Almost immediately after the 2021 NFL Draft people began talking about the 2022 NFL Draft. They began making predictions and naming next year’s first round draft choices. All of this talk based on last year’s performances and Spring football. Not a single down has been played in the 2021 season, but somehow these “expert” analysts have it all figured out. I obviously disagree with making predictions a year in advance. Injuries happen, an “unknown” player takes advantage of an opportunity and becomes a star player, and a number of other variables happen throughout the season. These “expert” analysts in my opinion are trying to dictate who the sports media and social media should focus on based on what team these players come from and who their coaches are. A great example of this is Alabama, they had 10 players drafted this year and 6 in the first round. Now, the players that were drafted in the first round deserved it, but there were others in the later rounds that were drafted simply because they played at Alabama. So what I have done is compiled a list of the 16 most referenced players that I saw in the four 2022 mock draft reports that I have read.
These 16 players are mostly offensive line or defensive line players and I will be conducting a brief synopsis of the player and whether or not they are a Legit Contender, One to Watch or Not a Contender for the first round of the 2022 Draft.
LEGIT 1st ROUND CONTENDERS
Kayvon Thibodeaux – DE/Edge – 6’5 250 – Rising Junior Oregon
From: South Central Los Angeles
This young man is an absolute STUD. He is usually set up in a wide 9 technique as an edge rusher and you can normally find him in the backfield pressuring the QB. As a true sophomore he has 21 games under his belt. Due to Covid-19 the Ducks only played a 6 game season (one game cancelled), PAC-12 Championship as well as the Fiesta Bowl. In two seasons he has logged 73 total tackles, 23 TFL’s with 121 lost yards, 6 pass deflects, 1 forced fumble and 1 blocked kick. The biggest number on his resume is his sack count. This young man is a sack machine, 12 sacks for 81 yards lost.
Be prepared to see an elite level of play this season. His strengths definitely outweigh his faults and he should have an amazing season.
Ikem Ekwonu – LG – 6’4 320 Rising Junior NC State
From: Charlotte NC
This young man is an absolute terror on the line of scrimmage. Dubbed the most feared offensive linemen in the ACC, he backs it up on the field. His height and weight may not seem that big but this young man has a huge body and uses it very well. He is very explosive off the snap. He climbs to the second level well and is accurate. He has a mean streak in him that can’t be taught, he likes to pancake defensive linemen. He has started in 19 of the 24 games he has played in, logging 1466 snaps. He has also logged over 50 pancake blocks in two seasons at NC State. He isn’t infallible but his faults are minor compared to his abilities.
This young man is a 100% first round draft pick.
ONE’S TO WATCH –
Aidan Hutchinson – DE – 6’6 269 Rising Senior Michigan
From: Plymouth MI
This young man is on the bubble with me about being a legit first rounder. The only reason I didn’t list him as a legit contender was because he was injured during the 2020 season. Aiden has played in 29 games, logging 98 tackles. He also has 11.5 tackles for loss for 50 yards, 21.5 sacks for 30 lost yards, 6 pass deflects and 2 forced fumbles. For this young man to basically have 98 tackles in two full season and three games in 2020 is phenomenal. In the three games I watched in the 2020 season , Aiden showed explosiveness off the snap, he has a strong and balanced stance with deep knee bend, and he has a motor that doesn’t stop. His “kill” instinct is spot on as well.
I am looking forward to watching this young man secure a first round draft spot during the 2021 season.
George Karlaftis – DE – 6’4 275 Rising Junior Purdue
From: West Lafayette Indiana
This young man has put up some staggering numbers for only playing one full season, his freshman season. Having to sit out after only playing three games due to an injury and then too Covid-19, he logged 58 tackles, 54 of those as a freshman. He also logged 19/93 TFL’s, 9.5/67 sacks, 1 INT, 3PD’s, 1 FF, and 2 FR. Playing in the Big 10 is a daunting task but to have these kinds of numbers as a freshman is amazing. Early in the 2020 season he seemed to start each game a little timid, but as each game went on his confidence would dramatically increase making him a force to be reckoned with. He has a strong and balanced stance which allows him to explode off the snap. Both his run fill and pass protection are very good.
This young man is definitely one to watch this season. I expect great things from him.
Evan Neal – OT – 6’7 360 Rising Junior Alabama
From: Okeechobee Florida
This young man is a physical monster at 6’7 and 360 pounds. You would think being that big would make him slow and not very athletic, but you would be wrong about Evan. For his size he is very explosive off the snap, and has very good lateral movement. He has a strong and balanced 2 point and 3 point stance. His kick step is strong and balanced as well. He has a couple things to tweak in his run blocking but he is still very dominating. He logged 26 starts in his two years at Alabama both at LG as a freshman and RT as a sophomore.
I listed him as one to watch because I want to see him clean up his run protection game this season, and really earn that first round spot in the 2022/23 Draft.
Kenyon Green – LG – 6’4 325 Rising Junior Texas A&M
From: Humble Texas
This young man is definitely on my legit bubble. However, I believe he needs this season to pull it all together. Kenyon has a strong fundamental base. He demonstrates both strong run protection and pass protection abilities. His pulling abilities are explosive and accurate. He keeps his head on a swivel always looking for work when not actively engaged. He started in 23 games and has demonstrated growth in each game so far.
I would like to see him to continue to build on his strong base skills and he will definitely be a force to contend with this season.
Perrion Winfrey – DE – 6’3 297 Rising Senior Oklahoma
From: Maywood Illinois
Perrion spent two seasons at JUCO Iowa Western CC before he came to Oklahoma. At Iowa Western he logged some decent stats: 55 tackles, 23 TFL, 9.5 sacks, and 1 FF. At Oklahoma he started in 8 of the 12 games in the 2020 season. He logged 19 tackles, 6/20 TFL, .5/3 sack, 3 PD’s, and 1 BLK. His stats really do not reflect his contribution to the defense. He is very explosive and shoots the gaps in the offensive line masterfully. He is continually pressuring the offensive line and quarterback.
Perrion is definitely one to watch as he becomes comfortable with Oklahoma’s playing style. He should have a great senior year.
Not a Contender
DeMarvin Leal – DE – 6’4 290 Rising Junior Texas A&M
From: San Antonio, Texas
Unfortunately this young man is getting some hype for his 75 tackles, but his film shows a different story. In the games I watched he always seemed to be near the play but rarely actually in it. He gets swept out of the backfield frequently by the offensive tackles. He just looks scared when he plays.
I wish him the best of luck this season, but he is not a first round draft pick as of right now.
Drake Jackson – DE/OLB – 6’4 255 Rising Junior University of Southern California
From: Corona, CA
Being moved from DE to OLB has unfortunately had adverse effects on this young man. I believe that it has affected his confidence, which in turn has affected his playing abilities. Although, an OLBer they still have him down on the line of scrimmage acting as an edge defender. He does have a lot of really positive traits but his confidence in the new position really has affected his abilities. Drake is right on the edge of being special; he really needs to find his confidence again.
Zion Nelson – LT – 6’5 312 – Rising Junior Miami
From: Sumter, SC
I believe Zion has a the ability to be a very good offensive tackle but from what I have seen he has a lot of work to do this season and I would even say his senior season as well. His basic fundamentals are only average. His stance is very wide and although he does a decent job in pass protection, his run protection needs a lot of work. He has a hard time blocking defensive tackles and getting to the second level. He has the game experience with playing 24 games already, but in my opinion it just hasn’t come together for him yet. If he declares for the 2022 draft I think he will be very disappointed. I would like him to play out his time at Miami and see where he stands after his senior season.
Kingsley Enagbore – DE – 6’4 260 – Rising Senior University of South Carolina
From: Atlanta, Ga
This young man has the experience to be much better than he is. Starting in 32 games so far in his career his numbers just aren’t where you would expect them to be. In three seasons he has only logged 77 tackles. His position fundamentals are also lacking in my opinion. He has poor vision for following the play and he has poor shedding abilities when confronted with an offensive lineman. He stays in a 2 points sprinters stance and stays very high, giving away his leverage. Unfortunately, I do not see him as a first round draft pick, I can see him better in the middle rounds of the Draft.
Zach Harrison – DE – 6’6 268 – Rising Junior Ohio State
From: Lewis Center, Oh
I am not sure how this young man got onto these analysts mock draft reports. He is a situational defensive end with only 38 career tackles. It was even hard to find enough film on him to properly evaluate him for the 2020 season. Moving forward I would like to see him in a full-time starting position and putting up serious numbers before putting him in a first round mock draft report with the caliber of players that he has been compared to. Let’s see where he is for the 2023 Draft.
Charles Cross – LT – 6’5 305 – Rising Redshirt Junior Miss State
From: Laurel, Miss
With only 13 starts under his belt, Charles just isn’t ready for the NFL. He has an array of fundamental issues to straighten out and needs a lot more experience before he declares for the draft. He has a very wide stance and keeps his hands on his knees making him immobile. Although responsive off the snap he sinks deep into the pocket and opens his hips to the outside allowing the inside gap to be wide open. This also inhibits his power step. He also needs to work on his hand placement; his hands are usually very wide on the defender. I would like to see where he is in his redshirt senior year before declaring for the draft.
Nick Broeker – LT – 6’4 305 – Rising Junior Ole Miss.
From: Springfield, Ill.
As a sophomore Nick has logged 22 games and 1182 snaps at left tackle. Nick still has a lot of growing to do. He has an unorthodox stance, standing in a 2 point stance keeping his hands on his thighs and leaning forward like he is going to go into a 3 point stance. Off the snap his feet chatter a lot and he looks like he isn’t sure what to do. His hand skills need some refining as well. His hands get wide on the defender when attacking. With those negatives, he has some good points as well. He is strong and pulls very well. Other than his hands being wide, he has the ability to push defenders around. Unless he pulls it all together this season or his senior season I do not see the NFL in his future.
Logan Brown – OT – 6’6 305 – Rising Junior Wisconsin
From: Grand Rapids, Mi
Logan is a young player, only playing in 7 games, and he is what appears to be a relief tackle. I didn’t see him play much in the 2020 film I watched. As a positive, he is a very large framed player and has decent fundamentals. I would like to see him in a starting position for a season or two before I could form a better opinion about his future.
All of these young men have both positive and negative traits. Some of them have risen to the top and play at an elite level, most of them are right there on the bubble of being great and unfortunately there were a few that are just not ready to move to the NFL. These so called “expert” analysts are in some cases doing more harm than good by pumping up the egos of these young men instead of being honest with them. They need to stop making these mock drafts a year out and save them for the post-season. I wish all of these young men all of the best luck and safe and successful season, I will see you all in January.
David Van Nett is a 17-year football coach and former CFL scout. He was hired by Head Coach Chris Jones, 4 times Grey Bowl coach, to be the area scout in the Carolinas. David is an Army veteran and retired law enforcement officer as well. Make sure you follow him on Twitter @coach_vannett