NFL Draft 2022: Alex Hale’s Big Board 2.0

After a College Football season where droughts were broken and a new champion was crowned in the Georgia Bulldogs.  With the season now done, we can now turn our attention to the NFL Draft. 

From the beginning of the year, we saw our Big Board 1.0 showcase some of the most talked-about talents going into the season.  But over the course of the season, the board has changed in a big way.

The main thing that stands out is that there will be no quarterbacks in Big Board 2.0.  This is because of the regression of my preseason QB1 Liberty’s Malik Willis this past year and the fact I’m not sold on either Ole Miss’ Matt Corral or Pitt’s Kenny Pickett.  This year’s draft is full of defensive playmakers and wide receivers.  While there’s a lot of movement that will happen throughout the Draft process let’s jump into Big Board 2.0 to see where everyone stands after this past season.

Big Board 2.0

Kyle Hamilton checks off every box at Safety and sits as the new #1 player on the Big Board
  1. S Kyle Hamilton Notre Dame– If you’re trying to clone the ideal Safety in today’s NFL…you’re cloning Kyle Hamilton who is a unicorn player at 6’4’’ 220lbs.  He is the most fascinating prospect I’ve scouted the last five years because I find it hard not to rank him at #1 on pure physical traits alone.  There truly isn’t a flaw in his game.  A leader on and off the field, can do anything on the field you ask him, and he meets or exceeds every physical trait you ask for.  I’m not afraid to give him only the second perfect grade I’ve ever given out (Colts OG Quentin Nelson the only other).  With the way the NFL is played now, the Safety position is a higher value position and that plus his stellar play and traits place him at the #1 spot on the Big Board.

2. EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux Oregon– While Thibodeaux hasn’t lit up the stat sheet as some hoped, he still had a respectable season with 7 sacks in 10 games this season.  Thibodeaux showed on tape his explosiveness and rare talent to get to the QB that makes him special compared to everyone else in the draft.  He’s certainly lived up to his High School All-American talent.  Aidan Hutchinson is going to give him a run for his money with his standout season, but Kayvon is still the most athletically gifted player in this draft.  He will be an instant impact player for whoever selects him in the Draft.

3. EDGE Aidan Hutchinson Michigan– What an amazing season for Hutchinson who came in on a mission to help restore the Wolverines program and he led them back to prominence.  After coming off an injury-plagued 2020 season, Hutchinson exploded with 13.5 sacks, good for 3rd in the country.  He finished the year strong and coming up huge in the biggest games including a 3 sack performance against Ohio State.  Hutchinson much like Thibodeaux is a superb athlete, but Hutchinson beats you more with his physicality than his athleticism.  His work ethic and determination will make him a leader on and off the field that a team can build around.

4. OT Evan Neal Alabama– Neal came into the season at the top LT on the board and showed nothing this season to sway me otherwise.  While some will say that Neal might be suited to play RT, he played LT this past season at Alabama and showed he can handle the best pass rushers.  But his overall power and size make him a mauler in the run game, which might make him a pure plug and play RT.  It all depends on the team and the need.  Whoever gets him is going to get a fixture on their Line and you can’t put a price tag on that.

5. CB Derek Stingley Jr. LSU– There may not be a more physically gifted CB I’ve seen since Patrick Peterson came out of LSU.  Stingley stands at 6’1’’ 195 with the ability to run a 4.3 40 and a 42 inch vertical.  While his Freshman year was his only standout season statistically, you saw those flashes over the last two seasons, which makes me believe the uncertainty of the coaching at LSU may have played a factor.  The question remains, how has he recovered from his foot injury?  Has he lost a step?  Will the foot be a recurring problem?  If he checks out, he’s arguably the most talented player in the draft who can be a lockdown corner in the NFL.

6. EDGE George Karlaftis Purdue– Everyone talks about Kayvon and Aidan, but a case could be made that Karlaftis is the best of the three.  He has the moves, Football IQ, and a motor that doesn’t stop.  Sure he’s not as athletic or as explosive as the Top 2, but when you look for a prototypical pass rusher that will be consistent, that’s Karlaftis.  While he might not lead the league in sacks, he will be constantly in the backfield and able to get 8-10 sacks a season.  He’s an excellent consolation prize to whoever misses out of the Top 2.

7. OT Ikem Ekwonu NC State– You can make the argument Ekwonu is better than Evan Neal.  He has the same power at the point of attack, tenacity, and has the size and a better lateral movement that makes some believe he’s LT1 and Neal is RT1.  Ekwonu has been a starter for the Wolfpack at LT since his true Freshman year and has backed it up with stellar play.  Coming from an athletic family, where his twin brother is an LB at Notre Dame, you see his athleticism on tape.  Add to that his wrestling background from High School makes him more intriguing as a prospect.  It’s hard not to love him.  He will be an LT at the next level and might end up being the best in the class.

8. C Tyler Linderbaum Iowa– Very rarely would I put an interior lineman this high on a Big Board because of the importance of the position and the fact you find Interior Lineman later in drafts normally.  Linderbaum is an exception because of his standout play and physical traits.  He backed up my hype from Big Board 1.0 and was a key member of Iowa’s team that went to the Big 10 Title game.  With his tenacity at the point of attack, his athletic ability, and his size for the position, there’s no doubt he’ll be a fixture of the Line wherever he lands.

9. WR Treylon Burks Arkansas– There are easily 4 WRs that you can make cases as the top WR in the draft.  It all really depends on what you look for in your WRs.  For myself, I like a WR who has a good size/speed combination, with the consistency to make plays.  Although he played at Arkansas, he was the standout star that they relied on heavily and he came up big when they needed him.  Some of his best games were against ranked teams like Alabama, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss.  He has the size at 6’3’’ 225, but it’s his ability to make the big play and his underrated route running that makes him just squeak by every other WR.

10. EDGE David Ojabo Michigan– Aidan Hutchinson’s partner in crime was just as much of a menace in the pass rush for the Wolverines.  Ojabo is an explosive athlete with the ability to blow past blockers and wreak havoc in the backfield.  He has the length for the position and has developed counter moves that help him win at the point of attack.  What he needs to improve on is the run defending aspect of his game.  He won’t contribute there right away, but he has as much upside as the other 3 EDGE rushers in the draft.  Ojabo would be best served playing opposite a proven pass rusher to take early pressure off him to develop in areas he still needs to.  Still…the sky is the limit.

11. WR Garrett Wilson Ohio State– With Jameson Williams now off the Top 15 due to his unfortunate ACL tear, there will be a battle now for that top spot.  Wilson by most has the traits you look for should be the #1 WR in the Draft.  He has the size, athleticism, big-play ability, and competitiveness that you need in a WR.  The only concern…the hands.  He’s had his moments where he drops the ball when he shouldn’t.  He’ll have to be coached up in this aspect, but the upside for Wilson is enormous.  He has all the abilities you want in a WR1.  It’s just polishing up his game.

12. WR Chris Olave Ohio State– Chris Olave leaves Ohio State as one of its most prolific receivers in the school’s history holding multiple records.  If we go by straight production, there isn’t a better WR in this draft.  His route running as stated before is some of the best I’ve seen and can burn defenders off the snap.  The question becomes for all his production, is he truly a WR1?  Personally, I believe Olave is a great WR2 and would strive as a slot receiver in almost a Cooper Kupp role where he has other WRs around him to allow him to do his thing.  In the right scenario, Olave will be just as deadly in the Pros as he was in College.

13. LB Nakobe Dean Georgia– The leader of the Georgia Defense needs no real introduction.  His Football IQ, leadership, and all-around ability as a linebacker make him a perfect fit in almost any Defense.  Georgia used in every aspect of the game and he thrived.  What probably is his only detractor is he doesn’t do anything great, he’s just good at everything and extremely athletic.  He’s going to be the heart and soul of a Defense wherever he goes.

14. DT Jordan Davis Georgia– One of thing newer trends we’re seeing in the NFL is the athletic Nose Tackle, as evidenced by the impact of Vita Vea.  Vea has been a headache for OLines and teams have taken notice.  Jordan Davis’s production as one of the leaders of the Georgia Defense makes him a fascinating prospect with the hope of him becoming another Vea.  Davis is the best interior-run defender in this draft class because he can’t be blocked.  While not the most explosive athlete, his pure power allows him to win at the line and cause havoc in the backfield as we saw in the National Championship game against Alabama.  A team that drafts Davis solidifies their Interior Line for the next decade.

15. WR Drake London USC– Out of the Top 5 WRs, London is the most physically intriguing out of the group.  At 6’5’’ 210lbs he has the size to overpower smaller corners, but what is interesting is he plays faster than what you would expect and runs his routes well.  You can see why some have him as the top WR in the draft.  What the story going forward will be is how he recovered from his ankle fracture at the beginning of November.  If there’s an intriguing stat, it’s that even though he missed the last month of the season, he still caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and 7 TDs.

Honorable Mention: The Next 10

Trevor Penning could be the Top OT in this Draft.

16. OT Charles Cross Mississippi State– Potential LT prospect, but most hit and miss of Top 3 OT.

17. OG Kenyon Green Texas A&M– Former 5 Star recruit who can either be OG or RT in NFL.

18. LB Devin Lloyd Utah– He’s just as good as Nakobe Dean, the edge goes to Dean b/c of slight athleticism advantage.

19. DT DeMarvin Leal Texas A&M– A one-trick pony as an outstanding interior pass rusher, but can’t stop the run.

20. CB Andrew Booth Jr. Clemson– Five-Star recruit who lived up to the hype at Clemson, should be a starting CB in NFL from day one.

21. CB Ahmad Gardner Cincinnati– One of the hearts and soul of Cincy Defense, Gardner’s physical traits and production make him a fascinating prospect.

22. OT Trevor Penning Northern Iowa– A physical specimen who should be LT at the next level.  The question remains with the level of play and how he’ll translate.

23. RB Kenneth Walker III Michigan State– The key to the Spartans success and should a lead 3 down back in the NFL.

24. WR Jahan Dotson Penn State– Explosive WR who will cause headaches with route running and big play-ability.

25. WR Jameson Williams Alabama– Even with his Torn ACL, as long he recovers to 100%, he’s going to be a downfield threat in the league.

As the Draft process kicks off in Mobile, Alabama in the next few weeks with the Senior Bowl, we will continue to see players rise and fall as we’ve seen from Big Board 1.0 to Big Board 2.0.  The importance of testing well and thriving in environments like the Senior Bowl can make or break prospects.  Add to that the uncertainty surrounding the Jaguars’ situation and what they may do with the #1 pick.  What could change everything is how QBs perform in Mobile.  With no QBs in my Top 25, any QB that can stand out in Mobile and erase some of their concerns could easily jump into a Top 25 that desperately needs a QB.  One thing is for sure, without a Top QB and so many teams needing a QB, nothing is a given in this draft.  For the 10th year, I can proudly say once again…let the madness begin.

By the way…Mock 1.0 comes out in ONE MONTH.

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