getty images

When Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David was coming out of Nebraska, he was the captain of my 2012 Better-Than Team, my annual team made up of players I like more than the scouts do.

David impressed me on tape with his speed and ability to make plays, even though he was a smallish linebacker. Since then, David has become an NFL star, thanks mainly to that speed and his ability to track the football.

In putting together this year's Better-Than Team, I had flashbacks to David when a speedy, athletic linebacker who could go sideline-to-sideline kept showing up on tape. That player is Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah.

At just over 6-feet tall and weighing 224 pounds, his size is almost exactly what David was when he came out of Nebraska. David was just over 6-feet tall and was 225 when he played at Nebraska, although he weighed 233 at the combine in a move he said he hoped would help his draft stock. David's 40 time was 4.56. Asamoah ran the same exact time at the combine.

The similarities are eerie. The talent is similar too.

That's why I made Asamoah the captain for this year's Better-Than Team. In a league where speed linebackers have more value than even a decade ago, Asamoah will be a great add for teams looking for a dynamic off-the-ball linebacker. The three-down linebacker who can stay on the field on third down is what every team wants. 

Asamoah came on our CBS Sports HQ set at the NFL Scouting Combine, and the thing that stood out was his confidence. For example, when the big podiums were given to the higher-profile linebackers to do their interviews, Asamoah was relegated to a small side podium with few listening in on what he had to say.

I asked him about that. His response? Down the road, they will remember how wrong they were about that.

Translation: I will be a damn good player. He's confident, but not cocky. That's a good thing.

But, most importantly, he can run.

In a spread-out NFL, where defending the perimeter is a must to playing good defense, that speed is of great importance. Seeing him play on tape instantly takes me back to David when he was at Nebraska. 

So is this David 2.0? It could be. That's certainly high praise, but the team that gets Asamoah in the second or third round will certainly be getting one heck of a player for sure. That's why he's this year's Better-Than Team Captain. 

Here are the other 19 players on my 2022 Better-Than team:

Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor

When you pop on his tape, he shows up all over the field. He isn't a big safety, but he has the speed to chase down plays and he's outstanding near the line of scrimmage. I think he is a lot like Tyrann Mathieu, who has become an All-Pro safety in the NFL after playing corner in college. Pitre will be the best safety in this draft class. Yes, better than the more-heralded Kyle Hamilton.

Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama

 He is a bigger receiver who dominated against lower-level competition. But all one has to do to see if he can handle better competition is put on his tape from the Tennessee game last season. They couldn't handle him as he caught seven passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. His physical style was a problem for those SEC corners. He's not a burner, but he plays plenty fast enough. 

Christopher Allen, OLB, Alabama

If he had been healthy for most of his career, he'd be a Day Two pick. But injuries limited him to five starts in his career as he also played behind some talented players, He was poised for a big season in 2022, but he suffered a foot injury in the first quarter of 'Bama's opener against Miami. He flashed early in that game before the injury. I think he has a real chance to be a productive NFL player. He would be perfect for a team looking for 3-4 rush linebacker. 

Luke Goedeke, RT,  Central Michigan

He is the "other" tackle on the Central Michigan team, but I am not so sure he should be. Bernhard Raimann, the left tackle for the Chippewas, is being mentioned as a potential first-round pick. But when I watched the tape of Goedeke, thanks in part to a mention by a scout I respect, I came away thinking he could end up as the better player than Raimann on the next level. Injuries hurt him last season, but he should be a longtime starter in the NFL, whether at right tackle or guard. 

Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia

Fellow Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean gets all the attention, but I think Tindall has a real chance to be a better NFL player. Tindall is bigger and faster and really pops on tape. He is explosive running to the football. Amazingly, he didn't start at Georgia. Dean and Quay Walker, another impressive prospect, were the starters. But Tindall's athletic ability and size translate to the next level. He can also rush the passer. He is violent. 

Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor

He has good size at 6-2, but the thing that stands out is his speed. Yes, he timed well at the combine at under 4.3, but what's really impressive is the way he runs away from defenders with ease. He's a long-striding glider who can turn short passes into big plays. The more I watched him, the more I liked. His West Virginia tape, including deep in where he ran away from the defense for a touchdown, was eye-opening. He's also a pretty good route runner for a speed guy, something he will get better at on the next level. Thornton will be a second-round steal. 

James Cook, RB, Georgia

Backs who can run and catch and create issues in the open field are now much more valuable than they used be. The game is spread out, which is perfect for Cook's abilities. He can get out of the backfield and create problems for linebackers, and he has the elusive ability to turn short gains into big runs. He isn't as good as his brother, Dalvin Cook of the Vikings, but he will be a productive NFL back.

Carson Strong, QB, Nevada

When you watch his tape, his arm pops off the screen. He can sling it. He also is good at recognizing and getting the ball to the right guys. So what's the problem? He has a bad knee, one that limits his mobility. With teams looking for mobile quarterbacks, that really sets him back. It seemed to get into his head some. But for a team in need, a third-round pick could end up paying big dividends if the knee holds up.

Sam Williams, DE, Mississippi

He had a 12.5 sack season in 2021, showing off impressive edge ability. He is a little raw when it comes to the tricks of the trade, but he will get better with good coaching. The athletic ability to be an effective edge player is there. There have been some character concerns in the past, which will drop him down, but if that checks out he's worth taking. Teams are starved for edge players, which could drive up his draft stock — even with character concerns. 

Thayer Munford, G-T, Ohio State

He played left tackle for most of his career, but moved inside to left guard last season. He is a powerful player who is good in the run game, but sometimes can struggle with his pass protection. Even so, the talent and want-to is evident on the tape. With a little refinement, he will be a long-term starter at guard on the next level and he's worth an early Day 3 pick. 

Smoke Monday, S, Auburn

He is a tall, leaner safety who is more than willing to throw his body around. There are a lot of plays on tape where he can chase down a run play from the deep middle to the sideline. That shows awareness and speed. He is a willing tackler, even if he needs to get bigger. He is also a solid coverage player who can turn and run when need be, even if he is sometimes too aggressive. He is fluid and had some big picks for the Tigers. A team that takes him in the fourth round will be getting a starter down the road. 

Lecitus Smith, G, Virginia Tech

I love former tight ends who move to the offensive line. It says a lot about their athletic ability, and Smith is no different. He was a high-school tight end who moved to the offensive line and became a quality starting guard for the Hokies. He isn't tall at 6-3, but he makes up for it with his power and tenacity. He reminds me of Brian Waters, who played guard for a long time at a high level in the NFL. 

Neil Farrell Jr., DT, LSU

He is a power player at 6-4, 335 pounds, but he showed against Alabama last season that he can move a bit too. He beat his block and chased down Bryce Young for a sack, showing off his athletic ability. For a team looking for a good inside player, one who might have some of his best football ahead of him, Farrell is certainly worth a pick in the fourth round.

Marcus Jones, CB, Houston

The team that drafts Jones will be getting a cover player — likely inside in the slot — and also a big-play return man. There's great value in both. Jones isn't a bigger corner at 5-9, 185 pounds, but he is a good cover player who has a knack for the ball. He has been a star sprinter in track in his career, which says a lot about his speed. 

Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama

He came into 2021 as a player to watch as a potential high pick, but didn't play as well. He was banged up some, but the tools are there to become a good NFL corner. He is just under 6-feet and he's been taught well, having played in a Nick Saban defense. He excels when matched up in man coverage. He will likely be a Day 3 pick, but he can end up being a steal for a team in need for a good cover corner. 

Max Borghi, RB, Washington State

In putting him on this list, I am thinking sixth or seventh round. But he's worth a shot. Why? He can run and he can catch. He showed off both of those skill sets in the Pac-12. You are not going to get a lot of long runs, but he will put his foot in the ground and go. He is smart when it comes to being able to catch the football. This is purely a down-the-line pick on a guy who offers the NFL the skill set that is needed for the modern back with his ability to catch the football. 

Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State

This is a good tight end class, but Kolar was as productive as any of them in his college career. He is a big-bodied tight end, but he's more receiver than blocker, which most tight ends are these days. He's not going to run by a lot of people, but he will be the type of player a quarterback loves when it's time to move the chains. That's what he was in college. That's what he will be on the next level. 

Bubba Bolden, S, Miami

At times in his career he looked like a first-round pick. He has size and speed and the ability to chase down plays from the deep middle. He isn't a great tackler, but the biggest knock has been injures. He suffered a shoulder injury last year that limited him to seven games. He's also had some off-field issues. But the talent is there if he can stay healthy and stay focused. 

Zach Tom, OL, Wake Forest

Tom is viewed by some teams as an inside player, which is where he started his career for the Demon Deacons. But he played tackle the past two seasons and really did a nice job in their RPO offense. His tape when matched against FSU's Jermaine Johnson was impressive. He isn't huge at 6-4, 307, but he plays with strength and he has the ability to lock up in pass protection. Line versatility is huge for teams, which is why he will be in the league for a long time.