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2022 NFL Draft Thoughts: Mel Kiper's top-25 big board
A deeper dive on all 25 players
Back to the 2022 NFL Draft. What’s going on around the internet this week?
Mel Kiper released his top-25 big board for next year’s draft. Let’s go over it.
25. WR Chris Olave, Ohio State. He’s 6’1, 185 lbs, emphasizing that the prototype at the position is no longer 6’5. He had 729 yards and seven touchdowns in seven games last season. He has 19 touchdowns in his last 20 college games. Might have been a first round pick this year if he had declared.
24. CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati. 6’2, 188 lbs. Six interceptions in two seasons. Nickname is “Sauce.” Regularly mocked in the 2022 first round. PFF ranked him as the second-best corner returning to college football in 2021.
23. G Ikem Ekwonu, NC State. 6’4, 320 lbs. Might move to left tackle in 2021. One ACC coach called him “the most feared offensive lineman” in the conference.
21. WR John Metchie III, Alabama. 5’11, 195 lbs. It’s not enough to just be a “Jr.” anymore. Now everyone has roman numerals. College football is not even “competitive” anymore. There’s like three schools left who have any chance to win a national championship. If Alabama keeps producing first round receivers, then that’s where first round receivers will go after high school. He had 55 catches for 916 yards in 13 games last season, which is remarkable when you share targets with a Heisman winner and Jaylen Waddle. SI scouting report.
20. RB Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M. That 24/7 sports article I linked incorrectly says Spiller plays at Alabama. I guess I can’t blame them for the mistake when everybody else in the draft seems to play at Alabama. Spiller has 1,982 rushing yards, 5.5 YPC, and 19 touchdowns in 23 games over two seasons. I love the way he runs. Reminds me a tiny bit of Chris Carson. Most important player on his team.
19. CB Andrew Booth, Clemson. Here comes “the Orange Tide.” Only one full season of college ball yet. 6’, 195 lbs. Called a “walking highlight reel.” I’m not sure why he’s not on that PFF cornerbacks list.
18. OLB Kingsley “JJ” Enagbare, South Carolina. 6’4, 270 lbs. I like the name Kingsley. The second soon-to-be senior on this list, after Olave. Had 3.5 sacks as a sophomore, then six as a junior, but in only eight games. That’s 9.5 sacks over his last 18 games. Ranked third on this list of the top-50 defensive ends entering next season. Obviously Kayvon Thibodeaux is first. We’ll get to him. Not sure yet how many others are on Kiper’s big board.
17. WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas. 6’3, 232 lbs. Surprised to see an Arkansas player on this list. Is that one of the most anonymous/non-anonymous college programs in the country? Like it seems as though they’d produce talent, but do they? Off the top of my head, I think of Darren McFadden. I think of Matt Jones, the QB turned WR. The last first round pick was Frank Ragnow. There aren’t many from this century. Rare size, but does he have rare speed? Had 820 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games last year. Nice touchdown here at 1:50:
16. OLB Drake Jackson, USC. There were two Drake Jacksons in the NCAA last year, the other was a center at Kentucky who went undrafted. Interesting production for this Drake Jackson so far: 17 TFL, 7.5 sacks 17 career games. He’s listed fifth on that tweet up there. 6’4, 255 lbs. Performed well against vaunted Notre Dame offensive line.
15. QB Malik Willis, Liberty. The first QB on the list, but not the last. I’ve written about Willis a few times already but repetition will help solidify this knowledge: transfer from Auburn in 2020. Completed 170-of-265 for 2,250 yards, 20 TD, 6 INT. Rushed for 944 yards and 14 TDs. All of this in only 10 games. Great production, but didn’t play against great schools. Biggest test came against Coastal Carolina and though they won and he rushed for four touchdowns, threw two picks and passing left something to be desired. I would definitely rate him higher than Justin Fields if comparing to 2021 QBs. Maybe number three in the 2021 class, if he had declared. But went back to school, which was the right idea.
14. DE George Karlaftis, Purdue. 6’4, 275 lbs. Injuries cost him most of 2020. Maybe that’s why he’s only ranked 11th in that tweet. Super dominant as a true freshman in 2019 and that’s why some think he’ll return to being a top-10 draft prospect.
13. OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State. So, we’ve been seeing Cross listed as the best OL in the 2021 draft all year long, but this reddit post has a debate on whether or not he’s overrated. I’ll copy/paste the concerns with Cross:
Yeah this is where there is some nuance in the fact Miss State passed the ball significantly more than most teams. So his pressures per pass block snaps isn't as bad, but it's still alarmingly high. (Total pressures allowed, per PFF: 44)
He was a 5* recruit, he's very athletic, and he started last year in his second year. Sure he should get better this year with experience and a normal offseason, yes he's a great athlete, and yes the adjustment in air raid OL splits takes a minute, but the OTs who went in the first round or second round this year gave up single digit or low teens in total pressures (16 was) and are significantly better run blockers.
I mean just watch Cross play - it's an absurd projection until we actually see him play at a higher level. Comparatively there is Ohio State's LT Thayer Munford and RT Nicholas Petit-Frere (5* from 2018) who were both awesome last year across the board with requisite athleticism (especially NPF) and they are rarely mentioned on these lists (and when they are it's just Munford and never NPF). RT Jordan McFadden (Clemson) is another guy I have no idea why he isn't included more.
Reddit is godawful sometimes but this seems like good info and good intel from a person who actually follows Mississippi State, it appears.
12. QB Sam Howell, UNC. Mel Kiper reiterates the comparisons to Baker Mayfield. I’m surprised he’s not higher, but I guess it is a big board and not a mock.
11. WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State. I wonder how many of those Justin Fields fans who don’t watch Ohio State really, truly understand it when people say that the Buckeyes were a land of fruitful opportunities for any QB who stepped into the role. Wilson had 723 yards and six touchdowns in eight games. 6’, 193 lbs. “Buckeye Scoop” says Wilson plays much taller than his height. Goes up and high points the football. Not that fast, but quick on the field. Best receiver in college football? He’s the highest ranked on this list.
10. OT Jaxson Kirkland, Washington. Nice name for the Husky. Dropped 30 lbs to move to left tackle in 2020. Could UW have a top-five pick in the draft next year? Hey, this guy called it back in 2019:
9. CB Kaiir Elam, Florida. 6’2, 195 lbs. Here’s what PFF said about him:
Elam did give up a few big plays early on in 2020, but he rallied and emerged as the playmaker we saw as a true freshman in 2019. He now has played exactly 600 coverage snaps at the collegiate level and has earned a 90.7 coverage grade in the process. In those two years combined, Elam has been responsible for 19 first downs and touchdowns while making 21 plays on the ball.
He’s at his best at the line of scrimmage playing in press coverage when he's allowed to rely on his length and physicality. In all, 265 of his 600 coverage snaps have come in press coverage, yet he's given up only 0.47 yards per coverage snap on those reps, the best mark among Power Five cornerbacks who have played at least 250 press-coverage snaps in that span. His press performance was an area of focus for Elam this past offseason, and it’s safe to say the hard work paid off.
8. S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame. 6’4, 225 lbs, and he can defend the pass, the run, and rush the passer. No surprise he’s regularly mocked in the top-six despite being a safety. Profiles as the model for what teams are looking at in their secondary: a hybrid linebacker who can cover George Kittle, tackle Derrick Henry, and pressure Patrick Mahomes. This is also what players like Isaiah Simmons were billed as but will the experiment work? Here’s him picking off Trevor Lawrence, followed by Lawrence breaking down a play against Hamilton:
7. OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M. Cross isn’t Kiper’s top-rated offensive lineman. And neither is Green. But he’s closer. 6’4, 325 lb and he’ll be moving from left guard to left tackle next season.
6. LB Christian Harris, Alabama. 6’2, 232 lbs, but played CORNERBACK in high school. Needs to improve in coverage. Has 140 tackles over the last two seasons, but so what? Was speechless when responding to a PFF list that didn’t include him.
5. DL Demarvin Leal, Texas A&M. 6’4, 290 lbs. Had 7 TFL and 2.5 sacks in 10 games last season.
4. OT Evan Neal, Alabama. I wouldn’t find it surprising if I found out that college football fans hate the criticism that the league receives because of a broken system that funnels all of the talent to three or four programs. But there’s nothing you can say back to that criticism that would ever alleviate the issue at hand. How can you blame an NFL fan for not wanting to follow the sport closely when there’s an undeniable problem with competitive balance? I went to Washington State and there’s fun in watching the games when you’re there, and it might be fun to watch them play for the rest of your life, but you’re virtually guaranteed to never see them win a national championship during that life. And bowl games might as well be college football’s version of the preseason. Anyways, here’s another prospect from Alabama.Alabama OT Evan Neal (6062, 360, Jr.) is a mammoth sized, strong, and agile tackle prospect. Moving from RT to LT next season, he’s an aggressive run blocker, but has to clean up some techniques and consistency in pass pro. instagram.com/p/CO3amtqpuBO/…I can watch Emil Ekiyor/Evan Neal destroyed 3Ts all day, everyday... They straight tossed this dude 2-3yards!Early 2022 OT Rankings: Evan Neal - BAMA Jamaree Salyer - UGA Darrian Kinnard - UK Abraham Lucas - WSU Sean Rhyan - UCLA Charles Cross - MISS ST Peter Skonronski - NW Thayer Munford - OSU Zion Nelson - MIAMI Nick Broeker - OLE MISS *Zion Johnson & Icky Ekwonu are iOL
3. QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma. Rattler refresher: 6’1, 205 lbs, 3,000 yards, 28 TD, 7 INT as redshirt freshman in 2020. Is Rattler just catching hype from his recruitment and the Sooners QBs who preceded him or is he the real deal? That’s what I’ll be monitoring all year.
2. CB Derek Stingley, Jr., LSU. Is there a scenario in which Stingley could go first overall? It simply doesn’t happen. When Jeffrey Okudah went third last year, that was a rare accomplishment to have witnessed. And it won’t help Stingley’s case that Okudah went ahead of Justin Herbert. Even if a team like the Jaguars was picking first overall and wouldn’t pick a QB, you’d think that the trade down price will be too good to pass up in favor of a cornerback.
1. DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon. Few non-QB prospects have received as much positive attention as Thibodeaux and that can either be a good thing or a bad thing. In 2014, it was sort of a bad thing as it pertains to Jadeveon Clowney. He’s still riding that wave. But if Thibodeaux has a good junior season, he won’t necessitate any comparisons to Clowney.
Okay that’s it for today. Will do something on the 2022 NFL Draft again soon.