With the 2021 NFL draft complete, it won't be long before it's time to shift the focus to the college football players vying to be top picks next year.
There's plenty to sort over the next 12 months, though, particularly given how the COVID-19 pandemic altered the scouting process throughout the country last season. While the limitations no doubt took a toll on players in this year's draft, it also left a degree of uncertainty for anyone trying to look ahead to next spring.
At this time last year, it was already clear that the likes of Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Ja'Marr Chase, Penei Sewell, Micah Parsons and others would be among the most in-demand prospects. This year, however, teams haven't been able to gain their usual level of intel on many of the underclassmen and players who opted to return, especially those looking to fill out their resumes.
With that said, here's an early look at the top 15 prospects for the 2022 NFL draft:
1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
No one else at the collegiate level can match his game-wrecking ability. For evidence of his dominance, look no further than his matchup against USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, in which he repeatedly whipped 2020 first-round pick Alijah Vera-Tucker to the tune of 12 quarterback pressures. At 6-5 and 250 pounds, he can hold up against the run, but Thibodeaux will make his mark as a premier pass-rushing prospect capable of piling up double-digit sack seasons.
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2. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
His injury-plagued 2020 campaign was no doubt a letdown after a true freshman season in which he picked off six passes and was named a consensus All-American. Stingley, however, is the most promising cornerback prospect to emerge in some time, with the size (6-1, 195 pounds), speed and innate feel for sticking with receivers to become a shutdown corner. So long as he bounces back to his earlier superlative level of play, he should find the top five well within reach.
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