Bucky Brooks’ top five 2022 NFL Draft prospects by position 3.0: QBs Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder rise

With the 2022 NFL Draft just days away (April 28-30 in Las Vegas), here’s my updated snapshot of the top five prospects at each major position in this class.

NOTE: Up-down arrows below reflect movement from my March rankings.

Kenny Pickett
Malik Willis
Desmond Ridder
Matt Corral
Sam Howell

The 2022 quarterback class lacks some of the star power of previous groups, but there are certainly players at the position with intriguing talent and potential. Pickett is the headliner of the class with a combination of swagger, athleticism and arm talent that will pique the interest of coaches searching for a franchise quarterback with the intangibles to spark a turnaround. The former Pitt standout is the most pro-ready of the prospects due to his experience and expertise running an offense with pro-style concepts. Willis has boom-or-bust potential with an intriguing set of tools that will have some coaches comparing him to Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson as a possible “one-man show” at the next level. Ridder has been flying under the radar, but his experience and explosiveness make him an attractive option as a QB1 prospect. Following a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, the Cincinnati product could surprise as a starter early in his career. Corral possesses compelling capabilities as a dynamic gunslinger with enough mobility and running skill to be utilized as a dual-threat QB. The Ole Miss standout is an impressive playmaker with a game that could pop in a system that mixes in some collegiate concepts. Howell has been lost in the shuffle a bit due to a slow start to the 2021 season that overshadowed a solid campaign overall. He displayed more athleticism and running skills during his final year at North Carolina, and his polished game could help him emerge as a capable starter in the right situation.

Breece Hall
Kenneth Walker III
Isaiah Spiller
Kyren Williams
James Cook

The RB class features a number of playmakers ideally suited for a rotational role at the next level. Perhaps a workhorse will emerge in time, but most of the running backs in this group will need a sidekick in the backfield to thrive. Hall is an ultra-productive runner with outstanding vision and quick feet. He displays exceptional stop-start quickness in the hole while flashing enough speed to take it the distance in the open field. With the Iowa State star also possessing soft hands and polished receiving skills, Hall is exactly what today’s NFL coaches covet in an RB1. Walker is a gritty runner with a combination of balance, body control and vision that makes him effective in any style of offense. Although he lacks elite speed and acceleration, Walker has a knack for moving the chains with the ball in his hands. Spiller is a physical runner with outstanding vision, balance and body control. He has the potential to thrive as an every-down back contributing as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. Williams is the kind of multi-purpose back every team needs in the rotation — and a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Cook is a dynamic playmaker with the potential to produce chunk plays through the air or on the ground. The Georgia product is an intriguing option as a change-of-pace back.

Drake London
Jameson Williams
Garrett Wilson
Chris Olave
Jahan Dotson

The top of the draft board at receiver is starting to resemble an ice cream shop, with so many blue-chip prospects sorted and stacked by different flavors. Whether a team is searching for a big-bodied pass-catcher with dynamic red-zone skills or a shifty route runner with big-play ability, the 2022 class has it all. London is a former hooper with outstanding size, length and leaping ability. As a super-sized pass-catcher (6-foot-4, 219 pounds), he expands the strike zone for the quarterback and could be a dominant red-zone threat from Day 1. Williams suffered an ACL tear in the College Football Playoff National Championship, but his talent keeps him in the conversation as one of the top prospects at the position. His comment at Alabama’s pro day that he’s “ahead of schedule” in his recovery is encouraging; if he checks out medically, Williams could shoot to the top of the charts as the premier playmaker in the class. Wilson is a polished playmaker with A+ route-running ability and ball skills. The Ohio State product could thrive as a WR1 or WR2 in an offense that emphasizes skilled route runners on the perimeter. Olave is a scoring machine with the speed and explosiveness to win on deep routes from an outside alignment. As a crafty vertical route runner, he would be a perfect fit as a WR2 in an offense that loves to push the ball down the field. Dotson is a catch-and-run specialist with outstanding speed, quickness and burst. The Penn State standout is a scheme-friendly playmaker capable of filling a variety of roles as an inside-outside threat.

Trey McBride
Greg Dulcich
Jeremy Ruckert
Jelani Woods
Isaiah Likely

With the tight end position gaining prominence due to more dynamic athletes carving out roles as “jumbo” receivers, offensive coordinators are searching for NBA-sized pass-catchers to anchor their aerial attacks. McBride is an ultra-productive pass-catcher who offers excellent hand-eye coordination and underrated running skills. The tough, hard-nosed playmaker runs through arm tackles in the open field to turn short passes into big gains on the perimeter. Dulcich is a crafty player with soft hands and outstanding ball skills. The former UCLA standout works the middle of the field like an NBA post player setting up in the paint. His knack for creating separation between the hashes will make him a natural chain-mover as a pro. Ruckert is a rock-solid prospect with the potential to play “Y” or “H” in an offense that features heavy personnel. As a rugged blocker with soft hands and polished receiving skills, he is an intriguing option for a team looking for a developmental prospect to throw into the rotation. Woods’ impressive postseason performance has sent his stock soaring. The super-sized tight end (6-foot-7, 259 pounds) is an A+ athlete with the length and strength to develop into a dominant playmaker, whether blocking or receiving as a traditional “Y” tight end. Likely could emerge as a big-play weapon in an NFL offense that deploys him as a move tight end in spread formations. The Coastal Carolina product is a crafty route runner with the speed and quickness to separate from defenders on a variety of seam routes from the slot.

Dropped out: Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M (previously No. 3)

Ickey Ekwonu
Evan Neal
Charles Cross
Trevor Penning
Bernhard Raimann

This year’s OT class is loaded with rock-solid prospects who should be able to step onto the field as starters from Day 1. Ekwonu is an explosive run blocker with a nasty temperament that sets the tone for the front line. He mauls defenders with his exceptional combination of strength and power, finishing blocks with relentless aggression. The N.C. State product is still a work in progress as a pass protector, but his size and physical tools could enable him to quickly blossom into an elite offensive tackle. Neal is a super-sized edge blocker (6-7 1/2, 337 pounds) with natural skills as a left tackle. He has the length to stymie pass rushers off the edge and the strength to blow defenders off the ball. The Alabama standout is a powerful run blocker, but not quite as nasty as some of his counterparts on this list. Cross is a technical marvel with the athleticism, hand skills and anchor to dominate one-on-one matchups against premier pass rushers off the edge. The Mississippi State star flips the switch from technician to brawler in the run game, bullying defenders at the line of scrimmage. Penning likes to mash and maul defenders at the point of attack. With superior size (6-7, 325), length and strength, the Northern Iowa star is a problem for opponents who can’t handle his bully-ball tactics on the edges. Raimann grew up in Austria and spent his first two seasons at Central Michigan playing tight end. But he is a quick study on the edge with the size (6-6, 303), length and athleticism to develop into an all-star pass protector.

Kenyon Green
Zion Johnson
Tyler Linderbaum
Jamaree Salyer
Cam Jurgens

The class of interior blockers includes technicians with enough power and pop to play bully ball at the line of scrimmage. Green is an athletic phone-booth controller with the strength, power and explosiveness to blow defenders off the ball in the running game. The former Texas A&M standout excels in a pin-and-pull scheme, but he displays enough athleticism to thrive in zone-based or man-blocking systems, as well. Johnson is a fierce interior blocker with a versatile game that plays in any system. He climbs to the second level quickly with superb balance and body control while flashing enough knock-back power to push defenders out of the hole. Linderbaum is an athletic pivot with polished skills and a nasty finishing move. The Iowa product is a rare find as a scrappy player with a versatile game that enables him to switch from mauler/brawler to position blocker, based on the concept or opponent. Salyer is a utility player with experience at four different positions along the front line. Although he is a perfect fit at guard, his versatility could make him the ideal “swing” player in the rotation. Jurgens’ sensational workouts have helped him vault into the conversation as one of the top pivots in the draft. The ultra-athletic blocker displays a combination of balance, body control and power that makes him a scheme-friendly fit in any system.

Aidan Hutchinson
Kayvon Thibodeaux
Jermaine Johnson II
Travon Walker
George Karlaftis

Teams in need of pass rushers will find plenty of intriguing options in this year’s crop. Hutchinson offers A+ tools and technical skills. The 2021 Heisman Trophy runner-up combines his exceptional physical gifts and refined hand-to-hand combat ability with the relentless effort that overwhelms blockers over time. He comes with a track record of performance and production that makes him a high-floor prospect with outstanding potential. Thibodeaux is a boom-or-bust blue-chip talent with a speed-rush maneuver that is very hard to stop. The Oregon product displays exceptional balance and body control turning the corner. With outstanding instincts and snap-count anticipation enhancing his speed-rush attempts, Thibodeaux could blossom into a destructive force as a pro. Johnson is an explosive edge defender with five-star talent as a pass rusher. The Florida State standout can win with speed or power as a pass rusher, while also displaying enough grit to set the edge as a run defender. Walker is a Swiss Army Knife with the capacity to play anywhere along the line. From nose tackle to edge rusher, the Georgia product possesses the speed, athleticism and burst to be an impact defender. Although his production does not match his promise, he could come off the board quite early due to his intriguing athleticism and play-making potential. Karlaftis is a worker bee on the edge with a non-stop motor and exceptional hand skills. He is relentless in pursuing the quarterback, and his steady production is the result of his tireless approach.

Jordan Davis
DeMarvin Leal
Logan Hall
Devonte Wyatt
Travis Jones

As NFL teams move away from the running game, defensive tackles with pass-rushing skills vault to the top of the charts. That said, the 2022 DT class still features a mix of old-school pluggers and new-school interior rushers with disruptive potential. Davis is a monstrous interior defender with exceptional run-stopping skills. He occupies multiple blockers at the point of attack and completely eliminates the running game as a one-man wrecking crew at the line of scrimmage. Leal is an active interior defender with outstanding athleticism and play-making ability. He has the capacity to neutralize the run as a power player while flashing enough agility and finesse to impact the game as an inside pass rusher. Hall has caught the attention of NFL defensive line coaches with his “hustle hard” approach. The Houston product outworks opponents in the trenches while flashing enough strength and power to win on run downs at the line of scrimmage. Wyatt’s explosiveness, athleticism and power routinely overwhelm blockers at the point of attack. The Georgia product could explode as a pro with more opportunities to hunt in an aggressive one-gap system that emphasizes penetration. With an impressive Senior Bowl performance on his résumé, Jones has continually risen up the charts through the pre-draft process. As a power player with active hands and a high motor, the UConn product is an intriguing option as a plugger at the line of scrimmage.

Devin Lloyd
Nakobe Dean
Christian Harris
Troy Andersen
Chad Muma

The NFL’s transformation into a passing league has increased the value of off-ball linebackers with the versatility and diagnostic skills to make plays against the run and pass. The 2022 class features a handful of Swiss Army Knife types with the potential to wreak havoc on opponents from the second level with their speed, athleticism and instincts. Lloyd has a nose for the ball that makes him a big-play threat in coverage. He displays the athleticism and explosiveness to create chaos as a pass rusher, too. With the former Utes star also flashing sound fundamentals as a tackler in space, he has the talent to emerge as a Pro Bowl-caliber player early in his career. Dean is a high-IQ defender. He is a read-and-react ‘backer with the anticipation and awareness that defensive coordinators covet in players who wear the green dot on their helmet (defensive play-callers in the huddle). Harris is a sideline-to-sideline playmaker with outstanding instincts, awareness and tackling ability. He is a “hit, run, and cover” specialist with outstanding range and blitz ability. Andersen is an explosive athlete with the size (6-3 1/2, 243), length and strength to be effective as a run or pass defender. He displays the instincts and awareness to control the middle of the field as a designated playmaker in an aggressive scheme. Muma is an ultra-productive prospect with exceptional instincts, awareness and diagnostic skills. The Wyoming product could emerge as a dynamic playmaker in a pro scheme that maximizes his talents in coverage and as a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine with pass-rush ability.

Sauce Gardner
Derek Stingley Jr.
Andrew Booth
Trent McDuffie
Roger McCreary

The 2022 cornerback crop features prospects with the size, athleticism and ball skills to counter the explosive pass-catchers who are dominating the pro game. Gardner is the long, rangy cover corner every defensive coordinator is looking for to man the island. The former Cincinnati star displays exceptional bump-and-run skills, but he is also an instinctive defender with the capacity to thrive as a ballhawk in zone coverage. An aggressive tackler with underrated talents as a pass rusher off the edge, the 6-3, 190-pounder is the premier CB1 prospect in the class. Stingley is a five-star talent with outstanding tools (height, weight, speed, athleticism) and play-making potential, but he has not performed like an A+ prospect since his freshman season (2019). Although the LSU standout’s talent and potential certainly make him a candidate to be drafted in the top 10, scouts will need to sort through his limited 2021 tape (missed all but three games due to injury) to determine if his substance as a prospect matches the sizzle. Booth is a rock-solid corner with a loaded toolbox for the position. The Clemson standout has the ball skills, instincts and agility to thrive in man or zone coverage while also setting the edge as a dependable tackler in space. McDuffie is a polished cover corner with a skill set that enables him to play a variety of techniques as a scheme-friendly playmaker. Whether playing man or zone or utilizing bump, bail or shadow techniques, the Washington standout can do it all. And defensive coaches covet high-IQ players like McDuffie. McCreary is a stingy cover corner with a game ideally suited to play in a press-heavy scheme. He is an aggressive bump-and-run defender with the speed, quickness and athleticism to shadow premier receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Kyle Hamilton
Dax Hill
Lewis Cine
Jaquan Brisker
Jalen Pitre

Safeties are underrated in the draft process unless they are impact defenders with the capacity to produce turnovers as ballhawks or create chaos near the line of scrimmage as hybrid defenders. Hamilton is a future all-star with a game built on instincts, awareness and elite athleticism. He covers ground like a center fielder while packing a punch like an All-Pro linebacker. As a middle-of-the-field defender with size, range and versatility, Hamilton is the type of player whom defensive coordinators build game plans around. Hill is an exceptional nickelback with superb instincts for the position. He is a natural slot defender with cover corner-like skills and sneaky pass-rush ability. With more teams deploying the nickel defender in a variety of roles, the Michigan product could soar up the board on draft weekend. Cine is a knockout specialist with an aggressive game that enables him to flourish near the box as a run defender. The Georgia product is an outstanding tackler with enough range to control the box from depth while also flashing the athleticism to stay over the top in coverage. Brisker possesses a variety of skills that could make him a Swiss Army Knife-like playmaker as a pro. He excels near the box, but also flashes the instincts and awareness to be an effective pass defender between the numbers. Pitre is a versatile defender with outstanding instincts, awareness and ball skills. The Baylor product is an ideal sub-package defender due to his ability to blitz and cover from the slot.

Dropped out: Verone McKinley III, Oregon (previously No. 5)

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