According to The Huddle Report, Brendan Donahue is ranked as the most accurate NFL mock drafter over the past five years and in this column he brings his extensive college football predictive insight to you weekly.
As someone who does mock drafts every year, we always have our eye on draft-eligible NCAAF players and how their performance on the field could positively or negatively impact their draft stock in the upcoming draft. We will be tracking players on a weekly basis throughout the season to see who is rising or falling on draft boards.
What college players are rising on the draft board for 2022?
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The former Auburn transfer wasn’t exactly a household name coming into the season but if he keeps stacking games together like he’s had to start the season he will be a well-known name at the 2022 draft. He led all college football quarterbacks in rushing last year with 1,043 yards, which has drawn comps to Lamar Jackson but it’s his increased passing accuracy so far this year that will move him up the draft boards. Through two games, Willis has completed 68.3% of his passes with no interceptions and has a 121.1 passer rating. He is still showing off his running ability as well with 148 yards on nearly six yards per carry and his 17.6 EPA ranks third in all of college football.
Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Through two games, Gardner has been on the field for 117 snaps, 61 of which have been pass attempts and he’s only been targeted six times. There’s a pretty good reason for that, on those six attempts Gardner has only allowed two catches for six yards and has even intercepted one of those attempts. All of that adds up to just a 2.8 quarterback rating for opposing quarterbacks when targeting Gardner. At 6’3″ and 200lbs, Gardner has the size that teams are looking for but it may be what his speed clocks in at his pre-draft workouts that decides where he ultimately gets drafted in the first round, but his play on the field has already solidified that he will be a first-round pick.
Nik Bonitto, Edge, Oklahoma
When thinking of Oklahoma, defense isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind but Bonitto ranks first out of 433 eligible edge players this season per PFF with a 93.3 grade. On 36 pass rush attempts, Bonitto has a sack, two hits, and seven QB hurries. Bonitto continues to build on a breakout 2020 season where he had 8.5 sacks with a 93.6 pass-rushing grade which not only earned him a spot on the preseason All-American team this season but also put him squarely on everyone’s draft radar.
What college players are falling on the draft board for 2022?
Derek Stingley Jr, CB, LSU
Derek Stingley Jr.’s reputation precedes him which is why much like Ahmad Gardner, opposing teams aren’t targeting him. However, the results when they are have been much different than Gardner’s. Stingley has given up two catches and a touchdown on just three targets which equates to an opposing passer rating of 149.3. Stingley who was a consensus top-five pick coming into the season is an elite prospect but as we saw last year, Jaycee Horn who was also considered an elite prospect, wasn’t selected until the eighth pick so Stingley isn’t necessarily a lock to hear his name called within the first five picks.