College football season has begun, and with it, some hard looks at the 2022 NFL Draft prospects.
With the 2021 college football season underway we’re getting a bit more information about potential 2022 NFL draft prospects each week. Just a few weeks into the season a few prospects have already helped or hurt their draft position.
Though it is early, and prospects will continue to rise and fall in the draft board, the early part of the 2021 season brought us some topflight matchups, where we saw how top prospects lined up against the top competition. Here are some initial risers and fallers based on the early games:
2022 NFL Draft risers:
Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
Matt Corral started the preseason behind quarterbacks such as Sam Howell and Spencer Rattler on most big boards for the 2022 quarterback draft process. But, the Ole Miss junior demonstrated excellent performance during Ole Miss’ opening game against Louisville.
Corral shredded the Louisville defense with ease, completing 22 of 32 passes, for 381 passing yards with both a passing and a rushing touchdown.
We already knew he has the athletic talent and arm strength that make him an intriguing prospect, but there were many games last year where Corral did not demonstrate the consistency needed to constantly help his team win. Corral exhibited growth and experience against Louisville by really not making any mistakes
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Chris Olave surprised many people when he decided to return to Ohio State for his senior year.
Alongside his teammate, Garrett Wilson, Olave is in a group of receivers that can all make a claim to be the top prospect at the position in the 2022 NFL draft class.
Olave certainly made his case during Ohio State’s first game against Minnesota where he scored two touchdowns and totaled 117 receiving yards, even with freshman quarterback, C.J. Stroud’s struggles.
The senior standout put his skill and experience on display, getting open all game and outclassing the Minnesota secondary. His strengths, such as separation ability, release, and route running, looked improved from prior years.
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Crimson Tide had three of their starting offensive linemen graduate to the NFL this past year, raising some questions as to how a new line would fare in the 2021 season. To accommodate these changes, junior right tackle, Evan Neal, moved over from right tackle to left tackle this year.
With his massive 6’7 360-pound frame, it was obvious Neal had the power and length to have an incredibly high ceiling. The questions remaining with Neal are can he develop the footwork and technique to be a quality pass rusher, especially with the new challenge of moving to the left side.
Neal began to answer those questions in the game against Miami, contributing to a dominant offensive performance, protecting young quarterback, Bryce Young, extremely well and throwing a suburb highlight block in as well.
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Kyle Hamilton entered the preseason as arguably the top prospect in the entire 2022 NFL draft. As a sophomore, Hamilton put together an outstanding season where he was a first-team all-American showing all-around versatility and elite athleticism.
In Notre Dame’s first game of the season, an overtime victory over Florida State, Hamilton did not disappoint when the rest of the defense underachieved. He already exceeded last year’s total by recording two outstanding interceptions, during the game, demonstrating his range, instincts, and athleticism, helping the Fighting Irish get their opening day victory.
Next are some players who have taken a bit of a dip in terms of draft status.
2022 NFL Draft fallers:
Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Sam Howell entered the season as a consensus top-three quarterback prospect for the 2022 NFL draft after a stellar 2021 season, where he threw for 3586 yards at a 68.1 completion percentage with 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
One of the questions surrounding Howell this year is how he would fare without his top two targets from last year, Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown. Initial signs from Howell were not good. Howell struggled in North Carolina’s first game against Virginia Tech, throwing just one touchdown compared to three interceptions while completing just 53.1 percent of his passes.
Howell is not the most athletic nor has the biggest arm, but he demonstrated the ability to lead a prolific Tar Heel offense with remarkable consistency. It remains to be seen whether he can replicate that performance this year
Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
Justyn Ross is one of the more polarizing 2022 NFL draft prospects, due to the uncertainty surrounding his injury history.
After highly productive freshman and sophomore seasons, Ross missed the entire 2020 season with a congenital spine condition that required surgery and was potentially career-threatening at the time.
Thankfully, Ross was cleared to participate in the 2021 season, but questions remained after his return from a year off and from a serious injury. Ross had a quiet first game back against Georgia, registering just 26 yards on 4 catches.
He struggled to gain separation all game, and contributed to a costly pick-six, after running an incorrect route, which turned out to be the only touchdown of the game. Hopefully, for Ross, he just needed to shake off some rust and will be able to recover to the performance level he demonstrated during his first two seasons.