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My 10 favorite scheme and player fits from the 2022 NFL Draft: Ted’s Film Room

As talented as the 2022 draftees might be, as always, scheme fit matters.

The scheme dictates what players are asked and not asked to do. Ideally, players will play in a scheme that asks them to do what they are best at frequently and minimizes asking them to do things they don’t do as well. For example, if a receiver is a deep specialist but is drafted into an offense that doesn’t attack deep or has a quarterback who is unwilling to throw deep, that valuable skill will go to waste. Conversely, some players have the talent to unlock parts of the scheme that a coach has been wanting to implement more but hasn’t had the right pieces. Here are my 10 favorite scheme and player fits from this year’s draft listed by their draft order.

1. Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Play style: True X who can win deep and create after the catch
Scheme: Outside zone/duo scheme, heavy play action

The Falcons are building a fun group of skill players on offense. Last season, they unlocked one of the most unique weapons in the NFL, Cordarrelle Patterson, and re-signed him in the offseason. Kyle Pitts, the fourth pick of the draft last year, looks like he could ascend to a top-five tight end. Now, they added a true X receiver in Drake London, who can beat press, win deep and make contested catches. A big component of Arthur Smith’s offense is taking shots off of hard play-action fakes. Although London isn’t a burner, he was able to win deep with his physicality running through defensive backs and beating them at the catch point. A.J. Brown won in a similar fashion for Smith when the Falcons head coach was calling plays for the Titans. Additionally, London will get moved around and play some slot in Smith’s offense. He has experience doing that at USC.

“If you’re going to be a team that motions or you’re going to play in certain condensed splits, especially on early-down, you’ve seen (London) go inside the numbers,” Smith explained after drafting London. “You know … a lot of guys … they only play one position. Some of these offenses, they only stay on the same side. It does give you a lot of confidence as much as we like to move different formations, different personnel groups. You see him run the routes that we’d ask him to run inside.”

Playing inside in Smith’s scheme means he’ll be asked to actually get involved in blocking in the run game — not just stalk blocking outside but he’ll get used as an insert blocker on strong safeties and linebackers. Corey Davis was great in this role for Smith in Tennessee. Though London isn’t an overwhelming blocker, he’s an effective and willing one. USC got him involved in the run game as an inline blocker in some creative ways and he handled that role well. His ability to block in the box will be indispensable in the Falcons’ outside zone and duo schemes.

2. Jordan Davis, NT, Philadelphia Eagles

Play style: True two-gapper with burst and sideline-to-sideline speed
Scheme: Multiple

The Eagles mixed in some two-deep coverages and odd fronts last season but there are whispers in league circles that defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who is best friends with Chargers head coach Brandon Staley, is considering increasing his two-high usage to Staley-like levels. If he does, it would mean that the Eagles will play with more light box and need someone to eat up blocks to make up for not having a strong safety in the box.

Enter Jordan Davis, the ultimate gap-eating nose tackle.

“JG (Gannon) does so many things, versatile things with three down and four down and you can have alignments where you have Fletch (Cox) and Jordan (Davis) and Hargrave and three down with edge players,” GM Howie Roseman said.

When the Eagles line up in odd fronts, they’ll have one of the most talented interiors in the league with Davis in the middle of Pro-Bowlers Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. With those three wreaking havoc and occupying blocks, the Eagles can get away with lighter bodies and have safeties play run support from deep. One of the reasons that they could get away with being outnumbered in the box is that they ask their defensive linemen to play a gap and a half — Davis could do this and then some.

Georgia at Clemson, 15:00 remaining in the third quarter, first-and-10

On first down, the Clemson offense came out in 12 personnel (two tight ends, one running back, two receivers). This heavy personnel grouping and formation usually signals run. The Georgia defense kept two safeties deep, meaning they had a numbers disadvantage in the box. The offense had seven blockers to account for the seven defenders in the box. With the threat of the option, the defense is actually a man short because someone has to account for the quarterback.

The offense had a counter option called. Davis was lined up at nose tackle (over the center) and would get down blocked by the left gaurd.

After the ball was snapped, Davis quickly penetrated his primary gap inside the guard. He locked out his outside hand so that would be able to throw the blocker in the opposite direction if needed.

As the ball carrier ran outside of him, Davis “fell back” to his secondary gap which was outside of the guard’s block. With his locked outside arm he shoved the guard aside and swam over him with this other hand to tackle the running back for a minimal gain.

Theoretically, the Eagles should be able to stop the run primarily through the dominance of their defensive line. This will allow them to dedicate more resources to defending the pass. The Eagles believe that Davis has the explosiveness to rush the passer with more refinement but even if he doesn’t, his presence inside will affect every level of the defense.

3. Devin Lloyd, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars 

Play style: Versatile
Scheme: Pattern match coverages, 3-4 front, aggressive blitz

Devin Lloyd filled up the stat sheet in college. In 2021, he had 110 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, eight sacks, 10 passes defended and five interceptions. When you pop on the film, it’s easy to see why he was able to do so much. He has sideline-to-sideline speed, is a physical tackler, has legit pass-rush moves and is fluid enough to cover tight ends and running backs in man coverage. Also, he has excellent zone instincts and drops toward where receivers end up, frustrating quarterbacks. He rushed from the edge as well as up the middle on blitzes. When he did, he got past blockers with wiggle, active hands and bend. When he doesn’t get to the quarterback, he has a great feel for knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage.

Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell has been an assistant under current Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles since 2012. Presumably, he’ll run the same 3-4, aggressive blitzing, pattern match scheme that Bowles did in Tampa Bay. Bowles frequently mugged his inside linebackers and blitzed them, so Lloyd’s pass-rush skills will be put to use and he’ll be a mismatch against running backs. When Caldwell calls match coverages, Lloyd has the athletic ability to match up on different body types as the scheme requires. If the Jaguars defensive, line including No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker, can keep blockers off of him, Lloyd should be in the running for defensive rookie of the year.

4. George Karlaftis, edge, Kansas City Chiefs

Play style: Powerful edge setter and bull rusher
Scheme: Multiple

Last season, Melvin Ingram gave the Chiefs a much-needed physical presence and was a big part of their drastic defensive improvement. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo mostly lined up Ingram on edge on the strong side because he could handle tight ends and defend the run but he also kicked inside to create mismatches.

“He’s had a couple of plays — there was one in the Raiders game the last time where he just knocks people around,” Spagnuolo said of Ingram during the season. “I think that’s contagious — and that helps us. There are times you write about the sacks — (but) that’s not just about sacks. It’s if he’s demanding a double team or if he’s driving somebody into the quarterback, the quarterback’s got to move his feet and then he falls into somebody else. So those kinds of things are what we’re getting — and it’s helping. It’s helping a lot.”

Ingram is a free agent but it seems the Chiefs learned the value of having someone who can set the tone the way he did. George Karlaftis could replace the physical edge that Ingram provided.

They share similarities physically — Karlaftis is a little longer — but more importantly, they share the same mentality of wanting to run through blockers. Karlaftis has heavy hands and the power to bull rush and reset the line of scrimmage against the run (he had 30 1/2 tackles for loss in his career at Purdue). For a power player, he has outstanding short-area quickness but lacks the flexibility to bend the corner. Though he may not put up gaudy sack totals, he could pressure and disrupt quarterbacks from the outside and force them to step up into All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones. The Chiefs are also an aggressive blitzing team and use defensive line games to create pressure and Karlaftis’ ability to set strong picks will help free up other pass rushers. The hope is that Karlaftis can bring the mentality Ingram did but with more pass-rush juice and overall upside.

5. Dax Hill, S, Cincinnati Bengals

Play style: Versatile safety with strong man-to-man skills
Scheme: Multiple defense that shifts week to week

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo did an excellent job of tailoring game plans throughout last season and in the Bengals’ Super Bowl run. In order to have a shapeshifting defense, you must have versatile players and with Dax Hill, the Bengals now have a “joker” who can do many things and do them well.

“This guy, you know he can blitz off the edge. He can cover. He’s good against the run and good getting off blocks and things like that,” Anarumo said Thursday night. “So I think we’re getting a good overall football player.”

Hill’s ability to play man-to-man is especially intriguing. He was one of the best defenders at covering slot receivers in the draft. When he lines up close to the box, he can bluff a blitz or drop out and cover a slot receiver. Offenses will have to be aware of where he lines up each play.

Michigan vs. Iowa, 4:44 remaining in the first quarter, second-and-7

Here is an example of how Hill’s man-to-man ability and burst could help disguise the defense. Hill lined up over the slot like he was going to play man, while the safety behind him opened up his hips inside like he was going to drop to the deep middle of the field.

Hill didn’t creep up to the line of scrimmage and give away the blitz before the snap. As the ball was snapped, he showed off his blazing burst. The safety behind him rotated down to play the slot man-to-man.

Even though Hill didn’t creep up, he was able to get in the quarterback’s face right when he hit the last (third) step in his drop and disrupt the pass, which fell incomplete.

Anarumo mentioned that the Bengals used some three safety packages in the past and that they could do it more with Hill in the fold. Coaches rave about Hill’s special burst — it shows up when he’s playing zone and closes. On plays when Anarumo wants to keep Vonn Bell — a possible liability in coverage — closer to the line of scrimmage, Anarumo could line up Jessie Bates and Hill deep as the deep safeties in his three safety packages and let Bell do what he does best. Hill’s versatility with the combination of roster talent could really open up the playbook for the Bengals defense.

6. Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets

Play style: Patient runner with excellent vision
Scheme: Outside zone

Breece Hall runs with unusual patience, setting up his blocks and exploding upfield when a crease opens. Has a natural feel for cutting at the best angles to find the open field. He doesn’t need to waste a lot of space and time to make people miss, can do so with quick moves and easily layers on moves when he needs to. The natural comparison for Hall is Le’Veon Bell because of how he takes his time behind the line of scrimmage. Hall is the best zone runner in the class and he’ll be going to an outside zone system with the Jets.

Right now, he’s a better inside zone runner than outside. When running outside zone, there are times when he’ll look to set up the vertical cut too early when he should be pressing the outside but this can be coached out of him. His feel for manipulating defenses and finding creases is uncommon and he’ll be fun to watch in this style of offense.

Also, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur wants to have versatile weapons so that he can create mismatches and confusion with his personnel groupings. Hall had 83 receptions in his college career but didn’t run many routes downfield. In this offense, he’ll be asked to run “choice” routes and occasionally split out wide. He’ll need to refine his route running so he could truly be a weapon in the passing game — he has the hands and cutting ability to do it.

7. Desmond Ridder, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Play style: Aggressive pocket passer with athleticism to run read-option
Scheme: Outside zone/duo scheme, heavy play-action

Desmond Ridder was the only quarterback from this class that I had a first-round grade on but likely fell due to inconsistent accuracy. He checks all the boxes everywhere else: height and athleticism (4.55), he’s a winner and he’s shown that he can operate at a high level in a pro-style offense in which he changed protection, audibled and executed in the dropback game.

He shares some traits with Ryan Tannehill, who Smith had success with when he was the offensive coordinator for the Titans. One of Ridder’s standout traits is how aggressive he is looking to attack downfield within the structure of the offense. Smith wants to take deep shots off of hard play action, so having a quarterback who will let deeper routes develop and hit them will be crucial. Ridder has breakaway speed but he doesn’t use it to create in the dropback game, he wants to stay in the pocket. But his speed is useful in the designed quarterback run game in which Smith has experience calling for Tannehill.

Obviously, you want a quarterback with a higher ceiling than Tannehill. Ridder’s high-level football IQ might ultimately decide his ceiling but his accuracy might be his downfall. However, his accuracy issues seem overblown when you watch the film and look at more advanced metrics.

I talked with a quarterback coach who believes that Ridder can be more consistent with his accuracy if he fixes a flaw in his backstroke. Regardless, I love Ridder’s fit in Smith’s offense, which will utilize play-action shot plays and boots to get him on the edge. Incumbent starter Marcus Mariota is better right now but if the Falcons want to accelerate Ridder’s development, he could start Day 1.

8. JT Woods, FS, Los Angeles Chargers

Play style: Rangy free safety with experience in two-high system
Scheme: Two-high

JT Woods is an athletic 6-foot-2 safety with 4.3 speed and it shows on film. He has experience playing in a system that heavily uses two-high coverages like Staley’s. He mostly played as a deep system and displayed the range to break up passes and come up in run support. The Chargers already have one of the better safety duos with Derwin James and Nasir Adderley but with Woods in the mix, James is free to move around the defense and disrupt offenses from the nickel position.

“When you play five- and six-DB groupings, if you do move Derwin closer to the line of scrimmage or in the slot somewhere, you don’t want to lose that playmaking ability in the deep part of the field,” Staley explained on Friday night. “What JT gives you is premium range back there, and now you have two guys back there with him and Nas.”

Baylor vs. Ole Miss, 5:20 remaining in the first quarter, first-and-10

On this play, Baylor was in Cover 4 with brackets on both slot receivers. Woods was lined up to the offensive right (top of the screen) and appeared to have the inside part of the bracket.

The offensive concept was designed to isolate the inside linebacker on the running back executing a “pop” route and conflict him with a quarterback draw. If he sat back to cover the running back, the quarterback would keep the ball on a draw. If he came up to defend the draw, the quarterback could throw the ball over his head.

Ole Miss tried to spread both safeties toward the sideline by running the slot receivers on slot fades. However, once Woods saw the slot outside release, his inside leverage was no longer threatened so he got his eyes in the backfield and saw the pop pass coming. The linebacker came up to defend the draw, so the running back looked to get wide open.

The ball was thrown to the running back but Woods closed the distance in a hurry and put a vicious hit on the running back, dislodging the ball and forcing an incomplete pass.

The Chargers’ overarching defensive philosophy is to limit explosive plays and force offenses to drive the length of the field to score. Theoretically, with Woods, they’ll still be able to do that while freeing up James to put his many talents to use — whether that is matching up on slot receivers and tight ends, blitzing or playing run support.

9. Greg Dulcich, TE, Denver Broncos

Play style: Athletic tight end with straight-line speed and YAC ability
Scheme: Outside zone, heavy play-action

Greg Dulcich’s game speed is much faster than his timed speed (4.69 40). He builds speed with his long strides and he’s strong enough to hold his line on vertical routes. He separates down the seam and on crossers — he’ll be very difficult for linebackers. After the catch, he can break tackles and will be a nightmare to bring down for defensive backs in the open field.

In the Broncos offense, he’ll be asked to run a ton of crossers on play-action passes and catch short dump-offs which he’ll have opportunities to create after the catch. He’ll add to a talented group of wide receivers in Denver and if defenses give him one-on-one opportunities with linebackers, he can punish them and create explosive plays.

His biggest issue is that he has a long way to go as a run blocker. The Broncos had one of the best running back tandems in the league with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. They can’t stray too far away from the run game even with Russell Wilson under center. Many believe that Dulcich has the ability to add weight to his frame. Perhaps with some added weight, he can sustain and finish blocks more consistently. As long as he’s not a total liability as a blocker, he could be dangerous in this offense as the fourth option.

10. Dylan Parham, iOL, Las Vegas Raiders 

Play style: High IQ, athletic offensive lineman
Scheme: Diverse run scheme

Dylan Parham played guard at Memphis and at the Senior Bowl, he took reps at center, where he’ll most likely play in the NFL. He’s undersized for a guard but has added weight throughout his college career and has the potential to continue doing so. Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler said on Friday that Parham would get a chance to compete at guard and center.

Parham has the athletic ability that you want from a center and although he played at less than 300 pounds in college (he weighed in at 313 pounds on his pro day), he was able to sink and anchor and didn’t get pushed back very often.

Former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who was Josh McDaniels’ offensive line coach for the majority of his time in New England, was recently on The Atheltic’s Football Show with Robert Mays and said the three traits that they prioritize when scouting offensive linemen are toughness, intelligence and athleticism.

Toughness doesn’t always mean finishing with pancake blocks. Parham isn’t big enough to bury guys consistently but he is a physical blocker who moves defenders off the line of scrimmage and blocks through the whistle. Parham could still add bulk but most of his weight is in his lower body where it matters most for an offensive lineman.

Watching the film, Parham looks like a high-level processor, his eyes are always in the right place, he smoothly picks up blitzes and stunts and his feel for coming off double teams and getting to the second level is impeccable. McDaniels’ run scheme was among the most diverse in the league with the Patriots, so he needs offensive linemen who can handle that type of volume mentally.

Parham tested well — he ran a 4.93 40 and had a 108-inch broad jump. His fluidity pops off the film when he gets to the second level, pulls and releases to block on screens.

Although the previous Raiders regime gave an extension to center Andre James last season, the new one isn’t going to automatically hand him a spot. I believe Parham has a legit chance to win the job and could add more physicality inside to an offensive line that desperately needs it.

(Top photo of Drake London: Denis Poroy / Getty Images)

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