The Big Board is finally here.
100 Prospects, evaluated and ranked.
1. DT Jalen Carter
A highly recruited, multi-sport athlete which shows up on his tape. As a former basketball player and weightlifter that finished in second place in the FHSAA Class 2A heavyweight division with a bench press of 395 pounds; it’s clear to see how his background translates to how he dominates on the gridiron.
He dominates guards (and tackles) with his ferocious hands and has a first step that leaves blockers helpless when he wants to. Has reps against Tennessee (‘22) and Kentucky (‘21) where these traits are on full display; he initially wins upon the snap and then translates that speed to power or just displaces blockers who lack leverage.
Was typically used as a rotational player through his first two seasons but that did little to nothing to stop him from producing with three sacks, 33 QB hurries, and 11.5 TFLs during that time.
Carter was used in a multitude of different alignments during his time in Athens and showed an array of different pass-rushing moves and abilities through these placements. Showed promise in a contain role as the 5-tech vs Tennessee, quality reps as the 0-tech allowing traffic to flow behind the havoc he created vs Oregon (‘22), and as the 3-tech vs Mississippi State.
In terms of on-field prospects I have very few complaints about Carter; off the field, however, is where things take a turn. It is well known about Todd McShay and his mentions of alleged character concerns surrounding Carter.
And when the news broke of his two recent run-ins with the police this did nothing but add fuel to a possible fire. It’s highly possible that Carter is just a young prospect who like many others is still maturing in some ways. However, it will take a complete investigation by a franchise before they feel comfortable with not just the player but the person they are bringing in.
2. DE Will Anderson
One of the most highly touted and decorated players to come from the Crimson Tide during the Saban era. Anderson entered Tuscaloosa as a five-star recruit and the number four prospect in the entire state of Georgia. It didn’t take him long to make an impact as a true freshman amassing seven sacks while claiming a starting role in the ‘Jack’ position. His sophomore season however is what saw the entire country begin to take notice; with his 17.5 sacks on the season, 34.5 tackles for loss, and 56 hurries — Anderson became quarterbacks’ worst nightmare.
While his junior season, saw him take a step back statistically with him playing in two less games this season; his efforts were still good enough to earn him a second consecutive Nagurski award (Only the second player to win the award twice), a second consecutive SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and All-SEC honors for the third time in as many years.
Anderson seems to be next in line of the next great pass rushers the league will soon have to offer. He traditionally wins with his elite-level first-step explosiveness off the ball; his ability to get to the corner and bend around the edge is next to none in this class.
Anderson has a handful of pass-rushing moves in his arsenal and does a great job setting up tackles for the tools he has in his toolbox. He should see a lot of success with his ability to translate speed into power.
My concern with Anderson is how successful can he be on a rep-to-rep basis against tackles with quality basis or who are maulers. He does a phenomenal job using athletic abilities and his stout frame to see success but he isn’t the strongest guy which can create concern when tackles get a fair hand on him — see the Tennessee game versus Darnell Wright.
As the second all-time leader in sacks for the Alabama program, Anderson has all the production you could ask for against stellar competition. Despite that, there is still some room to continue to refine a pass-rushing profile that is currently NFL-ready.
3. RB Bijan Robinson
Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, and now Bijan Robinson. This kid is a star! Top three talent in the class to hell with the position. Almost a football prodigy — His uncle Paul Robinson (UofAZ) get drafted in the 3rd round of the 1968 NFL draft to the Cincinnati Bengals; his grandfather Cleo Robinson was a track and field standout and linebacker who received first-team All-State honors in Arizona.
He holds a massive amount of Arizona state records coming out of high school, despite attending one of the lesser-known schools in the state, he still was responsible for three consecutive 2,000-yard seasons. He’s been sought after for as long as possible.
Personally, I haven’t seen a running back prospect this good since AP. His feet are sweeter than honey, juke moves are reminiscent of a Berry Sanders or Shady McCoy; isn’t as pretty as his predecessors but man, the kid has moves.
Robinson is as patient as they come and sees plays develop long before they come to fruition which allows him to stay a step ahead of the defense. He does a really good job of managing his speed and body; accelerates and decelerates at the perfect time to manipulate defenders’ angles.
His body control is on an elite level and he runs strong enough to run through a defender’s face but has the ability to make sudden moves to keep the play alive; has a wicked spin and juke vs Texas Tech that gets the juices flowing.
Is a healthy young man, while he is listed at 215 he has a stout and muscular frame that is hell for any defender to bring down. His legs do not stop moving. He refuses to go down upon first contact and it typically takes a village to bring him to a halt. I’m intrigued by what he offers in pass protection and in run support. He was even utilized as a pass catcher flexed out into the slot.
Robinson is an elite talent and a difference-maker on an NFL offense, the positional value may limit his potential draft selection spot but a team will receive as close to a generational 3-down-back as there is.
4. QB Bryce Young
The next big thing at the quarterback position coming from Mater Dei High in California. To give some perspective as to how highly touted Young was as a recruit; 24/7 not only ranks recruits to their class peers but they give each prospect an All-Time rating with 1.000 being the best; Young ranks 19th all-time and was the 5th rated quarterback in the history of the site with a 0.994 rating.
While many expected Young to follow the same path as many Mater Dei QB greats and attend USC; which he intended to for a while — Young decided to blaze his own trail and attend another prestige program and follow behind another QB great; Alabama. It didn’t take long you Young to establish himself as a perennial superstar in the college football game winning the Heisman Trophy in his sophomore season and a National Championship to bid farewell as a junior.
The kid is just about everything you could ask for and more at the quarterback position. He has complete command of the offense; knows who is supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there and delivers the ball with great anticipation. Is almost point guard-like in the way he distributes the ball — loves to operate within the perimeters of the offense, particularly in the quick passing game. However, the best part of his game is the beautiful chaos he plays with out of structure.
Even when he’s out of structure, he’s never really out of structure if you get what I’m saying. Isn’t a pure runner, scrambles to pass instead of to run. Does a phenomenal job keeping his shoulders square when on the move to maintain a threat as a passer. He can be a bit sporadic when passing on the move but rarely does so does a great job of resetting before delivery most times.
There are only two concerns I have for Young at the next level the first being the well-known questions surrounding his measurables. Being listed officially at 5-foot-10 can at times affect his ability as a passer; there have been more than his fair share of passes batted down at the LOS, also have seen him throw off his mechanics having to jump to deliver a pass over oncoming defenders.
The second being his ability to handle the blitz on a consistent basis; not saying Young vs the Blitz is a problem as I’ve seen him stand and deliver on time with confidence in the face of pressure. However, there are two games from ‘21 (Auburn & Georgia II) where it seemed he may have been affected by being hit consistently. If he doesn’t have a solid offensive line it could damage his confidence early.
5. QB CJ Stroud
While the hidden gem from Rancho Cucamonga High only became the starting quarterback of the varsity team heading into his junior season and has limited offer to show for it. CJ Stroud ascended to heights that no one thought was imaginable just 4 years ago.
In February of 2019, CJ Stroud has ranked the 860th best prospect in the nation for the class of 2020; fast forward a few months, and Stroud not only saw himself selected as the final of 20 quarterbacks selected to participate in the Elite 11 but was named the MVP of the camp becoming the first and only player in the history of the competition to finish with a perfect score of 50. We find ourselves in August and Stroud is now ranked the 42nd overall recruit in the nation and had a few Big 10 powerhouses calling.
For a kid who didn’t have access to the quarterback’s coaches or many of the other tools his high-profile peers had to prepare them for this moment, all Stroud had was YouTube videos of Drew Brees to teach him how to perfect his craft.
An AC Joint injury got things off to a rocky start in 21 but following missing the week 4 contest vs Akron, we have seen a brand new CJ Stroud; one that has become the first B1G QB with consecutive seasons with 30+ TDS, a two time Heisman Trophy award finalist, and one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in Buckeye history.
Stroud is an enigma in his own right; he’s an offensive coordinator’s dream. He commands the offense and seemingly gets better with every pass attempt; he’s almost surgical when he gets into a zone. He has some of the best ball placement skills I’ve ever seen in my life; says he takes pride in a WR not having to do much work for a ball and it shows — displays pinpoint accuracy both in clean pockets and under pressure.
He has elite-level touch on both deep boundary routes and throws to the middle of the field. If you’re going to blitz him you better get home, he is a smart kid who understands what he’s seeing (‘22 Michigan), now if you do get home he’s proven to struggle at times.
There is much ruckus about his abilities to operate outside of structure; how I see it is he is more than athletic enough to run see the 48-yard touchdown run from his freshman season but it all comes down to a willingness or in some cases an unwillingness to run. The UGA game showed him at his best form but he’s always proven it to be his last resort. Maneuvers the pocket like a pro, mechanics are so pure.
6. CB Devon Witherspoon
A chippy and physical football player who plays the position like it should be played. While there are more than a few quality reps for Witherspoon in zone coverage, he thrives in man coverage and brings every bit of his ‘A’ game when he knows the guy on the other side is respected as a WR1. In fact, he’s allowed fewer than 35 yards in 11/12 games matched up against WR1s this season; stays connected to the hip like a seat belt.
He can be overly handsy at times which can cost his fair share of flags but Witherspoon is a high IQ football player that plays with anticipation and often saw plays develop before they did which led to him beating or meeting his man to the catch point and some big time hits on screens and in run support.
At the same time, this style of play put him in a few positions where some teams used his aggressiveness against him putting him in conflict. Offers some position versatility with his willingness to move between the nickel and the outside
7. OT Peter Skoronski
The grandson of Bob Skoronski, a five-time NFL champion and two-time Super Bowl champion for the Green Bay Packers. Skoronski is probably the most interesting of all of the offensive linemen in the class; Skoronski initially committed to Northwestern as the third Center in the class of 2020 and the fourth-highest recruit in program history.
However, this is where things take a bit of a turn, despite being recruited as a Center, Northwestern had recently lost star tackle Rashawn Slater to the NFL draft and was in need of some consistency at the position. So Pat Fitzgerald and company decided it was best to move the highly touted freshman out on the island to see if he would sink or swim.
As technically sound as they come, Skoronski has a plan of attack when facing pass rushers. He has a quality base that while he may give up ground from time to time, allows him to stand firm in pass protection.
His hand placement is typically accurate when he can get them on you, and he packs a punch behind his kick step that slows down the defender’s momentum. As a run blocker, Skoronski is aggressive at the point of attack and gains proper leverage to create a push despite his smaller stature. He has reps out of position not necessarily as a lineman but more so as a tight end where Northwestern used him as a puller on counter plays; has quality lateral movement abilities, and would feel comfortable with him in a zone scheme. He is a smart football player, and understand what he sees when defenses send twist and stunts.
Despite all there is to love about Skoronski there are a few things that must be mentioned as potential flaws. For starters, there hasn’t been an offensive tackle taken in the first 30 picks of a draft with a sub-33-inch arm length since 2005. There are a few exceptions such as Zach Martin most notably but despite playing tackle at Notre Dame he transitioned to guard at the next level.
This could potentially be in line for Skoronski as his arm length came in at 32 1/4”. At the tackle position, this frame could become a potential issue, as seen by reps like the one against Penn State where he often played patient waiting for the defender to show his hand along the edge but the rusher set up an inside mover leaving Skoronski in a position to have to hold because his arm wasn’t long enough to complete the punch.
I would like to see him do a better job getting to the second level, needs to attack with more authority. There’s a rep versus Ohio State where he actually does a good job getting to the second level but kinda whiffs. Based on his history and current skill set there is a belief that a transition to guard could be in his future, if so we could be talking about a future Pro Bowl-level talent at the position. Should he stay at tackle I believe he should be able to succeed based on his fundamentals but will have limitations.
8. S Brian Branch
A former four-star recruit from Fayetteville, GA whose standout ways began to get notarized as a junior at Sandy Creek High where he was named to the Fayette News ‘Super 12’ squad, as well as All-County Defensive Player of the Year. His success continued into his senior season as he was selected as the Georgia 5A Ironman of the Year; presented to the top two-way player.
After selecting to attend Alabama over the likes of Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Tennessee — Branch became an immediate contributor to the Crimson Tide defense seeing time in 12 games as a freshman before rotating to the ‘money’ position which is essentially the 6th defensive back in the Alabama dime package as a sophomore.
He continued to flash his potential and versatility during this time but it was during his junior season however when he was promoted to the ‘STAR’ role where he honed his skills to become what I like to call the modern-day safety.
It’s easy to imagine Branch as an immediate contributor at the next level with a translatable skill set that allows him to contribute at all three levels. At and around the line of scrimmage he has proven to be an accomplished blitzer; has a rep versus LSU where he destroys the running back in pass protection en route to pressuring the quarterback into an early pass.
He has the ability to match up in man-to-man coverage in the slot with just about any pass catcher. A very instinctive player who plays a physical brand of football when getting downhill, is willing to stack and shed blockers no matter the size. He wants to make an impact on the ball carrier; see tackle on Tank Bigsby vs Auburn ‘21. As a deep safety Branch has the quality ability to cover ground or serve in the robber role disrupting pass catches and forcing nine pass defenses in each of his three seasons in Tuscaloosa.
Branch plays until he hears the whistle and is never out of a play, has a rep versus Texas where he was sent on a blitz and over-pursued the ball carrier but was able to retrace his steps and track down Robinson for a minimal gain.
The concerns with Branch start with his willingness to be way too grabby especially at the catch point on in breaking routes. He isn’t the biggest guy in the world and has a tendency to be out-positioned by receivers with bigger frames but it isn’t a question of willingness and heart.
There seems to be many who have fallen out of love with what Branch brings to the table following his uninspiring performance at the combine, this, however, is a case of a prospect being a better football player than athlete. While the testing may not show, what Branch put on tape is a prospect whose game speed and reactionary play is something that just won’t translate to gym shorts.
The expectation is for Branch to come in and help a team in some way shape or form from day one. His skill set fits the mold of many of the players at his position who have become known as chess pieces of sorts.
9. DE Tyree Wilson
A former three-star recruit, who initially committed to Texas A&M where he redshirted his freshman season in 2018, before appearing in 12 games during year two in College Station, before deciding to transfer to Texas Tech.
“I went to Texas A&M first, you know went there for two years; but just didn’t feel like home” said Wilson during an interview on NFL Network. Upon making the move to Lubbock, Wilson became an immediate contributor for the Red Raider defense.
Playing in nine games, starting five that season — he made his first start again the rival Oklahoma Sooners at defensive tackle and moved to his formal home along the edge for the remaining four games.
Wilson burst on the scene during his second season at Texas Tech becoming one of four players to start in all 13 games, amassing a team-leading seven sacks and 13 tackles for loss. In his final season, Wilson became a household name despite missing the final three games of the season with a fractured foot, he matched and/or topped each of his career highs in each statistical category despite playing in fewer games.
Another one of the more polarizing prospects in the class, Wilson is as enticing as they come. He’s a versatile guy, with usage along the defensive line, while I believe he’d be more comfortable as a standup edge — he has proven the ability to work over tackle and even in the B-Gap. He possesses the traits just about every defensive coordinator would dream of for a game-changing Edge Rusher.
At 6-foot-6 and 271 pounds with 35 5/8 inch arms, Wilson is a hell-raiser in the trenches. Has a motor that runs hot 24/7, never gives up on a play, and is relentless in his pursuit of the ball. Simply put, you better put a blocker on him because he’s ruined more zone concepts as the unblocked defender than we can count. Absolutely love what he brings to the table in terms of run support, Wilson stacks and sheds blockers with the best of them in his class. Has a rep against NC State where he absolutely annihilates the double team with one hand en route to destroying the play. He has quality, yet inconsistent hands usage; is more reliant on Grown Man Strength than leverage.
As a pass rusher, there is a lot of room for growth for Wilson. He has yet to develop a true pass-rushing plan other than ‘get the hell out my way’. Is over-reliant on his abilities to be the best athlete on the field which typically won’t be the case at the next level. His first-step explosion when rushing as the stunt man is really good, gets to his position with quick lateral mobility, and typically overpowers guards for the win; as an EDGE rusher on the other hand there is some concern.
He doesn’t burst off with the same fire, is pretty passive along the snap, and typically allows tackles to get hands-on him first, which could create trouble at the next level against guys with stout bases. Currently, however he has the ability to get away with these late-hand movements as a pass rusher due to his ability to translate speed to power matched with his massive length.
In terms of a ceiling, it’s hard not to like what Wilson brings to the table, he has things that you just can’t teach. The floor however is something that I have yet to come to grasp with. If paired with the right situation you could have a legitimate game changer at a position of value for years to come. If not you could be drafting potentially the second most controversial boom or bust prospect in the class.
10. CB Christian Gonzalez
A three-year starter who is in a category of his own in terms of athleticism when it comes to this cornerback class. I cannot lie, this young man is a ‘traits over tapes’ scout’s dream; he uses every single inch of his 6-foot-2 frame, while a lot of his technique scares me, I believe it’s due to how he was coached up playing in the PAC 12 for three seasons and not only that but he has the athleticism to back it all up.
Look no further than the first game against UGA where all game he had been running a bail technique covering inside round which left him susceptible to a potential breaking route; the route came and the ease and simplicity with which Gonzalez was able to turn his hips inside is almost unteachable.
While his athleticism is clearly the best part of his game, I look forward to seeing him become more technically sound in his reps. Most notably in man press coverage where he has this strange habit of not immediately getting a hand on his man which will surely cause some problems in the league vs. route-running fanatics.
The most interesting part of his game is his ball skills, or what some would say lack of. With four career interceptions all of which came this season, there is some concern, however, I have seen on tape both at Colorado and Oregon, Gonzalez certainly has some ball skills to his name.
It seems that he personally prefers to play to the receiver instead of the ball. He’s really good at putting himself in position to play the receivers’ hands and force just about any pass breakup he wants but one can wonder if only he just got his head around when the receiver does instead of when his hands arrive, he’d be able to put that athleticism on display when playing the ball.
Not sure where this theory that he can’t or is unwilling to tackle comes from but, outside of the UGA game, he seems more than competent in that area.
11. DE Myles Murphy
Myles Murphy has been an integral piece of the Clemson defense since he stepped foot in Death Valley. After being vetted by former recruiting coordinator/current offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter and defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, the former five-star prospect and top seven overall talent in his class committed with plans of making an early impact.
That he did, beginning a two-sack performance in his debut against awake Forest — Murphy finished the season with four sacks; tying for third most all times by a freshman in a single season, and honors as a Freshman All-American. Murphy followed his initial season by collecting second-team All-ACC honors via the Associate Press bursting onto the scene with an elite performance against Florida State.
His final season in Clemson was arguably his best yet not only continuing to check boxes in terms of production but also the growth he continues to make as a prospect. Capping his collegiate career off with first-team All-ACC honors, Murphy became the only player in the country to produce at least 10 tackles for loss and force a fumble in each of the last three seasons.
There is so much to love about Myles Murphy the prospect, his mix of traits, production, and athleticism don’t come around too frequently and he plays with a motor that just won’t stop. His blend of speed and power are on display from rep to rep; his first step explosion is appealing, typically if he can get to the outside shoulder it’s goodnight.
He has a really good bend along the edge and plays with a pair of active and aggressive hands. A strong young man, if your base isn’t right as a tackle he will let you know — has a rep against NC State where the bouncer gets bounced, as Murphy essentially threw the tackle out of the club en route to speeding up the quarterbacks’ clock.
Murphy offers some versatility in terms of potential alignments at the next level, has reps used across the defensive line but was mostly used outside the tackle. Should see success as both a stand-up edge and with his hand in the dirt.
I believe Murphy possesses the ability to become an impact pass rusher at the next level. The thing is, he needs to develop more of a plan when rushing the passer. Wins most of his reps via dominating the edge but typically isn’t as impactful when searching for a counter move. While it’s good to see the numerous ways Clemson used Murphy outside of as a pass rusher—was dropped into coverage and used as a spy on multiple occurrences it’s not something that I would do on a normal basis.
Murphy is the kind of projection where you understand it may take some time for him to get a few of the kinks worked out but in the meantime features a skill set that should allow him to be somewhat productive generally early.
12. OT Paris Johnson Jr.
It didn’t take long for Paris Johnson Jr. to make a difference during his time in Columbus when given the opportunity. Johnson Jr showed off his versatility early despite playing in limited snaps, being used at each position outside of left tackle and center as a freshman. In his sophomore season as a Buckeye, Johnson Jr who was a five-star offensive tackle prospect upon his commitment, began working exclusively at guard.
With Ohio State having their two tackle positions filled but the instate kid from Cincinnati beings way too talented to keep off the field, Johnson Jr started all 13 games and went on to be named along the second-team All-Big 10 unit. This past season Johnson Jr made the transition back to his natural position as the left tackle becoming first-team All-Big 10 and a second-team All-American.
A highly functioning blind side protector with over 900 snaps career pass-blocking snaps spread mostly between his snaps at tackle (‘22) and guard (‘21). Through these reps, Johnson Jr has only allowed two sacks and one quarterback hit through two seasons.
He clearly offers some positional versatility but I believe his best days will be seen at the tackle position. Has the ability to execute reach blocks consistently; can see a clear future for him with a team with zone blocking schemes but he has no scheme specifics. Murphy has some mauler to him while run-blocking. He has a rep versus Penn State where he dominantly seals the edge and finishes the block off strong. Probably the best part about his game is how he moves his feet, offers quality mirror abilities for a blindside protector.
There are very few things to complain about with Johnson and he features a very safe balance between ceiling/floor. There are some technical aspects of his game that could be cleaned up some; most importantly starting with hand placement. Way too often Johnson Jr finds himself with his hands in a bear hug-esque position, which makes it almost impossible for him to garner any leverage. Secondly, he has the tendency to let defenders get in on him, his initial punch could be more aggressive. Finally, he has the tendency to occasionally overcommit to the edge leaving him liable for a potential counter move to the inside.
While there is certainly room for growth and will feature some inconsistencies early on, I expect by year two the lights will cut on for Johnson Jr and he should develop into more than a potential building block.
13. DE Nolan Smith
Nolan Smith is really freaking good, and the scary part is he’s only scratching the surface of how good he can truly be. As the number one rated prospect in the entire class of 2019, Smith was heavily recruited by the likes of Alabama, Penn State, Clemson, and Tennessee before ultimately settling to go with the instate Georgia Bulldogs.
Typically you expect players as highly touted as Smith to become the face of a defense, and to an extent he did as a four-year contributor. However, when you’re a member of a unit that would become known as generationally good, you learn that the team has no face. Just a dominating name and expectation to hold each other accountable.
After being named co-defensive newcomer of the year, Smith continued to show growth in his second season in Athens before jumping onto the scene as a junior starting in 14 of the team’s 15 games en route to a National Championship season. Leading the team with nine tackles for loss on the season and setting a career-high in hurries with 18, Smith set the bar high heading into his final season as a Bulldog and based on his production, he did not disappoint being on pace to top his career highs in just about every statistical category through eight games before a torn pectoral muscle versus Florida bought his season to a premature en
As a prospect, Smith is as disruptive as they come. The first thing that jumps off the screen when you watch Smith is the authoritative nature he uses his hands. He has a rep versus South Carolina where this is on display as well as athletic abilities; rep begins with the tight end attempting to chip Smith before heading on his route and Smith just avoids him altogether, before engaging and using the rip move to dispose of the blocker leading to a QB hit.
Smith’s first-step explosion is as good as they come in this class, typically wins upon the snap rather it’s beating the tackle to the edge or showing some gap-shooting abilities on twists and stunts. A strong young man despite his smaller stature at the position has the ability to stack and shed any opposing blocker, eagerly takes on contact no matter who is coming his way, and will even run through you if he has to (See vs Vandy ‘22).
The best trait Smith brings to the table may be his versatility, isn’t just a pass rusher; can be used in man vs some tight ends and does a really good job as a zone defender in the flats even has one career INT to show for it.
The problem with Smith here is we need to see him develop more of a pass-rushing plan. There are times when he shows flashes of what could potentially be with something outside of his toolbox but for the most part he typically wins with speed and power.
When it comes to talent there isn’t a question if Smith matches up with anyone in this class including the guys at the top; the problem here will come with figuring out how exactly will you use him while he figures out his pass-rushing nuances? Is he just a rotational pass rusher or will his defensive coordinator get creative to get his modern skill set on the field? Landing spot will play a major role in each of these but there is a belief that Smith can help impact a roster from day one.
14. TE Michael Mayer
They say the best ability is availability, well if you ask me reliability is a close second and there aren’t many if any tight ends in this class as reliable as Mayer. The face of the class and the talk of the town — ranking as the number two tight end in the country and the number one player in all of Kentucky, it’s safe to say Mayer had plenty of suitors when it came to his recruitment. However, hailing from Independence, Kentucky it was only right that Mayer declared to attend what could be declared the face of independence in its own right; Notre Dame.
As a three-year contributor, Mayer became a model of consistency during his time in South Bend, holding every possible tight end receiving record there is to hold (yards, receptions, touchdowns), as well as finishing third all-time as the program’s leader in receptions. This five-star recruit from Covington Catholic High has been prepared for this moment for a long time.
There seems to be a lot of talk about the other oh-so-talented prospects in this tight-end class and rightfully so, but let there be no mistake; what Mayer brings to the table is a complete player at his position who has proven to be able to produce at any alignment and at every task. Speaking of alignments, Mayer has usage all over the offense with 569 career snaps out of the slot and 449 career snaps as the in-line tight end; not to mention reps where he has been split out wide or aligned as the h-back.
He does a really good job of using his massive frame to box out defenders to make ‘out of radius’ catches. He’s a quality route runner, but he isn’t the greatest separator but is always where he needs to be when he needs to be there; again reliability. Has a pair of Charmin’ soft hands; will not have to worry about drops, he gets the job done.
Have to be encouraged by the team’s continuous used of him as a run blocker. He wasn’t the best and has a few whiffs, but think this is something that can be fixed with the right coaching. Otherwise has shown proper ability to engage and hold a defender long enough for the block to make an impact; would love to see him ‘finish the block’ more often. Offers little to no yards after catch ability and that’s okay — he understands who he is.
Mayer should be an instant game-changer at the tight end position with his ability to keep drives alive and often bail quarterbacks out of mishaps. Offers scheme versatility and should be impactful in just about any landing spot.
15. WR Jordan Addison
Welcome to the mystery that is Jordan Addison. There were a lot of questions to be answered by Addison coming into this season and while he was certainly fun to watch and showed many flashes of the answers many were looking for, I personally feel like it was a ton of meat left on the bone by USC, and Lincoln Riley’s usage of the All-American wide receiver.
Addison is as pure as they come when it comes to his route-running abilities. Offers a legitimate route tree, has a nuanced understanding of leverage, and how to set defenders up for his next move which allows him to gain just enough space for him to make a play on the ball. He has really good body control and concentration, have seen him make some really tough catches spanning from his days at Pittsburgh to this season. His short-area quickness and movement abilities after the catch allow him to showcase his big play value and his threat as a YAC monster.
There was some concern that his production at Pittsburgh was much in part to his alignment in the slot and high usage rate as a pass catcher. However at USC, he was mostly aligned as the outside receiver and while his production decreased, probably due to an overall improvement in the talent surrounding him and how he was used, he still showcased some of the same abilities that made him highly valued.
At 5-foot-11 and 173 pounds, Addison doesn’t have the size you’d like at the position and could be muscled off routes by bigger defenders, he projects best as a high-level Z receiver in any offense.
16. CB Cam Smith
Probably the most underrated cornerback in this class, Cam Smith is next in line of the high-quality cornerbacks that have entered the league following donning the South Carolina uniform.
“Right now, I am a starting corner and I feel like I could be the Jaycee of the defense,” Smith said. “I am going to lock down one side, and there will be no ifs, ands, or buts about it.”
“… I came into the spring feeling like Cam, feeling like me. There is no hesitation. I was playing free and playing like my old self. With me coming out and having that older swagger about myself, I don’t feel like there is nobody else that can beat me.”
That unwavering confidence is only one of the reasons Smith has been compared to his former Gamecock peers, the physicality in which he plays game can be matched by few in this class. While he may not be the most athletic at least on tape, he plays the position believing that his nuances and technique will never lead him a stray.
He is as patient as they come when in phase, and understands his leverage and how to properly use it to his advantage. Excels at using his eyes to tell when a receiver is ready to get into his stem, and aggressively breaks on the ball to disrupt a play. Can be susceptible to double moves because of his aggressive nature, which possibly led to one of his 10 DPI penalties this year or a big play.
Smith was often used in off-man coverage and zones but seems to excel in each coverage basis. Is an instinctive player, who clearly does his homework, and has a great feel for formations and what teams like to do out of them. His play in run-support is just as competitive as his coverage snaps, clear to see his love of the game but sometimes his over-willingness can lead to some mechanical issues when tackling.
17. OT O’Cyrus Torrence
Torrence seemingly fell through the cracks as a three-star recruit coming out of St. Helena College & Career Academy. With inconsistent tape along the offensive line and some intriguing but unproven tape ar defensive tackle, he wasn’t highly touted until near the end of his recruiting cycle when a few big-name schools came calling. However, the one consistent throughout the entire process was then Louisiana Lafayette coach Billy Napier, who called Torrence every Thursday while he was on his way to the barbershop.
Torrence would become the prize possession of what was Napier’s first official recruiting class at the helm. Stepping in from day one following a significant knee injury to the then starter, Napier and the Ragin Cajuns didn’t even blink when it came time for their secret weapon to hit the field.
Becoming the first true freshman to start a game for Louisiana along the offensive line since Jesse Newman in 2004, Torrence took the opportunity in front of him and never looked back. Earning a spot as a member on the All-Sun Belt Conference team in his junior and senior seasons, before making the jump to the SEC with his head coach and dominating that conference en route to first-team All-SEC honors.
Despite being a very position-limited prospect; has 2,157 career snaps at right guard and only 46 career snaps at right tackle — Torrence projects to be a plug-and-play prospect, more notably for teams who run gap or power schemes. Has reps in wide zone looks and looked competent but isn’t something I’d look to do on a consistent basis. Is much better when he can operate within a phone booth where his technical prowess is on display.
A very physical football player especially as a run blocker — Will get downhill looking for breakfast, and pancakes are his preference. Has a jab that stops defenders in their tracks and has claws for hands, if he gets a hand on you it’s a wrap. Possesses a quality base with nice knee bend and the ability to reset the anchor if he has two (frequently goes to the double hop step to reset).
There are what I believe to be some inconsistencies in a few of his reps as a pass rusher most notably how heavy his feet are and how often he allows defenders to beat him to his outside shoulder. That said he has never allowed a sack and has only allowed one QB hit throughout his entire career so there’s that.
18. OT Broderick Jones
A former five-star athlete, who was highly accomplished long before becoming the starting left tackle of the back-to-back national champions. Jones was expected to compete for immediate snaps at the tackle position upon his arrival as a freshman but a motorbike incident that left him injured prevented most opportunities for that to happen.
Instead, Jones opted to redshirt and was only a participant in two games, seeing action at right tackle versus both South Carolina and Missouri. One season later, Jones saw himself on the other side of the shoe as an early season injury to teammate Jamaree Salyer saw the high-profile freshman thrust into action. Jones ended up playing in every game that season, starting in four. With a coaches freshman All-SEC honor under his belt, Jones was ready to become THE man in Athens in terms of blind side protectors. Starting in all 15 games and not allowing a single sack on the season, Jones was recognized as a member of the first team All-SEC.
Jones is as athletic as they come and is almost perfectly crafted to fit into a wide-zone offense. He’s best when he has the ability to get out on the move and attack defenders on all three levels of the field. Has a rep against Florida where he absolutely demolished the defensive back on a pitch play.
Jones is able to get to the second level for blocks with relative ease and has excellent play strength that is on clear display if/when he gets his hands in the proper positions. Very rarely is Jones overpowered; a trash man in pass protection, always looking for work to protect his quarterback when he’s not active. If we were just looking at physical traits Jones MIGHT be the best tackle in the entire class. His athleticism allows him to mirror a rusher effectively despite not being as technically sound as you would like.
Jones could use some fine-tuning in a few areas, such as his hand location, as he often is on the outside of defenders instead of under there shoulder pads. He could be much more explosive out of his kick step; which often led to him opening up earlier than you would like to see and/or leaning into defenders disrupting his balance.
Jones could learn to be a bit more patient in pass sets, there are times he finds himself ‘attacking’ the pass rusher leaving himself liable for a potential counter move. Again, a lot of the time his athletic abilities are able to save him from trouble in these flaws may put him in but pass rushers at the next level are sure to take advantage of these flaws.
19. WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
A former 5-star recruit who has always seemed to fly under the radar despite being the most consistent producer in a loaded WR room. Playing next to the likes of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson could be tough for some but not for Smith-Njigba who was mentioned to be the best of the group by his peers.
JSN flashed some as a freshman during his time playing with Justin Fields, particularly during his one touchdown which was one of the more impressive plays you’ll see but finished the year with only 10 receptions and 49 yards. His sophomore season however is when he took the significant leap we previously discussed leading the team in reception during the ‘21 season. A record-breaking performance in the Rose Bowl had all eyes set on him heading into his junior season in Columbus until a hamstring injury essentially ruined his final year.
This kid is so good and it’s so easy to forget with all the time he’s missed this season but man when you watch him he has all the goods. An elite lever separator who excels in finding the sweet spots in a defense vs zones, but has the ability to run just about every route in the book. He may quite possibly be the best route runner this class has to offer: generally gets off the LOS untouched with quality release packages, and his short area quickness is very appealing— which allows him to offer pretty good YAC opportunities. He’s what I consider to be a quarterback’s best friend type of prospect.
He’s typically always in the right place at the right time and when you’re in trouble he’s always there to help. His body control is out of this world and is very good at tracking the ball while understanding where he’s at on the field.
There’s a lot of good that JSN offers, but there is also some concern for that measure as well. For starters, he’s a predominantly slot receiver, with only 88 career snaps aligned as the outside receiver — in comparison, JSN played 367 snaps aligned from the slot in 2021 alone.
There were plays like his comeback route against Nebraska as a junior that showed flashes of what could be a consistent producer from the outside, but he hasn’t proven that that can be him, so what makes us think that could change at the next level? Another concern about JSN is his lack of long speed, while we complemented his short area quickness earlier there’s a rep against Penn State that flashes both of these in the same sequence; Smith-Njigba catches a short hitch route makes a few defenders miss and is off to the races but is chased down at about the opponents 15… that drive ended in 3 points.
It would have been nice to see JSN get an entire 2022 season in or at least half, but we’re forced to grade what we see which leaves us with questions and incomplete answers.
20. QB Anthony Richardson
This is easily the most polarizing prospect in the entire class. I can certainly understand the prospects of attending my hometown university in hopes of recreating the success I’ve seen throughout my childhood. It’s almost every player’s dream.
The pride of Gainesville, Florida; Anthony Richardson was looked at as the one who would bring the Gators back to the promised land. Sure while that didn’t come to fruition like he would like due to a number of key factors, this young man’s ride has been interesting, to say the least.
Before you begin to break down AR the prospect you must first understand that the playing time is sparse. With only 13 career starts under his belt, he’s inexperienced, to say the least; which makes sense why the play is so inconsistent.
Simply put, watching Anthony Richardson was a beautiful nightmare; there’s so much to be intrigued by, but then there are the plays where you look away in horror. With his skill set at his size, it’s easy to imagine him dominating the league; he makes throws look so effortless, especially down the field. He stands in the pocket and delivers throws to receivers like a warrior, especially under duress.
He has the ability to make the throws that you can’t teach, and most importantly, he’s a teachable kid. Every rep for him is a chance to get better at his craft, when he sees a certain defense twice, makes the necessary adjustments to get to the open man. As a runner, my goodness, good luck. When he’s a scrambler he’s agile enough to make moves in open space and big enough where he’s a handful to bring down.
He makes high-level throws on the run and as a designed runner, he carries himself like a running back. Has excellent vision and is extremely hard to bring down. His legs continue to churn even upon contact. Can rip off huge plays if necessary with multiple long TD runs; with his career-long being at 81 yards.
Yet with all the good that comes with Richardson, he has more than a little work to do in order to become the quarterback he aspires to be.
The first problem is that he doesn’t get back around his progression fast enough, there were a few times routes developed but he was either late resetting through progressions or immediately took off if there wasn’t a read.
He could use some cleaning up in his mechanics. It often felt like he was attempting to arm throw — especially on some deep passes where he brought the ball to knee level prior to delivery. Needs to use more torque, and learn to build a better relationship between his upper and lower body, which should come with time and extra work. Has to learn to make better decisions whether it’s him not understanding the rules of route concepts or putting himself in unwinnable positions as a passer.
21. WR Zay Flowers
22. QB Will Levis
23. CB Deonte Banks
24. WR Quentin Johnston
25. DT Calijah Kancey
26. DE Lukas Van Ness
27. S Antonio Johnson
28. RB Jahmyr Gibbs
29. CB Joey Porter Jr.
30. OT Anton Harrison
31. C John Michael Schmitz
32. DT Bryan Bresee
33. TE Luke Musgrave
34. WR Josh Downs
35. S Jordan Battle
36. C Joe Tippmann
37. DT Mazi Smith
38. TE Dalton Kincaid
39. OT Darnell Wright
40. LB Jack Campbell
41. CB Clark Phillips
42. WR Jalin Hyatt
43. C Steve Avila
44. CB Emmanuel Forbes
45. LB Daiyan Henley
46. DE Keion White
47. DE/DT Adetomiwa Adebawore
48. OT Dawand Jones
49. RB Zach Charbonnet
50. DE BJ Ojulari
51. TE Tucker Kraft
52. OT Cody Mauch
53. DE Tuli Tuipulotu
54. LB Drew Sanders
55. QB Hendon Hooker
56. CB Kelee Ringo
57. DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah
58. OT Matthew Bergeron
59. WR Rashee Rice
60. LB Trent Simpson
61. CB Julius Brents
62. S Jammie Robinson
63. C Luke Wypler
64. TE Darnell Washington
65. DT Gervon Dexter
66. OT Jaelyn Duncan
67. DE Derrick Hall
68. CB Garrett Williams
69. DT Keeanu Benton
70. WR Jayden Reed
71. LB Henry To’o To’o
72. S Christopher Smith
73. DE Isaiah Foskey
74. CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson
75. DT Siaki Ika
76. TE Sam LaPorta
77. WR Nathaniel ‘Tank’ Dell
78. CB DJ Turner II
79. DE Will McDonald IV
80. WR Tyler Scott
81. DE Colby Wooden
82. S Sydney Brown
83. DE KJ Henry
84. CB Kyu Blu Kelly
85. QB Tanner McKee
86. RB Tank Bigsby
87. WR Parker Washington
88. LB DeMarvion Overshown
89. DE Byron Young (Tenn)
90. DT Zacch Pickens
91. CB Tyrique Stevenson
92. RB Tyjae Spears
93. DE Zach Harrison
94. G Andrew Vorhees
95. LB Noah Sewell
96. CB Kei’Trel Clark
97. RB Kenny McIntosh
98. S JL Skinner
99. C Olusegun Oluwatimi
100. DE Nick Herbig