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Hogs Haven 2020 NFL Draft: Boise State Preview

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An early preview of the Boise State players who may be prominent in the 2020 NFL draft

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 New Mexico at Boise State Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hogs Haven 2020 NFL Draft: Boise State Preview

As part of Hogs Haven’s pre-draft coverage, I have been previewing one team per week throughout the college football season. This week’s team will be the Boise State Broncos.

On Saturday, the Broncos take on the Washington Huskies in the Vegas Bowl.

Most casual college football fans may associate Boise State with their unusual blue “Smurf Turf” or the famous ”Statue of Liberty” play used to defeat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, but did you know that their 22nd-consecutive winning seasons is the longest active streak in the FBS.

Additionally, Boise State has a legitimate claim to be the nation’s ‘winningest’ program. Since becoming a four-year school in 1968, Boise State’s winning percentage of .7302 is the best in the nation.

While the Redskins don’t play the Cowboys for another week.....

Dallas currently have FIVE former Boise State players on their roster. DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and Darian Thompson are each on the active roster, while Tyrone Crawford and Cedrick Wilson are both on the IR.

Additionally Orlando Scandrick and George Iloka have recently played for Dallas, and lets not forget about former QB turned offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.

It’s no wonder why some say Boise State has become a “farm system” for the Cowboys, while others jokingly call Dallas “Boise South”.

To learn more about the the appeal, I watched the entire Florida State and Colorado State games, before studying a bunch of condensed footage of the Hawaii, BYU, and Utah State games, plus the Mountain West Championship game (also Hawaii).

POTENTIAL FIRST ROUND PROSPECTS

In terms of NFL prospects, I don’t view any of their players as first round prospects.

POSSIBLE DAY TWO (ROUNDS 2-3) PROSPECTS

#99 Curtis Weaver, 6-3, 265 (RJr.)

Weaver came to Boise State as a 3-star HS recruit. After red-shirting the 2016 season, he was voted to Freshman All-America Teams by the FWAA and USA TODAY in 2017. One of the conferences most dominant defenders, it only took Weaver 2 1/2 years to break the Mountain West career sack record, with 33 for his career.

This season, Weaver’s 13.5 sacks ranks as the 5th best in the nation. Additionally, he was voted the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, and earned his third-straight selection to the All-Mountain West First Team. Finally he earned a spot on the AP’s All-American second team.

The more I watch of Weaver, the less impressed I am. Most of his production appears to be at the expense of low-level Mountain West Conference offensive linemen.

Weaver doesn’t have the length that some teams prefer on the edge. His build appears more short and thick. While BSU will drop him more than most teams will drop their top pass rusher, Weaver looks labored and stiff in coverage.

While he’s being projected by some as a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, I don’t think he gets selected until the 3rd round.

#76 Ezra Cleveland, OT 6-6, 310 (RJr.)

Cleveland came to Boise as a 3-star recruit, who started all 14 games as a redshirt freshman, and 39 of BSU’s 40 games the past three seasons.

According to PFF, he allowed just 10 pressures on 424 pass-blocking snaps this season.

Last month, ProFootball Network’s Tony Pauline wrote he grades him as a second-day selection. I think that sounds reasonable, however he didn’t make the Top-10 lists for Dane Brugler or any of the other other less reputable sources on the internet.

During the last draft cycle, Max Scharping (Northern Illinois, Texans) rose during the process, ending with his 55th overall selection. One of Scharping’s most impressive films was against Florida State, something he has in common with Cleveland.

Here, Cleveland demonstrates his athleticism.

As The Athletic points out, Boise State has an impressive history at the left tackle position. “The last five multi-year starters at left tackle (Daryn Colledge, Ryan Clady, Nate Potter, Charles Leno and Rees Odhiambo) were all drafted, each starting at least a half-dozen games in their NFL careers.”

LIKELY DAY THREE (ROUNDS 4-7) PROSPECTS

#16 John Hightower, WR 6-2, 172 (Sr.)

After two years playing at the JUCO level, Hightower transferred to Boise State last season and made an immediate impact. Named to the All-Mountain West Second Team at both wide receiver and kick returner, Hightower leads the team with 923 yards receiving, 8 touchdowns, and a team-leading 19.23 YPC average.

Around the season’s midway mark, draft analyst Dane Brugler mentioned Hightower as one of his Five under-the-radar NFL prospects ready to emerge. Brugler wrote “Projecting players forward is about identifying key traits (like game-changing speed) that translate well to the next level. Hightower has that type of speed and that is why he has at least an outside shot of working his way into the top-50 mix and maybe the first round. For the same reasons Will Fuller was a first-round pick in 2016, Hightower could find himself in a similar situation if the fit/need is there.”

I am in disagreement with Brugler here. While, he’s also a tenacious downfield blocker, Hightower’s frame is very long and lean. Players with his body type tend to struggle transitioning to the NFL.

On The College Draft Podcast (12/17/19), Matt Waldman compares Hightower to the Redskins’ Paul Richardson, before saying “you’d like to see him closer to 180-185, but even then you’d have some concerns about his ability to hold up in the NFL.”

#55 David Moa, DT 6-3, 296 (6YSr.)

Nicknamed the ”Moa Constrictor”, he has been a three year starter, who started all 13 games as a sophomore, and 12 games as a junior. Moa was granted a sixth year of eligibility after being limited to just one game in 2018, and took advantage of the opportunity as opposed to entering the 2018 NFL Draft. The move seems to have paid off, as Moa has returned to form, but may have peaked as just a solid, but unspectacular player.

#77 John Molchon, Guard 6-5, 318 (RSr.)

Voted to PFF’s Week 15 team of the week: “Molchon was a stud in both pass protection and in the run game for the Broncos. He allowed all of one hurry on his 36 pass-blocking snaps and had the country’s second-highest run-blocking grade among guards against Hawaii.”

A three year starter, Molchon has twice been voted onto the All-Mountain West First Team.

Named to Bruce Feldman’s annual college football “Freaks” list, Molchon is said to hang clean 425 pounds and power clean 365 for two reps. His vertical jump is 27.5 inches.

I think Molchon is BSU’s second best offensive lineman, but I’d be surprised if we were drafted before the sixth round.

OTHERS

#67 Garrett Larson, Center 6-4, 303 (RSr.)

Voted to PFF’s Week 15 team of the week: “The second Bronco on the offensive line here, Larson was perhaps the most well-rounded lineman in the country in Week 15. He finished with the country’s top figures in both pass-blocking and run-blocking grades among centers.”

In 2017, Larson made seven starts as a sophomore, and has been BSU’s full time staring center the past two seasons. Voted onto the All-Mountain West Second Team in 2019.

When Larson combines with Molchon to double team someone, they can be dominating but in isolation, Larson looks like an undrafted free agent.

#85 John Bates, TE 6-6, 255 (RJr.)

Bates provides a big target in the middle of the field, but appears to run in the 4.8-4.9 range. In the NFL, he would have to be schemed open, and doesn’t look like the type of athlete who should leave with eligibility remaining.

One of the best blocking Tight Ends I have studied this season, Bates would probably earn a Senior Bowl invite if he were to return to school. His ceiling would probably be in a Nick Boyle (Ravens) type of role in the NFL.

#26 Avery Williams, CB/PR 5-9, 198 (RJr.)

Had difficult day against Florida State’s Tamorrion Terry. BSU corners play with a good mix of tight man and off man coverage. Williams does a good job mirroring the receiver, and displays good click and close ability.

One of the better corners in the conference. While he is an outside corner in college, his size limitations will likely necessitate a move into the slot in the NFL. Williams also had a pair of touchdowns on punt returns in 2019.

#15 Jalen Walker, 6-0, 179 (RJr.)

While he struggled in his match-up with Colorado State’s 6’6 WR Warren Jackson, Walker might be an even better cover corner than Williams, but he appears to struggle tackling and isn’t as versatile.

In the first half of the Florida State game, the Broncos had him give huge cushions to the FSU wideouts, but during the Boise State second half comeback, Walker was playing much more press coverage.

#34 Robert Mahone, RB 5-10, 218 (RJr.)

Instrumental in the FSU game (24 carries, 142 yards, 2 TDs), Mahomes lost his job to true freshman George Holani.

#44 Riley Whimpey, LB 6-1, 233 (Jr.)

Whimpey is the team’s leading tacker 72 and frequently sent on blitzes. Caused Cam Akers to fumble in the FSU game. While I don’t expect him to leave early for the NFL, he probably would get drafted late if he were to declare.