The issue with this little thought exercise is that I’m convinced it is impossible. There’s just... so many factors. Ooh who’s that five star true freshman? Surely his trajectory will be what we’re all predicting and he definitely won’t have any injuries on the way. What about that senior with a couple injuries who used to kick ass? Or another senior who’s guaranteed to be drafted in, like, the fourth round — but surely someone younger will be better, later... right?
In other words, if you approached me on the street and asked this prompt, my response would be “It can’t be done! You’re crazy!”
The only thing I can say with certainty is that we’ll look back at this list in five years and think “Good God she was wrong.”
But, uh, here we are, so let’s give it a shot I suppose?
Without further ado, and a question I will certainly fail at getting right: Who will be the best future pro?
Ulumoo Ale, Defensive Tackle
This is without a doubt way too soon — absurdly too soon, even — and anyone bringing him up in this context in any other scenario would be a crazy person.
If I have to pick candidates for who’s best set up to have a good pro career...
Doesn’t the former boxing champion with the same body type as Vita Vea* have to be in the mix?
It’s unhinged behavior to put those expectations on someone who’s never played a snap at their new position, but I feel like we’ll know within the first half of this season — maybe sooner — if this is just a pipe dream of if it’s legit.
Whether Ale is a genuine candidate to be the best future pro or otherwise is a series of “if”s. Really, the question isn’t “Will Ulumoo Ale make a good pro defensive tackle?” It’s “Will Ulumoo Ale make a good college defensive tackle?” If the answer to the latter is “yes,” then we have our answer to the pro question.
*That body type is “crazy huge freak”
Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Edge
While he probably doesn’t have the next-level length that NFL teams covet in edge rushers, he’s still got a relatively pro-projectable body type and of course showed off his super production in 2020.
I feel like the main question for ZTF is whether he can keep that insanely productive output going over A) a full sample size beyond just half a season, B) after his Achilles injury, and C) now that he’s not a secret anymore for opponents to key in on.
If I had to put money on it, I’d say he probably won’t kick statistical ass at the same rate as 2020 simply because... that seems impossible... but he’ll still kick statistical ass at a rate that projects on a professional level.
Bralen Trice, Edge
Less proven than ZTF, still shown good stuff, and once Ikaika Malloe said he’d be better than Joe Tryon. Do with that what you will.
Rome Odunze, Receiver
I’ll start this with the caveat — as if there haven’t been enough caveats already — that I feel like more and more receivers in the NFL are just freaks, and you have to be extremely savvy to make it at that position anyway.
Luckily, at 6’3” 200 lbs and running a 4.4something, Odunze is — if not quite in freak territory — quite big, quite fast, and rather good at receiver-ing. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that this season will prove extremely informative as far as how much potential not only Odunze, but also Jalen McMillan, Ja’Lynn Polk, and the other receivers have. Because the truth is Rome looked pretty good given the circumstances last year in a clinically diagnosable dogshit offense, and we have yet to see him (or any of those players) operate in something resembling a functional scheme.
Given his physical traits and the fact that he even looked good in that turd pile of an offense that Jimmy Lake and John Donovan foisted upon our eyeballs last season, it’s hard to not imagine him taking a significant statistical step. In an actual offense (and barring injury or something unknown), I find it hard to picture him not being an intriguing prospect for NFL teams.
Jaxson Kirkland, Offensive Lineman
Kirkland is like the anti-Ale or Odunze here: He’s got very few unknowns, an unlucky injury, and a pretty certain floor at the next level (or at least draft) barring injury or complete regression.
I feel like his trajectory has been kind of like a less bleak Trey Adams, that is “early breakout followed by bad injury luck,” albeit no where as drastic as Adams, who was super fun to watch and a seemingly sure first rounder before recurring back and knee issues sadly got him. Further, his stock clearly dropped in Donovan’s offense (shocker!) at no fault of his own.
The interesting part about Kirkland is how much his body type seems prototypically tackle but his best years were at guard, where he inarguably kicked ass and pwn’d n00bs. Especially given how coveted tackles are, I could see him having success at the next level at guard but I could also see an NFL team try to pigeonhole him at tackle, where my gut is he’d be find not great. Although, who knows, maybe he’ll crush it at tackle in a new offense and we’ll be able to see a glorious professional future there.
In other words, I have no idea.
Who will be the best future pro?
This poll is closed
Ulumoo Ale, DT
Bralen Trice, edge
Rome Odunze, WR
Jaxson Kirkland, OL
El oh el I have no clue and will not commit to naming one because there are way too many uncontrolled variables and I don’t want to end up on Old Takes Exposed.
Nice try, Satan.
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.