Why Chase Edmonds will have the biggest impact in the Miami Dolphins running back room

The Miami Dolphins signed Chase Edmonds in free agency filling a pressing need at running back. Chase Edmonds was the first signee for Mike McDaniel, and for a good reason.

Chase Edmonds fit in Miami

With Mike McDaniel as the play-caller in Miami, his offensive scheme is centered around the outside zone running game. Edmonds, while in Arizona did indeed play with zone blocking but in an inside zone scheme.

“The flow of the backers is different because in inside zone, it’s more slow to fast, where I can pitter-patter my steps,” Edmonds said. “Outside zone here, it’s kind of like you’re riding a wave. Once you hit that wave, you’ve got to hit it and go. I’m getting used to that, getting my feet under me. I’m taking pride in that journey, that challenge of fine-tuning it.”

Chase Edmonds on the outside zone scheme

While all zone blocking concepts are the same, the way the running back finds gaps are not. Chase Edmonds does bring that experience into Miami, especially to help quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Running the Ball

Arizona routinely ran bubble screen RPO’s where it’s an inside zone option.

The most intriguing part of this play is the design itself, the threat of the quarterback keep. Tight end Zach Ertz executes an H-back arc block on this play. Ertz motioning from right-to-left leaves the EDGE untouched and climbs second level.

If the EDGE rusher were to crash on Chase Edmonds, Kyler Murray can keep the ball and run around the edge with Ertz blocking for him. Furthermore, if the linebacker was also focused on Edmonds, Murray could throw the ball to Zach Ertz.

With Chase Edmonds, the Miami Dolphins can utilize this same concept on different designs. After all, the did something similar like it last year.

Chase Edmonds intangibles is exactly what the Miami Dolphins need out of their running back room this year.

In a zone running scheme, running backs should have fast feet to move quickly around blocks, vision to see gaps open up before a block is made and short area burst after running through the hole.

Edmonds brings all of that to Miami, here’s a play that demonstrates his skills.

Edmonds finds the crease, using quick footwork behind the offensive line to get into the hole and gains 11 yards. He swiftly reads and reacts to the blocks in front of him

Given his experience and skillset, Edmonds is a near-ideal fit for the rushing offense McDaniel implements.

Catching the ball

Chase Edmonds is capable in the passing game, and a serviceable blocker.

With 96 catches for 713 yards the last two seasons, and no sacks allowed on 132 pass blocking snaps the last three years, Edmonds has demonstrated the ability to play on all three downs.

In Arizona, Edmonds was used in the receiving game as a slot receiver and used effectively in the screen game. As a result of Edmonds skillset, routinely, Arizona utilized his quickness against reacting linebackers in short areas of the field.

Mike McDaniel, as the play caller in San Francisco produced three top 10 run-after-catch players in 2021, this bodes well for Chase Edmonds in Miami.

With more defenses playing two-high coverage at an alarming rate, it’s important that teams have pass-catchers that can make defenders miss underneath and gain yards after the catch. Last year, Edmonds averaged 7.9 yards after the catch and used as an underneath option.

Chase Edmonds’ Efficiency and EPA

There is another component to the Edmonds news that makes sense from Miami’s perspective.

Efficiency. The emphasis is through EPA, expected points added. Basically, it measures the expected points of a play.

The average rushing EPA per play last season? A negative number.

However, contextualizing Edmonds rushes, He is one of those rare running backs who was efficient last season.

According to charting data from Sports Info Solutions, Edmonds had an EPA per rushing attempt of 0.08. That placed him fifth overall among ball-carriers with 100 or more rushing attempts last season.

Head Coach, Mike McDaniel values this extremely in his running back room. It’s something he speaks to at lengths in media pressers and believes in his scheme

The value of the running back position — what value do you put on anywhere from a third to a half of the plays on a given offensive season? You got to realize running backs, collectively… you have about 300 to 400 some touches, so it’s incredibly valuable, but there is a more diverse way of finding them. From a historical perspective, there is rookies, second-year players, mid-to-late-round [draftees] that have more success at that position than some others. But it’s…of paramount importance. We just have a concrete skill set that we found that can really flourish in a zone-blocking system.

Mike McDaniel on running back value

In Chase Edmonds, McDaniel now has that zone-blocking fit, as well as one of the league’s more efficient backs from a season ago to help bolster the Miami Dolphins rushing attack.

***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Hussam Patel***


Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel

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Tua Tagovailoa and Play-action passing

Tua Tagovailoa has become a hot topic this off-season from pundits deciding if this would be his make-or-break year. Additionally, a recent article from PFT’s Mike Florio detailed that free agent acquisition Tyreek Hill had low expectations for Tua.

The third-year Dolphins quarterback has received the most criticism from the media, fans and throughout last season, even players. One man is here to change that narrative – new head coach Mike McDaniel.

How Mike McDaniel will help Tua Tagovailoa

The big thing is what new head coach Mike McDaniel wants to do. McDaniel comes from the Shanahan coaching tree, the ever glorious wide-zone, bootleg, play-action world with Kyle Shanahan that has made Jimmy Garrapolo, Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins successful in the NFL.

Mike McDaniel with Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay utilized 12 personnel mainly in their time with the now Washington Commanders. McVay now utilizes a spread concept using 11 personnel to maximize his players skill sets. Kyle Shanahan uses 21 personnel to maximize his offensive players skillset and utilizes the pistol formation.

McDaniel is able to use a combination of the two but put his spin on how he can maximize his players skill set; mainly, Tua Tagovailoa.

The easiest way to explain the offense McDaniel has helped culture through the past couple of years is to break it down into two parts. It’s a wide zone run scheme paired with a west coast offense passing scheme.

In terms of the west coast passing scheme, it involves a lot of play action passes that can be deadly with a good running game. It is comprised of a lot of slants and crossing routes.

This is a perfect offense for Tua Tagovailoa. It truly does maximize everything he does well, while limiting the things he does bad. Tua will be asked to make quick reads, and throw the ball primarily to the middle of the field.

Slants, crossing routes, screen passes, and dig routes are gonna be the bread and butter of this offense’s passing plays, and Tagovailoa excels at those routes

Play-action passing

This off-season the hottest name is Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, who understands the the vast superiority of the play-action pass.

Simply put, play action is the easiest way to scheme quarterbacks more time and create big plays downfield.

At the heart of it all is the outside zone run, a very popular run concept in the NFL today. Not only is it effective, the play action off outside zone affords the quarterback more time than a normal dropback when passing.

The biggest question heading into the 2022 NFL season is if Miami’s new offensive line can block decently for Tua. Play-action passing provides Tua more time to maneuver the pocket and throw the ball down the field.

More and more teams are beginning to buy in to this line of thinking, for instance, with the play action rate in the NFL in 2018 reaching 24%. Expect the Dolphins to be one of them.

Per PFF, Tua Tagovailoa has a 80.3 grade on play-action passes and the offense as a whole has a 82.3 grade. In other words, when there’s a successful fake, he usually makes magic happen.

Flood Concept

A staple of the 49ers offense McDaniel is from is using the fullback or tight ends to condense across the formation, kick out in a split zone concept that allows for cutbacks, and take advantage of overflowing defenses.

This play action flood concept aims to put the flat and deep third defender in conflict

With the 49ers run game’s reputation and established tendencies, this leaves the window open for play action off of it.

This play action flood concept aims to put the flat and deep third defender in conflict. If #33 stays deep under the corner by Dwelley, QB can hit the 10 yard dig route to Emmanuel Sanders or dump it down to Juszczyk in the flats. If #33 comes up, QB can throw one over his head and in front of the FS occupied by the skinny post ran by Deebo Samuel.

The beauty of play-action is that it can create simple reads and make them even easier.

Mike McDaniel and Kyle Shanahan did an amazing job of giving Garoppolo easy reads and setting him up for success by scheming guys open and allowing for easy completions.

Boot-action and roll-outs in play action passing

Bootlegs are nothing new. Yet the rebirth of the outside-zone-then-boot idea has led to one specific change: the boot-action is no longer a specific down-and-distance call.

It’s no longer about moving the chains on third down, or bluffing on early down to steal ten yards. The boot-action and roll-out has become the go-to way for the league’s most prominent offenses to hit explosive plays.

The NFL is a league of explosives. Hit as many as you can; stop as many as you can. That’s it. In the passing era, that’s the entire ball game.

I believe this may be the key to unlocking an explosive Miami Dolphins offense.

How it works

Bootleg passes have several advantages, but one major disadvantage: they only attack one side of the field.

All play-action bootlegs are built around the same principals and are designed to achieve the same goals. These plays use misdirection to confuse defenders.

In other words, they look like running plays, slowing the pass rush and drawing linebackers close to the line of scrimmage to open passing lanes.

The run action also slows the pass rush, and the movement of the quarterback forces defensive linemen to change their pass-rush angle.

Finally, play-action bootlegs usually move one side of the field with receivers while putting the quarterback in position to execute short, easy throws.

The use of the boot has steadily trickled up across the league. The quarterback, offensive line, and running back are set up like it’s outside zone. Everyone kicks one way. It looks like outside-zone.

However, only the quarterback keeps the ball, rolls to the outside, away from the pass-rush, and then surveys the landscape.

Traditional boot-action concepts are built like any old “flood” concept: there’s a deep route, an intermediate route, and a short route.

In the modern game, with almost all just about quarterbacks mobile enough to be a perimeter threatthe quarterback is his own option. If nothing is open, he can run the ball himself.

Usually that quarterback rolls, opens up his hips and fires to a receiver swooping across the field. The defense bites one way, the ball is thrown the other way.

How Mike McDaniel can utilize Boot-action and Play-action passes to help Tua

By many, Tua Tagovailoa is seen as a one-read quarterback who is heavily reliant on RPO’s.

While it might be true that the Dolphins led the league in RPO passes down the field, many forget about Tua’s play-action game. Per Pro-Football reference, Tua Tagovailoa had the 11th highest play-action pass attempts (113). 

Play-action passing with Jimmy Garrapolo

Assuming RPOs are considered play-action, the San Francisco 49ers had a 31% play-action usage in their pass attempts, with Jimmy Garoppolo accounting for 147 passes on 441 pass attempts.

Most of the 49er’s play-action passes in 2021 came from under shotgun compared to the usual Shanahan system. The quarterback under center, him turning and handing off or throwing a play-action pass or bootleg.

The play-action pass from under center in particular was the staple of the Shanahan offense.

Shanahans usual way is not the best play-action system for Tua, neither for Jimmy Garropolo.

2021 became the year where, with McDaniel’s help, Shanahan changed his philosophy. From Week 8 onward, the 49ers were exclusively in shotgun instead of under center.

Per Sharp Football stats, the 49ers were in shotgun on 67% of all passes in 2021, coming in at 13th overall of all NFL teams, an increase from 20th in 2020. When asked about the change from under center to shotgun, here’s what McDaniel had to say:

“Well, Jimmy’s a lot more decisive in the gun. He likes to see it while he’s delivering tight window throws… minimizing pass exclusive situations, which on first and second down, you can do if you have the threat of (run out of gun). And we’ve just kind of evolved. Kyle in 2019, really started noticing that and put pressure on us to evolve. And every week you figure out different ways to do some of the same things, maybe a couple of wrinkles.” Mike McDaniel

Jimmy Garropolo’s efficiency and decisiveness went up towards the middle weeks of the NFL season, a huge part in driving San Francisco to the playoffs.

This is not something new to Mike McDaniel. As an offensive assistant with Washington, McDaniel and Shanahan took the league by storm by utilizing read-option plays to capitalize RGIII’s effectiveness in the run game.

Play action passing with Tua Tagovailoa

Similar to Jimmy Garropolo is Tua Tagovailoa. We’ve seen how decisive Tua can be in no-huddle, up-tempo, shotgun based offense. It’s one of his biggest strengths.

In the play seen above, the Dolphins are in a condensed 11 Personnel formation with Isaiah Ford motioning to the right side of the field.

Jaylen Waddle runs a “go” route and looks to be Tua’s first read. Tua identifies the bracket coverage on Waddle and shifts towards Devante Parker, his second read.

Tua moves LB Rashaan Evans with his eyes and holds him towards Waddle. This creates an opening to fire a pass down the middle to Devante Parker on a post route.

This is the type of play-action sequence Tua is successful at.

New Play-action sequences for Tua Tagovailoa

One of the most used play-calls used by the San Francisco 49ers under Mike McDaniel was the “DRIFT” concept.

It is a quick-hitting play that hits in the zone vacated by linebackers flowing toward the run action. 


The run fake draws up the linebackers and opens the zone behind them for the quarterback. This most basic of play-action of concepts opens some of the biggest throwing lanes in any offense I do expect this “DRIFT” concept to be utilized for the Dolphins offense in 2022, especially for Tua Tagovailoa.

How the RPO gives a boost to play-action passing

Per PFF, the Dolphins had 63 downfield RPO’s thrown beyond three yards, which was the highest figure since 2016. These downfield RPO’s generally enhance a teams play efficiency in the run game, giving a boost to play-action passing. In addition, the 2021 Dolphins RPO system was generally a “one-read” system as plays were meant for one person.
This will change as McDaniel brings a different philosophy in terms of RPO’s and improvements along the offensive line. It all starts with a concept called “WANDA”. 
The biggest difference is that if the football is not given to the running backs as the quarterbacks first read, the running back himself can become another outlet instead of pass blocking.
By providing another read to the quarterback, the running back runs a “wheel” concept giving another downfield passing threat if the blocking is solid. The threat of the pass will open up running lanes for running backs in RPO’s and Tua in play-action passing concepts.
Fortunately, Miami signed running backs in Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds who have ample experience in this type of offense.

Will these play-action passing concepts work?

“One thing I know about you is you have the ambition to be great. My job is to coach you to get all that greatness out of you”.
These words were uttered by Mike McDaniel in his first phone call to Tua Tagovailoa. McDaniel has success with quarterbacks with similar skill-sets like Tua, however the young man must put in the work to silence his critics and improve.
“What I’ve seen is a skill set that I’m familiar with, that’s very successful in this offense, you’re seeing a very accurate passer that receivers love to catch footballs from — tight spirals and accurate throws, which are huge for run after the catch and YAC yardage. What that means for an offense is if you have people who can run after the catch, that’s an outstanding skill set for him. Mike McDaniel on Tua Tagovailoa
It’s time for Mike McDaniel to tap into Tua’s skillsets and Tua to put in the work to make the Miami Dolphins offense successful in 2022.

***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Hussam Patel***


  Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel  
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Jaylen celebrates after scoring the clinching touchdown for the Miami Dolphins in the win against the New Orleans Saints.

Miami Dolphins 2022 game-by-game predictions

After a busy free agency and a much quieter draft, the 2022 Miami Dolphins are beginning to take shape. New head coach Mike McDaniel will look to lead the Dolphins to their first playoff birth since 2016. Doing so will not be easy, as Miami has the 14th hardest schedule, based on projected win totals. This includes a brutal six-game (four of which will be on the road) stretch to end the season, featuring five teams who finished last year with a winning record.

Let’s preview Miami’s 2022 schedule and project each game’s score.


Week 1: vs. New England

The Dolphins did something last season that they had not accomplished since 2000: they swept the New England Patriots. In Weeks 1 and 18, Miami defeated its AFC East rival.

The two teams will battle it out in Week 1 yet again, making it the third straight year these foes have opened their respective seasons against each other. New England will enter its 2022 slate with a new play-caller for the first time since 2011, as offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was hired to be the head coach of the Oakland Raiders in the offseason.

It is unclear yet who will be calling the plays for the Patriots in 2022, and that ambiguity has me hesitant to predict a win for them in their season opener.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 23, Patriots 14 (1-0)


Week 2: @ Baltimore

Miami’s first road matchup of the 2022 season will be against the Baltimore Ravens, a team that the Dolphins defeated a year ago, sparking their seven-game win streak.

The makeup of this Ravens team will be different than the one that Miami beat last November, as running backs Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, who both suffered ACL injuries that derailed their 2021 campaigns, are on their way to making full recoveries.

The Dolphins could and should hold their own against the Ravens, but considering the game will be played in Baltimore,  where Miami has not won since 1997 (0-4 since then), a first loss of the season seems likely.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 16, Ravens 19 (1-1)


Week 3: vs. Buffalo

In the Brian Flores-era in Miami, the Buffalo Bills demolished the Dolphins, going undefeated in six matchups and winning each game by an average of 18 points.

A coaching change for Miami figures to bring new life into this biannual matchup, and if the Dolphins can alleviate Buffalo’s ferocious pass-rush by unlocking the run game early, Miami has a good shot at beating the Bills for the first time since 2018.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 26, Bills 20 (2-1)


Week 4: @ Cincinnati 

Joe Burrow versus Tua Tagovailoa.

This Thursday Night Football matchup features the two highest-picked quarterbacks of the 2020 NFL Draft, and while Burrow has undoubtedly had a much better professional career up to this point, I expect Tagovailoa to find success against a Cincinnati Bengals secondary that ranked 24th in passing DVOA last season.

Ultimately, however, I trust Burrow to eke out a narrow win at home in what should be a high-scoring contest.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 27, Bengals 31 (2-2)


Week 5: @ New York

The New York Jets got better this offseason. They strengthened what could be one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, added new weaponry to aid second-year quarterback Zach Wilson and added high-ceiling defensive talent in the draft.

While I expect the Jets to improve this season, especially on offense, I just have way too many questions about the experience and overall talent level on defense to pick them against a team with more established impact players like the Dolphins.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 30, Jets 20 (3-2)


Week 6: vs. Minnesota 

Every team in the NFL has at least one “stinker” game per season.

Not every loss is necessarily a stinker; even a win could fall under this category. I think this could be that game for the Dolphins.

I have questions about Miami’s linebackers and their ability to consistently stop the run heading into this season, and the Minnesota Vikings, who feature star back Dalvin Cook (who will be making his return to South Florida, where he grew up), present the Dolphins with a tough matchup.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 17, Vikings 27 (3-3)


Week 7: vs. Pittsburgh 

Sunday Night Football is back in Miami (Gardens) after a three-season absence!

The Pittsburgh Steelers stroll into Miami Gardens with expected quarterback questions. Pittsburgh added former Bears and Bills quarterback Mitch Trubisky and then selected University of Pittsburgh gunslinger Kenny Pickett with the No. 20 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Steelers have a talented roster, but doubts about their quarterback position do not have me confident to pick them in this primetime contest. I think the Dolphins rebound here after a letdown performance against the Vikings in Week 6.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 24, Steelers 16 (4-3)


Week 8: @ Detroit

I really liked what the Detroit Lions did this offseason, especially at wide receiver.

After Amon-Ra St. Brown put together one of the more underrated seasons for a wide out last year, adding former Jaguar D.J. Chark through free agency and Alabama receiver Jameson Williams through the draft gives the Lions a dangerous trio of young talent at the position.

My biggest question, however, lies at quarterback, where former Ram Jared Goff is expected to start for the second consecutive season. Until the Lions upgrade at this position and throughout their defense as a whole, I don’t think head coach Dan Campbell’s squad will win more than six games, including its contest against a more talented Dolphins team.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 27, Lions 13 (5-3)


Week 9: @ Chicago

Aside from their Day 2 of the NFL Draft, I didn’t particularly love the offseason that the Chicago Bears had.

Chicago’s offense as a whole still feels very void of talent. I think the unit could be better than expected, however, due to expected second-year improvement from quarterback Justin Fields (who I like), and the acquisition of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy (who I really like).

I’m predicting a Dolphins win, but I think the Bears could keep it interesting.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 28, Bears 21 (6-3)


Week 10: vs Cleveland 

The circumstances surrounding this game, at least from the time of this article’s publication, are very dicey.

For the Cleveland Browns, quarterback Deshaun Watson’s status for the game is unclear, but for the purpose of the score prediction, I will assume that he’s playing.

I think this could be Tua Tagovailoa’s most defining game yet as quarterback of the Dolphins. A shoot-out win here would help silence some of Tagovailoa’s critics who claim that the third-year signal caller gets carried to victory by his defense.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 34, Browns 31 (7-3)


Week 11: BYE


Week 12: vs Houston

The Houston Texans had a mixed-bag of an offseason. I didn’t like the decision to go in-house with the hiring of head coach Lovie Smith, but I loved the selection of cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft.

I think Stingley could be the best player to come out of this draft class when it’s all said and done. I also like how Houston is giving quarterback Davis Mills a chance to flourish this season; he really started to come on at the end of last year.

The Dolphins should have enough firepower offensively to overcome the Texans in what should be a matchup of two teams headed in opposite directions record-wise.

Score Predictions:

Dolphins 20, Texans: 9 (8-3)


Week 13: @ San Francisco 

The Dolphins are on a five-game win streak at this point and possibly near the top of the AFC standings.

Unfortunately for them, I think the streak ends at five, as Miami will have to face off against a tough San Francisco 49ers team following a relatively comfortable home win against the Texans.

I am intrigued to see how McDaniel will fare against the 49ers, a team that the Yale graduate coached for from 2017–21.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 21, 49ers 27 (8-4)


Week 14: @ Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Chargers had an active offseason.

In trading for outside linebacker Khalil Mack and acquiring cornerback J.C. Jackson, the Chargers are entering their win-now window with star quarterback Justin Herbert entering his third season.

I think the Dolphins keep this game competitive, but Los Angeles just has too much star power on both sides of the ball for Miami to overcome.

Score Prediction: 

Dolphins 30, Chargers 37 (8-5)


Week 15: @ Buffalo

Beating the Bills twice in a season is hard.

Doing so a second time at Highmark Stadium in front of the “Bills Mafia” is even harder.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 16, Bills 27 (8-6)


Week 16: vs Green Bay

The Dolphins enter this Christmas Day matchup against the Green Bay Packers in need of a win. Losers of three straight, Miami needs a win to establish itself as a playoff contender in what should be a crowded AFC.

I think Miami gets that win against a Super Bowl contender in Green Bay, which would be the first time that the Dolphins have defeated the Packers since 2010.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 29, Packers 23 (9-6)


Week 17: @ New England

Tua Tagovailoa eventually has to lose to the Patriots.

I think this loss comes here against a New England team that could be fighting for its playoff life.

Frigid temperatures are expected in a late-December game in Foxborough, Mass., and I find it difficult predicting Miami to have success in these conditions.

Score Prediction:

Dolphins 14, Patriots 22 (9-7)


Week 18: vs New York

There are some similarities to be drawn here to the end of the 2013 season.

The 2013 Dolphins, entering Week 16 with a record of 8-6 and only in need of one win to punch their ticket to the playoffs, collapsed. That team lost in the final two weeks of the season, including in Week 17 at home against the Jets.

I expect the Jets to enter this Week 18 matchup playing some of the best football they have played in years, as all the young talent on the team should start to gel by that point.

New York should give Miami all it can handle, but I think the Dolphins will be able to do just enough to edge out their AFC East rival and punch their ticket to the NFL Playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season.

Score Prediction:

(F/OT) Dolphins 30, New York 27 (10-7)

Miami Dolphins Schedule: 5 Most Interesting Storylines

The Miami Dolphins schedule was released last week, and it is riddled with interesting matchups. The Dolphins are getting two primetime games, along with several more that may be nationally televised.

Following their trade for star acquisitions, many view the Dolphins as playoff contenders. Thus, their schedule has five key storylines to look out for.

Tua vs. Herbert and Burrow

The Miami Dolphins hold matchups against the Bengals and Chargers, the former of which being on Thursday Night Football. These three teams have been tied together for over two years, when they were all competing for the number one pick and the rights to Joe Burrow, who went to Cincinnati.

Miami, of course, selected Tua Tagovailoa soon after, passing on Justin Herbert, who has looked stellar with the Chargers. In a “do or die” year for Tua, it’s important to see how his progress stacks up with the fellow quarterbacks of the 2020 draft.


Brian Flores Returns to Miami

Following the conclusion of Miami’s 2021 season, the Dolphins opted to fire Brian Flores. A combination of friction with personnel and a lack of production on the offensive side of the ball caused Miami to look in another direction. However, this was called into question when Flores filed a lawsuit against the team and the rest of the NFL.

Flores alleged several teams of racially motivated hiring and interviewing practices, and accused the Dolphins of offering him incentives to lose games in 2019. 

Unable to find a job in this cycle as a head coach, Flores joined the Steelers as a linebackers coach. Coaching Mike Tomlin’s star-studded defense, Flores will make his return to Miami on Sunday Night Football in Week 7.


Deshaun Watson in Hard Rock Stadium

The most prominent factor in Miami Dolphins schedule for early on is facing the Cleveland Browns. The constant rumors about a Deshaun Watson trade. It loomed over the team for a large portion of the year, and former coach Brian Flores refused to refute any potential trades. Thus, the pressure was on Tua Tagovailoa, with the constant worry of not having his job in the coming weeks.

Following the trade deadline, the weight seemed to be lifted from Tagovailoa’s shoulders. He performed significantly better and led Miami on a seven-game winning streak. 

With Miami’s new staff putting forth full confidence in Tagovailoa, they backed out of the Watson sweepstakes. The controversial quarterback was traded to the Cleveland Browns and leads one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.

Many looked at Watson, Jacoby Brissett, and Jakeem Grant, as three players that would be in Miami in 2022. However, all three are on Cleveland together and will come down to Hard Rock to face the Dolphins in Week 10.


Mike McDaniel Revenge Game

Following the firing of former coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins figured that they needed someone who could change the game on offense. Thus, they hired San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who comes from Kyle Shanahan’s elite outside zone scheme.

McDaniel took several staff members from San Francisco on his trip to the east coast. Namely, receivers coach Wes Welker (who played for the Dolphins) and tight ends coach Jon Embree. These three, along with other assistants, will go back to their old stomping grounds in Week 13. Miami will fly to San Francisco where McDaniel will meet his mentor, and potentially show him that he was ready to move on.


Beating the Bills

When Tom Brady left New England to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a power vacuum in the AFC East opened up. Each team made aggressive attempts to get better with hopes of taking over in the division. Miami and Buffalo, namely, have made vast changes to their teams over the last couple of years.

Now Miami fans (and Buffalo fans) circle their calendars every time the Miami Dolphins schedule drops.

However, the Bills have been much more successful in their approach. Making timely additions of Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and other contributors have vaulted them to the top of the East. Miami, on the other hand, has been on the outside looking in.

This has largely been in part to the matchups between the two teams. Miami hasn’t beat the Bills since 2018, when Adam Gase as their head coach. It is up to Mike McDaniel and company to change this if they are to contend for a title in the coming years. They face the Bills in Weeks 3 and 15.  


***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Tyler DeSena***


Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel  


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Battle of Florida Round 2: Series Preview

For the first time in 26 years, the Panthers are on to the second round. After a hard fought series with the Washington Capitals, the road only gets tougher for the cats. The good news is that they finally got over the mental hurdle of winning a playoff series. Now, they must get over another mental hurdle: the battle of Florida.

Indeed, it is that the defending champs are waiting on the other side.

The battle of Florida, Panthers vs Lightning round two, commences this week. Both teams have a tremendous amount to prove in what will almost certainly be the premier matchup of the second round. Here’s how the teams match up.

Forward Battle

If there’s anyone out there who is unfamiliar with the embarrassment of riches the Lightning possess at forward, know this: they’re really good. Steven Stamkos is in the midst of a resurgent season in which he’s tallied a career high in points. 2019 MVP Nikita Kucherov has struggled with injuries this season, but had an impressive first round of the playoffs. Scoring wingers Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli, and Alex Killorn round out an experienced and talented top six.

That list even excludes Brayden Point, who may be the player the Panthers struggle to contain the most. The speedy 26 year old will likely be sidelined for the first few games with a lower body injury.

As scary as that group looks on paper, the Panthers still likely have the edge in he forward department. Many of Tampa’s forwards are on the wrong side of 30 and starting to decline. They also lost much of their bottom six depth last offseason. While they did a decent job replacing much of it, this is a watered down version of the team they lost to last year.

The biggest hurdle for the Panthers will be limiting the Tampa power play. In last year’s battle of Florida, the lightning went 8/20 (40%) on the power play. That was the Panthers’ Achilles heel in that series. Tampa’s chemistry on the man advantage kept Florida on their toes throughout.

To mitigate their scoring chances on the power play, the focus for the Panthers should be clogging up the middle of the ice. It is vital they don’t overreact to a Stamkos or Kucherov slap shot from the outside, as that will open up passes to the slot area. As long as they stay disciplined on the penalty kill, the Panthers have the edge in the forward department.

Defense Corps

Without a doubt, the Lightning have the best defenseman in this series, and possibly the league, Victor Hedman. The 2018 Norris Trophy winner amassed 85 points (20 G 65 A) this past season, the highest of his career, while also playing shutdown defense. The panthers will notice his presence on the ice will will need to constantly account for it.

Their number two and three defensemen, Ryan Mcdonagh and Mikhail Sergachev, do have holes. They’re incredibly talented and reliable players in their own right, but they are slow footed. It does open some opportunities for the Panthers to get their speedy players some scoring chances against the two of them.

Their other three defensemen are solid, but nothing special. Jan Rutta, Cal Foote, and Zach Bogosian have all had their moments, but it would be unreasonable to expect for them to slow down the elite offense Florida boasts. They also do not offer enough offensively to counter their defensive limitations. It is certainly a step down from the defensive depth they saw against Washington, and it would behoove Florida to take advantage of that.

Goaltending For The Battle of Florida

The battle in net may be the most obvious advantage Tampa has in this series. Sergei Bobrovsky has been excellent for the Panthers thus far, but Andrei Vasilevskiy has been the league’s best goaltender for the past four years. He looked mortal in their first round series against Toronto, but shut the door in their closeout game seven.

On the series, Vasilevskiy said “many goals were scored because I couldn’t see anything. I’m pretty sure that was the game plan for them, to get in front.”

Screens are a goalie’s worst nightmare, regardless of their skill level. That needs to be an adjustment the Panthers make in this series. The panthers love passing to get clean looks at the net, but Vasy is too big and too mobile for that to be a viable primary scoring option. The goals in this series need to be dirty and gritty in front of the net goals. Easier said than done of course, but the Panthers are no strangers to finding different ways to score.

Final Prediction

This will likely be the best series of the second round, and I fully expect it to go the distance. Whoever comes out of this series will likely be the favorite to make it to the cup final. The Panthers improved greatly after last year’s defeat, and are ready to win at all costs. Tampa knows how to handle any situation they find themselves in, but they will feel the absences from players who moved on in the offseason. In this year’s battle of Florida, it will be the Florida Panthers in seven games.


***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Samuel Schettrit***


Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel


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Way too early 2023 Mock Draft

The 2022 NFL Draft has ended, and it was a turbulent one. Now, it’s time for a way too early 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

2023 NFL Mock Draft

Pick 1: Texans – Will Anderson EDGE

I’m sorry Texans’ fans, no QB here. You guys are getting Will Anderson, a once-in-a-generation player. Just for reference, Will Anderson was called “the next guy” by Nick Saban his first day on campus.

Anderson’s unique athletic ability combined with his incredible pass rush IQ let him lead the SEC in sacks — as a true freshman during the Covid year against only SEC competition.

Pick 2: Lions – Bryce Young QB

Next, The Lions go for the “Burrow-to-Chase” type connection. The 2022 Heisman gets reunited with his favorite target, who just happens to be this year’s pick for the Lions. Jameson Williams and Young get to be back together in the NFL. Yes, C.J. Stroud could be the better pick this year. However, Young just makes too much sense.

Pick 3: Jaguars – Jaxon Smith-Njigba WR

In my opinion, as of right now Jaxon Smith-Njigba is better coming out than his other two Ohio State counterparts. Now, this is a “Way too early 2023 NFL Mock Draft” so everything could change, but JSN had top ten tape as a sophomore. So just take that as you will.

Pick 4: Giants – C.J Stroud QB

Yeah, the Daniel Jones project failed. Joe Schoen gets his guy to build with in C.J Stroud. Stroud and Young will be battling for QB1 all year long. With the concerns over Young’s height, Stroud could very well be QB1. However in this world, the Giants get lucky and get Stroud at 4.

Pick 5: Panthers – B.J. Ojulari EDGE

The Panthers let Matt Corral have the keys late in the year after Darnold struggles, and he played them right out of the top 3. So, they go with the 6’3″ EDGE from LSU B.J. Ojulari. Ojulari will test really well come NFL Combine time, which will land him in this top 5 slot.

Pick 6: Falcons – Bryan Bresee IDL

I see the Falcons playing their way out of a QB. Unless they go Spencer Rattler, Phil Jurkovec or Hendon Hooker, which I don’t see at six as of right now — especially after drafting Ridder.

Bryan Bresee is a monster. He is 6’5″ 300 lbs and has a very deep bag of tricks to use when pass rushing. Bresee is a bonafide NFL starter.

Pick 7: Jets – Jalen Carter IDL

Oh, would you look at that, UGA has another stud defensive lineman. In all seriousness, Jalen Carter is better than Jordan Davis in my opinion. He is quicker off the line and a better pass rusher than Davis. Carter is going to prove his worth this season, being the leading man in UGA’s new defensive line.

Pick 8: Seahawks – Spencer Rattler QB

A lot of people aren’t going to like this one. Spencer Rattler comes all the way back from the depth of despair and makes himself the blue chip guy he was before last season. Spencer has all the weapons in the world at South Carolina: Josh Vann, Corey Rucker, Antwane Wells and that’s not including a killer TE room. Look out for Rattler this year.

Pick 9: Bears – Paris Johnson Jr. OT

This offensive line class feels very weak compared to Evan Neal, Charles Cross and Ikem Ekwonu. Nonetheless, Paris Johnson is still really good. He isn’t any of those three guys in my opinion, but he is a great option for the Bears because well, protect Fields PLEASE.

Pick 10: Steelers – Kelee Ringo CB

I had a really hard time with this one. Mostly because I couldn’t pick between Eli Ricks and Kelee Ringo. As Mitch Wolfe said

“Steelers first round picks are normally 1) Underclassmen 2) Power 5 kids 3) Insane athletes.”

Well these two are all three of these things. I went Ringo. The crazy athletic UGA corner might actually get some targets this year, since quarterbacks might actually have time to throw the ball this year.

Pick 11: Commanders – Brandon Joseph S

I’m going to be 100% honest, I feel bad mocking Brandon Joseph here with how teams valued Kyle Hamilton. However, I don’t think Joseph will test the way Hamilton did, which could catapult him up to 11. The Northwestern transfer is going to be vital to Notre Dame’s defense this year.

Pick 12: Vikings – Myles Murphy IDL

It’s shades of 2019 in Clemson with two defensive lineman in the first round. Myles Murphy is just another one of those guys who on tape was a first rounder last year. Coming back? Oh yeah, that definitely should move him up into this range.

Pick 13: Raiders – Bjian Robinson RB

A FIRST ROUND RUNNING BACK?!? Well, Josh Jacobs probably won’t be in Vegas after this year, as the Raiders turned down his 5th-year option.

So, replace him with a guy who can do it all. Watch Bijan Robinson and find me a legitimate hole in his game.

Pick 14: Eagles – Eli Ricks CB

After leaving LSU for Alabama, there is a big year coming for the physical corner. Ricks is a guy who I firmly believe in. He may end up as CB1 by the time the draft rolls around. The reason Ricks isn’t CB1 in this mock just because of the fit with the Steelers and Ringo.

Pick 15: Eagles – Nolan Smith EDGE

Nolan Smith could be the best player on UGA’s defense, but he falls here to 15 due to some off-the-field problems. Smith was driving with a suspended license and he got caught speeding. Other than that? Smith is going to be a star for UGA and will make an NFL team very happy one day.

Pick 16: Dolphins – Jahmyr Gibbs RB

Jahmyr Gibbs joins the likes of Derrick Henry and Najee Harris as a stud running back from Alabama who is going to make a huge difference in the NFL.

He, much like Robinson who went three picks prior, is a complete back. Runs with power, speed, and has great hands.

Pick 17: Patriots – Michael Mayer TE

You want honesty? I took Michael Mayer here because it FEELS like a Bill Belichick pick. Mayer is good, don’t get me wrong, but he shouldn’t go this high. He is a good blocker and a good pass catcher, however he isn’t a unicorn like Pitts so I don’t see him going this high unless someone takes a big shot on him.

Pick 18: Cardinals – Trenton Simpson LB

The Cardinals used their first rounder this year on Hollywood Brown. So in 2023, look for them to add to an aging defense. Trenton Simpson is a perfect fit next to Isaiah Simmons. Simpson is aggressive, but has a great football IQ and good enough vision to be able to make sure he doesn’t over commit.

Pick 19: Titans – Kayshon Boutte WR

Imagine losing AJ Brown, replacing him with Treylon Burks, then adding a guy who was crowned as the next great LSU WR as a true freshman. Kayshon Boutte is that guy.

Pick 20: Colts – Jordan Addison WR

The run on wide receivers begins. Kenny Pickett and now maybe Caleb Williams? The number 1 target for those guys gets shipped out to Indy.

Addison entered the transfer portal after spring ball and is likely headed to SoCal. Addison has great hands and uses his body really well in the air.

Pick 21: Texans – Marvin Mims WR

I think Marvin Mims will have a down year after losing his coach and two quarterbacks, but the talent is 100% there for the 5′ 11″, 177 lbs Oklahoma wide receiver. Mims is fast, a good route runner , and has great hands. Mims will be a good fit for Mills — if he is, in fact, the guy in Houston.

Pick 22: Ravens – Noah Sewell LB

It feels like the Ravens never stop picking up good defenders. So, I’m just going to put Noah Sewell here. Paired up with Patrick Queen, the Ravens somehow get even scarier. Sewell and his teammate Justin Flowe could easily shoot up draft boards.

Pick 23: Bengals – Byron Young IDL

The other “B. Young” from Alabama is Byron, and he is going to make waves for the Tide this year. Now, Young waited behind Christian Barmore and Phidarian Mathis, he is the next up in a long line of Alabama defensive lineman to become a difference maker. Young is strong, and it mostly comes from his explosiveness.

Pick 24: Chargers – Joey Porter Jr. CB

With Chris Harris getting older and already having J.C. Jackson and Asante Samuel Jr, replace the pricey Harris with Joey Porter Jr.

Now you have the best young core of defensive backs in the game. Porter is very fluid in his movements and always does a good job with his hands.

Pick 25: Cowboys – Henry To’oto’o LB

Henry To’oto’o was a monster at Tennessee, had a very good year at Alabama, and chose to come back after losing the National Championship. Henry T’s biggest issue is over-commitment. He can be too aggressive and can get caught in the wrong hole, which is his downfall.

Pick 26: Seahawks – Christian Mahogany IOL

I am expecting a huge year from Boston College’s Christian Mahogany. He has to fix his feet just a bit, however, I am a firm believer in his hands and size combo. If your team needs a late first O-line this is the guy.

Pick 27: Dolphins – Isaiah Foskey IDL

After two weak interior defensive line classes, Isaiah Foskey is the fifth (and not final) IDL to come off the board.

Foskey is an anchor for Notre Dame and is going to work his way into the first round come next April. The big man clogs up gaps quickly with an explosive first step.

Pick 28: Lions – Zion Tupuola-Fetui EDGE

An ABSOLUTE BEAST, Zion Tupuola-Fetui is an physical specimen. However, everyone has doubts with PAC12 pass rushers, and with little production someone will have to bet on talent. I think putting Aidan Hutchinson with Tupuola-Fetui in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft would allow Tupuola-Fetui to grow into his role.

Pick 29: Packers – Garrett Williams CB

I would love to put Garrett Williams next to Jaire Alexander for the Packers. It is a match made in heaven, honestly. Williams is another guy who hasn’t produced much, mostly because people don’t throw at him.

Pick 30: Chiefs – Justin Eboigbe IDL

The final interior defensive lineman goes. Justin Eboigbe is another guy who you have to bet on upside with. He won’t produce much with Young, Anderson, Dallas Turner, and more on that Bama D-line . The Chiefs are in a good enough spot where they can bet on traits.

Pick 31: Buccaneers – Phil Jurkovec QB

Okay, let’s get serious, if Phil Jurkovec doesn’t get hurt he is probably QB1 in this past year’s draft class. He gets the short end of the stick by having to wait a year, where he is now QB4.

However, he probably lands in the best spot any rookie could ask for.

Pick 32: Bills – Derick Hall EDGE

The Bills can bet on the athletic ability of Derick Hall. So far in his college career, he has been super rough around the edges. In this mock, the Bills land an amazing athlete at the 32nd pick in the 2023 NFL Mock Draft.


***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Luke Krumich***


Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel


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The Myth of the Second Round Quarterback

There has become a myth of the second round quarterback in the scouting community.
The NFL draft has come and gone, and there were plenty of surprises, notably at the quarterback position. Among them, not a single quarterback was picked in the second round.

After Kenny Pickett was drafted by the Steelers at 20, the next QB didn’t go until 54 picks later, even though there were several who analysts believed were capable of going in round two.

There’s just one small problem: second round quarterbacks don’t exist.

I know it sounds like an odd — or maybe blatantly false — statement, but there is a case to be made. The success rate on round two signal-callers is pretty horrendous, and it all seems to lead to this one conclusion.

In order to come to that conclusion, however, there are a variety of different criteria. First, the types of quarterbacks and draftable skills. Second, the structure, and third, the history of these picks. Those three, when looked at together, bring a pretty shocking revelation that made me conjure up that statement above.

Drafting a Quarterback

Teams who find themselves drafting quarterbacks highly may be in a variety of spots, but there are three that are the most typical:

  1. One of the league’s worst teams, holding a high draft pick.
  2. Middling franchise, looking to make a change.
  3. Top of the league, finding the protégé for an older (on the verge of retirement) leader.

When teams find themselves in any of these positions, they must find the traits they value in a quarterback. Among those are arm talent, rushing ability, composure, ability to read the field, and more. However, there are two categories that those fall into, which, for the sake of the argument are production and potential.

To put it simply, teams judge what a quarterback is right now versus what he could be in a few years.

Scenario One

The top guys usually have a combination of both. Trevor Lawrence, who went number one to the Jaguars last year, combined national championships and Heisman ballot appearances with a 6’6″ frame and a cannon of an arm. Thus, he went to a team that I would place in the first set of criteria. The Jaguars were easily one of the worst teams in the NFL, and thus received a generational talent.

Scenario Two

Those with one of the two traits, however, have a wide range of options. For a team that’s just good enough to be picking outside of the quarterback window, they might be willing to take a chance on a potentially huge swing in their franchises history. Kenny Pickett is a prime example of this. While he doesn’t have the strongest arm or the highest ceiling, his production last season was hard to ignore. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who were 9-7-1 last year, decided that he was worth it at 20.

Following that pick, there were other quarterbacks on the board, who, like Pickett, possessed one of the two main traits. Malik Willis, who some suspected may go as high as number two overall, had one of the highest ceilings in the draft, however, if he wasn’t going to go in the first, it seemed he wasn’t getting drafted until later on day 2.

Scenario Three

Teams that fall in the third category (such as the Packers in 2020) have a tough decision. While they could take their chances on a high-potential pick like Jordan Love, it makes the most sense to maximize their championship window. Green Bay took that chance in 2020, and passed up elite talent because of it. Now, teams have learned from that mistake, while quarterbacks brunt the blow to their draft position.

Thus, Malik Willis, Matt Corral, Desmond Ridder, and all of the quarterbacks who many expected to go in round one, are now available in the dreaded first half of day two.

The Structure of the Second Round

On the typical draft boards, teams have a wide range of grades on prospects. It’s common to see someone who’s viewed as a top prospect by one team be a day two pick for someone else. Due to this disparity, many “first round talents” fall into the beginning of day two.

These players are quickly scooped up in what makes up roughly 25 percent of the round. This leaves the last 24 picks for guys truly viewed as round two prospects, which doesn’t leave much room for quarterbacks.

If a team would have believed in someone enough to draft them with those first eight picks, it’s unlikely he would have slipped to begin with. Teams rarely risk the opportunity of missing out their guy. This is why it’s common to see teams move up to 32. They guarantee themselves the player they want with an extra year of team control.

If a team wasn’t willing to take that chance, it’s unlikely they viewed them very highly. That idea is exactly what makes the second round the worst for the quarterback. Would a team take a player who, at the most important position in the sport, they aren’t fully invested in or comfortable with — especially when there is still high-end talent on the board?

The Last 24

Once you find your way out of those first eight picks, it becomes time for teams to ask themselves that question. As this draft has shown, the answer has been a resounding “no.” The later picks, which are usually the teams competing for playoff spots, would rather choose someone who can contribute right away. Bubble teams are always looking for their next big acquisition, and their philosophy is that is can come then.

Quarterbacks, as a result, usually fall by the wayside. However, there are some instances where they are picked. The results of which are rather interesting.

Modern History of the Second Round Quarterback

Over the last 20 years, there have been 20 quarterbacks selected in the second round. 20 different times, teams have weighed the ideas of production and potential, and in the last two decades, have determined it’s time to take a quarterback who likely only had one of those traits.

Of those, the results are typically a failure of epic proportions. Kellen Clemens, Deshone Kizer, Drew Stanton, Chad Henne, Brian Brohm, John Beck, Jimmy Clausen, and Geno Smith all have more career interceptions than touchdowns, while Christian Hackenberg and Kyle Trask (who’s only in his second season) never played a recorded snap.

The other options aren’t great either. Tavaris Jackson, Brock Osweiler, and Kevin Kolb all showed some flashes, but never lived up to their selection.

Five of the remaining six are polarizing. Jalen Hurts has shown flashes, but fell apart in the playoffs. Drew Lock is still young, but was just traded by the Broncos and has been shaky. Jimmy Garoppolo was able to succeed in the Kyle Shanahan offense, but was just replaced and hasn’t shown an ability to transcend the system. Andy Dalton is a similar story, having rough stints in limited playoff appearances. Lastly, Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance, but has been out of the league for the better half of the last decade.

This leaves Derek Carr, who, while having only one playoff appearance and zero playoff wins, has safely cemented a spot as the Raiders quarterback for eight years. He has made three Pro Bowls, and has continued to improve. Thus making him the only second round quarterback selected in the last 20 years who can safely be called a hit.

The Bottom Line on the Second Round Quarterback

The 2022 NFL Draft was a prime example of a philosophy at work. After a quarterback goes in the first round, teams have learned from mistakes of the past. Rather than picking signal callers with clear holes in their game in the following round, they’ve gone for contributors at other positions.

Several teams would love to have the next Derek Carr, but with that comes the chance of Brian Brohm or Deshone Kizer. Just like every other selection, the second round has it’s fair share of bust potential. However, it seems that the combination of quarterback traits, draft tendencies, and a simple history lesson will tell you that it simply isn’t the same.

General managers across the league will continue to take swings on quarterbacks, but when doing so, it’s important to look at the most glaring fact:

Second round quarterbacks don’t exist.


***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Tyler DeSena***


Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel


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2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grades

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 Grades

The 2022 NFL Draft kicked off last night in Las Vegas, Nevada. Its arrival comes highly anticipated as the NFL community found out which prospects were selected in the first round. Hussam Patel gives his 2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grades

Round 1 grades

1. Jacksonville Jaguars select EDGE Travon Walker

The first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and former five-star recruit has developed into a consistent EDGE rusher, consistently stopping the run. Walker is projected to be an impressive rookie making an impact as soon as Week 1.

How he fits: Jacksonville was in desperate need of a reliable edge rusher after not seeing much improvement from their front line last season. Walker’s size and force is a great addition for the Jaguars.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A

2. Detroit Lions select EDGE Aidan Hutchinson

The Lions took Aidan Hutchinson. He is comparable to a Bosa brother. He’s got a high floor similar to that of Patrick Kerney in Atlanta and Seattle. The Lions are getting a great player here with Hutchinson. This is a bit of a no-brainer. Hutchinson might be the best player in the entire draft.

How he fits: Aidan Hutchinson getting drafted by his hometown team just makes sense. Hutchinson is a great fit for the Jaguars and will instantly slot right into the starting defensive end role with the Lions. They will have a team captain type in him as well.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A+

3. Houston Texans select CB Derek Stingley Jr.

Often compared to two-time All Pro Stephon Gilmore, Stingley Jr. is sure to bring both speed and power to the Texans. After playing in just 10 games in the last three seasons, Stingley Jr. is ready to leave his mark on the field once again.

How he fits: The Texans have so many needs that nearly any pick was a good one. Stingley Jr. will bring serious explosiveness and a lot of potential to his new team.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: B

4. NY Jets select CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner

Sauce Gardner is the best cornerback in the entire draft. The former Bearcat will be an instant starter for whoever selects him and be the best cornerback on that team. He’s a great fit for either zone or man teams and is one of the more physically-adept corners in the draft.

How he fits: Gardner would be an instant No. 1 corner in the Jets defense. He will instantly slot in at left corner to start for the next decade. Gardner fits not just value, but scheme here. In Robert Saleh’s defense, he’s going to be an instant star.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A

5. NY Giants select EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux

Before the 2021 season. Thibodeaux was widely regarded as the best player this draft. The powerful 21-year-old EDGE rusher from Oregon is best known for his explosive plays and NFL ready skill-set, with room to grow his pass rush abilities.

How he fits: The Giants have a lot of needs and it was never clear what direction they would go with their first pick. Thibodeaux seems like a BPA pick by the new front office regime in New York. Thankfully, his elite skill set will be a great fit in New York.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A+

6. Carolina Panthers select OT Ikem Ekwonu

Ikem Ekwonu is the best left tackle in the draft. He will be a 10-time Pro Bowl starter for the team that drafts him. He’s got the footwork, technique and overall nastiness to be a huge star in the league. He’s going to be that franchise left tackle that whoever draft’s him loves.

How he fits: Carolina just settled their left tackle position for the next 10 years. Ekwonu is also from North Carolina, so he’s going to be an instant star there. The Panthers made the right decision to solidify their line for the next few years.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A+

7. NY Giants select OT Evan Neal

Evan Neal was highly sought after for his patience and timing, bringing a lot of experience playing against elite talents in college.

How he fits: Offensive tackle was arguably the Giants biggest need this offseason and Neal is the best fit by a long shot. His impressive size and versatility is an instant upgrade in New York.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A+

8. Atlanta Falcons select WR Drake London

Drake London is a go-up-and-get-it kind of wide receiver. He’s a 6’4”, 220-pound monster who can get snag the ball out of the air. Teams will have trouble guarding him, especially in the red zone. However, injury history and lack of top end speed hurt his value. He should have gone later.

How he fits: London will be the top receiver for the Falcons for a long time. He’s a great wide receiver with a big body and should help Marcus Mariota get the passing yards he’ll need to get with Calvin Ridley out and the Falcons depth chart missing a true No. 1.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: C

9. Seattle Seahawks select T Charles Cross

Cross brings strong technique to the pro-level, demonstrating impressive control and maximizing his size.

How he fits: The Seahawks have been known for their inability to protect their quarterback, so taking an offensive lineman with their first pick should have been a no brainer. Cross is a great fit for Seattle as they try and rebuild their offense.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A-

10. NY Jets select WR Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson is arguably the third best wide receiver in the draft. He’s going to be a good fit for any offense because he can do a bit of everything. Similar to Calvin Ridley, he’s a smaller-in-frame kind of guy, but he’ll run all of the routes and has great yards-after-catch ability.

How he fits: The Jets go out and get their long-term No. 1 to fit with their quarterback they drafted just a season ago. Garrett Wilson fits in very well with the Jets and can do everything Mike LaFleur will ask him to do. The value is just a few picks off.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: B

11. New Orleans select WR Chris Olave

Olave is a strong route runner that has drawn the eyes of NFL scouts for years. His 40-yard dash time paints the wrong picture, as he is consistently one of the fastest players on the field.

How he fits: After trading up five picks, the Saints instantly have one of the most dangerous wide receiver duos in the league. Olave’s route running combined with Michael Thomas’ ability to stretch the field makes this a great pick for Dennis Allen and his new staff.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A

12. Detroit selects WR Jameson Williams

Jameson Williams is the best wide receiver in the draft when he’s healthy. He’s one of the fastest players in football and is very similar to Tyreek Hill in how he wins. He can run all of the routes and burst through to the next level with no issues.

How he fits: Williams will be the No. 1 in Detroit with Amon-Ra St. Brown as the No. 2. The combination of these two guys will give Jared Goff a pair of receivers who win after the catch. He doesn’t have to be available right away either with the Lions in no position to win quickly.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A

13. Philadelphia Eagles select DT Jordan Davis

Davis possesses unbelievable athleticism, dominating the combine and proving his pro-ready abilities. His power and unbelievable size allow him the space to develop into an elite talent.

How he fits: Davis is a powerhouse by all accounts. His speed is undeniable, running a 4.78 40-yard dash at 341 pounds. His talent fits in nearly anywhere.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A

14. Ravens Select SS Kyle Hamilton

Kyle Hamilton is the best safety in the draft. He’s going to be one of the best safeties in the NFL. He is very similar to multi-time All-Pro Kam Chancellor in that he can play deep, play in the box or even blitz and be effective at it.

How he fits: The Ravens just brought in Marcus Williams to be their true free safety, so Hamilton will play more of a strong safety in the box type role. The Ravens will have a great set of defensive backs and took arguably the best player in the entire class.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A+

15. Houston Texans select OT Kenyon Green

At 6’4” and 323 pounds, Green has the skill level to be a dominant starter his rookie season.

How he fits: The quarterback situation in Houston is in limbo so they might as well fit out the offensive line. Green is a great choice thanks to his undeniable potential stellar run blocking.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A

16. Commanders select WR Jahan Dotson.

Jahan Dotson is a pure speed guy. He can cut defenses with the ball in his hands, and he can beat them deep. He’s a bit smaller than the average wide receiver, but he doesn’t have to be a No. 1 in the NFL. Dotson projects best as a No. 2 wide receiver taking advantage of softer zones.

How he fits: Dotson will be the No. 2 in Washington behind Terry McLaurin. He’s more of a high second-round value than a mid-first round value. Washington wanted their guy though. The Commanders are giving new quarterback Carson Wentz some talent.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: B

17. Chargers select DT Zion Johnson

The 6’3”, 312-pound offensive lineman was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl thanks to his sheer power. In the right scheme, Johnson has the talent to develop into a reliable starter.

How he fits: The Chargers offensive line is coming along nicely thanks their draft last year. Johnson is just the latest piece of an important puzzle to protect their franchise quarterback Justin Herbert.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: B+

18. Titans Select WR Treylon Burks

Treylon Burks is a big, talented wide receiver who wins in the same kinds of ways that A.J. Brown does. The problem here is that A.J. Brown is now traded for this particular pick. Burks will be able to win against singles in the NFL often.

How he fits: Brown is the No. 1 receiver on the Titans, now. They will have to find a speedy option to pair with him because his top-end speed isn’t all that. However, he’s still a great pick for what they need with Brown not there anymore.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: C

19. Saints select OT Trevor Penning

After starting all 12 games in 2021, Penning is highly regarded as a first-year starter thanks to his unbelievable competitive drive and athleticism.

How he fits: After losing Terron Armstead in free agency, the Saints had a big hole to fill on the offensive line. Drafting Penning was the likely move.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: B

20. Steelers select QB Kenny Pickett

Kenny Pickett isn’t even the best quarterback in the draft, and his small hands will be a hindrance to him at the next level. But teams will love him because he’s tall and can sling it deep. He has a lot of issues with his footwork, but he has a chance to be a star if the Steelers let him develop.

How he fits: Pickett will be the franchise quarterback for the Steelers for the next 10-15 years. He’s a guy who they can build around and be their long-term starter. Their speedy receivers will love this fit, as the former Pittsburgh product will let them run deep as much as they want.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: D

21. Chiefs select CB Trent McDuffie

Despite being below average in size, McDuffie is a consistent cornerback with the personal awareness to develop into a top tier talent.

How he fits: The Chiefs defense was their weakness in 2021 and after the loss of Tyrann Mathieu, they needed to pad their secondary and they chose to do so with a cornerback that nicely fits the culture in KC.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: B-

22. Packers select LB Quay Walker

Quay Walker is a bit of a surprise pick but he’s definitely the most athletic linebacker in the draft this year. He’s someone who can play well next to De’Vondre Campbell in the middle of the Eagles defense. He can rush the passer from the interior and also play well in coverage.

How he fits: The Packers got a linebacker who doesn’t need to wear the green dot and be the captain of the defense in Walker. Walker has the talent to play second fiddle and still be an extremely effective linebacker within the defense.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: B

23. Bills select CB Kaiir Elam

The Bills traded up into the first round to get, which was not needed. Elam, who had a rocky 2021. Despite his turbulent season, he showed improvement and a strong ability to take to coaching.

How he fits: With Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Ed Oliver, etc., etc., the Bills young defense is quickly turning into one of the best in the league. Elam is a nice rotational piece to a solid secondary.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: C

24. Cowboys select OT Tyler Smith

Tyler Smith is a beastly left tackle prospect from Tulsa. He’s got great footwork and can slot right in as a left tackle or a right tackle. Teams will have trouble getting by him at the next level because of his great anchor and solid frame overall.

How he fits: The Cowboys likely start out with Tyler Smith at right tackle. But over time, expect him to eventually replace Tyron Smith at the left tackle position. Tyler Smith has a long future ahead of him pushing people around in the NFC east.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: B

25. Ravens select IOL Tyler Linderbaum

Linderbaum possesses the size and power needed to succeed in the NFL, bringing impressive footwork and control to the front line.

How he fits: The Ravens needed to address the center position after losing Bradley Bozeman in free agency. Linderbaum is highly regarded as the best center in the league, although he wasn’t the best player available for Baltimore.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: C+

26. NY Jets select EDGE Jermaine Johnson

Jermaine Johnson is John Abraham part two. He’s a great fit for any 3-4 or 4-3 defense and has a ton of speed, agility and intelligence in his pass rush. He’s a high character guy who will lead the defense and get guys around him playing better than expected.

How he fits: The Jets would instantly have a premier pass rusher to pair with Carl Lawson in their defense. Johnson is a monster who fits in perfectly with the defense that uses 4-3 and 3-4 concepts. They have their new pass rushing ace.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A+

27. Jaguars select LB Devin Lloyd

The former first-team Associated Press All-American and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the year is headed to Jacksonville after the Jaguars traded back in to the first round. Lloyd can play multiple positions but excels in pass rush situations.

How he fits: The Jaguars needed a linebacker to compliment Josh Allen and Foye Oluokun and Lloyd is a reliable option who has potential to develop into a great starter.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: B

28. Packers select DL Devonte Wyatt

Devonte Wyatt is the best interior pass rusher in the draft. He has quick hands and creates havoc in the backfield and can destroy the interior of an offensive line. He was the best pass rusher on the national championship Georgia team and played all three downs.

How he fits: Wyatt will start right away next to Kenny Clark keeping blockers off of De’Vondre Campbell and earlier pick Quay Walker. He can create pressure on third downs and will help them dominate the line of scrimmage on defense.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A+

29. Patriots select IOL Cole Strange

Strange has a high football IQ with the ability to read plays early. His swiftness and agility makes him a strong choice on the offensive line.

How he fits: If any team can develop Strange into an elite player, its the Patriots. Now that they have found their next franchise quarterback in Mac Jones, surrounding him with a top tier offensive line has to be the priority. With the right coaching, Strange could develop into a reliable guard.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: C

30. Chiefs select EDGE George Karlaftis

George Karlaftis is a talented pass rusher who fits in the 3-4 and the 4-3 looks that the NFL runs. With the Chiefs, he’ll be keeping his hand in the dirt where he can launch off and build quick speed off the line. He will be best as a complementary rusher in the NFL.

How he fits: With Frank Clark as the primary pass rusher, Karlaftis will be the secondary rusher in Kansas City. He’s a great value here as he’s a late first round talent. The Chiefs will be able to start him right away and have Mike Danna and Joshua Kaindoh rotate in behind him.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A

31. Bengals select S Daxton Hill

Hill is a versatile player that brings a profound combination of speed and situational awareness. He is able to read defenses quickly and locate the ball with ease.

How he fits: The Bengals did a great job in free agency filling many of their biggest roster holes giving them the chance to draft relatively freely. Hill’s talent allows him to play from many spots on the field. If utilized properly, he can be a massive addition to an already great roster.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: B+

32. Vikings select FS Lewis Cine

Lewis Cine is a talented all-around safety and should be an instant starter in the NFL. He’s a heady safety who could end up being a multi-time Pro Bowl player if he’s used in the deep safety role that he was used in while at college. He was a high second round value, so the value is good here.

How he fits: With Harrison Smith at strong safety in Minnesota, the Vikings get the perfect pairing for him. Cine will be able to patrol the deep third for the Vikings and could be a playmaker like Anthony Harris was when he was with them.

2022 NFL Draft Round 1 grade: A  


*** This Article was originally published on the ATB Network by Raina Rutschka and Scott Carasik***


Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel


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2022 NFL Mock Draft: Player Comparisons for the Top 32 picks

Teams around the NFL make picks in the NFL Draft based on players’ talents and projections. Comparisons to others who have had success are a big part of the scouting process. Teams don’t look at players for what they are now, though, when they make these comparisons. They tend to try and tap what the highest level of potential could be.

So that’s what we’ll be doing here as well. However, there’s not just stylistic comparisons for players in how they play. There’s also physical comparisons for their athleticism. And that’s also part of the process, because that factors into the overall potential.

This mock is an NFL mock draft with player comparisons. It will also explore not just team needs but use a bit of the philosophy of the decision makers involved to try and select who fits their team the best.


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No. 1 Jacksonville Jaguars: DL Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

Stylistic Comparison: Patrick Kerney

Physical Comparison: T.J. Watt

Aidan Hutchinson vs. T.J. Watt at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Jacksonville Jaguars have needs all over the roster and taking the best players they can and letting it play itself out would be their best move. Aidan Hutchinson is arguably the best overall prospect and player in the draft despite his short arms. Much like another player with 32-inch arms in Patrick Kerney, he might be better off playing a 5-technique or 6-technique defensive end role in a 3-4 or a 4-3 than playing the true stand up edge in a 3-4.

In Jacksonville, he would have complementary edge rushers in Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson to help him attack quarterbacks. On base sets, Hutchinson would be a great fit as a defensive end for the 3-4 looks since the Jaguars will be running a more offset 3-4 than a true two-gap 3-4. Then in nickel sets, rotating Hutchinson, Chaisson and Allen at edge rusher will help keep fresh rushers getting after the passer every play.

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No. 2 Detroit Lions: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia

Stylistic Comparison: Bruce Smith

Physical Comparison: J.J. Watt

Travon Walker vs. J.J. Watt at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

As was noted before, these comparisons are being made for overall potential. Travon Walker didn’t shine as the primary pass rusher at Georgia, but he has all the tools to be great. He also had a selfless attitude about himself to let other players around him make the plays even if he didn’t. But in the pros, he’s going to be a star, and if he reaches his true potential, he could be the next Bruce Smith regardless of alignment.

Detroit would give him the perfect spot to really shine. He could play as a 4-3 defensive end who will sometimes 5-technique, but will primarily hold down the strong side of the defense while also being able to get after the quarterback with Charles Harris and the Okwara brothers. This would also let Brockers slide inside to a more 3-technique role that will serve the defense better as a whole. Walker should be a great fit for the Lions for the long term.


Teams around the NFL make picks in the NFL Draft based on players’ talents and projections. Comparisons to others who have had success are a big part of the scouting process. Teams don’t look at players for what they are now, though, when they make these comparisons. They tend to try and tap what the highest level of potential could be.

So that’s what we’ll be doing here as well. However, there’s not just stylistic comparisons for players in how they play. There’s also physical comparisons for their athleticism. And that’s also part of the process, because that factors into the overall potential.

This mock is an NFL mock draft with player comparisons. It will also explore not just team needs but use a bit of the philosophy of the decision makers involved to try and select who fits their team the best.

Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
No. 1 Jacksonville Jaguars: DL Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

Stylistic Comparison: Patrick Kerney

Physical Comparison: T.J. Watt

Aidan Hutchinson vs. T.J. Watt at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Jacksonville Jaguars have needs all over the roster and taking the best players they can and letting it play itself out would be their best move. Aidan Hutchinson is arguably the best overall prospect and player in the draft despite his short arms. Much like another player with 32-inch arms in Patrick Kerney, he might be better off playing a 5-technique or 6-technique defensive end role in a 3-4 or a 4-3 than playing the true stand up edge in a 3-4.

In Jacksonville, he would have complementary edge rushers in Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson to help him attack quarterbacks. On base sets, Hutchinson would be a great fit as a defensive end for the 3-4 looks since the Jaguars will be running a more offset 3-4 than a true two-gap 3-4. Then in nickel sets, rotating Hutchinson, Chaisson and Allen at edge rusher will help keep fresh rushers getting after the passer every play.

Kevin C. Cox via Getty Images
No. 2 Detroit Lions: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia

Stylistic Comparison: Bruce Smith

Physical Comparison: J.J. Watt

Travon Walker vs. J.J. Watt at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

As was noted before, these comparisons are being made for overall potential. Travon Walker didn’t shine as the primary pass rusher at Georgia, but he has all the tools to be great. He also had a selfless attitude about himself to let other players around him make the plays even if he didn’t. But in the pros, he’s going to be a star, and if he reaches his true potential, he could be the next Bruce Smith regardless of alignment.

Detroit would give him the perfect spot to really shine. He could play as a 4-3 defensive end who will sometimes 5-technique, but will primarily hold down the strong side of the defense while also being able to get after the quarterback with Charles Harris and the Okwara brothers. This would also let Brockers slide inside to a more 3-technique role that will serve the defense better as a whole. Walker should be a great fit for the Lions for the long term.

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No. 3 Houston Texans: OT Evan Neal, Alabama

Stylistic Comparison: Leonard Davis

Physical Comparison: Cordy Glenn

Evan Neal vs. Cordy Glenn at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Texans have a need on the offensive line to help out their young quarterback and having a talented guard or tackle come in would really help build the infrastructure for the quarterback to succeed. Evan Neal has a ton of talent and can play either guard or tackle in the NFL. With Laremy Tunsil manning the most important spot on the line at left tackle, they can put Neal at either left guard, right guard or right tackle to have him help where needed.

Athletically, his film is very similar to Cordy Glenn’s. While Glenn didn’t have the best combine, he still had a successful career as an offensive lineman and should be considered the floor of what Neal could provide. Neal has the kind of talent that brings to mind Leonard Davis, a guy who played for the Cowboys and Cardinals at three separate spots and went to the Pro Bowl multiple times throughout his career.

Associated Press
No. 4 New York Jets: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

Stylistic Comparison: Chandler Jones

Physical Comparison: Gaines Adams

Kayvon Thibodeaux vs. Gaines Adams at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Jets are on the path to a really good future if they can figure out the holes in their roster. Zach Wilson is bad, but they’ll have to figure that out in their own time before this staff loses their job. On the other side of the ball, they don’t have a primary pass rusher on the roster yet. Carl Lawson is a great complementary pass rusher and having that premiere pass rushing beast across from him will help. That’s where Kayvon Thibodeaux would come in.

The interior trio of Jonathan Franklin-Myers, Sheldon Rankins and Quinnen Williams will benefit greatly from an outside rusher. Thibodeaux is great as a pass rusher and has the athleticism to really set the outside edge. Much like Chandler Jones, he could lead a pass rush that would have quarterbacks running for their lives. Thibodeaux would instantly upgrade the Jets defense and this would be a perfect situation for him.

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No. 5 New York Giants: QB Malik Willis, Liberty

Stylistic Comparison: Warren Moon

Physical Comparison: Tyrod Taylor

Malik Willis vs. Tyrod Taylor at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

If your team doesn’t have a quarterback, you should go out and get one. The smoke of Malik Willis to the Giants isn’t out there, yet. But the fit just makes sense. Giants head coach Brian Daboll likes to take quarterbacks with the raw tools and make them great. Putting Willis with Tyrod Taylor and Daniel Jones in New York to learn from for a year and really develop into a pro is the right way to go. Willis would be an upgrade over Jones after his first year.

The comparison for Willis being Warren Moon may seem lofty. And he’s definitely a boom or bust type guy. Willis has all the same tools Moon had as a player. From the cannon arm to the mobility and intelligence in his reads, he can really develop into the right quarterback at an NFL level for any team. Daboll would love his tools and could mold him into an All-Pro the way he did with Josh Allen in Buffalo with the Bills.

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No. 6 Carolina Panthers: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

Stylistic Comparison: Joe Flacco

Physical Comparison: Teddy Bridgewater

Kenny Pickett vs. Teddy Bridgewater at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

I have a saying, “NFL teams do stupid things.” The Carolina Panthers are one of those teams that continually do stupid things. In this situation, the smart thing of getting a quarterback to try and keep the jobs of the GM and coach makes sense for the Panthers brass. Sam Darnold hasn’t worked out. Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t worked out. And ideally, the Panthers would understand that Pickett is probably a third or fourth round talent at best.

Pickett at his best would be a Joe Flacco level guy who’s a purgatory level quarterback of the likes of Andy Dalton who could potentially go unconscious one postseason and win a Super Bowl. He’s not a top five quarterback in the NFL potential guy, though. The Panthers will make a mistake in this draft, and that mistake will end up being Kenny Pickett at No. 6.

Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press
No. 7 New York Giants: OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State

Stylistic Comparison: Jake Matthews at LT/Joel Bitonio at LG

Physical Comparison: Rodger Saffold

Ikem Ekwonu vs. Rodger Saffold at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Giants have one piece on their offensive line that’s worth having start for them in Andrew Thomas out of Georgia. They did bring in Mark Glowinski, Jon Feliciano and Max Garcia in the offseason, but adding someone who can really solidify the left side of the line and that guy is Ikem Ekwonu. Adding a franchise quarterback and a starting left guard in the same draft will only strengthen the Giants for the long term.

Ekwonu is a very unique player because he can play either guard or tackle at level that would put him in the top 10 players at his position in the league. He’s got the size, strength, speed and technique to step right in and start. If Evan Neal wasn’t in this draft, he’d be the highest rated offensive lineman with no questions asked. Ekwonu, Andrew Thomas, and the best three of the remaining offensive linemen could give the Giants a solid overall line to work behind.

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No. 8 Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State

Stylistic Comparison: John Abraham

Physical Comparison: Danielle Hunter

Jermaine Johnson vs. Danielle Hunter at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Atlanta Falcons need a true pass rusher. They have needs all over the roster and need to add to the roster in the best player available fashion. This is a situation where Jermaine Johnson would be a better fit for what the Falcons do than Kyle Hamilton or any of the quarterbacks remaining. Malik Willis would be the best fit at quarterback for them out of the entire group, but he was taken three picks ahead of them.

Johnson is a true weak-side defensive end or outside linebacker who could really make sense for the defense in Atlanta. He’d be a big upgrade to the Falcons pass rush off the edge. He would complement Grady Jarrett more than the current stable of pass rushers and has the potential to lead the entire group. He also has the local connection that could help the fan base support him early on as well. The Falcons have a lot of options and are the wild card of the draft.

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No. 9 Seattle Seahawks: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

Stylistic Comparison: Kam Chancellor

Physical Comparison: T.J. McDonald

Kyle Hamilton vs. T.J. McDonald at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Seattle Seahawks are in the middle of a full rebuild. They need a bit of everything, including a true defensive leader who can bring back the old ways of the Legion of Boom. And with Kyle Hamilton’s extremely high level of talent, it’s too tough to pass on him at this point for Pete Carroll. Hamilton will remind him as a true replacement to Kam Chancellor but he has a bit more athleticism than Chancellor. Carroll loves players like Hamilton.

Hamilton is the same kind of ball hawk that Chancellor was but also has that attitude and explosion in his tackles that the former Seahawk did as well. Teams love Hamilton, and it would be shocking to see him fall to nine. However, with him sitting there at nine, it would be very tough for the Seahawks to pass on the second coming of their biggest chess piece on their championship defense. Hamilton would be an instant star in Seattle until they draft a new quarterback.

Austin Perryman of MSU Athletics
No. 10 New York Jets: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State

Stylistic Comparison: Laremy Tunsil

Physical Comparison: Taylor Decker

Charles Cross vs. Taylor Decker at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The New York Jets need to finish setting up their offensive line to try and have the best support system for last-year’s misguided quarterback selection of Zach Wilson. Charles Cross would be a great fit for the Jets as a true left tackle that would allow them to have Mekhi Becton play a more natural role at right tackle. They went out and got Laken Tomlinson in the offseason and Conner McGovern was a solid center for them in 2021.

The Jets could have the protection Wilson needs to succeed. The former BYU quarterback was at his best in college when the team protected him for his passes. New York makes sense for Cross and could really help them fix the team as a whole. Putting him Alijah Vera-Tucker on the offensive line would give the Jets a true pass blocking contingent that all fit the zone blocking scheme that Mike LaFleur is running there.

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No. 11 Washington Commanders: CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati

Stylistic Comparison: Richard Sherman

Physical Comparison: Akhello Witherspoon

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner vs. Akhello Witherspoon at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Washington Commanders have needs all over the roster, but with their current cornerback situation, they should love the idea of the super athletic Sauce Gardner falling to them. They have William Jackson III and Kendall Fuller, but Fuller profiles better as a free safety and Jackson is just one side of the field. Adding Gardner could really improve the Commanders defense as whole and would give them a true No. 1 cornerback.

Gardner has one of the best profiles for a cornerback prospect in years. He’s arguably the best cornerback prospect since Darrelle Revis with his combination of film, athleticism, length and overall attitude. Teams love his competitive fire. His football intelligence shows that he can play either nickel or either outside cornerback position in the NFL and be a playmaking defender. Gardner will be a multi-time Pro Bowl defender.

Mackenzie Miles / UGA Athletics
No. 12 Minnesota Vikings: NT Jordan Davis, Georgia

Stylistic Comparison: Dontari Poe

Physical Comparison: Dontari Poe

Jordan Davis vs. Dontari Poe at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Minnesota Vikings made their bones under Mike Zimmer with a great defense. However, with new coach Kevin O’Connell, things might be a bit different to where they would focus on the offensive side of the ball. With how this draft falls, the best pick for them will be the one that really makes the biggest impact on the field, though. Jordan Davis would transform any defense he joins, but few more than Minnesota.

The Vikings brought in Harrison Phillips and have Dalvin Tomlinson on the line already, but adding a true freak athlete at nose tackle could really help those two have more single blockers against them. Danielle Hunter and new addition Za’Darius Smith should also see fewer double teams than they would be projected to see at this time because of the space eating abilities Jordan Davis has shown in his time at Georgia and could translate into the pro game.

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No. 13 Houston Texans: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

Stylistic Comparison: Tyler Lockett

Physical Comparison: Devin Hester

Garrett Wilson vs. Devin Hester at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Texans need to really surround their future quarterback if it’s not Davis Mills with weapons. Mills had a solid rookie year, though and could be a solid quarterback for them. They have some solid receivers with Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins, but they don’t have a true No. 1 guy. While there is no premiere Julio Jones or A.J. Green level wide receiver in this draft, the two guys closest to that are Garrett Wilson and Drake London.

Wilson is very similar to Tyler Lockett as a deep threat who can attack the shorter areas as a yards-after-catch kind of guy. He’s very good as a true No. 1 who can help a team with contested catches as well. The best part of Wilson’s game though is his feel against zone defense. He knows how to find the soft spots and sit there. For a young quarterback, that’s what you need to help him succeed during the early stages of his development.

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No. 14 Baltimore Ravens: CB Derek Stingley, Louisiana State

Stylistic Comparison: Patrick Peterson

Physical Comparison: Trae Waynes

Derek Stingley vs. Trae Waynes at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta comes from the Ozzie Newsome school of taking the best player available even if it’s a position of strength for your team. This is definitely another situation like that. However, when looking at the Ravens depth chart for 2023, the cornerback position stood out as a spot they could attack. Marcus Peters is going to be out of his contract and the need at cornerback will be prominent then.

Adding someone like Derek Stingley to the depth would be exceptionally intelligent and would allow the Ravens to have a talented player to replace the former Pro Bowl corner Peters. Stingley has all the tools to be the star of the Ravens defense at cornerback. His long-term potential is that of a Patrick Peterson. A true shut-down type corner would be the best way to describe the former LSU Tiger.

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No. 15 Philadelphia Eagles: CB Andrew Booth, Clemson

Stylistic Comparison: Darius Slay

Physical Comparison: Darius Slay

Andrew Booth vs. Darius Slay at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Speaking of Darius Slay, if you already have one, why not have two of them? Slay is one of the best all-around cornerbacks in the NFL and pairing him with a younger version of himself only makes sense. Andrew Booth fits in well with the Eagles as a starting cornerback across from Slay and should be an upgrade over 2021 fourth round pick Zech McPhearson. Booth has the same kind of tools and raw ability Slay had coming out.

However, his technique needs a lot of work. He’s better in man than Slay was early on, but he’s a malleable ball of clay at this point and should be able to pick up NFL coverage concepts easily. Booth has the potential to be a multi-time Pro Bowl player and could give the Eagles a second shut-down level cornerback if he reaches his potential sooner rather than later. The Eagles still have another first round pick later on to continue to add to their team.

University of Northern Iowa Athletics
No. 16 New Orleans Saints: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa

Stylistic Comparison: Taylor Lewan

Physical Comparison: Robert Gallery

Trevor Penning vs. Robert Gallery at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Imagine losing one of the best left tackles of the last decade because the cap room just isn’t there. That’s what happened with the Saints in the 2022 offseason. So they traded their 2023 first round pick to get another first round pick and see if they could end up replacing him or potentially sending a package up for a quarterback. In this situation, they nab Trevor Penning who profiles as a 10-year starter at left tackle in the NFL.

As a player, he comes off like a fringe Pro Bowl starter the way that Taylor Lewan did. A powerful, nasty, quick offensive lineman who can pass block well and shows off the dawg that he is in the run game. Penning would instantly slot next to Andrus Peat on the left side and continue to give the Saints a well-rounded offensive line in all spots. Penning has the athleticism of a Robert Gallery, but his career should line up to be better.

Robert Alam / Getty Images
No. 17 Los Angeles Chargers: OL Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

Stylistic Comparison: Chris Chester

Physical Comparison: Chris Chester

Tyler Linderbaum vs. Chris Chester at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Chargers need more offensive line help to protect franchise quarterback Justin Herbert. While they would have probably preferred a tackle like Trevor Penning, the best offensive lineman available is Tyler Linderbaum, a center from Iowa. Linderbaum athletically on film looks just like Chris Chester, a former long-time starter for Washington and Atlanta. Linderbaum can play any of the three interior spots.

On top of that, Linderbaum would be an instant competitor for the starting role at either guard spot and could help solidify the blind side for Herbert if he’s played on the left side. Linderbaum is a former wrestler as well, so his use of leverage should help him. Working with Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley, the Chargers could have at least three NFL above average starters on a line that will need to hold up against the exceptional pass rushes that are in the AFC West.

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No. 18 Philadelphia Eagles: WR Drake London, Southern California

Stylistic Comparison: Keyshawn Johnson

Physical Comparison: Marques Colston

Drake London vs. Marques Colston at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Eagles first pick was on defense, but their second pick should be to find a complement to Devonta Smith at wide receiver. Smith is a smaller, faster receiver who’s better at finding the soft spots in the zone but doesn’t go up for contested catches as much. Drake London is the opposite of that. He’s a larger, stronger receiver who is going to attack the ball over the middle and win those contested catches that no one on the Eagles roster can get.

Adding London would also help the young quarterback that Philadelphia has in Jalen Hurts. London is a true No. 1 receiver, but he doesn’t need to be the No. 1 for the Eagles, and that will help his development. Combining London’s skills with the current corps should help the Eagles get more out of both Smith and London, but it should also open up the field a little better for Dallas Goedert as well. The tight end should see a lot more looks in the seams with London there.

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No. 19 New Orleans Saints: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama

Stylistic Comparison: Tyreek Hill

Physical Comparison: Tiquan Underwood

Jameson Williams vs. Tiquan Underwood at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The New Orleans Saints need a true deep option and speed option at wide receiver who can complement Michael Thomas. There are no better options there than Jameson Williams who is one of the fastest, smartest players out there. He was once buried on the Ohio State depth chart, but found his best production in a role at Alabama. There are few guys who can burn a defense like Williams can, and he just happened to be behind those at Ohio State.

That being said, Williams can do everything those guys can do, but he’s faster and understands the weak points of a defense better. The transfer did him well, because he can find seams to burst through after the ball is in his hands. That will help the Saints with their lack of explosion on offense. There are few quarterbacks who can complement a receiver that can burn a team as well as Williams can, but Jameis Winston has the arm to do it. The fit here is perfect.

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No. 20 Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Stylistic Comparison: Marcus Mariota

Physical Comparison: Joshua Dobbs

Desmond Ridder vs. Joshua Dobbs at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Long-time quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger retired this past season, and the Steelers need to find his replacement. Desmond Ridder may not be a true No. 1 quarterback in the NFL, but he’s someone who should fit right in with the Steelers. He can learn how to be great with a solid coaching staff like Pittsburgh, and he has better overall tools than Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph will ever have.

Ridder knows how to make the best out of a tough situation and has shown that he can lead a deficient team to great heights in Cincinnati. However, the NFL is a whole different game. There will be some growing pains and sitting for a season would be best for Ridder. The Steelers have a well-structured organization with the right coaches and some talent around the quarterback that knows how to get open and create with the ball in their hands.

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No. 21 New England Patriots: OL Zion Johnson, Boston College

Stylistic Comparison: Kevin Zeitler

Physical Comparison: Joel Bitonio

Zion Johnson vs. Joel Bitonio at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

The Patriots just traded away one of the best offensive linemen in the league in Shaq Mason. That opens up a massive hole for them at right guard, and they’ll need some talent to compete there. The best guard in the NFL draft is likely Zion Johnson. He’s got all the tools and compares best to another long-armed beast in Kevin Zeitler with the advanced physical tools of a Joel Bitonio. That’s a dangerous combination.

Bill Belichick is known for focusing on his offensive and defensive lines at the top of the draft historically, and Johnson won’t change that. Johnson slides right in between Trent Brown and David Andrews and should be a decade long starter the way Logan Mankins was for the Patriots. Add in the Boston connection, and there’s few guys who fit in as well for the Patriots as Zion Johnson does for Belichick’s crew.

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No. 22 Green Bay Packers: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah

Stylistic Comparison: Ryan Shazier

Physical Comparison: Dan Connor

Devin Lloyd vs. Dan Connor at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

There are few players who are as well-rounded at their position in the 2022 NFL draft as Devin Lloyd is. He’s one of the best all-around linebackers whether it is blitzing, covering zones or trying to slip into the backfield against the run. Lloyd has a ton of similarities to Dan Connor as an athlete, but he’s closer to a Ryan Shazier in his style of play. Shazier was a similar guy before his neck injury, and much like Lloyd, he had no trouble laying out opposing players.

The Packers are in a unique spot here. Sure, they have a need at wide receiver, but they also could use more defensive playmakers and have a second first round pick. And sure, De’Vondre Campbell was great in 2021, but they need more than just him in the middle level of their defense. Lloyd is a perfect complement to Campbell, and they could be a heart and soul type combination for that defense. Adding Lloyd to Campbell will strengthen a packers defense.

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No. 23 Arizona Cardinals: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington

Stylistic Comparison: Tre’Davious White

Physical Comparison: Desmond Trufant

Trent McDuffie vs. Desmond Trufant at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Trent McDuffie is a unique case in this draft. He had some real buzz before the combine as potentially the highest drafted cornerback. It’s calmed down recently, but he still has a high level of talent and is very similar to Desmond Trufant in his play as a corner who is equally adept in man and zone. He’s also similar to Tre’Davious White in that he’s a physical cornerback who can support the run just as well as the pass.

The team that ends up with McDuffie will end up with a great talent for the position, but he’s not exactly a shut down guy at the level of a Derek Stingley or Sauce Gardner. In this situation, the Cardinals should look at him heavily. Their starting cornerbacks are Jeff Gladney—a cast off due to off field issues—and Byron Murphy a second round pick. McDuffie would start on the outside in both nickel and base sets and give the Cardinals a specified piece to work with.

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No. 24 Dallas Cowboys: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State

Stylistic Comparison: Terry McLaurin

Physical Comparison: Johnny Knox

Chris Olave vs. Johnny Knox at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Chris Olave is a very dynamic receiver who can align all over a formation and burn a defense deep or with yards after carry in the open space. He would be best on a team that has an option to help him by opening up the middle of the field for him to work. Much like Terry McLaurin, though, he is best when working with a group of talented receivers that will take pressure off of him being the primary playmaker every down.

The Dallas Cowboys traded away Amari Cooper to free up cap space to build their roster. But in doing so, they got rid of a major target for the talented Dak Prescott to throw to. Olave is a great value here at the latter part of the first round, and he fits in well with the Cowboys as either a slot receiver, outside receiver or option that aligns in the backfield at times in shotgun sets to create plays. The Cowboys should add Olave to Ceedee Lamb and Michael Gallup.

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No. 25 Buffalo Bills: DL Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

Stylistic Comparison: Warren Sapp

Physical Comparison: Amobi Okoye

Devonte Wyatt vs. Amobi Okoye at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Devonte Wyatt is a world disrupter on the interior of a defense. Much like Warren Sapp or Aaron Donald, he creates a ton of pressure on the interior of a defense and attacks quarterbacks and the run game equally as well. Physically, he compares well to Amobi Okoye who is one of the better athletes at the position of all time. Wyatt is a nasty pass rusher with violent hands and the ability to shed interior blocks against the run well.

The Buffalo Bills don’t have a ton of needs on their roster, but adding to their pass rush is never a bad idea. Wyatt could join Ed Oliver in the middle of a Buffalo defense that has already added Von Miller to create a formidable rush. Miller and Rousseau as part of the first wave with Wyatt and Oliver should be able to handle the speed and scrambling ability of the AFC’s best quarterbacks. The Bills should have a better defense with him on it.

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No. 26 Tennessee Titans: OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

Stylistic Comparison: Andrew Norwell

Physical Comparison: Darryl Williams

Kenyon Green vs. Darryl Williams at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Kenyon Green is a very athletic offensive lineman, but he’s not testing well, which is very similar to Darryl Williams, a former offensive tackle with the Panthers who moved to guard with Buffalo. Green is a better pass blocker than most of the players coming out this year and fits best as a guard at the next level. He is more of a powerful offensive lineman than a technician and should see his time spent holding the depth of the pocket against defensive tackles.

The Tennessee Titans lost their starting guard Rodger Saffold to the Buffalo Bills in the offseason after cutting him for cap reasons. Saffold was a long-term starter for them and would be tough to replace if there wasn’t a perfect fit like Green available out there. Green would start on the left side, though and allow the Titans to continue to have a nasty run game contingent on that side behind Green and long-time left tackle starter Taylor Lewan.

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No. 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue

Stylistic Comparison: Demarcus Lawrence

Physical Comparison: Bradley Chubb

George Karlaftis vs. Bradley Chubb at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

George Karlaftis is an interesting case on film. He’s a true power pass rusher who gets to the quarterback by throwing the defensive end in front of him and has a limited pass rush set. Much like when Demarcus Lawrence was coming out, he’ll have to develop. But he has the athleticism to be great as shown by his physical comparison to Bradley Chubb. Teams will appreciate how well he can set the edge and should be very high on him.

The Buccaneers lost Jason Pierre-Paul during the offseason to free agency, but they could still bring him back. That or they can do the smarter thing and draft a guy with similar tools that can win in similar ways. Karlaftis has the bull rushing and run defending down pat. He will have to develop a set of moves to help him get to the quarterback, but the Buccaneers have the right support system to help him get there.

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No. 28 Green Bay Packers: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas

Stylistic Comparison: Plaxico Burress

Physical Comparison: Justin Blackmon

Treylon Burks vs. Justin Blackmon at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

After trading away Devonta Adams this offseason, the Packers need someone who can make a difference as an outside receiver. They need someone who will fit in with Aaron Rodgers and can go up and get the ball when Rodgers throws into traffic. Since drafting Rodgers in 2005, the Packers haven’t drafted a wide receiver in the first round of the draft. They need to show that they can provide Rodgers with some support in his last years of his career and this would do that.

Treylon Burks may not be the best athlete at the position, but similar to Justin Blackmon, he makes it work. He wins in the same kinds of ways Plaxico Burress does, though. He’s more physical; he high-points the ball and catches defenders off-guard. He can find the soft spots in zones while in the red zone, and at his best, he can burn a defense deep with his route running and ability to create separation by running routes that throw off the men guarding him.

No. 29 Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jahan Dotson, Pennsylvania State

Stylistic Comparison: Calvin Ridley

Physical Comparison: Davon Grayson

Jahan Dotson vs. Davon Grayson at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Jahan Dotson is being talked about as a potential first round pick because of his ability to create after the catch, and his exceptional route running. His ability to attack teams deep or in the soft spots of their scheme really helps boost his value. He may not be the biggest or strongest or fastest guy at the position, but he’s one of the toughest and can create big plays out of thin air. The Chiefs would absolutely love having him because of his west coast offense fit.

The Chiefs are in need of a wide receiver. Marques Valdes-Scantling is the only starting caliber wide receiver under contract after 2022. They’ll need to take a wide receiver who can fit in as one of Patrick Mahomes’ primary options in the passing game, and Dotson fits that very well. Dotson would start out as a No. 2 receiver to Valdes-Scantling and could develop into that true No. 1 for the Chiefs once he fully develops his game.

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No. 30 Kansas City Chiefs: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida

Stylistic Comparison: Xavien Howard

Physical Comparison: Xavien Howard

Kaiir Elam vs. Xavien Howard at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Kaiir Elam is one of the best press cornerbacks in the draft in 2022. Elam has exceptional speed and agility and has shown that he can shut down a side when he’s able to press the receiver. The best player comparison for Elam is Xavien Howard, a multiple-time Pro Bowl cornerback known for being a great press cornerback. Adding Elam will help the Chiefs for the long term considering they don’t have any true No. 1 cornerback and no one under contract worth the role.

Elam would instantly start as the No. 1 cornerback for a depth chart that is currently highlighting Deandre Baker, Rashad Felton and L’Jarius Sneed. The Chiefs for the long-term do need that featured cornerback for the defense and bringing in Elam would give them that. A wild possibility for the Chiefs could be doubling up on wide receivers here as well with an extreme talent like George Pickens or Christian Watson to be another larger option for them.

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No. 31 Cincinnati Bengals: OL Tyler Smith, Tulsa

Stylistic Comparison: Kelechi Osemele

Physical Comparison: Jamon Brown

Tyler Smith and Jamon Brown at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Tyler Smith was a tackle in college, but projects better as a guard in the pro level just like Jamon Brown and Kelechi Osemele were. They are his best professional comparisons as well. Brown was a solid, but unspectacular starter during his time and is probably the worst case scenario. Smith’s play is a bit nastier than Brown’s is, however. That’s where the Osemele comparison comes in. Osemele would destroy the competition just like Smith does.

The Bengals need a mauler on their offensive line to solidify the front next to Jonah Williams at left guard. With Jonah Williams at left tackle and bringing in La’El Collins at right tackle, the Bengals are finally getting a line built to protect one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Joe Burrow. Adding more competition at center and right guard would help build the line further, but Smith is that piece at left guard for years.

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No. 32 Detroit Lions: QB Matt Corral, Mississippi

Stylistic Comparison: Christian Ponder

Physical Comparison: Andy Dalton

Matt Corral vs. Andy Dalton at the NFL Combine and Pro Days

Matt Corral is a quarterback who could sneak into the first round. The former Mississippi quarterback is a potential starter in the NFL. He’s able to read defenses well and has the moxie to be a leader, but there’s a lot missing with his accuracy and arm strength on his film. He’s got solid athleticism, but he’s not the best athlete. He comes off more like an Andy Dalton who can use the athleticism in the NFL to create passing lanes more than a true dual threat.

The Detroit Lions are in amazing need for the quarterback of their future. Especially one that fits in well with their star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. The Lions currently have Jared Goff as their starter and a bunch of terrible replacement level players on the roster. They would do best to bring in a guy with a fifth year option that needs the development but has a ton of potential. That guy is Matt Corral.


**This Article was originally published on ATB Network by Scott Carasik***


Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel


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‘He’s that cool’: Tua Tagovailoa and Mike McDaniel already forming strong relationship

Relationships matter in football. A strong relationship between a team’s head coach and starting quarterback matters even more.

It’s no secret that Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and now-Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores had a shaky relationship. A consistently bad offensive staff and a lack of commitment from the head coach to the quarterback usually have that effect.

New Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel has approached his relationship with Tagovailoa quite differently. The first-time head coach has also looked to build his off-field relationship with Tagovailoa, much to the young quarterback’s surprise.

“[McDaniel is] very supportive and wants to hang out,” Tagovailoa told reporters in a recent press conference. “I go up there to his office and tell him, ‘I’ve got a couple of guys coming over to hang out’ and he feels bad that he didn’t get an invite to come over and hang out.”

McDaniel’s approach to building relationships with his players has been one that is rooted in friendship. He did not have to attend and actively participate in Tagovailoa’s “Luau with Tua” event, but doing so further showed the care he has for his players as people.

This level of support extended from his time in San Francisco, where he was seen at meals with players outside the 49ers’s practice facility. McDaniel treats his players as friends, not just pawns on the field.

“I think support for any of us as players means a lot,” Tagovailoa said of McDaniel’s support of his players. “We understand that the NFL … is a tough industry. It’s tough to play because you’re playing against the best every Sunday. To be able to have the support of the head coach, the head guy, that should tell you a lot.”

Having the support of the head coach helps take the edge off the grind of the NFL. It allows players to loosen up and play to their potential, something that was hard to do under more of a disciplinarian like Flores.

McDaniel’s support for Tagovailoa began almost as soon as the first-year head coach was hired. He gave the quarterback a call as he and his family flew to Miami for his introductory press conference.

“One thing I know about you is that you have the ambition to be great. My job is to coach you to get all that greatness out of you,” McDaniel told Tagovailoa. “It’s on bro! If you don’t have eye black at home you better go get some eye black because we’re going. I’m happy for you, I’m happy for myself and I think Dolphins fans should be happy as well.”

Dolphins fans hope that this positive relationship between their head coach and starting quarterback will lead Miami to its first playoff win since 2000.