NFL.com's 2022 NFL Draft position rankings
The 2022 NFL Draft is officially just three short weeks away.
Over the last few months, we have taken a look at a lot of pre-draft content. Many of the top draft experts have released updated mock drafts in recent weeks as the first waves of free agency have passed, along with the entire pro day circuit.
Today we are going to explore something new.
NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein released his position rankings in this year's draft class. As he states in the introduction, "In assessing each position group, I identified star-caliber players, future starters and overall depth. Generally speaking, I concentrated on prospects who are most likely to be drafted in Rounds 1 through 5."
Let's dive right into it. Here are Zierlein's 2022 draft position rankings.
1. Edge Defender
"After a two-year run of the wide receiver position holding the No. 1 spot in this exercise, edge defender is clearly at the top of the food chain for the 2022 draft. This position group has star-caliber potential, plenty of future starters and quality depth ranging well into the fifth round. Aidan Hutchinson, Travon Walker, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Jermaine Johnson II should all become early starters with high upside, but what I love about this crop is the diversity of the depth. There are speed rushers, long defenders with traits and pure power players -- something for every team and every scheme."
"Despite subpar times in the 40-yard dash, Kyle Hamilton is still the star of this group and on course to become a very talented starter. However, the talent behind Hamilton is what drives the safety position into the No. 2 spot here. I expect five to six future starters will be drafted inside the first 64 picks at the end of this month, with Lewis Cine, Nick Cross and Jaquan Brisker leading the charge after Hamilton. Daxton Hill offers legitimate cover talent against big slots, while players like Tycen Anderson and Jalen Pitre won't be far behind. If you need a starter at safety, you are finally in luck."
3. Interior Offensive Line
"With more and more teams looking to bump tackles inside to guard or center, this position group has become much more loaded over the last few years. Kenyon Green and Tyler Linderbaum are the headliners -- and I'm projecting Tyler Smith as a tackle-to-guard move, which adds another possible first-rounder. The number of potential future starters at the center position is very impressive, with several prospects featuring guard/center roster flexibility, which could elevate their draft slotting."
"The five-year average of cornerbacks taken over the first three rounds is 13.4. This year's class should approach -- and potentially surpass -- that number, but I wouldn't call this a standout position group. Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner is the best of the bunch, but Trent McDuffie may be the safest. The positional growth of Derek Stingley Jr. and Andrew Booth could have a big impact on how we view this crop in three years. In my estimation, there are more cornerbacks with third-round grades than second-round grades, but overall, the depth and upside look good in Rounds 3 through 5."
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah released his final edition of the top 50 prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
5. Offensive Tackle
"This tackle group features potential star power in Evan Neal and Ickey Ekwonu, with both Charles Cross and Trevor Penning grabbing 6.4 marks in my grading system, projecting them as good, early starters. I also see Bernhard Raimann as a raw prospect with plenty of upside still to cultivate. But once we draft past those five, it gets shaky real quick. Day 2 and Day 3 depth is below average, with many of the prospects on the wrong side of the line dividing their ceiling from their floor."
"We are unlikely to see a quarterback go inside the top five picks, but I won't be surprised if four -- or maybe even five -- solid starters emerge from this group. Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral and Desmond Ridder would be late-first/mid-second-round picks in most drafts, but could get pushed up a bit this year. Willis has the highest upside, but Pickett and Corral are more game-ready. Ridder is loaded with intangibles (and talent) to make him a very good game manager at the NFL level. Depth won't be great here, but Jack Coan is a solid Day 3 sleeper."
7. Running Back
"While this position is very light on star power, it is extremely deep, with help to be found from Round 2 all the way through the late rounds. Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker III are the best of the class and could become early starters. It falls off after those two, but the third, fourth and fifth rounds are going to be filled with prospects possessing size, toughness and talent that will land them roles in running back tandems and as pass-catching specialists. Georgia's Zamir White and James Cook are perfect examples of the types of backs that pepper the middle rounds."
8. Wide Receiver
"While some are much higher on this wide receiver class, I come away a little lukewarm after the talent and depth we've seen from the 2020 and '21 drafts. While we are likely to see more first-rounders than the five-year average of 3.6, I don't believe there to be a true star in this group. North Dakota State's Christian Watson is an ascending prospect, but beyond him, the depth and ceiling and consistency for Day 2 wideouts is lacking."
"For this position, I only consider true linebackers -- not 3-4 edge defenders, since they are usually rushers. Nakobe Dean and Devin Lloyd are the top players here, but I only have borderline first-round grades on both (other evaluators are higher on them). Day 2 should offer up a handful of eventual starters at the position, but there are more questions attached to several prospects than teams might like. From a depth standpoint, this position is slightly below average."
10. Tight End
"This is actually a fairly deep position in this year's draft, but when you plug in "star potential" and "future starters" into the mix, the total grade comes down substantially. Last year's class lacked depth, but had Kyle Pitts as an absolute stud, while this year's class doesn't even feature a 6.4 prospect (my mark for a very good starter). Teams are going to find depth well into Day 3, but it's a middle/lower-middle-class crop this season."
11. Interior Defensive Line
"My bottom-ranked group from last year stays in the cellar. Georgia's Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt are both high-level prospects, and Travis Jones has really improved his standing this draft season, but it gets thin quickly. There are prospects like Matthew Butlerand Kalia Davis whom I like as flash players with upside, but it's not a deep group."
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks revealed his final position rankings for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Pro Football Focus' Day 2 value EDGE picks
As Zierlein writes above, this year's crop of edge rushers is one of the deepest in the draft.
Aidan Hutchinson, Travon Walker and Kayvon Thibodeaux all appear to be trending towards being selected within the first 10 picks. That doesn't even touch on other likely first round picks, such as Jermaine Johnson II and George Karlaftis.
While selecting an edge rusher could be in the cards for the Giants with one of their two first-round picks, they could decide to address the position on Day 2 instead.
Pro Football Focus' Seth Galina recently released his list of Day 2 "designated pass rusher" value picks. As Galina states in his article, "as we move down the list after the Tier 1 group, we're in the business of finding some "designated pass-rushers," players who can come into the league and provide an immediate threat off the edge without worrying about their run defense. Some prospects below can also be effective in run defense, but teams are drafting them to get after the quarterback."
If the Giants pass on the edge rushers at Nos. 5 and 7, the following players could be possible options for Big Blue with their picks on Day 2 (Giants own pick Nos. 36, 67 and 81 in Rounds 2-3).
Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
"Ebiketie's tape and production numbers also match up correctly. He is both a pass-rushing specialist and excellent against the run. His value — if he does fall to the second round — is tremendous. Starting his career at Temple, he produced a 78.3 pass-rush grade in 2019, his first year with real playing time. He upped it to 88.3 the next year, which prompted a transfer to Penn State. There, playing against tougher competition, he finished 2021 with a 90.5 pass-rush grade. Getting better every year all the while jumping up a level in competition bodes well for Ebiketie and whichever team gets its hands on him."
Boye Mafe, Minnesota
"Mafe is above the rest of the pack particularly because of his hand usage. He has a pass-rush plan, and a lot of his rushes get to the quarterback because he's able to swat offensive linemen's hands away with an assortment of moves. With only 33.13-inch arms, he needs to use his technical ability to get around tackles because he can't just long-arm them and hope for the best. Playing only 1,180 snaps in four years at Minnesota is a bit of a concern, but in three of those four seasons he produced an 83.0 pass-rush grade."
Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma
"Like Mafe, his "first step" measurables are elite. He placed in the 95th percentile in the 40-yard dash and the 88th in the 10-yard split. The difference is that he's trying to "dip and rip" around the edge often. It worked very well at the college level. He has the speed and quicks to get under tackles and turn toward the quarterback. If he can refine that hand usage, he can be a really nice player off the bench because he does have some of that coveted bend."
Drake Jackson, USC
"He has a really nice dip move on the outside and is able to bend around to get square to the quarterback. He can get pushed around a bit, taking him too far off his path, but some of his rushes are the best you'll see on film. He also uses his hands very well to swipe tackles' punches. He can start his pass rush a little too wide at times as well, maybe because he is always trying to be a finesse player, but there is still some pop when he turns speed to power. Figuring out his weight at the next level will go a long way. He is at his best from a two-point stance."
David Ojabo, Michigan
"He played 29 snaps heading into the 2021 season and then broke out in a big way. He's athletic and has bend, but the production — 87.3 pass-rush grade in 2021 — might be a bit misleading. Ojabo finished 2021 with a high percentile in two unstable metrics. He was in the 89th percentile in sack rate and the 94th in clean-up/pursuit pressure rate, while his pass-rush grade on "true pass rushes" fell into just the 66th percentile. It's unfortunate that his injury, suffered during his pro day, is likely going to prevent him from going in the first round, but somewhere in the second round is probably a better place for his talent anyway."
View photos of EVERY player projected to the Giants by draft analysts in mock drafts.
Draft Season | Top Day 2 prospects
Tony Pauline, Eric Crocker and John Schmeelk talk about their favorite day two players at each position.
1:06 Quarterback class
7:04 Running back
12:42 Wide receiver
15:50 Tight End
37:01 Off-ball LB