Category Archives: NFL

Zi’Yon Hill-Green: Name change, but same game

It is not often that a player changes his name. In Zyon Hill’s case, the Father’s Day change to the new name (nearly a half-year ago) was an ode to his stepfather. Chris Green had been raising Hill since he was one years old.

On the field, there haven’t been many alterations for the 6-foot, 290-pounder’s game. He has always played bigger than his size and that has resulted in a number of challenges over time.

Entering the team’s final game against Texas State, Louisiana needs Hill-Green to put his best foot forward. A win could ensure the Ragin Cajuns a sixth win and possible bowl berth.

But there is more on the line for Hill-Green.

Over the years, he’s dealt with a bevy of scrapes and bruises that have forced some missed starts. In 2021, he even missed time due to a lower body injury.

“His career here started with an injury…..in the summer when he got here,” ULL-head coach Michael Desormeaux said. “It seems like for him it’s been battling that, managing that and pushing through those things his whole career. Our kids see him every day, they know the shape that he’s in after a game.”

It has truly been a full body experience for the sixth-year Super Senior.

Zi'Yon Green-Hill working in the pregame vs. UAB in 2020
Green-Hill (No. 4 pictured) put together one of the better performances in school history this past season,

Despite the setbacks, Hill-Green’s school-record 21.5 career quarterback sacks have come due to a combination of quickness, lower body torque and endurance. Frequently, he has been at his best late in games (see Georgia Southern ’20).

The former Catholic High School (La.) product plays like he weighs at least 20-to-30 more pounds with the heavy-handed approach taking on guards or double teams. Not only does he fight versus double teams, but he can win by playing to half a man as a pass rusher. All in all, it has resulted in an impressive total of 33 tackles for losses. Hill-Green is a big reason the team has played in four conference championship games the last four seasons.

It is a not a fact that gets lost on first-year Louisiana head coach Michael Desormeaux, who himself put up two 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a former standout quarterback at the school.

“On the field, it’s easy to see how important he (Hill-Green) is,” Desormeaux explained. “In the run game, the throw game, he’s constantly putting pressure on the quarterbacks. He wins one-on-one battles. He commands a double team and when he doesn’t get one, he’s a problem for the other team.”

And on the days when Hill-Green has not been able to practice due to the myriad of injury hiccups?

“He’s coaching the D-line, the other guys that are in there,” said Desormeaux. “It’s not a day off for him. That’s why he is able to go out and perform at a high level. The guy knows the defense front and back.”

Hill-Green posted just one tackle versus Florida State in a 49-17 defeat last weekend.

Facing a pass-oriented offense this time around against Layne Hatcher and the Texas State Bobcats, can Hill-Green pick up at least a half-sack to break the school record?

Perhaps as long as things get back to normal and don’t change as they did a week ago.

NickNok

No matter when you turn on the film, Wisconsin OLB Nick Herbig shows up.

To the tune of 21 quarterback sacks and 36 tackles for losses over a three-year period (through 11-19-22).

Look no further than last year’s 2021 Las Vegas Bowl.

In that contest, he was dominant from the first through fourth quarter.

Final stat line: 7 tackles, 2 QB sacks, 2.5 TFLs

But his presence shows up well beyond the numbers.

In the Iowa contest a couple of weeks ago, he set the edge versus offensive tackle Jack Plumb on the first play of the game. The result? He dropped him to the ground with a simple two-hand jolt.

Is Herbig even 6-foot-2? That is the question many NFL teams will have to ponder when projecting him to the outside or inside exchange linebacker spot (most likely Will linebacker).

New Orleans Saints linebacker Zach Baun had a similar impact as a rush artist for the Badgers, but has since struggled in his transition to off the ball linebacker in the NFL.

The difference?

Baun was much more of a one-year wonder in terms of dominant production.

Herbig has averaged over a tackle for loss per game (1.2) since arriving on campus three years ago.

And how he does it is different.

He sets the edge versus tight ends (see 3rd QTR, Las Vegas Bowl ’21-Chenal’s tackle for loss).

By no means are there not repetitions where he can look outmatched versus longer personnel (see vs. Diesch, 3rd and 9, 2nd QTR, Las Vegas Bowl ’21). At the same time, however, his combativeness allows him to run through bigger tackles off the edge with an element of ferocity (QB sack, 4th QTR, vs. Scott, Las Vegas Bowl ’21).

He bends his knees well to break down for space tackles and generally plays with solid footwork. He gets on top of offensive tackles due to no false steps coming off the line of scrimmage.

“It’s a great presence. Him rushing off the edge, it’s nothing like it,” Badgers cornerback Alexander Smith explained. “He’s one of the best in the country. It helps us a lot on the back end and in the secondary. We don’t have to cover for that long.”

Nick Herbig (No. 19 pictured) walked out over Arizona State's tight end Jalin Conyers in the 2021 Las Vegas Bowl
Wisconsin’s Nick Herbig leads the Big Ten in sacks (through 11-19-22), but he has also broken up six passes over the last two seasons.

Herbig does flash some coverage capability dropping into the curl-hook areas of the field on some of the team’s zone blitz concepts (see NMSU ’22), but has largely been used to create havoc in the backfield.

Can he snap the pictures in a timely fashion to produce in an exchange linebacker capacity?

Will it matter if Herbig continues to defeat tackles? His suddenness complements enough pop to jolt back offensive linemen.

Even if he doesn’t make it at that position, however, there are other examples of players in his size/weight/speed ratio who have begun to have success rushing the passer.

While many point to Baun’s slow transition to the NFL, what about New Orleans Saints 2019 seventh-round draft pick Kaden Elliss? Elliss had to wait to get an opportunity as a late-round draft pick, but he has slowly turned into a viable pass rusher at 238 pounds.

In fact, Elliss has nearly as many starts this season (six) as Baun’s over a three-year period (seven).

In Herbig’s case, the actual final measurements (he was just over 200 pounds entering Wisconsin) could be the most important part of his evaluation process.

Regardless of the weight, everyone believes in the recipe. Just ask Wisconsin’s top pro prospect and fellow team captain, defensive tackle Keeanu Benton:

“Nick’s a dawg,” Benton said. “Even when he was gone (due to injury), he was bringing that energy on the sideline. Making sure everybody was upbeat. That’s my dawg. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him.” (https://badgerextra.com/a-healthy-nick-herbig-changes-wisconsins-defense/video_6b99a110-45ee-5821-ada2-ccb27aa6d202.html).

Just in the Nick of time

There has to be a place for Appalachian State’s Nick Hampton on the next level.

If there is a play to be made, the Mountaineer will find a way to make it. In 2022, he changed his number from 31 to nine. There has been no subtraction from his steady four-year run of production.

Over the course of the last four seasons (through 10-2-22), Hampton has tallied 36 tackles for losses. That total includes 24.5 quarterback sacks.

Not bad for a 6-foot-2, 225-pounder.

Nick Hampton OLB Appalachian State
There are few defenders who have been productive as Mountaineers OLB Nick Hampton.

So how does he consistently win rushing the passer?

Although relatively high in his two-point stance, he can turn the corner when running the hoop. Hampton uses his 81-inch wingspan to keep blockers off of his frame when twisting from the outside-in on stunts (3rd and 9, 3rd QTR, ECU ’21).

Cleaning up the false step that he has getting out of his two-point stance at either outside linebacker spot could be a focus. Even with it, he transfers speed-to-power on occasion versus much bigger offensive tackles.

Nick Hampton lines up on the kickoff team
Nick Hampton has made a number of plays on the team’s kickoff team during the course of his career.

Team have to prepare for the work he puts forth on the kick coverage units as well, where his skill at dislodging from blockers has paid dividends in the past (see 1st QTR, ECU ’21).

In 2022, Hampton has gotten off to another fast start after finishing second in the Sun Belt Conference with 11 quarterback sacks as a junior.

The former Westside High School (S.C.) product puts up amazing numbers in the weight room (600-lb sumo deadlift according to Appalachian State’s website-https://appstatesports.com/sports/football/roster/nick-hampton/7624) and matches them with similar production on the field. He should impress with his testing numbers whenever he declares for the draft.

However, it is the numbers he puts up on the field that continue to draw praise from opposing teams.

Want proof?

Check out his miles per hour when chasing some of college football’s fastest players (runs down ECU RB Keaton Mitchell, 3rd QTR, ECU ’21).

Mitchell hit 22.6 miles per hour on an 81-yard touchdown run against Old Dominion in 2022. This is this fastest time recorded in college football this season.

So how fast is Hampton?

He gets to most of his destinations in just the Nick of time.

Avila continues to flash voracity

The TCU running game has been on fire this year and part of the reason revolves around the team’s interior offensive line. Led by Esteban Avila (6’4 339) and SMU transfer Alan Ali (6’5, 300), there are a number of possibilities down-to-down with their inside run schemes.

Look no further than TCU’s fourth quarter goal line touchdown against SMU two weeks ago. The Mustangs aligned in a three-man front with two stacked linebackers. Ali (6’3, 300) sat on zero-or-one-technique nose guard Terrance Newman early in the down, allowing Avila to quickly climb to SMU linebacker and Oregon transfer Isaac Slade-Matautia. After left tackle Brandon Coleman controlled defensive end DeVere Levelston, it provided a walk-in touchdown for running back Emari Demercado.

Earlier in the third quarter, Avila flashed an adequate ability to get out in front for Demercado on a screen pass that netted a big gain for the Horned Frogs. On the play, Avila hit a moving target in space (LB Shanon Reid) to open up hidden yardage for Demercado.

Both of these plays occurred while Avila manned the left guard spot.

When Ali left the game briefly in the third quarter due to injury, Avila slid over to the center position. This is the spot he started at during his second-team All-Big 12 campaign as a junior. As a left-handed snapper, he is most comfortable in pass protection going left, but his overall awareness remains more than satisfactory at the position.

TCU Steve Avila practicing center snap vs. SMU in 2022
TCU offensive lineman Steve Avila, pictured, has started at all of the three interior line spots for the Horned Frogs. He moved to center for a couple of snaps against SMU when starter Alan Ali went down to injury.

The question for NFL teams will inevitably revolve around his projection in zone-based run schemes. The Horned Frogs All-Big 12 lineman most likely projects in a man blocking scheme due to a few hiccups reaching opponents laterally on a consistent basis. With that said he started at all three interior line spots as a sophomore in 2020. The theme has continued thus far in 2022.

The four-year starter gobbles up defenders half or equal to his size and -once he gets his hands on the opposition- can be tough to dislodge from down-to-down. The quick hands alternate when punching while sitting down to anchor. His trunk strength and bulk frequently wins for him in the elevator battles without having to jump around to catch his opponents.

As is typical of most Horned Frogs, Avila showcases voracity on the field.

Here’s Johnny

The Florida State Seminoles (4-1) lost a hard-fought 31-21 contest to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-1) last weekend, but it did not take away from the early season performance of wide receiver Johnny Wilson (6’7 235). The Pacoima, California native and Arizona State transfer had limited productivity for the Sun Devils due to a 2021 hamstring injury.

Wilson’s touches go back-and-forth depending on the team’s game plans from week-to-week. What doesn’t get noticed is the blocking downfield that has been at least adequate through five games. This provides him with possibilities as an F or H-back-type for the next level.

It has not all been perfect.

FSU WR Johnny Wilson versus LSU in Week 1 of the 2022 campaign
Wilson (No. 14 pictured) is often required to use his 6-foot-7, 235-pound frame to block opponents in the run game.

In some of those cases, Wilson has overrun crack block opportunities versus safeties (see vs. Burns, 3rd QTR, LSU ’22). In addition, the former Sun Devil was unable to corral a potential slant-and-go touchdown grab in the end zone versus the cornerback when LSU safety Jay Ward knocked the ball out of his hand (3rd QTR, LSU ’22).

Those missed chances do not erase the numerous pass interference penalties he has drawn versus quick, fluid cornerbacks (see Clark, Louisville ’22). The stride length (five yards in first three steps) presents different pictures for cornerbacks. Wilson tallied nearly 150 yards in this contest (7 receptions, 149 yards, TD vs. Louisville ’22). He turned around Cardinals safety Kenderick Duncan, Jr. on a post route that led to a 69-yard catch-and-run. His full extension high-point touchdown grab in the fourth quarter versus cornerback Jarvis Brownlee, Jr. was artistic. All three of his touchdowns this season have come in the fourth quarter.

There are still some high-level opponents for him to overcome the rest of the year. NC State’s defense should provide one-on-one opportunities if they commit to stopping FSU’s powerful ground game. Can they shut down the Seminoles three-headed monster of running backs Treshaun Ward, Trey Benson and Lawrance Toafili? The trio has combined for nine rushing touchdowns. Conversely, the Wolfpack defense is allowing a measly 3.4 yards per carry and ranks 15th nationally in rushing defense (as of 10-3-22).

If so, then Wilson’s size and catch radius have to win in isolation on the outside for the Seminoles. Perhaps surprisingly, FSU ranks 35th nationally in passing offense (278 YPG) thus far in 2022. This represents nearly a 77-yard improvement over last season’s final totals. Wilson’s 18.8 yards per reception (19 catches) certainly ranks as a big part of the team’s sudden resurgence through the air.

Tomorrow’s performance could bring more spotlight for the budding star in Tallahassee.

Here’s Johnny.

Cincinnati Bengals 2022 NFL Draft /UDFA recap

Where would the Bengals go in this year’s draft after winning the AFC championship? Traditionally, the draft has yielded fine results for the franchise. In this century, the Bengals’ front office/scouts have drafted a number players who either made the Pro Bowl for them or other teams. In 2001 alone, they drafted T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Justin Smith and Chad Johnson. In 2003, they drafted Carson Palmer.

In 2006, the team drafted two eventual Pro Bowlers in Johnathan Joseph (1st Round, 24th overall) and Andrew Whitworth (2nd Round, 55th overall). Their fourth round pick, Domata Peko, played until he was 36 years old and all three players played at least until that age, with Whitworth recently retiring as a Super Bowl champion at the age of 40.

Cincinnati Bengals
     
Round,
Selection,
PlayerSchoolDN Big Board
Rank/
Grade
‘Nasty’ Take:
1 (31)
Daxton Hill
S-Nickel/Michigan
11/1st Round
Hill, basically a starting nickel at Michigan on base downs, could get an opportunity to fulfill a variety of sub-package roles early in Cincinnati. Could they even experiment with him as a corner?
2 (60)
Acquired from Tampa Bay via the Bills
Cam Taylor-Britt
CB/Nebraska
53/2nd Round
Taylor-Britt is yet another fast, instinctive corner with safety experience. DC Lou Anarumo is cooking up different coverage/pressure concepts in his living room as we speed.
3 (95)
Zachary Carter
DE-DT/Florida
145/3rd Round
Carter's ability to slide up-and-down the defensive line for the Gators provided a blueprint for the Bengals. They could use him as a sub-package three-technique on third downs.
4 (136)
Cordell Volson
OT/North Dakota State
417/5th Round
Volson has the size, experience on the edges to become a factor as another swing offensive lineman for the Bengals, who have made it a priority to increase its interior offensive line depth in this year's draft.
5 (166)
Acquired from Arizona via Philadelphia through Houston via Chicago
Tycen Anderson
S-Nickel/Toledo
163/3rd Round
Anderson is yet another defensive back whose overall psyche never seemed to change when challenged inside. He played safety, corner and nickel for the Rockets and handled all of the roles adequately. He is the third Bengals defensive back with 4.3 speed (4.36).
7 (252)
Jeffrey GunterDE-OLB/Coastal Carolina178/4th RoundAt the beginning of the year, many expected Gunter to be a second-or-third-round draft pick, but he ends up potentially being a steal in the seventh round. He took a step back as a senior, but did show inside rush potential in the postseason.
2022 UDFA signings
Rank PlayerPositionsSchoolGradeRoundNasty’ Take
147Devin CochranOTGeorgia Tech, Vanderbilt5.7443rd RoundBlessed with an 86-inch wingspan, could Cochran forge his way onto the Bengals roster this summer? If so, he’ll have to beat talented backup OTs D’Ante Smith (one start) or Isaiah Prince (four starts).
387Shermari JonesRBCoastal Carolina5.095th RoundAt 215 pounds, there is a measure of upside running some of the two-back outside search or stretch concepts many teams employ. With the measure of acceleration he possesses in a 20-to-30-yard stretch, it is not out of the question that he could return kicks.
460Jaivon HeilighWRCoastal Carolina4.835th RoundHis route discipline and body control are aided by 32” arms. The first-team All-Sun Belt WR finished his career with 22 TDs.
462Clarence HicksLBUTSA4.825th RoundHicks often rushed off the edge and defeated tackles as a pass rusher one snap before walking out over the slot on the next play. Hicks was one of the most productive defenders in C-USA football.
474Jack SorensonWRMiami (Ohio)4.785th RoundThe strength is not where it needs to be, hence the continued durability issues. When he’s been healthy, Sorenson was one of the most dangerous receivers in the MAC. He finished with over 1,400 yards receiving this past season.
499Carson WellsOLBColorado4.686th RoundWells has all of the physical tools to perhaps work himself into a role as a stand-up Rush OLB. In 2021, he began to speed up the process as a rusher. Wells finished with 39 career tackles for losses.
532Ben BrownOC-OGOle Miss4.5676th RoundSnaps were a problem at center in 2020 before going down to injury. He has the size and overall quickness to perhaps find an interior role.
590Kendric PryorWRWisconsin4.286th RoundPryor didn’t get a lot of opportunities in a run-based offense, but finished his career with 99 receptions. He also averaged over 10 yards per carry on 40 rushes.
612Tariqious TisdaleDE-DTOle Miss4.1757th RoundTisdale runs in the 4.5-range at 290 pounds and began to flash in 2020. He never took the next step in 2021, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel.
677Stewart ReeseOG-OTFlorida, Mississippi State3.877th RoundReese, a multi-year starter at two different schools, is a people mover who needs to maintain his weight.
685Brendan Radley-HilesSWashington, Oklahoma3.7217th RoundRadley-Hiles exhibits a short memory and often came back from mistakes as a nickel back at two different stops. Is the size going to translate?
Delonte HoodCBPeru St, Toledo, Glenville StateN/AN/AHood posted eight interceptions at Glenville State in 2019. He ran in the 4.4-range during the postseason and registered eight passes defensed this past season.
Jordan WilsonTEFSU, UCLAN/AN/AAfter flashing early in his career, Wilson resurfaced at FSU. He has size, but can he win as a route runner?
Justin RiggTEKentuckyN/AN/AOne of the best blocking TEs in the draft, Rigg finished with 50 receptions in his career. He could potentially surprise and make the team. He finished with four TDs in 2021.
Cal AdomitisLSPittsburghN/AN/AHe is satisfactory in coverage and generally capable of getting players on the ground if needed. It’s all about the details for Adomitis, who is often seen replicating his short-snapping motion before putting his hands on the ball prior to field goals. He handled even fronts with late twists well dating back to 2019.
Desmond NoelOGFAUN/AN/AHas started at the LG spot. 31 reps at 225 pounds on his Pro Day. He will play through pain. Just 290 pounds. gets caught leaning at the point of attack in the run game (Marshall '20).

It wasn’t until the next decade began that the team got back on a roll, with three of its first five selections in 2010 becoming eventual Pro Bowlers. That group included tight end Jermaine Gresham and defensive end Carlos Dunlap. But they made up for the two-year drought by also drafting Geno Atkins in the fourth round (120th overall). Atkins became an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro.

And in 2011?

That draft yielded seven-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green and three-time Pro Bowler Any Dalton. Both players recently signed one-year deals at the ages of 33 and 34, respectively.

In 2012, Bengals first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick never made a Pro Bowl, but played through the age of 32. In fact, no players from this draft class ever made a Pro Bowl, but at least five players made it to the age of 30 years old in the NFL.

There have no doubt been misses along the way as well. The next four drafts (2013-2016) yielded just one Pro Bowler, Tyler Eifert (2013), and many of the team’s draft picks flamed out relatively quickly. However, in that same span, the team drafted a number of solid NFL starters that have found success either in Cincinnati or otherwise. Those names include, but are not limited to: Giovani Bernard (2nd Round, 37th overall, 2013), Rex Burkhead (6th Round, 190th overall, 2013), C.J. Uzomah (5th Round, 157th overall, 2015), William Jackson III (1st Round, 24th overall, 2016) and Tyler Boyd (2nd Round, 55th overall, 2016). A seventh-round pick from the 2016 draft class, Clayton Fejedelem, has carved out a respectable career.

In 2017, the team found a building block in Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon (2nd Round, 48th overall). Carl Lawson secured a payday with the New York Jets last offseason and Pro Bowl kicker Jake Elliott (5th Round, 153rd overall) has won a Super Bowl with the Eagles.

The jury is still out on the most recent drafts, but the selections of Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Evan McPherson all significantly contributed to the team’s Super Bowl appearance this past season.

Thus, the likelihood of this year’s draft class producing at least two quality starters remains possible. The Bengals added plenty of speed in the secondary, drafting three defensive backs who ran in the sub-4.4-range. Can Daxton Hill beat out incumbent nickel back Mike Hilton for the starting job? If not, then what about Jessie Bates III back deep along with either Hill or fifth-round choice Tycen Anderson. Depth was added along the offensive line the entire offseason and didn’t stop in the draft. NDSU’s Cordell Volson could realistically remain outside, but may very well provide depth on the interior. Zachary Carter put up nine sacks in 2021, but he’s been productive over a two-year period. This team understood that other than on the offensive line, there weren’t many needs on that side of the ball.

Arizona Cardinals 2022 NFL Draft/UDFA recap

The Cardinals felt that former Ravens WR Marquise Brown was worth the 23rd overall pick in the first round. He reunites with former college quarterback Kyler Murray. What should be noted is the move may have created more value within the draft. They picked up a second third-round pick as part of the trade, Cincinnati’s Myjai Sanders, and he could challenge for a starting job in a two-year period. In 2021 Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Cameron Thomas, the team secured a player quite capable of playing inside on third downs, if necessary.

Cameron Thomas DE Arizona Cardinals
Cameron Thomas won the MWC Defensive Player of the Year award in 2021.

Arizona may have also improved the depth of its interior offensive line late in the process. Two guards, Lecitus Smith and Marquis Hayes, were both still on the board in the seventh stanza. Can they provide competition for the team’s backup positions and add depth?

Arizona
Cardinals

     
Round,
Selection,
PlayerSchoolDN Big Board
Rank/
Grade
‘Nasty’ Take:
2 (55)
Trey McBride
TE/Colorado State
46/2nd Round
The John Mackey Award winner brings an advanced understanding of the position to the Cardinals. He can threaten defenses vertically or horizontally. Can he become a factor in the Red Zone?
3 (87)
Cameron Thomas
DE/San Diego State
100/3rd Round
Thomas, the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year, could bring a multi-faceted aspect to DC Vance Joseph's third down packages. Don't be surprised if he finds a way to create mismatches with Thomas.
3 (100)Myjai Sanders
OLB/Cincinnati
81/2nd Round
Did Sanders take the next step in school? Perhaps. But even if he didn't there is the possibility that the best is yet to come. The offsides penalties have to become a thing of the past.
6 (201)
Keaontay Ingram
RB/USC, Texas
328/5th Round
Ingram not so quietly averaged nearly six yards per carry (5.8 YPC) in 2021. This included a 138-yard effort against Notre Dame in late October.
6 (215)
Lecitus Smith
OG/Virginia Tech
148/3rd Round
The 6-foot-3, 320-pounder moves well enough and simply has to watch stay square in pass protection. There is an ability to create forward movement with leverage as a run blocker.
7 (244)
Christian Matthew
CB/Valdosta State, Samford, Georgia Southern N/A
Matthew certainly moved around quite a bit in school, but he found a rhythm for the Division II national runner-ups. The 6-toot-2 corner broke up three or more passes in three different contests. He contains OT-type length for the cornerback spot.
7 (256)
Jesse Luketa
LB/Penn State
282/4th Round
Luketa's move to pass rusher full-time ended with a strong performance in the postseason. His quick speed combines with upper body power to frustrate tackles and overcomes average natural bend.
7 (257)
Marquis HayesOG/Oklahoma
212/4th RoundHayes was accurate as a puller on the move from the left guard spot in the plethora of gap-schemed runs the team used during his time in school. Size gives him a chance to earn at the least a practice squad spot.
2022 UDFA signings
Rank PlayerPositionsSchoolGradeRound‘Nasty’ Take
276Darrell Baker, Jr.CB-S-NickelGeorgia Southern5.424th RoundNot many players are available after the draft with the combination of speed and size that Baker has in his tool kit. Gaining a feel outside at CB will be necessary, but he has also played safety effectively.
490Chandler WootenLBAuburn4.725th RoundWooten’s final year in school flashed improved instincts and feel for the exchange LB spot. He possesses solid blitz capability with length.
156Ronnie RiversRBFresno State5.723rd RoundRivers was banged on for a lack of height and undesirable measurements. He excels as an option route runner and flashes unique vision as a runner.
552Manny JonesDE-DTColorado State4.4916th RoundJones was largely ignored during the postseason after finishing his career with 33 tackles for losses. Why? It may have been due to playing out of position inside for the better portion of a two-year period. He brings some redeemable qualities in terms of one-gap potential.
451Javonta PaytonAll-Purpose (Gunner-WR)Tennessee, Mississippi State4.855th RoundWe felt that Payton’s all-purpose potential as a gunner made sense for some team late. He finished with 20 special teams tackles despite not playing them much as a senior at Tennessee. He flashed big play potential during that final year with 4.4 speed out wide (6 TDs).
369Chris PierceWR/H-backVanderbilt5.115th RoundPierce largely operated outside the numbers in school and had some contests (i.e. Florida in 2020, Colorado State ’21) where he looked like a draft pick. The team’s inconsistent passing game did him no favors.
705Jontre KirklinAll-Purpose (WR-Ret)LSU3.567th RoundHe’s played quarterback, WR and stood out on special teams in school. The explosive athlete could find his way if he impresses on special teams in camp.
428Kekaula KanihoNickelBoise State4.955th RoundThe nickel back’s instincts, change of direction and ball skills have never been the issue. The weight (181 pounds) contributed to him not getting picked late in the draft.
Cole BentleyOCLouisville N/AN/AVersatile. He has started at OC, RG, RT and LG while in school. He can stay frontal in pass protection but gave ground as a run blocker.
LaRon StokesDTOklahomaN/AN/AStokes largely went quiet the last two seasons from a statistical standpoint, but offers potential as a DE in three-man fronts at 280 pounds.
Stephon Robinson WRNorthwestern, KansasN/AN/ACould Robinson ever match his 2019 production at Kansas? During a dominant two-game stretch in that season, he posted six touchdowns.
Will Miles DECentral MethodistN/AN/AMiles’ size certainly translates to the next level and could land him an opportunity on the practice squad. The two-sport athlete has upside as a pass rusher with 36-inch arms.
Changa HodgeWRVirginia Tech, VillanovaN/AN/AHodge’s 2019 season still reverberates with teams. At Villanova, he went for 13 TDs during that season. Two season-ending injuries hurt his overall standing.

Overall, the fabric of the team’s roster only added pieces that complement what was already in place. The strategy seemed to be finding multi-year starters on the collegiate level to aid a roster full of burgeoning talent.

Hence the undrafted free agent signings of Darrell Baker, Jr., Ronnie Rivers and Kekaula Kaniho. Many of these may or may not make the team’s roster, but could add depth to its practice squad.

For a team that has endured depth issues in the second halves of seasons, it may prove to be a wise strategy.

Baltimore Ravens 2022 NFL Draft/UDFA recap

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta came away with potential impact players at nearly every position. At safety, the team got an instant starter in Hamilton and potentially another impact defender in Ojabo, who may be a year away from contributing. Linderbaum should be ready to compete for the center position and, if so, then Patrick Mekari and Trystan Colon-Castillo should battle for a backup spot.

Baltimore Ravens       
Round,
Selection,
PlayerSchoolDN Big Board
Rank/
Grade
‘Nasty’ Take:
1 (14)Kyle Hamilton
S/Notre Dame
15/1st Round
Hamilton multi-purpose skill-set can be used in a number of different facets and that will only expand the fabric of the team's defensive capabilities. He should assume the role left behind by former safety DeShon Elliott.
1 (25)
Acquired this pick from the Philadelphia Eagles for its 22nd overall pick
Tyler Linderbaum
OC/Iowa
38/2nd Round
Linderbaum has shown more than enough in a pro-style collegiate scheme. As long as his size doesn't prove to be a detriment, then he has a chance to turn into an instant starter.
2 (45)
David Ojabo
DE-OLB/Michigan
64/2nd Round
If not for an Achilles injury on Michigan's Pro Day, he may have gone higher. New DC Mike Macdonald contained a unique feel of what Ojabo brings to the table.
3 (76)

Travis Jones
OT/UConn
44/2nd Round
Jones contains the skill to work over the center as a zero-or-one-technique NG, but he can play over an OG at the three-technique on occasion.
4 (110)
Daniel Faalele
OT/Minnesota
50/2nd Round
Faelele's light-footed nature makes him hard to get around if the DE doesn't time the snap count. His weight will only become a factor if he doesn't keep himself under the 400-pound mark.
4 (119)
Jalyn Armour-Davis
CB/
Alabama
136/3rd Round
Armour-Davis took some of the shine from more-heralded teammate Josh Jobe in 2021. The time he took away from the field to develop were offset by durability hiccups. He could serve the nickel role for the Ravens on the outside.
4 (128)
Charlie Kolar
TE/Iowa State
115/3rd Round
Kolar has the savvy, ball skills and Red Zone productivity to match the size. To play for Baltimore the blocking has to be in place. This is the worst part of his game at this point.
4 (130)
Jordan Stout
P/Penn State
435/5th Round
Perhaps the best directional punter in this year's class, Stout's ability to execute fakes (see Michigan), kick the longer field goals and kickoff made him one of the most versatile specialists in this year's class.
4 (139)Isaiah Likely
TE/Coastal Carolina
92/3rd Round
Likely's field speed, run after the catch skill and size complement satisfactory blocking skills when on the move.
4 (141)Damarion "Pepe" Williams
CB-Nickel/Houston
194/4th Round
Williams was one of the more aggressive players from the secondary in this year's draft despite standing 5'10, 183 pounds. He can play corner, nickel or safety if needed. His change of direction is outstanding at any of the positions.
6 (196) Tyler Badie
RB/Missouri
177/4th Round
Badie registered rush totals of 34, 27 and 41 over a three-game stretch in 2021. His workhorse capability won't be needed in Baltimore, where he will have to fight for a roster spot in a deep room.
UDFA 2022 signings
Rank PlayerPositionsSchoolGradeRound‘Nasty ’Take
121Zakoby McClainLBAuburn5.8433rd RoundCan McClain fill a role that was never replaced on the Ravens defense by former LB Kenny Young?
192Makai PolkWRMississippi State, California5.654th RoundPolk was a solid route runner who finished with over 100 receptions (105) in Mississippi State’s Air Raid attack. He simply needs to prove that he can separate from bump-and-run coverage.
266Charles WileyOLBUTSA5.4484th RoundWiley could buy the team time in a Tyus Bowser-type special teams role while learning how to use his 4.5 speed defensively as a pass rusher. He has a chance to earn a role on the kickoff and punt teams.
285Raleigh WebbAll-Purpose (Gunner-WR)The Citadel5.364th RoundOne of the draft’s best pure athletes, it will all come down to how much Webb impresses at gunner and on the kickoff team during camp. After playing in a run-oriented scheme, he has to learn a lot about the receiver spot. The size and speed are in place.
297Jeremiah MoonOLBFlorida5.314th RoundIt’s not often that 6’5”, 250 pounders get into undrafted free agent status, particularly after broad jumping over 11-feet. That type of explosion is rare, but Moon only flashed at Florida and never developed into a game changer.
379Ricky PersonRBNC State5.15th RoundA consistent, non-flashy runner would be the description for Person. He can protect well enough and catches the ball well out of the backfield. He’ll have competition in camp to even make the practice squad.
411Josh RossLBMichigan5.015th RoundKnock the size, knock the foot speed and whatever else. Macdonald understands that Ross is a natural playmaker with the necessary instincts to compete for a roster spot.
455Anthony BrownQBOregon, Boston College4.845th RoundQuite possibly another undervalued free agent find at QB in the mold of Tyler Huntley, Brown won 25 games in his college career at two different stops.
544Slade BoldenWR/All-purposeAlabama4.536th RoundIt will be tough to earn the slot receiver role for the Ravens in a stacked receiver room. He has been a consistent contributor on special teams at Alabama for a three-year period.
563Aron JohnsonOTSouth Dakota State4.446th RoundJohnson was a key piece in South Dakota State’s 2020-21 spring national championship run and 2021 national semifinal appearance. His experience and technique were high points.
640Emeka EmezieWRNC State4.1017th RoundAt 6-foot-3, Emezie didn’t do much to excite during postseason workouts. NC State’s all-time leading receiver won with technique and length in school. The body control will have to win when covered up.
Rayshad Nichols DLStephen F. AustinN/AN/AThe Louisiana native did more than just start a number of games for the Lumberjacks. The All-LSC selection finished with 10 sacks and 15.5 TFLs in 2021.
Shamar BridgesWRFort Valley StateN/AN/AAt 6-foot-4, with 34” arms, Bridges runs in the 4.5 range. Basketball-type quickness off the line of scrimmage but then drifts coming back to the football (PBU allowed, HBCU Legacy ’22). When working in the slot, displays the ability to change speeds and has another gear. long stride gets up on DBs and put them into panic mode when running box fades at No. 2 slot.
Denzel WilliamsCBVillanova, Sacred HeartN/AN/AWilliams has 4.4 speed that allows him to play a little bigger than his 5’10, 180-pound frame. His quickness and playmaking skill may have been overshadowed by teammate Christian Benford, but he flashed after transferring from Sacred Heart.
Trevon ClarkWRCal N/AN/AIn 12 games, Clark averaged nearly 20 yards per catch in 2021. There have been drops through contact (Nevada), but he had his moments this past season.
David VereenCBNewberryN/AN/AVereen finished his final year on campus with 12 pass breakups. At 5’9, 190, can he make a favorable camp impression at a nickel spot?
Chris Moore S Georgia State, Virginia N/AN/AMoore produced at a relatively sustained level at two different schools, but never produced a breakout season.

Travis Jones DT Baltimore Ravens
Travis Jones surprisingly lasted until the third round, where the Baltimore Ravens selected him with the 76th overall pick.

In the secondary, does Houston’s Demarrion “PePe” Williams attempt to fill the role left by often-injured Tavon Young? The Ravens defensive line may have secured its biggest coup by securing UConn DT Travis Jones. The selection of Jalyn Armour-Davis continues a theme of drafting Alabama cornerbacks with the hope of them finding success within the defensive structure. Can he replace the production vacated by Anthony Averett?

Green Bay Packers 2022 NFL Draft/UDFA recap

The Packers went into the draft with the apparent emphasis on upgrading a defensive front seven that finished right outside of the Top Ten in rush defense. The physical similarities between current DT Kenny Clark and new draft pick Devonte Wyatt are striking. Second-round pick Christian Watson has a chance to blossom with his ability to track the football down the field. He needs to replace the deep strike potential of former Packer Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Chiefs).

The Packers definitely upgraded the depth at linebacker and on the offensive line. It would have been hard to imagine getting Rasheed Walker in the seventh round just two seasons ago. Rhyan in the third round feels like a huge find as well, but where does he start off at, guard or tackle? Either way, the team has increased competition at all of the interior line spots.

Former Wake Forest LT Zach Tom (pictured), aligned at center for the Demon Deacons in 2019. Where will he play for the Packers?

The team did not get the immediate return on investment with Amari Rodgers returning kickoffs a year ago. This means that Watson, fourth-round pick Romeo Doubs or even UDFA Tyler Goodson could all get looks to provide competition.

Green Bay Packers
     
Round,
Selection,
PlayerSchoolDN Big Board
Rank/
Grade
‘Nasty’ Take:
1 (22)Quay Walker
LB/Georgia49/2nd RoundWalker's combination of size and speed make the team's depth at linebacker now a strength defensively.
1 (28)
Devonte Wyatt
DT/Georgia22/2nd RoundDevonte Wyatt could become a legitimate complement to Pro Bowler Kenny Clark. If not, then a rotation player who spells him in a rotation at times.
2 (34)
Christian Watson
All-Purpose/North Dakota State23/2nd RoundChristian Watson's combination of body control and field speed make for a threat in a number of ways on the field. How will the team decide to employ him?
3 (92)
Sean Rhyan
OL/UCLA36/2nd RoundRhyan's run blocking prowess was supplemented with a technically-sound, yet quick-footed nature as a pass protector. If he moves to OG, he'll be battling two second-year starters for playing time.
4 (132)
Romeo DoubsAll-Purpose (WR-Ret)/Nevada149/3rd RoundDoubs' skill as a punt returner was often overshadowed by his deep receiving skills. He has tracked a number of deep passes 50-to-60 yards down the field effectively. In addition, he proved to be more than just a deep threat the last two seasons.
4 (140)
Zach Tom
C-OG/Wake Forest60/2nd RoundTom's experience at left tackle only enhances his value. His film working at the center position in 2019 was impressive as well. He ranks as one of the better swing lineman in this year's class.
5 (179)Kingsley Enagbare
DE/South Carolina 122/3rd RoundEnagbare's rare length (83 5/8" wingspan) could endear him on the edge as a depth piece for the team's outside linebacker position. Enagbare has stood up in school and he even played some LB on third downs.
7 (228)Tariq Carpenter
S-LB/Georgia Tech293/4th RoundCarpenter made the move to LB in the postseason and acquitted himself well. During his time in school, he was an active defender who made 41 career starts mostly at the safety position.
7 (234)Jonathan Ford
DT/Miami (Fla.)599/6th RoundFord has the flex capability to align up-and-down the defensive front. Ford posted three quarterback sacks back in 2019.
7 (249)Rasheed WalkerOT/Penn State107/3rd RoundTwo years ago, Walker had an opportunity to possibly be a higher pick. With that said, he could find a home as a third tackle for the Packers. . At the least, he increases their options during training camp.
7 (258)Samori Toure
WR/Nebraska, Montana 134/3rd RoundToure has the tools to be an effective WR in the cold of Green Bay after playing in Montana first (lows in the mid-twenties) and then Nebraska (mid-forties). Toure is smooth, but has to get stronger.
Packers 2022 UDFA signings
Rank PlayerPositionsSchoolGradeRoundNasty’ Take
415Tyler GoodsonRBIowa55th RoundGoodson’s foot speed, hard-charging style and underrated receiving ability (the team often aligned him at the X-WR) could make him hard to get rid of in training camp. Can the 4.4 speedster returns kicks?
678Caleb JonesOTIndiana 3.847th RoundIt will all come down to how Jones handles the speed aspect of the NFL game. At 6’8, 370 pounds, with nearly 37-inch arms, it is impossible to get around him if he measures up the opponent.
686Akial ByersDTMissouri3.727th RoundPostseason workouts did him no favors, but Byers’ work in school indicated a player well worth the price of admission. Byers fights through angle blocks well and has a feel for the action working inside at 310 pounds.
674Cole SchneiderOC-OGUCF3.9087th RoundSchneider competed with leverage, power and underrated athleticism despite being length-deficient in school. There are some similarities to former Packers OL Lane Taylor.
220Chauncey ManacDE-OLBLouisiana-Lafayette, Georgia5.574th RoundAnother former Georgia Bulldog in the 2022 draft class, Manac turned it on as a senior, finishing with 10 QB sacks and career-highs in tackles for losses.
175Ellis BrooksLBPenn State5.684th RoundBrooks size, foot speed and overall athleticism may not get high marks, but he was the heartbeat of Penn State’s defense.
372Tre SterlingSOklahoma State5.115th RoundSterling’s movement skills impress despite less than stellar workout numbers to match across the board. His change of direction drills match the smoothness you see from him. He missed a lot of time as a senior and that may have hurt his standing with NFL teams.
547Keke ChismWRMissouri, Angelo State4.526th RoundChism is a body control, jump ball specialist who doesn’t run extremely well until he builds to speed. His acrobatic TD catch in the 2021 Armed Forces Bowl is kind of what he brings to the table.
508B.J. Baylor RBOregon State4.656th RoundA one-year wonder at Oregon State, there is no shame in that label after leading the Pac-12 in rushing. He can make the slide cuts and crease defenses. Baylor has to improve in pass protection.
Hauati PututauDEUtahN/AN/APututau’s strength gets high marks, as does his size at over 6-foot-3, 310 pounds.
Danny Davis WRWisconsinN/AN/AFor a 6-foot receiver, he has range. Has made some incredible extension grabs on slant routes with range as a pass catcher (3rd and 7, 4th QTR/3:00, Penn State '21). Beat the man coverage of a longer CB on the play (Castro-Fields).
Raleigh TexadaCBBaylorN/AN/ACan he match up outside consistently? Struggles to disengage off of stalk blockers on the perimeter (2nd QTR/4:59, Texas Tech '21). Positive feet and patience to squeeze routes from the outside-in when playing man coverage (Kansas State '21). Bail technique is clean, smooth and capable.
Anthony TurnerWRGrand ViewN/AN/AThe 6-foot-3-inch wideout has some suddenness and feel for the WR spot. Despite playing against a lower level of competition, the NAIA All-American’s twitch on video stood out. His size translates to the next level.

Atlanta Falcons 2022 NFL Draft/UDFA recap

Can the Falcons now force teams to put their corners inside if they align both Kyle Pitts and Drake London at the slot positions? If nothing else, it could give away a number of pre-snap tendencies for the defense. Arthur Smith is drawing up formations as we speak.

But the Falcons needed much more than just an infusion of weapons on offense. They were pretty solid defensively, but the pass rush still lacked a bona fide star.

       
Atlanta
Falcons
Round,
Selection,
PlayerSchoolDN Big Board
Rank/
Grade
‘Nasty’ Take:
1 (8)
Drake London
WR/USC
8/1st Round
London's combination of route-running and athleticism are often clouded by speed concerns. The size and quickness could more than make up for the concerns.
2 (38)
Acquired from Carolina through the Jets via the Giants
Arnold Ebiketie
DE-OLB/Penn State, Temple
27/2nd Round
Ebiketie brings a unique blend of speed-to-power off the edge. While only an adequate bender, his hand usage and upper body strength were evident from the opening contest against Wisconsin through the season.
2 (58) Acquired from Tennessee
Troy Andersen
LB/Montana State
109/3rd Round
Andersen -an academic standout- has aligned at QB, LB and RB. He's even run by CBs as an X-WR (Texas Tech '19). The former Bobcat has to grow when it comes to anticipation at the LB spot reading the action.
3 (74)
Desmond Ridder
QB/Cincinnati
55/2nd Round
Ridder lost just seven of his 51 career outings. The foot speed is in place, but his strong arm shows much more capability if he can rein in the misses.
3 (82) Acquired from Indianapolis
DeAngelo Malone
OLB/Western Kentucky
98/3rd Round
Malone won two C-USA Defensive Player of the Year awards in school (2019, 2021) and finished with 34 sacks and nine forced fumbles. He also aligned at a number of spots in school.
5 (151)
Tyler Allgeier
RB/BYU
52/2nd Round
Allgeier got dinged for running a 4.6 40-yard dash, but his athleticism shone when the games were being played (1,606 yards, 5.8 YPC, 23 TDs). In fact, as a linebacker for the Cougars in 2019, he tallied 26 tackles, one forced fumble and one pass breakup. He has even shined in kickoff coverage (see USF '19).
6 (190)Justin ShafferOG/Georgia
300/4th RoundShaffer's consistent energy often outweighed any potential flaws in his game. If he can play under control, then he could challenge at least a backup spot in the team's rotation.
6 (213)John FitzPatrick
TE/Georgia
N/A
A very good in-line blocker, FitzPatrick began the season on the move for the 'Dawgs and continued to show incremental improvements with limited opportunities in the passing game. His size (6'7 262) makes him an imposing figure in two or three TE sets.
2022 UDFA Signings
DN Big Board Rank PlayerPositionsSchoolGradeRoundNasty’ Take:
287Tyler VrabelOTBoston College5.364th RoundVrabel started multiple years on the edge at left tackle, but fought through a tough knee injury for most of his final campaign. His quickness and hand-eye coordination impress, along with the size.
424Derrick TangeloDTPenn State, Duke4.9575th RoundWhile at Duke, the numbers didn’t truly reflect the impact that Tangelo could have on a game. Just like he did in the 2022 East-West Shrine Bowl, he can walk back OGs into the lap of quarterbacks with his speed-to-power exhibitions. Can he use that to develop an arsenal of pass rush moves around it?
366Stanley Berryhill IIIAll-PurposeArizona5.125th RoundBerryhill’s work at gunner, punt returner and wide receiver combined to make him one of our all-purpose players in the draft. Continuing to excel at gunner (at 185 pounds) could be a challenge.
333Brad HawkinsS-LBMichigan 5.185th RoundNot many players were as dependable as the former high school WR in college. Hawkins made a habit of showing up, setting a Michigan team record for game appearances. Despite that, he finished with zero career interceptions.
541Kuony DengOLBCalifornia4.536th RoundAfter starting his career on a fast pace, injuries took away the majority of the last two seasons for Deng. Can the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder turn into a pass rusher?
Kana’i MaugaLB USCN/AN/AMauga (6’1 245), finished with 91 tackles in 2021 on a defense that largely underperformed. He has enough size and range to potentially find a role in the league
Bryce RodgersDTUC DavisN/AN/ARodgers, a Palo Alto native, posted career-highs in tackles, sacks and tackles for losses.
Tre WebbDB Montana State, San Jose StateN/AN/ACommunicates in the pre-snap. Out of quarters coverage, he is satisfactory breaking from the inside-out to match. Long strider. Ran down Nevada's Toa Taua early in the 2020 MWC Championship game. Fits as the eighth man in the box (4th QTR, Boise State '19).
Tyshaun James WRCentral Connecticut StateN/AN/AJames could rank as a sleeper to make the team at 6’2, 214 pounds. His size is similar to current Falcons WR Cordarrelle Patterson. The game is a bit different but he does more than just passes on the field. He rushed for five TDs in 2019.
Jared BernhardtQBFerris State, MarylandN/AN/AThe former Maryland lacrosse star had one heck of a year at QB. He led Ferris State to a national crown and largely did it with his legs against Valdosta State in the national title game, rushing for three TDs. He set records on his way to being a Tewaaraton Award finalist at Maryland, when he scored 51 goals in 2019.

Defensively, it has been a never-ending story regarding the Falcons need for a pass rusher. In fact, they haven’t had a double-digit sack artist since Vic Beasley’s 15.5 sacks in 2016. That, coincidently, was the Falcons’ last Super Bowl appearance. Can Ebiketie, Carter or Ogundeji stop the trend? Maybe DeAngelo Malone, the team’s third-round pick, turns into the pass rusher they’ve been seeking for years to turn the corner.

No matter who it is, the team has definitely begun to address the issue at its core.