Early 2023 NFL Draft Sleepers: Defense

The offense has seen its fair share of sleeper picks in recent draft boards and mocks. What about the defensive side; who’s potentially got that “it” factor we’re not talking about?

I hope everyone enjoyed the first part of my early 2023 NFL draft sleepers list. Now for the defense. You can find more about these players and more in database that I help update here.

Don’t tell anyone!
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Defensive line:

Ruke Orhorhoro – Clemson

Ruke Orhorhoro is origionally from Nigeria. He played very little in 2019 and 2020, which he actually ended up redshirting for. He came into 2021 looking to just get time as a #3 DL, but due to injures ended up starting nine games in 2021 and played pretty well. The current Tiger was ok against the run and tackled well. He is a developing pass rusher as well. As the season went he got better as a pass rusher. Everyone knows Bresee and even Tyler Davis to a lesser extent, but Ruke could end up going a lot higher than people think if he comes out. He is a redshirt Junior. He could stay for his senior year and take over and be ‘the guy’ on the DL.

Jowon Briggs – Cincinnati

Briggs is another player that made that Cincinnati defense so good these past couple years. He is a little short at 6’1, but has good size at 315 and is a good athlete. He is a little bit of a projection in the NFL since Cincinnati uses him more as an end in their unique defense. 2021 was his best season overall. He played solid against the run and flashed some as a pass rusher with 23 pressures. If he can continue to develop he could definitely hear his name called early on day 3.

D’Anthony Jones – Houston

Jones is similar to Briggs in that Houston uses him as more of a end than a DL/tackle. He is 6’2 285 and has the build of a interior defensive lineman. So he is a little bit of a projection. He is even more athletic than Briggs. He is a very good pass rusher. Jones produced 34 pressures and 5.5 sacks essentially playing out of positions. He is a bit undersized so he will need to add some bulk. At the very least he should be able to contribute as a sub package pass rusher in the NFL.

Elijah Chatman – SMU

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Chatman is another undersized (6’1 290), but quick interior pass rusher. He is entering his third year as a starter at SMU. Even though he is undersized he is a very good run defender. He will make plays in the backfield, but seems to have plateau’d. He had 20 pressures in 2021 and just 2.5 sacks. His biggest issue has been finishing. If he can improve that and work on his tackling a little he should have a good shot at getting drafted.

Edge:

Shitta Sillah – Boston College

With six starts in 2021 he started to finally flash some of that potential he had. He has ideal size at 6’4 253 His first two play season were pretty mediocre. Sillah had just one sack but had 13 pressures in six starts. He is a real good run defender. If he can continue to get better he could hear his name on day three.

YaYa Diaby – Louisville

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Diaby is another guy who flashed some potential in 2020, then upped it in 2021. He is primed for a breakout in 2022. He only had 1.5 sacks last year but did have 22 pressures. The current Cardinal has ideal size at 6’4 255 and looks filled out. Also he has good arm length at 33 5/8ths” and big 10 1/2″ hands He does a good job of setting the edge and has even showed some ability to drop into coverage.

Yasir Abdullah – Louisville

Abdullah is Diaby’s teammate and actually produced more statistically. He showed some potential as a pass rusher in 2020 then really came on in 2021 he had 29 pressures and 10 sacks. His size holds back his potential in the NFL. He is 6’1 235 so he is undersized and looks like he will have to move to LB. He is very athletic and when Louisville dropped him in coverage he held up well showing he should be able to make the transition.

Rondell Bothroyd – Wake Forest

Bothroyd played some defensive line early on at Wake and despite his size he played ok. He had 30 pressures but only 1.5 sacks in 2019. The coaches finally moved him to edge in 2020. He has been a good run defender his whole career. Its really his pass rush that needed to come around and develop. He finally produced in 2021 with 37 pressures and 8 sacks, but his production was a bit inconsistent. He has great size at 6’4 260 with average arm length. If he can be a bit more consistent in 2022 he could go on day two.

Jeremy Lewis – East Carolina

Lewis is a former tight end. He spent his first two seasons there. He moved to edge in 2020 but didn’t play much. The former tight end started the last eight games of the season. In that short time he had 21 pressures and four sacks. His weakness so far has been the run game and disengaging with blockers. He is a bit undersized at 235 so bulking up might help him some. He is definitely a developmental project.

Devere Levelston – SMU

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Devere is another guy who didn’t play much in 2020, just eight games and less than 200 snaps. He produced all of five pressures, six tackles, but one sack. Come 2021 he came in and started every game and had a big year with 31 pressures, and 6.5 sacks. He showed that he has NFL talent. His main weakness right now is his play against the run. He will be a junior in 2022. If he has a big season he could come out.

Anthony Goodlow – Tulsa

Goodlow is on the bigger side for an edge rusher at 6’4 274 and his athleticism is at best average. He is smart and technically sound. He showed small improvements each season. It all culminated in a career year in 2021. While he didnt have big sack numbers with only six, he did have 43 pressures. He is also a very good run defender. He probably won’t be able to play in a 3-4 defense unless its as a 5-tech. Teams that like big strong defensive ends will like him.

Linebacker:

Tatum Bethune – FSU

Bethune goes 5’11 227 so he is obviously undersized. He transferred from UCF to FSU. 2021 was his second year as a starter. He really played well and showed that he had the talent to play in the NFL. He was all around a solid player. Good against the run, could blitz (17 pressures and 2 sacks), and was decent in coverage (2 INTs). He is a play maker. Him and Gainer could combine for a pretty dynamic duo this season.

Antonio Grier Jr. – USF

Grier is similar in size and athleticism to Bethune. While he is undersized he is well built. He plays inside linebacker for USF, but due to his size he will have to play weakside linebacker. The current Bull is not very good against the run, but being able to play on the weakside in the NFL will help him and will allow him to use his athleticism more. For a smaller backer he is a decent blitzer, and he also picked off two passes. He does need to clean up the missed tackles from 2021. He may never be anything more than a back up and special teamer, but he has a shot at getting drafted.

Darius Muasau – UCLA

Muasau is a transfer from Hawaii where he played really well the last two seasons. Collecting a combined 210 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 37 pressures, five forced fumbles, two interceptions (1 returned for a 75 yard TD), and five passes defensed. He is not huge, but he has the size that we are seeing with a lot of linebackers these days. Muasau is 6’1 235. He is a good but not elite athlete. The former Rainbow Warrior could be in line for an even bigger season in 2022 if he can pick up UCLA’s new defense quickly.

Cornerback:

Josh DeBerry – Boston College

DeBerry has decent size at 5’11, but a little under weight at around 180. He is a decent athlete. He has also shown improvement every season. The current Eagle had his best season in 2021 with two picks and two passes defensed. DeBerry has been a solid all around player who might not be exceptional at any one thing, but he can do a little of everything. He obviously needs to add some bulk/strength to his frame and if he can continue on his path he should be a solid mid round pick.

Jaylin Williams – Indiana

Williams has played a lot in his time at Indiana and has actually been a solid cover guy since he got there. Early on his issues were with run defense and tackling, but he improved his tackling each season and his run defense came around in 2020 and 2021. He is a little undersized at 5’10 180 and his arms are a little short at 29 3/4″. Williams might be destined to play the slot in the NFL. He did allow four touchdowns in 2021 so he will have to work on that.

Jermari Harris – Iowa

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After redshirting in 2019 he played just 32 snaps in 2020. In 2021 though he ended up starting six of of Iowa’s last seven games. He played well, a bit inconsistent but overall he played well for a guy who only had 32 snaps the previous season. He also surprisingly had four interceptions on the year and three pass break ups. Now a redshirt junior, Harris could come out if he has a big season and becomes more consistent and improves his play against the run.

Ronald Williams – Michigan State

Williams is an interesting story. He was a high school quarterback that had to go the JC route. He plays two seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) and then transfers to Alabama. Williams plays just 27 snaps at Alabama in 2020. He didn’t show much in that short time. Then he transfers to Michigan State and ends up starting nine games out of 13. He had a couple bad games but overall was solid in coverage. One of his issues though was his tackling where he missed 10 tackles. He also lacks great athleticism. Williams does have long arms and a big wingspan. If he learns to use that and play with it he could have a shot at getting drafted.

Arquon Bush – Cincinnati

Bush has bided his time at Cincinnati being stuck behind Sauce Gardner and Kobe Bryant. He has played only slot in his time at Cincinnati. 2022 will be his first chance to show that he can play on the outside. He has ok size with good athleticism. The issue though is his arms are only 29 3/4″ long and even his wingspan is just 73″. He does have seven career interceptions which is pretty good for a nickel back. His play against the run and tackling could be improved. If he can prove that he can play outside that will go a long way into boosting his draft stock.

Malik Flemings – East Carolina

Flemings is very similar in size to his former teammate Ja’Quan McMillan who declared early for the draft but went undrafted. He is about 5’9 180. The big difference between the two is speed. Flemings is a good portion faster; but he does project to a similar role in the NFL as a slot corner. He is a very solid player all around. Due to his better athleticism he should hear his name called in 2023.

Safety:

Kaevon Merriweather – Iowa

Merriweather became a first time starter in 2020 after not playing much in 2018 and 2019. In that shortened season he showed some flashes, but didn’t produce a lot. Enter 2021 and he showed a lot of improvement against the run and as a tackler. He surprisingly has played well in coverage both seasons. The current Hawkeye has one interception and four pass break ups in that time. With Merriweather though he still is more of a strong safety/box safety type. He could play some free of course but he’s best near the line of scrimmage.

Kitan Oladapo – Oregon State

Oladapo did not play much at all until 2020 where he started one game. He didn’t show a lot, he was actually bad in coverage giving up three touchdowns in just six games. He came back in 2021 and ended up starting 12 of 13 games and showed big improvements in coverage. The current Beaver had one interception and seven pass break ups. Also he contributed 69 tackles and a sack. Oladapo played mostly strong safety but played a good amount at free and even took some snaps in the slot. Long term he is more of a strong safety. His run fits do need some work.

Juawan Treadwell – Liberty

Juawan is the brother of Laquan Treadwell. Although has a different body type. He goes about 5’11 200 and runs about a 4.6. He has played strong safety and slot at Liberty. Treadwell even started some games in 2020 at strong safety. It looks like he will be moving back into the starting lineup in 2022. He has shown he has versatility. While his career stats are not much to look at his play has been solid and has shown potential as a safety/slot in the NFL. It would be interesting to see Liberty put him at free and see what he can do.

Quindell Johnson – Memphis

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Johnson became a full time starter in 2020 after playing really well in a back up role in 2019. He has played free, strong, and even slot. although his interception numbers fell in 2021 he played even better in coverage. He played really well overall in 2021. If he could improve as a blitzer and cut down on the touchdowns given up in coverage (8 the last two seasons) he could go as high as day two.

Kendarin Ray – Tulsa

Ray had a semi breakout season in 2020. First he is 6’3 208 and runs a 4.55. He didn’t have any interceptions but did have six pass break ups and 63 tackles in a shortened season. He started off 2021 not playing up to his play from the previous season in coverage. Then he got hurt in his 6th game and didn’t play the rest of the season. Ray has talent and upside as a strong safety/slot defender. He just needs to get back to his 2020 play and stay healthy.

JL Skinner – Boise State

Skinner had some low key hype on him going into the 2022 draft. He flirted with entering and was close to it. Skinners first season as a starter was 2020 where he was ok, got burned a few times but also made some plays. Enter 2021 and he had a really good season. He was one of the more well rounded safety’s in college football last season. He had 92 tackles, two interceptions, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. Skinner played both free and strong. The current Bronco did show some inconsistencies in coverage from game to game. If he could fix that in 2022 he could be one of the top safties drafted. He is 6’4 210 and runs a sub 4.5. He could be a really good free safety at the NFL level.

Early Sleepers For The 2023 Draft: Offense

My early sleepers for the 2023 draft is finally here. These are guys who may not be known by most right now, but by draft time should be known by everyone-or at least I think they will if they continue on their path or step up in some way. This will focus mostly on “smaller school” guys. Its just the nature of the beast right now. Most people know players from the power 5 schools. There will be some juniors in the list, they are guys who I feel if they have a big year they could come out. First I will start with offense. You can see my other stuff here.


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Quarterback:

Tanner Mordecai – SMU

Mordecai originally signed with Oklahoma out of high school in 2018. 2021 was his first season at SMU where he won the starting spot. It was there that he became the engine that ran the talented SMU offense. The upside is not huge, but there is NFL talent there.

Holton Ahlers – East Carolina

Ahlers is going into his fifth year as a starter. He flashed a little as a true freshman, then made a good sized jump in 2019. The current Pirate seemed to level off after that. He really played well at the end of 2021 so if he shows improvement in 2022 he could be a day 3 pick.

Running back:

Ellis Merriwether – UMass

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Merriweather was a JUCO transfer. He also didn’t even win the #1 job out of camp. He started just nine games in 2021, yet he had 1,303 yards of total offense and six touchdowns. The current Minuteman also brings ideal size at 6’2, 225 pounds and is a very good receiver. Don’t be surprised to see his name move up boards quickly.

Lew Nichols III – CMU

Nichols is listed having prototypical size at 5’10 220. He looks on film closer to 210. 2021 was his first year as a starter after only playing about 200 snaps in 2020. He came out of nowhere to rush for over 1,800 yards and 16 TDs. He also contributed as a receiver with 40 catches with an 8.4 average yard per catch. Once he hits that hole he explodes and he is very quick. The current Chippewa is a redshirt Junior.

Wide Receiver:

Tyler Harrell – Louisville

6’0, 200 pound speedster who runs in the 4.3 range. He has easy speed and gets to top speed quick. He opted out of 2020 and broke out in 2021 with 18 catches for 523 yards and 6 TDs. Harrell averaged 29 yards a catch in 2021! Coaches will want to see him expand his route tree in 2022. He also has kick return experience.

Tre’Shaun Harrison – Oregon State

Harrison has decent size with 4.45 range speed. He transferred in from Florida State. The former Nole didn’t play much in 2020 but played a lot and even started a four games in 2021. He had a healthy 13.8 yards a catch average. Harrison has also shown to have some YAC ability. He does hold kick return experience. He could really break out in 2022.

Puka Nacua – BYU

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Nacua played two seasons at Washington before transferring to BYU in 2021. He came in and took over as a the #1 receiver right away and lead the team with 43 catches for 805 yards and 6 TDs. Nacua averaged almost 19 yards a catch and he even carried the ball 14 times. He has good size at 6’1 210 and runs around a 4.5. The former Huskie could have a big break out in 2022. Nacua is a redshirt junior.

CJ Daniels – Liberty

CJ Daniels was a three star recruit from Georgia that looks like he just got overlooked. After only playing a decent amount as a freshmen but only contributing 11 catches, he came in as a sophomore and really showed his potential with 37 catches for 629 yards and seven TDs in just six starts. He has good size at 6’2 200 with decent speed. A deep threat that showed some YAC ability. He could break out as a junior and declare.

Demario Douglas – Liberty

The same school as Daniels, but completely different player. He is a 5’8 170 pound slot receiver. He has good speed and agility. Douglas is also a dangerous punt returner. Obviously though he does need to pack on a little weight/strength. He is a redshirt junior.

Rashee Rice – SMU

Rashee Rice has recently gotten a little hype from Jim Nagy, but most still don’t know him. On a stacked offense last season Rice was the 2nd most productive player. He also played almost exclusively out of the slot in 2021 after playing mostly outside in 2020. His production was somewhat similar in both seasons. Expect him to move back outside for 2022 and be the #1 target and key guy on offense. He has the size to play inside and out (6’2 206), speed, and agility to contribute as a returner.

Keylon Stokes – Tulsa

Keylon Stokes is a bit of an older player being a 6th year senior. In 2019 and 2020 he showed potential and 2021 was supposed to be his breakout season but he was injured and missed most of the season. He is a 5’10 200 pound slot receiver who can return kicks and punts. Stokes even had 1,000 yards in 2019. He just needs to get healthy and show he’s back to his old self.

Michael Jefferson – Lousiana – LaFayette

Jefferson is a transfer from Alabama State where he spend three years and didn’t show much except 2019 where he had 767 yards and 12 TDs. He was looking like he was going to have a big year in 2021 but was injured and only played in six games. But he did put up 481 yards in those six games for a school that was more of a running team. He averaged 26 yards a catch. He showed some potential, he just needs to stay healthy. At 6’4 200 pounds and a sub 4.5 40 he has the talent.

Dallas Dixon – CMU

Dallas Dixon is another weapon from that Central Michigan offense. Another good sized receiver at 6’1 200 that runs a sub 4.5. He is a Junior that barely played as a freshman, but showed flashes. For 2021 he started almost every game and played almost 700 snaps. Dixon put up 700 yards on just 45 catches and 8 TDs. He seems on the cusp of a breakout season. He is a Junior.

Stefan Cobbs – Boise State

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Stefan Cobbs barely played or produced his first two seasons in Boise. He came into 2021 and ended up starting eight out of the nine games he played. He had 34 catches for 421 yards and 5 TDs. With Shakir and Evans off to the NFL he should be the #1 receiver for 2022. He has also shown to be a good blocker.

Tight end:

Alec Holler – UCF

Alec Holler is a former walk -on who became the starter after six games in 2021. He is undersized at 6’3 230. For his size he’s not a bad blocker, but overall he’s not that good. His biggest contributions are as a receiver. He was not targeted much in 2021, but produced when he was. His best chance as making the NFL is as an hback.

Leonard Taylor – Cincinnati

Leonard Taylor is the “other” tight end playing for Cincinnati. Everyone knows about Josh Whyle, but when Whyle was struggling through the 2021 season it was Taylor who produced. While he didn’t exactly set the world on fire; he had a solid season. 28 catches for 268 yards and four TDs. where he contributed the most was as a blocker. He was probably one of the better blocking tight ends from 2021. But he flashed that he could actually contribute some as a receiver. He could hear his name called in the 2023 draft.

Offensive line:

Maurice McIntyre – Duke

A 6’2 330 pound guard is not the type of player you would think he is. A big and strong run blocker. He has been better in pass protection most of his career. He showed improvements as a pass protector in 2021 after a poor 2020. 2022 will be his third year as a starter. He has played both left and right guard. If he could just make small improvements as a run blocker he could be a day 3 sleeper.

Chandler Zavala – NC State

Chandler Zavala is a sixth year senior that transferred from fairmont state in 2021. He was only supposed to have one season to play but they petitioned the NCAA for a 6th year and got it. He played in just five games in 2021 at guard before an injury ended his season. In those five games he was really good in both pass pro and as a run blocker. He has good size at 6’4 325. If he can stay healthy he has a shot at getting drafted.

Matthew Bedford – Indiana

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Matthew Bedford was the type of offensive lineman that got coaches fired. He had all kinds of potential, but was really struggling in his first two season as a pass blocker. He gave up 62 pressures and five sacks in his first two seasons. Bedford also started at LT in 2019, RT in 2020, and LG, RG, and RT in 2021. He seems to have found a home at guard, but even the one game he played RT he blocked well. So it seems the light finally went on. If he can continue his trajectory in 2022 he could end up going on day two. The current Hoosier has size, versatility, and athleticism going for him.

J.D. Duplain – Michigan State

Having 23 career starts at left guard on his belt JD Duplain definitely has experience on his side. He also showed improvement as a pass blocker and run blocker every year. Duplain only gave up eight pressures in 2021! His size is about average at 6’4 305, but he has solid athleticism. Zone teams should really like him.

Raiqwon O’Neal – UCLA

Raiqwon O’Neal was a two year starter for Rutgers at left tackle. He transferred to UCLA for his final year and is expected to play left tackle again. At Rutgers he showed slow improvements as a pass blocker every year. His final year he was pretty solid. His size is about average at 6’4 305, but has solid athleticism. Average length will probably force him inside at the next level like UCLAs last left tackle Sean Rhyan.

Clark Barrington – BYU

Clark Barrington is of the LDS church and did his two year mission so he is on the older side. He has been a really good blocker the last two seasons playing both left guard and right guard. He has 27 career starts entering 2022. Only allowing 18 pressures and 1 sack in the last two seasons. Decent size at 6’5 302 with 33 1/8th” arms.

Samuel Jackson – UCF

Samuel Jackson has played and started at almost every position except for center. Jackson has 31 starts to his name entering 2022. He started all of 2021 at right tackle. He also had starts at left tackle, right tackle, and one game at right guard in 2020. The current golden Knight has great size at 6’6 325 pounds. As a pass blocker he was pretty average in 2019 and 2020. he gave up 5 sacks and 25 pressures, but showed improvement in 2021. He has short arms (32 3/4″) so he probably ends up at guard.

Tylan Grable – UCF

Tylan Grable is a bit of an unknown. He transferred over from Jacksonville State for 2022 and is expected to start at left tackle. He has the size at 6’7, but is underweight at about 290. The former Gamecock has not been talked about much as impact transfers go. In two years as a starter he has only given up 15 pressures, but of course it could be due to the competition. 2022 will be a big limit us test for him to see how good he really is. He will obviously need to add bulk. He could get drafted high on potential.

Matthew Lee – UCF

Matthew Lee is one of the taller centers at 6’4 but only about 295. He is entering his third year as a starter. His first year was not great with 15 pressures allowed and 12 penalties. But he cleaned all that up in 2021 with just one penalty and seven pressures. Also he held up better in the run game. He is a good athlete that moves well. He can struggle with power. Lee will be a redshirt Junior so he could stay for his senior year.

Patrick Paul – Houston

Patrick Paul is another large offensive tackle in this class. He stands 6’7 315 and can move pretty well. His brother Chris was just drafted out of Tulsa to the Commanders in the 7th round. He started and played a total of five games between 2019 and 2020 due to injuries. Paul a fourth year Junior could declare if he has another season like he did in 2021 with just some minor cleaning up of penalties (8 in 2021).

Jacob Likes – Memphis

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Jacob Likes was a first year starter in 2021 and looked really good in pass protection. He only gave up 4 pressures on the year! He is undersized though at 6’2 280. The current Tiger needs another 10-20 pounds and his frame looks like it could hold it. For his size he is a good run blocker, mostly using leverage and athleticism to win. He is just a Junior so he could stay one more year, especially with how strong the center class is looking.

Marcus Bryant – SMU

Marcus Bryant is another big long athletic tackle in the AAC. He stands 6’8 314 pounds with decent athleticism. He still has time since 2021 was his first year as a starter and it shows. The current Mustang was really good in pass pro in 2021. Only giving up nine pressures. It will be interesting to see his development over this next season. SMU did lose a lot of their weapons so he may have to hold his blocks a little longer. Run blocking is a bit of a weakness for him, its mostly due to technique and his size. His knee bend needs to improve. Bryant looks to be a RT only prospect. He could come out as a Junior with the tackle class being down from last year.

Donovan Jennings – USF

Donovan Jennings brings the size to play any position at 6’5 327. He is a three year starter at left tackle, but did start two games at right guard. From an athletic stand point its doubtful he could play LT in the NFL though. His play has leveled out a bit since 2020, but his pass blocking has improved every season. Due to his size, athleticism and strength he is a better fit inside. Also he needs to cut down on the nine penalties he had last season. A team could draft him higher than most think if they think he can be really good guard.


Isaac Moore – Temple

Isaac Moore is an interesting story. He is originally from Sweden. He is a three year starter at left tackle. Moore obviously showed inconsistencies early in his career. He still shows some, but its a lot less. Again another tall and long tackle prospect from the AAC. 2021 was his best season. He even showed some real grit as a run blocker. The current Owl just needs to continue to iron out his game and he could see his named called earlier than people think.

Sincere Haynesworth – Tulane

Sincere Haynesworth is one of the better centers in this class. He is undersized at 6’1, but for his height he has long arms at 33″. He has 2 1/2 years of starting experience entering 2022. The current Green Wave played some right guard in 2019. Haynesworth came to Tulane really undersized and as recently as last season was playing under 300 pounds. He had his best season in 2021. He is just a real solid blocker all around. The type of guy that will come into the league and be a 10-year solid starter.

John Ojukwu – Boise State

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John Ojukwu is entering his 6th season at Boise State. He started 2018 and 2019 at RT and switched to LT in 2020. 2022 will be his 5th as a starter, so you could definitely say experience is a strength. He has good size at 6’6 312 and long arms at 35 3/8ths”. 2020 is where he started to really come around as a pass blocker. Run blocking has always been kind of a weakness of his. He is not a power player, he is more of a get in your way type of run blocker. He needs to improve against power rushers and staying low and anchoring. The current Bronco is also a very clean player with only five penalties in his career. His age will work against him but his experience should allow him to play early. He could go on day two.

Are the Cincinnati Bengals already being doubted heading into 2022?

Can last year’s AFC conference champion capitalize on the momentum and win next year’s Super Bowl?

Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow
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A little over a month ago, the Cincinnati Bengals were the darlings of the NFL, from media and fan perspectives. Their long-awaited postseason win drought was not only over after 31 years, the team was also the biggest underdog story in sports prior to St. Peter’s becoming the darlings of March Madness

Cincinnati failed in its third attempt to win a Super Bowl, but it appeared they gained a ton of respect along the way. The Bengals looked like a team that could challenge for the AFC Championship again next season. But have the good vibes and enthusiasm surrounding the Bengals evaporated already?

The Cincinnati Bengals are being overlooked by NFL Oddsmakers.
A lower place than among the Super Bowl 57 favorites.

Eight teams in NFL history, and one in the last 28 years, have returned to the Super Bowl the following season after losing. Vegas seems to be well aware of the trend of futility. The bookmakers apparently aren’t convinced the beloved Bengals of January 2022 are a prime contender to win Super Bowl 57.  The latest futures odds from Caesars Sportsbook don’t have the Bengals top 10 to win Super Bowl 57.

They are tied with the Tennessee Titans and the Baltimore Ravens at +2500. The Bengals are tied with the Ravens for the sixth-best odds to win the AFC at +1200. 

The Bengals haven’t gotten worse since their Super Bowl loss. Their biggest weakness to address was the offensive line, and they did so in stellar fashion, with three significant free-agent additions, including the latest addition of tackle La’El Collins. The team did not have any major losses in free agency, either. 

It seems like these Bengals have a good chance to get back to the AFC Championship Game again and possibly the Super Bowl, considering that the explosive offense will remain mostly intact and the blocking has already improved. There are some tweaks needed on the defense, but overall, the roster is certainly good enough to ensure that Cincinnati remains a contender if many of the key performers stay healthy. 

Where the Cincinnati Bengals are found in the AFC odds

The Bills (+400) and the Chiefs (+450) are the favorites to win the AFC. That is no surprise, especially with Buffalo adding Von Miller and the Chiefs acquiring JuJu Smith-Schuster. The AFC road to the Super Bowl goes through Kansas City, anyhow. The Broncos are third at +850 after acquiring Russell Wilson.

The former Seahawks QB has not advanced his team to a conference championship game in the past seven seasons. Plus, you could give Cincinnati the full advantage over Denver at running back and wide receiver. Denver may be better defensively, but these teams don’t seem too far apart in terms of conference winning championship potential. 

The Chargers are also at +850, and their defense looks fearsome, but their starting QB has no playoff experience. The Browns are at +900 after acquiring Deshaun Watson. 

He will certainly have a better shot to win playoff games than he did in Houston, but the fact is, he still has to prove it. Watson has one career playoff win. Baltimore is even with Cincinnati at +1200 to win the AFC, but Lamar Jackson has certainly not shown he is capable of leading a team on a deep playoff run yet. The Bengals are at the exact same odds after winning the AFC Championship last season.

We certainly are not judging these other AFC teams purely by the quarterback position only, and any of the other AFC contenders positioned ahead of Cincinnati could make a good run to a conference title. 

What about the Bengals compared to the NFC?

But haven’t the Bengals earned more respect in terms of being a favorite? 

You could make a good case their odds should at least match those of Denver and Los Angeles. Plus, the Bengals are tied with the Titans in the odds to win Super Bowl 57. Yes, the Titans acquired Robert Woods, but there is no way I would give any team led by Ryan Tannehill the same projected chances as the defending AFC champions.

Among the NFC teams ahead of Cincinnati in current odds to win Super Bowl 57 is San Francisco at +1400. The 49ers should not be so far ahead of the Bengals considering they’ll be starting an inexperienced quarterback next season. Of all the teams in the top 10 odds, the Niners have the shakiest outlook at the most important position. 

The most head-scratching team to actually be ahead of the Bengals is the Dallas Cowboys at +1800. Dallas may have actually gotten worse this offseason with some of their key personnel losses in free agency. The Cowboys have won one playoff game in the last seven years and lost in the Wild Card last season. 

Place a bet on the Bengals right now

You could indeed make very good cases that the odds for many of the teams ahead of the Bengals deserve those projected outlooks to win the AFC or Super Bowl 57. But I would certainly take Cincinnati over Baltimore, Tennessee, or Dallas. 

That said, the Bengals are a good value in NFL futures right now to win the AFC/Super Bowl next season. We recommend strongly considering such wagers right now, especially on the odds to win the AFC Championship again. 

It is a knee-jerk reaction when many NFL observers make predictions on the next season based on a past one. The current state of the Cincinnati roster, however, showcases the Bengals are certainly capable of contending for the conference. 

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New England Patriots and RAS

How does a franchise with a model of consistency stack up to the RAS?

The New England Patriots RAS score is in the good hands of Bill Belichick’s dog Nike.
(Credit: The Boston Globe)

The New England Patriots bring us back to the realm of RAS, or Relative Athletic Score. This team remains an interesting one from the front office perspective. Bill Belichick has been the head coach/GM of the Patriots since he was hired in 2000. He had split some of the duties with Scott Pioli before he left, but Belichick was still the head guy with final say. With all that being said, there is no reason to go back to 2000. Draft strategies change, so we’ll look back to 2016.

You can find previous parts here: https://atbnetwork.com/author/bmaafi1125/

Quarterbacks:

Generally quarterbacks and RAS scores are kind of unimportant outside of maybe a team here or there. Most teams want a guy who can at least move around the pocket a little and could get a few yards if a play breaks down.

With that, let’s take a look at the Patriots. Since 2016 they have drafted four quarterbacks: Jacoby Brissett, Danny Etling, Jarrett Stidham, and Mac Jones. Etling was the most athletic with a 8.31 RAS score and Brissett was the lowest with a 4.53. All four average out to a 6.38, which ironically enough rates average overall.

In fact, it’s a pretty common average; most teams are around there or slightly higher. All four have been at least 6’2 and 217+ pounds. Essentially, New England likes solid sized QBs, which is also pretty normal among NFL teams.

Running backs:

The running backs for the Patriots are kind of interesting. Belichick has drafted only three since 2016: Sony Michel, Damien Harris, and Rhamondre Stevenson. Michel had the highest RAS score of the three at 8.96, but Harris and Stevenson both rated under 6.5.

At this position, it would seem overall athleticism is not that important to Belichick. All have similar size (between 5’10”-5’11” and 214-230), yet they don’t have any testing numbers that stand out. For example, Michel was the fastest of the three in the 40-yard-dash, clocking in at 4.54. So it would reason pure speed is not that important to them, especially since they all demonstrate average agility.

Tight Ends:

Since 2016 Bill Belichick has drafted only three tight ends: Ryan Izzo, Dalton Keene, and Devin Asiasi. All three are 6’3″-6’4″ and weigh between 253-257. Just going off this, and given the former Gronk factor, the Patriots like larger tight ends. As for RAS scores, this position once again rates average overall at 6.66.

Keene is a freak athlete with a 9.34 RAS score, but Izzo and Asiasi are both in the below/average range. It does look like they want tight ends with decent speed as Asiasi and Keene both run in the low 4.7’s. They all test at least average in explosion factor. All three are average to excellent in their 10-yard splits, so this might be something to watch.

Wide Receivers:

They Patriots have drafted five receivers since 2016: Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien in 2016, Braxton Berrios in 2018, N’Keal Harry in 2020, and Tre Nixon in 2021. The average RAS score of them is a solid 7.58. Even better, three of the five are above an 8.0. Four of them measure between 6’0″-6’3″ and weigh 187+, with two of them currently over 200 pounds.

Outside of Berrios, they seem to prefer bigger receivers. They appear to factor in vertical jump as four of the five registered a 36″ vertical or higher. 40-yard-dash speed does seem to be something they key in as well. Harry was the slowest at 4.53, while the others were under 4.5, including three in the 4.45 range. Four of the five also scored at least average in agility testing.

Offensive Line:

One position the Patriots have made sure not to avoid is definitely offensive line. They have drafted 11 offensive linemen since 2016. Seven of them were interior offensive linemen, specifically guards. There was a solid average RAS score of 7.15. The guards even averaged a 7.51.

tackles:

The tackles averaged a 6.66, but that was mostly brought down by Justin Herron’s 3.99. The other two tackles were Antonio Garcia (7.29) and Conor McDermott (8.7). As to their size, the tackles varied from 6’4″-6’8″, but their weights did not show a lot of variety; they ranged from 302-312.

Arm length seemed to vary from 33 1/3″ – 34 3/4″. Explosion grades were at least average, while 40 and 10-yard splits were all average to a little slow. Agility testing does not seem to be something that they value at tackle; while two had poor agility testing, McDermott tested well.

guards:

The guards heights vary from 6’3″-6’5″, but weight wise there was a lot more variety. The lightest was Dustin Woodward at 295 and the heaviest was Michael Onwenu at 344. Another area that had a big range was arm length, which was between 31 1/4″-34 1/3″.

All of the guards tested at least average in explosion testing, specifically the broad jump. Speed does not seem to be a priority; the 40 speeds range from 4.95-5.34. As to agility testing, it seems that they prefer at least average agility. Only one drafted guard tested poorly in this area: Ted Karras.

Defensive line:

From 2016 to 2021, New England has drafted only three defensive linemen: Vincent Valentine, Byron Cowart, and Christian Barmore. The three of their RAS scores average out to a 6.6. They all do have similar height (6’3″ or 6’4″), while weight varies a bit from Cowart’s 298 to Valentine’s 329. It does look like they value arm length in their DL; the shortest is 33 1/8″ and longest is 34 3/4″.

There’s no explosion testing from Barmore, but Cowart and Valentine tested well, especially on the broad jump. Straight line speed does not seem to a priority here. Barmore ran fast, but his 10-yard split was just average. Meanwhile, Cowart and Valentine did not run well. All three had average to poor agility testing, so that might not be a priority either.

Edge:

Since 2016 the Patriots have drafted six edge defenders: Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise (2017), Chase Winovich (2019), Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche (2020), and Ronnie Perkins (2021). There are only RAS scores for four, and they collectively average out to an athletic 7.9. There does not seem to be any threshold on height with Uche at 6’1″ and Wise at 6’5″.

A similar feature comes from weight – Uche was the lightest at 245 and Wise being the heaviest at 278. Outside of Wise, they appear to trend more on the light side; the rest are between 245 and 256. Arm length does seem somewhat important to them; the shortest arms tested were 32 7/8″ with Wise the longest at 35 5/8″.

They do seem to have a threshold as far as explosion testing, as all of them tested at least average or above. Straight line speed does seem to have some importance to them. Outside of Wise, everyone ran a 4.7 or faster with two running 4.6. They also seem to like guys with good or better agility.

Linebackers:

The Patriots have drafted five linebackers since 2016. Despite this, only three of them have RAS scores. The average RAS score of those three is a pretty solid 7.04. Height wise, they seem to like shorter linebackers, with all between 5’11” and 6’1″. There is some range in weight (two guys at 234 and the the other 248).

Arm length does not seem to be particularly important to them, ranging from 31 1/2″ to 32 1/4″. There does seem to be something to them liking their linebackers with decent speed as they all ran sub-4.75 in the 40-yard-dash. Their agility testing is average, though explosive testing isn’t of importance since they range from bad to very good.

Defensive backs:

The one position the Patriots have loaded up on is defensive back. Since 2016, they’ve drafted eight in this area, with three coming from the safety position. Although this is a trend with most NFL teams, it also seems to be a position where testing scores are more dependent.

The RAS scores on all but one came back with a good average of 8.37. Duke Dawson and Cyrus Jones do bring the average score down a bit; both tested about average (6.62 and 6.45, respectively). If one averaged out strictly the cornerbacks, this score actually drops to a 7.87. Two of the three safeties scored over 9.5, with only Joshuah Bledsoe failing to provide a score.

When it comes to height, three out of the four corners are 5’9″ or 5’10”, so they may have a preference for shorter corners. Of course the fifth is Joejuan Williams, who is 6’4″. With the safeties there is some variety from 5’11” to 6’2″. Weight wise, all eight players ranged from 197 to 217. This position, however, is where explosion testing mattered immensely.

While Cyrus Jones tested poorly, the rest all tested above average to elite. They also seem to like their defensive backs fast, and yes there are teams that do not prioritize it. Outside of Kyle Dugger, all run a 4.49 or faster, while the 10-yard splits are all varied.

In regards to agility drills, the Patriots want their defensive backs to have at least good agility. Of all these players, Duke Dawson was the only one with poor agility scores. Also, the 3-cone drill might be a little more important than short shuttle.

2022 NFL Draft Safety Rankings 1.0

Finally the last ranking group! This is the 2022 NFL draft safety rankings. This years class is pretty strong at the top and deep overall. It is a lot like the corner group. There is probably at least two that will go in the first. Now lets get into the 2022 NFL draft safety rankings.

1. Kyle Hamilton – Notre Dame

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The top ranked safety in many 2022 NFL draft safety rankings. A huge dude who is an elite athlete. Elite sideline to sideline range. He can play all over the field. He can play free, strong, slot, or nickel backer. Hamilton is a good tackler. He has had some different injuries that should be checked into. Is not the smoothest when flipping his hips. He also has corner-like ball skills.

2. Daxton Hill – Michigan

Credit: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Hill is another uber-athletic safety. He has played all over the defensive backfield. A very similar player to Darnell Savage. He shows great range and ball skills on film. Despite his size, he has been a solid run defender. Hill though still is raw due to his lack of experience as a starter. His frame is still a little underdeveloped, so you would like to see him add some bulk to his frame. He also shows a great closing burst to the ball when it’s in the air.

3. Jordan Battle – Alabama

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Battle is another in a long line of solid safety prospects to come out of Alabama. Battle brings good size and athleticism to the field allowing him to play either safety spot. He shows a very good explosion on the field and shows smooth hips. He is another player that has shown his versatility by lining up all over the field. What he does need to work on is his tackling, he can be a little inconsistent in that area. He is a solid run defender. Battle can also improve in coverage. He doesn’t always play full speed and could make more plays if he did.

4. Brandon Joseph – Northwestern

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Joseph is long and athletic, with crazy range. He is also in another long line of versatile defenders, having played in the slot, single high, two high, Strong or free. His instincts seem to be on another level. He brings wide receiver-like ball skills to the field. He competes in the run game but could stand to fill out his frame a bit more. His aggressiveness can get the better of him sometimes.

5. Jaquan Brisker – Penn State

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Brisker brings good athleticism and length to the field. He can smoothly flip his hips in coverage. His best physical asset is probably his agility. He shows an ability to really explode when closing on the ball or a ball carrier. He also brings a high level of football IQ to the game. Also Brisker is a willing run defender who could become even better. Overall his biggest issue is he tends to show some inconsistencies. He could also improve as a tackler.

6. Lewis Cine – Georgia

2022 NFL draft safety rankings
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Cine is a very physical hard-hitting safety. He plays very well against the run and shows good awareness in the run game. For a guy known as a physical hard hitter, he shows solid athleticism on the field. He shows good COD skills. He has lined in in a few different spots, even having lined up at cornerback some. Overall ball skills are a bit of a weakness, especially having trouble finding the ball when his back is to it. He seems to do fine when in zone coverage.

7. Verone McKinley III – Oregon

2022 NFL draft safety rankings
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McKinley is another in a long line of athletic, versatile defensive backs out of Oregon. He started as a corner at Oregon and it shows in his coverage skills and ball skills. He excels in zone coverage. While he’s not the biggest guy he plays hard and aggressively. He only has average length and that may affect him more with him not being the biggest guy. He can easily transition to playing the slot once in the NFL, but long term where do you play him? His size can affect him sometimes in the running game.

8. Jalen Pitre – Baylor

2022 NFL draft safety rankings
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Pitre jumps out on film with his explosiveness and energetic style. Pitre brings versatility to the game since Baylor moved him all over. While he played esentially a linebacker role at Baylor he has shown to have solid zone coverage skills. From the jump he should be able to help on special teams as he learns. The biggest questions following him is how will he transition and will he be able to do it?

9. Tykee Smith – Georgia

2022 NFL draft safety rankings
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Smith transferred over from West Virginia. He has shown to have high quality football IQ. Smith is solid all around against the run and in coverage. He’s been a really strong tackler in his career. While undersized he plays a super physical game. One of the questions about him is his ability to play other positions like single high or covering receivers/tight ends out of the slot. His lack of size can hurt him at times, especially against bigger players.

10. Isiah Pola-Mao – USC

2022 NFL draft safety rankings

Pola-Mao has good size and athleticism with great length. He has shown good power in the running game for such a long guy. He has shown good agility and can flip his hip easily. The problem is he has been inconsistent against the run and at times in coverage. He also has had some trouble getting off blocks. Pola-Mao can also be fooled with misdirection or the quarterback’s eyes. He has shown some versatility on the field lining up all over. More bulk and strength are needed.