NFL Draft Notebook: Drake London and Zion Johnson moving up the draft board

USC WR Drake London. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
USC WR Drake London. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Over the past month, we have seen several players improve their NFL Draft stock with outstanding all-star games. One player who definitely helped himself with a strong Senior Bowl was Boston College’s Zion Johnson who is one of the biggest risers on the February Big Board. Other players like USC’s Drake London have risen up the board since injuries they suffered in college seem to be less of a concern as we near the NFL Draft.

In this week’s NFL Draft Notebook we highlight the top 32 prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft heading into the NFL Combine along with taking a look at

  • The top centers in the draft
  • What each AFC South team must do this offseason
  • A boycott that could affect the NFL Combine
  • And much more

Big Board

1. Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Kyle Hamilton has been my top player in the 2022 NFL Draft since the end of the season, and things don’t change on this big board. Hamilton is a well-rounded player who shows great range in coverage and the physicality to be a force vs. the run. It would be a shock if he doesn’t become one of the best safeties in the NFL.

2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
While a lot of analysts have Aidan Hutchinson as the top defensive end in the 2022 NFL, Thibodeaux has a higher upside. He has an elite first step off the ball which has allowed him to collect 19 sacks during his three years at Oregon. In addition to his burst off the ball, he also has the size and strength to hold up against the run.

3. Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
While Kayvon Thibodeaux has a slightly higher upside, Michigan Aidan Hutchinson is no slouch. Three things stand out with Hutchinson which are his pass-rush ability, his ability to play either outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or defensive end in a 4-3 defense and his overall intensity.

4. Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
A player who people are split on is Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross. While he receives a high ranking here and from people like Dane Brugler he receives a late first-round grade from Todd McShay and Daniel Jeremiah. The reason he is rated so high on this big board comes down to the fact that he is the best pass-blocking tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft.

5. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
While Charles Cross is the top pass-blocking tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft, North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu is the top run blocker. What makes him stand out in this area is his impressive strength that allows him to control his defender and his intensity that sees him consistently finish his blocks. Look for Ekwonu to become a Pro Bowler at either right tackle or offensive guard.

6. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
While there are some serious questions about LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. when it comes to his desire and health, you can’t deny his natural athletic ability. Coming in at 6-foot-1 and possessing 4.3 speed he has the talent to become a shutdown corner in the NFL.

7. Drake London, WR, USC
One of the biggest risers on this month’s big board is USC’s Drake London. In January he was rated as the 23rd best player in the draft, but this month he comes in at number seven. One of the reasons for his rise is that the concerns about his ankle are quieting down. If fully healthy he is easily the top wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft.

8. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
While there is a good chance Evan Neal will be the first pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, he is only listed as the third-best offensive tackle on my board. The reason he is rated so low is that he lacks one of the most important qualities an offensive lineman can have which is outstanding balance. He tends to lunge when blocking and this causes him to get off balance, and also have trouble when redirecting at times.

9. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
While Kenny Pickett is not a franchise quarterback he is the top QB in the 2022 NFL Draft and someone who should go in the top ten. What makes Pickett stand out is his accuracy. He does a great job of hitting his receivers in stride and also has the awareness to hit his receivers as soon as they get open.

10. David Ojabo, OLB, Michigan
One of the more intriguing pass rushers in the 2022 NFL Draft is Michigan’s David Ojabo. Before this season he only had recorded one sack but this season he was able to account for 11 sacks. The fact he is still learning the game should intrigue teams since it shows he still has plenty of potential.

11. Daxton Hill, S, Michigan

Another former Wolverine who has high potential yet is still improving his football IQ is Daxton Hill. Hill is an outstanding athlete who posted a 4.3 40-yard dash coming out of high school, and he should test extremely well in Indianapolis. While Hill played a nickel position for the Wolverines he should find a spot as a free safety in the NFL.

12. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss 

While most draftniks have Matt Corral rated as a late first-round prospect he earns the number 12 spot here. The reason he carries such a high ranking is his combination of accuracy, ability to make plays outside of the pocket, and competitiveness.

13. Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
A team like the Los Angeles Chargers who need to upgrade their run defense is going to love Jordan Davis. Davis is a massive human, who does a great job stopping the run. One thing that could cause him to fall down the draft board is his lack of pass rush, but it is still hard to see him falling out of the top 20.

14. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
While Malik Willis is the third rated quarterback he easily could be the top single caller drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft. The reason some team might take him before Kenny Pickett and Matt Corral is his outstanding athletic ability. He can easily pickup yards with his feet and if used in a similar way to how the Baltimore Ravens use Lamar Jackson, he could become one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL.

15. Devin Lloyd, MLB, Utah
Utah’s Devin Lloyd is one of the better coverage linebackers to come out recently. He displays outstanding awareness in coverage and this season led all college linebackers with four interceptions. He possess the speed and athletic ability to hold up with any tight ends he will see at the next level, and could even matchup with some slot receivers.

16. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Ohio State’s Chris Olave might not be the most explosive wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft, but he is the most polished prospect. What stands out with Olave is his crisp route running, the ability to track the deep ball, and how well he snags the ball out of the air with his hands.

17. Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
A team that runs a zone running scheme is going to love Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum. One of the reasons he will be so highly sought after is his elite mobility. He does a great job of getting to the second level when run blocking and also does a good job when reach blocking. When pass blocking he shows the quick feet to hold up with the most explosive defensive tackles.

18. Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
A player I am higher on than most people is Florida’s, Kaiir Elam. The reasons I am higher on him than people like ESPN’s Todd McShay who has him rated as the eighth best corner in the 2022 NFL Draft comes down to his combination of size, physical style of play and the fact he only allowed 19 catches last season.

19. DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
Another prospect I am higher on than most people is DeMarvin Leal of Texas A&M. While sites like Pro Football Focus, the Athletic, and ESPN give him a second-round grade he carries a mid-first round grade here. The reason he earns this rating is that he is an athletic pass rusher who shows the potential to become a defensive tackle who can register five or six sacks a season.

20. Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green is a player who shows the potential to develop into an All-Pro offensive guard. He displays excellent mobility for someone 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds. He also has the strength to go with this size and is one of the better run blockers in the 2022 NFL Draft.

21. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
While Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson is one of the more athletic receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft, I am a little lower on him than some people. My biggest concern with him is his lack of strength. This lack of strength can lead to him having trouble getting off of press coverage and also making the catch in traffic. If he can overcome this weakness though he should be an NFL starter since he has the quickness to create separation and the agility to pickup yards after the catch.

22. Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College
Boston College’s Zion Johnson is a prospect who is seeing his stock rise. The main reason he has gone from a player who carried a second-round grade to one who carries a late first-round grade is his strong Senior Bowl. During his week in Mobile, he was one of the best players on the field and showed he could possibly play center or guard in the NFL.

23. Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
A prospect who could see his stock fall some at the NFL Combine is Ahmad Gardner. While he has been one of the best shutdown corners in college football the past three seasons, I doubt he will put up similar testing numbers to the top corners in the NFL Draft. His lack of elite speed could cause him to slide to the later parts of the first round.

24. Nakobe Dean, MLB, Georgia
Another player who will be hurt by a lack of great measurables is Nakobe Dean. Dean is listed at 6-foot which raises some red flags with NFL teams. Another red flag NFL decision-makers will have with him is that he played behind a great defensive line at Georgia that allowed him to roam free.

25. Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
Another player who didn’t make the January big board, but made the list this time is Devonte Wyatt of Georgia. The reason Wyatt is seeing his stock rise was his outstanding Senior Bowl. His stock should continue to rise at the NFL Combine as he was named Bruce Feldman’s number five freak athlete going into the season.

26. Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State
A player who had a breakthrough season this year is Florida State defensive end, Jermaine Johnson. He went from seeing limited playing time last year at Georgia to leading the ACC in sacks and tackles for loss this season. Johnson is a lengthy defensive end who shows a good burst off the ball.

27. Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
If it were not for a season-ending torn ACL injury, Williams would be the second highest-rated wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft. What stands out about Williams games is his impressive speed that allows him to be one of the best deep threats in the draft.

28. George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
Purdue’s George Karlaftis is a physical run defender who shows the ability to play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. A few other traits he possesses that scouts like include a high motor, good hand use and a solid burst off the ball.

29. Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson
Andrew Booth is one of the more athletic corners in the 2022 NFL Draft. He also does a good job of making plays on the ball having recorded three picks last season. One concern is that he can be overaggressive at times which leads to him getting burned.

30. Travon Walker, DE, Georgia
I am a little lower on Georgia defensive end Travor Walker than most people. The reason he only receives a late first-round grade here is his lack of ability to rush the passer. He lacks the burst you want to see from a defensive end, however, on the positive side he is a strong run defender.

31. Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
One of the more underrated players in the 2022 NFL Draft is Nicholas Petit-Frere. While he did have some struggles last season against Michigan and Penn State, he was one of the better tackles in the Big Ten overall. He also has a high upside due to his combination of length, athletic ability, and quick feet. If he can have a year or two to develop under a good offensive line coach he should develop into an NFL starting left tackle.

32. Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Washington’s Trent McDuffie was one of the better corners in the Pac-12 last season. On the year he only allowed 16 receptions and didn’t allow a single touchdown. While he was an excellent college player there are some concerns about his potential at the next level due to his lack of size and speed.

2022 NFL Draft Center Rankings

Top prospect: Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Their is no question who the top center is in the 2022 NFL Draft is. That honor belongs to Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum who will likely be the highest drafted player at this position since Steve Everitt went 14th overall in 1993. What makes Linderbaum such a highly thought of prospect is his elite mobility and overall athletic ability.

Most underrated: Luke Wattenberg, Washington
One of the more underrated offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft is Luke Wattenberg of Washington. One of the biggest things Wattenberg working in his favour is his intelligence. He has no problem picking up line stunts and also does a great job of identifying blitzes. His overall football IQ also has allowed him to be a versatile lineman at Washington having played center, guard, and tackle during his college career. At worst look for Wattenberg to make an NFL team as a backup who can play both center and guard.

Most overrated: Alec Lindstrom, Boston College
A player who is being projected to go early day three of the NFL Draft yet carries a free agent grade here is Boston College’s Alec Lindstrom. While has been named All-ACC each of the past two seasons he lacks the physical tools to be anything more than a backup in the NFL. Some of the concerns I have with him include his short arms, the fact he loses his balance often and that he possesses only average power.

Biggest risk: James Empey, BYU
BYU’s James Empey is a prospect who has the potential to make an impact in the NFL unfortunately, he has had trouble doing that the past two seasons. Over this span, he has battled several injuries and has only played in 15 games. He is also an older player who turns 27 next season which will scare teams away.

Player who had a breakout year: Cam Jurgens, Nebraska
After coming out of high school as one of the top tight ends in the nation, Nebraska switched Jungers to center as a freshman. While he became the first Nebraska freshman to start at center since 1972, he struggled his first couple of seasons. His biggest challenge was consistently delivering the shotgun snap, but he fixed this issue this past season. His consistency allowed him to go from a free agent prospect before the season to a player who should be drafted early on the third day of the draft.

Player who had a disappointing year: Ben Brown, Ole Miss
Going into the season expectations were high for Ben Brown after he had a strong 2020 season. He was named to the preseason All-SEC team and was on the Senior Bowl watch list. Unfortunately, Brown was injured in the sixth game of the season with a torn right bicep which cost him the rest of the season.

2022 NFL Draft Center Overall Rankings
1. Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa (first round)
2. Dylan Parham, Memphis (fifth round)
3. Cam Jurgens, Nebraska (fifth round)
4. Luke Wattenberg, Washington (fifth round)
5. Dohnovan West, Arizona State (sixth round)
6. Xavier Newman-Johnson, Baylor (seventh round)
7. Alec Lindstrom, Boston College (free agent)
8. James Empey, BYU (free agent)
9. Doug Kramer, Illinois (free agent)
10. Dawson Deaton, Texas Tech (free agent)
11. Nick Ford, Utah (free agent)
12. Ben Brown, Ole Miss (free agent)

2022 NFL Draft Top Needs For AFC South

A look at the biggest offseason need for each AFC South team.

Houston Texans
It looks like the Houston Texans will give Davis Mills at least one more year to prove he is their quarterback of the future. So with the quarterback position set the Texans top priority this offseason will be the offensive line. Houston will likely look to move Laremy Tunsil and no other player on the roster is guaranteed a starting spot next season. Look for the team to draft several offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft to help address this area.

Indianapolis Colts
The biggest question facing the Indianapolis Colts this offseason is what do they do at the quarterback position. The Colts thought they addressed this need last year when they traded for Carson Wentz, but his poor play this year means the team could be back looking for a new quarterback. If they decide to stick with Wentz for one more season look for them to upgrade his targets at both the wide receiver and tight end position.

Jacksonville Jaguars
One of the least talented teams in the NFL is the Jacksonville Jaguars, which is one of the main reasons they have the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. To make matters worse they could lose one of their best offensive players this offseason in Cam Robinson who is scheduled to be a free agent. If the team loses Robinson it will be very hard for them to pass on an offensive tackle with the first pick, as the offensive line will be their biggest weakness.

Tennessee Titans
All three of the Titans top tight ends will be free agents this offseason, and even if they return the team should still look to upgrade the position. Last season, the Titans tight end position was ranked 24th by Pro Football Focus so looking at one of the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft is a wise move. One player who could be a good fit on day two of the draft is Jeremy Ruckert of Ohio State.

Scouting Notes

— This year’s NFL Combine could be surrounded by controversy if the NFL does not change its rule about forcing players to be in a bubble. According to’s Ian Rapoport, agents are organizing a boycott that could include up to 150 players. These players would just go through medical testing and skip working out. This would be a smart move by players as it makes no sense that the NFL could have a normal season, states in general are removing Covid restrictions, yet the NFL wants to be stricter on this event. It would make much more sense for players to just stick by their pro day numbers when they can have their coaches with them, not to mention workout in the morning instead of after a long day of events at the NFL Combine.

— According to Colin Cowherd, Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux thinks he will be going to the New York Giants. If Thibodeaux were to fall to this fifth pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, this would be a steal for the Giants. He would be a good fit in New York defensive coordinator Wink Martindale 3-4 defense as well. Thibodeaux would play outside linebacker in this system which is something he has done at Oregon. In this role, he has the ability to get after the passer or drop into coverage which he does surprisingly well for someone 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds.

— A fullback who would make sense for the Pittsburgh Steelers is Connor Heyward. The Steelers might be looking to move on from Derek Watt this offseason as he never really found a role in Matt Canada’s offense and the team could save close to three million dollars by cutting him. Heywood would be an ideal replacement as he is the versatile type of back who would fit in Pittsburgh’s offense. Last season, while playing tight end Heyward finished third on the team in receptions with 35 catches and in 2020 led the team in rushes while playing running back. In addition to his time on offense he has also been a major part of the Spartan’s special teams unit, which he will need to do in the NFL in order to make a team next year.

— A day two pick who would make sense for the Atlanta Falcons is Kingsley Enagbare. The Falcons need to address their defensive line this offseason and Enagbare has been one of the better pass rushers in the SEC the past three seasons. While he lacks elite quickness his power and hand use has allowed him to account for 16 sacks over the past three seasons.

Quote of the Week

“Some guys have that lateral shiftiness, and then some guys had that big burst acceleration. I’m not saying he’s Deebo Samuel, but he’s kind of got that in him where he can do a lot of things.”

– ESPN’s Todd McShay on Kentucky wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson