2022 NFL Draft Notebook: Best Matchups in this year’s Bowl Games

Dec 4, 2021; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) celebrates after a sack of Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (not pictured) in the second quarter during the American Athletic Conference championship game at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK
Dec 4, 2021; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) celebrates after a sack of Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (not pictured) in the second quarter during the American Athletic Conference championship game at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK /

The college football bowl season is a critical time for the top draft prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. This is a chance for these prospects to get one last game on tape for NFL scouts to evaluate against high-quality talent and leave a positive last impression with decision-makers. This year five bowl matchups stand out as must-watch for NFL Draft fans, including two matchups in the college football playoffs.

Along with taking a look at some of the best matchups of bowl season this week’s NFL Draft Notebook also takes a look at the following

  • This year’s college football award winners
  • The top punters in the 2022 NFL Draft
  • Who each NFC South team should take with their top pick
  • And much more

Bowl Matchups To Watch

This year we have several intriguing matchups to watch this holiday season. Some of these matchups include highly thought of draft prospects who will face the toughest competition of the season. The following five matchups are some of the battles that will likely have the biggest impact on the 2022 NFL Draft.

Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati vs. Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

The best matchup of the bowl season sees two likely first-round draft picks go up against each other in the Cotton Bowl. Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner is a true shutdown corner who was recently named the AAC Defensive Player of the Year. Gardner will be matched up against Jameson Williams who has been one of the biggest breakout stars of the 2021 season. If either one of these players dominates this matchup it will likely solidify them as a top-15 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan vs. Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

This Orange Bowl matchup is a battle of one team that excels at running the ball vs. one of the best rush defenses in college football. This season Michigan ranked 10th in the nation in rushing yards per game averaging 224 yards per game and was led by Hassan Haskins who led the Big Ten with 20 rushing touchdowns and was second in the conference with 1,288 yards on the ground. The Wolverines will be going up against Georgia who finished with the third-best rush defense in college football. The Bulldogs are led by defensive tackle Jordan Daivs who does a great job of clogging up running lanes and is one of the best run defenders in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss vs Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor

The Allstate Sugar Bowl gives us a matchup of one of the most efficient quarterbacks in college football vs. one of the better ballhawks. One of the reasons we have seen Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral rise up the 2022 NFL Draft ranks this year is that he has done a much better job of taking care of the ball. Last season, Corral threw 14 interceptions but this season has cut it down to four. In this game, he will go up against Baylor safety Jalen Pitre who has been one of the bigger playmakers on defense this year coming away with three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions on the year.

Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State vs. Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

A battle to watch in the Rose Bowl is between Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert and Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd. While Ohio State does not use its tight ends a bunch in the passing game Ruckert will be the most physically gifted tight end Lloyd will see this year. If Lloyd can handle Ruckert in coverage it should help convince scouts that he can matchup with high-quality NFL tight ends.

Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State vs. Tre Williams, DE, Arkansas

The last matchup on this list happens between Penn State and Arkansas in the Outback Bowl. In this game we see one of the more athletic offensive tackles Rasheed Walker compete against Arkansas defensive end Tre Williams who finished the 2021 season with six sacks. Between these two prospects, Walker is the higher regarded prospect but if Williams can hold his own in this game he could see his draft stock rise significantly.

Award Winners

This past Thursday college football handed out its awards and several 2022 NFL Draft prospects came away with some nice hardware. The two biggest winners of the night were Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis and Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III who both came away with two trophies. However, the question NFL Draft fans have is how do these players stack up as NFL Draft prospects so let’s take a look at where these players will likely fall in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
One of the main reasons Georgia ranked third in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game this season was the play of Jordan Davis. Davis is one of the top run defenders in college football as his massive size (6-6 and 340 pounds) allows him to consistently hold his ground and eat up blocks. The big question with him when going to the NFL though is does he have the stamina and pass-rushing ability to be an every-down player at the next level or is he purely a first and second down player.

Walter Camp and Doak Walker Award: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
One of the biggest NFL Draft risers this season is Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III. Walker went from a back who had to split carries at Wake Forest last season to the leading rusher in college football this season. He has also had some outstanding performances against the top teams he saw this year including rushing for 197 yards vs Michigan, 172 yards vs Miami and 138 vs. Penn State. The NFL team that picks up Walker will be getting a back with great vision and the speed to go the distance at any time.

Butkus Award: Nakobe Dean, MLB, Georgia
Going into the 2021 season the hope was to see Georgia’s Nakobe Dean make more impact plays and he definitely fulfilled that request. In his first two seasons at Georgia, Dean was only able to account for three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, however this season he came away with 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. When looking at how he projects to the next level the team that picks him up will be getting an instinctive linebacker who has the ability to play sideline to sideline.

Thorpe Award: Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati
The main reason Cincinnati corner Cody Bryant was able to win the Thorpe Award was his outstanding ball skills. This season Bryant finished with 14 passes defended, 11 pass breakups and three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. While Bryant did post some pretty impressive numbers this year he will likely still be available on day three of the draft since he lacks the elite athleticism the NFL wants out of its corners.

John Mackey Award: Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
The 2022 NFL Draft class of tight ends is one of the best positions in the draft and the most complete tight end in the class might be Trey McBride of Colorado State. McBride is an excellent receiver who put up 1,121 receiving yards this past season which is the fifth-best season for an FBS tight end in history. He helps out in the run game as well showing the toughness and competitive drive to be a traditional in-line blocking tight end. His well-rounded game should allow him to be a second or third-round pick this April.

Ray Guy Award: Matt Araiza, San Diego State
This season Matt Araiza went from a prospect who would have been lucky to be signed as a free agent, to a possible late-round draft pick. What made his stock jump this season is that he became a full-time punter and had one of the best seasons ever by a college punter. Overall, this season he averaged 51.4 yards per punt and broke the NCAA record for most 50 and 60-yard punts in a season.

Lou Groza Award: Jake Moody, K, Michigan
The only prospect to come away with a major award on Thursday night and not carry a draftable grade is Michigan’s, Jake Moody. With that being said Moody should be signed as an undrafted free agent due to his accuracy this season. Overall on the year, Moody hit on 92% of his field goals including going 4-6 on kicks over 40 yards. In addition to consistently nailing his field goals, he also connected on 100% of his PAT’s this season going 56-56.

William V. Campbell Trophy: Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
An award that is often overlooked yet NFL scouts should pay attention to is the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is considered the academic Heisman. This is an important award as it is a measure of a player’s intelligence which is becoming more and more important in today’s NFL. Kolar won this award due to his achievements on and off the field. On the football field, Kolar caught 58 passes for 723 yards and in the classroom, he carried close to a 4.0 while majoring in mechanical engineering.

Punter Rankings

Punters with draftable grades

Jake Camarda, Georgia
One of the secret weapons for the Georgia Bulldogs this season has been punter Jake Camarda. Camarda has done a terrific job of pinning opponents deep in their own territory on both punts and kickoffs this year. This season he averaged 47.1 yards per punt with 35% of his punts going inside the 20-yard line. He also has helped Georgia finish 1st in the SEC in kickoff return defense as 91% of his kickoffs resulted in either touchbacks or fair catches.

Jordan Stout, Penn State
What makes Jordan Stout a draftable prospect and the Big Ten punter of the year is his versatility. Stout averaged 46.5 yards on his 62 punts this season with 18 of them being downed inside the 10-yard line and 25 of them going at least 50 yards. He also excelled at kicking off with 90% going for touchbacks. In addition to filling these duties, he proved he has the leg to kick long field goals connecting on five field goals of 50 yards or more including a 57-yard last season vs. Pittsburgh.

Matt Araiza, San Diego State
What really stands out about Matt Araiza is he is still learning the punting position yet has already had one of the best seasons ever by a college punter. As a prospect Araiza has an amazingly strong leg that can change the field position in the blink of an eye. One concern special teams coaches might have with him is that he needs to improve his directional punting skills.

Ryan Stonehouse, Colorado State
A punter who has had an outstanding career is Ryan Stonehouse of Colorado State. Stonehouse was named first-team All-Mountain West in 2020, 2019, 2018 becoming the first punter named first-team All-Mountain West for three successive seasons. This season he likely would have been named All-Mountain West again if not for the record-breaking season we saw from Ray Guy award winner Matt Araiza. This consistency and his booming leg is why it would be smart for some team to snag Stonehouse in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Best of the rest
Adam Korsak, Rutgers
Ryan Wright, Tulane
Michael Turk, Oklahoma
Cameron Dicker, Texas
Tom Heatherly, FIU
Austin McNamara, Texas Tech
Trenton Gill, North Carolina State

2022 NFL Draft Prospects For The NFC South

A look at one prospect each NFC South team might take with their top draft pick.

Atlanta Falcons

One of the biggest priorities for the Atlanta Falcons this offseason will be to upgrade the defensive line. Atlanta needs to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback as Dante Fowler Jr. is not getting the job done and might not be back next year. A player who could be an instant upgrade at outside linebacker in the Falcons defense is David Ojabo who has recorded 11 sacks this year at Michigan.

Carolina Panthers

A big reason the Carolina Panthers fired former offensive coordinator Joe Brady is the fact he didn’t show enough commitment to the running game. However, if the Panthers are going to be a physical running team next year they must address their offensive line. They start addressing this need with the selection of North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu.

New Orleans Saints

The perfect fit for the New Orleans Saints offense is Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, and with the Saints struggling this year they might be in a position to draft him. Sean Payton’s offense has been most successful when it has had an extremely accurate who excels at getting the ball to his playmakers which is what Pickett excelled at doing this season. If Pickett is off the board the Saints might decide to upgrade the passing game in another way by taking a wide receiver like Alabama’s Jameson Williams with this pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay has been hit hard by injuries at the cornerback position this season and could lose several players at this position in free agency. Due to these concerns, the Buccaneers may decide to address the cornerback position in the first round. In Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie the team gets a physical corner who excels in zone coverage.

2022 NFL Draft Scouting Notes

— Last week Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson decided to enter the 2022 NFL Draft after a standout season for the Seminoles. This past season Johnson finished with 70 tackles and led the ACC in tackles for loss with 18 and in sacks with 12. As a prospect, Johnson is a good athlete who has played both defensive end and linebacker during his college career. He also has elite length coming in at 6-foot-5 and has the long arms to go along with his size. On the downside, he only has one year of elite production having spent the previous two seasons as a backup at Georgia. He also needs to work on his technique as a pass rusher and add a few more pass-rushing moves to his game.

— One of the more intriguing players at this year’s Senior Bowl is Central Michigan offensive tackle Bernhard Raimann. What makes Raimann such an intriguing prospect is his athletic ability and the fact he is still new to the offensive tackle position. At the start of this season, he was named to Bruce Feldman’s Freak List due to his strong testing numbers including a 4.6 shuttle time and 33-inch vertical jump. He displays this athletic ability on the field as well showing the quick feet to play left tackle and the ability to easily get to the second level as a run blocker. For a player who has only played offensive tackle for two seasons, he has had outstanding success on the football field as well. He was recently named to The Athletic’s 2021 All-American team and did not give up a sack in 2020.

— A prospect to watch in the FCS semifinals this week is Montana State linebacker Troy Anderson. In his first full season at linebacker this year, Anderson was named Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award which goes to the top defensive player in the FCS. Overall, on the season Anderson has registered 127 tackles and 13 tackles for loss which includes 11 tackles and 2.5 tackles against top-ranked Sam Houston State. While he is still developing the finer points of his game he has the size and athletic ability to be a high day three pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

— San Diego State’s Cameron Thomas has quietly had an outstanding season this year. His most impressive stat of the season was his 20.5 tackles for loss which ranked third in the nation only behind Alabama’s Will Anderson and Utah’s Devin Lloyd. Along with his 20.5 tackles for loss he also was able to account for 68 tackles and 11.5 sacks which were enough to be named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. When looking at how he will fit in at the next level Thomas has the strength, quickness and pass-rushing ability to be a starting defensive end in either or a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. He also shows the versatility to play defensive end on early downs and then move to defensive tackle on passing situation in a 4-3 defense, which is something he was asked to do at San Diego State at times.

— An interesting prospect to watch for the 2023 NFL Draft who entered the transfer portal this week is Auburn quarterback Bo Nix. While Nix had an up and down career at Auburn he is someone who shows intriguing NFL potential. If he can go to the right coach and greatly improve his footwork next season it would not be out of the question for him to develop into a day two quarterback prospect next season.

Quote of the Week

“I feel like I’m one of the only true tight ends in this class. I’m very honored and excited. It’s such a cool thing that I play the real position of tight end. I put my hand in the ground, I block, I’m the old-school tight end. That’s what I think is cool and unique about this is what I did.”

Colorado State TE Trey McBride on winning the John Mackey Award