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Week 16 NFL Practice Squad Power Rankings 2020: Washington Football Team’s freak athlete at tight end

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If you celebrate Christmas, and you’re reading this week’s Practice Squad Power Rankings right after opening presents and devouring cinnamon rolls over coffee, you’re a real one, a genuine PSPR follower, and I appreciate your readership more than you can ever know. 

This year has been merciless to all of us, but it’s time to take solace in the holiday with our families — regardless of which holiday you celebrate. As you loyally read this piece every Friday know that you are a part of the PSPR family, a wide-ranging group of proud football nerds who anxiously await to read about the next practice squad star ready to be elevated by his respective team and contribute on gameday. 

Sometimes it’s not the first picked, nor the biggest, nor the most gorgeously wrapped present that ultimately becomes your favorite or most useful. The same is true with PSPR members. Most were initially overlooked, had athletic or size limitations, and frankly, weren’t too appealing when entering the NFL. But the smart clubs, with shrewd GMs, understand value for a football team can be found in many shapes and sizes, and draft round doesn’t matter. 

Deandre Baker got his first action with the Chiefs in Week 15, but he only played seven snaps on special teams. Those defensive reps are coming. The Saints elevated interior offensive lineman Will Clapp, a PSPR mainstay, for action last Sunday. Dallas called up running back Sewo Olonilua, but he only played on special teams. Get him some touches, McCarthy. For those keeping score at home, the PSPR tracker now reads 39 call-ups, and we very well could see more call-ups over the weekend. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that we’ve nearly hit the 40 mark — darn good Christmas gift right there.

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This year, I’m only including practice squadders who are rookies, second-year players, or third-year players. That’s it. And it aligns perfectly with my niche area of expertise because the 2018 draft class is the first I fully evaluated as CBS Sports’ NFL Draft analyst. 

And as you’ll see below, I couldn’t resist ranking more players, given the increase in practice squad sizes this season. To run parallel with the league’s figure, I hope to write about 16 individuals every Friday, 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions. 

Last week’s PSPR cover guy may take another week or two to learn the nuances of the Chiefs’ scheme, but he’s as talented as anyone in Kansas City’s cornerback room and will be fresh for the latter part of the regular season and playoffs, a nice boost for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense if the coordinator decides he needs it. 

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Jackson’s back on Buffalo’s practice squad and deserves this high ranking due to the solid play he turned in for the Bills during his stint on the active roster. In four games — two starts — the 2020 seventh-round selection had 12 tackles, one fumble recovery, a pick and three pass breakups. He can play outside or in the slot and only missed one tackle. 

The Jets should completely be in play-young-players mode, and Scott is only in his third season. He really hasn’t gotten a chance to play much in the regular season either. Originally a fourth-round pick by the Ravens, he essentially had a redshirt year to get stronger as a rookie, then in Year 2 led the Ravens in receiving during the preseason. Scott is nearly 6-5 and 218 pounds and excels when he needs to extend to make a catch outside his frame. 

Mr. Butler is back on the Eagles practice squad after two weeks on the 53-man roster and just one target to show for it. He’s a tight end now, so there should be better matchups for him against linebackers and safeties inside of ultra-twitchy corners who can stay in his hip pocket. Philadelphia’s getting healthier now at receiver and tight end, but I still believe Butler can make plays after the catch and when Jalen Hurts simply throws it up to him. 

5. Dylan Cantrell, WR/TE, Washington Football Team

While it appears Dwayne Haskins will still start if Alex Smith can’t go due to injury in Week 16, if Haskins doesn’t play, the WFT will likely turn to tight end and former college (and NFL) quarterback Logan Thomas for under-center duties. That means, Washington could have to replace Thomas as a pass catcher, and they just signed Cantrell, a former stud wideout at Texas Tech who scorched his combine workout in 2018 at nearly 6-3 and 228 pounds.

6. Alex Taylor, OT, Browns

Football talent runs in Taylor’s family. One of his uncles is former NFL defensive back Pierson Prioleau. Another is Joe Hamilton, a former Davey O’Brien award winning quarterback at Georgia Tech who was picked in the seventh round of the 2000 draft. In a strange genetic twist, Hamilton is only 5-10. 

7. Javon Leake, RB, Washington Football Team

Last week’s cover guy was the former backfield mate of Ty Johnson and Anthony McFarland. Leake is kind of a straight-line back, not routinely capable of sinking his jumps and cutting laterally to avoid a tackle, but if the blocking is good — Look. Out. He is a home run hitter of the 1998 Sammy Sosa variety.

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I’m throwing Olonilua here because he’s a large, athletic back who deserves some burn down the stretch for the Cowboys. At 6-3 and 232 pounds, he had a vertical in the 70th percentile and a broad jump in the 80th percentile at the combine. While never a star at TCU, he demonstrated the ability to make defenders miss well for a big back when he wasn’t running through them. I’d like to see him be the hammer to lighten the workload for Elliott over the next two months. 

Will the Steelers suddenly give a former late-round pick who’s been on the practice squad most of the season a chance to show he can catch a football as the team tries to hang onto the No. 2 seed in the AFC? Probably not. But, heck, it wouldn’t be the worst idea, and Cain is an explosive player who tracks it well and can play on the perimeter.

I remember watching Love late in the 2018 pre-draft process and loving what I saw. The summary of my evaluation of him was as follows “strong, well-built defensive end with good suddenness but not the ability to sustain speed chasing from the backside. Uses his relatively heavy hands well as a pass-rusher and when shedding against the run.” And Love had seven pressures in three preseason games in Buffalo last year. Buffalo has a collection of edge rushers in front of him who play in a heavy rotation, but if there’s ever a need at the position, Love can produce in a limited role. 

Honorable Mentions

LeVante Bellamy, RB, Broncos

Bellamy just made my Top 250 in the 2020 class (No. 243 overall), and it’s perfectly clear why the Broncos signed him after he went undrafted — he’s eerily similar to Phillip Lindsay. In that Big Board article, I wrote: “Bellamy from Western Michigan truly is a burner yet possesses a smaller frame.” He only ran 4.50 at the combine, but I do not for a split second believe he’s a 4.50 guy on the field. No way. He had runs of 47, 55, 73, and 75 yards last year and averaged more than seven yards per carry in his first four years at Western Michigan. While not as twitched-up nor as powerful through tackle attempts as Lindsay, Bellamy can fly. 

John Molchon, OG, Buccaneers 

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The Buccaneers just aren’t the same when Ali Marpet isn’t on the field. The veteran guard is one of the better players at his position and Tampa’s depth behind him has been disastrous in relief appearances this season. I’m not insinuating Molchon absolutely would be better than the previous Marpet replacements, but it might be worth it giving him a shot at this point. 

Rodney Clemons, S, Chiefs

Clemons was a late watch for me and instantly found himself inside my Top 175. Talk about coverage range and ball skill as a safety, Clemons has both, and they were on full display in a very productive career at SMU. After three interceptions and 18 pass breakups in his first three years with the Mustangs, Clemons hauled in four picks and defended nine passes as a senior. In my notes I wrote “keenly aware of route concepts and where the next progression may be, so he routinely finds the football.” 

Duke Williams, WR, Bills

Williams was signed by the Bills in early January of 2019 to one of those futures contracts that are almost always overlooked and lead nowhere. But the physical rebounder made the team, scored a game-winning touchdown in a vital win over the Titans in Tennessee and had four catches for 49 yards in Buffalo’s playoff defeat at the hands of the Texans. He can play and saw his first action — albeit very limited — in Buffalo’s Week 7 win over the Jets. But no targets.

Anthony Johnson, WR, Steelers 

Johnson went from the completely-loaded-at-receiver Buccaneers to the super-deep-at-receiver Steelers, circumstances that haven’t helped him get an opportunity to see the field in an NFL team. Now’s the time. As for his college career at Buffalo — Johnson caught 133 passes in two seasons with a 17.8 yards-per-catch average and scored 25 touchdowns. 

Prince Tega-Wanogho, OL, Eagles

Early in the 2020 pre-draft process, there was an early-round buzz for Wanogho. Injuries led to a precipitous fall to the sixth round, but the tools are there for the Nigeria-born former Auburn star to ultimately be the bookend tackle to Andre Dillard in Philadelphia, a club that’s been outstanding at the tackle positions for a while now. Wanogho plays with requisite knee bend, so he’s not easily fork-lifted by smaller rushers, and he’s explosive off the snap and in the screen game. With better punch timing and added weight, he can be a consistent pass-protecting tackle in the NFL. This season, he’d mostly be useful getting to the second level in the run game.


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