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2022 NFL Draft Sneak Peek

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Even though the No. 1 overall pick was known throughout pretty much the entire process, the 2021 NFL Draft was still full of mystery and intrigue. With a bunch of opt-outs to contend with and no true NFL Combine, teams were forced to operate and evaluate differently than in previous years. The hope and expectation is that the 2022 NFL Draft will be normal, or at least as close to "normal" as you can get in this day and age. It may be a whole year away, but it's always a fun activity to break down some names that should dominate the NFL Draft conversation throughout this next fall and spring. Per usual, there's plenty of offensive playmakers to keep an eye on and this next year should also have a nice influx of pass rushers, after a relatively down 2021 cycle.


Sam Howell, North Carolina

A former high-profile recruit who has lived up to the billing so far, Sam Howell won the quarterback job immediately as a true freshman in Chapel Hill and has put up prolific numbers. As a freshman, he threw for 3,641 yards and 38 touchdowns and then put up very similar numbers in 2020 despite a shortened schedule (3,586 yards, 30 touchdowns). In his two seasons of college football, he's shown excellent pure arm talent and the mobility to move around in the pocket very well. Howell has shown development as a quarterback, improving his completion percentage from Year One to Year Two and showing improved decision-making. At 6'1", he's a little bit on the small side for an NFL quarterback but that shouldn't count too much against him, considering all of his other strengths. 2021 should be a big season for him, as UNC could enter as a preseason Top 10 team. He'll also have to show he can make do without several of his top receivers from a year ago, including Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome, now both in the NFL.

Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

After seeing the field sparingly in 2019 as a backup to Jalen Hurts, Spencer Rattler took the reigns of the Oklahoma offense this past fall. After some early growing pains, he ended the season playing just about as well as any quarterback in the nation, including a three-touchdown performance in the Cotton Bowl victory over Florida. Even greater things are expected from Rattler in 2021, thanks to a more normal off-season and a healthier OU receiver group. His huge arm is an ideal fit for this offense, but he will need to polish off other elements of his game. His decision-making can still be faulty at times and he still struggles to recognize different defenses and coverages. Learning from Lincoln Riley is a fine place to start and the raw tools are in place.

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

By the time the 2022 NFL Draft swings around, Desmond Ridder will most likely be the most accomplished signal-caller in the cycle. He already ranks as the winningest QB in Cincinnati history, going 30-5 as starter, and has amassed 6,905 yards and 67 touchdowns in that span. He's caught the attention of NFL folks not only because of the experience, but also his mix of size (6'4") and athleticism. He's not exactly a speedster, but can still create plays with his legs thanks to his shiftiness and vision. He likely would've been a Day One or Two selection in the 2021 class but opted to stay put for one more year. If he once again leads Cincinnati to a New Year's Six bowl, he'll almost definitely be one of the first quarterbacks taken in 2022.

Others to Watch

Brock Purdy, Iowa State

Kedon Slovis, USC

J.T. Daniels, Georgia

Matt Corral, Ole Miss

Malik Willis, Liberty

Tanner Morgan, Minnesota

Carson Strong, Nevada


Breece Hall, Iowa State

Breece Hall emerged as a legitimate Heisman finalist during the 2020 campaign, leading all of Power Five football with 1,572 yards. He showed just about every trait that an NFL team could want in a young running back, with a nice blend of power and speed. Hall excels through contact, generating 935 yards after contact in the '20 season. He's also a solid pass blocker and could even feature as a pass-catcher in the backfield if necessary. Iowa State is likely to enter the 2021 season with possibly the highest expectations the program has ever had, and Hall is a major reason for that. 

Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M

Following an injury to former A&M tailback Jashaun Corbin, Isaiah Spiller was forced into duty as a true freshman in 2019. He responded with 946 yards in his first season on campus, before following that up with an even bigger 2020, totaling 1,036 yards during the shortened season. Much like Hall, Spiller is considered more of a power runner that would work well as a workhorse option in the pros, but he actually times in at a 4.58 40-yard dash. He's not going to fly past NFL defenders, but still has enough speed in the open field to be a dangerous weapon. Expect Spiller to be featured early and often in the fall, with the Aggies breaking in a new quarterback. With enough work at a high-profile school, it wouldn't be shocking if Spiller plays himself into RB1.

Zamir White, Georgia

The latest in a long line of elite Georgia running backs, Zamir White should be in store for a monster 2021 season. He finished 2020 with 709 yards and 11 touchdowns, despite often splitting time with fellow back James Cook. While Cook returns, White has the makings of a true workhorse, as a well-rounded, physical rusher whose physique jumps out at you. The only thing that could make NFL teams wary is White's injury history. White tore his right ACL in the senior year of his illustrious high school career and then tore the ACL in the other knee during a scrimmage in August of 2018. He'll have to prove that these past injuries don't define him and he can go forward and have a long pro career.

Others to Watch

Kevin Harris, South Carolina

Brian Robinson, Alabama

Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota

Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma

Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss

C.J. Verdell, Oregon


George Pickens, Georgia

After leading the Bulldogs in receiving as a true freshman, George Pickens entered 2020 with insanely high expectations. He still put up fairly strong numbers, totaling 36 receptions for 513 yards, but there were some that felt he could've done even more. With improved quarterback play now that J.T. Daniels is in place, Pickens likely would've entered this season as a Biletnikoff Award finalist, but he tore his ACL just a few months ago. It's unclear what his status will be for the fall; there's some hope that he can return, but he almost definitely won't be ready to go for the season opener. Even so, Pickens has the tools to be a dynamic NFL wide out, with a well-built 6'3", 200 pound frame. He's already a great route runner for his age and has elite hands. The major question, beyond the ACL injury, is whether he can stay out of trouble on the field. In his short UGA career, Pickens has not shied away from controversy, including a fistfight against rival Georgia Tech and receiving an infamous unsportmanslike conduct penalty against Tennessee for spraying QB Jarrett Guarantano in the face with a water bottle. There's no denying his talent, but he needs to be smarter as a player to be worthy of a first-round selection.

John Metchie III, Alabama

Even though he was often overshadowed by DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, John Metchie II emerged as a real difference-maker for the Tide in 2020. He finished with 916 yards and 55 receptions on the season and had one of the great highlights of the year when he leveled a Florida defender returning an INT, causing him to subsequently fumble. He'll now become Alabama's No. 1 option in the passing game and should put up big numbers catching the ball from new quarterback Bryce Young. It wouldn't be surprising to see him develop into an All-American, Biletnikoff Award-level player, particularly when you consider how 'Bama has developed the receiver position the last few seasons. It's not just Smith or Waddle, but Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Amari Cooper before that. Expect Metchie to continue that proud Tide tradition.

Justyn Ross, Clemson

There might not be a more significant wild card in college football this upcoming season than Justyn Ross, at least at the receiver position. Ross had 1,865 yards in two seasons from 2018-2019 for Clemson, including a coming-out party in their 2018 National Championship domination of Alabama. He was expected to be an All-American in 2020 and move onto the NFL, but a spinal injury threatened his entire football career. The expectation is that he should be able to return for 2021 and if he can regain his old form, this is one of college football's best wide outs, without much question. Ross also has a bunch of attributes NFL scouts love from his size to his route running tree to his insane catch radius. If he can come back healthy he's WR1 for next year's Draft, especially considering it may be a "down year" at receiver after the last two cycles.

Others to Watch

Chris Olave, Ohio State

Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

Jahan Dotson, Penn State

Ty Fryfogle, Indiana

Tight Ends

Charlie Kolar, Iowa State

In his three seasons playing tight end for Iowa State, Charlie Kolar has built up an impressive resume. He was All-Conference his redshirt freshman campaign before putting together two consecutive All-American seasons for the Cyclones. He likely would've been a second or third round draft selection this year but instead decided to stay for one more year in Ames. Operating as QB Brock Purdy's security blanket, Kolar is likely to be targeted early and often in the ISU offense, and he has some of the best hands you'll ever see at the tight end position. Kolar isn't going to wow scouts with his athleticism or speed, but he's a proven tight end who can block and be an asset in the passing attack. There's obviously a market for that in the NFL and he could theoretically play himself into the first round this fall.

Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State

Ohio State's loaded receiver room may threaten to overshadow anything else on their offense, but NFL scouts love tight end Jeremy Ruckert. He's 6'5", 250 pounds but there are rumors that he runs a 40-yard dash in the 4.6-4.7 range. When you see him on the field, he moves more like a prototypical receiver than a TE and you can move him around pretty much anywhere you'd like on the field. He may have to get better as a blocker to be worthy of a first-rounder, but he'll get plenty of looks, especially with the way tight ends are valued in the modern NFL.

Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher has always been a coach that loves to utilize his tight ends and that philosophy has helped turn Jalen Wydermyer into a star. As a freshman he led the Aggies with six receiving touchdowns and totaled 447 yards. In 2020, his numbers got even better (506 yards, 6 TD) despite playing fewer games. He was named John Mackey Award finalist in '20 and will likely enter 2021 as a heavy favorite. Some of his targets may be swallowed up by fellow tight end Baylor Cupp, now healthy after two consecutive season-ending injuries, but he's still primed to make a heavy impact on a team with SEC West Title aspirations.

Others to Watch

Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin

Braden Galloway, Clemson

Peyton Hendershot, Indiana

Jahleel Billingsley, Alabama

Offensive Line

Evan Neal, Alabama

The top-rated offensive tackle in the 2019 recruiting cycle, Evan Neal has not disappointed in his first two seasons in Tuscaloosca. He's started 26 total games over the past two years, splitting time between left guard and right tackle. Neal is most natural at left tackle and may take over the reigns at that spot in 2021 now that Alex Leatherwood is a Las Vegas Raider, but his versatility to play along the line is a major selling point. At 6'7", 340 pounds, Neal is an absolute giant even by most O-Line standards, but he's surprisingly light on his feet. He's already shown immense growth as a run blocker, and should continue to develop into a more consistent blocker this fall.

Zion Nelson, Miami (FL)

Even though Zion Nelson wasn't rated very high coming out of high school, he's quickly developed into one of the best offensive linemen in the nation. As a true freshman he started all 13 games for Miami at left tackle, then followed it up by starting seven of Miami's ten games in 2020. He's not as massive as Neal and there will be no expectations he can play guard in the NFL, but Nelson has put on over 70 pounds since arriving in Coral Gables. He continues to not only grow physically, but as a blocker, showing more consistency down the stretch last fall than at any other point in his career. If he can continue to show improvement this upcoming summer and fall, he can push and even possibly overtake Neal as the top O-Linemen taking in the class.

Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

Isaiah Spiller's dominance over the last two seasons can be credited to plenty of different things, but some should go to Kenyon Green and the Aggie offensive line. They've consistently opened massive holes for Spiller to work with and should do so again in 2021. Green's been the key piece to the unit; he was an All-SEC Freshman in 2019 before a flat-out dominant 2020, in which he was a consensus All-American. Green can operate at either guard spot and possibly even help at tackle if needed, although that's far from his natural spot. He's already asserted himself as the best interior offensive linemen in the nation, but there's some hope he could get even better, as he is just 20 years of age.

Others to Watch

Rasheed Walker, Penn State

Austin Deculus, LSU

Tyler Lindebaum, Iowa

Josh Sills, Oklahoma State

Jamaree Salyer, Georgia

Defensive Line

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

If I had to put money on a player being the No. 1 pick in the 2022 Draft and it couldn't be quarterback, Kayvon Thibodeaux would easily be my selection. Once rated as the nation's top recruit, Thibodeaux has come on and played very well for Oregon and there's plenty of people who think he's only scratching the surface. He checks a bunch of boxes, with a frame ready-made for the NFL, but freakish athleticism and a tireless motor. He's grown quickly under the tutelage of Mario Cristobal and the rest of the Ducks staff, which is beginning to turn into somewhat of a factory in terms of front seven prospects. Thibodeaux is well-rounded off the field as well, a player who earned a 3.8 GPA in high school and earned an offer to Stanford, which should aid in his understanding of NFL concepts and schemes. After a down year for pass rushers in the 2021 class, Thibodeaux is the type of edge rusher that will get NFL scouts and personnel excited about the '22 cycle.

DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M

If you're looking for a breakout star for the 2021 college football season, look no further than Texas A&M's DeMarvin Leal. The former five-star recruit has shown flashes over the past two seasons, tallying 4.5 sacks and 37 tackles, but he's in line for so much more. He can line up either at strong-side defensive end or inside at defensive tackle, where his athleticism and footwork overwhelm interior offensive linemen. In the NFL, Leal's most likely fit given his size would be at defensive end, where he's already established himself as an elite run stopper for the position. Even playing in an SEC loaded with future NFL offensive linemen, Leal should jump out as a savvy, well-built pass rusher whose only going to get better.

Zach Harrison, Ohio State

No school in the entire country has been producing elite pass rushers quite like Ohio State. In just the past half-decade, they've sent both Bosa brothers, Sam Hubbard, and Chase Young to the pros, as well as several interior defensive linemen. Next up is Zach Harrison, another former prized recruit ready for a huge 2021 season. As a true freshman, Harrison played in all 14 games and finished with 3.5 sacks, but played his best football down the stretch. He seemed primed for a huge 2020 but the shortened Big Ten schedule restricted him to a relatively quiet two sacks and 14 tackles. With a normal off-season, Harrison should take full advantage, continuing to learn and develop under Ohio State D-Line coach Larry Johnson. With a 6'6", 265 pound frame, Harrison's quickness and explosive first step are his clear strengths, but he'll have to round out other parts of his game and get stronger to be worthy of a first-round selection next spring.

Others to Watch

George Karlaftis, Purdue

D.J. Dale, Alabama

Drake Jackson, USC

Tyler Davis, Clemson

Zacch Pickens, South Carolina


Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma

There's no Micah Parsons in the 2022 Draft Class, at least not yet, but Oklahoma's Nik Bonitto could emerge as the top LB going forward. Bonitto has played a major role in OU's defensive improvement over the last two seasons. After compiling 43 tackles and displaying key coverage abilities, he demonstrated that he could also get after opposing quarterbacks, finishing tied for third in the Big 12 with 8.5 sacks. He continues to an incredibly versatile defensive playmaker who can help in blitz packages or step back and cover tight ends or running backs. Bonitto has a good chance to be the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year on a Sooner team that may begin 2021 No. 1 in the country, elevating his national recognition and stock.

Brenton Cox, Florida

After beginning his career at Georgia, Brenton Cox made the move south to Gainesville and emerged as the most consistent piece of Todd Grantham's defense. He began his collegiate career known solely as a pure pass rusher from the linebacker spot, but has demonstrated that he can do much more than that. He's particularly improved as a run stopper, with solid instincts and a real nose for the ball. He's a fearless, physical defender that has had more than a few highlight-reel hits. In order to help secure a spot in next year's first-round, he'll have to continue to refine other parts of his game and also demonstrate that he has solved off-the-field questions. Cox was originally dismissed from UGA and there are rumors that he's not a good locker room piece. Answering those concerns should be of top priority for a linebacker that has top-notch talent.

Mike Rose, Iowa State

Even though he may not have the elite athleticism or pure talent of other linebackers in this class, Mike Rose will likely finish his career as one of the most accomplished linebackers anywhere in the nation. He's been a three-year starter for Iowa State, earning Honorable Mention All-Big 12 each of the first two seasons. In 2020, he took it up another notch, winning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and earning All-American honors after recording 96 tackles, five interceptions, and 10.5 TFL. He's demonstrated natural instincts and a feel for the game that reminds you of a ten-year NFL veteran, and he's one of the better form tacklers in the country. Rose could've gone pro this past spring and instead decided to come back to Ames and join a Cyclone team that should be a Top 10 preseason team. The move could certainly help his stock, especially if he can once again earn All-American recognition.

Others to Watch

Christian Harris, Alabama

Devin Lloyd, Utah

Kuony Deng, California

Owen Pappoe, Auburn

Nolan Smith, Georgia


Derek Stingley, LSU

Derek Stingley began earning a reputation before he even started playing at LSU, gaining national recognition for his play in the spring and fall camps. He immediately played snaps as a true freshman and made a massive impact, starting all 15 games and picking off six passes, enough to earn All-American recognition. Massive things were expected of him going into 2020, but LSU's defensive struggles and injuries left him without a single INT on the season. He still proved to be one of the better cover corners in the SEC, but will hope for a more normal 2021 campaign. Either way, Stingley has a lot to like as an NFL prospect, as well-rounded defender with incredible ball skills. As long as he is able to stay healthy, he'll become a favorite for the Jim Thorpe Award and a top candidate for the top defensive back off the board.

Kaiir Elam, Florida

Florida has become a machine at pumping out future NFL defensive backs over the last decade and the next in line is corner Kaiir Elam. Even though the Gator pass defense struggled throughout much of 2020, Elam emerged as a genuine star, with 39 tackles, two interceptions, and 11 pass breakups. He demonstrated elite range and closing ability, proving to already be an expert on jumping passing routes. From an NFL perspective, he has ideal size at 6'2" and a well-built frame that has had no problems keeping up in the physical SEC. Elam will hope that his play will start translating to more success for a Gator defense that is more talented than their 2020 numbers would indicate.

Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati

Ahmad Gardner has developed into one of the best defenders on a Cincinnati team with serious aspirations entering 2021. Despite being a three-star recruit with very little fanfare, Gardner immediately contributed as a true freshman, with three interceptions. He built on that with a tremendous 2020 season in which he once again recorded three picks, and also had six pass deflections. Over the last two seasons, he has played 642 coverage snaps and been targeted 98 times, allowing zero touchdowns. Although he may not be as purely talented as some of the top Power Five guys, the numbers speak for themselves. Gardner's good enough to be a Jim Thorpe favorite and play a pivotal role for a team that could crash the CFB Playoff conversation.

Others to Watch

Josh Jobe, Alabama

Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

Bubba Bolden, Miami (FL)

Sevyn Banks, Ohio Satte

Trent McDuffie, Washington

Jordan Battle, Alabama

Reed Blankenship, Middle Tennessee State

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