Damar Hamlin Injury: Just Another Day at the Office

Teammates of Damar Hamlin stand by, shocked, outside his ambulance.

Courtesy: Jeff Dean/AP

The events of Monday, January 2, 2022 were unlike any other on the football calendar. It was supposed to be a grand celebration of football on the day after New Year’s. The Rose Bowl was supposed to lead into a crucial Monday Night Football game with the Buffalo Bills taking on the Cincinnati Bengals.

Instead, it saw the greatest tragedy in the sport in 50 years. Early in the game, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin made a routine tackle on Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. This tackle was no different than the one most players make every Sunday. He stood up, then fell right back down, lifeless.

Now, he’s in the hospital fighting for his life.

Not that it matters compared to the life of a human being, but the sport has entered into an existential crisis with Hamlin’s sudden collapse. Several events this past season have raised questions about how safe players really are on the field.

Granted, Hamlin’s injury was a freak accident, the kind of thing that happens every blue moon to any athlete who plays a sport. Reminders of Hank Gathers, the Loyola Marymount basketball star who collapsed and died on the court in similar fashion, would not be lost on the viewer.

Yet, player safety has taken a backseat to the shield’s image perception. What happened to Damar Hamlin, is, in the eyes of the NFL, just another day at the office.

Football is a fundamentally dangerous sport

It is obvious to anyone who considers the matter, but this sport is dangerous, and carries with it the risk of death. An average of 12.2 young men per year die in football-related injuries. Yet, parents still choose to let their children play this remarkably violent game.

It’s something that the viewer inherently understands, and why parents are so hesitant for their children to play it.

When it comes to the NFL, though, the matter is different. We all watch every Sunday, knowing the risks of CTE that each man on that field is waiting on to catch him later in life. Of course, this is not to harangue anyone for watching. I do it, you probably do it, everyone else does it. It isn’t the most popular sport in the country for no reason.

Even with the danger, though, we know we can’t do anything about it, and deep down, there’s a part of us that enjoys the danger. It’s the same allure that the Romans no doubt had when they watched gladiatorial games in the Coliseum. The danger is what gives the game its lifeblood, its je ne sais quoi that elevates it from simple sport to titanic battle between titanic people.

But, death? Death is something football fans rarely consider. Sure, it’s in the back of one’s mind, in the same way that crashing your car and dying is always in the back of your head while driving.

The NFL screwed up

For the NFL, though, thinking like this is a failure on their part. Because they pass the buck to players when they get later on in their lives, the idea of death as a construct never once comes into the NFL’s mind. After all, it’s been the most popular sport for 60+ years now, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue.

Yet, if the NFL is going to die, last night is an example of how.

While the medical staff did everything correctly, the NFL’s decision-making afterwards did not. They wanted to start the game up again, giving each team just five minutes to warm up.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor walked over to Bills coach Sean McDermott and agreed to send both their teams back to the locker room. That eventually ended the night, and the game for the time being.

The NFL expected these players – who had just watched their teammate possibly die on the field – to play. Later on, tweets came in saying that there was no discussion at all to put the players back out there, but clock operators and PA announcers all announced the five minute warning.

While one cannot say who exactly made the call, the message was clear: get back out there and put your time in the office, no matter what.

Other incidents this season show the NFL’s disregard towards player safety. Tua Tagovailoa’s saga back in September and October showed how little the NFL cares about player safety.

He suffered a massive concussion against the Bills, but somehow managed to return against the Bengals before being carted off in that game after another hit. In response, the NFL changed their concussion protocol some, but that didn’t stop yet another concussion from flying under their radar.

Damar Hamlin deserved better

Damar Hamlin was just a football player living a dream.

That’s what everyone in the NFL that plays the game is: an individual who is very lucky to do what they do. But, sometimes we forget that these are humans who play a very violent sport. Sometimes, that leads to violent consequences.

Yet, the overseers of the NFL give the players nothing but a lack of safety. Even worse, they don’t have any malice or feeling towards it. It’s just “let’s wipe off the blood and get back out there” forever.

One thing is for sure — football will be played after Hamlin’s cardiac arrest. Whether it’ll be changed for the better is cause for less optimism.

For the NFL, it was just another day at the office.

The Chicago Bears Rebuild is Sabotaging Justin Fields

Justin Fields staring, like he's seen the plans for the Chicago Bears rebuild
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

In the modern NFL, the plan is to build around a quarterback under his rookie contract, then figure out the rest later. The Chicago Bears rebuild, on the other hand, seems to be one where they’re playing checkers with chess pieces.

While team construction can take many paths, the one Chicago has taken makes no sense. Instead of taking their young quarterback and nurturing him, the Bears are making Justin Fields play out his career on hard mode.

Ah, you say Chicago’s offensive line was the worst in the NFL, and that Fields needs interior protection? Fear not, for the Bears have drafted tackles high up, and taken two developmental guard prospects in the later rounds of this year’s NFL draft

Fields needs a receiver room that can bail him out and make plays downfield, then. Of course, the Bears have had all their receivers leave except for Darnell Mooney, and have drafted a college WR2 as their top receiver pick.

But, what about giving Justin Fields an offensive head coach? Oh, they hired Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus? Darn.

In many ways, this team is worse off than they were last year.

The offensive line (still) does not exist

Bears quarterbacks in 2021 were sacked on 9.7 percent of their dropbacks, which was the worst in the league. Anyone who watched a Bears game last year will tell you that Justin Fields had no room to throw, and was often scrambling for his life.

The best lineman on the entire roster was James Daniels, who has had to play musical chairs with his position. Joining him as the team’s best lineman was Jason Peters. Sure, he’ll be in the Hall of Fame, but even the Bears didn’t see fit to bring back a 40-year-old tackle for 2022.

It goes downhill from there, though. Cody Whitehair’s 66.2 PFF grade is a highlight. Teven Jenkins – who had a PFF grade of 47.5 last season – may be starting for this year in 2022.

Jenkins position has come about due to the departures on the line of scrimmage. Daniels is now a Steeler, while Germain Ifedi and Elijah Wilkinson left for Atlanta.

The Bears have attempted to bolster their interior, somewhat. Signing Lucas Patrick from Green Bay should help, but Patrick only posted a 57.2 PFF grade in 2021.

But, in the draft, they focused on grabbing tackles and developmental prospects. Their first offensive line pick was not until the fifth round, where they grabbed tackle Braxton Jones from Southern Utah. They didn’t grab an interior line prospect until the sixth round, which boggles the mind.

The 2022 line still has at least one starting position open, if not two. At left tackle and at guard, the starter has yet to be determined. It is wonderous, however, that this line has ended up worse than last year’s, especially at a time critical to Justin Fields’ development.

What receivers?

As bad as the offensive line situation is, the wide receiver room is worse.

Darnell Mooney is still with the Bears, but that’s about all one can say. Allen Robinson has gone off to be with the Rams. Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin have left for Atlanta and Seattle, respectively. Return specialist Jakeem Grant has left for Cleveland.

With what little talent there was now out the door, Chicago needed receivers bad. Unfortunately, despite having the fifth most cap space in the NFL, they were only able to sign Byron Pringle from Kansas City, as well as Equanimeous St. Brown from Green Bay. Pringle should make a solid addition, but St. Brown had less than 100 yards receiving last year for Green Bay.

As bad as free agency was for the Bears, the draft ended up being worse. They only grabbed one receiver; Velus Jones Jr. out of Tennessee. Jones, however, was not even the top receiver for the Vols, and is also coming into the NFL as a 25-year-old rookie.

The only real bright spot is that Cole Kmet is a solid checkdown target at tight end, but that’s about it. Mostly, though, the receiver situation is barren.

2022’s receiving corps looks like it’ll be Brown, followed by Pringle, with St. Brown and Jones Jr. being targets in the slot. That’s a very bad situation to be in, especially for a second-year quarterback who is already far too antsy to run out of the pocket.

Hiring Matt Eberflus is also a huge question mark

It is a truism that all teams will hire the exact opposite guy that they just fired.

For the Bears, it was no different. Matt Nagy came in with experience as an offensive guy. When Nagy was fired, Chicago hired Matt Eberflus, who was the Colts defensive coordinator.

Eberflus is considered to be a good player manager, but his hiring is becoming a big problem for Justin Fields already, given his focus on defense. In an NFL confidential article for The Athletic, one evaluator stated “they want to get back to old-school Chicago football where they play great defense and good-enough offense.” Although that evaluator would say he was okay with their rebuild, it’s hard to argue that Fields development isn’t going to be hampered by it.

Indeed, if the coach is favoring his side of the ball more in hopes of a long-term rebuild, then that coach will be in for a rude awakening. We are living in a post-defense-wins-championships world. Any team that deviates from going offense-first is going to find themselves lagging behind real fast.

Justin Fields already suffers from mechanical issues that hamper his game. How is he supposed to work on those when the entire plan is to rely on his scrambling ability?

All these problems sum up to a Chicago Bears rebuild gone awry, and it’s too bad for Fields that he has to languish on this team.

A Newbie’s Guide to Playing Fantasy Football

Fantasy football can be enigmatic, even to players who have been doing it for a few years. Playing fantasy football well does take skill, but a lot of success is just pure luck. The NFL only has 17 games a season, compared with 82 for the NBA or NHL, and 162 for MLB. Because of that, fantasy football is subject to more severe year-to-year deviations.

Yet, within those seemingly random deviations, one can figure out patterns that emerge. While these tips won’t help new players dominate right away, they will be able to keep their heads above water against more experienced players.

It is also important to note that these are guidelines. A player that is good enough will be someone a player can buck the trend with. For now, though, a new player should memorize these five concepts.

No QBs in the first round

New players come into fantasy football thinking that if quarterbacks score the most fantasy points, why aren’t they the first to go off the board?

Of course, the answer to that question is simple, but not intuitive for the beginner. Quarterbacks do score the most fantasy points, but they’re a better value later on in the draft. After the top five or so, quarterbacks score about the same amount of points all the way down to 25th. In other words, you can have someone like Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo and score decently.

Other positions, like running back, are hard to come by. After the top five backs, the talent level drops off significantly. This increases the importance of getting a top-tier back early on. Hence, running backs are a better target than quarterbacks or receivers in the first couple of rounds.

There are exceptions, though, as Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen may be worth a first-round pick, especially in leagues that have 14 teams or more.

No QBs that are 35 or older

Older players in general are a gamble. Even though they’re a known quantity, the quality of play they offer can drop off at any time. Worse off, a player’s quality will drop off much faster the older a player is.

Picking a quarterback aged 35 or older is a slot machine to avoid. Even with players like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, talent could fall off very quickly and without warning. Stick to QBs that haven’t gotten that old, yet.

An example of this is Peyton Manning’s twilight years. In 2014, Peyton Manning was QB4 and showed only modest signs of decline. By 2015, though, Manning had fallen off the face of the Earth. His arm and neck had given in, and he would have to be relieved by Brock Osweiller. This led to him going from QB4 to QB34.

The reason why this happens is easy to understand. Schematically, a coach will plan around his player’s weaknesses. At first, this looks like a subtle game plan change. Yet, as arm strength and touch continue to fade, the coach cannot run the same plays or offense anymore. This puts a team at a crossroads; either play like the older QB is used to and risk him losing the game, or play differently.

Most coaches will dance with the one that brought them, though.

Grab the youngest back possible early on

Running backs fall off very, very quickly. By their late 20s, most backs are washed, and picking them up is a recipe for disaster. PFF recommends that dynasty fantasy football players trade any back over the age of 25. The position is brutal on a back’s body, and moderating their touches must be done the older they get.

Hence, go with the youngest back possible who can still be a quality starter, and do it early. It seems odd to pick a rookie or a second-year player, given they haven’t proven themselves yet. But, running backs are fairly easy to project even before they play a down.

For example, Saquon Barkley is a perfect case study, as it was obvious he was going to be special. As a rookie in 2018, he ran for over 1,300 yards and got into the end zone 11 times. By 2021, though, he ran for only 593 yards and two touchdowns. Players who drafted Barkley in 2018 came out much better than players who drafted him in 2021. At 25, his peak looks to already be well past.

If one can find a back that is projected high and is under 25, that is the best course of action. Avoid picking anyone over 27, though, like the plague.

Kickers can be worth a 10th or 11th round selection

Nerds would call the kicker position a market inefficiency. Kickers are often overlooked in fantasy football, as it isn’t the sexiest position, and they can be erratic from week to week.

However, a top-five kicker is worth a high-end double-digit round draft slot. In 2021, the top five kickers averaged 9.7 fantasy points per contest. That point total is equivalent to the 25th ranked running back, or a top 15 receiver. This is also a guaranteed starting position, too, so it will deliver production nearly every week.

Kickers are also age-resistant, so don’t feel hesitant to draft 37-year-old Nick Folk with an 11th or 12 round pick, if you can.

Do not pick anyone with any consistent injury history. Ever.

This is arguably the most important thing to learn.

Injuries are common in football. When we talk about injury history, we aren’t talking about the minor bruises and sprains that a player can play with. Instead, if a player has any sort of injury history that has kept him off the field more than one time, pass on him. Even if that player is Christian McCaffery, taking him is going to open a novice up to the variance that can demolish new players.

But, players should also give lesser priority to players that have been hurt seriously just one time. These players don’t have to be avoided outright, but avoiding them if possible is a prudent decision.

While these tips are not going to help a newbie win their fantasy league in year one, they are useful pitfalls to avoid early on. Ultimately, these tips can help someone playing fantasy football gain skills in it for the future, and be a building block to winning something down the road.

Handing Out the Tennessee Titans 2022 Draft Grade

Top Image: Former Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks in uniform with the football
Photo Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Handing out the Tennessee Titans 2022 NFL draft grade – or any team’s, really – is a futile prospect this soon in the game. Careers have yet to be played, and we don’t even know how these prospects are going to fit into their current systems. As always, then, handing out draft grades this early in the game is a vanity project.

But, there’s a certain charm in grading a team’s gets immediately after a draft. While careers are unknown, it’s easy to form educated guesses about which direction they’ll take. Those guesses won’t always be right, but they will be good enough to form early judgments.

The Titans had one of the more interesting drafts. While commentators thought they’d draft Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green in the first, they did something far more bold — and foolish.

Titans select Treylon Burks with the 18th pick

Did the Titans select a younger, cheaper version of A.J. Brown? Probably not. But, they weren’t going to pay A.J. Brown the money he thought he could get from another team. So, they traded him to Philadelphia, who immediately gave him $100 million over the next four years.

Compare that with the Titans, who were only going to commit $16 million a year for Brown’s services. Christian Kirk may well have caused the biggest player realignment in living memory, and the Brown trade is fallout from that.

Enter Treylon Burks, who was selected with the 18th overall pick. Burks is a big receiver, weighing in at 225 pounds. The speed he shows in the open field is decent, and he was able to get separation against college defensive backs. What really stands out, however, is his hand strength, which allows him to go up and grab whatever ball he wants.

Those skills propelled him to 11th on my own big board. He’ll be a top NFL receiver, but won’t have quite the same speed or explosiveness that Brown has.

As well as the 18th pick, the Titans also got a third round pick at 101st overall, which was then flipped to the Jets.

Grade: D+

There’s no sugarcoating this; the Titans got worse in the first round of the draft. Burks is a wonderful prospect, but arrives in Nashville as an unproven WR2.

Then, the Titans ship out their 26th pick to the Jets

This was actually prudent. After getting their guy in the first round, the Titans were able to move back to 35th overall in the second round. As well as the 35th pick, they got the 69th pick, and the 163rd pick. The Jets got the 26th pick and the 101st pick.

Grade: B

Not spectacular, but good enough for them to get a position of need.

In the second round, the Titans selected Roger McCreary

Jackrabbit Jenkins became a cap casualty, and was cut after just one year with the team. Kristian Fulton was solid last year at corner, while 2021 first rounder Caleb Farley hopes to find the field this year. With only one proven corner, the Titans needed depth.

They got said depth with Roger McCreary. Although McCreary is a 5-foot-11 corner who played mostly in a cover-three scheme at Auburn, he’s got some good tools. His ability to keep strong against bigger opponents will be a plus in the NFL. When he did have the chance to play man-up on someone, he never let receivers get much separation from him.

Grade: C

It’s a perfectly fine selection, and gives you another guy you can spot start if need be. Yet, McCreary is unlikely to be a standout or steal, even if some mocks did have him as a first rounder coming into the draft.

He’s no little brother: Petit-Frere goes 69th overall

The Titans must know they drafted a lemon in 2021.

Coming into 2021, Dillon Radunz was drafted out of corn-fed power North Dakota State, and the Titans hoped he would be a starter. But, 2021 didn’t play out that way for Radunz. The tackle only appeared on offense in six out of 17 contests, and didn’t impress very much when he did get offensive snaps.

With Nicholas Petit-Frere, the Titans hope they’ve solved their right tackle issues.

Petit-Frere is a prototypical tackle at first glance. At 6-foot-5, and weighing 316 pounds, he moves very well. He has great lateral quickness and agility, and can reach block effectively. That skill especially will serve him well with the Titans’ stretch zone run they like to run, which requires a tackle to execute that block consistently.

There are holes in his game, namely how deep he sets up in pass protection. But, he would have been a 2023 first rounder had he stayed, and the Titans can afford to see out his development.

Grade: A-

Tennessee gets a tackle who can start right away for them, but also gets the benefit of a high-upside developmental prospect.

The next episode: Malik Willis is a Titan

In the biggest move for the franchise’s direction in this draft, the Titans traded up to get Malik Willis.

Ryan Tannehill will be 34 at the start of the 2022 season. With his age and a relatively streaky 2021 season playing against him, the Titans needed new blood. Tannehill will still be the starter for this season, but Willis will sit behind him and develop as his heir apparent at quarterback.

Willis was projected as a first round pick before the draft. His precipitous drop into the third round speaks more to reality, but he’s still an impressive quarterback prospect. The zip he puts on the ball is unlike anyone else in this class. Most notable though, is his running ability, which is absurd. He is unbelievable in the open field with the football, and is stout enough to take hits.

So what did NFL teams see, then, to cause his drop? His processing under pressure is not always the greatest. He can make basic passing reads, but Liberty’s simplistic offense under Hugh Freeze hurt his ability to learn more advanced passing concepts.

Grade: A

What’s not to like? The Titans are in a win-win situation with Malik Willis. Either he develops well and they got a bargain, or he isn’t the guy, and the Titans only invested a third round pick in him.

Michigan back Hassan Haskins gets drafted at 131st overall

Derrick Henry going down for the Titans last year showed the weakness of the Titans’ offense. With the team acting as an 11-man battering ram, the hope is that Henry’s size and volume will wear down the defensive front seven. The Halloween injury to Henry made the Titans use dollar store versions of Derrick Henry, though. That only got them so far, and they nearly blew the top overall seed because of a sterile, impotent offense.

Hassan Haskins is not Derrick Henry. But, what he showed at Michigan proves he could be a good backup for him. The former Wolverine is massive, coming in at 6-foot-2 and weighing 228 pounds. While not the quickest guy, he has a little open field ability that should be tested out this off-season.

Grade: C+

It isn’t an impressive pick, or even really at a position of need. But, it’s an insurance pick, and that’s perfectly suitable for a day three guy.

Maryland tight end Chig Okonkwo gets drafted at 141st overall

A staple of the Titans franchise is a good pass-catching, do-it-all tight end. In an offense where two tight ends are needed, the Titans didn’t have many options after Jonnu Smith left.

Chig Okonkwo, though, is an underrated prospect. He’ll be on the field early and often for the Titans, thanks to his good combination of size and athletic ability. This former Terrapin may blossom in a Titans offense that needs downfield options for Tannehill at tight end.

Grade: B

With their third fifth-round pick, the Titans grabbed receiver Kyle Philips out of UCLA

Receiver depth is looking dire for the Titans in 2022, and Kyle Philips will have a chance to compete for the fourth wide receiver slot right away. While Philips isn’t ever going to be a starter or even a WR3, it’s a fine pick.

Grade: C

Nashville native Theo Jackson heads to Titans in the sixth round

The former Tennessee Volunteer played the nickel corner position in college, and was awarded All-SEC honors for his play. At 6-foot-1 and nearly 200 pounds, Jackson could end up with the same role with the Titans. He could also end up as a fine gunner on special teams.

Grade: C+

With their last pick, the Titans selected Ole Miss linebacker Chance Campbell 219th overall

Chance Campbell is worth taking a flyer on, given his production at Ole Miss. But, given his lack of athleticism and pass coverage ability, it will be an uphill battle for him to make the 53-man roster.

Grade: C-

The Titans 2022 draft grade is?

There are four potential starters in this class, and two of them will surely start on opening day. Tennessee’s picks were for good value, and that’s boosted their grade as well.

On the downside, Tennessee didn’t get a great return for A.J. Brown, which hurts the Treylon Burks pick significantly. Burks will always carry that trade on his shoulder for as long as he’s a Titan.

Overall, though, the Titans had a solid draft. They’ll get good production from this group in the future.

Titans overall draft grade: B

2022 NFL Draft Big Board: The Top 105 Prospects

Kayvon Thibodeaux celebrating with both hands outstretched
Sean Meagher/The Oregonian

With the 2022 NFL Draft mere days away, it’s time for the big boards to be locked in. After months of hard work, evaluation, and armchair scouting, Thursday will be a term-ending exam for NFL franchises. They just hope they’ll get it right.

A big board is always an ambitious project. Watching close to 200 players in all kinds of different positions with wildly different rubrics seems wild for any layman. But, through the noise, a sense starts to come as to why a player is NFL-ready or not. A certain stance, a certain trait that isn’t obvious, it will show itself.

But, don’t overthink it. The top players are the top players for a reason. That will show itself quickly.

Here’s the 2022 NFL Draft big board.

The Top 5

#1 – Kayvon Thibodeaux – Edge – Oregon

As an edge player, Thibodeaux is perfect. His get-off out of his stance is insane. He plays assignment football very well, and understands the little nuances about quarterback containment. The strength he shows to shove an offensive tackle back is also absurd.

Concerns about his motor are lazy, and he’s the top player in the draft.

#2 – Jordan Davis – Defensive tackle – Georgia

Admittedly, this is ambitious. But, Jordan Davis is a true game-breaker at defensive tackle. He’s the most athletic defensive tackle that Kent Lee Platte’s RAS database has ever seen. That may not come in a every-down package, but the way he blows up plays is so systemic. He may end up being the best player in this draft.

#3 – Evan Neal – Offensive tackle – Alabama

Neal is perhaps the most fluid of the three big offensive tackles in the top of the first round. He moves like no other offensive tackle, his first punch is fantastic, and he anchors fantastically on pass rushes.

#4 – Charles Cross – Offensive tackle – Mississippi State

Cross seems to be lagging in mocks compared to his actual talent. On film, he’s a big ol’ rock at left tackle who has the footwork to almost always stay in front of his man. Perhaps the strongest of the three big time offensive tackles, he’s also a force in run blocking.

#5 – Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner – Corner – Cincinnati

The ideal corner prospect for the modern NFL, Gardner is a towering 6-foot-3, and can stay with any receiver on the field. He’s a big hitter too, and brings instant hot sauce to any secondary.

6 to 10

#6 – Aidan Hutchinson – Edge – Michigan

Hutchinson is a stellar pass rusher, is as strong as an ox, and is as athletic as any player in the draft. While there are “tells” in his game that offensive coordinators will pick up on, it’s hard to imagine him not having a very productive NFL career.

#7 – Kyle Hamilton – Safety – Notre Dame

A wildly athletic safety prospect, Hamilton’s ranginess is his biggest gift. At 6-foot-4 and weighing 220 pounds, he was a decent run defender, and has versatility in the defensive backfield. As well as safety, he was often called upon to play slot corner in a man-to-man defense, and he performed well.

#8 – Nakobe Dean – Linebacker – Georgia

Dean is a never-ending battery of effort who is also gifted with great vision. He flies through gaps to blow up plays with ease. As a pass defender, he does well against back releases and tight ends. He is a tad short at 5-foot-11, but that won’t hinder him a bit.

#9 – Derek Stingley Jr. – Cornerback – LSU

Twelve months ago, I thought Stingley would be the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. He’s fast and sticks to receivers like maggots on meat. Yet, his injury history is a concern, and staying on the field will be his biggest task in the NFL. The talent, however, is there.

#10 – Ikem Ekwonu – Offensive tackle – NC State

Ekwonu lags behind Neal and Cross at tackle. While he’s very intelligent at the position, and is able to adjust to defensive rip and swim moves, he does have a overall lack of agility on film. Quicker edge players may have a matchup advantage on him in the NFL.

11 to 16

#11 – Treylon Burks – Wide receiver – Arkansas

On 2022 NFL draft big boards, Burks comes in consistently in the 20s. Yet, when one watches, he looks every bit of a top 10-15 pick. His physicality and body stands out the most on film, as he’s able to out-muscle any defender to the ball. While he doesn’t have quite the same explosiveness as other receivers, his floor is far higher and he’s a far safer bet for multiple pro bowl seasons.

#12 – Tyler Linderbaum – Center – Iowa

Don’t overthink the arm length concerns, Linderbaum is a great center prospect. He is strong enough to shove interior players off the ball extremely well and anchors well on passing downs.

#13 – Garrett Wilson – Wide receiver – Ohio State

Wilson is an exceptionally fluid receiver. He sees the ball well, can look and reel in absurd catches, and has great open-field speed too. He’s just a complete receiver prospect.

#14 – Kaiir Elam – Corner – Florida

Elam tends to lag around in the high 20s and early 30s in most mocks, but he should be considered a top half of the first round player. He’s long, has great hip-turn ability, and tracks the ball well when it’s up in the air. Although it isn’t as important for a corner, he’s perhaps a bit too contact-averse.

#15 – Jelani Woods – Tight end – Virginia

While Jelani Woods is considered a second day steal prospect, his ceiling and current ability says he’s better than that. When one puts on the film, it’s easy to see Woods as a Kyle Pitts-esque player. At 6-foot-7, he’s a massive body, but has enough speed to be a dangerous receiver in the open field. He can play in the slot, but can also stay in to block well enough, too.

#16 – Kenyon Green – Guard – Texas A&M

Even against Alabama’s complement of pass rushers, nothing got past Green. What’s even wilder about that is he was playing out of position at tackle. At guard, he’s a natural, and will be a block of granite there for years to come.

17 to 24

#17 – Arnold Ebiketie – Edge – Penn State

Ebiketie’s tape is a blast to watch. He’s got impressive get off and blows by any tackle there is.

#18 – Devin Lloyd – Linebacker – Utah

Long, athletic linebacker who has a good nose for the football. Potential is very high at the NFL level.

#19 – Jameson Williams – Wide receiver – Alabama

Speedy receiver who played all over the field in Alabama’s offense. A true deep threat, and if he can recover from his ACL tear, he’ll be just as good in the NFL as he was at Bama.

#20 – Calvin Austin III – Wide receiver – Memphis

Austin is just 5-foot-8, but his potential is otherworldly. Extremely fast receiver who can beat press coverage at flanker, or could be a menace at slot.

#21 – Chris Olave – Wide receiver – Ohio State

Dynamic receiver who could be a great deep threat from day one. Sometimes does struggle with seeing the ball in, however.

#22 – Bernhard Raimann – Offensive tackle – Central Michigan

Raimann has serious upside, given he just started playing the position a few years ago while still in college. Yet, when one watches the film, everything is good. He’s a fluid athlete, and can anchor very well.

#23 – Lewis Cine – Safety – Georgia

Cine is a sideline-to-sideline safety who plays deep effectively, can run up in a big hurry to defense the run, or play man up on slot receivers.

25 to 32

#24 – Daxton Hill – Safety – Michigan

Hill is slightly built and very quick, but can also play defense in the box as well.

#25 – Jalen Pitre – Corner – Baylor

Pitre is a nasty, physical nickelback, who will translate to corner in the NFL extremely well.

#26 – Devonte Wyatt – Defensive tackle – Georgia

A ridiculously athletic rusher who knocks in offensive linemen with regularity.

#27 – Jaquan Brisker – Safety – Penn State

Brisker is a massive safety who excels in run defending. Yet, his pass coverage is solid as well.

#28- Nick Cross – Safety – Maryland

Cross is far underrated by draftniks. A strong, stout safety, Cross is an effective pass defender, and could very well play nickel in the NFL as well.

#29 – Jahan Dotson – Wide receiver – Penn State

Dotson is a serious deep threat at flanker, but could also make for matchup advantages at slot receiver.

#30 – Christian Harris – Linebacker – Alabama

Great pass-rushing linebacker, but unproven in pass coverage, which he’ll need to do to stay on the field in the NFL.

#31 – Kenny Pickett – Quarterback – Pitt

Pickett is a one-year wonder, but in that one year, he showed great athleticism and accuracy that makes him QB1 heading into the draft.

#32 – David Ojabo – Edge – Michigan

Ojabo would be higher on this list, if not for the Achilles tear. If he recovers back to 100%, he’s a top 10-15 talent at edge rusher.

Top Half of Second Round Grade

#33 – Christian Watson – Wide receiver – North Dakota State

#34 – Kenneth Walker – Running back – Michigan State

#35 – Channing Tindall – Linebacker – Georgia

#36 – Sam Williams – Edge – Ole Miss

#37 – Malik Willis – Quarterback – Liberty

With Wills, the physical tools are there in bunches. Yet, he does struggle with pressure in his face, and also sometimes doesn’t read the field as well as he should. He’ll need some development time to be a good NFL quarterback.

#38 – Trent McDuffie – Cornerback – Washington

#39 – Nicholas Petit-Frere – Offensive tackle – Ohio State

#40 – James Cook – Running back – Georgia

#41 – Roger McCreary – Cornerback – Auburn

#42 – Kyler Gordon – Cornerback – Washington

#43 – Charlie Kolar – Tight end – Iowa State

#44 – Drake London – Wide receiver – USC

A true possession receiver in the NFL, London is a big body who doesn’t possess deep ball play ability.

#45 – George Pickens – Wide receiver – Georgia

#46 – Ty Chandler – Running back – North Carolina

A dual threat out of the backfield, Chandler is a great pass-catcher, as well as a powerful, straight-ahead runner.

#47 – Obinna Eze – Offensive tackle – TCU

#48 – George Karlaftis – Edge – Purdue

Massive, strong, but not a particularly smart edge rusher, and also has trouble with play recognition.

Bottom Half of Second Round Grade

#49 – Zamir White – Running back – Georgia

#50 – Josh Paschal – Edge – Kentucky

#51 – Bryan Cook – Safety – Cincinnati

#52 – Luke Godeke – Offensive tackle – Central Michigan

#53 – Trey McBride – Tight end – Colorado State

#54 – Martin Emerson – Corner – Mississippi State

#55 – Travon Walker – Edge – Georgia

Walker is a massive, freakish athlete, who has also put very little on tape that shows those traits off. His penetration at edge was negligible against NFL-caliber offensive linemen. Even at edge, he was never as prolific as others on the Georgia defense.

#56 – Zyon McCollum – Corner – Sam Houston State

#57 – Jermaine Johnson – Edge – Florida State

Johnson is quick, has good moves, but is perhaps a better run defender at edge rather than a great pass rusher. Any team that plays a 4-down defensive package would be well served to pick him up.

#58 – Nik Bonitto – Edge – Oklahoma

#59 – Alex Pierce – Wide receiver – Cincinnati

#60 – Jalen Tolbert – Wide receiver – South Alabama

#61 – David Bell – Wide receiver – Purdue

#62 – Dylan Parham – Guard/Center – Memphis

#63 – John Metchie III – Wide receiver – Alabama

#64 – Isaiah Likely – Tight end – Coastal Carolina

Third Round Graded Players

#65 – Cam Jurgens – Center – Nebraska

#66 – Skyy Moore – Wide receiver – Western Michigan

#67 – Trevor Penning – Offensive tackle – Northern Iowa

Penning is a massive 6-foot-7 tackle prospect with ostensible unlimited upside. Yet, his lack of side-to-side agility when pass blocking is evident, and his intellect when playing the position is a step or two behind most prospects in this draft.

#68 – Jayln Armour-Davis – Corner – Alabama

#69 – Darian Kinnard – Tackle – Kentucky

#70 – Kingsley Enagbare – Edge – South Carolina

#71 – Tariq Castro-Fields – Corner – Penn State

#72 – Perrion Winfrey – Defensive tackle – Oklahoma

#73 – Carson Strong – Quarterback – Nevada

#74 – Abraham Lucas – Tackle – Washington State

#75 – DeAngelo Malone – Edge – Western Kentucky

#76 – Tyler Allgeier – Running back – BYU

#77 – Isaiah Spiller – Running back – Texas A&M

#78 – Khalil Shakir – Wide receiver – Boise State

#79 – Andrew Booth – Corner – Clemson

Booth has good vision at cornerback, but his balance and hip-turns are big no-nos, and he’ll suffer mightily in the pros for a while because of it.

#80 – Breece Hall – Running back – Iowa State

#81 – Matt Corral – Quarterback – Ole Miss

#82 – DeMarvin Leal – Defensive tackle – Texas A&M

#83 – Kennedy Brooks – Running back – Oklahoma

#84 – Rachaad White – Running back – Arizona State

#85 – Sam Howell – Quarterback – North Carolina

#86 – Quay Walker – Linebacker – Georgia

#87 – Chig Okonkwo – Tight end – Maryland

#88 – Cole Strange – Guard – Chattanooga

#89 – Amare Barno – Edge – Virginia Tech

#90 – Brian Robinson – Running back – Alabama

#91 – Derion Kendrick – Cornerback – Georgia

#92 – Markqueese Bell – Safety – Florida A&M

#93 – Daniel Faalele – Tackle – Minnesota

#94 – Myjai Sanders – Edge – Cincinnati

#95 – Dameon Pierce – Running back – Florida

#96 – Jamaree Salyer – Guard – Georgia

#97 – Troy Andersen – Linebacker – Montana State

#98 – Cam Taylor-Britt – Corner – Nebraska

#99 – Sean Rhyan – Guard – UCLA

#100 – Darrian Beavers – Linebacker – Cincinnati

#101 – Zion Johnson – Guard – Boston College

Johnson is way too stiff and and unagile to be a clear starting-caliber NFL interior lineman.

#102 – Jeremy Ruckert – Tight end – Ohio State

#103 – Wan’Dale Robinson – Wide receiver – Kentucky

#104 – Kyren Williams – Running back – Notre Dame

#105 – Dohnovan West – Center – Arizona State