By David Bradford for VFL Insider
Now that the NFL draft is over, it’s time for me to get my hot take fix in and determine the fate of 20-year-olds who have yet to attend a minicamp.
I could go on for days on why Myles Garrett is going to make 14 All-Pro teams and why the selection of Patrick Mahomes will send Kansas City into its Dark Age, but let’s focus on the six Vols drafted.
Tennessee’s brand received a huge boost this past weekend. Not only were six former players drafted, but they were selected within the first four rounds. This virtually guarantees each will make the final roster.
But each land in precarious circumstances. Of the six, only one is expected to start right away (Derek Barnett in Philadelphia), four are more than likely going to start as complimentary pieces (Alvin Kamara in New Orleans, Cam Sutton in Pittsburgh, Jalen Reeves-Maybin in Detroit, and Josh Malone in Cincinnati), and Joshua Dobbs isn’t going to see the field in Pittsburgh unless Big Ben pulls a Tony Romo and Landry Jones collapses.
Having said all of that, there’s extreme promise with this group. All have the potential to make pro bowls, but what exactly is their actual potential to make one?
To figure it out, I developed a proprietary algorithm, whose details will never see the light of day. To prove that my algorithm is God-tier, it accurately predicted that Johnny Manziel wouldn’t be the greatest quarterback of all time, and also predicted Aaron Hernandez wouldn’t make a Pro Bowl after being sentenced to life in prison.
So without further ado, each Tennessee player’s Pro Bowl potential.
Derek Barnett, DE, Philadelphia
Pro Bowl Potential: 36.27%
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) April 28, 2017
Derek Barnett’s SEC stats are stunning, as 29 of his 33 career sacks came in conference play. He also broke Tennessee’s all-time sack record, which was previously held by the inconceivably dominant Reggie White.
It’s ironic that Barnett landed in Philly, which was White’s first NFL team. This automatically leads to even further comparison between the two and confirms my take that the Illuminate controls the NFL, but that’s a discussion for another day.
An important discussion today to have is that although Barnett was dominant in college, he’s nowhere near the pass rusher Reggie White was and it’s unreasonable to expect he’ll ever reach that level.
The problem with Barnett isn’t effort — his motor is unmatched. The problem also isn’t strength, bend, or hand fighting. My problem is that Barnett lacks two essential qualities to be an effective pass rusher: Speed and multiple pass-rush moves.
Barnett’s 4.8 40-yard time isn’t going to cut it in the NFL, plain and simple. He has to find a way to play faster, especially on a defense that’s predicated on speed. And when you study his tape, Barnett’s sacks are all strikingly similar.
Barnett depends primarily on timing snaps to get around the edge. In the NFL, quarterbacks will use Barnett’s one-dimensional pass rushing ability against him with hard counts. Plus, Barnett won’t be able to zoom past NFL left tackles. At the professional level, they’re much quicker.
I’m not saying Barnett can’t develop multiple pass rush moves, but I also can’t assume he will. All I can do is look at what I know, and what I know is that Barnett faces an uphill battle when it comes to applying consistent pressure.
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Pro Bowl Potential: 47.93%
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) April 29, 2017
Poor Alvin Kamara. If the Green Bay Packers pulled the trigger in the second round, then I give Kamara a legitimate chance to become a superstar.
But now he’s in the crowded New Orleans backfield of Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram. While it is true neither one has much gas left in the tank, it means Kamara won’t get many touches as a running back initially. In fact, I’m not sure Kamara will ever be an every down back in the NFL. He wasn’t at Tennessee (for reasons that can be debated for the rest of time).
Kamara’s chances are still solid though because he’s such a multi-dimensional player. He’s arguably a better pass catcher than he is a tailback because he can automatically operate in open space. Plus, he can return punts.
If the Saints utilize Kamara like Darren Sproles, he’ll compete for Pro Bowls. Unfortunately, he wasn’t even the best multi-dimensional running back in the draft class (he sits third behind Joe Mixon and Christian McCaffrey in my estimation).
Cam Sutton, CB, Pittsburgh
Pro Bowl Potential: 12.66%
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 29, 2017
I don’t give Sutton much of a chance to make a Pro Bowl simply because I don’t think he’ll ever be a starting corner. I see him utilized in certain packages, which means he’ll provide value for Pittsburgh regardless of his limited snap count. Remember, making Pro Bowls and being an effective player don’t correlate. Sutton can have a solid NFL career with zero Pro Bowl appearances, which is what I think will happen.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Detroit
Pro Bowl Potential: 49.88%
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) April 29, 2017
Jalen Reeves-Maybin went from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the NFL. That in itself is equal to a Pro Bowl selection.
But Reeves-Maybin ends with my highest score because he fits the modern NFL landscape like a glove. In another era, his undersized frame would’ve kept him on special teams. Nowadays, Reeves-Maybin has a legitimate role.
I know Detroit drafted a linebacker in the first round, but when I watch film of the 2015 Tennessee Volunteer defense, Reeves-Maybin is a constant. He has a keen sense of where the football is going and is a sure-fire tackler. Those skills are invaluable in the NFL, and given the Lions’ lack of consistency at the linebacker spot, I see Reeves-Maybin gaining a starting role by the end of the season.
Josh Malone, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Pro Bowl Potential: 29.45%
Another burner at wide receiver in Tennessee’s Malone
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) April 29, 2017
Josh Malone’s issue here isn’t his ability. He was the draft’s most underrated wide receiver.
The problem Malone has is similar to Kamara’s: Fit.
The Cincinnati Bengals needed to provide Andy Dalton with multiple weapons, and they did just that, drafting John Ross and Joe Mixon with their first two picks. Add that with A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, Giovanni Bernard, Tyler Eifert, and Brandon LeFell, then it’s easy to see why Malone’s percentage is so low.
I project Malone will be the team’s WR2, with Ross in the slot, but if he ends up being the fourth option, his opportunities will be limited.
Joshua Dobbs, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pro Bowl Potential: 0%
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 29, 2017
The Illuminate worked its magic by pinning Josh Dobbs as the No. 135 overall pick, the same place Dak Prescott was selected. But I don’t think Dobbs will get as lucky as Prescott when it comes to circumstances.
The logic behind giving Dobbs a goose egg here is based on the unlikely circumstances he has a long-term NFL career. While Big Ben has flirted with retirement, Dobbs isn’t even the backup on the team — that’s Landry Jones. And who is to say Dobbs is better than Jones?
After all, Dobbs struggles with two areas that are vital for NFL quarterbacks: Ball placement and decision making.
People say Dobbs landed in the perfect situation, but I strongly disagree with that statement. In the unforgiving AFC North, where defenses bruise quarterbacks and the weather isn’t your friend, I don’t care if Pittsburgh has weapons. If Dobbs is on that field anytime soon, he won’t be ready.