During all NFL rookie draws, there is a list of players that I fall in love with, be they top-line prospects or players I believe can represent great value in later rounds.
Time is the only one that can judge the careers of all these prospects, but in what is already a custom in every draft, here is my list of “Love of Men”.
WALKER LITTLE, OT, STANFORD
It’s easy to forget that Little was one of the best prospects coming out of high school in 2016. It’s also easy to overlook that before the start of the 2019 season, he was called to be one of the top five picks in the next draft. The problem is that he has played only one game in the last two years, as he injured his knee after a game in 2019 and chose not to play this past season. He has great feet, and while he lacks some upper body strength, he is bound to be a long-time starter in the NFL if he stays healthy. If he falls at the end of the second round or the third, it will be a steal for the team that selects him.
TREY LANCE, QB, NORTH DAKOTA STATE
In a year in which Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson have taken all the spotlight when it comes to quarterback class, I personally think Trey Lance is the one with the highest ceiling. He reminds me of Josh Allen, given that he has all the physical attributes, and the only criticism that is found is that he played at the FCS level and only played a game last season, after the cancellation by COVID. No other quarterback has played more behind center, he has an enviable intellect for a 20-year-old, and he is a double threat given that not only is his arm a cannon, but he can also hurt you with his legs. It is true that it is not a finished product and it is somewhat green, but if a team has the patience to wait a year, it may end up choosing the one who will ultimately end up being the best quarterback in this draw.
PAULSON ADEBO, CB, STANFORD
There is no doubt that it is a very deep class of cornerbacks, but if you ask me which of those who do not take the reflectors could have the most impact, I would definitely favor Adebo. He’s an unusual combination of size and athleticism, and he’s a true ball-hawk, meaning he generally capitalizes on his opportunities for turnover. He did not play last season, and sometimes his aggressiveness works against him, as it did against Grabriel Davis and UCF in 2019, but his ability, his physical attributes combined with a very high ceiling to which he is still far from reaching, should mean that a team will “steal” it in the third round.
QUINN MEINERZ, OL, WISCONSIN WHITEWATER
It’s not common for a guy who played in Division III to become a coveted prospect. Yet that’s exactly what Meinerz accomplished after shining in the Senior Bowl. The funny thing is that if you review their match videos, they don’t impress you as much as their performance against better competition. He did not play last season, and it is evident that his hand positioning has improved and his movements appear to be more efficient. He played left guard in Wisconsin Whitewater, but I imagine him moving to center in the NFL. Who doesn’t love Cinderella stories?
JAELON DARDEN, WR, NORTH TEXAS
In the NFL they remain overly focused on the measurable. That’s why DeVonta Smith is so questioned, despite coming off a phenomenal season and winning the Heisman trophy. Imagine then what is left of a wide receiver like Jaelon Darden, who played a small college like North Texas, and who is 5’8 “and weighs 175 pounds. However, the rules in the NFL have changed, and I think the “Tiny” receivers have a better chance of extending their careers. Darden has elite speed, can take the roof off your defense at any time, and will also contribute on special teams. He is listed as a receiver, but he is simply a weapon, than some team you will choose on the third day, and I genuinely believe that you will be successful on the next level.
GREGORY ROUSSEAU, EDGE, MIAMI
If they asked me after the 2019 season, I would have told them that Rousseau would be one of the top five picks in the draft. However, he chose not to play last season, and his shares plummeted. He’s impressive in size, and in 2019 he finished second to Chase Young with 15.5 sacks. The problem for him is that he is not the most explosive from the end, and many sacks came from the inside. He has the versatility to train across the line, and although he is not the most fluid yet, I am convinced that if teams have patience and train him, two seasons from now, he will be the best defensive lineman in this draft.
ZAVEN COLLINS, LB, TULSA
One of my favorite prospects from this draft. He was a quarterback in high school, then transitioned to tight end at Tulsa until injury, ended up playing linebacker as an emergency. The result was that he won the Bronco Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik awards. He has unusual athleticism for the position, he is a very good tackler, he has range and is more than acceptable when he has to be in cover. Still a little slow to diagnose plays, but the sky’s the limit for Collins, who I believe will end up being the best defensive player in this draw. It reminds me something of Leighton Vander-Esch, who before injuries, was called to be a star.
JAYLEN WADDLE, WR, ALABAMA
It’s a draft in which Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith take most of the spotlight, but I honestly think that had he not broken his ankle this past season, we would be talking about Waddle as the best receiver in this draft. In my opinion, it has characteristics very similar to those of Tyreek Hill, that is, it has elite speed and is also lethal on special teams. Despite not having the largest size, he can train outside, since he is physical and the 50-50 balls are usually his. He showed guts to play in the title game despite being clearly decimated, and whichever team picks him up in the first round will win a star.
BREVIN JORDAN, TE, MIAMI
When you talk about tight ends in this draft, you talk about Kyle Pitts, and I don’t blame them, given that he is perhaps the best player of the entire draft. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get position value a little later in the draw. Jordan is very athletic and has polished his trail tree a lot. He has an alpha personality, and excellent hands. He has yet to improve his blocking technique, but I see him getting picked on the second day, and making an immediate impact on the NFL.
JARET PATTERSON, RB, BUFFALO
It’s no secret that year after year, there is a lot of value to be gained in later rounds at the running back position. Of that group, perhaps, Patterson is my favorite. Its height is low, but its power is infinite. Incredible balance, and he never seems to fall off at the first tackle attempt. He has a legendary work ethic, good vision, and acceptable finishing speed. Perhaps what is most surprising is that it is an excellent blocker. It reminds me something of Maurice Jones-Drew and I think a team will get an immediate starter and even a potential three-down runner on the third day of this draft.