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2022 NFL Draft: NFL comps for the top prospect at each position

Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) on the field in the third quarter during the 2021 Duke's Mayo Bowl at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

We live in a world of comparisons.

Juxtaposition invades all aspects of human life. We compare everything: salaries, looks, GPAs, cars, houses and anything else one could think of. The NFL is no different. Football media, in particular, has an incessant need to compare great season-long performances to those of the past and match up elite players against other elite players.


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These comparisons present themselves in spades during draft season. Every college prospect is seemingly pigeon-holed into an NFL archetype. Some make sense while others are seemingly pulled out of thin air, such as comparing Daniel Jones to Peyton Manning (no, really). 

With this in mind, PFF has its own pro comparisons for hundreds of college prospects. All of the comparisons can be found in the 2022 NFL Draft Guide, but this article will focus solely on the top-ranked prospects at each position according to the 2022 PFF Big Board. So, let's compare.

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Sam Howell, North Carolina
Shades of… Slower RUSSELL WILSON

Howell's arm talent tops all other quarterbacks in the 2022 class. He is a downfield, vertical passer who isn’t afraid to let it fly. The Tar Heel’s 86 big-time throws topped all FBS quarterbacks who recorded at least 100 attempts over the last three years while his 7.2% big-time throw percentage ranked 14th. Even though his PFF pass grade dipped in 2021 — falling from 91.5 in 2020 to 81.1 — Howell showed off his rushing ability this past season, posting a 91.0 rush grade, the second-highest among quarterbacks — behind only Malik Willis. He forced an absurd 65 missed tackles on his way to 1,106 yards and 45 explosive runs on the ground. 

The North Carolina native shares many of his qualities with the new star quarterback in the Mile High City. Wilson thrives on his patented moon ball, posting a 6.1% big-time throw rate in 2021. For his career, the former Seattle Seahawk has never posted an average depth of target lower than 9.1 yards, and his short of sticks percentage has never exceeded 50.6%.

The similarities don’t stop with the deep shots, though. Wilson is also one of the more aggressive runners at the quarterback position, rushing for over 5,000 yards on 1,001 attempts over his career. Wilson is slightly faster than Howell, though, running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash. Howell didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine, but he ran a 5.07-second 40 in high school.


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Running Back

Kenneth Walker, Michigan State
Shades of… DEANGELO WILLIAMS

Walker exploded onto the scene in East Lansing in 2021, rushing for over 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns. He’s incredibly well-rounded as a runner, casually beating defenders in a multitude of ways. He can bulldoze people — he broke 97 tackles last season, including 20 against Miami — or he can run past them with his lightning-fast 4.38 speed. He was a big play waiting to happen for Michigan State, accumulating 53.8% of his rushing yards through breakaway runs (plays that went for more than 15 yards). The Wake Forest transfer isn’t much of a pass-blocker, posting just a 41.3 pass-blocking grade for the Spartans. He wasn’t asked to do much in the passing game either, hauling in just 13 receptions on 16 targets.

Williams served as the lightning to Jonathan Stewart’s thunder throughout his career in Carolina, posting a career-high 1,066 yards on the ground in 2008. His breakout campaign also featured 57 forced missed tackles, leading the league in that category. Williams was slightly slower than Walker (4.45-second 40-yard dash), but he was a more effective pass-blocker, as he never posted a pass-blocking grade lower than 49.7 (2008). Neither back did much in the pass game, as the former Steeler and Panther hauled in over 30 receptions just twice in his 11-year career.


Wide Receiver

Drake London, USC

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