Craig’s Pre-Combine Top 5 at Every Position

Craig’s Pre-Combine Top 5 at Every Position
Reading Time: 6 minutes.

Craig brings his pre-combine Top 5 players at each position before drills start at the 2022 NFL Combine!

Quarterback

Sam Howell - Football - University of North Carolina Athletics
Sam Howell – Top 5. Image Credit: goheels
  1. Sam Howell
  2. Malik Willis
  3. Matt Corral
  4. Kenny Pickett
  5. Desmond Ridder

I’m a big fan of Sam Howell’s skill set and think he’s the best all-round QB in this year’s draft. Malik Willis has incredible arm talent and high upside while Matt Corral might be best placed to start in year one. Kenny Pickett is experienced and has shown good development over the last year, as has Desmond Ridder, but I’m not as high on either as some. Carson Strong is the man who therefore misses out – an unimpressive Senior Bowl week left me wanting to see more.

Running back

A look at Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller's NIL portfolio: 'It's been  crazy'
Isaiah Spiller – Top 5. Image Credit: Sam Craft | Credit: Associated Press
  1. Isaiah Spiller
  2. Kenneth Walker
  3. Breece Hall
  4. Kyren Williams
  5. Brian Robinson Jr.

The top three running backs are all very closely rated, with Kenneth Walker being more of a downhill runner whilst Isaiah Spiller and Breece Hall bring more of a receiving threat out of the backfield. I keep going round in circles in my ordering of them and I’m sure I’ll continue to change my mind – but this is what I’m going with for now! I’m also high on Tyler Allgeier, who just misses out on making this list. 

Wide receiver

Ohio State football: Earth, Wind and Fire
Chris Olave – Top 5. Image Credit: Scarlet and Game
  1. Chris Olave
  2. Treylon Burks
  3. Garrett Wilson
  4. Jameson Williams
  5. Drake London

This wide receiver group is like being in one of the world’s best ice cream parlours – everyone is going to have their favourite flavour but in reality there’s no bad choice. Burks is the guy amongst this group that you’ll move around and design new plays for while Drake London’s height makes him a true possession receiver and red zone threat. I’m on an island having Chris Olave as my WR1 I think and that’s fine by me – he’s experienced, polished and to my mind most ready to make significant contributions to an NFL offense in week 1.

Tight end

The Best: McBride Wins Mackey Award - Colorado State University Athletics
trey McBride – Top 5. Image Credit: CSU Athletics
  1. Trey McBride
  2. Jalen Wydermyer
  3. Jeremy Ruckert
  4. Charlie Kolar
  5. Jake Ferguson

I’ve got Trey McBride and Jalen Wydermyer closer to each other than many but still agree the former is TE1 in this group. I also like Jeremy Ruckert’s receiving threat despite his 2021 production being below what many had expected, while Jake Ferguson is a guy who is still very much under the radar despite his strong showing at the Senior Bowl – he could easily be the guy who has the best pro career of all those listed. 

Offensive tackle

NFL draft: Alabama OT Evan Neal won't work out at NFL Scouting Combine
Evan Neal – Top 5. Image Credit: USA Today
  1. Evan Neal
  2. Ikem Ekwonu
  3. Charles Cross
  4. Trevor Penning
  5. Nicholas Petit-Frere

Not too many shocks here, with Evan Neal many people’s pick to be drafted by the Jaguars with the first overall pick while Ikem Ekwonu and Charles Cross could also both be top 10 selections. Trevor Penning projects similarly to Teven Jenkins from last year as a mauling right tackle, while you may be surprised to see Nicholas Petit-Frere here over Bernhard Raimann (who I’ve actually got as OT7) but I think he’s far more polished and ready to play, and has a diverse skill set that will appeal to a number of teams. 

Interior offensive line

Iowa football center Tyler Linderbaum, Rimington Trophy winner, enters NFL  draft
Tyler Linderbaum – Top 5. Image Credit: ESPN
  1. Tyler Linderbaum
  2. Kenyon Green
  3. Zion Johnson
  4. Jamaree Salyer
  5. Ed Ingram

Tyler Linderbaum is probably one of the top 5 players in this draft if you ignore positional value. Teams will have seen the impact Creed Humphrey had on the Chiefs this year and may well be less afraid of drafting interior linemen in round one which will be good news for Kenyon Green and Zion Johnson who are both versatile players. JamareeSalyer will move back inside in the NFL and be dominant in the run game while Ed Ingram also projects as a high quality starter at the next level. 

Edge rushers

Kayvon Thibodeaux wouldn't want to play for Rams due to taxes
Kayvon Thibodeaux – Top 5. Image Credit: USA Today
  1. Kayvon Thibodeaux
  2. Aidan Hutchinson
  3. George Karlaftis
  4. David Ojabo
  5. Drake Jackson

I’m still firmly in the Kayvon Thibodeaux over Aidan Hutchinson camp – though if you don’t get excited by the skill sets these two bring to the table as pass rushers when watching them play then maybe scouting isn’t for you. George Karlaftis gives you more of an all-round presence with his ability to play the run more effectively as well, while David Ojabo’s ceiling might be the highest of the whole group given he is relatively new to the game still and has considerable untapped potential. Drake Jackson is likely an outside linebacker for a 3-4 team, so at his size he may appeal to some teams over others. 

Defensive lineman

top 5
Jordan Davis – Top 5. Image Credit: USA Today
  1. Jordan Davis
  2. DeMarvin Leal
  3. Travon Walker
  4. Perrion Winfrey
  5. Travis Jones

I don’t care if Jordan Davis didn’t play as much on passing downs at Georgia, when you can do the things he can do and cause as much havoc as he can at his size I want him on my team! DeMarvin Leal had a down 2021 compared to expectations while Travon Walker has come to the fore this year – my only question mark over him being he should play as a run-stuffing defensive end or bulk up and slide inside. Perrion Winfrey and Travis Jones close out this list, making it ahead of the likes of Logan Hall and Haskell Garrett. 

Linebacker

top 5
Devin Lloyd – Top 5. Image Credit: MLive.com
  1. Devin Lloyd
  2. Nakobe Dean
  3. Christian Harris
  4. Brandon Smith
  5. Darrian Beavers

Another top 2 I keep flip-flopping over with both Devin Lloyd and Nakobe Dean bringing sideline-to-sideline speed, excellent ability to diagnose plays and significant leadership qualities. Christian Harris may be the best of this group when it comes to coverage skills. While Brandon Smith and Darrian Beavers are both slightly bigger thumpers – guys you definitely wouldn’t want to be tackled by. Smith in particular has a lot of Isaiah Simmons about him. 

Cornerback

top 5
Derek Stingley – Top 5. Image Credit: Sporting News
  1. Derek Stingley Jr.
  2. Andrew Booth
  3. Ahmad Gardner
  4. Kaiir Elam
  5. Trent McDuffie

I’m in line with many others when it comes to this group of cornerbacks. Though I know some would have Sauce Gardner higher up this list. For me, if I believe Derek Stingley can stay healthy then what he’s put on tape when not injured makes him clearly number one. Both Gardner and Andrew Booth are excellent too with Booth just having the edge for me based on his strength in man coverage. Kaiir Elam is another I like for that press man ability. While Trent McDuffie lacks the length of the others on this list but more than makes up for it with his athleticism. 

Safety

Top 5
Kyle Hamilton – Top 5. Image Credit: UHND.com
  1. Kyle Hamilton
  2. Daxton Hill
  3. Jaquan Brisker
  4. Lewis Cine
  5. Jalen Pitre

Kyle Hamilton might just be the best player in this whole draft class. But, there’s plenty to like from the rest of this group as well. Daxton Hill does an awful lot of things very well and gives you a ton of flexibility when it comes to scheming. While Jaquan Brisker is an athletic machine who I expect to test very well indeed at the Combine. Lewis Cine and Jalen Pitre are both also very capable against both the pass and the run and I’ve got them very closely rated as a result.

WRITTEN BY CRAIG STRACHAN

2022 Season Kick Off Show Ninety-Nine Yards

  1. 2022 Season Kick Off Show
  2. DRAFT TALK – 1st Round Preview
  3. DRAFT TALK – Final Mock Draft Madness
  4. DRAFT TALK – QB Special
  5. DRAFT TALK – Top 5 TE + LB
  6. DRAFT TALK – Top 5 CBs + S
  7. DRAFT TALK – Top 5 OT + IOL
  8. DRAFT TALK – Matt Waletzko Interview Special
  9. DRAFT TALK – Top 5 EDGE + DTs
  10. DRAFT TALK – Top 5 RBs + WRs

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