Projecting Forward: A Look at the NFL Draft Class of 2022 Pt. 1
As the 2021 NFL Draft rapidly approaches, it’s time to project forward and look at the next class up; the Class of 2022. I’m sure by now most everybody has seen multiple Prospect Profiles of just about every fantasy-relevant (ish) player in this class, or they’ve seen plenty of Twitter threads regarding them. As our good friend and one of the owners of Fantasy Scouts Sam always says; “Project Forward. Always.” This is something I’ve always considered since first seeing him tweet that, and there’s no better way to do so than by starting the scouting on the Class of 2022.
Before we dive in I would like to say that if you’ve never participated in a Devy or C2C league, or if you have but aren’t currently in one I highly recommend getting started. I’m currently in my first ever Devy startup draft and not only does it make you scout ahead and become a better fantasy player and analyst, but it’s more fun than I can ever recall having in a normal Dynasty draft. With that being said, let’s begin.
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma Sooners
15 of the last 21 years there has been a Quarterback selected first overall, and I would be more than willing to bet that it will happen again in 2022. I don’t like indicating a player's success at the next level due to their college, but Lincoln Riley has been producing phenomenal QB’s, from Mayfield to Murray, and even Hurts (While the jury is still out here, Hurts can downright ball). Rattler is the next in line to be a phenomenal NFL-level QB. In his first season as a starter, Rattler threw for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, averaging 9.6 yards/attempt on a 67.5% completion percentage. He added 160 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground, but only on 81 attempts. Perhaps his best attributes are his phenomenal accuracy, arguably being better than Murray, Mayfield, and Hurts in that matter, as well as his ability to extend plays inside and outside of the pocket. Whether or not Rattler is the first QB off the board in 2022 he’s a surefire starter at the next level and a soon-to-be fantastic fantasy asset.
Sam Howell, North Carolina
As far as it goes for the QB Class of 2022 there isn’t a QB who’s proven more than Howell. As a true freshman, Howell threw for 3,641 yards and 38 touchdowns on 8.6 yards/attempt. Much like rookie QBs in the NFL, Howell took a HUGE leap as a Sophomore, throwing for 3,586 yards and 30 touchdowns on 64 fewer attempts while completing 68.1% of his passes (Up from 61.4% as a freshman). His Y/A also went up almost two whole yards to 10.3. He’s got phenomenal arm talent and does a great job of reading the field and progressing through his reads. Personally speaking, Howell is my QB1 of this class and the first QB I’m looking to acquire in SF/2QB leagues - both Devy and not.
Kedon Slovis, USC
This could be a toss-up pick for a lot of people, between JT Daniels, Slovis, and Jayden Daniels. Slovis has tremendous accuracy, throwing for 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns on a 71.9% completion rate AS A TRUE FRESHMAN. Slovis took a step back as a Sophomore, which was concerning but given the elbow injury he sustained in the second half of 2019 I would say that has something to do with it. He’s smart and utilizes his brains in a way every NFL QB does by reading the field. Contrary to his amazing completion percentage as a freshman, Slovis isn’t afraid to sling it into tight windows. While this can be seen as a problem by a lot of people, I look at it as a win. Not every QB is comfortable throwing into extremely tight windows, sometimes with multiple defenders within reach, but when you see a freshman do it without hesitation it’s a good sign of things to come. The concerning area with Slovis is his lack of arm strength. We’ve seen that he has arm talent, but lacks a very important component - overall arm strength. This may be concerning for some people, but I believe that as he matures and continues to train and become NFL ready we will see a lot more zip on his passes.
Breece Hall, Iowa State
My favorite prospect in 2022, and one of the only players I’ll be going out of my way to make sure I get in every league. As a sophomore, he exploded for over 1,500 yards on the ground (5.6 YPC) and 21 (!!) touchdowns. Perhaps it’s my love for him, but I don’t think he gets talked about nearly as much as he deserves. Seriously, if you have watched his film prior to this you must know why, and if you haven’t let me tell you what he does well; EVERYTHING. Size matters, and at 6’1” 215 lbs, he has the perfect frame and is a very powerful runner. Contrary to most powerful runners, Hall has some of the smoothest feet in college football. His change of direction is top of the class and has the burst and acceleration to perfectly compliment his patience in the backfield. He uses his frame and strength to drive defenders back and drag them with him, doing a great job of punishing those smaller than him and fighting for extra yards with those who are bigger. He’s quick and elusive, typically making the first defender or two miss in the open field before using his breakaway speed to get out of reach. Hall doesn’t get the recognition he deserves as a pass-catcher. This is due to his rather small pass-catching load (Only 23 receptions in 2020), but he’s been efficient when catching the ball. He’s the perfect mold for a three-down back, and quite frankly if he was in this 2021 draft class he would contend for my RB1.
Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M
Another back with a fantastic frame, Spiller also stands at 6’1” but weighs 10 lbs heavier than Hall, currently sitting at 225. Think of Hall without the breakaway speed, but also a back who’s better at breaking tackles. Depending on how you like your backs you could absolutely make the case for Spiller as RB1 of this draft class. As both a freshman and a sophomore Spiller averaged over 5 YPC, 5.4 in 2019 as a true freshman, and 5.5 in 2020. What I like most about Spiller is even though he isn’t as fast or quick as Hall he does a great job of making defenders miss in the open field. He’s extremely light on his feet, and although that doesn’t translate to top-speed for him, it translates well when it comes to making quick and easy cuts, jukes, and all the other moves inside his arsenal.
Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss
He’s smaller than both Hall and Spiller but by god, not even a MAC truck could stop him. While you won’t see him force a lot of non-contact misses in the open field, he makes up for it with his ability to get through contact. Watching film I noticed one big thing; it takes multiple defenders to take him down most of the time. As a freshman, he averaged nearly 7 yards/carry - 6.9 to be exact. The best part is he isn’t slow, either. He’s got the speed to beat defenders in a foot race, but even if he doesn’t you can’t count him out on the extra yards due to the fact that he’s just THAT hard to take down. Much like Hall, Ealy is not given enough credit for his receiving abilities. He had 5 fewer receptions than Hall but averaged nearly 3 more yards per reception. He does an exceptional job once the ball is in his hands both in the air and on the ground. The one concerning part is his workload or lack thereof. As a freshman, he only saw 104 carries and brought in 20 receptions, and while he averaged 6.9 YPC in 2019 it’s easier to do so on a lesser workload. In 2020 he carried the ball 147 times and we saw his efficiency drop off with the increase. Luckily we saw a bigger workload in 2020 and I fully expect said workload to increase in 2021, but with such a smaller sample size than we have for Spiller or Hall it’s a little harder to make the case for him as RB3 over Eric Gray, but I don’t care, I did it anyway.
Treylon Burks, Arkansas
6’3” 230 lbs. Most people have George Pickens as their WR1 for this class, but I’m frisky and REALLY like Burks. His toughness and ability to get out of tackles does a great job of demonstrating his raw strength and size, but man does Burks have some of the softest feet I’ve seen from a bigger guy. Burks is Toe Tap Tony personified and he makes his cuts seamlessly. In 2020 Burks had 820 yards on 51 receptions (2400 total passing yards and 183 total completions for the Razorback QBs) This gives him a DOM% of just about 40%. He’s also very, and I mean VERY, good at tracking the ball. You add that with his big hands, long arms, and overall tall frame and you have yourself any QBs best friend. Whether you need him for a jump ball or you need him to create enough separation to punish the defensive backs, Burks will do it all.
George Pickens, Georgia
The most obvious answer for WR1 is NOT my WR1. That goes without saying that Pickens is an absolute animal. If you’re looking for a raw, uber-athletic WR then Pickens is your guy. Whether it’s laying it all out there to get a long ball or climbing the ladder to get the high one, Pickens has done an excellent job in his first two years of correcting his QB’s mistakes. Pickens comes off the lane smoothly due to his excellent release, and his ability to track the ball makes for an overall great receiver. He has good size, standing tall at 6’3” and weighing just shy of 200 lbs. He’s an excellent sideline receiver who fairs well with maintaining balance and getting his feet inbounds while making circus catches. While not as polished as Burks, you could plug Pickens into the NFL today and I would guarantee he would make a splash. His athleticism is out of this world. The best part is we haven’t even scraped the ceiling as his upside is incredible.
David Bell, Purdue
Bell has the best hands in this class. Period. Whether it’s a jump ball, on the sideline, or in traffic he just doesn’t drop a lot of passes. He recorded 1,000 yards through the air as a true freshman on 86 receptions and added in 7 touchdowns, giving him a BOA of 18. Bell is an overall playmaker, both before and after the catch. He has a great frame at 6’2” 210 lbs and utilizes it very well. Dependent on how 2021 goes Bell could easily move up in my rankings (But still won’t be better than Burks).
There’s still PLENTY of time before the 2022 draft, and I fully expect rankings to shift around. There are a plethora of RBs and WRs that can easily leap into my top 3 before the end of the college season. As far as QBs go, I think the top three is pretty much a lock barring any unforeseen injuries or HUGE leaps from the likes of Jayden Daniels and company. Aside from the tops of their respective position, the 2021 class is rather boring. That being said, that gives us a lot to desire come 2022 and that’s one class that most definitely WON’T disappoint in any shape or form. If you’re disappointed with the overall depth of the 2021 class, then this class gives you something to be excited about.