2022 NFL Draft Big Board, Part 1

Matthew Durgin

The NFL Draft is less than a month away! As usual, we will break down our big board into two parts. Part two will be out next week. These are my personal rankings, not necessarily the order in which they’ll be picked.

1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon EDGE

An exceptional athlete blessed with all the physical tools, the only thing stopping Thibodeaux from becoming an All-Pro is himself. While falling on most draft boards as teams worry about his consistency and effort at times, he has tools you can’t teach. He’s easy to put at the top spot for me.

Pro Comparison- Jadeveon Clowney

2. Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame S

While listed as a safety, Hamilton is a position-less nightmare for any opposing offense. At Notre Dame, he showed that he’s equally good dropping deep into coverage as he is making plays in the backfield. He stands out compared to top safety prospects in the past due to his ideal size and athleticism. He has demonstrated the ability to dominate at the highest level.

Pro Comparison- Derwin James

3. Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan EDGE

The ultra-competitive, high-motored Hutchinson is destined to be an impact player in the league for a long time. After two years of people waiting for him to break out, he put together an all-time great campaign for Michigan in 2021 and showed why he’s now the odds-on favorite to go first overall. His ceiling might not be as high as others, but he’s one of the safer prospects.

Pro Comparison- The Bosa Brothers

4. Derek Stingley Jr., LSU CB

After dominating receivers as a freshman in 2019, Stingley has been injured and become an afterthought in the last two seasons. Stingley’s athleticism and IQ are perfect for an NFL defensive back and there should be no growing pains in his adjustment to the pros. At times, Stingley is so smooth that he makes things look easy. Whoever drafts him hopes that he can stay on the field and out of the training room.

Pro Comparison- Marshon Lattimore

5. Ikem Ekwonu, NC State OL

Outside of the quarterback position, most believe that left tackle is the most important position on an NFL roster. Ekwonu’s blend of quick feet and power allows him to be equally strong in both run and pass blocking. Ekwonu also has what many college left tackles don’t have, which is experience. Ekwonu is a three-year starter at the position.

Pro Comparison- Tyron Smith

6. Evan Neal, Alabama OL

Neal is the best pure run blocker in this class. That makes sense as he stands 6’7″ and 335 pounds. Some think he’s better suited at guard or right tackle, but he played well at left tackle in 2021. Regardless of where he lines up, you’re going to get a player who will be an unmovable object, provided that he stays in shape.

Pro Comparison- Bigger Ronnie Stanley

7. Sauce Gardner, Cincinnati CB

If you look throughout history, many of the game’s best cornerbacks were players who took pride in locking down the opposing team’s best receivers week in and week out. Gardner has that same mojo as he was by far the best cornerback in college football in 2021. While not the best tackler in the world, that’s not what you’re paying him to do. He can develop into a lockdown corner in both man and zone coverage.

Pro Comparison- Jaycee Horn

21 Personnel
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8. George Karlaftis, Purdue EDGE

Power, power, and more power. Karlaftis is as strong of a defensive end as you’ll see, which bodes well for his future. He can eventually rush from the interior, but is best suited to play as an end. At his best, Karlaftis is deceptively quick and overall a very good athlete. He didn’t put up high sack totals in 2021, but don’t let that turn you off as he seemed to live in the defensive backfield.

Pro Comparison- Trey Hendrickson

9. Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa C

Centers don’t get drafted high, so whoever picks Linderbaum will be getting great value. A former high school wrestler, Linderbaum is quite nimble and showed he can make blocks in space. Playing at Iowa, you know he’s going to be a high IQ player who can digest an NFL playbook.

Pro Comparison- Jason Kelce

10. Jordan Davis, Georgia DL

One of the largest professional athletes you’ll ever see, Davis is a game-changer. After a stellar 2021 campaign and an impressive combine, Davis answered most questions people had about him. He will never be a guy who gets a lot of sacks, but he will occupy double teams and open things up for his teammates on the defensive line.

Pro Comparison- Vita Vea

11. Jermaine Johnson, Florida State EDGE

All Johnson needed was a chance. After being a rotational player for the Georgia Bulldogs, Johnson took it to a whole new level after transferring to Florida State. A complete pass rusher, Johnson has the perfect blend of athleticism and refinement. I do worry a bit that he’s a one-year wonder, but Johnson showed he can be a three-down edge starter who can have an impact as a rookie.

Pro Comparison- Chandler Jones

12. Drake London, USC WR

Sometimes there is nothing a defense can do against a physical specimen at receiver. We’ve seen it with Hall of Famers like Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson and with current stars like Mike Evans. London is cut from that same cloth. I don’t want to put pressure on him by comparing him to those guys, but London’s basketball background (came to USC as a two-sport athlete) allows him to outmuscle defenders anytime the ball is in the air.

Pro Comparison- Mike Evans

13. Devin Lloyd, Utah LB

Versatility is king. Lloyd is a middle linebacker first and foremost but showed that he can play just about anywhere on defense. He’s going to rack up a bunch of tackles by getting in the backfield on running plays, but can also match up against a tight end one-on-one in coverage. As a bonus, Lloyd is a strong blitzer who can get to the quarterback.

Pro Comparison- Eric Kendricks

14. Davis Ojabo, Michigan EDGE

Despite his recent achilles tear, I’m very high on Ojabo’s NFL future. While raw, Ojabo has the freak athleticism that actually shows up on film. His first step off of the snap is elite and he showed a solid pass rush arsenal in his one full season at Michigan. You might not get the production you’d like to see in a first-rounder right off the bat, but you get the chance to coach up a talented player with only four years of football experience.

Pro Comparison- Ziggy Ansah

15. Charles Cross, Mississippi State OT

There are going to be some teams that see Cross as the top tackle in this draft. As a pass blocker, he has plenty of experience coming from Mississippi State’s Air Raid offense. He also has the athleticism to stop speed rushers. However, he lacks the strength and power to be a consistent run blocker at this point. He’s a work in progress but has immense upside.

Pro Comparison- Laremy Tunsil

Air Raid Offense
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16. Chris Olave, Ohio State WR

In a deep wide receiver class, I’m most confident in Olave having the highest floor out of anyone. Being a part of a great Ohio State era, Olave played in some big games and has faced a lot of NFL talent. He’s not the biggest guy, but his speed and route-running ability make him likely to be a high-end WR2 who should have multiple 1,000 yard receiving seasons.

Pro Comparison- Robert Woods

17. Kenyon Green, Texas A&M OL

A versatile guard who can step out and play tackle if needed, Green is a very experienced college prospect. With 35 career starts at four positions, he has the athleticism and power to play anywhere but center. Based on where he will be drafted, a team might try him at tackle, but his long-term position is at guard.

Pro Comparison- Joe Bitonio

18. Jameson Williams, Alabama WR

It’s becoming more and more common to see players transfer in college athletics. Perhaps no player boosted his stock more than Williams did. After seeing minimal playing time at Ohio State, Williams displayed incredible run after the catch ability en route to a monster season. He did tear his ACL in January so teams will have to monitor that knee.

Pro Comparison- DJ Moore

19. Travon Walker, Georgia EDGE

The 2021 Georgia defense was full of studs at every level. Walker flew under the radar, but will likely be the first Bulldog drafted. While not putting up huge numbers, Walker is a complete edge player and has the ideal size for the position. I am intrigued by his ability to rush from the interior. If he gets better in that area, we might have a star on our hands.

Pro Comparison- Cameron Jordan

20. Devonte Wyatt, Georgia DL

Despite seeing a good amount of playing time in his four years at Georgia, Wyatt is still a work in progress. He flashed some moments of brilliance, but the stronger he gets then the tougher he will be to block. As it stands, he’s a very well-rounded and solid prospect who does a better job as a pass rusher than his numbers indicate. Probably better off as a complementary piece, Wyatt could be the heart of a defense for a long time.

Pro Comparison- Fletcher Cox

21. Andrew Booth, Clemson CB

Booth is a super athlete, but only has one year of starting experience. If you’re going just based on potential and what a player’s ceiling is, Booth could be a top fifteen pick. However, there are a lot of questions marks. Every prospect’s future is tied to fit and coaching, but maybe no one more so than Booth.

Pro Comparison- Jaire Alexander

22. Treylon Burks, Arkansas WR

It was incredibly tough to find a player to compare to Burks. He’s a unicorn in that he’s built like a tight end but moves like a running back with the ball in his hands. At his size, he is also very physical in jump-ball scenarios and can bully defenders. I do worry about his lack of speed and route-running ability, but he’s too special of a talent to ignore.

Pro Comparison- Allen Robinson with more YAC potential

23. Trevor Pennings, Northern Iowa OT

Many are afraid of the transition for small school prospects as they head into the NFL. If there was one position that doesn’t have that concern however it’s with offensive linemen. Penning is relatively polished but looks to be just a right tackle. That shouldn’t prohibit him from being a top twenty pick.

Pro Comparison- Jack Conklin

24. Carson Strong, Nevada QB

As the president/CEO/founder of the Carson Strong fan club, I am extremely high on Strong compared to most. He isn’t mobile which will turn teams off, but he is the best pure thrower of the football in his class. He checks off all of the boxes in terms of arm strength, accuracy, and pocket presence that I want in a quarterback. If he was a prospect twenty years ago, he’d have been a top-five pick. He won’t be for everyone, but give me the guys with the arm talent and throwing ability all day.

Pro Comparison- Carson Wentz, without the poor decision making

25. Nakobe Dean, Georgia LB

Dean has a little bit of Honey Badger in his game. He is undersized for a linebacker, but plays fearless and fast. Sometimes that does get him in trouble as he is prone to miss tackles, but also results in splash plays. He is steady in coverage but once against his size could be an issue going against NFL tight ends.

Pro Comparison- Denzel Perryman

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