NCAA Football: UCLA at Southern California

Most of the top 100 available players have already signed in 2024 NFL free agency and we are not far away from collectively turning our full attention to the 2024 NFL Draft.

Below are the prospects in the 2024 class with similar traits and on-field styles to some names who changed teams in this free agent period. First, a disclaimer. They aren't the biggest free agent additions, but I will never force pro comparisons when they're simply not there. These are legit. 

S Xavier McKinney

Signed with: Packers
Prospect with similar traits: Miami's Kamren Kinchens

McKinney was a do-everything safety for Nick Saban. He felt like the next Alabama "star" defender to go in the first round in the 2020 draft. But a surprisingly poor workout before the combine likely sparked McKinney being available at the start of Day 2, when the Giants promptly snatched him immediately. 

After an injury-plagued rookie season to begin his career, the instinctive, three-down safety got a clean bill of health in 2023 and was outstanding with three interceptions to go long with 11 pass breakups and 116 tackles. He parlayed that monster year to a lucrative deal with the Packers. 

Kinchens is on his way to McKinney-like arc going from college to the pros. The Miami safety had 11 interceptions the past two years with the Hurricanes and the highlight-reel hits appear on film relatively often. But a dreadful combine workout is all but officially a lock to sink him in the draft. On the field, he's much faster to the football than his combine would indicate, and like McKinney at Alabama, Kinchens proved capable of thriving in a variety of roles at Miami. 

WR Gabriel Davis

Signed with: Jaguars
Prospect with similar traits: USC's Brenden Rice

At UCF, Davis was almost strictly a go-ball wideout who caught many deep shots. And that continued in Buffalo, as early as his rookie year as he started his career fourth in the target pecking order behind Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley

Davis is not a sudden, dynamic route runner. But his long strides made him one of the AFC's most threatening downfield options with Josh Allen throwing him the football. Watching Rice during this pre-draft process, I instantly thought of Davis. They're very comparably sized, had similar combine workouts, and like Davis, Rice won't be a consistent separator on intricate routes in the NFL. He can get down the field and track it into his hands deep. Davis averaged 17.2 yards per grab in his final collegiate season. Rice averaged 17.6 yards in 2023. 

EDGE Bryce Huff

Signing with: Eagles
Prospect with similar traits: Houston-Christian's Jalyx Hunt

Huff went undrafted out of Memphis despite major production in his final three seasons there -- 39.5 tackles for loss and 18 sacks. A touch smaller than clearly the NFL wanted him to be, Huff won with serious speed and bend around the corner, and not much else. He did flash some power. 

While Huff was a bit more polished as a prospect than Hunt is now, they're two similar athletes with the acceleration off the snap and flexibility around the corner to legitimately threaten the speed and balance of NFL offensive tackles' kick slides. Huff still isn't a rusher who flashes 15 different pass-rush moves. He's leaned on his athleticism and added some pop in his bull rush. 

I'll be surprised if Hunt goes undrafted, hats off to the Senior Bowl for getting him to Mobile. But regardless of potential different in draft status, these are two rocked-up, highly capable athletes, which every team should be interested in adding to their pass-rush group. 

RB Tony Pollard

Signed with: Titans
Prospect with similar traits: Alabama's Jase McClellan

Pollard was a change-of-pace offensive weapon at Memphis -- he was legitimately part running back, part receiver. Once he got to the NFL and the Cowboys allowed him to focus on the running back position, he blossomed into one of the most efficient yardage producers in football due to his burst and balance through contact, but he was mostly stuck behind Zeke Elliott in Dallas.

McClellan was only the feature back at Alabama in his final season -- he played behind Jahmyr Gibbs in 2022 and Brian Robinson before that -- and demonstrated the slipperiness as a runner to be highly efficient between the tackles and the juice needed to hit some splash plays on the perimeter. 

I could totally see McClellan being picked in the fourth round (or later) like Pollard was and slowly but surely emerging as one of the more effective backs on his NFL team.

LB Blake Cashman

Signed with: Vikings
Prospect with similar traits: Washington's Edefuan Ulofoshio 

Cashman hummed under the radar in the 2019 pre-draft process yet had a stellar workout after an long and super-steady career at the University of Minnesota, displaying all the traits and refined skills needed to be a three-down linebacker at the NFL level. He somehow slipped to the fifth round and was bugged by a myriad of injuries early in his professional career. 

Finally healthy in 2023, Cashman played like himself, breaking out with 106 tackles, five pass breakups, two sacks and a pick on in the middle of an ascending Texans defense. 

I get serious Cashman vibes with Ulofoshio both when watching the film and when attempting to envision where he'll be drafted. I could totally see the older yet ultra-consistent Huskies second-level defender being available on the third day, which to me would be preposterous given he's an experienced, elite athlete who's a sure tackler and makes the most of passes thrown in his coverage area. Expect him, like Cashman, to well outplay his draft position in the coming years.