NFL Draft News & Analysis

Eight of the biggest sleepers in the 2022 NFL Draft class

Mobile, AL, USA; American wide receiver Calvin Austin III of Memphis (83) talks with a coach during American practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL, USA. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The East-West Shrine and Reese’s Senior Bowl are the first big events of the 2022 pre-draft process. With those two events coming to a close in the last week, big boards are sprouting up all over the place, which means every draft analyst has their sleeper list at the top of their mind. 


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After sifting through the tape and data for a multitude of draft prospects throughout their collegiate careers and watching them live, I have my own sleepers list for the 2022 NFL Draft.

Below are eight names I don’t think are getting enough love:

WR CALVIN AUSTIN III, MEMPHIS TIGERS

Austin is undersized, standing at 5-foot-7 while weighing 173-pounds with 30.6-inch arms. Still, that didn’t stop him from being a productive outside receiver at Memphis in 2021, as he recorded an 85.2 receiving grade, 2.99 yards per route run and 14 broken tackles on 74 receptions. It also didn’t stop him from dominating at the Senior Bowl. Austin earned the highest receiving grade among qualifying wide receivers in practice and generated multiple steps of separation on over half of his targets against single coverage, forming the highest rate of such plays of any wide receiver in attendance. Austin has elite track speed and quickness. His overall athleticism paired with his route-running and release package helps overcome the lack of size.

 

TE ISAIAH LIKELY, COASTAL CAROLINA CHANTICLEERS

Likely produced a top-three receiving grade among tight ends nationally in each of the last two seasons at Coastal Carolina, and his receiving success translated to the Senior Bowl, as Likely earned a 91.1 receiving grade during the practices. He’s a polished route-runner with impressive speed and great ball skills for the position. The 6-foot-4, 241-pound tight end isn’t going to be an inline blocker at the next level, though. Adding weight could be in the cards, but either way, his receiving ability is too good to pass up. 

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OT CORDELL VOLSON, NORTH DAKOTA STATE BISON

Volson is strong and makes sure his opponent feels it. The former North Dakota State tackle and future NFL guard is a violent blocker who possessed strong production in college and during the Shrine Bowl practices. Volson boasts top-notch grip strength but isn’t the most mobile, and he has a tendency to attack with wide hands. Still, that didn’t stop him from winning during Shrine Bowl practice, as he lost just two of his first 49 pass-blocking reps en route to a position-leading 99.9 pass-block grade in practice.

 

DI TRAVIS JONES, CONNECTICUT HUSKIES

Jones' brute strength throughout his frame helped him become an unblockable force in all three of his seasons at UConn and the Senior Bowl. Jones is coming off a top-five overall grade among interior defensive linemen (87.6). During Senior Bowl practice, the 6-foot-4, 326-pound interior defender earned a 92.2 pass-rush grade while leading the position in pass-rush win rate (42.5%). He was the most dominant pass-rusher in attendance and really should be in the conversation to be the first player off the board at his position come April.

DI NEIL FARRELL JR., LSU TIGERS

Farrell was the single-best run-stuffing interior defensive lineman in the Power Five this past season, as he earned an 89.9 run-defense grade while also posting a respectable 78.8 pass-rush grade. Farrell’s dominance in both facets continued throughout Senior Bowl practices: He won almost every one-on-one pass-rush opportunity for the week and finished with a 75.8 PFF grade during the practices. Farrell is a lot to handle for any offensive lineman due to his motor and power on contact.

EDGE ALI FAYAD, WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS

Fayad may be undersized at 6-foot-2 and 248 pounds with 32-inch arms, but the Western Michigan product makes up for it with his high motor, pass-rush plan and repertoire. He rolled through one-on-ones at the Shrine Bowl, winning in advanced ways — including spin moves, fake spins, ghost rushes and more. Fayad earned the highest pass-rush grade during Shrine Bowl practices. Considering he earned an elite pass-rush grade above 90.0 in each of the last two seasons, this shouldn’t be surprising. He’s not going to come off the board until late, but whoever lands him should be ecstatic.

CB MARIO GOODRICH, CLEMSON TIGERS

Goodrich was quietly one of the best cornerbacks in the country last season. He was the most valuable cornerback in the ACC in 2021, as he allowed no touchdowns while intercepting two passes and breaking up seven others. The 6-foot, 186-pound cornerback is a physical, instinctive and fluid player whose game should translate nicely to the NFL.

S KERBY JOSEPH, ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI

Joseph was PFF’s highest-graded safety at the FBS level in 2021, as he was a high-level playmaker in coverage who accumulated five interceptions and four pass breakups while providing sound run defense and tackling. The Illinois safety has long limbs (33.25-inch arms) for his 6-foot, 200-pound frame. Between his length, ball skills and coverage skills, Joseph provided a lot to like entering the 2022 Senior Bowl, and he lived up to the hype with two interceptions and pass breakups during the one-on-ones and team drills at practice.

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