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5 Takeaways from Daniel Jeremiah's Pre-Combine Conference Call

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EAGAN, Minn. — For people like Daniel Jeremiah, this is the most wonderful time of the year.

The well-respected NFL Network draft analyst held a two-hour conference call Monday afternoon with media members from around the country, breaking down players and teams he'll be watching over the next two months.

The 2019 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off later this week in Indianapolis, and the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft is exactly two months from Monday.

Jeremiah has released just one mock draft, and it dropped about six weeks ago, but the expert had the Vikings taking Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams with the 18th overall pick in the first round.

Vikings.com asked Jeremiah on Monday about his projection of Williams to the Vikings, and he gave a lengthy answer that included the idea that Williams could play either tackle or guard at the pro level.

Here is Jeremiah's full 81-second, 250-plus word answer on Williams:

"To me, it's a little bit similar situation, he's not the same player coming out as [Cowboys five-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro guard] Zack Martin, but it's the same conversation being had. Is he a tackle or is he a guard?

"I think there's a chance he could hold up at tackle and be a functional starting tackle. I think he has a chance to be special inside. I think, to me, that's where he fits best. Some of his length issues … he's not a real long guy … show up in the Clemson game this year and showed up in the Clemson game last year, where guys kind of get into his chest and he struggles a little bit on the edge.

"I like him kicking inside. He is a dominating run blocker. Talk about someone who can get his hands on people and work up to the second level, combo blocks, he's instinctive, he runs his feet on contact. He played a lot of football there at Alabama, and I know some teams actually like him there at center.

"I wrote him up and I said that I think he has a chance to be a perennial Pro Bowl guard with the way that he plays. I love the nasty that he has. I've got to come up with a new scouting term if anyone wants to help me, because we used to call it 'typewriter feet,' but apparently typewriters aren't a thing anymore. I've got to find another way to describe that as someone who has that quick pitter-patter with his feet … just a real quick-footed guy."

Jeremiah's mock draft that projects Williams to Minnesota can be found here.

Williams, who played both tackle spots at Alabama, was a unanimous First-Team All-American and First-Team All-SEC selection in 2018.

Williams was also awarded the 2018 SEC Jacobs Blocking Trophy from conference coaches, which is presented to the conference's top offensive lineman.

Here are four other takeaways from Jeremiah's conference call with media:

1. Plenty of O-line depth

The majority of recent mock drafts have experts projecting the Vikings to take an offensive lineman with the 18th overall pick.

If Minnesota does go that route, Jeremiah believes there are plenty of quality lineman for the Vikings to choose from.

"Offensive-line wise, while there's not a premier guy, someone that's a top-five lock that we've seen in previous years," Jeremiah said. "I think it's a really, really good group, especially once you get to the middle of the first round … probably all the way to the middle of the third-round. Really good offensive line."

Besides Williams, Jeremiah also mentioned Florida's Jawaan Taylor and Andre Dillard of Washington State as players to keep an eye on.

Jeremiah was asked about what Cleveland should do at pick No. 17, which is a spot above the Vikings, and he gave an assessment of the offensive linemen who could be available then.

"Man, to me, if Dillard is there … who I think is the premier pass-protecting left tackle, that would be hard to pass up at that point in time," Jeremiah said. "That would be one to have an eye on.

"The big kid from Florida, too, is very talented," Jeremiah added. "That could make some sense, although you probably feel a little more comfortable with him on the right side there."

2. Love for the Iowa tight ends

Jeremiah released the second edition of his Top 50 prospects list Monday, and it was clear the high regard he has for a pair of former Iowa tight ends.

T.J. Hockenson was the fifth overall player on Jeremiah's board, while Noah Fant was ranked 23rd.

Jeremiah raved about Hockenson, whom he called "the safest player in the draft" after the tight end had 1,080 receiving yards and nine touchdowns over the past two seasons.

Jeremiah even compared Hockenson to New England's Rob Gronkowski for his ability to be a force in the run game.

"I saw this kid with the same temperament and nastiness in the running game and controlling the run game," Jeremiah said. "On top of that, he does nothing but get open and catch everything they throw to him. He's going to be a very valuable player with a high floor as well as a high ceiling."

Fant, meanwhile, had 18 touchdowns over the past two seasons for the Hawkeyes.

"Fant is more athletic and more explosive. He's functional in the run game, he's OK … you can get by with him there no problem, he's sufficient," Jeremiah said. "But he's not the killer that Hockenson is, and that would be the difference there.

"I think Hockenson has a little bit more natural hands … I think both these guys are first-round picks and Day 1 starters and big-time impact guys," Jeremiah added.

3. Lots to like on defense

Jeremiah made it clear that he thinks the top overall position group heading into the combine is the defensive line.

"Premier talent and depth at the defensive line position … inside, outside … it's outstanding and it carries deep into the draft," Jeremiah said.

When asked about the depth of that group, Jeremiah quickly rattled off nearly a dozen names, breaking them down into potential rounds each player could be drafted in.

"When you look at tiers, in the first-round tier, Quinnen Williams, Christian Wilkins, Ed Oliver, Rashan Gary, who I think is more of an edge guy, Jeffery Simmons, and [Dexter] Lawrence could factor in there in the late 20s," Jeremiah said. "Then, you get into that next tier for me, you start getting to Jerry Tillery from Notre Dame. I really like Armon Watts from Arkansas, who is just a real strong-handed guy and solid on tape.

"Gerald Willis from Miami, Dre'Mont Jones from Ohio State, that's kind of that next group," Jeremiah added. "L.J. Collier, to me, I have him on the edge, but some people at 280 pounds will maybe look at him as a 3-technique. I really like that second-round group of defensive tackles."

4. Keeping the masses entertained

Jeremiah's call was nearly two hours long, but it didn't feel like it thanks to the former NFL personnel man's excitement and one-liners about certain players.

"This is my favorite time of the year," Jeremiah said. "As we go to the combine and get a chance to see the entire draft class together and assembled in one place, it's always a lot of fun.

"It was great going on the team side of things, and [I'm] having a blast here on the media-side of things," Jeremiah added.

Jeremiah, a former quarterback at Appalachian State, also delivered numerous quips when describing players.

In addition to the 'typewriter feet' line about Williams, Jeremiah also had this to say about Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich:

"Winovich, I don't know that you're going to find anybody who plays harder than him. He could be an extra in the Point Break movie, looks exactly like Patrick Swayze's brother in that movie, with his hair flying around."

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