Draft Season Never Ends: Week 1 Recap and Week 2 Preview

New episodes dropping every Friday! Football is finally back in full swing! Stetson Bennett, Anthony Richardson and C.J. Stroud each had important weeks to open the season. There are a few other standout performers from across the country as well. Plus, Chris looks ahead to another big weekend of college football games and reacts to Thursday Night Football.

You can find every episode on Anchor, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or wherever you find your podcasts. As always, I appreciate reviews, feedback and when you hit that subscribe button.

Five under-the-radar 2023 NFL draft prospects to watch in Week 2

What a first week of college football action! From a high-scoring affair in North Carolina to a beatdown in Atlanta to a special teams collapse in New Orleans, it was incredible all around.

There was a ton to unpack from Week 1. I wrote about my biggest takeaways earlier this week and now Week 2 is already upon us. There are a ton of fantastic matchups to watch once again this weekend.

Unfortunately, some of these games are going to be at the same time, so break out the tablet or set your DVR if you want to watch all of the amazing action from this weekend.

I wanted to highlight a few of the draft-eligible players I am most excited to watch this weekend. Without a doubt, Anthony Richardson vs. Will Levis will draw a ton of eyeballs. Plus, I’m really excited for the fanfare of Alabama and Texas.

What about the under-the-radar guys? Perhaps that is a bit of a misnomer. Many of these players fans of college football have likely heard of. However, these are not the guys you will likely see in a first-round mock draft at this point. So rather than just tell people to watch the games they already know to turn on, let’s take a look at some players who might not be household names yet, but could very well be Top 100 players at the end of the season.

Cameron Ward, QB, Washington State
Year: 3rd-year junior
Opponent: at #19 Wisconsin (Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on FOX)

This is a huge stage for Ward. He is a transfer from Incarnate Word looking to make an impression at the FBS level. Ward has a super quick release and can pick apart defenses when given the chance. He got off to a really solid start against Idaho, tossing three touchdown passes in a victory. Now, he will face much stiffer opposition in a Wisconsin defense that shutout Illinois State in their season opener. I wouldn’t be shocked if he returns to school for another season, but Ward is draft eligible this year. A big, nationally-televised game for him against a Top 25 team is the perfect stage to prove to NFL talent-evaluators that he deserves to be on their radar.

Brenton Cox, LB, Florida
Year: 5th-year junior
Opponent: vs. No. 20 Kentucky (Saturday at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN)

Talk about absolutely relentless. That is the best way I can describe Brenton Cox. He made himself some money last week with 10 tackles in the Gators’ upset of Utah. He will have a chance to earn even more this week against Kentucky. The Wildcats are another ranked team with a talented quarterback and a veteran-heavy offensive line. Cox showed incredible burst, great hand usage and good discipline against the run. If he can start pressuring the quarterback on a more consistent basis, he will be trending towards being a top 50 selection. I haven’t seen much buzz about him yet, but I expect that to change if he keeps playing like he did in Week 1, especially against Top 25 opponents.

Myles Jones, CB, Texas A&M
Year: 6th-year senior
Opponent: vs. Appalachian State (Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on ESPN2)

Being a sixth-year player coming off a major injury is going to be a lot to overcome, but Jones has a pretty unique skill set that I believe will see him get drafted this year. He reminds me a bit of Brandon Browner, or, if you want a more recent comparison, Israel Mukuamu from South Carolina, now of the Dallas Cowboys. That’s the type of role I think we could see him play and I would not be shocked if he was moved to safety in the NFL. He is a logical fit in zone heavy schemes, especially those that would not have him pressing much. He needs to improve his hand usage and physicality, but his combination of size (6’4″) and speed is enticing. Facing an App State team that just hung 61 on UNC should offer a pretty solid test.

Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh
Year: 4th-year junior
Opponent: at Tennessee (Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on ABC)

Interior pass rushers are still in high demand at the NFL level. At this point, Kancey projects best as a situational pass-rusher rather than a three-down lineman. He struggles against the run, lacking the size and play strength to consistently disrupt the ground game. However, he is a slippery and crafty pass rusher. He excels at crashing the pocket on passing downs. He had a solid game against West Virginia to open the year. The more that I watch him, the more I want him to kick outside and play defensive end, but we will see how the NFL views him. He will get a chance to face off with a talented Tennessee offensive line with three upperclassmen on the interior. Plus, they have a solid two-headed rushing attack with Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright. Kancey needs to start showing improvement in that area of his game in order to bolster his draft stock.

Jaren Hall, QB, BYU
Year: 5th-year junior
Opponent: vs. #9 Baylor (Saturday at 10:15 pm ET on ESPN)

This looks like it is going to be an epic fight in Provo on Saturday. If you need an extra reason to stay up late if you are an East Coaster, Hall has you covered. The fifth-year junior is in his second season as the starter. His mobility is a huge strength and he looks comfortable throwing on the move. He is already showing some improvement from a year ago. His accuracy was a bit spotty last year, but he completed 25 of 32 passes to open the season against South Florida. Baylor has a much better defense and should force Hall into some tougher situations. He is a good improviser and will need to be at his best to take down the Bears. If Hall plays well and BYU picks up the win, he is going to be talked about a whole lot more moving forward.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

2022 NFL Franchise 100: No. 40-36

The NFL season is right around the corner and while all 32 franchises are trying to make their final roster decisions, I wanted to take a different approach to roster building. Inspired in part by the annual NFL Top 100 players list, voted on by the players in the league, I wanted to know who the top 100 players would be to start a team with in 2022.

There are a variety of factors that went into creating this list. Let me lay out the criteria.

First, age played a major role in determining which players made this list. Only six players over the age of 30 made the list. Positional value was the other big driving force behind these rankings. There is no doubt that Jonathan Taylor is one of the best young players in the game right now, but you wouldn’t pick him first overall to start an NFL franchise from scratch. The positional value of running backs is simply not high enough to warrant that. Neither is the longevity of the position on average. You most likely want to find a player who is going to last a long time to build your franchise around. There are a few notable exceptions to that rule. With that in mind, I prioritized quarterbacks, offensive tackles, cornerbacks, edge rushers and wide receivers. There are plenty of instances where a more talented player slid down the board a little further simply because they played a less valuable position.

There were a few other factors I considered, including years remaining on contract, contract structure and salary commitments. There is a reason why rookie contracts are so valuable, especially when you hit on a star. That player is now on a team friendly deal with several years of team control built in.

If you missed the previous entry, you can find it here.

With all of that in mind, let’s continue our countdown to No. 1. Check back Friday for players 35 to 30.

40. Trevon Diggs, CB, Dallas Cowboys
Age: 23
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $1.72 million
The NFL’s leader in interceptions for 2021 checks in at No. 40. That might seem a little low for a 23-year-old corner who just earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl status. Perhaps it is. Despite his 11 interceptions, he got picked on a lot. That’s because he is a bit inconsistent in coverage. Nobody allowed more yards in coverage than Diggs last season and the 10th most yards per completion. His passer rating allowed was still one of the best in the league because of the number of interceptions and pass break ups he had. In short, Diggs is high risk, high reward in coverage. His contract is also a bargain. I’m willing to bet on him still improving a bit in coverage at such a young age. I’m also not moving him higher because I know that him replicating 11 interceptions in a season is very unlikely.

39. Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Age: 26
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $6.88 million
I don’t know if there was a better offensive weapon in football than Samuel. He had 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns, including 365 yards on the ground. San Francisco lined him up all over the formation and he excelled in every spot. It was a coming out party for Samuel, who flashed his upside as a freshman, but only played in seven games in 2020. He got a big pay day this offseason, but the first two years of his contract are actually very affordable. He carries a $6.88 million cap hit in 2022 and an $8.68 million in 2023. It jumps to about $28.5 million in 2024, which is less than ideal, but the bill always comes due at some point. If Samuel can show he can consistently produce at this All-Pro level, he will certainly be higher next year.

38. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Age: 24
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $8.84 million
This was a tough call between Samuel and Metcalf. I ended up giving Metcalf the slight edge for a few reasons. For one, he has been more durable so far, never missing a game in his first three seasons. He also has fantastic production, with over 3,200 yards and 29 touchdowns. What’s more, Metcalf is only 24 years old. He is a physically dominant force that I believe could slot into basically any offense. Like Samuel, he signed a big extension this offseason. Again, the first two seasons are incredibly affordable for a player of his caliber before the cap hits jump up near $25 million. I have no doubt that his production will drop off this season with one of the worst quarterback situations in recent memory, but that does not mean he will be any less talented.

37. Jordan Mailata, OT, Philadelphia Eagles
Age: 25
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $4.37 million
This one might come as a bit of a surprise, but Mailata is one of the best young left tackles in the game. At just 25 years old, he is still just scratching the surface of his potential. He finished fourth in run-block win-rate. He was also PFF’s third-highest rated tackle, trailing only Trent Williams and Tyron Smith. At 6’8″, 365 pounds, he is a mountain of a man who moves incredibly well. His contract is very team-friendly as well. His cap hit over the next two years is under $8 million. Given what we’ve already seen from Mailata coupled with his upside, I think this is a great spot for him.

36. Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
Age: 29
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $8.17 million
One of the most prolific receivers over the past few seasons. Since he entered the league in 2014, only Mike Evans has more receiving touchdowns. He has benefited from playing with Aaron Rodgers, but there is no denying Adams’ talent. He is a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro. While he is certainly nearing the end of his prime, I still believe Adams has a few years left of elite production. His contract situation may look a little daunting on the surface with looming cap hits of over $40 million in the final two years of his deal when he will be 33 and 34-year-old respectively. However, the Raiders would be able to move on from Adams after the 2024 season with limited dead cap hit.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

2022 NFL Franchise 100: No. 45-41

The NFL season is right around the corner and while all 32 franchises are trying to make their final roster decisions, I wanted to take a different approach to roster building. Inspired in part by the annual NFL Top 100 players list, voted on by the players in the league, I wanted to know who the top 100 players would be to start a team with in 2022.

There are a variety of factors that went into creating this list. Let me lay out the criteria.

First, age played a major role in determining which players made this list. Only six players over the age of 30 made the list. Positional value was the other big driving force behind these rankings. There is no doubt that Jonathan Taylor is one of the best young players in the game right now, but you wouldn’t pick him first overall to start an NFL franchise from scratch. The positional value of running backs is simply not high enough to warrant that. Neither is the longevity of the position on average. You most likely want to find a player who is going to last a long time to build your franchise around. There are a few notable exceptions to that rule. With that in mind, I prioritized quarterbacks, offensive tackles, cornerbacks, edge rushers and wide receivers. There are plenty of instances where a more talented player slid down the board a little further simply because they played a less valuable position.

There were a few other factors I considered, including years remaining on contract, contract structure and salary commitments. There is a reason why rookie contracts are so valuable, especially when you hit on a star. That player is now on a team friendly deal with several years of team control built in.

If you missed the previous entry, you can find it here.

With all of that in mind, let’s continue our countdown to No. 1. Check back Thursday for players 40 to 36.

45. Quenton Nelson, G, Indianapolis Colts
Age: 26
Years remaining on contract: 1
2022 cap hit: $13.75 million
There are few players who have dominated the league as thoroughly and consistently as Nelson has since the moment he stepped on an NFL field. He is a four-time All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler in his first four seasons. He is coming off his worst year as a pro, which still resulted in a second-team All-Pro designation and a Pro Bowl selection. Positional value and contract structure are what holds Nelson back from being higher on this list. I have no doubt that the Colts will re-sign Nelson, but he is in the final year of his rookie deal with no long-term extension in place. He is going to cost a lot to keep, which is saying something because he already carries the largest cap hit for a guard in the entire league by nearly $1.5 million. He is that good, but it is easy to question paying an interior offensive linemen that much money.

44. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Age: 29
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $10.32 million
Evans is one of the most consistent receivers in NFL history. He has had at least 1,000 yards receiving every single season he has been in the league. He also has 75 career touchdown receptions, including 27 over the past two years. He is definitely nearing the end of his prime, but he still looks like he could have a few great years left in the tank. He has a very affordable cap hit for this season, but 2023 carries a cap hit north of $23 million. His contract expiring heading into his age 31 season could put teams in a tough spot. However, if Evans is still producing like he has up to this point, it would be easy to justify re-signing him.

43. Evan Neal, OT, New York Giants
Age: 21
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $4.46 million
I get that not everyone is going to agree with this one, but I am sticking true to my draft board for right now. I had Neal as my highest-rated player entering the 2022 NFL draft. Nothing I have seen or read so far has led me to change my mind on that front. The Giants are going to start him at right tackle for now, but I think he is a future left tackle in this league. He is a great run blocker and has the traits to develop into an asset in pass protection as well. Neal will turn 22 in September. If he hits like I think he will, he could be a franchise tackle in the league for the next decade.

42. Shaquille Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts
Age: 27
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $11.17 million
Where do I even begin with Leonard? He is a four-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler, not to mention the 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year. He is an elite tackler with a nose for making big plays. His 17 forced fumbles are tied for second most since he entered the league, trailing only T.J. Watt. Don’t discount his ability in pass coverage either. Leonard is a complete player with plenty of years left in his prime. My only knock against him would be his contract situation. He has a cap hit of at least $19.7 million for the final four years of his deal, which is very high for an off-ball linebacker, but when you have elite talent, you have to pay to keep said elite talent.

41. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Age: 29
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $17.80 million
The triple crown winner has arrived. Kupp became the first receiver since Steve Smith Sr. in 2005 to lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in a dominant season that nearly saw him eclipse 2,000 yards. He is a perfect fit in Sean McVay’s offense. As much as I love Kupp, I am a little hesitant to put him higher on this list. For as good as he was, he has topped 1,000 yards only one other time in his five-year career. He will also turn 30 next offseason and has a lot of money tied up in his remaining contract. The counter argument to all of this is that we have finally seen Kupp at his best when he has a quality quarterback. I’m hedging my bets a bit putting him here.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

2022 NFL Franchise 100: No. 50-46

The NFL season is right around the corner and while all 32 franchises are trying to make their final roster decisions, I wanted to take a different approach to roster building. Inspired in part by the annual NFL Top 100 players list, voted on by the players in the league, I wanted to know who the top 100 players would be to start a team with in 2022.

There are a variety of factors that went into creating this list. Let me lay out the criteria.

First, age played a major role in determining which players made this list. Only six players over the age of 30 made the list. Positional value was the other big driving force behind these rankings. There is no doubt that Jonathan Taylor is one of the best young players in the game right now, but you wouldn’t pick him first overall to start an NFL franchise from scratch. The positional value of running backs is simply not high enough to warrant that. Neither is the longevity of the position on average. You most likely want to find a player who is going to last a long time to build your franchise around. There are a few notable exceptions to that rule. With that in mind, I prioritized quarterbacks, offensive tackles, cornerbacks, edge rushers and wide receivers. There are plenty of instances where a more talented player slid down the board a little further simply because they played a less valuable position.

There were a few other factors I considered, including years remaining on contract, contract structure and salary commitments. There is a reason why rookie contracts are so valuable, especially when you hit on a star. That player is now on a team friendly deal with several years of team control built in.

If you missed the previous entry, you can find it here.

With all of that in mind, let’s continue our countdown to No. 1. Check back Wednesday for players 45 to 41.

50. Tre’Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills
Age: 27
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $16.4 million
I will admit, I am probably a bit too high on White, who is coming off a torn ACL. That being said, I really love his game. He has been an impact player since he came into the league, finishing as runner up for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017. He was an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in 2019 and 2020. I expect he likely would have been in 2021 as well if not for the knee injury. His advanced metrics in coverage are great every year. What sells me even more on White is his contract situation. His cap hit hovers right around $16 million for the next four seasons, which is very affordable for an elite cover corner. It ranks third for the position in 2022, but drops to 14th in 2023 and even lower beyond that.

49. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
Age: 23
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $6.16 million
Given what receivers are being paid in the NFL these days, getting Waddle at just north of $6 million is a bargain. Waddle became just the second rookie receiver in NFL history to haul in 100 catches, surpassing Anquan Bolden’s record of 101 set in 2003. He is a huge threat in space and excels at generating separation in small spaces. His acceleration is incredible. It is only one year of production, but in an offense that was far from prolific passing the football, Miami ranked 17th in yards per game last season, I think this was about as strong of a start as you could have hoped for.

48. Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Detroit Lions
Age: 22
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $6.49 million
Hutchinson has come a long way from the foot injury that cost him the remainder of the 2020 college season. He became the first defensive player to finish as the runner up for the Heisman since Manti Te’o in 2012. That was thanks in large part to a monster senior season featuring 14 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. I love his motor and his polish as a pass rusher off the edge. I think he is going to be a star in this league for a long time to come. I am willing to invest in that upside.

47. Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins
Age: 28
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $6.49 million
Catch him if you can. Hill will get the chance to remind everyone that he was a great receiver before Patrick Mahomes came along now that he is with the Dolphins. He has been a Pro Bowler every season of his career and a three-time All-Pro. He has led the league in yards from scrimmage per touch in two different seasons so far as well. You might be wondering why he isn’t higher, given all of the accolades. He is clearly in the prime of his career, but I worry a little bit about his longevity as a player whose game is so heavily predicated on speed and his contract situation. Hill’s cap hit for 2022 is very easy to swallow, but balloons to over $31 million in 2023. Still, he is a game-changer with the ability to take the top off a defense at any moment. That is worth investing in.

46. Ahmad Gardner, CB, New York Jets
Age: 22
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $6.08 million
First and foremost, happy 22nd birthday to Sauce! The Jets top pick has looked the part so far in the preseason. After not allowing a touchdown during his collegiate career, he was not even targeted during his first preseason. I am not sure how important that stat really is, but Gardner brings length, talent and swagger to a position that demands all of them to be considered elite. Gardner was my No. 2 player in this past draft class and I think he is going to be one of the best corners in the league very quickly. His rookie deal will keep him at an affordable cap hit for the foreseeable future as well.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.