So, how good is this QB draft class? Bob McGinn talks to the scouts…
Nobody covers the NFL draft quite like Bob McGinn. He kicks things off with a look at who he believes will be the first 50 players drafted. First up, the offense.
Good morning, readers! A quick note here from Tyler. As of today, you can read Go Long in the new Substack app for iPhone:
This app will give you a personal inbox for everything posted at Go Long — as well as any other newsletters you read on the Substack platform. You can still get everything in your email or at GoLongTD.com, of course. But in the app, no new posts will ever get lost in your spam folder or cut off on email. Don’t have an Apple device? The Android waitlist is right here.
Most NFL drafts are remembered for the quarterbacks they produced, and the class of 2022 likely won’t be an exception.
The following is an early guess at the first 23 players on offense to be drafted; the first 27 players on defense, comprising the top 50, will follow. Five quarterbacks made the list, a result of the value of the position and not the value of the player.
Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett is a first-round quarterback in some drafts and a top-50 prospect in almost all drafts. The other four quarterbacks are included in the top-50 almost solely because of the position they play.
“This is the worst group I think I’ve ever done,” a long-time executive in personnel said. ”The only one that has a chance legitimately is Pickett. He’s the only starter. But, in a typical year, he’d be more of a second-round pick.”
This projected top-50 will lead to my NFL Draft Series, which I’ve been assembling annually since 1985. That nine-part series can be found only at GoLongTD.com. It will begin about 10 days before the draft, which is scheduled April 28-30.
The interviews for the projected top-50 were conducted between Feb. 25 and March 2. My rankings were influenced to an extent by the workouts at the combine, which started March 3 and concluded March 6. All the remarks by the handful of scouts were made before the combine workouts; they were judging players off tape and live exposure, not workouts.
These rankings can and will change substantially over the next seven weeks primarily after pro days as teams obtain missing 40-yard dash times, testing results, medical information and additional data. Heights were rounded to the nearest half-inch; quarter-inch measurements were rounded down (6-2 ¼ to 6-2, 6-2 ¾ to 6-2 ½).
Players were ranked in order within each position.
Wide receivers (7)
Garrett Wilson, Ohio State (5-11 ½, 183): Reminded one scout of DeVonta Smith, the former Alabama wideout who was drafted No. 10 by the Eagles last year. “The word is explosive,” that scout said. “Talented receiver with quickness and run after the catch. If he runs in the 4.3’s he could possibly go in the top 10. He just isn’t big.” Ran the 40 in 4.38 seconds at the combine in Indianapolis. “It’s a toss-up between Wilson and London as first to go,” another scout said. “He’s really good. He’s smaller, but he’s fast and explosive. There’s a lot of T.Y. Hilton to him. He can play inside or outside.”
Drake London, Southern California (6-4, 219): Had his spectacular junior season cut short after eight games by a broken ankle. Two scouts said he was better than Michael Pittman, his former teammate at USC who became the Colts’ leading receiver in 2021. “First-rounder, slam dunk,” one scout said. “I loved him last year and I loved him this year. He’s got body control, balance, hands, run after the catch. He can rebound. He’ll be like Jordy Nelson, maybe a little faster (Nelson ran 4.54 in 2008).” Had 88 receptions for 1,084 yards (12.3) and seven touchdowns this season. Compared to Mike Evans by a third scout. “He reminds me of Cooper Kupp,” said a fourth scout. “He’s the big dude. He’s productive as can be and his competitiveness is off the charts. For a big guy he really runs great routes. He has great hands. Plays big. Some people will question if he has top, top speed, but who cares? He just gets open and catches everything. Kupp isn’t a silky-smooth athlete. This guy isn’t, either, but he’s so efficient.”
Treylon Burks, Arkansas (6-2, 225): It remains to be seen if teams hold his 4.55 40 against him. “I estimate he’ll run 4.55,” said one scout who had Burks wired. “Big-play ability. Reminds me of Mike Evans the way he makes all those contested catches. The quarterback was not a good passer but he still caught 66 passes for 1,104 yards. He’s something similar to Julio Jones. Jones had that deceptive speed.” Returned punts (10.3) and kickoffs (20.5) as a true freshman. Also rushed 38 times from what was often a slot location. “He’s the wild card with all this injury shit,” said a second scout. “He is really, really interesting. You don’t think he’s that fast because he’s got kind of a big ass and lower body. But, damn, he just runs by everybody.” A third scout described Burks as “a gadget guy” from the mold of Cordarrelle Patterson. “Kind of an A.J. Brown look to him,” said a fourth scout. “He’s got some build-up speed but he’s not a quick route runner. They did a lot of gadget stuff with him. Why I don’t know because he doesn’t really have those kind of run skills. Inconsistent hands. Needs some development.”
Chris Olave, Ohio State (6-0 ½, 187): Played off the bench as a freshman before hauling in 32 TD passes from 2019-’21 as a three-year starter. “He should have come out last year,” said one scout. “He would have been right up there. Like him. Not top magic with the ball in his hands but a really good player. He’s not a No. 1 receiver but you’d love to have him. Not explosive like (Jameson) Williams but he can still really run.” Clocked 4.39 at the combine. “He’s going to be a better pro than Wilson,” another scout said. “I say that because for some reason the quarterbacks there loved Olave. It’s probably dependability. They knew he’s always going to be there.” Added a third scout: “You use caution with a one-year production guy, particularly if he’s an underclassman. This kid has played and produced since he got on campus, and he’s made big plays in big games.”
Jameson Williams, Alabama (6-1 ½, 179): Played behind Olave and Wilson in two seasons at Ohio State before transferring. “He’s the exact opposite of Drake London,” one scout said. “He looks kind of thin but he’s the most explosive of all the receivers. He’s just electric. Big-time playmaker. He can run through any defense. He likes to body (catch) it some but he has good enough hands. He just has a gear … he’s got that DeSean Jackson type (gear). ‘Doesn’t matter. I’m just gonna run by everybody.’” Suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the national championship game. “He would have been really close to the top wide receiver,” a second scout said. “He is a vertical nightmare. Now you’ve got to discount him. Second round.” Averaged 19.9 yards on 79 receptions, returned two kickoffs for touchdowns while averaging 35.2, and covered kicks.
Jahan Dotson, Penn State (5-10 ½, 178): Improved each season with reception totals of 13 in 2018, 27 in ’19, 52 in ’20 and 91 in ’21. “Maybe he sneaks in the first but more of a second rounder,” said one scout. “Damn good player. Not a real big guy but his ball skills are probably the best of the group. He is super fast and a good route runner. He’s a little bit small vs. press but you can do some stuff with him as far as bringing him out of the slot and motioning him. The speed you’ve got to respect. Been a (punt) return guy. If you get him in the second you’ll be really happy.” Ran 4.43. Finished the 2020 season weighing 173. Team-first, non-diva approach. “He’s just a guy,” said a second scout. “They scheme him open. Average size, average athlete, average speed. Does everything kind of average.”
John Metchie, Alabama (5-11, 187): Born in Taiwan, grew up in Africa and now living in Canada. “He’s more of a combo guy,” one scout said. “Inside-outside, X-Z-slot. He can do it all.” Had six catches for 97 yards and one TD against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game before suffering a torn ACL. Did interviews at the combine, expects to be cleared medically by June with no restrictions. “He’s a possession receiver but he’s quick,” said another scout. “Runs good routes. He doesn’t have top speed or explosion. We won’t find out his speed now.” Productive two-year starter. “More of a chain mover,” said a third scout. “Good football player. I don’t know how you can take him that high (first round).”
Tight ends (0)
Offensive line (10)
Ickey Ekwonu, T-G, North Carolina State (6-4, 310): Worked out well in Indy with a 4.93 40, a 29-inch vertical jump and a 9-0 broad jump. “He’s the most talented,” said one scout. “He does stuff you go, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ He’ll destroy guys, run ‘em off the sideline and bury ‘em. In pass pro he can just move and slide and punch. He’s just real inconsistent with his technique. He kind of gets top-heavy and lunges and misses things. But it’s all there for this guy to be just a dominant, Pro Bowl kind of player.” His parents are from Nigeria; his father is a doctor. He was accepted at Harvard and Yale but chose the athletic scholarship at NC State. “He’s got incredible smarts, he’s tenacious and willing to finish,” said a second scout. “He can play tackle or guard so his value increases. It’ll all come down to arm length.” His arms measured 34 inches in Indy. ”Kind of like Rashawn Slater,” said a third scout. “Slater was a Pro Bowler. This kid is not as good as Slater but he’s a good player. He almost plays like a guard, and he’s sort of built like a guard. His athleticism is so good and his feet are so good and he’s so light on his feet.”
Evan Neal, T, Alabama (6-7 ½, 337): Started at LG in 2019, RT in ’20 and LT in ’21. “He’s clearly the best offensive lineman in the draft,” said one scout. “He can play anywhere you want. Weight will be the only issue with him – kind of like Mekhi Becton. He was in the 340s this year. He’d be all right in the 320s.” Does he pancake people? “No, I just see him making his block,” the scout replied. “Did Anthony Munoz get after people? No, but he always made his block. Tony Boselli didn’t always get after people but he always made his block.” Average arm length (34 inches) for his height. “Moving in space he’s top-heavy,” said a second scout. “He’s on the ground a lot. Last year, as a right tackle, he was on the ground most of the time. (Alex) Leatherwood was a better player last year at left tackle than this guy. He had better movement and quickness. He’s big, but I don’t see quickness and I certainly don’t see anything on the second level downfield.” Added a third scout: “He’s decent for being so big but he just is not a quick mover. He’s not particularly strong. For being that big you better be kicking ass and destroying people. He kind of gets on blocks and can’t really adjust much. He doesn’t have much violence to him. He doesn’t have much competitiveness to sustain. He fells off a lot of his blocks and guys just work him over.”