With the kickoff of another exciting college football season, it’s time to look at the updated list of best prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft class. There is plenty of strength at the top of Sporting News’ latest big board, with quarterbacks (who else?) carrying the most buzz, whether from the Power 5 or smaller schools.
Wide receivers and offensive linemen also shine brightly in the spotlight, mixed in with some elite impact defenders. Here’s scouting out the players to watch most for earning first- or second-round status next April:
NFL Draft prospects 2022: Big board of top 50 players
1. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU (6-1, 195 pounds)
Stingley is one of the most dynamic cornerback prospects ever with his pedigree and playmaking resume. He’s got great size and speed and can often win his battles with his length and quickness. There are few holes in his coverage game and he’s also the ultimate ballhawk.
2. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama (6-7, 350 pounds)
Neal will be a dominant blocking force in the NFL. He’s ultra-athletic for such a large frame, agile enough to handle the best pass rushers and powerful enough to move defenders out of the way in the running game.
3. Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma (6-1, 200 pounds)
Rattler is in a great offensive system with Lincoln Riley to emerge as an elite prospect this season. He has natural athleticism and accuracy. He just needs to get better with the mental aspects of the game and get a little stronger overall.
4. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (6-1, 215 pounds)
Willis is a new mashup of Zach Wilson and Trey Lance, a fast riser who’s gotten more attention for an amazing skill set. He has top-flight athleticism and the strong arm to make every throw. He’s also physically and mentally tough.
5. Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina (6-1, 220 pounds)
Howell is a smart, seasoned and accurate pocket passer. He doesn’t have the dynamic athleticism of Rattler and Willis but it wouldn’t be surprising if he became a mashup of Trevor Lawrence and Mac Jones.
6. DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M (6-4, 290 pounds)
Leal has the ideal power and explosiveness to disrupt things up front lining up everywhere. He can thrive as either a 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end.
7. Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon (6-5, 258 pounds)
Thibodeaux is off the charts athletically in every aspect, an explosive pass rusher and agile pursuit man who covers a ton of ground. He also brings underrated power with the speed.
8. Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame (6-4, 220 pounds)
Hamilton is smart and physical. He has the instincts and athleticism to diagnose plays and react quickly to make plays all over the field vs. run and pass. He’s one of the most complete, intimidating safety prospects ever.
9. Jaxson Kirkland, OT, Washington (6-7, 310 pounds)
Kirkland is a big athlete made for smooth pass protection. He uses his hands and feet well together to win most of his battles.
10. Kedon Slovis, QB, USC (6-3, 205 pounds)
Slovis can pick up any offense and read any defense with his natural high level of football intelligence. He also delivers accurate balls with good decision-making. He’s got to get a little better with his physical skill set in terms of arm and athleticism, but he will help himself by continuing to develop his mechanics and footwork.
11. Kalir Elam, CB, Florida (6-2, 196 pounds)
Elam’s physical strength and length stand out as a bigger corner. He is very efficient in coverage with his athleticism, which at times is explosive.
12. Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC (6-4, 250 pounds)
Jackson is another agile and versatile outside defender in this class. He could benefit from bulking up and polishing up his pass-rush repertoire.
13. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (6-1, 189 pounds)
Olave has great speed, quickness and burst to stand out in a strong wide receiver class.
14. Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati (6-5, 255 pounds)
Sanders is a physical beast with some classic freakish pass-rush qualities. He will be a terror getting to the QB before rounding out his game.
15. Zion Nelson, OT, Miami (6-5, 316 pounds)
Nelson is a very agile blocker who can win with his quickness at the line but also get downfield when needed. He is equally reliable in pass protection and the running game.
16. John Metchie III, WR, Alabama (6-0, 195 pounds)
Metchie is the latest Crimson Tide speed merchant, combining some of the qualities of Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle. He also can be a smooth technician like Jerry Jeudy and DeVonta Smith.
17. Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson (6-0, 200 pounds)
Booth has fine size, strength and aggressiveness to boost himself in coverage. He also has great ball skills with a nose for big plays.
18. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (6-0, 188 pounds)
Wilson is a great complement to Olave with his smarts, quickness, route-running and hands. He is dangerous in making plays after the catch.
19. George Karlafits, EDGE, Purdue (6-4, 275 pounds)
Here’s another version of a Greek freak as Karlaftis possesses elite athleticism for his size and is still tapping into his immense pass-rush potential.
20. Carson Strong, QB, Nevada (6-4, 215 pounds)
Strong has some Josh Allen qualities to him with ideal size and a massive arm, only with more underrated athleticism.
21. Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati (6-3, 200 pounds)
Gardner has great agility given his length and can move around wherever need to handle vertical or horizontal coverage.
22. Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State (6-1, 200 pounds)
Banks is an exceptional athlete, the classic size-speed prospect for his position. He just needs to refine his coverage technique.
23. Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati (6-4, 215 pounds)
Ridder is an aspiring dynamic NFL dual threat with his combination of strong arm and natural running ability. He also has the welcome intangibles, including leadership skills and toughness.
24. Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan (6-6, 265 pounds)
He’s a technically sound and exceptionally strong prospect built to play 4-3 end and would benefit from improving his agility and expanding his pass-rush moves.
25. Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa (6-3, 290 pounds)
Linderbaum is a strong, athletic and relentless interior blocker. He has the intelligence and natural run blocking skills to be a decade-long fixture in the NFL.
26. Christian Harris, LB, Alabama (6-2, 232 pounds)
Harris is the typical Crimson Tide top second-level defender with his speed and quickness that translate to sideline-to-sideline playmaking range.
27. Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M (6-4, 325 pounds)
Green is a well-rounded interior blocker with solid size, strength and technique to thrive in the running game for a long time.
28. Brandon Joseph, S, Northwestern (6-1, 192 pounds)
Joseph is a natural big playmaker against the pass who also shows off his strength and physicality in cleaning up against the run.
29. Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (6-6, 340 pounds)
Davis is getting more attention for the athleticism he possesses to disrupt plays on top of his massive frame.
30. Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State (6-3, 241 pounds)
Smith is very athletic and covers a lot of ground in coverage and run support. He can be the ideal strongside star in the NFL.
31. Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington (5-11, 195 pounds)
McDuffie offers great explosiveness and quickness to stay with his coverage assignments. He also plays bigger than his size.
32. Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State (6-6, 268 pounds)
Harrison is long and strong and has the versatility to get after quarterbacks in many ways. He also has good speed to balance out his powerful game.
33. Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State (6-5, 310 pounds)
Cross has a powerful upper body, strong hands and a mean and nasty aspect to his blocking. He could still develop his agility and footwork to raise his game.
34. Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M (6-5, 255 pounds)
Wydermyer has the ideal physical frame for the position and backs that up with a good mix of physical receiving and smart run blocking.
35. Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M (6-1, 215 pounds)
Spiller is built to be a physical back in the NFL with his ability to grind and pound out all the tough yardage between the tackles.
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36. Zion Johnson, OT/G, Boston College (6-3, 316 pounds)
Johnson’s calling card for the Eagles has been strong and powerful run blocking. He is a road grader with the hands and enough agility to play either inside or at right tackle.
37. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas (6-3, 225 pounds)
Burks is a huge target with reliable big hands to match. He can dominate smaller, less physical corners and has deceptive speed.
38. Darian Kinnard, OT/G, Kentucky (6-5, 345 pounds)
Kinnard is a powerful run blocker who could use some refinement with his technique and how to best use his athleticism in pass protection. That points to him playing inside well in the NFL.
39. George Pickens, WR, Georgia (6-3, 200 pounds)
The biggest concerns with Pickens are tied to putting it all together with his health and intangibles. Otherwise, he’s an impressive size-speed prospect who isn’t afraid to get physical.
40. Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma (6-4, 292 pounds)
Winfrey offers good length and powerful moves. He needs to refine his technique and improve his effective speed to keep up the playmaking in the NFL.
41. Jordan Battle, S, Alabama (6-1, 210 pounds)
Battle is a cerebral playmaker who looks the part and has fine pedigree from his high-level cleaning up in Nick Saban’s defense.
42. Brenton Cox Jr., EDGE, Florida (6-4, 253 pounds)
Cox is a bit of a scheme ‘tweener with power and strength as his most favorable assets. He can develop the agility to be trusted in coverage in the NFL.
43. Tykee Smith, S, Georgia (5-10, 198 pounds)
Smith is a solid all-around safety prospect who stands out most because of his intelligence in reading the field and versatility to make plays everywhere.
44. Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama (6-1, 194 pounds)
Jobe isn’t the biggest blazer, but he provides nice length and strength to help with his coverage. He is confident in his game, seen in how physical and aggressive he is.
45. Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson (6-4, 205 pounds)
Ross has a strong frame, which helps him excel as a physical and technical route-runner. He needs to come back strong from injury to raise his speed and quickness as a big possession target.
46. Cade Otton, TE, Washington (6-5, 250 pounds)
Otton is a superb athlete for the position and backs that up with reliable route-running and hands. He has room to grow as a blocker to match his frame.
47. Nik Bonitto, EDGE, Oklahoma (6-3, 240 pounds)
Bonitto has good versatility and quickness for his size with balanced passing game skills as a rusher and cover man.
48. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss (6-0, 200 pounds)
Corral is a dynamic athlete and confident runner who also shows aggressiveness with a big arm. His raw skills give him a lot of intrigue and upside.
49. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State (6-1, 220 pounds)
Hall stands out with his ability to elude tacklers and explode for big plays in the open field. He can go from home-run hitter to more complete back.
50. David Bell, WR, Purdue (6-2, 205 pounds)
Bell has a rare blend of physicality and speed for the position. He excels at both bursting after the catch and stretching the field, using his body well to get open.
NFL Draft prospect rankings: Best players by position
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