The 2022 Scouting Combine is right around the corner, and the college all-star circuit has come and gone.
As the process for the 2022 NFL Draft continues to heat up, I figured I’d share with you all some of the players I’m going to bat for in this class: not my top talents at each position in every case, but guys I feel higher on than the consensus.
Some players might be Round 1 talents on my board, others late Day 3 selections. Either way, they’re prospects I believe deserve to be thought of in a higher light than they currently are, so I’m deciding to share what I like about each talent.
For Ryan Pace’s inconsistencies as the general manager of the Bears, he did show an ability to secure some of “my guys” in recent drafts, especially Justin Fields, Teven Jenkins, Darnell Mooney and Trevis Gipson. Riley Ridley was another Pace pick I was a huge fan of in the moment, but let’s not talk about that...
Now that Ryan Poles runs the roost in Chicago, I’m personally hoping he’ll take my advice and consider some of these players — just don’t give up too much draft capital in the process!
That out of the way, though, here are the offensive players in the 2022 NFL Draft that I currently feel confident saying are “my guys”.
QB: Malik Willis, Liberty
It’s tough to look at a quarterback in this class and confidently say they’d push for QB1 in most draft classes. That said, there’s one quarterback I believe has superstar potential, and that’s Malik Willis.
The way I look at it is this: if Willis doesn’t develop much as a passer, he’s still an elite athlete at the quarterback position whom teams will have to account for in a way they don’t have to with most other quarterbacks. If he does, he has Pro Bowl potential. In addition to his blazing speed and his game-breaking agility, Willis has a cannon of an arm, showcasing great velocity and distance behind his throws and being able to maintain optimal strength when his feet aren’t set.
Is he a risky pick early? Sure, when you consider his flaws as a decision-maker on the field and his sometimes reckless gunslinger approach. If he lands in the right place that develops him properly, though, I’m convinced he can be a star.
RB: Tyler Badie, Missouri
It seems weird thinking that a Doak Walker Award finalist and an All-American is underrated, but yet, here we are with Tyler Badie.
Badie straight up carried Missouri’s offense this past year. He’s an explosive athlete with great breakaway speed, and he changes direction well in the open field. He’s one of the best receiving backs in the class, as his crispness as a route runner and soft hands have made him a go-to pass-catching option for the Tigers over the years. For a smaller back, he also runs incredibly tough and has much better contact balance than one would expect looking at his frame.
Length and a translation of play strength could be a concern for Badie, which might be why he isn’t being talked about a lot. Other than that, I see nothing that prevents him from being a top-5 running back in this class.
FB: Clint Ratkovich, NIU
I couldn’t go through a “my guys” team without talking about Clint Ratkovich!
For those unfamiliar, Ratkovich broke out in 2021 with a strong season for Northern Illinois, tallying 15 all-purpose touchdowns in a variety of roles. He previously shined at Western Illinois, where his versatility was also put on display. He’s a tough runner with great contact balance, but he’s also a willing and physical blocker, and a fluid route-runner with soft hands. He can line up as a running back, an H-back, an in-line tight end, a true fullback and as a wide receiver and play well.
Ratkovich’s value is mostly tied to how many teams employ fullbacks or H-back tight ends, but if a team wants him in that role, he could be a sneaky good value pickup late on Day 3.
WRs: David Bell, Purdue; Skyy Moore, Western Michigan; Tanner Conner, Idaho State
These are three wide receivers who all entice me for incredibly different reasons.
I’ve made my affinity for David Bell well known at this point. Though not the sexiest athlete out there, his size, physicality, hands, technical process as a route runner and value after the catch are super enticing to me along the boundary. I won’t spend a ton of time repeating myself, because I’ve talked about him at length many times on WCG and on Twitter already.
Skyy Moore, on the other hand, might just be the fastest receiver in the 2022 draft class. His acceleration off the snap is impeccable, and he has the breakaway speed after the catch to extend the play. His shiftiness is apparent with the ball in his hands and as a route runner, where he has a nice package of releases off the snap and bursts well out of his breaks. Play strength and size are a bit of a concern, but Moore will certainly hold at least a Day 2 grade on my board when it’s all said and done.
Bell and Moore are both technicians, but sometimes, you just need a physical specimen at wide receiver. That guy for me is Tanner Conner, a small-school weapon who’s 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and has jumped over 40 inches in his vertical leap. He has great deep speed and tremendous physicality at the catch point, and while he’s raw as a route runner and doesn’t have great agility in space, he could be a dangerous deep threat if developed correctly, or at least an elite gunner on special teams.
TE: Cole Turner, Nevada
Do you like fluid tight ends who play like basketball power forwards and can go up and grab the 50-50 ball? If so, odds are you’ll like Cole Turner.
It’s no surprise that Turner was actually a basketball player in high school seeing how he attacks the ball. He has great ball skills and has the coordination and tracking ability needed to adjust to the ball in the air, boxing out defenders in the process. He accelerates well off the snap and has solid deep speed for a tight end, and he also possesses the length needed to hold out an extensive catch radius as a receiver.
Turner doesn’t offer a ton of value as an in-line blocker, so he’ll likely have to be complemented by a more refined tight end in run support at the next level. That said, his value in the red zone and his athletic upside are extremely enticing.
OTs: Luke Goedeke, Central Michigan; Luke Tenuta, Virginia Tech
Like my receivers, these are two very different types of offensive tackles, but I find myself liking both of them.
Luke Goedeke flashed for me when I watched his college team Bernhard Raimann, but after Goedeke was invited to the Senior Bowl, I found myself impressed once I got into a deeper dive of his tape. He’s a polished technician whose hand usage is much more refined than I was expecting going it. He times and locates his strikes well, and the raw power in his frame allows him to dominate at the point of attack. Though he doesn’t have elite lateral agility — which could limit his ceiling at the next level — he does showcase good footwork in a variety of pass sets.
From one Luke to another: I watched Luke Tenuta’s tape a few months ago, and the first thought in my head was, “why isn’t he being talked about more?” He’s a big-bodied tackle at about 6-foot-7 and 315 pounds with very good length, and for someone as big as he is, he moves incredibly well. His lateral mobility is really good, as he redirects very well in pass protection and does a great job of rolling his hips through contact as a down blocker. Pad level and hand usage are weaknesses of his, but he brings a high ceiling to the table if developed correctly.
iOLs: Tyler Smith, Tulsa; Dohnovan West, Arizona State; Michael Maietti, Missouri
The Bears could have some turnover along the interior offensive line, and luckily for them, there’s some solid value sprinkled throughout this class.
Tyler Smith projects best as an offensive guard on my board, and I think he has the potential to be a quality starter in the league. He’s a no-nonsense, nasty blocker with a mean streak that allows him to pummel defenders into the dirt. His strength at the point of attack pops off the screen, and he does a good job of keeping his pads low and his weight underneath him to maximize the power in his frame. His lateral mobility is a bit pedestrian in the grand scheme of things, but if you put Smith in a vacuum, he’s an enticing guard at the next level with a tone-setter mentality.
I’ve been high on Dohnovan West since this past summer, and while he has fallen a little bit down my board since then, he’s still someone I could see developing into a starter in the league. He has starting experience at both guard and center, and I’m a fan of his lateral agility and acceleration climbing to the second level. He keeps his pads low at the point of attack, and his strike placement is generally pretty reliable. I don’t know how much of a nasty edge he has in his game, but he’s a sound blocker and a quality athlete along the interior.
I debated putting Tyler Linderbaum here, as he’s a top-10 prospect on my board and someone I view as a potential perennial Pro Bowler. With that said, though, I wanted to spotlight someone else I feel hasn’t gotten enough credit. Michael Maietti was a second-team All-SEC lineman and a third-team All-American this year, and his tape is really fun to watch. His size is a concern at just 6-foot-1 with 74 1⁄2-inch arms, but he moves so well for a center and has fantastic body control and mobility. He’s also an intelligent blocker who executes zone assignments well and can communicate well at the line of scrimmage. Maietti is a name to remember, especially for those looking at a deep sleeper in the 2022 draft.