It should come as no surprise, but national champion Georgia has the most prospects (11) in my initial top-100 ranking. While their defense will return some potential first-round prospects for 2023, such as Jalen Carter, Kelee Ringo and Nolan Smith, eight of the 11 Bulldogs below, including the first six on this list, are defenders.
Cincinnati (seven) and Alabama (five) ranked second and third, respectively, in terms of prospects on my first big board of the year.
Edge rusher is arguably the deepest position in this year’s draft class, and 15 appear below, which is tied with wide receivers for the most of any position. The groups with the fewest prospects on the list are tight end and interior offensive linemen (five each).
With that said, having already published my first mock draft of the year, here are my top-100 prospects in the 2022 draft:
1. Aidan Hutchinson, edge, Michigan (SR, 6' 6", 265 pounds)
Hutchinson stockpiled postseason hardware (Big Ten Defensive Player of Year, consensus All-American, Hendricks Award, etc.) in 2021, after setting Michigan’s single-season sack record (14) and coming up huge (three sacks, 15 pressures) in the team’s win over Ohio State. He was listed second on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List in 2021, and Feldman noted that Hutchinson’s three-cone time (6.54) would have led all ’20 combine participants (regardless of position). The son of a former Michigan captain, Hutchinson’s intangibles, football character and relentless motor, combined with his physical traits, polish and production, make him one of the safest picks in the draft.
2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, edge, Oregon (JR, 6' 5", 258 pounds)
Lofty expectations preceded his arrival in Eugene, as Thibodeaux finished high school ranked as the top (ESPN 300) or second-best (247 Composite) overall recruit in the country. The production was good—35.5 career TFLs in 30 games—even if the output didn’t fully match expectations. With an ideal frame and length, combined with his explosive first-step quickness and closing burst, double-digit sacks should become the norm relatively early in his NFL career.
3. Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame (JR, 6' 4", 220 pounds)
Safeties aren’t typically selected in the top 10, but Hamilton isn’t a typical safety. Calling him a defensive chess piece rather than safety may be a more accurate description. Due to his unique blend of height, length and speed, Hamilton has outstanding range, ball production (eight career interceptions) and the traits to neutralize the top pass-catching tight ends in coverage.
4. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama (JR, 6' 7", 350 pounds)
A three-year starter at Alabama, Neal has experience at left guard (13 starts), right tackle (12 starts) and left tackle (15 starts). Neal has tremendous power, but he moves like a prospect much lighter than his 350 pounds and is an athletic freak.
5. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State (JR, 6' 4", 320 pounds)
Dubbed “Mr. Pancake” (due to his volume of his pancake blocks), Ekwonu is a physically imposing mauler in the run game with the traits to continue to develop as a pass blocker and the experience and versatility to play either tackle or guard.
6. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU (JR, 6' 1", 195 pounds)
Stingley has prototypical traits with elite length, speed, athleticism and fluid movements to thrive on an island. In intercepting six passes in his true freshman season (2019), he had one of the greatest seasons by a cornerback in recent memory. Unfortunately, that elite season was a few years ago, and injuries in back to back seasons have allowed him to play only 10 combined games during that span, and his play didn’t match his true freshman level when he was on the field.
7. Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State (rSO, 6' 5", 310 pounds)
In Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, Cross has had plenty of pass-blocking reps over the past two seasons and has shown significant improvement year over year. The former five-star recruit wins with his athletic feet, balance, length and hand placement.
8. Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati (JR, 6' 3", 200 pounds)
Gardner will be the CB1 for several teams and could be the first corner off the board. The lanky corner has elite length with the footwork and athleticism to make him ideally suited for a press-man scheme. “Sauce” has ended each of his three seasons in Cincinnati with three interceptions.
9. Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah (rSR, 6' 3", 235 pounds)
Lloyd is a do-it-all linebacker who can impact the game with his ability to cover tight ends, get to the quarterback as a blitzer and defend the run. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Lloyd stuffed the stat sheet with 110 tackles, 22 TFLs, eight sacks and four interceptions in 2021.
10. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (JR, 6' 0", 192 pounds)
Wilson has outstanding body control and ball skills, and is dynamic after the catch. My top-ranked wide receiver prospect, Wilson is a complete receiver and had 70 catches for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior.
11. Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa (rJR, 6' 3", 290 pounds)
Linderbaum’s 290-pound frame may limit him to center only, but the Rimington Trophy winner is the best center prospect in not only this draft class but over the past several drafts as well. With elite athleticism for the position, he’s ideally suited for a zone scheme that can maximize his movement skills.
12. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas (JR, 6' 3", 225 pounds)
Burks has a special blend of size and breakaway speed. Due to his physicality, run-after-catch prowess and how the Razorbacks varied his alignments, it’s easy to see how teams could use Burks similarly to how the 49ers use Deebo Samuel. Burks finished 2021 with 66 receptions for 1,104 yards, 14 carries for 112 yards and a total of 12 touchdowns.
13. David Ojabo, edge, Michigan (rSO, 6' 5", 250 pounds)
Born in Nigeria, Ojabo grew up in Scotland playing the other football. When he came to the U.S., he didn’t start playing organized football until his junior year in high school. Only a one-year starter at Michigan, he had 11 sacks for the Wolverines in 2021. Ojabo won’t contribute much on run downs, but his elite length, explosiveness and bend give him as much upside as any other pass rusher in this class.
14. George Karlaftis, edge, Purdue (JR, 6' 4", 275 pounds)
Whereas Ojabo primarily wins with speed, Karlaftis mostly wins with power. He lacks ideal length and bend at the top of his rush, but he has a quick first step, violent hands and a nonstop motor with the versatility to line up inside or outside.
15. Drake London, WR, USC (JR, 6' 5", 210 pounds)
London started his USC career as a dual-sport athlete with basketball, and he knows how to use his large frame and wide catch radius to win at the catch point. Before a broken ankle ended his season in October, London hauled in 88 receptions for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games.
16. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia (JR, 6' 0", 225 pounds)
Other than his lack of ideal size and length, there is a lot to like about Dean’s profile. Georgia’s defensive leader’s football IQ, instincts and speed allow him to play fast, and he’s always around the ball. Dean stuffed the stat sheet with a team-high 10.5 TFLs, and had 72 tackles, six sacks, 28 QB hurries, two interceptions and two forced fumbles last season.
17. Travon Walker, edge, Georgia (JR, 6' 5", 275 pounds)
Whether using the power in his hands to shock an offensive lineman, or his speed and explosive first step, Walker has the traits to be a more productive pass rusher at the next level than he was on Georgia’s star-studded defense. Not only does he have inside-outside versatility, but the 275-pound Walker also dropped in coverage a bunch as well.
18. Jermaine Johnson II, edge, Florida State (rSR, 6' 5", 262 pounds)
The Georgia defense is stacked—eight (2021) Bulldog defenders are in my top 100. That said, Johnson transferred from Georgia to Florida State and led the ACC in both TFLs (17.5) and sacks (11.5) in his lone season in Tallahassee to win ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Arguably the biggest winner during Senior Bowl week, it wouldn’t be shocking if we hear Johnson’s name called in the first half of the first round on the Thursday night of draft weekend.
19. Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson (JR, 6' 0", 200 pounds)
Booth is an athletic, agile and scheme-diverse cornerback. Physical and willing as a run defender, he is competitive at the catch point and has outstanding hands as this highlight reel grab demonstrates.
20. Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington (JR, 5' 11", 195 pounds)
Although McDuffie has just average size and length, he’s aggressive and physical in run support and limits yards after the catch. McDuffie has outstanding short-area quickness and fluid hips, and is rarely out of position, but he leaves college with only two career interceptions and 10 passes defended.
21. Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M (JR, 6' 4", 325 pounds)
After starting at right guard in 2019 and left guard in ’20, Green made starts at every position along the offensive line except center in ’21. While he has been best at LG, his positional versatility will add extra value to his future team. Green is extremely powerful in his lower half, plays with good balance and is an easy mover getting to the second level.
22. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh (rSR, 6' 3", 217 pounds)
Pickett is my QB1, but he’s likely to be drafted outside the top five and perhaps outside the top 10, as he was in my latest mock draft. With good (but not great) arm strength and mobility, Pickett goes through his progressions quickly and throws with anticipation and accuracy. Although he’s an older prospect (he turns 24 in June), he’s also the most “pro-ready” of the group as well.
23. Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama (JR, 6' 2", 189 pounds)
After catching only 15 passes in 10 games over two seasons at Ohio State, Williams had a breakout season (79/1,572/15) after transferring to Alabama. He’s not just a deep threat, but Williams’s track background shows up on the field with his game-breaking speed. A torn ACL in January may cost him a few draft slots, but he has the talent to emerge as the WR1 in this draft class even if he were to miss any time to start his rookie season.
24. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (SR, 6' 1", 188 pounds)
Olave creates easy separation as one of the most polished route-runners in this year’s draft class. Due to his speed and ability to track the ball well, he can be a weapon in the vertical passing game. He finished his Ohio State career with a school record for receiving touchdowns (35) and averaged 15.4 yards per catch.
25. Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn (SR, 5' 11", 189 pounds)
As a player with limited offers coming out of high school, McCreary still plays with a chip on his shoulder. While he’ll get dinged for having short arms, he’s a smooth and fluid athlete who is sticky in coverage and will compete through the catch point.
26. Daxton Hill, S, Michigan (JR, 6' 0", 192 pounds)
With the versatility that teams covet, Hill can play single-high, nickel or even outside cornerback and has tremendous range. Hill is expected to run in the low-4.3 range in the 40-yard dash at the combine next month and jump north of 40" in the vertical.
27. Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia (SR, 6' 6", 340 pounds)
Davis is a big reason why the Bulldogs have had one of the nation’s best run defenses over the past few seasons. Physically imposing and stout at the point of the attack, he’ll immediately upgrade the run defense of his NFL team. Even though he has impressive mobility for a man his size, he will be utilized as a two-down run stuffer with limited pass-rushing contributions.
28. Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa (rSR, 6' 7", 330 pounds)
Although he’s making a jump from a much lower level of competition, Penning has outstanding length (34 3/4" arms based on Senior Bowl measurements), size, strength, toughness and a nasty demeanor that his position coaches will appreciate.
29. Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State (SR, 5' 11", 184 pounds)
Dotson creates separation with his nuanced route-running and quickness, has outstanding hands and is elusive in the open field, but he won’t break a lot of tackles. Dotson finished his final season at Penn State with 91 catches for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns and adds value as a punt returner.
30. Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi (rJR, 6' 2", 205 pounds)
While he benefited from the Ole Miss system, Corral has a quick release and he significantly cut down on turnovers in 2021. His dual-threat skill set allows him to escape pressure to extend plays or be a weapon on designed runs. It’s easy to appreciate his competitive nature, but that along with his slight frame will potentially lead to increased durability risk as well.
31. Devonte Wyatt, IDL, Georgia (SR, 6' 3", 307 pounds)
Like several other key contributors to Georgia’s loaded defense, Wyatt’s stats won’t wow anyone. That said, he has elite quickness and The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman labeled Wyatt as the team’s “biggest Freak.” After generating plenty of buzz at the Senior Bowl, Wyatt should continue that positive momentum with elite testing numbers at the combine.
32. Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan (SR, 6' 6", 304 pounds)
A former exchange student from Austria, Raimann was recruited to Central Michigan as a tight end before converting to left tackle. With nimble feet and excellent play strength, Raimann has been a quick study and has put himself into the first-round mix in short order at his new position.
33. Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina (JR, 6' 0", 221 pounds)
Especially given his short-but-thick frame, Howell’s obvious comparison is to Baker Mayfield. Losing nearly all of the skill players around him in last year’s draft, Howell’s numbers regressed as he tried to do too much at times. That said, he is arguably the best deep passer in this year’s draft class, and his mobility allows him to extend plays or rack up yardage on the ground.
34. Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College (rSR, 6' 3", 314 pounds)
Johnson started 19 games at Davidson before transferring to Boston College and becoming a three-year starter for the Eagles. He played left tackle in 2020 and started at left guard in ’19 and ’21. Guard will be his ideal position at the next level, but with tons of experience and some positional versatility, he’s a high-floor prospect who should develop into an above-average starter early in his career.
35. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (rSR, 6' 0", 220 pounds)
No quarterback in this class has as much upside as Willis, but his floor is probably the lowest of the top QBs as well. Willis needs to improve his consistency as a passer, but the ball jumps off his hands. Based on data from Zebra Technologies, his 75.7-mph throw at the Senior Bowl was the fastest tracked at the event since 2019. In addition, he’s the most dangerous runner at the position.
36. Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida (JR, 6' 2", 196 pounds)
His uncle (Matt Elam) and father (Abe Elam) both played defensive back in the NFL. Kaiir has an ideal combination of size, length and speed, and is at his best in press where he can be physical at the line of scrimmage.
37. Arnold Ebiketie, edge, Penn State (rSR, 6' 2", 250 pounds)
A transfer from Temple, Ebiketie had 9.5 sacks and 18 TFLs in his one season with the Nittany Lions. Per PFF, Ebiketie had the third-highest win rate among Big Ten edge rushers after Hutchinson and Karlaftis.
38. Logan Hall, IDL/edge, Houston (JR, 6' 6", 278 pounds)
Hall’s former teammate Payton Turner was a first-round pick in 2021, and it’s possible that the similarly sized Hall could sneak into Round 1 as well. Hall has inside-outside versatility, outstanding length and quickness.
39. DeMarvin Leal, IDL, Texas A&M (JR, 6' 4", 290 pounds)
A bit of a tweener at 290 pounds, the former five-star recruit has played both inside and on the edge for the Aggies. He has incredible movement skills for a player his size, and he finished 2021 with 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.
40. Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington (rJR, 6' 0", 200 pounds)
Gordon should test off the charts at the combine next month. As noted by Bruce Feldman, Gordon has a “background in dance, kung fu and ballet” and “has vertical jumped 42.5 [inches].” As the technical aspects of his game catch up with his explosive athleticism and fluidity, the sky’s the limit for Gordon.
41. Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati (rSR, 6' 3", 207 pounds)
Ridder is a four-year starter who has improved each season, and he led the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff last year. There are some issues with accuracy, but he has the arm talent to push the ball down the field and dual-threat ability to make opposing defenses account for his mobility.
42. Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota (SR, 6' 8", 387 pounds)
Faalele is an enormous tackle prospect originally from Australia. While the former rugby player is raw, he has unreal length and power, and moves surprisingly well for a man so close to 400 pounds.
43. Kingsley Enagbare, edge, South Carolina (SR, 6' 4", 261 pounds)
More effective as a pass rusher than run defender, Enagbare uses his length, power and heavy hands to win. He finished his South Carolina career with a total of 24 tackles for loss, 15 sacks and three forced fumbles.
44. Darian Kinnard, IOL, Kentucky (SR, 6' 5", 324 pounds)
After starting a couple of games at left tackle as a freshman (2018), Kinnard has started each of the past three seasons at right tackle. Due to his tenacity, physicality and power, he can impose his will in the ground game and will likely move inside to guard at the next level.
45. Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State (SR, 6' 1", 200 pounds)
Brisker has the versatility to succeed in a variety of roles and alignments, but he may be at his best in the box as a tone-setter on defense. He uses his athleticism, length and instincts to make plays in both the pass and run games.
46. Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State (SR, 6' 3", 249 pounds)
McBride is the top tight end in this class and a solid all-around prospect, but it’s unlikely that any tight end will be selected in Round 1 this year. Lining up all over the formation, the sure-handed McBride was the focal point of Colorado State’s offense and posted rare stats for a collegiate tight end (90/1,121/1) in 2021.
47. Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama (rJR, 6' 1", 195 pounds)
A savvy route-runner with natural hands, Tolbert has had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for the Jaguars as he led the Sun Belt in receptions (82), yards (1,474) and yards per reception (18.0) last season.
48. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State (JR, 5' 10", 210 pounds)
This draft class is unlikely to yield a first-round running back, but Walker is capable of a being a workhorse. After transferring from Wake Forest, Walker finished second in the country in rushing (1,646). Per PFF, Walker led the country in carries of 15-plus yards (30) and yards after contact (1,168).
49. Cameron Thomas, edge, San Diego State (SR, 6' 4", 264 pounds)
Thomas lined up all along the line of scrimmage for the Aztecs. He’ll be an edge at the next level but can reduce inside on third downs. Thomas has excellent initial quickness, plays with relentless effort and uses his hands well.
50. Perrion Winfrey, IDL, Oklahoma (SR, 6' 4", 303 pounds)
Winfrey has one of the most explosive first steps among those in this year’s interior defensive line class. The former juco transfer had 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2021, and no Big 12 interior defensive lineman has had more pressures than Winfrey over the past two seasons, per PFF stats.
51. Myjai Sanders, edge, Cincinnati (SR, 6' 4", 242 pounds)
52. Christian Harris, LB, Alabama (JR, 6' 2", 232 pounds)
53. Phidarian Mathis, IDL, Alabama (rSR, 6' 4", 313 pounds)
54. Quay Walker, LB, Georgia (SR, 6' 4", 240 pounds)
55. Drake Jackson, edge, USC (JR, 6' 4", 250 pounds)
56. Carson Strong, QB, Nevada (rJR, 6' 4", 226 pounds)
57. Travis Jones, IDL, Connecticut (JR, 6' 4", 326 pounds)
58. Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor (rSR, 5' 11", 196 pounds)
59. Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana (JR, 6' 6", 299 pounds)
60. Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M (JR, 6' 1", 215 pounds)
61. Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State (rJR, 6' 5", 315 pounds)
62. Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming (SR, 6' 2", 241 pounds)
63. Lewis Cine, S, Georgia (JR, 6' 1", 200 pounds)
64. David Bell, WR, Purdue (JR, 6' 2", 205 pounds)
65. George Pickens, WR, Georgia (JR, 6' 3", 200 pounds)
66. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State (JR, 6' 1", 220 pounds)
67. John Metchie III, WR, Alabama (JR, 6' 0", 195 pounds)
68. Boye Mafe, edge, Minnesota (rSR, 6' 4", 255 pounds)
69. Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State (JR, 6' 2", 200 pounds)
70. Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA (rSR, 6' 3", 205 pounds)
71. Nik Bonitto, edge, Oklahoma (rJR, 6' 3", 240 pounds)
72. Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia (SR, 6' 0", 202 pounds)
73. Sean Rhyan, OT, UCLA (JR, 6' 5", 320 pounds)
74. Josh Paschal, edge, Kentucky (rSR, 6' 3", 278 pounds)
75. Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State (SR, 6' 5", 250 pounds)
76. Wan'Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky (JR, 5' 11", 185 pounds)
77. Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State (SR, 6' 0", 193 pounds)
78. Jamaree Salyer, IOL, Georgia (SR, 6' 3", 320 pounds)
79. Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia (SR, 6' 2", 223 pounds)
80. Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois (JR, 6' 1", 200 pounds)
81. Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M (JR, 6' 5", 255 pounds)
82. Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma (rJR, 6' 0", 222 pounds)
83. Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin (rSO, 6' 2", 261 pounds)
84. Dylan Parham, OT, Memphis (rSR, 6' 2", 313 pounds)
85. Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan (rSO, 5' 10", 195 pounds)
86. Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame (rSO, 5' 9", 199 pounds)
87. Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati (SR, 6' 1", 210 pounds)
88. JoJo Domann, LB, Nebraska (rSR, 6' 1", 226 pounds)
89. Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina (SR, 6' 4", 241 pounds)
90. Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati (SR, 6' 3", 208 pounds)
91. Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA (rJR, 6' 4", 248 pounds)
92. Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati (rSR, 6' 4", 252 pounds)
93. Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson (rJR, 6' 4", 205 pounds)
94. Mario Goodrich, CB, Clemson (SR, 6' 0", 186 pounds)
95. Luke Goedeke, OT, Central Michigan (rJR, 6' 4", 318 pounds)
96. Marcus Jones, CB, Houston (SR, 5' 8", 185 pounds)
97. James Cook, RB, Georgia (SR, 5' 11", 190 pounds)
98. Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati (SR, 6' 1", 191 pounds)
99. Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State (SR, 6' 3", 242 pounds)
100. Dameon Pierce, RB, Florida (SR, 5' 9", 220 pounds)
Kevin Hanson is contributing mock drafts and position rankings to The MMQB during the 2022 NFL draft season. His mock drafts have graded as the seventh-most accurate (tied) over the past five years, per The Huddle Report. His 2015 NFL mock draft graded as the most accurate.
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