Best college football prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft by position

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Best prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft by position originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The offseason can be a dark time for football fans.

Gone are the Sunday afternoons filled with games. Gone are the prime time matchups consuming your Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights. Gone are the weeks filled with fantasy football lineup tinkering.

We’re still months away from those activities returning to our lives, but there’s plenty to get excited about in April. That’s because the 2022 NFL Draft is nearly here, with the first round set for April 28. A total of 262 picks will be made next week – so it’s a perfect time to get familiar with the best incoming rookies.

Here’s a position-by-position look at the best prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft:

Who are the best quarterbacks in the 2022 draft?

Malik Willis, Liberty: In terms of raw talent, no QB prospect measures up to Willis. At 6-foot-1 and 219 pounds, he’s a dual-threat QB with a huge arm and impressive mobility. Concerns for Willis include his passing accuracy and transitioning from a small school to the NFL.

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh: After four subpar seasons at Pitt, Pickett transformed into one of the nation’s best QBs in his fifth and final campaign. He has the accuracy and arm strength to be an NFL starter, but hand size (smallest among NFL QBs) and age (already 24) will limit him.

Matt Corral, Ole Miss: Corral is tough in the pocket, and few quarterbacks can improvise as well as him. He is slightly undersized at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, which makes injuries a long-term concern. Regardless, he should be drafted sometime in the first two rounds.

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati: By leading his squad to the College Football Playoff, Ridder put himself on the NFL radar. Throughout the pre-draft process, his stock has only risen. A combination of arm strength, speed and leadership could vault him into the first round.

Sam Howell, North Carolina: If Howell could’ve left UNC with his weapons last year, he likely would’ve been a much higher pick. He’s still destined to go early, but his weaknesses (accuracy, holding the ball too long) were exposed with a lesser supporting cast in 2021.

Who are the best running backs in the 2022 draft?

Breece Hall, Iowa State: No RBs are expected to go in the first round, but Hall is the most likely to sneak in. He has the size (5-foot-11, 217 pounds) and speed (4.39 40-yard dash) to contribute from the jump.

Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M: Spiller’s production remained stagnant over his three years in College Station. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you are good for nearly 1,000 yards a season though, and he could be even better in the pros.

Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State: After two years at Wake Forest, Walker transferred to MSU and absolutely dominated. He ran for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns, but he currently lacks the ability to contribute in the passing game.

Kyren Williams, Notre Dame: The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Williams could be an ideal third-down back in the NFL. He had 77 receptions over the last two seasons while topping 1,000 rushing yards each year.

Dameon Pierce, Florida: Pierce played four seasons in Gainesville, but he won’t be burned out entering the NFL. He had 10 or more carries in just nine career games, so the hope is that he could be unleashed with more touches.

Who are the best wide receivers in the 2022 draft?

Garrett Wilson, Ohio State: As an all-around player, Wilson emerged as the top weapon in a loaded WR room at OSU. He is most impressive making plays after the catch, and he can be productive on short, intermediate and deep throws. Wilson is the total package.

Jameson Williams, Alabama: If he didn’t suffer a torn ACL in January’s National Championship Game, Williams could’ve been the undisputed top wideout. Still, he should be back by September and he’s a premier deep threat due to his speed and explosiveness.

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Treylon Burks, Arkansas: Burks doesn’t stack up as a route-runner compared to his fellow prospects. He thrives with the ball in his hands though, which has led many to compare him to Deebo Samuel. It’s easy to envision Burks lining up all over the field.

Chris Olave, Ohio State: The smoothest route-runner in the class, Olave overtook several top-end NFL prospects to earn snaps at OSU. He appears to be one of the surest-things in this crop of wideouts.

Drake London, USC: London has elite size at 6-foot-4, 219 pounds. Despite playing just eight games due to an ankle injury in 2021, he was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. If you’re looking for a big outside weapon, London is your guy.

Who are the best tight ends in the 2022 draft?

Trey McBride, Colorado State: McBride is more of a traditional tight end. He’s a physical player with the capability to move the chains despite not having game-breaking elusiveness. At 6-foot-4, 246 pounds, he can be tough to bring down after the catch.

Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina: Likely was recruited out of Massachusetts as a receiver before developing into an All-Sun Belt tight end at Coastal Carolina. He has the speed and athleticism to make plays after the catch, but also the size to hold up as a blocker.

Greg Dulcich, UCLA: With his flowing locks, it’s easy to spot Dulcich anywhere on the field. He can make plays with his speed, though he sometimes struggles as a blocker. Dulcich should be a mid-round pick, possibly developing into a No. 2 tight end.

Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State: He didn’t quite live up to expectations as the No. 1 TE recruit, but it isn’t exactly easy to get targets when you see the talent in OSU’s WR room. Ruckert should get looks for his potential as a blocker and receiver.

Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M: Wydermyer was productive in his three years as a starter, but he didn’t appear to develop much after his freshman campaign. He could be a decent red zone threat at the next level.

Who are the best offensive linemen in the 2022 draft?

Evan Neal, Alabama: A massive human (6-foot-8, 337 pounds), Neal should have no trouble adjusting to the NFL. He played tackle and guard at times for the Crimson Tide, showing versatility even with his enormous frame.

Ikem Ekwonu, NC State: Ickey is a more mobile player, but that doesn’t take away from his strength. At 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, Ekwonu was a three-year starter, playing left tackle (where he projects in the NFL) and left guard.

Charles Cross, Mississippi State: Another left tackle who is likely a top-10 pick, Cross has the ideal size and length to play the position. He specializes as a pass-blocker, which is a useful skill to have in the modern NFL.

Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa: Linderbaum is the top center in his class, and it isn’t particularly close. Though he is slightly undersized (6-foot-2, 296 pounds), Linderbaum makes up for it with his strength and athleticism.

Kenyon Green, Texas A&M: Green played four of five O-line positions in 2021 with the Aggies. He’s likely a guard in the NFL, but that type of versatility makes him an intriguing prospect.

Who are the best defensive linemen in the 2022 draft?

Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan: The current favorite to be picked first overall, Hutchinson has drawn comparisons to some of the NFL’s best pass-rushers. He isn’t a slam dunk No. 1 pick, but his floor is probably higher than anyone else in this draft.

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon: Thibodeaux was once expected to be picked at No. 1 before Hutchinson’s emergence. Still, the Oregon product will be a top-10 pick and has all the physical tools to be a Pro Bowl defensive end.

Travon Walker, Georgia: There have been whispers among NFL insiders that Walker could crash Hutchinson and Thibodeaux’s party at the top of the draft. It makes sense after the junior defensive end helped Georgia win the national title in January.

Jordan Davis, Georgia: At 6-foot-6 and 341 pounds, Davis is a mountain of a man. He’s the type of player you can plug in at DT and not have to worry about stopping the run. The concern is mobility and durability, which could drop him to the back half of the first round.

Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State: A “Last Chance U” alum, Johnson exploded at Florida State in 2021 after one year at Independence Community College and two years at Georgia. He’s likely a first-round pick after posting 11.5 sacks for the Seminoles in 2021.

Who are the best linebackers in the 2022 draft?

Devin Lloyd, Utah: Lloyd has prototypical NFL size (6-foot-3, 237 pounds), and he’ll likely be the first linebacker off the board. He won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, posting 22 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four interceptions in 2021.

Nakobe Dean, Georgia: Based on the eye test alone, Dean looks like a sure-fire prospect. He was all over the field for Georgia’s defense as they won the national championship. The problem is he’s only 5-foot-11, which could hurt his draft value.

Quay Walker, Georgia: Dean’s partner in crime, Walker has been somewhat overlooked as the “other” Georgia linebacker. He could end up as a steal on Day 2, depending on team fit.

Chad Muma, Wyoming: Throughout his senior season, Muma just had a nose for the football. He recorded 142 total tackles, most in the nation. He was a defensive back before converting to linebacker, which helped him test well at the combine.

Christian Harris, Alabama: Harris doesn’t seem to have the potential of other recent Alabama linebackers (Dont’a Hightower, C.J. Mosely, Rashaan Evans). But he’s a reliable player, a three-year starter and a flat-out winner.

Who are the best cornerbacks in the 2022 draft?

Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati: Boasting the best nickname in the class, “Sauce” is long, athletic and active. He should be an immediate starter and has the potential to develop into a top corner. He should be off the board early.

Derek Stingley Jr., LSU: If Stingley’s 2021 season was the same as his 2019 season, he would’ve been the top corner in this class. Instead, he had two choppy seasons after winning a title with LSU as a freshman. Someone will bank on his potential in the first round.

Trent McDuffie, Washington: At 5-foot-11, McDuffie has just average size for a top cornerback. He makes up for it with his aggressiveness and mentality, which are both elite traits.

Andrew Booth, Clemson: Good speed, NFL size and a five-star pedigree. Booth seems like a good bet to be, at worst, a solid pro player. He doesn’t have the upside of the three guys ahead of him, which will drop him to the bottom half of the first round.

Kaiir Elam, Florida: Elam has the size (6-foot-1) and speed (4.39 40) to play man in the NFL. He also has the awareness to play zone. Whether he’s picked in the first or second round, Elam is expected to play from the jump.

2022 NFL Draft Highlights: Kaiir Elam

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Who are the best safeties in the 2022 draft?

Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame: The undisputed top safety in the class, Hamilton is a huge (6-foot-4), hard-hitting safety with the skills to hang in coverage as a former defensive back. He’s a sure-fire top-10 pick with an outside shot at going in the top three.

Daxton Hill, Michigan: Hill has been one of the fastest-risers following the combine after running a 4.38 40. He’ll likely be a late first-round pick, and he can be deployed in multiple ways by the team that drafts him.

Jaquan Brisker, Penn State: Brisker was unhealthy for most of 2021 and was able to play through it, still being productive. At 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds, he’ll be able match up with bigger receivers and smaller tight ends all over the field.

Jalen Pitre, Baylor: A likely Day 2 pick, Pitre can play both safety and cornerback. Depending on where he ends up, he could be a reliable player as a 23-year-old rookie.

Lewis Cine, Georgia: Yeah, it’s another Georgia defensive product to wrap up our list. Cine won’t be a first-round pick, but he has the potential to become an NFL-caliber safety. Some of his best performances came in the biggest games in 2021.