One of my favorite NFL Draft exercises is looking at early-round draft prospects with a specific skill set and scheme fit — and then finding similar players expected to go in the middle or later rounds. Not only is it a useful exercise for identifying late-round players that may appeal to your personal bias; it also helps with expectation management.
The odds of having a 2017 NFL Draft-like moment in which the Kansas City Chiefs draft Patrick Mahomes and Chiefs fans around the world rejoice is rare. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have draft crushes — we just have to understand it’s unlikely with the Chiefs picking so late in the draft order.
We then look for the next best thing — or a consolation prize. That would be players with similar strengths, weaknesses and scheme fits who are slated to just go a little later in the draft for various reasons.
Now, it’s important to remember that these players are indeed consolation prizes, so they are not as good as the top prize. They may be similar in some areas, but they will be lesser prospects, which is why they may be available later on in the NFL Draft.
Let’s go through some mid-to-late round players that mirror some Kansas City Chiefs fans’ favorite draft prospects:
NFL draft consolation prizes
Earlier this week, I asked for Chiefs fans’ dream pick in the first round as it stands right now. There were many answers from various different positions — and even players within those positions.
Some of the most popular names were: wide receiver Rashod Bateman, linebacker Nick Bolton and offensive lineman Creed Humphrey.
(Note: If you offered up a draft crush, don’t fret, as we will come back to this exercise again in the future.)
Rashod Bateman | WR —> Ty Fryfogle | WR
Bateman from Minnesota has been a top name in the draft process for a while now — shining with excellent ball skills, body control and the ability to operate on all three levels of the field. He’s a player who profiles closely to a prototypical “X” wide receiver of the modern NFL. If the Chiefs were to take this type of wide receiver in the draft but happened to miss on Bateman, Ty Fryfogle out of Indiana would be a great consolation prize in the later rounds.
Ty Fryfogle | WR | #3— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 27, 2020
++ Body control/aggressive my ball style
+ Strength off LoS & at catch point
+ Works to sell routes at stem
++ Vertical tracking
+ Ins/outside versatility
+ Active hands vs press
- Top end speed
- Separation at the next level
- Consistency pic.twitter.com/L2BseoUI5d
Fryfogle has shown up in a massive way his senior year at Indiana, and he’s doing it much in the same way Bateman made his name known — with excellent body control and ball skills. Every week, he is making a new highlight-reel catch, high-pointing a football while adjusting his body mid-air or working through contact. Fryfogle has experience playing in the slot and on the outside — much like Bateman — and has shown the ability to use his size to beat press coverage off the line of scrimmage.
He excels on the vertical plane despite a lack of top-end speed but shows plenty of nuance to stack defenders and shield them from the football. He brings that same concept to the underneath routes, often opening up throwing lanes for his quarterback just by widening his position on the field.
Bateman doesn’t possess fantastic speed or explosion, but he moves smoothly in and out of his breaks, which allows him to change direction at a quality speed. Fryfogle isn’t quite that smooth, which makes separating horizontally a bit more of a question mark for him. He’ll have to become an excellent route runner to generate separation, as he lacks the smooth hips Bateman has. The lack of separation is something that has sunk a ton of receiver prospects over the years, and without great athletic testing, Fryfogle may be held until the middle rounds.
Nick Bolton | LB —> Palaie Gaoteote IV | LB
By far, the most popular draft crush that was sent to me was Missouri’s Nick Bolton. It’s no surprise given the location of the team and the fact that Bolton is actually a good player, but it was overwhelming. Bolton is a thick, explosive linebacker prospect that has transitioned to a MIKE role this year and plays very aggressive against the run while still trying to find his footing in coverage. A similar style of player can also be found out in California in USC’s Palaie Gaoteote IV.
Palaie Gaoteote | OB | #1— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 27, 2020
++ Body control when changing levels
+ Burst/closing speed
+ Finishing ability; wraps up and delivers big hits
+ Flows through traffic well
+ Takes on OL in the gap
- Hip fluidity
- Man coverage experience
- ID on block/run angles pic.twitter.com/BjiDW3sA8t
Gaoteote has fantastic size (he may even a little bigger than Bolton) and pairs it well with good linear explosion. He’s able to close downhill fast through a small gap or on an angle to beat a blocker trying to climb up to his level. He carries that size and explosion well into contact and can blow up blockers in the hole or rip through their block attempts outside their frame with ease. Bolton and Gaoteote are both relatively sure tacklers that do a good job of blending the wrap-up with delivering the big hit thanks to a good base upon contact.
Both players have limited coverage experience, and you can see them attempting to process the play step by step. Both guys have rather inconsistent zone drop depths and widths and don’t have a great feel for route combinations. The processing speed comes and goes for both players, as they can make a great read and explosive play followed by taking the bait and running 15-plus yards the wrong direction.
Bolton’s overall athleticism is fantastic in almost every way. Since Gaoteote lacks the hip fluidity that Bolton has, it does limit his range a bit more on quick-developing plays to the outside. That fluidity does give Bolton a higher ceiling to grow into a useful coverage player as well.
Gaoteote also has to realize how big and explosive he is. Bolton has no issues trying to run through a blocker, whereas Gaoteote too often wants to rip underneath them despite playing around 250 pounds. If he can understand his size and speed combination, he should be able to blow up some blocks that would Bolton swallowed up with the extra 15 to 20 pounds on his body.
Creed Humphrey | OC —> Landon Dickerson | IOL
Offensive center is one of the most coveted positions for Chiefs fans for the upcoming draft, and Creed Humphrey from Oklahoma is a guy who garners a lot of that attention. He’s strong, has sound technique, and he is incredibly smart, which makes him a highly-sought after center prospect. If the Chiefs don’t want to nab him in the first round, Landon Dickerson out of Alabama may be quality consolation prize in the middle rounds.
Humphrey isn’t the most agile of center prospects, which is why his top draft status is often disputed. He’s more of a linear, power player from the center position, which isn’t overly common but in specific schemes, can be highly useful. Dickerson is similar in movement ability. Both guys can get straight out of the blocks and climb or blow a defensive tackle off the ball but struggle with their lateral agility. Asking either guy to open his hips and run or make difficult reach blocks is a challenge.
Both players win in the phone booth, using quality technique and powerful upper bodies to alter defenders’ paths. Dickerson does it with more power, while Humphrey uses his technique, but the end result is similar. Humphrey has been calling protections and helping Oklahoma quarterbacks for years now while Dickerson has just recently been tasked with that assignment but also has played up and down the offensive line, picking up different positions.
Humphrey is more nuanced in his technique and a lot of that stems from constantly being balanced. He uses a variety of trap, slingshot and pin techniques to help create angles and lanes for his teammates. Dickerson is a little bit more of a hammer who prefers to explode into his defender and then move them with sheer will power and strength. He’s not off-balance but his desire to constantly deliver a big initial punch does leave him open for counters often.
Humphrey has proven to be a major asset to a quarterback in terms of setting protections and identifying blitzes whereas Dickerson is a bit more of an unknown. He’s a very intelligent player evident by his constant positional changes but just how much control he has in that regard is up in the air.