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2022 NFL Draft

2022 NFL Draft: Strongest position group? Weakest?

Looking at the 2022 NFL Draft class, which position group is the strongest? The weakest?

Before we dive into my rankings, it's important for you to understand my criteria. In assessing each position group, I identified star-caliber players, future starters and overall depth. Generally speaking, I concentrated on prospects who are most likely to be drafted in Rounds 1 through 5.

While it's true this class of prospects is devoid of superstar talent near the top, the 2022 draft is loaded with edge defenders who have a chance to become productive starters for years to come. It's also worth noting that the depth in the middle rounds creates opportunities for teams to find quality backups and eventual starters, even in position groups that are lower on the list below.

OK, enough preamble -- let's get to it!

1) Edge defender

After a two-year run of the wide receiver position holding the No. 1 spot in this exercise, edge defender is clearly at the top of the food chain for the 2022 draft. This position group has star-caliber potential, plenty of future starters and quality depth ranging well into the fifth round. Aidan Hutchinson, Travon Walker, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Jermaine Johnson II should all become early starters with high upside, but what I love about this crop is the diversity of the depth. There are speed rushers, long defenders with traits and pure power players -- something for every team and every scheme.

2) Safety

Despite subpar times in the 40-yard dash, Kyle Hamilton is still the star of this group and on course to become a very talented starter. However, the talent behind Hamilton is what drives the safety position into the No. 2 spot here. I expect five to six future starters will be drafted inside the first 64 picks at the end of this month, with Lewis Cine, Nick Cross and Jaquan Brisker leading the charge after Hamilton. Daxton Hill offers legitimate cover talent against big slots, while players like Tycen Anderson and Jalen Pitre won't be far behind. If you need a starter at safety, you are finally in luck.

3) Interior offensive line

With more and more teams looking to bump tackles inside to guard or center, this position group has become much more loaded over the last few years. Kenyon Green and Tyler Linderbaum are the headliners -- and I'm projecting Tyler Smith as a tackle-to-guard move, which adds another possible first-rounder. The number of potential future starters at the center position is very impressive, with several prospects featuring guard/center roster flexibility, which could elevate their draft slotting.

4) Cornerback

The five-year average of cornerbacks taken over the first three rounds is 13.4. This year's class should approach -- and potentially surpass -- that number, but I wouldn't call this a standout position group. Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner is the best of the bunch, but Trent McDuffie may be the safest. The positional growth of Derek Stingley Jr. and Andrew Booth could have a big impact on how we view this crop in three years. In my estimation, there are more cornerbacks with third-round grades than second-round grades, but overall, the depth and upside look good in Rounds 3 through 5.

5) Offensive tackle

This tackle group features potential star power in Evan Neal and Ickey Ekwonu, with both Charles Cross and Trevor Penning grabbing 6.4 marks in my grading system, projecting them as good, early starters. I also see Bernhard Raimann as a raw prospect with plenty of upside still to cultivate. But once we draft past those five, it gets shaky real quick. Day 2 and Day 3 depth is below average, with many of the prospects on the wrong side of the line dividing their ceiling from their floor.

6) Quarterback

We are unlikely to see a quarterback go inside the top five picks, but I won't be surprised if four -- or maybe even five -- solid starters emerge from this group. Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral and Desmond Ridder would be late-first/mid-second-round picks in most drafts, but could get pushed up a bit this year. Willis has the highest upside, but Pickett and Corral are more game-ready. Ridder is loaded with intangibles (and talent) to make him a very good game manager at the NFL level. Depth won't be great here, but Jack Coan is a solid Day 3 sleeper.

7) Running back

While this position is very light on star power, it is extremely deep, with help to be found from Round 2 all the way through the late rounds. Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker III are the best of the class and could become early starters. It falls off after those two, but the third, fourth and fifth rounds are going to be filled with prospects possessing size, toughness and talent that will land them roles in running back tandems and as pass-catching specialists. Georgia's Zamir White and James Cook are perfect examples of the types of backs that pepper the middle rounds.

8) Wide receiver

While some are much higher on this wide receiver class, I come away a little lukewarm after the talent and depth we've seen from the 2020 and '21 drafts. While we are likely to see more first-rounders than the five-year average of 3.6, I don't believe there to be a true star in this group. North Dakota State's Christian Watson is an ascending prospect, but beyond him, the depth and ceiling and consistency for Day 2 wideouts is lacking.

9) Linebacker

For this position, I only consider true linebackers -- not 3-4 edge defenders, since they are usually rushers. Nakobe Dean and Devin Lloyd are the top players here, but I only have borderline first-round grades on both (other evaluators are higher on them). Day 2 should offer up a handful of eventual starters at the position, but there are more questions attached to several prospects than teams might like. From a depth standpoint, this position is slightly below average.

10) Tight end

This is actually a fairly deep position in this year's draft, but when you plug in "star potential" and "future starters" into the mix, the total grade comes down substantially. Last year's class lacked depth, but had Kyle Pitts as an absolute stud, while this year's class doesn't even feature a 6.4 prospect (my mark for a very good starter). Teams are going to find depth well into Day 3, but it's a middle/lower-middle-class crop this season.

11) Interior defensive line

My bottom-ranked group from last year stays in the cellar. Georgia's Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt are both high-level prospects, and Travis Jones has really improved his standing this draft season, but it gets thin quickly. There are prospects like Matthew Butler and Kalia Davis whom I like as flash players with upside, but it's not a deep group.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter.

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