Editor’s Note: Now, all our premium tools for Fantasy, DFS and Betting are included in one subscription at one low price. Customers can subscribe to NBC Sports EDGE+ monthly ($9.99) or save 20% on an annual subscription ($95.88). And don’t forget to use promo code SAVE10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more! My goodness, what a first round that was last night.
Going into Thursday night, there was still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the first round. Travon Walker gained steam to be the first overall selection just three weeks ago and it really spiked throughout the week. Once the first pick was in the books, the next six picks were the usual suspects we had seen in mock drafts. Things started to get crazy after the top ten. Starting with the 11th overall pick, we saw an astounding nine trades including Hollywood Brown and AJ Brown. There were six receivers, seven defensive backs, and nine offensive linemen selected, with all of them seeing a run of some sort.
With runs happening in multiple spots of the first round, really good players ended up getting pushed down the board. Some of those were pounced on already with the Ravens grabbing both Kyle Hamilton and Tyler Linderbaum. Day two has quite a few players that can step in and make an immediate impact, but five of them stand out above the rest.
Liberty QB Malik Willis
The quarterback class was a massive wild card with opinions all over the place. The one consensus opinion? Willis has the best traits and the highest ceiling of these prospects. The fascinating discussion was trying to pinpoint where the quarterbacks would come off the board. Until this past week, both Willis and Kenny Pickett were projected to be selected in the top ten, but things changed right before the draft. Multiple mock drafts released Thursday morning didn’t have a quarterback selected until 19 or 20. That ended up being the case with Pickett being the only quarterback selected at 20th overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This is quite a stunning result for Willis, who had a dynamite pre-draft process from the Senior Bowl to the Combine and everywhere in between. He has a toolbox loaded with elite traits from his dynamic running style to his bazooka arm. Willis has film loaded with throws that will make your jaw drop and runs that are explosive and powerful. The downside of Willis’ game is that he plays in a very elementary college football offense and was surrounded by talent that will likely never play in the NFL. His stock was based heavily on projecting his future growth and less on his technical prowess. If he sees the field year one, his legs and vision in the open field could be an immediate game-changer for whoever drafts him.
Western Michigan WR Skyy Moore
Wide receivers went hot and fast with the top four going off the board between eight and 12 with six total in the top 18. Pair that with both Hollywood and AJ Brown finding new homes and eight teams addressed the position on night one. The class is a deep one with a lot of talent available on day two, which is a big reason why we didn’t see another one come off the board after Treylon Burks at 18.
Moore is a classic example of a talented player that slides to round two due to something that is viewed as a fault. For Moore, it is his size. At a shade under 5’10/195, he doesn’t have the build of a classic style X-receiver. The skills he possesses allow him to be able to play that along with the Z and in the slot. His release package is the best in the class that he deploys with both explosion and technical prowess. He has 4.41 speed which helps him gain separation early and keep it down the field throughout the route. From day one, Moore can come in and play any role you want him to but he likely plays best in the slot right away.
Minnesota EDGE Boye Mafe
The edge group is still flush with talent going into round two. After the top three prospects all went before pick five, there were only two others that went in the first round with Jermaine Johnson at 27 and George Karlaftis at 30. The top of the second round could see another run and Mafe could be that player.
At Minnesota, Mafe was never utilized as a true alpha pass rusher. Minnesota used a true rotation with their defensive line to keep their players fresh. When he was on the field, he was a monster getting to the quarterback. In 2021, Mafe had 40 pressures and six sacks, including a pressure every six pass rush reps. Mafe has really nice size and a great athletic profile to succeed right away with a 9.91 Relative Athletic Score, including a 98.8 percentile 10-yard split and 41.5″ vertical. He would be able to come in and be a versatile pass rusher right away.
Georgia LB Nakobe Dean
The linebacker position is one that has inherently lost value over the last few years. With passing the football becoming both more trendy and more valuable, linebackers inherently see the field less often and are less impactful from down to down. In order to take a linebacker high, they need to give you surplus value in both coverage and rushing the passer. Dean brings that to the table.
At Georgia, Dean was the best player on a historical defense. He posted PFF grades above 90 in both coverage and in pass rush. What he lacks in size (5’11/230) he makes up for with excellent vision, instincts, and burst. His run defense isn’t up to par with a lot of middle linebackers but he more than makes up for it with his strengths on passing downs. The big question is why is he still available? He is ranked at 24 on the consensus board compiled by The Athletic’s Arif Hasan and he would have fit tremendously well with teams in the back end of the first round. His size along with positional value likely pushed him down the board, but he will be a day one starter that can be deployed in numerous ways.
Clemson CB Andrew Booth
The cornerback position went off the board in a much different way than expected. Both Ahmad Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr came off the board in the top five and we didn’t see another one until pick 21. There are a bevy of good cornerbacks on the board in the second round with Booth Jr being at the top of the list.
Viewed by many as a top cornerback, Booth Jr is still available at this spot due to not having tested athletically. He ranked 20th on Hasan’s consensus board and has tremendous skill. He has the requisite size and length that you want in a CB1. His skillset is very appealing. Booth Jr displays excellent ball skills and a great ability to click-and-close on receivers and ball carriers. The players that ended up going ahead of him all had athletic testing. Once Booth Jr is healed up from the sports hernia surgery, he has the ability to start from day one and succeed early.