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Immediately after Christmas in the movie "Elf," Santa told his toymakers that they "have had another very successful year. So, after all that hard work, it is time to start preparations for next Christmas!" The same is true regarding the NFL Draft. Some may still be writing recaps on last month's festivities but it is never too soon to become familiar with some of college football's shining stars and the projected top talent available in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Here is my way-too-early top 100 rankings for the 2022 NFL Draft class:

1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
2. Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
3. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
4. George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
5. Demarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
6. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
7. Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
8. George Pickens, WR, Georgia
9. Derion Kendrick, CB, Clemson
10. Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
11. Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
12. Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
13. Nick Broeker, OT, Ole Miss
14. Noah Daniels, CB, TCU
15. Joe Ngata, WR, Clemson
16. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
17. Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
18. Zion Nelson, OT, Miami
19. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
20. Kingsley Enagbare, EDGE, South Carolina
21. Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
22. Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU
23. DJ Dale, DL, Alabama
24. Charles Cross, OL, Mississippi State
25. Jaxson Kirkland, OL, Washington

These rankings need some context. I have just three players graded as first-round talents right now. By comparison, I ended the 2021 NFL Draft process with 15. Three quarterbacks were included in the top 25, but Howell is the only player that I feel confident would be taken in the first round right now. The first four quarterbacks taken in the 2021 NFL Draft rank higher than any prospect at the position in the 2022 class right now. 

Thibodeaux is a fantastic edge rusher and it is somewhat difficult finding flaws in his game. Ngata and Nelson stand out as potential blue-chip prospects. Ngata just needs more opportunity and Nelson needs his technique to match his athletic traits and profile. It is difficult to understand how anyone completed a pass against TCU last season. After having two highly-rated safeties, the Horned Frogs are back with two naturally gifted cornerbacks. 

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26. Will Mallory, TE, Miami
27. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
28. Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
29. Rasheed Walker, OL, Penn State
30. Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
31. Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
32. Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
33. Zion Tupuola-Fetui, EDGE, Washington
34. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
35. Haskell Garrett, DL, Ohio State
36. Cole Turner, TE, Nevada
37. Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
38. Daniel Faalele, OL, Minnesota
39. Austin Jones, RB, Stanford
40. Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama
41. Tyler Davis, DT, Clemson
42. DeMarvion Overshown, LB, Texas
43. Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
44. Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
45. Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
46. Jordan Battle, S, Alabama
47. Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
48. Merlin Robertson, LB, Arizona State
49. Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
50. Dishon McNary, CB, Central Michigan

Williams and Jones are the first two running backs on the list. Two running backs went in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but it is difficult envisioning any of the 2022 running backs getting into Day 1 right now. The first three tight ends join the conversation. Of note, the cornerback and offensive tackle positions look particularly strong. Offensive tackle has been somewhat of a strength for three straight years, which could be changing the narrative of a shortage of quality offensive tackles in the NFL and a wealth of pass rushers. Although, I think it is a potentially good year for edge rushers as well. 

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 51. Kedon Slovis, QB, USC
52. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
53. Tyler Linderbaum, OL, Iowa
54. Brenton Cox Jr., EDGE, Florida
55. Abraham Lucas, OL, Washington State
56. Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
57. Zonovan Knight, RB, N.C. State
58. Tyler Vrabel, OL, Boston College
59. Tiawan Mullen, CB, Indiana
60. Jamaree Salyer, OG, Georgia
61. Bubba Bolden, S, Miami
62. Drake London, WR, USC
63. Dante Stills, DL, West Virginia
64. Byron Young, DL, Alabama
65. Trace Ford, EDGE, Oklahoma State
66. Kolby Harvell-Peel, S, Oklahoma State
67. Chris Hinton, DL, Michigan
68. Sam Williams, EDGE, Ole Miss
69. Aidan Hutchinson, DL, Michigan
70. K.J. Henry, EDGE, Clemson
71. Brandon Joseph, S, Northwestern
72. Frank Ladson Jr., WR, Clemson
73. John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
74. Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati
75. Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee

Transferring has become very prevalent in college sports. Bolden transferred from USC and Mays transferred from Georgia. Vrabel is the son of Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. There is a laundry list of players that I am eager to see more extensively this season and Cox, Winfrey, Young and Hinton are near the top. 

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76. Adam Anderson, LB, Georgia
77. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
78. Drew Seers, LB, Lindenwood
79. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, N.C. State
80. Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State
81. Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
82. Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
83. Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
84. Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
85. Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
86. Joshua Paschal, EDGE, Kentucky
87. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
88. Mike Jones Jr., LB, LSU
89. Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky
90. Malik Cunningham, QB, Louisville
91. Wan'Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky
92. Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida
93. Tanner Morgan, QB, Minnesota
94. Phidarian Mathis, DL, Alabama
95. Master Teague III, RB, Ohio State
96. Kennedy Brooks, RB, Oklahoma
97. Greg Eisworth II, S, Iowa State
98. Zamir White, RB, Georgia
99. Jack Jones, CB, Arizona State
100. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State 

For context, the No. 100-ranked player on this list would have been ranked No. 175 overall last year.  Based on grade, 56 players on this list would have cracked the top 100 a year ago. Why is there such a big difference? There are multiple reasons: 

  • Younger prospects at talented programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, etc. have been hidden, so to speak. Several players, like Alabama defensive lineman Byron Young, have not received a ton of game repetitions. They will receive their chance to shine during the upcoming season.
  • I have not watched everyone. There are likely players that I would include today if I had gotten around to watching them.
  • Players develop. Joe Burrow and Zach Wilson found their names nowhere near a preseason top 100 draft prospect rankings list leading up to their final seasons.

The 2021 NFL Draft showcased significant interest in fast players with the ability to create underneath. They are the shooting guards that are able to create their own scoring opportunity. Rondale Moore, Anthony Schwartz and Tutu Atwell are some of the prospects that fit in this bucket. They were taken earlier than I had them ranked based on our scale. I see Kentucky's Wan'Dale Robinson and Georgia's Kearis Jackson as players that potentially fit the profile for the upcoming season. 

Anderson, Neal and Ekwonu have massive potential and could be much higher on this list before all is said and done. Porter Jr. is, of course, the son of the Steelers great.