The 2022 college football season is only a few weeks away. Which means scouting for next year’s NFL is in full swing. In this series we’ll take a look at one prospect that each NFL team should be watching closely over the next season. Last week we looked at the AFC North and AFC South. Next up: the AFC East and AFC West.
Emil Ekyor Jr – Offensive Guard, Alabama
Protecting Josh Allen has to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind in Buffalo. The Pro Bowl quarterback has blown away expectations and was only 13 seconds away from an AFC Championship game.
Allen was only sacked 26 times last season, but the interior offensive line has major question marks. Buffalo signed veteran Rodger Saffold to hold down the fort at left guard, but his age and contract implicate that this is merely a one-year rental.
Emil Ekyor Jr. is Alabama’s next top offensive line draft prospect, and could be the perfect fit at left guard. At 6’2” 320 pounds, what Ekyor lacks in height, he makes up for in strength. He is also extremely mobile for a guard and has a quick burst to climb to the second level in the run game.
Ekyor could be the Bill’s long-term option at left guard and would help boost both the run game and the pass game.
Zach Charbonnet – Running Back, UCLA
Miami is in a win now mode, even with Mike McDaniel in his rookie year as head coach. McDaniel comes from the Kyle Shanahan tree and will employ a dynamic offense led by Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa is really in his make or break year and Miami could be in the market for a new quarterback come next season.
But with the talent that Miami surrounded Tua with this offseason, it is hard to see him failing. Even with the addition of Chase Edmonds at running back, Miami could use another dynamic weapon out of the backfield. Zach Charbonnet could be that guy.
Charbonnet has the size and speed to be a three-down back in the NFL. At 6’1”, 220 pounds, Charbonnet bounces off tacklers and is shifty in the open field. Edmonds and Charbonnet could be the perfect one-two punch to take Miami’s offense to new heights.
New England Patriots
Justin Flowe – Linebacker, Oregon
The New England Patriots have been on top for so long, that it is tough to see them losing steam any time soon. But with the turnover of the offensive staff and the loss of free agents on the defensive side of the ball have decimated the potential of this Patriots roster.
Their first task at hand should be to surround Mac Jones with as much talent as possible, but receiver has never been a priority for Bill Belichick and company. Tom Brady rarely had talent that he didn’t have to elevate and when they did sign free agents or trade for veterans, they were often on the back half of their careers.
With that said, odds are that Belichick will opt for adding more talent to the defensive side of the ball. New England has always valued linebackers and that probably won’t change. Dont’a Hightower is currently a free agent, but the Patriots traded for Mack Wilson to be the middle linebacker of the future.
But pairing him with Justin Flowe could give the Patriots front-seven a massive boost. Flowe, a redshirt sophomore from Oregon, has only played in two games since arriving in Eugene, but has produced when on the field. In his lone game in 2021 against Fresno State, Flowe tallied total 14 tackles. His athleticism and talent is there, but the injury history will scare some. Belichick isn’t afraid to take risks if the potential is there. Flowe could blossom into a first-round talent if he can stay healthy for the Ducks.
New York Jets
Bryan Breese – Defensive Tackle, Clemson
Robert Saleh is a defensive minded coach but has spent the past few drafts and offseason building around his offense. It’s time for him to focus on building his stout defense in order to bring New York out of the NFL cellar.
Saleh will want to solidify the defensive front for New York and he began that project by selecting edge rusher Jermaine Johnson with the 26th pick of the 2022 draft. But the defensive line lacks depth on the interior. Quinnen Williams is building block for the future, but there’s still more to be desired behind him.
Bryan Bresee could be the final piece of the puzzle for Saleh’s defense. Bresee, a former five-star recruit, flashed immediately at Clemson. As a true freshman, Bresee racked up four sacks and 23 total tackles. He unfortunately missed the majority of 2021 with a torn ACL, but he should be healthy for the upcoming season. If he continues to build on the success from his freshman year, Bresee will solidify himself as a first-round talent and land in the green and white.