2022 Senior Bowl Practice Report: American Team

Our 2022 Senior Bowl practice report for the American Team helps you understand which NFL Draft prospects are standing out from the rest.

The 2022 Senior Bowl Week has arrived. The NFL world has descended on Mobile, Alabama, for a full week of Senior Bowl practices and NFL buzz. Below you can find our Senior Bowl practice reports for every day of practice for the American Team. The week will end with the game itself on Saturday from Hancock Whitney Stadium on the campus of the University of South Alabama.

After you’re done reading through the American Team Senior Bowl Practice report, be sure to check out how the 2022 NFL Draft prospects are doing in our National Team Senior Bowl Practice Report.

American Team Senior Bowl Practice Report

The American Team is being coached by the NFC’s Detroit Lions. However, Lions head coach Dan Campbell will serve in an advisory role at the direction of the Senior Bowl management. This is to help younger coaches develop in head coaching roles by putting them in charge of practices and the team during the week. Therefore, Lions assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley will serve as the American Team head coach.

American Team: Quarterbacks

Note: Click the tabs that correspond with each day to read the update from that practice.

Sam Howell

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Sam Howell looked terrific from the get-go. He displayed a major league arm, a command of the offense, and threw some strikes down the field, hitting his receivers in stride.

Another strong day for Sam Howell. He dropped several deep corner passes on the money during drills and looked good in scrimmage. On occasion, the ball got away from him, but the rain this afternoon was worse than the morning’s practice.

Howell could have been sharper during both 7-on-7 and team drills. A few misses and one misread soured his day. He was better during 1-on-1s with his accuracy, but we don’t praise the chef for being able to cook a steak to the correct temperature.

Malik Willis

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Malik Willis was up and down all practice. He showed he has all the physical skills to play on Sunday, but his game needs a lot of work. While he did deliver several passes on the money, he struggled to drop into the pocket from under center and a LOT of throws got away from him.

Another inconsistent day for Malik Willis. He made a few beautiful passes, yet for the most part, struggled with his accuracy and looked indecisive at times.

Willis still tends to miss some of the “gimmie” throws while wowing us with his athleticism and arm talent on other occasions. The Liberty QB flashes outstanding velocity to fit passes into tight windows during 7-on-7 drills in the red zone. In team drills, he flashed the feet on a bootleg that he took in for a touchdown.

Bailey Zappe

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Bailey Zappe made one terrific deep throw. But overall, he struggled to get the ball downfield and looked more like a short-to-intermediate-range passer with limitations in the deep game.

Bailey Zappe was solid throwing the short and intermediate routes, yet there is a discernible lack of arm strength when comparing him to Malik Willis or Sam Howell.

The only real way to describe Zappe is as a gamer. As the least coveted name of the group coming into Mobile, he’s been a pleasant surprise. He’s not the most physically gifted passer, but he showed great accuracy and timing during the American Team’s indoor practice on Thursday.

American Team 2022 Senior Bowl Practice Report: Running Backs

Note: Click the tabs that correspond with each day to read the update from that practice.

Connor Heyward

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Used primarily as his position intends, Connor Heyward powered his way through linemen as a true blocking back. His execution was as you’d expect, and he showcased an ability as a receiver in a brief capacity to boot.

Practice report not available for Day 2.

Connor Heyward was stout as a pass blocker, giving up little ground in 1-on-1s. He also flashed solid route running and shiftiness to create separation against linebackers. Heyward is a versatile H-back that is playing well against top competition.

Dameon Pierce

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It wasn’t the best day for Dameon Pierce, but by no means was it a bad day. Pierce absolutely showcased his ferocious running style despite it being a “thud” practice. He hit the holes well and had great vision during team drills.

Practice report not available for Day 2.

As has been the case for most of the week, Dameon Pierce created separation on a deep route but couldn’t haul it in. He continued to look like one of the best runners at the Senior Bowl and is making himself considerable money.

TJ Pledger

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Not in attendance.

Not in attendance.

It was TJ Pledger’s first day on-site, but he shined in the receiving game. He kept his feet moving in pass pro, but due to his size, bigger linebackers coming downhill will always be an issue. He slipped on one of his lone runs, but it was a decent first day overall.

D’Vonte Price

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Posting arguably the best running back performance of the day, D’Vonte Price was at the top of his game. He was stellar in just about every drill on just about every rep. However, what set him apart was his vision during team drills. Price was sharp to make decisions when holes were there and patient when the blocking was setting up. When he did hit the hole, the lead back from FIU was upfield as fast as the day is long.

Practice report not available for Day 2.

Not in attendance.

Brian Robinson Jr.

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Surprisingly, Brian Robinson Jr. put on a show during receiving drills at Senior Bowl practice No. 1. He may not have been able to showcase that at Alabama this past season, but the bell cow for the Crimson Tide absolutely has hands. His routes were incredibly strong for a guy who seemed to have few looks in the passing game this past season.

Practice report not available for Day 2.

Brain Robinson Jr. looked quick in team drills and had one of the best moments of the day in a pass-blocking rep against Georgia LB Channing Tindall. He also proved further receiving ability and continues to impress.

American Team: Wide Receivers

Note: Click the tabs that correspond with each day to read the update from that practice.

Calvin Austin III

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Calvin Austin III was one of the smaller guys on the field today. Yet, he competed and caught the ball extremely well.

Calvin Austin III was terrific today. He ran sharp routes on a soaking wet field, separated from defenders, and consistently caught everything, snatching the ball from the air with his hands.

You could call Calvin Austin III the “Cushion Eater” as he immediately eats up space given to him by the defensive back. Austin immediately closed space and separated from his defender during 1-on-1s with ease and showed his elite elusiveness all across the field on Day 3.

Dontario Drummond

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Dontario Drummond is a long wideout who showed a silky smooth style and caught the ball very well. He used his frame to box out opponents and consistently caught the ball with his hands away from his frame.

Dontario Drummond is smooth, fluid, and catches the ball well. He does well on crossing patterns and also won out on contested throws.

Despite some great releases at the line of scrimmage, Dontario Drummond had a few surprising drops today. It wasn’t the cleanest of efforts from the Ole Miss receiver today, but he did look good running routes and separating at the line of scrimmage.

Danny Gray

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Danny Gray had a terrific day and gave scouts more than they bargained for. He displayed solid speed and caught the deep pass well. He also looked good catching underneath routes.

Danny Gray injured his heel Tuesday and was sidelined for Wednesday’s practice.

Practice report not available for Day 3.

Velus Jones Jr.

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Velus Jones Jr. was extremely quick, beating opponents off the line and competing to come away with the catch. But he struggled in battles and was not very smooth coming out of his breaks.

Velus Jones Jr. had a solid day. He possesses enough speed to get down the field, plus he ran good routes and caught the ball exceptionally well. He made several nice deep receptions during drills.

As quick as they come, Velus Jones Jr. put his speed on display yet again on Day 3. He was quick off the line, faster on a straight line, and even finished well at the catch point. Jones’ hands can improve, but he’s certainly showcased enough as a receiver to improve his draft stock quite a bit.

Jalen Tolbert

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I was surprised by Jalen Tolbert’s speed, especially when you consider he’s categorized as a big possession wideout. He caught the ball extremely well and used his frame of just under 6’3” to high-point catches over opponents.

Jalen Tolbert had one bad drop, yet he caught everything else thrown in his direction. He was much faster than I had anticipated, showing himself to be a solid downfield receiver.

There was a chance Jalen Tolbert would be considered the alpha WR of this Senior Bowl class, and he has more than capitalized on that. He’s put his full athletic ability on display and dominated across every drill. Whether it was high-pointing the football over defenders or jetting past defensive backs at the line of scrimmage, Tolbert had a great day and an even better week.

Tré Turner

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Tré Turner had his moments, but overall, I was expecting more. He wasn’t very quick off the line, and I thought he’d be faster. It was 50/50 on Turner coming away with receptions today.

I was not impressed with Tré Turner. He didn’t drop any passes, but all he did was body catch everything thrown to him. Even when he was wide open and had no reason to body catch, he refused to extend his hands and snatch the ball away from his body. That is a bad habit.

The practice was closed to the media on Thursday due to inclement weather. Practice tape was uploaded late in the evening. We’ll have a full report on Friday, February 4.

American Team 2022 Senior Bowl Practice Report: Tight Ends

Note: Click the tabs that correspond with each day to read the update from that practice.

Daniel Bellinger

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Somehow, someway, Daniel Bellinger just kept getting open. Whether it was crisp routes or just the ability to find holes in coverage, Bellinger was the easy target on more than one occasion for his quarterback during both team drills and 7-on-7s. He didn’t drop a pass and was even seen coming downhill in the run-blocking game.

Practice report not available for Day 2.

Continuing his strong performance at Senior Bowl practices, Daniel Bellinger got open against man and found holes in zone. He has been a reliable pass catcher for the American Team QBs. He hasn’t looked great as a pass blocker this week, but he moved well in the run game.

Grant Calcaterra

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Making the grab of the day, Grant Calcaterra made a one-handed sideline catch look easy on nearly the first rep of practice. He followed that up with impressive routes breaking both in and out. He’s got hands and ability in the passing game, which comes as no surprise.

Practice report not available for Day 2.

Grant Calcaterra wasn’t overly imposing as a blocker, but he displayed strong hands throughout the day. His routes were clean and fit right in with the rest of the impressive American Team tight ends. It’s been great to see Calcaterra performing well at the Senior Bowl after medically retiring from the sport just a couple of years ago.

Greg Dulcich

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The most impressive run blocker from the tight end group was absolutely Greg Dulcich. There were multiple plays where Dulcich was credited with clearing the path for the rushing attack. Making it even more impressive, it wasn’t all just chip blocks or assists on the edge — it was Dulcich clearing the path on the second level against linebackers.

Practice report not available for Day 2.

Greg Dulcich formed a nice rapport with QB Malik Willis, hauling in a couple of nice gains in team drills. He also bolstered his receiving prowess with a TD reception from Sam Howell on a scramble. Furthermore, Dulcich shined as a run blocker, consistently moving defenders downfield.

Isaiah Likely

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Kept quiet for most of the day, Isaiah Likely did flash at times during 1-on-1 drills. His ability to high-point the football and athleticism at the catch point have never been in question. Likely showcased both of those during 1-on-1s and through the team portion as well.

Practice report not available for Day 2.

As he’s done all year for Coastal Carolina, Isaiah Likely created separation and came down with nearly every pass. He gave effort in 1-on-1 pass-blocking drills, but his slight stature conceded ground quickly to bigger defenders. Nevertheless, teams know what they are getting with Likely – a tight end with receiver-esque ability.

American Team: Offensive Line

Note: Click the tabs that correspond with each day to read the update from that practice.

Spencer Burford

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Spencer Burford measured in as one of the smaller offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl, and his Day 1 showing aligned with that profile. Burford’s mobility is strong. He’s quick off the snap, barrels out in space, and is an active run blocker. He also has a functional anchor in contact situations. However, Burford’s size limited him at times, and he got knocked back by power. The mobility is something to build off of, at the very least. But can he build off of it later this week?

The athleticism pops with Spencer Burford. It did on Tuesday, and it did again on Wednesday. Burford is exceptionally mobile, both in tight spaces and in the open field. He explodes off the line and gets into space, and that athleticism serves as a good foundation for his game. Beyond that, Burford showed he could violently latch and recover lateral positioning. He did overset a couple of times when defenders feigned outside rushes, but if he can learn to be more disciplined, there are tools to mold.

Burford’s game is built on his athleticism and ability in space. Yet, when facing stronger linemen on the interior, he was bullied backward, conceding valuable real estate quickly. He also overset a few times, even at guard, allowing defenders to attack the inside. Nevertheless, Burford proved he could recover and produced a solid rep against Amaré Barno in 1-on-1s.

Luke Fortner

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Luke Fortner has a better profile than his teammate Drake Jackson from the previous cycle. And he showed more than Jackson on his first day. He’s a mobile blocker who’s able to get to the second level and leverage his momentum into force. However, he’s a bit on the light side, and that showed up as well. He didn’t always generate much initial push off the line. More powerful rushers can get an edge on Fortner if he can’t work to compensate with leverage.

It was another uneventful day for Luke Fortner, who didn’t consistently pave open lanes on the interior. He wasn’t getting beat constantly either, but Fortner clearly doesn’t have the same play strength or power that other linemen have. He keeps his hands a bit too wide at times, so perhaps if he improved that, he’d glean more power from his frame. As it stands, however, Fortner still has room to further prove himself.

After a couple of good-but-not-great showings during the first two days of Senior Bowl practices, Luke Fortner had a highlight-reel play but stonewalling Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis in a 1-on-1 drill. His grip strength and anchor shined on that play, but Fortner’s lighter frame allows power rushers to move him back with relative ease.

Ed Ingram

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Ed Ingram’s physical tools were on display on Tuesday, but so too were specific areas for improvement. The LSU guard has the strength to anchor with some surprising agility in close quarters as well. That said, he was a bit overzealous at times, lurching after punches and giving up space inside. He also left room to be more consistent lowering his pads and maintaining his base.

There were some moments where Ed Ingram shined on Wednesday. He can maintain better blocking angles at times, but the flashes are hard to look away from. On one interior rep against Phidarian Mathis, Ingram quickly shot his hands into Mathis’ chest and used his raw strength to wall him off completely. Mathis got no push, and Ingram quickly took over the rep. He’s a powerful, violent blocker whose attacking mentality gives him more buzz.

Ed Ingram put on a show in 1-on-1s early, flashing quick feet and a powerful anchor against Phidarian Mathis and Eric Johnson. There were far more highs than lows for Ingram on Day 3, as he also played well in team drills.

Braxton Jones

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On Day 1 of the Senior Bowl, Braxton Jones was comfortably the best FCS offensive lineman in action. Jones got by purely outmuscling opponents at the FCS level, but he showed something extra today. He certainly looks the part with his athleticism and 36-inch arms, and that length can be suffocating for opponents. His hands were a bit wide at times, but overall, he was smooth and methodical, even locking down Jermaine Johnson II on multiple occasions. That’s not easy to do.

Braxton Jones announced his presence at the Senior Bowl with a strong first day and followed that up with another solid day on Wednesday. He wasn’t quite as consistent as he was on Tuesday, but he’s not shying away from the challenge of FBS competition. He latches well, can bend his knees, and finishes rushers who lose their balance. Jones can keep working on lowering his pads, but he’s no doubt sold some on his potential.

It was more of the same for Jones on Day 3. With 36″ arms and impressive grip strength, once he latches onto defenders, the rep is usually over. Still, he is susceptible to leaving his torse open, allowing power rushers to get inside and push him back. Nevertheless, Jones has the tools to be an NFL tackle.

Darian Kinnard

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The physical tools have always been enticing with Darian Kinnard. He’s an absolute bull whose grip strength can be suffocating. He also displayed solid recovery athleticism at times and was able to reset his anchor with force. The Kentucky OT still opens up his torso too much, exposing his frame to power. But he had a good first day overall and proved he can be a difference-maker with his traits.

There are some rare traits present with Darian Kinnard, including his grip strength and power. But there are also areas in which Kinnard can improve. Both of those components were on display on Wednesday. The Kentucky OT can absolutely blanket the edge and seal off defenders with his length, but his hands can still be streaky, and his torso stiffness allows defenders to sink under his high pad level. The flashes are enticing enough, however, and Kinnard has plenty of those.

Although he exclusively played tackle at Kentucky, Darian Kinnard has received quite a few reps on the interior at the Senior Bowl. There, he mauled smaller defenders off the screen in the running game in team drills. And while he has flashed some impressive hand usage, he can sometimes overextend and keep leverage.

Cade Mays

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A highly touted recruit and experienced starter from Tennessee, Cade Mays was less consistent on Tuesday. He’s a wide, nasty blocker who has good core strength. On the flip side, however, his pads were sometimes high, he was knocked off-balance fairly easily, and had a false start. Mays’ attitude stands out in the trenches, but so too does his room for refinement. That’s something he can seek on Wednesday and Thursday.

Cade Mays looks the part and has the strength, but he hasn’t lived up to his billing so far at the Senior Bowl. The Tennessee blocker plays too upright at times and doesn’t drive his blocks forward. He’s been relatively easy to move all week, and his balance is inconsistent from down to down. Mays needed a strong week to get back on the map. So far, he hasn’t stood out.

Mays is a strong blocker with some bend, but he isn’t overly consistent. Devonte Wyatt made quick work of him on a 1-on-1 drill in Day 3, but Mays stood up Phidarian Mathis on the interior. Adding to Mays allure, he has lined up at nearly every position at the Senior Bowl, showcasing his versatility — though a spot on the interior seems like his best fit at the NFL level.

Max Mitchell

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Max Mitchell came into the Senior Bowl needing an ascension, and he worked toward that on Day 1. The Louisiana OT was one of the most eye-catching linemen on either team. Even with his lighter frame, he still levies violent extensions and can finish off-balance opponents. He’s a spry athlete who can latch and redirect opponents’ momentum, and he has a physical edge. Mitchell’s a riser after today.

Max Mitchell was one of the top risers on the offensive line after the first day of practices. His second day of practice wasn’t quite as consistent. Mitchell did show off a good anchor for his size, and he had the wherewithal to get under his opponents’ pads. But his leaner frame is more susceptible to power, and his balance was inconsistent at times.

While Max Mitchell has displayed his talent during the first two days of practice, Day 3 was by far his best performance. He consistently won 1-on-1 reps while also passing off and picking up a stunt smoothly in 2-on-2s with Justin Shaffer. In team drills, he looked solid as a run blocker and overall seized the day.

Dylan Parham

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In a weak center class, there’s room for players to prove themselves and potentially earn higher real estate in the draft. Dylan Parham took advantage of that opportunity on Tuesday. Taking ample reps at the fulcrum of the line, Parham looked solid overall. He showed off impressive grip strength and flexibility, as well as natural leverage to go along with his proportional length. He’s able to anchor quickly off the snap and held up his end at an important position.

After a strong first day of practices, Dylan Parham got worked back more often on Wednesday. While he has good proportional length, his frame is a bit smaller, so he was handled more easily at times.

Dylan Parham is built for a zone-blocking scheme at the next level. He is athletic, thrives in space, and has natural leverage. Lining up at center at the Senior Bowl has afforded the opportunity to exhibit sought-after versatility on the line. His smaller size will struggle with bigger defensive tackles, but he can anchor and shows good technique.

Chris Paul

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One of the more impressive Group of Five linemen at the Tuesday Senior Bowl session might have been Chris Paul. Paul already has an intriguing frame with good natural leverage and length, but he showed utility beyond that on Day 1. Paul is violent off the snap and can load his hands with terse quickness. He finished reps with physicality but also displayed a steady base and anchor while moving around the interior.

Chris Paul regressed a bit after having a strong performance on Tuesday. It was nice to see him move around the line and showcase his versatility, but Paul’s technique could have been better at times. There were moments when he punched too soon, leaving himself in the lurch. That allowed defenders to get around him. The offensive line is always a reactive position, but Paul can improve his timing on Thursday.

Paul’s hand timing is inconsistent, leaving him vulnerable when he misses. Yet, he can absorb power and recover after a few steps. Zachary Carter beat him with a bull rush on a rep, but the next time around, Paul maintained himself and used his hands to keep Carter at bay. He will need to remain patient on pass-blocking reps and harness his quick-firing hands.

Jamaree Salyer

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He may have played offensive tackle in 2021, but Jamaree Salyer looks like an NFL guard — and he could be a good one. Salyer has the natural leverage and reach you want, but he also showcased solid core strength and was able to get out in motion on some reps. It wasn’t a mind-boggling day for Salyer, and he was a bit stiff laterally on the edge at times. But there’s a clear path to success for him, and he’s giving teams the blueprint in Mobile.

Jamaree Salyer once again displayed his strong anchor and grip strength in 1-on-1s today. He also saw work on the interior, further supporting the notion that he’ll be a guard at the next level. He is a little stiff laterally, and that showed up when he need to recover ground in pass protection. But if he’s going to be a guard, that concern can be mitigated somewhat.

The practice was closed to the media on Thursday due to inclement weather. Practice tape was uploaded late in the evening. We’ll have a full report on Friday, February 4.

Justin Shaffer

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Like his teammate Salyer, Justin Shaffer had a solid, but unspectacular day for the American Team. Shaffer’s not the most nimble blocker, but he still has functional mobility. And in pass protection, he had some definite mauler moments. On one rep, he utilized a precise, violent snatch technique, driving his opponent into the ground. That physicality helps maximize Shaffer’s profile, even if he doesn’t have elite physical tools.

You need strength to play on the interior, and at the very least, Justin Shaffer has that. He was able to anchor interior defenders and gather them with his core strength. That was how Shaffer won in college, and it’s been translatable so far in Senior Bowl practices. He hasn’t been mauling guys or making eye-catching plays, but he’s quietly been steady on the offensive line.

Justin Shaffer continued his steady ways on Day 3 of practices. He initially lost a rep to LSU’s Neil Farrell Jr. but was able to recover in time and escort him around the pocket. He also had the excellent 2-on-2 rep with Mitchell, switching on the stunt and putting his man in the dirt. Shaffer can climb and turn defenders as a run blocker but athleticism will never be his strong suit.

Lecitus Smith

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All things considered, Lecitus Smith could’ve had a better Day 1. He came into the Senior Bowl as one of the higher-rated interior linemen, but he got worked back on initial contact more than expected and struggled at times to absorb power. He’s a squatty, well-centered blocker with good leverage and power on the attack. But in pass protection, Smith struggled to stand his ground and gather rushers at times. That’s where he needs to improve in the coming days.

Lecitus Smith’s length was one of his main issues in college, and it’s proven to be a similar concern at the Senior Bowl. With his length limitation, Smith can’t always get to the contact point first, and that gives opposing linemen the edge when they’re able to channel their power before he latches. Smith didn’t have a bad day, in large part to his redeeming traits. He does have a strong core, and he keeps a wide base. But his length appears to be naturally inhibiting in some situations.

Not in attendance due to an ankle injury. 

Tony Pauline is the Chief Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Tony’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @TonyPauline.

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