How exciting is this? We're hot and heavy into another Draft cycle and we've got an intriguing group of prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft. This class doesn't feature the top-tier quarterback talent we saw in 2021, but we are loaded up with a bevy of big-time edge defenders, cornerbacks, wide receivers, and offensive linemen.
In this initial top-25, there are no quarterbacks, tight ends, running backs, or defensive tackles (there are a couple defensive lineman in here that can play tackle, but likely won't align exclusively on the interior). There are seven total defensive lineman, seven wide receivers, and four cornerbacks that account for over 70% of this list.
#1 EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
6'6", 265-pounds, Senior
Hutchinson is the complete package. Size, production, power, athleticism, flexibility, high-motor, finisher, football in his blood. He projects to be an instant impact edge that is scheme versatile. He has excelled in an odd-front but has the size, power, athleticism, and skill set to produce from multiple alignments.
#2 EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
6'5", 258-pounds, Junior
Thibodeaux hasn't displayed the consistent dominance many expected coming into the season. He has dealt with his fair share of double teams and extra attention. Still, he has sometimes struggled to win one-on-ones and has appeared to lack a pass rush plan. He's also prone to overaggressiveness, which can lead him out of the play entirely. However, his natural ability, athleticism, strength, limitless potential as a 3-4 EDGE, and overall college resume make him a lock for the top five. Thibodeaux declared for the draft on Monday and will not play in Oregon's bowl game.
#3 OT Evan Neal, Alabama
6'7", 360-pounds, Junior
Neal has a solid case to be the second player on my board, and he might be when all is said and done. Having played guard, right tackle, and left tackle at Alabama, his versatility is desirable. Even more alluring, his massive frame that has shocking flexibility and athleticism. Neal has feet to mirror, excellent punch timing and placement, and the strength and flexibility to stick with just about anyone. A self-motivated mountain of a man that moves well, can play anywhere, and excels in pass pro and the running game? Sign me up.
#4 S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
6'4", 220-pounds, Junior
Kyle Hamilton has game-changing length, speed, and smarts. At the next level, he should excel in single-high, split-zone, in the box, and even as a big nickel. He has the skill set to be a game-changer in pursuit and coverage. Hamilton is currently dealing with a minor knee injury.
#5 CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU (🚩 injury)
6'1", 195-pounds, Junior
Had Stingley been eligible to enter the draft following his historic freshman season, he may well have been the top defender taken. Stingley has great size and athleticism for the position. He has natural hips and a killer instinct with the ball in the air. Injuries have slowed his career trajectory over the last two seasons, but he's still a top-flight outside cornerback prospect. He'll need to pass medical checks this spring.
#6 OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
6'5", 310-pounds, RS Sophomore
Cross has taken a massive step in 2021. Starting for the first time in 2020, Cross had his fair share of struggles in Mike Leach's pass-heavy offense. But in 2021, Cross has proven to be the most consistent pure pass protector thanks to his mirroring ability, strong hands, athleticism, and instincts at left tackle. If you're going to throw the ball 40+ times every game, Cross might be your best bet. He is fairly unproven as a run blocker but has displayed some high-level reps in that regard when given the opportunity.
#7 WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
6'2", 190-pounds, Junior
SPEED. Jameson Williams might be the fastest man in college football right now. It's baffling to me that Ohio State wouldn't get him more reps, but he and the Alabama Crimson Tide have been the beneficiaries in 2021. He brings a lot more than game-changing speed to the table. Williams is an excellent route runner than understands leverage and pacing. He is able to throttle down and then explode out of breaks quickly. Williams also has an impressive catch radius and displays good ball tracking. He does well to win in contested situations. He's lean but has improved against press coverage throughout the season. Williams makes an impact on screens and in the short game. With very little in-game experience, there's likely some untapped potential left in this dynamic wide receiver. Williams should be able to win on the outside and in the slot at the next level.
#8 WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
6'3", 225-pounds, Junior
Burks has a tremendous frame and knows how to use it. He's mostly aligned in the slot throughout his career but has shown the ability to win on the outside in some big moments. His combination of size, speed, and strength is hard not to notice. Burks does well at the catch point, runs better than expected routes, and has breakaway speed with the ball in his hands. He has produced against the toughest of competition in the SEC. If he runs well in the spring, Burks could be the top receiver taken thanks to his rare skillset/frame/athleticism combo.
#9 EDGE David Ojabo, Michigan
6'5", 250-pounds, Junior
The biggest riser in this class, Ojabo hasn't been playing football very long, but is a natural pass rusher. He wins with a variety of impressive moves — including a spin — and knows how to strip the ball when he arrives at the quarterback. He still needs some development against the run, but the sky is the limit. Ojabo projects as an odd-front defender that can help in coverage and a pass rusher.
#10 LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
6'3", 235-pounds, RS Senior
One of my absolute favorite players to watch in this class, Lloyd is a former safety than now excels as a linebacker for the Utes. He's as versatile as they come, as he can blitz, rush off the edge, play the run, drop into zones, and cover backs and tight ends. Lloyd's length allows him to attempt tackles most linebackers would never dream of. He's produced big numbers as a rusher/blitzer, run defender, and coverage backer. I can't wait to see how he tests athletically. Lloyd is a scheme-versatile off-ball linebacker who can also be used as an edge defender. I expect him to start immediately and have early Pro Bowl upside.
#11 WR Drake London, USC
6'5", 210-pounds, Junior
London dominated over his final two years at USC. He has tremendous length and size for the position and knows how to use it. Can play bully ball against most defensive backs thanks to his length and strength. He's not a burner, but he doesn't need to be. Still, he has fluid movements and enough speed to threaten. London has excellent body control, strong hands, and a massive catch radius. He also pays the bills in the short game with screens and slants. London should be a starting X receiver early in his career and Mike Evans type potential. He's currently dealing with an ankle injury.
#12 C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
6'3", 290-pounds, RS Junior
Linderbaum is undersized, but he uses leverage, strong hands, and quick feet to dominate that competition. A smart prospect who gives relentless effort and moves extremely well. He should be viewed as a center only and will work best in zone-heavy schemes. He does well in both pass pro and as a run blocker.
#13 EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
6'5", 260-pounds, Senior
Johnson has an explosive first step that allows him to get into the backfield against the run and the pass with ease. A strong and relentless edge rusher, Johnson impresses with his consistent motor to finish plays. He shows the ability to bend around the edge, rush with power, and set the edge in the run game. He has a nice toolbox as a pass rusher and should be an immediate impact at the next level. The guy reportedly ran a 4.5 40-yard dash in high school, and it still looks like he could hit that mark. Johnson's leadership, energy, and skillset on the field give him the potential to be a tone-setter upfront. He should be a scheme-versatile 3-down starter early on with Pro Bowl upside.
#14 OG Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
6'4", 325-pounds, Junior
Green has experience on the edge and inside. I like him much more as a guard, where I think he has early Pro Bowl potential. He has plus athleticism, excellent footwork, strong hands, and a good overall feel for pass protection. He uses leverage to drive defensive linemen off the ball in the run game. Green should be an immediate starter at guard, preferably on the left side, where he's been at his best.
#15 WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
6'0", 190-pounds, Junior
Wilson excels as a route runner with sudden, deceptive movements. He has superlative body control and tracking, allowing him to make some spectacular catches. He isn't the biggest receiver out there, but his explosiveness and body control allow him to play and win above the rim. Wilson excels with the ball in his hand as well, showing off dazzling footwork, quickness, and vision. He should be a three-level threat that can align anywhere on the field.
#16 WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
6'1", 189-pounds, Senior
Chris Olave has sweet feet, flawless route pacing, plenty of speed, and ball tracking skills. His frame is fairly small, but he makes up for it with his technical ability and speed. He can get knocked off his spot at times and won't be a YAC guy at the next level. But his ability to get open at all levels of the field and go get the ball will allow him to have a long, productive career in the NFL.
#17 WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
5'11", 184-pounds, Senior
Dotson creates separation quickly off the line against press-man, off-man, and zone schemes. Route technician that uses pacing as a lethal vertical passing game weapon. A bit undersized, but has terrific ball tracking and makes remarkable plays at the catch point. Still, he seems to have a modest catch radius and might not be the athlete we'd hope for. Despite this, Dotson's ability to create separation is impressive, and he projects to be a starting receiver on the outside or in the slot with Pro-Bowl upside.
#18 OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
6'4", 320-pounds, Junior
Ekwonu has a superstar trait: run blocking. He's incredibly dominant and aggressive as a run blocker. Ekwonu is a tone-setter that does well to work his way upfield. In pass pro, he's greatly improved but still struggles with some of the top competition. Modest lateral agility doesn't help in this regard. More technical refinement should see him develop, but I value pass pro more than run blocking, so I can't put him above guys that excel at a higher level in the passing game just yet.
#19 DL DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
6'4", 290-pounds, Junior
Leal hasn't reached his full potential at A&M, but he's still a high-level prospect that can and should play all over the defensive line at the next level. His combination of overall size, athleticism, strength, and flexibility is hard to overlook. He'll overpower offensive tackles and win with explosiveness and quickness on the inside. Were he a more consistent producer, Leal could be a top-five type prospect. He should be a versatile starter in the NFL for a long time with Pro Bowl upside.
#20 Trent McDuffie, Washington
5'11", 195-pounds, Junior
McDuffie's athleticism and effort made me fall in love with his game. He's going to test very well and gives it all on every play. He's a skilled cover corner in both man and zone alignments. Doesn't have tremendous length, but his athleticism, skill, instincts, and tenacity should help him overcome that minor issue. He's also not the strongest cornerback out there. There are plenty of examples of him getting eaten up by bigger receivers in run support as he struggles to get off those blocks. Still, his effort, athleticism, and skill in coverage are undeniable. He projects as a scheme-versatile outside cornerback that could potentially shift inside to the nickel as well.
#21 CB Andrew Booth, Clemson
6'0", 195-pounds, Redshirt Junior
Booth plays with tremendous physicality in press-man coverage and has quick feet and fluid hips. He's well-versed as both a man and outside zone corner. Pursuit and tackling leave a lot to be desired and will be areas he'll need to improve. He certainly has impressive ball skills, although they don't show up consistently on tape. With Booth's natural movement, athleticism, and physicality in coverage, he projects as a starting outside cornerback with upside. If he can improve his run support and get his hands on the ball at a higher clip, Booth has Pro Bowl potential.
#22 CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
6'2", 196-pounds, Junior
Elam displays a natural feel for press-man coverage and has the length, physicality, and technique to succeed at the next level. He has fluid hips and can redirect well. His tape isn't always the most consistent at Florida, and he could stand to improve as a tackler. Elam has displayed ball skills at times throughout his career. Tackling is an area for improvement. He projects to be a starting outside corner in a man-heavy scheme.
END OF ROUND 1 GRADES
#23 WR David Bell, Purdue
6'2", 205-pounds, Junior
David Bell dominates the quick and intermediate passing game at Purdue. He understands pacing, leverage, and angles. Extremely tough receiver with excellent hands who is tough to bring down once he has the ball. He has a good height/weight combo for the NFL. I'm not sure that Bell has deep speed, so testing will be important for him. Even if he doesn't run a 4.4 40, Bell should quickly develop into a starting outside receiver at the next level.
#24 DL Travon Walker, Georgia
6'5", 275-pounds, Junior
Walker possesses a rare blend of strength, length, and athleticism for a defensive lineman of his stature. He moves like a much smaller man but has the strength to hold up on the edge and inside. Walker hasn't been deployed as a true edge rusher often as Georiga likes to play games and blitz more often than not. He'll be an instant impact against the run, and given more opportunities to truly rush the passer, he should develop into a more consistent source of pressures and sacks. The flashes of pass rush moves are there. This one takes a bit of projection, but his tools combined with his skill set to win against the run, and his versatility, make him worth taking a shot early in the draft.
#25 EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
6'3", 253-pounds, Redshirt Senior
A late bloomer as a redshirt-senior Ebiketie has burst onto the scene in 2021 after transferring from Temple to Penn State. A consistent source of pressure with long, strong arms, and good flexibility to bend around the edge. Uses his hands to get free inside the tackle as well. Has rushed with his hands in the dirt and from a two-point stance, but I like him best in an odd front. Ebiketie doesn't have the desired height that some teams require, but his long arms make up for it. He doesn't appear to be an elite athlete, but his testing will be intriguing. I'd like to see him improve his leverage, which shouldn't be hard thanks to his stature and overall contact balance. Ebiketie does well to set the edge in the run game and has the strength to do so at the next level. He's also capable of making splash plays in the backfield. He projects as a starting 3-4 edge rusher.
EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
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