BBD Writer Tony Wiltshire
With the first day of practices down at Texas v. Nation here are some notes on some of the individual players that impressed and some that didn’t. While many will be focused on players like Ray Ray Armstrong, and MarQuies Gray it was two rather unknown players who stood out on Day 1. Day 2 looks to be an exciting one as both teams are back at it.
RB D.J. Harper, Boise State (5093, 207)
Harper has long been a personal favorite. Before he tore his ACL, he was ahead of Doug Martin on the Boise State depth chart. I didn’t see him do much at practice, but his frame (5’9”, 207) and hands (10 ⅜) will impress talent evaluators. He offers versatility as a runner and receiver, and if he runs well and passes the medical at the combine, he could be a solid contributor at the NFL level.
WR Martel Moore, Northern Illinois (6002,186)
Moore had an average day. He did a nice job setting his routes up, and he’s natural tracking the ball. However, he didn’t generate the burst to create much separation out of breaks, and he had a difficult time finding any consistency with his hands. He’s going to have a difficult time winning on the outside at the next level, and looks more like a possession type of receiver through the first day of practice.
TE Colin Anderson, Furman (6043, 231)
After weighing in at 231, Anderson is going to have a difficult time contributing in the NFL as anything more than a situational pass catcher. His hands were inconsistent on the first day of practice, but he did make a terrific catch after making Wisconsin Safety Shelton Johnson look silly on a seam route.
LB Danny Mason, Texas A&M Commerce (6021, 238)
Mason is a player I’d only read about before today, and is a guy I really wanted to see. He averaged over 11 tackles in his final season, and he consistently made plays all over the field for his team. He measured in a shade over 6’2, was 238 pounds and looked like one of the most athletic players at the weigh-in. I didn’t get to see him tackle at practice, but the guy looks like a football player. He’s natural changing directions in coverage, and he was consistently around the ball. He’ll get a shot in the NFL, and he could easily make a team as a coverage linebacker or special teams ace.
LB Ja’Gared Davis, SMU (6011, 239)
Davis is a potential 3-down player at the next level, and his skills were on full display today. He has sideline to sideline range, and his ability to read and flow against the run are NFL caliber. His instincts in coverage were just as impressive. I expect him to be a late riser in the draft process.
CB Dustin Harris, Texas A&M (5100, 173)
After looking frail at the morning weigh-in, I wasn’t expecting much from Harris. However, he impressed me in coverage throughout practice. He looked natural in press and off-man, and he displayed the fluidity in his hips to open up and make plays on the ball. He won some impressive battles with Lanear Sampson.
Safety Ray Ray Armstong, Faulkner College (6032, 227)
Armstrong has been out of football for over a year since enrolling at Faulkner. Even though he never played a snap, he wore their colors on the first day of practice. After coming in a shade over 6’3” and 227, he certainly looks the part of NFL safety. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate to the field on the first day of practice. He was routinely burned in coverage, and his instincts were non-existent . Hopefully, he’ll get his “swag” back as the week progresses.
The Nation Notes
QB Matt Brown, Illinois State (6026, 237)
Despite having the most impressive NFL frame among the QB’s at the weigh-in, Brown didn’t have a good practice. The kid can spin a football, but he struggled with his accuracy and he lacked balance in his footwork. It’s difficult to read much into at this point since most skill position guys struggle early in the week at All-Star events. I’m really high on Brown as a developmental prospect so I hope he finds his rhythm.
FB Kendall Gaskins, Richmond (6000, 232)
Gaskins came to play this week. He was one of the most impressive athletes at the weigh-in, and he carried that momentum over to practice. He didn’t get any carries, but he made several impressive plays catching the ball. He did a terrific job playing with leverage, and he absolutely destroyed a defender on one play. Even though he doesn’t possess the frame to be considered a full-time FB prospect, his versatility will get him a look late in the draft or as a priority free agent.
TE MarQueis Gray, Minnesota (6035, 239)
The coaches made an effort to get Gray involved at TE throughout practice. Even though he has the natural athleticism to make the switch, he didn’t look good on his first day. He looked very raw in his routes, and he dropped several catchable balls. He offers upside as a developmental prospect, but he has a lot of work ahead of him. He’ll be a matchup nightmare if he ever gets “it.”
OT Carter Bykowski, Iowa State (6066, 303)
I’ll probably be in the minority, but Bykowski is one of the more intriguing tackle prospects on either roster. With an athletic frame that measured over 6’6” and 303, he certainly passed the eyeball test. He’s not a natural bender, but he did a good job firing out of his stance and sliding to the edge to reach the speed rushers. I’m going to watch the next few days to see if he has the strength and coordination to handle power.
DT/DE Nicholas Williams, Samford (6045, 305)
Williams was one of the most physically imposing players at the morning weigh-in coming in at a very athletic 6’4 and 305 pounds. Since the late practice was moved indoors, I wasn’t able to see many defensive snaps. On the one’s I did, he displayed terrific explosion, agility and natural strength. I may be premature in my assessment, but I think he’ll appeal to ¾ and 4/3 teams. He’s definitely a guy I want to see more of.