Our trip to revisit rookies around the league now takes us to retirement communities, the bayou, the NASCAR hall of fame, and the site of the 2023 CFP Final.
|2||38||Arnold Ebiketie||EDGE||Penn St.||Active|
|2||58||Troy Andersen||LB||Montana St.||Active|
|3||82||DeAngelo Malone||EDGE||Western Kentucky||Active|
UDFA: WR Jared Bernhardt, iDL Timmy Home, LB Nate Landman
New GM Terry Fontenot tried to replicate one of his predecessor’s trademark moves by drafting the high-profile, big-bodied WR prospect early in the first round. WR Drake London was injured during the evaluation process but enters the season ready to be the #1 option in the Falcons’ new-look offense. The long but athletic receiver’s noticeably fluid movement skills were developed while practicing with the USC basketball team. The team hopes that QB Desmond Ridder develops into a starter to throw to London. Ridder led Cincinnati to the first G5 CFP appearance a year ago despite his messy mechanics and poor platform. RB Tyler Allgeier fell in the draft because he lacks any notable athletic traits. But, he may have the best vision among backs in this class. He has a knack for squeezing every yard out of a run, no matter how poorly blocked. Jared Bernhardt‘s position can best be described as a “weapon.” The former Tewaaraton award winner will start as a return specialist but should find a gadget role eventually.
EDGEs Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone hope to provide a spark to the Falcons’ sluggish pass-rush. Both are twitchy rushers who rely solely on speed. Ebiketie has better size and heft and more potential to develop an arsenal of techniques. Malone is thin and will need to consume his peanut butter, but his acceleration will give him a role in obvious passing situations. LB Troy Andersen has all the athleticism you’d expect from a converted safety and more. His skill set includes plus pass coverage and a ridiculous 4.42 40-yard.
|1||6||Ikem Ekwonu||OL||North Carolina St.||Active|
|4||120||Brandon Smith||LB||Penn St.||Active|
|6||189||Amare Barno||EDGE||Virginia Tech||Active|
UDFA: iDL Marquan McCall
The Panthers came into the 2022 NFL Draft with one goal: add players to protect the QB. Newly-acquired Baker Mayfield will play behind a much-improved Carolina OL. OL Ikem Ekwonu is raw but should start immediately and learn on the job. A physical freak of nature, Ekwonu is larger and more agile than normal human beings should be. He will need to learn the finer nuances of pass protection to reach his full potential. OL Cade Mays has a surprisingly similar skillset to the more highly-regarded Ekwonu. He is also a large man with light feet who will need to learn to manage cushions and pick up stunts to find playing time. However, Mays’ stiffness will likely necessitate a move inside, where he will need a lot more time to learn a new position.
QB Matt Corral was my top-rated QB in this draft class. Although he has an odd-looking release, he has the mobility and arm talent that I believed provided a balance that no other signal-caller had. His long-term projection will have to wait another season while he rehabs a Lisfranc injury suffered during the preseason.
EDGE Amare Barno and LB Brandon Smith are both lightning bolt athletes that have no idea how to play the game of football. Barno ran one of the fastest 40-yard dashes at the Combine while listed as a defensive lineman. But if you watch his tape, he rushes with reckless abandon, selling out to bend around the edge without a backup plan. With a thin frame that won’t support much more weight, he will have a limited role and will face an uphill battle his entire career. Smith is fast, strong, and tall. If he could learn to recognize where a play is going, he could get to spots before the offense with ease. The Panthers will need to teach Smith how to read his keys and instill some instincts in the raw linebacker.
New Orleans Saints
|1||11||Chris Olave||WR||Ohio St.||Active|
|1||19||Trevor Penning||OL||Northern Iowa||Active|
|5||161||D’Marco Jackson||LB||Appalachian St.||PUP/NFI/IR|
|6||194||Jordan Jackson||iDL||Air Force||Cut/Waived|
UDFA: OL Lewis Kidd
WR Chris Olave was my favorite wideout going into the 2022 NFL Draft. Although he may fly away if the linemen start breathing too hard, he is the perfect plug-and-play wideout for the Saints’ system. Olave is an excellent route runner with plus speed to create separation at any level of the field. OL Trevor Penning was one of the more polarizing prospects in the draft class. Some loved his physicality, athleticism, and mean streak. Others disliked his lack of refinement and his propensity for throwing defensive linemen at his QB’s knees. CB Alontae Taylor is a long and physical corner who many considered a candidate for a position switch. That versatility will surely be utilized on this roster, especially with the vacancy left by CJ Gardner-Johnson. LB D’Marco Jackson may be injured but has a floor of a special-teams contributor and a ceiling of upper-end starter in the NFL. The chase-and-tackle linebacker will have a chance to learn from one of the best in Demario Davis.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|2||57||Luke Goedeke||OL||Central Michigan||Active|
|3||91||Rachaad White||RB||Arizona St.||Active|
|5||157||Zyon McCollum||CB||Sam Houston St.||Active|
UDFA: LB Olakunle Fatukasi
It is shocking how good teams with stable organizations continuously find values and steals late in the draft. RB Rachaad White’s performance over the offseason was strong enough for the Buccaneers to cut Ronald Jones, who had been living in the doghouse for the past few years. White is quick but not necessarily fast. He makes the most of his carries by pairing his agility with creative vision to find yardage that’s not even there. TE Cade Otton was another value according to consensus rankings. He doesn’t have some of the freaky athletic traits of some of the TEs in the 2023 class, but he does have a methodical productiveness to his game. With nuance in his route-running and sure hands, Otton is a candidate to replace Rob Gronkowski’s production in the long run. TE Ko Kieft definitely has Viking blood in his lineage and plays with that gritty toughness that was so prevalent among his ancestors. He’ll primarily be a blocking tight end and is unlikely to see the field. OL Luke Goedeke had a straight path to immediate playing time after injuries to Ryan Jensen and Robert Hainsey. He works best in a phone booth and has very good play strength.
EDGE Logan Hall seems to fit the Bucs like a glove and could quickly become a Todd Bowles favorite. A tweener, Hall can play inside on passing downs and set the edge in other situations. His surprising bend should cause problems for the inexperienced tackles in the division. CB Zyon McCollum has a perfect 10.0 Relative Athletic Score, with elite size and speed. He will need time to adjust to the NFL after playing at Sam Houston State, but look for him to make an early impact on special teams. Speaking of special teams, P Jake Camarda is an interesting prospect to dissect. Punting for Georgia during a championship run likely resulted in his poor distance and return yards numbers, punting from either deep or in plus territory. However, with better kick coverage units, his plus hang-time likely translates to better numbers at the next level.