Top prospect primer – from the beat reporters | Daily Brew

You've read and heard plenty from draft experts on the top prospects. Well, let's read what the beat writers who covered these guys in college have to say about them.

Deepi Sidhu interviewed a bunch of them and here are the money quotes.

We'll go in no particular order –

DE Aidan Hutchinson

Beat reporter: Isaiah Hole, covers the University of Michigan for USA Today Sports, hosts the On Wolverines Podcast

"A lot of times people would look at that someone like him and say, 'Well, he's just gritty.' No, he's just as talented. He's not just out-working everybody. He is out-working everybody, but he is just as physically talented as anybody out there who plays the edge rusher or defensive-end position."

"Michigan wouldn't have been Big Ten champions; Michigan wouldn't have gone to the College Football Playoff semifinals if it wasn't for Aidan Hutchinson. He's the glue guy. He's the guy that gets everyone hyped, everyone fed off him."

"The Ohio State game in general, because as someone in the media, it seems like we almost have a rivalry media versus media from Ann Arbor to Columbus. I just remember reading a lot of the stuff that my colleagues down there were saying. They thought that Aiden was going to be rendered essentially moot by what they thought was an incredible offensive line. They were saying, 'This is like the best offensive line Ohio State's had since their 2014 National Championship game.' And he goes out there and has three sacks and all at very crucial moments. That's the big rival. He didn't shy away from talking about it being the big rivalry, and he went into that week saying, 'We're not scared of them; we're not going to bow down to them.' None of that. And then he went out there and did exactly kind of what he said. And ultimately, Ohio State's offensive line coach got fired. I mean, they were talking not even a couple weeks a week before the game, the whole week of the game. Well, that was a strength that that was not going to be an issue, that they were going to neutralize Aidan Hutchinson. Three sacks later, their offensive line coach is looking for a new job. I mean, that tells you a lot about his, his ability, his production."

On David Ojabo - "He was Aidan's partner in crime, getting in the backfield tied what would have been a Michigan single season record last year. He's got all kinds of talent and ability, then I wouldn't be surprised to see him be a guy that could end up at the Texans as well."

DE Kayvon Thibodeaux
Beat reporter: Rob Moseley, covers Oregon football for GoDucks.com

"He's just incredibly athletic. His flexibility is top notch, so his ability to bend at the waist and get low and get around the edge is unlike anything I've really seen before covering a player day-to-day."

"I think K.T. (Thibodeaux), there may not be an equal to him in terms of a guy with that ability off the edge, that kind of explosive athleticism off the edge."

"I remember against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl a couple of years ago, he moved inside and was taking on a Big Ten center and winning battles at the line of scrimmage. He really showed at different times that he could do a little bit of everything when asked."

"If you turn on the film, you see him come through play after play after play and you see the attention he commands again from opposing offenses in terms of the way their blocking schemes direct attention to him."

S Kyle Hamilton
Beat reporter: Pete Sampson, covers Notre Dame for The Athletic

"I think he almost allows you to play 11-an- a-half on 11, defensively, and this is something that I think Hamilton's potential has yet to be unlocked."

"You can make him whatever you want to make at the next level. And that's going to be fascinating to see wherever he goes. How do you maximize a guy like this?"

"His first snap in Notre Dame Stadium was a pick-six. That was the second game of his career. And it wasn't like he made an amazing play. It was a ball got deflected from a defensive end and it came right to him. But like, at some point you're like, 'Wait a minute, why does the ball always seem to come right to you?' He's just in the right place at the right time, in addition to being a great athlete. So if you're if you want versatile safety, who ups your turnover rate like this is the guy."

"It would be hard to pick one, but certainly the moment that stands with you the most is his second interception at Florida State, where he covers three quarters of the field horizontally with the ball in the air. And you see the reaction of Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis is just like. What the heck was that? There's no way I could have seen him coming because he was out of my field of vision when I released the football. So yeah, there's been a lot of just freaky plays like that. We're just like, God, this is this. This kid really is sort of built differently than any other safety that I've seen."

OL Evan Neal
Beat reporter: Charlie Potter, Alabama sports for BamaOnline and 24-7 sports

"Alabama, a lot of times they didn't want to tip their hand and say, 'Hey, we're going to run it to the left every time,' but it was a good bet that Brian Robinson and these running backs that Alabama had were going to run off of Evan Neal's left or right hip."

"Coming in as a true  freshman, guys don't really start a lot as freshmen at Alabama. I mean, it's notable when it happens, guys like Andre Smith has done it, Cam Robinson with the Jaguars, Jonah Williams, left tackle for the Bengals and played in the Super Bowl this year. But the list isn't very long, and so for him to come in and nab a spot at left guard and 2019 on an offensive line with a lot of big names, it says a lot."

"Everything I've gathered is he's just a guy that players like to be around. He stepped into a leadership role this year and he's probably a little more quiet, but he has a deep voice, and when he speaks, people listen. I think that's a reason why they voted him as a team captain this year."

OL Ikem "Ickey" Ekwonu
Beat reporter: David Thompson, NC State athletics for USA Today

"He's just like the gentlest, sweetest, funny guy, likes to prank his roommates. But when he gets on the field, and I think you see this with the top prospects, the best guys in the league, it's a switch that flips, right? And he just likes to, I don't want to say hurt people, but he likes to put people on the ground."

"His big thing at NC State was pancakes, and after every pancake, the coaching staff would give him a bottle of syrup and I think he left a ridiculous amount of syrup."

"There's the intangibles, right? The size, the stuff that you can't coach. But, I think his mental fortitude, as well as his quickness and strength, is just going to make him one of those potential 10 to 12-year Pro Bowl guys that that are really kind of a foundation of an offensive line and potentially a team like the Texans that are really trying to rebuild from the ground up."

"In his four years, he allowed one sack his entire career. So that's the guy you want protecting your quarterback's weak side. With the speed and strength with opposing defensive ends and guys coming around the corner, you want someone who can match that and then I think you also want someone who on the line is smart enough to understand the calls, the reads and be able to change quickly to be able to audible and he has those mental and physical strengths."

CB Derek Stingley Jr.
Beat reporter: Tyler Nettuno, managing editor and writer for LSU Tigers Wire and USA Today

"He's a guy that, you know, came in as a as a true freshman. He was a five-star recruit, started every game for LSU and during that national title run. And I mean, he had some absolutely unreal production that year. I mean, six interceptions and 15 pass breakups. For a true freshman in the SEC, pretty unbelievable. As much talk as that offense gets with Joe Burrow, the defense and Derek Stingley's play was a big part of that team's success."

"I mean, he really does have everything you look for in a corner. You just hope that he can develop, become a more consistent all-around player. Because in terms of coverage, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better coverage corner in this draft. As good as some of the other prospects are, I don't know if there's anyone that's just quite as talented as he is across the board there."

DE Travon Walker
Beat reporter: JC Shelton, writer for the UGA Wire and host of the UGA Football Live podcast

"He was the No. 1 Georgia defender as far as defensive line and playing time this year. Fifty-six percent of his plays, he was on the on the field for the defense, which tops the defensive line. He led the team 36 QB hurries and then one of his best games was that national championship versus Bama, seven pressures."

"So he's 272, but the way he could outrun guys, we saw 4.51 in the 40at 272 is absolutely ridiculous. I mean, that's scary. If I'm a running back or quarterback, I'm scared for my life if that guy's running for me right there."

"He was one of the best tacklers on the team. He doesn't miss tackles because he has that speed and the size and the reach to get guys. And once he gets you, you're going down."

CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner
Beat reporter: Justin Williams, covers the Cincinnati Bearcats for The Athletic

"He didn't allow a single touchdown pass in coverage at Cincinnati over his three years. And a reporter asked him at the Combine, 'What are you going to do when you give one up in the NFL, a touchdown?' His response was, 'I don't plan on giving one up.' And like that encapsulates Sauce in the sense that he totally believes in himself. He has that confidence and that swag, but he also has the work ethic and kind of the personality traits to back all that up."

"It's hard to say that he gambles. I remember the defensive coordinator for Cincinnati, Mike Tressel, talking about how instinctive he is. You know, he had an interception at Notre Dame in the red zone, not because it wasn't where he was supposed to be on the play, but he just kind of understood. All right. Based on the formation and the way Notre Dame is lining up here, I know where this pass is going to go."

DL Jordan Davis
Beat reporter: JC Shelton, writer for the UGA Wire and host of the UGA Football Live podcast

"340, 6-6, he can take up double teams all day. In the run game, he's one of the best run stoppers in the SEC the last two seasons."

"We saw him run down running backs from across the field a couple of times. One time he was clocked over 20 miles an hour and that was playing at around 350 during the season."

"It's an incredible story, to be honest with you, because a three-star recruit, people forget that. So humble beginnings for Jordan, three-star recruit coming into Georgia, a Georgia defense that's loaded year-to-year with four-star, five-star guys, blue-chip guys. From Day One, he's a freshman All-American, SEC All-American as well."

WR Garrett Wilson
Beat reporter: Phil Harrison, writer for Buckeyes Wire and USA Today Sports

"More than anybody I think I've seen at Ohio State, he's fast, but he also has the ability to go up in traffic, has really good body control and really good hands. I mean, he'll go over top of guys that are taller than him and be able to bring balls down. He's done it time and time again with big plays in his career at Ohio State."

"As far as where he fits in the NFL, I don't know that he's going to jump in his rookie season and be a No. 1 guy. I think eventually he will be. But I do think in the NFL, even though you can use him on the outside or the inside, I think the inside makes a lot of sense just because of his ability to create mismatches over the middle and separate and get the ball and then make plays after the catch."

"Garrett Wilson will tell you flat out Chris Olave is faster than I am, even though he had a little bit faster time in the NFL Combine. So to me, he's the more polished right-now ready guy when he's coming out of college. But Wilson has, in my opinion, the bigger upside."

OT Charles Cross

Beat reporter: Crissy Froyd, lead editor and writer for Sports Illustrated's Cowbell Corner, covering Mississippi State sports

"Well, they nicknamed him "Sweet Feet" because his footwork is so good. That's an area that he's really solid and I think that's something it's really important, especially at the next level when you're going up against these really talented edge rushers who can change direction on you. I think his athleticism is probably the thing that you hear the most about because you can't be an offensive lineman in the Air Raid without athleticism."

"I think it's important to note that Charles Cross committed to Mississippi State in 2018 and his true freshman season was in 2019. So you'll notice that that's when Joe Moorhead was here, and that's someone who ran the ball a lot, used the quarterback power run quite a bit, really utilized his running backs. They had (RB) Kylin Hill here and so this wasn't a team that passed the ball much and really did not do well through the air at all so that's what Charles Cross was recruited to come do. That means they saw him as a good run blocker and he was actually praised for his abilities as a run blocker in high school. But then whenever he starts to take off is when Mike Leach gets here and he's doing a lot more in pass protection. I think really you have with him a much more well-rounded player than people realize that is not only versatile, but that could possibly be equally as good in run blocking as he is in pass blocking."

DL George Karlaftis

Beat reporter: DJ Fezler, writer for SI Now covering Purdue athletics

"This past year, especially, Purdue went through some defensive coaching staff turnover, brought in some new coaches, kind of changed the philosophy of this defense in a more aggressive scheme. Because of that, I felt like the Boilermakers did a really good job of moving Karlaftis around. He was playing inside at times. He's playing outside at times, different sort of techniques, allowing him to play, standing up or in a three-point stance, just really mixing up the fronts to allow him to generate pressure from different areas of the defensive line. I think you really saw him prove himself in terms of his versatility, just showing that he was more than just that power rusher, someone who's going to kind of barrel through your chest every single snap. He's got a lot of things going for him now and he was able to really showcase that this year."

"He was the first player to record 10 or more pressures in a game against an Iowa offensive line since Pro Football Focus started doing their advanced analytics for college football. So obviously the Hawkeyes have been several talented offensive linemen, have successful NFL careers in the past couple of years. For someone like Karlaftis to really get into the backfield whenever he was left 1-on-1, he was in the quarterback's face, forcing quick throws, disrupting passes, stopping the run. He's a great run stopper as well. We're talking about his pass rushing, but he kind of showed everything that he has to offer in a game like that, even if the stats didn't pop off the sheet."

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