There are a lot of different traits that you can teach NFL draft prospects, but it’s almost impossible to teach a player to be a bully.
For as antiquated as a lot of coach speak and clichés are, competitive toughness is something that can be really difficult to instill in players. For most players going pro, they either have it or they don’t, and the willingness to make the tough plays that don’t show up on a highlight reel can be seen on film.
With nearly 120 players scouted and graded this year, I felt that it would be a great opportunity to talk about some of the biggest bullies in this year’s draft class. My colleague Justis Mosqueda and I have used the word “bully” a lot in our Draft Talk podcast episodes, so it only felt fitting to highlight some of the biggest bullies in this year’s draft class.
I may not have a clear winner at every position, but let’s dive into the winners of the first annual Brooke’s Bullies.
Running Back: Dameon Pierce, Florida
Dameon Pierce wasn’t even the workhorse back for the Gators in college, carrying the ball only 329 times over a four-year career. However, despite the limited carries, Pierce has showcased what can only be described as a bully mentality that has put him in the conversation as the top RB prospect in this draft class.
Coming in at just under 5’10” and 218 pounds, Pierce has excellent contact balance and aggressiveness to keep fighting through contact, picking up extra yards and continuing to fight until the end of the whistle. While it ended up resulting in a personal foul, this play from Pierce perfectly showcases his aggressive mentality.
Rivalry games mean more.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 27, 2021
Dameon Pierce gave it his all, but the TD didn't count and he was given a personal foul for continuing to participate without a helmet. pic.twitter.com/Pa6raRw4ht
Continuing after losing his helmet was incredibly unsafe, but it just shows how badly Pierce wants to find the end zone every time he touches the ball.
Wide Receiver: George Pickens, Georgia
Finding a bully at wide receiver can be tough in most draft classes. That isn’t the case this year, because George Pickens might be the epitome of a bully.
Arguably no receiver in this draft class talks more trash than Pickens. With impressive athleticism, explosiveness, and constant chirping, Pickens can get under an opponent’s skin pretty easily. Just ask Georgia Tech’s Tre Swilling, who ended up fighting Pickens back in 2019.
Pickens has matured a lot since this incident, but he still isn’t afraid to talk to defensive backs. He backs up his trash talk too, whether it’s making plays against them or driving them into the ground as a blocker.
Pickens is starting to get some more attention nationally as the draft approaches, so there’s a chance that he could sneak into the first round if there’s an early run at the top receivers in this draft class.
Offensive Line: Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
Playing in the trenches requires a certain mindset, and there isn’t another offensive lineman in this draft that has a mentality quite like Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning.
Penning’s nastiness was on full display at this year’s Senior Bowl, showing up defensive prospects at practice by driving them into the ground and getting under their skin. The aggressiveness even became a problem early in the week when he threw a defensive player into his quarterback Desmond Ridder on a practice rep.
Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning may be one of my favorite players in the Senior Bowl pic.twitter.com/aZ5UFeRrrz— Derek Duke (@DerekDuke25) February 3, 2022
As a prospect, Penning needs to learn to reel his aggressiveness in and clean up his hand placement. Those are things that can be coached, however, unlike the relentless mentality that Penning brings to the table.
Expect Penning to go somewhere in the first round, because offensive line coaches are going to fall in love with this guy.
EDGE Defender: Travon Walker, Georgia
Truthfully, I could have picked just about any player on Georgia’s defense as an official bully in this year’s draft. However, when I think about the player on the defense who played relentlessly and did a lot of the dirty work, I think of Travon Walker.
Walker didn’t light up the stat sheet in 2021, racking up only six sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. However, he was an imposing matchup for offensive linemen, setting the edge and dominating his matchups to prevent any big plays that came his way.
The Georgia prospect is a freak athlete as well, posting a 9.99 RAS with 35.5-inch arms and an incredible 40-yard dash time of 4.51 seconds. The athleticism and motor have helped Walker solidify himself as one of this year’s top prospects, and he’s even worked his way into the conversation for the number one overall pick.
Linebacker: Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
There are plenty of worthy candidates at linebacker this year to make the list of bullies, but I keep coming back to Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal. Coming in over 6’2” and 250 pounds, Chenal has the size and strength to dominate at the point of attack.
As an off-ball linebacker, Chenal was a versatile chess piece for Wisconsin’s defense, moving all over the field to take advantage of certain matchups. He even won his matchups on reps against some of the best offensive linemen in this year’s draft class, including Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum.
Leo Chenal vs Tyler Linderbaum— Damian Parson (@DP_NFL) January 8, 2022
Chenal uses violent and powerful hands. He flips his hips and footwork after engaging. He quickly sheds Linderbaum and the fullback! pic.twitter.com/kjUVWXl31w
Not only does Chenal have good size for an off-ball linebacker, but he also has great athleticism and play strength. His 34 bench press reps at Wisconsin’s pro day puts him in the 99th percentile of linebackers who have ever participated in the drill.
Defensive Back: Jalen Pitre, Baylor
Not all of the bullies on this list have to be physically imposing. What Baylor’s Jalen Pitre lacks in size he makes up for with tenacity.
Coming in at only 5’11” and 198 pounds, Pitre was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by flying all over the field and making plays. He finished the year with 75 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, seven pass deflections and three forced fumbles.
Jalen Pitre ist so ein Spieler pic.twitter.com/9b8kNnGy7m— Adrian Franke (@adrianbb89) April 8, 2022
For a guy of his stature playing in the slot, Pitre has no fear when attacking downhill. That kind of playstyle will translate well in the NFL, especially if he’s asked to embrace some type of STAR role in the slot.