With the all-star games having passed and the Scouting Combine approaching quickly, it’s a good time to take a look at the updated big board for the 2022 NFL Draft.
While many question how working out without pads can significantly impact these players’ final grades, I argue that it’s not so much the testing numbers as much as living up to the expectation. These workouts are like the final exam at the end of a school year. The process is vital. It’s much more than the “Underwear Olympics,” as some have deemed them.
With that in mind, here are my top 2022 NFL Draft prospects leading up to the next month and a half of workouts.
2022 NFL Draft Prospects: 21-40
21. Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Daxton Hill is built to thrive into today’s game as a versatile defensive back who is equally capable of covering slots or tight ends. He is a physical, long-armed athlete with terrific pursuit speed, and I love how he reacts to his reads as well as the angles he takes.
On passing downs, he can line up in two deep or single-high, when not in the slot or matching up, and his burst and willingness to play through blocks show up as a blitzer. Against the run, he is a discipline tackler that doesn’t compromise his angle or ability to wrap up by trying to throw knockout shots.
22. George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
George Karlaftis is a guy that I’ve seen a wide range of opinions on for good reason. The 2022 NFL Draft has many powerful defenders that can line up on the edge, and he is definitely near the top of the list. From his heavy hands to his core strength and leg drive, nothing about the former Boilermaker is needs to get stronger.
He’s a handful to deal with on all three-downs, and his motor is always running hot. However, his athleticism will not be quite up to par with some of the more explosive edge rushers. Karlaftis does have solid burst off the snap, but the flexibility to turn the corner and accelerate is just above average, and his change-of-direction skills are about the same. Still, I doubt he falls out of the first round.
23. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
While Chris Olave may not have Drake London’s size, Garrett Wilson’s burst, or Jameson William’s deep speed, none of those three have his polish for the position. I can’t help watching his tape and thinking of Robert Woods and what a detailed receiver he is.
Olave has exceptional feet and body control, and tracks the ball as well as anyone in this class. In addition, he’s got such good a feel for where he is on the field and in coverage and adjusts his tempo accordingly. He is the definition of a quarterback’s best friend and has the skill set of a guy who should catch 100-plus balls a year.
24. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
As I mentioned above, it seems like every receiver listed so far has an exceptional trait, and Treylon Burks does as well. For the former Razorback, it’s his play strength. The guy is built like Steelers’ running back Najee Harris and has tremendous speed for that size.
He is physical at the catch-point, routinely bringing in throws despite contact from the defensive back. Burks is also a versatile player that has lined up in the backfield and run his fair share of gadget plays. It’s tempting to look at what Deebo Samuel has accomplished in his short time in the NFL and imagine Burks in that same type of role.
25. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Nakobe Dean is another polarizing player for me. In 2021, he was one of the best defenders in college football thanks to his terrific instincts that consistently had him a step ahead of everyone else on the field. He’s quick to react and physical at the point of attack, and at one point, I had him ranked in my top ten candidates.
However, there are some concerns when it comes to his measurables. Dean is not tall, nor does he have long arms. He’s a good athlete, but not an exceptional one.
Yes, he was outstanding for Georgia, but he was also playing in front of a defensive line loaded with NFL talent, allowing him to run free a good portion of the time. I do believe he can still be a quality NFL linebacker, but there will be some questions about his three-down availability, as well as his ability to roam sideline-to-sideline.
26. Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Like Gardner, Kaiir Elam is a talented corner, though he may not have the quick-twitch ability to shine in any style of coverage. Elam is a physical corner, whether it’s at the line of scrimmage or on 50-50 balls down the field. Once he gets position on the receiver, he has the frame to body them out for passes.
However, a slightly bulky build may be part of the reason Elam’s hips aren’t as good as Gardner’s. Still, the guy competes his heart out, and his length can be a difference-maker at the catch-point.
27. Drake Jackson, OLB, USC
Drake Jackson had a weird career developmentally and partially suffered because of the rotating door on their coaching staff, as well as the scheme changes. Still, part of the issue was his weight, as his slender build made it tough to consistently win on the edge.
Yes, his twitchy athleticism gives offensive tackles issues in space, but it’s tough to beat players that are 50-60 pounds heavier than you when they get their hands on you. Jackson also has terrific length, but once again, those hands need to have more shock in them to make the most of it.
I’d love to see Jackson bulk up to 260 pounds and pair some strength with his terrific athleticism, and teams may draft him with that in mind. Still, they also need to show some patience with him early in his career.
28. Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
For some time, Washington has been churning out cornerbacks that play with terrific eye discipline in their cover-two heavy scheme. Their defensive backs are also never afraid to tackle, and Trent McDuffie is the latest product of that system.
He’s a smart, explosive corner with the skill set to play in the slot or on the perimeter. I could honestly see him playing hybrid position as well because he is not afraid to come downhill against the run or on the blitz. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him drafted higher simply because he has the scheme versatility that guys like Elam and Gardner lack.
29. Jermaine Johnson, DE, Florida State
While it’s difficult to watch your former school go on to win a National Championship, I don’t think Jermaine Johnson has any regrets about transferring from Georgia to Florida State. His draft stock has been on the rise ever since.
From being voted the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year to demonstrating an outstanding combination of burst and power in his dominant effort in the Senior Bowl practices, Johnson has solidified himself as a top-50 talent. While he may be a little stiffer than some of the edge rushers above him, I think he’s got a solid chance to slide into the end of the first round.
30. Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
While I have Jordan Davis graded this high, it won’t be easy to predict where he is taken in the 2022 NFL Draft. Not every team is looking to spend an early pick on a run-stuffing nose tackle with limited ability against the pass.
Still, Davis’ skill set can be a difference-maker on early downs. While his 90 tackles in 41 career games are nothing special, look at the season guys like Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindell, and Quay Walker had playing behind him this year. He demands double teams on the interior, and though he may never be great against the pass, you certainly can’t block him one-on-one with many interior linemen without Davis collapsing the pocket.
31. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
This may seem a bit low for the first signal-caller on my board, but I’m just not sure we have a franchise quarterback in this class. Still, I think Matt Corral has the best chance of any passer this year.
He’s got excellent mobility and arm strength, and cleaned up his decision-making this past season. Corral makes some of the more challenging throws NFL evaluators are looking for, requiring anticipation, ball placement, and touch. Hopes are he will be able to work out for scouts after suffering an ankle injury in his last game, but his passion and leadership are undeniable.
32. Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
While I’ve got five wide receivers ranked in the 15-25 range, Jahan Dotson falls just outside of that group. He is a very explosive player, but his size will likely limit him to the slot in the NFL. Dotson is listed at 5’11” and 184 pounds, and though his weight seems accurate, 5’11” might be a stretch.
Even so, his skill set belongs on the inside, where his ability to change direction with ease will get him the initial separation necessary to be an early option. I do expect Dotson to impress with his arm length, which is good for his size, giving him a large catch radius for a slot receiver. Overall, he’s a reliable option on the interior with big-play ability if he can get into the open field.
33. Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
Zion Johnson is the most technically sound offensive lineman in my top 100, as well as one of the most versatile. It starts with his physique. At just under 6’3” and 314 pounds, Johnson doesn’t have much bad weight on his frame.
His feet are quick and active, which, combined with his core strength, allows him to mirror with ease in pass protection. Johnson’s hands also have good pop, and he is tenacious with his handwork when the initial strike doesn’t latch on. He’s played left tackle and left guard in college, but the interior will be his home in the NFL. However, Johnson proved his versatility by playing some center at the Senior Bowl.
34. Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
Like Johnson, Kenyon Green played several positions along the offensive line through his career, which should boost his draft stock. My issue is I don’t think he has lived up to his potential at any position to this point.
The former Aggie has terrific size and arm length, but he is more of an obstacle that is satisfied with getting in the way instead of latching on and driving his feet to get movement. Green is also a solid athlete for his size, but his footwork gets clunky, and he struggles with his balance because of it.
However, when defenders try to go through him, he’s got the lower body strength to anchor and stop their momentum. There are also plenty of examples where his feet are active, giving him good balance at the point of attack. Overall, the potential is there for him to be one of the top linemen in this class (guard or tackle), but Green needs to be more consistent with his technique.
35. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
On overall physical traits, no quarterback can match Malik Willis. He’s got tremendous arm strength with a tight spiral that explodes off his hand. Willis is also a strong athlete with a similar build to Jalen Hurts, though the Auburn transfer may be more explosive than Hurts in the open field.
Still, he’s still got work to do to be a franchise quarterback. For starters, Willis must be more consistent with his feet and balance. There are too many times where his feet are too wide or narrow, or his steps are too long, forcing him to throw with just his arm. That leads to interceptions in the NFL.
Willis needs to be more precise and subtle with his movement in general until it’s time to take off. He has to do a better job of keeping his eyes downfield, and they also need to speed up, as we saw that affect him in the Senior Bowl practices. However, Willis is a humble, hard-working kid, and if a team is patient with him, he can develop into a star.
36. Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
Bernhard Raimann is another prospect where the word “potential” certainly looms large. He’s only been playing football since high school and just moved to the offensive line two years ago after playing tight end. Still, there is a lot to love about prospects with his combination of size and athleticism.
There were occasional flashes of the player he can be in the Senior Bowl practices, but also a lot of teaching moments. Like many players his size, he tends to get too high, and there are times he doesn’t show enough patience in pass protection. However, he’s an easy mover for his size, and his hands are much more technical than you’d think based on his inexperience.
37. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
If Willis is the potential home-run 2022 NFL Draft prospect of this quarterback class, Kenny Pickett is the reliable double. He doesn’t possess the same awe-inspiring traits as the other quarterbacks on this list, but he is the most consistent one of the bunch with his footwork, throwing mechanics, and eyes.
He’s got an arm that is good enough to make any NFL throw, and he’s an underrated athlete what’s he escapes the pocket. Pickett makes good decisions with the football and displays terrific accuracy. There will be concerns over the hand size and his double-jointed thumbs, but he seems comfortable throwing with the glove he added in 2020.
38. Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
I’ve got very similar grades on Devonte Wyatt and fellow Bulldog Jordan Davis, and while I’ve got Davis ranked higher, Wyatt may be the more coveted commodity. While Davis is a big, powerful run-stuffer, Wyatt is an explosive penetrator that can wreak havoc in the backfield on all three downs.
He fires off the snap low and shows disruptive hands at the point of attack. Davis’ feet never quit pumping, and his low center of gravity gives him the balance to change direction well for a big man. Georgia’s defense didn’t always allow him to shoot gaps, but a one-gap penetrating scheme should be his best fit in the NFL.
39. Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
Trey McBride is one of several tight ends that could be the first selected 2022 NFL Draft prospect at the position. However, he currently has the highest grade of the bunch, thanks to a terrific combination of athleticism and strength.
At Colorado State, McBride paired good acceleration and feet to consistently get open in his routes, leading to him finishing 13th in the nation with 90 receptions. He was the Rams’ leading pass-catcher each of the past two seasons and is also a willing blocker who shows surprising pop in his hands. Additionally, I love how physical he plays, whether blocking, running a route, making a catch, or picking yards up after it.
40. Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Sam Howell is the fourth and final quarterback that I think has a legitimate shot to be drafted in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Similar to Willis, there are plenty of physical traits to make you think he can be a franchise quarterback. His arm strength is terrific, as is his mobility.
Still, Howell lacks consistency with his feet and throwing mechanics, which causes his accuracy to suffer. There are also spells where his decision-making can be an issue, and while he did a nice job cleaning up some of these areas in Mobile, I also thought he was a bit conservative with his throws.
The key for him is to unleash those physical gifts while harnessing them with a consistent throwing base and decision-making. If teams think Howell can accomplish that, he will be a day-one selection.