Wednesday, December 6, 2023

2022 NFL Draft Top 50 prospect rankings: Where Derek Stingley Jr., Aidan Hutchinson and others stand

Five edge rushers reside in the top 20 overall prospects


The 2022 NFL Draft is roughly a month-and-a-half away and the goal is to finalize prospect rankings by the end of March. Although my top 50 is fluid, it could change a bit based on some final evaluations. 

Context is important when explaining a mock draft or prospect rankings because there are multiple ways in which it could be done. Some analysts may take positional value into account and there are different ways to handle injury history, character concerns. For example, Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum is my third-ranked prospect because it is easy to envision what he could become in a wide zone scheme. However, there is zero chance that he is taken that early because teams do not value the center position enough to justify a top five selection. Without the amount of medical and personality information available to teams, I largely rely on talent.

Without further ado, my updated prospect rankings:

1. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
2. Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
3. Tyler Linderbaum, OL, Iowa
4. Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
5. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
6. Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
7. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
8. Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
9. Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
10. Charles Cross, OL, Mississippi State

Stingley is going to surprise some people because of his place in most mock drafts. When trying to pinpoint the All-Pro caliber talents in this draft class, Stingley can be one of those players but he is two years removed from the best version of himself. Teams are going to take that into consideration and have a way better understanding of his medical situation. Hamilton is dealing with his own injury and safety is another position that is not valued early. Thibodeaux and Hutchinson is a debate in floor versus ceiling to me. The latter is a very good player and a safer option. As one of the premier positions in the league, it is easy justify taking him with the No. 1 overall selection in this class. Wilson is who teams are looking for in today’s NFL at the wide receiver position. Williams might have been the top wide receiver had it not been for his torn ACL late in the year. 

With all of that being said, if I were a new general manager looking for longevity, I would be more inclined to take one of those offensive tackles or Hutchinson at No. 1 overall because neither has high bust potential. I also do not believe there is a hands-down top overall prospect in this year’s class like the league has seen in recent years. A case could be made for several players.

11. Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
12. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
13. Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
14. George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
15. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
16. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, N.C. State
17. Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
18. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
19. Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
20. Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

Walker is one of the most difficult evaluations because his size and athletic profile are elite. However, he is going to have to play on the edge and still has a lot of room for development in that arena. Burks remains high because his tape is so good. It does not match the poor combine performance. Dean is likely going to be taken lower than his placement on this list because of size. Ekwonu could move up before it is all said and done because I made a mistake with Tristan Wirfs and I would like to think I learn from my mistakes. Five (!) of the top 20 prospects are edge rushers. 

21. Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
22. Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
23. George Pickens, WR, Georgia
24. Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
25. Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
26. Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
27. Damone Clark, LB, LSU
28. Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
29. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
30. Drake London, WR, USC

Pickens is a prospect who has shown No. 1 wide receiver traits when healthy. Cine was one of the top performers at the combine and his play last season matches. Pickett is the first quarterback on the list. He has the highest floor but teams will probably favor Liberty’s Malik Willis or Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder because of the upside they offer. London is coming off an injury. He is not a burner but does use his body well to create separation and win at the catch point. 

31. Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
32. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
33. Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
34. Logan Hall, DL, Houston
35. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
36. Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
37. Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
38. Bernhard Raimann, OL, Central Michigan
39. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
40. Kingsley Enagbare, EDGE, South Carolina

Hill and Hall are two players that NFL teams are going to love from a size and skill standpoint. I am on record as saying Hall is a better player right now than his teammate, Payton Turner, who was taken No. 28 overall last year. Although I have him lower than where Turner was drafted, I do have a higher grade on Hall than I did Turner last year. Walker is the first running back on the list. Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary, who is in the next group, and McDuffie are two players who will be successful for a team but neither has the length coveted in the position and that could limit their roles. Mafe is a prospect who I would label as being one of “my guys.” His athleticism and well-rounded skill set will be enticing for a team late in the first round.

41. Daniel Faalele, OL, Minnesota
42. Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State
43. Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
44. Demarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
45. Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
46. Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
47. Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky
48. Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
49. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
50. Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin

To round out the top 50, the second running back, Hall, appears on the list. Zero tight ends made the cut but Colorado State’s Trey McBride was just off the screen at No. 51 overall. Chenal is a prospect who has really grown on me. Booth has the potential to be one of those man-coverage cornerbacks who end up making a lot of money but he has been heavily exposed to zone thus far. The secondary has the biggest potential for change as I continue making my way through final evaluations on those position groups. Memphis interior offensive lineman Dylan Parham and Chattanooga interior offensive lineman Cole Strange are a few others who I need to watch more of from this past season.

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