The New York Jets should eye these prospects if they hit undrafted free agency
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the top prospects in the 2022 NFL draft. Whether it be the debate around the EDGE guys, which receiver fits the Mike LaFleur system best, or the question of whether the New York Jets should take an offensive tackle in the first round, hot topics surrounding the big-name prospects will continue to dominate the world of Jets football.
Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time researching late-round prospects, with a focus on players that are slated to go undrafted. I do this every year and it’s one of the more enjoyable aspects of the draft for me; trying to spot players who are largely unloved now, but could become something down the line.
Each year around 500 players that went undrafted will land on an NFL roster (486 last year). As of today, there are 15 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who were overlooked by every single team but made a telling contribution at the next level, with Kurt Warner being the most famous one.
Not every UDFA will reach those heights, but there are notable names every single year. Priest Holmes back in 1997, Wes Welker in 2004, Antonio Gates in 2003, or Jason Peters in 2004 – the list is endless.
The Jets have historically found some outstanding players once the curtain came down on the draft, signing Wayne Chrebet in 1995, Brandon Moore in 2002, Damon Harrison in 2012 and Robby Anderson in 2016. Can they strike lucky again in 2022?
Here are two highly athletic guys who are slated to go undrafted by at least one publication. Knowing that Douglas loves his high athleticism players, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these guys become Jets.
Chance Campbell – Linebacker – Ole Miss
It’s not often a guy who recorded 109 tackles, 12.5 for a loss, 6 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles in the SEC will go undrafted. That could happen with Chance Campbell.
I’m still not sold that Campbell will make it to the UDFA stage of the draft – I actually have him rated as a fourth or fifth round prospect – but The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has him as a UDFA so I’m featuring him here.
Let’s touch on the athleticism first. Campbell scored a 9.69 on his RAS (Relative Athletic Score) and was labeled as “elite” in both the “speed” and “explosion” categories.
The knock on Campbell is his weight. Sitting at just 232 pounds, that’s considered poor for a linebacker by the RAS grading methodology, but we know that Robert Saleh doesn’t mind his linebackers being a touch lighter.
Campbell arrived at Ole Miss as a transfer from Maryland and won the starting MIKE linebacker job over some prized recruits. He put up an outstanding season with Ole Miss showcasing a feel for the position that you can’t teach. His read and react skills are a huge plus and when you add that to the athleticism you get a player with potential. He also led all college linebackers with 42 pressures last season and showed a real knack for timing his pass rush.
Campbell also played the most coverage snaps in the SEC amongst linebackers without allowing a touchdown reception (375). The Jets need help with their coverage from the position, and Chance would offer that.
There are a couple of flags with Campbell as you’d expect with any player appearing on a potential UDFA list.
Campbell has shorter arms than you’d want which can lead to him getting engulfed in the run game by offensive linemen moving to the next level. He also has a tendency to miss a tackle or two. Of all linebackers who played at least 400 snaps last season, Campbell’s missed tackle rate of 16.5% ranked him 225th (regular and post-season included), but a lot of that comes down to technique and you pay your coaches to improve technique.
Again, I don’t think Campbell is making it to the UDFA stage of the draft, but if he does, then he should be one of the Jets’ first calls. I’d personally consider taking him as early as the fourth round, but that’s just me.
Matt Waletzko – Offensive Tackle – North Dakota
No offensive tackle in this class scored higher than Matt Waletzko when it came to RAS. His 9.96 beat out Trevor Penning, Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, and even my boy Zach Tom.
Athletically, Waletzko is extremely impressive. His “elite” status in regards to both “speed” and “agility” jump out on tape. His movement skills make him an intriguing option for any team that operates a lot of zone running schemes. He has a good mirror technique and his hand usage is already a strength.
As a 2-star tackle recruit in 2018, Waletzko received just one Division-I offer, to play at North Dakota, and he grabbed that with both hands. He started at left tackle for four years with the Fighting Hawks and finished his final season as one of the better players at his position.
Over the course of the 2021 season, Waletzko allowed zero sacks and just eight pressures on 351 pass-blocking snaps. Over the course of his 4-year career he didn’t allow a single sack over 658 pass-blocking snaps and gave up only 18 pressures in total.
The production is there and the athleticism is there. So why is he being spoken about as a seventh-round prospect to UDFA?
Waletzko has a big frame but he doesn’t pack a lot of power. His core strength is constantly questioned and many project that he’ll struggle with the power element of edge rushers at the next level. His footwork is a little messy and inconsistent and he overextends frequently losing his contact balance. His strike is also inconsistent and could do with work.
From a technical element, Matt has a lot to work on, but again, at this point in the draft you’re betting on the athleticism and trusting your coaches to do their job. You can’t teach the length that Waletzko has or the natural athletic ability, but you can teach him footwork and you can teach him hand strike timing. I’d take a flyer on Matt as a developmental player.