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How are AAC products performing in the NFL?

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Time to check in and see how the AAC rookies performed on the big stage.

NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Last year’s AAC talents have finished their first season at the pro level. If the AAC really wants to prove they are a power conference, they have to continually send great talent to the NFL. The more talent that goes to the pros, the more top recruits will choose to stay home. The 15 draftees from last year have finished their regular seasons, so let’s take a look to see how they fared.

Hassan Reddick, Temple: Arizona Cardinals

Stats: 16 games played, 36 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 stuffs

Arizona was in need of linebacker depth and when Reddick fell to them, it seemed like he was the answer. While the stats are not eye-popping, it is encouraging to see that he played in all 16 games. Another encouraging thing worth noting is when he was able to come up with a tackle, he made them count. With a new coach coming in, it will be interesting to see if Reddick will blossom or slump in his second year.

Zay Jones, ECU: Buffalo Bills

Stats: 15 games played, 74 targets, 27 receptions, 316 yards, 2 touchdowns, 11.7 average, 19 first downs

Like Reddick, the stats are not eye-popping, but there is reason to believe Jones will turn it around next season. Buffalo is not a great passing offense with Tyrod Taylor/ Nathan Peterman at quarterback. The evidence being that of the 74 targets, only 27 were caught. Another big point is the 19 first downs on 27 receptions. It shows that he came up big for the Bills on passing situations. The 11.7 yards per reception is not bad either. The last big reason we could see his production increase is that his team is a wild card team for the playoffs so tune in and watch the Bills!

Tyus Bowser, Houston: Baltimore Ravens

Stats: 16 games played, 11 combined tackles, 3 sacks, 1 interception, and 3 passes defended.

Bowser’s stats were limited mostly due to the great linebackers the Ravens have. The Ravens have always been known to have a fierce defense, and Bowser fit that stereotype well. I feel that he will play a much bigger role in 2017, as he did play in every game this season. When given an opportunity, Bowser seemed to play well. So there is more potential for him next season.

Safety, Obi Melinfonwu, UConn: Oakland Raiders

Stats: 5 games played, 7 combined tackles.

Not much to say here. At UConn he was an extremely great defensive back that they dearly missed this season. With limited playing time, there is not much we can draw from Melinfonwu’s season. We will have to see how Jon Gruden uses Melinfonwu moving forward.

Offensive Guard, Dion Dawkins, Temple: Buffalo Bills

We all knew that Dawkins was an extremely talented offensive lineman at Temple. He needed to fix a few things through coaching, but the Bills could not pass up a guy who was 6’4’’, 320 lbs. The Bills were apparently very happy with his performance as he started 11 of the 16 games he played in. This draft pick worked out well. His team is the wild card team for the playoffs, so tune in and watch the Bills!

Defensive Back, Shaquill Griffin, UCF: Seattle Seahawks

Stats: 15 games played, 11 starts, 59 combined tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception.

He was an immediate help for the Seahawks. Pete Caroll has been very high on Griffin’s play as a rookie. He was able to help out the “Legion of Boom” when injuries occurred. Starting 11 of the 15 games while accumulating 50 solo tackles out of 59 total tackles is a great way to start his career. He also got an interception in his first season. For him, the best part of this season being over is now getting to watch his brother go through the draft process.

Defensive Back, Howard Wilson, Houston: Cleveland Browns

No stats available. There was a risk that Cleveland knew in taking Wilson. He clearly was a talented player, but was too raw for a team like Cleveland to take. It seems nothing has gone right for Cleveland this year, including this pick.

Running Back, Marlon Mack, USF: Indianapolis Colts

Stats: 14 games played, 93 rush, 358 yards, 3 touchdowns, 21 receptions on 33 targets for 225 yards, 1 receiving touchdown, 31 total first downs, and 3 returns on special teams for 69 yards

What a great pick up Indy. Frank Gore is most likely at the end of his career, and Mack appears to be the new bellcow when he retires. Mack got to learn from one of the elite running backs in the league by backing him up. He beat out other backs like Robert Turbin to take the back up role. He was a threat in every facet of the game. He helped win Indy one of the few games they won with solid runs to set up a game-winning field goal. Plus, stiff-arming Jadeveon Clowney into a different dimension is always a plus. With tons of upside and a new coach, Mack may be the hidden gem in the AAC draft class.

Kicker, Jake Elliott, Memphis: Philadelphia Eagles

Stats: 26/31 (83.9%), 5 from 50+ yards, and a long of 61

He was originally chosen by Cincinnati, but Philadelphia liked what they saw from Elliot and worked out a trade to land him. What a move for them too. Who can forget the clutch game winner that Elliott drilled from 61 yards out, becoming a hero.

Cornerback, Nate Hairston, Temple: Indianapolis Colts

Stats: 14 games played, 35 combined tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception

Hairston had tough rookie competition coming into the year. As a result he did not start any of the games, but was still able to have an impact on the field. In the 14 games he played, the stat that stood out to me the most was his 2 sacks. For a defensive back to have 2 sacks is very interesting. Year one may be a learning year preparing Hairston for a more extended role in year two.

Wide Receiver, Rodney Adams, USF: Minnesota Vikings

No stats available.

After what seemed like a promising camp, and pre-season, Adams was astonishingly overlooked both on offense and special teams by higher profile receivers. He was relegated to the practice squad.

Safety, Mike Tyson, Cincinnati: Seattle Seahawks

No stats available.

Seeing the Seahawks go so heavy on drafting secondary players, we had an idea that someone would not be playing. This was the case with Mike Tyson. Even with injuries in the secondary, Tyson did not see the field.

Defensive Tackle, Tanzel Smart, Tulane: Los Angeles Rams

Stats: 16 games played, 14 combined tackles, 1 pass defended

Smart was selected to beef up a strong defensive line with one of the best interior lineman in the league, Aaron Donald. Playing time was not an issue though as he was able to make an appearance in all 16 regular season games. The stat that pops out to me is no sacks. He was not a big sack guy at Tulane, but he was still able to generate some pressure on the quarterback. Thus, a little surprising he could not produce in that category now. His team is now going to the playoffs, so tune in to watch the Rams!

Running back/Defensive back, Brandon Wilson, Houston: Cincinnati Bengals

Stats: 8 games played, 5 combined tackles.

It seem bleak for Wilson at first. He got drafted by a team full of running backs, so it looked like he had no chance of playing. But due to his previous experience as a DB in college, the Bengals inserted him at safety for eight games. He will most likely get some more playing time next season, but could also focus on locking down a special teams position for next year.

Center, Kofi Amichia, USF: Green Bay Packers

No stats available

While Amichia started off the camp and pre-season well, he was cut during the roster trimming. He still has the size and position versatility to make an impact on any of the other teams in the league. As of now, Green Bay’s pick did not pay off.

The AAC has caught up with the P5 conferences in terms of draft picks. They had one more selection during this class than the Big 12. The rookies from this class have earned a mixed review. Some, so far, have been great. Zay Jones, Jake Elliott, and Marlon Mack look like budding stars in the making. Others like Reddick, Dawkin, and Bowser still did well, but have plenty of time to still make a bigger impact on the league. On the other hand, others like Kofi Amichia failed to see the field.

This, of course, is not counting players from previous drafts that have made impacts at the pro level. Players from the AAC like defensive end Eric Lee and cornerback Aj Bouye have become high-profile players now. Stay tuned for part two, where we go over who are the most draft-able AAC candidates and where they may fall!

Poll

Who had the biggest impact on their team?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Marlon Mack
    (20 votes)
  • 9%
    Zay Jones
    (6 votes)
  • 42%
    Jake Elliott
    (27 votes)
  • 17%
    Other, will comment below
    (11 votes)
64 votes total Vote Now