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We all have crushes. For most people, they are probably famous celebrities they fantasize about. For me, it’s NFL draft prospects that I would love to end up on my favorite team. Yes, I am aware that I’m weird.
Call them whatever you want. “My guys,” “draft crushes” or something of that nature. These are players that I might be a bit higher on than most or you were one of the first members on the hype train for. In recent years, I’ve had a few. In 2020, it was guys like Bryce Hall, Bradlee Anae and Tyler Biadasz. In 2021, Creed Humphrey, Liam Eichenberg and Paulson Adebo were high up on the list. Sometimes, you hit on guys that should have been taken earlier (Humphrey and Hall) and sometimes you whiff badly (Anae and possibly Eichenberg).
Overall, this is mostly a fun exercise where I can give some love to some of my favorite prospects in the draft. Feel free to let me know who your favorite draft crushes for this year are on Twitter @cmcglynn84.
Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
I didn’t say I was the only one who was going to be high on some of these players. Like most, I am a huge fan of Sauce. I love big, long corners capable of playing press man. Gardner is that and then some with impressive speed for his size and great ball skills. His 33.5-inch arms only make me love him more. He was dominant in his time at Cincinnati and seems poised to be a true lockdown corner in the NFL. I have him as the No. 2 player on my board. I really hope the Jets select him at No. 4.
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
I mentioned Bradlee Anae before. It was actually watching Anae’s tape in preparation for the 2020 draft that I first noticed Lloyd. He played in kind of a rover or star linebacker role for Utah that season, rushing the passer and dropping into coverage. He was overshadowed by players like Anae, Leki Fotu and Francis Bernard on that defense, but I liked what I saw. He was a redshirt sophomore then. Last season, I had him ranked as a top 75 player before he announced he was returning to school. He debuted at No. 29 in my Way-Too-Early 2022 mock draft back in May. Now I have him as a top 10 player on my big board. I love his versatility and physical traits. I could see him sliding on draft day because I don’t think the league prioritizes off-ball linebackers as much, but man he is a fun player to watch.
Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
You can take your pick of Georgia defenders this year. There are a lot of them that are going to get drafted. It is hard to put on film from 2021 and not get distracted from the player you are watching. That is what kept happening for me when I would try to watch Jordan Davis or Nakobe Dean. Instead, I would end up focusing on Wyatt. He is so physical at the point of attack and aggressive in attacking pass rushing lanes. I think he will be a good 5-tech end at the next level. I know everyone has caught up on him, but I think he should be the first Georgia player selected this year.
Cade Otton, TE, Washington
While the trend for tight ends in the NFL has been for them to be big receivers rarely lined up inline, I still think there is some value in finding a more traditional tight end. He has the versatility to line up at the end of the line and serve as an extra blocker or flex out in the slot. What impresses me most is how willing Otton is to take on contact. This is easily the best example I can find of just that.
Otton blasts Hutchinson off the line and knocks him off his feet. Hutchinson absolutely dominated that game, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying on Otton’s part. His balance after first contact is a huge plus. He does a great job creating leverage as a run blocker as well. He never put up gaudy stats, but I think he is going to be a very productive tight end at the next level.
Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
How about another tight end? McBride caught my attention at the end of the 2020 season with 330 yards and four touchdowns in just four games. He took it to another level in 2021. In stark contrast to Otton, McBride posted monster numbers this past season. He reeled in 90 receptions for 1121 yards and a touchdown during his senior season. He is an above average blocker with fantastic hands. He reportedly ran in the mid 4.5s at his pro day as well, so he certainly has the requisite speed needed to excel at the next level. With the ability to line up inline, flexed out or on the boundary, McBride is going to be a really fun chess piece for offensive coordinators to have at their disposal.
Sincere McCormick, RB, UTSA
I love this Roadrunner. I shouted out one of his teammates in Tariq Woolen yesterday in my favorite small school prospects in this draft. He is a compact tackle breaker with some pass catching ability. He had close to 4,000 yards rushing and 68 receptions in his three years at UTSA. His 40-time was a bit of a red flag, but he plays much faster on film and had several long touchdown runs this season. His contact balance is particularly impressive, allowing him to run through arm tackles. He could be very effective as a one-cut back that can contribute on passing downs. I like him going early in the third round.
Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
Another linebacker and another Georgia defender. I love Walker’s coverage ability and versatility. He is big at just under 6’4″, weighing in at 241 pounds, but he can fly around the field. He posted a 4.51 40-time to back up the speed we saw on tape. He dominated Alabama as well, racking up eight tackles and six pressures in the National Championship Game. Finding a linebacker that can drop into coverage, generate pressure on the blitz and showcase sideline-to-sideline range is hard. He has scheme versatility and can line up at middle linebacker or as an off-ball outside backer. Sign me up for that. I think Walker is a legitimate first-round talent.
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