Worst Potential Landing Spots for Some of 2022 NFL Draft's Top Prospects

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2022

Worst Potential Landing Spots for Some of 2022 NFL Draft's Top Prospects

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    George Frey/Associated Press

    An NFL draft pick only has so much control over the early stages of his career. 

    Players need to go to a situation where they have the opportunity to get on the field early in the right scheme. 

    If a player goes to the wrong situation, the difficulty increases exponentially. 

    Based on the team's current roster, scheme and history, these are the worst potential landing spots for some of the biggest names in the 2022 NFL draft class.  

Edge Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State: Kansas City Chiefs

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    For the edge-rushers expected to go in the top half of the first round, the scheme doesn't really matter. Those teams are bad enough that they should adjust to their talent rather than shoehorn players into predetermined roles. 

    For the contenders picking in the back half of Round 1, it's crucial to get the fit right. 

    But while the Kansas City Chiefs have the 29th and 30th picks, where Penn State's Arnold Ebiketie (scouting report) would make a lot of sense, it isn't a great fit for both parties. 

    The Chiefs should be in the market for a defensive end. However, that end's ability to set the edge and defend the run should be important. The Chiefs were in dime packages at the second-highest rate in the league last year, per Sports Info Solutions, and were in the league's bottom half in run defense.

    At 6'2" and 250 pounds, Ebiketie is a slight edge defender who figures to have a steeper learning curve as a run defender. He profiles as a difference-maker as a pass-rusher early in his career, but the Chiefs need someone who can be an every-down option who will enhance their ability to defend the run in nickel and dime personnel. 

    That's not Ebiketie's game. 

IOL Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa: Baltimore Ravens

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Tyler Linderbaum (scouting profile) is one of the better center prospects in recent memory. He's the kind of player who will make the best of whatever situation he winds up in, but he has All-Pro potential in the right setup. 

    Linderbaum's athletic testing matches what you see on film. According to his relative athletic score, he has great speed and agility and elite explosiveness. However, the Iowa lineman brings a small frame at 6'2", 296 pounds and isn't necessarily the strongest interior lineman (24 bench press reps). 

    Bleacher Report draft scout Brandon Thorn noted that Linderbaum "can execute gap concepts, but ideally he's in a zone-based scheme that sprinkles those in rather than majors in them."

    The Baltimore Ravens could (correctly) feel like Linderbaum would immediately fill the hole left by Bradley Bozeman's free-agent departure. However, his game is a round peg in the square hole of the Ravens' scheme. 

    According to Sports Info Solutions, Baltimore's run game had the second-highest percentage of gap concepts in the league at 51 percent last year.

    The Ravens would be better off targeting another position in the first round, and Linderbaum can go to a more zone-centric system that will allow him to dominate. 

LB Devin Lloyd, Utah: Philadelphia Eagles

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    According to NFL Mock Draft Database, Devin Lloyd (scouting report) to the Philadelphia Eagles is the most popular prediction with the 15th pick. Previous editions of Bleacher Report's mock draft were a part of that movement. 

    It makes sense from a pure needs standpoint. The Eagles could use an upgrade at linebacker, and Lloyd would be just that. 

    That doesn't make it a great fit for him, though. One of the things that makes him a first-round prospect is his ability to create havoc as a blitzer. 

    He had seven sacks and 22 tackles for a loss in his final season at Utah. His 58 pressures and 88.7 pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focuswere the highest among Pac-12 linebackers since 2019. 

    The problem is trusting Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon to utilize Lloyd in that kind of role. The team had the second-lowest blitz percentage in the league in his first year as defensive coordinator at 16.4 percent, per Pro Football Reference

    That aligns with his Indianapolis Colts background. When he was the defensive backs coach in 2020, the Colts were also 31st in blitz percentage at 17.1

    Lloyd needs to go to a place that is willing to unleash him as a blitzing linebacker who takes some reps as an edge defender. That doesn't seem to coincide with what Gannon is looking to do in Philadelphia. 

CB Trent McDuffie, Washington: Minnesota Vikings

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings are in a position where they are going to have keen eyes on cornerbacks Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner (scouting report) and Derek Stingley Jr. (scouting report). 

    Both could be long gone by the time the Vikings get on the clock at No. 12, and the team needs a corner. If both of the elite options are off the table, they could dip into the second tier. 

    Washington corner Trent McDuffie (scouting report) is in that group. He comes in as the fourth corner on the Bleacher Report big board and the 19th player overall. 

    McDuffie is worthy of that first-round grade and will be a good defensive back somewhere. But that place shouldn't be in Minnesota. Coordinator Ed Donatell showed that he has a type in Denver from 2019 to 2021. 

    He started Patrick Surtain II and Kyle Fuller last season, both of whom are longer corners. As a prospect, Fuller was in the 62nd percentile for height and 91st for arm length, per MockDraftable. Surtain was in the 93rd percentile for height and 85th for arm length. 

    McDuffie is a much smaller prospect in the 33rd percentile for height and 5th for arm length. 

    Donatell's defense played the highest percentage of man coverage in 2021, per Sports Info Solutions. McDuffie would be better off in a system that's going to allow him to play more zone, where he can read and react to the routes in front of him. 

RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State: Atlanta Falcons

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    The debate over the value of a running back will continue to rage on. But there is no debate that the functionality of an NFL running game falls on the shoulders of much more than the running back at the center of it. 

    Even the most talented backs need a good scheme and at least an average offensive line in front of them. 

    Kenneth Walker III (scouting report) is the kind of back who could succeed regardless of scheme, but the offensive line has to be functional. 

    When it comes to run blocking, the Falcons offensive line isn't there. The unit finished 27th in PFF's final rankings. Both Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis felt the effects. They were ranked 40th and 41st, respectively, in yards before contact, per Pro Football Reference

    Walker winding up in Atlanta would be similar to Najee Harris going to Pittsburgh in 2021. The rookie back put up over 1,600 yards from scrimmage but had to do it while averaging 1.7 yards before contact and less than 4.0 yards per carry. 

    The Michigan State product would still be productive, but he'd be better off getting those numbers behind a better offensive line. 

QB Malik Willis, Liberty: Carolina Panthers

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Malik Willis (scouting report) could have the highest ceiling of any quarterback in the draft class. The Carolina Panthers are the first team scheduled to pick with a clear need at quarterback. 

    For the sake of both parties, let's hope the Panthers don't decide to pair up with the Liberty passer at No. 6.

    While Willis' potential is through the roof, he still has a long way to go in his development. As Nate Tice noted in his scouting report, Willis has some bad tendencies in the pocket and has struggled to properly evade pressure to make a good throw. 

    Those habits will be hard to break behind Carolina's offensive line. The Panthers finished 31st in PFF's final line rankings, and the only notable changes they made were signing Austin Corbett and Pat Elflein. 

    Willis' athletic ability as a runner and strong arm are NFL tools. He needs to go to a place that will allow him to either play behind a great line or learn from a veteran. The Panthers aren't in a position to offer him either of those things.