Analysis

2022 NFL Draft: Top 25 Senior Bowl prospects entering Week 9 of college football season

There are a few newcomers this week to my list of the top prospects for the 2022 Reese's Senior Bowl. These stars, plus 25 more prospects (listed at the bottom of this article), have played well enough to be picked in the first three rounds of next April's proceedings.

The 2022 draft is still six months away (April 28-30 in Las Vegas), so the evaluations of these players will change based on their play as the season unfolds, their results in athletic testing and, if they are fortunate enough to receive an invite, their performance in Senior Bowl week practices and the game itself (Feb. 5 on NFL Network).

One player from my initial list, Alabama edge rusher Christopher Allen, is not included here because he broke his foot while strip-sacking Miami Hurricanes quarterback D'Eriq King in the season opener and is unlikely to play again this year.

NOTE: Prospects are listed in ascending order. Heights and weights are via school measurements.

25) Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State (6-foot-3, 210 pounds)

Previous rank: Not ranked

Hutchinson has performed well for the Cyclones since arriving from Blinn College two years ago, but his 12 catches for 125 yards and two scores against Oklahoma State last weekend put him squarely in the conversation for potential Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) picks. He caught quick passes to move the chains, adjusted to a late throw on a speed out, and won on deeper routes by shaking his defender at the line of scrimmage (drawing flags on the defense in three separate plays). Hutchinson scored on a goal-line out route in the first half, separating at the top of the route and then fully extending to grab the throw. He drew an undeserved unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a negated 51-yard catch and run in the third quarter but eventually scored on that drive by working through his man for a back-shoulder pass that was thrown inside. Hutchinson was a bit banged up by the end of the contest but continued to play; his toughness, versatility, quickness and strong hands will be a big reason Iowa State stays in the Big 12 Conference championship hunt.

24) Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama (6-1, 194)

Previous rank: No. 20

Jobe started Week 7 off right in the 49-9 win over Mississippi State, intercepting a pass on the opening series by keeping his eyes on the quarterback, who thought his receiver would stop short instead of heading upfield. He was a solid tackler on short throws, though head coach Nick Saban had to coach him up after the first stop because the corner dropped his head. Jobe stopped a quick screen cold by going low on a lineman coming to block him and then finding the ball-carrier after a short gain. He failed to get his head around on one sideline fade, but overall, it was a strong coverage night. Jobe wasn't challenged often in the Tide's 52-24 win over Tennessee, as he stayed with his receiver using physicality and quickness. He wasn't ready for Tennessee's quick tempo in the early fourth quarter, however, as he appeared to be looking inside and processing the defensive call as the ball was snapped. Jobe couldn't get a hand on his man as he ran past and did not show the recovery speed to stop the pitch-and-catch 70-yard Vols score.

23) Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State (6-4, 260)

Previous rank: No. 23

The Rams routed New Mexico two weeks ago with McBride leading the way. He posted seven receptions for 135 yards, 85 of which came on two plays where he was wide open on deep overs. On his shorter completions, he showed his ability to box out defenders, grab a low throw and run after the catch. McBride once again exhibited his versatility in the team's 26-24 loss to Utah State last week. He caught two passes on slant routes as an outside receiver in the second quarter, one on the boundary and one on the field side. He also snatched a pass thrown behind him with one hand, and later dragged a defender for a first down on a center screen. McBride openly displayed frustration with his quarterback when he was unable to get the tight end the ball or the offense wasn't operating efficiently. He put those feelings to work as a blocker, overwhelming smaller defenders not matching his physicality and even standing up to a defensive tackle while cutting off the backside of an outside run.

22) Demarvion Overshown, LB, Texas (6-4, 223)

Previous rank: No. 21

Overshown left the Longhorns' home loss to Oklahoma State after the first quarter with a concussion suffered while defending against a quick screen on third down. Before the injury, he showed his athleticism and physical nature by taking away underneath options in man coverage, dropping quickly into zones and attacking run plays in the box. Texas had to sit on that disappointing loss during its Week 8 bye, but Overshown returned to practice this week to prepare for Saturday's game against Baylor in Waco.

21) Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama (6-4, 312)

Previous rank: No. 18

Mathis was credited with only one tackle in the Tide's Week 7 shellacking of Mississippi State, but he had a bigger impact than the stat sheet indicated. He lined up at nose tackle throughout the night against the Air Raid attack, facing double- and triple-teams; in fact, his one tackle came in the first quarter, chasing a play nine yards downfield as the Bulldogs ran away from him. Mathis forced a holding call in the early second quarter (which was declined), beat man-up blocks to get his hand into the quarterback's vision and made plays bounce outside. Against Tennessee last week, Mathis played all three spots on the line. He sacked Vols QB Hendon Hooker by long-arming the center and then pulling him down before smothering the quarterback. Mathis consistently challenged his blockers, either eating up double-teams or spinning and swiping off their advances to chase plays outside the box.

20) Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati (6-4, 215)

Previous rank: Not ranked

Ridder has shown command in a clean pocket, throwing darts and lofting deep balls in the middle of the field. He's also made defenses pay with his long strides on scrambles against man coverage and on called runs. However, Ridder's lack of accuracy on passes to the sidelines and when throwing off-platform are concerns. His long delivery nearly gave Notre Dame a pick-six early this month, and it allows defenders an extra step to reach his longer passes. Against Navy last weekend, Ridder again controlled the middle of the field via the air but could have easily had three passes intercepted instead of only one (in the red zone after he misread the coverage). Still, Ridder has the passing acumen and intangibles to succeed at the next level. With more time to hone his skills, he will add strength and improve his technique enough to be a top-75 pick.

19) Haskell Garrett, DT, Ohio State (6-2, 300)

Previous rank: No. 16

Garrett continues to show NFL teams he has the power and inside quickness to start as a three-technique at the next level. The Buckeyes went to Indiana last week and it did not take long for them to assert their control over the Hoosiers in the 54-7 demolition. Garrett started strong, pushing back the left guard and sacking quarterback Jack Tuttle as he tried to escape the pocket. Tuttle threw for a touchdown later in the drive, but he took a hard hit on the play from Garrett, who beat the right guard on an inside twist. Tuttle sat out a couple of series, eventually returning for a few snaps before sitting out the rest of the one-sided affair. Garrett also did not play many snaps because of the lopsided score and the Buckeyes' deep defensive line rotation. He was disruptive on the first series of the second half, though, swimming past a reach-block attempt by the right tackle to stop a run and then winning the inside gap to force the center into a bear hug to prevent Garrett from reaching the passer.

18) Jamaree Salyer, OL, Georgia (6-4, 325)

Previous rank: No. 19

Salyer left the Auburn contest with an ankle injury three weeks ago but seemed healthy for the Bulldogs' win over Kentucky on Oct. 16. He controlled a strong senior lineman in Josh Paschal for most plays in the run game (the Wildcats' star got the upper hand on one first-quarter run, beating Salyer's reach block) and in pass protection. The Bulldogs often ran behind their left tackle's powerful blocks. Salyer was able to push whoever was lined up against him off the ball, and even showed off his mobility to pull for a third-quarter run. His strength and build will likely push him inside to guard in the NFL, but he's playing well enough on the edge to earn consideration at tackle, just as the Patriots have kept former Bulldog Isaiah Wynn outside. Salyer got some much-needed rest while on a bye last weekend, as he has to face Florida's talented defensive line on Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville.

17) Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State (5-11, 184)

Previous rank: No. 14

Coming off a bye week, the Nittany Lions were upset by Illinois, 20-18, in nine overtimes on Oct. 23. Dotson was targeted 14 times in the game, but he made just six catches for 58 yards, and it appeared he and QB Sean Clifford weren't often on the same page. Dotson won on a couple of slants with excellent quickness off the line, though he fumbled after one of those catches (his knee might have been down before the ball came out but no harm was done since his teammate recovered the ball). Dotson reminded scouts of his outstanding hands on the play after the fumble, adjusting to a poorly thrown deep pass and jumping in front of a defender to take away a potential interception. In the second half, he went low to nab an underthrown pass just before the ball hit the ground. In his only real chance to make a play after regulation, he failed to bring in an end zone fade thrown to the sideline in the first overtime. Dotson also let a punt drop on the 10-yard line in an early return chance but it looked like he learned from that, catching another over his shoulder to save crucial yardage in the fourth quarter.

16) Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah (6-3, 235)

Previous rank: No. 12

Utah beat Arizona State at home two weeks ago, with Lloyd leading the way on the perimeter and between the tackles. In the first half, he blew up an outside run by bulling the tight end into the backfield, knocked down a quick screen by reading QB Jayden Daniels' eyes and tripped up a scrambling Daniels for a sack on the next play. Lloyd ended the game strong with a tackle for loss on a dump-off throw and then two more sacks to end the game, one after waiting for Daniels to escape the pocket and the other after beating the left tackle around the corner. Things went south in Corvallis last week, however, with Oregon State beating the Utes 42-34 and Lloyd being ejected for targeting in the third quarter. He had seven tackles on the night and moved well in coverage, but the Beavers' misdirection and physical play kept him out of the action most of the night. Lloyd will now also be suspended for the first half of this weekend's game against UCLA because of the targeting penalty.

15) Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College (6-3, 316)

Previous rank: No. 11

Johnson led the way for the running game in the Eagles' losses to North Carolina State and Louisville over the past two weeks. He moved with his man on zone plays and found linebackers at the second level, moving his feet to find the correct blocking angle. Running back Alec Sinkfield had a 22-yard run in the second quarter against the Wolfpack after Johnson took out the middle linebacker, and then ran for 16 yards on the next play as Johnson pulled to level the containment defender. Boston College left behind the run game at times as it tried to play catch-up in both contests, though. Johnson was solid in pass protection, especially after some initial miscommunication with his teammates when picking up Louisville's blitzes and twists. He lifted a Cardinals defensive lineman off the ground in the fourth quarter, dropping his hips and extending his arms upward, just like offensive line coaches teach it. Combining that sort of strength with his mobility is a nice recipe for a future NFL starter. 

14) Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State (6-1, 200)

Previous rank: No. 10

It was the best of times and the worst of times for Brisker during Illinois' stunning upset of Penn State in nine overtimes last week. He would have forced a fumble that ended up in the end zone early in the game, but officials ruled the running back's forward progress had already been stopped before the ball came loose. However, Brisker recovered a fumble in the third quarter, coming to the ball instead of assuming the play was over as his teammates brought down the quarterback. He mainly fought off offensive linemen and tight ends near the line in the run game but played deep at times, coming downhill to stop a runner in his tracks at the end of the first quarter and stopping a long run from becoming a touchdown in the second half. The senior probably had nightmares about his missed opportunity in the first overtime, correctly reading a trick play but missing the interception. Brisker also missed a tackle in the backfield during the second overtime and wasn't aware of an open receiver behind him in the ninth extra period.

13) Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota (6-9, 380)

Previous rank: No. 15

Faalele helped the Gophers run for 182 yards in their 30-23 win over Nebraska two weeks ago, often hitting multiple targets and dominating smaller defenders at the second level. He pancaked big Ben Stille (6-5, 290) on a run up for the middle for a first down during the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. In pass protection, he often got after his man but failed to sustain after a big punch late in the game, though his quarterback managed to gain a yard on the play. Faalele wasn't asked to protect his quarterback much during the team's 34-16 win over Maryland last week, as the Gophers ran 56 times (326 yards, four scores) while throwing just 13 times. He again overwhelmed defenders in the ground game, using his upper body to control them at the line or moving his feet to get to linebackers. Faalele is big enough to combo-block while standing still -- one arm blocks down while the other stops the edge defender cold. Despite his height and mass, he stayed low off the snap in goal-line situations against the Terps and moved his man to create a rushing lane. Every week, Faalele takes another step toward reaching his potential to dominate up front.

12) Jaxson Kirkland, OT, Washington (6-7, 310)

Previous rank: No. 7

Kirkland was solid against UCLA on Oct. 16, even though the Huskies fell, 24-17, at home. He maintained his wide base in pass protection while moving his feet and using his length to hold off edge rushers. In the run game, he crashed the edge well on most plays, creating a lane for a 32-yard gain in the third quarter. He missed only once (on a third down early in the second quarter) but UW still picked up a first down. Kirkland was effective on cut blocks and even displayed nice mobility pulling to the right on a run midway through the fourth quarter. The senior tackle missed the team's comeback win over Arizona last week with an undisclosed injury that will be re-evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

11) Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa (6-7, 321)

Previous rank: No. 13

Penning was solid against South Dakota two weeks ago, pushing around smaller defenders, communicating with running backs on protections and showing nice mobility on run plays. He opened up the second level for a 62-yard touchdown run by blocking a linebacker downfield early in the third quarter. He cost his team with a holding penalty on UNI's next possession, though. Penning played like his hair was on fire against South Dakota State last week, finishing many blocks to the ground whether crashing the edge or attacking defenders in space. In both games, rushers got into his chest at times to push him back, but he anchored just in time to give his quarterback room to throw. Penning played through the echo of the whistle in both contests, something truly appreciated by NFL offensive line coaches.

10) Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State (6-5, 262)

Previous rank: No. 9

Florida State came off a bye to take on UMass last week, scoring 59 unanswered points after fumbling the opening kickoff and yielding a field goal on the ensuing drive. Johnson's contributions were limited in this contest -- he assisted on one tackle over two-plus quarters of work. On the first series, coaches lined him up on the hash to help prevent quick receiver screens (something I don't remember seeing done in quite the same way). Johnson was back on the line after that, attacking tackles with bull rushes and winning outside on occasion, but never reaching the quarterback as the ball came out quickly. His day was over with the team up by several scores in the third quarter.

9) Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn (6-0, 190)

Previous rank: No. 8

McCreary looked the part of an NFL stopper on the outside, helping the Tigers get over their loss to Georgia by breaking up three passes in the team's 38-23 win at Arkansas on Oct. 16. He broke up two throws in downfield coverage, going low to nearly pick the one off and then knocking away a cross-field throw with his off-hand to seal the win late. McCreary's other pass breakup came when he was on an island against Razorbacks star Treylon Burks on a two-point conversion attempt. Burks cut inside off the snap and the corner got his hands around the receiver with excellent timing to prevent a catch. McCreary hit receivers hard all game long and even dragged down 6-3, 245-pound quarterback K.J. Jefferson (something even linebackers have a rough time doing), though Burks got the better of him in the open field on one play. Auburn had a bye last week and will host an excellent Ole Miss offense on Saturday.

8) Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky (6-5, 345)

Previous rank: No. 5

Kinnard faced his toughest test of 2021 when the Wildcats went down to Georgia in Week 7. He threw down defenders in the run game early on and was solid in pass protection, stuffing quick edge rusher Adam Anderson a couple of times and pushing aside late blitzes by linebacker Nakobe Dean. The Bulldogs' interior linemen did beat his reach block occasionally, and Kinnard did not dominate his open-field blocks like he usually does (though he did a nice job against stud lineman Jalen Carter on a swing pass). But it was a solid outing against the nation's toughest defense, and he earned the rest that came with last weekend's bye.

7) Kingsley Enagbare, Edge, South Carolina (6-4, 265)

Previous rank: No. 17

The Gamecocks squeezed by Vanderbilt, 21-20, at home two weeks ago, thanks in large part to a dominant fourth quarter by Enagbare. He pressured QB Mike Wright multiple times in the final period after the Commodores ran option plays through most of the game to limit his impact as a pass rusher. Enagbare shed his blocker on a third-down Wright option run and then sealed the win with a strip-sack by beating the left tackle with speed and bend. "JJ" and his teammates were out of the Texas A&M contest early, losing 44-14 last week. However, scouts saw that he is willing to do the dirty work even in a rout. The Aggies regularly sent a running back to chip block him. He fought through those and beat offensive tackles with speed, power and inside quickness, although the ball always left the pocket before he arrived.

6) Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh (6-3, 220)

Previous rank: Not ranked

Pickett's experience and toughness have been evident throughout the Panthers' 6-1 start this season. But before including the fifth-year senior in my top 25, I wanted to see how he handled Clemson, the top defense he'll play before bowl season and a unit that racked up four interceptions and six sacks against Pickett last year. The Tigers are not the team they've been in previous years, but Pickett still gets credit for meeting the challenge and leading his squad to a 27-17 home win last week. You don't often see quarterbacks wearing gloves on both hands like Pickett does, but it didn't prevent him from throwing a 40-yard dime to star receiver Jordan Addison while moving to his right or a strong 12-yard comeback to the left sideline from the middle of the field. Pickett's been excellent on deep passes this year, putting air under the ball and leading his receivers adeptly, like he did on the 39-yard touchdown to Taysir Mack. He missed a couple of throws over the middle and to the sideline and took two sacks against the Tigers, but he threw the ball away a couple of times to avoid negative plays and did not turn the ball over (he has only one this year). Pickett's competitive nature was on display when running for first downs, including two fourth quarter rushes that helped ice the win. That tenaciousness, as well as his pocket poise and ability to move within the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield, has earned him comparisons to Kirk Cousins. If Pickett plays well through Pitt's chase for the ACC championship and excels in the pre-draft process, he'll rightfully earn a place in the top 15 selections, where several teams might be looking for a new signal-caller.

5) Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (6-6, 340)

Previous rank: No. 6

Kentucky attempted to run at Davis early in its Week 7 game against the Bulldogs, and it did not go well. He stood up his blocker to fill one A-gap, and simply shoved aside his man when the back tried cutting to the other A-gap -- the exact two-gap mastery that will intrigue NFL defensive coordinators. On a third-and-1 run later in the first quarter, he beat a reach block with his quickness to wreck the play. As the Wildcats abandoned the run as the contest wore on, his contributions declined. He did stuff a couple of runs near the goal line in the fourth quarter, forcing Kentucky to throw outside to get the score. Davis also destroyed the protection on a field goal and extra point try that were blocked. The big man got a rest last weekend to prepare for a Florida offense that can score when its quarterback play is on point.

4) Adam Anderson, Edge, Georgia (6-5, 230)

Previous rank: No. 4

Anderson flashed pass rush ability (upfield quickness, long-arm move) during Georgia's win over Kentucky but was limited to a half sack due to strong blocking by Darrian Kinnard and Wildcats quarterback Will Levis' ability to unload the ball quickly and leave the pocket. In fact, Anderson appeared to be smartly waiting for Levis to escape the pocket instead of just heading upfield to leave a rushing lane open. Bulldogs coaches use the rangy Anderson in coverage in regularly, but he also bullied tight ends in the run game, forcing plays inside to his teammates and splitting a double-team on the outside to blow up a quick screen.

3) Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (6-1, 188)

Previous rank: No. 3

Olave was coming off two strong performances before the Buckeyes were off the weekend of Oct. 16. He had a half-bye of sorts in the Buckeyes' 54-7 trouncing of Indiana, taking off most of the second half in the blowout. Olave and C.J. Stroud couldn't connect early in the game but eventually clicked in the red zone on a 16-yard score midway through the second quarter. The senior receiver won off the line with a velvety inside release and the defender couldn't make up the ground before the perfect pass arrived. Olave adjusted to a low throw near the end of the first half for an eight-yard gain. Scouts will notice that Olave also put his body into position to wall off defenders on a couple of star RB TreVeyon Henderson's strong runs.

2) Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (6-1, 225)

Previous rank: No. 1

Willis had his worst game of the year two weeks ago in the Flames' 31-28 loss to Louisiana-Monroe, throwing three interceptions for the second straight game. One was a ball he tried unsuccessfully to throw away while on the run and his final INT was a poor throw under pressure on a second-and-long with one minute remaining. Willis missed open targets on key plays and could have had two more passes intercepted when trusting his arm strength against tight coverage. But he also made some tight-window throws and led his team on a two-minute touchdown drive at the end of the first half, culminating with an excellent dart thrown while moving to his left. His 53-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter once again reminded scouts of how dangerous he is in the open field. Willis' performance against North Texas last weekend wasn't pretty, but his toughness should be appreciated. He limped to the sideline midway through the second quarter after taking his fourth sack of the game as the Mean Green overwhelmed Liberty's offensive line. However, he returned to the game halfway through the third quarter and threw two second-half touchdowns to lead the Flames to a win despite taking two more sacks. 

1) Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan (6-6, 265)

Previous rank: No. 2

Hutchinson has earned his way to the top on this list with his impressive play this season. The Wolverines looked a little rusty against Northwestern last weekend coming off a bye, but they eventually turned on the gas to win, 33-7. With Wildcats sophomore left tackle Peter Skoronski a tough matchup for any edge rusher, Michigan coaches instead put Hutchinson on the right side for most of the game to maximize his effectiveness. He beat his man with a rip move on the first series to tip a pass as it left the quarterback's hand and was credited with a half-sack early in the second quarter after using his speed and length to bull the tackle backwards before ripping past him. Later, Hutchinson won the inside lane with his quickness and an arm-over move, pounding the quarterback to the ground after he released the ball. Northwestern double- or triple-teamed him at times, but he still found a way to make an impact. Hutchinson completed his day falling on a botched snap in the fourth quarter to salt the game away.

Twenty-five more to watch

Listed in alphabetical order:

  • Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis (5-foot-9, 162 pounds)
  • Amaré Barno, Edge, Virginia Tech (6-6, 245)
  • Markquese Bell, S, Florida A&M (6-3, 205)
  • Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati (6-1, 198)
  • Spencer Burford, OL, Texas-San Antonio (6-5, 295)
  • Zachary Carter, Edge, Florida (6-4, 285)
  • Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, Penn State (6-0, 194)
  • James Cook, RB, Georgia (5-11, 190)
  • Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, Penn State (6-3, 256)
  • Logan Hall, DL, Houston (6-6, 275)
  • Brad Hawkins, S, Michigan (6-1, 221)
  • Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut (6-5, 333)
  • Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State (6-6, 260)
  • Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina (6-4, 240)
  • Alec Lindstrom, C, Boston College (6-3, 298)
  • Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State (6-7, 319)
  • Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming (6-3, 242)
  • Thayer Munford, OL, Ohio State (6-6, 320)
  • Cade Otton, TE, Washington (6-5, 250)
  • Josh Paschal, Edge, Kentucky (6-3, 278)
  • Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan (6-7, 305)
  • Jaquarii Roberson, WR, Wake Forest (6-1, 182)
  • Cordell Volson, OL, North Dakota State (6-7, 313)
  • Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State (6-2, 210)
  • Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma (6-4, 292)

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter.

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