2023 Prospects to Watch
The 2022 Draft may have happened less than 2 months ago, and we are still 2 months away from the start of the NFL season. However, the Draft Talk team are always looking ahead. Stu gives his thoughts on whose progress he in interested to watch in the 2022 College season.
AT Perry – WR – Wake Forest
AT Perry had a breakout year in 2021 for the Wake Forrest Demon Deacons. His 1293 yards from just 71 receptions will have made teams stand up and take notice. Add in 15 touchdowns and it is difficult to ignore the talented wideout.
The former 3 star recruit from Lake Worth, Florida offers prototypical outside receiver size. Standing at an imposing 6’5” with a decent frame around the 205lb mark. He has strong hands, ball tracking and ability to get off the press. There is a lot to like in his game. Although he does have elite straight-line speed, he is more than quick enough. Particularly with the ball in his hands and should not be labelled as a one-dimensional ‘jump-ball’ guy.
If he can maintain the progress he showed in 2021, AT Perry is a name we will hear a lot more of as around Draft time.
Arik Gilbert – TE – Georgia
Based on talent alone, Gilbert should be a slam dunk prospect. However, things are rarely that simple. A high school standout in Georgia, Gilbert was amongst the top rated recruits when he committed to LSU.
As a true freshman he made a solid start for the Tigers. And looked like he had all the potential in the world. However, a transfer to Georgia and ill-defined ‘personal problems’ led to him missing the 2021 season entirely.
Weight issues, and a flirtation with moving to receiver, have further muddied the waters. But during Georgia’s spring game he seemed to be heading in the right direction. If Gilbert can put it all together, find the field regularly, and maximise his talents, he has the potential to be a game changer at the position. I, for one, hope he gets there.
Tanner McKee – QB – Stanford
If there is one player I will be rooting for this year, it is Stanford QB Tanner McKee. At 16, McKee was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. He required surgery to remove the growth from his head, as well as lymph nodes in his neck. Such was the risk of this affecting his throwing arm due to nerve damage, surgeons made his family sign a waiver pre-surgery.
Prior to starting at Stanford, he spent 2 years on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Whilst not a religious man myself, I admire his dedication to his beliefs and choosing his own path.
On the football field, McKee has a lot to offer at the position. Arm strength, velocity, accuracy and decision making rank amongst McKee’s biggest attributes. However, his rushing ability is negligible. Plus he isn’t the most athletic QB – and this is coveted more each year in the NFL.
Despite his limitations, his determination and single-mindedness are to be admired and I wouldn’t bet against McKee.
Will McDonald – EDGE – Iowa State
Whilst all eyes will be on Alabama sensation Will Anderson, there is another Will at the edge position that may draw some attention his way. McDonald has flown under the radar somewhat. But breaking the Iowa State sack record twice is not to be sniffed at. He also led the Big 12 with 11.5 sacks last year.
A verstaile rusher, he plays with a high motor and never gives upon a play. His bull rush is well developed and he possesses good timing when trying to beat blockers around the edge. He is stout against the run also, and is able to track ball carriers all across the field. Although sometimes he can be caught out pursuing overly-aggressively.
Whilst currently felt to be a day 2 prospect, a further good season for Iowa State with evidence of progression, could see him interest teams earlier than this.
Javon Foster – OL – Missouri
Any list of mine would not be complete without an offensive lineman now would it? Foster is a redshirt Senior and it took him some time to nail down a starting spot at Missouri. However, it was worth waiting for. Whilst not the most imposing tackle you will ever see, Foster plays hard. Playing in the SEC is never easy and he handled the calibre of opposition well. His run blocking ability is his main attribute, aided by his excellent balance and control.
His pass blocking will definitely need refined and improved if he is to make the next step at the pro-level. However, towards the end of 2021 we did see improvement in this facet of his game. I am intrigued to see how he continues to build on this in 2022 and become an all-round offensive linemen