The first big showcase for 2022 draft prospects begins as more than 100 NFL hopefuls spend the week in Mobile, Ala. trying to impress executives, coaches and scouts at the Senior Bowl.
Because of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted collegiate athletes due to COVID-19 pandemic this 2022 class is viewed as one of the deepest in a decade.
That means numerous late-round picks could become NFL starters. Therefore, teams that have a keen eye for spotting talent could feast on prospects that get their attention during the three days of practice, and Saturday’s showcase game.
Here’s a look at ten of the draft prospects to keep a close eye on because their performance this week could boost, or tarnish their draft stock:
Utah LB Devin Lloyd
Some say this thumper is the best prospect at the Senior Bowl. Lloyd, who recorded 256 tackles, 15.5 sacks and five interceptions during his four seasons, needs to prove he’s a three-down linebacker and has to do that by sticking to tight ends and tailbacks as if he’s been stapled to them.
Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett
The 52 starts under his belt makes him the most experienced quarterback in this draft class. Pickett, who threw for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, must prove that he can read coverages and make the necessary throws during practice this week.
Auburn CB Roger McCreary
He’s one of this class’ best cover corners and has covered some of the best receivers college football has to offer. McCreary is coming off a 42-tackle season where he returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown.
Liberty QB Malik Willis
A dual-threat quarterback with two years of starting experience at the college level, Willis is a dynamic playmaker with both his arm and legs. He’s 6 foot 1, but has the build to handle the physical contact that comes with being a scrambling quarterback. A strong week could push him up the draft board, allowing him to become the first QB selected.
Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning
Penning, who is 6 foot 7, is a mauler in the run game. He can play on either side of the offensive line, but this is his chance to prove he’s an NFL left tackle. Doing so could push him into the first round.
Penn State WR Jahan Dotson
Dotson, who caught 2,757 yards worth of passes and scored 25 receiving touchdowns, can be a deep-ball threat but teams will fall in love with his speed and yards-after-catch ability. His size (5-11) and frame could push him down the draft board if he struggles to get off press coverage this week.
Central Michigan OG Bernhard Raimann
Raimann, who came to the U.S. from Austria as a foreign exchange student, is a tall, reliable blocker with long arms, good agility, and a solid initial punch. He knocks rushers off their spot, consistently opening up running lanes. He played tackle in college, but could be best suited for guard in the NFL.
Colorado State TE Trey McBride
McBride is the prototypical old school, in-line tight end who is a willing blocker and a polished route runner. McBride, who contributed 2,100 yards and scored 10 touchdowns during his four seasons, can lock up the spot as the best tight end in this draft with a strong week of practice, one where he shows why he only dropped one pass in 2021.
Minnesota OT Daniel Faalele
At 6 foot 9, 380 pounds the comparisons to Trent Brown are expected. It doesn’t hurt that Faalele has got decent movement skills, and only allowed one sack for the Golden Gophers last season. How athletic and forceful he looks this week versus NFL-caliber talent could boost his draft stock.
San Diego State DE Cameron Thomas
Thomas is a traditional 4-3 defensive end who is violent off the snap and has an impressive array of pass-rushing tools. Some draft experts say he has no major weakness to his game that can’t be worked out and therefore he has a high ceiling, and is viewed as a safe pick.