Now that the Playoffs are set, the Bowls decided and we’re in panic mode buying Christmas presents (unless that’s just me???) we can take another look at players who may be available in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Not everyone listed will be declaring for the draft and some may choose to return for another year, especially the ones who suffered season-derailing injuries. Many of the players below will be playing in one of the two big post-season All-Star games – The East-West Shrine Game (Feb 3, 2022, 8 PM EST, NFL Network) or the Senior Bowl (Feb 5, 2022, 12:30 PM EST, NFL Network) along with dozens of other players who may or may not have been mentioned in previous articles, but who will be drafted.
Not a First-Rounder, but. . .
Tyler Badie – RB – Missouri – I know, Mizzou probably isn’t on your radar, they didn’t have a great season and they’re not a “traditional” power. This isn’t about team performances though, this is about players you should know heading into the draft process and Badie is a name you should definitely know. Used mostly as a third-down back/returner his sophomore and junior years at Mizzou, Badie was named the starter before the season and never looked back, rushing for 200+ yards in five games this season, the only SEC back to do that in this century. Oh, he was also Runner-up for the Doak Walker Trophy (the nation’s best RB).
Cole Turner – TE – Nevada – If you read my preseason Top 50 articles, you saw that I had mentioned Turner’s teammates Carson Strong (QB) and
Romeo Doubs (WR) as players to watch. Because I was focusing on players who might have had a chance to get into the first round, I didn’t include Turner but that doesn’t mean he won’t have buzz surrounding him. Finished both this season and last as the Wolfpack’s second-leading receiver behind Doubs and has a combined (before the bowl game) 19 TDs over the last two seasons. Check him out here for his junior season highlights and keep an eye on him in Mobile during the Senior Bowl. His biggest minus will be that he was rarely used as a traditional in-line blocker and was usually split wide. He reminds me very much of a Saints-era Jimmy Graham.
Logan Hall – DL – Houston - If you remember last year’s NFL Draft and watched Scoreonair.com’s coverage, you probably saw us get a collective look of “Who?” when the Saints took Payton Turner at the bottom of the first round. Well, Hall might not be a first-rounder, but you will definitely know who he is before the week of Senior Bowl practice is over. A virtual carbon copy of Turner, Hall exhibits flexibility with regards to his position that coordinators will love as he can play all over the line. Snaps like this one (Hall is the third lineman from the top, #92) are what I expect you’ll see against the P5 guards in Mobile.
On the Mend
Derek Stingley Jr. – CB – LSU – Has not played since the middle of September due to an injury to his left foot, he’s since had surgery and is attempting to make it back for the Tiger’s bowl game. Regardless of the fact that in three years in Baton Rouge Stingley has had only one healthy year, NFL teams are hoping and praying for him to slip out of the Top 5 to them and if that happens, you might see someone get a haul to trade down. He’s everything you’d want a corner to be. . . except healthy. We’ll see if he’s ready for the combine and if he can perform there he’ll solidify his position as the top DB in this draft.
Tykee Smith – S – Georgia – A transfer from West Virginia over the summer, Smith started the year as someone to keep an eye on if you were in need of secondary help in the 2022 draft. Yeah, so, about that? Smith tore his ACL in October during practice leaving the Bulldogs to fill in for an expected All-American candidate. They’ve done alright for themselves, but Smith’s absence is a question mark for next season; will they or won’t they have to replace him? He has a year of eligibility remaining so a return isn’t out of the question and given that he’s slipped out of the Top 5 safety prospects, that may be the best path going forward.
Kyle Hamilton – S – Notre Dame – In much the same boat as Stingley, Hamilton has maintained his spot as the top prospect at his position despite missing a significant portion of the season. Sidelined since Oct 23, Hamilton was a big reason that the Irish had only the Cincinnati blemish on their record. Like Smith, he has a year of eligibility remaining, but it’s likely that he leaves to play on Sundays.
Drake London – WR – Southern Cal – Prior to the season London was being propped up by some draft writers as being one of the Top 2-3 receivers in the 2022 draft, so of course he set out proving them right with a scorching stat line of 88 REC, 1084 yds, and 7 TDs in only eight games. Unfortunately, Jackson fractured his right ankle on a TD catch in the second quarter of the Trojans’ 41-34 victory over Arizona and his season came to a screeching halt. Other WRs have moved up in the meantime and with former Sooners HC Lincoln Riley just named to the same spot at USC it will be interesting to see if Jackson returns for a year in that receiver-friendly offense.
Jon Metchie III – WR - Alabama – Had an excellent season (96 REC, 1146 yds, 8 TDs) as Bryce Young’s “go-to” receiver and was having a great SEC Championship Game before suffering a significant knee injury just before the half, tearing his ACL. Given the recovery time of an ACL repair (8-12 months), the quality of the 2022 receiver class (very high), and the (likely) significant drop in his draft stock, it would be easy to see Metchie choosing to return for his senior year and prove that he’s healthy.
Sam Howell – QB – North Carolina – This season was supposed to be something special for the Tar Heels. A showdown against Clemson for the ACC Championship, a playoff spot, and Mack Brown finishing the job he started way bay in 1988. So, anyway, that didn’t happen and Sam Howell faced a ton of criticism for it. I still like Howell, and I think he can be a solid QB at the next level, whether or not NFL teams agree with me remains to be seen. You only need one team to like you and with plenty of NFL teams looking for a starter, a good backup, or just something better than what they already have, Howell will land somewhere.
Jaxson Kirkland – OT – Washington – I’m not sure why Kirkland seems to have fallen out of favor with some evaluators, but he’s dropped from a potential low-first/high-second round pick to something like a low-second/high-third. He’s got everything you could want in an offensive tackle except that devastating finish; I would compare him to Dillon Radunz in last year’s draft who I felt was more of a “wall off” blocker than a real “finish-the-block” type. He played well-ish against Aiden Hutchinson (2.5 sacks, 1 hurry, 4 tackles) in the September matchup in Ann Arbor, though the stat sheet may not reflect it. Still, he held up well against the possible #1 overall selection.
Adam Anderson – EDGE – Georgia – This one is. . . awkward. Usually, a player dropping down the “Big Boards” is because of poor play or, maybe, the team not meeting expectations, or even the player hasn’t progressed to the liking of that particular evaluator. In this case, Anderson has dropped, not just from the first round, but out of the top 100 altogether. After being accused of raping a young woman in Athen, GA on Oct 29, Anderson turned himself in to police the following week. At this point, we don’t know what actually happened and it’s likely we won’t know for a while. In any case, it’s probable that Anderson won’t be picked unless this is settled prior to the draft. Despite not playing since Oct 30th, Anderson still shares the team lead in sacks with five.
Rasheed Walker – OT – Penn State – Another offensive tackle that looked like he would be a bottom-third of the first-round pick who has fallen off. Though he also played well-ish against the Wolverine duo of Hutchinson and David Ojabo, those two highlighted what I consider to be his biggest weakness- his problems with quick/fast EDGEs. Sometimes he’s flat-out beaten by inside moves and other times he’s beaten outside and can’t stop himself from grabbing a handful of their jersey. For someone who is a three-year starter at a program like Penn State, that feels inexcusable. I wonder if he might not be better off being moved inside where his strength could be of more use.
Next stop - Post Bowl/Pre-All-Star game updates.