NFL Draft Notebook: Five players who will be good value in free agency

Nov 28, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Carlos Hyde (24) is tackled by Atlanta Falcons linebacker Foyesade Oluokun (54) in the second half at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 28, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Carlos Hyde (24) is tackled by Atlanta Falcons linebacker Foyesade Oluokun (54) in the second half at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

Next week will be the start of free agency which will have a major impact on what teams do in the NFL Draft this April and how they perform on the football field next season. While there are some big-name free agents this offseason the teams that will be set up for the future are the ones who sign high-quality players for a reasonable price.

In this week’s NFL Draft Notebook we take a look at five free agents who could be great value signings. Along with taking a look at these players this edition of NDN discusses the following:

  • What players shined and disappointed at the NFL Combine
  • The top needs for each AFC East team
  • Why the Cleveland Browns might look to add a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft
  • And much more

Top five free agent values

1. Foyesade Oluokun, LB, Atlanta Falcons
The best value in free agency this offseason might be Atlanta Falcons linebacker Foyesade Oluokun. This past season Oluokun led the NFL with 192 tackles and has also held up well in coverage picking off three passes last year. Despite his outstanding season, he will likely land a contract around eight million dollars a year, which is a pretty good bargain.

2. Bilal Nichols, DT, Chicago Bears
Another young defender who should be a good value this offseason is Chicago Bears defensive tackle Bilal Nichols. Nichols is a player who keeps improving each year having gone from a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft to a player who has accounted for 91 tackles and eight sacks over the past two seasons.

3. Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys
The reason some team could get a bargain with wide receiver Michael Gallup is he is coming off an injury-riddled season, that ended with a torn ACL. While his health is a big question mark his talent is not. When healthy he has been one of the better wide receivers in the NFL and has shown he has the ability to be a number one wide receiver.

4. Kyzir White, LB, Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers linebacker Kyzir White had a breakout season posting career highs in tackles, tackles for loss, and interceptions. While White, will never be a standout against the run he is one of the better coverage linebackers in the NFL. He has the ability to cover tight ends in coverage and also excels in zone coverage. Look for White to sign a multi-year contract for around seven million a year.

5. Jameis Winston, QB, New Orleans Saints
While this is not a great quarterback class, the best player of the bunch is Jameis Winston. Last season, Winston threw 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions but unfortunately saw his year-end with a torn ACL. He should be able to find a starting spot somewhere in the NFL next year, even if it is just as a placeholder while a younger quarterback develops.

NFL Combine Stock Market

Stock Up

Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
One word describes Jordan Davis’s day at the NFL Combine and that word is amazing. His most impressive feat of the day was his 4.78 40-yard dash, which is the fastest time in the event’s history for a player over 340 pounds. He also led all defensive tackles with a 10’3 broad jump and finished second with a 32-inch vertical jump. With his outstanding performance, he showed he has the explosion to rush the passer which was the biggest question with him before his trip to Indianapolis.

Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia
The tight end who had the most impressive NFL combine is Jelani Woods of Virginia. Some of the impressive numbers he put up include a 4.61 40-yard dash which was the second-best time among tight ends, and 24 reps on the bench press which was the highest number among tight ends. These numbers should only help him build off a strong Shrine Bowl, and move him from a player who was graded as a late-round prospect to one who could hear his name called early on day three.

Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State
One of the most surprising numbers put up this week was Pierre Strong’s 40-yard dash of 4.37 seconds. This was a surprising number as Strong was viewed as a player with good quickness, but only average speed overall. This time definitely changed that perspective and should move him up to a middle day three selection.

Amaré Barno, DE, Virginia Tech
While Jordan Davis stole the show on Saturday, another defensive lineman who put elite numbers was Amaré Barno of Virginia Tech. He posed a 4.36 40-yard dash which was the fastest time from a defensive lineman since 2003. He also led all defensive linemen with a 10’11 broad jump and was able to reach 37-inches on his vertical jump. Despite having a down season this year Barno should be a high day three pick due to his overall athletic ability.

Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor
The fastest player of an externally fast wide receiver group was Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton. He posted a 4.28 40-yard dash which is one of the best times in NFL Combine history. To go along with his impressive 40-yard dash he also posted a 36.5-inch vertical jump and a 10’10 broad jump both numbers were in the top ten among wide receivers.

Stock Down

Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
A player who disappointed at the NFL Combine was Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams. He posted the worst 40-yard dash of any running back at the event running it in 4.65 seconds. He also had a 9.8 broad jump which was third-worst among tailbacks. These numbers are very disappointing for a player who was viewed as a scatback at the next level, and he will need an outstanding pro day to see his stock bounce back.

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Another Notre Dame prospect who was disappointed with his performance in Indianapolis was safety Kyle Hamilton. Hamilton went into this event as the number one player in the 2022 NFL Draft, but his disappointing times did not help his cause. He tied for the second slowest 40-yard dash time with a 4.59 time and also ran a below-average 6.9 3-cone time. On the positive side, he did record a 38-inch vertical jump.

Treylon Burks, WR. Arkansas
Burks showed why he is one of the more overrated players in the draft with his poor performance at the NFL Combine. He put up three testing numbers which left a lot to be desired including a 4.55 40-yard dash, a 33-inch vertical jump, and a 7.28 3-cone drill. He also had some struggles in the position drills when it came to breaking down on his routes. This was a performance of someone who should carry a third-round grade, and not be viewed as the top receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Noah Ellis, DT, Idaho
Noah Ellis is a prospect who was hoping to hear his name called late in the 2022 NFL Draft, but after his poor performance this weekend it will be hard for a team to pull the trigger on him. He ran the slowest 40-yard dash of any player at the Combine by over two-tenths of a second coming in with a time of 5.66 seconds.

Myjai Sanders, DE, Cincinnati
One of the more interesting measurables this weekend was Cincinnati defensive end Myjai Sanders coming in at only 228 pounds. One of the reasons his weight was so low is that he was battling an illness that made it hard to keep food down. He should be able to see his stock rebound if he can regain the weight he lost before his pro day.

2022 NFL Draft Top Needs For AFC East

A look at the biggest offseason need for each AFC East team.

Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills’ top need will depend on who they can resign. At the corner position, the Bills may need to add a corner opposite of Tre’Davious White, if Levi Wallace leaves via free agency. Defensive tackle is another position Buffalo could lose some key players at as Harrison Phillips and Vernon Butler are set to be free agents.

Miami Dolphins
The top need for the Maimi Dolphins is upgrading one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Last season, the Dolphins line was the lowest graded unit in the NFL by Pro Football Focus and allowed pressure on 37% of its pass plays last year. One thing that should help Miami address this weakness is free agency since the team has the most salary-cap space in the NFL.

New England Patriots
One of the top free agents in the NFL this offseason is New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson. If Jackson leaves via free agency the Patriots will need to add several corners this offseason, as neither Jalen Mills nor Joejuan Williams had a strong performance last year.

New York Jets
The New York Jets had one of the least talented rosters in the NFL, so upgrades must be made at multiple positions. Some of the areas the Jets need to address include cornerback, safety, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line. The area that should be the top priority among this group though is pass rusher since New York finished with just 33 sacks last season.

Scouting Notes

— A team that will likely look to draft a quarterback on the second day of the 2022 NFL Draft is the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland will look to add a young signal-caller as Baker Mayfield will be entering the last year of his contract, and the team doesn’t seem willing to commit to him long term at the moment. A couple of prospects the team might look at are Sam Howell and Desmond Ridder.

— With his strong performance at the NFL Combine there should be no doubt about Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning hearing his name called in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. At this event, he proved he is the complete package who has the athletic ability and overall toughness to play with anyone. Some of his top testing numbers include a 4.89 40-yard dash which is extremely impressive for someone 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds. In addition to his impressive 40 time, he also led all linemen with a 7.23 3-cone drill. This strong performance comes off a Senior Bowl where he displayed the toughness offensive line coaches love and an outstanding senior season that allowed him to be named an FCS All-American.

— Despite not taking part in any of the athletic tests at the NFL Combine Cole Kelley, is a quarterback who improved his stock. What stood out with Kelley was his impressive arm strength and accuracy. He hit several go routes in drills and displayed the arm to easily throw any pass in the NFL. In terms of accuracy, he had great placement on most of his throws and showed good timing with his receivers. This past season, Kelley was one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS having thrown for 5,124 yards and 44 touchdowns. While he won’t be a day one or day two pick, he should be a late-round pick who has the upside to potentially develop into something down the road.

— A player who could be a steal in the 2022 NFL Draft is Penn State wide receiver, Jahan Dotson. The main reason he could fall to the third or fourth round is his lack of great measurables coming in at only 5-foot-11 and 178 pounds. He also posted only average numbers at the NFL Combine including a 4.43 40-yard dash and 7.28 3-cone drill. Despite his lack of elite numbers he has some of the best hands in the draft and does a good job of creating separation. He also is one of the better return men in the draft having averaged 24.6 per punt return in 2020.

Quote of the Week

“Physical. Nasty. —–.”

-UNI OT Trevor Penning on the three words he would use to describe himself