It’s draft week!
(Shortest FTR intro ever - cuz I can’t wait to dive into the thoughts.)
Every year there are players we fall in love with and hope that our team picks; some refer to these as “draft crushes.” And every year we’re disappointed when our team doesn’t pick any (or very many) of those players. Yet it doesn’t stop us from falling in love all over again the following year.
Here, listed alphabetically by first name, are some (but not all) of my 2022 draft crushes on the offensive side of the ball:
- Bernard Raimann, LT, Central Michigan Chippewas
- Cam Jurgens, OC, Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Daniel Faalele, RT, Minnesota Golden Gophers
- David Bell, WR, Purdue Boilermakers
- Drake London, WR, USC Trojans
- Evan Neal, LT, Alabama Crimson Tide
- Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan Wolverines
- James Cook, RB, Georgia Bulldogs
- Jameson Williams, WR, North Carolina Tar Heels
- Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State Spartans
- Obinna Eze, LT, TCU Horned Frogs
- Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
- Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State Rams
- Tyler Linderbaum, OC, Iowa Hawkeyes
- Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas Razorbacks
- Zach Tom, LT, Wake Forest Demon Deacons
And here are some (but not all) of my 2022 draft crushes on the defensive side of the ball:
- Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia Bulldogs
- Damone Clark, LB, LSU Tigers
- David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan Wolverines
- Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah Utes
- Jeffrey Gunter, EDGE, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
- Jordan Davis, DT/NT, Georgia Bulldogs
- Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington Huskies
- Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin Badgers
- Logan Hall, DT, Houston Cougars
- Marcus Jones, CB/KR, Houston Cougars
- Mario Goodrich, CB, Clemson Tigers
- Nik Bonitto, EDGE, Oklahoma Sooners
Note: I tried to limit my list to 12 players on each side of the football. I succeeded with the defense, not so much with the offense.
I will dig into some of these players in my upcoming thoughts.
Starting with ...
Everyone talks about how great Georgia’s defense was in 2021, and for good reason. But there’s a player on Georgia’s offense who deserves some recognition.
Running back James Cook.
Now, anyone who watched Georgia play last year knows that Cook wasn’t RB1; that honor actually went to Zamir White. But Cook was basically RB1B to White’s RB1A.
Here are their respective stat lines for 2021:
- White: 160 carries for 856 yards (5.4 average) with 11 TDs
- Cook: 113 carries for 728 yards (6.4 average) with 7 TDs
Here’s where Cook moves ahead of White though:
- Cook: 27 receptions for 284 yards and 4 TDs
- White: 9 receptions for 75 yards and 0 TDs
Add it all up and it looks like this:
- Cook: 1,012 scrimmage yards and 11 TDs
- White: 931 scrimmage yards and 11 TDs
Bonus stat: Cook had a grand total of 1 drop (on 68 catchable passes) during his college career.
Stats aside, what do the experts think?
This is from PFF’s Draft Guide:
Cook is a mismatch in the passing game because he’s far too nimble even for NFL linebackers. Anytime Georgia schemed up one-on-one’s for Cook, they were throwing his way.
PFN had this to say:
Although he excels as a pass catcher, don’t be fooled into thinking that Cook is just a gadget player at the next level. He’s also a genuine talent as a rusher. He can put together multiple moves to create space behind the line of scrimmage and among traffic. Cook has impressively quick footwork and is able to plant his feet, sink his hips, and almost effortlessly change direction.
Circling back to PFF:
Cook is like a mini-version of his brother Dalvin. He’s a big play waiting to happen when he gets the ball in space.
FTR’s take: After waiting 3 long years for Rashaad Penny to finally live up to his potential, the idea of pairing Penny with Cook has me practically salivating.
I think we can all agree that John Schneider and Pete Carroll place a premium on “freak” athletes, and the more freakish they are, the more JSPC tend to gravitate toward them.
I mention that as means of introducing Bruce Feldman’s 2021 Freaks List.
Feldman’s Freaks list is something that I (and others) look forward to every year. Cross-referencing that list with my draft crushes, it quickly becomes apparent that I gravitate toward freakish athletes as well.
- #1: Evan Neal
- #10: Tyler Linderbaum
- #14: Cam Jurgens
- #22: Leo Chenal
- #26: Bernhard Raimann
- #29: Daniel Faalele
- #39: Kyler Gordon (his teammate, Trent McDuffie is #40)
- #52: Damone Clark
- #53: Treylon Burks
- #54: Logan Hall
- #60: Drake London
Before injuring his ACL at Michigan’s Pro Day, David Ojabo was projected as a top-20 pick with some predicting that he’d crack the top-10. Now? It’s possible that he will still be on the board when Seattle goes on the clock with their back-to-back picks at 40/41.
I could rattle off some 2021 stats that show why Ojabo is as highly regarded as he is, but it’s not the stats that make him one of my draft crushes (arguably my BIGGEST draft crush).
It’s also not the story of how he made his way to Michigan (and, later this week, to the NFL), even though that’s an interesting story in its own right.
For those that want to hear about his journey, here’s a video:
For me, what makes Ojabo worth investing in is the combination of the talent he showed in his only season as a starter for the Wolverines and the 8 words that it took for him to unlock that talent:
“I’m going to be in your hip pocket.”
That’s what Ojabo said to Michigan standout Aidan Hutchinson after the Wolverines finished the 2020 season with a disappointing record of 2-4 (0-3 at home). And Ojabo kept his word. He learned everything he could and he put those lessons into action on the gridiron, giving Michigan a scary set of pass rushers.
As Aidan Hutchinson put it in an interview before the College Football Playoffs:
Every day in that off-season he was right with me that whole time. He committed to it every day. Even in the days that it was very difficult.
He was grinding his ass off this whole off-season, so all the awards and accolades that he’s getting right now, he completely deserves.
Bottom line: David Ojabo wants to learn and he’s got the talent to excel.
As for the ACL injury, it’s expected that Ojabo could be back on the field as early as late-September. And even if he missed the entire 2022 season, getting a player with Ojabo’s ceiling on the second day of the draft would be an absolute steal.
LSU linebacker Damone Clark is another defender that I have a draft crush on.
As I mentioned in Thought #2, Damone Clark landed at #52 on Bruce Feldman’s 2021 Freaks List. He was also a finalist for the Butkus Award after finishing the 2021 season as the nation’s 2nd-tackler and leading the SEC in both tackles (135) and tackles per game (11.2).
When all was said and done, Chenal finished his career at LSU with 249 tackles, 23 TFLs, 10 sacks, an INT, 4 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, 46 pressures, and 83 stops.
Not too shabby, right?
Unfortunately, after being named the top linebacker on the American team at the Senior Bowl, an MRI at the NFL Combine revealed that Clark had a herniated disc and he had spinal fusion surgery almost immediately.
Former LSU LB Damone Clark is undergoing spinal fusion surgery today after an MRI at the combine revealed a herniated disk, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 24, 2022
One of the top linebackers in this year’s NFL Draft, Clark most likely will miss his rookie season, but is expected to make a full recovery.
Medically speaking, Clark could be back on the football field in as little as six months. However, the league-wide expectation, as evidenced by Tom Pelissero’s tweet, appears to be that he will miss the entire 2022 season.
Somewhat ironically, that actually makes Clark more appealing to me - and perhaps to the Seahawks as well.
Why? Because prior to the diagnosis (and resulting surgery), Clark was being projected as a Day 2 pick with some publications predicting that he’d go off the board in the top half of Round 2. Now? It seems likely that Clark will end up being a Day 3 pick.
As a Day 3 pick, Damone Clark should represent significant value, even if he doesn’t suit up for a single play this season. Especially with Jordyn Brooks being the only ILB currently on Seattle’s roster that’s signed past 2022.
In theory, “stashing” players is a luxury that most teams can’t afford. Yet, Seattle did it 2 years ago with Darrell Taylor (albeit not entirely on purpose) and I could see them doing it again - particularly if the powers that be (JSPC, CH, et al.) think that they’ve got enough depth at the position to get through the 2022 season “as is”.
Long thought short, Damone Clark might make a heck of an addition to the 2023 team if Seattle rolls the dice on him in the 2022 NFL Draft.
There was a discussion in the Comments section of an article a week or so ago about the merits of Purdue wide receiver David Bell with much of the focus being on the lackluster 40 time he recorded at the NFL Combine (4.65 seconds).
I have two thoughts on this:
One. Some people just don’t test well.
Two. The criticism that showered down on him after that performance is sure to put a chip on his shoulder and drive him to prove people wrong. If so, Seattle seems like a perfect landing spot for him.
Here is #Purdue WR David Bell's first 40-yard dash time. 4.64 Posted a 4.62 his second run.— Charlie Clifford (@cliffWISH8) March 3, 2022
The former Warren Central state champ will use the critics here as more motivation. Always does. #Winner pic.twitter.com/z6qR6PicGE
Personally, I could care less about Bell’s 40 time. For me, the tape is 100x more important and David Bell looks like a legitimate NFL receiver on tape. Dude is almost always open. And when he’s not, he makes the catch anyway.
Honestly, I would draft him in Round 3 (or 4) for the second catch on that video alone. How the heck does a human being make that play?
Then there’s this play where Bell olé’s the entire defense:
And let’s add this little detail from PurdueSports.com:
Along with earning First Team All-Big Ten accolades for the second straight season, Bell was named the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year, awarded to the conference’s best wide receiver.
Keep in mind that Bell played in the same conference as THE Ohio State which has two receivers, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, who are expected to be first round picks on Thursday night.
Bottom line: I would be thrilled to see David Bell sporting Russell Wilson’s old number in 2022.
Speaking of receivers, one of my 2021 draft crushes is reportedly available via trade and I’m not sure how I feel about that.
On the one hand, I clearly think that the Seahawks should add a wideout that can help narrow the gap between Seattle’s top two wideouts (Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf) and everyone else in the wide receiver room (Cade Johnson, Dee Eskridge, Freddie Swain, et al.).
On the other hand, there’s a reason last year’s 20th overall pick is available after only one season in the Big Apple. And it’s not necessarily because of his stat line: 10 games, 4 starts, 39 receptions on 57 targets (68.4%) for 420 yards (10.8 per catch).
Last month I wrote an article that looked at some veteran options that JSPC might consider if they were looking to add a wideout via free agency or a trade.
Kadarius Toney was not on that list.
Here are his college highlights. What do you think?
As for draft compensation, Bleacher Report thinks the Giants could receive a Day Two pick in exchange for Kararius Toney.
ESPN’s Brady Henderson had a nice article on Friday about “An NFL draft Day 2 for the ages”. He is, of course, referring to the 2012 draft when the Seahawks drafted a small-school linebacker in the 2nd round and a small-sized quarterback in the 3rd.
The article is a great trip down memory lane.
My 3 biggest takeaways:
One. So far, only one team in the modern era has landed multiple Hall of Fame players in the same draft without at least one of them being selected in the first round. That team was the 1968 Raiders (QB Ken Stabler, Round 2, and OT Art Shell, Round 3). Methinks they’ll have company in about 10 to 15 years.
Two. John Schneider was the Seahawks’ Director of Player Personnel during the 2000 season - (I think I knew that in the back of my mind but had definitely forgotten about it) - and he had an outsized interest in drafting Drew Brees. Instead, Seattle traded for Matt Hasselbeck.
Most people and sites agree that the top 5 Left Tackles in this year’s draft are Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu, Charles Cross, Trevor Penning, and Bernhard Raimann. Once in awhile Tulsa’s Tyler Smith slides into the conversation.
With Stone Forsythe currently atop Seattle’s depth chart as the blindside protector for whoever ends up being QB1, LT is clearly an area of need.
Unfortunately, Neal and Ekwonu will almost certainly be gone by the time the Seahawks go on the clock at #9. Charles Cross is the most polished pass-protector in the class but has question marks in the run game. Trevor Penning is a flag magnet (and has questions re: his pass-pro skills).
Enter Bernhard Raimann.
When watching the 2 videos at the end of this thought, keep in mind that while Raimann has been playing football since 2014 (which really isn’t that long), he’s only been at the Tackle position for 2 years (2020 and 2021), having been a Tight End before that.
And then there’s this “bottom line” from the PFF Draft Guide:
As crazy as it is to say for a guy who’s played the position for two years, Raimann’s tape is the most polished of any tackle in the draft.
Raimann also tested extremely well at the NFL Combine:
- 81st percentile 40-yard dash (5.05)
- 92nd percentile 20-yard shuttle (4.49)
- 89th percentile bench press (30 reps)
- 76th percentile vertical jump (31 inches)
- 98th percentile broad jump (9 feet 9 inches)
- 85th percentile 3-cone (7.46)
Bernhard Raiman: Left Tackle Highlights (1:30)
Bernhard Raimann: Senior Bowl Highlights (2:37)
FTR’s take: Duane Brown is still available in free agency and the team appears to be more confident in Stone Forsythe than the fans are, but I am completely down with the idea of using an early pick on a Left Tackle. I would have some misgivings about taking Bernhard Raimann at #9 overall, but a trade-back into the teens or early-20s that netted us an additional pick (or 3) followed by the selection of Raimann would be a really solid move.
Of course, Raimann is one of my draft crushes so that means we almost certainly will NOT take him.
How about a Draft Day trade?
If the Jets use either of their first round picks (#4 and #10 overall) on a Left Tackle or one of their R2s (#35 and #38 overall) on a Right Tackle, it might indicate that LT Mekhi Becton is available. If so, John Schneider may want to pick up the phone.
Becton had an impressive rookie season in 2020 but missed most of last season with a knee injury and reportedly struggled with his weight and his conditioning during his rehab. Then, as 2021 came to a close, it was reported (by NFL Insider Tony Pauline) that there was a split between the coaching staff and the front office with the coaches preferring George Fant over Becton going forward.
What would it take to acquire Becton?
Given the fact that Becton was the #11 overall pick 2 years ago and has looked good when he’s healthy, it will probably take more than Seattle would want to give up ...
... IF it were a straight player-for-draft-pick(s) trade.
But what if the Seahawks sent a former-R1 of their own to the Jets, along with a conditional future pick?
Here’s my proposal:
- The Seattle Seahawks get LT Mekhi Becton
- The New York Jets get EDGE L.J. Collier and a conditional 2023 R4 (improves to an R3 if Becton plays 70% of Seattle’s offensive snaps in 2022).
In this scenario, the Jets would eat just shy of $5.5M in dead money on Becton’s contract while taking on Collier’s $1.97M base salary for 2022 which means that they would lose about $2.44M in cap space this year while freeing up $5.87M in 2023.
On the Seahawk’s side of the equation, we’d eat $1.475M in dead money on Collier’s contract while taking on Becton’s 2022 and 2023 base salaries of $2.29M and $3.125M, respectively. Plus, we’d get a 5th-year option on a potential franchise-level Left Tackle.
This is obviously a deal that skews in Seattle’s favor on a player-for-player basis - which is why the future pick is included. The Jets could use a rotational D-lineman though, and an affordable one at that, so if they don’t want Becton taking up room on their bench ... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I’ve warmed to the idea of the Seahawks selecting Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson in the first round. I’m still not enamored with the idea of taking him at #9, but it wouldn’t be the worst pick ever and would arguably be pretty darn good.
Much of my warming occurred after John and Pete’s recent presser. More specifically, it happened after I read this passage (transcribed by Stan Taylor in the article posted on Friday):
“Funny story, if you want some inside stuff... we were watching some offensive linemen, like, a couple weeks ago and we’re like ‘oh this guy’... actually we were watching pass rushers and there was an offensive linemen after linemen after offensive linemen that they all kept getting beat by this guy... and we’re like ‘oh he must have entered the transfer portal during the season, is that the same guy?’ cause he had the same number...”
In the comments section of Stan’s article, someone pointed out that Arnold Ebiketie wore #17 at Temple and again at Penn State then added that Jermaine Johnson wore #11 at both Georgia and FSU.
Armed with this knowledge, I watched some clips of both Ebiketie (who I like) and Johnson (who I didn’t really like up to that point) - and I tried to do so with an open mind. I wasn’t completely successful (re: the open mind), but I’m definitely convinced that it was Jermaine Johnson that Schneider was referring to.
Like it or not, Johnson may be a Seattle target in Round 1.
Jermaine Johnson 2021 FSU Highlights
Back on March 18th, Field Gull’s own Samuel R. Gold published an article about Iowa Center Tyler Linderbaum. The headline read: Tyler Linderbaum is the best center I’ve ever scouted.
Despite how much I like Linderbaum, the headline struck me as hyperbole. I mean, Linderbaum is, hands-down, the best Center in this year’s draft, but “the best” that Mr. Gold has ever scouted?
That’s got to be hyperbole, right?
Well, PFF has him as the #19 prospect on their Big Board and ends their evaluation of him with this line:
Linderbaum is the best center prospect we’ve ever seen at PFF since we started grading college in 2014.
Over at PFN, they have Tyler Linderbaum ranked as the #7 prospect in the entire draft and this is the first paragraph in their analysis of him:
Comfortably the best center in the 2022 NFL Draft class, Tyler Linderbuam is one of the most impressive offensive linemen of any position in the class. While perceived positional value has sent center prospects plummeting out of the first round before, Linderbaum is not only a true first-round talent but genuinely one of the top overall prospects.
Meanwhile, the write-up in The Athletic’s draft guide - aka “The Beast” - ends like this:
Overall, Linderbaum is a center-only prospect and will struggle at times in pass protection due to his lack of length, but he is an elite-level run blocker due to his athleticism and grip strength to latch-and-drive. He projects as a longtime NFL starter in a zone-based scheme. (Bolding theirs, not mine.)
Hmmm ... Maybe it’s not hyperbole after all.
At the end of the day, I think that Seattle’s decision re: Linderbaum comes down to 3 questions:
Q1: Is Center considered a position of need?
Q2: Are we comfortable using a first round pick to land the draft’s top prospect at the pivot position?
Q3: If we don’t select Tyler Linderbaum, does that mean JSPC are okay with the idea of rolling into 2022 (and probably beyond) with a Center whose ceiling might match Linderbaum’s floor?
My answers are: (1) Yes; (2) Yes, but probably not at #9; and (3) God, I hope not.
Thursday night should be interesting.
Friday and Saturday as well.