Thursday, April 28, 2016

Irish dreads are smiling

If Irish eyes can smile, why can't Irish dreads too? Of course, the Irish I'm referring to aren't the same Irish mentioned in that famous song about smiling eyes written over 100 years ago - those being the real Irish, as in from Ireland. Obviously I'm talking about the football Irish. You know - Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish. There have been hundreds of NFL players over the years who played their college ball for Notre Dame; but only a handful of them have had dreads. In 2015 there were 4 such players on NFL rosters - Jaguars S Sergio Brown, Broncos S David Bruton, 49ers DT Ian Williams, and Cardinals practice squad RB Robert Hughes. But if the best case scenario comes to pass in this weekend's NFL Draft, that number will more than double by next season.

6 of the 17 hopefuls on hand for Notre Dame's pro day on Mar. 31 have dreads; and of the six there are three who definitely will be drafted and another two with an outside chance of hearing their names called before the draft wraps up on Saturday.
For a while - actually for most of the 2015 season - it seemed likely that two of them would be no doubt 1st round picks. But now it's very possible that one and maybe both of them will have to wait until Day 2 of the draft on Friday night.

It was right at the end of the 2015 season that it all went wrong for Jaylon Smith - at least as far as the draft is concerned. A couple of hours away from wrapping up his All-America junior season and remaining on course to be the first player with dreads selected in the 2016 draft - and maybe the first player with or without dreads - Smith suffered an injury in the 1st quarter of the Fiesta Bowl that was as freakish as it was devastating. Trying to keep his balance after being blocked after the play was over, he landed awkwardly and shredded his left knee. He left his final game in a Notre Dame uniform on a cart (photo on left), a far cry from the joy of the Irish's big road win over Temple 2 months earlier (photo above).

Just like that his spot in the draft turned into a giant question mark. True that the St. Louis Rams were rewarded when they took injured RB Todd Gurley in the 1st round of the draft last year. But they knew he was going to recover in time to play most of the season. That's not the case with Smith. What team is going to use their top pick on someone who's not going to play until 2017 at the earliest? Well, the writer of an article for the Chiefs blog Arrowhead Pride (first link below) thinks the Chiefs should be that team (I would love that). The article shows how talented he was before he got hurt and the great player he'll be once he gets healthy again. But then comes the sobering news from the other two articles (second and third links below) - from and USA Today - that the nerve damage in his knee is what is slowing his recovery, and it's uncertain when the nerve will get back to normal. The piece includes a video that shows how he got injured. The USA Today article goes into more detail of where he's at currently in the recovery process.

Any team picking Smith in round 1 would be in effect trading their 1st round pick this year for a top of the 1st round pick next year. It's a trade most teams aren't willing to make. They want to improve their teams now. Maybe there's a team that can afford to be patient that will come to Jaylon's rescue. But I have a feeling this injury is going to cause him to drop to the 2nd round and end up costing him millions of dollars.

Of the three lists of prospect rankings and three mock drafts I looked at, four of them predict that WR Will Fuller (photo on right) will be picked in the 1st round; one has him going in round 2; and the other says either 1st or 2nd round. So maybe he won't have to wait until Friday. Weighing in at only 186 pounds, Fuller is not going to make his money running routes over the middle of the field; but if you want a deep threat with great speed, nobody in this draft is better. During his 2015 junior season for the Irish Fuller had 14 TD catches, and the average yards on those was 45 yards. Three of them went for over 70 yards, while only three were for under 25 yards, with the shortest being a 14-yarder. The one thing that's keeping him from being a sure-thing 1st round pick is that he has dropped a few too many passes over his career, as is mentioned in the article on him (first link below) from Bleacher Report. That same article goes on to mention that he's so dangerous a deep threat that you'd be willing to live with his drops - sort of the way the Panthers do with Ted Ginn. The second link is to Fuller's profile on, which includes videos of an interview of him and his workout highlights from the NFL Combine on Feb. 28.

In order to play for his hometown team Fuller would have to be drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. But I hear they have other plans. Hopefully Will will get picked late in round 1, making one of the better teams in the league even better.

I have not even started work on my two 2015 college all-America teams, and at this late date I wonder if I ever will. But it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Sheldon Day will make the 1st team on both of them. Great player, even better dreads. Of course, it's not those outstanding dreads (on display at the Combine on Feb. 28 in photo on left) that NFL teams are interested in. Rather it's his ability to generate a pass rush from the DT position as well as the all-out effort he gives on every play. Day lived in the backfield during his senior season in 2015. His 15.5 TFL are an astonishing total for an interior lineman. But with him weighing only 293 pounds, it's questionable how effective he'll be against the run at the NFL level. That's why there are so many D-linemen in this draft rater higher than him. An article from the Dallas Fansided blog (first link below) does a good profile on Day. If you've got the time, it includes a 7+-minute video of him in action in Notre Dame's season-opening win over Texas (it's nothing special). If you have much less time, you can settle for a video of his drills at the Combine (second link).

I'm going to include Day in the "certain to be drafted" category of players I'm predicting to be selected in the first three rounds. Hopefully not but he might have to wait until first thing on Saturday.

Unlike Smith, Fuller, and Day, it's no sure thing that Chris Brown will hear his name called in the draft. But if he does, it will be because of his potential instead of his production. Brown always seemed to be on the verge of breaking out during his time at Notre Dame. With the athletic ability he has, you just always expected the 6-foot-2, 193-pound WR to do better than he was. But for whatever reason, that breakout season never happened. Although his numbers improved in each of his 4 seasons, his career totals were a modest 104 catches for 1,410 yards and 6 TD - barely a good season for some players. Still he got an invite to the Combine. Unable to perform there, however, due to a leg injury, he had to wait until pro day to show off his athletic talent to the scouts, running a good but not great 4.44-second 40-yard dash (photo on right). You can see him in action at pro day on both of the links below, the first of which is an article from Irish Illustrated that includes a highlight/interview video and the second which is a short video of him catching some passes.

4 of the 6 lists I checked have Brown not even being drafted; but one of them says he could get drafted as early as the 4th round. Let's just hope that the article (above) is right and that Chris truly is an ascending player. Because whether or not he's drafted, he's going to have to play better on Sundays than he did on Saturdays if he intends to play football for a living.

I don't know what Ishaq Williams did, but it must have been a whopper. That he was suspended for what was supposed to be his senior season in 2014 for academic impropriety was to be expected. But then last year, after he was admitted back into school, the NCAA decided it needed to do their two cents worth too and kept him ineligible to play (or even practice) all season. So Williams, a very highly ranked recruit coming out of high school in NYC who hadn't exactly set the world on fire since joining the Irish (he had just 6 TFL and started only 1 game in his first 3 seasons), never got the chance to have the big senior season he needed to have to get NFL scouts interested. But then a couple of weeks ago (at pro day), shaking off all the rust, he ran the 40 in (a very respectable for a DE) 4.83 seconds, a time that raised a few eyebrows. Obviously after not playing for 2 years he's a longshot to be drafted. But you never know. Teams are always looking for good pass rushers. And if he was impressive enough in his individual workouts with teams in the weeks after his pro day, maybe he will be the 5th Notre Dame player with dreads drafted this year. The article on Williams (link below) from ND Insider includes a 3+-minute video of all the players who participated in ND pro day - and that includes one other player with dreads I haven't mentioned, DB Matthias Farley, who has about as much of a chance of being drafted as I do.

Last year there was a bumper crop of players with dreads in the draft - a record 9 picked in the 1st round and a record 38 picked in all. This year? Well, I'll be happy if 25 get picked. That's the sad truth. And that's not all. About a half dozen of the players with dreads I expect to get drafted just started growing their dreads in the last year or two; so they're going to have to stick around for quite a while before we'll be able to see their dreads when they're on the field.


These players with dreads should know by Friday night which teams they'll be playing for after they're picked in the first 3 rounds of the draft.

WR Will Fuller - Notre Dame
RB Derrick Henry - Alabama
DE Shilique Calhoun - Michigan State
DT Sheldon Day - Notre Dame
DT Robert Nkemdiche - Mississippi
LB Jaylon Smith - Notre Dame
CB Vernon Hargreaves (photo on right) - Florida

There were more than twice as many players in this category last year than this; and 14 of the 16 were picked in the first 3 rounds. I was wrong on T.J. Clemmings (4th round) and Jay Ajayi (5th round).


Even if you're not a Georgia fan, you might remember at least a bit about their memorable 2012 season, when the Bulldogs won the SEC East and took Alabama to the wire before coming up a few yards short in the SEC championship game. The team's offense was led by a pair of outstanding freshmen RBs. Todd Gurley ended up getting most of the carries and rushed for nearly 1,400 yards; but Keith Marshall certainly wasn't any less dangerous when he got the ball. Marshall, who didn't have dreads when he enrolled at Georgia but had grown his hair long enough to debut some beginner dreads before the season was over, rushed for 759 yards and 8 TD and actually averaged more yards per carry (6.5) than Gurley (6.2). Since then Gurley, of course, has gone on to more fame and now fortune. But Marshall, thanks to the torn ACL injury he suffered in early October of his sophomore season, disappeared from the radar. With his knee not back to 100%, he ended up redshirting in 2014; and last year he carried only 68 times, spending most of the season at #3 on the depth chart behind a couple of talented youngsters (UGA never lacks for talent at the RB position, do they?).
Despite not having his college career go the way he had hoped, it didn't take long for him to reappear loud and clear on the radar of NFL teams - 4.31 seconds, to be exact. That's how long it took him to run the 40-yard dash at the Combine on Feb. 26. That time, since it turned out to be faster than anyone else at the Combine this year, earned him a check for a cool $50,000, courtesy of adidas. And it may have earned him even bigger paydays in the future, because displaying that kind of speed indicates he's back to full health and ready to again be the same outstanding player he was when he was a freshman. If you like, here are links to two articles on Marshall - one from Fox Sports South and the second from Bulldawg Illustrated.

Last year it was another Georgia player with dreads, Chris Conley, that saw his draft stock soar after a better-than-expected performance at the Combine. Let's see if the same happens with Marshall. Being a finance major, he won't even need an agent to negotiate his contact. 


The never-ending search for good pass rushers led the scouts for 26 NFL teams to Division 2 Grand Valley State University, located in the valley of the Grand River (where else?) in western lower Michigan, for their pro day on Mar. 15. They came to see a 6-foot-3, 275-pound DE named Matt Judon. In his 6th year in college and playing his first season with dreads in 2015, Judon recorded 20 sacks last year, the most of any player at any level of college football. That kind of performance, and more importantly how he showed out at the Combine, has made this player, whom I had never heard of until a few days ago (I didn't see him at the Combine), someone who is likely to be picked on Day 3 of the draft. If you haven't heard of him either, you can find out more on the links below. The first is to his profile on; the second is to an article done by Bleacher Report; and on the bottom is a short interview/highlights video from his pro day, where you can see his dreads better.

Last year's small school stud turned out to be a dud. Tory Slater wasn't drafted and didn't make anybody's team (not even the practice squad). But I'm going to take the experts' word for it that Judon really is a stud and will be on the field on Sundays this year.


As you probably noticed if you follow this blog regularly, my coverage of the 2015 college season was almost non-existent - especially for FCS teams. But even if I had spent more time on it, I doubt that I would have ever mentioned the name of Harlan Miller. Southeastern Louisiana has several players with dreads, but the photo on their website shows Miller before he started growing dreads. I would have needed to see him with his helmet off to know that he has dreads, and there just weren't a lot of chances for that to happen. Miller, the first player in school history to make 1st team all-SLC for 3 years in a row, apparently didn't do all that great at the Combine (which is where I saw him with dreads for the first time) but had already made his mark a month earlier at the Senior Bowl. He's not fast and he is skinny (6-0, 182); but if you can stay glued to receivers, it doesn't matter what size you are. His coverage was sticky enough for him to have recorded a total of 11 interceptions over the last 3 seasons. If you'd like to find out a little more on Miller, the first story on him (link below) is from the Baton Rouge Advocate when he was at the Senior Bowl; and the second is from the Carolina Panthers' Cat Scratch Reader blog. I hear the Panthers are in the market for a starting CB.

Robert Alford has shown you can make it to the NFL from Southeastern Louisiana. Hopefully Miller will follow in his footsteps. Heck, I wouldn't mind it at all if he ended up as Alford's teammate in the Falcons' secondary.


You probably already know his face but maybe not his name - that is, if you saw the incredible finish of the 2013 Iron Bowl (and shame on you if you missed it). After Auburn returned a missed FG 100+ yards for a TD on the last play of the game to beat Alabama, CBS cut to several shots of the reactions of players, coaches, and fans. A couple of those shots slowed an Auburn player with dreads just standing there in utter disbelief and amazement - probably the same reaction a lot of other people had. If you didn't know who that was, it was the face of freshman (at the time) Avery Young. Of course, since I try to keep track of all the players with dreads, I already knew it was Young. But last week while checking to see when he might be drafted, I found out something about Young I didn't know: if he gets drafted this weekend, he won't be the first in his family in the NFL. That's because Avery is the younger brother of Willie Young, a LB/DE currently with the Chicago Bears. And both of them are the cousins of Panthers LB Thomas Davis. Good bloodlines, yes; but they're not going to help earn him a roster spot. He didn't perform very well at the Combine, showing that he might not be athletic enough to play well enough at OT and would have to play at G instead. On the other hand, being able to play both positions can work in a player's favor. If you can play both decently, that kind of versatility increases your value to a team. The first link below is to a Birmingham News article on Young from Auburn's pro day in early March. Below that is his profile, including a video of his drills at the Combine.

There aren't many times you see brothers facing off against each other in the NFL. Wouldn't it be something if there was a game this season where Avery's assignment was to block Willie? Or better yet, I like's prediction of Avery being drafted by the Bears in round 4. That way the two would be teammates instead.


I'm hoping and expecting all of these players with dreads to hear their names called this weekend and be spared the disappointment of not being drafted.

OT Fahn Cooper - Mississippi
OT Avery Young - Auburn
G Sebastian Tretola - Arkansas
WR Kolby Listenbee - TCU
WR De'Runnya Wilson - Mississippi State
RB Alex Collins - Arkansas
RB Keith Marshall - Georgia
RB Paul Perkins - UCLA
DE Matt Judon - Grand Valley State
DT Willie Henry - Michigan
LB De'Vondre Campbell - Minnesota
LB Josh Forrest - Kentucky
LB Terrance Smith (photo on right) - Florida State
CB Maurice Canady - Virginia
CB Harlan Miller - Southeastern Louisiana

Of the 16 players I had in this category last year two cut off their dreads before the start of the season (Steven Nelson, Rakeem Nunez-Roches); and 3 of the remaining 14 went undrafted, although the three - Terrence Magee, Xavier Williams, and Anthony Harris - all played during the regular season.


No, no, this isn't about that character in "The Wire", the series on HBO that was popular about a decade ago. That was Brother Mouzone. But if you're a Cincinnati Bearcats fan, you probably know where this is going. As soon as I saw the "K.Mouhon" on the back of his #48 UC jersey and the dreads sticking out of his helmet (a little bit) for the first time last year, I knew he had to be. Had to be Silverberry Mouhon's brother, that is. Sure enough, he is, and LB Kevin Mouhon was on the field for his freshman season in 2015 during the same time that his older brother was playing his senior season. Although Kevin was the higher rated recruit (4 stars, to 3 for Silverberry) coming out of high school, he's got his work cut out for him if he's planning to have the better college career of the two. Silverberry had perfect attendance while he was with the Bearcats, playing in all 13 games all 4 seasons, and finished with 19 career sacks. But at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, and without great speed, he has been labeled a tweener by NFL scouts - too small to be a DE and not mobile enough in coverage to be a LB. On the two links below Pigskin and Fansided give their similar opinions on Mouhon and his chances for success in the NFL.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say there has never been anybody with the first name of Silverberry drafted by any NFL team. And it's 50-50 as to whether there will be one this year. Mouhon is squarely on the bubble. If just one team thinks what he does well can help their defense, he'll get drafted. If not, no doubt he'll get several offers to sign as a free agent and be able to pick which team he'll play for.


My guess would be that during his 4-year career at Richmond RB Jacobi Green had his dreads tackled/yanked/pulled/grabbed more than any other player in Division 1. Indeed for the first three of those years those long dreads hanging over the number 1 on his jersey were about all you noticed about Green. But that all changed midway through his senior season, thanks mostly to a change by the UR coaching staff. Little did they know it, but by lining up the QB under center instead of in the shotgun and allowing Green to line up deeper in the backfield, they were creating a monster. All of a sudden Green started having huge games every week; and by the time the dust settled, he had rushed for almost 1,600 yards (in 14 games) and scored 22 TD - this from a player who had a total of less than 1,400 yards rushing combined in his first 3 seasons.
Obviously Jacobi's confidence grew as he started having more and more success, and he became an outstanding player. Heck, if the coaches had made the change a little earlier, he might have contended for the Walter Payton award. Although I'm thrilled about it, no way did I see this coming. You could have won a lot of money from me if a year ago you had bet me that today we'd be talking about him as a possible NFL draft choice. I'd give him only about a 25% chance of actually being selected, but that might be a good thing. Because if he's a free agent, he'll be able to sign where he thinks he has the best chance of making the team. I couldn't find any photos of Richmond's pro day (the photo above is of the TD Green scored in the NFL Collegiate Bowl all-star game on Jan. 23); but you can see of a couple of shots of him in the 3-minute video featuring all of the prospects at UR pro day. That's on the second link below, just under an article on Green from the N.Y. Giants' Big Blue View blog. The third link is to the same video included in the article if you want to see the video in full screen mode.

You get the feeling that Green really does not want to ever cut his dreads off. No matter how many times they got grabbed, he just came back for more. But I don't see how dreads that long are going to survive on Sundays on a RB as small as he is. Hopefully we're going to find out though. Even if he keeps them reduced, which he started doing more often last year - these still are dreads I'd really, really love to be watching in the NFL this fall.


Maybe these players with dreads will or maybe they won't hear their names called before the draft comes to an end.
The players that I believe have a legitimate chance of being drafted will be listed at the edge of the page, like this.
          The players I believe have very little or no chance of being selected will be indented 10 spaces from
           the edge, like this.
Whether they're drafted or not, all figure to be in somebody's rookie minicamp the next weekend after the draft. (FYI: I didn't spend a lot of time compiling this list. So I might have excluded some players that deserve to be mentioned. I apologize for any such omissions.)

          OT Adrian Bellard - Texas State
OT Taylor Fallin - Memphis
          OT Jordan Gray - UTSA
          OT Mike McQueen - Ohio
          G Donovan Clark - Michigan State
G Justin Malone - Mississippi State
G Marquis Lucas - West Virginia
G/C Justin Bell (top photo on right) - Mississippi
TE Temarrick Hemingway - South Carolina State
TE Hakeem Valles - Monmouth
WR Chris Brown - Notre Dame
          WR Gary Chambers - Arizona State        
          WR Christian Collis - MTSU
          WR Pig Howard - Tennessee
          WR Macgarrett Kings - Michigan State          
          WR Marcus Johnson - Texas
          WR Darius Joseph - SMU
WR J.D. McKissic (bottom photo on right) - Arkansas State 
WR Chris Moore - Cincinnati
          WR Von Pearson - Tennessee
          WR DeAndre Reaves - Marshall
          RB Willie Davis - Tennessee Tech
RB Trayion Durham - Kent State
RB Jacobi Green - Richmond
RB Travis Greene - Bowling Green
          RB Russell Hansbrough - Missouri
          RB Daryl Virgies - Virginia (Lynchburg)
          DE Fadol Brown - Mississippi
          DE Quinton Bradley - Idaho
          DE Vontarrius Dora - Louisiana Tech
          DE Lenny Jones - Nevada
DE Silverberry Mouhon - Cincinnati
DE Ishaq Williams - Notre Dame
          DT Brandin Bryant - FAU
          DT Cory Johnson - Kentucky
DT Darren Lake - Alabama
          DT Johnny Maxey - Mars Hill
          DT Darryl Render - Pittsburgh
          LB Quentin Gause - Rutgers
          LB Emmanuel Graves - Colorado Mines
          LB Clarence Green - Missouri
          LB Cory Littleton - Washington
          LB Lamar Louis - LSU
LB Curt Maggitt - Tennessee
LB Tyriq McCord - Miami (Florida)
          LB Gervell Morgan - Central State         
          CB Jordan Champion - North Dakota State
          CB Ahmad Christian - Utah  
          CB De'Vante Harris - Texas A&M
          CB Deneco Hathorn - Concordia (AL)
          CB Lewis Hill - New Mexico State
          CB Deangelo James - Wagner
CB Cre'von LeBlanc - FAU
CB Danzel McDaniel - Kansas State
          CB Demetrious Nicholson - West Virginia
          CB Leviticus Payne - Cincinnati
          CB Lafayette Pitts - Pittsburgh
          CB Margo Reed - South Alabama
          S D.J. Cameron - Southern Illinois
          S Terrick Colston - Delaware State
          S Dallas Crawford - Miami (Florida)
          S Paul Dodson - Lincoln (MO)
S Trae Elston - Mississippi
          S Matthias Farley - Notre Dame
          S Taj Letman - Marshall
S Brian Randolph - Tennessee
          S Sam Smiley - North Carolina
S Trevon Stewart - Houston
          S Jarrod Wilson - Michigan

One of the 50 players I had in this category last year cut off his dreads. 9 were drafted, with Terry Poole (for some reason) being picked the earliest, in round 4. 5 others that were not drafted were on NFL rosters last season.

There are a few players that could be drafted that may be starting to grow dreads. I' haven't welcomed them to the house yet, but I might after I get a closer look. They are CB Anthony Brown (Purdue), CB Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech), and DT Vincent Valentine (Nebraska). I'll also be keeping an eye on CB Zack Sanchez (Oklahoma), who cut his dreads off for last season but has been letting his hair grow back long ever since.


I'd prefer to post my draft preview a few days before the draft to give you some time to digest it a bit. I'm sorry to throw it at you at the last minute like this. I really rushed to get this done, so I hope there aren't too many errors. Next up are my final 2 NFL reports for 2015, which are a very long way from being finished at this time.