With the NFL Combine in the books and Pro Days remaining as the last chance for players to improve their stock in the Draft process, we take a look at five players who could be drafted higher than most football fans and media may expect.
1) JT Woods – S, Baylor (6-2, 194 pounds)
Woods possesses ideal height and speed for the safety position. A three-star recruit out of high school, Woods chose Baylor to evolve as an athlete, competing in track and football. Woods played primarily on special teams his first year before cracking into the rotation as a sophomore, and, eventually, as a junior, Woods became the Bears’ starting free safety. According to Peter Engler’s scouting report on The 33rd Team Prospect Board, Woods excels at driving in on the ball, “flash[ing] outstanding plant and drive, exploding off back foot and firing,” and he “can highpoint the ball . . . show[ing] concentration to make the catch.” Scouts generally view Woods as a developmental outside cornerback that can win in Cover 3 situations.
However, Woods often displays “high hips in backpedal, with some stiffness in turn . . . consistently over-dropping.” Therefore, Woods’ play style is not conducive to man coverage assignments “due to limited route recognition and poor break anticipation.” Moreover, Woods does not excel in zone coverage, as he looks “uncomfortable and distrusting of reads” and “unable to watch QB and ID route concepts simultaneously.” Primary concerns pertain to his instincts, despite impressive toughness and fine motor.
Woods is uniquely athletic. Woods registered a 4.36 40-yard dash and a 39.5” vertical jump at the NFL Combine this past week. Furthermore, he has above-the-line length and size. Despite his apparent athleticism, Woods has only “average body control and change-of-direction, [with] some sloppiness in footwork.” Nonetheless, Woods has the kind of tempting tools that could push his draft stock into early Day 2 territory.
2) Travis Jones – DT, Connecticut (6-4, 325 pounds)
Jones is another three-star recruit out of high school, but unlike Woods, he made an immediate impact as a starter in his freshman year. Jones has positional versatility, able to play “as a 0/1 tech in 3-4 and 1/3 tech in 4-3,” according to Peter Engler’s scouting report on The 33rd Team Prospect Board. Despite a hulking, long frame, Jones is startlingly explosive. Although Jordan Davis’s 40-yard dash stole the show, Jones’s 4.92 time is well above average. Jones has a rare combination of size, explosiveness, and body control, displaying “outstanding balance to absorb contact and control blocking interactions, with outstanding lateral agility to disengage.” Moreover, Jones demonstrates excellent instincts, “rapidly find[ing] the ball against eye candy . . . picking up screens quickly,” and “timing his moves well for maximum disruption.”
The primary concerns here are his motor and flexibility. Jones plays with an “extremely streaky motor, at times sprinting sideline-to-sideline and making hustle plays but at others, taking entire series or quarters off.” As for his flexibility—or lack thereof—Jones has “stiff ankles preventing a sharp turn around the corner.”
Overall, Jones is a “rock in the middle who dominated top competition” and deploys “developed moves including Swim, Rip, and Swipe.” Undoubtedly, Jones has impressive talent, and after his combine performance, he could climb well into the first round.
3) Jalen Wydermyer – TE, Texas A&M (6-4, 255 pounds)
Wydermyer was a four-star recruit out of Texas and chose to stay home and play football at A&M. Notably, Wydermyer has a basketball background too. His first year with the Aggies, Wydermyer started in 11 games, collecting 32 receptions for 447 yards and six touchdowns to go along with SEC All-Freshman Team AP All-SEC Second Team selections. Disappointingly, Wydermyer did not improve statistically. Wydermyer received Second Team All-SEC honors all three years but was a Mackey Award finalist this past season.
Wydermyer displays excellent athleticism. According to Stephen Dranoff’s scouting report on the The 33rd Team Prospect Board, Wydermyer has “above-the-line speed and body control in route running.” “Rarely [found] . . . off-balanced or getting jammed up in single coverage thanks to his agility at the top of routes,” DBs or LBs struggle against Wydermyer. After the catch, Wydermyer can “run through contact without losing speed or being rerouted.”
Wydermyer is tall with long limbs that provide real estate to (ideally) add on mass. Wydermyer “has limited toughness and actively avoids taking hits in both blocking and receiving across the middle.” Wydermyer has a good feel for the game and is “fairly instinctual . . . get[ting] in the right position to make the block,” but “he is often caught absorbing blows rather than delivering hits himself.” Receiving, Wydermyer has a tendency of “pull[ing] passes into his mid-frame (rather than ensuring that he makes the catch).” Moreover, Wydermyer leaves more to be desired in terms of intensity, “typically [not] finding [him] blocking downfield,” or running “his route when he knows the play is not coming his way.”
Overall, Wydermyer “is an adequate route runner . . . able to track deep passes with ease,” and a “reliable pass-catcher in situations where he is not at risk of being hit by a defender.” Despite the receiving prowess, the biggest knock on Wydermyer is that he “often finds himself driven into the backfield by above-the-line talent,” and “rather than driving his legs and staying chest to chest . . . he often lowers his head and just wants to get his body across rather than actually drive them out of the picture.” Wydermyer is a strong Day 2 candidate with middle-to-early second selection potential.
4) Jalen Tolbert – WR, South Alabama (6-3, 185 pounds)
Tolbert is a former two-star recruit out of high school, opting to sign with the South Alabama Jaguars over Power 5 schools, Michigan State and Vanderbilt. Tolbert has eclipsed 1,000 yards and logged eight touchdowns in each of the past two seasons with the Jaguars, garnering attention from the NFL. Tolbert averaged 17.8 yards per reception throughout the three full seasons he played, demonstrating a consistent knack for getting open down the field. According to Andy Hanson’s scouting report on The 33rd Team Prospect Board, Tolbert “is built well with excellent length,” with “room to fill out and add strength on this frame,” and “doesn’t have any injury concerns.”
From a mental perspective, Tolbert is adequate across the board, receiving a “6” (adequate) in each of the three mental categories of the 33rd Team’s evaluation metric: Toughness, Instincts, Effort/Motor. At the line of scrimmage, Tolbert “plays through press and hand fighting at the point of attack against press corners” and “looks comfortable moving into zones.” Additionally, Tolbert exhibits a satisfactory level of athleticism, coming in at a 4.49 clip in the 40-yard dash and elevating 36” in the vertical jump – both around average for the position. Tolbert excels off the snap with “above average explosion out of his stance . . . followed by good speed and route running/cutting in and out of breaks.” Tolbert offers versatility and physicality. Tolbert can “compete against physical corners,” and “is exciting to watch after the catch.”
The main concern with Tolbert? Drops. According to Andy Hanson, he “counted 13 drops on 96 catchable balls.” That is a red flag for sure, but “if he can clean that up, he has the tools to be a very good player.” Overall, Tolbert “has the prototypical mix of size, speed, and athleticism to make an impact.” Indeed, because of that enticing mixture, Tolbert can continue to ascend on draft boards, landing himself somewhere in the second round.
5) Amaré Barno – Edge, Virginia Tech (6-4, 246 pounds)
Barno was an NFL Combine winner after posting position bests in both the 40-yard dash (4.36) and broad jump (10’11”). Unranked out of high school, Barno initially began his collegiate football career at Butler Community College under head coach Tim Schaffner. In two seasons (17 games) with Butler, Barno collected 73 total tackles, four and a half sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. He amassed 78 tackles, 21.5 TFL, 13 QB hits, and ten sacks over 26 games in three years at Virginia Tech.
According to Brandon Tamres’s scouting report on The 33rd Team Prospect Board, Barno “has above-the-line height . . . [and] above-the-line arms,” but he is too light “with poor weight.” Put together, “he has a lanky build . . . narrow shoulders, a skinny core, and a skinny lower body.” Not to mention, he had knee surgery in the summer of 2021. As a result, Barno “has poor play strength, gets controlled easily by OL in the run game, and has poor anchor ability.
On a different note, Barno plays with “adequate instincts.” Barno can “key the ball well on runs and has adequate ability to diagnose run versus pass.” On the other hand, despite an “adequate motor,” he “does not play with urgency, especially when on the backside of run plays.” Nevertheless, his physical profile cannot be ignored. Barno owns elite speed for the position and impressive explosiveness, evidenced by his combine performance. On tape, Barno is “an above-the-line athlete, with a combination of elite speed, above-the-line explosiveness, body control, lateral agility, and change of direction.” Moreover, Barno “is a fluid athlete in space [and] can play underneath zone coverage.”
From a technical standpoint, “Barno is a very raw prospect who is going to need to develop a lot, especially as a pass rusher.” However, Barno “has some solid tools to work with.” Barno consistently showed “above-the-line snap anticipation,” which pairs well with his physical arsenal. Nevertheless, Barno “plays too upright and needs to develop a pass rush plan” because “he looks to use power moves too often when he can’t win with power.”
Overall, Barno is the most recent example of an exceptionally gifted, athletic edge defender reminiscent of Odafe Oweh in last year’s class. They always say you cannot teach speed, which certainly applies here. Look for Barno’s stock to rise after a fantastic display at the NFL Combine.