Last week, we highlighted the top-5 NFL Draft prospects at each offensive position. Today, it’s the defense’s turn. This side of the ball features significantly more talent, including eight of my top-ten overall prospects.
Even with DeMarvin Leal and George Karlaftis on the IDL list, this is a very strong group of edge-rushers, with the number of potential first-rounders approaching double-digits. It starts with the likely #1 overall selection KayVon Thibodeaux. The Oregon pass-rusher seems to be getting better everyday and has all the traits that NFL GMs covet.
After Kayvon Thibodeaux, who do you think is the best edge rusher in the 2022 NFL draft class?pic.twitter.com/nwwXR1ftlo
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) November 20, 2021
Aidan Hutchinson continues to ascend draft boards and is pushing Thibodeaux for the first overall selection. He’s been insanely productive for the Wolverines this year and has everything we look for in an edge rusher. I’m higher than most on my #2 edge-rusher, Kingsley Enagbare. There’s just so much to love about his game. He’s developed really nicely and has the type of big, bendy frame that translates to success at the NFL level.
Drake Jackson fits a similar mold. We asked Jackson to be more consistent this year and he’s definitely answered the call. The Temple transfer, Arnold Ebiketie, is having a great season for the Nittany Lions. He’s a powerful run defender that’s taken his pass-rushing technique to another level.
- KayVon Thibodeaux – Oregon
- Aidan Hutchinson – Michigan
- Kingsley Enagbare – South Carolina
- Drake Jackson – USC
- Arnold Ebiketie – Penn St
Interior Defensive Line
Both DeMarvin Leal and George Karlaftis have played more snaps at edge than the interior, though both players project better to the inside at the next level. Both are stud defenders that will be selected in the top-half of the first round.
DeMarvin Leal (Texas A&M DL 8) with a terrific swim move and tackle. pic.twitter.com/SWDjenmZDU
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) November 23, 2021
Jordan Davis could hear his name called early as well, as the top run defender in the draft class. He’s a mammoth traditional nose tackle. Travis Jones has come on for UConn and looks like a solid developmental piece. Then there’s Perrion Winfrey who’s been a bit of a question mark this year. Winfrey has been up and down as a pass-rusher but the talent/athleticism is very apparent. He’s also been a bit of a liability against the run.
- DeMarvin Leal – Texas A&M
- George Karlaftis – Purdue
- Jordan Davis – Georgia
- Travis Jones – UConn
- Perrion Winfrey – Oklahoma
Devin Lloyd may not have the big hits or the flashy film of other linebackers in this class but he’s great in every facet of the game and a stellar athlete. Then there’s Christian Harris. He’s is the most explosive tackler in the top-5 though he struggles in coverage – even with his elite athletic traits.
Nakobe Dean, however, has been amazing in coverage and fits the modern LB mold. Leo Chenal has the best size of any LB in the 2022 NFL Draft class and is a bit of a throwback. He also meets all athletic thresholds. Chad Muma is a bit of a throwback as well, though a lesser athlete.
#Wisconsin LB Leo Chenal has been so good for the Badgers this season. The pass rush upside plus the stack and shed ability at the second level allows him to wreak havoc in both the running and passing games.
I’ll be keeping an eye on him against Nebraska today. pic.twitter.com/xQ8uwpFFxQ
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) November 20, 2021
- Devin Lloyd – Utah
- Christian Harris – Alabama
- Nakobe Dean – Georgia
- Leo Chenal – Wisconsin
- Chad Muma – Wyoming
Even after two sub-par seasons by his standard, Derek Stingley Jr is the top CB prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft class. Kaiir Elam is a close second. Both players have the length/speed/athleticism combo that we look for in a #1 corner.
Speaking of length, Ahmad Gardner has plenty. He has lockdown traits and has displayed them for two years – albeit against group of 5 competition. Andrew Booth Jr might be the best athlete of the group and is finally starting to showcase that on the field. Roger McCreary is no slouch, though, and he’s been solid all season long.
Prospects I'm exciting to watch this week:
Ahmad Gardner | CB | CIN
+ Nicknamed Sauce
+ Length and ATH combination
+ Great ball skills both directions
+ Smooth mover
+ Press tech improving ever year
Want to see
– Change of direction w/ his long strides
– Matchups vs top WRs pic.twitter.com/VG1nhgGMri
— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 20, 2021
- Derek Stingley Jr – LSU
- Kaiir Elam – Florida
- Ahmad Gardner – Cincinnati
- Andrew Booth Jr – Clemson
- Roger McCreary – Auburn
I’ve always grouped slot corner prospects with safeties – for a number of reasons. And this is a really strong group. It starts with Kyle Hamilton, a generational prospect at the safety position, with CB hips and LB run-stopping ability.
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) November 23, 2021
Jordan Battle is a fantastic, do-it-all prospect in his own right. Trent McDuffie is the top slot prospect in this class, and for good reason. He can cover the whole field and is great in run support. This 2022 NFL Draft class is rounded out by two playmakers in Jaquan Brisker and Daxton Hill. Brisker is the team-captain type while Hill is an absolute stud athlete.
- Kyle Hamilton – Notre Dame
- Jordan Battle – Alabama
- Trent McDuffie – Washington
- Jaquan Brisker – Penn St
- Daxton Hill – Michigan