New York Jets: UDFA Breakdowns, Lawerence Cager

New York Jets, C.J. Mosley

Over the coming weeks, I plan to breakdown the little known additions to the New York Jets, the UDFAs. The Jets added a couple of new players with varying levels of potential and talent at a few positions of need. The Jets have had UDFAs turn into key contributors in previous years like Robby Anderson, Damon Harrison, and even the legend, Wayne Cherbert. The first UDFA breakdown is Lawerence Cager, WR, Georgia.

Strengths

Lawerence Cager is a very unique player with his build. Similar to Quincy Enunwa, Cager is a speed threat with the body of a tight end. He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands and can be a good fit in quick throw and bubble screen packages that Adam Gase likes to run. Cager has got a lot of heart, if you look at his track record, Cager has been a leader and willed his way onto the field despite injuries in the past. Lawerence Cager has the physical and mental makeup to be a contributor at the next level. With good coaching, his talent could be harnessed into a formidable outside option or a depth receiver.

Weaknesses

Although I mentioned the dynamic aspect of Cager’s game, he also lacks a developed route tree. He’s got very good hands and he’s a crisp route runner, but at times he relies on his natural abilities to make up for lack of advancement in turns of his route tree. Natural ability may work in college, but at the next level, it won’t be as easy. Cager needs to develop more in that aspect. Cager also has a talented outside threat opposite him in George Pickens. That drew a lot of guys towards Pickens and freed Cager up more. This gave Cager more capability to succeed against lower-level corners. That’s a minor note that could be something to watch though. Lastly, injuries may have been something Cager could overcome at times, but he still missed the end of last season with a serious ankle injury. It may not be that much of an issue on the surface, but deeper damage could’ve hurt the dynamic aspect of his game and slowed him down a bit. That will remain to be seen.

Overall Outlook

Lawerence Cager was a worthwhile flyer in a free agency. There are definitely good reasons for Cager to not get drafted. The concerns in his game and injuries are justified. Ultimately, Cager is not going to be counted on to contribute right away. If Cager wins a spot on the roster, Hines Ward will likely be a key guy to watch in his development. If Ward sees potential in Cager or any other young receivers, his eye will be trusted. Cager could be a Quincy Enunwa prototype at best, but at worst this was just a camp body. 

NFL: Draft Top Five Running Back Rankings

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, over the next few days I plan on breaking down the best and brightest talents in this years class. The RB position has a few big names, mostly, the draft has some very unique late round guys. Of all those guys who are the top ones?

1. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Pro Comparison: Melvin Gordon Jr.

Jonathan Taylor is the top back in this class. He was the best running back in college football last year. Taylor is THE do it all back in the class. He’s got everything you want in a running back and then some. He’s got high IQ, good elusiveness, good leadership. He’s an excellent back and could really be one of the safest playmakers in the draft overall. Taylor would have an expected value of being at a level similar to Gordon. If he lives up to his potential and then some, he can outplay this comp. Taylor is a can’t miss pick at running back.

2. JK Dobbins, Ohio State

Pro Comparison: Le’Veon Bell

Dobbins is far and away my favorite back in this class. He’s a fierce runner, patient, elusive and has phenomenal vision. Dobbins is a do it all back. He’s got potential to be a lead back very shortly. Dobbins has such a patient and violent running tactic that Bell is a great comparison for him. Dobbins would be very high on my board if I was a GM based on tape, which leads me to wonder why he’s not as highly rated by the general media.

3. D’Andre Swift, Georgia

Pro Comparison: Alvin Kamara

Swift is well, swift. He’s a really elusive back who excels in open space. He’s got a game breaking ability with the ball in his hands. He’s good catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s also very good in open space. Swift would be a great back in a lot of offenses immediately. There’s not a lot of questions with him. How his game will translate to the next level shouldn’t be a question because Georgia is a running back factory. Swift reminds me of Kamara because of his success in open space.

4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

Pro Comparison: Ray Rice

Helaire is maybe my 2nd favorite back in this class. Helaire flashed signs of his full potential last year in an offense where Joe Burrow stole the headlines. Helaire is a really good back and he can be a lead back in an offense at some point soon. Every LSU staffer and teammate has given him rave reviews, they’ve even said he’s still capable of much more. Helaire and his running style reminds me heavily of vintage Ray Rice. Helaire has a lot of potential and I’m excited to see him at the next level. The only question marks revolve around whether or not he can truly fulfill that potential or if he just succeeded because of the talent of his quarterback.

5. LaMical Perine, Florida

Pro Comparison: Tj Yeldon

Perine is a very strong running back. He dominated the bench press and flashed strength. He does lack that incredible burst. Perine is more of a do it all back capable of grinding out yardage. Perine is very similar to Tj Yeldon in the sense of being able to pick up 1st downs as a grind out yardage back. Perine can be a very productive back out of a committee. Perine has a lot of questions, the biggest being if he can develop into a more elusive back. If not than he’ll be an above around ground and pound back at best. 

New York Jets #MockDraftMonday: April 6, 2020

New York Jets

After Joe Douglas’ public comments, this week’s New York Jets mock draft from our experts gains position unanimity with the 11th overall pick.

With a healthy haul of veteran blockers, one would expect the New York Jets to use the 11th overall pick of the upcoming NFL Draft on a so-called “exciting” pick. Perhaps a receiver could be called to replace Robby Anderson. A depleted pass rush could use a sack threat. Even the secondary could use a bit more help, even with some big names lined up.

To paraphrase Jets general manager Joe Douglas…not so fast.

In his first public comments of the offseason, Douglas seemed to hint that the Jets’ offensive line renovation might not be completed just yet.

“I think there’s a real shortage of quality offensive linemen in the NFL,” Douglas said in a Wednesday afternoon conference call, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. “We’re going to do our best to get as many quality ones as we can because you can never have too many.”

Geoff Magliocchetti

1st Round (11th overall): OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
2nd Round (48th overall): WR K.J. Hamler, Penn State
3rd Round (68th overall): EDGE Julian Okwara, Notre Dame
3rd Round (79th overall): CB Bryce Hall, Virginia
4th Round (120th overall): S Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois
5th Round (158th overall): RB AJ Dillon, Boston College
6th Round (191st overall): LB Mohamed Barry, Nebraska
6th Round (211th overall): K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia

The flexibility we thought the Jets would have at the 11th pick seems to have gone by the wayside with Douglas’ apparent commitment to a blocker. But that flexibility can present itself in new ways on draft weekend. With the depth and imperative transactions the Jets have gained and made via free agency, the Jets have plenty of freedom with their remaining seven picks. The wiggle room could be especially advantageous when it comes to their three picks in the Friday session.

Douglas is apparently intrigued by the deep blocking class available on the first day. Even if Thomas goes within the first ten picks, Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs, and Thomas’ SEC compatriot Jedrick Wills should be readily available. Day two would allow the Jets to fill one of their biggest remaining needs: receiving and defensive depth. Hamler is a Friday gem that would immediately contribute to any offense, while Okwara would fill the necessary pass rush void in order to start giving Josh Allen nightmares. The trend of immediate depth contributors extends into day three. Chinn can work alongside the established strong duo of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, while Dillon becomes a much-needed spell option for Le’Veon Bell.

Brendan Carpenter

1st Round (11th overall): OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
2nd Round (48th overall): WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
3rd Round (68th overall): EDGE Bradlee Anae, Utah
3rd Round (79th overall): WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
4th Round (120th overall): CB Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame
5th Round (158th overall): DE Jonathan Greenard, Florida
6th Round (191st overall): LB Mohamed Barry, Nebraska
6th Round (211th overall): K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia

Taking a receiver with their first pick is tempting, but the Jets would opt to go the safe route to solidify the remaining spot on their offensive line. I originally had the Jets selecting Jalen Reagor out of TCU on day two, but at 6’4″ with a long frame, Higgins would be tough to pass on. He knows how to show up in big games as well. The receiving trend continues with the 6’3, 212-pound Edwards, but there would be some question marks. He missed his final two games with a knee injury and broke his foot while training for the combine. Despite these setbacks, Edwards is another addition that could have a decent upside. Appropriately, the Jets would use the pick earned from the Leonard Williams trade to Anae (13 sacks in 14 starts last season).

Cornerback is a position of need for Gang Green. With Jeff Okudah most likely going in the top-five in the draft, there is no need to reach for one after that. Getting Pride Jr. in the third round would satisfy a need the Jets desperately need to address. He would slide in to play alongside Pierre Desir and Brian Poole in the secondary. Greenard could immediately contribute on the defensive line, especially if Quinnen Williams is suspended.

Dylan Price

1st Round (11th overall): OT Jedrick Wills, Alabama
2nd Round (48th overall): WR KJ Hamler, Penn State
3rd Round (68th overall): EDGE Joshua Uche, Michigan
3rd Round (79th overall): CB Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame
4th Round (120th overall): OT Ben Bartch, St. John’s (MN)
5th Round (158th overall): RB Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State
6th Round (191st overall): TE Colby Parkinson, Stanford
6th Round (211th overall): OL Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon

In our last mock, I projected Andrew Thomas would be the pick. This time he was off the board, so Wills becomes the key offensive lineman of the future. He, Bartch and Throckmorton are all incredibly versatile offensive linemen. Bartch and Wills can be starters quickly, while Throckmorton provides depth. Hamler has elite playmaking ability and immediately becomes an excellent weapon for Sam Darnold.

Parkinson also becomes a good weapon, with high potential, who could fight for some reps at tight end. Uche and Pride both can develop behind the starters this year and be groomed to take over in 2021. Evans was a pick in my last mock draft who could be the future back for this team.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants NFL Draft Profile: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants are picking fourth overall in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. This is their third straight season picking inside the top-ten. It is a crucial draft that general manager Dave Gettleman needs to get right in order to keep his job.

The Giants have many positions of need, but arguably their weakest position is offensive tackle. Luckily for New York, the 2020 NFL Draft class is rich in offensive line talent, especially in the first round. One of the top offensive tackle prospects in this year’s class is Andrew Thomas, a refined prospect out of Georgia.

This article is the third installment of a new article series here on Empire Sports Media. This new series, the NFL Draft Profile series, will feature breakdowns of notable draft prospects to create a profile that summarizes and highlights the prospects’ top strengths and weaknesses. You can check out the first installment, the Isaiah Simmons NFL Draft Profile, here. The second installment, the Mekhi Becton NFL Draft profile, can be found here.

Granted, I am not an expert draft analyst. However, in this article, I will be breaking down Andrew Thomas as a prospect after watching hours of his film and using credible draft analysis from various sites such as NFL.com, Pro Football Focus, and The Draft Network intertwined with my own analysis. I will use the expert analysis to cross-check and cross-reference. I will use it to confirm or deny what I have seen on film. A YouTube video will also accompany this article on our channel, Fireside Giants. Unlike the last two draft profiles, I did not make this video. Instead, our chief engineer behind the Fireside Giants YouTube channel, Mike Iarrapino, made our Andrew Thomas Scouting Profile video.

Top Strengths:

Polished Technique:

Unlike Mekhi Becton, Andrew Thomas’s technique is not his biggest weakness- it is his biggest strength. Thomas is a polished offensive line prospect with a refined technique that allows him to excel as both a run-blocker and a pass-blocker.

Georgia’s 2019 matchup versus LSU is an excellent game to watch when evaluating Andrew Thomas. Thomas starting at left tackle, was tasked with defending LSU’s first-round EDGE prospect K’Lavon Chaisson. Chaisson has game-breaking speed for his position and is a handful for any offensive tackle that he is matched up against. But Andrew Thomas rose to the challenge and put together an impressive performance shutting down Chaisson despite a lopsided loss to the LSU Tigers.

In this Tweet, below are some of the best clips from Andrew Thomas’s matchup against K’Lavon Chaisson. Note the incredible lateral quickness that Thomas possesses as he efficiently beats Chaisson to the spot each rep and easily redirects Chaisson to the turf while remaining balanced and technical:

Andrew Thomas has excellent balance. He has very active feet that give him the ability to be a secure pass-protector. Seeing Thomas handle a speedy pro-level edge rusher like Chaisson bodes well for his NFL future. But he is not perfect in this regard and does have some technical difficulties against speed rushers that sometimes get him into trouble.

Andrew’s advanced technique also shows up in his run-blocking performance. The Georgia tackle is known for being a proficient run-blocker, and his technique and high football IQ are a big reason why.

Run Blocking:

Andrew Thomas is an excellent run-blocking offensive tackle. He demonstrated time and time again that he has no problem moving defenders to open up holes for Georgia’s talented running backs. Thomas’s run-blocking talents were on full display in Georgia’s 2019 matchups against Notre Dame and Texas.

In the Tweet below are some of my favorite highlights of Andrew Thomas run-blocking. Thomas throws multiple key blocks in single plays. He has high football IQ and great spatial awareness, which allows him to do this.

Andrew Thomas does a great job with cut-off blocks. He seals off defenders away from the running lanes and gives them no chance to get in front of the running back.

Top Weaknesses:

Pass Protection Against Speed Rushers:

I previously presented some highlights from Andrew Thomas’s matchup with LSU speed rusher K’Lavon Chaisson. That was one of Thomas’s most impressive games as he handled the difficult matchup exceptionally well. Still, not every play from that game was a win for Thomas, and some flaws in Andrew’s game did show up against Chaisson (and other speed rushers in other games).

Andrew Thomas’s technique against speedy edge rushers can be inconsistent. His footwork against speed guys sometimes gets him into trouble as his lateral agility can be stunted by lousy technique and footwork. Speed rushers have opportunities to beat Thomas around the edge with pure burst and bend.

The footwork against speed rushers is Andrew Thomas’s main issue. Often his initial kick step does not place him back far enough, and when he tries to shuffle to the right spot, it is already too late. That first step is vital for offensive tackles, and when facing an edge rusher with an abundance of burst, that first step needs to be perfect.

Some issues arise with Andrew’s hands when defending speed rushers. Whether he is late to initiate contact or has his elbows too wide, this is somewhere that Andrew Thomas needs to be more consistent.

He can struggle to keep pace up the arc with speed off the edge so cleaning up his pass sets is necessary. -Joe Marino of The Draft Network

Recap:

Andrew Thomas is a refined offensive tackle prospect. His technique is polished. Thomas also possesses more than enough strength and athleticism to get the job done in the NFL.

Thomas’s strength is as a run-blocker, where he has excellent spatial awareness and high football IQ that allows him to make multiple key blocks in a single play. He does have some occasional whiffs, as all lineman do, but he is a remarkably consistent run-blocker that uses his refined technique to open up holes and drive defensive linemen backward.

Andrew Thomas does struggle at times when matching up against speedy edge rushers and will need to work on this in the NFL. Thomas will need to improve his footwork and lateral quickness/agility against speed rushers off the edge. His hand placement and initial contact can use some improvement, too. His hands are too wide sometimes and cause him to miss the defender. He also has some reps where he waits too long to initiate contact, and, when he does, there is sometimes not enough power behind the punch.

The New York Giants have many different options they can select at the fourth overall pick. If the Giants go offensive tackle in the first round, they need to give serious consideration to Andrew Thomas. Thomas’s proficient run-blocking will help Saquon Barkley flourish in Jason Garrett’s offense that, in Dallas, featured an elite left tackle in Tyron Smith for years.

Drafting Andrew Thomas would not only make Saquon Barkley better, but it would help Daniel Jones develop, too. Jones needs stability at the left tackle position, and while there might be some growing pains for Thomas early on in his career (especially when dealing with speed rushers), he has exhibited the potential to be a premier offensive tackle with a polished technique to succeed as a pass-blocker. This is not me saying that Andrew Thomas should definitely be the pick (I am still leaning towards Isaiah Simmons), but Andrew Thomas to the Giants is a draft pick I would not hate- especially if they land him in a trade-back scenario.