I Hate You, John Crist: Joshua Dobbs rocketing up draft boards at right time

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My feature that ran Saturday on Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs at “Gruden’s QB Camp” in Orlando didn’t get a lot of comments.

It could be due to the fact that it was about 5,000 words in length, which admittedly takes some commitment to read from start to finish. It wasn’t the kind of story designed to be scrolled through quickly on a mobile device.

But if you did take the plunge, it’s easier to appreciate why Dobbs has some serious momentum ahead of the NFL Draft. Considered a late-round pick at best a month or two ago, now there are rumors of him coming off the board in Round 1. The former Volunteer has played the pre-draft fiddle beautifully.

Clearly, Dobbs is benefitting from the fact that it’s considered a weak class of passers. The Dak Prescott comparisons help, too. Regardless, it’s great to see a fine young man being appreciated for reasons both on and off the field.

Here are some of my favorite comments from this past week. Even Kentucky fans felt the need to get all riled up over minutiae.


Kentucky


Based on everything I’ve seen and heard, Kentucky is yet to make any sort of formal announcement with regard to its starting quarterback.

More than likely, it will indeed be Johnson. While he wasn’t overly effective as a passer last season, the Wildcats went bananas on the ground with him at the controls. He got them to a bowl game for the first time in years.

That being said, Johnson only completed 54.7 percent of his passes in 2016 — many of the high-percentage variety, too — and found the end zone just 13 times in 12 games. He wasn’t much of a runner, either. With a yards-per-carry average of 3.5, the thing he did best was hand the ball to Stanely “Boom” Williams and Benny Snell.

Now there’s more to playing the game’s most important position than statistics. Johnson deserves high praise for the steadying influence and leadership quality he brought to the offense. Those don’t show up in a box score.

Still, an argument can be made that he’s at best the No. 3 pure thrower in his own locker room after Drew Barker and Gunnar Hoak.

Johnson was a JUCO transfer. Barker was the premier high school recruit in the Bluegrass State. Hoak was more heralded, as well. Additionally, Barker was unquestionably the starter a year ago prior to his back issue.

I’m not sure how coach Mark Stoops feels, but there are still plenty of guys who believe that players shouldn’t lose starting jobs due to injury. It would be one thing if Johnson took over and was the second coming of Tim Couch. That didn’t happen, though. He averaged a paltry 5.1 yards per pass attempt in the bowl loss to Georgia Tech.

My feeling is that Barker will be heard from again one way or another. The fact that he wasn’t healthy enough to get the green light for the spring game last weekend obviously hurt his case. Clearly, he isn’t 100 percent yet.

As for me saying UK will never become a football powerhouse, how much evidence do I need? The last century or so was pretty convincing.


Engram


“Steal of the draft” might be a bit of a stretch, but there’s reason to believe that Engram will be quite a weapon in the NFL.

Even with all those receiving weapons out wide, both Chad Kelly and Shea Patterson preferred to target Engram last year between the hash marks. Linebackers and defensive backs alike had a terrible time matching up with him.

Oct 29, 2016; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels tight end Evan Engram (17) scores a touchdown during the first quarter of the game against the Auburn Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Engram isn’t the best tight end prospect in the draft. That title belongs to Alabama’s O.J. Howard, who probably won’t escape the Top 10 at this point. Not only does he effortlessly blend rare size and speed for the position, but he can indeed put his hand in the dirt and move people off the ball in the running game.

Needless to say, that’s not Engram’s MO. You have to scroll through an awful lot of tape to see him playing tight end in a traditional sense. He’s more of a chess piece who can be moved around all over the place.

But these aren’t traditional times in the league. Rarely are tight ends expected to be a third tackle on the line of scrimmage anymore.

I know the timing of this comparison is dubious to say the least, but I envision Engram having a role like the late Aaron Hernandez when he was with the New England Patriots. He was the ideal complement to Rob Gronkowski.

Physically imposing at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds — but still running like a wideout in many respects — Gronkowski is the prototype tight end and never needs to come off the field. When paired with Hernandez, who lined up at fullback and receiver in addition to tight end, the two of them were an unstoppable duo.

In other words, I wouldn’t draft Engram to be my primary player at the position. However, if I already had more of an old-school tight end and could pair him with Engram’s skill set, now I’ve got something.

Like the aforementioned Dobbs, Engram is working his way up draft boards at the optimal time. Round 1? We’ll see.


Williams


I was a guest Wednesday on “The Paul Finebaum Show” and shared with him my thoughts on the move from Cam Robinson to Jonah Williams.

Robinson was highly decorated at Alabama, most notably when he won the Outland Trophy this past season. He could be a first-rounder come Thursday night, although in the end I expect him to slip to Round 2 or 3.

But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people who study tape for a living — be it at the Shrine Game, Senior Bowl or Scouting Combine — who thought Robinson was overrated in Tuscaloosa. While he had all the tools necessary to be a dominant left tackle, he simply never was on a consistent basis.

His game film suggests that he had a tendency to get bored when facing inferior competition. Now when the lights were bright, say in the SEC Championship Game against Florida, I remember him blowing guys off the ball repeatedly.

Still, from snap to snap and series to series, he wasn’t always a force and was much better at run blocking than protecting the passer.

Williams, who was a Freshman All-American in 2016 at right tackle, may turn out to be an even better player than Robinson. Strange as it sounds, the Crimson Tide might be making an upgrade on the left side going from Robinson to Williams.

I’m not here to tell you that I’m some sort of expert when it comes to grading offensive linemen. The inner workings of trench warfare isn’t my strong suit. That’s why I rely on conversations I have with people in the know at the events I cover throughout the year.

Steve Palazzolo from Pro Football Focus liked Williams last season more than Robinson. So did ESPN analyst Matt Stinchcomb. I talked to each of them individually on this topic, yet what they told me was borderline identical.

Like Robinson, Williams was a 5-star signee with limitless potential. Robinson left some on the table. Perhaps Williams won’t.


John Crist is the senior writer for Saturday Down South, a member of the FWAA and a voter for the Heisman Trophy. Send him an e-mail, like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

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COMMENTS

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  • An NFL team would be crazy to grab Dobbs in the 1st, even with a weak group of QB’s. It would be betterto grab one of the high profile WR’s, TE’s or OL players from this draft. Still I don’t think I would see a problem on taking him maybe 3rd or 4th round, he’s a good player.

    • There’s no way Dobbs goes in round one. Too me he was always overrated. Super smart kid but not even a top 25 QB in the NCAA this past year. I’ll say round 4 or 5. Josh Malone out of Tennessee should be a steal, though. Even as an Alabama fan I hope Robinson slides to round 2 or 3. That way he can hopefully realize not everything is just handed to him. He rlly irked me in a few games this year. Particularly the NCG. Plus the stupity of him last off season. Go EARN a better contract.

      • He had the #1 QBR and completion percentage in the SEC, but he isn’t a top 25 QB in the country? I’ll go with the people who do it for a living who says he is a top 5-7 QB in this class.

        • Both things can be true. It was an awful year at quarterback in the SEC. Just because you’re the best one (statistically) in the conference, that doesn’t mean you’re one of the country’s best.

        • Yup. Basically polishing a turd. I wouldn’t even put him in “turd” status though. I still see Ronnie Harrison running into the end zone on one of the most ill advised passes I’ve ever seen. Joshua Dobbs was a mediocre S.E.C. QB.

        • I said he is a top 5-7 QB in the country for his class, which is exactly where most experts slot him. And to the Bamer: Are you referring to the screen pass where Hurd was held so he could not catch the pass? Look, spare us your pre-draft analysis based off of a few of Dobbs games against the Tawd. Dobbs has the tools to be better than a good portion of the crappy QB’s that make up the NFL these days.