The 2022 NFL draft class is loaded with blue chip caliber defenders and a group of offensive tackles that will excite scouts but light when it comes to elite quarterback prospects and big-time wide receivers. Following a month of solid film study and conversations with NFL evaluators, we’re ready to put out a preseason Top 50 Big Board that highlights the most talented players in the nation.
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1. DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon (6050, 250 lbs) 5-star recruit
Thibodeaux is everything NFL scouts want in a pass-rusher. He has excellent size, length, power and athleticism. He also boasts a refined pass-rush game with the hand play, quickness and agility to be a factor working in space on the edge or when lined up on the interior. He has experience working both inside and outside the tackle box and experience lining up in both stand-up and hand-down alignments. He’s a lock top five pick and one of the more exceptional pass-rusher prospects of the last decade.
2. CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU (6010, 195 lbs) 5-star recruit
Stingley is a top-tier athlete with an excellent frame and the overall makeup of an elite cover corner. Stingley’s 2020 season wasn’t spectacular following a brilliant true freshman season in 2019, but Covid and a poor supporting cast could be a large part of any drop-off in his play. If he returns to his previous form, Stingley has a chance to be the highest drafted defensive back since Eric Turner went No. 2 overall in 1991.
3. LB Christian Harris, Alabama (6020, 232 lbs) 4-star recruit
Christian Harris is a player I overlooked in my Top 50 big board right after the draft but quickly fell in love with when watching Alabama tape. His 79 tackles last year were second-most on a loaded defense and his all-around playmaking ability should shoot him up boards with another strong season. The Devin White comparisons are there as Harris is a big-time hitter (ask Kentucky’s Josh Ali) with excellent range.
4. DE DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M (6040, 290) 5-star recruit
A former star recruit coming out of high school, DeMarvin Leal put it all together in his 2020 season on a dangerously loaded Texas A&M defense. He looks to breakout even bigger in 2021. One area scout I spoke with compared Leal to Jeffery Simmons—a player who would have been a top 10 pick outside of off-field issues. His ability to play all over the defensive line and wreck havoc is impressive.
5. S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame (6040, 219) 4-star recruit
Rarely do safeties find themselves ranked in the top five, but Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton is special. A big body with excellent awareness and instincts, Hamilton is a certified playmaker. His tape has been outstanding the last two seasons and his 2021 campaign should be nothing less than remarkable.
Writeups for players No. 6 through No. 50 coming this summer as we start our breakdowns of the 2021 draft class. Subscribe today for 365 day access and coverage of the NFL draft, college football and NFL.
6. WR John Metchie III, Alabama (6000, 195) 4-star recruit
7. OLB Drake Jackson, USC (6040, 255) 4-star recruit
8. DE George Karlaftis, Purdue (6040, 275) 4-star recruit
9. OT Evan Neal, Alabama (6070, 360) 5-star recruit
10. DE Zach Harrison, Ohio State (6060, 265) 5-star recruit
11. QB Sam Howell, North Carolina (6012, 225) 4-star recruit
12. RB Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M (6010, 225) 4-star recruit
13. S Brandon Joseph, Northwestern (6010, 192) 3-star recruit
14. RB Breece Hall, Iowa State (6010, 215) 4-star recruit
15. DE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan (6060, 270) 4-star recruit
16. QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma (6010, 205) 5-star recruit
17. TE Jahleel Billingsley, Alabama (6040, 230) 4-star recruit
18. CB Derion Kendrick, Georgia (6000, 195) 5-star recruit
19. OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State (6050, 305) 5-star recruit
20. OT Abraham Lucas, Washington State (6070, 324) 3-star recruit
21. TE Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M (6050, 265) 4-star recruit
22. WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State (6000, 193) 5-star recruit
23. OT Darian Kinnard, Kentucky (6050, 324) 4-star recruit
24. DE Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati (6046, 258) 3-star recruit
25. WR Chris Olave, Ohio State (6010, 170) 3-star recruit
26. QB Carson Strong, Nevada (6040, 215) 3-star recruit
27. OLB Payton Wilson, NC State (6040, 235) 4-star recruit
28. DE Tyreke Smith, Ohio State (6030, 260) 4-star recruit
29. OLB Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma (6030, 231) 4-star recruit
30. OT Zion Nelson, Miami (FL) (6050, 312) 3-star recruit
31. CB Kaiir Elam, Florida (6020, 193) 4-star recruit
32. DT Jordan Davis, Georgia (6060, 340) 3-star recruit
33. CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson (6000, 195) 5-star recruit
34. CB Josh Jobe, Alabama (6010, 192) 4-star recruit
35. DE Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina (6040, 260) 4-star recruit
36. QB Malik Willis, Liberty (6010, 215) 3-star recruit
37. RB Ainias Smith, Texas A&M (5100, 190) 3-star recruit
38. CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State (6020, 193) 4-star recruit
39. WR Joseph Ngata, Clemson (6030, 220) 4-star recruit
40. QB Kedon Slovis, USC (6030, 215) 3-star recruit
41. QB Phil Jurkovec, Boston College (6050, 226) 4-star recruit
42. CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati (6010, 188) 3-star recruit
43. DT Haskell Garrett, Ohio State (6020, 286) 4-star recruit
44. RB Kyren Williams, Notre Dame (5090, 195) 4-star recruit
45. OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State (6040, 325) 3-star recruit
46. CB Sevyn Banks, Ohio State (6010, 206) 4-star recruit
47. RB Zamir White, Georgia (6000, 215) 5-star recruit
48. TE Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State (6060, 250) 4-star recruit
49. WR George Pickens, Georgia (6030, 200) 5-star recruit
50. S Demani Richardson, Texas A&M (6010, 215) 4-star recruit
*Recruiting rankings courtesy of 24/7 composite rankings
**Height and weight courtesy of college databases and NFL scouting measurements
***Height is listed in NFL standard four-digits, denoting feet-inches-eighths of an inch (ex. 6050 = 6’5”)