Even though the combine is coming up within the next 2 weeks, and it’s likely these prospects will fly up draft boards after the event as well as their Pro Day, the bandwagons for these prospects begins NOW. Hop on for the ride. Here is Part 2 of the 6 NFL prospects the media should be talking about.
James Proche, WR, SMU
Proche is the 2nd “high-profile” receiver to come out of Southern Methodist in the last 3 draft classes, the second one being current Broncos Pro Bowler Courtland Sutton. Proche, however, has a very different skillset when compared to the 2019 Pro Bowler, and similar to Peoples-Jones, should be drafted based on what he is right now, rather than what he can be.
First, Proche doesn’t possess elite athleticism at all. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. He is the prototypical “high floor, low ceiling” wide receiver, which has become a very common draft profile for teams in the mid-rounds. Sometimes that profile can turn into Michael Thomas, or it could turn into Zay Jones, depending on the team fit.
However, the attribute Proche possesses that makes him one of the 10 best receivers in this class is his route-running. Even though he isn’t as good of a football player as some other receivers in this class (Jerry Jeudy, Ceedee Lamb, Tee Higgins), he has arguably the best route tree in this entire class, even rivaling that of Jeudy, Higgins, and Michael Pittman Jr. His feet are so unbelievably crisp that it looks like he’s open on almost every play.
Proche is indeed a receptions magnet because of his exceptional route-running and glue-like hands. He is Jarvis Landry to a T, and could contest for the league lead in receptions every single year, rivaling even Mike Thomas in that aspect.
It’s not difficult at all to understand why Proche may be lower on some teams’ boards. He’s not a great athlete, and it’s hard to be a good football player at the professional level when you’re not a great athlete. Even so, Proche definitely should be drafted in the first 2 rounds (probably won’t be because of how loaded the receiving class is), and teams will be very satisfied with his consistent, high-floor production at the professional level.
Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State
In every draft class, there always seems to be some corner who I really like during the pre-draft process. In 2019, it was Deandre Baker; in 2018, it was Jaire Alexander; in 2017, it was Marshon Lattimore, and in 2016 it was Jalen Ramsey. However, the corner who I’m getting that vibe from is not getting as much media hype as those other guys, yet I think he’s going to be a very good pro corner.
Cameron Dantzler from Mississippi State is getting very little media recognition, and would probably get my vote for most underrated defensive player so far. In 2018, he gave up a 42.9 passer rating, which was good enough for 2nd in the SEC. Against receivers like Jerry Jeudy, A.J. Brown, Henry Ruggs III, Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith, and Deebo Samuel, Dantzler didn’t even surrender a single touchdown. Think about that.
He held his own against the best that college football had to offer, and he continued that streak even in 2019. Against LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, a Unanimous All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner (best receiver in the nation), Dantzler gave up 2 catches for 15 yards in coverage, and both were in press-man. This can be attributed to his 6″2, 185 pound frame.
Because he’s so lanky, Chase was able to body him, and make him lose his balance. If this kid puts on 15-20 pounds during the offseason, look out. Dantzler’s a very talented corner who can thrive in off-man, bail, or just zone coverage in general. His football IQ is very high, and when he’s in zone, he reminds me of a much smaller Marcus Peters with the way he reads plays.
However, my favorite aspect of his game is his tackling. I guess it’s a Mississippi State thing to get really low and make perfect form tackles against the run. Tackling is such an undervalued part of a cornerback’s game, but in my opinion, it should be as important as footwork and IQ.
Dantzler rarely misses, and the way he dives shoulder-first so that wrapping up becomes easier makes me wonder if this kid’s best position is outside corner at all. If he builds on that frame, his best role might be a box safety who can lock down an opposing team’s best receiver in the slot, but also can protect the edge running game with lightning speed and fierce tackling, like a Chauncey Gardner-Johnson or Kenny Moore II-esque player.
Dantzler’s draft stock is very Combine-dependent. If he can show that strength and speed are above average for his position, he may be drafted in Round 1 or Round 2. His ability to diagnose run plays and then fill to make tackles like a linebacker is just incredible, especially for a corner.
The fact that he can do this while locking down receivers makes his pro comparison Tyrann Mathieu, and if he can come close to that potential, I’d say this kid can definitely make enough noise to gain some media attention.
Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah
The only non-receiver on this list is an All-American defensive end from Utah, one of the many elite players on that 2019 Utes defense. Anae has been flying under the radar because the edge rusher class is frontloaded this season, with guys such as Ohio State’s Chase Young, Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos, LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson, Alabama’s Terrell Lewis, and Boise State’s Curtis Weaver.
All of the aforementioned edge players are highly touted for a reason, but Anae wasn’t an All-American for no reason. He really improved his stock at the Senior Bowl, where he, along with Michigan edge Josh Uche, showed out all week long. Anae piled up a whopping stat sheet of 3 sacks, 5 total pressures, 1 hurry, and 1 QB hit at the Senior Bowl game, making an awesome first impression for teams.
Anae’s best attribute, and most probably the one that teams would value the most, is by far his technique. His chop and swipe moves were so successful at the Senior Bowl that the commentators just couldn’t stop saying his name. His decent get-off, paired with the swipe move, often forces tackles to overset, where he then takes advantage of that by attacking the inside shoulder with a chop move.
This kid would be a fantastic “Robin” for any defensive unit because of his nuanced technical prowess. If any team is tired of their best edge defender constantly getting double-teamed (cough, cough Seahawks), Anae is the perfect complement because putting him 1-on-1 against the 2nd best tackle is asking for poor pocket integrity. Bradlee Anae may end up as one of the most disruptive edge defenders in this entire class, and if he develops a few more pass-rush moves, who knows how good he’ll actually be.