The 2022 NFL Draft has come and gone and Liberty saw quarterback Malik Willis drafted in the third round by the Tennessee Titans. Additionally, the Flames had four other players that signed as undrafted free agents and an additional two that accepted rookie minicamp invitations.
The five players drafted and signed as an undrafted free agent tie for the program record in one NFL Draft class. In 2020, wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden was taken in the fourth round by the Washington Redskins and four players signed as undrafted free agents (Solomon Ajayi, Elijah Benton, Jessie Lemonier, Bejour Wilson). In total, over the past three years, Liberty has seen a total of 11 players drafted or signed as undrafted free agents, marking the highest total in any consecutive three years in school history.
The Flames have a bevy of talent preparing to be one of the next Liberty draft picks. Here’s a look at the Flames who could hear their names called for the 2023 draft.
There were 28 wide receivers selected in the 2022 NFL Draft including six in the first round. Could we see Campbell transfer Caleb Snead develop into a potential draft pick next year? The 6’4″, 205 pound receiver will play for the Flames in 2022, his final season of eligibility. He gives Liberty a go-to outside receiver with a big body frame that the team has lacked since Gandy-Golden was drafted. In three seasons at Campbell, Snead racked up 147 catches for 2,431 yards and 25 touchdowns. In 2021 alone, he posted career highs of 73 catches, 1,067 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
Jessie Lemonier was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chargers following the 2020 NFL Draft, and he has carved out a nice role in his first two seasons at the NFL, first with the Chargers and now with the Lions. Well, Durrell Johnson is a longer Lemonier. Checking in at 6’4″, Johnson has the length to make an NFL roster as a defensive end or he could slide to outside linebacker. Johnson is very versatile, as he spent much of his career before college at safety. In his first season at Liberty, the former JUCO All-American recorded 8.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. It led many to project Johnson as a mid-to late late round pick in 2022. He had a bit of a setback in 2021, facing injuries throughout the year, and finishing with 25 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and not recording a sack in 9 games played.
Other names to watch
TJ Green: Green could make a case for himself to get on an NFL roster next year with a strong senior campaign for the Flames in 2022. The running back had 477 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns in his first season with Liberty in 2021. With Malik Willis no longer part of the offense, much of his nearly 900 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns will fall on the running backs and Green could be a big benefactor.
Javon Scruggs: He may be a bit undersized to play safety at the next level and not quite fast enough to play corner. Those measurables will hurt Scruggs’ draft prospects, but his stats and leadership abilities prove that he can play at a high level. The Appomattox native is the team’s top returning tackler from a season ago, finishing with 61 in 12 games played.