On this week’s AP Draft Show, we discussed prospects that our opinions have changed on over the course of the evaluation process. This is a good, necessary part of draft work — if you’re not changing as you watch more and collect additional information, you’re not doing it right.
Here are four prospects that our opinions have shifted on:
Kent - IOL Ben Bartch, St. John’s (MN)
I was hard on Bartch early in the draft process. I took his performance against Division III opponents with a heavy grain of salt and gave him a barely draftable grade. I needed to see him at the Senior Bowl and weigh that evaluation heavily. The first two reps I saw live in one-on-ones were two of the worst reps of the entire week for any offensive lineman — getting bull rushed to the ground by day-three prospect Trevis Gipson and then over-setting and getting beat inside badly the next rep.
Bartch got better every day in Mobile and ultimately wound up getting a solid grade for me for his overall performance there. My first impressions still stuck with me longer than they should have. Going back to re-evaluate his games at St. John’s (MN) with the context of the Senior Bowl helped me feel a lot better about his outlook. Also, once you get into his backstory about going unrecruited by Division I schools and putting over 70 pounds on his frame in college to become an offensive line prospect, you can’t help but root for him.
Bartch is an athletic, tough, physical offensive lineman with great feet and a willingness to learn. He’s got a lot of work to do and reps against NFL level players are desperately needed, but someone could develop him into a very nice offensive guard in the NFL — and it would make a ton of sense if it was the Chiefs.
Jake - WR Denzel Mims, Baylor
My first impression of Mims was that he was an outside receiver with nice length and a knack for making plays near the sidelines with good body control.
Denzel Mims: Sideline Savant. pic.twitter.com/84sNIqlEYy— Jake Morley (@JacobMorley) December 31, 2019
My concerns were his play strength and his route tree. There are times on film I thought he could get re-routed too easily when defenders got their hands on him. Then the Senior Bowl rolled around, and he looked like one of the most physically imposing wideouts on the field. That checked that box for me. The only question I had remaining was his short-area quickness. He is a lanky guy, sometimes those types can struggle to change directions. He put that concern to bed at the NFL Combine when he ran a 6.66 three-cone. Mims has now firmly entrenched himself in the round one conversation.
Matt - LB Malik Harrison, Ohio State
I initially watched Malik Harrison midseason as he was a Senior Bowl watch list guy, and the goal was to have eyes on everyone down there.
You quickly could see he was big, strong and was a very good thumper against the run. I didn’t see hardly anything in coverage out of him other than shallow hook zones with late identification and breaks on the ball. Even as a scraper on the backside, he often just fired forward and hit the first moving player, taking himself out of the play. The Senior Bowl was much of the same for him. Limited in coverage, looking downright bad in man while having every other linebacker look more rangy in team drills.
Malik Harrison LB #39— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) March 5, 2020
Massive, explosive throw back LB that flashes athletic upside to grow in coverage.
- + Play recognition
- Good range
- ++ Block deconstruction
- High athletic ceiling
- Flexibility to slip under blocks
- + Blitzer pic.twitter.com/75M5zAZ7Rx
After blowing up the NFL Scouting Combine, I had to go back and watch more film from later in the year on him.
While I continued to see much of the same type of player, there were more reasons for optimism. Against both Clemson and Wisconsin, he was the linebacker trusted to split out wide vs running backs Jonathan Taylor and Travis Etienne. He wasn’t tested much in man or even in zone, but he seemed to be relied upon in all sorts of coverage roles. His block diagnosing and identifying skills really popped and he was doing a better job working over the top of traffic before attacking. I still don’t think he’s a WILL or a sideline to sideline, dynamic coverage LB but there are a lot more tools than I initially thought.
Craig - LB Francis Bernard, Utah
Bernard was intriguing during the collegiate regular season as an organizer for the Utah Utes defense. He looked like a quality linebacker prospect with range, coverage ability and a good football IQ. Outside of some off-the-field issues, Bernard looked like a great target for the Chiefs in the mid-rounds. However, as the process went along, Bernard struggled to impress. He had a poor Senior Bowl and looked slow and stiff compared to the rest of the linebackers in attendance. He also had a very poor combine, running a 4.81 second 40-yard dash and skipped his agility drills. While Bernard was unafraid to take questions about his off-field incidents head-on, he unfortunately didn’t look like the same player when removed from the Utah Utes scheme.
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