One of my favorite segments of last draft season was getting insight from those who study the game of college football at a closer-to-the-field level than I am able to. Last year, I reached out to an anonymous player personnel assistant and was given insight on a few of the top prospects in the draft and one of those players, Jace Sternberger, became a future member of the Green Bay Packers.
Last week, I touched on the first half of my conversation with this evaluator and learned his appreciation for a couple of prospects on each side of the ball. The second half of today’s report again focuses on two players in the trenches, in addition to a pair of skill position players that could catch the Packers’ attention.
Tee Higgins, Clemson, WR
6035, 216 pounds
Pro Day: 4.54 second 40 (1.66 10-yard split)
2019: 59 receptions, 1,167 yards (19.8 Y/R), 13 TDs
2018: 59 receptions, 936 yards (15.9 Y/R), 12 TDs
“I’m telling you right now, if Tee Higgins doesn’t come back in the second half against Ohio State, Clemson’s not winning. Tee Higgins is a stud. Most people, they don’t see the speed. They see him get caught from behind a couple of times. And then everyone turns off the tape and they don’t think he’s that fast. But I’ll tell you what Tee Higgins does that no one else in college football did this year. When [Ohio State cornerback] Jeff Okudah came on that line and pressed him, Tee Higgins got open. He made catches against Okudah like no one else can say this year. He’s a beast. You can’t press him. He’s so big and has such long arms. You try to get up in him and he’ll end up pushing you away, and he’s a lot shiftier for a bigger receiver than you think he is.
He is going to get open. 100%. He’s developed as a route-runner. [Former Clemson offensive coordinator] Jeff Scott has been with Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Williams, Hunter Renfrow. What do all these guys have in common? They’re good route-runners and they’ll get open. Renfrow? Not the best athlete in the world, but just gets open. Factor in the fact that Higgins is 6’4 and he jumps 40 inches. He’s going to find a way to catch it. Against Syracuse last year, Trevor Lawrence is rolling out in the pocket and there’s nothing. He just says, okay, I’m going to flick it up in the air 40 yards. And here’s Tee Higgins and he’s covered by a short corner and he just plays it like a basketball and gets the rebound. He’s going to be a good player.”
Netane Muti, Fresno State, OG
6027, 315 pounds
44 bench press reps, did not run at the Combine
“He had two season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. He hasn’t made it through a full season. But his strength coach at Fresno State talks about him being the strongest college athlete he’s seen in his life. He had like 44 reps at his pro day at 225, he’s super strong. Put on the tape against [former Alabama first-round pick] Daron Payne and he’s really powerful at the point of attack. I’m not going to tell you he’s the most athletic guy coming around on a pull or anything like that, but straight run and being powerful at the point with a strong punch, the dude’s got it.
The injuries are going to push him back in the draft. I remember watching him every other week and I was super impressed. He’s got the warpaint on during games, the big tattoos. He looks the freaking part at 6’3, 307. If he had a healthy college career...”
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa, DE
6051, 275 pounds
5.04 second 40 (1.79 10-yard split), 17 bench press reps, 7.34 3-cone, 7.34 shuttle
2019: 49 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
2018: 37 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
“He’s not going to be a 15-sack guy. He’s going probably be a 7-9 sack guy, maybe 10 on a good year. But he’s going to hold the point of attack super well and he’s going to stop the run really well. He has a relentless motor. He’s huge. He will be a really good NFL player for a long time. I think he’s better suited as a 4-3, strong-side end. You line him up on the tight end side and don’t give him any coverage responsibilities. You just let him hold the line. You could get away with him in a 3-4, but I don’t think it’s utilizing his skillset to its fullest potential. He didn’t test well at the Combine, but he’s a gamer.”
Honorary Mention: Lynn Bowden, Kentucky, WR
5105, 204 pounds
13 bench press reps, did not run at the Combine
“He’s the most fun guy to watch in this entire draft. He’s probably going to be playing running back or slot receiver in the pros. I don’t know what he is. But he makes plays.”