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, I always have my eye on draft-eligible players and how their performance on the field could positively or negatively impact their draft stock in the upcoming draft. So 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?
Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
Strong, who is now a third-year starter, threw for six touchdowns for the first time and had a career-best 232.7 QB rating versus New Mexico St. on Saturday. At 6’4”, 215lbs, has the size of a prototypical pocket passer quarterback and, as evidenced by his negative 48 yards rushing on the season, that is exactly what he is. While he may not have the athleticism and flash of some of the other top QB prospects in the country, Strong does bring an important trait that teams look for and that’s consistency. Even though he has a big arm to make all the throws, he doesn’t get himself into trouble by turning the ball over with only seven interceptions in the last two seasons. It’s ultimately his arm talent that has the attention of scouts and will have him in the conversation to be the first quarterback selected in the 2022 draft.
Tyler Linderbaum, OL,Iowa
In a highly anticipated top-four matchup this past weekend versus Penn State, Linderbaum showed to a national audience why he’s considered hands down the best center in the country and a future first-round pick. In addition to putting up a clean sheet on 37 pass-block snaps where he didn’t allow a sack or pressure, he also had the highest run-blocking grade in the country this week with an 87.3 per PFF. In fact, through six weeks Linderbaum is the highest-graded center in the country at 92.2 overall. Linderbaum, who is a former wrestler, has all the attributes you look for in an NFL center. He has size, mobility, strength, athleticism, technique, leadership, and I could go on but I will stop there because there is no question he will be the first center taken in next year’s draft.
Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan St.
After a 232-yard performance against Rutgers that included a 94-yard touchdown run that was the longest in the history of Michigan State, the former Wake Forest transfer not only improved his draft stock but also put himself into the running for the Heisman. While Walker III now has 912 yards rushing at an incredible 7.1 yards per attempt, it is his yards after contact that has really been impressive. Through just six weeks, Walker III has 132 yards more after contact than anyone else in the country. Another impressive stat is that in 346 career rushing attempts, he does not have a fumble. That said, he does only have 10 total receptions in his career and is not considered a very good pass blocker, which could keep him off the field on third downs in the NFL. However, in what is not considered to be a top-heavy running back class, he is very much in the mix to be the first running back selected, especially if he can improve in those areas.
What college players are falling on the draft board for 2022?
Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
No shock here, maybe the most obvious choice of the week if not season. Not only was Rattler the Heisman favorite coming into the season but also the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft as recently as a month ago. After just a couple shaky starts to begin the season, the OU fans were already clamoring to bring in Caleb Williams who was the top-rated QB recruit in the country last year and they finally got their wish in the first half against Texas this weekend. And unfortunately for Rattler, Williams did not disappoint and orchestrated a huge comeback where he had a 98.1 QBR against the same defense that Rattler had an 11.3 QBR per ESPN. According to Sports Info Solutions, Rattler had -16.2 EPA while Williams had 17.3.
What makes it so frustrating for scouts is that Rattler has all of the physical tools that they’re looking for but he just doesn’t seem to be able to put it all together on the field. What’s particularly concerning is that he can’t do it in Lincoln Riley’s system, which as we have seen over the years has been very QB friendly.
Now Riley has yet to commit to who the starting quarterback will be going forward, but if he does end up going with Williams (it was seen that Williams was taking first-team reps during practice), the last tape on Rattler will be him getting benched in the Red River Shootout in favor of a freshman. If that’s the case Rattler will have an interesting decision at the end of the season if he still wants to put his name in the draft or enter the transfer portal in an attempt to rebuild his draft stock.