NFL Draft Notebook: Terrion Arnold’s fit in Detroit and Junior Bergan’s special potential

Find out why Terrion Arnold matches Detroit’s grit under Dan Campbell and see what makes Junior Bergan a top special teams prospect for 2025. Also, meet an SEC running back on the rise.
Terrion Arnold
Terrion Arnold / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

In this week’s NFL Draft Notebook, we begin by exploring why Terrion Arnold is the perfect fit for Detroit and how his personality aligns with Dan Campbell's hard-nosed philosophy. Next, we delve into what makes Montana’s Junior Bergan one of the top special teams' prospects for the 2025 NFL Draft, spotlight an SEC running back poised for a breakout season, and highlight a rookie already making waves in Jacksonville.

Detroit Lions mentality fits Terrion Arnold

One team that fits the mold of the typical old-school tough football team is the Detroit Lions. They are led by one of the most intense coaches in the NFL in Dan Campbell who established that fight to the last whistle mentality. He has also added several players who fit this mold like 2023 first-round pick Jack Campbell and 2022 2nd overall selection Aidan Hutchinson to help install this attitude in the locker room.

This year the Lions added another tough physical player who should be an ideal fit in Detriot with the selection of Terrion Arnold with the 24th overall pick. Arnold is a physical corner who is not afraid to press wide receivers at the line of scrimmage or at the catch point. This style of play allowed him to lead the SEC in pass breakups last year with 12 and tie for the conference lead with five interceptions.

This aggressive style of play also shows up when defending the run. In his last season at Alabama, he finished with a 90.5 run-defense grade which was the third-best mark in the nation. This is a trait the Lions require for their defensive backs and is one of the reasons why the team only allowed 91 rushing yards a game which was second in the NFL.

When looking at Arnold's role with the Lions this year, he has a good chance of being the opening-day starter opposite of Carlton Davis III. The man he will have to beat out for that job is free-agent pickup Amik Robertson. who had a solid season for the Raiders last year picking up 50 tackles and six pass breakups. Even if Arnold is not the opening starter look for him to see plenty of action early in his career, and to be the starter going into the 2025 season.

NFL's next elite return man?

With the NFL changing to new kickoff rules this season, look for teams to show more interest in kick returners in the 2025 NFL Draft. One of the best return men in this year’s class is Montana’s Junior Bergan.

Going into the 2024 season Bergan already holds Monatana’s all-time return touchdown record having recorded five punt returns and one kickoff for scores. This past season, he also averaged 15.3 yards per punt return, placing him sixth in the FCS. He has the skills to excel in this role in the NFL as well. His most impressive trait in this area is his quickness which allows him to go from 0 to 60 within a few yards. Additionally, he is a fluid athlete who can make defenders miss in open space and does a terrific job of picking up yards on his own.

While he will receive most of his value as a return man in the NFL, he also has the skill set to help out as a slot receiver. His impressive quickness will also help him out as a receiver as it will consistently allow him to get separation on his routes. His elusiveness will also be a big benefit for him on offense as it will allow him to pick up yards after the catch and in this area, his game reminds me some of Isaac Bruce.

Even though there are plenty of positives with Bergan and he carries a day three grade on my board there are some concerns with his game. The first one is that he lacks ideal size coming in at just 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds. This lack of size and overall play strength will likely cause some issues for him when going up against press coverage or trying to catch the ball in traffic. Another issue with his games is he needs to do a better job of attacking the ball with his hands to secure the catch.

The type of offensive scheme Bergan could excel in is a West Coast offense, which we see more and more teams running in the NFL. He would be a good fit in this scheme as it relies on receivers to take short passes and turn them into big gains after the catch. This is something Bergan should be able to do. No matter what scheme he ends up in next season though look for him to make a big impact on special teams as a rookie

Breakout season ahead for this Tennessee running back

A 2025 NFL Draft prospect who will likely have a breakout season this year is Tennessee running back Dylan Sampson. This will likely be a big year for Sampson as he will be the Vols lead back after backing up fourth-round pick Jaylen Wright last season. Despite seeing limited playing time though Sampson was still able to rush for 604 yards on just 106 carries. He also was a standout in his first start of his career against Iowa who had a top 15 rush defense in the Citrus Bowl. In this game he rushed for 113 yards and averaged 6.7 yards per carry.

If Sampson meets the high expectations set by the Vols, expect him to climb up the draft board. One trait that will captivate scouts is his blazing speed. In high school, he ran a 10.48-second 100-meter dash and recorded a 4.32-second 30-yard dash. This speed makes him a formidable offensive weapon. As a runner, he can break off long runs and is extremely difficult to tackle in open space. Additionally, his speed makes him a challenging matchup for most NFL linebackers in the passing game.

Dylan Sampson could see his stock rise in the 2025 NFL Draft
Dylan Sampson / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

However, one area Sampson needs to work on this season is his pass blocking. At only 192 pounds, his lack of bulk and overall strength make him a liability in this aspect. Additionally, he needs to improve his vision and do a better job of finding open holes.

Overall, I have a sixth-round grade on him which is higher than where most draft experts have him according to NFL Mock Draft Database. However, if he has a strong season this year and improves on his weakness he could end up going in a similar position to Jaylen Wright who was the 120th selection last year.

Brian Thomas Jr. turning heads

While it is hard to tell too much about this year’s upcoming rookie class, when veteran players and coaches are raving about a young player it is never a bad sign. One player that is happening to is Brian Thomas Jr. who the team took in the first round in this year’s draft.

Offensive coordinator Press Taylor mentioned how Thomas is exactly the type of player they thought he was when they took him with the 23rd overall pick. He has also been mentioned by his teammates as a young player who has impressed in OTAs. Christian Kirk who will likely be the Jaguar's go-to receiver this year had this to say about Thomas “I thought he did a great job today. I think from a technique aspect, he's really advanced. For how tall he is and how fast he could run, how he's able to get in and out of his breaks is really impressive. I think the biggest thing just for rookies is just getting used to the speed of everything.”

This should not come as a surprise though as these traits were some of the things that made him my 15th-rated player in the 2024 NFL Draft on my board. One of the biggest positives I mentioned is his scouting report is how well he plays the jump ball having earned a 99.9 deep receiving grade by Pro Football Focus and having led the FBS with 17 touchdown passes. Another positive that stood out with me from his LSU film is how quickly he gets in and out of his breaks for a 6-foot-3 wide receiver.

Regarding the expected production for Brian Thomas Jr. this season, anticipate him finishing third on the team in receptions, behind Kirk and tight end Evan Engram. He is likely to gain momentum towards the end of his rookie season as he builds rapport with Trevor Lawrence, potentially becoming Lawrence's go-to receiver in three or four years.