This year’s NFL Draft is finally in the books and while it obviously will take a few years to figure how exactly all these selections turn out for their teams, I want to recap everything that happened and mention which teams did particularly well and some others that I believed made more questionable decisions.
I’m not going to act as if teams are stupid or just completely missed on certain players, but rather I’m just making my judgements based on my personal evaluations, where I think teams played the board well or poorly and the overall strategy they applied, in accordance to the rest of their roster.
I settled on seven winners and losers, ten steals and reaches each, plus I listed a bunch of other names who I just value a lot higher or lower. I may mention some trades that happened before Thursday night and how it affected the selections, but in general I’m only taking actual picks and deals that went down during the draft into account.
I didn’t only choose teams here, who I thought really helped themselves on draft weekend, by making value selections, playing the board well and collecting assets, but I also want to mention specific people around the NFL and groups that benefitted from what happened.
Jalen Hurts & the Philadelphia Eagles
I could have easily just listed the Eagles here. They got a top-ten prospect in this draft for me in Jordan Davis, my top-ranked linebacker in Nakobe Dean – both from Georgia – a long-term replacement for Jason Kelce in Nebraska’s Cam Jurgens, who I had as my number three or four true center, a situational pass-rusher and probably special teams fixture in Kansas’ Kyron Johnson and a crafty pass-catching number two tight end in SMU’s Grant Calcaterra. That would be a pretty good haul already, but then you still add in the trade for Titans receiver A.J. Brown, who – when available – is easily a top-ten guy at his position in the league. Now, while giving up picks 18 and 101 are certainly worth it for a guy like that, I understand some questions about moving up two spots to grab a nose-tackle by giving up three picks between 124 and 162, I think Davis is a special player, who allows them to play all the two-high shell coverages under Jonathan Gannon, and if that’s the guy they needed, I don’t think they could have sat there and hoped the Ravens wouldn’t have snatched him up.
And while the defensive additions are big – depending on the health status of Dean, the biggest beneficiary from the moves they made is Jalen Hurts, because they gave him a top-flight wide receiver and now Devonta Smith will be better as well, being able to play off the ball, and maybe even more importantly, they passed on drafting a quarterback on several occasions.
The university of Georgia
So Georgia produced the number one overall pick, five first-rounders and an NFL draft-record 15 total prospects selected. Just from a reputation and player-development perspective, that’s awesome. They did lose a lot of great players who could help them make a run at another national title next season – particularly on defense – but they arguably still have two of the top three or four players on that defensive line in house, their starting quarterback and several other talented pieces. Jermaine Johnson, who decided to transfer after a couple of years with the Bulldogs, was the last one selected among that group in round one, despite having the best production.
While I personally had Johnson as a top-ten overall prospect, this shows that the NFL clearly understands what roles players have on a defense, that didn’t lend itself to their pass-rushers having high production, with how they funnel everything to their linebackers. Well, guess what? – High school recruits and players in the transfer portal see where those Georgia guys get selected and understand that they can boost their draft stock if they join Kirby Smart’s program, even if they’re more so a piece of the puzzle rather than have monster production. And those 15 names did also include six offensive players and even a punter. The Bulldogs have clearly established themselves as one of the top two programs in the best conference we have in college football. They may not yet have the consistency of Alabama yet, but they’ve had one of the top-four recruiting classes in each of the last six years and there’s no end in sight.
When you look at their history of Baltimore’s success in the draft, it’s not based on luck, but rather their patience and understanding of the board. The crazy part for me is that the first pick they made – Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton – actually was in line with where I had him on my big board, rather than most people having him in their top-five overall. I’m not sure if Georgia D-tackle Jordan Davis would have been the pick at 14, if the Eagles didn’t decide to jump them, but when he wasn’t there anymore, they didn’t panic. Then they absolutely fleeced the Cardinals, trading wide receiver Marquise Brown for the 23rd pick, which is a couple of spots higher than where they originally selected him, and that’s after three years of his services, without having to pay him big money. Of course, they acquired another fourth-rounder from Buffalo in exchange to moving back two spots and still get the top center in Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum, who will replace a Pro Bowl-level player in Bradley Bozeman.
On day two, they decided to take a game at 45th overall with the highly talented edge defender David Ojabo, who was often mocked to them at spot 14, but fell her due to tearing his Achilles at the Michigan pro day, and then they found a replacement for nose-tackle Brandon Williams in third round with UConn’s Travis Jones, who is easily one of the strongest and freakiest athletes for his size in this draft. You can even forgive them for taking a punter in the fourth round, who was reportedly one of the top names at the position, because the rest of day three consisted of a potential Orlando Brown Jr. clone in Minnesota’s mountain of a man in Daniel Faalele (my OT6), a couple of very talented corners, two of my top-six tight-ends and my RB8 in Missouri’s Tyler Badie, who gives that group a dynamic element.
Adam Stenavich (Packers O-line coach)
This is an interesting one, because the Packers ended up with three picks in the top 34, once they packaged their two second-rounders for the freaky North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson, after they had already picked two Georgia players for their defensive front-seven in the first round. So in theory, getting guys into that who were picked 92nd, 140th and 249th overall is more of a challenge to coach them up and ready to go, somewhat to a couple of years ago, when it felt like they were just throwing darts at the board with three sixth-round picks. However, I believe this trio that they acquired is a lot different and Stenavich will be the one receiving credit, when probably two of those guys end up starting.
The first of the bunch is Sean Rhyan, who played left tackle at a first-team All-Pac-12 level and fill in there if needed, but even people there say he’s best suited inside. He should instantly start at left guard and boost their zone run game with his ability to take defenders for a ride, while being a very balanced pass-protector, who plays within himself. Next, we have Wake Forest’s Zach Tom, who I thought would go on day two, because he has tremendous tape at left tackle, with his ability to mirror quality pass-rushers laterally, while looking excellent back at center – where he spent his first two years – at East-West Shrine practices. And finally, somehow they end up with Rasheed Walker from Penn State, who was my OT9. His tape is somewhat up-and-down, but he has high-level athletic traits and power to be a starter in this league, if he continues to work on his technique.
New York Jets
The Jets ended up with two of my top ten prospects in Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner and Florida State edge defender Jermaine Johnson II, along with my number three wide receiver Garrett Wilson. And the funny part is that it actually makes more sense to me if you flipped picks ten and 26, but you see that they understood the board and got ahead of the wide receiver run, and then traded back up late into the first for Johnson, who reportedly was a consideration for them with both of their top-ten picks. Looking at the value of that trade, getting pick 101, where they drafted my number four tight-end Jeremy Ruckert from Ohio State, in exchange for early third- and fifth-round picks, to move up those nine spots is perfectly fine with me.
Giving up another fifth-rounder to move up two spots in the second and draft Iowa State running back Breece Hall I’ve heard be criticized, but I really believe the Texans would have taken him in that spot in-between and to me this is prime territory for that position, when you look at similar contracts, and consider how he and last year’s fourth-rounder Michael Carter Jr. complement each other, who combined will probably take up less than five million dollars per year. I would have liked to see them trade back with one of their fourth-round picks, since that’s when they made their final selections, but at worst they should get a high-quality swing tackle in Louisiana’s Max Mitchell, who can play both sides at a high level, and a high-energy number three edge rusher, who should see the field on a lot of passing downs.
The first specialist off the board was actually LSU kicker Cade York at 124th overall going to the Browns. Two more punters – Penn State’s Jordan Stout going to Baltimore at pick 130 and Georgia’s Jake Camarda going to Tampa Bay at 133 – went in that fourth round, making it the first draft since 1993, where we saw four combined kickers and punters come off the board within those first four rounds. However, that’s not where the fun stopped, as the Bills selected the guy nicknamed “Punt god” in San Diego State’s Matt Araiza with the first pick of the sixth round, who was actually projected to be the first player at that position to be selected, and then with one of the final ten picks (255th overall) the Bears took N.C. State’s Trenton Gill.
Funnily, the guy who finished last season second only to Araiza in net average per punt (50.9 yards) and holds the NCAA record for 47.8 yards per punt over five total seasons – Colorado State’s Ryan Stonehouse – did not hear his name called. He has since signed with the Titans and is now trying to unseat a fairly average NFL starter in Brett Kern. And we didn’t see a long snapper get drafted, after we had two last year. That’s why I didn’t call this category specialist, but it’s all about the punters! And looking at recent draft history, this is the second time in five years we’ve seen four guys get their names called, after there was a drought since 1999.
Steve Spagnuolo & the Kansas City Chiefs
For a team with an offensive identity, it’s always fun for the defensive coordinator to receive some toys to play with, and Spags got a bunch of those. They have to give up a third- and fourth-round pick to move up those eight spots to 21st overall, but instead of getting a receiver like many expected, they selected the best zone and tackling corners in this draft in Washington’s Trent McDuffie, whose feel for the game could be used to replace Tyrann Mathieu as well. Then Purdue EDGE George Karlaftis may not really fit their prototype for the position, but at 30th overall was picked later than projected and gives them a worker-bee for that unit. Cincinnati safety Bryan Cook at the end of the second round was one of my favorite guys to watch and gives them some versatility to drop down or play two-high. Wisconsin linebacker Leo Chenal in the early 100’s went later than I expected as well, with the crazy athletic testing he put up, and he fits how they want to use their LBs as pressure players in passing situations. And finally, they grabbed cornerbacks Joshua Williams from Fayetteville State, whose had tremendous ball-production as a developmental player, and Washington State’s Jaylen Watson, who arguably had the best Senior Bowl week at the position and I recently called one of the bigger sleepers.
In short, they drafted my CB4, EDGE5, SAF6, LB8 and two more corners in my top-20, which is the influx of talent this unit needed I believe. And you can list the Chiefs here altogether, since they also were able to grab my WR8 in Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore (54th) – who I mocked to them 25 spots earlier, my IOL10 in Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard (145th) and a fun multi-purpose back in Rutgers’ Isaih Pacheco (251st).
Other drafts I liked:
The word “loser” may sound a little harsh here. Obviously I wouldn’t call any of these guys that in a demeaning way, but rather they made some questionable decisions to me or didn’t value/use assets in accordance to my and consensus rankings. And then there are players, who are already in the NFL and saw their teams select picks or decline to do so, at the detriment of the names I mentioned here.
New England Patriots
I get why people shy away from criticizing Bill Belichick, because he is the greatest coach of all time and the Patriots way has been the gold standard for nearly 20 years, but we can only judge things at the time we’re at and if you through New England’s draft history since 2017, I don’t know what you can point to other than Mac Jones, who somewhat fell into their lap 15th overall last year, a couple of average starting offensive linemen and running backs, that you can really hang your hat on.
Let’s start at the top with UT-Chattanooga interior offensive lineman Cole Strange at 29th overall. I liked the process of moving back eight spots and picking up a third- and fourth-round pick each from Kansas City and I think Strange will be a solid starter for them, but I looked at him as a third-round pick and that’s where he was valued based on consensus board. It’s great if you have conviction in your picks, but don’t overestimate your evaluations to where you show no understanding of the board. He could have easily been there when they were back on the clock at 50th overall, where they selected Baylor speedster Tyquan Thornton, who I like, but more so as an early day three selection. If they end up with North Dakota State WR Christian Watson and maybe Strange at 50, that’s a completely different story already. And even if they don’t, interior O-line and wide receiver, were arguably the two deepest position groups in this draft.
The two corners they picked next in Houston’s Marcus Jones and Arizona State’s Jack Jones are actually some of my favorite guys to watch, as pissed-off 5’8” corners with tremendous click-and-close ability and ball-skills. However, before they get to a couple of depth pieces on the line, they draft two more running backs, who are solid players, but now you have seven guys on the roster, with five of them on their rookie contract still, and I’m not sure about how many of them they intend to carry on gamedays. And then of course they use a fourth-round pick on Western Kentucky QB Bailey Zappe, who I think will be a long-time backup in this league and I understand the value of having that guy on a rookie deal, but I don’t look at the Pats being in position to make luxury picks. If you take The Athletics’ consensus draft return, which compiles the evaluations of 82 different analysts, the Patriots come in dead-last by a margin at -2031.1 (next-closest is the Jaguars at -1397.7).
There are multiple factors to Tannehill making my list here. Obviously at the top of the list is the fact the Titans traded away A.J. Brown for the 19th overall selection basically, which they did convert into Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks, who presents a very similar skill-set to Brown actually, in terms of a big-bodied physical run-after-catch specialist, but I would argue he’s a far less nuanced route-runner, who can’t create separation on curls, comebacks and stuff like that the same way. I actually had Burks going to Tennessee 26th overall in my final mock draft, but that plan included Brown and he would have been more so the replacement for Julio Jones, who they moved on from after just one year.
More importantly, the Titans got extremely lucky for Liberty quarterback Malik Willis to still be on the board in the middle of the third round. Obviously a third-rounder doesn’t usually get on the field early on, if there’s a quarterback in place, whose led that team to an AFC championship and a couple of division titles following that. However, I think there’s a sour taste in the mouth of the people in Tennessee after Tannehill threw a couple of ugly picks to knock them out of the playoffs in their first game as the number one seed and there might be a change in their philosophy of how they can win long-term. In comes a guy in Willis, who would be best suited to learn a dropback NFL system with how simplistic what he did at Liberty was, but has a killer arm and tremendous mobility to fit into that offense. Even if he never sees the field as a rookie, there’s a potential out in Tannehill’s contract next offseason, and if Willis lives up to the status of a top-20 prospect like I have him, they may be ready to move on.
Ultra-athletic developmental cornerback prospects
This seems odd to me, because everything the NFL has been telling us for several years now is that guys like UTSA’s Tariq Woolen and Sam Houston State’s Zyon McCollum would be names they value highly and should be top-100 locks. Woolen is one of the most absurd athletes there is in terms of size-speed combination, standing tall at 6’4”, 205 pounds with offensive tackle-like 33 ½-inch arms and running a 4.26 in the 40, while McCollum put together one of the greatest combine performances in the event’s history, testing in the 89th percentile or better across the board, including the top mark among all performers this year in both the agility drills, while measuring in at 6’2”, 200 pounds himself.
However, somehow they both didn’t hear their names called until the fifth round at picks 153rd and 157th overall respectively. Now, I personally valued Woolen in the late third/early fourth round, because there were a lot of false steps and him overrunning the break point when he wasn’t in phase, while missing ten of 35 tackling attempts this past season, routinely just diving at the legs of ball-carriers. Yet, with that athletic profile, the speed and length to make up for some initial separation, while he cleans up his game, I thought he may go top-50. McCollum I was personally significantly lower on, because I routinely saw him lose contact with his receiver, just be very reactionary in zone coverage and not wrap and drive as a tackler, but rather launch a shoulder at ball-carriers after stopping his feet, which led to eight missed tackles as well last season. Still, had you told me a guy with one of the all-time great athletic displays would go this late, I wouldn’t have believed it either.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ research team
I certainly didn’t want to go with the Steelers overall here, because after their first-round pick, I thought their next three selection were really good actually, bringing in a top-50 and another top-100 overall prospect for me at wide receiver in Georgia’s George Pickens and Memphis’ Calvin Austin III, and another guy in-between those, who was projected to be a top-ten pick by some a year ago, in Texas A&M defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal. I’m talking about one specific selection they made, with their 20th overall pick – Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Putting aside that I personally had him as my QB5 and my belief that if you really go into the tape rather than looking at the numbers, you end up with some serious concerns, which to me are less “fixable” than some of the other guys in this class, who weren’t ask to make full-field reads and stuff like that, I think we can all agree that next three guys who heard their names called are clearly more talented. The reality is that he’ll be competing in a division with Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow and now Deshaun Watson, who when available are all top-eight or so players at the position I believe. So philosophically I would disagree that he can be the solution to taking you through the AFC, which looks absolutely loaded. However, my big gripe – and I understand that nobody in the media saw this coming – they grabbed Pickett 54(!) spots before the next QB. If you’re this close to the rest of the league, there has to be some understanding of where the other teams stand on this group. And you have to question if your guy might have even been available a full round later.
For me it really comes down to this – if you had told me Tennessee wide receiver and return specialist Velus Jones Jr. (71st overall) and Baylor gadget player Trestan Ebner (203rd overall) were the only two offensive skill-position players the Bears added over draft weekend, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m a fan of both the guys they selected in the second round in Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon and Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker, which the latter one of those will actually show up in my “steals” category, but whether it would have been Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore, as more of run-after-catch specialist and a guy who’s not afraid to go over the middle of the field, or Georgia’s George Pickens, who can be a true X receiver and sideline maestro, there were guys selected shortly after. And even some names that were on the board on day three could have been upgrades over what they have there right now.
Now, they did go heavy on the offensive line on day three, but I personally see a couple of developmental tackles, who will get run through on passing downs if you put them out there year one, and two interior guys, who are rather limiter and better in the run game. I know Fields and Allen Robinson never really clicked last season, but you remove him, your two “big” additions are Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown and then the only two guys you add in this draft were outside the top-20 at the position in my personal and the consensus rankings, that’s pretty rough.
Steve Keim’s usage of first-round picks
Before we get into the way Arizona used their first-rounder this year, let’s just talk a quick trip down memory lane. Since Steve Keim took over as general manager in 2013 – and he’s been with the organization since 1999 as a regional scout – these are the selections they’ve made on day one of the draft: guard Jonathan Cooper who started 11 games for them, a role-playing linebacker in Deone Bucannon, at least an average starting left tackle in D.J. Humphries, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche who didn’t record a sack for them until his third and final year in Arizona, outside linebacker Haason Reddick who they decided not to pay once he finally had a productive fourth season, quarterback Josh Rosen, who they moved on from a year later for number one pick Kyler Murray who they can’t agree with on a contract and finally two inside linebackers in Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, who still weren’t able to out-snap veteran Jordan Hicks, who’s about to turn 30 and is now on the Vikings, after being released a couple of months ago.
Back to 2021, where on opening night they traded the 23rd overall pick for Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown and pick number 100. Considering he was the 25th selection three years ago, I’d say at best Hollywood has lived up to his draft status, having increased his production every season and just cracked the 1000-yard mark this past year. However, a large portion of the value draft picks present is their contract. Baltimore had three years of the receiver’s services for just over eight million dollars. With the Cardinals picking up his fifth-year option less than 24 hours after the trade, they are bound to pay him 13.4 million dollars in 2023 alone and Brown will ask for an extension well beyond that number probably, with how the market at the position looks like right now. So that makes no sense to me. And whether this was a move to appease his best friend in Kyler or a preliminary deal with the DeAndre Hopkins suspension looming, I don’t believe this is smart business.
Veteran running backs Chris Carson, Devin Singletary & Antonio Gibson
This is a fairly easy one to figure out. The first running back off the board in this draft was Iowa State’s Breece Hall going to the Jets at the top of the second round, but we saw Michael Carter Jr. have issues staying healthy as a rookie when New York tried to put him in a featured role. So I believe he will welcome a one-two punch situation like this, as he’s paired with a bigger, more physical back, similar to the guy he shared touches with at North Carolina in now-Bronco Javonte Williams. Five other players at the position were selected over the course of day two and you could mention their veterans here as well, but I thought there was plenty of competition in the 49ers backfield already and Leonard Fournette just signed a new three-year deal, with the majority of the money guaranteed. However, Singletary, Carson and Gibson are in trouble, I believe.
Five picks after Hall came off the board (41st overall), Seattle somewhat surprisingly picked Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III, who was a Heisman trophy candidate for a while last season, and impresses with his combination of explosion, ability to make any kind of cut necessary and break arm tackles. We don’t know the exact status of Carson, who missed almost all of last season with a neck injury and there are some people who believe he may never play again. Making this move for Walker is a sign of Carson potentially not getting onto the field a whole lot anyway, even if he comes back, and Rashaad Penny showed signs in the latter half of last season, who will be fighting for lead-duties himself.
Buffalo used the penultimate second-round pick on Georgia’s James Cook, who was one of the biggest home-run hitters and the most natural pass-catcher in this class. Singletary in correlation to public perception I believe is actually one of the more underrated backs in this draft and was a productive player for them down the stretch, but he doesn’t have that extra gear Cook has and we’ve seen that guy legitimately split out wide and run by people. So he makes perfect sense for an offense that doesn’t feature that position in terms of total touches, but you want all of them to matter.
And finally, Washington seemed to be pretty set with Gibson, J.D. McKissic being brought back and last year’s UDFA Jaret Patterson looked good when given an opportunity. So using a late day-two pick on Alabama’s Brian Robinson Jr. was kind of surprising. Gibson is a supremely talented player, but he hasn’t shown a ton of improvement in vision and technique, which leaves the door open for a complete three-down back like Robinson to steal snaps.
Justyn Ross & Carson Strong
There were four prospects in this draft, who I declined trying to include in my rankings, when I released my top-100 big board, because I just didn’t have enough information on their injuries and how they should affect their place. That included Michigan edge defender David Ojabo, who tore his Achilles at the Michigan pro day, but at least there’s a clear track record of how guys are able to come back from it and that’s why he still went in the middle of the second round, and LSU linebacker Damone Clark, who recently underwent spinal fusion surgery and that’s scary too, but at least was drafted late in the fifth round. The two guys who never got a call were Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross and Nevada quarterback Carson Strong.
Ross looked like a future first-round pick and is still probably in the nightmares of Nick Saban and those Alabama DBs with all the huge catches he made on third downs against them back in the national title game as a freshman. He has the ability to defeat press with footwork and power, he can run the full route-tree from the outside or the slot, he’s tough to bring down with the ball in his hands and he has an innate feel for how to position his body as the pass is in mid-flight to win in contested situation. Yet, the worries with him are real, having suffered a career-threatening neck injury back in 2020.
Strong on the other hand did not come into college football as highly regarded, being outside the top-2000 overall recruits back in 2018, but improved throughout his time with the Wolfpack. His doctors advised him to not play last season, but he did anyway and you see that he was basically throwing off one leg a lot of times, yet still threw bullets all over the field. Even without the injury, he can be a bit of a statue back there, but he showed great peripheral vision in that Air Raid-based offense and he has some throws on tape that arguably nobody else can consistently deliver in this class. Of course he’s already had three major knee surgery, for a condition, where cartilage detached from the bone, which is frightening.
Other questionable drafts:
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New York Giants (after day one)
There were some other players, who would probably qualify for this category, but I’ll focus on guys, who went several spots later than where I personally valued them.
I’m not going to mention Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. and Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean here, who were both top-15 prospects for me and ended up going 42nd by the Vikings and 83rd overall by the Eagles, based on extensive injury history. Purely based on tape, they would absolutely qualify as “steals”, but I just don’t have the medical information to really judge that.
Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State (26th overall to Jets)
There would have been some other potential choices here in the first round, but when I compare these guys to my personal rankings, the biggest discrepancy I saw to where I valued players was Johnson. He was my eighth overall prospect and I had him ahead of number one overall pick Travon Walker among edge defenders. His combination of explosiveness, power, length and ability to flatten to the quarterback gives him the potential to become a true alpha edge rusher, while he’s already an outstanding run defender. Like I said with the Jets being draft winners, he could have easily been their target at number four or ten. There were so many teams I was scratching my head over passing on Johnson, especially considering the value of this position and the tremendous pre-draft process he had.
Jaquan Brisker, SAF, Penn State (48th overall to Bears)
There were two secondary prospects I was considering here – Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr- going 42nd overall and Brisker coming off the board six spots later. I ultimately went with the latter, since there were legitimate concerns about Booth’s medical history and we didn’t see him do anything since the conclusion to the season, while Brisker had put together a high-level combine performance and he had reportedly fully recovered from his shoulder harness. The Penn State safety was my number two safety and 25th overall prospect. His ability to fly up the alley in the run game, his awareness in coverage and energy he brings to the table all made me a big fan of his. When I did my final mock draft and added picks for all the teams without a first-round pick, I had the Bears selecting Georgia’s Lewis Cine, because I thought he was a perfectly complement to what they have in Eddie Jackson, but Brisker fits very well in a two-high safety-based defense, even if he not be best suited rolling into the deep middle frequently.
Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming (70th overall to Jaguars)
If you had me – and probably the Jaguars themselves for that matter – that they could grab Muma early in the third round instead of trading up late into the first for Utah’s Devin Lloyd, there would have been no question about which move they’d rather make. That’s why it’s somewhat of a curious decision as to why they got both, when they already gave a big contract to Foyesade Oluokun in free agency, but I think they can incorporate all three into their defense and the value here was simply too good. I had Muma as my clear-cut number three linebacker, behind only Lloyd and Georgia’s Nakobe Dean, who obviously fell to the third round himself due to medical concerns. I love his ability to move in space and chase after the ball, which is why he was number 34 on my big board – yet he waited twice as long to hear his name called.
Bernard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan (77th overall to Colts)
This is one I still can’t really figure out and there hasn’t been any additional information out there. Raimann was my number four offensive tackle, slightly ahead of Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning, who went 19th overall to the Saints, and he was frequently mocked at the end of the first round. I get that he will turn 25 at the start of the season and he only has two years of experience even playing on the offensive line, but I’d rather bank on the massive growth he’s already shown than some of the technical issues I see with Penning or for that matter also Tyler Smith, who went 24th overall to the Cowboys and will remain a penalty machine if he stays out at tackle, with how erratic he is in his pass-sets. Raimann didn’t have a great Senior Bowl week, trying to work in jump-sets so to speak and actively cutting off the path of edge rushers, rather than trusting his technique, which is already pretty good for his limited experience at the position.
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (86th overall to Titans) & Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss (94th overall to Panthers)
I had to group these two guys together, because I wanted to talk about both. Willis and Corral were my two top-ranked quarterbacks, who I had 19th and 31st on my big board, and I’m still shocked that neither one of these guys – or another quarterback for that matter – was picked in the second round. Looking back at my mock draft, projecting to trade up into the top-ten for Willis now seems crazy, but they were consistently linked to each other throughout the process and I still believe that he’s as good a prospect as some of the other guys drafted in the first round in recent years, outside of last year’s special class. His ability to fire absolute lasers, extend plays and punish defenses with his legs gives him immense potential. Corral on the other hand doesn’t quite have the same talent level, but he has the quickest feet and release in this draft, he doesn’t panic under pressure and rapidly finds new platforms to release the ball from. He actually has a better chance of starting as a rookie for the Panthers than Willis, whose landing spot I already discussed, but both I believe could turn into franchise QBs if they get time to learn real NFL dropback systems.
Perrion Winfrey, IDL, Oklahoma (108th overall to Browns)
Another surprising “faller” in this draft, based on what the NFL has told us that they value, is this Oklahoma D-tackle. Winfrey was a top-50 overall prospect for me and I was very surprised he made it all the way to day three. I believed with the elite athletic profile, with an absurd 85-inch wingspan and running a 4.89 at nearly 300 pounds, combined with the way he lit up the field throughout Senior Bowl week, that’s about where the NFL would select him as well. There were some reports late about a lack of worth ethic and stuff like that, but Winfrey actually posted a video of him just after he was drafted, where he seemed pissed and ready to go to work. So Cleveland may have been in bigger need of a run-stopping A-gap defender, but Winfrey could become a disruptive force for them, if he’s actually allowed to get upfield, rather than all the gap-exchange stuff he was tasked with by the Sooners.
Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M (123rd overall to Chargers) & Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati (156th overall to Browns)
And since we talked about two quarterbacks together, once again I’m going to package two guys together here, since they were drafted fairly closely together. Spiller was my number three running back, who I valued as an early second-round pick, because to me he’s the complete package, in terms of being able to manipulate second-level defenders and string together moves, the ability to catch passes that are slightly off target and stone-wall blitzers in the hole. The only thing he’s missing is long-speed, and I think he’ll be a perfect complement to a smaller Austin Ekeler and now they can even put both guys on the field. So getting him in the middle of the fourth round is excellent.
Ford on the other hand went basically a full round later and I had him three spots lower in my positional rankings (with Georgia’s James Cook and Florida’s Dameon Pierce in-between those). However, I still had him as my 70th overall prospect and I love a lot of what he brings to the table. He impressed me with rapid movement navigate through traffic, the way he runs with his pads out in front and the home-run speed, with multiple 75-yard touchdowns to his name last season. His path to playing time is far less clear, considering the Browns have Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt under contract, but I believe if either gets banged up again, he’ll fill in great as their RB2.
If the NFL simply doesn’t value the position, okay. Yet, if there are seven guys going on day two and these guys are the ninth and 14th names off the board, I disagree.
Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State (148th overall to Bills)
The rich only got richer, when Buffalo saw this guy on the board early in the fifth round and probably couldn’t believe it, after they hadn’t been on the clock for about 60 picks. Shakir was my 13th-ranked wide receiver and 87th overall prospect. To me he has a lot of Keenan Allen qualities, in terms of being able to set up defenders as a route-runner with unorthodox step-sequencing and changing up of his gears, while being able to work into open space against zone, showing toughness in crowded areas and somehow being a step faster once the ball is in his hands. So for him to see 20(!) other wide receivers come off the board is pretty crazy. Still, now going to the current Super Bowl favorite in the Bills, who have Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and a couple of slot options, he may not see a heavy target share right away, but I believe he’ll get onto the field and could prove to be a key piece for Josh Allen later in the season.
Matthew Butler, IDL, Tennessee (175th overall to Raiders)
First and foremost, this was one of the worst interior defensive line classes we had seen in a long time. There were only seven guys at the position, who found their names on consensus top-100 boards before the draft started and even if you count Houston’s Logan Hall and Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal as part of that group – as many had them listed as edge defenders – only six guys ended up going over the first two days combined. Still, I personally saw Butler as one of those guys worthy of going there. Looking at my big board, I had him listed 85th overall, but it took 90(!) more picks for him to learn that he’ll come to Las Vegas. He has good size at 300 pounds, but has the explosiveness to penetrate as a three-technique, with violent hands and the capability to string together moves as a pass-rusher, which is how he was wrecking shop at East-West Shrine practices.
Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State (249th overall to Packers)
This is one that I still don’t get at all and once again, I haven’t heard anything from a medical or personal perspective that would concern me. I had Walker as my number nine offensive tackle and he just sneaked into my top-100. His tape is certainly pretty up-and-down I’d say, with some stuff that he has to work on, in terms of weight distribution and overall technique, particularly as a pass-protector. However, there’s a lot to like here as well. Walker comes off the ball aggressively, forklifts defensive linemen and can blow open some big holes, while being light on his feet in pass-pro for his size and heavy with his hands, being able punch and anchor down against power rushers. I don’t look at him as a day-one starter, but I think he can absolutely be a starter in this league. So for over 20(!) tackles to come off the board before him is mind-boggling to me.
Other value picks:
Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa (25th overall to Ravens)
Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan (54th overall to Chiefs)
Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC (61st overall to 49ers)
Travis Jones, IDL, UConn (76th overall to Ravens)
Dylan Parham, IOL, Memphis (90th overall to Raiders)
Sean Rhyan, OT/IOL, UCLA (92nd overall to Packers)
Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati (100th overall to Cardinals)
Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State (101st overall to Jets)
Dameon Pierce, RB, Florida (107th overall to Texans)
Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota (110th overall to Ravens)
Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA (153rd overall to Seahawks)
Eric Johnson, IDL, Missouri State (159th overall to Colts)
Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame (164th overall to Rams)
Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati (182nd overall to Giants) & Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Oklahoma State (188th overall to Lions)
Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri (196th overall to Ravens)
Quentin Lake, SAF, UCLA (211th overall to Rams)
Lecitus Smith, IOL, Virginia Tech (215th overall to Cardinals)
Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, Penn State (221st overall to 49ers) & Jaylen Watson, CB, Washington State (243rd overall to Chiefs)
Bo Melton, WR, Rutgers (229th overall to Seahawks)
Marquis Hayes, IOL, Oklahoma (257th overall to Cardinals)
These are certainly no bad players, but just guys who I had significantly lower on my personal rankings. I didn’t include any picks beyond the fourth round here (I have a few among the other mentions), because from that point on it’s just so much about scheme fit and just taking gambles on talented athletes, while special teams value may play a big part as well.
Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia (1st overall to Jaguars)
There, I said it. In no way would I have made Walker the first name to hear his name called on Thursday night. You can read up my full scouting report on him and the whole edge class right here. And I’m certainly not one of these people, who just looks at numbers, whether it’s his six sacks or his pass-rush win rate of 10.8%, which is about half of Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and even less compared to Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, who were my top two edge defenders, plus I actually also had Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson well above Walker, who was my EDGE4. I understand the assignments of the Georgia defense, where they flushed quarterbacks into their linebackers and asked those guys to clean up constantly, with very few true pass-rush reps for their D-line. However, my counter argument is this – is that the role a number one overall pick will play in the NFL? He has ridiculous athletic potential and he’s already close to an elite run defender, but even when he was allowed to just go, I didn’t see the ability to attack half the man, set up his rush moves or find any reliable counters. He could get absolutely get there, but to me that’s not enough if you want him to be THAT guy.
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh (20th overall to Steelers)
I already mentioned this in the “losers” segment. The fact that there were 54 spots between Pickett and the next-closest quarterback tells you that this was early for him, even if you had him as your clear-cut number one at the position. At least they didn’t trade up for him and you never know how the board shakes out, but at worst they should have been able to get the Chiefs deal, who traded up to the pick right behind them at 21st overall, where the Patriots acquired a third- and fourth-round pick and still gotten your guy, since the Titans were the only potential threat to take him – and they were never linked to Pickett. That’s without even getting too far into my personal evaluations, where you’ll have to guy all the way down to number five, to get to him. On the surface, Pickett plays the position the way you want it to look like and he’s shown improvement throughout his career, but his game completely breaks down when he sees color flash up the middle and in high-leverage moment, while he’s about to already turn 24 years old in a month. Here’s my full breakdown.
Quay Walker, LB, Georgia (22nd overall to Packers)
As we got closer and closer to Thursday, if you just track his betting lines, Walker went from like a three-to-one chance to be selected in the first round to basically a lock at -500 odds. I actually bought that one, because the NFL loves long, physical linebacker in the mold of this guy and there’s plenty of redeeming qualities – the force to set the point of the attack, the speed to chase from the backside, his closing burst as a blitzer and once he ran that 4.52 in the 40, I know he’d go a lot higher than where I’ll value him. Yet, I had as a fringe-top ten prospect at the position, because I never thought he read his keys in the run game particularly well, he was routinely subbed off on third downs for a looser athlete in Channing Tindall and even as a blitzer, too often he would just bang into blockers straight-on. They could have just taken Devin Lloyd from Utah, who went five picks later, or taken a similar player later, considering there were 36 spots between him and the next-closest LB not named Lloyd.
Cole Strange, IOL, UT-Chattanooga (29th overall to Patriots)
This is the obvious choice here, that everybody was killing, so I don’t want to go on too long about, because I already talked about the Pats’ draft strategy, but Strange has to be mentioned here. In terms of difference between position on my big board and actual draft slot, Strange and Walker were pretty much the exact same, but at least there was major buzz around the Georgia linebacker and I don’t think he would have made it out of the first round. Similar to linebacker, this was one of the deepest interior O-line classes in recent memory, and to me this is just not the area you take what will be a 24-year-old rookie at a low-value position, if he’s so much further down on the consensus board. I even said he was one of the biggest Senior Bowl standouts, but he was so much smaller than those Power-Five guys and I’m not sure much more he can add to that frame.
Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky (43rd overall to Giants)
Robinson is a really fun player. He’s one of the most dynamic open-field players in this class, with the ability to change up gears in the open field to keep defenders guessing and great balance, to bounce off hits, which is why he actually lined up in the backfield for Nebraska before going to Kentucky, where he still was used as a gadget. However, therein lies the issues for me – he’s a guy you draw plays up for, rather than somebody who can produce as a classic receiver, and he doesn’t nearly have the size of somebody like Deebo Samuel, who you picture in that type of role. He’s actually just 5’8”, 180 pounds soaking wet and measured in with the shortest arms in NFL combine history at just 27 5/8 inches. That lack of length shows up when he has to dive for balls instead of run through the catch and he doesn’t leap in a way that maximizes his height. So with the way he telegraphs some routes, at this point he’s more of a YAC specialist, like what they already have in last year’s first-round pick Kadarius Toney. So if they reached for a player slightly outside my top-100 just to replace him , which they probably will get a worse pick for than this one, I wouldn’t love that.
Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor (50th overall to Patriots)
Continuing with the theme of wide receivers, the Patriots in my opinion did something similar in terms of selecting a player with a pretty defined skill-set. With his blazing 4.28 speed, he can take a slant 75 yards to the house and if he had competent quarterback play, at least in terms of pushing the ball down the field, he could have had a lot more big plays on tape even. I like the way he addresses the football and he takes his blocking duties seriously. With that being said, there are also a lot of questions, whether it’s the fact he basically only ran four routes at Baylor, if he brings any value in contested situations with his below-eight inch hands or if he can bring anything after the catch, if he can’t just flat out run away from the defense, manifesting itself in an average of just 3.1 yards after the grab last season. You combine that with his spindly frame and that bad tendency of stepping backwards with his outside foot and you have to me a candidate for late day two/early day three range, rather than the 50th pick, when Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore went four picks later and considering how deep this WR class was.
Joshua Ezeudu, OT/IOL, North Carolina (67th overall to Giants)
This was so off-the-radar for me to see Ezeudu go as the third pick in round three, that I actually went back to the tape and I have to see that I ranked the UNC offensive lineman to low. I believe he has tackle-guard flexibility, he has excellent dexterity in his lower half to execute reach-/scoop-blocks, frames his rushers very well and has impressive ability to recover. However, this is still certainly to early for me. I still don’t believe he has a lot of pop in his hands and you see him lean too far over his toes in the process as a run-blocker, while he has to work on kicking his feet back and finding a way to re-anchor when he gets too tall. Considering five O-linemen I had graded higher went within the ensuing 25 picks and the other UNC tackle, who right now is a better player, even though his ceiling is lower, this is too rich for my blood.
Alex Wright, EDGE, UAB (78th overall to Browns)
If you go Pro Football Focus and some other outlets, you’ll probably hear that Wright could end up being the guy across from Myles Garrett, who they’ve been trying to find for a while now. I just never saw it with him. Let’s not sugarcoat this – Wright was my 19th-ranked edge defender in this class, yet he was the 11th off the board. If I expanded my big board, he would have probably come in about 100 spots lower than this. And I get some of the intrigue for a guy at 6’5” with a massive 83-inch wingspan, who was one of the top-ten guys at his position in terms of pressure production last season. When I watched his tape though, I thought his first step wasn’t anything to write home about, there’s some tightness in his hips to clear blockers and he doesn’t really rush with a plan yet. Plus, he displayed poor contain responsibility. So I understand that he possesses some tools you want to work with, but considering their next pick was also a kicker, I’m not sure how much of an impact those guys really make year one for one of the better rosters in the league.
Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State (91st overall to Buccaneers)
Similar to the guy I just talked about, I just never really bought into White, when I evaluated the running back class. And I understand that I’m more so into the minority when it comes to this guy, but people were constantly referring to him as a sleeper, which is a top-100 pick at the position in this climate, I can’t really judge you as that. There are several redeeming qualities with the player – he has good size, tremendous start-stop quickness, keeps open-field defenders off balance with head- and foot-fakes and he brings an intriguing skill-set as a receiver, with natural hands and good feel for bodies around him. However, you rarely see him run up to his size, accelerating into contact and dropping his pads into contact, routinely trying to spin off guys, and he doesn’t yet use his arms to actually deliver strikes as a pass-protector. Full transparency – he was my RB18 and he was fourth one off the board – ahead of guys like Dameon Pierce, Isaiah Spiller and Jerome Ford, who I all had in top-six for the position. There were guys who went undrafted, that I personally liked better.
Dane Belton, SAF, Iowa (112th overall to Giants)
I get the intrigue with Belton – he’s only going to turn 22 years old at the end of his rookie campaign and when you look at his spider chart, it’s basically an oval that gets out to the 70-80th percentile in the jumps and 40-yard dash (4.43), while the rest of the athletic testing and physical dimensions are in the 40-50th percentile. He’s a physical player, who spent most of his time in the slot, but was also asked to slide inside with tight-ends and even fill the B-gap when teams put trips into the boundary. He’s got good speed and can stop his momentum well to redirect, along with soft hands to finish interceptions (five in 2021). However, I just didn’t see him be deployed in any deep coverage (only 6% of snaps last season) and they had also just drafted LSU’s Cordale Flott, who to me is a pure nickel himself. There were guys who I liked better at safety altogether and I don’t really get where that duo fits, unless they think Flott can line up outside.
Other questionable picks:
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State (16th overall to Commanders)
Tyler Smith, OT/IOL, Tulsa (24th overall to Cowboys)
Velus Jones Jr., WR, Tennessee (71st overall to Bears)
Cordale Flott, CB, LSU (81st overall to Giants)
Ty Davis-Price, RB, LSU (93rd overall to 49ers)
Cade York, K, LSU (124th overall to Browns)
Jake Camarda, P, Georgia (133rd overall to Buccaneers)
Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky (137th overall to Patriots)
Delarrin Turner-Yell, SAF, Oklahoma (152nd overall to Broncos)
Teagan Quitoriano, TE, Oregon State (170th overall to Texans)