Here are my top ten 2022 NFL Draft prospects and their NFL comparisons.
1. Kayvon Thibodeaux → Jadeveon Clowney
Both Thibodeaux and Clowney are freak athletes who had high expectations coming into college. Clowney was unanimously considered to be the top prospect in the 2014 NFL draft. While he may not have lived up to that hype, you could easily blame part of that on injuries. Thibodeaux looks like an NFL player playing against college kids every Saturday. However, similar to Clowney, he has also battled a few injuries in his three years. His injuries aren’t nearly as severe as Clowney’s, but it’s something to note. Thibodeaux has the same potential that Clowney did. Even if he doesn’t put up crazy sack totals, you know he’s going to have an impact on each and every game.
2. Kyle Hamilton → Derwin James
Derwin James is listed as a safety but in reality, plays everywhere on the defense. If you need to line him up in the slot, he can do that. Need him in the box as a blitzer? He can do that. Hamilton has missed time due to a knee injury, but he has a huge effect on the game just like James. James and Hamilton are big for safeties which makes them valuable assets in the run game. They can line up over a tight end or tackle and find ways to make plays in the backfield. James has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, but when he’s on the field he is an elite safety. As long as Hamilton can stay healthy, I have no doubt that he will be a franchise cornerstone.
3. Derek Stingley, Jr. → Marshon Lattimore
Stingley Jr. is special. He has battled numerous injuries in 2020 and 2021, but has taken his time recovering due to a lackluster LSU team having very little to play for. When healthy, he can shut down anyone. He was the best defender on the historic LSU National Championship team. Singley Jr. and Lattimore are similar in a few ways, but the thing that I see most comparable to them is their ability to guard any type of player. Whether it’s a speedy receiver or a big possession receiver, their athletic versatility helps them lock down one side of the field. Lattimore has been a bit underrated in his career, but has still been a three-time Pro Bowler in his first four seasons. Stingley Jr. has superstar potential and could be better than Lattimore.
4. Aidan Hutchinson → Bosa Brothers
I hate the lazy comparison between guys who play the same position and look very similar. However, in this case, it’s just too easy. Hutchinson could easily be the third Bosa brother. They are all underrated athletes with a high motor, good hands, and excellent pass rush moves. What sets Nick and Joey Bosa apart was their ability to turn speed into power. Hutchinson has the traits to do that, but I need to see that skill on a more consistent basis. I’d also like to see Hutchinson step up a bit more in the run game. I didn’t get on the Hutchinson bandwagon until this year, but man watching him play football brings me joy.
5. Jordan Davis → Vita Vea
Vita Vea is such a special player who is undervalued because he doesn’t put up big stats. Jordan Davis is the exact same way and built very similarly. In fact, Davis might even be bigger than Vea, which is impressive all in itself. People at 340 pounds should not move as quickly and as powerfully as both of these monsters. You need at least two guys on the offensive line to block them and even then it might not be enough. Davis blows up every run play that comes up the middle and moves well laterally. As a pass rusher, they both occupy blocks and are effective on stunts, clearing lanes for the lopping defensive ends to apply pressure up the middle. You may need to pair him with another pass rusher, but regardless Davis can elevate the performance of the defensive line by doing the little things. If you watch the Buccaneers Super Bowl run last season, you would say the same thing about Vea.
6. DeMarvin Leal → Cameron Jordan
DeMarvin Leal is one of my favorite prospects because he can play any position on the defensive line at a high level. Whether he’s lined up over the center or outside of the tackle, he will find a way to be disruptive against the run or pass. Much like Cameron Jordan, Leal will likely play defensive end in a 4-3 defense and become one of the best all-around defensive linemen in the game. Most will know Jordan as an elite pass rusher, finishing with ten or more sacks in five of his ten seasons in the league. However, Jordan is also very strong in the run due to his ability to set the edge. I’m not sure Leal will be as successful as a pass rusher, but them both being “big” defensive ends who can rush from the interior on passing downs makes this a natural comparison.
7. Drake London → Mike Evans
I’ve been making this comparison for a few months now and this is by far the easiest one on this list. Both London and Evans are what I call above the rim wide receivers. I use that phrase for these guys because they are some of the best I’ve seen at high-pointing the ball in the air. When a jump ball is thrown even somewhat accurately in their direction, the chances of them coming down with the ball are much greater than 50/50. Also, London and Evans move well for their size and have a big catch radius. Not only has Evans had over 1,000 yards receiving every year in his career, but he’s also been amongst the touchdown reception leaders. Based on his size and leaping ability, London should follow that same trajectory.
8. Evan Neal → Orlando Brown
Whenever a professional athlete weighs in at over 350 pounds, there are concerns about their conditioning and ability to stay at a playable weight. Neal and Brown are both massive, but move well for their size and have dispelled any notion that their weight is a hindrance to their game. Brown started his career with the Ravens before demanding a trade because he wanted to protect the quarterback’s blindside, which also sees a bigger payday. So far for the Chiefs, it’s been an up and down experience as he adjusts to a new position. For the most part, he has held his own. Neal has played both guard and tackle, but in order to be a top-five pick, he’ll need to prove he can play left tackle. I’m in the party that believes he can do that, but it could take a few seasons for him to reach that upper echelon of offensive linemen.
9. Kaiir Elam → Xavien Howard
Despite Florida’s defense being awful this year, Elam has all the tools to be an elite cornerback in the NFL. He has the length at 6’2″ and the ball skills (six career interceptions) that will make any defensive coordinator happy. He has shown the ability to be sufficient in both man and zone coverage. Howard might not be talked about in the same breath as a Jalen Ramsey or Tre White, but he is a heck of a player. Elam has shown the awareness to be a difference-maker in the NFL with his ability to get his hands on passes. Like Howard, it could take Elam a season to get his feet wet, but the long-term prognosis is as a viable #1 cornerback.
10. George Karlaftis → Trey Hendrickson
Both of these guys are gritty and strong edger rushers who don’t get appreciated for everything that they do. Karlaftis hasn’t put up the sack numbers that we anticipated, but his ability to alter the offense’s game plan is evident every time you watch Purdue play. Hendrickson has come into his own the last two years, but before that he was doing the little things like setting the edge on run plays early in his career. Karlaftis has a higher ceiling due to his age, size, and refinement, but I’d consider him to be one of the more safe prospects in this class.