The NFL Draft is tomorrow, and a lot will unfold in Kansas City. The draft class is deep in the secondary on the offensive line and at skill positions. Here are some of my favorites and sleepers coming into the game, in no particular order.
Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern (2022 season: 79.1 PFF run-blocking grade, 93.0 PFF pass-blocking grade)
Northwestern is becoming a prominent program for offensive linemen, with Rashawn Slater being one of the program’s best of all time. Skoronski is very similar to Slater, being very versatile in what position he could play. He is the grandson of Bob Skoronski, a five-time NFL champion as a tackle for the Packers. The unanimous All-American has been compared to Zack Martin, one of the best offensive linemen of the 2010s.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State (2021 season: 95 receptions, 1606 yds, 9 TDs)
Smith-Njigba had his big break during the 2022 Rose Bowl, with 347 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 15 receptions. He could have been the best wide receiver in college football had it not been for a hamstring injury. He was a third-team All-American in 2021, with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson in front of him. Whoever drafts him will be getting the best receiver in the draft class.
Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama (2022 season: 51 total tackles, 24 solo tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 1 pick-six)
As one of the top prospects in the draft class, Anderson already has a Hall of Fame comparison to DeMarcus Ware, one of the best players in the 2000s. He will fit like a glove in a 3-4 front, which was Alabama’s scheme. The only worry would be his defense against the run and his struggles against longer, more powerful offensive linemen.
Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee (2022 season: 0 sacks allowed, 99.1 PFF efficiency)
Wright’s performance against Anderson alone helped him boost his draft stock, but he did not allow a single sack this season against the SEC, loaded with strong edge rushers. For his efforts this season, he was named to the All-SEC first-team. His comparison, according to NFL.com, is to D.J. Fluker, but I believe Wright will exceed what Fluker did in the NFL.
Jordan Addison, WR, USC (2022 season: 59 receptions, 875 yds, 8 TDs)
Addison won the Fred Biletnikoff Award in 2021 in a 1500-yard, 17-touchdown season at Pittsburgh before transferring to USC to pair up with eventual Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. The 2022 season was not as productive, but Addison is one of the most intriguing receivers in this class that could become a team’s WR1. Addison has been compared to long-time Seahawk Tyler Lockett, who was a first-team All-Pro in his rookie season and continues to be a trusty receiver in Seattle. I expect Addison to be similar to Lockett in his NFL career.
Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee (2022 season: 67 receptions, 1267 yds, 15 TDs)
Hyatt was my favorite receiver during the 2022 college football season, winning the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation’s top wide receiver. His 1267 receiving yards set a school record for most in a single season, and his performance against Alabama made his name known, with a school-record five touchdown receptions on a career-high 207 yards. Hyatt is projected to be a second-round pick, mainly due to his lean frame that can knock him off his route. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein compared him to DeSean Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowler who made huge plays in his prime.
Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah (2022 season: 24 total tackles, 16 solo tackles, 6 INTs, 2 TDs, 6 pass deflections)
It is surprising that Phillips is not getting more hype as the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He is 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds, not helping him to look like one of the ideal cornerback prospects for the NFL. However, Phillips is physical and has a good read on the quarterback and his route. There is a strong argument that he was the best defensive back in college football last season. If Phillips is developed well in the slot position, he could be a key starter in the secondary.
Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon (2022 season: 55 total tackles, 24 solo tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 pass deflections)
Unlike his brother Penei, Sewell is not one of the top prospects in the NFL Draft. He was on his way to becoming a Day 1 pick, being a first-team All-Pac-12 player in 2021. His production dipped, but he did earn a spot on the All-Pac-12 second team. He is more consistent in his tackling and has incredible size. If he reduces the number of weaknesses scouts believe he has, he can make it like his brother in the NFL.
Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina (2022 season: 94 receptions, 1029 yds, 11 TDs)
Downs is a projected second-round pick, and he can exceed his expectations in the NFL. The two-time first-team All-ACC player worked with Sam Howell and Drake Maye in Chapel Hill. Downs is not big but is perfect for the slot position, where he could become the next Julian Edelman or Kadarius Toney.
Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee (2022 season: 3135 passing yds, 27 TDs, 2 INTs, 70 completion percentage)
I was very hesitant to include Hooker with his age and health, being 25 years old and recovering from a torn ACL. He has broken multiple Tennessee records, just like his top receiver Hyatt, throwing 261 passes without an interception and 20 straight games with a touchdown pass. There is so much hype around Will Levis, but Hooker was a better quarterback in college, winning the SEC Offensive Player of the Year. I would look out for the former Vol in the league for the next few years.