Player notes (tiers 1-3) plus a focus on Eboigbe & Maye

Justin Eboigbe looks the part for Alabama

I’m going to start by producing some notes on two players I wanted to discuss today, then do a quick breakdown of some of the tier 1-3 players I’ve watched so far.

Justin Eboigbe is one to watch

I like watching Alabama defensive linemen because they generally have to be versatile and it’s easy to see how they translate to the next level. This is very different to the stunt-heavy, difficult-to-project edge rushers who play for the Crimson Tide. The big-bodied D-liners are in there being forceful, violent and it all translates.

I was a big fan of Byron Young a year ago and suspect the Seahawks were hoping he’d be there in round three. He fit perfectly what they were looking for in a D-liner. Similarly, I think Eboigbe will carry a lot of appeal.

He’s a different type of player to Young who had a more conventional interior D-line body (but could play defensive end in certain schemes). Eboigbe is listed at 6-5 and 292lbs but looks closer to the 280lbs range on the field. He’s a very mature, hard-nosed player and a former four-star recruit who’s been at Alabama since 2019.

Like Young, he’s not blowing anyone away with elite twitchy speed either off the edge or shooting gaps. He is a tremendously powerful, disruptive force. Whether he lines up off the edge or inside, he consistently drives blockers backwards into the pocket using heavy hands. He appears to have good length and extends to keep his frame clean. He shifts around the line and attacks from different positions but time and time again on tape you see the same thing. He wins his 1v1 match-up by gaining position and disrupting.

Young would often shoot-gaps to take away a lane or to contain the edge. He was also very strong at the POA and could control his blocks. As the year went on, he started to impact games and his ability to soak up linemen created opportunities for others. Eboigbe has basically started the season how Young finished 2022. He’s already drawing attention, holding his own in the running game, gaining position to force runs back inside and driving tackles backwards with power.

I do think he’s a better athlete than Young and you do see some quickness and agility when attacking gaps.

For me he just looks like a pro. Given his age and time in college football, plus his frame, that’s not a big surprise. As a player who can rotate and be flexible across the line, he could be an excellent option for the Seahawks in the next draft — provided there are no lasting issues from a neck injury suffered a year ago.

I’m still really torn on Drake Maye

He has the size, he’s a decent athlete, he has a good arm. There were times again on Saturday in a blowout win against Syracuse where he looked really good. He has improv quality that shines through on tape — making things happen. He had a couple of really well placed passes hitting receivers in stride. There were big-time throws on display as there always is with Maye.

However, there were also moments where you’re left scratching your head. Hesitation in his own end-zone when the situation called for urgency. Missed scoring opportunities. A throw that was so far behind his receiver and could’ve picked, only for the receiver to make one of the most improbable grabs all year with his trailing arm and actually run it in for a big touchdown, generously padding the stats in the process.

There’s a real boom/bust quality to him. The great moments have you nodding along with approval. The bad moments just leave you wondering ‘WTF just happened?’

I suspect he probably will be a very early pick because this is a bad draft at the top of round one. I currently only have Caleb Williams, Marvin Harrison Jr and Brock Bowers as ‘legit’ early picks. I’m toying with Tyler Guyton going in that category, plus Jeremiah Trotter. Right now though, this looks like a class full of day two picks and very few players you’d be ecstatic to select in round one (it’s still early though).

I think he’s a more creative Jared Goff. Which might not be too bad. It’s not that exciting either. I think Caleb Williams is in a class of his own in terms of the 2024 draft. Maye has the tools you look for in a NFL passer but I just wish we could see a bit more consistency. I keep thinking back to the South Carolina vs North Carolina game. UNC and Maye won but Rattler looked better despite facing far more adversity.

Tier 1 players (so far) — legit R1

Before I get into the list (which is in no particular order) — a reminder I have not watched all players who could realistically be listed in these ranges. Some won’t be listed on purpose, others because I haven’t studied them enough yet. I’m happy to clarify in the comments on certain players.

Caleb Williams (QB, USC)
Marvin Harrison Jr (WR, Ohio State)
Brock Bowers (TE, Georgia)
Tyler Guyton (T, Oklahoma)

It’s looking like a very thin ‘top of round one’ at the moment. Williams has everything you want in a quarterback in 2023. Harrison Jr has an opportunity to provide a team with an instant #1 target, while Bowers could provide the same kind of threat as a ‘big slot’ type. Guyton for me is a perfect blend of size, athleticism and power and he could easily be this year’s answer to Darnell Wright.

Tier 2 players (so far) — potential first rounders

Spencer Rattler (QB, South Carolina)
Riley Leonard (QB, Duke)
Drake Maye (QB, North Carolina)
Michael Penix Jr (QB, Washington)
Rome Odunze (WR, Washington)
Xavier Legette (WR, South Carolina)
Ja’Tavion Sanders (TE, Texas)
Graham Barton (T, Duke)
Joe Alt (T, Notre Dame)
Olumuyiwa Fashanu (T, Penn State)
Chop Robinson (EDGE, Penn State)
Jared Verse (EDGE, Florida State)
Jeremiah Trotter (LB, Clemson)

Rattler is propping up an otherwise lacklustre South Carolina team (with a shocking O-line) but the execution now matches the natural talent and he deserves a lot more attention than he’s getting. Leonard was incredibly impressive pre-injury and has a ton of next-level potential. Maye, as discussed, is superb at his best and confusing at his worst but the talent is there. Penix Jr’s arm strength is to die for.

Odunze combines natural receiving skill, big play ability, speed and an outstanding personality/character to likely ensure an eventual home in round one. Legette is one of the big movers this season — showing off X-factor playmaking ability, size and speed. Sanders needs to be more consistent and he’s a receiving threat rather than a complete tight end but you can’t ignore the athletic tools.

Barton is consistently brilliant for Duke. He missed their last game with injury but he’s a picture of consistency, brute force and talent. Alt has had some rough snaps this year but has the size to switch over to the right side where he’s better suited. Fashanu has as much physical potential as anyone in this class but there are still technical improvements to be had.

Robinson is a twitched up ball of energy and agility. His play doesn’t match the production but he follows a growing line of Penn State defenders with enticing athletic qualities. Verse’s play started strong and has dipped a bit but provided he tests as well as expected, he can come into the league and impact games. Trotter is a superb, impactful linebacker who is constantly around the ball and deserves more attention.

Select Tier 3 players (so far) — Day two picks

This is just a selection of players I like, not the full list of tier three prospects, which is far bigger (I currently have exactly 50 players listed and I have a lot more to watch and potentially add). I’ll include more names as we go along and reveal the full list when I publish my horizontal board later in the year. This is going to be where the meat of the class is I think.

Some of these players could easily bump up a round.

Will Howard (QB, Kansas State)
Quinn Ewers (QB, Texas)
Malachi Corley (WR, Western Kentucky)
Ben Sinnott (TE, Kansas State)
Cooper Beebe (G, Kansas State)
Sedrick Van Pran (C, Georgia)
Charles Turner (C, LSU)
Steve Linton (DE, Texas Tech)
McKinley Jackson (DT, Texas A&M)
Howard Cross (DT, Notre Dame)
Byron Murphy (DT, Texas)
Tyleik Williams (DT, Ohio State)
Jer’Zhan Newton (DT, Illinois)
T’Vondre Sweat (DT, Texas)
Justin Eboigbe (DE, Alabama)

Howard makes too many bad decisions but I just love the way he makes technical throws over the middle into tight windows, has excellent size and he’s a great athlete. There’s plenty to work with. Ewers is too erratic but the simple fact is when he throws the ball, he has the same ‘flick of the wrist’ brilliance Aaron Rodgers has. The natural talent is obvious but he needs more game-time. Will he get that beyond 2023 with Arch Manning waiting in the wings? Or does he turn pro?

Corley has a good, solid frame but combines it with the twitchy-quickness of a smaller, dynamic receiver. He’s exciting to watch. There’s depth, unsurprisingly, at receiver again this year. Sinnott is just a wonderful player to watch and he can do a bit of everything at tight end. Whoever drafts Beebe or Van Pran will solidify an interior O-line position for many years. Turner’s passion for the game, fierce competitiveness and length shows up on tape at center. I really like him. Linton has length, size and twitch and he carries a ton of potential as an edge rusher.

Jackson is my favourite defensive tackle in this class so far. He’s a warrior — eating blocks, providing more pass-rush than he’ll be credited for, playing every down like it’s his last. He is the heart and soul of Texas A&M. Notre Dame’s Cross is a close second thanks to his motor, quickness to shoot gaps and disruptive playmaking ability. Texas’ Murphy is small like Cross but he’s an amazing athlete. Williams at Ohio State takes most of the defensive snaps for a reason and Illinois’ Newton can be a big-time disruptor on his day. Texas’ Sweat has seen his play improve dramatically in 2023 to the point where he’s massive but is playing with surprising agility and twitch for a 360lber. He has caught the eye in every game and has the highest pass rush win percentage among interior linemen playing a minimum of 20% snaps (21.2%). Eboigbe, as mentioned above, looks like he could play NFL football today.

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  1. cha

    Thanks Rob. Great way to scale the eligible players so far.

    Q – why is SVP in Tier 3? Has he digressed this year?

    • BK26

      Curious about that as well. Once I saw his name, I double-checked the tier.

      I’m guessing Shedeur is left off because you think he is staying Rob?

      • Rob Staton

        His dad has pretty much come and said no way he turns pro next year

    • Rob Staton

      I think SVP is a top-45 pick and he could easily go in the range projected a year ago (late R1)

      But I am adjusting my grading slightly at center this year because players keep lasting longer than expected

  2. Blitzy the Clown

    I’m starting to feel a certain way about Jayden Daniels. He’s got an ability to extend plays, improvise, move the pocket and run.

    Still pretty raw, but I was impressed with his outing vs Missouri.

  3. Erik_in_Oregon

    Any idea what the Seahawks will prioritize or need in the upcoming draft? The last two drafts have added a lot to both sides of the ball and to the depth. D-line I’m guessing.

    • cha

      Their top 3 linebackers are free agents

      They only have Will Dissly as a tight end with NFL experience under contract

      Their top 3 safeties will be a year older, likely more banged up, and incredibly expensive

      • ShowMeYourHawk

        Yeah, it’d be fantastic if Trotter lasted until our pick but not likely.

        Fant is certainly gone. Resigning Parkinson to a responsible contract should be an aim.

        Nothing really to be done at Safety though, right? The restructuring of both Adams and Diggs essentially makes cutting both/either cost prohibitive, no? Unless Adams struggles heavily to stay healthy, decides his body won’t allow him to play anymore and straight up retires, I don’t see how we get out from our obligation to him. A shame, too. I’d imagine that Pete would salivate at the chance to add Tyler Nubin to the defense.

        • Spectator

          Are you talking about him not lasting until our second pick? Cause we will have a mid first, and I can’t see him going higher than mid first.

  4. Justaguy

    over/under games when Spoon gets injured. Guessing before SF game

    • Sean-O

      You must be a blast to hang out with at parties….

  5. Sten

    Past 3 drafts have been the same in terms of the top end talent being sub-par. Rob, do you have any opinions on why that’s the case? Is it because the cancelled season prevented potential younger starters from stepping into roles? Or is this just what every normal draft class will look like?

    • Big Mike

      Great question. I’ll add ‘or is it just cyclical’?

      • Elmer

        Maybe it has something to do with the top talent leaving CFB early. Although you would think that would even out over time.

    • Rob Staton

      I think it’s players declaring earlier thinning things out

      • Elmer

        Could the rise of the transfer portal also have an effect, as players who find more comfortable situations don’t declare.

  6. LouCityHawk

    Appreciate the hard work as always Rob, there are some surprises to be sure (no Safeties or CB), and some notable omissions (Latu, Trice, Keon Coleman, Cooper DeJean…).

    Fashanu is the one that I’m surprised to not see in Tier 1, he reminds me a ton of Trent Williams in college, maybe plays with a little less edge…

    Really pleased to see Corley on the list, he is the sort of player I wish the Seahawks would draft and deploy.

    • BK26

      Sigh DeJean…the only reason to watch Iowa football this year…

      Third worst passing offense in college football. Only teams worse are Army and Navy. You know, teams actively trying to be the worst.

    • Rob Staton

      I said in the piece I wasn’t including everyone and hadn’t watched everyone

  7. MarkinSeattle

    Thoughts on Payton Wilson LB at NC State? He seems to be very fast and has 70 tackles on the year.

  8. Dave Thompson

    Thanks, Rob, great to see the early tiers.
    Question” does Eboigbe remind you of Jarran Reed when he was at Alabama?

    • Rob Staton

      No, very different players

      Reed was an immovable mountain of a man inside and more of a NT at Alabama

  9. Peanut

    Great to get a note of which players to pay attention to early!

    Rob, and others, with our picks in the first 3 rounds, which position are you hoping gets targetted?

    Rnd 1: DT
    Rnd 2: QB
    Rnd 3: LB
    Rnd 3: DT

    this seems fun to me, add some spicy guard and a cool tight end, and maybe even a fiesty safety on day three.

    • Palatypus

      Rnd 1: BOX SAFETY
      Rnd 2: BOX SAFETY
      Rnd 3: BOX SAFETY
      Rnd 3: BOX SAFETY

      • Big Mike

        See, Palatypus gets it. The rest of you need to get with the program.

    • Sultan

      I think they’re more likely to draft a DT in round 2 or 3. And since there isn’t a clear option in R1, I think they’ll rely on the depth of this DL class and get one later on like last year (hopefully before R4 though).

      That leaves us with a few positions they need to address early: QB, TE, LB, maybe OL, maybe S?
      They better not draft a LB or S early, you can always get some for cheap or later in the draft. You’d think they’ve learned their lesson about those two positions.

      I think if they’re going BPA then they could opt for a TE or OL. I think they’ll move on from Fant and extend Parkinson on the cheap. Maybe you get a TE in R2 or R3 like Ben Sinnott.

      But I really think they need to go after a QB early. Rattler and Leonard (hope he declares) would be my favorite options in the mid-late first round.

      Very early predictions:
      R1-QB, R2-TE, R3-DL, R3-LB

      • BK26

        Has to be quarterback. If John has been and will be this picky, why wait? Why take that chance? They can’t afford to.

        I am with you, Rattler is my clear number 1, Leonard being behind him. Overall qb top-end talent isn’t there. I don’t want to wait and see what falls through.

  10. ShowMeYourHawk

    Frank Clark available? We’ve got a tight cap situation but one wonders…..

    • Palatypus

      Or, they might look at someone like Tyreke Smith on our practice squad as a cheap replacement to develop. They have cap issues, too, like $22 Million in you-know-who.

    • cha

      Work your magic, JS. A 2026 conditional 7th round pick should do the trick.

    • Brodie

      Deadline is coming up and the rumors are starting. DT seems like an option to be dealt. Maybe convince someone to look at his 9.5 sacks last year.

      One contract quesiton: On OTC it says that he has accrued 2 years (assume due to the injury his rookie year). Does that mean he’s got another year on his rookie deal? If so, what is the cost. If not – does that mean he gets to hit FA with only 3 years played?

      • cha

        Right. He has two accrued seasons (2021 and 2022, 2020 he as NFI all year so didn’t accrue any). He will get his third once he is on the active roster for his 6th game – Arizona Week 7.

        He will be a Restricted Free Agent since he will be out of contract with only 3 accrued seasons.

        OTC projects the second round tender is $4.9m

        • Gaux Hawks

          Cha, can we trade him now for a second?

          The 2nd would be lower in the round considering the team trading would believe to be in the hunt, and that is 1.75 years of club control for ~$6M… win win scenario, no?

          Pick up Frank and team him up with Jarran for a couple seasons (signing team friendly two-year contract)?

          LEO: Boye Mafe Frank Clark
          SAM: Uchenna Nwosu, Derick Hall

          • cha

            Any team giving up a 2nd for DT right now would be looking really hard at the stat sheet from the last two years and not at much else.

            16 sacks in two years is good. It’s something they could sell their fanbase on. He’s got pretty great athletic traits.

            And if they’re so desperate for pass rush they’d give DT every passing situation rep, sure they might get their money’s worth.

            But I dare say that kind of a trade would be something smart teams wouldn’t do.

        • Brodie

          Thanks Cha

      • cha

        I just looked at Taylor’s stats this year.

        44% of snaps
        0 sacks
        0 QB hits
        3 pressures
        1 TFL
        0 Forced Fumbles
        5 tackles

        45 PFF grade

        • Brodie

          Can’t imagine any interest based on that line. Maybe he can get it going a bit and factor into comp picks somehow next year.

          • cha

            Keep in mind the RFA is ridiculously team-favorable. It’s a non-guaranteed contract.

            They could tender Taylor, then cut him later or try to negotiate him down, and he wouldn’t have a ton of leverage once teams have spent the bulk of their cap budget.

    • Sea Mode

      Well, my first reaction was no too, but if it’s really the minimum…

      Mike Garafolo

      Keep an eye on this one: The #Broncos and DE Frank Clark agreed to a pay cut that takes his $3.5 million base salary down to the minimum the rest of the way $841k), sources say. Clark gave back $1.679 million in base pay as part of the restructure.

  11. Volume12

    I completely disagree w/ a post above about the 23 draft class being sub par at the top. In fact, this draft class overall is shaping up to be fantastic.

    At the top we have guys like CJ Stroud, Will Anderson, lil Spoon, Bijan Robinson, Jalen Carter, Darnell Wright, Peter Skoronski, and when healthy Anthony Richardson and Christian Gonzalez.

    But overall theres also Bryan Bresee, Brian Branch, Sam LaPorta, Joey Porter jr, Jordan Addison, Zay Flowers, Keanu Benton, Devon Achane, Puka Nacua, Byron Young, (Rams), Michael Wilson, Joe Tippman, Josh Downs, and a handful of others I’m forgetting about.

    • Palatypus

      Joe Tippman hasn’t been that great. He was getting walked back, just like at the Senior Bowl when I’ve seen him play. He’s a serviceable rookie and should get better.

      Brian Brese is doing better than I expected with the Saints.

  12. Volume12

    I’m right there w/ ya on Tyler Guyton. Gonna go, and should, much early than where the current mocks have him. Great looking prospect.

  13. Samprassultanofswat

    I like Michael Penix Jr. a TON. I think he is fantastic. In fact he is a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. However, l have the same concerns for Penix Jr. that I did for Bryce Young. Penix Jr. already has had FOUR season ending surgeries. Can he take the punishment that he is going to receive in the NFL?

    • Romeo A57

      The Combine and Pro Day arr going to be huge for Penix. Can he pass a thorough physical? Does he run a 40 or do any of the drills? Would he just skip everything and his agent just tells teams to look at his tape?

      There will continue to be more rumblings from all of the agents about how unfair the combine is and that participants should be paid. Some media members are probably already preparing articles complaining about the combine being unfair and archaic.

      • Palatypus

        And/or the Senior Bowl.

        I’m trying to decide if he would accept an invite. He’s on the watch list.

    • BK26

      Also that offense. To still have his mistakes in it, it’s all enough for me to say “pass.”

      I haven’t watched much of him, but when I did watch him, I came away thinking that it was just too similar to when he was at Indiana. He is just in a better offense with MUCH better weapons.

      His injury history is probably worse than anyone in recent memory. With that alone I would be very hesitant. I just can’t get behind drafting him.

      • Group Captain Mandrake

        I was reading an article in the Times this morning and he said he had never been injured until he was in college. Does that mean he has had incredibly bad luck for the last few years, or can he not stand the punishment from playing with the big boys? It’s hard to tell now since he is basically untouched in the pocket for the last couple years. He has a great arm, but between the offense he is in and his injury history I’d say no thanks.

        • BK26

          It’s got to be that he can’t take the hits. Whatever you think of the BIG 10, they are physical and it translates to NFL punishment.

          I can’t get him playing Iowa his last year at Indiana out of my head. They destroyed him and he was taken out of the game. That was a real defense and he was lost. I also don’t think that he’s been in an offense in college that is any benefit or helps him grow for the next level.

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