Welcome to the first official All-Forno team.
Last year, I had five players that I considered “my guys,” but this year, I have turned it into a team. It isn’t a full roster, per se, but it is six players I would get on a soap box for.
There are a couple of first-round caliber players in here, but the key with finding guys you love isn’t based solely on talent. It’s about the nuances. It’s about how much fun you have while watching them.
Without further ado, here are the members of the All-Forno team.
Liberty, QB, Malik Willis
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I have spoken ad nauseam about my love for Willis. He is arguably the most divisive prospect I’ve ever encountered in my time scouting for the draft. I compare him to Michael Vick because he is the only other player in the history of the draft process that possesses the tools that Willis has.
Both of them have a dynamic athletic skill set that maximizes their ability to run the football, a flair for the game-breaking plays, and can throw the ball 60-plus yards with just a flick of the wrist.
Willis, similar to Vick before the dog-fighting scandal, has a real likeabilty about him. He was caught on camera helping a homeless man during the combine from a candid cell phone video from across the street, and he has also nailed every interview that he’s had up to this point with the media.
If you are too worried about the nuances of his play at Liberty, that’s fine. I, on the other hand, would risk everything for Willis because I believe he will grow into a top-five quarterback in the NFL within three years.
South Dakota State, RB, Pierre Strong Jr
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The stud running back, Strong Jr., has been on my radar since his spectacular performance against Colorado State in Week 1 last season.
For the Jackrabbits, Strong Jr. has put up some insane numbers, despite being utilized as more of a rotational back instead of a workhorse. In the three seasons he played in the fall, he averaged at least 7.0 yards per carry, including a staggering 9.5 yards per carry on 117 carries his freshman year.
His profile projects perfectly with the wide zone system. He uses great vision and speed to burst through the hole and can run away from anyone, as his 4.37 40-yard dash suggests. While the Vikings don’t have a need at running back, they need to start planning for not only the backup spot to Dalvin Cook with Alexander Mattison on the last year of his deal, but also to potentially take over for him after the 2022 season.
Memphis, WR, Calvin Austin III
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The Memphis Tigers used Austin III as a pure gadget guy throughout his career. Standing at 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, he has a very small frame and wasn’t asked to truly play the position. He was maximized in jet sweeps, crossers and screens. His athletic profile is dynamic, with his closest comparison being Tyreek Hill
Once he got to the Senior Bowl, everything clicked for the dynamo playmaker. Austin III was winning in every possible way. He was dominant with his releases, gained separation early and displayed a massive catch radius relative to his size. He is too small and quick for corners to get their hands on him consistently and would be a great Z receiver in the NFL with game-breaking ability.
Houston, DL, Logan Hall
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Last year, I was enamored with Hall’s teammate, Payton Turner, who went at No. 28 overall to the New Orleans Saints. He was a versatile player that knew how to maximize his size and length, and the same can be said about Hall.
A massive man at 6-foot-6 and 283 pounds, Hall plays at his best at 3T. While he has a very unusual frame, he maximizes his power by using his length and leverage to his advantage. He has the quickness to get by offensive lineman from any spot on the defensive front. His scheme versatility to play in an even or odd front is incredibly appealing for teams.
Baylor, S, Jalen Pitre
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The safety class is one of the best in recent memory. Kyle Hamilton is the undeniable alpha in this class, and there are four other players that can sniff the first round. Only one of those is comparable to the Honey Badger Tyrann Matthieu.
That is Baylor’s Jalen Pitre.
He fully introduced himself to me at the Senior Bowl when he was guarding everyone like a magnet. Nobody wanted to face him in one-on-ones the entire three days of practice.
His tape is reminiscent of Matthieu, where he plays all over the field and thrives everywhere. Even though he is slightly under six-feet tall, Pitre has a physicality to his game that lets him thrive playing downhill and be impactful in the running game. As he translates to the NFL, he will be the best as a slot corner/strong safety.
Ohio State, WR, Chris Olave
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I have been incredibly vocal about wanting the Vikings to take a wide receiver. It fills a long-term need with immense short-term potential. Olave, who is my WR1 in this class, would be a tremendous fit for Minnesota.
A technical maven, Olave is a dynamic route-runner. He understands how to use space to his advantage and manipulate defenders to flip their hips to create excellent separation. He also has 4.39 speed that enables him to take the top off of the defense.
While I do value him as the best receiver in this class, he is not without his warts. His play strength is not up to par, and he needs to work with the strength and conditioning coaches to improve that. During that process, hopefully, they can also improve his woeful 32″ vertical jump. Olave possesses great body control, and pairing that with an improved vertical would make him even more dangerous.