Ikem Ekwonu, Jordan Davis, and the NFL Mix Dawgs

NFL Draft – “We have got some dawgs at NC State. That is simply our mentality: aggressive dawgs.”
—North Carolina State sort out Ikem Ekwonu

“You gotta be a dawg. It ain’t candy within the trenches. You gotta be a dawg.”
—Oklahoma operating again Kennedy Brooks.

The 2022 NFL scouting mix was about top-10 prospects like Ekwonu and late-round hopefuls like Brooks. It was about massive winners like Georgia defensive sort out Jordan Davis (he’ll be a excessive first-round decide after Saturday’s metahuman exercises except Dave Gettleman kidnaps him and chains him to a mattress in a mountain cabin, Distress-style) and gamers more likely to leap up draft boards like Notre Dame large receiver Kevin Austin. It was about blistering large receiver 40-yard sprint outcomes, Kenny Pickett hand-size controversies, lengthy days of podium interviews, and lengthy nights trawling steakhouses and wine bars seeking tipsy coaches and brokers.

However largely, it was about canine.

There have been Georgia Bulldogs like Davis and scads of others, plus some Mississippi State Bulldogs and Washington and UConn Huskies. There have been security dogs all over the place, whom nobody was speculated to pet, however (shhh) a few of their handlers let a couple of media sorts romp with the pooches once they observed we had been too hungover to deal with life. And naturally there have been dawgs, to not be confused with canine: each prospect desires to be a dawg on the sector, each NFL crew is searching for some dawgs, each beloved teammate is a dawg. These of us within the media who’ve been grounded for a lot of the final two years had been even thrilled to as soon as once more be elbow-to-elbow with our street dawgs, at the least till we now have been on our toes all day and our canine begin barking. A number of the prospect dawgs even talked about their four-legged canine.

Walkthrough will do some conventional “mix winners” stuff in a bit, and we’ll be making some updates to the FO 40 as properly. However let’s begin by exhibiting you a special, fuzzier facet of a few of the extra attention-grabbing prospects within the 2022 draft class.

As at all times, Soccer Outsiders’ 2022 NFL draft protection is introduced by Underdog Fantasy!

Underdog Fantasy

Going Entire Hog with Treylon Burks

Prospect: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Mix Outcomes: Burks’ 4.55s 40-yard sprint was disappointing however not cataclysmic for a 6-foot-4, 225-pound receiver. His bounce outcomes (33-inch vertical, 122 broad) and 3-cone outcome (7.28 seconds) had been high quality. Burks possible misplaced floor on Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave within the race to the highest of the WR1 dialog, however he is nonetheless a probable first-round decide.

Interview Notes: Burks considers himself extra of a boundary receiver than a Deebo Samuel sort. His dimension, exercise, outcomes and a few components of his scouting report (for instance, he does a high quality job out-positioning and out-jumping SEC defenders on deep sideline photographs) counsel that he might certainly be higher suited to work primarily outdoors than within the slot. Mix mumblings counsel that he interviewed properly with groups; he got here throughout to the press because the kind of no-nonsense fellow that groups need within the large receiver room.

Dawg Issue: Burks has a tattoo of his first American bully (that is what pitbull mother and father name our puppers after we do not need to scare anybody) on his forearm. He additionally informed us throughout his interview that he hunts wild hogs, amongst different recreation, with the assistance of his canine:

How do you get a hog with a knife?

BURKS: It’s a must to go on the market with canine. The canine exit and discover them, and we go up behind them and sort out them.

Is that harmful?

BURKS: It is all relying on the way you assault it.

And the place do you stab them?

BURKS: Proper behind, you already know, the entrance of them. (Factors to his coronary heart.)

Do you cook dinner them?

BURKS: We course of them. We do not cook dinner the entire hog! (Laughs.)

Does searching hogs translate to the NFL in any respect?

BURKS: Yeah. It’s a must to game-plan earlier than you even go on the market. It takes time to game-plan, know precisely the place they’re gonna be. Then, similar to how I put on gloves, you need to put vests and every thing on the canine, simply to organize them so they do not get damage.

Backside Line: Former Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb additionally favored to hunt hogs with a knife for sport, however Walkthrough is not going to carry Kolb in opposition to Burks. Nonetheless, my boom-or-bust issues about Burks stay after the mix: perhaps he is a flexible matchup nightmare, however perhaps he isn’t fairly quick, explosive, and refined sufficient to be greater than a situational participant when he faces more durable opposition within the NFL.

Ikem Ekwonu’s All-Canine Alert

Prospect: Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

Exercise Outcomes: The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Ekwonu ran a 4.93s 40-yard sprint, one of many quickest occasions amongst linemen. Nobody cares a lot about lineman sprints, and Ekwonu’s different outcomes had been middle-of-the-pack.

Ekwonu’s testing outcomes had been similar to these of Mississippi State sort out Charles Cross, who, like Ekwonu, has an opportunity to be a top-10 decide. Alabama’s Evan Neal, who’s forward of Ekwonu on most draft boards (however not the FO 40), didn’t run drills.

Interview Notes: The gregarious Ekwonu, the son of a physician and brother of an animator for tv exhibits like Rick & Morty, was as spectacular as I anticipated him to be. He mentioned that he fashions his recreation after 49ers sort out Trent Williams, from whom he “stole” his chop block and bottom snatch block. He addressed his want for refinement as a pass-protector and the struggles he skilled whereas enjoying guard, the place his “sort out’s mentality” made it exhausting for him to work in restricted house. Ekwonu thinks left sort out is his true place, and I agree.

Dawg Issue: As soon as the press pool bought tired of boilerplate questions, issues went delightfully off the rails.

You will have a musical background?

EKWONU: I did slightly little bit of musical theater after I was a child. I used to be by no means ready to do this in highschool or center faculty due to sports activities and every thing.

What had been you in?

EKWONU: I used to be in The Jungle Guide. I used to be in The Aristocats. 101 Dalmatians. I truly bought the lead in 101 Dalmatians. I used to be Pongo the Canine. That was a giant step for me. He was the daddy of the opposite Dalmatians. So all through the entire musical, I am searching for my canine, searching for my infants.

How previous had been you?

EKWONU: I wanna say I did it third by means of fifth grade. And I used to be in refrain for 3 years in highschool, and honors refrain my senior 12 months.

Honors refrain? What does that entail? (Observe: I most assuredly did NOT ask this query.)

EKWONU: The requirement is that you need to be in refrain at the least two years. Then you need to apply for it. I had an awesome relationship with my musical theater instructor, Ms. Tilson—shout out to Ms. Tilson!—and 12 of us within the senior class wished to be in honors refrain. So we bought to make some govt choices within the room: decide which items of music we wished to sing.

Bass? Baritone? (Observe: I most assuredly DID ask this query.)

EKWONU: I’ve fairly lengthy vary. I might sing bass or the tenor. I truly sang numerous tenor in highschool as a result of there weren’t numerous guys who might sing these excessive notes.

Will you be able to sing in coaching camp throughout rookie initiations?

EKWONU: I am going to positively take that critically, attempt to go all out.

Will you sing for us?

EKWONU: No, I can not try this proper now. I am certain there’s gonna be a video of me at rookie minicamp singing. So y’all can see that.

Do outdoors actions change your method to soccer?

EKWONU: It offered me the chance to fulfill numerous completely different folks. It gave me a brand new perspective. I discover at occasions that it made me slightly friendlier, slightly extra empathetic to different folks. That mindset permits me to gel lots simpler within the locker room.

Backside Line: Ekwonu will stay the highest offensive lineman on the FO 40 except/till Neal bench-presses an Escalade at his professional day. However Neal, the larger and extra battle-tested lineman, should still find yourself being the primary lineman off the board, and he might be the No. 1 decide. Nonetheless, I agree with the Giants reporters I chatted with after Ekwonu’s interview: he is in all probability not going to be there at No.5.

Dameon Pierce, Canine-Lovin’ Dawg

Prospect: Dameon Pierce, RB, Florida

Exercise Outcomes: Pierce, one of many stars of the Senior Bowl recreation, is among the few operating backs who benched, placing up a formidable 21 reps. His 4.59s 40-yard sprint was among the many slowest occasions for a operating again, however it wasn’t disastrous for a 218-pound thumper more likely to be drafted within the later rounds.

Interview Notes: Pierce was the funniest prospect on the mix, arms down, with a matter-of-fact humorousness and supply and timing that made me slightly jealous. The jokes do not fairly translate to print, sadly: it was all physique language and facial expressions.

Pierce described his operating type (precisely) as “offended, up-tempo: I do not run with good intentions.” He mentioned his favourite operating again was “[Todd] Gurley, earlier than y’all kicked my boy out of the league.” As for his receiving capability? “I had 17 targets, 17 catches.” And blocking? “Quite a lot of occasions, I used to be in pass-protection. And the quarterback did not get hit.”

And what recommendation would he give his youthful self? “Get some sleep, man. Decelerate. Take a nap.”

Dawg Issue: Pierce is the proud papa of three pedigreed pitbulls: Poncho, Oakley, and Gabonaparte (or Gabona.) According to the Senior Bowl telecast, the pooches feast on deer sausage, pig ears, and bacon (however not too crispy.)

As a longtime pitbull mum or dad myself, I used to be decided to be taught slightly extra:

How a lot do they eat?

PIERCE: Poncho in all probability eats essentially the most. He is the most important. Poncho’s the one who goes and tries to eat out of everybody else’s bowl. He is grasping. Oakley, she’s within the center. She’ll tuck it, however she do not do an excessive amount of. And Gabonaparte eats the least, however he’ll eat essentially the most treats out of all of them.

Does that make Poncho the alpha?

PIERCE: There ain’t no alpha. All of them get alongside properly. Poncho thinks since he is the most important one he can bully everyone, however Gabona’s not going for that. So Gabona’s bought to get on him and let him know. Gabona’s the littlest one, however he is bought essentially the most chunk.

The place do they sleep?

PIERCE: Wherever they get their heads at.

In your mattress?

PIERCE: Oh no. The one time they get in my mattress is after I exit grocery procuring or one thing. Then I am going to in all probability catch Poncho taking a nap on my mattress.

Who’s taking good care of them throughout the mix?

PIERCE: Two of them are at my mother’s home. Oakley, she’s the child, so she’s at my condominium at Gainesville with my sister.

Are two pitbulls lots in your mom to deal with?

PIERCE: Man, my momma treats them like they’re grandbabies. They’re human at this level.

Backside Line: Pierce was a part of a crowded backfield with Malik Jones and Emory Davis in Gainesville, and he typically gave approach to Davis on passing downs. Pierce rushed for simply 574 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior, and neither his manufacturing nor his 40 time will get the heartbeat racing. However he has a demolition derby speeding type, low mileage, a willingness to dam, and a temperament that some coaches are going to like. He is the kind of again who will get drafted within the late rounds however finally ends up being a productive thumper in a committee,

Jamaree Salyer By no means Forgets a Sack

Prospect: Jamaree Salyer, OL, Georgia

Exercise Outcomes: Salyer completed second to Boston Faculty’s Zion Johnson with 31 bench press reps. He’s saving all his different drills for Georgia’s Professional Day (which can mainly be Mix II: Championship Boogaloo).

Dawg Issue. Salyer performed for the Georgia Bulldogs. (Look, I used to be his designated interview transcriber for the PFWA and wished to amortize my efforts by together with him right here, since I made a separate video about Zion Johnson that you will notice in a bit. That does not make me a foul journalist. Only a lazy one.)

Interview Notes: Like Johnson, Salyer primarily performed left sort out in his closing collegiate season but in addition performed guard at occasions and has been working extensively at heart. He has a sort out’s athleticism, quickness, and footwork, however an inside lineman’s physique sort: 6-foot-3, shortish arms by left sort out requirements, some junk within the trunk.

Salyer bristles on the suggestion that he lacks athleticism for a left sort out. “The SEC is freaky,” he mentioned. “There’s numerous nice expertise. [Alabama underclassman] Will Anderson, after all, is a extremely nice participant. Kingsley Enagbare out of South Carolina is a extremely nice participant. [Michigan’s] David Ojabo.

“I believe it is attention-grabbing that I performed all these nice gamers, not often gave up a sack. I held up my finish of the discount for my crew. Nevertheless it’s at all times a query of my athleticism. It is by no means a query of theirs.”

Salyer claims that he solely allowed two sacks his complete profession, and he remembers each clearly:

Each sacks to the identical crew: Alabama. First sack, Will Anderson jumped the snap on me within the fourth quarter. Nice participant, made an awesome soccer play. I had been doing fairly properly in opposition to him a lot of the recreation. However he jumped the snap. Acquired his arms on Stetson [Bennett], I used to be attempting to run him across the hoop, however he ended up getting his arms on Stetson, ended up bringing him down within the fourth quarter late within the SEC Championship Recreation.

The second sack I gave up was within the [National Championship Game]. Chris Harris, one other nice soccer participant, hit me with slightly hesitation transfer. It was one among my first snaps at guard. He ended up beating me inside and I gave up the sack. That might have modified the sport. So I used to be very lucky, very blessed that we had an opportunity to place the sport again on them.

Backside Line: The Bengals and Giants high the checklist of groups that have to saturation-draft their offensive line and could also be searching for guys who can play each heart and guard. Salyer is a Day 2 prospect, however the tape is robust. He is the sort of prospect who would not generate a lot buzz earlier than the draft, then finally ends up beginning within the NFL for 10 years.

Scouting Mix Winners and Losers

The Walkthrough crew of me, producer-director Matt Noskow, and the crack Soccer Outsiders/Edj Sports activities multimedia dawgs made a bunch of movies this week, and it is a excellent place to characteristic them together with some contemporary ideas and impressions.

Mix Winners

Boston Faculty offensive lineman Zion Johnson has been the most important winner of the whole pre-draft course of thus far. Johnson turned a Senior Bowl legend when he practiced his heart snaps in a blustery downpour whereas a few of us had been huddled in our rental vehicles attempting to get heat. He then completed within the high 5 amongst offensive linemen in lots of mix drills. I additionally liked him in interviews.

Virginia tight finish Jelani Woods got here to the mix as a little bit of a novelty act: a Shrine Bowl standout with a background as a receiver/tight finish hybrid however the physique of a proper sort out. However Woods weighed in at a trim 259 kilos at 6-foot-7, dropped a 4.61s 40-yard sprint, and put up 24 bench press reps. He additionally made a really optimistic impression in media interviews. He mentioned he fashions his recreation after Mercedes Lewis, and I can see and listen to it.

North Dakota State large receiver Christian Watson wasn’t as spectacular on the Senior Bowl as I hoped he could be, partly due to soggy situations and unimpressive quarterback play. He wanted a powerful mix, and he bought one: a 4.36s 40-yard sprint at 6-foot-4 and 208 kilos. These are “verification of movie” numbers, which is what groups typically want from midmajor or FCS prospect on the mix.

Rutgers large receiver Bo Melton is one other man who earned a combined grade on the Senior Bowl: he was open on a regular basis and caught the ball about half the time. Melton completed fifth amongst large receivers with a 4.34s 40-yard sprint, tied for seventh within the vertical bounce (38 inches), and third within the 3-cone (6.98 seconds.) Melton continues to be a part of a crowd amongst nifty-shifty slotsters, however it’s a formidable crowd.

Notre Dame large receiver Kevin Austin despatched me again to the tape together with his 4.43s 40-yard sprint, 4.15s 20-yard shuttle, and 6.71s 3-cone (that is actually good) at 6-foot-2 and 200 kilos. Austin is a well-built boundary receiver who tracks deep sideline photographs properly. He additionally misplaced an enormous chunk of his school profession to foot accidents, and he would not look all that quick or fast on tape. Austin might have gone from “undrafted attributable to medicals and restricted upside” on some draft boards to “value a glance attributable to distinctive traits.”

Virginia Tech edge rusher Amare Barno led his place with a 4.36s 40-yard sprint and a 131-inch broad bounce. A transformed linebacker, Barno’s collegiate manufacturing was sparse (10 sacks in 21 video games for the Hokies) and his movie is a combined bag. Barno is nice in pursuit, can drop into protection or spy the quarterback with no need Google Maps, and flashes potential as a go rusher. However his spin transfer generally consists of rotating 180 levels and getting caught backing into his blocker, whereas his swim approach is like: “Look! I’m doing stuff with my shoulders!” Barno’s exercise outcomes will in all probability get him drafted on Day 3 and stashed on particular groups or the follow squad.

Georgia defensive sort out Jordan Davis, as talked about within the intro, was in all probability the most important winner of the mix itself. He did issues (a 4.78s 40-yard sprint, a 123-inch broad bounce) that no 341-pound human outdoors of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ought to do.

Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson is in play for the primary general decide, so it is exhausting to say he elevated his inventory. However his 6.73s 3-cone outcome answered questions a few of us had about his lateral quickness and bend. We nonetheless rank Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux forward of Hutchinson based mostly on his tape, however it’s actually shut, and groups drafting on the high of the draft board might properly disagree.

Mix Losers

Here is Derrik Klassen and I speaking about Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett’s tiny arms in slightly preview of the Soccer Outsiders Draft Livestream which debuts on Tuesday at 1 p.m.:

Pickett threw in addition to anybody within the ho-hum quarterback exercises, the place Nevada’s Carson Sturdy and Brown’s E.J. Perry had been the closest issues I noticed to “winners.” Pickett interviews like an MBA candidate, and he caught a couple of breaks this week when Jimmy Garoppolo’s shoulder surgical procedure was introduced and the Colts tossed Carson Wentz out of the again of a van beneath a railroad trestle and sped away. The beer goggles on quarterback-needy groups just like the Steelers, Commanders, Panthers, and so forth are going to get thicker and thicker over the weeks to return.

On the identical time: the sting rushers blew up on the mix. So did the offensive linemen. Extensive receivers like Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson solidified their excessive first-round standing. Pickett entered the mix as a low-risk, low-reward quarterback, and now we all know that he has arms which might be an inch smaller than the typical 5-foot-9 NFL sportswriter, which simply provides evaluators another reason to say “Eh, screw it, let’s simply draft a stud edge or playmaking receiver and provides Mitchell Trubisky a shot.”

There are different gamers who upset in Indianapolis, however I’m not an enormous fan of branding some child a “mix loser” as a result of he slipped throughout a drill.

And Lastly…

Ah, the mix interview room. What a blessing to be again after a 12 months away! I need to maximize the worth of my time now that I’m right here. Who’s talking at this podium? Edgy McSackenburger? I’m not very accustomed to him. Maybe I ought to seek for his Wikipedia entry on my telephone earlier than he arrives.

Gosh! McSackenburger was born on the planet Neptune! He then emigrated to America when he was 13 years previous, the place he was raised by a foster household of pleasant sea otters. He briefly was an oboist for the New York Philharmonic earlier than Jim Harbaugh noticed him leaping over a taxicab and supplied him a scholarship.

What a captivating lad! And look, two dozen of my colleagues method the rostrum! Certainly, we are going to acquire some nice insights into this compelling younger man’s NFL journey. However hush: the interview commences!

Edgy, what NFL edge rushers do you sample your recreation after?

“Um, Von Miller. Khalil Mack. T.J. Watt.”

Didja speak to the Jets?

“Um, I believe so.”

What would it not be prefer to play for the Jets?

“It might be a blessing. Enjoying for any NFL crew could be a blessing.”

Didja speak to the Lions?

“Um, I believe so.”

What would it not be prefer to play for the Lions?

“It might be a blessing. Enjoying for any NFL crew could be a blessing.”

Yikes! I do know my beat-writer colleagues are on team-specific assignments. I do know that “Prospect X spoke to Workforce Y” articles, whereas foolish and deceptive, generate dependable site visitors. However maybe I ought to redirect this interview in a manner that will probably be extra useful to everybody.

(Ahem) Edgy, what was it like rising up on Neptune?

“Oh, it was wonderful. I hunted snare beasts with my pop as a boy, wind-surfed on the gaseous anomalies. However then my mother invented a teleportation ray and determined that there could be extra alternatives for me on earth.”

Ah, absolutely such distinctive background data will get my fellow journos again on the scent.

What do you hope to show to NFL groups this week?

“Um, that I am a competitor. I am versatile. I am a dawg. I am a snare beast.”

Didja speak to the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder?

“Um, I believe so.”

What would it not be prefer to play to play in Oklahoma Metropolis?

“It might be a blessing. Enjoying for any NBA crew could be a blessing.”

Oh for crying out loud! I can forgive the didjatalkto questions: the reporters may get reprimanded if they do not ask. However the hope-to-prove and compare-your-game stuff? Certain, I’ve requested these inquiries to prospects with non-noteworthy backstories. Nevertheless it solely took a 10-second Web search to be taught that this lad is a human curiosity story ready to be written! Maybe I ought to strive once more.

(Ahem) Edgy, what was it like getting raised by sea otters?

“Oh, I grew to like otter tradition. I actually look as much as my otter sister Weeaaaaaaaooouuuuuie, who graduated from Stanford final 12 months. I believe an aquatic upbringing, mixed with the elevated gravity of Neptune, has actually helped me as an edge rusher, as a result of I’ve nice lower-body energy and bend.”

Effectively, if that does not result in some attention-grabbing follow-up questions, I do not know…

Would you say that you simply play with a chip in your shoulder?

“Undoubtedly. I positively play with a chip on my shoulder.”

Your footwork and lateral agility counsel you can be a stand-up wide-9, however your hand placement and bilateral torsion counsel you can be a 5-tech or a shade 6.25i. The place do you suppose you greatest match alongside the defensive position?

“Wherever coach desires to play me.”

Sorry, I arrived late. Didja speak to the Jets?

“Um, I believe so.”

What would it not be prefer to play for the Jets?

“It might be a blessing. Enjoying for any NFL crew could be a blessing.”

A chip-on-the-shoulder query? Each rattling prospect besides Malik Willis says that he performs with a chip on his shoulder. It is the dumbest boilerplate query on earth. Imma tear off that man’s credential and shove it down his throat! And sure, Onanistic Wannabe Scout Man, everyone seems to be impressed that you would be able to sling jargon. Now howsabout you ask a query that is not only a showcase for the way intelligent you might be? As for Mister Present Up Late and Ask Repeat Query man: coordinate with a fellow beat that you simply get together with, simply look forward to the transcription, or simply test Twitter in three minutes.

Argh! Argh! I do not fake to be heaven’s present to journalism. I do know not everybody can write a dog-themed mix column and receives a commission for it. However we’re sapping the worth of this expertise and making one another work more durable. On the very least, let’s put our foot down with editors: each prospect talks to each crew, so let’s cease asking about it and write one thing substantial in regards to the prospect as an alternative.

The NFL goes to maneuver the mix to Los Angeles or Neptune subsequent 12 months. It should be twice as costly for media shops and twice as grueling for the press pool. If we do not make the journey value greater than tacky clickbait, our shops are going cease sending us, and the entire expertise will probably be worse for everybody besides the NFL itself, which can simply personal 100% of the content material.

That is it. That is my soapbox speech. I simply hope a number of shops write about Edgy McSackenburger’s background, even when I do not, as a result of it is attention-grabbing and followers deserve compelling tales to chop by means of the 40 occasions and inventory quotes.

(In the meantime, on the other facet of the rostrum…)

Dang it, I’ve bought a new child on the best way, my native newspaper is present process funds cuts, and my editor’s gonna hearth me if I do not ask Edgy McSackenburger if he spoke to the Edmonton Elks, and this grey-bearded chonkster sweating Irish whiskey retains asking silly questions on sea otters…

(Observe: All participant quotes are correct and first-hand. Media questions are paraphrased. Some quotes are re-sequenced and/or trimmed as a result of they had been interspersed amongst “Didja speak to the Steelers?” questions and such.)

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