Kansas State left tackle Scott Frantz started last season as a redshirt freshman following a high school career at Free State in Lawrence, Kansas, that had him ranked as one of the top 11 players in Kansas high school football at the time. His first year on the field for the Wildcats resulted in a first-team Academic All-Big 12 honor and being named to the All-Bowl team (Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, USA Today) and the Big 12 All-Freshman team.
Frantz was good last year and has NFL potential. He's also gay, something he told ESPN's Holly Rowe in an interview last week. That Frantz and Arizona's My-King Johnson are the first openly gay active college football players is historic, and it's impossible to comprehend the courage it took for both men to make that announcement. But this column will take a different look this week as we break down Frantz's freshman season and look ahead to what NFL teams will see and say when they begin evaluating him for the NFL.
I watched two games of Frantz's 2016 season—against Stanford and Texas—to get a feel for who he is on tape. Here are his strengths and weaknesses:
Has an athletic frame and moves easily out of his stance. He's agile in the run game and can reach defenders on down blocks. He's quick out of his stance and plays with light feet. Has good awareness and comes off blocks well to protect the outside. He's solid on redirects and picks up stunts and blitzes well. He's effective setting up and executing a cut block.
Can be too late with his hands and surrenders his chest, which brings into question arm length. Needs to work on an even, balanced stance. Too often he ducks his head and plays with his eyes down. He chops his feet and plays in reverse in pass protection and doesn't sit and anchor against pass-rushers. His lower-body strength could be improved. Overall, there are no athletic limitations, but improved leverage and technique work are needed.
NFL teams will see a good athlete with a projected upside that makes him a viable target at left tackle. Frantz is still young and will continue to gain strength while refining his technique. The end game, though, is that he looks like a future NFL offensive lineman on the field.
Will NFL teams draft an openly gay player, though?
Michael Sam was a successful college player but marginal prospect when he announced he is gay before the 2014 NFL draft. His poor athleticism and poor showing at the NFL Scouting Combine kept Sam from being a priority draft pick (he was ultimately selected in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams). Frantz, if he continues to play as well as he did in 2016 and to develop as a player, will be on a different level. If Sam slid to Round 7 due to poor upside and any perceived distractions he would bring to the team, Frantz presents a different question given his level of play.
But will teams knock an openly gay player? A library's worth of words were written on that when Sam was entering the league. But for Frantz, one high-level executive I spoke to for this column said, "The fact that we've been there and done that with Sam already makes it easier. This kid wouldn't be the first [openly] gay NFL player like Sam was."
It's impossible to say what 32 NFL owners and 32 general managers will be thinking—and it's easy to believe that at least some in that group will be against bringing a gay man into an NFL team environment—but if the tale of the tape is all scouts are focused on, Scott Frantz will be playing on Sundays very soon.
Here's what else is going on this week:
- Top five players for 2018's draft
- The hottest, eye-burning Tom Brady take ever
- Early look at the 2018 draft's strongest positions
- Where will Kirk Cousins play in 2018?
The Scout's Report
—It turns out you can go home again. The Carolina Panthers fired Marty Hurney as general manager in October 2012 but rehired him this week as the interim GM following the team's firing of Dave Gettleman.
—The Gettleman/Hurney carousel, according to scouts and executives I spoke with, is all about hurt feelings in the front office and owner's suite regarding veterans like Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen wanting long-term deals. Said another executive, "Expect the Panthers to go young when they do hire a general manager."
—Some names to consider: Trent Kirchner (Seattle), Scott Fitterer (Seattle), Ryan Cowden (Tennessee)
—Ezekiel Elliott is in trouble. Again. This time for allegedly punching a man in a bar and a speeding ticket for reportedly driving 100 mph in a 70 mph zone. This reminds me of a quote a scout gave me before the 2016 draft about Zeke: "He'll run himself out of the league before teams figure out how to stop him."
—What will Kirk Cousins get on the free-agent market next year? "He's going to top $70 million guaranteed," is what one NFL executive told me. Derek Carr, for comparison, will get just over $70 million guaranteed in his new contract, according to Spotrac.com.
—Let me just go on record as saying I expect Cousins to be with the San Francisco 49ers when next season begins.
—Dante Fowler of the Jacksonville Jaguars has half as many arrests (two) in his NFL career as he does sacks (four). That news comes from Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times after Fowler was arrested this week on misdemeanor charges of simple battery and mischief. Auman learned that Fowler was also arrested in 2016 on charges of assaulting an officer and resisting arrest, but those were dropped after completion of a pretrial diversion.
—Senior Bowl scout Patrick Woo tweeted the news from the ACC kickoff press conference that Clemson star defensive lineman Christian Wilkins will graduate in December. Go ahead and pencil him in as a 2018 draft entry and a top-five player.
—Hot Take of the Week:
Scott Kacsmar @FO_ScottKacsmar
Brady might be the only QB who could go 5-2 in Super Bowls w/6.7 YPA. Some NE fans mistake this for skill, ignoring the obvious.2017-7-18 02:45:14
This is hotter than the Carolina Reaper.
—Good Guy of the Week: J.J. Watt for sending a broke college kid on Twitter a free pair of his new workout shoes.
—Fan of the Week: This Ohio State fan who was unresponsive after suffering a traumatic brain injury. He responded "no" by pressing a yes/no button when asked if he liked Michigan.
5 Names to Know
We're under 50 days until college football and the NFL draft season kick off. With that in mind, here are my early top five players for 2018's draft class.
5. Derwin James, Defensive Back (Florida State)
Derwin James only played in two games in 2016 due to injury, but the hype on this kid is unreal. He's a safety with Sean Taylor size and the tape from his true freshman season that turns heads. James can cover, jam, take on the run or even knock quarterbacks around as a blitzer.
4. Christian Wilkins, Defensive Line (Clemson)
The modern-day Gerald McCoy, Christian Wilkins has the goods to come in and make an Aaron Donald-like impact in the NFL as a 3-technique pass-rusher. He has a remarkable burst when splitting blockers up front but also has the power to plug holes in the run game. Wilkins could be atop this list next April.
3. Saquon Barkley, Running Back (Penn State)
Hold on to your hats, football fans: Saquon Barkley is the best running back prospect of the last decade. Over Todd Gurley (injury), Ezekiel Elliott (off-field), Leonard Fournette (injury) and anyone else you've seen as of late. He's a freak athlete and has the vision and game-changing speed to be a very early draft pick.
2. Sam Darnold, Quarterback (USC)
Sam Darnold has that "it" factor. He's big, smart, clutch as hell and you have to love that he was recruited as a linebacker. Darnold took over the USC team last year and led it on a tear that culminated with a Rose Bowl win over Penn State. His mechanics are a little funky, but his play is special.
1. Josh Allen, Quarterback (Wyoming)
Josh Allen would have been my No. 1 quarterback last year—in fact, in January I released a mock draft with him going No. 3 overall to the Chicago Bears. Allen is my guy—we've had him on the Stick to Football podcast—and for the first time in my scouting career, I'm betting on the developmental upside of a player over the immediately obvious traits of a Sam Darnold.
4. The 2018 draft class looks absolutely stacked—maybe the best overall group I've ever seen. That relies on guys hitting their upside, staying healthy and staying out of trouble, of course, but the early indications are very good. Here's a look at the best positional groups among seniors and draft-eligible players, including the top 10 players at each spot.
Josh Allen (Wyoming), Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Luke Falk (Washington St.), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma St.), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Jake Browning (Washington), Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) and Kyle Allen (Houston).
Saquon Barkley (Penn St.), Derrius Guice (LSU), Mike Weber (Ohio St.), Ronald Jones (USC), Sony Michel (Georgia), Nick Chubb (Georgia), Royce Freeman (Oregon), Ralph Webb (Vanderbilt), Kalen Ballage (Arizona St.) and LJ Scott (Michigan St.).
Connor Williams (Texas), Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame), Brian O'Neill (Pittsburgh), Trey Adams (Washington), Mitch Hyatt (Clemson), Orlando Brown (Oklahoma), Martinas Rankin (Mississippi St.), Jamarco Jones (Ohio St.), Geron Christian (Louisville) and Tyrell Crosby (Oregon).
Christian Wilkins (Clemson), Dre'Mont Jones (Ohio St.), Vita Vea (Washington), Da'Ron Payne (Alabama), Trenton Thompson (Georgia), Kahlil McKenzie (Tennessee), Greg Gaines (Washington), Demarcus Christmas (Florida St.), Maurice Hurst (Michigan) and Derrick Nnadi (Florida St.).
Arden Key (LSU), Harold Landry (Boston College), Bradley Chubb (North Carolina St.), Clelin Ferrell (Clemson), Sam Hubbard (Ohio St.), Porter Gustin (USC), Dorance Armstrong (Kansas), Byron Cowart (Auburn), Tyquan Lewis (Ohio St.) and Josh Sweat (Florida St.).
Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), Tarvarus McFadden (Florida St.), Denzel Ward (Ohio St.), Damon Arnette (Ohio St.), Iman Marshall (USC), Quenton Meeks (Stanford), Kendall Sheffield (Ohio St.), Jaire Alexander (Louisville), Jordan Thomas (Oklahoma) and Kevin Toliver (LSU).
3. A new NFL rule introduced this year, according to Pro Football Talk, will allow for head coaches to be ejected after two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. It's just too bad Jim Harbaugh is in college now. Here's my list of favorites (in order) to be ejected first:
|Ejected Coaches List|
|32.||Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions|
|31.||Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins|
|30.||Todd Bowles, New York Jets|
|29.||Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs|
|28.||Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals|
|27.||Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns|
|26.||Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts|
|25.||Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys|
|24.||Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers|
|23.||Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|22.||Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals|
|21.||Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers|
|20.||Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos|
|19.||Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams|
|18.||Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills|
|17.||Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers|
|16.||Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles|
|15.||Jay Gruden, Washington|
|14.||Ben McAdoo, New York Giants|
|13.||Bill Belichick, New England Patriots|
|12.||Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings|
|11.||Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons|
|10.||Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks|
|9.||John Fox, Chicago Bears|
|8.||Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders|
|7.||Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans|
|6.||Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints|
|5.||Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars|
|4.||Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans|
|3.||Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers|
|2.||John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens|
|1.||Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers|
One thing we can all agree on: Rex Ryan would top this list if he were still active.
2. I absolutely love football history. Maybe it was those afternoons watching NFL Films and listening to John Facenda narrate the game before my time. If you're like me and love the old days and the new age of football, this All-Time NFL Draft project the MMQB put together is really, really interesting.
1. Stick to Football Episode 14 is ready for your download! We're joined this week by co-host Marshal Miller (Mello) to talk about fantasy football rules, the best snacks and what the hell happened in the NFL this week.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.