The NFL Draft is just a few hours away, so at about this time in 96 hours we will have an idea of just how the board played out and which prospects landed where.
With that being said we have our own Mar’Quell Fripp-Owens, here to lay out his prospect rankings by positions heading into draft night.
NOTE: This is not a reflection of The Philly Blitz big board, this is just a breakdown of how the top ten prospects at each position compare to their positional peers.
While it’s no lie that this group has been viewed as one of the worst quarterback classes in recent memory, there is still a lot of room left for optimism, starting with the strong arm superstar out of Liberty. All it took was one flick of the wrist and the flash of the million dollar smile and the general public was on board. Of course there is no denying that Malik Willis clearly has the highest ceiling and offers the most to a franchise, there have been more than a few whispers that Pitt product Kenny Pickett could sneak his way into the top ten; by way of Carolina.
Whether this is a smoke screen or not remains to be seen, but either way whoever drafts the signal caller out of Pittsburgh will receiver the most pro ready quarterback in the class. A fifth year senior, Pickett has probably outstayed his welcome in some eyes (will be 24 by the start of season; 29 by contract time). Now with that said, what he brings to the table currently is a lot more than some of his peers can say. After setting school records in both yards and touchdowns, Pickett has shown the abilities to command a pro style offense but offers questions in terms of his ceilings.
Then there is Desmond Ridder who is as cool as the other side of the pillow. He may not offer the same thing in terms of a floor when you bring up a Kenny Pickett, but he’s a winner…not just any winner, one from a Group of 5 conference. He checks the all boxes in arm talent, accuracy, and mobility but also leaves questions to be answered in a few of those areas. The landing spot will be key, but that can be said for each of his peers.
Now of course we’ve come to the Bailey Zappe’s of the group, who by my account is a personal favorite but let’s be honest — we’ve come to the group of backup quarterbacks who have ideal traits but don’t offer that ‘It Factor’. As we’ve stated before this quarterback class certainly isn’t filled with world beaters but as I’ve often said before someone will be successful, it’s just all about identifying the right target and landing spot.
Despite being the most devalued position in football, the running back will always have a special place in the heart of history. But todays mantra of ‘Running backs don’t matter’ has skewed the opinions of many in terms of the positions value both in terms of draft positioning and contracts. When is the perfect time to take a running back?
“A big time running back, whether it’s Fournette; whether it’s Adrian Peterson, who was a top-10 pick; whether it was Terrell Davis in the sixth round; whether it’s David Johnson, I think was a third-rounder; Le’Veon Bell, I think was a second-rounder. All those guys are worth top-five picks, but they were all found in different places.”Kyle Shanahan
With this years’ class it comes off as a bit too heavy, starting with the Doak Walker award winner, Kenneth Walker III. The pride of Michigan State stole the show with his nation leading 15 rushes of 30 yards or more and was considered the leader at the Heisman house for most of the season. He solidified his spot at RB1 with his 4.38 forty yard dash and 1.49 ten yard splits in Indianapolis, but as a prospect Walker is probably the most all-around back in the class — there are questions surrounding his ability as a pass catcher but I’m not concerned here, as he wasn’t really asked to do this much at MSU.
Not too far behind him however is Breece Hall who is as patient as they come — Hall lives by the running back motto ‘slow to, fast through’. Hall doesn’t play nearly as fast as his 4.39 forty yard dash time (was actually surprised). He doesn’t avoid contact well and always keeps his feet moving which makes him a terror to bring down in the open field. Then of course there’s Isaiah Spiller who maybe the most explosive back in this class (Tyler Badie may have a word). While Spiller doesn’t possess the breakaway speed that his teammate Devon Achane (‘23 draft eligible) the things Spiller can do in terms of stop and start/change of direction abilities are really, really special.
Of course all three aforementioned backs have the chance to go early on the first two days of the draft, however with guys like James Cook (best pass catcher), Kyren Williams (best pass protector), and Dameon Pierce available in the later rounds there is no shortage of impact players that teams can find to serve value.
The absolute best group in the class — there is something about the recent wide receiver classes, and it will only get better from here. I like to classify it as the 7 on 7’s making an AAU-esque difference in terms of the amount of reps and opportunities to advance the development of the prospect available to the kids nowadays. Whatever the case may be, just know these kids are talented and ready to make an immediate impact.
This receiver group is so deep that if you asked six different people who was the respective WR1, you might get six different answers. This group is loaded in terms of depth and flavors; as mentioned at the top this is not a reflection of The Philly Blitz Big Board; because there are much more than ten receivers that land in our top 100. In fact the group might run at least 15 deep, with a multitude more just outside who can insert production (hello Velus Jones). Still, it is expected that either Garrett Wilson or Drake London will be the first receiver off the board, while Alabama receiver Jameson Williams is making a late push up boards as he continues to rehab from his torn ACL suffered in the National Championship game.
So with all of these receivers positioned to go ahead of Chris Olave, one may ask how did he climb all the way to WR1 (for me personally)? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when it comes to ceilings there are a plethora of receivers who can and will go before Olave — the goal however is to draft good football players, and Olave’s game has minimal flaws in it. Olave is an absolute technician when it comes to route running. He manipulates defenders with eases and has no problems transitioning between routes without any false step. Much is made of his high quality speed, but he offers the ability to dominate at all three levels. However, if you have a level of interest in Olave, then it may serve you well to pay attention to Jahan Dotson. A receiver who offers a lot of similarities to Olave’s skill set; two prospects who make the transition to Sunday’s seamlessly and can be extremely productive no matter the landing spot.
This is my absolute favorite position group in the entire class — I’m not sure we can recall the last time we’ve seen a tight end group this deep. Maybe 2017? But it’s possible that we could be reaching 2010 territory. While the class doesn’t possess a prospect with the start power of Kyle Pitts like last years class did — and there was a term thrown around often with Pitts, ‘unicorn’ that possibly only Chigoziem Okonkwo of Maryland comes close to filling in this years’ class.
Okonkwo who I currently have ranked as my TE7 may be a bit undersized but he was used in a magnitude of ways being a fullback, H-Back, slot receiver, and traditional F tight end. Okonkwo offers field stretching abilities, serviceable blocking abilities, and a valuable chess piece to an offense with a creative play caller.
Another personal favorite and a guy who has flown under the radar not just during the draft process but during his time at Ohio State as a whole is Jeremy Ruckert. An underrated receiver, Ruckert never really had the opportunity to showcase his skills as a pass catcher with an ultra talented wide receiver group in place, Ruckert was used as a lead blocker from a multitude of alignments.
At the top of the class we have the typical battle of ceiling versus floor — do you take the tight end who amassed one of the greatest offensive seasons in Colorado State history? The first unanimous All-American is schools history and the reigning Mackey Award (best TE in the country), Trey McBride was the face of the Rams offense as a four year starter; accounting for 38% of the teams passing yards over the last two seasons. Then there is Isaiah Likely, an ultra-athletic tight end who only seems to get better with each rep. After being recruited as a wide receiver, Likely is still in the process of learning all the nuances that come with the position. That said his 900+ yards and 12 touchdowns in his final season at Coastal Carolina is nothing to take lightly.
Interior Offensive Line
Just like we mentioned at running back, the interior offensive line unit is one of the most undervalued groups in the NFL. Which can be pretty mind boggling when you consider the fact that one of the main ways to make a quarterback uncomfortable is to collapse the pocket from the inside, leaving him no room to escape. Now, it’s not impossible to be an interior offensive lineman selected within the top ten picks of the draft. You’d just have to be Quinton Nelson who as we all know has been an All Pro in each of his first four seasons. So that tells you where the standard is set too. While this year features a prospect who I consider to be a top ten overall talent in the class — he’s surely due to fall victim to the devaluing of the center position but for honest reasoning.
I’ve explained in detail the pros and cons that come with selecting Tyler Linderbaum but at the end of the day I come away with the same final answer: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure but this is a damn good football player. Some teams may want to see if he can get up to the 305-310 pound range while keeping the same mobility but the risk is worth the potential reward.
This is where things get interesting however — who is the best guard in the class? That depends on who you ask. Zion Johnson is probably the most NFL ready of the group. Johnson isn’t the tallest guy at 6’2 that comes in within the seventh percentile and his measurements aren’t super impressive but Johnson does a phenomenal job staying square, creating a strong base, and understanding the leverage. Johnson is a high IQ football player who understands what defenses are showing; which speaks volumes given he’s a transfer from Davidson and almost immediately earned a job at a Power 5 school. Johnson can come into the league today and not only settle in as a starting guard from day one but can offer position versatility across the offensive line.
Speaking of position versatility, that brings me to the stellar guard out of Texas A&M — Kenyon Green has tape at both left tackle and right tackle. Do what you want with that information but I’m here to tell you, the kid is a guard and a really good one at that. Green plays the position so natural, looks like a dancing bear when in pass pro and when he’s on it’s a thing of beauty. The problem is, he’s not very consistent in the pass pro area just yet. But as a run blocker, Green is a mauler! With his experience and how natural the position comes to him we could be looking at a future perineal All Pro. If you’re a believer in the fact that you indeed can build an above average offensive line without investing high draft capital then this in fact is your lucky day. Trey Smith, who some believe is a tackle, (I’m not one of those people) offers starter potential from a day two pick, while both small school/Senior Bowl standouts Cole Strange (Chattanooga) and Dylan Parham (Memphis) offer something pretty interesting in terms of ceilings.
An offensive tackle is truly a quarterback’s best friend. Of course, there are those who are pass catchers who take the time to make the quarterback look good. There is a running game which helps take some of the pressure off the signal caller. Even a defense who on a completely different side of the ball, has little to no control of the production of an offense.
But an offensive lineman? More so an offensive tackle, well this could be the difference between a successful career and a failure — a completed pass and a sack — and most importantly life and death. Needless to say, having a top tier prospect to protect your blind side is ideal to say the least and the 2022 NFL Draft class has a few guys who many could consider to be premier tackles at the next level.
Well ladies and gentlemen, pick your poison because you have any and everything you could ask for at your disposal with the top three guys. Are you a run first offense? Take the upstart tackle from NC State in Ickem Ekwonu, talk about pure domination as a run blocker, I’ve mentioned before my personal vendetta to see Ickey in a wide zone offense just to see him crush defenders out in space with his elite level mobility. That said, no matter the scheme, Ekwonu will dominate pad levels and move people.
What if you’re a fan of the passing game? Well, there’s a kid from Mississippi State who took over 700 snap in pass protection this season. Oh, and he was really good at it, as he only allowed 16 pressure over the course of the entire season. Cross is the ideal tackle in a pass first offense. He may give up some ground on a bull rush but settles in very well, has high quality hand usage and will keep his quarterback’s jersey clean.
Then there’s the guy I personally have ranked as the OT1 in this class, Evan Neal. Talk about the best of both worlds, run blocker, pass blocker, and human dump truck all in one. Classify him how you want but Neal not only is an all-around prospect but he offers some position versatility as he has snaps at both right tackle and guard.
Outside of the top three there are a few guys who could be impact prospects depending on the landing spot, led by Northern Illinois’ Trevor Penning. A total mauler, plays the position how it should be played with a nasty bodyguard-esque attitude. His aggressiveness can be a bit of a detriment at times, but he means well and is the type of guy quarterbacks love to go to war with on Sundays.
The offensive side of the ball is filled with some gems underneath the surface. The position that gets the most attention isn’t the most talented by any stretch of the imagination, but as a whole this group of prospects has the chance to be very successful at the next level.