Prospect Profile

Prospect Profile: Bo Nix

Quarterback has been a position of significant intrigue ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft. The least intriguing piece is USC’s Caleb Williams, who has been slotted into the No. 1 overall pick pretty much since the end of the 2023 NFL Draft. For several weeks now, a prediction that three other quarterbacks (LSU’s Jayden Daniels, North Carolina’s Drake Maye, and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy) are expected to occupy the three picks immediately following the presumed selection of Williams, in some order. After those four, only two other names have been mentioned as potential first round passers: Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. (who received a Prospect Profile a month ago) and Oregon quarterback Bo Nix.

Nix started off his high school career at Scottsboro School (Alabama) before following his father, former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix, who had just been hired as the head coach at Pinson Valley HS (Alabama) closer to Birmingham. A fractured left ankle kept the younger Nix from thriving in his first year at the new school, but he made a return in time to lead Pinson Valley to a state championship title. He absolutely dominated his senior year, leading his school to their second straight state title and getting ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s 62nd best overall recruit and second-best dual-threat quarterback behind Daniels. Other recruiting services had him as a five-star quarterback and the top dual-threat passer in the nation.

Sitting smack dab between Alabama and Auburn, Nix was recruited heavily by both programs. It did not take much to persuade Nix, though, as he committed to his father’s alma mater before his senior season even began, never wavering from following in his father’s footsteps. Nix enrolled early for the Tigers and quickly beat out Joey Gatewood and Malik Willis for the starting job as a true freshman. Despite early growing pains, namely his 57.6 completion percentage, Nix shined in his first year leading the team, earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors. While Nix displayed some ups and downs over the next two years, his numbers continued to improve despite having three different offensive coordinators. The team success did not improve, though, as the Tigers went 12-9 with Nix starting in those two years.

After a broken ankle ended his 2021 season, Nix let it be known that he was miserable under new head coach Bryan Harsin, who didn’t coach in 2023 after being fired part-way through the 2022 season, and entered the transfer portal. Nix committed to Oregon, reuniting with Kenny Dillingham, who had been his offensive coordinator during his freshman year at Auburn. Thanks to COVID-19, Nix now had six years to play five seasons, meaning he had two years of eligibility remaining with the Ducks.

Nix exploded in his first season at a new school. For the first time in his collegiate career, Nix eclipsed a 70 completion percentage (71.9), 3,000 passing yards (3,593), 20 passing touchdowns (29), 500 rushing yards (510), and 10 rushing touchdowns (14). He was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection as he set the school record for highest completion percentage at a school that produced such quarterbacks as Marcus Mariota and Justin Herbert. His senior year saw him take off even more, beating his prior year passing numbers with a new record-77.4 completion percentage, 4,508 passing yards, and 45 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

If stats were the sole determining factor for who would go No. 1 overall in the NFL draft, Nix would be the unanimous selection. In 2023, Nix’s 77.4 completion percentage led all of college football. It wasn’t just a school record, it broke Mac Jones‘ FBS record for single-season completion percentage. Nix was second in the FBS in passing yards only behind Penix (4,903) last season. He let the nation in passing touchdowns, and while some full-season starters like Florida State’s Jordan Travis and Penn State’s Drew Allar had few interceptions (2), neither were producing near the yardage and touchdowns of Nix. But scouts and coaches focus on much more than numbers when it comes to the draft.

Physically, Nix is not the prototype for a quarterback, but his body type works for the game he plays. While Nix set records with his arm this year, he still projects best as dual-threat passer. Some of his best throws come on the run and without his feet set, and he uses strong footwork to avoid tacklers in a collapsing pocket. He benefited from most of his production coming off quick, one-look passes, but those plays fit his quick release and strong arm.

Nix still showed the ability to throw all over the field and was productive using play fakes to open routes up down the field. He is a strong runner and, though he did sustain a pair of ankle injuries through high school and college, any questions of his toughness were put to rest when he broke Colt McCoy and Kellen Moore‘s NCAA records for most starts in a career for a quarterback with 61.

So, why isn’t Nix going No. 1 overall? Mainly, quarterbacks with Nix’s style of play have not generally fared well in the NFL. They have not fared poorly (see Mariota, Baker Mayfield, Tyrod Taylor), but they never really stick out around the league’s best. Coaches have nitpicked a lack of patience that does not allow routes to develop and open up. Nix also can rely on his great arm strength as a catch-all, affecting his accuracy and forcing his receivers to make some uncomfortable grabs. Teams also will not like that he is 24 years old entering the NFL draft. It’s not quite on the level of Brandon Weeden (the NFL’s oldest-ever first-round pick at 28 years old), but he’s already the same age as Trevor Lawrence.

Nix presents a mixed bag coming into the draft. He provided outstanding production through the air and on the ground at the collegiate level. Though his style of play isn’t tailormade for the NFL, Nix has proven to be very coachable. After three different coordinators in his first three seasons and a change of schools, Nix continued to improve year after year, going from a 57.6 completion percentage as a freshman to the FBS record-holder in the stat. He has been lauded for his academics and leadership with his coaches calling him “another coach” on the field, and he only got better each year.

There is plenty to suggest that Nix could struggle to be elite at the next level, but with his tools and drive, it’s hard to imagine that he won’t get a chance as a starter at some point.

Now, where does a player like that go in the draft? Most see Nix as a likely Day 2 pick, though an early run of quarterbacks could force a team’s hand if they truly want Nix, and there isn’t an absence of teams who do. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, there is an assumption in league circles that, if Nix goes in the first round, it will be to the Broncos. While some speculate that Denver could trade up to select McCarthy, many like Nix better as a stylistic fit with head coach Sean Payton. The Broncos do not have a second-round pick, so they may opt to trade back from No. 12, collect more draft capital, and draft Nix to compete with the newly acquired Zach Wilson.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter warns not to dismiss the Rams, either. Schefter points to general manager Les Snead, who was a graduate assistant coach at Auburn in 1993, when Nix’s father, Patrick, was the Tigers’ quarterback. With some speculation that Penix could be the fifth passer coming off the board as high as No. 8 overall, do not rule out Los Angeles taking Matthew Stafford‘s heir apparent at No. 19.

The speculation does not stop there. With mere days remaining until the draft begins, there is no shortage of possibilities for how the event may play out. Nix could join the others in the first round, or he could freefall into the middle of the draft. Regardless, some NFL team should be adding a coachable, fast-learning competitor later this week.

Prospect Profile: Laiatu Latu

The NFL world is lucky that it will soon have the opportunity to watch UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu. The deadly pass rusher almost passed up a football career after leading his high school to two national championships in rugby. After briefly considering an international career as a professional rugby player, Latu made the decision to go to college for football and is now preparing to receive a call this Thursday from an NFL coach or general manager.

Latu was a consensus four-star recruit out of Jesuit HS in Carmichael, CA, with 247Sports ranking him as a top-100 recruit and a top-five weakside defensive end in the country. Latu received all the major college football offers before narrowing it down to an all-west coast top-five of Cal, Oregon, USC, UCLA, and Washington. Latu committed to the Huskies as their third-best recruit in the Class of 2019 behind only Trent McDuffie and Puka Nacua.

As a true freshman, Latu failed to see the field much at all as a reserve and special teamer. In the runup to the 2020 season, Latu suffered a serious neck injury and was eventually told he would have to medically retire because of the ailment. After seeking out the opinion of the doctor who performed Peyton Manning‘s neck surgery back in the day, Latu was medically cleared to play again.

During his rehabilitation, Latu returned to the rugby pitch. Once again, the young athlete was given the opportunity to go pro, receiving a contract offer from the Seattle Seawolves, but yet again, Latu refused to give up on his dream of playing football. He entered the transfer portal and found his way back to his home state with the Bruins, following his position coach at Washington, Ikaika Malloe, whom Latu saw as a bit of a father figure.

In his debut season at UCLA, Latu exploded coming off the bench. Despite not starting a single game, Latu led the team in both sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (12.5) on his way to first-team All-Pac-12 honors. Last season, as a full-time starter, Latu improved on both of those numbers, leading the Pac-12 in sacks (13.0) while leading the nation in tackles for loss (21.5). Not only did Latu return to the All-Pac-12 first team in 2023, but he was also the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American. On top of his ability to bring opponents down behind the line of scrimmage, Latu was disruptive in other ways with five forced fumbles, five passes defensed, and two interceptions during his two years in Los Angeles.

Latu is a pass-rush specialist. With 129 total pressures in 25 games, NFL teams will be licking their chops to add the 23-year-old to their defensive front. He’s wily and effective in putting together his pass-rush moves. His hands are quick and strong, helping him beat any player in his path with rips, clubs, and punches. He is quick off the line, and his elite flexibility helps him to get around tackles on the outside with ease. He’s used to getting double teams and still finds ways to be productive. Latu keeps his eyes on the backfield, helping him to rack up those TFLs, and he uses the drive and aggression from his rugby days to pursue ball carriers all over the field. He also showed athleticism dropping back in coverage, and the coaches at UCLA claim he could have been their best tight end if they had played him both ways.

Latu’s biggest red flag is going to be his medical history. The two-and-a-half-year sabbatical from football due to the neck injury could scare some teams off, though they’ll all have done their homework on the situation at this point in the process. On the field, though, he could stand to improve in his run defense. He’s great at identifying the play but can too easily be erased when runs are designed to go right at him, and he misses too many tackles.

Alabama’s Dallas Turner has long been viewed as the top edge rusher in a class that maybe isn’t as strong as groups of the past. Latu has already worked his way up the draft board, passing Penn State’s Chop Robinson and Florida State’s Jared Verse to get to the second spot on most draft boards at the position. As the draft gets closer and closer, front offices are starting to become enamored with Latu’s disruptive abilities. There isn’t a better pure pass rusher in this draft, and with the ability to play standing up or with a hand in the dirt, he could go to nearly any team and become their sacks leader as a rookie.

Prospect Profiles: Adonai Mitchell, Xavier Worthy

While LSU’s top-ranked duo of Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. have garnered plenty of press so far and Florida State’s duo of Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson have seen a drop in their respective draft stocks, it might be time to shine a spotlight on the two receivers coming out of Austin who both have a chance to hear their names called on Day 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft (Washington’s trio of Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk, and Jalen McMillan may require a profile in the future, as well).

Junior Longhorns Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy have a chance to be the first Texas receivers drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft since Roy Williams in 2004. This would also make Mitchell and Worthy the third and fourth first-round receivers for the Longhorns in their storied history (Lam Jones, No. 2 overall to Jets in 1980).

Texas hasn’t had the greatest history with sending wide receivers to the NFL. Since 2008, players like Limas Sweed (second round, 2008), Jordan Shipley (third round, 2010), and Collin Johnson (fifth round, 2020) have failed to make an impact at the NFL level. Third-round picks Marquise Goodwin (2013) and Devin Duvernay (2020) are really the only pass-catchers since Williams to make a name at the professional level, though Goodwin only has one season over 432 yards in an 11-year career and Duvernay’s biggest impact has been as an All-Pro return man. Mitchell and Worthy have a chance to change the trends of their school’s history at the next level.

Worthy was a top-100 recruit in the Class of 2021 out of Central East HS (California) in Fresno. After a breakout junior year, Worthy began fielding offers from college football’s best. Despite offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, and others, Worthy committed to Michigan. He initially intended to enroll early alongside quarterback signee J.J. McCarthy, but trouble meeting Michigan’s academic requirements led Worthy to defer his enrollment until June. He still found an apartment in Ann Arbor, though he couldn’t work out with the team, but moved back home to explore other options after a month, decommitting from the Wolverines in the process.

Worthy had originally chosen Michigan over the Crimson Tide, who had then-offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. When Sarkisian was hired as the Longhorns’ head coach in 2021, Worthy committed sight unseen. Worthy immediately made an impact as a true freshman, leading the team by healthy margins with 62 catches for 981 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. The next highest totals were 26 catches (Jordan Whittington), 377 yards (Whittington), and four touchdown catches (Bijan Robinson). He finished as a Freshman All-American, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year.

Worthy’s production dipped a bit as a sophomore as Whittington and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, who had redshirted in 2021, ate into some of his production. Still, Worthy led the team in catches (60), receiving yards (760), and receiving touchdowns (nine) while earning second-team All-Big 12 honors. It was more of the same last year for Worthy. Once again, he led the team in receptions (75) and receiving yards (1,014), but he was eclipsed in receiving touchdowns (five) by the newcomer Mitchell.

Mitchell was a rare situation of a high school reclassification. Where it’s common to sometimes see recruits reclassify to enter college a year early, Mitchell reclassified from the Class of 2020 to the Class of 2021 in high school, spending his gap year training. Growing up in the Houston area, Mitchell transferred from Westbury Christian School (Texas) to Ridge Point HS (Texas) in order to get more recruiting attention. Still struggling to garner offers, Mitchell followed his father, who moved to Nashville, and transferred to Cane Ridge HS (Tennessee) for his senior year before reclassifying to the Class of 2021.

Shortly after reclassifying, Mitchell committed to Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss. Six months later, though, as the offers continued to roll in, Mitchell flipped to Georgia and then-offensive coordinator Todd Monken. He joined the Bulldogs as a three-star recruit, the 60th best wide receiver in the class, according to 247Sports.

As a freshman, Mitchell was part of a balanced wide receiving corps. While tight end Brock Bowers led the team in every receiving category, Mitchell’s stat line of 29-426-4 (catches-yards-touchdowns) was very similar to then-sophomore Jermaine Burton (26-497-5) and redshirt freshman Ladd McConkey (31-447-5). Mitchell also caught the go-ahead touchdown in the team’s National Championship victory. In his sophomore season, Mitchell was limited to only six games with a left ankle injury. He had nine catches for 134 yards and three touchdowns.

While in school in Georgia, Mitchell’s parents had been looking after his daughter (born the summer before his freshman season). After winning two championship rings with the Bulldogs (and missing most of his sophomore year), Mitchell opted to transfer closer to his family by enrolling at Texas. In his lone season as a Longhorn, Mitchell finished second on the team behind Worthy with 55 catches for 845 yards but led the entire Big 12 conference with his 11 touchdowns.

Mitchell and Worthy present as two different types of receiving options coming out of Austin. At just over 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Mitchell is a bigger target with a wider catching radius. Mitchell doesn’t sacrifice speed or explosiveness for his size, though. At the NFL scouting combine, Mitchell put up a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, a nearly 40-inch vertical jump, and an 11-foot-4 broad jump. He has above-average acceleration to get him to that elite top speed and uses impressive agility and control in his routes to create separation with stutter routes and by lagging into open areas of coverage. He shows that extra gear when the ball is in the air and has good body control to make adjustments on the ball. When he’s not the quarterback’s target (he was not a high-volume target in college), he’s always looking for someone to block.

Mitchell will need to get stronger at the next level, though. With his lean form, Mitchell can get bullied by more aggressive cornerbacks. While he has a large catch radius, he has smaller hands and wasn’t elite at reeling in contested catches, though he only had one drop in 2023. He also got most of his yardage without the ball in his hands, only averaging 3.2 yards after catch this season, displaying a lack of ability to make tacklers miss as a ball carrier.

Worthy is a bit shorter than Mitchell at just over 5-foot-11. He’s also slight at just 165 pounds. Similar to Mitchell, Worthy had impressive explosiveness with a 41-inch vertical and nearly 11-foot broad jump. Elite speed is what defines Worthy and gives him a chance to be a first-round pick.

You’ll know the name “Worthy” because he broke the NFL scouting combine’s record for the fastest ever 40-yard dash a month and a half ago. Worthy covered the distance in a record-breaking 4.21 seconds. His speed will be his biggest asset at the NFL level. He has great agility to make cuts in his route-running and his speed makes coverage with a cushion a necessity, though often a futile one. He shows good ball-tracking on deep routes and has a good ability to make tacklers miss with start-and-stop jukes. While the smaller wideout can get knocked back at contact, his low center of gravity and strong balance helps him stay on his feet often.

His size will limit him at the next level, though. Despite his impressive vertical jump, he doesn’t show that ability on the field to climb the ladder for high throws. He doesn’t have a strong ability to make contested catches, either, and focus is often an issue that leads to drops, fumbles, and muffed punts.

Despite their weaknesses, both Mitchell and Worthy project as late-Day 1 or early-Day 2 draft picks. Mitchell has great speed with an ideal frame, provided he can put on some muscle. He also displayed a clutch gene in college, often making the biggest plays at crucial moments. His effort and athleticism will draw the attention of several clubs in the mid-to-late first round.

Worthy is much more of a specialty player at the next level, but that certainly doesn’t mean he can’t find success. He was already a second- to third-round projected pick, but his record-breaking speed may be enough to elevate him to the late-first round. Even if team’s balk at some of his shortcomings, Worthy’s speed and special teams prowess (he led the NCAA in punt return yards this season) guarantee him a draft selection in the first two days. Together, the duo will work to change the reputation of pro Longhorn receivers.

Prospect Profile: Quinyon Mitchell

With these Prospect Profiles, we generally like to shine a spotlight on players who haven’t constantly been thrust into the national spotlight, prospects you likely haven’t been watching on primetime television. Enter Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell.

Toledo went eight years (2009-2016) with zero players drafted into the NFL. The Rockets exploded back onto the scene in 2017 with three players getting drafted, starting with former Chiefs third-round pick Kareem Hunt. Including the 2017 picks, Toledo has sent nine players to the NFL through the draft since then, featuring impact players like Hunt and Diontae Johnson. Mitchell has the chance not only to extend that recent lineage, but also to become the Rockets’ first Day 1 draft pick since Dan Williams in 1993.

Mitchell’s lack of a spotlight dates back to his early days in high school. Despite residing in the talent-rich state of Florida, Mitchell found himself at Williston HS, a small, 1A school south of Gainesville. Lost in the dregs of high school recruits, Mitchell was a consensus three-star athlete ranking so far down the boards that he avoided the attention of the state’s big three (Florida, FSU, Miami). ranked Mitchell as the nation’s 114th best cornerback recruit.

Mitchell raked in a number of small school offers from the likes of Alcorn State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, South Dakota, and South Alabama before landing a couple offers from in-state FAU and USF. At a satellite recruiting camp, visiting Toledo coaches took note of Mitchell and delivered an offer. He committed to the Rockets, but a senior year offer from Illinois led Mitchell to consider his options before ultimately sticking with Toledo and heading north to Ohio.

At Toledo, academic struggles forced Mitchell to grayshirt his freshman year before the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season kept him mostly quiet in 2020, as well. Following the slow start, though, Mitchell came on strong as a full-time starter in 2022. Through the final three years of his college experience, in fact, Mitchell didn’t miss a single start, playing through a couple minor injuries to make 40 straight starts.

In his second season as a starter, Mitchell exploded onto the scene. While leading the MAC in interceptions with five, two of which were returned for touchdowns, Mitchell earned first-team All-MAC honors. But he caught the national eye after leading the country in passes defensed with 25, helping him to earn second-team All-American honors. He followed that up with a strong 2023 season, as well, in which he recorded one interception and 19 passes defensed (leading the MAC) and earned the same All-MAC and All-American accolades.

His elite ability to break up passes occurred all over the field. Not only did he display the speed and stickiness to stay with receivers down the field, but he also showed off an elite ability to read the quarterback and receiver and drive upfield to break up short comebacks and screens. He may have the best ball skills of any defensive back in this year’s draft. What’s almost as impressive as what he did with those skills, though, is what he didn’t do. Mitchell’s elite coverage was accompanied by elite restraint. During his two second-team All-American seasons, Mitchell drew only one penalty (a pass interference call in 2022).

It difficult to find holes in Mitchell’s game. The glaring red flag is obviously the lack of competition, though he did face off against a number of talented receivers, including top wide receiver prospect Marvin Harrison Jr., who beat him for a touchdown in 2022. There could be concern that Mitchell may not hold up as well against top-end receiver talent on a consistent basis. Also, due to the lack of talent around him, there isn’t a ton of film on Mitchell in hard press coverage. In order to help cover more of the field, Mitchell was often in zone or off-man coverage. Teams will want to get him coached up on press techniques early. Similarly, Mitchell lacks experience in the slot, playing almost exclusively on the outside in college.

At the NFL scouting combine, Mitchell only improved his draft stock. He showed off speed that we already knew was there with a 4.33-second 40-yard dash. He also displayed a surprising strength and explosiveness in the bench press and jumps that, while not elite, were very impressive. Everything he did in Indianapolis was just a confirmation of what he’s put on film at Toledo for the last two years.

Mitchell is almost certain to become the Rockets’ first first-round selection in 31 years. Both ESPN’s Matt Miller and Dane Brugler of The Athletic have Mitchell ranked as the second-best cornerback prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft behind only Alabama’s Terrion Arnold. Brugler ranks Mitchell as the draft’s 11th best prospect, while Miller ranks him slightly lower at 15th.

Mitchell is an NFL-ready cornerback likely to start immediately wherever he is chosen to go. Team’s will be tempted to utilize his elite abilities on special teams, something he excelled at with Toledo, but his elite speed and ball skills will immediately become a factor on some mid-first round team’s defense. Mitchell is finally about to step into the spotlight, and how he handles it will determine whether or not Toledo has produced another unexpected NFL contributor.

Prospect Profile: Cooper DeJean

The University of Iowa has been a bit of a surprise team of late with a number of former Hawkeyes going pro and making a big impact in the NFL. Joining the ranks of Lukas Van Ness, Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta, Tyler Linderbaum, and Tristan Wirfs, junior cornerback Cooper DeJean is expected to be the next Iowa alum selected early in an NFL draft.

DeJean grew up in Iowa as a multi-sport athlete, excelling in baseball, basketball, track, and football. At OABCIG HS in Ida Grove, Iowa, DeJean was a star athlete on the gridiron, playing wide receiver, quarterback, and defensive back while also returning punts. He earned All-State honors as a receiver his sophomore year and then led his team to undefeated, state championship seasons at quarterback the following two years.

Despite ranking as a consensus four-star recruit and a top-ten safety in the nation, according to, DeJean only garnered one FBS offer. His first offer came from Iowa Western CC before he earned offers from FCS programs like Illinois State, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Northern Iowa. He earned his first and only FBS offer from the Hawkeyes following a Junior Day visit and committed two months later.

At Iowa, DeJean played sparingly as a freshman, appearing in seven games and making one start but staying mostly off the stat sheet. His sophomore season was a different story as he exploded onto the scene. Starting all 13 games in his second season with the Hawkeyes, DeJean finished the season with second-team All-Big Ten honors after leading the team with five interceptions and 13 passes defensed while playing across from Broncos cornerback Riley Moss. DeJean demonstrated his return abilities on those interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns. He also demonstrated his return abilities on returns, averaging 16.5 yards per return on ten punts fielded.

DeJean’s junior year at Iowa was similarly impressive. He received first-team All-Big Ten honors as both a defensive back and punt returner while also being named Big Ten DB of the Year and Big Ten PR of the Year. On 21 punt returns, DeJean had 241 return yards and a touchdown. Seeing far fewer targets, DeJean continued to produce as a cornerback with two interceptions and seven passes defensed, but a broken fibula in his right leg in November would require season-ending surgery that sidelined him for the remainder of the year and for the pre-draft process until very recently.

This past week, DeJean was able to host a private workout for scouts. He demonstrated an impressive explosiveness on his vertical and broad jump and clocked in at 4.42 seconds (unofficial) for his 40-yard dash, per Jeff Risdon of USA Today. The mini-pro day did much to prove that his recovery was progressing well and that the injury likely won’t be a factor in his rookie season.

DeJean is slightly shorter than the prototypical cornerback size (just over six feet tall), but as an athlete who was moved around to safety and hybrid roles in Iowa City, he has decent size to go along with his above average speed. His reaction time can be a hindrance at times, but he often masks it with great anticipation. His playing experience as a quarterback, receiver, and cornerback gives him a unique insight that allows him to anticipate better than most other defenders. He’s one of the better tackling cornerbacks in this draft and plays physical even when the opponent is not carrying the ball. His combination of speed and physicality allow him to use a variety of man coverage techniques with success. His lack of solid reaction time leads to the occasional overrunning of a route, and he can get grabby to avoid losing coverage, but these are rare occasions in what is usually stellar coverage.

ESPN’s Matt Miller ranks DeJean as the fourth-best cornerback and the 26th-best prospect overall. Dane Brugler of The Athletic seems to agree, slotting DeJean as the fourth-best corner and the 25th-best prospect overall. DeJean seems like a no-brainer in the mid- to late- first round. He shows versatility with experience playing all over the secondary and becomes an immediate special teams asset as a rookie. DeJean will hope to land with a team who can utilize him early and often as he attempts to join LaPorta, Linderbaum, and George Kittle as the most recent Pro Bowl Hawkeyes in 2024.

Prospect Profile: Michael Penix Jr.

At this point, it’s starting to become extremely clear who we should be expecting to see as the first player and quarterback taken in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft next month. We also know UNC quarterback Drake Maye is fighting off LSU Heisman winner Jayden Daniels as QB2 of the draft and that Michigan national champion J.J. McCarthy and Oregon’s Bo Nix are enjoying their own late surges towards the first round. One other quarterback seems to polarize more than the rest, as Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. continues to work to prove himself as a top football player.

As a three-star recruit out of Tampa Bay Tech HS (Florida), Penix struggled to stand out in the talent-laden state of Florida. He quickly picked up local offers from Group of 5 schools like USF and FAU before attending a camp at Tennessee and earning his first Power 5 offer. 10 months later, after receiving only a few other offers, Penix committed to the Volunteers. After the school’s firing of Butch Jones, the head coach to whom he had committed, Penix decommitted, taking the week before an early National Signing Day to consider his options before ultimately signing to attend Indiana.

Penix would redshirt his freshman year with the Hoosiers, appearing in only three games before tearing his ACL. After returning from his injury, Penix entered his redshirt freshman year as the starter, winning the job over incumbent quarterback Peyton Ramsey. In six starts, Penix led the Hoosiers to a 5-1 start to the season while completing 68.8 percent of his pass attempts for 1,394 yards and 10 touchdowns with four interceptions. He also added 119 yards on the ground for two touchdowns. Unfortunately, Penix’s season ended there after a sternoclavicular joint sprain and clavicle fracture on his non-throwing, right shoulder would keep him out for the remainder of the season.

Penix would return in 2020 as the starter once again and once again lead the team to a 5-1 start. His completion percentage suffered as the team leaned more heavily on his arm, but he would increase his production to 1,645 passing yards and 14 touchdowns before suffering a second torn ACL to end his third season. In his final year as the Indiana starter, Penix looked like a shell of his former self. The Hoosiers started the season 2-3 as Penix threw for 939 yards, four touchdowns, and seven interceptions in five starts while only completing 53.7 percent of his passes. His time in Bloomington ended, once again, with his fourth season-ending injury, this one a dislocated joint in his throwing shoulder.

Instead of laying down to watch his football career die, Penix opted to hop into the transfer portal. Thanks to his utilized redshirt and the extra year of eligibility granted to players in school during the 2020 COVID-19 impacted season, the lefty passer still had two years of eligibility left, and finally, in Seattle, Penix was offered the opportunity to play for a contender. Penix became the starter at Washington and immediately led the Huskies to a winning season following their 4-8 2021 campaign.

At Washington, Penix rediscovered his accuracy, completing just over 65 percent of his passes in both years with the team. During the team’s 2022 campaign, Penix led the country in passing yards per game en route to becoming the school’s all-time single-season passing leader with 4,641 yards while scoring 31 touchdowns through the air and four more on the ground. He followed that up with a 14-1 season that would take Washington to the National Championship game, ultimately falling to McCarthy’s Wolverines. Still, in 2023, Penix broke his own single-season record with 4,903 passing yards (thanks to two extra games) and passed for 36 touchdowns while rushing for three more. He led the FBS in passing yards, but even with his extra games, he also led the country in passing yards per game for the second season in a row.

Now, finally out of eligibility, Penix is ready to head to the NFL following a successful college career. He brings an aggressive approach to the passing game with an ability to deliver quick strikes and throw competitive balls downfield for his receivers to win. He doesn’t lack confidence, showing a willingness to make every throw at every level of the field but could still stand to improve in some of those areas, namely intermediate passes across the middle of the field. This can lead to a few missed passes and, while he did post impressive completion percentages, ranking 28th in the country at 65.4 in 2023, his fellow draft candidates, USC’s Caleb Williams (12th at 68.6), Daniels (seventh at 72.2), McCarthy (sixth at 72.3), and Nix (first at 77.4), all showed better accuracy this past year.

Other nitpicks on Penix revolve around inconsistent mechanics and an inability to sense pressure (perhaps a symptom of left-handedness in a right-hander’s game), but the biggest areas of concern surround his health. Before transferring, Penix suffered four season-ending injuries in as many years. Many placed the utmost importance on his medical evaluations at the NFL scouting combine, and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network delivered the good news that his medical testing “went well,” claiming that “any medical questions that Penix had seem to be kind of pushed a little back under the radar.”

With that, let the speculation begin. The claims of Penix’s polarization come from the fact that mock drafts place him anywhere from No. 8 overall to the second and third round. Both ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Dane Brugler of The Athletic rank Penix as the draft’s sixth-best passing prospect, following the five mentioned above. Both pundits also have him slipping into the second round of the draft, with both citing injuries as a main concern. Perhaps, they believe that his combine clearance was more sweeping his injury potential under the rug than declaring it a non-issue.

Still, it only takes one front office to disagree. The consensus seems to be that Penix has first-round potential in his game, but he has to stay on the field in order to show it. If any team sees his 28 straight healthy games at Washington and feels confident about his health, or if any team feels confident in their offensive line’s ability to keep Penix on the field, there’s absolutely a possibility that we hear his name called on Day 1 of the draft, especially if we see a run on quarterbacks early. If not, there are several teams with temporary or non-cemented options at quarterback that could easily take a flyer on Penix in the second round.

The Bears, Commanders, Patriots, and Broncos have been seen as teams obviously looking to select a passer in the first round, but the Giants, Vikings, and Raiders could also be tempted. New York has never showed much commitment to Daniel Jones and could be interested in drafting his heir apparent. The Vikings brought in Sam Darnold, who has never spent a full season as a starter, so they may be interested in a young passer to mold. Las Vegas brought in Gardner Minshew to compete with Aidan O’Connell but may be interested in a passer with more potential upside. Also keep an eye on teams like the Seahawks and Rams, who have aging veterans and may want to bring in a rookie to compete with their other young, developing backups.

There’s no limit of possibilities for where we may see Penix go in late-April. He may be the league’s first left-handed quarterback taken in the first round since Tua Tagovailoa, or he could free fall into the second or third round. There are plenty more mock drafts to come between now and then around the internet, so keep an eye on the consistent rise and fall of Penix’s draft stock in the weeks between now and the draft.

2023 Prospect Profile: CB Deonte Banks

Cornerback is one of the most difficult positions for analysts to evaluate from the college to professional levels, especially once you get past the first few names on the board. That’s currently where Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks sits: in that danger zone that normally falls from the middle to the end of the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Banks is a hometown kid, going to Edgewood High School (Maryland), about an hour north of the University of Maryland. He was a three-star athlete that, despite some impressive play-making ability, struggled to attract much attention on the recruiting circuit. He didn’t receive his first offers until just after his junior season when he received interest from a number of Division II and FCS schools, eventually attracting the attention of a couple of Group of 5 schools like Buffalo and Kent State. Just before his senior season, Banks got the dream offer from his home-state school. He committed two weeks later.

Banks became an earlier contributor for the Terrapins as a freshman, making 28 tackles and tallying one interception and two passes defensed while starting eight of 11 games. He returned as a starter in 2020, but due to the COVID-shortened nature of the season, he was only able to make three starts in five games. His junior season was cut short, as well, when he suffered a season-ending shoulder surgery in just his second start of the season.

Coming back from the long-term injury, Banks shined in his return to the field as a redshirt junior. He reached career highs in total tackles (38) and passes defensed (9) while adding on another interception, half of a sack, and half of a tackle for a loss. He had perhaps his strongest game under the brightest lights, limiting Ohio State’s star receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. to five catches for 68 yards and no touchdowns. In that game, Banks tallied two pass breakups and blocked an extra point that got returned by a teammate for a defensive two-point conversion.

There are a couple parts of his game that could cause him to struggle in the NFL. A lack of production isn’t uncommon in college football, where the easiest way to avoid turnovers is to not target the opposing team’s best corner, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Banks only recorded two interceptions during his four years in College Park. He’s not too far behind the draft’s top corners in that regard, though. Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez only had four interceptions, with all of them coming this season. Devon Witherspoon out of Illinois has five interceptions even though he had zero in two of his four seasons of play. Joey Porter Jr. at Penn State had even less that Banks, recording only one interception in four years.

Besides that, Banks is physical, which defensive coaches love, until they don’t. If he draws too much attention at the NFL level with his aggression on defense, he’ll be the target of quite a few penalties, which are much more costly in the NFL than in college.

On the positive side, though, Banks has an ideal frame, matching size, strength, and speed. He uses his aggression to perfection to slow receivers off the line of scrimmage then uses quick hips and smooth footwork to trail receivers relentlessly. He could do a better job of reading between the quarterback and receiver, usually focusing only on the receiver, but he reads the receiver with impressive consistency and does a good job playing through their hands. He utilizes his aggression just as successfully on run plays and special teams and has the relentless motor needed for both.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly which team may end up selecting Banks, as pretty much any team could use more depth at cornerback, besides maybe the Dolphins, but it’s hard to imagine Banks slipping out of the first round with how many playoff teams in the back half of the first round desperately need help at cornerback. The Steelers would love a young Day 1 starter opposite Patrick Peterson. The Giants need someone to hold down the other side opposite Adoree’ Jackson. The Vikings are short on big names at the position, as well. I imagine Banks would love nothing more than to continue putting on for his city and playing for the nearby Ravens, who need someone opposite Marlon Humphrey with Marcus Peters still on the free agent market.

So far, there’s been no shortage of interest in Banks. All four of the above-mentioned teams, and an impressive 11 more, have met with the 22-year-old. It seems the biggest indicator for when he will be picked is going to be when the cornerbacks ranked above him get drafted. If Gonzalez and Witherspoon get selected relatively early, the teams in the late 20s likely won’t see Banks on the board. But if the draft is slow to cornerbacks, Banks could find himself in a pivotal role for a playoff contender.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: TCU WR Quentin Johnston

We all know the recent history of drafting TCU wide receivers, especially in the first round. Since 2000, only Jeremy Kerley has surpassed 600 yards receiving in a season, while former first round picks Josh Doctson and Jalen Reagor both failed to finish out their rookie contracts with the teams that drafted them. Doctson was released just before his fourth year in the league, while Reagor was traded around the same time last year. The latest Horned Frog to attempt to erase the dreadful history of receivers out of Fort Worth is junior wideout Quentin Johnston.

Johnston was a consensus four-star wide receiver out of Temple High School (Texas) in the Class of 2020. After initially committing to Texas before his senior year, Johnston would eventually flip to TCU after the dismissal of Longhorns wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer. With Reagor leaving for the NFL, a spot at the top of the depth chart was wide open for the taking.

Johnston earned a starting role in Fort Worth immediately as a freshman, leading the team with 487 receiving yards and earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors. As a sophomore, he would earn first-team All-Big 12 honors after leading the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Then, this past year, Johnston lead the Horned Frogs in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns en route to his second straight year on the All-Big 12 first team. Over his three-year career at TCU, Johnston totaled 115 catches for 2,190 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Among the other top receiver prospects, Johnston reigns as the biggest of the bunch, establishing himself physically as a potential WR1. His size obviously assists him, with length and strength inherent in his frame, but it doesn’t keep him from being as agile as the smaller receivers in the draft. Johnston used his burst and acceleration to rank second in the nation in yards after catch per reception. His combination of size and elusiveness make him one of the tougher receivers to bring down after the catch. Before the catch, he has great awareness to track the ball and use his leaping ability and body control to make grabs.

The biggest problem showing up on Johnston’s film is drops. Whether it’s a lack of confidence in his hands that results in inconsistent body-catching or a lack of focus as he fails to secure the ball before turning his eyes upfield to run, drops plagued Johnston in 2022. Luckily, drops have been a bit of an issue for the rest of the receivers expected to be first-rounders, as well, making his eight drops hurt a little less. Boston College’s Zay Flowers surpassed Johnston with nine drops of his own this year. Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba dropped six passes in his only full season of play. USC’s Jordan Addison only had two this year but had 21 during his two years at Pittsburgh. Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt may be the exception of the group, with only eight drops in his collegiate career, but five of those came in 2022.

Looking past the drops, Johnston has only a few other things to work on. Tight hips and a lack of variety at TCU mean that he has some work to do on route-running. Also, despite his size, Johnston didn’t have the best track record with contested catches.

Plenty of teams have done their homework on Johnston. So far, in the pre-draft process, Johnston has met with or planned to meet with the Giants, Ravens, Chiefs, Cowboys, Cardinals, Falcons, Vikings, Jaguars, and Titans. Basically, any team looking to add some size to their receiving corps has done some research on Johnston.

The 21-year-old makes a lot of sense for that purpose. The disastrous history of TCU wideouts going pro and Johnston’s drops will be overlooked fairly easily. Not only will teams overlook them because of his size but because he uses his athleticism to blend that size congruously with speed and strength. He’s almost certain to hear his name on Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft later this month, but at what point in the night he is selected has yet to be determined.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker

We’ve already seen plenty of reports on the 2023 NFL Draft class’s top passing prospects. After the expected first-rounders (Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson, and Kentucky’s Will Levis), nearly all other quarterback prospects aren’t expected to hear their names until Day 3 of the draft. The exception to that statement is Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, considered one of the draft’s top passers who shouldn’t be available for long, if at all, after the first 31 picks.

Hooker is one of the older quarterbacks in the draft, graduating from Dudley High School (NC) back in 2017. Considered a Top 247 player and the fifth-ranked dual-threat quarterback by 247Sports, Hooker initially committed to Virginia Tech a few weeks after receiving an offer and stuck with the Hokies despite some late flirting with Oregon.

In Blacksburg, Hooker competed with redshirt freshman Josh Jackson for the starting job at quarterback before redshirting, himself. In 2018, he would sit once again behind Kansas transfer Ryan Willis. The next year, Hooker would finally get an opportunity to start for the Hokies after a disappointing start to the season for Willis. With Hooker behind center, Virginia Tech rebounded to find their way to a bowl game thanks to Hooker’s 1,555 passing yards, 18 total touchdowns, and only two interceptions. Hooker returned as the starter in 2020 but only appeared in eight of 11 possible games. Overall, during his career with the Hokies, Hooker completed 63.1-percent of his passes for 2,894 yards, 22 touchdowns, and seven interceptions over 21 total games, adding 1,033 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.

Seeking greener pastures, Hooker transferred to Tennessee with many thinking he would back up Joe Milton, the Michigan transfer who was widely expected to take over after the departure of Jarrett Guarantano. An early injury to Milton, though, opened the door for Hooker to take the reins, and Hooker didn’t look back. A breakout season saw Hooker throw for 2,945 yards and 31 touchdowns to just three interceptions, adding 616 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. He utilized his extra COVID year of eligibility to return in 2022. Playing in two fewer games due to an ACL tear that ended his final year early, Hooker threw for 3,135 yards and 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions, adding 430 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

The late-season ACL tear obviously hurts his draft stock, but maybe not quite as much as you might think. The 25-year-old was already likely expected to need some development after playing in Josh Heupel‘s extremely quarterback-friendly offense in Knoxville. His jump in success from Virginia Tech to Tennessee could be a result of the Volunteers’ offense that included mostly play action passes that had largely predetermined targets.

The convenient offense affected his ability to make reads which led to frequent checkdowns when his initial reads weren’t there. When he didn’t immediately check down, any hint of pressure would push him out of the pocket. While finding success on rollouts and scrambles, it did lead to a worrying 39 fumbles over his college career.

Additionally, his knee might not be the only concern health-wise. A potential heart condition was discovered when undergoing tests after a positive COVID test, according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports. The condition was determined to be a “false alarm” as a result of a procedure, but Hooker later suffered a convulsive episode that he blamed on medication from the heart procedure.

Looking past all that, Hooker was dominant at Tennessee. He took advantage of the quarterback-friendly offense for a masterfully efficient 58 touchdowns to five interceptions. He has a strong arm and touch that makes him a phenomenal deep ball passer. He didn’t rely on it in college, but he has an instinctive ability in the open field, utilizing agility, elusiveness, and toughness. Heupel lauded him as a hard worker and a strong leader, as well.

There’s a lot to like about Hooker’s long-term upside. His mental development over his collegiate career bodes well for his ability to attack the learning-curve he’ll face in the NFL. He boasts some strong tools, as well, that will come in handy when he does catch up to the professional game. As long as health is of no concern, there’s no reason that Hooker can’t develop into a starter at the NFL-level.

So who will take a chance on Hooker? As a bit of a project with recent health issues, it will likely be a team with a short-term or unproven situation at quarterback in 2023. Think the Commanders (Sam Howell), the Falcons (Desmond Ridder), the Colts (Gardner Minshew, Nick Foles), or the Texans (Davis Mills). The Ravens might even be a possibility with the current uncertainty surrounding Lamar Jackson.

While many expect him to fall to the second round, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see a team trade up to the back of the first round as Baltimore did with Jackson in 2018. The extra fifth-year option could prove useful if Hooker sits for a year or two. Even if that’s not how it plays out, Hooker likely won’t sit around for long into Day 2. We’ll find out in just under two weeks from now.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson

At the beginning of the 2021-22 college football season, no one expected hometown Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson to become a favorite for the No.1 overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. Months later and days away from the first round of the Draft, Hutchinson is almost certainly one of four prospects being considered by Jacksonville for the honor of No.1 draft pick. 

Hutchinson was a consensus four-star recruit at Divine Child HS in Dearborn, MI. His recruitment process was drama-free as he decided to attend nearby University of Michigan, the alma mater of his father, Chris Hutchinson, who played for the Wolverines back from 1989-92. Aidan appeared in every game of his freshman and sophomore year, breaking out a bit as a starter his second season with 68 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 10.0 tackles for loss, adding four quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. Hutchinson was set to start for the second straight year opposite Kwity Paye for the COVID-shortened season, before his year came to an early end after suffering a fracture in his leg that would require season-ending surgery.

Coming into his senior year, Hutchinson had 98 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 11.5 tackles for loss, adding seven quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles to the stat line for his career. The numbers are nothing to scoff at, especially when you consider that most of them are solely from his sophomore year, but, still, no one really put Hutchinson in the same realm as the expected first overall pick at the time, Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Fast-forward now to the end of Hutchinson’s senior season. Hutchinson set a school record with 14.0 sacks in a single season, more than tripling his output from his first three years combined. He tacked on 62 tackles and led the teams in tackles for loss and quarterback hurries with 16.5 and 12, respectively. After a dominant performance versus rival Ohio State that saw the 21-year-old tally 3.0 sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss, Hutchinson shot up draft boards, pushing what was likely a first-round selection into conversations for the No. 1 overall selection.

When it was all said and done, after the season and the Combine and the pro day, Aidan Hutchinson sat atop the Draft prospect rankings of both Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network and Dane Brugler of The Athletic. Hutchinson is built to be a pass-rusher. He’s extremely strong with quick feet and efficient hand use. He knows he can win relatively easily at the college level, so he tends to tolerate a bit more contact than is necessary, something he’ll need to avoid at the next level using the multitude of pass-rushing moves at his disposal. He’s a weight room warrior, but likely won’t be able to add much more weight at the next level. He’s probably maxed out his size. He has a high motor and quick recognition, but his instincts in the running game can hurt him occasionally. He’s often posed as a slightly lesser version of the Bosa brothers with a bit less bend.

Hutchinson attended this year’s Heisman ceremony, but left empty-handed. He’ll be in Las Vegas this Thursday and is sure to leave this time with a brand new jersey and hat. The odds of them being teal, black, and gold are extremely high, and, if they are, he may just be on a mission to reinstitute the moniker of “Sacksonville.”