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NFL Draft Day Preview and Projections: Off Tackle Empire Edition

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It’s raining cats and dogs.

2017 NFL Draft
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Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Welcome to a special edition of Off Tackle Empire, where we are going to discuss some of the less-heralded prospects of this year’s NFL Draft * that you may not have heard about. This is exclusive content that you won’t find on any other football media outlet. These intriguing prospects might make you wonder why Josh Allen is getting so much of the buzz this offseason...although, to be fair, watching him throw accuracy drills has the same effect.

*”NFL” in this case refers to Northern Furball Lovers.

Trooper | DE

Thumpasaurus: When I see Trooper on film, the thing that jumps out at me is the sheer size and strength. This is a very big boy with a rare athleticism.

Andrew: Described by head coach GoForThree as “100 pounds of turd,” this is a dog that consistently commands double teams, as a single chainlink fence is not going to contain him. Opponents have countered this with an electric fence look. There are some concerns about his effectiveness in adverse weather conditions, as is sometimes the case for prospects from southern weather teams.

Thumpasaurus: That is an adjustment that can be made with the right coaching, but what can’t be coached is that big frame, and that’s what makes him such an intriguing prospect despite the concerns about his motivation. This dog should be gone by the end of the third round.

Stella | LB

Andrew: Started playing as a puppy in the mean streets of the pound, and though she’s one of the older members of this draft class at 8, she hasn’t lost one bit of that killer instinct that got her out. Has the speed to pursue rabbits but is strong enough to take down tortoises. One metal-as-hell game summary from a home game against Maryland described “shards of turtle shell all over the deck.” She’s got a great drive for finishing the play.

Thumpasaurus: What I really like about her is her character. Despite her playing style, she’s surprisingly humble when you interview her and never forgets where she came from. She’s always pushing herself to prove that she can be better than the latest expectations. Very aggressive on the field and plays through the whistle, tremendous physicality, but never an off-the-field character concern. May lack elite athleticism, but has the character to develop into the kind of leader a Puppy Bowl caliber defense needs. I’d give a high second-round grade, maybe even late first round.

Paco | RB

Andrew: When you look at the measurables, Paco seems like a real project at best because he doesn’t have what you’d call a prototypical build for the position. He’s the epitome of a high-motor guy, though; first came to coach CreightonM’s attention as a special teams player who developed a reputation for going 100% on every play. You can see that in those Mike Singletary eyes. A professional strength and nutrition program will only do so much for that frame, and he’s definitely going to be a situational dog; you’re not gonna want to send him up the middle to take on mastiffs or Great Danes but instead stick to the small dog run area of the dog park playbook.

Thumpasaurus: He’s had a chip on his shoulder his whole career, being told he’s too small to play at this level or that level, but lack of size didn’t stop Darren Sproles from making a huge impact in the pros. This is a guy who can do a number of unique things; get him out in space and he can really scamper with very quick feet, but I’ve also seen him compared to Steve Tasker as a special teamer. Still, this is probably a project that I look at as a depth guy, but certainly worth a late-round flier.

Andrew: And there’s absolutely no shame in being a Day 3 pick when you see how many of them have had good careers and turned out to be very good boys and even signed multi-hot-dog contracts.

Kennedy | WR/CB

Thumpasaurus: Kennedy played both ways in college, a bit like an Adoree Jackson or a Myles Jack. The most impressive measurable is her vertical, which allows her to get up and fight for jump balls, both as a receiver and as a defender. StewMonkey’s elite strength and conditioning program has really done wonders for her

Andrew: Often described as “high-strung,” but that’s part of the territory for this postiton; if you have someone that’s responsible for making big plays on the outside like this that isn’t a bit of a diva, it makes you wonder about their confidence. A real fan favorite and a pillar of her community, often seen visiting with young children. Good patterns; create an effective camouflage in outdoor environments. Definitely will be popular with whatever franchise chooses her.

Mango | LB/S

Thumpasaurus: With Mango, you have an intense cat with a diverse skill set. Played a hybrid safety/linebacker position that doesn’t really translate to the NFL. Tends to rely on her natural athleticism and has had problems with weight fluctuations in the past.

Andrew: Coach LGHF ran an unconventional defensive scheme and deployed Mango both inside and outside. Certainly can make a different impact depending on where she chooses to sit, has the ability to really get up in your face. The question I have is about her motivation and whether or not she can keep up a training schedule. Word out of her camp is that she was playing through injuries and taking time off to recover and would be at a healthy playing weight by training camp, but this is an angle I’ve heard before.

The other concern I have is in her ability to adapt to change. This is a kitty who’s never been anything other than “the guy,” and between a new child in the household and a new defensive scheme to learn, sometimes you don’t get your bowl filled when you’re used to getting it filled.

Thumpasaurus: This kitty always brings it on gameday though, just look at that game face. She’ll have to bring a lot more of it to the next level, because while her athleticism was enough to allow her to take over games in the MAC, that’s a totally different situation and that won’t cut it in the league. Given the sketchy history of Calico draft busts over the years, I wouldn’t feel comfortable spending a pick earlier than the fourth round.

Derrick | S

Thumpasaurus: Derrick came in with a lot of hype in our first mock drafts, but as off-field issues came to light, scouts started poking holes in other parts of her game. The offseason before the draft is no time to have stories surface of you running around knocking stuff over at 3 in the morning.

Andrew: That lack of focus does translate to his ability to read an offense as well, as his easily distracted nature makes him susceptible to biting on play action, overpursuing on the counter or being taken out of the play entirely by a laser pointer.

Thumpasaurus: Actually, this laser pointer thing has been addressed at the NFL level; I recall Kyle Orton quarterbacking for the Bills at Ford Field in Detroit and having a laser pointer shined at his helmet. He proceeded to make a big enough deal about it that the NFL actually adopted rules prohibiting them. True story. Derrick did turn a lot of heads by playing out of the Paper Bag position in college, something many cats are unwilling or unable to do. I’d be comfortable with a fifth round grade here.

You know, I’m always wary of these cat prospects because their skill sets don’t always translate to the next level and many of them take a while to find their niche, if they ever do.

Andrew: Yes and when a cat is coming into a new environment like these are doing, he’s gonna want to be up high to survey everything, and it’s often the case that new schemes don’t properly account for that and don’t immediately create a role where the cat feels secure. That’s when you see early problems develop, because that’s when you’ll see the scratching, or you’ll see the urination in places you’re not supposed to, and with proper handling these issues can be mitigated or even prevented, but I’ve also seen where it creates mutual distrust with a coach that’s not used to dealing with players of this background and that rookie contract never parlays itself into bigger things.

Thumpasaurus: You just have to know what you’re getting into, it’s like when there was a run on these run-and-shoot type quarterbacks in the first rounds of drafts.

Dexter | QB

Andrew: Here we have just an All-American golden boy, a very charismatic doggie that is sure to sell some merchandise. The Wonderlic scores were a bit of a concern, however.

Thumpasaurus: You usually want a little more between the ears from your signalcaller, and Dexter is a good but not great athlete, lacks that “rocket arm” that you look for, but he’s more of a passer than a thrower anyway. Most importantly though, he’s just a natural leader in the huddle and in the locker room. If you have a tactician type of coach such as Coach BigRedTwice, he can practically be a motivational coach for you. He quickly earns the trust of those around him and he won the starting job as a true freshman; usually great at improvising but can get himself into trouble doing so.

Andrew: People have been comparing him to Tim Tebow, except for his superior throwing accuracy. Not so much your prototypical Urban Meyer quarterback; more a Rural Meijer type.

Bandit | OL

Andrew: This is a real feel-good story of this draft. This is a dog that actually did time as a juvenile, worked his way through a reform program, got to a small junior college and ended up gaining the attention of coach Dead Read, who saw the potential there and put his faith in the young dog.

Thumpasaurus: It’s hard to blame him for the poor decisions he made as a pup. Without strong leadership in his life, he wasn’t able to see the right path. Once he got his life turned around and got into the structure of a football program, his potential, both as a player and a dog, could really emerge. He’s a great asset as a protector for the run game. That being said, the NFL can be image-conscious to a fault, and you may see him fall out of the draft entirely. Look at La’El Collins, who was a first-round talent scooped up as an undrafted free agent.

Andrew: He does pass the most important character test in today’s NFL in that he’ll never disrespect the flag by sitting during the national anthem. Whether or not he mauls other dogs is immaterial in 2018, though he doesn’t do that either. His troop-supporting game is second-to-none.

Moe | QB

Andrew: There’s already a lot of discussion on Moe from last season’s E:60 profile of the quarterback, from which the above photo is taken. A highly-touted athlete with the ability to make sensational plays but also a tendency to make poor decisions. In a raid on Moe’s apartment, campus police seized a great deal of illicit paraphernalia. This has served to highlight his immaturity and his inability to grasp the significance of that incident has only cemented his reputation.

Thumpasaurus: Scouts said a lot of the same things about Ryan Leaf, an elite talent with sky-high upside but serious red flags pertaining to immaturity and poor decision-making. Of course, they also said similar things about Dan Marino leading up to the draft, and his career turned out alright. Moe has tremendous arm strength, as demonstrated by his incredible performance at the Bat MNWildcat’s Hoodie String drill at the combine. It’ll take an organization with the ability to get the most out of him. Johnny Manziel was a high risk prospect, but the Browns did nothing to mitigate that risk. It doesn’t have to be that way with Moe, however. He’s a kitty at a crossroads in his life. It’s definitely intriguing how many pre-draft interviews he’s had with the Bengals.

Moon | S/KR

Thumpasaurus: Now I take a lot of pride in the development of this one, as I’ve been coaching her myself. This transfer from Tennessee displays a unique skill set. Originally a wide receiver before I noticed her pursuit abilities. Very good speed and a good closing burst; really a great tackler in the open field and not afraid to lay hits on bigger dogs. She really shines in the return game, able to stop and change directions remarkably fast for her size and able to make multiple dogs miss. A very elusive runner who could be a unique weapon.

Andrew: In the aftermath much-publicized dustup between her and Artoo that earned them both ejections, Artoo got in her head and she played timid in future matchups. She needs to be able to overcome these mental setbacks to succeed in the league.

Thumpasaurus: The biggest concern scouts have is her commitment to playing ball. Sniffing is a big part of her lifestyle, and that can get in the way and interfere with her focus. This disposition to sniff everything raises questions about coachability. At times, I’ve seen her give up on the play when beaten. Still, she’s a dynamic playmaker with a really intriguing skill set. She’s trying to get looks at multiple positions. Check out these clips from her pro day at Illinois:

She’s a good girl, and if she’d rather have a career in sniffing, that’s her choice. It’s nice to know she’s already got things planned out that far ahead.

Artoo | CB

Thumpasaurus: Artoo has come a long way to get to where he is. He came in as a very high-energy boy with a high-strung nature and a bit of a manic, on-edge nature. This led to disciplinary problems that Coach Andrew was able to correct by treating the problem. He brought in a new defensive coordinator who was instrumental in getting the best out of Artoo.

Andrew: Artoo is one of those dogs you hate when he’s not on your team but love when he is - because he adores a small circle of people and growls at everyone else. Has been compared to Cortland Finnegan in that regard. Elite bend when he’s in sploot formation, great motor in tug of war, can be persistent to a fault with kisses.

Thumpasaurus: Really though, the first thing you know when you look at a dog like Artoo is that he’ll bring a crafty, cerebral approach to the game.

Andrew: Absolute gym rat, great locker room doggo, first one at the facility, last one to leave

Thumpasaurus: A glue guy, just a gritty, scrappy competitor with deceptive speed and great fundamentals

Andrew: A real lunchpail guy. As a basketball doggo, drew comparisons to Aaron Craft. Just a dog who knows how to win.

Thumpasaurus: The David Eckstein of the defensive backfield, his high football IQ makes him a Wes Welker type because he just plays the game the right way.