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Nick’s picks: 10 NFL Draft prospects to pound the table for

Players worth fighting for in the draft war room

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 CFP Semifinal at the Orange Bowl - Alabama v Oklahoma Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Everyone who indulges in NFL draft content, whether casual or professional, has a personal list of players they would love to have on their team. General managers have specific infatuations, as does the average NFL fan. These are the players that are worthy of a closed fist pounding the table because their skill-set and value are too good to pass up.

Below you’ll find a list of 10 players that I would pound the table for because I believe they will be good football players at the next level. It would be simple to just put the most talented players into this list and call it a day - I would pound the table for Kyle Pitts and both Alabama wide receivers, but I’m including Day 1 (ideally trade down in the case of Jaelan Phillips), Day 2, and Day 3 prospects into my list.

Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina

Many view Williams as the third running back in this class behind Alabama’s Najee Harris and Clemson’s Travis Ettienne and I don’t think that’s unfair. However, if a team is looking for a more physical type of back, then Williams is such a good option early on Day 2.

Williams had a ridiculous senior season after Antonio Williams left the program; Williams shared the backfield with star, shifty, running back Michael Carter, but Javonte Williams rushed for 1,140 yards (7.3 yards per carry), 19 touchdowns, and 25 catches for 305 yards (3 touchdowns) in 11 2020 contests.

He’s insanely physical, difficult to tackle, is a good athlete, his vision and burst aren’t in question, and he can pass protect well for a rookie. He’s the type of player that can run through the faces of defenders and he would thrive in any system, but specifically a downhill type of rushing scheme.

Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis

The running back position isn’t very deep this year behind the top three backs: Alabama’s Najee Harris, Clemson’s Travis Etienne, and North Carolina’s Javonte Williams. Williams’ college teammate Michael Carter is also incredibly interesting, but one player that doesn’t get the same buzz is Kenneth Gainwell of Memphis, who opted out of the 2020 college football season.

Gainwell was a star quarterback in high school who transitioned to the running back position - but he’s more than just a typical running back. Gainwell frequently aligns in the slot and is a dangerous weapon as a receiver; he caught 51 passes in 2019 while scoring 3 touchdowns on 610 yards receiving. He also rushed the ball 231 times for 1,459 yards (6.3 YPC) with 13 rushing touchdowns.

I love how Gainwell uses his vision and agility to press the line of scrimmage while quickly finding holes to explode through with a low center of gravity and quality toughness. He only has one year of production, and he might slide a bit in the draft, but he should be an interesting weapon for creative offensive coordinators.

Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss

It takes a very short amount of film to elicit a fond feeling from the one watching his tape and his movement skills are unique.

In his testing, it’s most evident in his 3-cone, short-shuttle, and 40-yard-dash. Moore is a crisp route runner who is effective at all three levels of the field (short, intermediate, and long). He’s not tall or long, but he still has deep receiving ability and he’s dangerous on double moves.

His size may lead him to more of a slot role, but his dynamic ability to create separation against man, while finding voids in zones, will be important in the NFL. Moore can also be used on jet sweeps and for designed touches behind the line of scrimmage. Whoever selects Moore will be receiving a very good player.

Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee

There’s a lot of upside with Palmer who should be available on day three. Palmer was a casualty of the Tennessee Volunteers offense; had 99 total catches for 1,514 yards and 9 total touchdowns through four seasons, but that doesn’t do justice to his film. Palmer is 6-1, 210 pounds, with long arms, who is also a dangerous vertical threat who wins contested catches with concentration, tracking, and physicality.

Palmer is a deliberate route runner who does a good job winning at the line of scrimmage and stacking to set up his vertical routes. He’s sure-handed, tough, and has the potential to be a big slot who can create separation in space or an X receiver on the outside by the boundary.

Creed Humphrey, IOL, Oklahoma

The Sooners’ starting center was arguably the best offensive lineman on the Joe Moore winning 2018 unit, and that was as a redshirt freshman. Humphrey combines powerful hands, mental processing, good short-area quickness, and an excellent understanding of leverage to thrive as an interior offensive lineman.

Humphrey was a previous wrestler and his understanding of how to manipulate defenders and control leverage is a byproduct of that past. With 2,488 career snaps to his name, Humphrey will have the ability to step into the NFL and be an above-average starter right away, with the upside to develop into a Pro Bowl center.

Aaron Banks, G, Notre Dame

Banks is a gigantic 6-foot-5, 325-pound left guard who has spent some time playing tackle when tackle Liam Eichenberg was hurt. Banks’ technique doesn’t always look pretty, but his strength, length, and movement ability at his size are rare, along with his incredible posterior strength to sit and anchor.

He’s quick to initiate contact with his length and dictate reps with his strong hands. Has effective tape executing inside zone/DUO blocks, outside/stretch zone blocks, and plenty of power/gap as a pinner and puller, which meshes well with Jason Garrett’s system. If the Giants decide to go EDGE or WR early on, then I believe Banks is a wise player to look into during Day 2 of the NFL Draft.

Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami

Discussion around Phillips has rightfully heated up over the last few months. If we can ignore the red flags (we can’t), the film would tell a story of a top ten player, albeit he only has one year of real production. Phillips is long, incredibly athletic, uses his feet and hands well in conjunction with each other at the line of scrimmage to manipulate blockers.

He’s a dangerous player who has an immense ceiling, but he quit football for a little bit due to his concussions, and other injuries, that date back to his time at UCLA. Phillips wins with finesse, has pop in his hands, and he can reduce angles by attacking the half-man and unlocking power/explosiveness from his lower half. I will pound the table for Phillips’s skill-set, but it’s not always that simple with the medicals; this is especially true because the Giants doctors may not have examined Phillips, who missed the medical combine due to COVID-19.

Payton Turner, Edge, Houston

Turner isn’t as discussed as some of the other EDGE prospects in this class, but he has an intriguing combination of size and speed, specifically his length and first step.

Recorded 114 tackles, 23.5 for a loss, and 9.5 sacks while playing for Houston. Had 67 pressures through his time in college as well. Turner was Second Team All-Athletic American Conference in 2020 when he had 25 tackles, 5 sacks, and 10.5 tackles for a loss.

Turner had an impressive pro day as well (as you can see above), showing intriguing athletic traits and measurables. Had an 84 ⅛” wingspan, ran a 4.25 short shuttle (showing excellent agility), jumped 35.5 inches in the vertical, did 23 reps on the bench, and ran a 6.98 3-cone drill at his size. That is wildly impressive stuff.

Turner is a pass rusher with a ton of physical and athletic traits who is just starting to put it all together; may not be fully polished yet, but players aren’t don’t possess these types of traits. He can stand to get a bit stronger as a run defender, but he’ll make splash plays - just needs to lower his center of gravity to maximize his balances. Turner could be a great get for the Giants on day two and this coaching staff’s development can unlock his immense potential.

Elijah Molden, DB, Washington

Molden is 5-9, 192 pounds, which is a glaring knock on him as an NFL prospect, but his film is still impressive. I believe Molden may find himself drafted on Day 2, although he’s more of a nickel that played a little safety at Washington. Molden combines incredible instincts, spatial awareness, and key and diagnose ability, with a physical nature that brings disruptiveness to the catch point. He plays bigger than his frame. Like many others in this draft class, Molden’s father, Alex Molden, was an NFL player for eight years.

Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State

I get it, he’s a small at 5-10 and weighs 180 pounds, which isn’t ideal for an outside corner. However, his talent suggests that he will be able to hold up on the outside. In college, he played the vast majority of his snaps on the boundary. Samuel Jr. thrives with his hip mobility, short-area movement skills, and fluid hips that allow him to stay in phase against really quick receivers in man coverage.

He also processes the game at a high level; sees routes develop underneath and reacts well by clicking and closing downhill. He’s also physical for a smaller cornerback and he’s not scared to tackle. There’s no doubt that his lack of length and height will hinder his upside, but he’s going to slide because of this fact, and his value on Day 2 is just too good to pass up. The Giants are set at nickel corner with Darnay Holmes and I’m not insinuating that the Giants need to replace Holmes with either of these two players.