Picking my first top 51 NFL draft prospects was challenging. There is a plethora of wide receivers, offensive linemen and edge players. I tried to make sure I didn’t focus too much on the Youtube highlight reels, where everyone looks like a superstar. My course of action was to review as much game tape as possible, supplemented by Senior Bowl week, reports and speaking to people I know. When viewing the game tape I tried to watch blowouts like the Oregon-Utah game won by the Utes 38-7. I tried to see what Kayvon Thibodeaux was doing when his team was getting hammered. Did he still play hard? Did he quit? I also know that the listed height and weight will change after the Combine. Many scouts when reviewing film list physical measurables with an “E” (estimate) and after the Combine usually a “V” (verified) appears on everyone’s personal chart.
As a New York Jets fan I tried to be objective ranking players solely on talent. I wouldn’t be unhappy if the the gifted defensive back Sauce Gardner wore the green and white. But I also know Robert Saleh prefers pass rushers to disrupt the quarterback’s rhythm rather than a shut down DB with early picks. I also refuse to fall into the trap that a pick is too high because of a certain position. If center Tyler Linderbaum shows the right stuff, I ranked him accordingly. For better or for worse, here is my top 51 BC (Before Combine) draft prospects 1.0.
Schupak’s Draft Prospects Top 51, 1.0
1. Aiden Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan 6’6” 265 lbs. Plays big, plays fast and plays smart. Shows leadership on the field and loves directing people to the correct spot. It's close but I see Hutch as the best of this year’s prospects! 2. Ikem Ekwonu, OT/G NC St. 6’4” 320 lbs. Listed as tackle but can move inside at guard. Violent finisher! If he refines pass blocking skills, he has a chance to be a Quenton Nelson. Very high ceiling!
3. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon, Edge 6’5” 258 lbs. May sink lower but he’s a gamer. Too many top of the draft comparisons to Garrett or Bosa. He’s not them, but is real good and can get better. Despite late negativity, teams would be dumb passing on him.
4. Tyler Linderbaum,iowa, 6’3” 290 lbs. Too many people are overlooking his intelligence and love for football. A potential 10 year starter and pro bowler. I ranked him right where he should be picked!
5. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati, 6’2” 188 lbs. Just an incredible cover DB. He has not let up a TD in centuries! In ’21, he allowed only 131 yards on 14 receptions.
6. Kyle Hamilton, S, LSU, 6’4”, 220 lbs. Very smart with off the chart instincts. Can react and anticipate well. Hybrid with linebacker DNA. Physically he possesses the future of the NFL, a long tall safety to offset the present tight end craze in the league.
7. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama, 6’7”, 350 lbs. Moves incredibly well! Very competitive and plays tough. Might be the most NFL ready player in the draft. Can run block and pass block equally well.
8. Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah, 6’3” 235 lbs. May be the best all-around linebacker in this draft. This past year he had 110 tackles, 22 TFL, 8 sacks and 4 interceptions.
9. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State 6’1” 189 lbs. Excellent route runner who has a great burst. Straight ahead speed is said to be better than speedster teammate Garrett Wilson. Might turn out to be the safest and best WR choice. Underrated with contested catches. Olave catches everything! 10. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State, 6’0”. 188 lbs. Extremely gifted receiver who combines smart route running with great speed. Has great YAC ability. Has potential to be special with big play ability.
11. Derek Stingley, CB, LSU, 6’1”, 195lbs. If he can get back to his freshman form, he is dynamic. Excellent size combined with speed. Great ballhawk who must overcome injury stigma.
12. George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue, 6’4”, 275 lbs. Has incredible athleticism. An incredible pass rusher who must play the run better. His first step may be the best in the draft.
13. David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan, 6’5” 250 lbs. A work in progress. Went from zero sacks to double digits the last 2 years. Benefitting from Hutchinson on the other side is overrated. Possible boom or bust with a very high ceiling. Will start as a third down player and should ease in his second year to be a three down player.
14. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas, 6’3” 225 lbs. People who doubt his speed should watch his Alabama tape. Great hands (that are huge) and knows how to use his body.
15. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty, 6’1” 215 lbs. In what has been called a weak QB class, Willis is rising fast. Incredible athlete with an arm to make every throw. As we get closer to draft day, he will move up the charts.
Reduce your strokes with the #1
golf video in the world:
16. Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia, 6’5”, 275 lbs. This guy is oozing with talent. He can play inside and outside and can drop into coverage. Another work in progress, this physical specimen has all the intangibles.
17. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia, 6’0” 225 lbs. Makes up for his size with incredible sideline to sideline speed. Intelligent player who is like another coach on the field. At the Combine, his verified height and weight will be important. If he had Devin Lloyd’s size, he too, would be a top 10 pick. 18. Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State, 6’5” 310 lbs. Cross has had a lot of pass-blocking reps with Mike Leach’s offense. He allowed 44 pressures on 574 pass-blocking snaps in 2020 and 16 on 719 pass-blocking snaps this year.
19. Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia, 6’3” 307 lbs. My first interior defensive lineman off the board. He is an athletic freak who gets mislabeled as the beneficiary of an elite Georgia defense. Plays run well and and is excellent getting pressures on passing plays. Has ability to split double teams.
20. Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama, 6’2” 189 lbs. ACL injury keeps him out of my top 10. Even if he cannot start the season, if he lasts this long, it could be the steal of the draft. In ’21 had 79 rec.,1,572 yards and 15 TDs. His 19.9 yards per reception is Paul Warfield like.
21. Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State, 6’4”, 260 lbs. No one has ascended faster in the post season. Showed his pass rushing skills at the Senior Bowl. Great speed with excellent first step and loves to track down runners.
22. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh, 6’3”, 217 lbs. My QB2. He is one of those big one year risers. Does everything well but not elite and plays like he knows he’s a winner A little note that Carolina Panther owner David Tepper went to Pitt.
23. Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia, 6’6” 340 lbs. Unfairly described as a one trick pony who cannot be moved. His athleticism is underrated. Reminds me a lot of former Patriots Vince Wilfork, but better.
24. Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington, 6’0” , 200 lbs. A freak athlete that combines athleticism with fluidity who can cover on the outside and in the slot. If he polishes certain techniques, there is no limit to his upside success.
25. Drake London, WR, USC, 6’5” 210 lbs. Began at USC playing basketball which shows on the field. His best known attribute is the contested catch. He had 19 of them despite an injury shortened ’21. Before his broken ankle, he had 88 catches for 1,084 yards.
26. Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington, 5’11” 195 lbs. Plays a lot bigger than his height. Fast closer and great run stopper. He won’t intercept a lot of passes but you’ll see his number flash across your TV screen all game.
27. Kenyon Green, G, Texas A & M, 6’4”, 325 lbs. Great versatility! Can play tackle and guard on both sides. His best position seems to be at left guard. Great movement for his size.
28. Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson, 6’0”, 200 lbs. Teams looking for run stoppers at the corner will love Booth. He has limited starter experience but shows great agility ands great hands.
29. Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn, 5’11”, 189 lbs. Very good in man coverage who gives up little or no separation. Physically he doesn’t fit the bill but this overlooked recruit plays with a big chip, and makes the opposition pay and pay darely.
30. Jalen Pitre, S/DB Baylor, 6’0”, 197 lbs. Some have him as a safety. Some cornerback. I love versatility and he can play both and play them well. Pitre plays larger than his frame and his play strength is better than expected. He is fearless and won’t back down an inch from 300 lbs. pulling guards. He is a personal favorite of mine!
31. Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa, 6’7”, 330 lbs. Stood out at Senior Bowl in one on one drills. As nasty a demeanor as the 9th grade bully I knew and always avoided. I’m not sure he will get away with the way he plays. He can be a penalty machine.
32. Daxton Hill, S, Michigan, 6’0”, 192 lbs. Another versatile safety who can play high and low and even cornerback. Played a lot of slot in college but it is his combination of speed, instinct and anticipation that can make him special.
33. Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State, 5’11”, 184 lbs. Somewhat undersized but catches everything. Plays much taller than his listed 5’11” height. His catch radius is one of the best I’ve seen. Great route runner with a quick burst!
34. Demarvin Leal, DT, Texas A & M, 6’4” 290 lbs. Versatility is unique. Can play inside as a tackle or outside as an end. Negative is he is too much of a “tweener.” He has been dropping and needs a good Combine.
35. Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, Penn. State, 6’2”, 250 lbs. This Temple transfer had 18 TFLs and 9 1/2 sacks in his only year with the Nittany Lions. He has a non-stop motor but must improve playing the run.
36. Matt Coral, QB, Ole Miss, 6’0”, 200 lbs. Listed taller so Combine numbers are essential. Can make most of the throws. Has a great knack of extending plays but can hold the ball too long and pays for it. Missing Senior Bowl may have hurt his ranking.
37. Quay Walker, LB, Georgia, 6’4”, 240 lbs. Probably underrated because of the talent that he was surrounded with at Georgia. He can do everything linebackers need to do including pass coverage. His combination of speed and strength is as good as anyone in this class.
38. Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan, 6’6”, 304 lbs. This foreign exchange student from Austria played tight end first, then moved to tackle. Tremendous run blocker who is a work in progress who must get better in pass blocking. His rookie year will show a ton of improvement from game 1 to game 17.
39. Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A & M, 6’1”, 220 lbs. First running back off the board. Great runner between the tackles and shows outside burst with excellent vision. Very explosive! NFL teams will love his blocking picking up the blitz and downfield. The most NFL ready back in the draft.
40. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State, 6’1”, 215 lbs. Spiller and Hall are 1 and 1a for running backs. Hall does a great job creating space. Like Spiller, Hall’s vision is excellent! He is a decent blocker and he improved a lot catching the ball this past season. Very patient runner who is excellent finding the right hole. Reminds me of Emmett Smith.
41. Jacquan Brisker, S, Penn State, 6’1” 204 lbs. One of the most improved players during the ’21 season. He has great ability to change directions and move laterally. Loves to disrupt passing plays. Loves to blowup running plays. Must be able to read plays a little quicker but he is an all around prospect, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns into the best safety in a deep safety class.
42. Boye Mafe, Edge, Minnesota, 6’3 1/2” 255 lbs. A Late climber who is something of an athletic freak! So explosive you’d think he knows the snap count He would be a perfect compliment to an Edge1. Mafe will get better and can become great in year two or three..
43. Christian Harris, LB, Alabama, 6’2” 232 lbs. He has played the position for only two years. He was great against Georgia. He can be a big blitz linebacker in the NFL. His speed going through the gap is one of the best.
44. Drake Jackson, Edge, USC, 6’4” 250 lbs. Very explosive on his first step. Jackson has a high football IQ. Drops back into coverage well. Better suited for the 3-4 and may start as only a 3rd down player. But his best football is ahead of him.
45. Zion Johnson, Boston College, G/C, 6’2 3/4” 314 lbs. This Davidson transfer was very highly ranked in ’22. He was one of the stars of Senior Bowl week staying late to get reps at center. I consider him a perfect size to play guard. He allowed only six pressures this past season.
46. Louis Cine, Georgia, S, 6’1”, 200 lbs. The last safety to make my list in a deep class at that position. No other safety hits harder than Cine. Ask Kyle Pitts. Shows versatility and leadership. You can see him directing other teammates where to be before the snap. Must be disciplined in the NFL with his hits.
47. David Bell, Purdue, WR, 6’2”, 205 lbs. In this deep wide receiver class, David Bell is the one player that is hardly mentioned. Watching his tape, he does everything very well but is not the best at any one skill. With that said, there is nothing he can’t do. I won’t be surprised if he excels more than the others in this talented bunch. 48. Sam Howell, North Carolina, QB,6 ’0”, 221 lbs. Smart, accurate quarterback who had to deal with skill position teammates injured this past year. His Senior Bowl week was good but could have been better. Throws from different angles and can improvise and extend plays.
49. Derion Kendrick, Georgia, 5’11 1/2”, 202 lbs. He is a former receiver who transferred from Clemson. Has excellent coverage ability. He has been a quick learner since moving to defense and is proficient in both man and zone coverage though he lacks elite speed.
50. George Pickens, Georgia, WR, 6’3”, 200 lbs. If Jameson Williams is a top 25 pick, Pickens cannot be far behind him. Both suffered ACL injuries. Pickens has an ideal frame to be an impact receiver. Some of his diving catches are unreal. A great route runner who has excellent burst, the doctors will probably be the determining factor as to where he will be drafted. Some team may get a steal in the second round.
51. Chad Muma, Wyoming, LB, 6’2 1/2” 241 lbs. Muma has an uncanny knack for reading quarterbacks and anticipates well. He was one of the most productive defenders in ’21, generating 68 total defensive stops, three picks and 21 pressures for Wyoming. Great burst and straight ahead speed. Some Wyoming coaches have whispered that Mama is better than former teammate Logan Wilson.
NFL Important Dates
- March 1-7: 2022 NFL Scouting Combine | Lucas Oil Stadium | Indianapolis
- March 8: Prior to 4 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players
- March 14-16: During the period beginning at noon, New York time, on March 14 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 16, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2021 player contracts at 4 p.m., New York time, on March 16.
- March 16: The 2022 League Year and Free Agency period begin at 4 p.m. ET.
- March 16: Trading period for 2022 begins at 4 p.m., New York time, after expiration of all 2021 contracts.
- March 27-30: Annual League Meeting | The Breakers | Palm Beach, Fla.
- April 4: Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2021 regular season may begin offseason workout programs.
- April 18: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs
- April 20: Deadline to bring draft-eligible players to their facilities for a physical examination.
- April 22: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
- April 27: Deadline for prior club to exercise Right of First Refusal to restricted free agents.
- April 27: Deadline to time, test, and interview draft-eligible players.
- April 28-30: 2022 NFL Draft | Las Vegas
Marty Schupak has been a New York Jets football fan since 1964. His blog and Podcast are both at: