• Zach Pratt

Zach's Draft Corner: Players Under Pressure to Earn their Draft Spot

Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.

Most players wind up hearing about where they will go at some point in the process. Some might go a round earlier, some a round later, but for the most part, players go right around where they expect. As with everything, it's never always the case. Some players get drafted way earlier than many analysts think they will go, and others linger on the board for seemingly far too long. Either way, these outliers are given extra motivation, either to prove that they deserved the lofty draft position they received in April, or to prove to the league that they were all sleeping on their talent. Here are the extreme cases that will have that motivation this year.

Clelin Ferrell, Oakland Raiders

Draft Position – 1st round, 4th overall

The Draft Network Group Big Board Ranking – 11th overall

Personal Position Ranking – Edge3, Day 1 grade

Ferrell is the least extreme example of the outliers listed in the article according to my personal rankings. I’ve been high on Ferrell for a while, and the gentlemen over at TDN tend to agree with me. Ferrell was only a slight reach for us, but many pundits, and many fans, pegged this pick as one of the biggest reaches in the first round. Combine this with the fact that the circus known as the Raiders makes the team one of the most closely watched teams in the league, and Ferrell will need to perform well, and do so immediately, to avoid the bust label so many are already wanting to give him.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants

Draft Position – 1st round, 6th overall

TDN Group Big Board Ranking – 99th overall

Personal Position Ranking – QB9, Day 3 grade

On draft night, Ferrell was quickly forgotten because, only two picks later, the Giants drastically reached for the quarterback they deem as the future of the franchise. Now, the old adage goes that, if you think a player is a franchise quarterback, you take him wherever you can due to the sheer importance of the position. The Giants truly believed that Jones was their franchise quarterback and heir apparent to Eli Manning, so they took him sixth overall. On my personal board, I had QB1 Dwayne Haskins still available. Drew Lock, Jordan Ta’amu, Brett Rypien, Tyree Jackson, Will Grier, and Jarrett Stidham were all also available, and ranked above Jones on my big board. The pressure is on Daniel Jones, even though it seems like the entire league has already given up on Jones before he has even taken a snap as a professional.

Tytus Howard, Houston Texans

Draft Position – 1st round, 23rd overall

TDN Group Big Board Ranking – 186th overall

Personal Position Ranking – OT9, Fringe Day 2 grade

The Texans seemingly panicked here with this pick. It was a very poorly kept secret that the Texans wanted Andre Dillard with this pick, but the Eagles traded up to take Dillard right before he fell to the Texans. I’ve said throughout this process that the Texans desperately needed offensive linemen, so they took one here. However, rather than take my OT3 in Cody Ford, or even my OT4 in Dalton Risner, the Texans reached all the way down to Tytus Howard, the decently athletic and extremely raw tackle prospect from the football powerhouse of Alabama … oh, sorry, that’s Alabama STATE. It’s very likely that at least one tackle taken after Howard will have a successful NFL career. Howard needs to prove he belonged in the first round and be even better than all of the second round prospects in order for the Texans to not hang their head in shame after this one.

L.J. Collier, Seattle Seahawks

Draft Position – 1st round, 29th overall

TDN Group Big Board Ranking – 112th overall

Personal Position Ranking – Outside top ten edge, Day 3 grade

Collier comes in as the last player who was drafted in the first round who I never perceived as having a legitimate chance to go in the first round. Collier was a gigantic outside linebacker who never started a single game for TCU, and looks to be a tweener defensive end/defensive tackle in the NFL. Pete Carroll has come out and said that they view Collier as their new Michael Bennett, and will use him as such. However, Bennett is a Pro Bowl lineman who played with a speed that Collier has never shown on tape. Unfortunately for Collier, the bar has already been set, and the bar is Michael Bennett. Anything less will lead the 12th Man to wish they had a different 11th man on the field instead of Collier.

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, New Orleans Saints

Draft Position – 4th round, 105th overall

TDN Group Big Board Ranking – 13th overall

Personal Position Ranking – S2, Day 1 grade

There was a string of prospects that I had graded as first round talents, or at least fringe first round, that somehow fell to the third day of the draft. Gardner-Johnson was the first of that group, and he apparently fell due to some poor interviews in the draft process. However, on tape, the talent is evident. The Saints can plug him into either safety position and he should be able to succeed. After falling all the way down to the fourth round, Gardner-Johnson has plenty of motivation to make 31 other teams rue the days they passed on CGJ.

Riley Ridley, Chicago Bears

Draft Position – 4th round, 126th overall

TDN Group Big Board Ranking – 61st overall

Personal Position Ranking – WR3, Fringe Day 1 grade

This was a little more expected, but I still believe that Ridley has the traits that translate best to the NFL (route running ability and hands), and has those traits at an elite level. Ridley fell because of a lack of elite athleticism, pure and simple. Now that Ridley has found a team, it’s up to him to show that his exceptional ability and nuance in running routes and his glue hands will lead to a long and fruitful NFL career. There were 16 receivers taken before Ridley, but there’s a good chance we’ll look back and see Ridley as a top-5 receiver from this class.

Amani Oruwariye, Detroit Lions

Draft Position – 5th round, 146th overall

TDN Group Big Board Ranking – 25th overall

Personal Position Ranking – CB4, Fringe Day 1 grade

Oruwariye was a player many believed was a first-round lock, and wouldn’t last far into the second round if he somehow slipped through the cracks. He has size, speed, and a great penchant for making a play once the ball is in the air. There were some technique issues, but he is the type of player you take a chance on if you are going to be drafting a player high. Despite all of this, he somehow dropped well into the fifth round, becoming the 16th cornerback taken. Oruwariye is sure to channel this slight into motivation to live up to the lofty expectations many others had for him.

Blake Cashman, New York Jets

Draft Position – 5th round, 157th overall

TDN Group Big Board Ranking – 59th overall

Personal Position Ranking – LB3, Day 2 grade

Cashman sprung onto the scene with an extremely impressive combine. When I scrambled back to the tape to see what this unheralded linebacker had to give, I was impressed enough with his tape to make him my LB3. The NFL thought differently, as he was LB20 in draft order. There were some concerns about Cashman’s ability to finish tackles due to historically short arms. Cashman will have every opportunity to start for the Jets, and you can bet he will be motivated to finish every single tackle against every ball carrier he can wrap his tiny, little T-Rex arms around.

Kelvin Harmon, Washington Redskins

Draft Position – 6th round, 206th overall

TDN Group Big Board Ranking – 30th overall

Personal Position Ranking – WR4, Fringe Day 1 grade

If you want to know the issues with Harmon, just go back and read what I wrote about Ridley. Harmon has great route running ability and great hands, but bombed the combine. Harmon was the 24th wide receiver taken, and that is about 20 receivers too many taken ahead of him. Harmon also has a great situation in Washington, where there is very little receiver talent and a quarterback who is perfectly built to take advantage of his skill set. Add in the extra motivation from being drafted way later than he should have, and I’m not going to bet against Kelvin Harmon.

Devine Ozigbo, New Orleans Saints

Draft Position – Undrafted

TDN Group Big Board Ranking – 115th overall

Personal Position Ranking – RB1, Fringe Day 1 grade

This was, perhaps, the single biggest travesty of the entire draft. Ozigbo was the only running back that I would have thought about taking in the first round, and he goes undrafted. Twenty-four running backs were actually drafted, yet Ozigbo, a true three-down running back who doesn’t really have a hole in his game, managed to not be one of them. Ozigbo is going to take Mark Ingram’s place in New Orleans, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Saints vaunted rushing attack doesn’t lose a beat.

Lukas Denis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Draft Position – Undrafted

TDN Group Big Board Ranking – 213th overall

Personal Position Ranking – S11, Fringe Day 2 grade

This one was a bit more personal for me. Denis was another player whose athleticism dropped him down a lot of draft boards. However, I absolutely love Denis’s instincts and ability to play the ball in the air. He isn’t a physical player, but he will stop deep completions. His athleticism made him a toss-up to play single-high (I thought he could), but Denis is a perfect fit in the Wade Phillips two-deep scheme that Todd Bowles will implement in Tampa Bay. He is plenty athletic to cover half of the field, and his instincts will lead to some big plays. Tampa Bay drafted players in the secondary with three of their eight picks, but Denis might be the biggest difference maker for the Bucs.

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