The NFL draft is The A critical component of the team building process. GMs, scouts, and coaches hope to fill in the gaps with top potential clients, but the best teams also find major contributors to mid- to late-round tours.
During my days of exploration, I would rank potential clients based on how much they could theoretically contribute to the team in the first few years. While everyone expects a first-round pick to have an immediate impact as a novice or higher reserve, the expectations set in the second and third rounds are generally seen as strong backups with the potential to develop into novices in the future.
Players captured in Rounds 4-7 are seen as development prospects that we hope will deliver initial returns as quality backups or special team distinctions. They are rarely seen as first-day contributors, unless there were personality concerns or a medical issue that forced Scouts to deduct points from the final draft score.
When I was initially working with the Carolina Panthers, I got a first-hand look at Steve Smith’s rise from a third-round return specialist to a wide receiver for the first team. The diminutive pass catcher, now my NFL Media teammate, exceeded all expectations by becoming a real WR1 Alpha. Shoot, he was the last person to win the Triple Crown received before Cooper Cobb accomplished this feat Last season.
Although it’s rare for a team to reveal a stunningly productive hidden gem like Smith after the first round, the league is filled with players who excel at their recruiting mode. And while we’re only six weeks away from the start of the first regular season for the 2022 class, this group has so many non-participants in the first round that their presence is immediately felt. Time will tell if these freshmen are able to maintain their hot starts and develop into legitimate stars, but they certainly made a great first impression.
Giving some time to study the movie and chatting with a few Scouts about this beginner’s class, I’d like to reveal my top 10 early drafts.