ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. published his top 25 prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft, and the top five names are pretty consistent with the rest of draft media at this point in the process.
At the top is Oregon defender Kayvon Thibodeaux, who Kiper describes as “stellar talent” and the “clear best pass-rusher in the 2022 class.” It’s hard to argue with that assessment. Thibodeaux’s rare blend of power and athletic ability should keep him at or near the top of this year’s class.
Up next is LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., who earned Pro Football’s all-time highest coverage grade for a true freshman in 2019 before a small step backward in 2020. Still, the talent is there for Stingley to be this year’s CB1 by the time April rolls around.
Third on Kiper’s list is Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler.
“Rattler doesn’t have a huge frame, but he does have an elite arm,” Kiper wrote. “His arm talent is unbelievable — he can throw 50-yard strikes with a flick of the wrist. He got off to a bumpy start last season, even getting benched for a couple of series against Texas before leading a comeback win, but in his final seven games he had 15 touchdown passes and only two interceptions while averaging 9.8 yards per attempt. Rattler showed that he can go through progressions, and he can maneuver the pocket to escape pressure. There’s a reason he’s the early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.”
Rattler is the only quarterback who appears in Kiper’s top five.
“After starting 13 games at left guard as a freshman in 2019, Neal started 13 more at right tackle last season,” Kiper wrote of the Crimson Tide bookend. “Now he’s expected to move over to left tackle to replace Alex Leatherwood in 2021.
“I expect him to make the transition with ease, and the versatility will only help his NFL stock. Neal had an outstanding 2020 season; the only downside was being called for five penalties. If he can clean up his technique and be consistent, he could be a top-10 pick next year.”