Sunday, May 26, 2024

Jaw-Dropping 2024 NFL Draft Secrets: College Coaches Spill Tea on Shockers, Sleepers

HomeSports NewsJaw-Dropping 2024 NFL Draft Secrets: College Coaches Spill Tea on Shockers, Sleepers

When the Dust Settled in Detroit after the 2024 NFL Draft, Bedlam Ensued. Head coaches and staffers from every major college football realm frantically hit the hotline to dish out piping hot takes. These field generals spent years recruiting, grooming, and scheming against the newest NFL talent. Their uncensored evaluations tear off the facade and expose the juicy truth.

Earthquake at the Top: Falcons Stun with Penix Curveball

The top of this draft dolphin-kicked as scripted, with USC’s Caleb Williams swimming to the Chicago Bears at #1 overall. But then the Atlanta Falcons detonated a seismic blast, plucking Washington gunslinger Michael Penix Jr. at #8 despite just inking Kirk Cousins to a whale of a contract.

“I was surprised,” admitted one gobsmacked power conference coach. “But it makes sense having that talented young guy readyto roll out eventually.” While injures clogged Penix’s promising Indiana pipeline, he flashed a howitzer arm and steely pocket presence in Washington.

However, some questioned if the 24-year-old Penix will be nudging 30 before getting meaningful snaps behind Cousins. “QBs can last longer now though, play into their 30s,” reasoned one SEC defensive coordinator trying to justify the head-scratcher.

QB Chaos Reigns After Early Run

The first-round quarterback insanity continued like horses Breaking free from the gates. Immediately after Williams, LSU’s Jayden Daniels and UNC’s Drake Maye came off the board before Denver could think about pouncing on Oregon’s Bo Nix or the newly-minted Penix.

“Both those guys were talented enough to be in that first-round QB convo,” said one befuddled Pac-12 defensive coordinator. “Nix ended up with a head coach [Sean Payton] who really believes in him like Drew Brees.”

With quarterbacks flying earlier, teams pivoted to fortifying their trenches in a obvious shift. Nine beefy offensive linemen followed, including an absurd six among the first 20 picks. “It’s a direct correlation to protecting quarterbacks better,” explained one SEC coach. “Everyone’s trying to rebuild up front on offense.”

Defensive Prospects Do The Storm Shelter Shuffle

As one Big Ten defensive coordinator bluntly declared: “It’s an offensive world out there right now.”

UCLA hybrid freak Laiatu Latu shockingly broke the seal as the first defender off the board at a jaw-dropping #21 overall. An inexplicable 14 straight offensive players had already drunk from the strawberry-lemonade-flavored fountain of draft life before Latu’s name rang out.

The dearth of elite lockdown corners and terrifying pass rushers partially explained defenses getting Thanos-snapped according to coaches. Offenses dominated the spotlight.

“It was a very top-heavy draft with the premium positions getting pillaged,” said one SEC coordinator on the lopsided talent distribution.

Late First-Rounders Spark Spirited Debate

Still, several tantalizing defenders surfaced late in Thursday’s opening round to polarize the coaching universe, including violent Missouri defensive lineman Darius Robinson.

“Strong, violent, twitchy – he’s what you look for in an NFL D-tackle,” raved an SEC assistant fresh off witnessing Robinson’s Senior Bowl mauling in-person. “I’m glad he showed out there because I saw it myself.”

The first round closed with an unexpected wide receiver run beginning when Texas speedburn Xavier Worthy detonated the Chiefs’ draft room with an earth-scorching 4.21 40-yard dash. Worthy’s game-breaking wheels overshadowed his iffy hands and tendency to drift in college.

“He’s not a traditional route runner, more of a human cheat code who can make one miss and gone for 60,” mused one defensive coordinator. “The scat-receiver version who can turn a 3-yard catch into 20 real quick.”

But Worthy wasn’t even draft weekend’s most polarizing wideout selection.

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That dishonor went to Florida’s Ricky Pearsall shockingly hearing his name called by the Niners at #31 overall despite an up-and-down career marred by fuzzy route disciplines. Multiple coaches questioned if the under-achiever belonged anywhere near the first round.

“That Pearsall pick might’ve been the oddest one other than Penix,” said one defensive coordinator dumbfounded by the shocking selection. “He’s solid but we didn’t have to seriously game plan for him. At times he’d get real sloppy on his routes – dancing off the stem and sabotaging the timing.”

Sleeping Giants Slip Through the Cracks

As Day 2 opened, major defensive names were somehow still unclaimed, leaving coaches gobsmacked. Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton, the 2023 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, was expected to be a first-rounder but fell to the second frame.

“Everybody thought he was a lock for Thursday night,” said one bewildered Big Ten coach of the unanimous All-American. “But when he [put forth effort], he was unblockable.”

Newton’s inconsistent motor and unreliable intensity level clearly concerned teams eyeing him as a potential Day 1 pick, according to evaluators.

Texas defensive lineman T’Vondre Sweat was another high-profile prospect with major red flags beyond his Outland Trophy-winning talent. The 366-pound mammoth’s shaky conditioning and off-field troubles like a recent DWI raised serious character questions.

Perhaps the biggest head-scratcher, though, was unanimous All-American defensive back Cooper DeJean inexplicably sliding all the way to Philadelphia at #40 overall. The ultra-athletic DeJean possessed cornerback-safety versatility and serious upside that multiple coaches felt belonged in Thursday’s opening round.

“Think he’s elite, special, he’ll prove himself just fine,” assured one Big Ten coach stunned by DeJean’s tumble.

Day 3 Delves Deep Into Sleeper Convos

Further down the draft board brought lengthy sleeper debates, including at running back. Despite big-time production at Michigan and preseason Heisman hype, Blake Corum joined the increasingly devalued running back carousel in the third round.

“It’s just not an elite RB class,” declared one terse SEC defensive coach.

But no name caused more befuddlement than former Oklahoma/South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler plummeting until the fifth round. The gunslinger’s impressive college stats, skills and NFL bloodlines somehow couldn’t outweigh persona concerns according to coaches.

“The demons of the past definitely hurt Rattler,” explained one SEC assistant, possibly alluding to rumors of the quarterback’s Hollywood attitude spawning from his high school reality TV show appearance.

College Factories Keep Churning Out Pros

Let’s break down how some of college football’s most prolific player development factories fared over draft weekend:

Michigan Wolverines The reigning champs set a new school record with 13 draft picks, though only quarterback J.J. McCarthy cracked the top 45 selections. Michigan flexed its depth dominating Day 2 with six premium picks like defensive studs Kris Jenkins and receiver convert Mike Sainristil.

But one Big Ten coach harbored doubts about the Wolverines’ prospect star power: “They were a good team, I didn’t think they had a bunch of elite NFL guys.”

Texas Longhorns Coming off a playoff berth, Texas sent 11 players pro including first-rounder Byron Murphy II and second-round running back Jonathon Brooks. The haul marked a seismic shift according to one Big 12 defensive mind:

“It’s a lot different Texas draft than it had been before Sarkisian got there. This is more like Mack Brown’s glory years back in the day.”

Washington Huskies Michael Penix’s shocker first-round status headlined an explosive draft haul for Washington. The Huskies saw seven prospects snapped up in the first three rounds, six on the offensive side, reaffirming their turbocharged attack per one Pac-12 defensive coordinator.

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Receiver trio Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan all joined Penix among the top 100 picks. And one member of UW’s 2023 staff believes McMillan, who missed half last season hurt, potentially possesses the highest pro ceiling of the wideout bunch.

LSU Tigers The offensive juggernaut formula continued paying dividends for LSU, which had three Tigers taken in the first round – quarterback Jayden Daniels, along with supersized receiver threats Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr.

While coaches raved about the terrifying size, speed and production of Nabers and Thomas, one defensive coordinator cautioned: “You really have to look at their production against soft coverages in college. When they had to really work to uncover, what does that rate look like?”

Still, the LSU pass-catchers combined for over 2,700 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2023. Their early draft entries reflected the seismic offensive revolution currently swallowing college football.

USC Trojans While Caleb Williams kicked off the festivities by going #1 overall to Chicago, USC’s draft weekend proved underwhelming from there. Only safety Calen Bullock and running back MarShawn Lloyd cracked the top 200 selections.

One Pac-12 assistant believes Lloyd, whose workload mystifyingly fluctuated at USC, has162 untapped potential: “That guy is a special player and they really didn’t utilize him enough. It’s because their system is so QB-focused.”

Clemson Tigers

Though taking a relative step back in 2023, Clemson churned out defensive prospects headlined by first-round cornerback Nate Wiggins. One opposing offensive coordinator gushed at the Tigers’ “freaking good” front seven talent.

Meanwhile, running back Will Shipley earned widespread kudos despite sliding to the fourth round. Coaches praised his three-down versatility and NFL-readiness regardless of draft status.

“It’s a good fit in Philly with what they do – he’ll contribute,” said one coach. “Those Swiss Army knife backs who play every down and are assets in pass pro always get on the field.”

Oregon Ducks The Ducks predictably lacked elite high-end talent but flexed incredible depth by having five players selected in the fourth round alone. Oregon set a new school record with eight total draft picks in a surprising show of force on Day 3.

Potential steals included fourth-round receiver Troy Franklin and running back Bucky Irving. The powerful yet elusive Irving earned lofty praise from one defensive coordinator:

“He’ll do well – you legit can’t tackle the guy. He’s got unreal balance and is flat-out tough.”

The 2024 draft class delivered no shortage of shockers, surprises and future superstars-in-the-making for the NFL’s 32 franchises. By unearthing honest evaluations and projections from college coaches most intimately familiar with these players, we gained unique behind-the-curtain insights into how pro teams evaluated and invested for the future.

This incoming rookie crop now carries monumental weight to prove themselves on the biggest stage. Only time will tell which picks were brilliant strokes of genius and which ones ultimately fizzle out. But the real judging begins now as the newly-minted pros attempt to actualize the immense expectations and hype.

Draft’s Unofficial All-Surprise Team

Looking back, we can construct an Unofficial All-Surprise Team comprising some of the biggest shockers, sleepers and head-scratching selections from draft weekend:

QB – Michael Penix Jr., Atlanta Falcons The first-round curveball launched offensive coordinator debates and memes aplenty when the Falcons scooped up the Washington veteran with the 8th overall pick despite just paying Kirk Cousins a kings ransom.

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RB – Bucky Irving, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Largely overshadowed by Oregon’s prolific passing attack, Irving emerged as a potential Day 3 steal thanks to his combination of power, elusiveness and ridiculous balance. As one coach put it, “You legit can’t tackle the guy.”

WR – Troy Franklin, Denver Broncos Among the run on receivers who seemingly came out of nowhere, Franklin’s fourth-round status particularly stumped evaluators. “I thought he would’ve gone much sooner,” said one Pac-12 defensive coordinator of the tantalizing Oregon wideout.

WR – Ricky Pearsall, San Francisco 49ers Pearsall’s shocking first-round landing at #31 overall baffled coaches who saw an underwhelming, unrefined prospect. “That Pearsall pick was just odd,” said one defensive coordinator bluntly. “We didn’t have to seriously game plan for him.”

OL – Troy Fautanu, Pittsburgh Steelers The massive Washington mauler somewhat overshadowed by teammates like Penix and the receivers still came off the board earlier than expected at #20 overall. Fautanu’s rare combination of size, power and athleticism proved too enticing.

DL – Darius Robinson, Arizona Cardinals An oft-injured, relatively unheralded prospect heading into the draft, Robinson’s disruptive Senior Bowl performance opened eyes. One SEC coach called the intense Missouri lineman “strong, violent, twitchy – exactly what you want.”

LB – Payton Wilson, Pittsburgh Steelers Despite winning prestigious defensive awards like the Butkus and Bednarik at NC State, Wilson lasted until the third round – shocking evaluators impressed by his relentless motor and athletic traits. “That dude is different,” marveled an ACC offensive coordinator.

DB – Cooper DeJean, Philadelphia Eagles The ultra-versatile Iowa defensive back somehow kept free-falling until the 40th overall pick despite unanimous All-American honors and elite upside. “I think he’s special, he’ll prove himself,” assured one Big Ten coach.

Undrafted But Not Undaunted

Of course, the draft’s drama and intrigue extended well beyond the 259 players selected over three days. Each year, a fresh crop of undrafted free agents aim to defy the odds and prove themselves worthy of NFL roster spots.

This year’s most notable undrafted prospects included:

QB – Shedeur Sanders (Jackson State) The prolific FCS passer and coach’s son was once projected as a potential first-rounder but plummeted out of the draft entirely.

RB – Xazavian Valladay (Arizona State) Despite back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Valladay surprisingly went unclaimed after an underwhelming pre-draft process.

WR – Mitchell Tinsley (Penn State) The big-bodied possession receiver surprisingly went undrafted after a solid senior season of 57 catches for 733 yards.

OL – Brodric Martin (Arkansas State) The former five-star recruit was once the highest-rated offensive line prospect out of high school but couldn’t put it together consistently at Arkansas State.

DL – Zacch Pickens (South Carolina) An uber-athletic defender with elite physical tools, Pickens still couldn’t overcome concerns about his inconsistent motor and disappeared from draft boards.

EDGE – B.J. Ojulari (LSU)
After logging 16.5 sacks the past two seasons, Ojulari faced longstanding questions about his tweener size that scared teams off drafting the talented tiger.

LB – Owen Pappoe (Auburn) A former five-star recruit and Butkus Award finalist, Pappoe slipped through the cracks despite possessing all the physical traits to succeed at the next level.

The great unknown lies ahead as these newly-minted pros attempt to actualize their immense potential and prove any doubters wrong. The 2024 draft provided entertainment galore with its endless surprises and controversies – and that was just the beginning. The real drama starts the second these players hit the field.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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