It’s the final film-focused edition of Monday NFL Draft Musings, as we’ll hopefully have news and notes next week heading into the Combine in Indianapolis. I’m a little more than halfway through the Pac-12 film, albeit with Utah and Washington still left to break down. Despite that, there’s plenty to talk about.
Arizona State’s dynamic duo
Though he had a disappointing season, it’s easy to see why Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin is so well-liked in the scouting community. He’s a tough ball carrier with exceptional quickness and terrific pass-catching hands. His football intellect and instincts also stand out. The problematic portion of Benjamin’s game is his inability to turn the perimeter. Despite this, I believe Benjamin could slide into the second day of the draft if he tests well at the combine.
I don’t understand why many grade Benjamin’s teammate, wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, as a second-day selection. He’s without a doubt a solid receiver, but he has average size and average deep speed. Aiyuk absolutely does not possess a second gear and isn’t fast enough to be a consistent vertical receiver. It doesn’t mean Aiyuk won’t be productive at the next level; I just question how he fits into the initial 120 selections of the draft.
Colorado’s pair of defenders to keep an eye on
From Colorado, I came away impressed by two underrated defenders.
Davion Taylor is what the league wants in linebackers these days – fast and explosive with the ability to chew up lots of ground in no time. He’s great in pursuit, gets depth on his pass drops, and forces the action on the blitz. His instincts are questionable, and Taylor may not be able to play in a complex defensive scheme that requires a lot of thinking, but he will be productive in the right scheme at the next level.
I continue to be impressed with safety Mikial Onu, who came to Colorado by way of SMU. No one talks about him, but Onu constantly makes positive plays against both the pass and the run and never has mental lapses on the field. I don’t expect Onu to be selected in the draft, but keep an eye on him in camp next summer.
Oregon Ducks with one of most underrated players in Pac-12
If there was one player I got the “wow” factor from while viewing the Oregon film, it was guard Shane Lemieux.
Lemieux is a large, violent blocker who looks to annihilate defenders and usually does once he gets his hands on them. He’s powerful, explosive and just plain dominant. What Lemieux lacks is mobility and the ability to block on the move, which makes him a poor fit in any type of zone-blocking scheme. That being the case, I think Lemieux will quickly break in with the first team for a conventional offense that reduces his area responsibilities.
The Oregon film also affirmed something I mentioned several times during Shrine Game practices – Juwan Johnson’s best position at the next level is tight end, not wide receiver. Johnson catches the ball well and uses his size as an advantage, but he’s slow to release off the line, runs poor routes, and cannot separate. He gathers into breaks, shows almost no quickness whatsoever, and floats out of route breaks, which gives corners a chance to break on the throw.
When considering his size, overall athleticism, and pass-catching skill, I do think Johnson will be a good move tight end at the next level.
USC OT Austin Jackson a top-25 player in the 2020 NFL Draft?
The player who has impressed me the most from the Pac-12 so far is USC tackle Austin Jackson.
Watching his footwork, lateral range, and ability to adjust makes me believe Jackson is the purest left tackle prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s not as strong or as good a run blocker as my higher-rated tackles, but Jackson comes with great upside.
As the 2019 college season closed out, a west coast scout told me he believed Jackson was a top-15 pick. I didn’t believe him then and don’t believe him now, but I absolutely think Jackson will be a top-25 choice.