The NFL Draft is a night of dreams coming true for numerous players. But for some, those dreams have dimmed thanks to frequent visits to the doctor and trainer over the course of their college career.
And while some prospects, such as Jameson Williams, remain atop draft boards despite their injury history, others have seen their stock drop due to their medicals.
Here’s a look at players whose names might be called later than expected due to their extensive medical history:
Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
Corral suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Sugar Bowl and missed the NFL Combine as a result. He also injured his ankle earlier in the season against Auburn.
While a high-ankle sprain shouldn’t affect his long-term success in the NFL, Corral’s slight frame should give evaluators pause. At 6-1, 205, Corral might not have the size to compete in the NFL, especially with his aggressive running style.
Consider this: Kyler Murray and Johnny Manziel are the only two quarterbacks taken in the first round despite weighing less than 210 pounds. The former has seen his effective wane at the end of the past two seasons due to injuries and the latter, well, he’s currently tossing touchdowns to Terrell Owens.
Zamir White, RB, Georgia
A physical runner who benefitted from a running back committee during his time in Athens, White averaged 3.6 yards per carry after contact in 2021 and eclipsed over 700 yards in each of the past two seasons despite averaging just 12 carries per game.
However, his college career got off to a slow start following a torn ACL during his senior of high school. White redshirted in 2018, but tore the other ACL during the rehab process and played a part-time role in the Bulldogs’ offense in 2019.
After two healthy seasons, White seems to be in the clear, but there are some teams that still might worry about taking a running back, especially a bruising one like White, who has had both knees surgically repaired.
Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
Ross led the nation in yards per route run as a freshman in 2018, but a neck injury derailed his career. He missed all of 2020 after undergoing surgery to remove a disc from his neck. Ross struggled to put together the same impactful numbers when he returned in 2021, catching 46 passes for 514 yards in 10 games.
Some of Ross’s struggles in 2021 could certainly be attributed to Clemson’s issues at quarterback, but nothing causes NFL teams to worry quite like injuries to the head and neck.
While Ross’s surgery did correct the “congenital fusion” of his vertebrae, there is still some risk that any big hit to the neck could cause damage to his spinal cord. DK Metcalf fell to the second round and has enjoyed success in the NFL after having neck surgery in college, but Ross simply doesn’t have the measurables of the Seattle standout.
Reggie Roberson, WR, SMU
After suffering a season-ending foot injury in 2019, Roberson returned in 2020 and averaged over 20 yards per reception for the Mustangs before a torn ACL cut his season short.
Unfortunately, after returning in 2021, Roberson looked like a shell of his former self, averaging just 12 yards per reception and ranking 357th in the country in average depth of target.
The Mesquite, TX; native may have never been destined for stardom, even pre-injury, considering his slight frame, although his 6-6 wingspan certainly could play at the professional level.
But after a lackluster 2021 season, he struggled in pre-draft testing too, running a 4.53 40-yard dash and ranking in just the 12th-percentile among receivers at the broad jump. Roberson is a Day 3 pick at this point, but if his speed doesn’t return, there isn’t a place for him in the NFL.
Evan Neal, OL, Alabama
Neal is still considered a top-10 pick and could be the first offensive lineman selected on Thursday evening, but his health has been called into question recently.
What’s more interesting is the fact that Neal hasn’t missed a game since joining the Alabama starting lineup in 2019, spending time at left guard, right tackle, and left tackle.
Some teams have apparently called into question Neal’s knee and hip health, going so far as to “flunk” him on his medical tests. Without any more concrete data, it’s hard to fully understand what exactly is going on here, but if Neal starts to slip down the draft board, it could be because of his health concerns.
Ryan McCrystal currently has Neal ranked 14th on his latest Big Board.
Noah Elliss, DL, Idaho
Listed at 351 pounds, Elliss is one of the biggest interior defensive linemen in this year’s draft. However, carrying that load is a pair of legs that have contain a surgically repaired ACL and hamstring that was torn at the NFL Combine back in February.
With just two career sacks and a pass-rush win rate of 5.6 percent, Elliss is strictly a run-stuffing nose tackle in the NFL.
It remains to be seen whether his hamstring will affect his availability for 2022, but he expects to be a participant in training camp after rehabbing through the summer.
It’s hard to fully understand Elliss’s measurables after his Combine injury, his father Luther Elliss was a 10-year NFL veteran with two Pro Bowl selections to his credit in 1999 and 2000.
David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan
Ojabo seemed to be comfortably considered a first-round pick earlier this offseason before a torn Achilles sent him tumbling down draft boards. Already considered a project with minimal production at the college level, Ojabo will now have to spend his rookie season rehabbing his Achilles while trying to learn the intricacies of his position.
The good news for Ojabo is his stock has seemed to stabilize in recent weeks and he’s still projected to be a late first-round pick but it’s worth wondering what his ceiling is if the Achilles injury zaps some of his elite athleticism.
After one season of production, 11 sacks in 2021, expect an edge-needy team to jump at Ojabo’s upside late Thursday night or early Friday.
Damone Clark, LB, LSU
Originally projected to be a Day 2 pick, Clark will miss the entire 2022 season after undergoing spinal fusion surgery last month to correct a herniated disc.
Prior to the injury, Clark was a smooth athlete, testing in the 81st percentile in the 40-yard dash and the 94th percentile in the broad jump at the NFL Combine.
Much like Ross, the outlook for Clark is murky. The list of NFL players who were successful after a spinal fusion surgery is almost non-existent, although Arian Foster did rush for 1200 yards post-op.
Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama
Perhaps one of the lesser-known Alabama defenders, Armour-Davis was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, but a torn ACL derailed his freshman year in Tuscaloosa. Armour-Davis fought back, eventually becoming a starter in 2021, but missed three of the final four games due to a hip injury.
When he’s played, he’s been great, overwhelming opponents with his 6-1 height and 4.39 speed, allowing a passer rating of just 52.3 when targeted in 2021 thanks to zero touchdowns allowed and three interceptions.
The issue is Armour-Davis played just 12 games and 92 snaps prior to last season due to a variety of injuries. A team with a need for a press corner could certainly take a flier on him in the third or fourth round.
Derek Stingley Jr, CB, LSU
Perhaps the most well-known player on this list, Stingley has seen his stock rise in the past couple weeks thanks to some rumors, but he is still recovering from a Lisfranc injury that cut his 2021 season short.
The former Tiger excelled as a freshman before his injuries, but has been inconsistent-at-best in the 10 games he’s played in the last two seasons, failing to make an interception after picking off six passes as a freshman.
Even with minimal training time, he still tested well during his pre-draft workouts. He could be a top-5 pick on Thursday night, but he’s a far riskier pick than some of the other players who are ranked as high as him.
Ryan McCrystal currently has Stingley ranked 10th on his latest Big Board.
First Overall Pick Odds, NFL Draft 2022
|Ikem Ekwonu||+400||NC State||OT|
|Kyle Hamilton||+15000||Notre Dame||S|
|Matt Corral||+15000||Ole Miss||QB|
|Sam Howell||+20000||N. Carolina||QB|
|Garrett Wilson||+20000||Ohio State||WR|