Thoughts on four 2021 draft prospects

May 28th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Andre Cisco — not the biggest or fastest but very instinctive

Our early look at the 2021 draft was curtailed somewhat because there were more important things to talk about regarding the Seahawks. Today I wanted to run through some thoughts on five players I’ve watched recently.

Xavier Thomas (DE, Clemson)

It’s pretty clear he’s a unique athlete on tape. His quickness and acceleration is top drawer and you see little flashes where he really wows you with his athleticism. That said, there are also some concerns.

At SPARQ he ran a 4.58 forty, a 4.30 short shuttle and he jumped a 33 inch vertical. He was the #4 overall recruit in High School and in terms of pure potential — he’s every bit the five star prospect. The issue is that while he has the testing numbers he doesn’t have a frame to fit any obvious position.

He’s 6-2 and 265lbs. He’s too stocky to drop down to linebacker where his speed and quickness could make a real difference. He’s not long and lean enough to be a LEO but he’s undersized for a five-technique or inside/out rusher. He also has some stiffness trying to bend-and-straighten off the edge and he doesn’t have the length to keep his frame clean when he has to engage.

He had two sacks in 12 games in 2019 and only eight TFL’s. He has the big recruiting chops and the high-end athleticism to get a mention in scouting circles — but he has a long way to go to prove he can be an Adrian Clayborn type. It’s also worth noting how freakishly special Clayborn’s short shuttle was (4.13 at 281lbs). Players like him are rare. Thomas has to aspire to be that type of player but it’s hard to get that excited about him based on what we’ve seen so far. This will be a big season for him.

Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota)

Watching Bateman last year was a thing of beauty. In several big games he racked up targets and completions. It just felt like he caught everything. He especially showed well in the bigger games against Penn State, Iowa and Purdue — all wins.

All-22 tape is available online so you can really get a feel for what he does well. You have to say he’s not particularly sudden in his release and he perhaps lacks the speed to challenge the top-10. He was only a three-star recruit and didn’t do any SPARQ testing. He doesn’t create the kind of easy separation teams want to see.

Nevertheless, there’s still so much to like. He creates subtle late separation, appears to be fairly sound in his route-running and he has a second gear which is just quick enough to threaten downfield. He doesn’t fight the ball, he gains position well against defensive backs and can win the contested grabs. He makes the highlight-reel catches and was just so consistent when Minnesota needed a play in 2019.

If he plays well again in 2020, his ability to jump up boards will depend on his testing. If nothing else he’s a reliable playmaker with enough sparkle to be more than just a chain-mover.

Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)

There’s a lot of buzz about Lance especially after last season where he recorded 42 total touchdowns and zero interceptions. You can’t argue with the numbers and he’s a very creative player who fits the modern style of the NFL. He’s mobile, can throw from difficult angles and he can take off and scramble for a first down or a touchdown. He’s a lot of fun to watch.

In terms of arm strength and physicality it all seems good enough. He’s listed at about 6-3 and 224lbs so there are no issues there. It’s unlikely, given the level of competition, that anything remarkable would happen in 2020 to hammer his stock. We’ll need to see of course if all levels of college football restart in 2020.

There are some things to watch for though. Firstly, his offense rarely requires him to do any more than one read. You don’t see any evidence of him going through progressions or facing any real challenges. Often he had a ton of time in the pocket allowing for receivers to uncover. The craziest thing though was watching his touchdowns and seeing how often his tight end or receiver was wide open for an easy throw. It’s as if they played against 10 players on defense for a season.

Lance won’t get it that easy at the next level and teams will need to judge whether he can cope with a much more pressurised situation at the next level. Even so, Carson Wentz couldn’t stay healthy at North Dakota State and he landed at #2 overall. Lance has stayed healthy and productive and he fits what a lot of teams are looking for now.

Chuba Hubbard (RB, Oklahoma State)

I’ll keep this one short and sweet. I like Hubbard as a college running back. He’s fun to watch. But he doesn’t look remotely like a NFL running back.

He’s 6-1 and 207lbs and it’s like watching a receiver running the football. It’s quite pleasant watching him in the ultra-spread system at Oklahoma State, exploiting running lanes and breaking off massive runs every week. His highlight reel is basically just one long untouched sprint after another.

At the next level though, those lanes aren’t going to be there. He’s going to need to go between the tackles, handle the physical nature of the pro’s and he’s not just going to run in a straight line downfield for 60 yards every week. At best he looks like a complimentary piece but even then — it’s hard to imagine him working out in pass-pro on third downs and he only had 23 receptions last season.

Sometimes great college players simply aren’t destined to make great pro’s. That, unfortunately, seems to be Hubbard’s likely outcome unless he can develop his frame and retain his burst and quickness.

Andre Cisco (S, Syracuse)

Watching Cisco was the first nice surprise of the off-season. I don’t think he looks particularly dynamic as an athlete and he’ll have some limitations in that regard to ground his stock in a fairly modest range. That said, he’s a playmaker with a knack for turnovers and he’s capable of packing a punch despite a modest frame.

He only ran a 4.61 at SPARQ but he performed better in the vertical (35 inches) and short shuttle (4.25). He’s only 6-0 and 199lbs and he’s not the kind of rangy free safety that’ll have teams salivating.

Yet he has 12 interceptions in his first two years at Syracuse and that can’t be overlooked. Some players just have a nose for the football. He’s also forced a couple of intelligent fumbles — including chasing down a ball-carrier and punching it out from behind. He’s instinctive, reads the play well and breaks on the ball with sharpness.

Cisco will need to work in a tandem and if you put him alongside someone who’s perhaps just a little bit quicker in covering ground, he could make an ideal partner. There aren’t many safeties who look this instinctive this early in their careers. He might not be a high pick but he has the potential to make the team who takes him look very intelligent.

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66 Responses to “Thoughts on four 2021 draft prospects”

  1. Sea Mode says:

    Thank you for this. I am eager to get a look at Cisco.

    • cha says:

      The writeup made me flash back to the report on TT coming out of Colorado.

      • cha says:

        That’s not to say Cisco will wash out like TT. Just the nose for the ball, lacks elite physical skills.

  2. Gohawks5151 says:

    Finally a positive article! 😉 haha. I love hearing your opinions on this upcoming class so early. Gives me a lot of names to keep an eye on when/if the season starts. I will watch Cisco. Sounds like a good safety group next year. Agree on Chuba. Iv’e seen him mocked in Rd 1 after this years draft. I don’t know why.

  3. Logan Lynch says:

    I can hear The Professor now…

    Seattle is looking really closely at running backs. One guy they really like is Chumbawumba.

  4. BobbyK says:

    42 total TDs with 0 INTs is pretty incredible.

  5. Mark Taylor says:

    Rob – an unrelated question but have you ever asked to interview John Schneider? The thought came up when I was listening to the Pedestrian pod. A professional interview with someone who really knows their stuff and has strong clear opinions – I don’t think I’ve heard one like that before with JS and would love to listen into it. If not, is there anyone in this community could help make it happen? Or via Jim Nagy maybe? Just a thought – but I’d love to see it happen…

    • Rob Staton says:

      I’ve never asked, mainly because I know the answer would be no. John Schneider doesn’t do many interviews. I’d be very surprised if he’d entertain doing one for a mere blog.

      I’d love to do it. But it’s very unlikely.

  6. Dassom says:

    I watched Hubbard last year it seemed like he had an extra gear that I haven’t seen in a RB in a long time. When he’s on the field it clearly seems as if he’s by far the best player on the field offense & defense. When I see a player like Hubbard on offense or defense there’s no way I’m going to discount him until the combine. He had over 2,000 yards & 21 TD’s not playing behind an OL of Wisconson’s caliber and in a passing offense. Presence & production in his junior year, my gut tells me he’s a Heismond candidate and so far I like him far more than I liked Johnathan Taylor after his junior year. Hubbard might screw up 2020 but if he matches or exceeds his Junior year numbers & has a great combine he a far better RB than Jonathan Taylor. At that point I’m watching Barry Sanders Oklahoma State videos to see how they compare.

    • Rashi says:

      People just need to stop using Barry Sanders as a comp.

      He is not Barry Sanders.

      Barry Sanders is an impossible talent that comes once in every 20 years.

      Nobody is Barry Sanders. Ridiculous to bring him up with Chubba Hubbard.

      • Jeff108 says:

        Once every 20 years? its been like 30 years and still no Barry 2.0.

      • Dassom says:

        Chub has 2 years experience if he has another 2,000 yards rushing after 3 seasons I can justify comparing him to whoever I want! I’m going to compare him to Barry Sanders because they both play for Oklahoma State it has nothing to do with running style or physical characteristics. Chuba ran over Oklahoma and ran over Texas techs DT & DE while carrying our 1st round draft pick 3 yards into the end zone riding Chuba’s back so I agree with you Barry could never do that, I agree they are 2 different backs. But let be honest we compare the great backs of Syracuse to each other, we compare the great backs of Ohio State to each other, and we compare the great RB’s of USC to each other. My opinion is Chuba was the best RB I saw last year better than the RB’s in the 2020 draft but he’s still a baby so we have to wait and see what he grows up to be.

        • Logan Lynch says:

          This makes sense. Set aside all the running styles or physical characteristics in a player comp. TJ Duckett was also comparable to Barry Sanders because they both played on the Lions.

          • Dassom says:

            What? I never said I was going to compare NFL RB’s. I said IF Chuba has another 2,000 yards rushing in 2020! That would equal back to back years of 2,000 yards rushing as a sophomore & a Junior. 2,000 yards rushing in one season is considered a benchmark of greatness in high school, college, and the NFL! If Chuba does it again he will secure his place as one of the great backs in college history and most certainly Oklahoma State history!

            • dcd2 says:

              You have to see how ridiculous it is to compare two players who are nothing alike though right?

              De’Anthony Thomas and Royce Freeman both put up good numbers as UO RB’s, but comparing them is pointless.

              A uniform is not a similarity.

              • Dassom says:

                I wouldn’t call it ridiculous IF IF I compared 2 RB’s. You seem to think I compared BS’s sophomore season with CH’s sophomore season I never did that, but I did suggest I would do that IF IF CH has a record breaking back to back 2,000 yards. Keep in mind I can compare any 2 subjects or objects I choose, the conclusion is what matters! If I compare a bird to a dog and conclude a dog cannot fly then I would expect zero arguments; however if I conclude a dog can fly then I would expect blow back. Are you guys suggesting historians have never compared a hoarse to a car? Are you suggesting a aeronautics engineer never compares a bird to a jet airplane? Are you suggesting the Dallas Cowboys never compared Lebron James to NFL TE’s?

              • Dassom says:

                As far as De’Anthony Thomas never heard of him! Royce Freeman never got a chance to watch him play at UO.

        • Rob Staton says:

          Chuba Hubbard is nothing like Barry Sanders.

          Let’s just be honest and real about that.

          Good college player but not one I expect to be a pro and one lacking any kind of physical or playing similarities to Sanders.

          • Dassom says:

            That’s your opinion he will not be a great NFL RB. I said I was going to look at Barry Sanders College tape not his NFL tape. I said Chuba in my opinion was the best college RB I saw in 2019! He ran over LB Brooks our 1st round draft pick and dragged him 3 yards into the end zone while busting through DT, DE & etc… I never saw Chuba knocked backward at any time last year he was tackled. He always fell forward gaining addition yards. He consistently broke arms tackles, sports announcers repeat again & again game after game “you cannot arm tackle Chuba” if you disagree with that opinion that’s your business.

      • TJ says:

        Agreed that Sanders comps should stop. He wasn’t just a generational talent, he was an all-time talent and arguably the best ever at his position.

        • Dassom says:

          Barry Sanders Ok St. 1986 325 yards 2 rushing TD’s. 1987 603 yards 9 rushing TD’s. 1988 2628 yards 37 rushing TD’s. 1989 draft round 1 #3

          • TJ says:

            Not sure what point you are trying to make, but you do realize that Sanders took over as the starting RB at OSU when future HOF Thurman Thomas left for the NFL? Thomas is generally considered one of the top 3 RBs of the 1990s.

            • Dassom says:

              The point I’m making is IF IF Chuba has a great season this year I’m going to compare it to Barry Sanders because they both play at OK State. It has nothing to do with the NFL! But IF IF Chuba has a record breaking college career and If If Chuba plays in the NFL & IF IF Chubba has a record breaking NFL career I will compare his NFL career to BS. I said Chubba is a baby & we have to wait and see how he performs. So IF you read my post and see that I wrote IF and you know what IF means than you will stop putting words in my mouth & stop twisting the meaning of my comments.

              • TJ says:

                Ummm…. Not even sure where to go with that. I’m a fairly intelligent guy with a pretty deep understanding of the game, I know the history of the college and pro games, and have an absolutely rock solid grasp on the meaning of “if.” Not sure which words I put in your mouth or which comments I twisted, but I do understand what you are trying to say even less now than I did before. That’s OK. You win.

            • Dassom says:

              No I did not know Thurman Thomas played for OK St. But now that I do IF Chubba has another 2,000 yard season I’m going to watch college video’s of both Thomas & Sanders and compare them to Chubba. If there are other what I consider great RB’s that I did not know played for OK St I will compare them to Chubba too If he has another 2,000 yard season.

  7. KennyBadger says:

    This article is an excellent palette cleanser. Appreciate the change of pace Rob. Looking forward to analysis of the Seahawks signing Clowney. Any day now.

  8. charlietheunicorn says:

    Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)

    Several radio talking heads have said they think this guy is going to be one of the top 3 QBs picked.. and likely top 20 pick. Due to Wentz, he might even go higher.. top 10 is not out of the question. Very interesting and intriguing player to keep tabs on going into the 2021 draft.

  9. cha says:

    Tom Pelissero
    @TomPelissero
    Matt Judon has signed his franchise tag with the #Ravens, per source.
    4:17 PM · May 28, 2020

  10. Sea Mode says:

    Now there’s a description that will catch my interest:

    Jim Nagy
    @JimNagy_SB
    ·11h

    @seniorbowl has no doubt Western Kentucky EDGE DeAngelo Malone will be one of the first Group-of-5 prospects drafted next April. The reigning C-USA DPOY has a hard to find combo of length & acceleration. Scary thing is there’s still rawness to his game.

    • dcd2 says:

      He does look pretty athletic. Looks like a pure LEO that could use some bulk. Has some serious closing speed though. Kind of reminds me of Quem Griffen, but a little taller/leaner.

  11. Georgia Hawk says:

    Your description of Cisco reminds me uncomfortably too much of T2. Limited physical profile, but snagged a good number of INTs…has a nose for the ball.

    If he can drop those HS SPARQ numbers down a bit at the combine I’m all for it. If not….pass.

  12. McZ says:

    The most ridiculous thing I’ve watched last year is Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota, 6’9″, 400 pds, getting the ball and making a TD in last years Gophers spring game.
    https://www.espn.co.uk/video/clip/_/id/26514777

    Teams high on Mekhi Becton will wet their pants about this prospect.

    And, before anyone else says it… Sage Surratt, Wake Forrest, will IMO make a darn well NFL wideout, once he has another season under his belly.

  13. cha says:

    Ian Rapoport
    @RapSheet
    Details on the #Seahawks 1-year deal with RB Carlos Hyde: The base value is $2.75M ($750K signing bonus, $1.5M base, $500K in per game roster bonuses). There are also incentives worth $1.25M. The max value is $4M.
    8:56 AM · May 29, 2020

  14. cha says:

    Rats. Cinerama to stay closed. Sounds like the Allen’s are saying it’s due to COVID, but I can’t imagine Paul Allen would stand for this.

    https://mynorthwest.com/1895048/cinerama-vulcan-closed/

    So many great moments I had at that theatre.

  15. UkAlex6674 says:

    Marquise Blair – what impact will he have this season? Will he displace Mcdougald at some point? What’s his ceiling in year 2?

    • Rob Staton says:

      Didn’t show enough in year one to say with any certainty.

      We all know he can hit but if he can’t pick up the scheme it won’t matter. It’s all about mastering the scheme for Seattle in the secondary.

      • pdway says:

        “It’s all about mastering the scheme for Seattle in the secondary”

        elaborate a bit? are there unusual/tricky things about how we run our secondary? just curious.

        • Rob Staton says:

          It’s just the way it is. It’s a fairly conventional scheme and you need to execute your job. The secondary positions are dependant on reliable players doing their jobs.

  16. dcd2 says:

    Rob, I posted this earlier, so apologies for the redundancy, but have you looked at the two Pitt DL: Patrick Jones II & Jaylen Tywman?

    Really like the look of both players and am hoping to get your thoughts on them. Pitt led the country in sacks per game last year, and returns most of that defense. Curious if the DL guys are on your radar yet.

  17. RWIII says:

    Rob: Agree with your take on Marquise Blair. Check out this article on L.J. Collier.https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2020/05/29/l-j-collier-im-one-hell-of-a-football-player-and-ill-show-it-this-year/

    If nothing else. You have to admire his confidence.

  18. cha says:

    https://youtu.be/N6cQLZacxPY

    “Film Breakdown: Benson Mayowa Offers Fantastic Value in Return to Seahawks”

    Usually I like these. But this seems like a glowing highlight reel more than a real breakdown. Usually Smith shows some “Weaknesses” and some things the player needs to improve, as well as a “Pros and Cons” slide. But not in this breakdown. Strange.

  19. Jim Valvis says:

    I’ve already developed a few draft crushes for next year. Of those we’d have a reasonable chance to pick (outside top 15), these include but are not limited to:

    Zamir White RB Georgia
    Mustafa Johnson DT Colorado
    Kellen Mond QB Texas A&M
    Max Borghi RB Washington State
    Tutu Atwell WR Louisville (kick returns)
    Talanoa Hufanaga S USC
    Joe Tryon EDGE Washington
    Samuel Cosmi OT Texas (although I’ve saw one early mocks where he went #5)
    Lorenzo Neal DT Purdue

    Sleeper?

    Dyami Brown WR North Carolina. Dude reminds me of Doug Baldwin.

    The TE we don’t need but they’ll pick anyway?

    Jake Ferguson TE Wisconsin

    The RB who nobody is thinking about the Seahawks could snatch late because he fits their mold.

    Elijah Mitchell RB Louisiana-Lafayette. Even with Calais also on the team last year– who was drafted by TB in the 7th– he ran for almost a grand in yards and 13 TDs. Decent Seahawks measurements in height and weight, 5-11 / 217, which is almost identical to Penny. Obviously no testing yet. Watched his tape against Alabama last year. He was basically the only thing the Ragin Cajuns had on offense. It was him against the Bama defense, and surprisingly he sometimes won.

    The most likely WTH were they thinking First Round Pick:

    Richard LeCounte S Georgia. I like him but I think this will be a round early or so.

    And my favorite player thus far. Pair him with Lewis and in a year we’d have the two best guards in the NFL for a decade.

    Wyatt Davis OG Ohio State

  20. Seanhawk says:

    A minor fact error in your Bateman write up…Minnesota did not beat Iowa last year

  21. Richard aka Desert says:

    Rob, please consider taking a look at John Lovett RB Baylor. He is the same size weight of Chuba, but hasn’t quite got his speed of Hubbard, but his quickness is great. And he is a good receiver, too.