Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
I didn’t see Christian Gonzalez coming at all. I didn’t even scout him in the preseason. He had just transferred from Colorado to Oregon over the offseason, so I didn’t think much of the move if I’m being honest. Maybe this makes me a bad draft nerd? But I also didn’t hear too much of him before this whole process started, so let’s talk about his rise to the top.
Gonzalez is one of the wildest athletes this side of Jalen Carter in this class. At 6’2 and 200 pounds, the speed and athletic fluidity that he possesses allows him to do things normally reserved for smaller professional cornerbacks. Of the (admittedly very few) Oregon games I watched this year, Gonzalez was flying around basically the entire time. He jumps off the page at you with his production. Especially for a Pac-12 team, four interceptions and seven passes defensed is extremely impressive.
Gonzalez tackles exactly as well as you’d hope for such a big defensive back. He swallowed multiple smaller receivers whole during his final college season with the Ducks. That being said, I really wish he would use his size more to his advantage in man coverage. Maybe this was a scheme thing at Oregon, and he can get it fixed in the NFL, but he didn’t overpower his man by just draping over them in coverage very much during college.
I still hesitate to put Gonzalez as my top corner in this class, like I’ve seen quite a few people do in recent weeks. That being said, I can see where the hype is coming from with this player. I still prefer Kelee Ringo out of Georgia; I think he can do some things that Gonzalez can’t, and the SEC pedigree certainly helps. That being said, Gonzalez has cemented himself as being in the same general tier as Ringo this season. Maybe my opinions will change once I watch more of him.
Jared Verse, DE, Florida State
Jared Verse fascinates me.
This guy was made in a laboratory to be a physically perfect defensive end. He is 6’4, 250 pounds, and shows major explosiveness off the edge. He can start in basically any scheme, has a deadly first step, and has power and quickness to disrupt run plays. So… why did he go to college at Albany for three years?
Verse feels, to me, like one of those guys who was this close to slipping through the cracks of the NFL. Thankfully, following a transfer to Florida State, he seems to be on the map of many as a top-five defensive end in this class. Considering I didn’t watch many Seminoles games this year, I feel like I have a lot of legwork to do when it comes to figuring out why Verse was overlooked like this. At first glance, I really can’t find anything wrong with him.
The best I can do is give a prediction, based on what I’ve seen in scouting reports. Verse doesn’t have the reaction time, or football IQ-to-muscle memory pipeline, needed to identify a play and make a big impact like the NFL’s top edge rushers often do. That being said, I think Verse has improved throughout college physically, and the “slowing down the game” stuff will come. When betting on a projection like this, it’s best to go with the upside. Thankfully, the Noles’ top defensive end has that in spades. This is a borderline first-round pick we’re looking at here, and I’m sticking to that prediction.