As you know, I live on the NFL Draft for 11 months out of the year. I don’t count the month of May as I normally step away for a few weeks and decompress. But now we shift gears away from the 2021 NFL Draft and begin to look ahead to the 2022 NFL Draft.
Obviously, it’s still extremely early in the process. That doesn’t change the fact that we need to start laying down some groundwork and build the foundation for what will happen during the months to come. One question that always interests me is “Russ, where do you start when you get to the next draft class?”
There’s not a wrong or right answer. Just get started. Pick a team, find some names and just start watching the tape. More often than not, I’ll go into a film study expecting to watch one player and I’ll end up having two or three more names or jersey numbers written down. So yes, you can start at the very top of the list with players such as Spencer Rattler from Oklahoma, Kayvon Thibodeaux from Oregon, or Sam Howell out of North Carolina. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, these are the three players I started watching for this upcoming season and the 2022 NFL Draft!
Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
With much of the consensus, it seems as if Rattler or Howell will end up as the top two quarterbacks on most boards. Things can and probably will change. If there’s any changes made to boards, Matt Corral from Ole Miss could be the reason why.
He was once a top recruit who had committed to USC but then flipped to Florida, but ultimately ended up at Ole Miss. Since then, he hasn’t pulled a Tate Martell and entered the transfer portal to try and find playing time. Instead, Corral has stayed put and is really starting to put it together. During his 24 games played, he’s logged 14 starts and has thrown for over 4,900 yards. Meanwhile, he’s added 37 passing touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
Matt Corral (Ole Miss QB 2) initially wins with his eyes on this pass. He makes defenders decide if he's going to give this to the RB or throw it to Elijah Moore but he's got TE Kenny Yeboah wide open in the MOF. Yeboah makes a great cut and it's a big gain. pic.twitter.com/d5VI36FOAD— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) May 16, 2021
Watching him on tape, it’s clear to see that there’s a lot of tools to work with. He tends to throw from a consistent platform, works through his progressions and the ball can fly out of his hand. It’ll be interesting to see what he does without top receiver Elijah Moore (New York Jets) in the offense but a lot will be put on the shoulders of the redshirt sophomore quarterback. Look for the 6-1 and 205-pound quarterback to stand strong in the pocket and continues to improve on moving defenders with not just his arm but his eyes.
Isaiah Thomas, EDGE, Oklahoma
Moving away from Kayvon Thibodeaux at edge rusher, I’ve turned my attention to a player that isn’t getting talked about nearly enough. Paired on a defense with Perrion Winfrey and Nik Bonitto, there’s Thomas, who is just as good. He was a four-star recruit out of Memorial High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a four-star recruit, he had offers to schools such as South Carolina and Alabama but he ended up staying in his home state of Oklahoma.
Mentioned him last night but this is a real nice job by Isaiah Thomas from Oklahoma (DL 95). Reads the pulling guard and by exploding out of his stance, he goes untouched and makes a play in the backfield. pic.twitter.com/QVMsvx3tsA— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) February 16, 2021
Last season was the year that he broke out for the Sooners with 31 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Listed at 6-foot-5, Thomas has the versatility to play anywhere on a defensive front. He plays with good pad level, explosiveness and shows a good motor to be disruptive in the backfield. As we get into the college football season, plenty of people will know about Thomas.
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The conversation has already started for Evan Neal as the potential top offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft. Much of that is due to his size as he’s listed at 6’7 and 360 pounds. Many will consider him comparable to Mekhi Becton but we’ll see how Neal does in his first season as the starting left tackle for the Crimson Tide. During the Alabama Spring Game, he was playing left tackle and is projected to start there.
Watching some more of the Alabama offensive line tonight. Keep tabs on Evan Neal (RT 73). He provides the Crimson Tide with some versatility and experience. Has played LG and RT with 21 career starts. Listed at 6-7 & 360 pounds. Only a sophomore but we'll talk about him next year— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) December 11, 2020
Aside from his massive frame, Neal is a dominant run blocker. He’s got the grip strength coveted to dominate at the point of attack. While it’s rare for defenders to move him out of the way, he does need to refine his technique in pass protection. Overall, he moves well in space and should be viewed as one of the top offensive tackles in the country this season.