“The Halo Effect” is the feeling that someone looks familiar even if you haven’t seen them before. It only takes a person thousandths of a second to recognize someone and retain someone’s facial features. Sometimes, we even appropriate other traits from the old acquaintance to the new, in some kind of “it’s easier this way” paradox. Someone like me, with a football-addled mind, experiences the Halo Effect quite often, but with the size and playing style of certain players.
If you watched the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, there were a myriad of NFL player comparisons thrown around for virtually every prospect in attendance. Some of them were warranted, while others were perplexing or so hyperbolic that they belonged in a theatrical production. Let me make this very easy for you. Here are some very prominent incoming rookies alongside current or former NFL players who share similar height and weight.
Malik Willis: 6′ 0 1/2″, 219lb vs. Jalen Hurts: 6′ 1″, 223lb
These two versatile quarterbacks have a lot more in common than their size. Hurts was more heavily recruited out of high school as a four-star prospect from Texas. Willis was only a three-star athlete, de-committing from Virginia Tech as soon as he was offered a scholarship by Auburn. Hurts led Alabama to the national championship game, only to be benched during that game for Tua Tagovailoa. Willis was mired in an unenviable spot behind their five-star quarterback, Bo Nix. He ultimately transferred to Liberty, where his play earned him a lot of courtship from NFL scouting departments.
Jalen Hurts has been a notable project as an NFL starter with the Philadelphia Eagles, but his positive traits as a dual-threat with an incredible disposition and work ethic are shared with Malik Willis. The knocks on Hurts are his footwork, decision-making, and accuracy. Willis has drawn similar criticism leading up through the pre-draft process. Willis has a stronger arm and is even a bit more athletically gifted than Hurts, so we will have to see what kind of player he develops into at the next level. For fantasy managers, it could be a lot worse than a guy who rarely scored fewer than 20 fantasy points per game in his first full season as a starter.
Breece Hall: 5′ 11 1/4″, 217lb vs. DeMarco Murray: 5’11 5/8″, 213lb
The deeper I dug into Breece Hall’s profile, the more parallels I found with former Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys star running back, DeMarco Murray. Interestingly enough, they were each listed at 6′ 1″ tall by their respective universities, only to be officially measured shy of six feet at the NFL Scouting Combine. Hall and Murray carry themselves similarly, both had prodigious NCAA production, and were only 0.02 seconds apart in the 40-yard dash (4.39 for Hall, 4.41 for Murray).
Some of the differences are minor. Murray stayed at Oklahoma for four years, while Hall declared for the draft after his junior season. Murray was the fifth running back selected in 2011 at 71st overall. First-round pick Mark Ingram was the only one of those four who could be considered an NFL success. Hall’s combine performance has solidified him as the top back in the 2022 class, with little chance he slips past the early second round in this year’s draft. Hall is a good bet to meet or exceed Murray’s NFL production with five seasons surpassing 1,000 scrimmage yards.
Kayvon Thibodeaux: 6′ 4″, 255lb vs. Myles Garrett: 6′ 4 1/2″, 272lb
For the last three years, NFL analysts have been salivating at the thought of Kayvon Thibodeaux turning pro and wreaking havoc off the edge. There was a very similar vibe in 2017 surrounding Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, en route to him becoming the first overall pick by the Cleveland Browns. Both are freak athletes who take polished pass rushing dominance to the league from day one. The ability to explode off the line of scrimmage and unleash an arsenal of finesse and power moves is a shared trait between Thibodeaux and Garrett. The personalities are also eerily similar. One prominent draft analyst said of Garrett in 2017, “Effort level appears closely tied to fatigue level at times,” and “Scouts are convinced he took plays off to protect his health this season.” Doesn’t that sound awfully familiar? Thibodeaux was an unstoppable force at Oregon slated for the top pick in his draft since he was a freshman. Now, he has been dropped in mock drafts and rankings from a narrative that he doesn’t love the game as much as he should.
One difference in these two remarkable football players is that Thibodeaux is slightly leaner, thus he exhibits a bit more quickness and speed than Garrett. This is evidenced by Thibodeaux’s 40-yard dash coming in a tenth of a second faster. Garrett is the stronger of the two, especially in his upper body. He put up 33 reps in the bench press at the 2017 combine, compared to a very respectable 27 for Thibodeaux. Garrett has developed into one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL, but it is Thibodeaux who actually enters the league with a more polished pass-rushing repertoire. Watch out for Thibodeaux; he is a lock to be taken in the top-10 of this year’s draft and will be a franchise cornerstone for the next decade (just like Garrett).
Sauce Gardner: 6′ 3″ 190lb vs. Richard Sherman: 6′ 3″ 210lb
Compared to the other players highlighted, Sauce Gardner is the most unique. There hasn’t been a single cornerback at 6-3 and 190 lbs. to enter the NFL with so much hype. Gardner is worth all of it. The league hasn’t seen this kind of skill, size, and athleticism all rolled into one corner before. Richard Sherman checks the most boxes in common with Gardner. They are the same height, with Sherman’s legendary coverage radius and ball skills. Gardner did not allow a single touchdown pass while in coverage in his entire college career. That’s impressive, no matter what level he plays at. Prime Sherman would erase an entire hemisphere of the passing game, talking smack the entire time. Anyone who calls himself Sauce has a bit of moxy in his own rite.
The difficult part about this comparison is the huge advantage Gardner holds over Sherman athletically. Sherman was a notable combine disappointment coming out of Stanford, running in the mid-4.5s. Gardner’s 40 time was a blistering 4.41 seconds. On tape, you see the same martial arts-style hand fighting and competitiveness in press coverage from Gardner as we have seen from Sherman. Gardner’s athleticism and length also remind me of Antonio Cromartie, who never seemed to get burned on vertical routes. I am a sauce maker and Sauce Gardner might become a pillar in this generation’s Legion of Boom.
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