Each year, there are prospects who are perceived to have climbed into the first round late because NFL teams inevitably do not overlook athleticism. Here are five prospects who are not consistently mentioned in first-round projections who fans should be aware of prior to the 2022 NFL Draft:
Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
Cine went to Indianapolis and put on a show — as did essentially every Georgia Bulldog. He ran a 4.37 seconds 40-yard dash at 6-foot-2, 199 pounds, while also jumping 36.5 inches vertically and 133 inches broadly. He is a desirable combination of size, speed and skill. Cine is currently rated the No. 31 prospect overall at CBSSports.com so fans should not be surprised if he is taken inside of the first round.
Cine is willing to play downhill and does a good job of breaking down his footwork in space to make a solid-form tackle. He plays with absolutely no fear. Despite a lack of ball production, the Texas native is effective at the catch point.
Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Hill was a five-star recruit out of high school who wavered between the Wolverines and Alabama. Throughout his collegiate career, the Oklahoma native was able to show his versatility covering the slot, dropping into zone coverage and playing downhill. His 4.38 seconds 40-yard dash was 13th best among all defenders at the NFL combine. Hill is slight of frame and did not test particularly well in the broad or vertical jump but his 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drills were off the charts.
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Logan Hall, DT, Houston
Hall is a long interior prospect who ran a 4.88 seconds 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. His 30 inch vertical jump was not particularly noteworthy but he showed his flexibility and change of direction throughout the 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill. Former teammate Payton Turner was taken in the first round by the Saints last year and Hall looks farther along in his development. The Texas native can do a better job of bursting off the snap but has great balance and quick, strong hands. Hall is a pocket-pushing 3-technique with some stack and shed ability.
Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
Walker displayed his straight-line speed with a 4.52 seconds 40-yard dash at the combine. His explosive testing was hardly remarkable but teams will see his size, speed, what he did during on-field drills and consider him in the first round. He does a good job of stacking offensive linemen while keeping his eyes on the ball-carrier. His usage of strong hands allows him to shed those blocks and make plays in the backfield. The Georgia native gets handsy in coverage downfield but his change of direction is quick and smooth.
The Bulldogs had a wealth of talent on defense and that led to Walker being a role player most of his time in Athens. Teams should not be turned off by Nakobe Dean’s lack of ideal size but the reality is that some will, which could allow Walker to be the second linebacker off the board behind Utah’s Devin Lloyd. It was just last year that NFL teams had googly eyes for Tulsa’s Zaven Collins and Kentucky’s Jamin Davis inside the top 20.
NFL Media notes that Walker has 13 team visits scheduled over a 19-day period and “is in the conversation to be the first linebacker drafted.”
Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Watson was one of the top overall performers at the combine. He ran a 4.36 seconds 40-yard dash in addition to jumping 48.5 inches vertically and 136 inches broadly. The wide receiver has extraordinary size, big hands and long arms. The problem is that the film and history of production do not match. Watson comes from an offense that was run-heavy and that created limited route tree exposure. The Florida native does a good job of tracking the ball downfield and is a problem for defenders in space. He displays good body control, burst and flexibility. Watson has all of the tools to become a top boundary receiver but just needs some time and coaching. It would be ideal for him to walk into a situation with an established outside receiver that can allow Watson to progress at his own pace.