NFL franchises have an entire staff of college talent evaluators to shadow prospects throughout the season. It is easy to look at a team's depth chart or impending free agent list to ascertain which positions may be of interest next spring. Some of the work was done for them as CBSSports.com highlights one college football prospect who each NFL team should be monitoring this fall.
Arizona Cardinals: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Witherspoon is a boundary cornerback with good height and average top-end speed. He is able to get up to speed quickly and plays the game with a lot of passion. Illinois' defensive backs have been well-coached and that will endear him to NFL coaching staffs. Willing to make a play in the backfield, Witherspoon is equally susceptible to double moves.
Arizona was middle of the road in terms of zone coverage (66.2%) last season. Witherspoon's size and football IQ should allow him to play a healthy mixture of zone and man coverage at the next level. The Cardinals' trade for Trayvon Mullen certainly helps in the short term but the long-term plan remains murky.
Atlanta Falcons: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
While Desmond Ridder could prove himself this season and earn a longer look, it is very unlikely that a third-round pick is able to do enough to deter the franchise from selecting a top quarterback prospect should it find itself in a position to do so. There are exceptions but that should not be the expectation.
Young, a California native, is small in stature but mighty as a captain. For a franchise looking to create a winning culture, the Alabama product makes a lot of sense. Young had the seventh-best passer efficiency rating in 2021, according to TruMedia. His 8.33 air yards per attempt ranked No. 75 among all quarterbacks with at least 200 passes. He is an efficient passer with the mobility to create when the opportunity presents itself.
Baltimore Ravens: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Baltimore lacks size among the front line receivers so Johnston would help immensely. Relative to other top wide receiver prospects, Johnston has not done much in his collegiate career but his range is a good match for Lamar Jackson. Johnson ranked sixth in air yards per target (18.70) among pass catchers with at least 30 receptions, according to TruMedia. The Ravens are not afraid to take a wide receiver in the first round as proven by the selection of Hollywood Brown.
Buffalo Bills: Jordan Battle, S, Alabama
The Bills have been aggressive in upgrading the roster this off-season but veteran safety Jordan Poyer is entering the final year under contract. Micah Hyde has one more year on his contract. Both players have already turned 31 so, realistically, their time together is coming to an end despite a dominant run; parting with one or both would clear cap space.
Battle is obviously very well-coached coming out of Alabama. He is a good communicator with range to make plays on the ball sideline to sideline.
Carolina Panthers: Henry To'oTo'o, LB, Alabama
Carolina heavily invested in the defense during the first two years of the Matt Rhule era. Linebacker is one of the positions that remains relatively untouched with the exception of plays Jeremy Chinn plays down in the box. To'oTo'o is a natural athlete who plays with reckless abandon. The California native can play next to or instead of Shaq Thompson should the franchise determine to move on in an effort to conserve salary cap space.
The offensive line is another position of importance for Carolina.
Chicago Bears: Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
General manager Ryan Poles will not have to travel far to find the answer to the offensive line's problems. Skoronski has five-positional flexibility but has been playing left tackle for the Wildcats. In 39 pass-blocking snaps against Nebraska in the opener, Skoronski did not allow a pressure or hurry, according to TruMedia. The Bears are simply trying to identify building blocks for the future and the Illinois native would be a great start.
Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Joe Burrow likes to use his tight ends despite a bevy of options at wide receiver. Fans are anxious to see the level of impact former first-round selections Hayden Hurst and O.J. Howard (expected to sign) are able to have this season but C.J. Uzomah put up respectable numbers before departing in free agency. Mayer grew up in the shadows of Paycor Stadium so his return would be a feel good story in the community.
Wide receiver Tee Higgins is on the final year of his deal in 2023 and the franchise may be faced with a decision between he and Tyler Boyd as Ja'Marr Chase is not far behind. Roughly $9 million in salary cap space would be saved by releasing Boyd next off-season. The Bengals theoretically would save money while simply swapping weapons.
Cleveland Browns: Joseph Ngata, WR, Clemson
Cleveland has to be aware of its salary cap situation following the investment in Deshaun Watson. Veteran wide receiver Amari Cooper quenches an immediate need at the position but it is not a long-term solution. Ngata is a big-bodied wide receiver with great athletic ability. His potential has not yet bubbled to the surface but that is the type of physical profile to earn a longer look from NFL teams.
Dallas Cowboys: Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor
In three of the past four drafts, Dallas has selected a defensive tackle on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. It would theoretically continue in this scenario unless Ika rises to the middle to late portion of the first round. They have also used two Day 3 selections on the position over the past two years. Leadership has allocated resources but return on investment to this point has been low. Ika gives them significantly more mass at the heart of the defense and would upgrade the run defense.
Denver Broncos: Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
Josey Jewell has flashed for Denver when available but he missed all but two games in 2021. There is little else on the roster impeding Sewell's path to starting for that team. The younger brother of Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell shows good anticipation and awareness. The American Samoa native also displays good closing speed making plays sideline to sideline.
Detroit Lions: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
It is easy to see Detroit's strategy of building through the trenches. The offensive line is among the best in the league whereas the defensive line has a lot of unproven talent led by Aidan Hutchinson. The Lions have a good collection of skill talent as well. There are holes on the roster but general manager Brad Holmes could restart the salary cap clock with a rookie quarterback. Parting ways with Jared Goff would save over $20 million beginning next season.
Levis is an unfinished product but NFL talent evaluators will be excited about his potential. He has great size, great arm strength and plus mobility. If Holmes liked Goff coming out of California, then there are reasons to believe he would be drawn to Levis as well. The Kentucky senior played in a Rams-like offense last season under now Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Everything Holmes needs to know about Levis is just a phone call away.
Green Bay Packers: Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
Green Bay needs a young, balanced tight end that leaves opposing defenses guessing. LaPorta could just as easily seal a run gap for Aaron Jones as leak out and show his range in the pass game. Iowa has a rich history of producing NFL tight ends, like George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. LaPorta could be next in line and there is no better place he could land than with Aaron Rodgers in the NFC North. According to TruMedia, 71.7% of his receptions went for either a first down or touchdown, which ranked No. 26 among all pass catchers with at least 40 receptions.
Houston Texans: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
There is a world where Houston is either not in a position to select one of the top quarterbacks or decide to move forward with Davis Mills at quarterback. In that scenario, the Texans would be ecstatic to land Anderson. He shows twitch and strength in his lower body. The franchise has a history of taking edge rushers early with Jadeveon Clowney and Mario Williams serving as proof. The selection of Anderson would expedite expectations on that side of the ball. According to TruMedia, he applied pressure on 15.7% of his pass rushes, which tied for No. 12 among players with at least 200 pass rush snaps.
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Indianapolis Colts: Darrell Luter Jr., CB, South Alabama
Indianapolis traded Rock Ya-Sin to Las Vegas as part of the deal for edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue. As a result, the Colts' cornerback room is pretty barren outside of Stephon Gilmore, who turns 32 years old later this month. Indianapolis' defense spent nearly 70% of the time in zone coverage last season.
Luter had four interceptions for the Jaguars last season. He shows an ability to get up to speed quickly while stopping and starting with ease. Luter spent 80.7% of the time in zone coverage last fall. The Mississippi native had the second lowest completion percentage against as the primary defender (24.5%) among defensive backs with at least 250 coverage snaps, according to TruMedia.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Jacksonville has invested a lot in its front seven with mixed results. Edge rusher Josh Allen has been sensational, edge rusher Travon Walker is unproven and edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson has not lived up to expectations thus far. The Jaguars need some interior bodies to keep those edge rushers free to make plays. By adding Carter, the franchise gets more than just a warm body, but a potential difference-maker. Carter created pressure on 13% of his pass rushes last season, according to TruMedia. He recorded a tackle on 17.1% of run defense snaps.
Kansas City Chiefs: Rakim Jarrett, WR, Maryland
Kansas City is perfectly content riding with veterans Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman in the absence of Tyreek Hill this season. However, the long-term plan has to involve adding younger firepower to unlock Patrick Mahomes. Jarrett has the size to complement Skyy Moore. Despite being productive for the Terrapins last season, the former five-star wide receiver recruit has another level to take his game.
Las Vegas Raiders: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
Campbell is a honing missile on the football field. He showcases good awareness and is willing to sell out to make a play. Top end speed and burst are average but his preparation allows him to anticipate play direction. The Hawkeye has a big frame that is traditionally slated to play middle linebacker. Las Vegas has been churning the linebacker position annually looking for consistency. Campbell could be the answer.
Los Angeles Chargers: Carter Warren, OT, Pittsburgh
Some linemen have a way of making the game look easy at times and that is the case with Warren. Head coach Brandon Staley values consistency play to play so he knows what to expect when constructing a game plan. Pittsburgh showed their belief in Warren by flipping him to the right side when the play was headed in that direction. Right tackle is where he would be playing should he land in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Rams: O'Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
Torrence was coached by one of college football's better offensive line coaches at Louisiana -- Rob Sale. After a brief stint with the New York Giants, Sale followed head coach Billy Napier to Gainesville this offseason. Torrence is a powerful player who absorbs contact well. He would do well in a Rams blocking scheme that generally allows defenders to work upfield as long as it is away from the play.
Miami Dolphins: Layden Robinson, G, Texas A&M
Robinson has the athleticism and the temperament to be a really good interior offensive lineman in the NFL. There are some technical issues that can be corrected but that comes with experience and maturity. The redshirt junior can be a little too eager out of his stance at times but that first step quickness will be a feather in his cap when potential meets production. Miami has some developmental offensive guards but that unit could benefit from adding a no-doubter and Robinson has the upside to reach that level.
Minnesota Vikings: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Gonzalez was included as a top Pac-12 prospect in my season preview but is just now starting to get the attention that his play warrants. The Texas native comes from an athletic family where his father played college basketball at UTEP and his older sisters were All-Americans in track at Texas and Miami. Gonzalez has some of that speed built into his 6-foot-2 frame. The Colorado transfer joins new head coach Dan Lanning in Eugene after helping his former Georgia program produce several NFL defensive backs.
Minnesota's new head coach -- Kevin O'Connell -- comes from a Rams franchise that ranked bottom three in man coverage last season, according to TruMedia. Los Angeles was in a zone shell on 76.7% of plays.
New England Patriots: Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
Most are familiar with the connection between New England's Bill Belichick and Alabama's Nick Saban. If you are not, the two have been close friends since Saban was the defensive backs coach on Steve Belichick's Navy coaching staff in 1982. No one has better access to the most transparent Crimson Tide intel than Belichick.
The Patriots ranked in the top five in man coverage percentage last season, according to TruMedia. After losing man coverage cornerbacks like Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, Belichick will be in the market for future help. Ricks, an LSU transfer, fits the profile of a player capable of being a man coverage cornerback in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints: Arik Gilbert, TE, Georgia
At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Gilbert has great top end speed and ball-winning traits. He was productive as a true freshman in Baton Rouge two years ago but there is significant intrigue surrounding the LSU transfer and his capabilities after missing all of last season. Despite his other-worldly physical gifts, Gilbert will have to share targets in Athens this fall. The Bulldogs also have former top 100 overall high school recruiting talents Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington at the position.
New Orleans was hopeful that Adam Trautman would replace Jared Cook at tight end but the former has just 42 receptions over two seasons. Gilbert would give Jameis Winston a star at the position in his return to the great state of Louisiana.
New York Giants: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Ringo is a size, speed standout for the national champion Georgia Bulldogs. He fits the profile of a man coverage cornerback. Coming from a Ravens organization that ranked top 10 in man coverage (40%) usage last season, Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is going to need those lockdown options on the boundary to run his scheme. The opposition completed 38.1% of passes against Ringo last season, which ranked No. 14 among all defenders with at least 200 coverage snaps, according to TruMedia.
New York Jets: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
The work done to improve the Jets roster over the past year is nothing short of remarkable. Quarterback is obviously a big question mark and the offensive line has a few building blocks but the long-term vision for that unit needs to become more clear. They have viable options at essentially every other position on the field with the exception of linebacker.
Simpson has a diverse skill set that allows him to drop into coverage or shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield. His height and weight is nearly identical to San Francisco's Fred Warner, who was a key part of Robert Saleh's defense.
Philadelphia Eagles: Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse
Philadelphia has gone all in for the upcoming season but the financial commitment could present challenges down the road as the time arrives to make a decision on Jalen Hurts, Devonta Smith and others. Darius Slay and James Bradberry count roughly $40 million toward the salary cap in 2022 and recently acquired Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is in a contract year. Slay, who turns 32 years old Jan. 1, is probably on the way out after the 2023 season. Bradberry will play out a one-year deal. Gardner-Johnson is seeking a big pay day. The future could be up the road in upstate New York.
The Eagles ranked in the bottom ten in terms of man coverage percentage. They spent 72.1% of plays in zone coverage. Williams spent nearly an identical amount of time in zone coverage for the Orange.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Pittsburgh made the investment in rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett but the young player needs to be supported. There are plenty of examples where a franchise has not protected a young quarterback and it negatively alters the course of that player's career. The offensive line needs to be upgraded.
The Steelers are historically known as being physical but offensive coordinator Matt Canada's scheme also relies on motion. Jones is a raw talent with the size and speed to excel in the city of iron. He has work to do in order to maximize his draft stock next April but the possibility exists.
San Francisco 49ers: Eli Cox, C, Kentucky
When Alex Mack retired, everyone assumed that San Francisco would make a play for free agent JC Tretter, who had been released by the Browns. Tretter then announced his own retirement to focus on his duties with the NFL Players Association. Cox is following a similar path as Jaguars third-round draft pick Luke Fortner, who played guard at Kentucky prior to moving to center his final season.
Here is the real connection between San Francisco and Cox: Kentucky offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello was the quarterbacks coach for the 49ers last year. Kentucky offensive line coach Zach Yenser was an assistant offensive line coach on Kyle Shanahan's staff last year. If it is a match, then general manager John Lynch will have better intel than any other franchise.
Seattle Seahawks: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Seattle could have drafted a quarterback this year, but passed. It could have traded for Baker Mayfield, but chose not to pursue him. The reason lies not in the team's belief of Geno Smith or Drew Lock, but rather a plan to be in position to select one of the top quarterback options in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Seahawks may not be saying it but read the room.
Stroud, a California native, would give the Seahawks a fresh start at quarterback on a rookie's salary. In his first full season as the starter, the 6-foot-3 quarterback completed 317 of his 441 attempts for 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns and six interceptions. According to TruMedia, he had the second-highest passer efficiency, fourth-highest completion percentage (71.9%) and the fifth-best quarterback sack rate (2.6%). Levis was mentioned as being the potential final piece of the puzzle for Detroit, but Stroud would be growing with a Seattle team that still has holes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jestin Jacobs, LB, Iowa
Tampa Bay's draft strategy with Tom Brady has simply been to find young replacements for expensive veterans. The final three years of Lavonte David's contract automatically void on the final day of the upcoming league year. If the Buccaneers make a deep playoff run, then David will turn 32 years old before the end of the season.
Devin White would continue to be the enforcer on defense but Jacobs provides a bit more length and range.
Tennessee Titans: Cooper Beebe, G, Kansas State
Beebe has played left tackle for the Wildcats but is slated to move inside at the next level. The Kansas City native is the definition of physical. For a team like Tennessee, that relies upon the ground game, Beebe would be a great addition to the front line. According to TruMedia, the Kansas City native allowed just eight pressures on 348 pass-blocking snaps last season. Head coach Mike Vrabel is viewed as one of the more physical coaches in the league so his interest in the lineman should be high.
Washington Commanders: Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford
Washington ranked among the bottom 10 in man-coverage percentage last season. The Commanders spent 69.3% of defensive plays in zone coverage, per TruMedia. Kelly is intelligent and a good communicator in zone coverage. The Commanders would not have to spend a first-round pick to get him so it allows them to address other positions, such as the offensive line and potentially quarterback.