I’ve been down on the 2022 draft class and for good reason. There are a small pool of quality players who deserve to go in the top-10. Then, there’s a lot of unknowns. I think the combine this year will be more important than ever. There’s going to be about 60 players who are all graded very similarly. A great workout will be a difference maker.
Yet when I watch the players below, it gets the juices flowing again…
Bernhard Raimann (T, Central Michigan)
There are few things more exciting that seeing a highly athletic, aggressive left tackle capable of playing with agility and light feet, yet willing to mix it up in the power game.
Raimann shows very athletic footwork. It allows him to recover and counter when things don’t go entirely to plan. He handles the speed rush with a good kick-slide and he’s capable of being a ‘dancing bear’ to seal off the edge.
He’s able to bench-press on contact by getting his hands inside to stone speed-to-power rushes. His powerful hands connect and lock-on vs the bull rush and he can plant the anchor against bigger rushers. Raimann’s a finisher, too. He’s not hanging on before eventually the defensive end releases and breaks to the quarterback. A lot of tackles do that. They’re trying to delay to buy a quarterback time. Raimann’s mindset seems to be he’ll block until the end of the quarter if necessary.
The other really attractive aspect is his willingness to get to the second level in the running game. He explodes from the snap, radars in on a linebacker and executes.
Raimann’s ideally sized at 6-7 and 305lbs with room to add more weight if required. Reportedly he’s capable of a 4.60 shuttle, a 33-inch vertical and a 9-8 broad jump. He’s been timed at 1.56 in the 10-yard split and he can press 450lbs. Numbers like that get you into the high first round mix. He’s a former Austrian exchange student who has been working with NFL O-line coach Paul Alexander to develop his skills for the next level.
Along with Northern Iowa’s brilliant Trevor Penning, the two best offensive tackles in this class could be smaller school prospects. Evan Neal is usually projected as the top tackle, thanks to his status at Alabama (starting as a true freshman) and the fact he led Bruce Feldman’s freak list this year. I have some reservations about Neal. I’m not sure whether his best position is actually guard and whether he has some agility limitations to stick at left tackle. It didn’t take long for Las Vegas to shift Alex Leatherwood to guard, after all — and he tested very well.
In terms of attitude, aggressive nature, skill and athleticism — I think Penning and Raimann might be the best tackles on the board. At a time when Seattle’s two tackles are both free agents in the off-season — and with the increasing prospect of major changes across the board — the emergence of these two players is extremely encouraging.
If you are of the mind to desire major change in the off-season and want to see the O-line revamped with high picks — these two names, along with Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, Mississippi State’s Charles Cross (who I think will kick inside to guard in the NFL) and Alabama’s Neal might be the names to focus on. There’s one other name to mention that I’ll come on to later…
Trey McBride (TE, Colorado State)
The tight end position is arguably more dependant on specific traits than most others. The top players all test extremely well in terms of agility (three-cone, short shuttle) and I’m always hesitant to go ‘all-in’ on a tight end until we see these results.
Yet watching McBride on tape — I couldn’t help but envisage a role as a poor-man’s Travis Kelce.
Again, let’s make the qualifier that athleticism matters. Kelce ran a 7.09 three cone and a 4.42 short shuttle. The Kelce family genes are utterly remarkable. McBride is going to have to test at a certain level to justify any comparison like that.
Yet he’s similarly sized, is a good mover at the second level and he is used as basically a #1 target in much the way Kelce is. You’ll see him in the slot, at H-Back, as an orthodox in-line TE. He attacks the seam with long-striding acceleration but can also run corner routes adequately and he challenges defenders with a competitive spirit when the ball’s in the air. He’s a sure-handed and reliable catcher even in traffic.
His YAC ability is seriously impressive — as he drives through contact and finishes runs.
What usually separates players like this going early or in the mid-rounds is athleticism and blocking. We’ll see how he tests but there’s no doubt about his willingness to block. He’s not the biggest at 6-4 and 260lbs but he gives everything at the LOS. His footwork enables a strong base, he keeps his feet moving to drive on contact and there are flashes of violence where he buries opponents into the turf, playing until the whistle.
He sometimes exposes his chest affording for a loss of leverage in the hand-battle — but he’s a tight end. He’s not going to win every 1v1.
McBride has every opportunity to become a QB’s best friend in the passing game and a coaches dream because he can stay on the field for any play-call.
If he has a good combine, the sky’s the limit for him. Based on what I’ve seen, he’s a fringe first rounder. Test well and he confirms an early grade. If he’s an average athlete in terms of agility, he’ll stick until the middle-rounds. He has the talent though to be a big X-factor at the next level.
Abraham Lucas (T, Washington State)
When I first watched Lucas, I was stunned why he gets so little attention on a national level. Purely from the eye-test alone — he’s 6-7 and 320lbs and just screams ‘NFL offensive tackle’. He has an ideal long frame with great athleticism.
Watching him control and handle Kayvon Thibodeaux was enough to have me sold but the more I watched the more I liked. I don’t think I’ve seen a right tackle since Tyron Smith look so comfortable operating in space, blocking 1v1 in pass-pro.
His footwork to handle stunts is incredible and he reads them well. He doesn’t get too deep in his drop but he’s athletic enough to be able to stick with top speed rushers and contain. So many players are terrified at facing a player like Thibodeaux that they cede so much ground off the snap and invite pressure. They’re playing defense. Lucas is an offensive-minded tackle who backs his own physical profile to win on the front-foot.
This should be no surprise. At SPARQ he ran a 4.30 short shuttle. Let that sink in. A 4.30 short shuttle. He also added a 5.03 forty yard dash.
It’s no wonder his agility and light-feet are so evident on tape.
Not only that, he manages to avoid over-extending with his arms and just controls his blocks. He complements his big frame and length with agility to create an impossible situation for pass rushers — who can’t get into his frame to attack because he holds them off but they also can’t attack the edge with speed because he’s too quick.
His kick-slide is patient and he chooses the right time to engage and attack. Lucas handles any inside counters well.
As a run blocker I’ve seen more than enough to believe he can be a success there too. There are examples where he locks on to a defensive end and drives them downfield. He’s not quite as aggressive as other tackles in the run game but I can live with it given his outstanding athleticism and pass-pro qualities.
If he has the kind of combine he’s capable of, Lucas could fly up boards. He looks like a player with firm first round potential.
And one name to watch for 2023…
Will Anderson (DE, Alabama)
Wow. Just wow.
Before I even talk about his game, I want to talk about his attitude. I think he is a player you can build a locker room around. His effort, energy and passion are clear.
I don’t know if he wears #31 because he’s a fan of Kam Chancellor. Yet he plays with the same intensity and approach. He’s an alpha, an absolute dog on the field. He is someone with the ability to set the tone.
It’s a bonus that he’s also incredibly talented.
His get-off is superb. He flies out of the traps and challenges tackles with his first-step quickness. Anderson is incredibly difficult to block 1v1 and will likely ask questions of opponents week-to-week in how they approach defending him.
He’s only listed at 6-4 and 245lbs but it’s amazing how capable he is of disengaging with great hands. You’d expect him to be smothered at his size if he tried to mix things up in a physical battle. Yet he can connect and disengage, then explode to the quarterback. These are vital qualities for the next level where the path to the QB is going to be challenging week-to-week.
I think he can line up off the edge but if you want to drop him into space as a SAM or 3-4 OLB, he does an excellent job to string out run plays. You will not find it easy running to his side if he plays off the LOS.
Anderson has a relentless motor and if his first move stalls — he’ll keep fighting to work to the passer. He sifts through traffic, keeps the legs churning and plays with superb balance. He can combine speed and power to vary his rushes and counter when required. His bull-rush is, again, superb for his size.
In one game this year he split a double team from the right tackle and guard to force a pressure — at 245lbs. Against Miami he connected with the right tackle and threw him off to make a play on the running back. He presses against blockers to keep his frame clean to read running plays.
His build is ideal with long limbs, a powerful lower-half and a lean pass-rusher’s frame.
He has an incredible 13.5 sacks and 26.5 (!!!) TFL’s for the 2021 season.
I don’t feel like it’s an overreaction to say this is exactly the type of player Seattle needs. I get the sense that Anderson is destined for an incredible pro-career where he not only develops into a pass-rushing sack-master but also helps set a culture for a team and quickly establishes a role as a big-time leader.
Roll on 2023 to see where he ends up…
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