Despite not having a ton of well known players, the newly formed AAC has a ton of talented athletes at every position. The highlights of the conference come from the incredibly talented Teddy Bridgewater at Quarterback and the mouth watering giant in Brandon Coleman out of Rutgers. They headline a group of seemingly unknowns to the average draft fan, but a lot of these names one could be hearing in may of next year.
1st String – Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville): Bridgewater is by far the top Quarterback prospect in next year’s class and, at this point, a top 5 quarterback prospect of the past few years. He is intelligent with the arm to make all the throws in the NFL. He struggles a bit with deep accuracy, but that is just a mechanics tweak. He is incredibly tough and will step up in the pocket and make the throw in the face of pressure. He is athletic but is also smart on when to use his feet. He is a leader and a Top 3 pick.
2nd String – Brendon Kay (Cincinnati): Kay may not be the biggest name, he might be a little unknown actually, but not for long. He stepped up from the bench last year to spell the mediocre incumbent starter and shined in his time. He displayed a cannon of an arm and solid athleticism to match. He needs to be more consistent mechanically but with prototypical size (6’4”, 233) he is an intriguing prospect.
1st String – Seniorise Perry (Louisville): At 6’, 203, Perry is a powerful runner who keyed the running game for Louisville last year. He has good vision and solid speed, once he gets going, he is tough to bring down in the open field. He injured his knee last year, so it is to be seen how he recovers.
1stString – Storm Johnson (UCF): At 6’, 218, Johnson is a big back but he has really good speed to pair with the power that comes from his size. He shows value as a runner and as a receiver. He was 2nd string behind NFL draft pick Letavius Murray last year, but he has shown promise that could be a hint of big things for this year.
2nd String – Brandon Hayes (Memphis): Despite being only 5’8”, Hayes weighs in at a health 208 lbs. He has good power, but he has very good vision and hits a hole at full speed and at full confidence.
1st String – Brandon Coleman (Rutgers): 6’6”, 220 lbs., 4.5 40-yard dash… Coleman is a mouthwatering prospect and is loaded with potential. He has a huge frame with the potential to put on more muscle, but his natural strength shows up when he is fighting for the ball. However, he is not just a possession receiver, he moves really well for a man his size and is dangerous after the catch. Top 5 receiver in a very talented crop in this year’s draft.
1st String – Devante Parker (Louisville): Parker has the benefit of playing for the best Quarterback in the country in Bridgewater, but it is not like Parker can’t do it by himself. Another big bodied receiver at 6’2, 205, Parker is very agile and can move very well in the open field. His body control comes into play when going after a catch; he has very good hands and is very consistent. He needs to improve his strength to do better against more physical corners, but he is on the rise.
Slot Receiver – Jeremy Johnson (SMU): Johnson is smaller at 5’11”, 175, and he needs to add weight to be more effective at the next level. He is very quick in the open field and runs very fluid routes and could be a solid underneath option at the next level.
2nd String – Damian Copeland (Louisville): Copeland led the Cardinals in receptions last year, which is a testament to how much the team wanted the ball in his hands, and for good reason. He has good size at 6’ but needs to add more weight to be a better option at the next level. He does have very good speed that shows up constantly on field and could help him have a big year and boost his stock.
1st String – Blake Annen (Cincinnati) : Annen sat behind one of the best receiving tight ends in the country last year in Travis Kelce, so it is not too surprising that he did not have many receptions. However, he gained valuable time as a blocker where he showed effectiveness. He has great size at 6’5” and could be Brendon Kay’s go to guy in the red zone.
2nd String – Gerald Christian (Louisville): A transfer from Florida, Christian sat out the year due to NCAA rules, but could be in for a big year. He flashed impressive skills as a receiver during his time in Gainesville and in high school. He was the number 2 tight end in his class and could finally show the purpose of that billing this year.
1st String – Eric Lefeld (Cincinnati): Has impressive size at 6’6” but is very light at 287 lbs. Though he is lighter, he is incredibly capable in both the running and passing game. He uses natural quickness and athleticism to beat defenders. Sprinting down the field to set up blocks in the running game or beating a rusher off the ball, if Lefeld can add weight while retaining his quickness, watch out.
2nd String – Kaleb Johnson (Rutgers): Johnson is impressive physically, but he needs to become a more consistent technician. While his 6’4”, 300 pound frame exhibits good strength and speed, he needs to use his hands better and become more flexible. He is able to use his pure athleticism and instincts to beat defenders, but that will not work consistently at the next level.
1st String – Jamon Brown (Louisville): A former defensive tackle, Brown is still raw but posses very attractive upside. He attacks his blocks with the violence of a defensive lineman and his motor is relentless. However, he really needs to refine his technique as he got beat a lot last year. He has a ton of potential though.
2nd String – Jimmy Brennet (UConn): Bennet is very talented and could be viewed as one of the better prospects at his position. However, a host of injuries have taken there toll on him, his technique, his athletic ability, and his stock. He still flashes his ability, but it shows up inconsistently. If he can stay healthy and get abck to his roots, he has the makings of a top offensive tackle with his natural strength and agility.
1st String – Antwan Lowery (Rutgers) While the 6’4”, 305 lb. may not set the world on fire with incredible athletic ability, he makes up for it with phenomenal technique. He is intelligent and knows exactly how and when to set up blocks. He is able to accomplish all of this with great length and uses his hands very well. He may not be a combine star, but he is a very talented guard.
1st String – Kevin Forsch (Houston): Forsch is a smart player along the Houston line and is an important part of their productive offense. He is a quick player who uses his agility to make his blocks as fast as possible. He needs to improve his technique, but he is an impressive athlete with versatility at the next level.
2nd String – Austen Bunjoch (Cincinnati): At 6-5, 285, Bunjoch is, like his previously mentioned teammate, quite light. However, he is also incredibly fast and agile in the open field. He seems to hold up in both, but his mechanics need to be perfect every play or he gets blown up by larger defenders. While his technique is very good, he will need to add weight to hold up in the NFL.
2nd String – Jordan McCray (UCF): At 6’4, 310, McCray has great size and uses that to his advantage. He is very strong, but he is not a good lateral mover and will need to improve upon that this year.
1st String – Dallas Hendrikson (Rutgers): Despite missing the entire season due to an ACL injury, Hendrickson is still an interesting prospect. He is an intelligent athlete who will need to improve his quickness off the ball to boost his stock.
2nd String – Dan Sprague (Cincinnati): Another Cincinnati lineman who weighs in at under 290… However, like the rest of them, Sprauge is an impressive mover who will need to add that weight to be considered next year.
4-3 Base Defense
1st String – Aaron Lynch (South Florida): After a dominant freshman year, Lynch transferred from Notre Dame to South Florida where he sat out the year. However, this 6’6”, 250 defensive end has the athletic potential to play any where along a defensive line or even at outside linebacker. He is an impressive athlete as well as a violent technician. Top 10 potential.
1st String – Ryne Giddins (South Florida): The second part of an impressive duo out of USF, Giddins wins with an great first step and an impressive amount of moves to get into the backfield. He is pushed around in the run game which hurts his versatility, but he is quick as a pass rusher with surprising strength.
2nd String – Marcus Smith (Louisville): Smith is a converted linebacker who shows his athleticism as a pass rusher, but still a bit raw. He is quick off the ball and relies on ability, rather than technique, to work his way into the backfield. He gets beat quite a lot and will need to improve his technique to become a better prospect.
2nd String – Jesse Joseph (UConn): Joseph has been hampered by injuries recently, but his prospect goes back to his sophomore year where he racked up 8.5 sacks. He uses his length and his hands to win as a pass rusher and shows instinct in the run game where he uses his strength to beat blockers and make plays on the runner. Joseph, if he plays healthy, could break out this year.
1st String – Johnnie Farms (UConn): Farms displays impressive burst from a 305 pound man and gets into the backfield with his speed when asked to shoot a gap. He needs to clean up his fundamentals as he gets high and gets blown off the ball on a regular basis. If he cleans up his technique, he could surprise next year.
1st String – EJ Dunston (South Florida): Dunston is not an impressive athlete, but he is a smart football player. He fires off the ball quickly and counts the snap very well. He uses instincts to break down a play and then will use good handwork to make his way to the ball carrier.
2nd String – Levi Brown (Temple): Brown shows great instincts as a run defender and is able to anchor the line with his size (6’2”, 302) but he lacks the athletic ability or the technique to be a factor as a pass rusher.
2nd String – Shamar Stephen (UConn): 6’5” and 325 pounds are numbers scouts want to hear when looking at defensive tackles. Not only does Stephen look good, he is an impressive run defender with a first step that helps him create pressure. While he is not a pass rusher by any means, he still collapses the pocket which will allow his teammates to make the play. He needs to be more consistent with his technique to be an option for a team next May though, as his fundemental lapses occur often and hurt him.
1st String – Greg Blair (Cincinnati): Blair is an impressive leader in the middle of the Bearcat defense. He is an instinctual run defender and is smart in coverage. He is not a great athlete and lacks fluidity but masks that with his impressive ability to diagnose an offense.
2nd String - Preston Brown (Louisville): Brown is the leader on an underrated Louisville defense and that leadership shows in his play. He is an impressive run defender and a phenomenal tackler. He comes downhill quickly and punishes running backs. He is not overly impressive in coverage, but shows impressive instincts in reading a play, just lacks athletic ability to consistently survive in coverage.
1st String – Yawin Smallwood (UConn): Smallwood has great size at 6’3”, 235 and uses it when he tackles. He moves fluidly to the ball and is a sound and occasionally impactful hitter. He has very good range in both the run and passing game but needs to improve his awareness this year to improve his status in the draft.
1st String – De De Lattimore (South Florida): Lattimore is an intriguing prospect at weak side ‘backer. He is a very impressive athlete as he is agile, fast and strong. His moneymaker is his ability to blitz off the edge. He dips well and uses his speed to come down on the quarterback. He is equally impressive as a run defender and a pass defender. However his height (6’1”) can cause him to get swallowed up in the running game. Overall, this is an impressive athlete on the rise.
2nd String – Randall Joyner (SMU): Joyner has a diminutive frame at 5’10” but still is packing on 228 pounds. He is a good athlete and flows to the ball well, but he is very impressive in coverage. He gets swallowed up in the run game and should considr a move to safety in order to salvage an NFL career.
2nd String – Anthony Brown (Memphis): Impressive sized backer (6’3”, 240) who uses his size paired with his smarts to make plays against the run, does not consistently factor as in pass coverage though.
1st String – Byron Jones (UConn): After the departure of two very talented corners in Dwayne Gratz and Bildi-Wreh Wilson in the NFL draft, former safety Byron Jones is making the move to corner back. He has great size at 6’1”, 190 pounds which he can uses in a press situation. However he will need to become more acclimated to press coverage then we would at safety, but since that is a big part of the UConn defense, he should get plenty of experience. His experience at safety is a testament to his range and natural ball skills and it will be interesting to see his transition to corner.
You can check out Jones live by grabbing Uconn football tickets here.
1st String – Zach McMillan (Houston): McMillan is an intelligent corner who uses his knowledge of the offenses to make plays on the ball in off coverage. He is a good athlete so if he allows the catch, he can track down the ball carrier very well and wrap up properly. However, he is not terribly physical at the line of scrimmage nor is he fluid in his backpedal. He needs to work on that or he will be relegated to the slot.
2nd String – Kenneth Acker (SMU): Acker is such a good athlete for SMU, he is getting reps at wide receiver as well as cornerback. However, his athletic ability aids him as he plays a similar off coverage to McMillan. He will sit and wait to make a play on the ball instead of staying in active coverage or pressing the receiver. He needs to work on his physicality but there is no denying his ability.
2nd String – Deven Drane (Cincinatti): Drane has been moved around over the course of his career, but he exceeds everywhere. He is physical in press man coverage as well as being physical in the run game. He is a stud tackler who will occasion open up a bit and just lay the wood. He is not a phenomenal athlete and that hurts him a bit in reacting an recovering in coverage. All in all, he is a very talented fundamentals based corner.
1st String -Hakeem Smith (Louisville) One of the most well rounded safeties in the draft, Smith is a very intelligent defender in run support and in pass coverage. He is fluid as he moves to the ball and tracks it well to bat it away. In run support he has a great first step and comes down hill to wrap up the ball carrier, all very sound. The knocks on him are his lack of size (only 185 lbs.) and that he needs to improve his ball skills (one career INT.) but that is nitpicking and he is a solid all-around defensive back.
2nd String – JaQuez Jenkins (South Florida): Jenkins has good size at 6’2” but will need to add weight to be more effective in coverage. He is not a great athlete but compensates with his intelligence and on field motor. He is a solid tackler and has good range in coverage, but his lack of speed hurts him as he moves across the field.
1st String – Mark Joyce (South Florida): At 5’10”, 195, Joyce does not have the size wanted in a Free safety, but he is a rocket flying around the field and making plays in the run game. He diagnoses plays very quickly and uses a great first step to flow to the ball in coverage and in the run.
2nd String – Jeremy Deering (Rutgers): A former running back, 6’2”, 210 lb Deering is a phenomenal athlete. Deering will fly around on the field, living off of instinct and athletic ability at this point. However, if he can improve his technique, he could be a very interesting prospect heading into next year with his speed, which is incredible. He also has value as a kick returner as he averaged over 31 yards per return last year.
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