Columnists, Sports

Inside the Huddle: Four players I love in the NFL Draft

Amid one of the more eventful NFL offseasons in recent memory, we now head into what is typically the highlight of the offseason with the NFL Draft. While this year’s class may lack the top-end stars of previous classes like Joe Burrow or Trevor Lawrence, there is still plenty of talent to go around in what could be one of the deeper classes of the past decade. With that being said, there are a few players I like more than most, and feel could be generational talents for the teams that draft them.

Kyle Hamilton, Safety 

Notre Dame

It’s rare to see a safety go anywhere near the top of the first round for any draft class, but that is just how good Kyle Hamilton is. While his slow 40-yard dash at the NFL combine may be cause for concern, Hamilton’s game speed remains elite and should play fine at the professional level. While he is a tad slower, Hamilton’s ball-hawk ability combined with his ability to play at the lower level and support the run game remind me a lot of Earl Thomas III’s game style. The only difference being that Hamilton is 6’ 4” whereas Thomas stood at 5’10”. Hamilton could feasibly end up being the best player in this class, and I love the idea of him in Carolina or Atlanta if either team opts to wait on quarterback atop the draft. 

Garrett Wilson, Wide Receiver 

Ohio State

While it seems like many of the top receivers have begun to get piled up in one tier over the past few weeks, I still feel like Garrett Wilson is the clear cut wide receiver one in this class. And I don’t think it’s particularly close. His 4.38 40-yard dash is already appealing, but what makes Wilson different from the other speed demons in this class is his ability to get open anywhere on the field. Wilson showed the ability to run a variety of routes at Ohio State and should continue to excel in the NFL as a crisp route runner that can also take the top off the defense. While there is a bad connotation with this player right now, Wilson reminds me a lot of Calvin Ridley. 

Ridley, who has been suspended for the upcoming 2022 season for gambling on NFL games, was widely regarded as one of the better receivers in the league prior to the 2021 season due to his ability to consistently get open while also keeping the defense honest with his speed. Obviously Kansas City and Green Bay jump off the page as great options for Wilson, but I could also see the Saints taking him with one of their two first-round picks. 

Trent McDuffie, Cornerback 

Washington

A lot of teams are a bit worried about Trent McDuffie and his ability to play man coverage at the professional level, and while that is certainly a bit concerning, I see no reason why he couldn’t be one of the better man corners in the league if he is in the right system. McDuffie primarily played zone coverage at Washington due to the defensive scheme, and in turn wasn’t able to showcase his quickness alongside receivers as much as other cornerback prospects. But McDuffie’s combine showed he’ll be just fine, with a 4.44 40-yard time, McDuffie won’t get burned over the top, and McDuffie’s size at 5’11”, 193 pounds won’t allow him to get pushed around by bigger receivers. While this is certainly high praise, I see a lot of Jaire Alexander in McDuffie, and would like to see him on a team where he isn’t thrusted into the lead role much like Alexander was in Green Bay. Teams like Houston and Minnesota would be great landing spots although he would also be a great fit in New England as a J.C. Jackson replacement. 

Tyler Linderbaum, Interior Offensive Lineman 

Iowa

It’s not everyday you get to talk up an interior lineman, but Tyler Linderbaum truthfully is one of those few centers who deserves to be picked in the first round. Linderbaum profiles as a more athletic center that can excel in a sideline-to-sideline run scheme at the professional level. At 6’2” and 296 pounds, Linderbaum will certainly need to add some weight, and will likely struggle against bigger defensive tackles, but his mobility and athleticism is impossible to ignore. He is excellent at pulling his blocks in the run game, and dominates in the screen game when he can use his speed to pancake opposing defenders. It’s not everyday you get the type of player like Linderbaum, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him land on a team like Dallas or New England, as both teams desperately need help up the middle while also providing Linderbaum with the right play style to excel. 

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