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Over the Thanksgiving weekend, my family and I took in the latest movie from Disney, “Encanto.”
It was a wonderful evening and the kids truly enjoyed the movie. However, given how my broken brain works, two moments from the film had my mind thinking of mock drafts, of all things.
First was during the moments in the film where two of the main characters struggled to make sense of a vision, seared into broken chards of glass. A moment captured in time, but open to multiple interpretations.
Second was when one of those characters was trying, struggling, to sift throw pouring sand to pick up those chards. An almost futile attempt at piecing things together.
Both of those moments encapsulate putting together a mock draft any earlier than say ten minutes before the first round actually starts.
Still, we love the content, so we forge on. This is just that, a snapshot of teams captured in time, as the football world emerges from the Thanksgiving holiday. There are a lot of decisions to be made, and moves to be finished, before the draft this spring. Sitting here right now, here is one snapshot of how that first round could play out, with 32 selections sure to be wrong come April.
Heck, even the draft order might be different come this time next week.
The draft order is set by current winning percentage within each conference, as tracked here by Tankathon. The order assumes that Carson Wentz will hit the necessary snaps threshold for the Philadelphia Eagles to secure a third first-round selection.
Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
With a multitude of pressing needs, the Detroit Lions can go in any number of directions with the first-overall selection. Given the importance of quarterback, one might consider that the Lions would look to QB with this pick, but this might not be the class to look at quarterback in the top spot.
That leads Brad Holmes to the EDGE position, which is a very impressive group. Aidan Hutchinson regular-season finale against Ohio State might push the Michigan pass rusher to the top of that position group, but Kayvon Thibodeaux went into the season as the EDGE1 on many boards, and nothing he did during this campaign has moved me off that idea.
Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Obviously there is a huge elephant in the room when it comes to the Houston Texans. One the approximate size of quarterback Deshaun Watson.
This pick is made with the idea that Watson remains in their plans, and eligible to play for the Texans, for the 2022 season. If that is indeed the case, or if Houston has managed to trade Watson and received a quarterback in return who can start Week 1, then the Texans can address another position. If not, however, QB might be in the cards at this spot, or perhaps a trade down.
Having given some context, assuming QB is not a need here the Texans address their defense, adding a talented corner in Derek Stingley Jr. Now, health might be a concern here, as Stingley’s season was cut short with a foot injury and his recovery might impact his pre-draft testing. But when healthy, Stingley is a cover corner built for the modern game:
On this play from 2020, the LSU corner avoids the rub concept and closes the gap, breaking up the throw on the shallow crosser.
Adding Stingley gives the Texans a piece to rebuilding their defense, as they look to turn around a franchise that struggled mightily in 2020.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
(Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports)
There is a case to be made that Kyle Hamilton is the most talented player in this draft, and perhaps the best safety to come out in recent draft cycles. Positional value might take a toll on his overall draft stock, but from where I sit if you have a chance to draft a sideline-to-sideline with his skill-set, you do not hesitate.
Hamilton’s usage speaks to his schematic diversity. He has seen 20% of his snaps aligned as the post safety, and has dropped into that area post-snap 27% of the time. But he has also played as a half-field safety in two-high packages, and can also play underneath, whether in the flats or in hook zones between the hashmarks. Notre Dame even used him as a boundary corner at times as well. This play against Wisconsin might illustrate best what he can do underneath, as he starts in the slot but works to the flat, closing the distance on the receiver with ease:
Jacksonville has a need in their secondary, and Hamilton can go a long way towards fixing that issue.
New York Jets: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
As things stand right now, the New York Jets have a pair of picks in the top five. Should the board fall this way, Joe Douglas might sprint to the podium and turn in the card with Aidan Hutchinson’s name on it. By the time the pre-draft process is complete, the battle for EDGE1 might take a few more twists and turns, and Hutchinson’s outing against the Ohio State Buckeyes this past weekend might have put him atop that class for many.
As it stands right now, the Jets get a top-flight pass rusher with an array of moves to add to their defensive front. Pairing Hutchinson with a healthy Carl Lawson gives Robert Saleh a pairing much like the 2019 San Francisco 49ers, that saw Nick Bosa across from Arik Armstead. That was the foundation of that defense, and Hutchinson/Lawson could be the foundation of this defense.
New York Jets (from Seattle): Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
(Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports)
The way the draft order currently sits, three teams would have back-to-back picks in the first round. The Jets would be the first of the bunch.
As mentioned earlier, Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas are likely to try and construct a defense that suits what Saleh is trying to accomplish, and one that might mirror what he helped build in San Francisco.
Having added Aidan Hutchinson to give him bookend pass rushers, he looks to the secondary. While with the 49ers, Saleh relied on a long coverage corner with both the skills to play in press-man, as well as the ability to handle varied responsibilities in zone coverage situations.
That leads him to Cincinnati corner Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, one of the more fascinating players to study.
Gardner is a long corner with a wingspan that shows up on film, but he also demonstrates the ability to handle a diverse workload. On this play against Notre Dame, you’ll see him in press alignment handline a crossing route:
Here against the Hoosiers, Gardner does not panic when the receiver gets into his blindspot, and flips his hips with ease to erase separation.
Others might have a different name as their CB2, but right now, Gardner looks the part to me, and he looks like the kind of player Saleh would love in his secondary.
New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Ultimately, who gets to make this pick might determine how the New York Giants approach the 2022 season. With reports surfacing this weekend that David Gettleman is the next face to be departing town, there is a chance that a new general manager decides to go in a different direction at quarterback. Even with the questions around this class, we are getting into a range where a GM might feel comfortable addressing QB.
However, offensive line remains a big issue in New York, both on the inside and on the edges. Evan Neal, the mountain of an offensive tackle, gives the Giants an option on the outside. The big left tackle shows up both in the run game, as he does on this play against Mississippi:
The Giants need to rebuild their offense, and adding a potential cornerstone tackle is a good first step. Provided, of course, they decide to rebuild around Daniel Jones.
New York Giants (from Chicago): Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
Would the New York Giants actually double-dip on the offensive line? Would they draft an interior offensive lineman inside the top ten? Is everyone taking crazy pills?
Again, a lot depends on who is making the decisions, and how they feel about Daniel Jones. But with the assumption that Jones gets another year to prove his value to the organization, the Giants indeed address the offensive line with the second of their picks in the first round. Having addressed the edge with Evan Neal, now they turn inside, adding Kenyon Green from Texas A&M.
When you think of an interior offensive lineman, you probably think first of the run game. Green checks that box. Watch the left guard on this zone design, as Green’s feet and upper-body strength work in concert to create the alley:
Once Green sees the defensive tackle knife inside, he gets his eyes to the interior to pick up the looper behind him. He identifies the threat, and eliminates him from the inside, driving him outside the pocket with ease.
Again, provided they decide to build around Jones, double-dipping on the offensive line might be their approach.
Philadelphia Eagles: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
The Philadelphia Eagles are playing themselves into not just playoff contention, but thanks to the past three weeks from the Dallas Cowboys, they are now in the thick of things in the NFC East. And while Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants certainly stings and has some again wondering about QB, they might still look to build around Jalen Hurts instead of moving for a new quarterback in this draft.
Yet, this was supposed to be something of a rebuilding year, and armed with three potential picks in the first round, 2022 was going to be their breakout campaign.
Thanks, however, to some changes on both sides of the ball conceptually, the Eagles are ahead of schedule right now. Having found a formula that works with Hurts, that frees up Howie Roseman to address other positions. One of those needs? Pass rush. The Eagles have struggled to generate pressure on opposing passers, and adding an EDGE presence is a big need. George Karlaftis might be the third such player off the board, but one might not be surprised if some have him as the top option at the position. His pass-rushing plan, and quick hands, would be a reason why, and they show up on this sack against Iowa:
Adding another pass rusher would be a wise investment for Roseman with one of those three picks in the first round.
Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami): Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
In this scenario, Howie Roseman addressed defense with the first of his three picks in the first round.
Now he adds another weapon for the offense.
Philadelphia has missed on some recent receiver selections, but DeVonta Smith seems to be breaking that mold. Another player that could break that mold? Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson. The Buckeyes have a number of downfield threats this season, including teammate Chris Olave who some might have as their WR1, but Wilson’s route-running and explosiveness make him a welcome addition to the Eagles. Watch the change-of-direction skills on this out route against Maryland:
The Eagles could handle these three first-round picks any number of ways. Here, they’ve rebuild their defensive front and added another weapon for Jalen Hurts in the passing game.
Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, N.C. State
(Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Well this could be fun…
Would the Carolina Panthers pass on quarterback for a second-straight season and address a different position in the first round? Well, Sunday’s dismal showing against the Miami Dolphins might see that question answered in the negative. But there are issues beyond the quarterback position, and addressing the offensive line might more palatable right now in Carolina, with the return of Cam Newton into the fold. The organization could make the decision to wait on QB until later in the draft, given the options at the position, and address value and/or other needs.
And…did you see that offensive line performance on Sunday?
Ikem Ekwonu has made moves up the board this season, playing himself into the first-round mix. He might be this year’s player who gets the “he is a great tackle, but let’s move him to guard” discussion going, but from plays like this, I think he can live on the edge at the next level:
When offensive line guru Brandon Thorn speaks, I listen. You should too, and frankly NFL decision-makers should as well. Here’s what he had to say about Ekwonu recently:
A lot of people ask me what position I like Ekwonu most in. My answer is the one where he is on my team.
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) October 18, 2021
Now, the Panthers could go in a different direction. But if they’re willing to move ahead with Newton in 2022, this would be a great addition.
Atlanta Falcons: David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
(Junfu Han-USA TODAY Sports)
Aidan Hutchinson has played himself into the Top Five of the draft, but his teammate David Ojabo is not too far behind. He might be more of a project at the position, as this is his first full-season as a starter, but the production in 2021 speaks for itself. Ojabo has put together an 11-sack season through 12 games, and there is still time for him to add to those totals.
Just watch the speed and explosiveness off the edge here, as he creates the sack/fumble/touchdown for the Wolverines against Michigan State:
Many an NFL general manager will look at that play and ask “how can we add that to our defense?” The Atlanta Falcons do just that with this selection.
Minnesota Vikings: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Despite making a number of investments at the cornerback position, the Minnesota Vikings are still looking for the right combination of players on the outside.
Andrew Booth Jr. is an athletic cornerback with ideal length and ball skills, traits that show up on this play against Wake Forest:
Starting from a press alignment, Booth is very patient as the offense tries to set up a back-shoulder throw. He plays this perfectly, and nearly gets the interception. (The flag was not on Booth, and the Demon Deacons settled for a field goal).
Minnesota might also consider EDGE here, with Danielle Hunter down for the season in the second-straight year and concerns over Everson Griffen. But with the board falling this way, they turn to the secondary and add a talented cornerback to try and shore up that position.
New Orleans Saints: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
(Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports)
A glaring position of need for the New Orleans Saints, besides long-term stability at quarterback, is wide receiver. The departure of Emmanuel Sanders in free agency coupled with the loss of Michael Thomas illustrated the need to address WR in the upcoming off-season.
Treylon Burks might not be a universal name atop the WR board, but his ability to play inside and outside offers the kind of schematic diversity that Sean Payton is looking for. On this play against Texas A&M you’ll see Burks beat press alignment on the boundary for a touchdown in the vertical passing game:
There are certainly other receivers to consider at the top of the draft, but the fit for Burks in New Orleans could be ideal.
Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis): Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
(Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Mocking an off-ball linebacker in the first round is often akin to setting up a lightning rod on your head. Having done that last year with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah early and often — and almost always to the Cleveland Browns — I am back for more punishment this year.
The Philadelphia Eagles continue to add up front on defense with this selection. They addressed EDGE earlier, and now turn to the second level, which has been a soft spot for them the past few seasons. Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd might be the player to change that. He is the prototype for the modern NFL linebacker, with the ability to impact both the run game and the pass game, whether dropping into coverage or attacking the pocket. Lloyd has seven sacks to his name this season, but it is his coverage skills that might attract attention. Lloyd has three interceptions this year, two on throws he tipped and caught at the line of scrimmage and one on a tip downfield. But watch this play against BYU, where he reads the play-action concept and gets into the throwing lane on the seam route:
Now, maybe off-ball LB is a position that Howie Roseman waits to address. If he decides to go early at the position, Lloyd offers playmaking skills on the second level that Philadelphia has lacked in recent years.
Cleveland Browns: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
(Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)
Sure, the Cleveland Browns might go in a different direction. After all, the organization faces a big decision on the future of Baker Mayfield. Yes, there are members of the fanbase wondering about the future of Mayfield in Cleveland, and his struggles this season have called into question his time in a Browns uniform.
Still, Mayfield might benefit from uncertainty in the upcoming quarterback class, and might get the benefit of the doubt given his injuries this season. Beyond that, the Browns have a glaring need at wide receiver, a need that was on full display in Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Cleveland faces a decision about Jarvis Landry, who is on the books for 2022 but with a base salary of $14.3 million, yet would represent a cap hit of just $1.5 million should the organization go in a different direction. Couple that with the release of Odell Beckham Jr., and struggles to separate downfield, and you can see the issues.
Enter Chris Olave. As my colleague the wide Doug Farrar likes to point out, the Browns have a need to manufacture explosive plays. Olave offers that:
Adding Olave to the offense would give Mayfield a much-needed weapon on the outside.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
(John Reed-USA TODAY Sports)
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated a few weeks ago that he does not want to roll with a rookie quarterback in 2022.
So that might indicate that the Steelers open the season with a veteran, whether Ben Roethlisberger or one of the other options currently behind him, such as Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins. Even so, the future of the position looks like a glaring need in Pittsburgh.
Here, the Steelers address the QB room and add a quarterback with both upside, as well as a QB who demonstrated growth during his 2021 season. After some turnover-filled contests in 2020 — including a five interception game against LSU and a six burger against Arkansas — Matt Corral cut down on the mistakes and showed growth from the pocket as a passer. He might face some schematic adjustments, moving from Lane Kiffin’s offense to the NFL, but his athleticism and development are not to be ignored.
For more on Corral you can check out this bevy of breakdowns.
Denver Broncos: Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia
(Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
Broncos Twitter is already in an uproar over the future of the quarterback position, and what general manager George Paton might due with this selection. Having decided last season to address defense with their pick in the first round, could they actually do it again?
If the boards falls this way, they indeed might, adding the imposing Jordan Davis from Georgia.
The Bulldogs defensive tackle might be one of the more dominant players in this class, but the interior defensive line is a position that has been devalued somewhat in recent years. Still, watch plays like this against the run:
And imagine Davis up front in an athletic defense with talent on the second and third levels. If Vic Fangio remains in place, this might be the dream piece to his defense.
Las Vegas Raiders: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
(Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)
Despite a growing list of off-the-field issues in Las Vegas, the Raiders kept themselves in the playoff mix with a surprising win on Thanksgiving Day over the Dallas Cowboys. Looking ahead to the 2022 season, however, some needs show up on their to-do list.
Wide receiver could be considered on that list of needs, and Chris Olave might be an enticing option should the board fall this way. Another need, however, is the interior of their offensive line. Having traded away Rodney Hudson this off-season, replacing him with one of the premiere options at the center position would be a great move.
Enter Tyler Lindebaum.
The Iowa center is a master of his craft, a bruiser and a finisher in the run game and a technician in pass protection. Watch how he handles the nose tackle here in pass pro:
The Raiders saw their rivals Kansas City rebuild their offense with Creed Humphrey in the second round. Following that model, they address center in the first and get a premier player at the position.
Washington Football Team: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Monday night’s win over the Seattle Seahawks pushed the Washington Football Team into playoff position, and provided a few more examples of magic from quarterback Taylor Heinicke, including a scramble early in the game that showed some athletic prowess.
Still, the organization has been trying to find a consistent option at quarterback for a few years now, and while Heinicke has impressed at times, one would think Washington is still looking for that long-term answer.
Enter Kenny Pickett, whose rise up draft boards is approaching Mac Jones-like levels. Pickett returned for a super senior year, and it paid off in bunches, as he played himself into the first round discussion and helped the Panthers to an ACC Coastal title. He makes smart decisions with the football, as highlighted in this breakdown of his game against Clemson. Yes, “QB Hand Size Twitter” might have something to say about him, but having played his college ball in Pittsburgh, he has shown he can hold up in the elements.
For more on him you can check out this breakdown of his game against Clemson.
Los Angeles Chargers: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
(Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports)
First-year head coach Brandon Staley is finding success in his debut campaign with the Los Angeles Chargers.
One area where the success has not replicated across town, however, is up front on defense. Staley is finding it a bit tougher to stop the run without a player like Aaron Donald up front. So the Chargers turn to DeMarvin Leal, a defensive lineman from Texas A&M who can play any number of spots up front. Leal has been used as a 5- or a 6-technique on the edge, but the Aggies have also kicked him inside at times. He would give Staley a number of options up front, coupled with the ability to pressure the quarterback, as he does here with a late dip and bend:
Leal would offer the Chargers a bit more of a physical presence up front, with some different ways of using him schematically.
Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco): Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
(Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
How the Miami Dolphins handle this off-season is predicated upon how they feel about quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. With the constant rumors of a Deshaun Watson trade, one might think the organization will go in a different direction at QB. But with Tagovailoa showing some promise in recent weeks, there is a chance the Dolphins look to build around him rather than move on from him.
If that is the approach, they might look to the trenches. The Dolphins have made a number of recent investments in the offensive line, including Austin Jackson in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft and Liam Eichenberg in the second round of the 2021 draft. Yet, they are still searching for the right combination of players up front, and they entered Week 12 having allowed the most quarterback pressures of any unit in the league, according to charting data from Pro Football Focus.
Provided the organization looks to rebuild that group around Tagovailoa, they might look to Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa to shore up the tackle position. Penning moves well and is effective with his hands, as you see in this pass protection rep against Iowa State:
Buffalo Bills: Thayer Munford, IOL, Ohio State
As the Buffalo Bills look to make a run at another AFC Championship game, and for their fans hopefully beyond, an area of concern lies in the trenches. The Bills have struggled to stop the run, so interior defensive line could be a need in the spring. Offensively, they have struggled at times to protect Josh Allen. Teams are getting pressure with four, and head coach Sean McDermott has talked this season about an inability to win one-on-one matchups.
Adding to the offensive line looks to be a need, and the versatile Thayer Munford could be an ideal option. After spending the bulk of his career at left tackle, and playing well, he kicked inside to guard for the start of this season and has shown an ability to handle both the run game and pass protection responsibilities in the interior. His ability to play inside, coupled with his versatility, makes him a valuable option in the draft and a big addition to the Bills.
Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams): Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
After watching the Detroit Lions offense the past few weeks, I am sure most would agree that quarterback remains a need. Jared Goff might be a nice bridge to the next option, but if the Lions want to get of the NFC North basement, they need a dynamic player at the position.
A few weeks ago, the idea of Malik Willis sliding this far in the first round seemed outlandish, but in the wake of a few tough games, you can see him sliding a bit. The Liberty passer has an incredible arm and is the kind of dynamic playmaker that teams are looking for, but mistakes and turnovers might see some teams want to get more of a second look. Willis has earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl, so he’ll get that opportunity.
In Detroit, he’ll get a chance to learn and develop as the Lions look to rebuild the roster around him. For more on his game, you can dive into these breakdowns.
Cincinnati Bengals: Darian Kinnard, IOL, Kentucky
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)
Last year the football world debated the merits of the Cincinnati Bengals drafting Ja’Marr Chase in the first round, or potentially Penei Sewell to shore up the tackle spot in front of Joe Burrow.
The organization went with the receiver, and that move seems to have panned out. That does not mean, however, that the Bengals should not add to the offensive line. With Riley Reiff and Quinton Spain both entering free agency, bolstering this unit would be a smart move.
Enter Darian Kinnard, the Kentucky offensive lineman. Kinnard has been impressive at right tackle for the Wildcats this season, and could excel at that position in the NFL. Of course, he is another member of the “hey this guy is a good tackle let’s move him to guard” discourse, but when you see this footwork and anchor, you might think he can live on the edge at the next level. Keep your eyes on the right tackle on this clip:
With questions about the offensive line as the off-season approaches, Cincinnati can shore up the unit by adding Kinnard to the mix.
Dallas Cowboys: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)
Dan Quinn deserves a tremendous amount of credit for how he has rebuilt the Dallas Cowboys defense after how that unit performed back in 2020. Of course, the addition of Micah Parsons has a lot to do with that, but Quinn has also shed his “single-high” mantra for more two-high looks, showing some self-scouting when it comes to how he has constructed his defenses over the years.
An area where the Cowboys could still improve is at the back of that defense, and that brings us to Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker, who has played in a number of different roles for the Nittany Lions. You might see him as a half-field safety, in the middle-of-the-field in some single-high looks, and dropping down to the underneath zones. On this play against Maryland he’ll drop as a half-field safety in a quarter-quarter-half coverage, and drive on a dig route to help prevent a completion:
He might not have the skill-set of Kyle Hamilton, but Brisker’s versatility is a fit in Dallas.
Kansas City Chiefs: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
(Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
Sure, the Kansas City Chiefs might be in the process of figuring things out offensively. (And yes, part of that might begin on the defensive side of the football. With that unit coming into form, that has taken some of the pressure off quarterback Patrick Mahomes).
Still, finding a third option after Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce seems to remain a need in Kansas City. Mecole Hardman has never grown into that role, so a third option is a wise investment. Penn State’s Jahan Dotson might be the ideal player in this offense, as his explosive presence in the vertical game coupled with what he can do after the catch is a complement to what the Chiefs and their current weapons offer.
Here he is against Maryland taking a quick slant-and-go the distance:
Slotting him in opposite Hill, next to Kelce, or however the Chiefs look to implement him might look wonderful for Kansas City next fall.
Tennessee Titans: Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
(Brianna Paciorka-USA TODAY NETWORK)
What we have seen the past few weeks from the Tennessee Titans illustrates just how much their offense fits together when key players are healthy, but how differently things look when those players are absent. Sure, a lot of the Titans offense flows from Derrick Henry, but his presence also opens up the middle of the field for crossing routes off of play-action designs, with players like wide receiver A.J. Brown working the middle of the field.
Another piece to this puzzle? A tight end that can attack that area as well. With the departure of Jonnu Smith in free agency, that component is missing. The Titans look to shore up that piece of their offense puzzle, adding Jalen Wydermyer from Texas A&M.
This is an intriguing tight end class, and players like Trey McBride from Colorado State, Brant Kuithe from Utah and Cade Otton from Washington could be considered in this spot. But Wydermyer gets the nod, thanks in large part to plays like this one:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Next up is Kaiir Elam, the talented cornerback from Florida. Elam has been a fixture in many mock drafts this season, and with good reason. Elam is a corner with some press coverage chops, the kind of trait that NFL defensive coordinators love to see in a rookie. On this play against LSU, you’ll see Elam’s press technique, combined with his sticky man coverage, as he helps break up a hitch route:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dealt with injuries to players like Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting this year, and with Davis set to hit free agency, adding an NFL-ready corner would be a huge move for them in the draft.
New England Patriots: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
(Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports)
Bill Belichick might not come out and say this out loud, but the man does have some things that he loves. For example, starch during Thanksgiving, as he told the media last week. He is also a huge fan of Halloween. Costumes, candy, what’s not to love?
He also loves tapping into that Alabama to New England pipeline.
We saw that in the 2021 Draft, as the New England Patriots added quarterback Mac Jones and defensive tackle Christian Barmore. They also drafted Damien Harris in recent years. He’ll draw upon his relationship and trust with Nick Saban again, turning to wide receiver Jameson Williams. Williams emerged as a playmaker in the Alabama offense this season, and with the Patriots looking to help Jones’ continued development, getting the young QB another playmaker is a step towards that goal.
Green Bay Packers: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
This could be a very interesting move.
George Pickens was expected to be one of the top receivers this season, and in the 2022 NFL draft as a result. But he tore his ACL in the preseason, putting those thoughts on hold…
Or so we thought. Pickens returned to the field this weekend against Georgia Tech, and while he caught just a single pass, a five-yard gain on a screen, his return from the injury is impressive.
While we wait to see what Pickens does the rest of the way, and if he even enters the draft, the Green Bay Packers do have a need at receiver. A number of their current options are set to hit free agency, including Davante Adams, and depending on how things shake out, Pickens might be an incredible consolation prize.
Baltimore Ravens: Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan
(Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports)
Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo are not the only players who have helped themselves on the Michigan defense this year. Enter versatile secondary defender Daxton Hill, who plays in a number of different roles for the Wolverines. This season Hill has seen snaps at boundary corner, in the slot, and in both split-safety and two-deep alignments.
On this interception against Wisconsin, you’ll see him underneath in zone coverage, putting his length to use as he snares a pass and goes the other way:
The Baltimore Ravens struggled this year with injuries in the secondary. Hill’s versatility gives Wink Martindale a player that can address a few different holes on the fly, and his ability to handle different roles is the kind of Swiss Army knife defensive coordinators love having in the back end.
Arizona Cardinals: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
(John Reed-USA TODAY Sports)
Do not let how the Iron Bowl ended fool you. Roger McCreary is a talented cornerback and the kind of player the Arizona Cardinals would love to have in their secondary. He can play in press with technique, is patient in his backpedal and has shown some versatility to his game.
On this play against Mississippi State you see that patience as he plays the slant route from a press alignment, but drives to the catch point to prevent the completion:
With questions in the secondary, McCreary can go a long way towards providing some answers for the Buccaneers.