Terez Paylor always called it "Football Nerd Christmas" — this time of year when the NFL draft descends upon the sports landscape, leaving football fans everywhere buzzing in anticipation of the talent haul their respective franchises might reel in.
It made sense that this time of year was also one that Terez loved, too. He often described himself as a football nerd, quenching his thirst for information by diving into analytics, breaking down schemes or watching film of draft prospects. In many ways, February through April stood as the intersection of the college football and NFL worlds he loved so much. It was littered with conversations with sources about draft nuggets, and it was a relentless pursuit of breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of prospective draft picks and trying to understand their value as players.
For Terez, that was always part of the appeal of his annual All-Juice team, which was slated for its seventh edition this year prior to Terez’s death in February. To be sure, it was never far from his mind. It wasn’t uncommon to hear him drop a few names into conversations about college players or on the "Yahoo NFL Podcast," suggesting some names that were catching his eye and drawing consideration as All-Juice honorees.
We're grateful that many in the NFL world took notice and celebrated Paylor's spirt, including Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard who spoke on his friendship with Paylor on Friday.
"We go back to Kansas City when I first met him, and he was dedicated to his craft, he worked really hard at it. He worked really hard at the draft. He loved the draft. I would always talk to him about his All-Juice Team."
To Terez, to be an All-Juice player was to embody the soul of football, from being a great player to playing in a fashion that showed you loved the game to popping off the tape like an Alpha amongst Alphas. For a player to land on his All-Juice team was a signifier that after all his studying tape, calling sources and even listening to interviews, Terez had come to the conclusion that a prospect had the goods as a football player.
With that in mind, Eric Edholm, Charles Robinson and Pete Thamel did some pre-draft legwork and spent time piecing together an honorary seventh edition of the All-Juice team. While they could never replicate the precise work that Terez did on the construction of his team, the threesome attempted to put together a squad that Terez could be proud of. Both in hopes of keeping the spirit of his passionate love affair with football alive, but also to once again connect his audience with the memory of the man.
We hope you enjoy this edition. And if you do, please don’t hesitate to pick up one of the All-Juice Team T-shirts or hoodies this year — with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Terez A. Paylor Scholarship at Howard University. The funds will help establish a scholarship for journalism students in Terez’s name, helping to provide some of the same opportunities that Terez had on his trek to becoming an influential NFL reporter both in Kansas City and on the national stage.
And with that in mind, we give you the seventh annual All-Juice team. We chose a tier system similar to the one Terez followed, taking players across the spectrum of a seven-round draft — choosing two players per tier and building a full 22-man team with a spectrum of talent that will fall somewhere from the first round to the seventh.
We hope Terez would have approved of the choices.
First, the tier breakdown and how the talent fits across a seven round draft:
7.5-7.1: Top 10 pick — QB Justin Fields & TE Kyle Pitts
7.0: 11-20 — RB Najee Harris & CB Jaycee Horn
6.9: 21-32 — LB Zaven Collins & CB Greg Newsome
6.8: Top half of the second round — WR Rashod Bateman & C Landon Dickerson
6.7: Bottom half of the second — WR Rondale Moore & EDGE Joseph Ossai
6.6: Top half of the third — DT Marlon Tuipulotu & CB Elijah Molden
6.5: Bottom half of the third — LG Quinn Meinerz & EDGE Rashad Weaver
6.4: Fourth-round pick — S Divine Deablo & OT Stone Forsythe
6.3: Fifth-round pick — RG David Moore & S Tyree Gillespie
6.2: Sixth-round pick — LB Garret Wallow & LB Buddy Johnson
6.1: Seventh-round pick — WR Tre Nixon & OT Larnel Coleman
Perhaps the lasting image from the 2020 College Football Playoffs was the sight of Fields peeling himself off the Superdome turf after a vicious hit from a Clemson linebacker, with Fields rallying through extreme pain to deliver one of the best ever performances by a Buckeyes QB.
Granted, Fields has endured ups and downs last season — poor games vs. Indiana and Northwestern — and is currently going through the pre-draft meat grinder, perceivably as a “flawed” NFL prospect. We’ll take Fields and his flaws any day.
And we think Terez would have, too. Fields is a tough, gifted runner and an emerging thrower. He operated in a spread system with pro-style elements and was asked to make reads, throw to the second and third levels and hold up under the white-hot glare in Columbus.
Fields passed most of those tests with flying colors. And yet he very well could be the fourth or fifth QB drafted this year. Nevertheless, we’ll take our chances on a player who endured racism at Georgia and who pleaded with Big Ten officials to reverse their initial decision to stop fall football. He has ample juice to lead this squad.
— Eric Edholm
Harris escaped a rough childhood — splitting time with a father who battled addiction and a mother who struggled to make ends meet — to become one of the best NFL RB prospects in recent years. With a rocked-up, strapping physique and great mass, Harris looks like a central-casting power back.
Over the past two seasons, he has added subtlety to his game, becoming a dangerous and skilled receiver and also displaying more wiggle and finesse than many assumed he could offer.
Harris also has an engaging personality and runs with extreme passion, similar to another former Bama back, Josh Jacobs, who passed the 1,000-yard rush mark in each of his two seasons with the Raiders. We’ll take a feisty rumbler with some small-back skills in that mold anytime.
— Eric Edholm
You can count the number of 6-foot-6, 245-pound draft prospects all time who have run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, broad jumped 129 inches and bench pressed 22 reps on one hand. Pitts is one of them. And speaking of hands, Pitts’ measure nearly 11 inches. By nearly every measure, he’s the definition of an athletic freak.
Entering the 2020 college season, Pitts was considered a rising prospect. Following a 12-TD, 770-yard season (in a mere eight games), he has a chance to be the highest-drafted tight end since Vernon Davis. There’s even an outside chance Pitts becomes the highest ever drafted; none has gone higher than the fifth pick.
Whether he’s lined up attached to the line, in the slot or flexed out wide, Pitts is a nightmare to cover. He’s also regarded as intense, competitive, smart and hard-working. It’s easy to fall for his physical traits, but Pitts’ intangibles make him easy to adore as a prospect.
— Eric Edholm
When Purdue wideouts coach JaMarcus Shephard first recruited Moore, he asked the diminutive receiver how big he really was. Moore's answer, via NFL.com: "How big is fast?"
It's a great retort for a player who was listed at 5-foot-9 on Purdue's roster but who actually measured a shockingly small 5-7 at the school's pro day. Yes, it's true, the NFL is not exactly littered with receivers with that short. But it's also a league that loves explosive, versatile and dangerous weapons such as Moore.
He ran a 4.31-second 40-yard dash and a scalding 6.68-second 3-cone drill, which helped ease the size concerns. Bench-pressing 24 reps didn't hurt either. And no team should forget the whooping Moore put on Ohio State in 2018 as a true freshman, with 194 yards from scrimmage on 14 touches and two TDs.
If there's anyone who can outplay his stature, it's the hyper-competitive Moore, who was a YAC monster in college. If he can develop a more all-around game, there will be 31 teams out there angry they were too hung up on his height to draft him.
— Eric Edholm
If you like your receivers who battle for the ball, then you'll dig Bateman. Not blessed with rare size or elite speed, Bateman nonetheless thrived in college — namely in a brilliant 2019 season — because of pristine route running, great hands and the ability to rise up for the tough catch.
Bateman's play slipped in 2020 (after he initially opted out), but a lot of that can be blamed on poor QB and OL play. Even so, he made plays outside his frame look routine and ran his career-long streak to 31 consecutive games with at least one catch.
Bateman also caught five or more passes in 16 career games, and surprised scouts with a better-than-expected 40-yard dash time of 4.41 seconds and performed well in the broad jump (123 inches), vertical jump (36 inches) and 3-cone drill (6.95 seconds).
— Eric Edholm
If you want the best view of UCF WR Tre Nixon, don’t flip on his 2020 tape. He dislocated his collarbone in UCF’s opener and played in only four games. “He’d have had a monster year this year,” former UCF head coach Josh Heupel told Yahoo Sports. “If he was healthy.”
Instead, we’re teased by the two touchdowns he scored against Georgia Tech before coming down in the end zone awkwardly and being sidelined for nearly two months.
Nixon is 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds and flashed enough potential as a redshirt junior to project superstardom in UCF’s pass-happy offense. He caught 49 balls, averaged 16.9 yards per catch and showed the inside and outside versatility that NFL teams covet. What Heupel has stressed to NFL teams teased by that junior year potential is what a pro Nixon became – arriving in the facility before the coaches, the last player to leave every night and the notebooks full of notes.
Heupel said he got tons of scout calls on Nixon and he’s glad to share his assessment: natural pass catcher, good understanding, willing blocker, good speed, strong fight at the line of scrimmage and fast processor. All those traits translate. So will Nixon.
— Pete Thamel
If we’re going to take a chance on a left tackle, we’re going to do so with a player who has an elite athletic frame and who worked his way steadily up the depth chart to find success. That’s the story of the 6-foot-8, 307-pound Forsythe, who was lost in his first three years in Gainesville but developed into one of the SEC’s best left tackles.
Forsythe passed a lot of athletic tests at his pro day, running an impressive 40-yard dash (5.12 seconds) and a great 3-cone drill (7.47 seconds), and topped it off with a good bench-press total (25 reps) for a player with nearly 35-inch arms.
His performances against Alabama in the SEC title game and Oklahoma in the bowl game won us over. While his OL mates were routinely getting worked over up front and getting QB Kyle Trask pressured, Forsythe was a steel trap. Even with some work needed as a run blocker, he’s a Juice Team member for good reason.
— Eric Edholm
There’s no secret that NFL teams are desperate for tackles. No position has seen players reached for – other than maybe quarterback – in recent drafts. That’s why UMass' Larnel Coleman projects as a tantalizing late-round choice. He’s a 6-foot-6, 315-pound mass of clay for a franchise to develop.
Coleman arrived at UMass as a 238-pound DE/TE and developed into an intriguing tackle prospect, with the coaches swooning over his work ethic. His 36-inch arm length is considered high-end for a tackle and his 31-inch vertical flashes favorably back to his high school basketball days.
There’s a reason 16 teams showed up for UMass’ pro day, with Indianapolis, Kansas City and Arizona showing the most interest in Coleman. “He’s a steal,” says UMass coach Walt Bell. “He’s still nowhere near his potential. He’s only been a lineman in size and stature for two or three years. His best football is all in front of him.”
A team that drafts and develops him now could save themselves reaching for a tackle down the road.
— Pete Thamel
Every draft cycle, there is a lesser-known player who catches an updraft in the process, sometimes in scouting reports and media coverage. Meinerz is that player this season, parlaying some fawning media coverage and dominant practice days at the Senior Bowl into a rare kind of momentum. A fringe late-round pick only six months ago, Meinerz turned his Senior Bowl spotlight and subsequent interviews into a solid third-round grade for many teams. One AFC general manager even said last week it wouldn’t surprise him if a team took a second-round flier on Meinerz's upside, which was shown with some of the NFL coaching he got at the Senior Bowl.
Multiple evaluators said similar versions of the same thing: His college tape was good in 2019 but not exactly all-world; but his Senior Bowl week was eye-popping for a player who had almost no familiarity to staffs. Meinerz showed guard/center versatility during the week, got better with practice reps, and showed that he could compete with violence and a mean streak against high-level players (which is what you want to see out of a run-plowing interior plug). One NFC scout said he looked like he had “bear strength” at times in practice, which is likely what led to him getting voted the top offensive lineman by defensive players at the Senior Bowl.
Meinerz has the requisite size and length to be a center, which seems to be where most teams are projecting him. If one week of practices at the Senior Bowl revealed that he has a high and coachable ceiling, there’s a chance someone takes a stab at him late in the second round or early in the third. One AFC GM said Meinerz reminded him of another very successful Division III prospect — Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Ali Marpet. If that’s an accurate comparison, Meinerz is going to make someone very happy.
— Charles Robinson
You won’t find too many 350-pounders who measure shorter than 6-foot-2 (6-1 5/8 to be exact) with 34-plus inch arms. But that’s what Moore checked in at for the Senior Bowl in January, his first true football action since Thanksgiving 2019 after Grambling’s 2020 season was taken away.
Moore helped prepare for the event by training with Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews and left the week named as the top offensive lineman on the American Team roster, which included two Alabama blockers.
One of two HBCU prospects at the game, the later-blooming Moore worked at guard and center — burying people at both spots — and has boosted his stock to the early Day 3 range. If you like mass, power and aggressiveness in your linemen, Moore is your guy. If he gets his meathooks on a defender, the battle is over.
Plus, how do you not love a young man who can deliver a quote like this:
“God gave me some big-ole calf muscles, some turkey-leg calf muscles, to go out and explode out of my stance,” he told Stampede Blue.
— Eric Edholm
Perhaps the ultimate Juice Team member, the 6-6, 335-pound Dickerson checks just about every box imaginable. He's big, plays nasty, has lined up at every line position in his five college seasons and is considered an elite leader.
Of course, there is a glaring worry with Dickerson — his health. Lower-body injuries cut short four of his five seasons, first at Florida State and then with Bama, including the torn ACL he suffered in the 2020 SEC title game. His teammates' reaction, all running over to the cart he was wheeled off in, showed you everything about their massive respect for him.
But Dickerson wasn't done. He prepared for the national title game as if he was going to play, shocking the team's medical staff. And wouldn't you know it? Nick Saban sent in Dickerson for the final two kneeldowns of the championship victory over Ohio State.
Dickerson paid Saban back by carrying him — with torn ACL and all — off the Hard Rock Stadium field. That's juice. What a night and what a career for Dickerson, who is the type of player you don't bet against overcoming health concerns.
— Eric Edholm
There's a lot to love about Ossai's story, one of five children in his family who arrived in the United States in 2009 having never seen or played football. He tried the sport in seventh grade but really took to it in high school, developing into a top recruit.
Once the Longhorns used him properly, Ossai unleashed his exciting tools against offenses. Shifted to a pass-rush role prior to the 2019 bowl game vs. No. 11 Utah, earning Valero Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP after notching nine tackles (six for losses) and three sacks.
Ossai really unlocked his talent in a breakout junior season in 2020 with 16 TFLs, five sacks and three forced fumbles and had a terrific pro day, showing just how much juice he possesses in his 6-4, 256-pound frame.
And what really sets Ossai apart is his frenetic, relentless effort — on and off the field. He's considered as hard-working, humble and determined a prospect as there is in this entire class.
— Eric Edholm
When Weaver was a little-known redshirt sophomore defensive end coming off a three-sack season, Pitt head coach issued a bold proclamation. “(Weaver) could be sitting as the head coach of Pitt someday," Narduzzi said. "He’s got great football knowledge."
His teammates saw it, too. When they drafted players for the team's annual spring game in 2018, Weaver was the first non-QB selected.
A year later, Weaver went down with a torn ACL prior to the start of the 2019 season. Teammates and coaches acted as if they'd lost a family member. By that point he'd established himself the leader of a Pitt defense, a unit that has produced some quality NFL talent in recent years.
And in 2020, he capped off a terrific career. Weaver was named unanimous first-team all-ACC with 14.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in nine games and had a strong Senior Bowl showing. Not bad for a player whom defensive coordinator Randy Bates called a “lunch-pail football player."
Of course, most lunch-pail players aren't 6-foot-4 and 257 pounds and can run a 4.30-second short shuttle or a 6.98-second 3-cone drill. Weaver is part-blue collar, part-blue chip.
— Eric Edholm
Tuipulotu hadn't played football prior to high school. When he gave it a shot as a freshman, he played right away on defense, and eventually developed into a 5-star recruit. Along the way, Tuipulotu added wrestling to the sports he tried out. In his first year, he won the state 5A title in the heavyweight class.
While some things come easy in athletics for the Trojans' nose tackle, you wouldn't know it by the effort he displays. Watch any USC game the past few years and you see the 6-2, 307-pound Tuipulotu working his feet and hands, constantly churning and making effort-and-athleticism plays that noses typically don't.
USC defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said last season he considers Tuipulotu a "seven-star recruit" when it came to his work ethic and character. That also applies to Tuipulotu's cousin, USC safety Talanoa Hufanga, and his little brother, Tuli, a young Trojans d-lineman. Another cousin, Fili Moala, is a former second-round draft pick who spent seven years in the NFL.
Tuipolotu raised his game despite fellow USC DL Jay Tufele opting out in 2020, and his strong pro-day workout opened eyes. With great bloodlines, character, run-stopping power, and surprising athleticism, Tuipolotu checks a ton of boxes for NFL scouts.
— Eric Edholm
When Tulsa recruited all-world linebacker Zaven Collins from tiny Hominy, Oklahoma, (pop. 3,400), the staff asked the same question NFL franchises are asking defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie: “What is he?”
Collins is a throwback linebacker with his size – 6-foot-5, 260 pounds – but with a new age skills. He can rush from the edge, cover tailbacks and tight ends, and also act like a true MIKE backer and traverse sideline to sideline. “I really think at this point, you have to ask: What is he not?” Gillespie said.
Collins arrived as a two-star recruit that Gillespie recalls having an offer from only Central Oklahoma. He left as one of the most decorated players in the sport – first-team All-American and winner of the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik awards after a year with 11.5 TFLs, two pick sixes and a safety. He does everything, as Gillespie pointed out that he’s a proficient golfer and was a star gymnast.
Don’t be surprised if he’s gone by the end of the first round – Dallas, New Orleans and Arizona have shown the most interest, as his versatility will help him find a home.
— Pete Thamel
It takes watching only a few plays of Johnson to get an idea of his style: tough and energetic. When you dig behind the scenes, Johnson becomes even more appealing.
When COVID-19 uncertainty threatened the 2020 college football season, he leaned into Jimbo Fisher's let-the-players-lead mantra and became the Aggies' unofficial protocol officer. Johnson implored his teammates to avoid crowds, wear masks and stick to the stringent guidelines to keep everyone safe, healthy and able to play.
The junior captain already established himself as a force on the field in 2019, winning the team's annual Defensive Playmaker and Defensive Strength Awards. In 2020 he took his game up a notch for the resurgent Aggies defense, forcing a crucial late fumble in the upset over Florida and running back a pick-six vs. LSU.
After his pro-day performance, running a 4.57 40-yard dash and crushing the vertical (38 1/2 inches) and broad jumps (128 inches), Johnson's place on this team was secured.
— Eric Edholm
As a freshman, Wallow was resigned to special teams and, occasionally, mop-up duty on defense as a deep-reserve safety. It wasn't until his move to linebacker as a sophomore that one of the best playmakers in the country emerged.
Wallow played in all 49 games in his TCU career, leading the Horned Frogs in tackles each of the past three seasons, and finished his career with 32.5 tackles for losses, 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, five pass breakups and one INT. The senior captain also finished his career with 562 snaps on special teams.
Although he missed the Senior Bowl after testing positive for COVID-19, the 6-2, 220-pound Wallow crushed his pro-day workout with a 4.64-second 40, a 32 1/2-inch vertical leap, a 122-inch broad and great times in the short shuttle (4.12 seconds) and 3-cone drill (6.87 seconds). Add that to a fiery play style — he embraces his "Dirty 30" nickname — and you have the goods to set the tone for this year's Juice Team.
— Eric Edholm
At one point, the son of former NFL WR Joe Horn didn't want to follow in his father's footsteps. Jaycee shunned football for basketball, turning himself into a darned-good point guard, before getting back to his dad's best sport.
While his oldest and youngest brothers, Joe Jr. and Jaycob, became receivers like dad, Jaycee is aimed at shutting receivers down. Horn is a long, physical press corner who wants to face the opponent's best pass catcher (even covering fellow Juice Teamer Kyle Pitts). And the 6-1, 205-pound Horn isn't afraid to trash talk them into submission along the way.
Horn entered 2020 with zero career picks but snagged two in a dominant performance against Auburn and finished his career with 25 pass breakups in 30 games. Then he went out and destroyed his pro-day workout with wild numbers in the 40 (4.4 seconds), vertical jump (41 1/2 inches), broad jump (133 inches) and bench press (19 reps with 33-inch arms).
The juice is flowing in this prospect.
— Eric Edholm
Newsome has a message he likes to deliver for the man he's about to cover each game: “After every first play, I tell the receiver: ‘I’m on your hip all game,’” he said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Subtlety isn't Newsome's thing.
He's a cocksure corner who makes up for a lack of great size with excellent, twitchy athleticism, a hyper-competitive approach and a burning desire to win with physicality.
And the proof is in the pudding: Newsome allowed only 11 of 34 targets (zero TDs) to be completed last season, none longer than 19 yards. He gave up zero third-down catches in 2020 and allowed zero receptions in his final four games, even going up against a few draft prospects.
Injuries have held Newsome back, but that's about the only thing that has slowed him down as one of the best and feistiest defenders in the country.
— Eric Edholm
Molden is one of those scheme-versatility corners who goes somewhere in the middle rounds because he’s not quite as big or as fast as front offices like. He has shown the ability to play in man and zone schemes, and that will help him if he lands with a defensive coordinator who likes to be creative with coverages. The book on Molden’s value is clear. He’s seen almost universally as a bonafide slot corner who may be able to transition to safety.
An NFC scout cross-checking corners said Molden is very impressive at strapping himself to slot players off the line of scrimmage and sticking to them without getting so handsy that it becomes a problem with officials. That said, an AFC GM who valued Molden’s versatility said his lack of elite speed (he ran roughly 4.54-4.59 in the 40-yard dash) is going to be a deep coverage concern against faster players, as Molden tends to get a little more aggressive with his hands in those situations. But the same GM said he likes that Molden will play physical for his size, including tackling runners, and uses his hands well when it comes to disrupting a catch.
Molden has the football lineage of being the son of former first-round cornerback Alex Molden, who played in the NFL eight years. The NFL talent evaluators who like him say he has strong frame for his size, knows the game well, has locker room character and plays with a very natural feel. One AFC personnel department said he’s a poor man’s Tyrann Mathieu, which is a good review for a middle-round value pick.
– Charles Robinson
At 6-foot-3 and 226 pounds, Deablo is a safety in a linebacker’s body, a height-weight-speed demon who checks just about every physical box you can imagine. He ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash, broad-jumped 126 inches and bench-pressed 19 reps — with 33-inch arms.
A high-school QB, Deablo arrived in Blacksburg a wide receiver, catching one pass as a freshman. After switching to defense, he became a leader on that side of the ball, grabbing an INT and running back a 98-yard fumble for a TD in a near-upset at Notre Dame in 2019 and leading the Hokies in interceptions (four) and passes defended (eight) in 2020 despite missing two games.
Deablo also has been a beast on special teams, logging more than 700 career snaps. His character has won over virtually everyone, receiving pristine marks from NFL scouts.
“Oh, man. Divine Deablo, if he’s not the best human being I’ve ever met in my life, he’s in a category of like three,” Hokies head coach Justin Fuente said last season.
— Eric Edholm
In a draft where COVID-19 protocols prevented scouts from their due diligence, the remaining prospects with elite measurables are going to dominate late rounds. That’s why teams are burning up the phone lines at Missouri asking about Tyree Gillespie, the 6-foot, 210-pound safety whose explosive times have NFL scouts intrigued.
Gillespie popped on film against Alabama early in the season in 2020 with eight tackles and unofficially ran a 4.38 at his pro day. That speed combined with a 35-inch vertical make him the type of player NFL teams covet.
“He’s got serious speed, athleticism and is explosive on his vertical,” says Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz. “He every bit looks like an NFL player.”
After flashing in Senior Bowl practices, the buzz on Gillespie only increased. It’ll continue to get louder by draft day.
— Pete Thamel
More from Yahoo Sports: