Dec 4, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) celebrates with linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) after their win during the SEC championship game after the Georgia Bulldogs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Top 23 prospects to watch before ’23 NFL Draft

NFL scouts are finally settling back into their usual patterns now that COVID restrictions are in the rearview mirror, and this class figures to be top-heavy compared to the 2022 batch.

This year’s group is full of top end pass-rushing talent, but there’s no lack of depth through the back of the first round and into the second round. It would be no surprise if six or seven edge rushers were first-round picks.

The quarterback position appears to be a strong group after a down year in 2021. There are three QBs primed to go in the first dozen picks.

On the other hand, the drought of talent at offensive tackle and along the interior offensive line compounds concerns for teams looking to upgrade their quarterback’s protection. Offensive tackle is particularly light in the first couple rounds, as most of the top talent either projects as moving inside at the NFL level or lacks the playing experience that teams desire.

Here are 23 pro prospects to watch to prepare for the 2023 NFL Draft:

23. CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia (rSo.)
Reasonably sized and possessing good straight-line speed, Ringo has athleticism on his side. His length is an area of concern though, and press heavy teams may see a red flag physically.

22. S Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame (rJr.)
A transfer portal import from Northwestern who has quality range and toughness, Joseph will hope to return to his 2020 form. His special teams ability will win the hearts of coaches.

21. OLB Will McDonald IV, Iowa State (Jr.)
Despite being under 230 pounds, the slender pass rusher is a fitting style playing for the Cyclones. He’s destructive with great burst, agility and body control, but his size is the major question mark.

20. OT Carter Warren, Pittsburgh (rSr.)
Warren seemed to be on the path of a second- or third-round pick last year before taking advantage of extra eligibility, and the light tackle class could nudge him into the top 25 picks. He’s a long and athletic mover who checks all the boxes physically.

19. TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame (Jr.)
Few tight ends are put together like Mayer, and those who are lack the same level of fluidity. He is an athletic anomaly with upside as a blocker and immediate value as a receiver.

18. S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M (Jr.)
It’s rare that defensive backs can run around in the body of a linebacker without sacrificing some athleticism, but Johnson breaks the mold. He is a fluid mover with the tools to defend both the run and pass at a high level.

17. RB Bijan Robinson, Texas (Jr.)
A throwback ballcarrier and dynamo since his freshman year, Robinson’s modest agility is offset by his excellent size and violent running style. His style of play won’t be a fit for some teams, others will covet the ground-and-pound attitude.

16. DE Brandon Dorlus, Oregon (Sr.)
A rising senior with some ‘tweener elements to his game, there will be some teams that won’t know how to utilize him. He’s quite similar to Logan Hall
from last year’s class. A team who missed out may jump the line to get Dorlus as an alternative.

15. OLB Nolan Smith, Georgia (Sr.)
Smith surprised many draftniks returning for a senior year. His size isn’t ideal, but teams looking for a 3-4 outside linebacker should swoon over the diversity of his pass-rushing skill set.

14. DE B.J. Ojulari, LSU (Jr.)
The younger brother of former second-round pick Azeez Ojulari, B.J. might be even more athletic. He has unique body control and bend, which allowed him to win consistently against top SEC tackles last year.

13. WR Jordan Addison, USC (Jr.)
Addison transferred cross country from Pittsburgh to USC after the departure of his quarterback Kenny Pickett to the NFL. He’s electric with the ball in his hands but scouts will want to see how much weight he can add.

12. OLB Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame (rJr.)
The leader of the Fighting Irish defense with 10 sacks last year, Foskey’s output is even more impressive given the variety of ways he was used. He can do it all from playing off-ball linebacker to rushing the passer.

11. CB Cam Smith, South Carolina (rJr.)
Smith is a rising junior who emerged after highly touted teammates Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu left for the pros. He has an NFL body and resume, and his performance in 2021 showed a lot of promise.

10. DE Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Washington (Sr.)
A former all-American who played close to 280 pounds in 2020, Tupuola-Fetui’s draft projection was upended by a torn Achilles in the spring
prior to his junior year. He returned in dominant fashion late in 2021 and seems primed for a breakout year at 245 pounds.

9. CB Eli Ricks, Alabama (Jr.)
Coming to Tuscaloosa by way of LSU, Ricks is a two-year starter who earned all-SEC honors. His ability to play with length and strength in press coverage bring the top-10 grade.

8. QB Will Levis, Kentucky (Sr.)
Painting in the same shades as Josh Allen, Levis has leveraged his great arm talent and plus athleticism to succeed in the SEC after transferring in from Penn
State. His statline isn’t the prettiest, but he will check most boxes for NFL teams.

7. LB Henry To’oto’o, Alabama (Sr.)
The modern-day prototype for the linebacker position starts with range and versatility, and To’oto’o has ’em in spades. His unique instincts, technique,
tackling and coverage ability push his ceiling even higher.

6. WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU (Jr.)
Boutte is a buttery smooth route runner with rare athleticism and body control. Injuries limited his output in 2021, but if he returns to 2020 form he should be a top-15 pick.

5. QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State (rSo.)
A strong-armed passer with good size and potential, accuracy might improve with more experience. Losing two of his top receivers in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave to the NFL will add even more to his plate. But if Stroud delivers, he’ll be a main course in the ’23 draft.

4. DE Myles Murphy, Clemson (Jr.)
A rare frame for the position and the production to match, Murphy collected eight sacks as a sophomore and should be able to reach
double-digit sacks in his final year with the Tigers.

3. QB Bryce Young, Alabama (Jr.)
Sharp, precise and controlled would be good descriptors of Young, who stands just 5-foot-11. His physical tools are just above-average, but he plays with a lightning fast release, pinpoint accuracy and natural adjustability from within the pocket.

2. DT Jalen Carter, Georgia (Jr.)
While only a modest producer in 2021, Carter was sharing time with two first-round picks along the defensive line in Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt. He could be in for an enormous year if Georgia gives him the lion’s share of snaps.

1. DE Will Anderson Jr, Alabama (Jr.)
A surprise snub in Heisman voting, Anderson’s 17.5 sacks and 31 tackles for a loss in 2021 led the nation. He’s a blue-chip prospect with All-Pro potential.

–By Mark Jarvis, Field Level Media

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross enters field before game against Los Angeles Chargers in Miami Gardens, September 29, 2019.  [ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post]

Maimi Dolphins Vs Los Angeles Chargers

Dolphins’ owner suspended, fined $1.5M; team loses draft picks

The NFL on Tuesday suspended and fined Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and stripped the team of two draft picks following a league investigation into tampering and tanking allegations from 2019-22.

A six-month probe led by former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White found the club had “impermissible communications” with Tom Brady on two occasions in an effort to lure the star quarterback to Miami, as well as with the agent for former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.

The Dolphins forfeit a first-round pick in 2023 and a third-round selection in 2024. Ross was suspended from all activities through Oct. 17 and fined $1.5 million by the league. He was removed indefinitely from all league committees.

“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a news release. “I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with both a head coach and star player, to the potential detriment of multiple other clubs, over a period of several years. Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violations.”

The investigation concluded that the Dolphins reached out to Brady as far back as 2019 when he was under contract with the rival New England Patriots and that both Ross and Bruce Beal, the team’s vice chairman and limited partner, were involved.

Beal was fined $500,000 and banned from attending any league meeting for the rest of the 2022 season.

The investigation, however, did not find evidence to support the claim of former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores that he was offered money to intentionally lose games to enhance the team’s draft position in 2020.

The report said the team “competed hard to win every game” but acknowledged that Ross made a number of comments that draft position “should take priority over the team’s win-loss record.”

When Flores expressed “his concerns in writing to senior club executives, each of whom assured Coach Flores that everyone, including Mr. Ross, supported him in building a winning culture in Miami,” the comments stopped, the report said.

“Every club is expected to make a good faith effort to win every game,” Goodell said. “The integrity of the game, and public confidence in professional football, demand no less. An owner or senior executive must understand the weight that his or her words carry, and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon, even if that is not the intent or expectation. Even if made in jest and not intended to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that draft position is more important than winning can be misunderstood and carry with them an unnecessary potential risk to the integrity of the game.

“The comments made by Mr. Ross did not affect Coach Flores’ commitment to win and the Dolphins competed to win every game. Coach Flores is to be commended for not allowing any comment about the relative importance of draft position to affect his commitment to win throughout the season.”

Ross released a statement saying that although he “strongly disagree(s)” with the findings of tampering, he will accept the punishment. He also said he was pleased to put the tanking allegations to rest.

“The independent investigation cleared our organization of any issues related to tanking and all of Brian Flores’ other allegations. As I have said all along, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and this issue is now put to rest,” Ross said.

“With regard to tampering, I strongly disagree with the conclusions and the punishment. However, I will accept the outcome because the most important thing is that there be no distractions for our team as we begin an exciting and winning season. I will not allow anything to get in the way of that.”

Ross, 82, who made billions in New York real estate, completed the purchase of the Dolphins and their stadium for $1 billion in 2009. In 2021, Forbes valued the team at $3.42 billion.

Flores was fired in January 2022 with two years remaining on his contract, despite leading Miami to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2002-03.

Flores and his attorney, Douglas H. Wigdor, both released statements following Tuesday’s league announcement.

“We are certainly disheartened that the investigator, and apparently the Commissioner, excused highly inappropriate comments that go to the heart of the game’s integrity regarding tanking as being in jest especially when there was a letter written by Coach Flores at the time demonstrating the gravity with which these comments were received by Coach Flores,” Wigdor said.

Added Flores, “There is nothing more important when it comes to the game of football itself than the integrity of the game. When the integrity of the game is called into question, fans suffer, and football suffers.”

–Field Level Media

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton after being selected as the fourteenth overall pick to the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to deal with first-round pick DB Kyle Hamilton

The Baltimore Ravens signed first-round pick Kyle Hamilton to his rookie contract on Tuesday.

Hamilton, a defensive back from Notre Dame, agreed to a four-year contract and will receive a fully-guaranteed $16.3 million, plus a signing bonus just more than $9 million, according to multiple reports. The deal also includes an option for a fifth year.

The Baltimore Sun reported that it is believed to be one of the largest rookie deals in franchise history.

A two-time All-American at Notre Dame, the 6-foot-4 Hamilton racked up 138 tackles, eight interceptions and 16 pass breakups for the Irish across 31 games in three seasons. He has also impressed the Ravens in offseason workouts.

“He’s doing the things that we’re expecting him to do,” Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald told the Sun. “… He’s right on schedule, but we don’t tell him that — try to provide some sense of urgency for him. But he’ll get there. Really pleased with Kyle.”

The Hamilton deal comes five days after Baltimore signed its other first-round selection, center Tyler Linderbaum, who was the 25th overall pick.

The Ravens have now signed six of their 2022 draft picks. Five selections remained unsigned, including second-round pick David Ojabo, an outside linebacker from Michigan.

Across the NFL, quarterback Kenny Pickett remains the highest unsigned draft pick from this class. Baltimore’s divisional rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, selected him out of Pitt with the 20th overall pick.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) warms up before the start against the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s No. 1? Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud atop ’23 draft odds

The lack of marquee quarterbacks contributed to the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft drawing the lowest television ratings in five years.

Network executives can feel far more bullish looking ahead to 2023 with Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud projected to battle for the Heisman Trophy before jockeying for position atop next year’s draft.

Caesars released its opening odds for the first overall pick on Tuesday, with Stroud and Young co-favorites at +225. The only other player with odds shorter than +1000 is Alabama defensive end Will Anderson Jr.

The same trio leads the way at DraftKings, where Stroud opened at +200 to be the No. 1 overall pick in 2023 followed by Young (+225) and Anderson (+330). Stroud is also being offered at +140 to be the first quarterback selected, followed by Young (+160), Boston College’s Phil Jurkovec (+1000) and Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke (+1200).

While next year’s draft class appears to be far better stocked with franchise quarterback prospects, it’s important to remember that this time last year Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler and North Carolina’s Sam Howell were projected to be top 10 picks.

Rattler now plays for South Carolina while Howell was selected by the Washington Commanders in the fifth round on Saturday. Rattler is still in the conversation for next year and is +1500 at DraftKings to be the first quarterback selected and +2000 to go first overall.

He has even shorter No. 1 overall odds at +1800 at PointsBet, where Rattler is behind only Young (+200), Stroud (+210), Anderson (+300), Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson (+1100) and Van Dyke (+1400).

–Field Level Media

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the thirteenth overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL draft winners & losers: Eagles, Colts smiling after draft

On its own, the NFL draft doesn’t win Super Bowls. But the 2022 draft sure went a long way in potentially transforming a couple of teams that were 9-8 last season into legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

The AFC has a new and surprising contender in the Indianapolis Colts. The NFC suddenly has the same thing after a very active three days by the Philadelphia Eagles.

On the flip side, two teams (the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots) that previously were viewed as potential playoff contenders did not get any better. In fact, some teams that already were facing bleak futures missed out on golden draft opportunities and could end up being worse than they were before.

Let’s take a look at the winners and losers in the 2022 NFL Draft …

WINNERS

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: We won’t declare a solo winner in this draft. Instead, that honor is split evenly between the Eagles and Colts, who both used bold and calculated moves to make their rosters much better.

Philadelphia’s Howie Roseman had perhaps the best three days of his tenure as the general manager. The Eagles made the playoffs last season and promptly were bounced by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But Roseman’s moves have set the Eagles up for a much longer run this season.

Let’s start with the most significant move Roseman made over the last three days. The Eagles desperately needed a No. 1 wide receiver and he went out and got one. He traded with Tennessee for A.J. Brown, who is a proven commodity. Brown had over 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons. He would have made it three straight if he didn’t miss four games to injury last year.

The Eagles quickly signed Brown to a $100 million contract extension.

Roseman then got down to draft business and, at least on paper, all of his picks were home runs.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, 31, is getting older and the Eagles needed a younger alternative. They got one with Jordan Davis, who they traded up to grab in the first round. At 341 pounds, Davis can clog the middle. But, in his days at Georgia, Davis did not get many chances to show he also can rush the passer. The Eagles believe he can and expect to reap the benefits.

Roseman then focused on Philadelphia’s most pressing needs.

In the second round, he got Nebraska center Cam Jurgens, who at best will be an immediate replacement for former Pro Bowler Brandon Brooks, who retired during the offseason. At worst he will be center Jason Kelce’s apprentice-in-waiting. In the third round, the Eagles got a steal on Nakobe Dean. Concerns about injuries and size were the only things that kept the Georgia linebacker out of the first two rounds.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: The Atlanta Falcons obviously thought Matt Ryan was done when they traded their former franchise quarterback to the Colts in the offseason. The Colts don’t share that view. It’s not going to take long to show the Falcons were wrong and the Colts were right.

Just adding Ryan, who still has plenty left in the tank, instantly made the Colts better than the team they were with Carson Wentz last year. Ryan has the leadership skills Wentz lacked and commands respect. The last few years in Atlanta were tough because Ryan didn’t have much around him.

That’s why Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard struck with surgical precision. Ballard’s first three picks were used on guys that will make Ryan’s life easier. Cincinnati wide receiver Alec Pierce and Virginia tight end Jelani Woods were brought in during the second and third rounds, respectively, to give Ryan more targets.

Central Michigan tackle Bernhard Raimann (third round, No. 77 overall) also was brought in to help protect Ryan, who never has been known for his mobility.

TENNESSEE TITANS: You can go ahead and throw the Titans in a category just after the Eagles and Colts. They already were starting on firm ground because they went 12-5 and won the AFC South last season.

Yes, the Titans traded away Brown, who had been one of their best players in recent years. But it was going to take up a lot of salary cap room to get him signed to a contract extension. It’s better to get something for a player before he walks away as a free agent. So, the Titans unloaded Brown and used a first-round pick on a guy (Arkansas’ Treylon Burks) who could end up being even better.

The Titans filled needs by getting cornerback Roger McCreary in the second round and offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere in the third. But the second of their two third-round picks (quarterback Malik Willis) and fourth-round choice (running back Hassan Haskins) could have the most long-term upside.

Willis slid a lot further than some people expected (No. 86 overall), but let’s be honest. He played against mediocre competition at Liberty and is nowhere near ready to step in as an NFL starter. The Titans have a steady veteran starter in Ryan Tannehill. But Tannehill will turn 34 before the start of the season and it’s time to start grooming an eventual replacement.

Derrick Henry is arguably the best running back in the league, but injuries limited him to eight games last season. Henry is 28, which is kind of old for a running back, and has carried the ball 1,401 times in his career.

The Titans were wise in letting Haskins fall to them and not reaching for a running back. History has shown you can get a good one in the middle rounds. Even if Henry is healthy in 2022, it might be smart to lighten his load a bit.

NEW YORK GIANTS: The Giants sent three clear messages with their draft. First, they took a more conventional approach to building a foundation by using their two first-round picks on Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal. They both play positions that often form the cornerstones of good teams.

Second, even though the Giants declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Daniel Jones’ contract, they’re still holding out hope he can be their quarterback for the long term. Neal and North Carolina guard Josh Ezeudu (third round, No. 67 overall) were drafted to give Jones better protection and Kentucky receiver Wan’Dale Robinson was added in the second round to give Jones a target.

Finally, the Giants sent a pretty clear message to receiver Kadarius Toney, who was a first-round pick last year, by taking Robinson. Toney wasn’t very productive last season. New general manager Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll didn’t draft Toney and don’t have any allegiance to him. With Robinson on board, they won’t hesitate to unload the second-year player.

Oh, also, a lot of people are saying the Jets had the better draft of the two New York teams. I don’t see it that way. Sure, the Jets had three first-round picks and that makes it easy to overrate a draft. But the Jets used their two top-10 picks on cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and wide receiver Garrett Wilson. They don’t play the positions that you build a franchise around.

ARIZONA CARDINALS: The Cardinals didn’t have a first-round pick, but they came out of the draft substantially better than they were before it. They wanted to get more weapons for quarterback Kyler Murray and they did.

The first part of that equation came when the Cardinals traded with Baltimore for receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who had 91 catches for 1,008 yards last season. The move reunites Murray with a receiver he played with in college at Oklahoma.

The second part of the plan came when the Cardinals used their first pick (No. 55 overall) on Colorado State tight end Trey McBride. Sure, they have Zach Ertz, but you never can have enough good tight ends.

The Cardinals then took care of a big need in the pass rush by adding San Diego State defensive end Cameron Thomas and Cincinnati pass rusher Myaji Sanders, both in the third round.

LOSERS

NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL: He clearly was out of his element and trying way too hard to be cool when he was on stage. Instead of looking like his bland predecessor (Paul Tagliabue) Goodell tried to play the combined role of master of ceremonies, cheerleader and hugger-in-chief.

It didn’t work. Not at all. The draft featured plenty of guests who filled those roles naturally when stepping in to announce picks. Goodell should stick to being a commissioner. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to not try to pretend to be someone you’re not. Smart people can see right through that.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: They were 7-10 last year and that’s not a great starting point. But the Seahawks took a huge step back earlier in the offseason.

They sent franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver and did nothing to replace him. The Seahawks had a chance at getting Kenny Pickett in the first round — or Matt Corral, Desmond Ridder or Willis later on.

They passed.

A class that includes offensive tackle Charles Cross, edge rusher Boye Mafe, running back Kenneth Walker III and offensive tackle Abraham Lucas isn’t bad. But the Seahawks are in a tough spot.

The other three teams in the NFC West had double-digit wins last season. Seattle didn’t pull off any miracles in the draft.

The Seahawks are looking at a very real worst-case scenario of going to training camp with Drew Lock, Geno Smith and Jacob Eason as the only quarterbacks on the roster.

ATLANTA FALCONS: I understand why the Falcons had to let Ryan go. First, it was time because this team is several years away from winning. Second, and more importantly, they couldn’t keep Ryan and remain under the salary cap.

But the Falcons have taken a huge step backward and they’re starting almost from scratch. Defensive end Arnold Ebiketie, a second-round pick, brings back memories of former Atlanta pass rusher John Abraham and could be a nice building block.

First-round pick Drake London is an enormous talent and could bring the same type of receiver production the Falcons once had from Julio Jones. But who’s going to throw the ball to London?

In the short term, it’s going to be veteran Marcus Mariota. That’s not very comforting because Mariota is a more than a couple of notches down from Ryan. In the long term, the Falcons will turn to Ridder, who they drafted in the third round.

The good thing about getting Ridder at No. 74 overall is that he won’t face the early pressure and expectations that Ryan and Michael Vick did at the start of their careers. The bad news is things in Atlanta are going to get a lot worse than last year’s 7-10 season before they start to get better.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: You can’t blame Minnesota general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah for the most embarrassing moment for the Vikings in this draft.

That came when Ed Marinaro, a mediocre former Vikings running back and a solid actor on “Hill Street Blues,” took the stage to announce one of Minnesota’s two second-round picks.

Marinaro showed more changes of direction than he ever did on the field as he rambled on for several minutes. You could almost hear Minnesota fans saying, “read the damn pick.” Finally and mercifully, an NFL official who was waiting on the edge of the stage, stepped up and ordered Marinaro to do just that.

The Vikings’ new regime made some pretty bland picks, led by safety Lewis Cline, cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., guard Ed Ingram and linebacker Brian Asamoah.

But Minnesota’s biggest blunder of the draft came in the second round. That’s when the front office made a move that could haunt the team for much longer than the Marinaro fiasco.

There is an unwritten rule in the NFL that you don’t make trades within your division. There is an even stronger rule that says you don’t help your biggest rival improve.

The Vikings badly broke both of those rules. In the second round, the Vikings made a trade with Green Bay to allow the Packers to move up to get a much-needed wide receiver in North Dakota State’s Christian Watson.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: For years, coach Bill Belichick’s success in the draft was unquestioned because of the results. The term “genius” was thrown around a lot. But it’s looking more and more like Belichick is past his prime.

Belichick drafted guard Cole Strange in the first round and wide receiver Tyquan Thornton in the second. In each case, the players almost certainly would have been available a round or two later.

The Patriots also made a questionable move in the fourth round when they took Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe. They already have Mac Jones, whom they drafted in the first round last year. You don’t normally find starting quarterbacks in the fourth round, especially when you don’t need one. You find guys that have a chance to contribute at other positions or play on special teams.

The only thing that prevented New England’s draft from being a total disaster came when the Patriots got good value and filled a need by taking cornerback Marcus Jones in the third round.

HOUSTON TEXANS: Speaking of disasters, there was no team worse off than the Texans before the draft. After it, nothing has changed.

If you thought things couldn’t get any worse after last year’s 4-13 record that was overshadowed by the Deshaun Watson saga, you’re wrong. For better or worse (almost certainly worse), the Texans made it clear they are going with Davis Mills as their quarterback.

In fairness to the Texans, there were no true franchise quarterbacks in this draft. But Houston could have taken a chance on a quarterback in the middle rounds. That at least would have given them an alternative to Mills, but they elected not to.

New coach Lovie Smith has a defensive background and the Texans added cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. in the first round, defensive back Jalen Pitre in the second round and linebacker Christian Harris in the third round.

In a best-case scenario (and that may be a stretch), those defensive picks will all work out. But the downside of that is the Texans will be what the Bears, Buccaneers and the University of Illinois were when Smith coached them — a team with a good defense and a very bad offense.

That’s not a winning formula.

— Pat Yasinskas, Field Level Media

Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (QB12) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State QB Brock Purdy earns ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ tag

Brock Purdy is the latest “Mr. Irrelevant” despite playing the most relevant position in football.

The Iowa State quarterback earned that tag by being the 262nd and final selection of this year’s seven-round NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday in Las Vegas.

“For me, I’m looking at it as ‘I got my foot in the door,’” Purdy told San Francisco-area reporters of being the final pick.

Purdy set school records of 12,170 passing yards and 81 touchdowns with the Cyclones but was downgraded due to his 6-foot height and average arm strength.

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan identified something important during the evaluation process.

“He knows how to play the position well,” Shanahan told reporters.

The last pick receives more attention than any other seventh-round selection and the notoriety reaches its zenith when the player travels to Southern California to be honored during Irrelevant Week. Among the festivities is the awarding of the “Lowsman Trophy.”

The creator of Mr. Irrelevant, former NFL receiver Paul Salata, died at age 94 in October. Salata began the tradition in 1976.

The final selection of the 2021 NFL Draft was Houston linebacker Grant Stuard, who primarily played on special teams for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.

–Field Level Media

Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs past Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Jerron Cage (86) during the first quarter of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

Michigan State Spartans At Ohio State Buckeyes Football

NFL Draft: Best available prospects entering Day 2

The 2022 NFL Draft is 32 picks old, but another 230 lie ahead across Friday and Saturday.

The draft resumes in Las Vegas on Friday at 7 p.m. ET with the start of the second round, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the 33rd overall pick after a trade Thursday with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here’s our overview of the best prospects who still remain on the board with Day 1 in the rearview mirror.

1. Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
One of the most well-rounded players left in the draft, Muma is a do-it-all defender who has the athleticism to play in space and the physicality to take on blockers.

2. Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
The top tight end in the class, McBride’s lack of elite receiving upside kept him out of Day 1, but he should hear his name called early on Day 2.

3. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
A gunslinger with all-world tools but an extreme lack of polish. Willis makes a lot of sense as a developmental pick in the early second.

4. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
Workhorse backs don’t come around often, but Walker has the traits to be one. He is a savvy runner who can make defenders miss and create his own yardage.

5. Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
A blazing fast 4.44 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine matched the on-field showings from the uber-athletic Harris. His potential is sky high.

6. Drake Jackson, OLB, Southern California
Jackson is long and limber with the flexibility to slip past blocks. He could contribute immediately as a rookie pass-rusher.

7. Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Looming injury questions may be the root of Booth’s fall out of the first round. If he returns fully healthy, he could make teams regret passing on him.

8. Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
Gordon is a natural mover with great agility and body control for the position. His upside will likely draw a premium pick on Day 2.

9. Jaquan Brisker, SS, Penn State
Big, fast, and physical. Brisker isn’t an elite matchup piece, but he has the traits to be a long-term starter and mean run defender.

10. Logan Hall, DT, Houston
Tweeners who aren’t clear-cut defensive tackles scare some NFL teams, but Hall’s body control and refined pass-rush package are likely to get a bite.

11. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
12. Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
13. Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA
14. Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
15. Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama
16. Nick Cross, FS, Maryland
17. Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
18. David Ojabo, OLB, Michigan
19. George Pickens, WR, Georgia
20. Arnold Ebiketie, DE, Penn State
21. Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
22. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
23. Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
24. Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA
25. DeMarvin Leal, DE, Texas A&M
26. Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
27. Brian Asamoah II, LB, Oklahoma
28. Jalen Pitre, SS, Baylor
29. Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
30. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

–By Mark Jarvis, Field Level Media

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson after being selected as the second overall pick to the Detroit Lions during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL draft winners and loser: Rare ‘W’ for Lions

The NFL is a copycat league in which teams borrow or flat-out steal concepts that have worked out well for other teams.

That never was more evident than on Thursday in the first round of NFL Draft. Some teams followed the new-age model the Los Angeles Rams used to win a Super Bowl last season. The Rams threw conventional wisdom to the wind as general manager Les Snead followed a win-now approach and gave away most of his draft currency.

In essence Snead traded for a Lombardi Trophy, and that’s something no team is going to turn down.

Some other teams quickly grabbed onto the Rams’ model. The Dolphins, for example, gave up a slew of draft picks to acquire wide receiver Tyreek Hill from the Kansas City Chiefs, so Miami had to sit out the first round.

But that doesn’t mean the old-school way of building a team through the draft has been forgotten. Not every team did what the Rams and Dolphins did. In fact, stockpiling picks may still be the preferred method.

An unprecedented eight teams had multiple picks in the first round, and first-round picks usually translate into instant starters. There were a lot of trades after the draft began, leaving many mock drafts looking useless.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the winners and losers in the first round.

DETROIT LIONS: Ordinarily, I would say a team drafting at No. 2 shouldn’t get too much credit for making an easy pick. However, given the embarrassing draft history of the Lions, nothing was out of the question. This time, though, Detroit got it right.

Although No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker might end up being a superstar in Jacksonville, the Lions lucked out when defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was available. First, he’s a Michigan kid, and that will play well at the box office. Second, Hutchinson can rush the passer, and the Lions were desperate for that. Third, Hutchinson doesn’t have the ceiling that Walker does, but he also doesn’t have the same kind of floor.

The Lions followed that up by trading up to take Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams at No. 12. That’s a coup because Williams might have been the best receiver in the draft. Yeah, he tore his ACL late last season and probably won’t be able to play until around midseason. That’s fine because the Lions aren’t expecting to turn things around immediately.

NEW YORK GIANTS: General manager Joe Schoen didn’t do anything exciting in his first draft, but that’s the exact approach he should have followed. After making questionable decisions on skill-position players in recent years, the Giants got back to basics.

With the fifth overall pick, the Giants took Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, and with the No. 7 selection, they drafted Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal. There is nothing exciting there, but that’s not a bad thing.

Thibodeaux easily could have gone at No. 1 or 2 because he can rush the passer. Neal will bring some much-needed protection for quarterback Daniel Jones. Thibodeaux and Neal will start right away, and the Giants might have come out of the first round as the NFL’s most improved team.

Think about it: During some of the best years in franchise history, the Giants were built around solid offensive lines and pass rushers such as Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan. The Giants walked out of the first round with two cornerstones.

CAROLINA PANTHERS: There was a school of thought around the league that Carolina owner David Tepper, who is not the most patient man, was going to force general manager Scott Fitterer to use the No. 6 pick on Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.

Maybe Tepper has more patience than anyone realized. Or maybe his thought process gave way to common sense. Whatever, the Panthers made the right call in drafting North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu. That’s as solid a pick as the Panthers could have made. Ekwonu will give Carolina its first reliable left tackle since Jordan Gross retired after the 2013 season.

Yeah, that means Carolina fans can look forward (maybe that’s too strong a word in this case) to another year of Sam Darnold at quarterback. But that’s a better alternative than drafting Willis too early and surrounding him with a bad team.

Earlier this week, Tepper reminded the media he said he expected coach Matt Rhule would take five years to rebuild when he was first brought on board. Rhule is entering his third season. He still doesn’t have a solid quarterback, but at least he’s not stuck with a quarterback who would have set the rebuilding process back.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: General manager Mickey Loomis has never been afraid to gamble. That’s especially true now that coach Sean Payton is gone. The Saints entered the night with the 16th and 19th picks. Loomis traded up with the Washington Commanders to get the No. 11 pick.

The Saints used it on Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave. If Loomis hadn’t made the deal, Olave would have been gone and the Saints, who need to surround quarterback Jameis Winston with weapons, might have been out of suitable options because the wide receiver pool was drying up.

Loomis’ second pick of the night wasn’t as flashy, and some may question how quickly offensive tackle Trevor Penning can contribute because he played at Northern Iowa. But keep this in mind: Loomis once drafted guard Jahri Evans out of Division II Bloomsburg (Pa.). Evans turned out to be a four-time All-Pro and a six-time Pro Bowler.

LOSERS

GREEN BAY PACKERS: If ever a team was expected to address a certain position coming into a draft, it was the Packers and a wide receiver. After trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay was running extremely thin on wide receivers for Aaron Rodgers to target.

But, somehow, the Packers managed to come out of the first round without a wide receiver. Instead, they brought in two defensive players from the University of Georgia. Linebacker Quay Walker was drafted at No. 22 and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, who has had some off-field problems, was taken at No. 28.

Did the Packers whiff on getting a receiver? Maybe. Maybe not.

With receivers coming off the board at a rapid rate, the value just wasn’t there for the Packers. But a couple of things need to happen to straighten out a potential mess. The Packers need to get a receiver with some upside in the second or third round.

More important, Rodgers is going to have to make that receiver look good right away.

HOUSTON TEXANS: The history books say that 2002 was Houston’s expansion season. They might have been wrong. Look at Houston’s current roster. It’s actually worse than it was in 2002.

The Texans drafted LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. at No. 3 overall. That’s a violation of the cardinal rule that you don’t draft a cornerback in the first five.

Deshaun Watson is gone and Davis Mills is Houston’s current starting quarterback. There is a reason why Mills wasn’t taken until the third round in 2021. The Texans also entered the draft with the No. 13 overall pick. They traded it to Philadelphia and wound up with Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green at No. 15. Green may end up being a solid player, but has a guard ever turned around the direction of a franchise?

The Texans went 4-13 last season. They’ll be lucky to win four games this year.

NEW YORK JETS: Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t get as many boos from Jets fans as he did back when the draft was held at Radio City Music Hall. He should have. The Jets had a chance to get Thibodeaux and fill their biggest need.

Instead, they made the same mistake the Texans did and drafted a cornerback too soon, taking Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner at No. 4. The Jets also veered off the track from their biggest needs at No. 10 when they chose Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson. He’s a nice player, but he doesn’t fill a huge need.

The Jets finally did get a pass rusher when they traded back into the first round to get Florida State linebacker Jermaine Johnson II at No. 26. He has lots of potential, but he’s far from a sure thing.

The Jets came into the draft with a great chance to improve. At the end of the night, they didn’t look much better.

BALTIMORE RAVENS: The Ravens drafted Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton at No. 14. That’s anywhere from five to 15 spots too high.

Yeah, Hamilton was a productive college player, but there are questions about his ability to be an impact player on the next level: What about that 4.7 time in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine? And is Hamilton a safety or a linebacker?

Baltimore’s biggest need heading into the draft was on the defensive line, where the Ravens haven’t used a first-round pick since Haloti Ngata in 2006. Coming out of the first night of the draft, defensive line still is Baltimore’s biggest need.

On a night when the Ravens made multiple trades, drafting Hamilton wasn’t their only puzzling move. They traded Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, a 1,000-yard receiver last year, to the Arizona Cardinals. At least the Ravens made one move that made some sense when they used the No. 25 pick on Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. It’s hard to find a center that turns out to be a bust.

–Pat Yasinskas, Field Level Media

Former NFL draft analyst Rob Rang is now a scout for the BC Lions.

For Rob Rang, football scouting is a chosen language

It’s not uncommon for professional football talent evaluators to make the jump into the media.

In at least one case, the pipeline can also flow the other way.

Former NFL draft analyst Rob Rang is now on the other side of the fence. A prominent presence around the draft with multiple outlets, Rang is digging into this week’s event from a different perspective.

After years of writing player profile reports and evaluations for websites and magazines, Rang was hired by the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League in January. He’ll serve as a regional scout focusing on the Pac-12, Big Sky and Mountain West Conferences.

“We didn’t hire him because he is a nice guy, even though he is a very nice guy,’” Lions director of U.S. college scouting Ryan Rigmaiden said. “We hired him because he’s excellent at his job.’”

Rang, 46, has been writing scouting reports since his college days at Central Washington. It started when he and other potential teachers were in an introductory computer class in which the students could write about whatever they chose.

“Most of them were doing stuff on English, history or math,” Rang said. “I said, ‘Why not write about draft stuff?’ The professor told me I should pursue that because it was drawing a lot of traffic.”

From there, two careers were born.

Rang stuck to his plan of becoming an English and social studies teacher. He currently teaches at Mount Tahoma (WA) High School, the same school he graduated from.

But, through the years, Rang has built a niche for himself as a talent evaluator in his spare time. He first did it professionally near the end of his college days.

“I was approached by College Football Talk, which was part of what has grown into the monster that Pro Football Talk has become,” Rang said. “They asked me to go to the Senior Bowl and cover it.

“(Former Seattle Seahawks coach) Mike Holmgren was coaching in the game. I introduced myself to him and told him I wanted to be a teacher, but also wanted to evaluate players. Holmgren is a former teacher and we kind of hit it off. He introduced me to some NFL people and told me some other people that I should talk to.”

As Rang got into the media side of the business, he crossed paths with Rigmaiden, who was pursuing a similar career. Although they were writing for competing websites, a friendship quickly formed.

“I guess the best way to put it was that there was a lot of mutual respect,” Rigmaiden said. “I always admired Rob’s attention to detail and the accuracy of his reports in comparison to some of the other bigger names in the media business.”

Rigmaiden made the crossover from writer to scout in 2012 when he joined the Lions. He stayed with them through 2018, then spent 2019 and 2020 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before returning to the Lions in 2021.

Rang stayed on the media side of things even though he said he had several offers through the years to work for NFL teams.

“I stayed with teaching because I love it,” Rang said. “I love working with students and helping them achieve their goals. I also like the stability of teaching. In football, you might be at a place for a year or two and the general manager gets fired and everybody that works for him gets fired. I never felt like I was ready to completely walk away from teaching.”

As it turned out, Rang didn’t have to give up teaching because Rigmaiden and the Lions came calling with a unique offer.

“We knew he was teaching and wasn’t about to give that up,” Rigmaiden said. “So we made concessions to make it work for him because we really wanted him on our team.”

The arrangement allows for Rang to stay in the classroom Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, he’ll be watching college football. On Sundays, he’ll watch NFL games to keep tabs on players that could end up in the CFL.

Rang also will tour NFL training camps during the summer.

“It’s the best of both worlds, really,” Rang said. “It’s something I had to do. If I didn’t take it, how could I tell my students to go for their dreams if I didn’t go for mine?”

In his new role, Rang will approach this year’s draft from a different perspective. Instead of devoting a lot of his focus to players that are expected to be taken in the early rounds, he’ll look in another direction.

“From a CFL perspective, we’ll be looking at guys from the fifth round and later and also potential undrafted free agents,” Rang said. “Some of those guys might not be available to the CFL for a couple of years, but we want to have scouting reports on them so we’re ready with information on them when the time comes.”

It will make for a busy weekend for Rang as he scrambles to present his bosses with evaluations on players that may be available. But, just like in his days as a media member, he’ll be writing on deadline.

“I’ll be back in the classroom first thing Monday morning,” Rang said.

–By Pat Yasinskas, Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2021; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) warms-up with players before play California Golden Bears at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

2022 NFL Draft: Where will Kayvon Thibodeaux land?

Where Kayvon Thibodeaux will be selected on Thursday night has turned into one of the great storylines ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.

The former Oregon star spent all of last season as the favorite by PointsBet to be the No. 1 overall pick in 2022, and didn’t disappoint while leading the Ducks with 19 sacks in only 31 career games. He remained the favorite to go No. 1 until he was passed by Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson in mid-December.

The two pass rushers were viewed as jockeying for the top spot through much of the pre-draft process before offensive tackles Evan Neal from Alabama and N.C. State’s Ikem Ekwonu entered the conversation.

That was until Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker emerged earlier this week as the new consensus favorite to go No. 1.

Much of the fluctuation can be attributed to analysts trying to determine what the Jacksonville Jaguars intend to do with the top pick. They have a franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, so how best do they want to build around him?

It now appears it won’t be with an edge rusher like Thibodeaux, who was compared by one Field Level Media draft analyst to the Washington Commanders’ Chase Young.

Thibodeaux’s Over/Under draft selection spot at BetMGM is now 4.5, with 58 percent of the bets and 68 percent of the handle backing the Under at -150. He is being offered at +300 to go No. 2 overall and +700 to go No. 3.

Detroit currently owns the second pick, followed in the top five by Houston, the New York Jets and New York Giants.

Hutchinson’s odds haven’t fallen quite as dramatically. He’s now +300 to go No. 1 but -200 to be the second name called on draft night. BetMGM is no longer offering an Over/Under on his exact draft selection spot.

How far Thibodeaux drops after the second pick promises to be one of the main storylines during the top 10.

He is viewed as a one-a-class type of athlete who comes off the edge with speed and a shocking amount of power to uproot offensive tackles. Thibodeaux is also athletic enough to drop back into coverage with running backs and get his hands up to disrupt passing lanes.

How well he can hold the edge in run defense is the primary question analysts have, and Thibodeaux will need to increase his repertoire of pass rush moves in the pros.

Thibodeaux was being offered at +700 to go No. 3 overall by BetMGM on Wednesday, behind LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (+200). That could mean one of the New York teams — or another team eager to move up — could snag one of the draft’s top pass rushers far lower than Thibodeaux was expected to go just weeks ago.

–Field Level Media