Thursday May 12, 2022

The 2022 NFL Draft is ever approaching, and the 2021 college football season gave us a great indication of the top overall players available this April. However, as good as any draft analyst can be, there will always be draft board risers. The 2022 NFL Draft risers, however, have seen meteoric rises from relative obscurity to star-studded, elite prospects.

Draft boards are far from finalized. Prospects are rising and falling still to this day. With a few marquee events remaining (East-West Shrine Game, Senior Bowl, Scouting Combine), it’s important to note where we are and how we got here.

2022 NFL Draft Risers: The EDGE class takes shape

Ahead of the 2021 college football season, there was a general consensus that Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux was not only head of the class of edge defenders but also head of all prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft. While Thibodeaux did nothing but reaffirm that belief in 2021, some other edge defenders took monumental leaps on the field in 2021.

David Ojabo, Michigan

Arguably the biggest leaper in the group is the fastest of the bunch. David Ojabo made waves by combining with fellow Wolverine pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson on some special meet-at-the-QB moments in 2021.

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Ojabo wins with speed and balance. He sprints by slower tackles and bends around the edge with ease. What separates him from the rest, however, is the ever-impressive strength he possesses with his speed. Ojabo has a skill set of a smaller-framed prospect but still stands 6’5″ and 250 pounds.

Ojabo moved from No. 128 on the preseason consensus Pro Football Network Top 300 Big Board all the way up to No. 6 overall on our year-end consensus. Individual analysts at PFN have Ojabo ranked as high as No. 3 overall.

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Travon Walker, Georgia

Playing all around the national champion Georgia Bulldogs defense, Travon Walker dominated in 2021. Even among what is likely 10 draft picks on their defense, Walker made his presence felt game in and game out.

Walker played all around the Georgia defense, quite literally. He lined up from the interior of the defensive line and as far back as slot cornerback. And it didn’t matter where the 6’5″, 275-pound Walker lined up. He just produced.

Walker recorded 6 sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss this past season. He patrolled like a linebacker at times but pushed the pocket like a dominant pass rusher. Walker also caused fits in run defense, routinely blowing up run gaps with his ability to push blockers back. He has strength, speed, balance, and power all wrapped up in one.

Walker moved from No. 91 on our preseason consensus Top 300 Big Board all the way to No. 28 today. Individual analysts at PFN have Walker ranked as high as No. 25 overall.

Cameron Thomas, San Diego State

“The West Coast’s Aidan Hutchinson” isn’t a moniker to throw around lightly. But that’s more than deserving for Cameron Thomas. Yet, it’s also unfair, as you could almost go as far as saying that Hutchinson is the “Big Ten’s Cameron Thomas.”

Thomas is a talented pass rusher from any alignment but excels off the edge with his combination of skills. He’ll push tackles within his first step and run by them with his second.

Thomas recorded 11.5 sacks in 2021 as well as a whopping 20.5 tackles for loss. He’s been a productive player for two seasons prior, but he exploded with a blend of power and hand usage to a career year in 2021.

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Thomas moved from No. 228 on our preseason consensus Top 300 Big Board all the way to No. 48 overall on our year-end board. Individual analysts at PFN have Thomas ranked as high as No. 29 overall.

2022 NFL Draft Risers: The best of the rest

In addition to the massive rise of the aforementioned edge defenders, there was a bevy of other impressive seasons and displays from prospects all over the country. Here are some of the biggest risers (indicated by number of spots risen) across our consensus Top 300 Big Board heading into the 2022 NFL Draft.

  • Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati: +200
  • Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor: +164
  • Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia: +164
  • Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State: +133
  • Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama: +109
  • Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington: +106
  • Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State: +97
  • Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State: +94
  • Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky: +87
  • Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State: +80
  • Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State: +72
  • Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh: +55

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