2023 NFL Draft Stock Watch: Rough week for top quarterbacks

Just when we thought we couldn’t top Week 1’s action, Week 2 saw three top-10 teams go down! It was a wild weekend overall, but not a great one for many of the top quarterbacks in this class. Bryce Young had a lackluster performance, thanks in large part to a rough day from his offensive line and his receivers. More on them in a bit.

I had a chance to watch a bunch of games over the weekend and there were a bunch of players who really impressed me and several others who fell short of the mark. I won’t pretend I watched every game, but here was my watch list so far from the weekend:
Alabama at Texas
Kentucky at Florida
Baylor at BYU
South Carolina at Arkansas
USC at Stanford
Syracuse at UConn
Tennessee at Pittsburgh
Southern Miss at Miami

I still have several more that I want to watch, including App State-Texas A&M, Washington State-Wisconsin and Marshall-Notre Dame.

Each week, I am going to write this column to highlight which players I think boosted their draft stocks and which players are trending in the wrong direction. Not every player that I liked is going to get a shoutout and not every player that I was underwhelmed by will be mentioned. I am also limiting this to draft-eligible players for 2023. So while Raheim Sanders and Chase Roberts really caught my eye this week, they will not be on the list.

Without further ado, here is my stock up and stock down after Week 2. If you missed last week’s entry, you can find it here.

Stock Up

Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
3rd-year junior
Week 2 stat line: 11 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 pass deflection
Sanders was everywhere in Week 2! He dominated South Carolina, flying to the football and showing up in pass coverage as well. This was just an all around impressive performance. The Alabama transfer looked like a complete player, rushing the passer, stuffing the run and making an impact in coverage. He does still overrun some plays, but he has real sideline-to-sideline ability. I knew his name already, but I will be keeping a much closer eye on Sanders moving forward.

Jordan Addison, WR, USC
3rd-year junior
Week 2 stat line: 7 receptions, 172 yards, 2 TDs
Addison was already largely considered to be a first-round talent, but wow this was quite a performance. He took basically whatever he wanted against a solid Stanford defense. His versatility to take the top off the defense or operate as more of a possession receiver is impressive and invaluable. It certainly helps that he has caught passes in his career from Kenny Pickett and Caleb Williams, but I think the fact that he is having success in two different systems only boosts his value. He is going to have to learn another offense when he reaches the NFL. With quiet starts to the season for both Kayshon Boutte and Jaxson Smith-Njigba, it seems like Addison is closing the gap in the race to be WR1.

Anthony Cook, S, Texas
5th-year senior
Week 2 stat line: 9 tackles, 2 tackles for loss
There are a lot of players I could highlight on this Texas defense for the performance they put on against Alabama. I am focusing on Cook though. He made a number of key stops, including the fourth-down run that ‘Bama failed to convert that led to Texas’ go-ahead field goal. He showed he can be a solid open-field tackler as well, crashing down on swing passes out of the backfield and screens. I will say, I need to watch more of him in coverage to figure out if he is simply a box safety or if he has a bit more depth to his skill set. Overall, impressive performance against a talented opposition.

Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
3rd-year junior
Week 2 stat line: 8 receptions, 103 yards, 1 TD
How much higher can Mayer’s stock really go? I’ve only had a chance to watch some highlights from this game so far, but Mayer’s performance is wildly impressive to me. In a game where Notre Dame only managed 221 yards passing, Mayer accounted for nearly half of them. He is a well-rounded prospect who has a legitimate chance of being drafted in the top 20 of this upcoming draft. We will have to see if Mayer’s target share or production is impacted by Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner’s season-ending injury, but I have a feeling Drew Pyne will probably still look to Mayer plenty.

Stock Down

Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami
3rd-year sophomore
Week 2 stat line: 21/30, 263 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
The stat line for Van Dyke might not look too bad at first glance. However, it was a bit of a sloppy performance for the Miami quarterback against low level competition. The Canes offense struggled pretty much the entire first half. They finally got into a rhythm once they took the ball out of Van Dyke’s hands and started running it. Van Dyke missed on a few throws and simply looked a big off target for most of the game. It would be a bit more understandable if this type of performance came against Clemson or Florida State, but this was a bit underwhelming.

Emil Ekiyor Jr., G, Alabama
5th-year senior
Week 2 stat line: still not sure what to put here
It was not a great week for the Alabama offense. Bryce Young was consistently running for his life and Texas’ defensive line was living in the ‘Bama backfield. One of the biggest culprits was Ekiyor, who had a decent amount of draft hype entering the season. He routinely got pushed back into Young’s lap and the running game was nonexistent. Ekiyor simply looked overmatched and missed a number of blocks. He is lucky he has a mobile quarterback to bail him out. Most of Alabama’s line falls into that category.

Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
3rd-year sophomore
Week 2 stat line: 14/35, 143 yards, 2 INTs, 6 carries, 4 yards
These first two weeks of the season perfectly encapsulate Richardson as a prospect. His upside is through the roof with incredible arm strength and electric open-field ability. He is also wildly inconsistent throwing the ball downfield and struggles to put touch on his passes. Week 1 showcased the good. Week 2 featured all of the bad. Kentucky forced Richardson to beat them with his arm and he could not do it. Two bad interceptions, including the go-ahead pick-six for the Wildcats, sunk the Gators. Richardson mixed in a few special throws, but they were few and far between. I am eager to watch his development as the season rolls on, but this was a major bump in the road.

Jerome Carvin, G, Tennessee
5th-year senior
Week 2 stat line: We really need some stats for offensive linemen
Another interior lineman who struggled in Week 2, Tennessee’s Carvin had a rough day in Pittsburgh. Hendon Hooker was forced to move off his spot quite a bit because of the constant pressure from the Panthers defensive line. He was sacked three times, but it really could have been more. Carvin really struggled in pass protection and had an uneven day as a run blocker. The Vols lacked efficiency on the ground in general, managing just 2.7 yards per attempt.

Spencer Rattler, QB, South Carolina
4th-year junior
Week 2 stat line: 24/39, 376 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 12 carries, -23 yards
Maybe this is a bit harsh for Rattler to end up here. He did throw for the sixth-most yards of any FBS quarterback this week, but much of it came with Arkansas playing prevent defense with a sizable lead. Rattler spent much of the game running for his life as the Razorbacks’ defense got after him early and often. While that does not all fall on Rattler, his limited mobility made matters worse. He missed downfield throws on a number of occasions and was lucky he only threw one interception in this game. These are the types of games where he needed to show up and play at a high level. He needed to prove himself against SEC competition. So far, he is falling short of that mark.

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NFL Draft Daily: An early look at the 2023 quarterback class

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 346 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

We are still months away from the start of the college football season, but it is never too early to start looking at the prospects for this upcoming draft. Where else could I possibly start than at quarterback? After a down year without many exciting passers, the 2023 draft class has the potential to be one of the deepest classes we have ever seen. With a ton of upperclassmen quarterbacks and some super exciting juniors, this is a class we can start to be excited about.

Just to be clear, these are not rankings. I put out my Way-Too-Early 2023 mock draft a couple weeks back that at least gives a sense of how I rank the top quarterbacks right now.

Also, in the interest of not having a nearly 4,000 word post, I decided to split up the quarterbacks I am keeping an eye on this year into two separate posts. I will have part two out tomorrow. So with that, let’s start to familiarize ourselves with the quarterbacks sure to be discussed in this 2023 draft cycle.

C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
My top quarterback heading into the 2023 draft cycle, Stroud put together a really strong 2021 season and should be well positioned to build off it in 2022. He posted the highest passer rating of any Power 5 quarterback in the country, tossing 44 touchdowns and just six interceptions. More importantly, he completed nearly 72 percent of his passes. He passes the eye test from a physical perspective, listed at 6’3″, 218 pounds. I will be curious to see how he does without his top two targets from a year ago. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave will now be playing on Sundays. If his Rose Bowl performance against Utah, where Wilson and Olave sat out, is any indication of what Stroud can do this season, he will likely win the Heisman. Jackson Smith-Njigba might be better than Wilson and Olave, plus Marvin Harrison Jr. is ready for a bigger role.

Bryce Young, Alabama
Just behind Stroud is Young, who needs no introduction after winning the National Championship as a freshman and the Heisman as a sophomore. He is a proven playmaker who dominated the SEC, throwing for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns. Both marks were second in the country, trailing only Bailey Zappe. He will have plenty of opportunity to prove his talent without his top two targets from a year ago. Jameson Williams and John Metchie III are both in the NFL now. Hopefully, Alabama’s offensive line will be a bit better in pass protection after allowing 39 sacks a season ago. My biggest concern is his size. Young has a slight frame, listed at 6’0″ and 194 pounds. That is a bit of a red flag, but he hasn’t let it impact his game to this point.

Tyler Van Dyke, Miami
I watched Miami play Pittsburgh this past season and came away more impressed with the quarterback wearing orange and white than the one in blue and gold. That’s right, Van Dyke outplayed Kenny Pickett, who was drafted in the first round just a few weeks ago. He looked sharp down the stretch, taking over for the injured D’Eriq King permanently in October. He got off to a rocky start, but Miami went 5-1 over its final six games with Van Dyke leading the offense. From a size perspective, he checks all the boxes. At this point, he is solidly in the first-round conversation, but that is a bit of projection that he takes the next step in his development this season.

Will Levis, Kentucky
The Penn State transfer made a name for himself in 2021 with an impressive debut season for Kentucky. He posted solid numbers as the Wildcats went 10-3, including a Citrus Bowl win over Iowa. Levis looked sharp and has a lot of the NFL measurables, including a clear pro-caliber arm. Now, he does need to cut down on the interceptions, he had 13 this past season, but it is easy to see how he could translate to the next level. He has a big season to prove himself ahead, hopefully, featuring more downfield passing and less focus on throwing the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
Another SEC quarterback that is on the rise, Hooker quietly had one of the best statistical seasons of any passer in 2021. He threw for just shy of 3,000 yards, 31 touchdowns and only three interceptions while completing 68.2 percent of his passes. His passer rating for the year trailed only CJ Stroud and Grayson McCall. He also racked up 620 yards rushing. So a clear dual threat with an NFL body who takes care of the football? Consider me intrigued.

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
Small-school quarterbacks are in right now in the NFL. Or at least, quarterbacks from non-traditional powers, because Coastal Carolina is quickly shedding its small school persona. McCall led the nation in passer rating and yards per attempt while finishing third in completion percentage. He has the size and mobility to translate to the next level as well. I like his ability to put some touch on his throws as well. He hasn’t faced the best competition in the Sun Belt, but his accuracy is incredible regardless. His game is a bit Patrick Mahomes-esque with his ability to make plays on the run and throw off platform. His arm strength is nowhere near that of Mahomes, to be clear, but I definitely notice some similarities.

Bo Nix, Oregon
What a journey Nix has been on. He was supposed to be the savior of Auburn when he arrived. The son of Tigers great Pat Nix never quite lived up to the hype. He has yet to eclipse 16 passing touchdowns in a season and a career completion percentage south of 60 percent. Now, he will get a chance to resurrect his career and draft prospects at the school he opened the college career against back in 2019. Nix unquestionably has talent, but consistency has been a bit of an issue. We will have to see if a change of scenery at Oregon will be enough to put him back in the NFL draft conversation.

Kedon Slovis, Pittsburgh
Another quarterback looking for a fresh start, Slovis burst onto the scene in 2019, but has failed to live up to the expectations that have followed. His completion percentage has slipped each of the past two seasons and he has thrown for fewer touchdown passes in the past two seasons combined than he did in his impressive freshman year. On top of that, he has struggled a bit with injuries. If he can get back on track replacing Kenny Pickett at Pittsburgh, Slovis has every chance to push himself back into the first-round conversation. He has the prototypical size and good arm. The issue will be showing he can put those attributes to good use on a consistent basis.

Spencer Rattler, South Carolina
Welcome to 2022, where pretty much every quarterback has transferred. Rattler is another quarterback looking to turn his career around after things went wrong in his first stop. He entered 2021 as a Heisman candidate and a projected No. 1 pick at Oklahoma. Then he lost his starting job to Caleb Williams and ended up transferring to South Carolina at the end of the season. I am very excited to dive deeper into his film to find out why he struggled this past year and how he can get back on track.

JT Daniels, West Virginia
This is school number three for Daniels. He started at USC, lost his job to Kedon Slovis after tearing his ACL as a sophomore, went to Georgia to be the starter, struggled with injuries and lost his job to Stetson Bennett. Needless to say, Daniels needs to show he can stay healthy first and foremost. His inability to be on the field is the biggest red flag for a player that has a couple of them. When he does play, he has a strong arm with decent accuracy and enough mobility to extend plays. He has a lot to prove this season if he legitimately hopes to be drafted.

Devin Leary, NC State
A rising star in the ACC, Leary had a fantastic junior season. This came on the heels of a horrendous freshman year and an injury-shortened sophomore campaign. His 35 touchdowns to just five interceptions gave him one of the best ratios in the country in 2021. Now, Leary will be out to prove he is not a one-year wonder. He is one of the players I am most excited to watch this upcoming season. I would not be shocked if he finds himself in the first round next April.

Anthony Richardson, Florida
People are expecting big things from Richardson after he flashed some otherworldly potential in limited action this past season. He appeared in just seven games and attempted only 64 passes. He is incredibly mobile, evidenced by an 80-yard touchdown run against South Florida. He did injure himself on the play though. What’s more, he threw just six touchdown passes and had five interceptions. He will need to show growth as a passer for a team to take a chance on him in the 2023 draft, but his athleticism is something teams will be happy to bet on.

Cameron Rising, Utah
A sleeper I think people should keep an eye on in this quarterback class, Rising reinvented himself after transferring from Texas. He redshirted in 2018 and 2019 and only played in one game in 2020. He patiently waited for his chance to shine. At long last, he got a chance to showcase his abilities. He accounted for 26 total touchdowns, 20 through the air and six on the ground, while throwing just five interceptions. Entering his fourth season at Utah, he has a good grasp on this offense and should be well positioned for an even better season. I don’t know if he has elite traits, but there is enough there that I am very intrigued.

Jake Haener, Fresno State
One of the older prospects in this draft class, Haener turned 23 in March and will be 24 by the draft next year. Age is less of a factor with quarterback prospects, but Haener will need to show he is pro ready, because a 24-year-old developmental quarterback might be a tough sell. Good thing is, he seems like he will be pretty close. He threw for over 4,000 yards this past season and an impressive 67 percent completion percentage. On top of that, he had 33 touchdown passes. He started his college career at Washington and has grown into a solid prospect over the past two seasons at Fresno. He faced some good competition and I’m excited to watch more of him.

Malik Cunningham, Louisville
Possibly the best runner in this draft class, Cunningham has been a solid player at Louisville capable of dazzling at any moment. 20 touchdowns on the ground is incredible. He has the ability to throw passes on a rope, but he needs to improve his accuracy. His completion percentage dipped down to 62 percent in 2021. I really like his game, but I think he needs a bit more polish to push him into the conversation with the top quarterbacks in this class.

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.

NFL Draft Daily: Comparing my Way-Too-Early 2022 Mock Draft to the actual NFL Draft

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 353 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

It’s that time of year where we start the very early look at next year’s draft class. We get caught up in the appeal and excitement of what could be. I’m guilty of it. I just published my Way-Too-Early 2023 Mock Draft this past Monday.

However, I wanted to do something a little different. I want to compare my Way-Too-Early mock from last year to the actual draft. I think it is really interesting to compare expectations for teams and players to what actually happened in the past year. Hopefully, there are a few lessons I can learn in the process as well that will help me better identify prospects that are true first-round players.

There are some major takeaways here for sure. One, I thought this quarterback class was going to be good a year ago. Meanwhile, Travon Walker was not even on my radar. Good reminder to everyone that so much can change over the next year as we start to look ahead to 2023.

As a reminder, I did not set the draft order last year. It was the reverse Super Bowl odds at the time from William Hill with strength of schedule used as a tiebreaker. You can check out the mock for reference, but I listed all of the projected picks here as well. Let’s go back in time and take a look at how I did with my projections.

1. Way-too-early prediction: Houston Texans – Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
What happened to the player: Transferred to South Carolina
Actual selection: Jacksonville Jaguars – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Ah yes. May 2021. Back when we thought this was going to be a good quarterback class. Rattler was a Heisman candidate at Oklahoma and seemed poised to become the latest quarterback under Lincoln Riley to go No. 1 overall. Instead, he lost his job midseason to Caleb Williams and ultimately transferred to USC. I did not include him in my way-too-early mock for 2023, so he definitely has a ways to go to rebuild his draft stock. As for the Texans, they ended up picking just a couple spots later, but seem to have their quarterback to develop in Davis Mills.

2. Way-too-early prediction: Detroit Lions – Sam Howell, QB, UNC
What happened to the player: Drafted 144th overall by the Commanders
Actual Selection: Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
This didn’t pan out too well either. Howell entered the year as one of the top quarterback prospects, but uneven play and a drop in production without his top weapons caused him to tumble all the way to the fifth round. I still think he fell further than he should have, but there is no question he is a bit of a project. That being said, as I talked about on my podcast last week, I think Howell could wind up being the Commanders starter in 2023. Turns out that William Hill was spot on with their odds. Detroit did in fact pick second and they still need a quarterback. It will be a big focus in the 2023 draft for the Lions.

3. Way-too-early prediction: Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
What happened to the player: Drafted 3rd overall by the Texans
Actual selection: Houston Texans – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Hang on, I’m going to play the lottery real quick. I can’t pat myself on the back too much, but Stingley entered the year as likely the No. 1 overall prospect. At worst, he was No. 2 behind Kayvon Thibodeaux. He was an elite prospect, but injury struggles seemed to be pushing him down draft boards. A fantastic pro day somehow rebuilt his draft stock to the point where he went back to being a top-five pick. The fact that the Bengals were slated to take him third overall is laughable now. Cincinnati reached the Super Bowl behind stellar seasons from Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase and an underrated defense. Cincy could still use some corner help, but obviously was nowhere close to being able to snag Stingley.

4. Way too-early prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 7th overall by the Giants
Actual selection: New York Jets – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Another one that I feel pretty good about, Neal wound up going just a few spots later to the Giants on draft day. I still maintain that the Jaguars would have done well to take Neal and move on from Cam Robinson, but I digress. Neal delivered on the hype in his 2021 season, making the move to left tackle look fairly easy. As it turns out, Jacksonville was even worse than this, with the Urban Meyer experiment failing miserably. Now we will have to wait and see if the Jags can avoid becoming the first team to ever draft No. 1 overall three years in a row.

5. Way-too-early prediction: New York Jets – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
What happened to the player: Drafted 5th overall by the Giants
Actual selection: New York Giants – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Right city, right draft slot, just wrong team on this one. The Jets ended up picking one selection earlier, in the end passing on Thibodeaux in favor of Ahmad Gardner. The Giants seem pretty happy with that. Thibodeaux came into the year as one of the best prospects in the draft. In fact, he was the top player at that point. He didn’t quite live up to the expectation, but he put together more than enough good tape to justify going in the top five.

6. Way-too-early prediction: New York Giants – Kedon Slovis, QB, USC
What happened to the player: Transferred to Pittsburgh
Actual selection: Carolina Panthers – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
To quote myself from 2021: “If the Giants are picking this high, Daniel Jones’ days in New York are likely numbered.” Well after the team declined his fifth-year option, it sure seems like that is the case. However, the Giants opted not to take a quarterback in this class. Slovis wasn’t available anyway, because he didn’t enter the draft. This is a good reminder to not always bet that a player that flashed as a freshman will be able to sustain that. Slovis has come nowhere close to matching his 2019 production. He threw 30 touchdowns that year. He threw 28 in the next two combined. His completion percentage has also dropped each of the past two seasons. He can still turn things around, especially moving to a Pittsburgh program that just lost Kenny Pickett, but he has an uphill climb.

7. Way-too-early prediction: Philadelphia Eagles – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
What happened to the player: Drafted 23rd overall by the Bills
Actual selection: New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Give the Eagles some credit for way outperforming this projected draft slot. Philly was one of the surprises of the season as Jalen Hurts and company ended up reaching the playoffs. As it turned out, the Eagles ended up passing on Elam twice in the first round, before he finally landed with Buffalo. I think Elam was a bit overhyped in the offseason, but he was clearly still talented enough to go in the first round.

8. Way-too-early prediction: Las Vegas Raiders – DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Drafted 84th overall by the Steelers
Actual selection: Atlanta Falcons – Drake London, WR, USC
Reviewing this is I think a microcosm for Texas A&M this past year: they were good, but not as great as we expected. Leal fits that description. He had a solid season, but fell well short of the expectations I had for him entering the year. He ended up going in the third round to the Steelers, which feels like a really good spot for him to develop. Meanwhile, the Raiders, much like the Eagles, shocked everyone by making the playoffs. I still don’t really know how, given how much of a mess the organization was all season.

9. Way-too-early prediction: Carolina Panthers – Zion Nelson, OT, Miami
What happened to the player: Returned to school
Actual selection: Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
As it turns out, I had the Panthers targeting the right position here, just the wrong player. Oh and they ended up picking even earlier than this. Zion Nelson’s draft hype never really materialized in high level play. He was forced into the starting lineup as a freshman in 2019 and struggled mightily. He has improved since then, but I am excited to see what Mario Cristobal and his staff can do to aid his development. He definitely made the right call in returning to school.

10. Way-too-early prediction: New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 75th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
I remember watching Christian Harris in 2020 and thinking “that guy plays linebacker?” He was built like an early 2000s safety, flying around the field and making plays. Unfortunately, flying around the field is what he does best. Harris struggles reading his keys and positioning himself to make players. He is athletic enough to compensate for that sometimes, but it hinders his game. I had him as a late-second-round prospect by draft day, but he slid into the third. As for the Bears, they wasted most of Justin Fields’ rookie season and might end up wasting his second year as well if they cannot put more talent around him.

11. Way-too-early prediction: Atlanta Falcons – Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Returned to school
Actual selection: New Orleans Saints via Washington Commanders – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
This was an example of assuming that Ohio State’s next five-star edge rusher up was going to continue on the trend of dominating when it was their turn. Nick Bosa did it in 2018. Chase Young did it in 2019. Harrison didn’t quite match those guys. He only posted two sacks in his junior season, showing a lack of true pass rushing polish that his predecessors had. He will have a chance to rewrite the scouting report on him during his senior season, but he will need to step up big time if he hopes to crack the first round. This ended up being pretty close to where the Falcons picked as well and they could still use edge rushing help, along with a lot of other things.

12. Way-too-early prediction: Washington Commanders – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
What happened to the player: Drafted 74th overall by the Falcons
Actual selection: Detroit Lions via Minnesota Vikings – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Desmond Ridder had some late first-round hype around him heading into the 2021 draft, but decided to return to school. It didn’t quite workout as he would’ve wanted. It wasn’t that Ridder didn’t play well, it’s that NFL teams had a chance to really pick apart his game. He was not accurate enough to warrant going in the first round. He is a bit of a project at this stage, but there is still plenty to like about his game. One pick off for Washington’s original draft slot is pretty impressive by the folks at William Hill. Trading for Carson Wentz meant they didn’t have to get overly aggressive in drafting a quarterback. They wound up taking Sam Howell on Day 3 as well to give them a player to develop.

13. Way-too-early prediction: Minnesota Vikings – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
What happened to the player: Drafted 14th overall by the Ravens
Actual selection: Philadelphia Eagles via Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
I ended up being just one pick off from where Hamilton was ultimately drafted. The Notre Dame safety slid to the Ravens after not running well at the combine. I was probably a bit lower on him than most in the early stages last season just because I am skeptical of taking safeties too high. Still it was a bit of a surprise to see him fall to the Ravens. Meanwhile, the Vikings were also just one slot off from their original selection before trading out with the Lions.

14. Way-too-early prediction: Arizona Cardinals – Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
What happened to the player: Drafted 61st overall by the 49ers
Actual selection: Baltimore Ravens – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Arizona still struggled down the stretch, but got over the hump and made it to the postseason. The Cardinals got bounced in the first round, but it was progress. On the other hand Jackson entered the year with the expectation that he would take the next step in his development during a full season. He posted 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a freshman, but never quite matched those numbers again. He projects well as a situational rusher for the 49ers.

15. Way-too-early prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
What happened to the player: Drafted 9th overall by the Seahawks
Actual selection: Houston Texans via Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins – Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
I ended up being six spots off where Cross ended up being selected. I think this would’ve been better value for him, as I didn’t quite have him in my top 10. Still, Cross ended up being one of the most experienced pass blockers to ever come out of the college ranks. He still has some fine-tuning in that department and is a relative unknown as a run blocker, but he checks every box from a physical perspective. On the Steelers’ side of things, they probably could have used some reinforcements along the offensive line. They outperformed expectations and actually reached the postseason.

16. Way-too-early prediction: Los Angeles Chargers – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 11th overall by the Saints
Actual selection: Washington Commanders via New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Well a receiver did end up going with the 16th overall pick. I just chose the wrong Big Ten school. I also find it hard to believe that this is the first receiver I had projected to come off the board. Not because Olave was undeserving, but because this ended up being a really good receiver class. Anyway, Olave ended up going five picks earlier as the third receiver to be selected. I’m sure Chargers fans would have loved him, but they never got the chance.

17. Way-too-early prediction: Tennessee Titans – George Pickens, WR, Georgia
What happened to the player: Drafted 52nd overall by the Steelers
Actual selection: Los Angeles Chargers – Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
This one was undoubtedly all about projection. Pickens had just undergone ACL surgery when I wrote my way-too-early predictions for 2022. I assumed that his upside and physical attributes would be enough to keep him in the first round. Not quite as he went 35 selections later, so I guess I was about a round off on him. The Titans did end up drafting a receiver, but it was to replace A.J. Brown, not add around him like I had anticipated.

18. Way-too-early prediction: New England Patriots – Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama
What happened to the player: Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Eagles
Actual selection: Tennessee Titans via Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Woof this one was bad. Jobe was expected to be the next great Alabama corner, but he ended up going undrafted. It’s hard for me to understand exactly why he fell that far. He has measurables to play outside corner in the NFL, even if he did struggle a bit during his senior year. Not running at the combine makes me believe that there were some concerns about his speed and quickness. Still, most expected him to go in the fourth round. It was definitely a bit of a shock no one took a chance on him. Looking at the Patriots, they did need cornerback help and they still could probably use a bit more.

19. Way-too-early prediction: Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
What happened to the player: Drafted 13th overall by the Eagles
Actual selection: New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
I wish I could’ve bet on this one way back then. Not that I would have because why on Earth would I have ever believed I would get this right, but the odds for Jordan Davis being selected by the Eagles a year later likely would have been incredible, assuming any sportsbook would have been willing to give them to me. Philly traded up a couple spots on draft day to land him. He will be the long-term replacement for Fletcher Cox. The Eagles did originally own the 19th pick, but flipped it to the Saints as part of a pre draft trade. Meanwhile, the Dolphins, who were expected to make the playoffs this past year, struggled out of the gate and never fully recovered.

20. Way-too-early prediction: Dallas Cowboys – Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Transferred to LSU
Actual selection: Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
This was a swing and a miss. I actually heard from a bunch of Buckeye fans immediately after publishing last year that Sevyn Banks was being overhyped. Once I dove a little deeper into the film, I realized they were right. I got caught up in scouting the helmet, not the player on this one. I wasn’t alone. Banks was a popular inclusion in way-too-early mocks this time last year. He only played four games in 2021 and will now attempt to rebuild his draft stock at LSU. For the Cowboys, this was not too far off from where they ended up finishing even playing in the weakest division in the league.

21. Way-too-early prediction: New Orleans Saints – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 10th overall by the Jets
Actual selection: Kansas City Chiefs via New England Patriots – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
So the Saints did wind up selecting a first-round receiver from Ohio State. I just didn’t have them taking the right one. Not that Wilson was even on the board when New Orleans ultimately picked at No. 11. He put together a fantastic junior season and pushed himself into the top ten. Personally, I’m thrilled he landed with the Jets. As far as expectations for the Saints, this was not too far off. They came close to the playoffs despite dealing with major injuries across their roster.

22. Way-too-early prediction: Indianapolis Colts – Thayer Munford, OT, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 238th overall by the Raiders
Actual selection: Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
In retrospect, this pick should have belonged to the Eagles. I fully expected Carson Wentz to meet the requirements to convey the Colts’ first-round pick. Simply an oversight on my part. Let’s talk about Indy though, because it definitely needed a new left tackle. The Colts brought in Eric Fisher as a stop-gap solution, and more recently drafted Bernhard Raimann to compete for the starting spot. As it turns out, Munford was not a great choice to fill that void. He ended up kicking inside to play guard during his senior season and fell to the seventh round. His versatility is undervalued and I think he will stick around the league for a while.

23. Way-too-early prediction: New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Drafted 15th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: Buffalo Bills via Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
What a fall for the Seahawks. Seattle suffered through a lost season with Russell Wilson missing time due to injury only to ultimately trade him to the Broncos. Their own first-round pick, which belonged to the Jets as part of the Jamal Adams trade, became the 10th selection. Let’s just say I’m not complaining as a Jets fan. New York could have used a player like Green, but it is hard to fault Joe Douglas for how he handled the draft. The offensive lineman from Texas A&M ended up being gone by this point anyway.

24. Way-too-early prediction: Denver Broncos – Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
What happened to the player: Drafted 108th overall by the Browns
Actual selection: Dallas Cowboys – Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa
I was shocked by this in 2021 and I still can’t believe it now. William Hill had the Broncos at 20-1 odds to win the Super Bowl this time last year. That makes more sense with Russell Wilson at quarterback, but Drew Lock? Not really sure what happened there. Either way, Denver did need some help along the front seven and Winfrey seemed to be an ascending player. He actually did put together a much more impressive senior campaign with 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks but ended up sliding all the way to the fourth round. He could wind up being a very productive player in Cleveland.

25. Way-too-early prediction: Cleveland Browns – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
What happened to the player: Drafted 2nd overall by the Lions
Actual selection: Baltimore Ravens via Buffalo Bills – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Speaking of the Browns, this is where they were expected to pick after a sensational 2020 season. That fell apart quickly as Baker Mayfield got hurt and the team seemingly never recovered. Then there is Hutchinson, who ended up soaring up draft boards thanks to a phenomenal senior season. He finished as the runner up for the Heisman and will now get to play the role of hometown hero with the Lions.

26. Way-too-early prediction: Green Bay Packers – John Metchie, WR, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 44th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: New York Jets via Tennessee Titans – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
I should really know better by now. The Packers don’t draft receivers in the first round! In their defense, I think that was the right call this year after six of them went in the top 18 picks. I wonder if John Metchie might have worked his way into the first round had he not torn his ACL in the SEC title game against Georgia. He became Bryce Young’s go-to receiver this past season, catching 96 passes for over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. His speed is legitimate as well. The Texans might end up with a steal in the second round.

27. Way-too-early prediction: Baltimore Ravens – Cade Mays, G, Tennessee
What happened to the player: Drafted 199th overall by the Panthers
Actual selection: Jacksonville Jaguars via Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Injuries derailed the Ravens season, which was actually my rationale for mocking them to take Mays before the year even happened. Keeping Lamar Jackson healthy will be priority number one for Baltimore and likely a large part of the thinking into drafting Tyler Linderbaum in the first round. Mays ended up sliding all the way to the sixth round. He is a former five star recruit with experience at just about every position on the offensive line. I was definitely a bit too high on him entering the year, but he should have gone earlier than the sixth round in my opinion.

28. Way-too-early prediction: Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
What happened to the player: Drafted 18th overall by the Titans
Actual selection: Green Bay Packers – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
There have been a few prospects that I projected to make the jump in 2021 that fell short of expectations. That was not the case with Burks. He took a huge step forward with over 1,200 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns in a fantastic campaign. He was a bit inconsistent and posted some questionable times at the combine, but clearly the Titans felt like he was going to be a worthy replacement for A.J. Brown. Looking at who this pick originally belonged to, William Hill was pretty close with the Rams. Matt Stafford and Von Miller just pushed them over the top.

29. Way-too-early prediction: Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
What happened to the player: Drafted 27th overall by the Jaguars
Actual selection: New England Patriots via Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers – Cole Stange, G, Chattanooga
Well William Hill was spot on for this one. This ended up being the 49ers pick, even if it did change hands several times before the selection was ever made. Lloyd was one of my favorite prospects heading into the 2022 draft cycle. That didn’t change at all and it turns out I just missed out on where he would go in the first round. I think there are big things to come from him in Jacksonville.

30. Way-too-early prediction: Buffalo Bills – Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bills
Actual selection: Kansas City Chiefs – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
My second prediction that went horribly wrong. Wydermyer joins Josh Jobe among my first-round hopefuls that went undrafted. Wydermyer looked like the latest athlete to learn how to play tight end. His tape showed quickness and burst that made him seem like a player just scratching the surface of his potential. Then he actually went on to put up worse numbers in 2021 despite having two more games. He skipped running at the combine and then posted some horrible times at his pro day. I don’t exactly know what to make of him at this point, but this was a huge miss for me. Ironically, he did sign with the Bills.

31. Way-too-early prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
What happened to the player: Drafted 30th overall by the Chiefs
Actual selection: Cincinnati Bengals – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Another one where I was off by just one pick. Karlaftis enters the draft much like he entered his final college season, a developing player who has been unable to replicate his freshman year success. He managed to stay healthy in 2021, but his production did not bounce back all the way to his 2019 campaign. Still, he is an enticing prospect with his burst off the line and ability to disrupt plays. He needs to become a bit more disciplined in the run game, but there is clear upside. Tampa always loves grabbing edge rushers to develop. I think Karlaftis would have been a good fit there, but the Bucs traded out of the first round and he was gone by the time they were up again.

32. Way-too-early prediction: Kansas City Chiefs – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
What happened to the player: Drafted 42nd overall by the Vikings
Actual selection: Minnesota Vikings via Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams – Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
I still wonder if Booth had been healthy enough to run at the combine if he would have pushed his way into the first round. He had a strong career at Clemson and did not go much later than this when the draft actually rolled around. Minnesota will be hoping he can finally put an end to the revolving door they have had at cornerback. The Chiefs came up just short of a third straight trip to the Super Bowl, blowing a lead that prompted them to trade up for some cornerback help in Trent McDuffie.

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NFL Draft Daily: Where can Spencer Rattler rebuild his draft stock?

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. Check back in Monday for another entry.

Things have changed quite dramatically for Spencer Rattler over the past four months. The soon-to-be former Oklahoma quarterback entered the season as the Heisman favorite and a fixture in the top five of NFL mock drafts. He seemed poised for a big year and almost assuredly would find himself playing pro football in 2022.

Instead, his season went a bit sideways. For the second year in a row, he was benched against rival Texas. This time though, he stayed on the bench as Caleb Williams engineered a dramatic comeback victory over the Longhorns in the Red River Showdown. Rattler did not start again the rest of the season and entered the transfer portal.

So how is it that this Heisman favorite and blue-chip prospect is suddenly off draft boards and looking for a new home? Consider it the fallacy of media hype and the assumption that players will only ever get better. Rattler had not earned that level of trust and confidence yet. Lincoln Riley had though, so we were all willing to bet on Rattler becoming the latest quarterback to flourish in his offense. He flashed high-end potential in his first season as the starter at OU, but there were also plenty of warning signs of what was to come.

In short, chalk it up to the Lincoln Riley effect finally failing. We expected Rattler to make a jump into elite quarterback territory. He didn’t. If anything, he regressed from his 2020 performance. This time, Riley just so happened to have a very capable replacement. However, this is not the end of the line for Rattler as a draft prospect. If he was capable of generating this much buzz once, he could assuredly draw the attention of NFL scouts again.

But where will he do it? Arizona State was the easy prediction early on for the Phoenix, Arizona native, but with Jayden Daniels returning to school, that rules out a move to Tempe. The list is still long. Let’s take a look at some schools where Rattler could be in line for immediate play on a big enough stage for him to reclaim the national spotlight.

Notre Dame
Let’s start with a big-name program with legitimate title aspirations. Notre Dame’s only loss of 2021 came against Cincinnati and the Irish finished one spot out of a playoff spot. Jack Coan was a serviceable starter as a grad transfer from Wisconsin, but his eligibility is up and Notre Dame will certainly be looking for a new starter next year. Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner are both four-star recruits that could be in line to start, but Rattler would be a better option than either of them for 2022. Pyne played the second half of the Cincinnati game and struggled. He finished 9-of-22 throwing, with a touchdown pass.

Buchner is seen as the future at the position, but could new head coach Marcus Freeman be interested in bringing in a veteran option with a lot more experience? This could be a bit of a risk for Rattler given that much of the coaching staff that recruited Buchner is still intact, but if he could win the job and perform well in South Bend, he would certainly have the clout necessary to generate positive draft buzz again. Notre Dame is known for having strong offensive lines and reliable run games as well. Both of those elements would likely make Rattler’s transition easier and would bode well for future success.

UNC
This is operating under the assumption that Sam Howell declares for the NFL draft. Mack Brown has put UNC back in the national spotlight very quickly. The Tar Heels did not have the kind of season they had hoped for after opening the year at No. 10 in the AP poll, but the potential for offensive success is still incredibly high. Sam Howell put up some big numbers in his second year under Brown despite having his top two receivers and top two running backs playing in the NFL this season.

The potential is there for Rattler to do the same. Jacolby Criswell would be his main competition for the starting job. However, Rattler was a much higher-rated recruit coming out of high school. Playing in a pro-style offense in the ACC should give him the stage to flourish and rebuild his draft stock. Howell was generating buzz alongside Rattler as the potential first overall pick prior to the season. There is no doubt he could rebound in Chapel Hill.

Georgia
This is an interesting and perhaps unlikely destination, but I think it could work well. Stetson Bennett is a redshirt senior, so he will not be back next season. J.T. Daniels still has one more year of eligibility remaining, but he has struggled to stay healthy and I’m not totally convinced the coaching staff believes in him at this stage. Brock Vandagriff could be in the mix as well. The former five-star recruit only appeared in two games this season though, so he will have four more years to work with.

Georgia is undoubtedly going to lose talent to the NFL, but Kirby Smart is arguably the best recruiter in the country. They will reload quickly on both sides of the ball. Putting Rattler in an offense that features Brock Bowers, a dominant running back room and maybe even George Pickens if he returns to Athens sets him up nicely to have success. If he can mature as a decision maker under Todd Monken and perform well against SEC defenses, the NFL will be lining up to watch Rattler play again.

LSU
Brian Kelly could use a quarterback. The former Notre Dame coach inherits a roster with a lot of talent, but a huge hole at quarterback following transfers by Max Johnson and Myles Brennan. Garrett Nussmeier is still enrolled at the school and could be the future at the position, but it might take another year for him to be fully ready to start. There is also the tough spot he finds himself with regards to LSU’s bowl game. With Johnson and Brennan gone, he would be in line to start, but that would officially burn a year of eligibility.

It will be interesting to track how Kelly handles that situation. I don’t think it will impact how he approaches the quarterback situation for next year. LSU has five-star quarterback Walker Howard committed for 2022, but I think Kelly could pursue Rattler to give himself a veteran option to start his first season while he turns over the program. Most of LSU’s skill players will return for next year as well, led by Kayshon Boutte. Especially if Joe Brady happens to return to Death Valley, this feels like a dream scenario for Rattler.

UCLA/Oregon
Some of this will hinge on what happens next with Chip Kelly. It looks like he is headed back to Oregon after four seasons with UCLA. However, the Bruins will still need a quarterback no matter who the coach is next year. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is graduating after a solid career and the only other quarterback in the mix right now is freshman Ethan Garbers, who transferred in from Washington this year. If Kelly leaves though, this becomes a much less appealing landing spot for Rattler.

Maybe Rattler could follow Kelly to Oregon though. Anthony Brown is done after spending five years with Boston College and Oregon. The Ducks have three freshmen that could all contend for the starting job, but the coach who recruited them there, Mario Cristobal, is now at Miami. It would not be a surprise to see at least one of them enter the transfer portal.

The bottom line is that Kelly’s offense probably bodes well for Rattler’s skillset. He is not quite as mobile as Thompson-Robinson or Marcus Mariota, who thrived under Kelly at Oregon back in the day. That is why this feels like such a good fit. Kelly has a decent track record of developing quarterbacks. Mariota went on to be the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. With Lincoln Riley headed to USC, there is also an opportunity for Rattler to stick it to his former coach. There is a lot to like about Rattler landing in the Pac-12, especially growing up in the Southwest.

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Way-Too-Early 2022 NFL Mock Draft: Texans, Lions, Giants and Washington go quarterback in Round 1

Already thinking about 2022? That’s the Jets fan in me. Always getting ready for the next draft. Gives me something to talk about every December and January when New York is out of playoff contention.

Anyway, I am just starting the process of watching film of the class of 2022. A few players I am familiar with after scouting them prior to them deciding to return to school. Then of course, names like Kayvon Thibodeaux, Evan Neal and Derek Stingley Jr. are known around college football because of their five-star status coming out of high school. Mix in a few quarterbacks and a bunch of receivers and we have an intriguing class.

The 2022 draft will likely look nothing like this. This is mostly just an exercise to identify some of the top players for next year and potential team needs on the NFL side. It’s also a lot of fun if you ask me. It makes it really interesting to go back and compare to the real draft a year later. I’ve been doing that with my first 2021 mock the past few days.

I did not decide the draft order. It is based on Super Bowl odds provided by William Hill. If you don’t like where your team is picking, take it up with them.

Without further ado, let’s dive into my first mock for the 2022 NFL draft.

1. Houston Texans (200-1) – Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
Apologies to Davis Mills, but if the Texans are picking first overall, I don’t see them passing on a quarterback. Spencer Rattler is the latest Oklahoma quarterback to draw national attention. He is a front-runner for the Heisman and should have the Sooners in position to challenge for the College Football Playoff. A quick glance at his 2020 tape will show some inconsistent performances early in the season, but his arm talent is impressive. It is very early in the scouting process for 2022, but Rattler has the early lead for QB1.

2. Detroit Lions (150-1) – Sam Howell, QB, UNC
Detroit opted not to take one of the quarterbacks in the 2021 draft, passing on Justin Fields and Mac Jones. If the Lions ended up with the second pick in the 2022 draft, you can bet that Jared Goff did not transition well to the Motor City. Sam Howell is a bit undersized, but has a live arm and is not afraid to air it out. It will be interesting to see how he fares with so much of his supporting cast now in the NFL. Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome all were drafted over the weekend.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (100-1) – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Possibly the best cornerback prospect to come out since Jalen Ramsey, Derek Stingley Jr. is a reliable, sticky cover corner. He locates the ball well in coverage and does an excellent job pressing off the line. There are a few instances in his play where he grabs receivers after getting beat off the line, but overall, he is a great player. For Cincinnati, who lost William Jackson III in free agency this year, he would fill a huge need.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (100-1) – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
When you have your franchise quarterback, it is best to invest in protecting him. Evan Neal is a mountain of a man who moves like someone 100 pounds lighter than him. He has yet to play left tackle at Alabama, but should take over the position this season with Alex Leatherwood heading to the NFL. Jacksonville can get by for a year with Cam Robinson playing on the franchise tag, but he will likely be gone next year, creating a huge opening on Trevor Lawrence’s blindside.

5. New York Jets (100-1) – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Independent of position, Kayvon Thibodeaux is the top player in this class. After dominating his freshman season, Thibodeaux had a much more modest 2020, posting three sacks in seven games. His size and speed make him one of the most coveted prospects in this class. New York has been in search of a dominant pass rusher for well over a decade. Thibodeaux has the potential to wreak havoc in Robert Saleh’s scheme.

6. New York Giants (75-1) – Kedon Slovis, QB, USC
If the Giants are picking this high, Daniel Jones’ days in New York are likely numbered. Dave Gettleman has surrounded him with a lot of offensive talent, signing Kenny Golladay and drafting Kadarius Toney. There are no more excuses. Assuming New York is searching for a new quarterback, Kedon Slovis could be a great fit. He wowed as a freshman before turning in a rockier sophomore campaign. If he can cut down on his turnovers and regain his 2019 form, he will be challenging for the top quarterback spot in this class.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (75-1) – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Philly missed out on the top corners in the 2021 draft. This team has a huge need across from Darius Slay. Kaiir Elam could be the perfect player to fill it. He is long at 6’2″ and has good speed in the open field. His eye discipline is impressive from the limited film I’ve watched so far. I’ve also appreciate his willingness to make contact as a tackler. He is not afraid to hit people.

8. Las Vegas Raiders (70-1) – DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
After cutting Maurice Hurst and ignoring the position in the draft, the Raiders have a massive need at defensive tackle. Enter DeMarvin Leal. He is built like a prototypical three-technique tackle. His first step is good and he has a nose for the football. Even if he doesn’t get home, his presence is felt as a pass rusher. Las Vegas would benefit big time from having him on the interior of its defensive line.

9. Carolina Panthers (60-1) – Zion Nelson, OT, Miami
I thought the Panthers might select an offensive tackle early in this past draft. They did grab Brady Christiansen in the third round, but that is not enough to make me think they couldn’t use more help. Zion Nelson worked his way into the starting left tackle role at Miami in 2020 and excelled. He brings all the size teams are looking for at the position and could be Carolina’s starting left tackle in 2022 in this scenario.

10. New York Giants via Chicago Bears (50-1) – Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
After selecting a quarterback, Dave Gettleman turns to the defense here. Christian Harris is a do-it-all playmaker. He can drop in coverage like a safety or make plays around the line of scrimmage like a linebacker. He already has two years of experience as a starter in Alabama’s defense under his belt. The Giants would benefit from his sideline-to-sideline range.

11. Atlanta Falcons (50-1) – Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
I like what the Falcons did in the 2021 draft, but they still have yet to address their need on the edge. Zach Harrison has been used primarily as a situational rusher up to this point, but has the length to excel in a 4-3 defensive end role. He came on strong towards the end of the year for the Buckeyes and could be poised for a true breakout season in 2021.

12. Washington Football Team (50-1) – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Washington crushed the 2021 draft, at least on paper. They filled some needs and built quality depth across the roster. However, they still do not have a plan for the quarterback position. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke are currently the only two options on the roster. Desmond Ridder earned some late first-round love before opting to return to school. He is big and mobile. Without question, there are some mechanics you would like to see him improve, but he has enough tools to be in the first-round conversation.

13. Minnesota Vikings (40-1) – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
The last time Minnesota drafted a safety from Notre Dame in the first round worked out pretty well for them. Harrison Smith is now 32 though and Anthony Harris departed in free agency. Kyle Hamilton led the Irish in tackles this season. At 6’4″, 219 pounds, he could probably fit into a hybrid linebacker roll in today’s NFL. He started all year at safety for Notre Dame, but he can move around the formation and make plays. The Vikings will sign up for that.

14. Arizona Cardinals (40-1) – Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
Arizona is relying on a number of veteran players to produce in pass rushing situations this year. J.J. Watt is 32 and Chandler Jones is 31. The team could use some youth on the outside. Drake Jackson had a quieter 2021 season after picking up 5.5 sacks as a freshman. He is a bit of a tweener, able to line up as a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. His versatility could boost his draft stock as the year rolls on.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (35-1) – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Few teams need offensive line help like the Steelers. Charles Cross started all 10 games at left tackle for Mississippi State in 2020. He checks all the boxes from a physical perspective and should be set for another year of facing elite competition in the SEC.

16. Los Angeles Chargers (35-1) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Chris Olave was a borderline first-round player before returning to school. He was Justin Fields’ favorite target and will form one of the nation’s best receiver duos with Garrett Wilson in 2021. It will be interesting to see if Olave can gel as quickly with Ohio State’s new starting quarterback.

17. Tennessee Titans (30-1) – George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Tennessee built some quality depth with Senior Bowl standouts Dez Fitzpatrick and Racey McMath in the 2021 draft. Maybe one of them will develop into a quality starter, but outside of A.J. Brown, this team is lacking in proven options. George Pickens is a bit of a question mark at the moment. He had surgery on a torn ACL in April and will likely miss most, if not all of the 2021 season. His game tape from the previous two years is impressive though and at 6’5″, he will have plenty of suitors in the NFL.

18. New England Patriots (30-1) – Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama
Rumors continue to fly about the future of Stephon Gilmore. The team could be betting on the development of 2019 second-round pick Joejaun Williams, but I think corner will be one of the team’s top needs next year. Josh Jobe is a physical corner with good size. He will get a chance to be Alabama’s No. 1 option with Patrick Surtain II now in the NFL.

19. Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins (28-1) – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
At 6’6″, 330 pounds, Jordan Davis is a problem. Philly can continue to rebuild its defense with a high-upside space eater. Davis is quicker than most people his size should be. He is routinely double teamed and does well at not allowing offensive linemen into his body. He could be in for a monster season at Georgia.

20. Dallas Cowboys (28-1) – Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
Dallas missed out on the top corners in this draft class, so I have to imagine they would target one next year if given the chance. Sevyn Banks is a long, fluid defensive back coming off a solid season at Ohio State. He needs to work on his open-field tackling. The effort and form is lacking right now. His coverage skills are well above average. I am looking forward to watching more of him.

21. New Orleans Saints (25-1) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The Saints went heavy on defense in the draft, but they still need to find a receiver to complement Michael Thomas. Why not return to his alma mater? Garrett Wilson was arguably the better Ohio State receiver this past season. His production took a dive in the second half of the year though. If Wilson can replicate his hot start and this time maintain it, he will be in the conversation to be the first receiver selected.

22. Indianapolis Colts (25-1) – Thayer Munford, OT, Ohio State
Indy essentially passed on the offensive tackle class this year. I expect Chris Ballard will find a veteran stop-gap option, but a long-term solution is still needed. Thayer Munford enters his fifth season with the Buckeyes having already played in 46 collegiate games. He has been rock solid and should be among the top linemen selected next year.

23. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (25-1) – Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
Building in the trenches is often a recipe for success. After grabbing the top edge rusher in the class, Joe Douglas grabs the top interior linemen. Kenyon Green has a mean streak and was an All-American in 2020. He certainly passes the eye test to be an NFL lineman and looks like a reliable pass blocker in the limited tape I’ve watched so far. He would continue to solidify the Jets offensive line in an effort to protect Zach Wilson.

24. Denver Broncos (20-1) – Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
Anyone else surprised to see the Broncos picking this late? Who am I to doubt Vegas though. Denver’s biggest need is an edge rusher, but there aren’t any I think are worth going here that fits Vic Fangio’s scheme. Instead, they grab a versatile defensive lineman to prepare for the future. Perrion Winfrey picked up steam as the 2020 season rolled on. He finished the year with six tackles for loss and solidified himself in the starting lineup.

25. Cleveland Browns (18-1) – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
It is hard to find many clear needs for this Browns team on paper. Jadeveon Clowney is on a one-year deal though, so finding a replacement would make sense. Aidan Hutchinson is a prototypical 4-3 end. He had his season cut short in 2020 due to injury, but should be ready to bounce back.

26. Green Bay Packers (16-1) – John Metchie, WR, Alabama
Another Alabama wide receiver goes in the first round. John Metchie will get his chance to shine after sitting behind an all-star group of receivers over the past two years. That’s not to say Metchie hasn’t made plays either. He finished 2020 with close to 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. This year, he will be “the guy” though in this offense. For Green Bay, he would be a great No. 2 option across from Davante Adams with every single receiver, other than recently-drafted Amari Rodgers, set to be a free agent next offseason.

27. Baltimore Ravens (14-1) – Cade Mays, G, Tennessee
The Ravens took big Ben Cleveland to develop along the interior of the offensive line. Kevin Zeitler is 31 and Bradley Bozeman is a free agent after the season, so this is still a potential need. Plus, building in the trenches is always smart. Cade Mays is a former five-star recruit with great size and tons of experience. He would be up for the task of keeping Lamar Jackson healthy.

28. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams (14-1) – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Detroit grabbed its quarterback of the future and now can find him a weapon to develop with. Treylon Burks was one of the top receivers in the SEC in 2020. He has a big frame with good run after the catch ability. He could be primed for a huge season and a rise up draft boards.

29. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers (14-1) – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
One of my favorite players in this draft class, I’ve been tracking Devin Lloyd since 2019. He is fast and diagnoses plays well. Utah moves him all over the formation to create confusion. He is best as an off-ball linebacker, but he has shown some ability to rush the passer as well. For Miami, I think Lloyd would challenge for a starting spot right away and that Brian Flores would get the most out of him.

30. Buffalo Bills (13-1) – Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
Buffalo stacked up on defense in 2021, but still has a clear need at tight end. Jalen Wydermyer is the best one in the class and has the production to back it up. He would be another receiving option for Josh Allen and could cause headaches for opposing defenses with his size and speed.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-2) – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Even after drafting Joe Tryon, Tampa could go edge rusher again to help lessen the blow of impending free agents. George Karlaftis had a truncated 2020 season between injury and COVID-19. However, he absolutely dominated in 2019, posting 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks as a true freshman. If he can get back to that type of disruptor in 2021, he will not still be on the board by pick 31.

32. Kansas City Chiefs (21-4) – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Kansas City rebuilt its offensive line this offseason, which means it can turn its attention back to the defense. Charvarius Ward and Bashaud Breeland are both free agents after this season and the Chiefs do not have much proven depth. Andrew Booth Jr. could step in as a potential starter at one of those two corner spots. He is incredibly athletic and should have a chance to prove himself this year as Clemson’s top corner.

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