With the 2022 NFL Draft around the corner, it's time to take stock of the rising crop of football prospects bound for the pro ranks. Below is a list of the 100 best prospects in this class as I see them at this point in the pre-draft process:
Walker's got speed (his 4.51-second 40-yard dash was the third-fastest among defensive linemen at the combine), size (6-foot-5, 272 pounds) and plenty of pass-rush ability -- even if his college production was underwhelming.
The Heisman Trophy finalist finished in third place in FBS with 14 sacks. His 2021 production (including 62 tackles, two forced fumbles and three passes defensed) marks him as one of the most appealing prospects in this class.
Neal's pro-day promise -- "You can pretty much plug me in anywhere other than center and I'll be able to come in and make an impact" -- rings true following a college career in which he won honors at both guard (Freshman All-SEC in 2019) and tackle (first-team All-SEC and second-team All-American in 2021).
Ekwonu's youthful dreams of playing running back prompted a coach in third grade to dub him "Ickey," after the former Bengals running back Ickey Woods. Whoever lands Ekwonu, a first-team All-American last season, will be glad he switched positions.
Cross has the ability to develop into an All Pro-caliber player early in his career.
Thibodeaux reminds me of a longer version of Harold Landry, a second-round pick in 2018 who just landed a five-year, $87.5 million extension with the Titans.
Hamilton's 40 times at both the NFL Scouting Combine (4.59 seconds) and Notre Dame's pro day (some scouts reportedly had him in the low 4.7s) might have raised a few eyebrows, but his production reflects plenty of all-around defensive potential (eight picks and 139 tackles, including 7.5 for loss, in three college seasons).
Wilson's production at Ohio State in 2021 (70 catches, 1,058 yards, 12 touchdowns, tied for eighth-most in FBS) should have offensive coordinators salivating.
Stingley missed most of the 2021 season with a Lisfranc injury -- but his dazzling 2019 campaign (six picks, 15 pass breakups, 38 tackles and first-team All-American honors) suggests great potential as a pro.
According to Pro Football Focus, Gardner did not allow a single touchdown reception in coverage in three seasons at Cincinnati.
Booth led Clemson with three picks in 2021, earning first-team All-ACC honors.
London easily paced USC in catches (88) and receiving yards (1,084) and tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (seven) last season despite missing four games with a fractured ankle.
If Arkansas was scoring a touchdown on offense in 2021, there was a very strong chance Burks was the one doing the scoring -- with 12 total TDs (including 11 receiving and one rushing), he comfortably led the team in that category, with the next-closest player (running back Dominique Johnson) posting eight.
Lloyd has the ability to play both on the outside and in the middle -- his 2021 stat line (110 tackles, eight sacks, four picks, one fumble recovery) is indicative of his versatility.
After two years at Georgia, Johnson transferred to Florida State and put up a 12-sack, 70-tackle season, in which he also forced two fumbles and logged 18 tackles for loss. The sack total was good for sixth in the FBS and helped him win ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Green started games at every spot on the line but center in 2021, going on to earn first-team All-American honors.
Linderbaum was the first Iowa lineman to win the Rimington Trophy, given to the top center in the country.
Penning earned the top offensive grade from PFF of any offensive tackle in Division I, FCS or FBS last season. His 40 time (4.89) tied for second among offensive linemen at the combine.
Davis claimed the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the best defender in the country, and the Outland Trophy, handed to the top interior defensive lineman. But if his postseason accolades don't impress you, watch the 6-6, 341-pounder crank out a 4.78 40 at the combine, the second-fastest time among any participant weighing 280-plus pounds.
Hill comes with speed (4.38 40 at the combine) and an encouraging stat line from three seasons at Michigan (151 tackles, 7.5 for loss, four picks and 16 passes defensed).
In addition to six passes defensed, McDuffie posted 4.0 tackles for loss in 2021, giving him 5.5 in three seasons at Washington. And though he didn't log any takeaways last year, he did record three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two picks in 17 contests over 2019 and 2020.
The winner of the 2021 Butkus Award, given to the best linebacker in the country, has a proven ability to contribute across the board (72 tackles, 10.5 for loss, six sacks, two picks, six passes defensed, two forced fumbles last season).
Gordon marked his final season at Washington with career highs in tackles (46), tackles for loss (two), picks (two) and passes defensed (seven).
Pitre finished with 18 tackles for loss and two picks last season -- he was the only Big 12 player to notch 10-plus tackles for loss and two-plus interceptions. The first-team All-American also forced three fumbles and had three sacks in 2021.
Willis was a true dual-threat QB at Liberty, finishing in the top three among FBS QBs in rushing yards (878) and rushing TDs (13) last season, while also tying for 44th in passing yards (2,862) and 18th in passing TDs (27).
The transfer from Ohio State was one of the most productive receivers in the game last season, ranking fifth in the FBS in receiving yards (1,572) and tying for third in TD catches (15), earning a first-team All-American nod. He also posted the fourth-most yards after the catch (722), per PFF. He recently said he's "ahead of schedule" in his recovery from a torn ACL suffered in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Olave was a scoring machine in college, tying for sixth in the FBS with 13 TD grabs. He leaves Ohio State as the school record-holder in receiving TDs with 35.
Corral has a chance to become the third Ole Miss quarterback selected with a first-round pick -- but the first whose last name is not Manning. Corral can follow in the footsteps of Archie Manning (1971, New Orleans Saints) and Eli Manning (2004, drafted by the Chargers and traded to the Giants).
The former high school golfer allowed just one sack in 2021 while logging 348 snaps in pass-protection, according to PFF, earning first-team All-American honors. At the combine, he topped all participating offensive linemen with 32 reps on the bench press.
Pickett, a Heisman Trophy finalist last season, is likely to be selected higher than Hall of Famer Dan Marino, the last QB drafted out of Pittsburgh -- Marino was taken 27th overall by the Dolphins in 1983.
Coming off a season with 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, Hall generated positive buzz at the Senior Bowl, then ran the 40 in 4.88 seconds at 6-6 and 283 pounds at the combine.
After transferring from Temple, Ebiketie broke through in 2021, piling up 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss.
The 6-4, 325-pounder's 40 time was 4.92 seconds at the combine, ninth-best among participants weighing 280-plus pounds. According to PFF, Jones led Connecticut last season with 25 QB pressures.
Smith, who started 23 games at left tackle at Tulsa, tied for 13th among offensive linemen in the 40 (5.02).
PFF credited Walker with 20 QB pressures in 2021, when he also set a personal high in tackles (67) and tackles for loss (5.5).
The son of Abram Elam (who played with the Cowboys, Jets, Browns and Chiefs from 2006 to 2012) and the nephew of Matt Elam (who played with the Ravens from 2013 to '16), Kaiir broke up 20 passes (with six picks) in three seasons at Florida.
Dotson, whose 12 TD grabs last season tied him for eighth-most in the FBS, leaves Penn State with the fourth-highest receiving yardage total (2,757) in school history -- more than players like Allen Robinson (2,479) and Chris Godwin (2,421). He could be the fourth Nittany Lions receiver drafted since Robinson went to the Jags in the second round in 2014, joining Godwin (third round, Bucs, 2017), DaeSean Hamilton (fourth round, Broncos, 2018) and K.J. Hamler (second round, Broncos, 2020).
Leal, who posted 8.5 sacks and 58 tackles (12.5 for loss) last season, could be the highest-drafted defensive player out of Texas A&M since Myles Garrett was chosen first overall by the Browns in 2017.
Hall, who ranked eighth in FBS in rushing yards as a first-team All-American last season (1,472), leaves Iowa State with more career receptions (82 in three seasons) than all but three of the 22 running backs taken with a first- or second-round pick in the last five drafts (Travis Etienne, drafted 25th overall last year, had 102; Saquon Barkley, selected second overall in 2018, had 102; Christian McCaffrey, chosen eighth overall in 2017, had 99).
After transferring from Wake Forest, Walker ran for 1,636 yards (second-most in FBS) on 263 carries and became the first winner of the Doak Walker Award (given to the country's top running back) in Michigan State history.
The Austrian native spent two seasons as a tight end at Central Michigan before transitioning to left tackle in 2020. According to PFF, Raimann allowed just one sack in 459 pass-protection snaps in 2021.
Spiller didn't run the 40-yard dash at the combine, then posted a time of 4.6 at Texas A&M's pro day. He still topped 1,000 rushing yards in 2020 and '21, and came close to reaching that benchmark in three consecutive seasons, finishing 2019 with 946.
In 27 games at Purdue, Karlaftis racked up 14.5 sacks, 99 tackles and four forced fumbles. He tied for the team lead in sacks (5) last season, when he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors.
Ojabo (11 sacks) joined teammate Aidan Hutchinson as one of the 21 players in the FBS to finish with double-digit sacks last season. If not for a torn Achilles suffered at Michigan's pro day, Ojabo would rank much higher here.
Wyatt, who generated two forced fumbles and seven tackles for loss (with 2.5 sacks) in 2021, ran the 40 in 4.77 seconds at the combine, allowing him to just barely top his former Georgia running mate, Jordan Davis (4.78) for the fastest time among participants weighing 280-plus pounds.
Mafe posted the most sacks and tackles for loss among the Golden Gophers in both 2020 (4.5, 5.5) and '21 (7.0, 10.0).
A transfer out of Troy in 2019, Jones earned first-team All-American honors for his return skills (averaging 34.0 yards per kick return and 14.4 yards per punt return, with a pair of TDs in both categories) last season. He also tied for fourth in FBS with five picks.
Another big defensive lineman (6-4, 290 pounds) with good speed (4.89 40), Winfrey finished second among the Sooners in tackles for loss (11.0) and third in sacks (5.5) last season.
Harris posted the second-fastest 40 time (4.44) among participating linebackers at the combine, as well as the second-best broad jump (11 feet). In three seasons at Alabama, he collected 221 total tackles and 27.0 tackles for loss, plus 10 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Muma collected 142 total tackles last season, more than all but one player in the FBS last season (Iowa's Jack Campbell had 143). Muma also returned two interceptions for scores in 2021.