By Logan Lepiscopo
2022 NFL Draft: Best of the Best
The 2021-2022 NFL season is getting ready to end and the biggest and my favorite time of the year is coming around, and no it is not the playoffs. The NFL draft, the combine, pro days, free agency, all the amazing things that happen in the offseason are coming to the horizon. The 2022 NFL draft is going to be another draft for the ages, some departments are a lot stronger than others, and, in this article, I am going to talk about my favorite draft prospect at each position. *Just a disclaimer I have yet to watch any film on these guys. It is just what I know based on what I have read and seen when I have caught a game.*
Quarterbacks: Matt Corral (Ole Miss)
In the bowl game Corral suffered an injury that may cause some scouts to swerve away but in actuality he is the best quarterback in this class. Corral may not be as mobile as Kyler Murray or Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson, but he does offer some sort of mobility like Patrick Mahomes or Justin Herbert. Leadership is another quality that sticks out to me when talking about Corral, after his injury in the bowl game he came out of the locker room on crutches and was still cheering on his teammates and giving out advice. When it comes to throwing the ball, I think Corral’s best attribute is his release, which is great in today’s NFL because of the new uprise in RPO plays. Kenny Pickett may have had a standout season, but I think Corral has everything to offer and everything an NFL team needs in a quarterback.
Running Backs: Kenneth Walker III (Michigan St.)
This man right here was not in the race for the Heisman trophy for no reason, he is the running back to have in this class. Sure you could argue Isaiah Spiller or Breece Hall, but Kenneth Walker averaged 136 rushing yards per game, and over a touchdown a game. Kenneth Walker is your typical running back that makes cuts and jukes, but he is such an angry runner, he just runs like the other team just took his lunch money. Walker can absorb hits, break off arm tackles, and when you watch him play, his all-game defenders are bouncing off left and right. Durability is another big upside for Walker, having just one full year as a featured starter at Michigan State which means he may not have the workhorse experience, but he showed he is capable in the one year he started to be a workhorse.
Wide Receivers: Chris Olave (Ohio St.)
There is a heavy argument of what wide receiver is the best in this class, with another loaded WR class yet again it is tough to judge who is going to come out the best. I think Chris Olave is the most well rounded WR entering the 2022 draft, though it is close I think he excels in every aspect of a wide receiver. Route running, catching, release, big-play ability, hands, creating separation, everything that a quality NFL wide receiver needs he has and makes every cornerback he faces know how lethal he can be. Olave is great in the short, deep, and intermediate passing game and though it may be a concern that he has occasional drops when absorbing a hit I think that is something every NFL wide receiver does and shouldn’t cause him to fall. A lot of NFL teams would be grateful to have a WR like Chris Olave, and I think if a team passes on him that they won’t have another chance because he is first round talent.
Tight Ends: Jalen Wydermyer (Texas A&M)
There is not any tight end that stands out to me, if I had to compare this year’s class of tight ends, I would compare it to the 2020 class. In 2020 there were no tight ends quality enough for a first-round pick, but a lot of the tight ends drafted had starting potential. Wydermyer is your idea of a big play receiver at tight end, you do not see him in blocking formations often but when he does fairly well. In his time with the Aggies Wydermyer lined up everywhere, attached to the offensive line, detached from the line, in the slot, or even out wide like a WR. Being 6’5 is an advantage for Wydermyer with his versatility being able to line up like a wide receiver could catch a lot of NFL scouts’ eyes to be a big-time mismatch against corners.
Offensive Tackles: Evan Neal (Alabama)
Evan Neal is the undisputed best offensive tackle in this draft class. Neal will not be one of those offensive tackles brought into the league and transitioned into a guard, but he could be flipped from left to right tackle. Evan Neal being 6’6”, about 360 pounds brings tremendous size but when looking at Evan Neal his ability to recognize a blitz is something that would be called a weakness in his game. I think the best thing about Evan Neal though is that he has experience playing both right and left tackle, even though lots of teams would keep him at left tackle he has the potential to be moved to the right side. As a left tackle Neal does not have to worry about picking up blitzers, he is responsible for just that one guy coming off the edge to protect your quarterback’s blind spot.
Interior Offensive Line: Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa)
Tyler Linderbaum is not just the best interior offensive lineman in this year’s draft, but he is a center that is currently projected to be a top 5-10 pick. It is very rare to find a talented center in the NFL, I think that finding a center as good as Evan Neal is projected to be is hard to find as well. He is definitely undersized for his position, but the talent is there and there is no denying what he is truly capable of. Linderbaum has great hand technique with his quickness to jab pass rushers after the snap and Linderbaum also has great control over his body movements and pushing pass rushers in the direction he wants them to go. Linderbaum is also very good at getting up to that second level, getting defensive lineman out of the way and leveling linebackers. If there is any team in the league that has struggled with the center position, trading up for Neal would make a ton of sense and be fully justified.
Defensive Tackles: Jordan Davis (Georgia)
This draft class is very small when it comes to defensive tackle talent, but Jordan Davis is the highlight of the position. DeMarvin Leal out of Texas A&M is very close in conversations but I think that Jordan Davis is currently the best defensive tackle in this class. The best part of Jordan Davis’ game is his ability to disrupt the run, whether it is one blocker or two he is always able to make a play on the runner. Jordan Davis would be more effective in a 4-3 defense but would also be successful working as the nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. Georgia’s defense has been spectacular this 2021-2022 college football season and a big part has been Davis and his ability to slip through blockers and shut down opponents’ running game.
Edge Rushers: George Karlaftis (Purdue)
This year’s draft class has been highlighted by two players, two edge rushers to be specific. Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux are the top dogs that have been battling back and forward between being the number one and number two overall pick in this year’s draft. But I went a different route and went to highlight who I think is the next best, George Karlaftis. Karlaftis has great hand speed and power that will make him a tough force to stop coming off the edge, he has many other moves in his arsenal, but his hand power alone does a lot of work. Another thing that myself and many others appreciate about Karlaftis is how tireless he is, he’s like one of those energizer bunnies from the commercials that just never stop going. Karlaftis should be considered a top 10 pick in this draft, his restlessness from start to finish of games alone will get a ton of scout’s attention. But throw in his actual pass rushing abilities and George Karlaftis is a player that is on all 32 NFL teams draft boards.
Linebackers: Devin Llyod (Utah)
Devin Llyod is another player in this class that is currently the best at his position but could be soon taken over by another player (Nakobe Dean). Devin Llyod has incredible play recognition and just great football IQ, there are times that he hesitates to locate the ball as quickly as possible but overall he is great at reading the play. Llyod really excels in the running game, though he has proven he is capable of dropping back into coverage it is ideal for him to be somewhere clogging the run. Another quality that I really like about Llyod is his leadership, he is the defensive captain of the Utes and whenever the defense is being hit with adversity his teammates look towards him. Though scouts have said that Llyod shows stiffness in his game meaning that he can sometimes be found standing flat footed and being reactive instead of proactive.
Cornerbacks: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (Cincinnati)
Sauce Gardner may not be the best corner in this draft class, but it is hard to not shine light on all of his success in college. Over 1,000 career snaps at Cincinnati and not one touchdown given up, I don’t think any other corner in college football history can say the same. Gardener is not the best corner in this draft, but he is definitely the best zone cover corner in this year’s draft. Gardner is a very competitive and aggressive corner, which some NFL scouts may not like because when tempers flare, he could be the guy constantly in scuffles, especially as a rookie corner those vets are going to try to get into his head. Gardner has some tackling issues but overall he is a very good corner that still needs some techniques worked on to become a polished corner in the NFL. NFL team secondaries are getting worse year after year so Gardner could be a first-round pick, but with other positional needs do not be surprised if he falls into the second round.
Safeties: Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame)
Hamilton in my eyes is the most talented player in this draft class, yes, even over Thibodeaux and Hutchinson. Kyle Hamilton is the best safety prospect to come out of college in quite some time, his athleticism is off the charts, he has a phenomenal football IQ, and he can really play anywhere you need him to. He can cover some serious ground, he is phenomenal coming downhill and stuffing the run, and he even is capable of using his speed and athleticism to get down the field as a gunner and cover punts. Kyle Hamilton is the full package when it comes to the safety position and any team would be grateful to have a player with such an incredible skill set. Hamilton can fit into any team’s scheme, the problem is that he isn’t going to get a chance to be picked by every team, Hamilton will more than likely be a top 5 pick in this year’s draft, maybe even number 3 behind Thibodeaux and Hutchinson. I love Kyle Hamilton as a draft prospect and I have never had a stronger gut feeling about a defensive rookie becoming an immediate star in the league no matter his location. #KyleHamilton2023DROY