The NFL Supplemental Draft is normally an annual exercise in nothingness. No players have been drafted since 2015 and no one of any significance since the Browns took Josh Gordon back in 2012.
This year is different. Five players are in the draft pool for the July 11 Supplemental Draft. At least two are certain to be drafted, and all five should at least stick on NFL practice squads in 2018.
Before we get to the players, a brief explanation of the rules:
The draft is essentially a blind auction. The 10 teams with the worst records in 2017 (see the regular 2018 draft order before trades) are grouped together and placed in a blind drawing. That determines who picks first through 10th. Next there is a second grouping of the team which slotted 11-20, followed by another pod with the 2017 playoff teams.
The order in those drawings settles ties on bids within those groups. Bids begin with the first-round pick for 2019 for each of the teams. If any team bids a first-round pick on any of the Supplemental players, it uses up the corresponding pick next spring. Teams won’t know who bid what until the winner is announced.
None of the players this year will get taken with first-round picks, continuing a string which dates back to when the New York Giants successfully bid on Duke QB Dave Brown. After watching the uninspiring Brown throw 49 INTs to 40 TDs and compile a losing record in 6 seasons, the Giants might not consider that much of a win.
The first player who will be taken this year, and he will definitely be drafted, is Western Michigan CB Sam Beal.
I’ve had the fortune to see Beal play in person 6 times in at WMU, which is technically the closest D-I program to my home. As he was reportedly dallying with the idea of declaring for the ’18 draft, I spent more focus on his draft potential than most underclassmen.
Beal’s measurements from Thursday’s private workout in Kalamazoo, which all 32 teams attended. Most teams had multiple reps, which is extremely unusual for a Supplemental Draft prospect.
Sam Beal, CB:— Jamal Spencer (@JamalWZZM13) June 28, 2018
6’0, 178 pounds
4.4 40-yard dash with the wind
4.51 40-yard dash against the wind
37 inch vertical
9 inch hands pic.twitter.com/ddUQI0LWeR
My condensed thoughts on Beal:
- Wiry strong with his jam
- Excellent burst out of his breaks and transitions
- Instincts and coverage awareness progressed quickly
- Physical and willing tackler, better after the catch than vs. the run
- Comfortable playing press man without over-the-top help if he loses early
- Fluid hips and loose ankles
- Poor hands, notably for a recently converted WR (he was recruited as a WR)
- Still learning positional geometry and pursuit/tackling angles
- Not adept at breaking inside or playing passive or off/zone coverage
- Doesn’t feel blocks coming at him well
- Inexperience can cause panic at times (see Toledo game)
- Lost at least 8 pounds from his slender frame from January to his workout
I spoke to two NFL personnel folks who were at Beal’s workout this past week. One told me, “he’s getting overhyped. (Our GM) won’t bid more than a sixth (round pick), not at that weight and with no ball skills.”
The other was more intrigued and believed his team is as well. “My report is third round and he’s a capable starter by year two. Watch him bump and run. He can play.”
Having seen him a lot and knowing the program well, I’m comfortable using a third rounder on him. My leading candidates for his services include the Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. Despite the geographic proximity, I don’t see either the Detroit Lions or Chicago Bears offering significant picks for his services.
Brandon Bryant, DB, Mississippi State
Bryant also figures to be selected after an impressive workout which more than 20 NFL teams attended. A well-built athlete at 6 feet and 215 pounds, his speed and explosive burst have never really translated into quality production at Mississippi State. He toyed with transferring even before being declared academically ineligible for the spring, which led to his entry in this draft.
Those are legit flags. A team selecting Bryant is banking on its coaching staff being able to do what the unstable group in Starkville could not: turn his considerable athletic gifts into functional football ability. Bryant has teased it at times, notably when he played next to another safety instead of as a centerfielder-type. There is some thought a team could transition Bryant to cornerback, in the way the Packers attempted with former first-round pick Damarious Randall. If Bryant can pick up on the receiver cues better with them right in front of him instead of reading and reacting more from afar, I heartily endorse the move.
The Bryant from his freshman year is worth a fourth or fifth round gamble for a team that doesn’t need him to play right away. That Bryant largely disappeared, though I liked what I saw in the LSU and Auburn games in ’17 enough that he still merits a late bid in the Supplemental Draft. His sprinter speed at his size, with his natural fluidity and decent striking power as a tackler, are in line with several recent late-round defensive backs.
Marty Carter, RB, Grand Valley State
Carter is a surprising late entrant to the draft pool. The D-II standout was expected to spearhead the rushing attack for the perennial national power. Reported academic ineligibility forced his hand.
I’ve seen Carter play in person 3 times, though he missed the GVSU game I attended last fall. He’s a physical and attacking runner who understands how to use his 6-0, 200-pound (listed, though both seem a tad generous) to his advantage. His top-notch acceleration and vision are on display on this run from last fall:
Carter averaged over 7 yards per carry in the best conference in D-II for the Lakers. The GLIAC produces a handful of legit NFL prospects every year, and Carter is as gifted as just about all of them. His instant burst and ability to get his shoulders narrow through a closing hole allow him to be more patient than most runners, setting up his blocks and reacting quickly and innately to the action. He’s got a decent stiff arm and will lower his shoulder to grind extra yards. As a runner, think Mark Ingram’s style in a more upright package.
The Lakers didn’t use him much in the passing game, and his struggles in pass protection in the two GVSU games I attended in ’16 are a good reason. He treats pass protection like a mosh pit, full force initial contact but no follow-up or technical prowess. That can be taught. His teammates note Carter does catch the ball well when given the chance. He’s also a fiercely competitive guy who isn’t above spinning the ball or letting a defender know when he bested him.
Reviewing some GVSU games on the fly to focus more on Carter’s NFL potential, I like the school’s prodigious all-time rushing leader (more than 3,600 yards and 36 TDs in 3 years) enough to bid a sixth or seventh round pick on him in the Supplemental Draft. His aggressiveness and acceleration are enough to make up for his average (by NFL standards) speed and the jump in competition, notably the speed of the second-level defenders.
Adonis Alexander, CB, Virginia Tech
I was a lot more excited about Alexander before his well-attended workout in June. The 6-3, 207-pound listing wilted into a hair under 6-2, 197 pounds with an unacceptable 4.61 40-yard dash time and substandard performance in agility drills.
His production was relatively low, but in his defense two of his fellow Hokie cornerbacks (Greg Stroman, Brandon Facyson) both showed enough promise to earn Shrine Game berths in January. Alexander’s length and body control while at full gallop, plus his quality jam and bail techniques offer some promise. But with his unimpressive workout and unsavory off-field transgressions make Alexander undraftable. He’s got a marijuana possession arrest, an unrelated team suspension, and he’s in this draft because of academic ineligibility. I asked one of the same NFL personnel folk I talked to after Beal’s workout about Alexander and got a dismissive eye roll and head shake no. Sometimes no words need to be said.
Bright Ugwoegbu, LB, Oregon State
I don’t want to crush dreams here, but no NFL team is pulling the trigger on a slow (4.97 40 time at his workout which absolutely shows on tape) linebacker who is smaller (6-1/205) than many safeties and got kicked out of school. Sorry.