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Get To Know Cincinnati Bearcats’ Top 2022 NFL Draft Prospects

  • The Draft Network
  • December 24, 2021
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The only undefeated team in the FBS with a statement win over Notre Dame, the Cincinnati Bearcats are deservingly among the four participants in the College Football Playoff. While it would be a surprise to see them top the Alabama Crimson Tide, Cincinnati is a talented football team littered with future NFL players. 

When it comes to the 2022 NFL Draft, the Bearcats will have more players drafted than a good number if not most Power 5 programs. There’s a reasonable chance that Cincinnati ISN’T the team in the College Football Playoff with the fewest number of players selected in the coming draft.

As you prepare to enjoy the College Football Playoff, get familiar with the talent in Cincinnati because you’ll see several of them playing on Sundays. Every name is clickable for you to read our full trait-by-trait breakdown on the prospect. 

QB Desmond Ridder: Ridder promises to be a polarizing prospect, but there’s a good chance he’s a first-round pick and he certainly won’t get out of the second round. In a unique class of quarterbacks, Ridder offers the best blend of size, arm talent, and athleticism. He has a cannon for a right arm and is an outstanding runner where his speed, vision, and physicality shine. His skill set enables the entire playbook to be open and then some. The concern with Ridder is that during four seasons as the Bearcats’ starter, his ball placement and accuracy have been problematic. While he makes his share of great throws that not every quarterback can make, there are also plenty of erratic passes. 

RB Jerome Ford: Ford was a 4-star recruit that began his career at Alabama, so seeing him against his former team offers plenty of intrigue. He transferred to Cincinnati ahead of the 2020 season and emerged as the bell cow back in 2021 and enjoyed a terrific season. Ford is a physical, downhill, no-nonsense runner that has terrific vision and contact balance. I love his consistency as a ball-carrier to find daylight and burst through the hole. He does well to blend patience and decisiveness. Despite being a bigger back, Ford absolutely has a second gear to pull away from defenders and break pursuit angles. While he’s been successful when targeted, Ford has a modest resume of pass-catching production, so I want to see him expand his role as a receiver to increase his value. Ford has the makings of a mid-round pick that becomes a valuable piece of an NFL running back rotation that claims 10-15 touches per game. 

WR Alec Pierce: I was late to the party with Pierce, but he’s an outstanding football player that I expect to rise throughout the process. He reminds me so much of Michael Pittman Jr. out of USC where he offers good size, exceptional hands, terrific ball skills, and exciting physicality. He’s a big-play threat down the field but also shines in the intermediate areas. I love his competitive toughness and physicality as a route-runner, ball-carrier, and blocker. And don’t confuse him as stiff or not explosive. Pierce is a smooth accelerator with good speed and can separate on the vertical and horizontal plane. I wouldn’t hesitate to draft Pierce on day two and secure a big slot/X receiver combination. 

TE Josh Whyle: Whyle burst onto the scene over the last two seasons after a bumpy start to his career. There is so much to like about Whyle in the passing game, where he offers a big body, plenty of length, good route-running skills, and excellent hands. He has wonderful body control and terrific ball skills to maximize his ability to win down the seam and in the middle of the field where he can be a mismatch. While he’s an enthusiastic and willing blocker, he needs considerable work with his technique to be more effective and to add more functional strength so he can exchange power better in the trenches. For a team looking for an athletic tight end with size that can be moved all over the formation and provide an X-factor, Whyle is a great option in the middle rounds. 

EDGE Myjai Sanders: Sanders is the Bearcats’ best playmaker on the defensive line that is explosive off the ball with good length and pass rush variety. He marries his speed with fluid hand usage to soften rush angles and apply heat on the quarterback. He can threaten the near hip of offensive tackles but also has plenty of inside counter moves and he is relentless in how he plays. While he is a touch lean, Sanders plays with great extension against the run and knows how to get off blocks. The rising crop of edge defenders is loaded, but Sanders should hear his name called on day two if he doesn’t sneak into the first round. 

LB Darrian Beavers: Beavers began his career at UConn before taking his talents to Cincinnati ahead of the 2019 season. He has developed into an impact playmaker on an outstanding Bearcats defense. He is a physical, downhill defender with terrific processing skills. He has such a natural feel for run fits, angles, and zone coverage drops. He can play through contact, deconstruct blocks, and is an outstanding tackler. He has the makings of a tone-setter for an NFL defense with value on every down. Teams that feature a hybrid-front defense should prioritize Beavers and he projects well as a Bill Belichick-style second-level defender. 

CB Ahmad Gardner: Do you like corners with quick feet, oily hips, long arms, explosive speed that offers coverage versatility, and good ball skills? Of course you do! That’s exactly what Gardner offers. He has every tool in the bag to be a shutdown cover corner that thrives in press and zone coverage. I do want to see more consistency as a tackler—he has some drag-down tendencies—and he can be very grabby in coverage. Gardner has grown steadily throughout his time at Cincinnati, added notable bulk to his frame, and developed into one of the top cover men in college football. He has a good shot at being a first-round selection that surely gets picked in the top 50. 

CB Coby Bryant: Gardner gets most of the hype when it comes to the Cincinnati cornerbacks, but Bryant is a solid prospect in his own right that assembled a terrific 2021 campaign and has climbed up draft boards. A four-year starter for a consistently outstanding Bearcats’ pass defense, Bryant is a rangy corner that is physical and offers exciting ball skills. Simply put, Bryant is tough to complete passes against and he’s an alpha on the football field. He’s an underrated player but shouldn’t be slept on. I expect him to make noise at the Senior Bowl and climb boards throughout the process. 

S Bryan Cook: Another transfer, Cook started his college career at Howard, where he played from 2017-2018 before transferring to Cincinnati (where he is from). It took some time for him to become a starter because two current NFL players—Darrick Forrest and James Wiggins—were entrenched, but Cook got his opportunity in 2021 and shined. He is versatile by alignment and I love his downhill trigger. He is a sound processor that does well to key, diagnose, and respond. He is a terrific tackler that can play off contact and takes good angles. He’s consistent in staying leveraged in coverage and is reliable in terms of being in the right spots. Cook will benefit from more playing time, where I expect his ball production and anticipatory skills will take another step. He should be an outstanding special teams contributor right away at the next level with the tools to develop and claim a role on defense.

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