2022 NFL Draft Big Board: Andrew Erickson’s Top 50 Rookies
With the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine in the rearview mirror, the time has come to unveil my 2022 NFL Draft Big Board.
These post-combine prospect rankings are a blend between my personal view on each incoming rookie, while also factoring in projected NFL draft capital. The goal here is to not only reveal which prospects I am highest on, but ones that real-life teams are high on as well. They may differ slightly from my 2021 rookie rankings and order of players in recent mock drafts.
Accompanied by each player’s Big Board ranking is a small insight on the prospect, to provide some perspective on where they fall in the pecking order. I also make sure to hit heavier on fantasy-relevant prospects — with a few notes on IDP suggestions for you die-hards — with that being my ultimate area of expertise.
The new odds-on favorite to be selected No. 1 is Michigan pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson (-175). His 2021 PFF defense grade (94.5) is the highest among any edge defender entering the NFL since Washington Commander Chase Young.
The Alabama tackle finished top-10 in his draft class in the lowest pressure rate allowed (2.4%) in his first season as a full-time left tackle. With Neals’ mammoth size — 6-foot-7, 350 pounds — he will be a foundation piece addition to any offensive line.
His versatility and experience playing right tackle and guard will go a long way to ensuring he gets selected high in the draft.
Ikem Ekwonu allowed zero quarterback hits in 2021 and offers versatility to also line up at guard. He’s also an absolute mauler in the run game — PFF’s fifth-highest graded run-blocker in 2021.
The Wolfpack offensive lineman did wonders for his draft stock at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine generating rhetoric that he will be the No. 1 pick by Jacksonville when April 28th rolls around.
Travon Walker led the Georgia Bulldogs No. 1-ranked defense in total pressures this past season with 13 coming during their playoff run.
His rare agility at 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds will be a major issue for opposing offensive lines. The former Bulldog flashed his rare speed/bend at the NFL Combine with a 4.51 40-yard dash (98th percentile) and 6.89 3-cone drill (93rd percentile).
With 35½ inch arms to boot, Walker possesses rare traits that make him worthy of a top-5 overall pick.
Elite pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux generated 48 pressures in 11 games his junior season — 4.4 per game. That mark ranked tenth among the 2022 edge class.
6. Kyle Hamilton (S – Notre Dame)
The talented safety didn’t necessarily increase his draft stock after running a 4.59 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, but that raw time requires context. Kyle Hamilton is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, so it’s actually a solid time when adjusting for size. The Fighting Irish product also posted elite numbers in the jumping drills with a 38” vertical jump (81st percentile) and 131” broad jump (100th percentile).
Hamilton is a top-end defensive talent in this draft and provides recourse against ever-evolving NFL offenses. With so much to offer — strong tackler, desired length/size and coverage ability — he fits the profile of a top-10 selection.
Ahmad (Sauce) Gardner is a lock-down press cornerback from Cincinnati. He played the second-most snaps from man coverage among his classmates in 2021 and allowed just 55 total receiving yards. Gardner has also never allowed a touchdown in coverage.
Charles Cross is a locked-and-loaded franchise left tackle after taking over 1,200 snaps from that position the last two seasons. The Mississippi State Bulldog was elite from Week 4 onward as PFF’s second-highest graded pass-blocker (87.6).
Cross also showed up against the strongest competition allowing just two combined pressures in four SEC matchups against Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn.
The FSU product tied Aidan Hutchinson with 14 sacks to lead the 2022 NFL Draft class.
The Ohio State wide receiver also tested extremely well with a 4.38 40-time. He has solidified his status as one of the top WRs in the class with impressive testing numbers in addition to his savvy route running.
The 6-foot-7 and 325-pound behemoth ran a 4.89 40-yard dash (97th percentile) and blazed a 7.25 in the 3-cone drill (96th percentile) — tied for the fastest time of tackles that tested.
With a prospect profile that draws parallels to former first-round tackle Nate Solder, Penning won’t need to wait very long to hear his name called on draft night.
Penning’s 97.3 overall PFF grade and 99.9 run-blocking grade both ranked first in all of Division 1 college football in 2021.
Derek Stingley was seen as a can’t miss option after his freshman season. The LSU product has regressed some the past two years dealing with injuries, but the talent showcased in 2019 — PFF’s highest-graded corner — is too good to ignore.
The Utah product is a do-it-all linebacker with the ability to cover tight ends, generate pressure and play on all downs.
He finished the 2021 season with eight sacks and 90 solo tackles — ninth-most in the FBS. Devin Lloyd should mitigate the damage that opposing tight ends create.
David Ojabo enjoyed a breakout season with 11 sacks in 2021 after playing just 26 snaps in 2020. The huge leap was unequivocally tied to Ojabo’s freakish athleticism that normal football players just don’t have. His 4.55 40-yard dash ranks in the 96th percentile among edge defenders.
Pair him with another top-tier edge rusher, and NFL offenses won’t know what to do.
Trent McDuffie was PFF’s fifth-highest graded 2022 draft-eligible cornerback in 2021, allowing no more than 39 receiving yards in any game. With the aptitude to play both zone and man coverage, the former Washington Huskie can become a major immediate contributor to an NFL secondary.
Treylon Burks finished first in his class in yards per route run (3.57) while also ranking No. 1 in yards per route run when lined up outside (6.08) among all receivers. It’s an encouraging sign that a size-speed specimen delivered when aligned on the perimeter, as he spent 77% of his career in the slot.
His 8.5 yards after the catch rank 14th among 169 qualifying wide receivers (92nd percentile) over the past two seasons.
And R-E-L-A-X about Burks‘ 4.55 40-yard dash time and less than stellar jumping numbers. The Arkansas wide receiver weighs 225 pounds so asking for anything in the sub 4.4s is expecting D.K. Metcalf athleticism. He isn’t the freak athlete Metcalf is, but he’s still a top-3 wide receiver in this rookie class.
His elite college production and top-notch 32% dominator rating speak for themselves.
Burks remains a weapon waiting to be unleashed by an NFL offense. And I hope that the market sours on him in both best ball and dynasty formats post-combine so he can be acquired at a better value.
My favorite NFL comp for Burks is Josh Gordon.
Alabama’s Jameson Williams can be the extra firepower that a team needs to get over the top after a monster season as the Crimson Tide’s No. 1 receiver.
Williams commanded a 31% dominator rating by hanging 1,561 receiving yards, 20 yards per reception and 15 touchdowns — all achievements that ranked top-three among his 2022 NFL Draft class. His gargantuan yardage totals were fueled by his ability to create yards after the catch and downfield. He finished top-seven among all college wide receivers in yards after the catch per reception (9.3) and receiving yards on 20-plus air yard throws.
Williams has shades of Will Fuller and Mike Wallace to his game; a big-play waiting to happen.
Drake London boasts all the skills to be an alpha possession receiver at the next level. The 6-foot-4 and 219-pound towering wide receiver only played in eight games due to an ankle injury but made every game count. He commanded a 38% target share and led all WRs in contested catches (19). London concluded the year third in yards per route run (3.52) in his draft class.
The USC product has also yet to turn 21. His game as a big-bodied wideout echoes a spry Kenny Golladay.
Chris Olave can separate from defenders at an elite level downfield. The former Buckeye wrapped up his 2021 season in the 96th percentile in separation versus single coverage and caught seven touchdowns on throws of 20-plus air yards.
Olave cemented himself as a top-20 selection by blazing a 4.39 40-yard dash (90th percentile) at the NFL Combine.
He draws parallels to Calvin Ridley with his route running ability.
The Liberty signal-caller did wonders to his draft stock after an impressive week at the Senior Bowl. His 91.7 PFF passing grade throughout the Senior Bowl practices was the highest of the week.
Willis averaged almost 100 rushing yards per game over the last two seasons, putting him in elite company with some of college football’s best rushers. His ability to add value with his legs will grant him extra time to develop as a passer at the NFL level.
Combining his mobility with a strong downfield arm — fourth in PFF passing grade on throws of 20-plus air yards — is a recipe for fantasy football success.
An NFL team can lock up their long-term option at the center position with Tyler Linderbaum. He has graded out as PFF’s No. 1 center in the nation over the last two seasons.
Linderbaum also owns the second-highest run grade among all OL in the nation, which bodes well for him in a run-heavy system. The dude is a mauler.
Zion Johnson is a solid starting guard from Day 1 and would be an immediate plug-in-play option for any team. Johnson allowed just two quarterback hits and six total pressures in his final season at school.
The BC Eagle tested extremely well at the NFL Combine posting top marks in the shuttle (4.46, 93rd percentile), 3-cone (7.38, 92nd percentile), bench press (38, 97th percentile) and vertical jump (32”, 91st percentile).
Kenyon Green can start from day one at left guard after finishing 2021 as the highest-graded SEC guard in his draft class.
But what separates Green is his versatility. The Texas A&M Aggie has experience playing every position across the offensive line outside the center position. That experience will make him a highly-coveted target in the first round.
Jordan Davis’ 4.78 40-time at 341 pounds is the best weight-adjusted time among 487 interior defenders to run at the combine. It generated an astounding 130.64-speed score. For perspective, DK Metcalf’s 133.3-speed score ranks in the 100th percentile, which he ran at 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds.
At worst, Davis can be an elite run-stuffer at the next level. But his uber-athleticism clearly shows he is an absolute game-wrecker in his range of outcomes.
He wrapped up 2021 third in the class in defensive run-stop rate.
Andrew Booth Jr. doesn’t have a signature calling card to his game because he is so well-rounded. Scheme-diverse enough to be a contributor on any defense, but his best fit would be in zone coverage.
The Clemson cornerback has spent the majority of his career in a zone coverage scheme while generating an elite sub-40 passer rating when targeted.
At 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds, cornerback Kaiir Elam is the perfect target for any CB-needy franchise. The Florida Gator allowed the nation’s third-lowest passer rating when targeted (18.3) as a true freshman in 2019. Facing SEC wide receivers for three straight seasons will translate well into the NFL.
No linebacker epitomizes speed more than Nakobe Dean.
The Georgia Bulldog finished as PFF’s highest-graded linebacker on college football’s No. 1 defense in 2021. And although he is undersized at 6-feet and 225 pounds, he more than makes up for it with his sideline-to-sideline range. His speed also shows up when he rushes the passer, evidenced by his eight sacks and top-4 PFF pass-rush grade (91.3).
6-foot-7 tackle Bernhard Raimann went from playing tight end two years ago to PFF’s third-highest graded tackle in 2021 (94.6). His short-area quickness and burst — 91st percentile 20-yard shuttle, 85th percentile 3-cone drill, 97th percentile broad jump — will go a long way to ensuring the Central Michigan product gets selected in Round 1.
Purdue’s George Karlaftis fits the mold in a 3-4 scheme. As a freshman in 2019, Karlaftis generated the tenth-most pressures in the FBS. And after a truncated 2020 season due to COVID-19, the Boilermaker edge rusher finished 2021 11th in the nation in pressures per game (4.5).
30. Devonte Wyatt (DT – UGA)
Devonte Wyatt finished the 2021 season as PFF’s highest-graded interior defensive lineman as the central force to the No. 1 defense in the nation. He’s been overshadowed a bit by all the other talent for the Bulldogs entering the draft — most notably fellow DT Jordan Davis — but it’s undeniable that Wyatt was the better pass-rusher at Georgia.
Wyatt is the only interior defensive lineman in the class to rank top-6 in both PFF run and pass-rush grade last season. His true pass-rush grade ranked first on the Georgia defense.
With 4.77 40-yard dash wheels (97th percentile) and 111” broad jump (82nd percentile) to boot, an NFL team is going to get an immediate impact player by drafting Wyatt.
Tyler Smith can be a future franchise left tackle.
The Tulsa product has played over 1,700 snaps from the left side in his college career and finished 2021 as PFF’s fourth-highest graded tackle.
The Georgia Bulldog WR broke out as a true 18-year old freshman, finishing 2019 as PFF’s the 17th-highest-graded receiver in the nation (88.0) — ahead of future NFL wideouts like Jerry Jeudy, Justin Jefferson, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
His 2.64 yards per route run were identical to Jefferson’s. George Pickens’ unbelievable first year generated a 27% dominator rating — the No. 1 age-adjusted mark among the WRs in this draft class.
And it’s so clear that Pickens plays with a dog mentality. Part of his highlight tape is him putting opposing cornerbacks on the ground in the run game.
Injuries plagued Pickens’ draft stock during the college season, but he looks to be fully healthy based on his testing at the NFL Combine. I will be drafting a lot of Pickens in my dynasty rookie drafts.
33. Sam Howell (QB – UNC)
Sam Howell earned the starting quarterback job at North Carolina as a 19-year old true freshman and never looked back. He finished fourth in the FBS with 38 touchdown passes in his first season, cementing himself on the NFL radar.
He followed up an impressive introduction with an even more dominant performance as a passer in 2020, finishing as the nation’s sixth-highest-graded quarterback (92.3) and fourth-best deep passer (98.0) in an offense littered with future NFL talent.
Unsurprisingly, Howell took a bit of a step back in his final season without the likes of Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome at his disposal. The UNC product finished as PFF’s 37th-graded passer (80.3) — 15th among his 2022 draft class.
To make up for a lack of passing efficiency, Howell turned up the dial on his rushing production. After posting just 600 yards on the ground through two seasons, Howell rushed for 1,106 yards as PFF’s second-highest-graded rusher (91.0) in 2021.
If the first read wasn’t there, Howell was looking to create yards with his legs. This presents problems for the real-life NFL but shouldn’t be considered negatively for fantasy.
Howell’s escapability lends itself to rushing success at the NFL level if he doesn’t have a lot of talent around him. Conversely, his first two years of college show he will take full advantage when he does have weapons around him.
It’s hard to label Howell as a “situation-proof” quarterback — a rookie quarterback’s team context plays an integral part in their growth — but it’s hard to overlook his versatility as far as how he can rack up fantasy points in the years to come based on which team selects him.
Every college season, a quarterback emerges from the woodwork into the top-quarterback prospect conversation. Joe Burrow and Zach Wilson were that QB riser in the past two drafts, and this season it’s Kenny Pickett. The Pittsburgh Panther threw more touchdowns (42) than the previous three seasons combined as the entrenched starter (38).
Pickett finished third in PFF passing grade from a clean pocket (94.3) and first in his class in adjusted completion percentage (79%). His overall experience and breakout season make him the most NFL-ready quarterback in this class, but he is far from flawless.
His extremely small hand size —8½ inches, 1st percentile — does raise some concern, as betting on outliers tends to generate sub-optimal results over time.
Also, Pickett doesn’t offer the same type of rushing other QBs in this class offer. He tends to go slowly through progressions and hold the ball too long, as evidenced by a 3.19-second average time to throw — the second-slowest in the draft class (Malik Willis, 3.33)
Matt Corral rallied the Rebels to a 10-2 record while finishing third in the SEC in passing yards (3,343) and 11th in the nation in PFF passing grade from a clean pocket (91.6).
He also rushed for nearly 750 yards and 11 scores. It’s that exact dual-threat ability fantasy football dynasty managers should be looking to invest in for years down the line.
Desmond Ridder made a strong push around NFL circles during his senior season, leading Cincinnati all the way to the College Football Playoff against Alabama. PFF’s seventh-highest-graded 2022 draft-eligible quarterback then turned heads at the 2022 Senior Bowl, showcasing accuracy and polish.
Ridder also offers juice with his legs, having rushed for over 2,700 yards during his four-year career (58 per game). His athleticism was at the forefront of his testing at the NFL combine.
The Bearcats quarterback ran a 4.52 40-yard dash (96th percentile), jumped a 36″ vertical (92nd percentile), and 127″ broad jump (98th percentile).
From speed to predictive passing metrics working in his favor — 97th percentile passer on early downs per PFF (91.0) — the Cincinnati product possesses all the ingredients to become a fantasy-friendly quarterback at the next level.
Michigan safety Daxton Hill can line up all over the field. He played slot cornerback in 2021 after spending more time in the box and free safety as a sophomore.
Skyy Moore first played wide receiver in college after playing quarterback and defensive back in high school. The transition couldn’t have worked out better in hindsight, considering the Western Michigan Bronco has entered the Day 2 NFL Draft conversation after an extremely productive college career.
Moore broke out as a true freshman with a 20% dominator rating, catching 51 passes for 802 yards and three touchdowns. He took a backseat in his sophomore season to Seattle Seahawks second-rounder D’Wayne Eskridge in 2020, but he still posted a modest 20% dominator rating amid the stiff competition.
He would more than make up for a so-so second year in his final season at Western Michigan, finishing as PFF’s third-highest graded wide receiver in the FBS (91.6) with a 41% dominator rating to boot.
His 3.40 yards per route run ranked in the 99th percentile among 2022 draft-eligible wide receivers over the past three seasons. The slippery playmaker — tied for first with 26 forced missed tackles in 2021 — should hear his name called in the second round after an impressive combine outing.
Moore ran a 4.41 40-yard dash (82nd percentile) at 195 pounds. He also jumped 125″ in the broad jump (77th percentile) and 34.5″ (38th percentile) in the vertical jump.
His athletic numbers were better than expected.
39. Roger McCreary (CB – Auburn)
Roger McCreary graded out as the No. 1 cornerback in the nation per PFF in 2021 — forcing 13 incomplete passes while in coverage. And although he excels in press coverage, the rumor is that NFL teams view him more as a slot cornerback with sub-29” arms (0th percentile).
That might knock him down slightly in the draft based on teams that need a slot cornerback. But make no mistake that he will bring his top-tier coverage skills with him when aligned inside.
On 26 slot coverage snaps in 2021 he allowed just one catch. It’s a small sample size, but McCreary’s body of work foreshadows a smooth transition to the slot.
40. Boye Mafe (Edge – MIN)
The Minnesota Golden Gopher didn’t post monster numbers rushing the passer in the Big Ten — 38th in the class in pressures generated — but he graded extremely well in PFF’s PRP formula which combines sacks, hits and hurries relative to how many times a defender rushes the passer. Mafe’s 10.2 PRP ranked seventh in the class behind projected top-5 picks, Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux.
There’s reason to believe Mafe could translate to a first-round-worthy pass-rusher at the NFL level based on his uber-athleticism.
At the NFL combine, Mafe ran a 4.53 40-yard dash (98th percentile), jumped 38” in the vertical (90th percentile) and leaped 125” in the broad jump (90th percentile). All while measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 261 pounds. His profile bears striking resemblance to Jadeveon Clowney when he came out of South Carolina.
He also showed out at the Senior Bowl, posting the highest defensive grade in the all-star game (92.0).
41. Daniel Faalele (OT – Minnesota)
It’s only a matter of time before Daniel Faalele coins the nickname, “Monster from Minnesota.” The Golden Gopher offensive tackle weighs 384 pounds and measures at a towering 6-foot-8. He’s the “immovable object” meeting the “unstoppable force” John Madden preached about all these years.
The traits are there for Faalele to be a franchise tackle in the NFL, but it might take some seasoning. After all, he’s only been playing football since 2016 after spending the majority of his life in Australia.
But the progression and growth Faalele has displayed — improved PFF blocking grade all three years at school — suggests he is just scratching the surface of his potential. Also worth noting that with his limited playing experience Faalele is best suited to continue playing at right tackle to start as he did at the college level.
42. Kyler Gordon (CB – Washington)
Trent McDuffie has generated the most buzz out of Washington, but don’t overlook his teammate, Kyler Gordon. Gordon’s PFF coverage grade ranked fourth in FBS in 2021 (89.6) and was superior to McDuffie (89.3).
He was also elite in man coverage, allowing the nation’s second-lowest passer rating (12.8).
Expect Gordon’s draft stock to rise after Washington’s pro day on March 29th. His lackluster 4.52 40-yard dash time doesn’t accurately depict Gordon’s true athleticism.
Christian Watson was the talk of the town as a standout in the 2022 Senior Bowl. The North Dakota State prospect showed that his 35% dominator rating and No. 1-ranked 4.33 yards per route run were no fluke, even if they came against an easy schedule of opponents.
And he continued on his draft stock ascension with a blazing 4.36 40-yard dash (91st percentile) during on-field testing. That speed at Watson’s size — 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds — is absolutely ludicrous.
Combine that with his 38.5″ vertical (84th percentile) and 136″ broad jump (98th percentile) — all that’s left is calling the dude a certified stud that has a chance to see Round 1 draft capital.
44. Jalen Pitre (S – Baylor)
Safety Jalen Pitre has spent the majority of the last two seasons in coverage from the slot — capped off by a 2021 campaign that saw him finish first in PFF run defense among all defensive backs in the nation.
His dual-threat ability as a box safety that can cover and make stops in the run game is rare to find in an undersized safety at 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds. The smaller size does raise concerns about whether Pitre can keep up his tenacious play — man on a mission mentality — against larger NFL players. But at least he offers a floor as slot coverage defender.
His 6.74 3-cone time (88th percentile) illustrates his short-area quickness.
45. Jaquan Brisker (S – Penn State)
Versatility is the name of the game with Jaquan Brisker. The Penn State safety led the 2022 draft class in snaps from the box while also boasting PFF’s third-highest coverage grade (89.5). With a hybrid linebacker-safety skill set, defensive coordinators will want Brisker close to the ball on every down.
Smells like a future IDP fantasy star.
46. Arnold Ebiketie (Edge – Penn State)
After combining for just 32 pressures and six sacks during a three-year stint at Temple, Arnold Ebiketie was unleashed by Penn State in 2021. He converted his explosiveness — 38” vertical jump (91st percentile), 128” broad jump (95th percentile) — into 52 pressures, which ranked 12th in the class.
As PFF’s sixth-highest graded pass-rusher among his draft-eligible edge rushers on true pass sets, Ebiketie won’t last outside the second round.
47. Kingsley Enagbare (Edge – South Carolina)
Only two edge players — Aidan Hutchinson, Nik Bonitto — earned a higher PFF pass-rush grade than Kingsley Enagbare in 2021. The South Carolina product’s pressure didn’t necessarily translate many sacks (4) but his ability to win one-one matchups — third-highest ranked pressure win % — suggests he has a pass-rush ceiling at the next level.
Especially considering he has been a top-tier rusher in the SEC for the past two seasons.
48. DeMarvin Leal (DE/DT – Texas A&M)
At six-foot-four and 283 pounds, DeMarvin Leal isn’t your prototypical defensive lineman. His tweener size makes him too small to be used strictly in the interior, while also too big to be a strict edge defender. Especially considering his testing numbers — 5.0 seconds (13th percentile), 27.5 vertical (4th percentile), 106 broad jump (7th percentile) and 4.49 shuttle (32nd percentile) — look mediocre when compared to the majority of NFL defensive ends.
The testing numbers obviously look better when compared to 300-pound defensive tackles, but that doesn’t necessarily project to be Leal at the next level. With such a unique build, Leal’s projection will be heavily dependent on what team he is drafted by.
Ideally, he continues to rush the passer at an impressive size to overwhelm opposing offensive linemen as he did in college.
49. Travis Jones (DT – Connecticut)
Defensive tackles aren’t valued as much nowadays as they were in the past, with more emphasis placed on stopping the pass versus the run. However, there’s a point in every draft when adding an elite run stuffer like Travis Jones does make sense.
The burly UConn Huskie defensive tackle finished as PFF’s third-highest graded interior player in 2021. With an impressive speed and size at 326 pounds — 88th percentile 40-time — Jones looks like the league’s next A-gap run-stuffing nose tackle.
50. Christian Harris (LB – ALA)
Linebacker-needy teams that are looking to add speed and a well-rounded skill set would be wise to invest a Day 2 selection in Christian Harris. The Crimson Tide linebacker blazed a 4.44 40-yard dash (97th percentile) and jumped 132” in the broad jump (98th percentile) at the NFL combine to add to his draft stock.
Harris’ 1.5 average depth of tackle — 7th-lowest in the class — showcases his explosiveness and ability as a blitzer, which are just a few of the several skills the versatile linebacker can offer to a professional team.
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