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What’s in a (2022 NFL Draft prospect’s) name?

Some uninformed predictions on the Steelers 2022 draft class

2021 NFL Draft
Last year’s opening pick went alright. What will this coming year bring?
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I have often said that I’m not a college football guy, and therefore I stay out of the draft conversations until the Steelers are on the clock. And that’s still true. But this winter I stumbled across a couple of “draft simulators” (so many ways to waste your afternoon online…), and suddenly I’m impatient for April.

Trying to “scout” players still feels like a Sisyphean task to me — too much work, and not enough payoff, since most of them won’t wind up in town anyway. But the first thing I noticed in playing around on these simulators is how awesome some of these names are.

The following essay is mostly just for fun. While a lot of these guys look exciting, I’m not really making an argument. You should feel free to argue in the comments, but don’t take me too seriously here, is what I’m saying.

With that disclaimer, let’s take a look at some of the possible draft classes the Steelers could grab in 2022:

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Cincinnati at Notre Dame
Yes, it’s thin sauce, but it still packs a punch.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The SSSSteelers SSSSecondary

“Sauce” Gardner, CB (Cincinnati)
Storm Duck, CB (North Carolina)
“Smoke” Monday, S (Auburn)
Sterling Weatherford, S (Miami, OH)

Sauce, Storm, Smoke, and Sterling. Sweet.

This one is remarkably possible. And it was the impetus for the article itself. I was anticipating Joe Haden’s departure (and possibly Terrell Edmunds’) and looking at DBs, and these guys just jumped off the page.

How could it happen? Sauce Gardner is a first round talent (though he may not be available by the time the Steelers select at #20). Smoke Monday is a mid-round guy (perhaps day 2, though possibly a 4th or 5th round). Storm Duck and Sterling Weatherford are both late round or UDFA players. In other words, it’s entirely plausible that this one could happen.

It’s unlikely that the Steelers will draft four DBs. But this would be awesome. Sauce, Storm, Smoke, and Sterling. A secondary like that would have to have a nickname.

And let’s be clear: Smoke Monday is by far the best name in this draft. Or possibly any draft.

Rutgers v Penn State
Since he sports #12, I like to pretend Brandon Smith is also a quarterback who scares the hell out of opposing pass rushers
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Smith Draft

Let’s say you want to draft only guys named “Smith.” What would that look like?

Brandon Smith, ILB (Penn State)
Lecitus Smith, OG (Virginia Tech)
Tykee Smith, S (Georgia)
Ainias Smith, WR (Texas A&M)
Tyreke Smith, Edge (Ohio State)
Tyler Smith, OT (Tulsa)
Abram Smith, RB (Baylor)
Keidron Smith, CB (Mississippi)

This would actually be a pretty good draft.

Brandon Smith looks like a good day 2 pick (and those of you who want Joe Schobert cut, or Devin Bush benched, might be looking at a guy like this). I’m not sure how urgent OG is for the Steelers (Kevin Dotson is pretty solid, and if they draft a center, I think Kendrick Green could make a very good guard), but Lecitus Smith seems like a real player. Tykee Smith seems to be rated as a day 3 guy, but I like what I’ve read about him – one report said even his high school coaches raved about his attention to detail and film study (which seems pretty remarkable for a h.s. kid). The next four all seem like good day 3 picks too, assuming they’re all in the draft.

This wouldn’t be bad.

Maybe you think “Smith” is too easy, though. How about this:

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 12 Coastal Carolina at Kansas
A reading from the book of — oh, hey, touchdown!
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Isaiah Draft

Isaiah Spiller, RB (Texas A&M)
Isaiah Likely, TE (Coastal Carolina)
Isaiah Thomas, Edge (Oklahoma)
Isaiah Pola-Mao, S (USC)
Isaiah Chambers, Edge (McNeese St.)
Isaiah Weston, WR (Northern Iowa)
Isaiah Graham-Mobley, ILB (Boston College)

Okay, this one isn’t as good. I guess focusing on one name doesn’t always work. Who knew?

Interestingly, you could do another version of this with “Zion” but not “Steve,” This is a weird era.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 10 CFP National Championship
Oh Yeah!

The Nickname Draft

“Big Sauce” Humphrey, DL (Louisiana) – given name: Tayland
“Big Kat” Bryant, Edge (UCF) – given name: Markaviest
“Kool-Aid” McKinstry, DB (Alabama) – given name: Ga’Quincy
“Sauce” Gardner, CB (Cincinnati) – given name: Ahmad
“Smoke” Monday, S (Auburn) – given name: Quindarius

So let’s admit, right from the start: Humphrey is infinitely more attractive if the Steelers also draft Gardner. A draft class with both “Sauce” and “Big Sauce” is irresistible. But these are all outstanding.

For the team that has employed “Mean Joe,” “Mad Dog,” “Duck,” “Fast Willie,” “Iron Mike,” “Bubby,” “Hollywood Bags,” “Big Snack,” “Bullet Bill,” “Whizzer,” “Shade Tree,” “Fats,” “Big Ben,” “The Hammer,” “J-Wobble,” and “Dirt,” a draft class of killer nicknames would fit right in.

Alright, kid, you’re gonna need to let that hair grow for, say two or three years if you want to get this right.
Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Offspring Draft

We know that the Steelers like family ties. The Edmunds brothers, the Watt brothers, even Carlos and Kalil Davis. What relatives are available in 2022? Let’s see how that plays out:

Isaiah Pola-Mao, S (USC) – nephew of Steelers HOFer Troy Polamalu
Joey Porter, Jr., CB (Penn State) – son of Steelers great Joey Porter
Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB (TCU) – nephew of HOFer LaDainian Tomlinson
Chris Hinton, DT (Michigan) – son of Colts Pro Bowler Chris Hinton
Tyler Vrabel, OL (Boston College) — son of Titans coach (and former Steeler) Mike Vrabel

This is also not a terrible looking draft. If family pedigree means anything (and maybe it doesn’t), this is a decent list. Pola-Mao, Tomlinson, and Hinton are all legit draft picks (again, assuming they all jump).

Other Good Names

So what about one-off options – guys who don’t fit into a category, but just have awesome names:

Purdue v Ohio State
This reminds me of my old neighbors, who named their dog “kitty.”
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT (Ohio State)

“Petit-Frere” is French for “Little Brother,” which means he’d immediately become one of Chris Berman’s favorite players (remember Pierre “Peter Waiter” Garcon?) But more importantly, Petit-Frere is 6’5” and weighs 315. How big would he have to be to be “Grande-Frere”?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Cincinnati v Alabama
The kids call me black-and-gold mamba
Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Coby Bryant, CB (Cincinnati)
Isaiah Thomas, Edge (Oklahoma)

Yes, I know – the first one is spelled differently. But seriously: Coby Bryant and Isaiah Thomas? Fantastic. Both appear to be good mid-round players too. They could easily wind up in town. A Steelers defense with Marcus Allen, Isaiah Thomas, and Coby Bryant is fantastic. (Now, if they could just find a Kirk Gibson and a Carl Lewis to put out there with them…)

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at Texas Christian
I wonder if he’s got a burgeoning rap career too.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Levi Bell, DL (Louisiana Tech)

This probably belongs above, with Coby and Isaiah. But man, Levi Bell? Seriously? If the Steelers wound up with this guy, they’d have to give him #26, right? (I think it would be funny if they gave him the contract Le'Veon wanted four years ago too.)

Arkansas v Mississippi State
His birth name was “9-ball,” but #9 was taken, so he went with something a little less ridiculous.
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Bumper Pool, ILB (Arkansas)

This is, somehow, the man’s actual name. That is, “Sauce” Gardner’s real name is “Ahmad.” Bumper Pool’s real name is “Bumper.” I looked this up. It’s real.

Scouting Reports that I liked

This is the final category: guys who, when I looked at their thumbnail draft reports, there was something really exciting that jumped out at me. Guys who (every one of them) I’d love to see in Pittsburgh next year.

Some of you guys might scour scouting reports, and know a lot more than this. To me, those write-ups are a little like catalog descriptions — they all sound the same after a while. They’re either too specific (with too many measurements and numbers) or too vague (“he moves well for a big man”). So when something jumps off the page that feels different, I notice it.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 19 Oregon at Washington
“Pirouette... plie... plie... and roundhouse to the face...”

Kyler Gordon, CB (Washington)

Scouting Report: “A history with dance, kung fu, and ballet has helped Gordon refine his efficiency of motion.”

Of course the first thing I think of when I see ballet is “Lynn Swann as a corner.” But also, dance and kung fu tell me that this guy has body-awareness, control, hand-fighting skills, and discipline. Put him on the outside; put him in the slot; just put him in Pittsburgh.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Ohio State at Indiana
“I’m sorry sir, but I said no touching the dancers... Out you go!”
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jeremy Ruckert, TE (Ohio State)

Scouting Report: “As a blocker, Ruckert is entertaining as hell... There are plenty of examples of him throwing a guy out of the club or putting him in the dirt.”

Maybe this is language scouts often use (again, I don’t normally read these) but I LOVE the idea of a receiving TE who blocks so well he “tosses guys out of the club.” How awesome is that. I know TE isn’t a position of need for this team, but the Patriots once lit up the league with double tight ends; why can’t we?

Missouri v Arkansas
Look at those things. They’re like satellite dishes. They’re like umbrellas. He could catch babies falling out windows with those tent tarps.
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Treylon Burks, WR (Arkansas)

Scouting Report: “He has to have custom-made 5XL gloves to wear on game day, and this hand size gives him incredible catch ability.”

So the last two seasons, the Steelers have led the league in dropped passes. And this guy has hands so big he has to have 5XL gloves made. Hmm. Seems like he’d be a welcome addition to the WR room...

Colorado v Oregon
What’s that, Mykael? Timmy fell in the well? AND you brought that pick back to the house?
Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

Mykael Wright, CB (Oregon)

Scouting Report: “Multiple Oregon players that have since been drafted said of Wright, ‘He’s a dog and he’s better than all of us.’”

I like this guy anyway (he looks athletic, fast, and rangy, and he returns kicks too), but “he’s a dog” is great. And “he’s better than all of us” is even better.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 06 Wisconsin at Rutgers
If you take the football gear off of him, Chenal kinda looks like he’s sitting in class... thinking about charging the professor and returning the chalk for a touchdown.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Leo Chenal, ILB (Wisconsin)

Scouting Report: “Chenal is a 6’2”, 255-pound thumper who lives for gritty, low-scoring affairs.”

Isn’t this exactly what Pittsburgh (a) lost in Vince Williams, and (b) needed this past year? The Steelers love to win ugly. I’d love it if they’d start winning pretty, I suppose, but as long as “style points” don’t count, it’d be pretty awesome to get some guys like this, who thrive in those ugly games.

(Side note: he also has a brother who’s a fullback at Wisconsin, but started as a linebacker as well. Hmm, a pair of Wisconsin brothers, one a linebacker and the other a fullback, and one of them started his career at a different position. Where have I heard of that before?)

Chattanooga v Kentucky
These guys are just enormous. Those are like 24-inch calves. Good god.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Darian Kinnard, OT (Kentucky)

Scouting Report: “Had he declared [in 2021], his pro day numbers could have inflated his stock even more. But Kinnard — seeking perfection — chose to return to school to further refine his craft.”

This is one of those that needs little to no commentary. A highly-regarded perfectionist, so interested in “perfecting his craft” that he risked injury when he could have been drafted last year. Yes, please.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 South Carolina at Missouri
Is it just me, or does he look a lot like Carl Weathers here?
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kingsley Enagbare, Edge

Scouting Report: “Enagbare reportedly worked out with the South Carolina defensive backs coach, and you can see the results of that work in his ability to backpedal when dropping back into coverage.”

Edge isn’t a position of real need right now, and Enagbare will be a low-1st or high-2nd round pick anyway. But boy, I like this note. The guy is a pass rush specialist with a top-50 grade, but took his coverage responsibilities so seriously that he did EXTRA work with the secondary coach (enough that it was worth mentioning in his scouting report). Isn’t that precisely what the Steelers want in an OLB? I love this.

And one highlight

Alabama v Auburn
Quiet now, I’m about to take someone’s head off
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

John Metchie III, WR (Alabama)

Watch this one highlight, and tell me if this guy wouldn’t look good in black-and-gold…

Just to set it up, then-Alabama QB Mac Jones throws an interception on a target to a different receiver. Instead of giving up on the play, or simply coming back to try to make the tackle, or even going for a sneaky strip, watch what Metchie does.

And then he just walks back to the huddle. Amazing.

This guy was born to be a Steeler…

So what will happen on draft day? Probably none of these guys will wind up as Steelers. (And maybe that will be better anyway. What do I know about anything?) But keep your eyes open, in case Bumper Pool or Smoke Monday or a whole litany of Isaiah’s find their way into Pittsburgh next season.

Go Steelers.