News & Analysis

NFL Week 4 Mailbag: Answering questions on Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Jets' Sam Darnold, Panthers' Brian Burns and more

It’s my (and, I assume, your) favorite time of the week: it's mailbag time, baby! I do truly appreciate all the questions so far this season. Let’s keep that momentum (which analytics nerds will tell you doesn’t exist) rolling!

I think Power Five will be relatively unchanged. You’ll still get some quality matchups in every conference, but obviously more information will be better. Where the real difference will come is outside the Power Five, where you won’t see any of these guys face good competition at all this fall. I still predict the NFL will either extend the Senior Bowl or Combine to account for that lack of tape/information. If not, I’d be trying to acquire as many picks as possible in this draft to get as many swings at the plate as I can.

Here you go! And from what I’ve seen this season, North Carolina’s Chazz Surratt and Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are only moving up my board.

I’m not going to judge any rookie too harshly early on this season. While I’d likely agree with that sentiment for Darnay Holmes, who hasn’t gotten his hand on a single pass yet and has allowed 12 catches from 16 targets for 145 yards, I wouldn’t quite put Andrew Thomas in the liability category. He’s struggled with 13 pressures allowed in three games, but he’s also taken the second-most true pass sets of any left tackle in the NFL heading into this week, with 68. That’s 12 more than Tristan Wirfs, 19 more than Mekhi Becton and 27 more than Jedrick Wills Jr.

Thomas has also had to face the likes of Bud Dupree, Robert Quinn, and Khalil Mack. No Easy task. His poor punch timing has gotten exposed, and we’ve almost never seen him lock up defenders on their rush, but he’s been far from incompetent out there. I would be surprised if he doesn’t start turning it around soon.

At this point, it’s him, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, Oregon edge Kayvon Thibodeaux or someone who surprisingly returns for their senior year. Based on what we’ve seen so far, I’d strongly lean Stingley.

100% yes. Stingley is far more “rare” for a cornerback than Chase is for a wide receiver. Another way of saying that is the guy you could get at receiver in round 2 is far closer to Chase than any cornerback you’d find to Singley.

As much as the Packers fan in me would hate it, it’s the Chicago Bears. The fact that Matt Nagy propped up Mitchell Trubisky for so long was a minor miracle. It would be night and day for Darnold from a talent and scheme perspective. And with the way the Bears have drafted in the first round, I’m sure they’d jump at the opportunity.

Kayvon Thibodeaux! His 79.9 pass-rushing grade as a true freshman was the highest by a true freshman starting edge-rusher since Nick Bosa’s 86.3 in 2016.

He’s got that special combination of length, burst, and bend that defensive line coaches dream about.

With the way Victor Dimukeje and Chris Rumph ate his lunch in the Duke game to kick off the year, I doubt it. But that’s if we’re talking about 2021 — he’s only a redshirt sophomore, so it’s unlikely he declares. The fact that he only allowed nine pressures as a redshirt freshman starting left tackle is encouraging.

We can debate his prospects at quarterback all we want, but I don’t see the NFL giving him a fair shake there. Similar to Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley last year, if you’re undersized with borderline arm strength, the NFL is going to pass. Unlike Huntley, I’d bet King still gets drafted Day 3, but I’m guessing it’s by a team looking to change him to running back.

I don’t think there’s a position group defensively where they can’t get better, and I’d expect next year’s draft to reflect that. Linebacker is obviously a need, and ideally, you’d bring in a proven veteran free agent there. I still think offensively they need one wide receiver that can fly. It’s far too easy right now for teams to put safety help over Odell with how limited Landry is down the field.

So difficult to say considering we haven’t even seen most of them. I’ll just say that LSU edge BJ Ojulari at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds was BULL-RUSHING Mississippi State’s tackles for pressures last week. That’s some freaky stuff, and he could be a problem in the coming years. Clemson defensive tackle and No. 1 overall recruit Bryan Bresee has looked pretty darn good, too.

Their draft track record on that side of the ball in the first round has been pretty ugly. Keanu Neal is the only “hit” in the past five years, and even he has had his career derailed with injuries. Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley have done nothing to affect opposing quarterbacks over the course of their careers. That inability to get any pressure along their defensive line outside of Grady Jarrett has easily been this team's downfall. The press-Cover 3 scheme that Quinn brought over from Seattle only works when quarterbacks know they have to get rid of the ball quickly — look at how much the Seahawks defense has fallen off the past two seasons. Even still, a good deal of their performance in close games falls ultimately on Quinn’s shoulders, and when the side of the ball you coordinated is the problem, it’s not a good look for a head coach.

Flat out, Burns looks like a stud. He’s never going to be a great run defender, but that’s why you draft Derrick Brown and Bravvion Roy. Burns is a pure speed rusher in the mold of a Chris Clemons from years past. He’s simply too athletic even for NFL right tackles. But that’s where the Panthers' coaching staff has to help him out. He’s not too athletic for a lot of left tackles, and the numbers bear that out. He has an 84.6 pass-rushing grade against right tackles this season (79.7 on 146 rushes) and 66.7 against left (63.4 for his career on 180 rushes).

Gordon, I appreciate you asking a question you already know the answer too. It’s Miller Lite.

Quite easily Florida quarterback Kyle Trask here. The ball placement and special downfield throws were superb last weekend. And you’re 100% going to hear about how he “looks the part” all next spring. There was also a very real and valid excuse for his middling performance as a starter last year — he hadn’t ever been a starter in high school or college football before!

They’re in debt actually. And the crazy thing is, this is currently their highest-graded offensive line since 2017.

I’m sure someone has a better one, but Trent Green is who popped into my head watching this past weekend.

Let’s make some fan bases mad shall we:

  1. Jets
  2. Giants
  3. Dolphins
  4. Jaguars
  5. Bengals

Simmons obviously gets all the headlines early on because A). Where he was drafted and B). He can’t even see the field.

The truth is, every rookie linebacker is struggling. Patrick Queen has been a disaster. He had a three-play stretch against the Chiefs where he gave up a 24-yard catch, committed a horse-collar penalty then missed a tackle. He’s got a 30.0 grade for the season. Kenneth Murray has earned a 44.2 overall grade for the season. Willie Gay can’t even see the field. Jeremy Chinn has already missed five tackles. Rookies at linebacker have likely been the position screwed the most by no preseason and the abbreviated offseason.

I’m surprised he doesn’t see the field more. He wasn’t even on my radar before the draft last year so didn’t have any exposure until Week 1, but he’s a long, fluid athlete for the position and the Packers don’t have a ton of talent at linebacker.

The play he made on a screen against the Vikings was not something we’ve seen a lot of from Packers linebackers in a while.

Honestly, I’m going to have to lean Sam. Steve would be getting sasquatch comps and would probably cave and cut it.

You’re not wrong because Slovis isn’t deserving. You’re wrong because Spencer Rattler exists.

This one depends on expectations. He’s not going to be the DeAndre Hopkins-esque physical YAC receiver he was billed as. He’s not that sudden and never separated that well even dating back to college. On the other hand, his ball skills are still outstanding, and he’s still built like a rock. His best bet at becoming a 1,000-yard receiver is to be utilized in a Larry Fitzgerald-esque slot role. What Harry has to work on to become that is the physical aspect of route running. Instead of trying to avoid contact on his routes, Harry HAS TO START creating it. No corner in the league wants him in their shoulder pads. If you’re a Pats fan, the more OPIs the better. The subtle shoves and shoulders are where he can win. Until then, we’ll see the same middling possession guy.

On the one hand, I think the influx of quarterback talent and high draft picks in recent years is no fluke. Between better coaching, 7-on-7 circuits and passing at earlier ages, quarterbacks are developing at younger ages better than ever. On the other hand, there most certainly will come a class where the quarterbacks are weak once again. It won’t be this year or next year, but it will happen.

This one has been one we’ve debated internally at PFF. Darren Waller is likely the most obvious one from a size and athleticism standpoint. He was a pure wide receiver coming out of Georgia Tech, however.

If I’m the Bengals and I get the number one pick, I’m not trading the pick…I’m trading Joe Burrow.

If I’m eating fast food, I’m not too worried about the health ramifications. At that point, nothing touches Taco Bell. The Cheesy Gordita Crunch is the single best fast food item in existence. Their rotating specials almost always hit. I’ve cut back in recent years, but Taco Bell will always have a special place in my heart.

I didn’t seriously evaluate prospects until the 2015 draft. No one holds a candle to Lawrence since then. Having gone back and watched Andrew Luck at Stanford, I feel comfortable saying I’d still prefer Lawrence. Going back even further than that, you’ll have to ask Mel Kiper.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
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