NFL Draft 2022: Alex’s Big Board 1.0

Did you guys miss me?  Well, we are back once again to break down the upcoming NFL Draft for 2022.  For yours truly this marks the 10th NFL Draft that I’ve been writing/broadcasting.  From humble beginnings speaking the praises of players like Brock Osweiler and Stephen Hill in my first season breaking down the NFL Draft to learning from mistakes and later speaking the gospel of players like Patrick Mahomes and Keenan Allen to name a few.  Analyzing the draft is one of my favorite things to do and this year’s draft looks to be another talented group led by a bunch of Defensive talents.

On paper though, this seems to be one of the weaker drafts I’ve seen in my past 10 years, with this draft being very top-heavy, with a lot of projectable players that have a bunch of question marks as you go down the list.  It’s also a class that lacks a true standout quarterback.  To a lot of people, that is Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler, although I strongly disagree with that assessment and spoiler alert, don’t have him ranked as I see a bust waiting to happen in the NFL. In fact, six of the top ten are defensive players, including four of the top five players on my big board.  I value players by the importance of the position as I see it, but more importantly the talent itself and can it project to the NFL.

In this year’s NFL Draft, nobody will have a consensus #1 pick, so that’ll only make things much more interesting.  So with that said let’s reveal our Top 15 players on the Big Board.

Big Board 1.0

Kayvon Thibodeaux leaps to the top of Big Board 1.0
  1. EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux Oregon– The former #1 Recruit in the country coming out of High School, Thibodeaux hasn’t disappointed at Oregon.  His talents as a pass rusher draws comparisons to Browns EDGE Myles Garrett.  It’s hard to not compare the two because of their size, quickness and body control.  He can improve in the run game, but when it comes to the position, the question is can you be a disruptive force?  Thibodeaux is without question the most disruptive force in the draft.

2. CB Derek Stingley Jr. LSU– The #1 Recruit in the country in the Class of 2019, coming from a family of former standout athletes, Stingley has continued the success at the cornerback position at LSU.  He’s a standout in press-man coverage and has elite ball skills.  He’s fluid in his movement to go with ideal size and athletic ability that give him all the potential to be a lockdown corner in the NFL.

3. S Kyle Hamilton Notre Dame– One can make the real argument that Hamilton is the top player on the board.  His size at 6’4’’ 220 and elite athletic ability to go with his playmaking ability make him the most unique talent on the board.  He’s a ball-hawking free safety with the ability to drop the big hit on a player in the open field.  Hamilton fits perfectly into what the NFL runs in their defenses today and should be an impact player at the next level.

4. OT Evan Neal Alabama– Neal might be the most freakish athlete in the entire draft and he plays the Offensive line.  At 6’7’’ 360 lbs., Neal has the explosive athletic ability you don’t see for a guy his size.  Apparently, he’s cut down 15 pounds now down to 345 lbs., but he just bullies defenders at the line.  Without question, he’s going to translate at the next level.  He’s backed it up already blocking Bryce Young’s blindside this season leading the Tide to yet another dominating start.  Neal is a big part of that and should be treated as a prospect as such.  For any team looking for a left tackle in the draft, this is the guy you want.

5. DT Demarvin Leal Texas A&M– It’s been rare in recent years to find an Interior Defensive Lineman cause so much buzz in Draft circles.  But Leal has lived up to his High School hype and has been a dominant force for the Aggies.  He’s already surpassed his career-high for sacks this season and is just as much of a menace as ever.  He’s a pure pass-rushing DT, like an Aaron Donald, but doesn’t have the counter moves yet and will have to be coached up.  He relies on beating linemen off the edge and it will take time to develop him for the NFL, but the talent is a Fletcher Cox type that can solidify the interior of a Defensive Line.

6. EDGE Aidan Hutchinson Michigan– Going into the season, Hutchinson was viewed as a mid/late 1st Round talent, but has emerged into 2021 as arguably the best pass rusher into the country, transforming Michigan’s defense into a force to be reckoned with.  He was already known as a freakishly athletic talent who was strong in the running game.  He’s now found his ability to wreak havoc into the backfield already matching his career high in sacks and is set to blow that number out of the water.  Hutchinson for his dominant play has rightfully entered that first tier of talent of the big board and should challenge some of them to potentially enter the top five by end of the season.

In a weak QB class, Malik Willis of Liberty leads the way

7. QB Malik Willis Liberty– If we’re going by the pure talent for the position and stats to go with it, ignore the school, Willis is without question the most talented QB in this draft.  A big-time NFL arm, with a lightning-quick release and the athletic ability that gives defenses nightmares, Willis has the talent scouts dream about.  He’s flashed against teams like Virginia Tech and Syracuse and led the Flames to a bowl victory against #12 Coastal Carolina last season.  The former Auburn transfer has emerged like another former Auburn transfer…could he fare similar success in the NFL?  The talent says absolutely.

8. CB Andrew Booth Jr. Clemson– Although Clemson has struggled, Booth hasn’t with his play on the field.  Although some will point to his incident 2 years ago, punching a Louisville player and getting ejected, Booth has been a leader on the field since 2020 and a key part of the Clemson defense.  An ultra-competitive player, Booth fights for the ball any chance he gets.  He has a very high motor and likes to play physically.  Add to that he’s extremely athletic and has fluid movement in coverage that allows him to cover the best receivers.  Like more corners, he lacks in tackling ability, but he can be coached up.  The talent to be a lockdown corner and more importantly, the passion is there.

9. OT Jaxson Kirkland Washington– While Kirkland doesn’t compare to Evan Neal, Kirkland is talented enough to easily be a strong consolation prize to any team that might miss out on Neal.  The former Guard has transitioned extremely well at LT and his abilities translate well for the NFL.  He has the athletic ability and quickness off the snap you want from someone protecting the blindside.  He plays with good technique and has shown the ability to be strong in the running and passing game in blocking.  Evan Neal might be the main prize, but Kirkland has the ability to develop into a player better than Neal down the road.

10. WR Chris Olave Ohio State– It still stuns me that Olave returned to OSU this season.  Olave had nothing to prove and was a 1st Round lock.  He’s only backed up his draft stock in his return to OSU only climbing up the Buckeye record books.  As smooth of a route runner as you’re going to find, Olave is also explosive and has reliable hands.  He currently leads the pack due to his production as the top WR in this year’s draft, but the gap is very close.  Olave is the only WR who I can say is a first-round lock and that’s why he’s the #1 WR on my board.

11. WR Drake London USC– Who could’ve imagined the start London was going to get off to?  London has been the one consistent in the Trojans offense, amassing 670 yards already beating his season-best.  He isn’t a burner, but he’s a big, physical receiver at 6’5’’ 210 lbs. who has outstanding ball skills at the point of attack.  He can bully smaller corners around and can make the difficult catches, as he showcased against Colorado.  After taking a backseat to former USC WR draft pick Amon Ra St. Brown, London has emerged as the next Trojan WR who will be on the draft radar this year.

12. WR Garrett Wilson Ohio State– Olave’s teammate has been making quite the impression in his Junior year as the more explosive WR of the Olave/Wilson duo.  Wilson is just a pure playmaking WR who gets open and makes the big play.  Averaging 17.8 yards per catch this season and leading the Buckeyes so far in receiving.  In a league whose teams love the explosive, uber-athletic WR who can make the big play, Wilson is going to be a hot commodity once he enters the draft for 2022.

13. QB Desmond Ridder Cincinnati– For all the credit that Luke Fickell gets and rightfully deserves, it’s his QB that has taken Cincinnati to another level.  Ridder decided to return to Cincy after a stellar Junior season that would’ve made him a potential first-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.  He’s returned with a vengeance as the dual-threat QB has become more of a pure passer in 2021 and lead the Bearcats to a fast-starting including a dominating win over Notre Dame where Ridder threw for 297 yards, 2 TD and 0 INTs, completing 59.4% of his passes.  The arm is there but the accuracy needs to improve, but his size, arm talent, and athletic ability make him a great talent in a draft that lacks elite QBs.

14. IOL Tyler Lindenbaum Iowa– The former multi-sport athlete who once pinned Tristan Wirfs in wrestling in High School has been a dominant force in the Hawkeyes O-Line, which has propelled Iowa to the #3 ranking in the country.  Lindenbaum is a perfect Zone blocking center who has the size and athletic ability to move around and push defenders on the line.  He’s extremely tenacious at the point of attack but could add some bulk for the next level.  If you’re a Browns fan…this is a guy you keep your eye on for 2022.

Kenneth Walker sprints his way into the #15 Ranking

15. RB Kenneth Walker III Michigan State– If you were asking me today who my selection for the Heisman Trophy is, it would be without question Walker, who currently leads the Nation is Rushing leading the Spartans to an unforeseen 4-0 start.  As a prospect he’s fascinating as he was a productive back at Wake Forest, rushing for 17 TDs in 2 seasons, but has already surpassed his career-best for rushing and is on pace to rush for more yards in 2021 than he did in his 2 seasons at Wake Forest.  His vision, explosiveness, and ability to be a 3 down back give me Nick Chubb comparisons.  Nobody will rank him this high, but with his production at a school like Wake Forest that held him back compared to now, it’s clear his talent can translate in the NFL.

As you can see there’s controversy and debates to be had here.  While it’s early in the College Football season, the big board is starting to take shape.  Is there anyone who can emerge as the season goes on as a top talent who can bounce anyone off the Top 15?  Will anyone have a sluggish back end of the season and fall off the big board?  With a lot of football to be played, this board can look very different come the end of November and we will return then with Big Board 2.0.  Until then, enjoy the College Football season and the chaos that’s already ensuing in the season.

%d bloggers like this: