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We have reached the single digits in the countdown to draft day. I posted my top 25 players on Monday. I am continuing those rankings here.
A few things to note about how I do my big boards. I rank the best players in the class based on talent and ability to translate to the NFL, not necessarily where they will be drafted. Let’s use Malik Willis as an example. I expect him to be drafted well above where I have him ranked, but that is because the league puts a premium on the position he plays. Same thing goes for Kyle Hamilton, but in reverse. He is a top-five player in this draft class, but he will probably drop out of the top 10 on draft day because the NFL does not value safeties as highly.
26. Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
One of the best interior linemen in this class, Linderbaum was a lot higher on my board prior to the pre draft process. He fell well short of the measurables you want from an NFL offensive linemen, ranking in the first percentile for wingspan and arm length, the fifth percentile for weight and the sixth percentile for height. That does not mean he cannot translate to the next level, but it does point to him being a bit more limited with what we can expect, especially as a run blocker. He still has incredible athleticism for the position and the drive to finish blocks. Since 2010, there have been no centers drafted in the first round that weighed under 300 pounds. Linderbaum weighs 296 pounds.
27. Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
One of my favorite prospects in this class, appearing on my draft crushes list for 2022 as well, Walker is a rangy linebacker with great size and instincts. He ran well at the combine, which backed up the speed you see watching him on film. He has true sideline-to-sideline capability. He is a plus in coverage as well. While he did not produce much as a pass rusher, he is still an effective blitzer when his number is called. All-around solid linebacker with great traits. I think he will fit into just about any defense at the NFL level.
28. George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
One of the most exciting edge rushers in this draft class, Karlaftis flashes all kinds of a pass rush ability on film. The biggest challenge for NFL teams will be getting him to produce consistently. His technique as a rusher is all over the place and his run defense leaves a lot to be desired. So far, he has not been able to match his freshman season where he posted 7.5 sacks, totaling just five in his final 15 collegiate games. He measured in with shorter than ideal arms as well, but that is something he can overcome with his speed and quickness off the line. There is a lot of room for growth, which should see him go in the first round.
29. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
This is one of the trickiest evaluations of this draft process. On film, Burks showcased impressive playmaking skills with an exciting blend of size and speed. He posted impressive numbers for the Razorbacks, eclipsing 1,100 yards receiving to go with 11 touchdowns. He torched Alabama for 179 yards and two scores. That being said, he also had four games this season where he was held under 50 yards receiving, including a 16-yard outing against LSU and a 10-yard day when facing Georgia. That paired with a lackluster 40-time and a disappointing three-cone time and you get to where we are now. He could end up being a really solid playmaker, but there are a couple of red flags.
30. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Another Georgia defender makes the top 50. Dean is an explosive playmaker who excels playing downhill as a blitzing linebacker. He is decent in coverage and shows good range in run defense. He is a bit undersized at 5’11”, which is one of the only real knocks on Dean. If he can continue to play with good technique and capitalize on his speed, I think he will still be successful. There will be some teams who will not have him high on their boards because of his size. I think he can still be a solid starter with the capability to contribute right away.
31. Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State
Another edge rusher still learning to play the sport, Ebiketie’s draft stock skyrocketed in his one season at Penn State after transferring from Temple. He only started playing football during his sophomore year of high school. He didn’t start at Temple until 2020, but did enough to impress James Franklin and his staff. It paid off with 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss during his redshirt senior season. He is a bit small by NFL defensive end standards at about 6’3″, 250 pounds, but he has ideal length and impressive athleticism. However, he is one of the older prospects in the draft, having turned 23 in January. He is going to be a very scheme specific fit early on unless he can learn to play in more of an outside linebacker role.
32. Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Another player that I have struggled in evaluating, Elam checks a lot of boxes for what I look for in a corner. He is tall at 6’1″ and ran sub 4.4 for his 40 time. He excels in press man with solid length and good fluidity in his movement. I can see him being a really good fit for any team that runs a lot of Cover 1 or Cover 0 sets. So that’s the good news. The bad news is he struggles in zone coverage and has some work to do as an open-field tackler. He won’t be a fit for everyone, but if lands in the right spot, he could be a starter on the outside right away.
33. Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
The first tight end to appear on my big board, McBride is a bit of a mix between new age and old school when it comes to the position. He is capable of lining up split out on the boundary, in the slot or inline next to the tackle as a receiver. He posted ridiculous numbers this past season with 90 receptions for over 1,100 yards, practically unheard of for a college tight end. What’s more, he is an above average blocker with solid speed. He was clocked running somewhere in the mid 4.5s at his pro day. He might not be on the same level as Kyle Pitts, but he is scheme versatile. I think he has Pro Bowl potential.
34. Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
Kyle Hamilton gets all the publicity, but this is a deep class of safeties. Brisker is one of a few I expect to see drafted in the second round come draft day. He is big at 6’1″ and he tested well at the combine. He flies around the field on his tape, making plays from a variety of positions in Penn State’s defense. I think he has the physicality and instincts to play strong safety and the range to play free safety. That versatility will be coveted at the next level.
35. Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
NDSU is becoming quite the breeding ground for NFL talent. Watson should be the latest player to earn his way to the next level. He is a rare combination of size and speed, measuring in at 6’4″ and running a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine. He is a bit limited as a route runner, but he showcased his ability to win in one-on-one coverage at the Senior Bowl. There will be some growing pains as he continues to improve his hands and quickness, but the potential for him to become a matchup nightmare is enticing.
36. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
The next quarterback to come up on my board, Pickett is the most pro ready passer of this group. He has a good arm, a consistent throwing motion and the mobility needed to succeed in today’s NFL. He took a massive leap in his development during his redshirt senior season at Pittsburgh. His completion percentage jumped six points and he threw for more touchdowns (42) than he did in his first four seasons (39). Was he a one-season wonder? Only time will tell. There are a few other concerns with Pickett as well. He has the smallest hands in the league, which could prove to be an issue when the weather gets cold late in the season. He will also turn 24 this June. It is hard to tell exactly how much more room for growth there is.
37. George Pickens, WR, Georgia
One of the most tantalizing prospects in this draft class, Pickens is a bit of an unknown. He had a fantastic freshman season in a limited role before turning in a much more muted sophomore campaign. Expecting a big junior season, he tore his ACL in spring practice, but worked his way back to appear in the final few games of the season. He only recorded five catches in those four games. He posted solid, but not spectacular numbers at the combine, but the fact that he participated gave a good indication that he is back to full strength. Pickens has the body type and skill set to be a No. 1 receiver. It will be on whatever team drafts him though to help him take that next step in his development.
38. Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Ridder is not just a fairy tale story anymore. Cincinnati showed it truly belonged in 2021, even if they did come up short against Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Ridder showcased in that game both what makes him an enticing prospect and why he is a bit of a project. He stood in against a heavy rush all night and delivered some solid passes outside the numbers. Unfortunately, we also saw him struggle to adjust when his passes were getting batted down at the line and his inaccuracy over the middle became a problem. There is a lot to like about his leadership, mobility and arm strength, but it will take time for him to put them all together.
39. Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
Yet another Georgia player. Kirby Smart sure knows how to recruit and develop NFL talent. Cine was already on the NFL’s radar, but he really caught the nation’s attention with the performance he put on in the National Championship Game against Alabama. He racked up seven tackles, including one for loss against the Tide, making plays in space the whole game long. It capped off a season where he recorded 73 tackles and showcased his speed. He has great size for the position and checks just about every box from a physical standpoint.
40. Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
An up-and-coming pass rusher in this draft class, Mafe turned in a seven-sack performance in his senior season. He is a speed rusher who flashes moments of power on film. His quick first step makes him tough to combat for slower tackles. He also showed that he can drop into coverage in both man and zone on film, so I think he could comfortably play outside linebacker at the next level. Mafe is also very comfortable playing with his hand in the ground as a defensive end. He has some room to improve as a run defender, but I think he will find his way onto the field early in his career.
41. Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
Raimann feels like an athlete who just so happens to play offensive tackle. He put together a very impressive workout at the combine, dominating the three-cone, broad jump and bench press. My biggest knock on him would be his arm length, which was a bit below average. Still, I think he has the athleticism to make up for that. There will be a bit of a learning curve jumping from Central Michigan to facing NFL talent every week, but he has the look of a future starter in the league, especially if he can fill out his frame a bit more.
42. Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA
Another college tackle whose future likely lies at interior lineman, Rhyan is close to NFL ready. He has good play strength and is a clear asset as a run blocker. He does sometimes lack a clear plan in the ground game, which leads him to miss a few blocks. Additionally, he does a solid job of keeping pass rushers in front of him. Unfortunately, he lacks the length to likely survive at tackle, but he could be a potential backup at the position given his history there in college.
43. Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
NFL teams should probably just set up scouting posts in Seattle, because Washington continues to produce NFL caliber defensive backs. Elijah Molden, Byron Murphy, Taylor Rapp, Marcus Peters, Budda Baker and Kevin King are some of the more famous Huskies in the NFL right now. But I digress. Gordon seems poised to join that group, with recent buzz suggesting he might not get out of the first round. He is a bit bigger than his teammate Trent McDuffie at 5’11” and a half. However, he lacks the same kind of explosiveness that makes McDuffie such a coveted prospect. He shows a willingness as a run blocker. The more I watch him, the more I think I might be a little too low on him.
44. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
At long last, we have a running back in the rankings. Hall is a well-rounded back with potential home run speed. He broke 4.4 on his 40-time and had a really impressive workout all the way around. On top of that, his production at Iowa State was impressive. He scored 50 touchdowns on the ground and hauled in 83 catches over three years. He will certainly be a factor in the passing game even if he isn’t quite on the same level as Christian McCaffrey or Alvin Kamara. To me, he is the clear top back in this class and could even sneak into the end of Round 1 if a team like Buffalo decides it needs an upgrade in the backfield.
45. Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
This is a really tough one for me. From a production standpoint, I think Dotson is closer to a first-round pick. He has a great set of hands and posted over 1,100 yards on 90 catches with 12 touchdowns. The measurables are where I start to have an issue. He is only 5’10” and weighed in under 180 pounds at the combine. He also posted a dismal three-cone time. I think he can still be a very productive player at the next level, but I don’t know that he will ever be a true No. 1 option, which pushes him into the second round for me.
46. Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky
At this point, it is tough to project exactly where Kinnard will best fit in the NFL. He started three years at right tackle for Kentucky. However, he tested really poorly at the combine, showing he might lack to requisite athleticism to play tackle at the next level. That being said, he has long 35-inch arms and massive 11-inch hands. Those are incredible numbers. His play style probably points to a future on the interior, but only time will tell. Either way, I think he has a future as an NFL lineman with his raw power and size.
47. Cameron Thomas, EDGE, San Diego State
Thomas broke out in his junior season, recording 20.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. He has really solid play strength, which allows him to sort through traffic well against the run. San Diego State asked him to play inside a lot more than I think he will at the NFL level. He will likely be a 4-3 defensive end. He still has a lot of work to do as a pass rusher as he mostly wins reps based on effort at this point. The one thing he does really well as a pass rusher is use his hands to create leverage. If he starts adding a few moves, he will be a very effective player.
48. Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA
Definitely a bit of a project, Woolen has exciting intangibles. He showed out at the combine, measuring in at just over 6’4″ before running a 4.26 40 and a 42-inch vertical. Mix in roughly 33 and a half-inch long arms and you have the makings of a potential superstar at the position. It is all going to depend on his development. He had a good year at UTSA and has a good understanding of how to break up passes without getting called for interference. I think I would like to see him get a bit more physical and improve when it comes to mirroring receivers. He is a really exciting prospect though.
49. Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
One of the largest human beings to ever be at the combine, Faalele became the heaviest player to weigh in over 20 years. He tipped the scales at 384 pounds. At 6’8″, he carries that weight pretty well, but those numbers are just mind boggling. That size alone makes him an asset, but it comes with its drawbacks. He lacks elite quickness and struggles with his pad level given his immense size. There is a lot to work with, but those limitations likely will keep him on the right side of the line for his career. Still, I think he can be a quality starter if he keeps his weight under control and works on his pass protection.
50. Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
Opinions seem to be split on Pierce. On one hand, he has an enticing blend of size and long speed. He posted elite numbers in the vertical and broad jump. He was a big-play threat all year long at Cincinnati. On the other, can he really be more than just a big-play option? His film shows the ability to get open if he does not have elite quickness. Some of it can be blamed on a quarterback who seemingly struggled on intermediate routes over the middle. There is enough there that I think you can take a second-round flier on him and see if he can develop into a mid-tier No. 1 option.
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