One of this writer’s favorite articles of the year is a sit-down chat with an anonymous player personnel assistant to review noteworthy draft prospects. In this fourth annual piece highlighting 2022 NFL Draft hopefuls, a handful of tight ends and pass rushers are discussed, along with one intriguing safety from the Big Ten.
Jermaine Johnson, Edge Rusher, Florida State
6’5, 262 pounds
2021: 12 games; 70 total tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one touchdown
ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He’s super savvy. He converts speed to power very well. He’s a really, really powerful edge rusher. I think he’s a traditional 4-3 hand-in-the-dirt guy. He can play in a two-point stance, but at the end of the day he needs to rush the passer. He’s not a guy that should be dropping into coverage and doing those things; that’s not where his skillset lies. He’s really, really good at splitting double teams. This year, he was excellent in run support. Prior to that, he wasn’t.
Does he fit a 3-4? It depends on what side he’s playing on. If you’re in a 3-4 and one of your guys is lined up as a five [technique] and the other guy is lined up as a seven [technique], your seven is most likely going to be in a two-point stance. I think he could play in a 3-4 for sure. I don’t think there’s a scheme he couldn’t play. He will find success.
I think he’s best suited for a 4-3, though. He was in a 3-4 when he was at Georgia. His last two years there - they went to a lot more 4-3 this year when they went to a national championship - but they played a 3-4 when he was there. Compare that production to his production at Florida State when he was in the 4-3? It was a lot different.
Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
6’1, 200 pounds
2021: 12 games; 63 total tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 5 passes defended, one fumble recovery
They got this kid out of a JuCo school. He is a really, really good player. I don’t think he fits a nickel role necessarily for Green Bay, but Brisker will not fail in the NFL. He’s just a playmaker. That Auburn game they had this year in Happy Valley, he was unbelievable. He legit does everything well. He tackles well, he covers well, he comes up and plays the run well. He was, at an early stage of his career coming out of high school, a cornerback and then he transitioned to safety as he got bigger. So he’s got some of those skills. I would never be afraid of him covering a tight end, I think you’re in a plus spot there. He’s super intelligent and has, honestly, great spatial awareness.
He makes big plays when big plays are needed. One of my favorite things to do when I’m evaluating someone, and really want to take my evaluation seriously, is watch the actual livestream of the game and watch the full game. When you just go through tape, you don’t get the sense of momentum-changing plays and what they mean in the moment. Offense goes down and scores two touchdowns. You were up 17 points, now you’re up by three. They get the ball back and you need a stop desperately. And it’s third-and-eight and you make that tackle one-on-one to prevent the first down? That type of situation – you can’t understand the magnitude of the situation right there. That play needs to be made or it costs you the whole game, right? When you go back and watch Brisker, he just always seems to make big plays at big times.
At Edge Rusher - Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux?
Hutchinson - Michigan
6’6, 265 pounds
2021: 14 games; 62 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, one fumble recovery
Thibodeaux - Oregon
6’5, 258 pounds
2021: 10 games; 49 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
I’m a little less high on Kayvon Thibodeaux than most of the rest of the world. He’s got Hollywood in him. I don’t know if he’s got that dog in him, so to speak. If they lined up a tight end on his side and they go strong side and run right at him, I don’t know if he’s going to hold up. I really don’t.
Whereas Aidan Hutchinson, I’m all in on that. Aidan Hutchinson’s going to be one of your best players on your roster and he’s going to be your hardest worker. That’s a culture guy. That’s a talent. I’m all in on him, no doubt about that. He’s not going to get you TJ Watt-like sacks - 20 sacks or anything like that - but he’s going to get you a dozen. He’s going to be super solid against the run and he’s going to be a leader on your team. At the end of the day, there are four positions that matter most: quarterback, left tackle, defensive end, and corner. You’ve got to finish those four out first. When those four guys are your best players and your hardest workers, that is the recipe for success, historically.
Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
6’6, 260 pounds
2021: 12 games; 62 catches for 756 yards (12.2 average), 6 touchdowns
He got his butt kicked at the Senior Bowl, so I’m going to look dumb for saying this right now. In the game, he got blown up on a couple of pass blocks. But if you put on the tape the last few years, that guy just gets open. He’s not super fast, he’s not super twitchy, he just gets a little separation and makes hard catches consistently. If you look across the NFL, it seems like you turn on the highlights and there’s some 6-foot-5 guy you’ve never heard of scoring touchdowns. Charlie Kolar is a guy, to me, that plays like he’s 10 years into the NFL.
In my opinion, I don’t think he’s going to go until day three of the draft, but that guy was absolutely Brock Purdy’s saving grace. When Brock was in trouble, he was looking for 88. He comes from two parents that were Division I athletes at Oklahoma. He grew up in Norman. Oklahoma didn’t recruit him. He went to Iowa State and became an All-Big 12 guy for two-plus years. The guy is a really, really good player. Now, he didn’t have a good Senior Bowl. Don’t know if it was an off-week for him or what.
Thoughts on the tight end group as a whole?
This is not a good year for tight ends. Anyone that comes out of this draft at tight end that’s going to be good, I feel like is going to come out of the third, fourth, or fifth rounds. The Isaiah Likely kid from Coastal Carolina had a super good Senior Bowl. We’ll see.
Trey McBride from Colorado State is kind of like everyone’s number one tight end. Watching the Senior Bowl practices and watching him run around, the fluidity at which he moves is a bit concerning to me. I don’t see a ton of athleticism and twitch. I don’t know what he does well enough to be a successful every-down player. In last year’s draft, I think he’s a day-three pick for sure. In this year’s draft, he’s going to probably go in the late-second, early-third round. He’s a big dude though, like 260 [pounds].
Jalen Wydermyer from Texas A&M is intriguing. He was a big-time recruit and had a huge game against Alabama this year when they beat them. He’s had some really impressive moments in his career - just inconsistent. He’s a big, big boy. Kind of reminds me of Visanthe Shiancoe when he played with the Vikings. I can definitely see him carving out a little career for himself. But I don’t look at this draft and get fired up about any one player in particular, at least not from what I’ve seen.