How NFL Teams Missed on Some of 2023 Playoffs’ Biggest Stars
It’s always been a truism that the NFL draft is an inexact science. That was proven once again in last weekend’s Wild Card Round and likely will carry forward through the postseason as many players who were under-drafted are making a big impact in helping their teams to victory.
Tom Brady, of course, is the classic example as a 2000 sixth-round pick of the Patriots who has won 35 playoff games, including seven Super Bowls. Last year, Gabriel Davis — the Bills’ fourth-round pick in 2020 — set a playoff record with four touchdown receptions in Buffalo’s overtime loss to Kansas City in the Divisional Round.
Here are nine players proving they were under-drafted as they stand out in this year’s postseason:
Brock Purdy, QB, 49ers
Drafted: Round 7, 2022
The rookie has won all six of his starts since replacing the injured Jimmy Garoppolo. After a somewhat shaky first half in which the 49ers trailed the Seahawks 17-16 and had to settle for three field goals (and one TD), Purdy had a tremendous second half, leading touchdown drives of 75, 70 and 76 yards while completing 9 of 11 passes for 185 yards and two TDs.
His 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown gave the 49ers the lead for good, and he threw a 74-yard TD pass to Deebo Samuel. For the day, Purdy completed 18 of 30 passes for 332 yards and three TDs (131.5 passer rating).
Purdy has a great supporting cast on offense and an excellent head coach in Kyle Shanahan, who has been a big booster of his young QB since he took over. He plays with veteran poise and his regular-season stats were so impressive — 67 percent completion rate, 13 TDs, four interceptions, no fumbles, and a 107.4 rating. Then he took it up a notch in the 41-23 win over Seattle. Next up is Micah Parsons and the Dallas defense.
It’s truly amazing to think Purdy was the 262nd player selected in the 2022 draft and just became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history with four total touchdowns in a playoff game.
Dalton Schultz, TE, Cowboys
Drafted: Round 4, 2018
Schultz caught two touchdown passes from Dak Prescott in the first half to help jump start the Cowboys to a 31-14 victory at Tampa. Schultz led all Dallas receivers with seven catches for 95 yards and the two scores. He did a great job working free in the end zone on the second TD and had a terrific 26-yard juggling catch with Devin White in tight coverage to help set up a third-quarter TD pass from Prescott to Michael Gallup that put Dallas ahead 24-0.
Schultz played under the one-year franchise tag this season and has helped his negotiating leverage with his performance Monday night along with 198 receptions for 2,000 yards and 17 TDs during the past three seasons. He has not yet been selected to the Pro Bowl but plays like an elite tight end. He’ll surely attract plenty of attention from the 49ers’ top-ranked defense in Sunday night’s Divisional Playoff game.
Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Giants
Drafted: Round 6, 2020
In the Giants’ 31-24 road upset of the Vikings on Sunday, Hodgins played a major role in helping quarterback Daniel Jones to a great performance. Hodgins caught eight passes for a career-high 105 yards and one TD, when he beat veteran corner Patrick Peterson on a 14-yard TD to give the Giants their first lead. On the final drive, he had a tremendous toe-tapping 19-yard reception.
Hodgins had only four receptions with the Bills over his first two-plus seasons before the Bills put him on waivers this past November. Giants GM Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll were with Hodgins in Buffalo, knew him well, and were happy to claim him.
His Giants regular-season totals were 33 catches, 351 yards and four TDs as he established himself in the receiver mix. Now he’s a prime target for Jones as the G-Men seek an upset against the top-seeded Eagles on Saturday night. Pretty good stuff from a sixth rounder who is more talented than where he was drafted by a team that wound up cutting him.
Matt Milano, LB, Bills
Drafted: Round 5, 2017
Milano was selected first-team All-Pro after a regular season in which this every-down linebacker had 99 tackles, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, a team-high 12.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks along with seven QB hits.
He played a critical role as Buffalo held off Miami 34-31 last Sunday. Milano had 10 tackles, two sacks, three QB hits and two tackles for loss. His third-quarter sack was followed by Kaiir Elam’s interception on the next play, leading to the Bills game-winning touchdown.
Milano has been a consistent performer since his rookie year and will go down as one of the Bills’ best later-round picks.
Charles Omenihu, DE, 49ers
Drafted: Round 5, 2019
The 49ers got a steal at the 2021 trade deadline when they sent a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Texans for Omenihu, who was Houston’s fifth-round pick in 2019. He had 4.5 sacks in this past regular season and produced two sacks, including a third-quarter strip sack (recovered by Nick Bosa) on Seattle’s Geno Smith in San Francisco’s wild-card round victory. Coach Kyle Shanahan said that play changed the momentum of the game. Omenihu also had one tackle for loss and one additional QB hit in the win.
Omenihu likes the big stage. He had 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and three QB hits in last season’s wild-card win for the 49ers at Dallas.
It doesn’t hurt his cause to have the NFL sack leader in Bosa rushing from the other side, but Omenihu has established himself as a key pass rusher for the league’s top defense.
Roy Robertson-Harris, DE Jaguars
Drafted: UDFA, 2016
I love to see undrafted players become solid players. My personal favorite was John Randle, whom I signed out of Texas A&M Kingsville for a $5,000 signing bonus when I was the Vikings GM. And 137.5 sacks later, he’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Robertson-Harris spent his first four seasons in Chicago with moderate success (7.5 sacks) in a backup role before the Jaguars signed him as a free agent in 2021. He’s now a starter with six sacks and 21 QB hits along with 11 tackles for loss over the past two regular seasons. He had a monster game in Jacksonville’s dramatic 31-30 comeback win over the Chargers last Saturday, notching seven tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, two QB hits and two passes broken up.
After taking down Justin Herbert, Robertson-Harris now sets his sights on Patrick Mahomes this Saturday.
Foye Oluokun, LB, Jaguars
Drafted: Round 6, 2018
Sticking with the Jaguars defenders, Oluokun fell in the 2018 draft due in part to playing in college at non-Power 5 Yale. He had four very productive seasons with the Falcons, including a league-leading 192 tackles in 2021. Jacksonville GM Trent Baalke signed Oluokun for $15 million per year last March, and it’s paid off as he once again led the NFL with 184 combined tackles.
Then in last weekend’s wild-card win, Oluokun had 13 tackles as the Jaguars D held Justin Herbert and Company to only three second-half points. He made the tackle of Joshua Kelley shy of a first down in pass coverage on the Chargers’ final offensive play to force a punt, which led to Jacksonville’s winning drive.
Jayron Kearse, S, Cowboys
Drafted: Round 7, 2016
Originally drafted by the Vikings in 2016, Kearse had only five starts in four seasons there, but he was a good special-teams player. After spending 2020 in Detroit and Baltimore, he landed in Dallas, where he has thrived as a starting safety the past two seasons with 178 total tackles and three interceptions.
Kearse’s career highlight came Monday night in the second quarter when he came up with Tom Brady’s first red zone interception since 2019. It stopped a 14-play, 70-yard drive with the Cowboys leading by only six points at the time. Dallas’ offense responded with a long touchdown drive to go up by two scores on their way to the big road win. Kearse tweaked his knee in the game but is expected back this week and will be counted on to help control tight end George Kittle along with the other 49er receiving threats and their strong running game.
Logan Wilson, LB, Bengals
Drafted: Round 3, 2020
The biggest play of the season for the Bengals came with 11:54 remaining in a tie game last Sunday night. Wilson punched the ball out of Ravens QB Tyler Huntley’s hands as he attempted to leap into the end zone and break the plane for a TD to take the lead. The forced fumble was scooped up by defensive end Sam Hubbard, who ran 98 yards for the winning score. Wilson also had a game-high 10 tackles to help send the Bengals to Buffalo for a Divisional Round game this Sunday.
Wilson’s fall in the 2020 draft was partly due to playing his college ball at Wyoming. On a team more renowned for its offensive talent, Wilson is a force on an underrated defense with two straight seasons of 100-plus tackles and seven career interceptions.
Jeff Diamond is a former Minnesota Vikings general manager and Titans team president. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeffdiamondnfl.
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1-On-1 With Isaiah Hodgins After Career-Best Performance
New York Giants wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins joins The 33rd Team to break down his career performance against the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card round and his time with the Giants since being claimed off waivers earlier this season. What’s it like playing with Brian Daboll? How does it feel to get the double bird from a young fan? Hodgins discusses all this and more.
NFL Wild Card Weekend: What We Learned From Sunday’s Games
NFL Wild Card Betting: Odds, Spreads, Picks, Predictions for Giants vs. Vikings
Giants (9-7-1) at Vikings (13-4)
Opening Spread: Vikings -3
Opening Game Total: 47.5
Opening Team Totals: Vikings (25.25) Giants (22.5)
The Line Report
- This line opened as Vikings -3
- This line has moved to Vikings -3.5
- This total opened at 47.5-points
- This total has moved to 47.5-points
Vikings: Out: RT Brian O’Neill. Questionable: C Garrett Bradbury, Edge Za’Darius Smith, S Harrison Smith.
Giants: Questionable: C Jon Feliciano, DL Leonard Williams, Edge Azeez Ojulari, CB Adoree’ Jackson.
Vikings Offense vs. Giants Defense
The loss of right tackle Brian O’Neill has me pushing the Vikings’ offensive line toward the back end of league average. I have the Giants tiered as a top-10 front with one of the best interior duos in the league. The Giants have a moderate, bordering on significant advantage in the trenches in this matchup. New York’s interior has the potential to be a real problem for Minnesota.
Betting Notes Per TruMedia
- The Vikings are 7-9-1 against the spread this season
- Minnesota is 11-6 on overs this season
- Kirk Cousins is 68-67-2 against the spread in his career
- Cousins is 80-56-1 on overs in his career
- Kevin O’Connell is 7-9-1 against the spread in his NFL head coaching career
- O’Connell is 11-6 on overs in his NFL head coaching career
- Minnesota scores 24.9 points per game, good for eighth in the league
- The Vikings are second in the league in yards passing per game and 27th in yards rushing
- Minnesota passes on 68% of plays and runs on 32% of plays, per Sports Info Solutions
- Per the Edge, Dalvin Cook is sixth in the league in yards rushing with 1,173, and he’s tied for 12th in rushing touchdowns with eight
- Justin Jefferson led the league in receptions (128), yards receiving (1,809) and he’s tied for 10th in receiving touchdowns with eight. Jefferson is ninth in the league in target share (28.5%) and 10th in air yards share (38.4%)
- Adam Thielen finished the season with 70 receptions for 716 yards receiving and six touchdowns with a 17% target share and a 22.8% air yards share
- KJ Osborn finished the season with 60 receptions for 650 yards receiving and five touchdowns with a 14.2% target share and a 15.3% air yards share
- Starting in Week 9 while removing the regular season finale, T.J. Hockenson has a 23.5% target share and a 20.6% air yards share as a Viking
- Per TruMedia, Jefferson has played 774 snaps on the perimeter and 243 in the slot
- Thielen has played 700 snaps on the perimeter and 288 in the slot
- Osborn has played 326 snaps on the perimeter and 506 in the slot
- With the Vikings, Hockenson has played 349 snaps as an inline tight end, 61 on the perimeter and 157 in the slot
- New York has allowed 21.8 points per game, which is 17th in the league
- The Giants are 13th in the league in sacks, second in forced fumbles and 31st in interceptions
- Per The Edge, New York has allowed the fourth-most yards rushing per game and the third-fewest yards receiving per game to running backs this season
- The Giants have given up the 16th-most yards receiving per game to wide receivers this year
- New York gave up the seventh-most PPR points per game to perimeter receivers
- The Giants allowed the 10th-most yards receiving per game to tight ends this season
- New York has allowed the sixth-most PPR points per game to inline tight ends
Giants Offense vs. Vikings Defense
I have the Giants offensive line tiered as a slightly below-average group. The Vikings’ defensive front has been one of the more unique groups to rank, as they have a top-10 level edge duo with an inconsistent interior. The Vikings’ pass rush has a moderate advantage in this contest, and Dalvin Tomlinson has an advantage in the interior, but this matchup is more of a draw in the run game.
Betting Notes Per TruMedia
- The Giants are 13-4 against the spread this season
- New York is 7-10 on overs this season
- Daniel Jones is 31-22 against the spread in his career
- Jones is 21-30-2 on overs in his career
- Brian Daboll is 13-4 against the spread in his NFL head coaching career
- Daboll is 7-10 on overs in his NFL head coaching career
- New York scores 21.5 points per game, which is 15th in the league
- The Giants are 27th in the league in yards passing per game and fourth in yards rushing
- New York passes on 59% of plays and runs on 41% of plays, per Sports Info Solutions
- Per the Edge, Jones finished the season with 708 yards rushing, which is fifth among quarterbacks
- Jones had less than 200 yards passing in 11 of his 16 games this season, but he breached 300 yards passing against the Vikings
- Saquon Barkley is fourth in the league in yards rushing with 1,312, and he’s 14th among running backs in yards receiving
- Darius Slayton led the Giants in yards receiving with 724, but he’s had less than 50 in three of his last four games
- Richie James has at least seven targets and 60 yards receiving in three of his last four games, which includes 90 yards receiving against the Vikings
- Isaiah Hodgins had eight catches for 89 yards and one touchdown on 12 targets against the Vikings a few weeks ago
- Daniel Bellinger has 40 or more yards receiving in just two of his 11 games
- Per TruMedia, Slayton has played 473 snaps on the perimeter and 186 in the slot
- Hodgins has played 354 snaps on the perimeter and 57 in the slot
- James has played 85 snaps on the perimeter and 404 in the slot
- Minnesota allowed 25.1 points per game, which is 28th in the league
- The Vikings are 28th in the league in sacks, 22nd in forced fumbles and 10th in interceptions
- Per The Edge, Minnesota allowed the 21st-most yards rushing per game and the 10th-most yards receiving per game to running backs this season
- The Vikings gave up the most yards receiving per game to wide receivers this year
- Minnesota allowed the sixth-most PPR points per game to perimeter receivers and the second-most to those in the slot
- The Vikings allowed the 18th-most yards receiving per game to tight ends this season
This Is What You’re Betting On
The Vikings beat the Giants in Minnesota 27-24 in Week 16. The Vikings orchestrated the biggest comeback in NFL history in an overtime win against the Colts the previous week. The Giants are 2-5-1 over their final eight games, while the Vikings are 5-3 over the same span.
If You’re Betting on the Vikings
The Vikings are driven by their talented offense. That group has an above-average quarterback in Cousins, one of the best skill groups in the league and an offensive line that has been solid this year. If you’re betting on Minnesota, you are doing so with the expectation they can have significant success against the Giants in the air and on the ground.
Minnesota’s pass rush could also be a factor in this contest, Tomlinson faces a below-average Giants interior while the Vikings edge rush duo could give rookie right tackle Evan Neal some issues in this contest. Another strong offensive performance paired with the Vikings’ pass rush closing this game out is the type of game flow worth building a Vikings bet around.
You have two core concerns as a Vikings’ bettor. The first is the strength of the Giants’ defense. The loss of O’Neill reduces Minnesota’s ability to manage the Giants’ strength on defense. The second concern is the Vikings’ secondary has been routinely shredded this season, which includes Jones breaching 300 yards passing against them just a few weeks ago. If the Giants’ defensive front takes over this matchup while their offense has another solid showing, Minnesota can lose this game.
>> Read: Kirk Cousins Can Change Playoff Narrative
If You’re Betting on the Giants
A Giants bet is built on two core concepts. The first is their defensive front is a talented group capable of taking over a game. New York’s best chance of limiting Minnesota’s talented offense is through consistent disruption in the trenches. If New York pairs that with a strong running game between Barkley and Jones, while Jones has another above-average game as a passer, the Giants can win this game outright.
Most of the Giants’ wins this season have been driven by their defense, while their offense doesn’t turn the ball over. That gameplan doesn’t leave much room for error, which is among the reasons New York only beat two teams above .500 this season. The Giants have received a lot of hype since their blowout victory against the 4-12-1 Colts in Week 17. While the Giants have overachieved this season, I do wonder how many football enthusiasts realize New York finished significantly below .500 in the second half of the season.
One of your biggest concerns as a Giants bettor is New York’s losing ways in the second half of the season. Minnesota’s secondary is its most exploitable weakness. Even though Jones had success through the air against Minnesota a few weeks ago, it’s important to keep in mind the Giants still have one of the most limited groups of pass catchers in the league, and Jones is a better runner than a passer. Your other concern as Giants’ bettor is their ability to cover the Vikings’ talented skill group, especially Jefferson. Even if New York effectively mitigates Jefferson, both Cook and Hockenson have plus matchups in this contest.
Score Prediction: Vikings 27 Giants 20
Ryan’s Recent Betting Record:
ATS 2021: 49-31
ATS 2022: 48-32
Props 2022: 57-40
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