The 2021 NFL Draft is over and teams are getting comfortable with their new draft picks. The next class of players is getting prepared now for another year of college football. Each position will be analyzed in the coming days. Here is the 2022 NFL Draft prospect watchlist: Edge rushers.
Nick Bonitto, Oklahoma Sooners
A four-star recruit out of Florida, Bonitto signed on with the Sooners out of high school. He redshirted in his first year on campus, but did play in three games. In 2019, Bonitto had 43 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks as he took over a starting spot midway through the season. He improved his play during the 2020 season and finished with 11.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks.
Bonitto is 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds, which makes him undersized as an edge rusher. He lacks play strength and can’t shed blocks as well as other edge rushers. What he does bring to the table is a quick first step, athleticism and a wicked spin move that can put offensive linemen on skates. If he can add to his frame and keep his speed, Bonitto could be a first round pick.
Zach Harrison, Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State keeps on churning out good edge prospects and Harrison is the next one up. Harrison was a star high school prospect out of Ohio and immediately made an impact with 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2019. In seven games during the 2020 season, Harrison had 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. With a full season and more development this offseason, Harrison could have a big 2021 season.
He has great measurements for the position at 6-foot-6 and 268 pounds. Harrison has great body control and athleticism, which is how he wins. Against the run, he has solid gap discipline and can create an impact. Harrison needs to find ways to win other than just with his pure athleticism. If he can do better work with his hands and add more moves, he’ll be a better prospect.
Drake Jackson, USC Trojans
Jackson was a California kid who stayed in-state to play for the Trojans. He played well as a freshman with 11.5 sacks and 5.5 sacks, which helped him be named a Second Team All-Pac-12 player. In six games during the 2020 season, Jackson had 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. He again made the All-Pac-12 Second Team in 2020.
At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, Jackson has solid size for an edge rusher. Jackson played the 2020 season standing up and will have to show he can also play with his hand in the ground to have greater appeal to teams of different systems. He has good athelticism and flexibility though and could be a top 10 pich with another good season.
George Karalaftis, Purdue Boilermakers
Karalaftis was a four-star recruit from West Lafayette and made the natural decision to stay at home and play for the Boilermakers. In his first season with the team, Karalaftis had 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. In a shortened season in 2020, Karalaftis played in just two games, but registered two sacks. He missed time due to injury and COVID in 2020, but should be good to go for 2021.
He is a big defensive end at 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds. Karalaftis has good strength and sheds blocks well. He also has good pass rushing moves, including a rip move that was effective. His movement skills are good for his size, but he isn’t the most flexible to dip around the edge. A healthy 2021 campaign could do wonders for Karalaftis’ draft stock.
Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati Bearcats
Although he wasn’t the most recruited player, Sanders has developed into a solid edge rusher. He didn’t do much in his first year on campus, but started producing as a sophomore. Sanders registered 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. He broke out in 2020 with 10.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks, which helped Cincinnati make the Peach Bowl.
At 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, Sanders will look like he’s in place in the NFL on the edge. Sanders is a solid athlete with good body control. He is flexible and has good burst, which both help him get after the quarterback. Sanders could add some strength to his frame and develop more pass rush moves and counters to be more effective. It was a surprise that he didn’t enter the 2021 NFL Draft and now Sanders could be selected early in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon Ducks
Thibodeaux was a big-time recruit out of Los Angeles who decided to head up north to play for Oregon. He immediately made a huge impact with nine sacks as a freshman, which led to him being named a Freshman All-American. The Ducks only played seven games in 2020, but Thibodeaux played well with 9.5 tackles for loss, as he led the team to a Pac-12 Championship.
He has good size at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. Thibodeaux shows nice burst, athleticism and flexibility. He can bend around the edge or set an offensive lineman up to beat them on the interior. While he is the frontrunner to be the best player in the class when the 2022 NFL Draft commences, he can add more strength and more pass rushing moves to improve in 2021.
Other Draft Prospects
Brenton Cox, Florida Gators- Cox has played for both Georgia and Florida in his career. Now he is going to get a chance to shine for the Gators.
Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina Gamecocks- Over his first three seasons at South Carolina, Enagbare has consistently improved. He is now set up for a great 2021 season.
Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan Wolverines- It surprised many that Hutchison decided to retrurn for another year of college football. He only played two games in the 2020 season because of injury and now needs to get back to form.
Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Washington Huskies- Production isn’t an issue with Tupuola-Fetui, as he had seven sacks in three games played in 2020. Finding a good fit for the 6-foot-3, 280-pound defender on a defensive line could be an issue.
Sam Williams, Ole Miss Rebels- Charges for sexual battery were dropped on Williams and he has decided to return to Ole Miss for one more season. If he can produce and his background checks out, NFL teams could pick him in the early rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft.
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