On The Clock
The other day, we took a look at the best offensive prospects by position heading into tonight’s NFL Draft. Today, we flip to the other side of the ball and lay out my “2022 All- Prospect Defensive Team”
Edge Player # 1: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Hutchinson progressed this year significantly and exceled on the field so much that he may hear his name be called with the number one overall pick tonight. A major driving force for the Wolverines this year, he accelerated the program and allowed them to finally get over the hump. Without his dominance on the line of scrimmage or his leadership, the boys in blue don’t overthrow their nemesis, the Buckeyes, or make it to the College Football Playoff. Hutchinson got to opposing quarterbacks 14 times in his senior year and also forced two fumbles. Lot of great potential and if he lives up to the hype, we could be seeing the future generation’s J.J. Watt at the NFL level.
Defensive Tackle: Jordan Davis, Georgia
Everyone that follows college football knows about Jordan Davis because of his stature. Labeling him as a “large human” would be an understatement. At 6’6’, 340 lbs, he makes other Division 1 defensive linemen look like they’re still in high school. Not only is he naturally massive, but also extremely talented. Georgia’s defense last year might go down as one the best in history and he was one of the main factors on that unit. On top of that, he showed out at the combine this year. He ran a 4.78 40-yard dash which is incredible for any big man and also obtained the longest broad jump ever recorded by a defensive lineman at 10 feet, 3 inches. This specimen was made for the NFL and will be a hell of a run stuffer as he progresses into the next chapter of his career.
Edge Player # 2: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Thibodeaux dominated for the Ducks throughout his career in Eugene and has an extremely bright future ahead of him. From the moment he walked onto campus, he was acquiring hardware. Named the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the year in 2019, his success continued into his sophomore and junior years respectively. He was awarded All-American honors this past season, gathering just under 50 tackles in just 10 games. He has the speed and athleticism to be a force off the edge and could even be incorporated into a hybrid type player as he matures.
Middle Linebacker # 1: Devin Lloyd, Utah
Devin Lloyd may just be one of the best overall players in this year’s draft. He helped lead the Utes to a Pac-12 Championship this past season and was named the Conference defensive player of the year. What makes Lloyd such a promising prospect is his ability to be effective both in the run game but also in pass coverage. He was able to get over 100 total tackles this past season, along with 8 sacks and 4 interceptions. Whatever team calls his name tonight will have an immediate starter and a primetime player leading their defense for years to come.
Middle Linebacker # 2: Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Similarly to Lloyd, Nakobe Dean is an absolute stud at the linebacker position. Chad Reuter, an NFL Draft analyst, has been quoted comparing Dean to a former Georgia linebacker by the name of Roquan Smith and he may be onto something. Dean was one of the primary players on Georgia’s National Championship team and there are plenty of NFL franchises that could use him on their team. His agility and quickness makes him a lethal force and I imagine he goes sooner than later tonight in the first round.
Outside Linebacker #1: David Ojabo, Michigan
Ojabo’s draft stock took a hit after he unfortunately tore his achilles at Michigan’s pro day last month. Although he won’t be able to contribute to a team this season and there is some question how he will bounce back, I strongly believe he is still worth drafting. He proved last year at Michigan that he is more than capable in his pass-rushing abilities, racking up double digit sacks with eleven. He also was responsible for forcing 5 fumbles last year. All in all, he is explosive and knows how to create turnovers or at the very least, put opposing offenses in less-than-ideal situations.
Outside Linebacker #2: Drake Jackson, USC
Drake Jackson is a prospect that has great promise and a huge potential upside. He may not go in the first-round tonight however, I believe his name will be one we hear at the NFL level for a long time. USC has always had a reputation for producing NFL talent and Jackson will more than likely just be another example of that. He is an elusive player on the outside and performed well in pass coverage for the Trojans. As he gets into camp and enhances his development, his abilities in the run game should progress also.
Safety # 1: Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
If you’re a GM or head coach in the NFL and are looking for an athlete that is going to come in and make a difference right off the bat, Kyle Hamilton may be your guy. Hamilton was fantastic during his career playing for the Irish and can contribute both in the run game and pass coverage. His season was cut short due to injury and it really didn’t impact his draft stock too negatively. The NFL is a pass first league (as we all know) so it is beneficial to have a defensive back of Hamilton’s caliber defending. I expect his name to be called early tonight.
Safety # 2: Lewis Cine, Georgia
Another Georgia player? I know, but it goes to show how talented the Bulldogs were last season on the defensive side of the ball. Cine was influential for Kirby Smart last year and had over 70 total tackles, 43 of them being solo ones. What’s really impressive is that he showed up huge in big time games. He recorded 7 tackles respectively in both the SEC Championship game and National Championship against Bama. As an NFL executive, you want a prospect that can play under pressure and shine under the bright lights which Cine has proven he can.
Cornerback # 1: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati
Every great cornerback has to have confidence and swagger. It seems as though it is a prerequisite to play the position. Having the nickname “Sauce” solidifies that Ahmad Gardner is certainly not lacking in that department. Referring to himself as “the chosen one”, Gardner has already demonstrated his strong personality prior to the draft. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, he can certainly back it up with his play on the field. He was pivotal in the Bearcats historic season last year and will most likely be a top 5 choice tonight.
Cornerback # 2: Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
LSU equals DBU, plain and simple. The amount of talented defensive backs that have come out of Baton Rouge over the past decade is endless. Patrick Peterson, The Honeybadger, Jamal Adams, Tre’Davious White are just a few on the long list. Stingley could be the newest star to be added to that distinguished group. His season was cut short last year due to injury but he should be ready to go by the time the NFL kicks off in September. If the past is any indicator of what Tiger alums can do at the pro level, I expect Stingley to be an “X factor” for whatever team takes him.