Tony Pauline Mailbag: NFL Draft, Jalen Thompson, and Rookie Impacts

This week's mailbag with Tony Pauline focuses on Jalen Thompson and the NFL supplemental draft, rookie impacts in 2019, the 2020 NFL Draft, and much more.

On August 11, I will be joining Pro Football Network on a full-time basis and my website, will then re-direct to PFN. Leading up to that date, I have conducted two Q&A sessions, with the most recent one focusing on a wide variety of topics. Beginning August 11, I will conduct weekly mailbag sessions and one weekly podcast throughout the year through the end of the NFL Draft.

This week’s mailbag focuses on the NFL supplemental draft, rookie impacts this coming season, the 2020 NFL Draft, and much more. If you’d like to submit a question for our next mailbag, please email Matthew Cannata here. 

Tony, you wrote an article the night before the supplemental draft and said three teams were targeting Jalen Thompson; the Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, and Arizona Cardinals.  You were right on the mark with Arizona.  Any word on how close the other two were to bidding on Thompson?

I was told the night before Wednesday’s draft that the Packers decided not to use a pick on Thompson during the supplemental draft despite the fact they liked him.  Their game plan was to go hard if Thompson was not selected in the draft and offer him a big free agent contract.  I was informed the Texans put in a fifth-round bid for Thompson but it was too late as the Cardinals got to him first.

Were there any other teams interested in Thompson?  Were you hearing of any late interest?

The Minnesota Viking were doing a lot of digging deep and the belief was they had put in a late round bid (6th/7th) for him. However, this is only what I’ve heard so there is no confirmation. The New York Jets also had a lot of interest in Thompson but like the Packers, they were not going to use a draft pick on him. Rather, they were looking to outbid everyone else with a free agent offer.  They did the same thing in last year’s supplemental draft with Brandon Bryant, who is still on the roster.

Heading into the 2019 season and the 2020 NFL Draft, how do you stack the two elite defensive ends, AJ Epenesa and Chase Young?

I grade Young ahead of Epenesa but I think both are slightly overrated. Young has the explosiveness and athleticism you want in an elite pass rusher but he struggles handling blocks at the point.  He is also streaky at times.

Epenesa does not come across on film as an elite athlete but makes a lot of plays.  He’s bigger and stronger than Young but I wonder – as he physically matures and fills out his frame, does he stay at defensive end in a four-man line?

What rookie do you think will have the biggest year/impact this coming season?

There are two rookies who I think will have the biggest impact this coming season. The first is offensive lineman Garrett Bradbury from the Vikings. Obviously, you won’t be able to measure his impact with stats but he’s going to be a day one starter and I think he’s only going to get better as the season progresses.

The other is wide receiver N’Keal Harry from the New England Patriots.  When you look at the situation Harry is in with the Patriots, when you look at his strengths and the Patriots needs, I think this is a match made in heaven.

Is there an undrafted free agent that could make the same type of impact that Philip Lindsay made last year?

When you look at the possibilities of who is out there, I am led to wide receiver David Sills from the Buffalo Bills. I was surprised when Sills wasn’t drafted even in the late rounds.  He’s not a great athlete but he is a terrific receiver with dependable hands.  That’s what quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills need.  Buffalo had similar success years ago with a tight end from Michigan named Jay Riemersma – former QB turned pass catcher, though he was drafted in the seventh round.

When scouting college quarterbacks in the NFL Draft, what is the very first thing you look for?

It’s not arm strength. Rather, it’s what is going on between the ears – poise, patience, and the ability to locate receivers and timing on passes. You don’t want receivers waiting for the ball to arrive.  You can get away with that on Saturday but not Sunday.  I also want to see accuracy and when I say accuracy, I am referring to pass placement vs. statistical accuracy.

Now, when you look at this past draft and QB Daniel Jones from the New York Giants, everything listed above is why he was selected so much earlier than everyone thought.

Is there anything Jared Goff can do this year to not get re-signed by the Los Angeles Rams?

Short of a catastrophic injury, I don’t see that happening.  The Rams aside, Goff has the same agents as Carson Wentz, who just inked a long-term deal.  So I’m sure they’ll want Goff to be taken care of as well.

What specific teams do you notice have the most unique way of evaluating talent for the NFL Draft and what do you attribute that to? The Seattle Seahawks comes to mind for me.

I would agree with the Seahawks – they don’t always take the highest rated player rather the player that best fits their scheme. The Philadelphia Eagles, when Howie Roseman is making the calls, are similar.  They get good players but also players that fit their system.

Chris Ballard in Indianapolis seems on the right path to join these two.

At the quarterback position, no one has done it better over the long term than the New England Patriots, Andy Reid, and guys who worked with Reid such as Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.

Besides the quarterback position, what other ones are the most difficult to scout for?

When evaluating for the NFL Draft, hands down, it’s the safety position. Most of them look really good running downhill in a straight line making plays facing the action but can they go sideline to sideline?  What are their cover skills like?  Can they make plays in reverse? All of this is tough to scout on film and it makes evaluating that position tricky.

What do you find is the most challenging trait for a quarterback to improve on when moving from college to the pros?

The speed of the game and the ability to think quickly and make proper decisions rather than relying on pure arm strength to complete a pass.

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