At its creation, the vision of the Practice Squad Power Rankings was multi-layered and ambitious -- an attempt to make fans care about players they're typically unaware of, then, track of every call up, building out a series that would give me one opportunity each week to step away from the football-jargon heavy pieces I usually write. For it to be successful, it absolutely had to be fun to read and write.
And we're going to have some fun with this one.
I noticed, when scouring the league's practice squads, arguably my favorite weekly activity, that we have some famous practice squadders on our hands this season. And not just "famous because they're in the NFL" famous -- practice squad members with celebrity dads. Celebrities of varying fame, of course, but for some reason, their names popped this week.
And they're legitimately talented NFL players. Remember, I only highlight practice squad guys I think can actually contribute on Sundays.
The Giants have Tyrone Wheatley Jr. on their practice squad, and if you're over the age of 30, that name harkens back to the Lloyd Carr 1990s era Michigan Wolverines, when his dad, Tyrone Wheatley Sr., was an animal in the Big Ten. I'm talking, the two tight end, I-formation national power Wolverines. After averaging 6.4 yards per carry with nine touchdowns as a freshman, Wheatley rumbled to three straight 1,000-yard seasons in Ann Arbor. He was the No. 17 overall pick in the 1995 NFL Draft and enjoyed 10 seasons in the league, playing for the Giants and Raiders.
Now his kid's a project offensive tackle on the Giants. Wheatley Jr., by the way, was originally a four-star tight end recruit, played the position at his dad's alma mater, transferred to Stony Brook, then Morgan State, and was hardly on the draft radar this April. But the NFL bloodlines and inherent athletic traits -- along with his 6-foot-6, 325-pound frame -- have earned him a spot on a practice squad.
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Then there's Elijah Holyfield, who I just can't quit. Of course, his dad is The Real Deal, Evander Holyfield, former undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Holyfield was buried on Georgia's depth chart with Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D'Andre Swift but went over 1,000 yards in 2018 at 6.4 yards per. His combine and pro day workouts left much to be desired, so he went undrafted. Holyfield has managed to keep his head above the treacherous NFL waters. He's now on his third team, and as someone who loved Holyfield's collegiate film, I'm eagerly awaiting his first professional carry in an NFL game.
And if heavyweight boxing champion dad wasn't cool enough for you, how about three-time multi-platinum rapper? Yes, Bills cornerback Olaijah Griffin's dad is none other than Warren G. His song "Regulate" is an iconic '90s hip-hop track that definitely still bumps to this very day. Believe me.
And Griffin can play! He was a productive defensive back at USC and made a few splash plays training camp and in the preseason for Buffalo.
Heading into the weekend, THE CALL is now at three. We're moving. Not at lightning speed. But we're moving.
If you hear of a PSPR member getting The Call, alert me @ChrisTrapasso on Twitter, and feel free to use the hashtag #PSPR. Thank you in advance. Your next drink's on me. As a refresher, teams can have up to 16 players on the practice squad with up to six "veterans" on it, players with no limitations as to their number of accrued seasons in the NFL.
In a sense, I'm running the Practice Squad Power Rankings parallel to the NFL. That means, as was the case last year, I'm not going to feature "veterans." Telling you Le'Veon Bell might eventually be a useful call-up for the Ravens' run game was certainly not the fundamental intention of the PSPR.
To continue to maintain the PSPR's sterling integrity, I'll only be including practice-squadders who are rookies, second-year players, or third-year players. That's it.
And as you'll see below, I couldn't resist ranking more players, given the increase in practice squad sizes this season. To stay in line with the league's figure, I hope to write about 16 individuals every Friday: 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.
1. Javian Hawkins, RB, Rams
In the preseason, he accumulated 97 yards on 20 carries with a score, and three of those 20 carries went over 10 yards. And it's not as if he's only a low-volume scat back with fantastic speed. Hawkins toted the rock 264 times at a 5.8 yards-per-carry clip in 2019 at Louisville. He plays bigger than his size.
2. Carson Green, OT, Texans
I had a fourth-round grade on Green just a few months ago. He checked most of the boxes I have for a mid-round blocker who can come in and start right away. And he tested like a high-caliber athlete. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Green went undrafted. But he protected like a -- you guessed it -- early Day 3 pick in the preseason with one allowed pressure on 43 pass-blocking snaps. Naturally, the Texans released him on cutdown day, because Houston is completely set on its offensive line and doesn't need any young and talented blockers. Yeah right.
3. Phil Haynes, OG, Seahawks
Haynes was Seattle's fourth-round pick in 2019, and after beginning his rookie season on PUP due to a sports hernia surgery, he was thrust onto the field in the Seahawks' wild-card round win over the Eagles in Philadelphia. And he looked solid! He spent most of last season on IR with another injury, but he's healthy now and was dominant -- mostly against backups -- in the preseason. Plus, he tested like a highly explosive guard prospect at the combine.
4. Travis Fulgham, WR, Eagles
Placing Fulgham on the practice squad is no way to treat your reigning team leader in receiving yards. But here we are. The kinda-sorta rebuilding Eagles waived Fulgham at the end of August, which was weird to say the least. Sure, they've invested heavily in young wideouts of late but, umm, Fulgham is a young wideout who made the most of his opportunity in 2020 with 539 yards and four touchdowns at more than 14 yards per grab. Do I think Fulgham is the next DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin in Philly? No. He's probably not. But he's deserving of a spot in the PSPR.
5. Cam Lewis, CB, Bills
The Bills grabbed Lewis from nearby University at Buffalo during the undrafted free agency frenzy immediately following the 2019 draft. And he's quietly gone about his business in two preseasons by allowing just 91 yards on 10 receptions, and he's clung to a practice-squad spot in Buffalo because he's a super-steady tackler in space. Head coach Sean McDermott loves that from his corners.
6. James Wiggins, S, Cardinals
Nothing against Deionte Thompson or Jalen Thompson, the Cardinals safeties clearly in the background of star Budda Baker, but let's get Wiggins some run, Kliff. Wiggins is a rocked-up 6-foot, 205-pounder who WAS ON THE FREAKS LIST THREE TIMES, REMEMBER?!
7. Jacoby Stevens, S, Eagles
Stevens is a 6-1, 212-pound safety/linebacker hybrid who plays faster than he tested at the LSU Pro Day a few months ago. On that amazing Tigers national title team in 2019, Stevens, who was a monster recruit, racked up 92 tackles with three picks and six pass breakups.
He's ready to be that versatile back-seven defender in Philadelphia's defense.
8. Ron'Dell Carter, EDGE, Cardinals
Carter has the girth, leverage, burst, and just enough pass-rush moves to be a productive contributor if he gets The Call in Arizona. I'm very high on him.
He's at No. 8 this week simply due to the veteran edge-rushing talent in front of him on the Cardinals' 53-man roster right now.
9. Elijah Holyfield, RB, Bengals
Holyfield averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 20 totes this preseason in Philadelphia and 4.0 yards per with the Panthers in 2020. He's a compactly built, decently shifty back with light feet and good vision. The Bengals backfield's a little banged up right now. Holyfield can help.
10. Dazz Newsome, WR, Bears
It's going to take more than a first-year cut for me to drop my #TrustTheTape draft crush from the 2021 class. Newsome looked electric on film but flopped at the North Carolina Pro Day. Then, in the offseason, he broke his collarbone. So things have gone sideways for Newsome after he stepped off the field in Chapel Hill. However, on the field, he's a slippery slot wideout with serious YAC juice who can be useful in today's separation/YAC based NFL.
David Moore, G, Browns
Moore is a mauler with a natural center of gravity offensive line coaches dream about during REM sleep. He was just under 6-2 and 330 pounds at his pro day before the draft. After a dazzling career at Grambling State, Moore got a Senior Bowl invite and thrived in Mobile. He's not going to be the most athletic blocker if you're running a zone scheme, but he's quick enough off the ball to be effective on gap runs, and he's very close to being NFL strong already. Plus, no defensive tackle is going to get up and underneath him to drive him into the quarterback.
Kenny Robinson, S, Panthers
Robinson is another safety -- like Wiggins -- with a rather unusual journey story. After starring at West Virginia with seven interception in his first two seasons playing for the Mountaineers, he was expelled from the school due to an academic fraud issue, but instead of transferring, he opted to play in the XFL. Robinson to take that road so he could get paid to help pay for his mother's cancer treatments. And he had two picks in five games for the St. Louis BattleHawks. Robinson was then picked by the Panthers in the fifth round of the 2020 draft.
Olaijah Griffin, CB, Bills
I had a late fifth-round grade on Griffin after a steady career with the Trojans in Southern California. He had nine pass breakups in 2019 and three more in a shortened 2020 campaign. He's a fluid mover with serious striking ability when planting and driving on the football.
Cade Johnson, WR, Seahawks
The Seahawks are the Patriots of the NFC in that they adore late-round and undrafted free agent receivers. Johnson will be the next against-all-odds story in Seattle, a small, crisp route-runner who's feisty after the catch and hauls in everything thrown in his direction. Sound like any recently productive Seahawks receiver?
Stephen Sullivan, TE, Panthers
Sullivan was buried on the receiving pecking order at LSU, and the Seahawks tried to morph him into a defensive end after picking him in the seventh round two years ago. Back to his natural position in Carolina, Sullivan has a chance to make a splash without a bunch of stars in front of him. He's 6-5 and 248 pounds with 4.66 speed and a catch radius the size of a Chevy Tahoe.
Tyrone Wheatley, OT, Giants
I'm fascinated by Wheatley's journey, from marquee tight end recruit -- who was massive entering the Michigan campus -- to beefed up offensive tackle. The tight end to tackle converts are always compelling to me because the I know athletic traits needed to excel blocking on the edge are there.
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