2022 NFL Draft: 16 Players to Watch Thursday Night

by Pat Pryor
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Week 0 of college football did not disappoint! It may be because we were expecting some mediocre games, but it was still college football, and we still loved it. Now we’ve got a loaded schedule for Week One, and it starts Thursday. You’ll need to know who to watch for the 2022 NFL Draft, so we bring you that here. There will be a separate article for the weekend games, so this one will have all the players you need to know for Thursday. We’ll be able to make (almost) a full team of prospects, including only draft-eligible players. Since it’s so early in the season, I’ll be looking at their outlooks for the full year ahead, but once we see more of these guys this year, we can start talking about weekly matchups as well.


Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina

McCall led the Chanticleers to an astounding season last year, losing only to Liberty in overtime at the Cure Bowl. McCall threw 2,488 yards, 26 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions, and was named first-team All-Sun Belt. Now he heads into 2021 as one of the most intriguing prospects. He doesn’t have a ton of experience and his level of competition isn’t the highest, but Trey Lance and Zach Wilson have shown that some NFL teams don’t mind those questions. If he can showcase enough talent, someone will call his name in April. 

Running Backs:

Mohammed Ibrahim, Minnesota 

Ibrahim is one of the most talented players to watch this week. He’s a highly productive runner who has a lot of natural ability. In his three years, he has 2,840 yards and 31 touchdowns. He’s never shown much in the passing game, so he’s somewhat overlooked as a top running back option in the 2022 NFL draft, but he’s still incredibly talented. If he can catch some passes this year, he could establish himself as a great prospect. 

Master Teague III, Ohio State

In theory, this list could be full of Ohio State prospects, but I’ll have to space them out. Despite playing alongside Trey Sermon, and with Justin Fields, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, Teague has still put up solid numbers. In 24 games, he has 256 carries, 1,409 yards, and 13 touchdowns. He averages 5.5 yards a carry, and somehow came back from an achilles injury early in 2020 to play 7 games. Now slated to be the top running back, we’ll see how he handles a full workload. 

Wide Receiver: 

Bo Melton, Rutgers (game postponed to Saturday due to Hurricane Ida.)

Melton is headed into his fifth year at Rutgers and could be in for a breakout year. He’s steadily increased his production and talent each year, and saw a jump in numbers in 2020 despite playing three less games. He finished with 638 yards, 47 receptions, and six touchdowns. All of those were team highs. He’s performed through questionable quarterback play, and should still get better this year. For a team with few stars, Bo Melton shines bright. 

Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina

The electric offense that was Coastal Carolina last year wouldn’t have been the same without Heiligh. He was McCall’s favorite target (by far) and finished with 65 receptions, 998 yards, and 10 touchdowns. He was named first-team All-Sun Belt and is on the Biletnikoff award watch list. He’s in for a big season with another year with McCall. 

Chris Olave, Ohio State

Like I said last week, I’m going to have players on here once. Which means we’re only going to touch on Olave once, which will be tough. He’s a great talent, and many consider him the top wide receiver. His fiercest competition for that spot? Teammate Garrett Wilson. Ohio State has an insanely talented duo at wide receiver. Olave has racked up 111 catches, 1,775 yards, and 22 touchdowns while sharing the field with other prospects. He hopes to finish with a strong year and be selected as the first wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft, a journey that starts today. 

Tight Ends:

Brant Kuithe, Utah

Kuithe has earned second-team All-Pac 12 two years in a row, and he hopes to bring that up to first team in 2021. He has 79 career receptions for 1,065 yards ands seven touchdowns. He’s a versatile tight end who also has 150 rushing yards. Packing a unique athletic skillset, he could be in for a very productive years.

Offensive Line:

Cole Schneider (IOL), UCF

Schneider has played in all 36 games since his redshirt freshman season, and started 35. He’s been named All-AAC each season, and was a first-team selection in 2018 and 2020. The 6’4″ junior is on the Outland Trophy watch list and is a candidate for the All-America team. He’s got the talent to be the highest selected G5 prospect you’ll see tonight.

Nick Ford (IOL), Utah 

Ford defines versatility, as he has at least one game at every position on the line. He’s played 13 games at right guard, the most of any position. He played five games last year, four at center and one at right tackle. Despite playing those positions for the first time, he was named first-team All-Pac 12. He’s a strong lineman who can adjust to literally any position a team needs, and does it with ease. This versatility will give him a strong case to get a call during the 2022 NFL Draft.

Kellen Diesch (OT), Arizona State

A 2020 graduate transfer, Diesch originally started his career as a Texas A&M Aggie. In his first year at Arizona State, he started at tackle for a team that led the Pac-12 in rushing by almost 30 yards per game. He’ll now get another season under his belt and hope to improve his draft stock.


Nyles Pinckney, Minnesota

Pinckney spent five years in a top-notch program at Clemson before transferring to Minnesota for his final season. He only has 15 starts in 55 games so far, but he’s ready to change that this season with the Golden Gophers. He’s got experience playing against the best, and now he brings a veteran presence to Minnesota. After having the 12th ranked rushing defense in the conference last season (102nd nationally), Pinckney has big hopes to shake things up and make a name for himself.


Boye Mafe, Minnesota

A possible dark horse candidate as one of the best edge defenders in the Big Ten, Mafe had 27 tackles, 5.5 TFL’s and 4.5 sacks last year. A senior, he’s shown fantastic development from his rookie season in 2018. He starts off with a challenge against Ohio State, but don’t be shocked to see him begin to stack up sacks this season.


Devin Lloyd, Utah

Lloyd is a top linebacker prospect, and athlete, who burst onto the season his sophomore year. After redshirting in 2018, he would start all 14 games in 2019, amassing 91 total tackles, 11.0 TFL’s, 6.5 sacks, and an interception. In 2020, even with a shortened season, he still had a massive impact. He was a Butkus award finalist, and led the team in tackles and TFL’s. He’s got a real shot to have an outstanding year, and possibly be named All-American, as he’s already been named on Sporting News’ Preseason Team. However, he surely has his eyes set on the 2022 NFL Draft, where he could be one of the best linebackers available. 

Merlin Robertson, Arizona State

Roberston showed great development last year, but suffered due to a shortened season. In three games, he had 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He opened the season with 10 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery against USC. If he had played a full season, there would be no question that he would top his numbers from 2019. This year, he’s poised to do even better with a full slate of games.


Chase Lucas, Arizona State

A graduate student, Lucas is one of the best corners in the conference. Connecting with teammate Jack Jones, he makes an elite cornerback duo. The Pac-12 produced several top notch secondary options in the NFL draft last year, and Lucas hopes to join them this year. He’s on the Bednarik Award watch list, and first-team All-Pac 12 preseason list, an honor he hopes to have at the end of the season as well.

Shaun Jolly, App State

Returning to arguably the best defense in the Sun Belt, Jolly hopes to make a big splash as the number cornerback after the departure of Shemar Jean-Charles in the draft. He has 55 career tackles, 5.5 TFL’s and five interceptions. All of his interceptions came in 2019. Teams seemed to have learned their lesson and wouldn’t target him in 2020. He can be found all over the field, and he is considered by some as the best defensive player in the conference. 


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