This new section highlights which players have improved or worsened their 2022 NFL Draft stock as the draft approaches.
By Charlie Campbell.
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2022 NFL Draft Stock Up
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Pickett was 25-of-39 for 302 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in Pittsburgh's big win over Clemson. After a slow start, Pickett got in a rhythm and showed his patience, poise, and competitiveness. He threw the ball accurately to all levels of the field while avoiding turnovers. Late in the fourth quarter, Pickett used his legs to run for multiple first downs to kill the clock and prevent a comeback by the Tigers.
While Pickett is not a freak athlete with running ability like a Lamar Jackson or Cam Newton, Pickett has some functional mobility and toughness as a runner, similar to Joe Burrow. Pickett also does not have a cannon for an arm like a Josh Allen or Matthew Stafford, but he has a capable arm that can make all the throws, similar to Derek Carr. Thus, Pickett has the skill set to be a starter in the NFL. He is still not getting a lot of media hype and buzz for the 2022 NFL Draft, he is a rising prospect who could catch fire in the months to come if he finishes out the season dominating the way he has in the first half of the year.
Brian Robinson Jr., RB, Alabama
Taking on Tennessee, Robinson continued his breakout season. He showed his power to run through tackles and pick up yards after contact. Robinson has quickness and a burst to get to the second level along with surprising athleticism and agility in the passing game for a big back. This season, Robinson has been a real riser with pro teams.
Sources say they there is a lot to like about Robinson. "He has low mileage," said a director of player personnel. "He's athletic, instinctive, and has size and power. Right now, he's our top-rated back."
Robinson sat behind former Alabama backs like Najee Harris, Damien Harris, and Josh Jacobs before getting the opportunity this year to be the featured rusher for the Crimson Tide. He is making the most of it, and right now, he could be on track to be a second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Zamir White, RB, Georgia
Just like Alabama, Georgia has been a factory for good running back talent, and White will continue the Bulldogs' recent tradition set by D'Andre Swift, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Todd Gurley. The 6-foot, 215-pounder has run well despite splitting the workload in a crowded backfield. White has averaged 4.8 yards per carry this season for 400 yards and seven touchdowns. He has not logged many carries this year, so he will enter the NFL with low mileage and fresh legs. He could be a second-day pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama
The Alabama defense is not the dominant stop unit that it has been in other recent years. Instead, it is a young unit with its best players being prospects for the 2023 or 2024 NFL Draft. Still, one defender for the 2022 NFL Draft who has helped himself with team sources this year is Mathis. They like his ability to play both phases, as he is a solid run defender who has shown an ability to get some interior pass rush. Mathis has been the Crimson Tide's best defensive lineman this season, and he could rise into opening night consideration if he puts up good sack production in the back half of the year.
Damone Clark, LB, LSU
Clark has been a tackling machine in 2021 and leads college football in stops halfway through the year. He put an exclamation point on that with 19 tackles versus Ole Miss last Saturday. Thus far in 2021, Clark has 99 tackles, two forced fumbles, one interception and one pass defended. He had 63 tackles in 2020 and 49 in 2019 to go along with 3.5 sacks. The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder has excellent size to go along with quickness and athleticism. Clark could get tougher at taking on and shedding blocks for the NFL, but he has the upside to become a pro starter.
Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Gardner is having a strong junior year to improve his standing for the 2022 NFL Draft. He has two interceptions, two passes defended and 15 tackles so far this year. Gardner had six interceptions over his freshman and sophomore seasons, showing quality length, size, and cover skills. He could be a first- or second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
2022 NFL Draft Stock Down
D'Vonte Price, RB, Florida International
There was a lot of hype for Price entering the 2021 season, and he has played well for Florida International. While he was projected to be one of the top backs for the 2022 NFL Draft, team sources say they have a number of other backs graded ahead of Price. Working out well in pre-draft workouts with a fast 40 time would help Price.
Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Cincinnati barely beat a 1-5 Navy team, and Ridder was a reason for the near upset because of his struggles. There were a lot of regrettable plays by Ridder, and he was lucky not to have put the Midshipmen in place for an upset. Early in the first quarter, Ridder was fortunate not to have thrown an interception. He climbed the pocket and threw high and behind his receiver. It went to a deep safety, but the Navy defender couldn't complete the catch for an interception. Ridder bounced back to throw an easy touchdown pass to a wide-open tight end running free down the seam.
Early in the second quarter, Ridder made a terrible pass downfield where it looked like Navy's safety was his intended receiver. Ridder stared down and predetermined his throw, going into double coverage for an easy interception. Shorty later, Ridder took a bad sack when he was under pressure and could have thrown the ball away, but he took the negative play instead. Early in the fourth quarter, Ridder had another would-be interception dropped on a horribly inaccurate pass. If the defender had held onto the ball, he could have coasted into the end zone with a pick-six from about 10 yards out.
Versus Navy, Ridder completed 18-of-30 passes for 176 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The performance will hurt Ridder's draft grade. He showed poor ball security, had issues reading the field, and played down to his competition. If the Midshipmen would have held onto to a few of Ridder's passes, they easily could have won this game and upset the No. 2 team in the country. Ridder has accuracy issues on intermediate passes and deep balls, and those issues were on display again against Navy. This outing made Ridder look more like a mid-round pick for the 2022 NFL Draft.
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