Week 3 NFL Practice Squad Power Rankings 2020: Hakeem Butler a fascinating stash by Panthers

Did we really think the NFL would completely avoid the relentless brutality of 2020? Welp, if you were holding out hope the league would skirt 2020’s awfulness altogether, Week 2’s avalanche of injuries to star players served as a stark reminder that to the year 2020, nothing is sacred.

While unfortunate for the players and seismically devastating to fantasy teams across this country, the rash of injuries do provide a magnificent opportunity for Practice Squad Power Rankings alumni to get that glorious elevation to the 53-man roster. And after getting blanked in Week 1, the PSPR rebounded with two call-ups in Week 2, both by the Broncos. Running back LeVante Bellamy — who I’m calling Phillip Lindsay Lite — and edge rusher Derrek Tuszka got The Call Saturday night. 

Bellamy played one offensive snap but didn’t get a carry. Tuszka wasn’t used on defense but probably should’ve been. No Denver edge rusher outside of Bradley Chubb registered a pressure against Pittsburgh, per TruMedia. And we miss you, Von. Tuszka only played special teams and made a tackle there. Lindsay is expected to miss another game in Week 3, and Melvin Gordon averaged 3.7 yards per carry against the Steelers (yes, a team with a stout defense). But there’s no time to waste, Broncos. Give Lindsay Lite some touches.  

This week, I’ve modified the PSPRs slightly by way of maneuvering of incumbents and added a trio of new members. The first is a PSPR alum and draft darling of mine from 2018. He could help Carson Wentz and improve the receiver room in Philly that’s in dire need of exactly that — improvement. The second is a speedy option to help the Jets secondary currently ranked 22nd in pass defense DVOA by Football Outsiders through two weeks. For those wondering, Adam Gase will not be accepting any responsibility for New York’s poor showing on that side of the ball. Nope. The third add has immense upside but has barely gotten an opportunity early in his pro career and could provide another layer to the Panthers pass game.

For those who missed it in the PSPR’s 2020 debut, I’m only including practice squadders who are rookies, second-year players, or third-year players. That’s it. And it aligns perfectly with my niche area of expertise because the 2018 draft class is the first I fully evaluated as CBS Sports’ NFL Draft analyst. 

And as you’ll see below, I couldn’t resist ranking more players, given the increase in practice squad sizes this season. To run parallel with the league’s figure, I hope to write about 16 individuals every Friday, 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions. 

You will also notice Bellamy and Tuszka back on the PSPR because, for reasons unbeknownst to me, the Broncos reverted them back to the practice squad after Week 2’s contest.

What. Are. The. 49ers. Doing? Here we are, entering Week 3, and the 49ers receivers have made exactly 12 catches on the season. A dozen catches by wideouts through two games. Not that I should be one to question the beautiful mind that resides inside Kyle Shanahan’s head, but come on. It’s time for Jennings to see the field.

2. Antoine Brooks, S, Steelers

Brooks looks the part of a trendy safety-linebacker hybrid at 5-11 and 220 pounds. He’s not fast — he ran 4.64 at the combine — but his short-area quickness and instincts were both outstanding on film at Maryland. Brooks overflowed the stat sheet in 2018 and 2019 with a combined 155 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two picks, and eight pass breakups. He’s often the first to (correctly) react to where the offense plans to go with the football, will make plays in coverage at the short-to-intermediate level. And he is a sure tackler. He has the athleticism to sift through the traffic to get the ball carrier too. 

Bellamy just made my Top 250 in the 2020 class (No. 243 overall), and it’s perfectly clear why the Broncos signed him after he went undrafted — he’s eerily similar to Phillip Lindsay. In that Big Board article, I wrote: “Bellamy from Western Michigan truly is a burner yet possesses a smaller frame.” He only ran 4.50 at the combine, but I do not for a split second believe he’s a 4.50 guy on the field. No way. He had runs of 47, 55, 73, and 75 yards last year and averaged more than seven yards per carry in his first four years at Western Michigan. While not as twitched-up nor as powerful through tackle attempts as Lindsay, Bellamy can fly. He’d provide a nice speed element to the Broncos backfield while Lindsay is banged up. 

4. Deontay Burnett, WR, Eagles

Burnett was one of my first draft crushes, someone who finished as a second-round talent on my first Big Board at CBS Sports in 2018. At USC, he often was Sam Darnold’s first read. In 2017, he caught 86 passes for 1,114 yards with nine touchdowns. He’s a small but sudden slot wideout who can separate underneath and at the intermediate level. Why did I like him so much more than your average inside receiver? Burnett played bigger than his nearly 6-0, 186-pound frame. No pass was seemingly too far out in front of him. His natural ball skills and elusiveness after the catch made him a favorite of mine. Burnett has played sparingly through two seasons, but later in the year as a rookie, he was elevated to the Jets active roster and demonstrated he still had a connection with Darnold. He had a four-catch, 61-yard effort in late October and a five-grab, 73-yard performance against the Patriots to end the year. Now on a downward spiraling Eagles team that has just 20 receptions by receivers through two games — eight from DeSean Jackson — Burnett needs to get on the field. Oh, and Jalen Reagor is hurt. 

5. Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Eagles

Early in the 2020 pre-draft process, there was an early-round buzz for Wanogho. Injuries led to a precipitous fall to the sixth round, but the tools are there for the Nigeria-born former Auburn star to ultimately be the bookend tackle to Andre Dillard in Philadelphia, a club that’s been outstanding at the tackle positions for a while now. Wanogho plays with requisite knee bend, so he’s not easily fork-lifted by smaller rushers, and he’s explosive off the snap and in the screen game. With better punch timing and added weight, he can be a consistent pass-protecting tackle in the NFL. This season, he’d mostly be useful getting to the second level in the run game.

6. Robert Foster, WR, Packers

Foster’s an enigma. Barely produces at Alabama, but runs 4.41 at nearly 6-2 and 198 pounds. Makes the Bills‘ roster as an undrafted free agent but hardly plays in his first two months of his rookie season in 2018. Then? He registers 25 catches for 511 yards (20.4 yards per) with three scores in the NFL and looks like the future No. 1 in Buffalo. In his sophomore campaign, injuries keep him off the field, as they do John Brown and Cole Beasley. Foster had three catches for 64 yards last season. Three catches. That’s it! With Stefon Diggs and rookie Gabriel Davis, who pieced together an awesome summer, the Bills released Foster, and the Packers grabbed him off waivers. If healthy, Foster has the size and pure speed to be a deep-play specialist with Aaron Rodgers

7. Javelin Guidry, CB, Jets

Guidry was the least known but fastest member of Utah’s suffocating secondary last season. The 5-9, 191-pound slot corner burned up the field in Indianapolis with a time of 4.29 in the 40 at the combine, and there was plenty to like on film. While not the most instinctive defensive back, Guidry typically found the football as it was arriving. He’s faster than he is quick yet his range and ability to comfortably run with any receiver in the league down the field are nice luxuries to have at his position. Beyond Marcus Maye, the Jets’ secondary needs work, and Guidry could provide some of the juice that unit needs. 

8. Hakeem Butler, WR, Panthers

Butler is an enigma. After a breakout final season at Iowa State, he tested well at nearly 6-6 and 227 pounds at the combine, surprisingly fell to the fourth round, missed his entire rookie season with a broken hand, then didn’t make the Cardinals team out of his second training camp. Strange. I know separation specialists are trendier than giant rebounders, but Butler’s film was stellar, and he looked like a quality athlete who could create some space, and he certainly was a horse after the catch. Carolina’s receiver group has three legitimate burners in Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel. If Matt Rhule wants to add a size element for Teddy Bridgewater, he’s got his guy right there on the practice squad.  

Fields is a bit of a mystery because he was barely a part-time player during his career at Clemson yet flashed when he got onto the field for the Tigers. He looked the part at the Senior Bowl in 2019, ran 4.37 at a close to 5-10 and 192 pounds. His twitch is undeniable to click-and-close on short routes or follow when receivers completely change directions. As a rookie, Fields played just six snaps, but he has the natural talent to be a versatile inside-outside cornerback. There’s plenty of youth in Minnesota’s secondary now after the team heavily invested there in the draft. 

10. Derrek Tuszka, EDGE, Broncos

It may have been just by chance or due to the new schedule, but there weren’t many outstanding combine performances in late February this year, particularly at the edge-rusher spot. Tuszka stood out. At 6-4 and 251 pounds, he blazed in the three-cone drill with a time of 6.87. At North Dakota State, that bend was evident around the corner, and, coupled with a nice arsenal of pass-rushing moves, catalyzed his senior year with 13.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. He needs to get significantly stronger. That’s it. Tuszka profiles as a developmental type who will eventually contribute in a flashy way.

Honorable Mentions

Marcell Ateman, WR, Raiders

To date, Ateman has been on the field for 511 snaps across two seasons in his NFL career and has 20 grabs for 270 yards and a touchdown. While he’s unlikely to play much if Las Vegas’ receivers stay healthy, Ateman’s produced when given the opportunity and brings a big-play element to the field not because of his speed but because of his gigantic catch radius at nearly 6-foot-5. It might be a while before he sees the field because of the glut of receivers Las Vegas has, but Ateman can play. 

Duke Williams, WR, Bills

Williams was signed by the Bills in early January of 2019 to one of those futures contracts that are almost always overlooked and lead nowhere. But the physical rebounder made the team, scored a game-winning touchdown in a vital win over the Titans in Tennessee and had four catches for 49 yards in Buffalo’s playoff defeat at the hands of the Texans. He can play. 

Lavert Hill, CB, Chiefs 

Hill’s press-man experience should get him on the field in his rookie season at some point, although he lacks imposing size and length at 5-10 and 190 pounds with short arms. He gets grabby when trying to run with speedsters down the field, and refs will have a field day with his over-aggressiveness. However, Hill’s feet hit the ground like lightning bolts, and his hips look like they disconnect from his lower half when he changes direction. Hill’s twitched up, so he can really mirror those intricate routes. 

Stanley Morgan, WR, Bengals 

Morgan was a mainstay on the PSPR last year and has three catches for 18 yards on his NFL resume. In short, he hardly played as a rookie. At Nebraska, it was impossible finding a game in which Morgan didn’t pop. His receptions and receiving-yard total increased in all four seasons with the Huskers, and he rocked the agility drills at the combine. He’s a wiry-framed running back with the football in his hands in space. 

Stephen Sullivan, TE, Seahawks

Of course, Sullivan didn’t receive many targets in 2019 at LSU given the presence of Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the roster. He’s a fine candidate to be a better pro than he was a college player because of his size/speed combination and the fact he’s playing with Russell Wilson, probably the best deep-ball thrower in the NFL. Sullivan blew away everyone at the Senior Bowl by continually winning down the field then ran 4.66 at 6-5 and 248 pounds at the combine. There’s not much nuance to his game right now, but Sullivan is magnificently long — 35 3/8-inch arms — and can really run. 

Ron’Dell Carter, EDGE, Cowboys 

Carter was one of the final prospects I watched in the 2020 class, and he left a strong impression with good suddenness, legitimate speed-to-power conversion, and a few pass-rushing moves. The James Madison product had 27, yes 27, tackles for loss in 2019 to go along with 12 sacks. His game exudes power and hustle. Could it take time for him to acclimate to dealing with bigger, stronger tackles than what he faced in college? Sure. But the 6-3, 269-pound rock of an edge rusher can make an impact in the NFL.  

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