Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls – I present to you Craig’s 2022 ‘My Guys’ team. You know… those guys you’d bang the table for if they made it to where your team was picking. We’ve all got them and I’m no different to each and every one of you.
It would be easy to name a whole bunch of 1st round picks here though, so I deliberately didn’t let myself do that. Instead what you’ll find is a mix of prospects from throughout all three days of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Having said that though, I do start with my QB1.
Quarterback – Sam Howell, North Carolina
Evaluating Sam Howell is a tough job and it doesn’t surprise me that some view last season as a regression. What those people tend to forget though is that Howell lost a host of talent around him – at running back, receiver, and from his offensive line.
For him to continue to find ways to win, making more plays off script and with his legs with an inexperienced supporting cast showed incredible leadership. It also demonstrated a whole different skill set. If I’m an NFL coach, I’m excited at the prospect of using the combination of skills I’ve seen from Howell.
Running back – Kenneth Walker, Michigan State
I jumped aboard the Kenneth Walker hype train way back in September so I don’t feel at all guilty about going with him here. He’s a powerful downhill runner who keeps defenses honest. Whilst he may not have elite second level speed he’s got the vision to be able to hit a hole and run through it.
In an ideal world I’d want a back who could also catch passes – something Walker’s never really been asked to do. But I’ve stood on this soapbox long enough that I might as well stay here.
Wide receivers – Khalil Shakir, Boise State & Alec Pierce, Cincinnati
Khalil Shakir just catches everything – and that’s the kind of guy I want on my team. This catch against UTEP is just next level and is just one of many he pulled off during the season.
Alec Pierce has similarly good hands and at 6’3 is a physical presence in any offense. The combination of these two guys would make life incredibly tough for opposing defenses. You’re just not going to get any free defensive opportunities from drops. If your QB can get the ball into their vicinity, they’re making plays.
Tight end – Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin
Jake Ferguson had a stellar, if under the radar, Senior Bowl and for me is TE3. He’s a proper Wisconsin Badger – not afraid to get stuck in and do the dirty work when blocking but also has excellent hands and runs very neat routes.
He’s never going to beat you with speed and he’s not the most athletic. But he’s got a bit of everything you could ever want from a tight end. I would not be at all shocked if he wound up having the best pro career from this whole tight end class.
Offensive tackles – Sean Rhyan, UCLA & Matt Waletzko, North Dakota
Sean Rhyan is very much under the radar at the moment. You hear names like Bernhard Raimann and Tyler Smith being touted as potential first round picks and I struggle to fathom how anyone would have them ahead of Rhyan. He’s a well balanced, experienced player who is strong is both pass and run blocking. While he may be best suited inside at guard, he could very well be a day one starter.
Matt Waletzko by contrast will be a bit of a project given the level of competition he’s been up against to date. He’s a better pass protector than run blocker and that’s going to mean he projects to playing on the left side of an offensive line. He’ll need to refine elements of his technique to succeed at the next level but he’s definitely someone I’d be taking a chance on.
Interior offensive linemen – Jamaree Salyer, Georgia; Ed Ingram, LSU & Luke Fortner, Kentucky
Three SEC guys here – though I was tempted by Cam Jurgens as well. Ultimately all of these guys made it into this team for the same reason. They’ve already shown that they can compete against high level competition and win.
Edge rushers – George Karlaftis, Purdue & Drake Jackson, USC
Two very different EDGE prospects making my team here. Karlaftis is the prototypical 3-down edge, being able to play both the run and the pass effectively. His motor means he can keep going for as long as is needed and still is able to make game-changing plays when his team needs them. I’ve got him ranked ahead of Travon Walker and I don’t feel that’s a stretch at all.
Drake Jackson is much more likely to be in a two-point stance and be a pure pass rusher – which begs the question as to what sort of weird scheme my all-‘My Guys’ team are going to play. His length, athleticism and explosiveness lead me to believe he’s going to take a huge leap forward at the next level.
Defensive tackles – Jordan Davis, Georgia & Otito Ogbonnia, UCLA
I’m one of those guys who would draft Jordan Davis in the top 10. The tape is superb, the athletic testing shows he is a freak of nature, and it really isn’t hard to believe that NFL conditioning could keep him on the field. Besides, when you’re playing some sort of hybrid defensive formation as I apparently am, who wouldn’t want a man mountain in the middle of their defense?
And if I then stick Otito Ogbonnia alongside him to eat up more space, I really can’t go wrong can I? Ogbonnia doesn’t have the same athleticism, but he makes up for that with strength and power.
Linebackers – Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati & Troy Andersen, Montana State
Darrian Beavers makes it into this team on name alone! But aside from that, he’s got incredible instincts and with a little bit of coaching offers the ability to stay on the field for all three downs without being liability in either run or pass defense. He moves and tackles very well and is the sort of linebacker a lot of coaches will love.
Troy Andersen is such fun to watch and is still learning the linebacker position. If I’m looking for potentially significant upside, he’d be the guy I’d take a punt on.
Cornerbacks – Andrew Booth, Clemson; Martin Emerson, Mississippi State & Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State
Before you ask, no I don’t know which one is playing as my nickel – and I’m fine with that.
There’s not as much of a gap between the consensus (though I disagree) top two corners and Andrew Booth as some might make out. And if I could have Martin Emerson across on the other side of the field from Booth then I’d feel pretty good about how my team was going to fare in coverage.
I’ve thrown Zyon McCollum into the mix here too for his upside. Clearly the NFL will be a huge step up for him, but with his length and athletic ability he’s going to give whoever drafts him a whole bunch of tools to work with.
Safeties – Jaquan Brisker, Penn State & Jalen Pitre, Baylor
I’m playing Brisker at free safety and leaving him in coverage the majority of the time and letting Pitre play more in the box.
That works well for both their skill sets, especially as I can drop Pitre out on passing downs and create an extra covered zone with him.
Brisker is also another athletic dynamo, which is another reason why he makes it onto my team.
So there you have it. Who would make your team? Let me know in the comments, or over on twitter where you can find me @UK_draft
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