Tony Pauline NFL Draft Mailbag: September 18

In the weekly mailbag, Tony addresses questions from draft prospects to the college football and NFL landscape.

Every Wednesday, we open up the mailbag to answer questions of all things related to NFL Draft prospects, the college football landscape, and anything in between. Despite a rather tame Week 3 in college football, there were plenty of NFL Draft prospects on display and teams gearing up for conference play. Let’s open up this week’s mailbag. 

Is the Kansas win over BC truly the start of things or is it just an outlier despite having a coach like Les Miles? Can KU start making some noise in conference play in 2020?

I absolutely think the Jayhawks win over Boston College, at BC mind you, is a foretelling of the future for KU football, no doubt. 

Les Miles is a good coach – he just could not beat Alabama, which precipitated his downfall at LSU.  He is going to need several solid recruiting classes before he can compete at the top-end of the Big 12, and presently, the depth chart is sparse of talent.

That being said, I think they could battle Iowa State and Kansas State (who looks good this season), and end up in a minor bowl game in 2020, if not this year.

I watched Tennessee OG Trey Smith against BYU. He didn’t really impress me. Is the first-round NFL Draft hype real?

During my review and grading of NFL prospects from Tennessee, which you can read here, I gave Smith a sixth-round grade, so I never believed the hype.  And most stamping him as a first-round prospect are basing their grades on hearsay- not actual scouting.

Smith has a nice upside but is rough around the edges and needs a lot of work on his game. He has a medical condition which will be thoroughly examined by NFL team doctors when he is eventually available for the draft.  

In my opinion that puts him on the last day of the NFL Draft, not first-round.

If USC starts to lose more games, how likely is it Clay Helton gets to remain head coach for the duration of the season?

With Lynn Swann gone, it will be sooner rather than later for Helton.

I was surprised the way they dominated Stanford, but I don’t think they win any of the next three games.  If they get embarrassed by Notre Dame on national television, which is a possibility, Helton could be gone before Halloween.

When is UCF going to get some national recognition and when could they in turn get an invite to a P5 conference? Thoughts on which conference that could eventually be?

They are a nationally recognized college football team- they have just been on the outside looking in of the final four in the past two seasons.

The big problem for UCF is which conference wants to expand and add one or more teams?  Not the ACC, Big Ten, or SEC.  

Very likely the Big 12 would expand but is UCF a good fit geographically? 

I am sure UCF would fill the stadium when Texas or Oklahoma come rolling into Orlando, but what about when they travel?  And how well will the UCF fans travel with the team during the regular season?

Can Arizona State be the sleeper college football team in the PAC-12 this season and could they legitimately make a run for a conference championship?

I don’t think anybody is sleeping on Arizona State except fools.

It will come down to the game against Utah on October 19, and the Utes look better on paper, but so did the Spartans last weekend.

Colorado will pose a challenge this Saturday, but the Sun Devils’ physical style will be too much for the Buffaloes.  Cal is underrated and will be another good challenge on Friday the 27th.

I am so impressed with what Herm Edwards has done at Arizona State.  I first took notice last season when they went into LA and physically beat down the Trojans to win a tight game.

Saturday’s victory over Michigan State could be a turning point. For one, it was on the road, and two, they found a way to win despite Eno Benjamin held in check.

Tony- you’ve had your finger on the pulse of the New York Jets better than anyone for more than two years, even the beat writers in town.  You laid out exactly what was going to happen with quarterback Christian Hackneberg seven months before it went down, then there was the Maccagnan firing in May, which you took a lot of grief over when you broke the news.  I know it’s early but what’s your overall assessment of the Jets? Do you think they are headed in the right direction?

The short answer is no.  

While Joe Douglas was a major step in the right direction, it goes deeper than just the general manager position, and I don’t think the Johnson’s are willing to make the necessary changes for the better.

The day Mike Maccagnan was fired and I literally went from complete moron to know-it-all in the eyes of many on social media, I posted a tweet. The substance which read, “The firing of Maccagnan and company is just a band-aid.  The Jets organization needs to be completely cleansed from top to bottom and side-to-side for any real change to take place.”

Neil Glat stepped down as team president of the New York Jets before the 2019 season began. Now, I realize the office of team president often has little-to-no effect on the win-and-loss column or the product on the field.  But rather than hire someone from the outside, a fresh face with new ideas who could challenge Chris or Woody Johnson, they hire from within and promote Hymie Elha because he was “well liked in the organization.”

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe Elha will help facilitate necessary changes and bring a winning culture to the franchise. But I struggle to see how that happens.

Remember- in 1997 Leon Hess said, “Bill Parcells- take over!” and the organization went from doormat to contenders overnight as Parcells ruled with an iron fist.  

Except for Joe Douglas, who I hope does well, I see the same people in charge of the franchise. Hence, I see no reason to expect a different result.


Tony Pauline is the lead NFL Draft analyst for PFN. Follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline

Tony Pauline is the Chief Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Tony’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @TonyPauline.