The 2021 NFL Draft is now behind us and while teams begin shuffling their rosters to fit their new players in, we're turning our gaze towards next year's draft. Here's a very early look at the top 10 prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft.
1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
A five-star recruit from the 2019 class, Thibodeaux has lived up to his billing at Oregon. He's racked up 23.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in his 20 games with the Ducks. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, with elite athleticism, he has as much upside as anyone in this draft class off the edge.
2. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Stingley was a consensus All-American as a freshman in 2019 and has been a first-team All-SEC pick in both of his seasons at LSU. He has good size at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, is an aggressive ball-hawk and projects as an elite, shutdown corner.
3. Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
This ranking might look high in a few months, but I'm projecting Howell will have a big year. At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, he doesn't have prototypical size at quarterback but he's been remarkably productive. He's thrown for 7,227 yards, with 68 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in his first two seasons. He's currently the top quarterback in this class, makes plays down the field and is supremely confident.
4. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Neal is a monster at 6-foot-7 and 360 pounds and projects as a franchise left tackle. He'll get a chance to prove it in 2021. He's started at right tackle and guard for the Crimson Tide over the past two seasons, making 26 starts. He played right tackle in 2020 and with Alex Leatherwood off to the NFL, he'll likely take over that spot this season.
5. Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
Wait, another Alabama guy? Yep, shocking, I know. Harris has been outstanding in his two seasons in Tuscaloosa, racking up 142 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He has the size (6-foot-2, 234 pounds) and athleticism to fit in any system and is a leader on defense.
6. Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Hamilton was an All-American in 2020 and at 6-foot-4, 219 pounds he's an athletic freak at the safety position. He led Notre Dame with 63 tackles as a sophomore, adding 4.5 tackles for loss and an interception. He has the size to hold his own in the box, but the speed and athleticism to cover deep.
7. Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
By next spring, Rattler could be the top quarterback on the board. In his first-year as a starter in 2020 he completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 3,031 yards, with 28 touchdowns and five interceptions. Perhaps more importantly, he consistently improved along the way. He's 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds and will be a redshirt sophomore, so he may not even enter the 2022 draft. But if he does it likely means he was excellent in his second season as a starter.
8. Drake Jackson, Edge, USC
Like Thibodeaux, Jackson has the potential to be an elite force off the edge. At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, with excellent quickness and athleticism, he's difficult to handle when rushing the passer. In his career Jackson has posted 66 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and an interception. Big things are expected from him in 2021.
9. Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
Ross sat out the 2020 season after suffering a spinal injury, but if that's not a long-term concern then he's definitely a top 10 player in this draft class. He enters the 2021 season with 112 career receptions for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns in 29 games. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, the junior was Clemson's most explosive playmaker in 2018 and 2019. If he's back to full health he could be the top receiver in the draft.
10. DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
Leal can really play any spot on the line, which adds to his value. At 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds and athletic, he dominated opposing running games, led Texas A&M's defense with eight hurries and added seven tackles for loss.