While the 2022 NFL Draft doesn’t have the caliber of talent available in years past, playmakers can be found on both offense and defense.
To find these talents, you need to have a good scouting department and the ability of the coaching staff to develop these players. This is easier to do when there is a conviction about the player.
Here’s a look at 10 draft picks that I think have the talent and intangibles that will lead to success in the NFL. Over the years, the Miami Dolphins have drafted several players — Tua Tagovailoa, Noah Igbinogene, Mike Pouncey, Olivier Vernon, Kendall Langford, Sean Smith, Clyde Gates, Lamar Miller, Mike Gillisley, and Cedric Thompson — on my annual list of favorite men.
These are the 2022 prospectuses I would bang my fist on the table for if I were an NFL executive and why and where he chose them:
Georgia DT Jordan Davis
At 6’6″ and weighing 340 pounds, this defensive projectile is a big man who moves at the speed of a cat (4.78 times in a 40-yard dash). Davis is off to a good start and plays with a steady pad level. His ability to eat double teams frees up linebackers, allowing them to play. He has a limited pass rusher (seven sacks in four seasons) and has benefited from a tight rotation that has kept him fresh. Despite all that, he reminds me of former Patriots legend Vince Wilfork and is top 15 worthy. It is best used in a 4-3 pattern.
Iowa Sea Tyler Linderbaum
Linderbaum is the best center in this draft and should go in the first round. The former high school state wrestling champion tackles opposing defensemen and is a powerful run blocker despite not having the perfect size (6-2, 296) and long arms. But he is a leader who can secure the attacking line in the center. If he slips into the second round, I would trade to get him.
Ohio State WR Chris Olove
The Buckeyes produce brilliant runners because of their head coach, Brian Hartline, who spent most of his NFL career with the Dolphins, and Olav is the next Buckeye to be a Day One starter. Olave, who has thrown 35 touchdowns in four seasons, has great trail running and is great at adapting to off-target shots. He will be the No. 2 wide receiver in the NFL and should be in the top 20.
Sam Houston CB Zion McCollum
McCollum, a five-year-old in the FCS program, is a hawk (13 interceptions) who has a good mix of size (6-2, 200) and speed (4.33 rushing for 40 yards). He is instinctive, has phenomenal ball skills and catches the ball at the highest point. He is also physically opposed to running. His biggest challenge in the NFL will be adjusting to players who match his size, speed and athleticism. The intangible assets he possesses will probably make some team fall in love with him and make him a priority target in the third or fourth round.
Tulsa O.G. Tyler Smith
Smith, at 6’5″ and 324 pounds, has the physique needed to play tackle. But the strength and athleticism he possesses indicate that a top 50 talent could become an elite NFL quarterback if he got into the right scheme. He is undisciplined and a bit raw in terms of technique. But he’s a fast learner, and once he learns to play with body control, he should be a starter in the NFL’s top tier.
San Diego State player Matt Araiza
Anyone who has earned the nickname “God of the Punt” must be dynamic, and Araiza certainly is. He has elite leg strength and field-flipping ability that could make him the top pick in the draft since Todd Sauerbrun was 56th overall in 1995. Most NFL insiders expect him to be taken at the conclusion of the fourth round. and could immediately enter the top ten players in the NFL. Miami should seriously consider using their fourth-round pick to draft Araiza, despite signing Thomas Morstead in the off-season and guaranteed $500,000 on his contract.
Baylor C Jalen Pitre
Pitre is fast, physically safe, has boxing skills and has the potential to excel as a nickel cornerback. He’s been a star in his last two seasons at Baylor and has thrown four interceptions, recording 30 tackles for a loss and six sacks in those two years. Lack of size (5-11, 198) may limit him as a blitzer, but it’s clear that top 100 talents will eventually turn into NFL rookies and have the potential to become Pro Bowl talents. Expect him to be selected in the third round.
Baylor wide receiver Taikuan Thornton
Thornton, who clocked a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash, is one of the fastest players in the draft class. But 6ft 2in, 181lbs is more than just speed. With 143 passes for 2,242 yards and 19 touchdowns in four seasons at Baylor, Thornton has an impressive reach and nimble hands. He could have been an NFL star with the right training. His weak physique will worry some teams, but he could be a steal in the fourth round.
Florida International RB D’Vonte Price
Price’s personality traits and football make-up dwarf the scoring (2,203 rushing yards, 6.0 carrying yards and 16 touchdowns in 49 games over five seasons) he has had for the Panthers. His size (6-1, 210), speed (4.38 rushing for 40 yards) and ability to make big runs motivate the team to beat him in the later rounds. Put him in the right formation and behind a solid offensive line and he can become a 1000 yard rusher.
Southeast Louisiana QB Cole Kelly
Kelly, a transfer from Arkansas, has a sudden release and attacks all areas of the field. He put in incredible numbers while enjoying lower-level competition but was impressive in practice and post-season games. He’s also athletic enough to move the chains with his feet, and threw at least one rushing touchdown in 10 of 13 games last season. As a late round target, Kelly is the type of quarterback the team can be thankful for spending a couple of seasons developing.