Monday Musings -- February 12

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

With a lull before the start of the combine and pro days, it’s time to go back to Monday Musings and offer a few opinions after breaking down the film. Tonight it’s a look at the recently finished SEC.

After completing the Alabama film I came away with two opinions: Minkah Fitzpatrick is overrated by many, while Da'Ron Payne is ridiculously underrated.

Fitzpatrick is talented, no doubt, yet my concerns about his game are similar to many of the concerns I’ve had in the past about former Alabama defensive backs -- he can’t make plays with his back to the ball. It doesn’t mean he can’t learn the skill; Jalen Ramsey had similar issues leaving Florida State and has since developed into a terrific corner.

I was just awed by Payne when I broke him down; he’s athletic and powerful and plays smart, disciplined football. He collapses the pocket with power, occupies the gaps and even makes plays outside the box. Payne’s willingness to play within the system rather than just chase up the field was very impressive.

He’ll be a bargain outside the top five picks. 

It was great watching Auburn safety Tray Matthews elevate his game and meet expectations this season. Scouts graded Matthews as a street free agent entering his senior campaign, which was understandable off the 2016 film, but he looked terrific stopping the run and defending the pass this past season.

While everyone gushes over Roquan Smith, I can’t say enough about Georgia teammate Lorenzo Carter.

Carter lacks the quickness of Smith but is a better pass rusher, plays with more force and is also effective in space. His 40 time at the combine, specifically his 10-yard split, will be closely watched, as Carter takes a while to get going and has more built-up speed compared to Smith, who’s just downright explosive.

LSU running back Darrel Williams is another who takes a backseat to his more-heralded teammate -- in this case Derrius Guice -- and he’ll be drafted three or four rounds after Guice, yet I have no doubt Williams is going to be a terrific pro ball carrier. He’s a big-bodied back with a tremendous burst and great short-area quickness. Besides grinding on the inside, Williams shows the ability to pick up big yardage from the line of scrimmage.

Williams could be the Kareem Hunt of 2018.

While I want to see his true measurements, Breeland Speaks will be a good pro at the next level and offers scheme versatility. The Ole Miss junior is explosive and athletic and gets a lot of penetration behind the line of scrimmage. When I look at his build and skills, I see a three-technique tackle or possible two-gap end.

Jordan Thomas may need to redshirt for a year once he starts his NFL career, but the massive tight end has starting potential. He was kind of all over the place at Mississippi State, yet one can’t help but be impressed watching him move his 6-foot-5, 269-pound frame around the field.