With the importance we put on actual in-game performance, these rankings aren’t going to change too much after the NFL Scouting Combine, pro days and smoke-screen reports that come out pre-draft. Here are PFF's top five players at every position ahead of April's draft.
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- Sam Howell, North Carolina (Junior)
- Malik Willis, Liberty (RS Senior)
- Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (Senior)
- Matt Corral, Ole Miss (RS Junior)
- Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (RS Senior)
The order of these guys may not be as important as the evaluation of the class as a whole, as this year’s QB1 will be the lowest-ranked quarterback on the PFF draft board since we started grading college football back in 2014. Had they all been in the same class, Mac Jones would have ranked ahead of all of these guys last year, and Jones was QB5. That’s quite the drop-off.
Howell gets the top spot in part because he did his best work at the youngest age. He also has far and away the most high-end throws of the group, with a draft-class best 85 big-time throws over his career.
Great throw by Sam Howell, but it bounces off Calvin Austin's hands. pic.twitter.com/gQScBI6Ucy
— ❌❌❌ (@FTB_Vids_YT) February 5, 2022
- Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State (Junior)
- Breece Hall, Iowa State (Junior)
- Dameon Pierce, Florida (Senior)
- Kyren Williams, Notre Dame (Junior)
- Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M (Junior)
There are no surprises at RB1 and RB2 here, but RB3 may come a bit out of left field.
In his four years in college football, Florida's Dameon Pierce was never even the lead dog on his team. However, he’s got a very projectable physical skill set. At 5-foot-9, 220 pounds, he is an absolute load to bring down. He earned an FBS-high 93.6 rushing grade on 87 carries in 2021 while breaking an incredible 39 tackles. Oh, and he just so happens to be an animal in pass protection.
I’m force feeding the TL Dameon Pierce pass pro. He didn’t allow a single pressure the entire 2021 season. pic.twitter.com/ziJBUR196k
— King of Phinland???????? (@KingOfPhinland) February 3, 2022
- Drake London, USC (Junior)
- Garrett Wilson, Ohio State (Junior)
- Jameson Williams, Alabama (Junior)
- Chris Olave, Ohio State (Senior)
- Treylon Burks, Arkansas (Junior)
The fact that London is WR1 in this class when he is not near the prototypical separator PFF is usually highest on should tell you all you need to know about his possession-receiver traits. The USC product was the single most dominant receiver at the catch point we have seen in eight years of grading college football.
London hauled in 19-of-28 contested opportunities to lead college football, even though he played only eight games in 2021. In those eight games, he also broke a ridiculous 22 tackles. London is as safe as it gets in this receiver class.
I don't know if Drake London ate Popeyes' spinach before the game but he was on one against Arizona pic.twitter.com/x4wCzrdH6Z
— DJ Bien-Aime (@Djbienaime) February 8, 2022
- Trey McBride, Colorado State (Senior)
- Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina (Senior)
- Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State (Senior)
- Cade Otton, Washington (RS Senior)
- Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M (Junior)
While the tight end class is deep with viable pass-catchers, it’s slim in terms of top-end talent. Trey McBride is the only guy in the class I’d trust to be an actual difference-maker at the position, but even he’s not the kind of tight end you can rely on to win one-on-one.
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end has tremendous ball skills and more than enough straight-line speed but isn’t particularly shifty, evidenced by the fact that he broke all of five tackles on 91 receptions last season. With the tight end position requiring guys to look more like wide receivers to make an impact, there doesn’t appear to be a guy who fits that bill in this class.
Trey McBride scores in the Senior Bowl to cap off an already fantastic showing this week pic.twitter.com/s0tiXkaf0s
— DNVR Rams (@DNVR_Rams) February 5, 2022
- Charles Cross, Mississippi State (RS Sophomore)
- Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State (Junior)
- Evan Neal, Alabama (Junior)
- Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan (Senior)
- Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa (Senior)
This may very well be the strongest position group in the draft class. What puts Charles Cross at a position-leading spot on the PFF draft board isn’t the high-end that Ikem Ekwonu and Evan Neal bring to the table, but rather it is the lack of a low end.
Cross made massive strides as a pass-protector from 2020 to 2021 and brings a skill set that has very few holes. He earned a run-blocking grade of 87.2 and a pass-blocking grade of 84.9 this past season.
LT #67 Charles Cross giving the 4i no chance pic.twitter.com/P3blIx7ucC
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) January 6, 2022
Interior Offensive Line
- Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa (RS Junior)
- Kenyon Green, Texas A&M (Junior)
- Zion Johnson, Boston College (RS Senior)
- Dylan Parham, Memphis (RS Senior)
- Jamaree Salyer, Georgia (Senior)
The wild card in this year’s offensive line class is still Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green, who is only a true junior. I truly believe that if he had been given time to develop at left tackle, he’d be among the top tier at that position in this class.
Unfortunately, the Aggies jostled him all over the offensive line this past season, with the 6-foot-4, 325-pounder playing 80-plus snaps at every position except center. However, he allowed only one pressure on 120 pass-blocking snaps in the three games he did start at tackle.
LG Kenyon Green ???? – stay at LG!!
He has starts at LT, LG, RG, RT this year… What are we doin’ here?! pic.twitter.com/SgQqpE7xKw
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) November 4, 2021
- Devonte Wyatt, Georgia (RS Senior)
- Jordan Davis, Georgia (Senior)
- Demarvin Leal, Texas A&M (Junior)
- Travis Jones, Connecticut (RS Junior)
- Logan Hall, Houston (Senior)
Jordan Davis may have been the guy the cameras focused on, but Wyatt has the more diverse NFL skill set. That was evident at the Senior Bowl when he had the highest win rate of any defensive tackle in the one-on-ones.
Davis has 3-technique athleticism paired with versatile defensive tackle size at 307 pounds.
307-pounds should not move this quickly
Devonte Wyatt Day 1???? pic.twitter.com/TUFbEQly3R
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 2, 2022
- Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan (Senior)
- Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon (Junior)
- George Karlaftis, Purdue (Junior)
- Travon Walker, Georgia (Junior)
- David Ojabo, Michigan (RS Sophomore)
Georgia’s Travon Walker is the biggest wild card in the first round. Physically, he looks like the kind of defensive lineman who doesn’t make it past Pick 5. On the football field, he is far too often a non-factor to expect him to make an immediate impact.
The high-end reps you see from the Georgia product tantalize to the point where he’s still well worth a first-round selection. If you trust your defensive line coach, draft this guy.
Tremendous effort by DL Travon Walker #44. If he doesn’t make this play, it might be a TD and Alabama has the lead going into halftime.
275-pounders shouldn’t be able to move like #44. 1st round talent, 1st round effort. pic.twitter.com/R8mRX7xJNs
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 11, 2022
- Devin Lloyd, Utah (Senior)
- Nakobe Dean, Georgia (Junior)
- Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma (RS Junior)
- Leo Chenal, Wisconsin (Junior)
- Christian Harris, Alabama (Junior)
The name you can expect to see rise up draft boards in the coming months checks in at No. 4 on this list.
I love this linebacker class, and Leo Chenal’s ascension is a big reason why. He’s got a unique skill set for the position at over 250 pounds, but he doesn’t move like your typical jumbo linebacker. This guy can mirror wide receivers seamlessly in space to bring them to the ground. There isn’t a better pure downhill player in the class, as evidenced by his 93.6 run-defense and 92.2 pass-rushing grades.
Leo Chenal is 260 pounds lol pic.twitter.com/3VQL0HqFEW
— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) December 23, 2021
- Derek Stingley Jr., LSU (Junior)
- Trent McDuffie, Washington (Junior)
- Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati (Junior)
- Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson (Junior)
- Kaiir Elam, Florida (Junior)
The top three players in this year's cornerback class are in a tier of their own. If you want one this year, get one of those guys.
Trent McDuffie hasn’t caught as much attention after dominating on a hapless Washington team all fall. He allowed fewer than 10 yards in seven of his 11 games in 2021 and even then is far more than just a cover guy. He flies around the field as a tackler and can be a value add in run defense.
Here’s one reason why Washington CB 22 Trent McDuffie has worked his way into the first round discussion for the 2022 NFL draft. pic.twitter.com/WZSDAN31DN
— Todd McShay (@McShay13) January 7, 2022
- Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame (Junior)
- Jalen Pitre, Baylor (RS Senior)
- Lewis Cine, Georgia (Junior)
- Jaquan Brisker, Penn State (RS Senior)
- Daxton Hill, Michigan (Junior)
Other outlets may not have Baylor’s Jalen Pitre ranked this high, but he's shown a very intriguing skill set down in Waco, TX. The pure slot role he played at Baylor didn’t do him any favors when projecting to a more versatile safety position in the NFL, but I’m not too worried about it with the instincts he played with for Dave Aranda.
I don’t know how he’ll test, but no one closed faster in short areas than Pitre on tape. It’s why he racked up an absurd 42 defensive stops to lead all Power Five defensive backs.
Jalen Pitre just makes everything look so easy pic.twitter.com/lERqQEXpdy
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 2, 2022