From Malik Willis to Kyle Hamilton, the NFL Draft prospects are likely to reach and steal

The NFL Draft is an unstable creature, and it’s always like that, there are both surprises in the late round that develop into long-term starters and first-round busts that don’t last for a long time. Evaluation is, after all, an imperfect science.

But sometimes evaluation is not necessarily to blame. Instead, a specific front office’s laser focus on a particular customer is at odds with the larger draft community. This often happens near the top of the draft as players like Blake Bortles, Baker Mayfield, Mitchell Trubisky and Sam Darnold all went well ahead of their consensus rank. It also happens at other positions, as teams have disagreed when signing players like Clelin Ferrell, Dante Fowler, Justin Gilbert and Ereck Flowers.

Of course, this does not necessarily mean that teams are wrong when they think the way they do. Josh Allen, Kyler Murray and Patrick Mahomes were all appointed prior to consensus. Outside of quarterback, players like Ryan Kelly, Byron Jones, Kolton Miller and Garrett Bolles also proved to be eligible.

But it seems that players drafted well before this consensus more often than not tend to underperform. The two teams that have been most out of consensus in recent years have been the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks – two franchises with excellent recent stories on the field, but not in the draft room, where they have produced several mediocre classes.

We do not know what the teams will do in the draft, but those with their ears to the ground have an idea of ​​what might happen at different points. Using this information, dozens of fake drafts have been produced and we can compare this data, collected by Benjamin Robinson at Grinding the Mocks, to see which players are mocked higher or lower than their consensus rating. Let’s see if we can find some stealers or warn of potential reach in the 2022 NFL Draft:

Stealing

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame (No. 4 by consensus, No. 10 by mockery)

It’s pretty rare to see a player identified as a stealer who can still be drafted into the top 10, but that’s exactly what’s happening to Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. His disappointing 40-yard dash times in the NFL combination and his professional day seem to have scared the forecasts from making Hamilton a top-five pick who is instead content to let him drop to 10th on average. . Hamilton is a safety who emphasizes his ability to get quickly to every point on the pitch, and his impressive range vaulted him up the boards before the out-of-season drafting process. The slow 40-yard line did not deter evaluators, but could deter teams.

Cole Strange, OL, Chattanooga (No. 68 by consensus, No. 115 by mockery)

One of the most athletic linemen in the class, Strange has several obstacles in the way of his NFL overtime. The first is that he is expected to play center of most analysts, but that he only played that position in one game in six years of college football. Not only that, his age (23.7 years old on the day of the draft), level of competition and relative lack of power can scare some NFL teams. But his training and athletics have nevertheless impressed judges.

Damone Clark, LB, LSU (No. 97 by consensus, No. 192 by mockery)

It is not surprising to see this split given the news that Clark will undergo back surgery, which is likely to prevent him from playing in 2022. Some boards have not yet incorporated this information, but those who often place Clark a little ahead where he goes in mock drafts. Although he is a talent in the second round of hunting skills, teams might well worry about missing out on his first year of a rookie contract and having long-term concerns about durability. But other teams can use it to throw themselves at him earlier.

Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU (No. 118 by consensus, No. 225 by mockery)

Rank 225th in the mock draft rankings tells us essentially that he often did not appear in mock drafts, even big ones. Still, analysts like Allgeier, the fourth running back on Dane Brugler’s board. Allgeier is a major back who tested well outside the 40-yard line. He plays exactly as a full-back with his athletic toolkit should play, with power and patience, and evaluators like that. But they are not convinced that the NFL will fall in love. Given how many NFL teams are now trying to design running games so that they produce big chunks instead of short distances, this may be an accurate assessment.

Alex Wright, Edge, UAB (No. 125 by consensus, No. 206 by mockery)

Sometimes, when a set of moves is rare in a class, it can push a player up on draft boards. For Alex Wright, it’s his flexibility, size, length and power. Many edge-rushers in this class have size and power, but Wright’s ability to swing and bend around tackles may be what gives him good grades from draft analysts. He injured himself by the NFL combination, so we do not have a complete set of training sessions, but analysts have liked what they have seen. But they can also see an injured player who needs to develop before he can contribute meaningfully – and drop him in their mock drafts.

JT Woods, S, Baylor (No. 140 by consensus, No. 219 by mockery)

One of the fastest players in the draft regardless of position, Woods adds height and length to the athletic profile as well as phenomenal tests in each category. He played all roles in Baylor’s defense and could switch from safety to corner depending on the team. If he does not, he projects to a free safety role so that his light frame does not become a duty in the running game. That said, he’s better against the race than in coverage despite his excellent on-ball production (eight passes, six picks last year), and that uncertainty could push him down in the draft.

when

Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia (No. 9 by consensus, No. 2 by mockery)

Reports continue to pour out that Walker is a likely top-five pick in the draft despite being the rare edge-rusher in the first three rounds, having fewer than 10 career layoffs. Gradually, fans have heard enough about the debates surrounding Walker, whose incredible athletics translates well into the edge-rusher position. The NFL certainly seems to like him, and so do third-party evaluators. But they do not like him near as much as they think the NFL does and have placed him just within the top 10.

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (No. 29 by consensus, No. 9 by mockery)

Quarterbacks are always pushed up in these boards, and some of them succeed in style, but even by these standards, it seems that Willis gets a lot more attention than he deserves. Willis is an amazing athlete who has a significant development ahead of him. Willis may be pushed up because of how successful “high-ceilinged” quarterbacks before him have been – and because it’s a relatively weak quarterback class. Analysts have generally been pessimistic about the value he will ultimately provide, but have predicted he will go pretty high. In general, every quarterback has been pushed up this year and consensus will be lower on them than the spotters, but Willis is the clearest example.


Liberty quarterback Malik Willis is a player who could be selected well before his consensus evaluation. (Robert McDuffie / USA Today)

Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa (No. 49 by consensus, No. 30 by mockery)

With one of the longest wingspans in the draft, Smith is the kind of high-upside player who can sometimes cause disagreement between analysts, especially given his high penalty figures and poor technique. Add to that the fact that he did not play against many high-level rushers, and it is understandable why some analysts are down on him. But he moves well and has an impressive physique to go with. It can sometimes be enough for an NFL to shop in the attic and catch him early.

Cam Taylor-Britt, NCB, Nebraska (No. 101 by consensus, No. 67 by mockery)

Brugler has already explained why he thinks Taylor-Britt will go higher than analysts rank him. Taylor-Britt is a remarkable physical player with a filled frame who tested exceptionally well in almost every training session and has a strong history of on-ball production. But there are some questions about the position he will eventually play in the NFL, and if he is to play exclusively in the slot machine, he is destined to fall. Otherwise, he could be relegated to security, often a minor premium position.

Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson (No. 113 by consensus, No. 82 by mockery)

After a really good first-year season, Ross did not manage to make the most of his hype and develop into a star. The spinal cord surgery that made him miss the 2020 season was another red flag for some draft analysts who did not see a return to form in 2021. But the NFL has shown a willingness to ignore the past production year and use a peak performance level from a few years earlier – think among others Jadeveon Clowney, Walker Little and Laquon Treadwell. So it’s no surprise to see someone like Ross mocked earlier than he’s been ranked on draft boards.

(Top photo by Kyle Hamilton: Brandon Sloter / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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