We are officially through the midway point of the college football season. There have been plenty of upsets, classics, and memorable games to date. As the weeks continue to progress, the 2022 NFL Draft picture continues to add layers with some players continuing to play well and others raising more questions than when the season began.
Emptying out my journal from Week 7, here are some prospects that managed to improve their draft stock.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Since returning from an ankle sprain, Thibodeaux has been on a tear. In front of a national audience on Friday night, he continued to live up to the hype. Sitting atop most draft boards already, he wanted to return from his injury and show evaluators that he was worthy of the hype. Fulfilling that and more, he dominated against Cal. In a performance that included 11 pressures in the second half, he made a statement by putting together the type of performance that he wanted to showcase to prove that he’s healthy.
The 2020 class didn’t have an edge rusher in the elite tier like we’ve seen in years past with players like Myles Garrett and Chase Young, but Thibodeaux is assured to be in that type of tier. The player that he’s most commonly been compared to is Jadeveon Clowney.
From an on-the-field perspective, the Oregon star defensive end is an athlete that is still working to improve upon the nuances of playing the position. Winning with explosiveness and urgency, he must continue to add seasoning to a skill set that has a limitless future.
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
One of my red dot players for Week 7, Cross faced his stiffest test of the season. Matched up against an Alabama defense that recently surrendered 41 points a week ago in an upset defeat to Texas A&M, he had his hands full against the talented Crimson Tide front. The Alabama defense finished with seven sacks on the night, but none were given up by Cross.
Cross’ biggest hiccups of the night came when attempting to communicate with the left guard while trying to pick up twists and stunts in certain situations. In pass protection, Cross was his usual self. Stone-walling each rusher that he came across, he displayed why there’s potential first-round buzz surrounding his name. The Bulldogs’ blindside protector is much stronger than his frame indicates and he has an anchor that works well for him.
The results of the game weren’t pretty for the Bulldogs, but Cross helped himself quite a bit with an impressive showing against the Crimson Tide. In zone-oriented schemes, Cross could potentially be a day-one starter.
Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
If I had to pinpoint one defensive prospect that’s improved the most this year, Dean would be one of the first names to be mentioned. The Georgia defense is on a historic pace and a large reason behind that is the play of Dean.
At 6-foot and 225 pounds, Dean is a bit undersized as a MIKE linebacker, but he plays the game much bigger. An infectious type of playing style perfectly coupled with a never-ending want to find the ball and physicality when reaching those locations, he’s a modern-day fit at the position on the next level. A trait that he constantly received A+ grades on is as a blitzer. Creating and generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks has been an area where he’s been able to provide value weekly.
Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati
Often referred to as the “other Cincinnati corner” opposite of Ahmad Gardner, Bryant has put together an impressive senior season.
Studying Gardner this summer, I couldn’t help to notice the consistency that Bryant was playing with. Possessing plenty of fluidity, ball skills, and smarts at the position, he quietly continued to remain productive throughout the duration of his career. Starting in 43 of the 55 games that he’s participated in with the Bearcats, his experience showed during Saturday’s contest against UCF.
Collecting his first career pick-six, he’s a prime third or fourth-round candidate that could go on to become a starter early on in his career. The biggest question that Bryant will need to answer during the spring lead-up to the 2022 draft is how fast he truly is.
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