Show Me the Dough, Man
Two years ago, I gave a 1st round draft grade to Zack Baun, an OLB from Wisconsin. Last year, I gave Pete Werner a late round grade. As a rookie, Werner was the 6th highest graded LB in the NFL. Baun was on the same team (the Saints) and was a backup. These fanposts are for entertainment purposes only.
To be fair, I was at least partly correct in pumping the brakes on the Cesar Ruiz hype. So far, he hasn't played like a 1st round lineman for the Saints. If he had been a 3rd or 4th round pick, he'd be doing just fine for that draft slot, but when you're a G taken in the 1st round, the expectations are much higher. I still have some reservations about Werner. Watch what happens to him on the running play starting at the 4:15 mark of this video. It was one reason I wasn't high on him as a prospect.
JoJo Domann, an OLB from Nebraska, has football in his blood. His dad has been an NFL agent for over 30 years. One of his favorite football memories growing up was going to the Arizona Cardinals training camp and getting an autograph from Kurt Warner.
Most draft boards have Domann as a 3rd to 4th round pick. Domann is a "head vs heart" prospect. Your head says don't draft him. He's much older than most prospects, he has a long injury history and he's too small to be a normal in the box stacked LB. Your heart wants to draft him, be cause he was a very good college player, he was a disruptive force and probably Nebraska's best defensive player. Which of those 2 competing voices will win out in NFL war rooms? One area the Rams could use an upgrade is with a LB who is good at pass coverage. Could JoJo Domann be a perfect fit for that role?
Combine measurements: 6'1 1/4'' tall, 228 pounds at Combine, 30 3/8'' arms, 9 1/2'' hands, 74 1/4'' wingspan (at the Senior Bowl, he measured a tiny hair smaller in very single category)
4.62 sec (40 time), 34.5'' vert jump, 9'11'' broad jump.
Turns 25 years old in July. James Daniels, the FA I profiled, signed a 3 year contract with the Steelers. Daniels is signing his 2nd NFL contract and turns 25 in September. So, Domann as a rookie draft prospect is older than Daniels.
Was a WR, RB, S, P and K in high school in Colorado. 3 star recruit. Graduated in 2020 with degree in advertising and public relations. Tore ACL in spring of 2017. In November of 2017 he suffered a 2nd ACL tear playing pickup basketball. Missed time with an undisclosed injury in 2018. Had another injury in summer of 2019 requiring him to rehab. In 2021 he ruptured the tendon on his middle finger of his left hand, briefly tried to play through it, but then had season ending surgery.
Was on special teams as freshman in 2016. Missed entire 2017 season due to ACL injuries. Played ST and was backup in 2018. Position "switch" from safety to OLB in 2019, but essentially he's used as a "nickel LB". Had 52 tackles and 11 TFLs in 2019. In 8 games in 2020 he had 58 tackles. Played in 10 games in 2021 and had 72 tackles, 9 TFLs, 2 sacks, 2 FF, 2 INTs. In a game I watched, Domann also had a "3rd INT" on a deep pass that didn't count, because it was nullified by an offsides penalty on a different defender.
ESPN 8th ranked safety (notice not as a LB), 95th overall prospect (late 3rd round)
PFF (listed as a S) 88th overall prospect (3rd round)
PFF says he had an 87.8 coverage grade and an 83.1 run grade last season.
Tony Pauline 214th overall prospect (late 6th round) listed as an OLB
Ian Cummings 124th overall (4th rd) LB
Oliver Hodgkinson 140th overall (late 4th rd) LB
Shane Hallam 106th overall (late 3rd to early 4th rd) LB
Brian Bosarge 166th overall (5th rd) LB
Drafttek 132nd overall (4th rd) LB
Was at Senior Bowl. It is amusing how multiple people can watch the same Senior Bowl practices and come away with diametrically opposing opinions about the same player. Tony Pauline has the lowest grade on Domann on all of the boards surveyed. He said that Domann was slow in pass coverage, was beaten repeatedly in coverage and is better against the run than against the pass. Multiple other observers said that Domann was outstanding in pass coverage during the practices, that he was one of the prospects who shined and boosted his draft stock. TDN called him a hybrid LB who could do it all. Another report said that he "stole the show in coverage", that he matched up against everyone the offense threw at him, displayed tremendous range and upside in the passing game. I don't know what to tell you other than if people can't agree about practice reps, it makes you wonder how PFF can possibly accurately grade what happens in an actual game.
Lance Zierlein 6.11 draft grade. Compare to Cam McGrone 6.10 (5th round 2021), Germaine Pratt 6.10 (3rd round 2019), Justin Strnad 6.10 (5th round 2020). LZ compared Domann to Matt Milano, who was a 5th round pick in 2017. Milano was 6 foot tall and 223 pounds with 4.67 sec speed. Milano is a very smart player and has become a good NFL LB. PFF graded Milano 19th out of 87 LBs last season.
LZ says Domann has outstanding lay strength and a "vengeful field demeanor", is a punishing tackler, a constant irritant in the box and "won't back down from a fight, but he is often the one who started it." Very average speed, limited wingspan, man coverage limitations, injury history.
Plays with high level of aggression and motor. Plays like movie stuntman with no disregard for his own safety. Predatory mindset. Takes initiative and attacks pulling OL with aggression when he sees them coming, doesn't back down from physical challenges.
Excellent awareness and football IQ on field. Quick play recognition and decisive reactions. Recognizes route combinations, quick reads in matchup zone coverage, switching from one receiver to the next at the proper moment. Sometimes drops under the route perfectly to get the QB off of that read. If route is not run well or he anticipates the route, he'll run the route for the TE/WR and is half a step ahead. Feels other players on field and avoids running into them in rub situations in coverage.
Disciplined, stayed home and was there to tackle RB on cutback, didn't overrun the play.
Runs with low center of gravity with his hands low at his side. Smooth pedal. Good balance and change of direction ability.
Adamantly refuses to get outflanked, whether on wide running plays or screen passes. Understands angles and play leverage. Sets hard edge against a variety of blockers, whether WR, TE or OT.
Maintains disguise of blitz. Dangerous as run and pass blitzer. Crashes into the backfield, but under control, can read the mesh, react and redirect to whoever has the football. Destroyed pass blocking RB.
Closes fast. Has 2 yard burst. Chased down Jonathan Taylor in the flat. Heavy tacker who will run through the target. Good tackling form. Tries to rip the ball out from the runner. Has effective short area tackling range to drag down runners from the side or behind. Radar guided torpedo locked onto runners.
Showed good ability in pass coverage to plant his foot and redirect against pivot route. Flashed short area burst to run with TE across field in pass coverage.
Anticipates blockers in space and can adjust his angle to burst by them. Put WR blocker on ice skates and drove him backwards. Aggressively attacked WR blocker and tossed WR to the side, then tackled the RB.
Uses his hands well to shed blocks. Once he stacks the blocker, has good counter moves to disengage and get in on tackle.
Plays to the whistle, appeared to get under the skin of some opponents.
Has good hand eye coordination and composure to play ball in air. Former safety and WR with experience catching the ball.
Used as a hang defender outside of the box. Responsible for containing edge, attacking off the edge or being a zone pass defender from the slot against TEs and WRs. Did not play in box. Did not play in base defense package. Was typically not used in short red zone situations. Very rarely given man coverage assignments.
Too small. Bigger OTs and TEs can bully him.
Very short arms, like someone glued arms from a smaller person onto his body. This hurts him in a variety of contexts. On pass over his head, he had trouble reaching up to make a play on the ball and pull it in for an INT. Multiple times I saw him miss tackles as he dove and wasn't able to grab the runner's legs. In zone coverage he doesn't have desired length to shrink passing windows and threaten to tip QB's pass. Even when he mentally anticipates a throw coming, he isn't as much of an obstacle to throw over or around, so the pass whizzes by him. Short arms hurts him trying to play press coverage at the LOS. Not able to jam as effectively, and if he feels the TE/WR getting a release he's more likely to miss trying to recover and jam them with his 2nd attempt. TEs with superior length can push him away and separate at the top of the route.
Swing pass to the RB. Domann does great job dodging the WR's block, but when he dives to try to tackle the RB he misses. Whiffed on tackle against spin move by RB. Juked by RB and left grasping for air. Even when he makes a heads up wrap tackle, sometimes his arms barely get around, so his grip isn't strong and I bet a more powerful or bigger RB could break out of the tackle. Had bead on RB in backfield, but got juked and whiffed on tackle.
Overly reliant on permissive college rules regarding contact in coverage. Almost always intentionally runs into or grabs the receiver past 5 yards from the LOS to prevent them from separating or getting into the route. Handsy, sometimes grabbing well downfield. RB jukes on 3rd down and to prevent getting beat the LB just grabs him. Susceptible to giving up separation at break point.
Got caught looking in backfield and made mistake jumping forward when QB left pocket, losing his TE in coverage and was put in trail position.
Pedal is technically sound, but he doesn't gain enough ground or has enough speed. On top of having short arms, this is one factor hampering him in getting under routes and deflecting passes.
Doesn't have long speed. Trying to pursue from behind on long run by RB, not enough speed to catch up.
Has to be cleared by team's medical staff. Frequently injured and had multiple ACL tears. As old as some NFL vets.
Pro Comparison and Grade
Nick Kwiatkoski (4th round 2016, Chicago Bears, West Virginia), 5th round.
Kwiatkoski: 6'2'' tall, 243 pounds, 31 3/4'' arms, 76 3/8'' wingspan, 4.73 sec (40 time), 32'' vert, 10' broad jump.
There is another LB I watched who has some similarities with Domann named Jake Hansen from Illinois. He had a knee injury in 2021 (the 2nd ACL in the same knee), the latest of a number of injuries he had in college. Hansen turns 24 in July. Hansen is really smart on the field, but has issues in pass coverage. Hansen very likely will be an UDFA.
Kwiatkoski was recently released by the Raiders. Cory Littleton and Kwiatkoski were both signed as FAs in 2020 by the Raiders and expected to boost their LB group. Littleton was a disappointment and also was recently released by the Raiders. Kwiatkosky played well in 2020. For years, he was considered to be one of the better LBs in the NFL at defending the pass. He got injured in 2021 and the Raiders probably want to shed his contract.
If you think that Travin Howard is a decent player (who is only 1 year older than Domann), then you might like Domann. In terms of size and experience at safety they have a similar profile, but I think Domann is the better player. Howard was a 7th round pick.
Kwiatkoski has been in the NFL for 6 years, but he's only been a "starter" for 1 season. Even so, he was a decent player for his draft slot (he was taken 4 picks before Pharoh Cooper). I'm not as high on Domann as most boards. I don't know if he can be a 3 down linebacker in the NFL. If he can show some value as a subpackage player, whether you want to call him a 3rd safety or a 3rd down LB, I think there's enough potential value to warrant a mid Day 3 pick.