The NFL Combine has arrived, and there are less than two months remaining until the 2022 NFL Draft. The week in Indianapolis and Pro Days could lead to a little bit of a shift in the rankings but things are starting to take shape. Here are my rankings by offensive position:
1. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (CBS Sports rank: 22)2. Matt Corral, Ole Miss (20)3. Malik Willis, Liberty (21)4. Sam Howell, North Carolina (48)5. Carson Strong, Nevada (55)
Pickett looks like the most ready to compete for an NFL team today. There are concerns about his hand size and whether or not that will be an issue in the NFL. The ball is a little bigger and fumbles were a problem for the quarterback in college. Corral showed a lot of growth from 2020 to 2021. His decision-making and accuracy improved greatly. Although a bit undersized, the California native shows an ability to attack all three levels of the defense. Willis offers the most upside as a player with elite mobility. He can get stuck on his reads and hold onto the football too long, however. Howell is tough and throws the best deep ball among the class. He takes some unnecessary hits when scrambling. Strong has limited mobility to go along with a knee injury, but he does a fantastic job of driving the ball into tight windows.
1. Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State (66)2. Breece Hall, Iowa State (53)3. Kyren Williams, Notre Dame (80)4. Dameon Pierce, Florida (NR)5. Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M (49)
From his final season at Wake Forest to his first season at Michigan State, Walker showed more flexibility in his ankles and an ability to re-direct. He showed more as a pass catcher and willed his team to multiple victories this season. When looking at the players who are having sustained success in the NFL, they are typically around the 220-pound threshold. Hall and Spiller fall into that category. They are bigger backs with average top-end speed. Williams is a bulldog in the run game despite his lack of ideal size, and he excels as a pass catcher. Pierce really impressed at the Reese’s Senior Bowl after being used lightly in Florida’s offense. He is a strong player.
1. Trey McBride, Colorado State (31)2. Greg Dulcich, UCLA (141)3. Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State (78)4. Cade Otton, Washington (83)5. Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M (47)
McBride is the most well-rounded tight end in the class. He is not a burner, but he moves really well and does a good job as a blocker. Dulcich showed a lot of improvement from 2020 to 2021. He is a talent that seamlessly plugs the ball out of the air and turns upfield quickly. Ruckert is well-rounded as well but, similar to Pierce at Florida, was used sparingly in Ohio State’s pass game considering the amount of talent the Buckeyes had at wide receiver. Otton is a good blocker but is more limited athletically. Wydermyer is a bigger, stronger tight end who uses his physicality to his advantage through routes.
1. Garrett Wilson, Ohio State (7)2. Jameson Williams, Alabama (10)3. Treylon Burks, Arkansas (17)4. Chris Olave, Ohio State (23)5. Drake London, USC (18)
The top three receivers are a bit clustered right now. The combine and more tape study should separate them before the draft, but in the overall rankings, all three fall inside a five-player range. Wilson has great body control and can throw on the brakes sharply. Williams is a burner after the catch. Burks is a big, physical receiver who primarily played in the slot but excels on a vertical plane. He is going to run faster than people expect for his size. He also shows a willingness to block, which could make him an intriguing fit for a wide-zone scheme. Olave is just Mr. Consistent with good speed. He is lean but runs good routes. Finally, London ended the season with an injury after producing some absurd numbers for the Trojans. A former basketball player, London uses his size to create separation and win at the catch point. Georgia’s George Pickens is another prospect who has the potential to develop into a No. 1 wide receiver. He showed that capability before suffering an ACL injury and was limited after returning from the injury late in the year.
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Interior Offensive Line
1. Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa (5)2. Kenyon Green, Texas A&M (15)3. Zion Johnson, Boston College (37)4. Darian Kinnard, Kentucky (46)5. Jamaree Salyer, Georgia (101)
Linderbaum is an ideal fit for a wide-zone scheme where he can use his athleticism to work in space. He plays to the whistle and is hands down the top center prospect. Green has shown tackle-guard versatility but really found a home inside. He is a wide body who drives opponents off the football. Johnson is another that offers versatility. He played tackle for the Eagles in a pinch and also cross-trained at center in Mobile. Kinnard is a mauler in the run game but is still improving in pass protection. He wants to play tackle at the next level, but his brightest future is inside. Salyer is another physical player who the Bulldogs liked to line up tight and run over people.
1. Evan Neal, Alabama (6)2. Charles Cross, Mississippi State (8)3. Ikem Ekwonu, N.C. State (9)4. Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa (50)5. Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan (29)
Neal is a monster physically, although that athleticism was not always evident on film. When Mekhi Becton was healthy, he showed the challenges that sheer size can have on defenders. Cross is the best in pass protection right now, and that would be the argument for Jacksonville potentially taking him at No. 1 overall. He is just a sophomore and has room to grow in the ground game. Ekwonu is the opposite. He is a road grader who pancakes every defender that stands up to him. Offensive linemen are praised for playing with a mean streak, but Penning might need to reel his in a bit. He threw a defender into the back of Desmond Ridder’s legs at the Senior Bowl and unnecessarily tries to end his opponent’s existence on every snap. Raimann is an athletic Austrian who is still developing technically, but the sky is the limit.
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