This was a primary for me. I haven’t completed a mailbag earlier than, however I loved this, primarily as a result of I obtained a whole lot of superior questions. I hated not answering all of them, however we’ll do that once more.

There are loads of enjoyable subjects coated right here (and extra to come back). Let’s get into it:

(Questions have been frivolously edited for type, readability and size.)

Who is a sleeper presently that you simply assume will rise, and who’s a sleeper that may keep a sleeper? — @TheRealOddbeam

The time period “sleeper” tends to be a shifting goal, as a result of it’s powerful to maintain observe of the general public narratives. Who is already being talked about? Who goes neglected?

Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness was considered one of my favourite prospects whom only a few had been mentioning, however after I put him at No. 25 in my updated top 50, I’m unsure he qualifies anymore. Same factor with South Dakota State tight finish Tucker Kraft, who’s an absolute stud and a dark-horse candidate to be the primary tight finish drafted. He was No. 35 on my preseason board and is No. 33 on my latest replace.

There aren’t many causes to observe the Stanford protection, however cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly is price trying out. Putting it in easiest phrases: I’m on the lookout for “feet and feel” once I consider the cornerback place. Kelly has electrical footwork to assemble and redirect with any sort of route, and his consciousness helps him make performs on the soccer. I count on him to rise all through the method as soon as extra folks get eyes on him throughout the all-star circuit and scouting mix.

A sleeper who will keep a sleeper? Maybe Shepherd quarterback Tyson Bagent or UTSA broad receiver De’Corian Clark, who’s a a lot better prospect than many understand. Clark suffered a doubtlessly critical leg damage final weekend, which might preserve him in that “sleeper” class all through the method (if he doesn’t return to highschool for a fifth season).

How excessive do you assume a few of these less-valuable positions like RB/TE get drafted, contemplating the expertise on the prime finish of these place teams this 12 months? — @BengalYouTube

All it takes is one workforce to view working again or tight finish because the “missing piece” for its offense. If a workforce has a excessive sufficient grade on a participant like Bijan Robinson or Michael Mayer, possibly it pulls the set off sooner than anticipated. I’ve sturdy doubts that both place will likely be drafted within the prime half of Round 1, although, due to how most groups worth these positions within the draft and since there needs to be high quality depth within the second- by means of fourth-round vary.

As I take a look at the present draft order, there aren’t many logical touchdown spots for a working again within the prime 15. Some have prompt the Eagles (utilizing the Saints’ decide), on condition that Miles Sanders is within the remaining 12 months of his rookie deal and the potential of a playmaker like Robinson in Philadelphia’s offense. But the Eagles haven’t drafted a working again within the prime 40 since 1986, which is extra organizational philosophy than coincidence.

GO DEEPER

NFL Draft order 2023 projections: How many teams in the current top 10 need a QB?

If Josh Jacobs walks, possibly Robinson could possibly be within the combine for Las Vegas. The Raiders’ roster development and blueprint underneath the brand new regime has been complicated, so nothing needs to be dominated out. Las Vegas additionally didn’t decide till No. 90 within the 2022 NFL Draft, which means there’s nonetheless loads unknown about how Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler would possibly assault the early rounds. McDaniels’ first-ever draft decide as a head coach, in Denver? Knowshon Moreno, the primary working again drafted within the 2009 NFL Draft (No. 12).

As for tight finish, Mayer will likely be an attention-grabbing projection. It received’t be laborious to make a case that he is without doubt one of the prime 20 gamers on this draft class, however that doesn’t imply he will likely be drafted that prime. He isn’t the identical sort of athlete as Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews — he doesn’t have their pace. But he’s a extremely proficient all-around participant. We additionally shouldn’t depart Georgia’s Darnell Washington or Kraft out of the dialog.

We can say with confidence {that a} working again and tight finish will likely be drafted larger this 12 months than both place was chosen in 2022. My early guess is that maybe we’ll see a number of picks (at each spots) within the again half of Round 1.

Who is your one participant who’s a prime expertise however might fall within the draft, like (Kyle) Hamilton or (Jordan) Davis final 12 months? — @HopLegion

To proceed my ideas from the earlier query: Mayer would possibly fall into the lap of a playoff workforce and find yourself as a steal, much like what occurred with middle Tyler Linderbaum final season. He was probably the greatest gamers within the class however fell to the Ravens at No. 25.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Notre Dame tight end greats agree: Michael Mayer is the best ever

Any likelihood Jahmyr Gibbs lasts till the second spherical? — @s37enscott

Sure, there’s a likelihood. We noticed well-liked working again prospects like D’Andre Swift and Jonathan Taylor fall out of the primary spherical (and into the early second) two years in the past. It simply comes right down to alternative. Plenty of groups received’t be on board with drafting an undersized working again in Round 1.

That stated, I consider Gibbs will likely be drafted within the first spherical. He is simply too dynamic of a weapon, as a runner and a receiver. The suddenness and management in his toes, alongside together with his imaginative and prescient and acceleration, make for a particular mixture. Gibbs is an offensive line’s finest buddy, with the best way he skillfully presses and units up his blocks. And he instantly will grow to be probably the greatest pass-catching backs within the NFL.

I’ve seen some criticism surrounding Will Anderson Jr. Is he nonetheless probably the greatest gamers, if not the finest participant, within the NFL Draft? — @JRodNFLDraft

For me, Will Anderson Jr. stays the No. 1 prospect within the 2023 NFL Draft. But he isn’t an ideal participant, by any means.

The space the place he wants probably the most enchancment is his tackling. It was a difficulty on his sophomore movie (I wrote about it in my summer positional preview), and it has been much more of an issue in 2022. Since the beginning of final season, Anderson has 24 missed tackles; he has a 30.8 missed-tackle fee this season. Finishing issues at each place, however particularly for a move rusher.

It was all the time going to be powerful for Anderson to duplicate his particular sophomore season, however he does rank third in school soccer in pressures, which is much more spectacular once you consider the best way groups recreation plan towards him. It occurred with Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett once they have been prospects: The hype reached a sure level that made them straightforward targets for criticism.

Georgia’s Jalen Carter is within the race, however Anderson continues to be the clear favourite to be the primary non-quarterback drafted in April.

Why are you attempting to trigger me focused and private ache by exposing Lukas Van Ness to the world, when he must be in Iowa City once more subsequent season? — @NickKendellMHH

Kirk Ferentz? Is that you simply? If I didn’t know higher (Nick does an incredible job covering the Broncos), I might guess that is the Iowa coach’s burner account. Even although Van Ness isn’t a starter for the Hawkeyes, he leads the workforce in pressures, sacks and tackles for loss and is clearly the most effective defensive lineman on the workforce. You know that teaching workers will likely be pushing for the third-year sophomore to return to highschool.

Van Ness may have a tricky resolution to make after the season. He is a real pressure participant, explosive off the ball with the pure energy in his body to undergo roadblocks. Obviously, he’s nonetheless younger, however I’ll guess on his traits within the prime 25 … and I’m guessing NFL groups will do the identical.

The Steelers clearly want expertise and depth at a number of positions throughout the roster. They are hardly ever on the prime of the primary spherical (currently at No. 4). What’s their finest use of that hypothetical slot? Thanks. — @Geoff Coons

The Steelers have been a mannequin franchise traditionally, however I used to be nonetheless shocked to see that they haven’t drafted a participant within the prime 5 since Terry Bradshaw went No. 1 in 1970. That’s greater than 50 years in the past! Time will inform if the Steelers in the end draft within the prime 5 in April, however it’s a lifelike risk.

What is the most effective use of that decide? Hope a beautiful quarterback is obtainable, then commerce again to choose up additional draft capital. If there isn’t a deal to be made, Carter can be an incredible match on that line of defense, together with his disruptive energy and motion expertise. Drafting Carter additionally would make sure that the Steelers’ line of defense stays a energy each time Cam Heyward strikes on.

Another participant who makes a ton of sense presently performs about two hours down the highway from Pittsburgh: Penn State left sort out Olu Fashanu. One of the youngest gamers within the draft (if he declares), the Maryland native is of course gifted for his dimension with the core energy, technical ability and intelligence to be a longtime NFL starter. Fashanu was No. 5 on my latest draft board.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Second-half predictions: Tomlin’s streak, Najee’s resurgence, Pickens’ production and more

What are your ideas on Brandon Joseph? He was a top-tier candidate after an incredible season at Northwestern however fell off the 12 months after, after which transferred to Notre Dame. Has he continued to fall or has he leveled off? — @MaloneMovies

Here’s the factor: Joseph has by no means been thought of a “top-tier” prospect by NFL groups. He simply doesn’t have the tape, and his bodily traits are strange. He had six interceptions in 2020 (which earned him All-America standing), so I perceive why he attracted media hype, however projecting a participant to the subsequent degree is clearly a lot completely different.

Personally, Joseph isn’t a participant I ever thought of for my prime 50 or perhaps a prime 100. I’ve by no means seen that sort of prospect, and I feel he’s extra within the late-round dialogue. He is likely to be perceived as a “faller,” however the actuality is the media has been a lot larger on him than these within the NFL.

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Andre Carter II has 22.5 profession tackles for loss and 18 sacks. (Danny Wild / USA Today)

What is (Army edge) Andre Carter II’s army service dedication, and the way does it have an effect on his draft inventory? — @tnnaterau

Over the years, the reply to this query has modified a number of instances in relation to the NFL.

In 2017, Air Force broad receiver Jalen Robinette went by means of the NFL Draft cycle and was anticipating to be chosen within the late rounds. After a late change to the method, although, the Air Force notified Robinette getting into Day 3 of the draft that his waiver to defer army service had been denied. Since then, the rule has been adjusted once more and now permits gamers to postpone obligatory service to allow them to pursue a profession in skilled sports activities.

Air Force defensive lineman Jordan Jackson was taken within the sixth spherical of the 2022 draft by the Saints, and 4 different service academy gamers signed contracts with NFL groups as undrafted free brokers.

So, to reply your query: Yes, NFL groups are shifting ahead with the expectation that Carter will likely be allowed to defer his army dedication and play within the NFL. Considered a Day 2 prospect, Carter must develop his body and enhance his consistency towards the run, however his size, athleticism and energy are nice locations to begin for a developmental move rusher.

Has (Oregon QB) Bo Nix’s draft inventory improved? — @ffmattprice

When I checked in with scouts over the summer season, Nix had a number of followers who believed he can be combating for a spot within the 2023 NFL Draft. I wasn’t as optimistic after watching his Auburn tape from final season and this 12 months’s opener towards Georgia (with Oregon). However, Nix has completely modified the narrative since Week 1. Over the previous eight video games, Oregon has scored 40-plus every trip, and Nix has mixed for 36 touchdowns (22 passing, 13 speeding, one receiving).

Nix was all the time an instinctive athlete, however this season he’s proven an improved really feel for creating performs whereas additionally throwing with placement downfield. Bottom line: It appears like Nix is having enjoyable, and that has translated to manufacturing and successful. From a scouting perspective, he has gone from a borderline decide to a prospect who ought to count on to listen to his title referred to as on draft weekend.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Who is your Heisman favorite based on these blind resumes?

Where does Jack Campbell fall in your massive board? He’s a famous person for Iowa and has the requisite dimension, however does he have the athletic profile to be a difference-maker within the NFL? — @BearChiDown

With his play instincts and toughness, I feel Campbell goes to play within the NFL past his rookie contract. But his grades from across the league are principally within the third- or fourth-round vary. His pace is common, and his lack of splendid agility reveals when he’s attempting to keep away from blocks. He additionally tends to attend for the ball service to come back to him, which permits the working again to make a transfer within the gap or provides blockers an opportunity to achieve him.

But like I stated, Campbell is a top quality participant due to his anticipation. It helps him mirror on the line of scrimmage or discover passing lanes in protection. If I put collectively a top-150 record proper now, I might guess he’d match someplace within the 75-to-125 vary.

How many RBs do you assume get drafted, as this class appears very deep? Who are a few of your favourite RBs possibly flying underneath the radar proper now? — @sommaz94

Over the previous 5 years, a mean of 21.2 working backs have been drafted. Obviously, the underclassmen declarations will vastly affect this place, however I might take the over in 2023.

There have been solely three working backs drafted within the prime 90 final 12 months, however this draft class might triple that quantity. Robinson, Gibbs, Devon Achane (Texas A&M) and Zach Evans (Ole Miss) all made my prime 50 and are squarely within the early-round dialogue. After that, there are a number of different working backs with a powerful likelihood of touchdown on Day 2: Blake Corum (Michigan), Zach Charbonnet (UCLA), Sean Tucker (Syracuse), Eric Gray (Oklahoma), Tank Bigsby (Auburn) and Kenny McIntosh (Georgia).

That’s 10 names proper there.

But there’s much more depth on the place. Chase Brown (Illinois) has boosted his draft inventory with the best way he pairs his imaginative and prescient and acceleration to clear holes. Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Kentucky) is an average-burst runner, however his bodily construct and footwork match the James Conner mildew. There are a number of juniors who will consider in the event that they determine to go professional, like Kendre Miller (TCU), Evan Hull (Northwestern) and Deuce Vaughn (Kansas State).

As far as flying underneath the radar, Roschon Johnson (Texas) can do every little thing, together with speeding, receiving, blocking and taking part in particular groups, which is able to make him go larger than most assume. I’ve additionally been a giant fan of DeWayne McBride (UAB) since learning him over the summer season, and his contact steadiness is among the many finest in school soccer.

I’m bullish on this working again class, as a result of it ought to present star energy on the prime and depth all through seven rounds.


Three must-see NFL prospects this weekend

1. Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon (vs. Washington, 7 p.m., ET FOX)
With his size and athleticism, Gonzalez has the traits to warrant a spot within the first spherical. But one of many fundamental questions together with his analysis: Can he persistently discover and make performs on the ball? He did an incredible job in that space final week by choosing off two passes towards Colorado (his former workforce), however scouts are hoping to see it towards a extra proficient passing assault. Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. leads the FBS in passing yards (3,232) and has thrown solely 5 interceptions.

2. DeMarvion Overshown, LB, Texas (vs. TCU, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
TCU has one of the vital productive offenses in school soccer this season, with a top-five rating in complete offense (508.7) and scoring offense (43.1). For Texas to decelerate the Horned Frogs, Overshown might want to play an entire recreation. Though he could be inconsistent together with his take-on and ending, the Longhorns’ linebacker flies across the subject like he was shot out of a cannon. Some scouts consider Overshown will likely be a Day 2 draft decide.

3. Jared Verse, edge, Florida State (at Syracuse, 8 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
After a powerful begin to the season, Syracuse left sort out Matthew Bergeron has been inconsistent towards higher move rushers over the previous three video games (Clemson, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh). He will likely be examined once more on this matchup with Verse, who flashes explosive traits on each tape. An FCS switch, Verse must play extra managed to have extra consistency as a finisher, however he’s fast off the ball with energy by means of his body. This will likely be a must-watch tape for scouts to judge each Verse and Bergeron.

Stat of the Week

There are 20 broad receivers in school soccer with a minimum of eight touchdowns. Only three have fewer than two drops.

One is Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., who has but to register a drop this season. He can be WR1 on this draft class however isn’t eligible till the 2024 NFL Draft. The different two on that record are draft-eligible: Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt, who leads the FBS with 14 receiving scores and has just one drop on 66 targets; North Carolina’s Josh Downs, who leads the FBS with an 84-percent success fee (63 receptions on 75 targets) as a move catcher. After 10 drops final season, Downs has only one in 2022.

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Kyu Blu Kelly has 26 tackles, 5 move breakups and a compelled fumble this season. (Stan Szeto / USA Today)

Prospect trending up …

Aforementioned Stanford fourth-year senior CB Kyu Blu Kelly is a tall, lengthy and lean athlete, with the excellent toes to play managed and follow routes. While scouts might query if he has elite lengthy pace, and his play energy is barely common, Kelly does an incredible job working by means of the palms of receivers to be disruptive on the catch level.

Along together with his expertise and testing numbers, Kelly comes from NFL bloodlines. His father, Brian, performed 11 years within the NFL and received a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers. Some within the league consider the youthful Kelly is trending towards being the primary senior drafted at his place in April.

Prospect trending down …

It has been a tough, injury-filled 12 months for senior tight ends. Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave has been sidelined for many of the season with a knee damage. Michigan’s Erick All required surgical procedure to handle a regarding again difficulty. And now, Old Dominion fifth-year TE Zack Kuntz (knee) is completed for the season.

Kuntz, a Penn State switch, is a freak athlete at 6-foot-8, 250 kilos and was anticipated to be a mid-round draft decide. Depending on the severity of the damage, although, he is likely to be sideline for many or the entire draft course of. Just a brutal blow for a extremely promising participant.

Scouting Lingo

“Y” vs. “F” tight ends

Depending on the offensive system and training tree, there’s differing terminology. Generally talking, nonetheless, there are two primary buckets for tight ends:

1) The “Y” or “combination” tight finish, which is the extra conventional model of that place, lining up inline and contributing as each a blocker and receiver. Mayer and Darnell Washington, each Y prospects, are presently the 2 highest-graded TEs on my top-50 board.

2) The “F” or “joker” tight finish, which is extra of a hybrid ability participant and could be aligned throughout the formation. Blocking continues to be a requirement, however the participant’s athleticism and receiving expertise are extra essential. Utah’s Dalton Kincaid is an F tight finish with receiver-like athleticism, route working and catch-point expertise.

Rookie Revisited

The Buccaneers’ offense has vastly missed Rob Gronkowski, however rookie TE Cade Otton has been steadily incomes the belief of Tom Brady. The stat sheet has mirrored that. Midway by means of the season, Otton leads all rookie tight ends in receptions (23) and receiving yards (246). On Sunday, he scored his first landing (and the primary by a Bucs’ tight finish in 2022).

Here is the abstract from Otton’s scouting report within the 2022 NFL Draft Guide:

A four-year starter at Washington, Otton spent the vast majority of his time inline together with his hand on the bottom in former offensive coordinator John Donovan’s pro-style scheme. After a productive sophomore 12 months underneath Chris Petersen, he was criminally underutilized the final two years, averaging solely 8.9 yards per catch as a senior (solely 46.4 % of his receptions resulted in a primary down or landing). The grandson of the all-time winningest highschool head coach within the state of Washington, Otton is stout and athletic within the passing recreation as each a route-runner and blocker, and he’s bodily to the soccer with the hand energy to maintain catches by means of contact. He is comfy doing the soiled work, however too typically he clutches together with his palms whereas his stagnant toes try and catch up. Overall, Otton lacks dynamic traits earlier than or after the catch, however he’s a catch-point finisher, nuanced route-runner, and he takes his blocking duties significantly. He initiatives as a prototypical Y tight finish within the NFL.

Quotable

“Throw it out. There’s nothing to learn on that tape.” — Unsurprisingly, that was the response from an NFL scout when requested about C.J. Strouds performance against Northwestern last Saturday. The Ohio State quarterback managed only 76 passing yards and 38.5 percent completions, as the weather conditions (rain and 40 mph winds) made it extremely challenging to complete simple throws. When teams debate Stroud in draft rooms, the Northwestern tape won’t be an element.

(Top photograph of Michael Mayer: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)



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