It’s that Time Again ... !
Baylor signed 18 guys in this early signing period, and I’ll be doing in-depth reviews of all these guys here on ODB over the coming days. This is the second installment in this series, you can read the first one here.
These evaluations always take more time than anything else I do, but I have always enjoyed them. When I watch sports I like to have as much information as possible about the guys on the team. As an Astros fan, I loved following the minor leagues because it would give me more insight as young guys joined the team. For Baylor, I like to evaluate the signees that way when they hit the field over the coming years I have a summary of information about them that helps me know what they’re good at and bad at and what I should be looking out for.
Anyway, these are a lot of work but I hope you enjoy them. And I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below. I don’t pretend to be an expert, though I do think I’m pretty good at this. You can look back at my posts from years past and see that I generally have a pretty good feel for guys. I’m liable to miss on some guys, of course. Some guys I love will flunk and some guys I’m iffy on with become great. It’s just the nature of the beast.
My Version of a Rating System
In my years past reviews I’ve lobbed insults at the recruiting services for what I think are obviously silly rankings. Usually this involves slapping low grades on guys from small towns or other under-recruited areas that clearly have superior talent. So I decided to create my own of sorts. Here are the basics:
S+: NFL bound barring a major injury or other anomalous setback. These are national level recruits that any school in the country should take. Baylor doesn’t usually sign many of these.
S: As good as you can expect for a reasonable Baylor recruit; i.e., guys that Baylor put at the top of their board and got. They’ll have significant NFL potential and will be all-conference guys barring injury or other happenstance.
A: A very solid program addition. These guys are likely starters or significant contributors. Not #1 on your recruiting board type guys, but close. These guys fit more in the fringe NFL potential range with significant all conference potential. In a good recruiting year, the bulk of your class should be A and above.
B: Solid program addition, but guys that I foresee likely just providing depth or have a tougher road ahead to become a significant contributor. Basically, while guys I grade as “A” are very likely starters, guys I grade as “B” I’d predict could become starters but are less likely. Taking these types of guys is still worth it if you’ve missed on other targets and they still provide value to the program.
C: This is where I get iffy on prospects. These guys I project as most likely just depth or I don’t see working at the position they’re being recruited at. Perhaps worth the take if you missed on other guys, but they need a lot to go right for them to hit.
D: I totally disagree with Baylor taking them.
As you can see, this grading system is Baylor adjusted, so a guy I grade as an S for Baylor I wouldn’t grade as an S for Alabama. But I think this type of system is more valuable for understanding what Baylor is getting and how well Baylor is hitting their mark.
A note about positions. This rating system is an attempt to objectify an inherently subjective enterprise, of course, so the difference between positions is hard to quantify. This is most notable at QB. For example, I have Kyron Drones rated as an “S.” I think if everything goes right for him he’s a probable NFL QB. But QBs aren’t really “NFL bound barring an injury” like say, a WR is.
One other thing: I can’t give everyone a great grade. As I said this past season when I was negative about some aspects of the Baylor football team, positive praise is meaningless if you’re not willing to be honestly negative. Just because I don’t see it with a guy doesn’t mean he is doomed; I guarantee you there isn’t a single staff in America where every assistant coach and recruiting staffer feels equally about a prospect. Staffers and assistant coaches have to fight to get guys offered and pursued all the time. Disagreements are natural and just how it goes. For the few guys in this class that I don’t like as much as the others, I hope they take it respectfully and I understand that I can’t just slap an S+ on everyone, that would be meaningless. I hope the best for everyone!
With that said, let’s jump in!
Jordan Jenkins, RB. 6-1 208 lbs. Lindale, TX. Lindale HS.
The most underrated aspect of being a RB is also Jenkins’ best trait: he has elite balance. RBs are different than many other positions on the field in that it requires guys who can make a lot of minute movements and adjustments all while maintaining their speed, balance, and agility. Jenkins’ film is replete with examples of him bouncing off tacklers.
With running backs I usually look for the small things. It’s not just a height/weight/speed thing with them (though of course you need a requisite amount), it’s about the ability to do a lot of unnoticed things from down to down which make you a successful back. Jenkins’ film is replete with him doing tons of the small things. He knows how to “get skinny” through hole. He knows when to accelerate vs when to play it patient (some guys have a habit of always accelerating when they hit the second level, even when it is more advantageous to play it patient and set up a downfield block). He knows when to cut back vs when to stay front side. He knows when to try and run someone over vs when he can get around them with a superior angle. And all of this in a package of a guy who will play at 6-1 220 and run in the 4.6s.
Finally, Jenkins brings these elites traits together with high character and work ethic. From all available reports and interviews, he’ll be a tremendous addition to the locker room and make guys around him better.
RB is always a tough position to project. The thing working against (in a way) Jenkins is he is a workhorse back—he gets better as the game goes on. Now, this is a positive if he can get into a position where he gets 15+ carries per game. But he’s not like a guy like Sqwirl Williams or Trestan Ebner who you can give him 5-7 touches per game and get immense value, he’ll probably need to become a starter to provide much value. Baylor has some obscene RB talent ahead of him with Sqwirl, Jonah White, and Taye McWilliams.
He’s pretty unique so a comparison is difficult. He definitely has the best balance of any Baylor RB since Shock Linwood, though they’re obviously different players in many other areas. As for his future, it’ll take him a few years to be in a position to start, but once he does I think he could have a great 1 or 2 years as a bellcow RB.
Jackie Marshall, LB. 6-1 235 lbs. LaPlace, LA. East St. John HS.
Marshall is a guy I would’ve been closer to a an A after his junior year, but his senior film showed continued improvement and he has become one of the better prospects in the class. He’s a really solidly built athlete, I don’t think the 235 lbs Baylor listed him at is fudging anything. He’s got a lot of power and mass in his lower body which will allow him to efficiently put on weight. There was a possibility that he played inside linebacker, but with his frame and how easily he can put on weight, I’d put more possibility that he got up to 270 than him staying light enough to play inside backer.
At this point, I think Jackie is a JACK all or a defensive end. He has terrific lateral quickness and agility which is the #1 trait you want to see from a guy playing on the edge. He also plays with heavy hands and will be a guy who can utilize some powerful pass rush moves. You can tell how much power he packs because there are many clips where he seemingly just pushes on guys and they go flying.
Almost assuredly he will start out at JACK and see if he outgrows it. Baylor is loaded at that position right now with a lot of promising guys—Matt Jones, Ashton Logan, Tyrone Brown, Anthony Anyanwu, so he’ll have to really make an impression to see the field early. Ultimately, I think his brightest future could be as more of a sort of defensive end who plays closer to 260 but retains a lot of solid athleticism. With his skill and size I think he has a pretty high floor. He’ll be a contributor for sure.
Cameron Bonner, WR. 5-11 170 lbs. Houston, TX. St. Thomas HS.
Bonner is an easy and straight-forward evaluation. He caught 35 balls for 754 yards as a senior, a cool 21.5 yards per reception. He can really fly with a verified laser 4.41 forty and some 47 second 400m times (he should run track at Baylor). I don’t think he’s as fast as Baldwin, but he’s bigger and a better threat down the field on jump balls.
His player comparison is pretty easy, Jaylen Ellis. I don’t think he has quite the top gear that Ellis has (but they’re close, Ellis is just elite elite in that respect), but they’re both 5-11 guys who make their living deep and play with good functional strength. It also seems to me that Bonner, like Ellis, plays with a similar moxie. However, while I don’t think he has quite the top gear Ellis has, I think he has a bit bigger frame and can be of more use on slants and other short routes.
While I would describe Baldwin as scheme proof, the opposite is true of Bonner. Like Jaylen Ellis, if your QB can’t stretch the field vertically then he is wasted. But get him a guy who can throw bombs—like Drones can—and you have an everydown threat who can take the top off of defenses. Bonner will be a nightmare running posts behind dig routes. Put a possession receiver inside him, make the safety come up on the possession receiver, and hit Bonner behind them. Like Ellis, because of Bonner’s speed he’s a virtual lock to become a significant contributor given he receives good QB play.
Dakote Doyle-Robinson, DT. 6-1 270 lbs. St. Louis, MO. De Smet HS.
So first things first .... Dakote ain’t 6’1. He’s probably closer to 5’9 than he is to 6’1. I’d put him somewhere around 5’10.5 or so. For his film, there’s a lot to like about Dakote as a prospect. He’s a supreme athlete for a guy as heavy as he is, and can really explode off the ball. If he’s playing, he’s a DT whose only job will be to get in the backfield as quickly as possible. His quickness means that he’ll be a real asset in the secondary run game (i.e., tackling guys 5-7 yards down field after they get through the initial hole)
The issue for Dakote is that defensive lineman can’t dictate what the offense does. You can “hide” athletes on offense, because they determine what they do; i.e., you can play a slower WR who is a great technician on offense, but you can’t play a slow CB who is a good technician because the offense can just line up someone who can blow by him on every play. The defensive line version of this is strength in the run game. It doesn’t matter how quick and agile you are as a DT; if the interior OL can blow you off the ball on every play, you can’t play.
Now, that is not to say that there is proof that Dakote can’t stand up to interior double teams. It’s just a big TBD because of his size. The primary ways you stand up to double teams are with a) long arms to keep those guys off of you and b) a very strong base which allows you to stand your ground. Bravvion Roy, for example, despite being only 6-1 and having very short arms for the position, was unbelievably strong (and quick) which allowed him to become an NFL draft pick. If you’re 5-10 or 5’11 like Dakote probably is, you have to be strong as an ox to stand up to OL on an everydown basis. Otherwise you can only be a pass rushing piece on passing downs. Guys his size will never be serious NFL prospects (unless he has freaky long arms), but they can become very good college players, like the 5’11.5 Dequinton Osborne who became a 1st team All Big 12 player at Oklahoma State.
It’s difficult to tell exactly how strong he is on film, but it does look like he has a solid base which should allow him to get strong. He’ll probably need a few years to build that strength up before he can become a significant contributor. If he has longer arms than normal, or grows an inch or two, he could become a dominant player. He has unreal athleticism for the position. It’ll just be a matter of whether he can get strong enough to compensate for his size.
Monaray Baldwin, WR. 5-9 165 lbs. Killeen, TX. Shoemaker HS.
It’s between Baldwin and Gipson for being my highest rated WR in this class. Baldwin is my “I have no idea what recruiting sites are thinking” guy of the year. He’s rated way too low. 10.66 100m speed and tremendous playing speed on tape. Because of his size he’ll likely be described as a waterbug/shifty type player, but he is much more Tevin Reese than Kendall Wright.
He certainly is shifty and good in tight places, but where he is truly elite is in his ability to turn on the jets once he gets a crease. His track times, tape, and size all scream a true 4.4 or sub 4.4 guy. The upside with him is a guy who can absolutely blow by slot defenders like Tevin Reese could, but he’s better in short spaces and a better route runner. His route running is what really sets him apart—he’s posted some clips on his twitter page of him doing training and you can tell he has a natural feel for how to get open.
Because his skillset is so complete, Baldwin really is scheme proof. He’ll be maximized by a QB who can stretch the field vertically, but he’ll always have use as a guy who you can just put the ball in his hands and see what happens. His size will probably limit him from becoming a serious NFL prospect, but he will be a dynamite college performer and brings a unique skillset to Baylor. He’ll be behind guys like Drew Estrada, Josh Fleeks, and Gavin Holmes early in his career, but his speed will have coaches itching to play him early. If he stays healthy and gets good QB play I think he’s a lock to become an all big 12 performer.
Ryan Lengyel, OL. 6-5 285 lbs. Dallas, TX. Jesuit HS.
It’s interesting that of the 3 OL Baylor signed—Tate Williams, Connor Heffernan, and Ryan Lengyel—the “worst” athlete of the 3 is slated to play Tackle. Other than your super elite OL recruits that go to programs like Alabama (the guys whose bodies are already ready to play in college) there are a couple of other types of OL recruits: super athletes that you have to put weight on and teach technique, and guys who are near the right size and already demonstrate good technique but aren’t as good of athletes. Lengyel definitely fits the later.
Lengyel isn’t gonna do anything on film to wow you like Tate Williams will, but it just seems that he wins almost every snap. He just never gets beat by the pass rush. He plays with very patient hands, which is a very important and underrated skill for OL. As an OT, you always want to wait as long as possible before you commit with your hands. Many pass rushing moves are meant to bait an OT into committing and then doing something else; the longer the OT waits, the more time the pass rusher wastes. Lengyel is really patient and will probably be a good pass protector right off the bat.
His feet however are not overly quick. He won’t be a major player in the run game other than baisc blocks. He’s not a guy who an OL coach can dream up unique stuff like they can with Tate Williams. But he’ll get his job done and play with a mean streak. He just might struggle with elite athletes that line up opposite him.
One thing I really like about Baylor signing Lengyel is that Baylor hasn’t signed a guy like him in years. Rhule didn’t really recruit OTs like him, he wanted his OTs to have serious NFL upside. Basically every OT Baylor took either needed to put on serious weight (Galvin) or learn major technique (Casey Phillips). Lengyel, despite playing at a smaller high school classification, is relatively plug’n’play. He’s got a good frame, he plays with good technique, and he plays with good toughness. At a school with proven OTs in front of him I might project an iffier future. But with the struggles Baylor has had from their tackles in recent years I think the chances that Lengyel becomes a contributor are pretty high.
That’s all for this time, folks. Once again, hit me up in the comments or @Travis_Roeder on twitter and we can discuss further. Looking forward to it, thanks!