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NFL Draft 2022: Offensive Player Position Rankings

Malik Willis, Liberty

Spring has sprung across most of the United States, which means that the NFL Draft is right around the corner. This year's draft process has returned to normalcy after the wacky 2020 and 2021 editions, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of intrigue throughout the first round. In preparation for the impending event, it's time for my definitive rankings of each position group, beginning with the offense. It's important to note that this isn't the order I envision players to be drafted in, but instead where I would draft them if     I were an NFL GM. Without further ado, let's get into it.


1. Malik Willis, Liberty -- In an underwhelming quarterback class, Malik Willis takes the cake as the best signal-caller available. The former Auburn Tiger had an extremely productive career at Liberty, and has now caught the attention of NFL scouts with his electrifying playmaking ability and huge arm. That doesn't mean he's a perfect prospect; his mechanics are funky and his decision-making was suspect throughout his collegiate career. However, he's the one quarterback in this Draft that I could envision being a true superstar, even if the bust potential is similarly high. He reminds me of Robert Griffin III coming out college, even if he wasn't quite as accomplished. Willis is an even better fit in the modern NFL than Griffin was out of college and as long as he can stay healthy, I think he's worthy of a Top 10 selection this spring.

Projected Range: Early to late first round

2. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh -- Kenny Pickett is a prime example of how quickly opinions can change about quarterback prospects. For much of his Pittsburgh career, he was an average, rather underwhelming Power Five QB who didn't seem to have much of an NFL future. Then came the 2021 season, where he exploded for over 4,000 yards and 42 touchdowns en route to being a Heisman finalist. He's now the favorite to be the top QB off the board in the Draft and likely a first-round lock. I can understand why Pickett has garnered significant support among NFL decision-makers; he's always had an accurate arm and poise in the pocket, while playing with a certain swagger and energy that you can't teach. Yet, I have him rated lower than Willis because I don't think the ceiling is quite there. I have a feeling Pickett will be a solid NFL quarterback with a long career, but I don't see him ever being a true superstar. With that being said, a huge portion of the league would love a stable, well-built quarterback like him leading the way.

Projected Range: Early to late first round

3. Carson Strong, Nevada -- Behind Willis and Pickett, there's a drop-off in quality of quarterback prospects in this class, but Carson Strong could be a huge steal, especially if he lasts until the second or third round like some are projecting. The Nevada product isn't an elite athlete and there are reports his medicals have been cause for concern, but he's 6'4" with potentially the best natural arm talent of this cycle. He put up monster numbers throughout his Nevada career and has followed that up with solid showings throughout the NFL Draft process. I've seen Strong compared to Phillip Rivers and I think it's an apt comparison; he doesn't move well in the pocket, but has a proven body of work in college and a great arm. How quickly he can pick up an NFL offense will determine what type of impact he'll be able to make early on at the next level.

Projected Range: Late first to mid-third round

4. Matt Corral, Ole Miss -- Matt Corral is a prospect you will hear a lot of differing opinions on. Some scouts love his arm talent and mobility, while others question his decision-making and fit in an NFL offense. I think you're going to have to weigh both sides of the equation with Corral. He makes some jaw-dropping plays, but many of the fundamental parts of his game still need plenty of refinement. It would be ideal if he landed in a scenario where he was able to take a "redshirt" year and learn behind a veteran QB, but that isn't always the reality of the modern NFL. 

Projected Range: Mid-first to mid-second round

5. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati -- As the winningest quarterback in Cincinnati school history and the first QB to lead a Group of Five program to the CFB Playoff, Desmond Ridder will always be somewhat of a living legend in college football lore. As for his NFL future, there's a lot to like and, of course, plenty that he needs to work on. He's a well-rounded quarterback who moves extremely well for his size and was extremely consistent in college. Ridder does need to prove he can throw the deep ball more consistently, something he wasn't asked to do much in the collegiate ranks, and also polish off his mechanics. With that being said, one thing I really like about him is the fact he improved each and every year while at Cincinnati. That doesn't mean he's an elite quarterback prospect, but demonstrates a certain work ethic and willingness to learn that should serve him well as he prepares for the next step.

Projected Range: Mid-first round to late second round

Sleeper: Jack Coan, Notre Dame -- There's nothing flashy about the way Jack Coan plays, but the former Wisconsin and Notre Dame quarterback had a productive college career and should carve himself a backup role somewhere in the NFL. Coan has a decent arm, tremendous pocket awareness, and is a much better athlete than most give him credit for. He didn't put up gaudy numbers in college playing on run-first teams, but proved to be more than capable of running the show. He's likely to land somewhere in the late rounds, but is worth a flier for any team looking for an intelligent, capable quarterback to fill out their roster.

Projected Range: Early fifth to early seventh round

Running backs

1. Breece Hall, Iowa State -- Much like quarterback, this is not exactly a banner year for running backs, but Breece Hall is a proven commodity who was an absolute workhorse at Iowa State. Hall's known as a power back, but he has displayed decent shiftiness and open-field speed when needed. He's also a decent pass-catcher out of the backfield, as well as solid pass blocker. I don't expect Hall to ever round into an All-Pro tailback, but could certainly see him landing somewhere as an every down option for a power-run team. Don't expect to see him sneak into the first round, but Hall is likely to find his name called anytime shortly after.

Projected Range: Early second to early third round

2. James Cook, Georgia --  Zamir White is the Georgia back likely to go higher in this Draft but if I were an NFL GM, James Cook would be my choice. Dalvin's younger brother has electrifying playmaking potential, even if he wasn't able to show it very often while in Athens. Cook has elite open-field speed and explosiveness, and had a knack for breaking off huge runs for the Bulldogs. He's a tremendous pass-catcher out of the backfield and has the versatility to help offenses in countless ways. To me, he's reminiscent of Reggie Bush coming out of college, but obviously without all the accolades or the top-end speed. 

Projected Range: Early third to late fourth round

3. Brian Robinson Jr., Alabama -- It's no secret Alabama has had a long run of elite tailbacks, but with a mixed track record of success in the NFL. Robinson is no Derrick Henry or Najee Harris, but the Tide product had a long 'Bama career and proved to be more than capable. He's not known for his speed, but relies more on excellent vision, patience, and superb burst through the hole. Robinson was overshadowed by the success of his backfield mate, Heisman-winning Bryce Young, but still proved his worth with a 1,300-yard, 14 touchdown campaign. I think Robinson has a chance to settle in as more of a third-down tailback than anything else, although I think he's being a little too overlooked at this point in the process.

Projected Range: Early third to early fifth round

4. Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State -- Few players in college football had the type of season Kenneth Walker III had in 2021. After sharing the backfield during his time at Wake Forest, Walker exploded this fall, running for over 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns as Michigan State went 11-2 and won a New Year's Six bowl. While I understand why Bryce Young won the Heisman, to my mind Walker was the most consistently great player in college football all season long, with the lone exception being the Ohio State loss. He helped himself out with a strong performance at the NFL Combine, but is still likely a mid-round pick right now. There may be some concerns that his 2021 was merely a fluke, but there's no doubt in my mind he can be a productive NFL tailback. Simply look back to that Michigan game; against a defense full of future NFL players (including potential No. 1 selection Aidan Hutchinson) Walker went for nearly 200 yards and totaled five scores.

Projected Range: Late second to late fourth round

5. Kyren Williams, Notre Dame -- Kyren Williams burst onto the scene in 2020, as the surprise starter went for over 1,100 yards for the Playoff-bound Irish during the shortened COVID campaign. Although he still notched over 1,000 again last fall, it wasn't quite the encore some had hoped for the redshirt sophomore. As he looks ahead towards the NFL, teams are wary about his size and scheme fit at the next level. Fair concerns, but I'm higher on Williams than a lot of NFL personnel seem to be. He's a compact back with adequate quickness who does the little things, such as pass blocking, extremely well. I see a lot of Austin Ekeler in the way he plays and while he won't be a high draft selection, should offer great late-round value.

Projected Range: Early fourth to late sixth round

Sleeper: Max Borghi, Washington State -- After a solid career at Washington State, Max Borghi enters the NFL Draft as an unheralded name who could surprise some folks. He was often underutilized with the Cougars, spending most of his time in the Mike Leach Air Raid offense and struggling through injury. He offers plenty of playmaking potential as a shifty, elusive runner with decent burst. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, as evidenced by monster catching numbers in the Leach offense. Borghi is viewed more as a likely special teams weapon than anything else, but he could surprise some folks if he lands in the right spot.

Projected Range: Early fifth to late seventh round


1. Garrett Wilson -- This receiver group isn't as strong as the last few editions, but Garrett Wilson is still worthy of a Top 10-15 selection in my eyes. Even though he split targets with Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Wilson was highly productive throughout his time in Columbus, thanks in large part to his elite speed and deep threat ability. He's got a gigantic catch radius and despite not being the largest guy on the field, his ability to jump out of the stadium makes him a liability against any type of defender. The thing is, I think he's still growing as a receiver, and may just be scratching the surface. 

Projected Range: Early to late first round

2. Jameson Williams -- If not for a torn ACL suffered in the National Championship Game, Jameson Williams would seriously challenge Wilson for the top spot. Even with his future somewhat in question, the former Ohio State transfer is one of the best wide outs in this class. He got an opportunity to fully blossom after moving on to Alabama and put together a monster season. In my mind, he was the best receiver in college football this fall, and should have the Biletnikoff Award winner. Williams' mix of size and speed makes him a matchup nightmare, and he's the type of receiver who will fit in just about any scheme.

Projected Range: Mid-first to early second round

3. Treylon Burks -- Most mocks have Treylon Burks going somewhere in the Top 15-20 and yet I still feel as though the Arkansas product is slightly underrated. He was a three-year contributor on Arkansas teams that were either terrible, like the 2019 group, or one-dimensional offensively, like the 2020 and 2021 teams. It's not the production either, he has ideal size-speed ratio, standing at 6'3", 225 pounds, but still proving to be an explosive weapon in the open field. Burks didn't run as well at the Combine, which has threatened to drop him to the late first round, but if you watch any of his tape in school, there's no question he's got burners.

Projected Range: Mid-first to early second round

4. George Pickens -- If not for missing most of the 2021 college football season, George Pickens would have likely been a first-round lock in this Draft. Even with the injury costing him so much, Pickens still looks like he has a good chance to sneak into the bottom half of the first round. He's possibly the most purely talented receiver in the class and showcased vast potential with Georgia, but the primary concern surrounding him is maturity questions. There were several cases during his time with the Bulldogs that he made boneheaded moves that ended up costing the team. Pickens has some growing up to do and recovering from a torn ACL hasn't helped him in the pre-Draft process, but I wouldn't be shocked if he ends up being one of the steals of this Draft.

Projected Range: Late first to late second round

5. Chris Olave -- Chris Olave had an illustrious Ohio State career, finishing with 2,711 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns, despite splitting targets and also playing during the shortened 2020 campaign. He's likely to go below his two former teammates in Wilson and Williams, but should still land somewhere in the first. Olave is a polished route runner with sure hands and while he doesn't have elite top-end speed, he can still move very well. Olave may not have the ceiling of other receivers in this group, but I think he will have a long, productive NFL career.

Projected Range: Mid-first to mid-second round

Sleeper: Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama

A two-star prospect coming out of high school, Jalen Tolbert has exceeded expectations every step of playing career. After having a breakout 2019, Tolbert followed that up with two more stellar seasons for South Alabama, including going for 1,474 yards in 2021. Tolbert has then continued to improve his draft stock with strong showings at both the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, likely locking him in somewhere around the mid-rounds. Although he isn't the largest receiver at 6'1", 195 pounds, he's a smooth athlete who looks the part. He had occasional problems with drops during his South Alabama career, but the production speaks for itself. Even in a deep receiver class, Tolbert should be worthy of consideration within the first three rounds.

Projected Range: Late second to early fourth round

Tight Ends

1. Trey McBride, Colorado State -- Even on a Colorado State team that has suffered some rough years in recent memory, Trey McBride proved to be one of the best tight ends anywhere in the nation. He led FBS tight ends with 90 receptions for 1,121 yards this past fall and has the clear John Mackey Award winner, even with suspect play at the quarterback position. As he prepares for the NFL, scouts have no doubt that his reliable hands and proven route running ability will make him a worthy weapon for years to come. He isn't as strong of a blocker as you'd like to see at this point in his career but with the way the NFL is moving, I'm not sure that's a huge issue. I see McBride as an early second round prospect who offers excellent value, likely to have a long pro career.

Projected Range: Early second to late third round

2. Cade Otton, Washington -- Viewed by many as one of the top tight ends in the country before a quiet 2021, a lot of people seem to have forgotten about Cade Otton. In some ways, it's understandable; Washington was one of the most disappointing teams in college football this past season, their passing game was nonexistent, and Otton also missed time with COVID. However, somebody is going to be getting a steal in the mid-rounds with this guy. Although Otton isn't quite as athletic as others in this Draft, he's a tough, gritty competitor with soft hands. He's a well-rounded tight end prospect who could fit in just about any NFL offense and move the chains. I think he could be one of the major steals of this cycle nobody is talking about.

Projected Range: Early third to late fourth round

3. Greg Dulcich, UCLA -- Greg Dulcich is a name that seems to be trending at the right time, as he's looking like an early Day Two pick. It's fair to see why there is interest in the UCLA product; he had a strong Bruin career, has great size, and excellent open field speed for the position. There were times throughout his career at UCLA where he looked and played more like a large boundary receiver than true tight end, and I think NFL teams can be creative with how they use him.

Projected Range: Mid-second to late third round

4. Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina -- One of the primary reasons for Coastal Carolina's success the last two seasons, Isaiah Likely has the tools to be a very productive NFL tight end. He's one of, if not the, fastest players at his position in this Draft and his ability to contort his body and make contested catches is something you don't see often from tight ends like him. If there is one thing he clearly needs to work on it's his blocking ability, which is way below where it should be at this point in his career. If he doesn't round that out, he's more than likely a situational tight end than every-down starter,

Projected Range: Late third to early fifth round

5. Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M -- One of the players I'm most conflicted about in this Draft is Texas A&M product Jalen Wydermyer. On one hand, he put up consistently great numbers during his Aggie career and isn't your typical tight end. On the other, he played in a Jimbo Fisher offense that absolutely leans on tight ends, likely inflating his numbers. Plus, he had a lot more drops in 2021 than previous years, so it's hard to tell whether that was an aberration or a reality of him as a player. Wydermyer still is a good athlete with a lot of the physical tools you like in a modern TE, but I'm not super sold on him going any higher than Day Three.

Projected Range: Early fourth to early sixth round

Sleeper: Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin -- As a Minnesota Gopher fan, I know first-hand the type of impact Jake Ferguson can have on the gridiron. The Wisconsin Badger product put together an impressive career in Madison, but is viewed more as a late round possibility than anything else. He doesn't jump off the page athletically like others in this class and the route running needs work, but I could certainly see a future for him in the pros. He has a lot of the tools necessary to be a real red zone presence and should be able to carve out a niche role somewhere in this league.

Projected Range: Early sixth round to undrafted

Offensive Line

1. Ikem Ekwonu, NC State -- While most NFL personnel view Evan Neal as the top offensive linemen in this Draft, Ikem Ekwonu would be the top off my board. Playing at NC State he didn't get a ton of national attention, but is an absolute mauler who had a highly productive career with the Wolfpack. Ekwonu can play either guard or tackle, but projects more as a tackle than anything else at the next level. He'll have work to do to refine his pass blocking, but the physical traits are there and I'm extremely impressed by his college tape.

Projected Range: Early first to mid-first round

2. Evan Neal, Alabama -- Clearly there's a lot to like about Evan Neal, and he still has a decent chance to go No. 1 overall. It's rare you see a guy who is 6'7", 350 pounds, who can accomplish the athletic feats that he can. He projects very well to the NFL, but I'm slightly wary on him, at least compared to most NFL scouts I follow. While he was a regular starter from the moment he stepped on campus at Alabama, I found Neal to be awfully inconsistent during his Tide career. There were several times in 2021 where he was outplayed by opposing defensive lines, which resulted in Bryce Young having to work his magic to get the Tide offense going. Playing in the SEC every week, it's understandable to have an off-day or two, but Neal never jumped off the page at me the way you might expect. He's still certainly worthy of a Top 10 selection, but proceed with some level of caution.

Projected Range: Early first to mid-first round

3. Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa -- Based solely on the position they play, interior offensive linemen are always valued a bit different than other positions in the Draft, especially centers. Yet, Tyler Linderbaum is not only worthy of a first-round pick, I have him in my Top 10. It's nearly impossible to describe just how completely dominant he was throughout his Iowa career, playing on an O-Line that included Tristan Wirfs and several other NFL linemen. After racking up the awards in his time with the Hawkeyes, Linderbaum should become the next Iowa blocker to enjoy a lengthy pro career. Although he's slightly undersized for the position at 290 pounds, there's no doubt in my mind he'll have a successful NFL future.

Projected Range: Mid-first to late first round

4. Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa -- Although he played at a "small school" Trevor Penning has big-time talent. Penning first earned recognition with impressive play during the wacky 2020 season, but followed it up with an even better 2021. However, Penning really cemented his first-round status with dominant showings throughout the pre-Draft process, where he dominated Power Five competition. Penning can play either left or right tackle and after a stellar college career, should acclimate quickly to the NFL.

Projected Range: Mid-first to early second round

5. Kenyon Green, Texas A&M -- A highly decorated player coming out of high school, Kenyon Green did not disappoint, with an impressive career at Texas A&M. During his time with the Aggies, Green played both guard and tackle and was regularly one of the top blockers in the loaded SEC. He can play either spot in the NFL, but is significantly stronger at guard, where his physical traits really shine through. There were times when exotic blitzes or twists gave some troubles in the college ranks which will have to be ironed out, but I think he's more than capable of being a first-round selection.

Projected Range: Late first to late second round

Sleeper: Luke Goedeke, Central Michigan -- While his teammate, Bernhard Raimann, is the one getting most of the potential first-round attention, I would not be shocked if Luke Goedeke ended up being the better pro. After missing all of 2020, Goedeke returned this fall and put together a strong campaign for the Chippewas. He hasn't been able to build on that too much due to the fact he left the Senior Bowl early, but he's a hard-nosed blocker who is deceptively athletic. Most mocks I've seen have him landing somewhere in the third or fourth round, which certainly puts him in steal territory.

Projected Range: Early third to late fourth round

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