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?
Kayvon Thibodeaux, DL, Oregon
Thibodeaux suffered an ankle injury in the opening game and missed the next three games, but he showed us on Friday night that not only is he back, but that he is just as special as he was pre-injury. He has a unique combination of power and speed where you don’t need to look at any advanced stats to know how good he is, he just jumps off the screen when you watch him. This weekend was another example of that where he only played the second half but basically took over the game on defense and secured the win for Oregon. In just 22 pass rushing snaps, he recorded a pressure on 11 of those snaps including a sack.
It’s hard to improve your draft stock when you are the projected number one pick in the draft, but Thibodeaux widened the margin between him and the rest of the field this weekend. As recently as three weeks ago, he was not the favorite to be the first overall pick, but as of today he is the clear and consensus favorite. With comps to Myles Garrett, DeMarcus Ware, and Chase Young, it’s looking very likely that he will be the first non-quarterback to be selected first overall since Garrett in 2017.
Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati
Another player who only needed one half of football this week to improve his draft stock, Ford dominated the game so much in the first half that he was able to sit out the entire second half vs UCF. The former Alabama transfer is thriving in his increased role with the Bearcats where he is now averaging 118 yards rushing per game on an impressive 7.0 yards per carry. In his last two games alone, he has 338 yards rushing on 9.7 ypc and six touchdowns, and again, he sat out the second half this week. In each game, he broke a TD run of at least 75 yards to show off his breakaway speed at 5’11, 220 lbs.
David Bell, WR, Purdue
In what was supposed to be a relatively easy win for second-ranked Iowa, Purdue and David Bell went into Iowa and put on a dominant performance in winning 24-7. Coming into the game, Iowa had given up the seventh-fewest yards per game, fourth-fewest points per game, and ranked second in overall DVOA, so Bell putting up 240 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches on that defense looks even more impressive in that context. Bell is now up to 38 catches, 679 yards, and four touchdowns through the first five games of the season. At 6’2”, 205 lbs, Bell has the size but it may ultimately come down to his speed drills at the combine and/or his pro day to determine if Bell could be the first WR taken but it certainly won’t be for his lack of production.
What college players are falling on the draft board for 2022?
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The first player to be on both the draft stock up and now draft stock down list which was somewhat predictable based on the scouting reports on Malik Willis coming into the season. Willis, who has all of the physical tools and has drawn comps to Lamar Jackson, had accuracy and decision-making issues last season that he had cleaned up through the first five games of the season, but then reappeared in a shocking loss to the University of Louisiana-Monroe this weekend. Just how shocking was it? Liberty were 32.5 point favorites, making it the biggest upset in college football in the last four years. Willis earned just a 34.4 passing grade for the game due to four turnover-worthy plays per PFF, three of which resulted in interceptions.
In his last two games, Willis has thrown for six interceptions and taken seven sacks, dropping him from the highest-graded quarterback on PFF to fourth and from first in QBR to seventh per ESPN. On a positive note, Willis still showed his explosiveness as a runner and even had 11 broken tackles in this game as he rushed for 157 yards including a run for 53 yards and seven runs for over 10 yards. So while he still is clearly in the conversation to be the first quarterback selected in the 2022 draft, the Malik Willis train has started to derail a bit and he needs to get it back on track the remainder of the season and return to the form he showed in his first five games if he wants to lock up that top spot.