Each year I write this column. Usually, the players turn out to be pretty good because I pay zero attention to anything other than their football games, with this year’s exception of a punter doing bench press reps. I don’t care about their forty times. I don’t care about their three-cone. I just know what happened when they played football games against other football players.
Editor’s Note I: These are not the players I think are the five best in the draft. These are the five I like best.
Editor’s Note II: I loved Mitch Trubisky. I was wrong.
#6. Michael Turk, P, Arizona State
Why is a punter benching this much? Why is a punter benching at all?
He’s a good punter. He’s a legacy player. And he’s got toughness to him. Don’t be surprised if he’s still punting in the league a decade from now.
#5. K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State
Here are the names usually associated with Hamler:
Ted Ginn Jr.
Speed. Speed. Speed for days and night and long weekends and bank holidays. The Bears desperately need speed. Hamler has enough to fire up the grill and cook the hot dogs.
But here’s what stood out to me, watching Hamler’s tape. When he was lined up against the top corner in this draft, Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah, he shook him in press coverage. (Thanks to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com for pointing that out.) Hamler isn’t going to fit every offense. But there’s an offense in the midwest that he fits perfectly.
#4 Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
I have no idea if Hurts is going to be a front line NFL starting quarterback. But I know for certain he’s going to make whatever locker room he ends up in a better place. From Fran Tarkenton:
“It took them 61 years to figure out that a mobile quarterback who can throw and run is an asset,” Tarkenton said. “Now, you look at all the young players coming up, to the guy who won the Super Bowl last year (Patrick Mahomes), Russell Wilson and today if you come in…you are not going to see anymore Tom Brady’s, Peyton Manning’s and Drew Brees, the pocket kind of guys. I’m going to give you the sleeper of the draft, Jalen Hurts, the guy who played at Alabama (and Oklahoma). This guy is a terrific leader, he’s smart, he plays well. Now he can develop into a passer. Someone is going to get a steal with Jalen Hurts. He won’t go in the first round but he’s going to be just as good as the kid at LSU (Joe Burrow). This kid can run and throw it…he gets to a National Championship…the mobile quarterback is in. You gotta have a quarterback who can buy time…that’s exactly what Mahomes did.”
In the old days, Hurts would have been chosen in the first round and given three years to develop. Will there be a team with that kind of patience this week?
#3 Rodrigo Blankenship, K, Georgia
When I heard this kid’s name, I thought he was the heavy on a Miami Vice episode.
Then I watched him kick. And man, can he kick. He also wears glasses. It’s all just incredible.
#2. Antoine Winfield Jr, S, Minnesota
Sometimes this list is completely random.
Sometimes I stumble upon a random game in the fall and my opinion of a particular player is drastically swayed by that game. This happened here.
I watched Minnesota’s upset win over Penn State and Winfield was the best player on the field. A few weeks later I watched the Golden Gophers dismantle Rutgers and I couldn’t take my eyes off him again. Couple those performances with him being a legacy player (which I always love) and this is a guy that’s going to be a great center fielder in the league.
#1 J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
I don’t get it.
Every time I watched this kid in a football game he looked like a more athletic, more explosive Emmitt Smith. And I’m not sure his talent was maximized at Ohio State because, in the modern NFL, Dobbins could easily be a 50-catch back. I understand that running back is a devalued position in the league these days but I’ll be surprised if this one isn’t among the best in the sport in a year or two.