On Thursday we all reflected on everything we're thankful for as we cleaned our plates while watching a vintage Bears-Lions game, a thrilling overtime Raiders-Cowboys contest that featured 28 penalties, and a Bills beatdown of the Saints. It's the appropriate time for me to give thanks to all the Practice Squad Power Rankings alumni who've graduated to 53-man rosters around the league.
Like Cardinals wideout Antoine Wesley, a mainstay on the PSPR in 2019, who's quietly caught eight passes for 114 yards on 11 targets this season. Love it. I'm thankful for his ascension. Or the fact that Giants safety J.R. Reed, who lived on the PSPR last season, finally got his first opportunity in a regular-season game in Week 11 against the Buccaneers, and he looked good with three tackles and only surrendered one grab for three yards in his coverage area.
49ers wideout Jauan Jennings, the PSPR Cover Guy at the outset of the 2020 campaign, has a touchdown this season. Bengals wideout Stanley Morgan, who fluctuated up and down the PSPR for two full years (!) caught a pass last week and is a full-time special teamer in Cincinnati -- hey, you gotta start somewhere.
Juwan Johnson -- now a tight end, formerly a wideout -- has nine catches for 108 yards with three touchdowns on 16.1% of the offensive snaps for the Saints this year (that percentage needs to increase, don't you think?).
I'm thankful all those, and many other Practice Squad Practice Squad graduates, have gone on to the big leagues and the PSPR is forever behind them. That's the goal, right?
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Heading into the weekend, THE CUT -- aka The Call-Up Tracker -- has gotten stagnant. Still at seven. Use The Practice Squad Power Rankings as a resource, NFL front offices. If I've missed anyone, or you hear of a PSPR member getting The Call, alert me @ChrisTrapasso on Twitter, and feel free to use the hashtag #PSPR. Thank you in advance. Your next drink's on me.
In a sense, I'm running the Practice Squad Power Rankings parallel to the NFL. That means, as was the case last year, I'm not going to feature "veterans." To continue to maintain the PSPR's sterling integrity, I'll only be including practice-squadders who are rookies, second-year players, or third-year players. That's it.
And as you'll see below, I couldn't resist ranking more players, given the increase in practice squad sizes this season. To stay in line with the league's figure, I hope to write about 16 individuals every Friday: 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.
1. Dazz Newsome, WR, Bears
It's going to take more than a first-year cut for me to drop my #TrustTheTape draft crush from the 2021 class. He recovered from a broken collarbone early in the offseason to get limited reps in the preseason. Get Newsome in the slot and let him work, Nagy.
2. Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Vikings
Willekes was the PSPR Cover Guy just a few weeks ago. Dude can get after the quarterback. I'm telling you! Against the Ravens in Week 9, the former Michigan State standout had four pressures of Lamar Jackson. Minnesota is in the thick of the NFC wild card hunt and needs as much pass-rush productivity it can get.
3. Phil Haynes, OG, Seahawks
Haynes is a thick, springy athlete with about as much collegiate experience as humanly possible. I'm actually surprised he's on the Seahawks' practice squad, but Seattle did sign Gabe Jackson this offseason to elevate the floor of their guard position.
4. Carson Green, OT, Texans
I had a fourth-round grade on Green just a few months ago. He checked most of the boxes I have for a mid-round blocker who can come in and start right away. And he tested like a high-caliber athlete. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Green went undrafted. But he protected like a -- you guessed it -- early Day 3 pick in the preseason with one allowed pressure on 43 pass-blocking snaps. Naturally, the Texans released him on cutdown day, because Houston is completely set on its offensive line and doesn't need any young and talented blockers. Yeah, right.
5. Charles Snowden, EDGE, Bears
Snowden is impossibly long at over 6-foot-6 with 34-inch arms. He's essentially the size of some of the longer offensive tackles in the NFL, except he's probably playing somewhere in the 240s. So he clearly needs to add weight. But Snowden understands how to use his length to keep blockers from obliterating him. At Virginia, he had 28.5 tackles for loss in his final three seasons. With Khalil Mack injured, this should be a no-brainer for the Bears. Yet, Matt Nagy and Co. have hardly listened to me this season.
6. Cade Johnson, WR, Seahawks
The Seahawks are the Patriots of the NFC in that they adore late-round and undrafted free agent receivers. Johnson will be the next against-all-odds story in Seattle, a small, crisp route-runner who's feisty after the catch and hauls in everything thrown in his direction. Sound like any recently productive Seahawks receiver?
7. Ron'Dell Carter, EDGE, Cardinals
With J.J. Watt out for the remainder of the season, the Cardinals could use more pass-rush help on the outside, right? Carter has the girth, leverage, burst, and just enough pass-rush moves to be a productive contributor Arizona. I'm very high on him.
8. John Molchon, OG, Buccaneers
The Buccaneers might be without star guard Ali Marpet for some time after he suffered an injury against the Giants in Week 11. Aaron Stinnie stilled in admirably, actually, but Molchon should be elevated for Tampa's showdown with Indianapolis' strong defensive front in Week 12. Molchon's a powerful blocker who proved he's also an explosive athlete at the combine two years ago.
9. David Moore, OG, Browns
Moore is a mauler with a natural center of gravity that offensive line coaches dream about during REM sleep. He was just under 6-2 and 330 pounds at his pro day before the draft. After a dazzling career at Grambling State, Moore got a Senior Bowl invite and thrived in Mobile. He's not going to be the most athletic blocker if you're running a zone scheme, but he's quick enough off the ball to be effective on gap runs, and he's very close to being NFL strong already. Plus, no defensive tackle is going to get up and underneath him to drive him into the quarterback
10. Kayode Awosika, OG, Eagles
Awosika was a 32-game starter at the University at Buffalo, as a right and left tackle. At a shade over 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, he clearly has NFL guard size, and he entered the league further ahead as a run-blocker -- a damn good one -- than a pass-blocker, mostly due to his lack of explosive traits.
But there's something to be said about the strength of a young blocker, and Awosika is an effortless people-mover on the interior.
Thomas Graham, CB, Bears
Yes, the third Bears player in this week's PSPR. Graham was exposed a bit at the Senior Bowl. A lot of (mostly zone) cornerbacks are. But this is a savage defensive back who tallied eight interceptions and 32 pass breakups in his three seasons with the Ducks. What Graham lacks in size and pure explosion he more than makes up for with speedy processing and tenacity.
Holyfield averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 20 totes this preseason in Philadelphia and 4.0 yards per with the Panthers in 2020. He's a compactly built, decently shifty back with light feet and good vision. The Bengals backfield's a little banged up right now. Holyfield can help.
I had a late fifth-round grade on Griffin after a steady career with the Trojans in Southern California. He had nine pass breakups in 2019 and three more in a shortened 2020 campaign. He's a fluid mover with serious striking ability when planting and driving on the football.
Baker had three years of solid-albeit-unspectacular production at South Alabama but failed to get named to the hometown Senior Bowl. But at his pro day, he got everyone's attention, running 4.45 with a 39.5-inch vertical and 129-inch broad jump. His slow three-cone placed him in the second percentile among receivers over the past 21 years, but the explosion that was evident on vertical routes and in contested-catch situations in college was clear at his pre-draft workout.
Sullivan was buried on the receiving pecking order at LSU, and the Seahawks tried to morph him into a defensive end after picking him in the seventh round two years ago. Back to his natural position in Carolina, Sullivan has a chance to make a splash without a bunch of stars in front of him. He's 6-5 and 248 pounds with 4.66 speed and a catch radius the size of a Chevy Tahoe.
Tyrone Wheatley, OT, Giants
I'm fascinated by Wheatley's journey, from marquee tight end recruit -- who was massive entering the Michigan campus -- to beefed up offensive tackle. The tight end to tackle converts are always compelling to me because the I know athletic traits needed to excel blocking on the edge are there.
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