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
Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Over the weekend, Hutchinson matched up against Ohio State left tackle Nick Petit-Frere, a potential first- or second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and the best tackle who Hutchinson would see during the regular season. Both players managed some wins, but Hutchinson came up with some huge plays that helped his team get the win.
In the early going against Ohio State, Hutchinson flowed to the ball to notch a couple of tackles in run support. He made a huge play late in the first quarter with an inside rush on the right tackle to sack C.J. Stroud on a 3rd-and-goal. Early in the third quarter, Hutchinson had leverage with speed on Petit-Frere, and Petit-Frere held Hutchinson to prevent him from getting another sack. Shortly later, Hutchinson worked upfield against the right tackle and took down Stroud for his second sack while Stroud stepped up in the pocket.
At the end of the third quarter, Hutchinson recorded his third sack of the game and his 13th of the year, which set the Wolverines' all-time record for a single season. On the play, Hutchinson used speed to run around Petite-Frere for the sack. Later in the fourth quarter, Petit-Frere had some wins versus Hutchinson in stuffing his bull rushes.
Hutchinson definitely helped his draft grade against Ohio State. He showed the speed to rush around the corner along with active hands, some variety in his moves, good vision to adjust to the quarterback, and a relentless motor. Hutchinson is sufficiently adequate at chasing down backs in the ground game, but he has issues defending runs coming downhill straight at him. Still, Hutchinson made history with his three-sack performance against Ohio State, and it will help him to be a high first-rounder next April in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Lloyd (6-3, 235) has been one of the most productive linebackers in the country this year, making a lot of splash plays for the Utes. Team sources like Lloyd, saying he is big, long and athletic. They feel he has good instincts, but is not overly twitchy. He is physical and has good length to play off blocks. This season, Lloyd had made some impressive plays in coverage and as a rusher. Lloyd has a quality skill set and has been very productive this year. He could be a high second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and might get late first-round consideration.
Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Team sources have been very impressed with Gardner's play this season, and in speaking with one NFL team's director, they said Gardner has not produced a bad tape yet this year. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Gardner is a tall cornerback who has good length to battle outside receivers in the NFL. To go along with his size, sources say Gardner is fast and has ball skills, although he is a little raw. Over the past three seasons, Gardner has been a productive and steady cover corner. He looks like he could be a first-rounder next April in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Hall is a physical runner who has been a huge point producer for Iowa State this year. To put a cap on the regular season, Hall torched TCU for 242 yards and three touchdowns on only 18 carries. He has averaged 5.8 yards per carry this season for 1,472 yards and 20 touchdowns. On top of being a tough runner, Hall has been a productive receiver out of the backfield as well, taking 36 catches for 302 yards and three scores. Hall was impressive in 2020 as well, averaging 5.6 yards per carry for 1,572 yards and 21 touchdowns. That season he had 23 catches for 180 yards and two scores too. Hall has impressed team sources, and they think he could provide some nice value as a mid-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Michael Clemons, DE, Texas A&M
Even though LSU pulled out the last-second win, Clemons dominated the Tigers last Saturday night. In the third quarter, Clemons overpowered LSU's left tackle with a bull rush and then pushed him to the side to sack the quarterback. Early in the fourth quarter, Clemons added his second sack of the game thanks to using a spin move to whip the left tackle. Shortly later, Clemons picked up his third sack of the game by destroying a tight end with a bull rush to rip down Maxx Johnson. Late in the fourth quarter, Clemons used a spin move again on the left tackle to get his fourth sack of the night.
Clemons may not be a first-round pick next April in the 2022 NFL Draft, but area scouts like him and think he could develop into being a starter. They feel he might start out as a backup but become a starter in his sceond or third year. Clemons has solid size, speed, athleticism and strength. His best in the pros could be as a base end in a 4-3 defense.
Kemore Gamble, TE, Florida
Gamble is sleeper tight end prospect for the 2022 NFL Draft. He flashed as Kyle Pitts backup in 2021, and this season, he has been hurt by the Gators inconsistent passing offense. Against Florida State, however, Gamble looked like an intriguing mid-round pick with NFL potential. Early on in the first quarter, Gamble got open along the sideline for a long reception. He broke a tackle and accelerated down the sideline for a 47-yard touchdown. Shortly later, he had a gain of 25 yards thanks to another nice run after the catch. Gamble took three catches for 88 yards against the Seminoles. He has potential to be a solid No. 2 tight end with his big frame to block and some receiving ability. The 6-foot-4, 243-pounder could be a riser with a strong performance at an all-star game and/or the combine.
Dameon Pierce, RB, Florida
Pierce has been physical load as a runner this season, but he has gone under the radar due to Florida limping to a 6-6 season. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound Pierce is a powerful running back who charges over defenders and displays a second gear to the next level. He also enters the NFL with very little mileage because the Gators split the carries between Pierce and two other backs. While Pierce has not produced a big stat line, he has the skill set to be a better pro than college player. He could be a sleeper who ends that up being a steal in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Dotson is having a superb 2021 season, and in his penultimate game, he once again showed he is a future NFL starter. Late in the first quarter against Michigan State, Dotson made two big plays. First, he leapt for a grab over a cornerback to convert a critical third down. Soon afterward, he'd finish the drive by getting open while running down the sideline, letting Sean Clifford find him between the safety and cornerback for a 27-yard touchdown. It was a superb leaping grab from Dotson in the snow.
Dotson continued to make some critical catches, showing his strong hands and concentration while making another touchdown reception. Early in the fourth quarter, he had a gain of about 20 yards on a slant, showing his speed to accelerate through the catch. Late in the fourth quarter, Dotson made a leaping grab between three defenders. He totaled eight receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns versus Michigan State.
Dotson is small, fast, explosive, and difficult to cover. Many small wideouts don't have Dotson's reliable and strong hands while also showing an ability to make leaping grabs over defenders. For an undersized receiver, Dotson plays bigger than his measurements and has tremendous ball skills and high-pointing ability. Dotson looks like a candidate to go in the back half of the first round or early in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
McCreary faced a tough tests in the Iron Bowl Jameson Williams and John Metchie, but McCreary showed why he is a future NFL cover corner with a very good performance in his final home game. In the second quarter, McCreary ran stride-for-stride with Metchie before making a leaping pass breakup. In the third quarter, McCreary ran with Metchie across the field, and that helped lead to an overthrow that was intercepted. Late in the same frame, McCreary broke hard on a deep out to make a diving breakup at the one-yard line. Late in the fourth quarter, McCreary was running close with Metchie along the sideline and reacted well to the pass dropping in to break up another pass. In the fourth overtime, Metchie got open against McCreary on a short route, slanting to the inside and then cutting back to the outside to catch the two-point conversion that won the game. It was a very difficult assignment for McCreary, and Metchie executed the play perfectly with Bryce Young.
Overall though, McCreary really helped himself with pro evaluators against Alabama, as he showed the ability to run the route and prevent separation. McCreary stayed in phase and didn't panic when the ball came his direction. With nice twitch, McCreary did a good job of slapping passes away and playing the ball rather than interfering with the receiver. This performance will help McCreary, and he looks like he could be a starting slot corner in the NFL.
2022 NFL Draft Stock Down
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Iron Bowl was a good test for Alabama left tackle Evan Neal because Auburn has some young defensive line talent. The Tigers attacked Neal with undersized speed rushers off the edge. He had some problems with their short defenders getting underneath him and charging upfield to pressure Bryce Young. Neal was called for a holding and was fortunate that some passes were released quickly by Neal. On a third-and-goal in the fourth quarter, the Auburn defensive end disengaged from Neal to chase down Young for a sack.
Overall, Neal's performance against Auburn will reinforce the belief of some area scouts that he should be a right tackle in the NFL. Neal is a monster of a tackle who is a tough run blocker and has a ton of media hype. Some NFL scouts, however, think Neal's massive size leads to him not having left tackle feet and being a better fit on the right side in the NFL. Regardless, Neal looks like a top-16 pick next April in the 2022 NFL Draft.
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