College News & Analysis

Top NFL draft prospects in every 2021-22 college football bowl game

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson collected three sacks against Ohio State. Syndication Detroit Free Press

College football bowl season provides the best of both worlds — intriguing matchups and interconference play we would almost never see otherwise. NFL evaluators love bowl season because we get to see top prospects against new levels of competition, and some players thrive in such games while others fall flat.

With that in mind, here are the top 2022 NFL Draft prospects (and beyond) who will be playing this bowl season — one for each team.

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FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL

Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Wyoming Cowboys

Tuesday, Dec. 21 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN

QB Dustin Crum, Kent State

Crum could sneak his way into the back end of the 2022 NFL Draft as an athletic project, but his wonky throwing motion likely won’t sit well with NFL evaluators. He earned a 90.7 overall grade this season largely on the back of his dynamic rushing ability. A good bowl game showing could go a long way after some duds against Texas A&M and Northern Illinois this season. He already accepted a Shrine Bowl invite, so he can also up his stock there.

LB Chad Muma, Wyoming

Muma looks to be a top-100 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, yet he will still be on the field for the Cowboys on Tuesday. He can really scoot for a 245-pounder and utterly dominated the Mountain West this season. His 59 defensive stops were the fourth most of any linebacker in the country. He’ll be at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, as well.


TROPICAL SMOOTHIE CAFE FRISCO BOWL

UTSA Roadrunners vs. San Diego State Aztecs

Tuesday, Dec. 21 | 7:30 PM EST | ESPN

CB Tariq Woolen, UTSA

Woolen is an enormous 6-foot-4, 205-pound corner who just so happened to check in at No. 6 on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List in the preseason. He boasts 4.3 speed at that size, but the numbers don’t quite reflect his physical tools. He earned just a 65.5 coverage grade this season after allowing 25 catches on 42 targets for 349 yards. Woolen will also get a chance to prove himself at the Senior Bowl. 

EDGE Cameron Thomas, San Diego State

The Aztecs defense dominated up until the Mountain West Championship game, largely because of Thomas. He led the nation with 77 pressures this season and also made 31 run stops. He’s a physical 6-foot-5, 270-pounder who has some positional versatility.


LOCKHEED MARTIN ARMED FORCES BOWL

Missouri Tigers vs. Army Black Knights

Wednesday, Dec. 22 | 8:00 PM EST | ESPN

C Michael Maietti, Missouri

With COVID-19 providing return-to-school flexibility, Maietti came back to Missouri for his fifth year as a starting center, and it’s paying off for his draft stock. He bumped up his grade from 76.3 last season to 90.0 this year. While Maietti will have an uphill battle at the next level with his limited size and length (6-foot-1, 290 pounds), he makes up for it with his play on the move.

EDGE Andre Carter II, Army

I feel confident in saying Carter will be the highest-drafted service academy player in some time. He's only a junior, so that will likely be in 2023, but another leap in performance could make him a Day 2 selection. He’s a long 6-foot-7, 265-pound edge defender who finished second in the country with a 93.3 pass-rushing grade this season. 

FRISCO FOOTBALL CLASSIC

North Texas Mean Green vs. Miami (OH) RedHawks

Thursday, Dec. 23 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN

EDGE Gabriel Murphy & Grayson Murphy, North Texas

North Texas is the only team that gets two players to highlight, and you can probably tell why. The Murphy twins are redshirt sophomores who bookend the Mean Green defensive line. They both earned pass-rushing grades over 90.0 in their first year as starters this past season. While both lack ideal length at only 6-foot-2, they are twitchy rushers off the edge.

S Sterling Weatherford, Miami (OH)

Weatherford is a poor man’s Kyle Hamilton at a hulking 6-foot-4, 221 pounds. Unlike Hamilton, though, Weatherford is likely to move to linebacker in the NFL. He’s a physical player, but he earned only a 57.8 coverage grade this season. The senior should be making a Shrine Bowl appearance after this game.


UNION HOME MORTGAGE GASPARILLA BOWL

UCF Knights vs. Florida Gators

Thursday, Dec. 23 | 7:00 PM EST | ESPN

OT Marcus Tatum, UCF

Tatum’s play this year has been a revelation for the Golden Knights. After spending four years at Tennessee, he has spent the past two at UCF. He never earned a pass-blocking grade higher than 51.5 prior to this season, but his mark currently sits at 80.7 on the year. He can really move for a small school tackle, but it’s concerning it took until Year 6 for him to breakout.

CB Kaiir Elam, Florida

Elam should be a first-rounder when it’s all said and done. He’s a long 6-foot-2, 196-pound corner who’s seen playing time ever since his true freshman year in 2019. For his career, he’s allowed a lowly 46.8% completion percentage and a 57.1 passer rating.


EASYPOST HAWAII BOWL

Memphis Tigers vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

Friday, Dec. 24 | 8:00 PM EST | ESPN

IOL Dylan Parham, Memphis

Parham is one of my favorite small-school offensive line prospects because of his natural athleticism. The senior can play on the move with ease. He allowed only 19 pressures on 1,047 pass-blocking snaps between right tackle and right guard across the past two years.

WR Calvin Turner Jr., Hawaii

Turner has a chance to stick as a gadget player and a return man at the next level. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound wideout broke 25 tackles on 74 receptions this season. He’s also dropped 19 balls on 126 catchable targets in his career.  


TAXACT CAMELLIA BOWL

Georgia State Panthers vs. Ball State Cardinals

Saturday, Dec. 25 | 2:30 PM EST | ESPN

IOL Shamarious Gilmore, Georgia State

Gilmore is not only a novel five-year starter, but also a five-time all-conference lineman. He’s still not much more than a tryout type of player as an undersized guard who earned a 75.4 overall grade this season. 

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EDGE Anthony Ekpe, Ball State

Ekpe has been one of the most productive sub-package rushers in the country in his five-year career between Rice and Ball State. He’s earned pass-rushing grades over 90.0 the past two seasons. He’s still very undersized at only 6-foot-1, 235 pounds and may have to transition to off-ball linebacker.


QUICK LANE BOWL

Western Michigan Broncos vs. Nevada Wolf Pack

Monday, Dec. 27 | 11:00 AM EST | ESPN

WR Skyy Moore, Western Michigan

Moore is the top Group of Five receiver on the PFF draft board. The true junior hauled in 90 catches for 1,255 yards and 10 scores and broke an FBS-leading 26 tackles along the way. He’s a lightning rod with and without the ball.

WR Romeo Doubs, Nevada

Doubs is a long 6-foot-2 receiver who can separate at a high level. He’s gone for over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons for the Wolf Pack. Doubs was tremendous at the catch point this season, hauling in nine contested catches in 15 such opportunities.


MILITARY BOWL (Pres. by Peraton)

Boston College Eagles vs. East Carolina Pirates

Monday, Dec. 27 | 2:30 PM EST | ESPN

IOL Zion Johnson, Boston College

Johnson is likely to end up the top true guard prospect in the 2022 class. After he transferred from Davidson in 2019, his overall grade has improved every single year, culminating in an 84.4 mark in 2021. He allowed only six pressures on 364 pass-blocking snaps. 

CB Ja’Quan McMillian, ECU

What the 5-foot-9, 177-pound McMillian lacks in physical tools, he makes up for in instincts. As a junior, he picked off five passes and broke up eight others. He’s been starting since his freshman season and has racked up 12 career picks.


TICKETSMARTER BIRMINGHAM BOWL

Houston Cougars vs. Auburn Tigers

Tuesday, Dec. 28 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN

DI Logan Hall, Houston

Cornerback Marcus Jones belongs here as well, but Hall has more prototypical tools for his position. He’s a 6-foot-6 260-pound defensive lineman with inside-out versatility. He earned overall grades of 85.6 and 83.4 the past two seasons.

LB Owen Pappoe, Auburn

Pappoe is one of the most athletic linebackers in the country and ran in the 4.4s coming out of high school as a prospect. He missed most of 2021 with a leg injury and earned only a 48.2 overall grade on 212 snaps when healthy, meaning he’s likely back for his senior season. 


SERVPRO FIRST RESPONDER BOWL

Air Force Falcons vs. Louisville Cardinals

Tuesday, Dec. 28 | 3:15 PM EST | ESPN

EDGE Jordan Jackson, Air Force

At 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, Jackson has a classic 3-4 defensive end body type. He also has a few years of production under his belt. This season, he finished with an 82.5 pass-rushing grade and 47 pressures. There’s a chance he slips to late Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft.


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QB Malik Cunningham, Louisville

Only a redshirt junior, Cunningham is unlikely to declare. Still, he’s a dynamic weapon at the quarterback position who is improving as a passer. He ran for over 1,000 yards and found the end zone 19 times with his legs this season for the Cardinals.


AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Tuesday, Dec. 28 | 6:45 PM EST | ESPN

CB Martin Emerson, Mississippi State

Emerson is a long corner with tremendous feel for zone coverage. He’s been playing since his true freshman year in 2019, earning coverage grades of 82.9 and 78.8 the past two seasons.

S Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, Texas Tech

Taylor-Demerson is only a junior, so he's unlikely to declare, but he is a player to keep in mind for the future. He’s a true free safety who is not particularly physical at only 5-foot-11, 195 pounds. Taylor-Demerson flashes high-end range, though, and he picked off three passes and broke up five more this season.


SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION HOLIDAY BOWL

UCLA Bruins vs. N.C. State Wolfpack

Tuesday, Dec. 28 | 8:00 PM EST | FOX

RB Zach Charbonnet, UCLA

Charbonnet has gone from a relatively unknown Michigan transfer to a likely top-five running back in the 2022 NFL Draft class. He earned an elite 91.9 rushing grade this season after tallying 1,153 yards on 204 carries.

OT Ikem Ekwonu, N.C. State

Ekwonu is firmly in the mix to be one of the top tackles selected in April’s draft. He is the single most physical run-blocker in the class, boasting the most big-time blocks of any tackle the past two seasons. 


GUARANTEED RATE BOWL

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Tuesday, Dec. 28 | 10:15 PM EST | ESPN

CB Charles Woods, West Virginia

Woods featured in only a handful of games this season after transferring from Illinois State, but he was extremely impressive nonetheless. He allowed only five catches on 11 targets for 86 yards with a pick and three pass breakups on 159 coverage snaps.

OT Daniel Faalele, Minnesota

Standing 6-foot-9 and somewhere in the neighborhood of 380 pounds, Faalele is a mammoth. He still doesn’t quite play up to the physicality that his size would suggest, but he started playing football less than five years ago after coming to the U.S. from Australia. He improved considerably this year to a 79.7 overall grade and has elite developmental tools.


WASABI FENWAY BOWL

SMU Mustangs vs. Virginia Cavaliers

Wednesday, Dec. 29 | 11:00 AM EST | ESPN

QB Tanner Mordecai, SMU

Most of Mordecai's weapons have already opted out, but he should have one last chance to showcase. After transferring from Oklahoma, Mordecai earned an 87.8 grade in his first year as a starter. He may still come back to school in 2022 to try and improve upon his 14 turnover-worthy plays this year.

LB Noah Taylor, Virginia

Taylor is an edge/off-ball hybrid who will be coveted in certain schemes. At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, he has a unique frame for the position. He’s also one of the best tacklers at linebacker, with only 17 misses on 171 attempts in his career.


NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL

Maryland Terrapins vs. Virginia Tech Hokies

Wednesday, Dec. 29 | 2:15 PM EST | ESPN

S Nick Cross, Maryland

Cross is a former track star who shows that range often on the backend. Unlike a lot of track stars, though, Cross has legit size at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds. He’s been starting since his true freshman year but still may return after an inconsistent 2021.

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C Brock Hoffman, Virginia Tech

Almost all of the Hokies' NFL prospects have already opted out of the bowl game, meaning Hoffman takes this spot. He’s started for four years between Coastal Carolina and Virginia Tech and improved in pass protection every year. There's a chance he slips to Day 3.


CHEEZ-IT BOWL

Clemson Tigers vs. Iowa State Cyclones

Wednesday, Dec. 29 | 5:45 PM EST | ESPN

CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson

Booth has first-round physical tools and finished the season on a first-round kind of tear. Over his last two games, he notched three picks and two pass-breakups while allowing only two catches on nine targets for 69 yards.

EDGE Will McDonald IV, Iowa State

McDonald had been a productive backup in the past but didn’t shine in a full-time role until this season. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder earned an 84.4 pass-rushing grade and racked up 41 pressures this season. 


VALERO ALAMO BOWL

Oregon Ducks vs. Oklahoma Sooners

Wednesday, Dec. 29 | 9:15 PM EST | ESPN

CB Mykael Wright, Oregon

Wright is an immensely talented outside cornerback, but his junior season didn’t quite go the way he wanted it to. He ended up allowing 426 yards on 38 catches and 61 targets into his coverage. He is a likely candidate to return to Oregon.

IOL Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma

Hayes is a three-year starter who saw his grade improve every single season. He’s an immensely physical 6-foot-5, 324-pounder and should end up as one of the top true guard prospects in the class.


DUKE’S MAYO BOWL

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. South Carolina Gamecocks

Thursday, Dec. 30 | 11:30 AM EST | ESPN

QB Sam Howell, North Carolina

Howell had a disappointing junior campaign after losing his top two receiving targets from a year ago. His passing grade dropped from 91.5 to 76.4. Once considered a potential No. 1 overall pick, Howell may very well return in 2022 to fulfill those hopes.

EDGE Jordan Strachan, South Carolina

After transferring from Georgia State, where he earned a 90.2 pass-rushing grade in 2020, Strachan couldn’t quite do enough to crack the Gamecocks' starting lineup this season. With Kingsley Enagbare opting out of the bowl, though, Strachan will get a chance to make his mark.


TRANSPERFECT MUSIC CITY BOWL

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Purdue Boilermakers

Thursday, Dec. 30 | 3:00 PM EST | ESPN

CB Alontae Taylor, Tennessee

Taylor may not have many high-end traits the NFL will get excited about, but he’s a four-year starter who played damn good football this fall. His 81.1 coverage grade ranked fifth in the SEC this season. Expect him to come off the board on Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft.

QB Aidan O’Connell, Purdue

Purdue’s top two prospects in edge defender George Karlaftis and receiver David Bell have already opted out, meaning it’s slim pickings. The fifth-year Boilermaker quarterback quietly finished the season on a tear and did enough to get a look from the NFL.


CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL

Michigan State Spartans vs. Pittsburgh Panthers

Thursday, Dec. 30 | 7:00 PM EST | ESPN

EDGE Jacub Panasiuk, Michigan State

Panasiuk doesn't possess the tools for a team to draft him early, but his production makes him a likely Day 3 pick. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end finished the season with 66 pressures and 20 run stops.

DI Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh

Kancey is very undersized for a defensive tackle at 6-foot and 275 pounds. That being said, he wins a lot. He earned an 80.1 run-defense grade and an 84.3 pass-rushing grade this past season. It’s unlikely he declares as only a redshirt sophomore, but he is a player to watch going forward.


SRS DISTRIBUTION LAS VEGAS BOWL

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

Thursday, Dec. 30 | 10:30 PM EST | ESPN

LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin

At 6-foot-2 and 261 pounds, Chenal is a unique backer. He is an absolute force playing downhill, and it shows in his grades. Chenal earned a 93.6 run-defense grade and a 92.2 pass-rushing grade in 2021.

OT Kellen Diesch, Arizona State

Diesch was a fairly big riser on the PFF draft board after his performance this season. He couldn’t secure a starting job in three years at Texas A&M, so he transferred to Arizona State in 2020. After a coronavirus-shortened season, Diesch came out and allowed only seven pressures on 377 pass-blocking snaps in 2021. It was impressive enough to earn him a Shrine Bowl invite.


TAXSLAYER GATOR BOWL

Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Texas A&M Aggies

Friday, Dec. 31 | 11:00 AM EST | ESPN

WR Jaquarii Roberson, Wake Forest

Roberson broke out as a junior in 2020 with 926 yards and followed that up with 1,078 this season. He’s a shifty slot receiver but still needs to put on muscle mass at only 6-foot-1 and 182 pounds.

EDGE Micheal Clemons, Texas A&M

A ton of Aggies have already opted out of the bowl game, leaving Clemons as the player to watch. After getting injured last season, Clemons had a breakout 2021 campaign as a senior. He racked up 46 pressures after tallying only 39 his first three seasons combined.


TONY THE TIGER SUN BOWL

Washington State Cougars vs. Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Friday, Dec. 31 | 2:00 PM EST | CBS

OT Abraham Lucas, Washington State

Lucas is one of the most tested tackles in the country in pass protection, with 2,195 such snaps for his career. He peaked with a 91.0 pass-blocking grade this past season and possesses the physical tools to stay at tackle in the NFL. He could easily be a Day 2 pick.

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WR Charleston Rambo, Miami (FL)

Not many players had seasons to remember for the Hurricanes in 2021, but Rambo was one of them. He went for 1,165 yards on 79 catches his senior season. After toiling in relative anonymity at Oklahoma, Rambo gave himself a draftable grade with his play this year. 


BARSTOOL SPORTS ARIZONA BOWL

Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Boise State Broncos

Friday, Dec. 31 | 2:00 PM EST | BarstoolSports.com

OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan

Raimann was a tight end two years ago, and now he’s a possible first-rounder as a tackle. He went from a 75.1 overall grade in his first year at tackle to a 94.6 overall grade this season. At 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds with his movement skills, he’ll be coveted early.

WR Khalil Shakir, Boise State

Shakir has some of the best body control in the draft class. His highlight reel is right up there with anyone else's in America this season. He hauled in 77 balls for 1,117 yards and put himself in the late Day 2 conversation.


CFP Semifinal: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic 

No. 4 Cincinnati vs. No. 1 Alabama

Friday, Dec. 31 | 3:30 PM EST | ESPN

CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati

This will be a great test for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior. He’s yet to allow a touchdown in his career and surrendered all of 117 yards into his coverage this entire season. If he locks down these Alabama receivers, expect his name called in the first round.

WR Jameson Williams, Alabama

Last year at this time, Williams could barely see the field for Ohio State. Now, he might be the first receiver off the board next April. He’s already hauled in 67 catches for 1,434 yards at 21.4 yards per reception. He is the best deep threat in the 2022 NFL Draft.


CFP Semifinal: Capital One Orange Bowl 

No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Michigan

Friday, Dec. 31 | 7:30 PM EST | ESPN

LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia

Dean is a microcosm of the Georgia defense with the sheer speed at which he plays the game. He may be only 6-foot and 225 pounds, but he packs a wallop. He finished his junior season with a 91.8 overall grade and has a good chance to be a first-rounder in April.

EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

There’s not much more that needs to be said here. Hutchinson is the No. 1 player on PFF’s draft board and owns the highest grade of any defender in the country (94.7).


OUTBACK BOWL

Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Arkansas Razorbacks

Saturday, Jan. 1 | 12:00 PM EST | ESPN2

S Jaquan Brisker, Penn State

Brisker is one of the most complete safeties in the country, with there being very few weaknesses to his game. He allowed only 12 catches on 21 targets for 105 yards with two picks and four pass breakups this season.

EDGE Tre Williams, Arkansas

Receiver Treylon Burks opted out, meaning Williams will be the top prospect on the field for the Razorbacks in this contest. It’s been a slow build for the 6-foot-5, 255-pound fifth-year senior. He’s seen his pass-rushing grade increase every year to 81.3 in 2021 after transferring from Missouri to Arkansas.

VRBO CITRUS BOWL

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Kentucky Wildcats

Saturday, Jan. 1 | 1:00 PM EST | ABC

IOL Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

Linderbaum is the top center prospect in the class and the top such prospect in the PFF College era. He was the highest-graded center in the country last year and took his grade even higher to 95.2 overall this season. 

OT Darian Kinnard, Kentucky

Kinnard is another top offensive lineman on the PFF draft board. He is a pure people-mover who’s earned run-blocking grades over 89.0 in each of his three seasons as a starter. Though starting at tackle for the Wildcats, he’s likely to play inside in the NFL. 

PLAYSTATION FIESTA BOWL

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Saturday, Jan. 1 | 1:00 PM EST | ESPN

EDGE Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame

No Kyle Hamilton or Kyren Williams for the Irish in this contest leaves Foskey as the top player on the PFF draft board. He’s a powerful 6-foot-5, 260-pound edge defender who can be a pocket-collapser at the next level. After a breakout junior campaign that saw him rack up 10 sacks and earn a 79.8 overall grade, Foskey will have a decision to make as a likely Day 2 pick.

LB Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State

Rodriguez is likely to catch on as at least a special teamer in the NFL. The fifth-year senior racked up 61 stops for the Cowboys defense this season to lead the Power Five. But at only 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds with limited athleticism, he’s a longshot to go anywhere other than late in the draft.


ROSE BOWL GAME (Pres. by Capital One Venture X)

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Utah Utes

Saturday, Jan. 1 | 5:00 PM EST | ESPN

WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

Wilson is PFF’s WR1 in the 2022 class, and that isn't changing. He’s a pure separator who can sky to make catches well outside his frame. The junior may not have prototypical size at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, but he just gets open.

LB Devin Lloyd, Utah

Lloyd is firmly in the running to be the first linebacker off the board and looks like a first-round lock. He was a man possessed for the Utes this season en route to a 91.1 overall grade. In coverage, he racked up four picks and three pass breakups.


ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL

Ole Miss Rebels vs. Baylor Bears

Saturday, Jan. 1 | 8:45 PM EST | ESPN

QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss

Corral is the current QB1 on PFF’s draft board. He expanded his effectiveness as a runner this season after losing all his weapons from 2020. He finished with 713 rushing yards and 11 scores on the ground and looks like a first-rounder.

S Jalen Pitre, Baylor

While he’s a “safety,” Pitre was solely a slot corner for Baylor’s defense this fall. He was also far and away the team's best defender. He led all defensive backs in defensive stops (47). Look for him to come off the board on Day 2.


TAXACT TEXAS BOWL

LSU Tigers vs. Kansas State Wildcats

Tuesday, Jan. 4 | 9:00 PM EST | ESPN

LB Damone Clark, LSU

LSU has seen a prospect exodus, leaving Clark as likely the team's top prospect still playing in the bowl. He’s a physical presence at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds and saw a distinct jump in performance this season. He went from a 51.4 grade in 2020 to a 68.6 mark this season.

OT Cooper Beebe, Kansas State

The redshirt sophomore is in the midst of a breakout campaign that put him firmly on NFL radars. He’s unlikely to declare just yet, but he could follow in the footsteps of Cody Whitehair and Dalton Risner to develop into a top guard prospect in the coming years — thanks in large part to his nimble feet and pass-blocking prowess.

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