more than his hands, which is unlikely to translate at the next level.
Both Quincy and Howard Wilson profile as fits in cover 3 schemes. They both have elite ball skills, good zone instincts, and have techniques they need to improve. The biggest difference is that Quincy Wilson may end up in the first-round while Howard Wilson falls to the third or fourth. Howard is the better value for a similar skillset.
John Ross vs DeDe Westbrook at Wide Receiver
There is no player who has made a bigger name for himself in the off season than John Ross, who broke the combine record with his 4.22 40-yard dash. Watching the tape, it’s not shocking he set a record as he showed off his deep speed consistently at Washington, often running further than his QB could throw. Ross isn’t just a speed demon though; he has the footwork to match. He gets in and out of his breaks incredibly well, running crisp routes, and despite his small frame gives his QB good throwing windows in the red zone.
At 5’11” Ross’s catch radius is small, and he can struggle to beat the press if he can’t beat you with his feet. He does have strong hands despite the occasional concentration drop, but he isn’t a guy you expect to come down with 50/50 balls. He also has a worrisome medical history, tearing his MCL in 2014 and then his ACL in 2015, missing the entire season. Ross is someone who compares favorably to DeSean Jackson and, if healthy, is a safe bet to take the top off of a defense. With his route running and foot work he can develop into a top threat for any team.
DeDe Westbrook’s draft range is all over the map due to his off-field concerns. He was twice accused, but never convicted of domestic violence, leaving his draft stock in question. He is easily a second-round talent on tape, but may go anywhere between the third and seventh round. Westbrook wins in ways very similar to the way Ross wins. He has deep speed and great footwork. He gets in and out of his breaks well, and often leaves defenders in the dust.
Like Ross, despite his small frame his separation gives quarterbacks big windows to throw the ball both underneath and over the top. He has the ability to win on the outside, but he will also spend time in the slot at the next level. Again like Ross, his small frame means that he won’t win in many contested situations, and he can struggle versus press coverage.
He doesn’t have Ross’s history of injuries, but his slight frame of 6’0”, 178 lbs will leave teams worried about his durability long term. If a team feels comfortable with Westbrook the person, his talent isn’t far behind John Ross and getting him 3 rounds later would be a win.