John Harris' Sleeper Picks of the 2022 NFL Draft

So 32 players are off the board after a fairly eventful evening in the 2022 NFL Draft. Who's left? Here are my next ten available. Could one, or more, become a member of the Texans at No. 37 or even later? Let's take a look.

LB

Nakobe Dean, Georgia - the ALPHA of the ALPHAS on that defense.

Here's my Harris 100 Scouting Report on Dean:

"Dean is a Mechanical Engineering major, my gosh, so let's just start there. Furthermore, he's even smarter on the field than he is on the gridiron. I didn't ever think I'd see Roquan Smith Jr. again but that's exactly who he is, a hair slower and not as twitchy, but he's a hair more physical, taking on blocks and finding ball carriers then delivering shots all day long. He showed his athleticism and coverage skills when he picked a flat route in man coverage on a Florida RB and took it to the house for a pick six. Leader. Tough. Speedy. His closing speed is legit, but he is short...er and more stout than some of this linebacker class. Now that said, Dean can absolutely ball. On the first play of the National Championship game, he couldn't quite see Alabama RB Brian Robinson Jr. break out behind his hulking interior defensive linemen. Once he saw the Alabama RB break out, he took off like a shot. Speed. Pure speed. His best play all year had to be the pick six he had against Florida in which he was matched up one-on-one on the outside receiver (RB) and he matched and mirrored like a cover safety and took the pass to the house to break open a close game.The full combination of linebacker skills and THE alpha for the great Georgia defense."

Edge rusher

David Ojabo, Michigan - coming off an achilles tear, which could mean he might need to redshirt in his rookie campaign. Fully healthy, he would've been a Top 20 pick.

Here's my Harris 100 Scouting Report on Ojabo:

"Ojabo was born in Nigeria, moved to Scotland, then came to the states for high school. He won the 2018 high school state title in the 100-meter at 10.93 seconds - and that speed more than shows itself on the field. His breakout game came against Michigan State when he terrorized the Michigan State tackles and QB Payton Thorne. He was thought to be Aidan Hutchinson's sidekick, but no offensive tackle that faced both Michigan rushers would tell you he enjoyed facing Ojabo and that insanely quick first step. He's still learning about the game and is as moldable clay as it gets. His hands are improving and he moves at such a fast rate that he doesn't always have to use them. Think Azeez Ojulari (NY Giants/Georgia) with more speed and burst. Sheesh."

CB

Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson - see Ojabo's situation above, injury shelved him during the draft process.

Here's my Harris 100 Scouting Report on Booth Jr.:

"Booth Jr. might have the best hands of any cornerback in college football. Those hands are receiver-like. He has excellent match and mirror ability, that of a 12-year NFL veteran. He also has plenty of room to improve and he did just that in the 2021 campaign. I watch Sauce Gardner - and people are ULTRA-HIGH on Sauce and for good reason - but Booth Jr.'s game is much cleaner and less grabby/physical. I also love Booth Jr.'s discipline. A great example of this came against Boston College. He was in man coverage and as his receiver crossed the field on a dig route, Booth Jr. was right in his hip pocket. Then, both WR/DB saw the QB start to scramble, which is typically the death knell for a CB in man coverage. Booth did take one quick look at the QB, but then realized that he had to stay in coverage. He then found his receiver and got right back in phase and stayed there until the ball was thrown elsewhere. I think his ability to play off and press equally well without mauling receivers is going to help him be a quality cornerback in this league. That's where Gardner might have struggles. Booth Jr. can close on the ball with more than adequate transitional quickness. He's going to play in this league and excel for a long while."

QB

Malik Willis, Liberty - Only one QB was drafted in 1st round.

Here's my Harris 100 Scouting Report on Willis:

"Willis' mix of arm acumen and athleticism should have Auburn fans sad that he chose to move on rather than fight Bo Nix for the starting job. Willis continues to be more of a thrower than passer at this point. If he continues to polish up the cannon he's going to be just fine because he has a howitzer for a right arm. I love his command of the offense and ability to bounce back from adversity. I had thought prior to the season that if he polished up some bright spots, he would fight to make it into the Draft's Top 20. He didn't quite accomplish that in the 2021 season but he was the clear QB winner through two days at the Senior Bowl. Clear. Winner. It's not even close. Even Pitt's Kenny Pickett, who I have as QB1, has not been at Willis's level this week. Willis has flashed his big arm and when he decides to GRIP IT AND RIP IT, look the heck out. I've seen Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and every quarterback that's been at the Senior Bowl for the past nine years and no one, I repeat, NO ONE has thrown a ball with that kind of velocity. Yes, I know what I just said. Willis' ability to spin it has never been in question but seeing the strength of his arm up close, like, WOW, what did I just see?!? He was the guy that truly stood out more than any other in all of the practices, especially so when ripping a couple of 20-25 yard dig routes on a rope. The drawback is that the ball can sail a bit on Willis, which is not a great thing on those throws over the middle. During one-on-ones, Willis ripped a fastball to South Alabama WR Jalen Tolbert on that same dig route for a completion. Tolbert got separation but it wasn't much. The size of the opening didn't matter, though, as Willis threw the best ball of the day for the completion. A little later, Willis dropped to throw off of play action and was dead to rights with two defenders in his face. He pulled it down, spun back to the outside and sprinted up the field for a first down. He's electric. He's got WOW arm strength. He just hasn't found that consistency… yet. He's shown his pocket evasion skills. He has led the offense. It's clear the American offense was looking to him as THE alpha in the huddle. He made throws that NFL QBs won't even try to make. It's not that he's been perfect, either. But, he's just been that much better than all other QBs in Mobile. Now, I still think he'll fall behind Pickett and Matt Corral (Ole Miss) in my Harris 100, but the gap shrank. Am I putting too much emphasis on his performance this week? Not at all because I'm taking his entire resume into account, which certainly includes the week in Mobile. At the media breakfast in Mobile, he was cocksure and confident with all of his answers and has carried himself as the top QB in the draft. Would it surprise me if he goes QB1 in this draft? In THIS Draft? Nothing will surprise me, but he's moving closer and closer on every single rep. Would I love him in my building, work with him on the daily and see what he could be in the near future? Absolutely."

OLB

Boye Mafe, Minnesota - an outstanding athlete with his best football in front of him.

Here's my Harris 100 Scouting Report on Mafe:

"I've watched Maye on film a number of times and I've seen and studied him up close at the Senior Bowl...and I'm confused, kind of. He's one of the best overall athletes in this class. Bruce Feldman placed him at 17th on the 2021 Freaks List. He's 255 lb. with 33 3/8-inch arms. He has posted a 40 1/2 inch vertical, broad jumped 10-6 and ran a 4.57 in the 40. He cleaned 400 lb. as well during his time at Minnesota. Freaky, right? At the Senior Bowl, he was completely unblockable at times off the edge in one-on-ones and during team drills. He was smoothly violently. It didn't even look as if he was moving all that quickly or explosively but he beat guys repeatedly. He's exceptional with his hands and his usage is excellent. Against Nebraska during the season, he rushed from a stand-up position off the right side, used his right (outside) hand to pin the tackle's inside arm down and quickly ripped through to force an incompletion. Again, smoothly violent at 255 lb. There's a but coming and it's right here...given those traits, that speed, that build and that full package, shouldn't he have dominated at a much higher level than he did at Minnesota? He had moments and he'd flash ala Penn State's Odafe Oweh in 2020. Oweh had no sacks in five games in 2020 while Mafe had 7.0 sacks in 13 games in 2021 and those two have some similarities. Oweh was more explosive off the ball but needed a ton of polish, while Mafe needs to tap into his football freak a little more. He can bend the edge. He has outstanding hand placement and usage. He just has to unleash a bit more as he moves into the league as a stand up 3-4 OLB. He could play with his hand down a bit more and succeed, but he seems suited to play as that 3-4 OLB. I can just envision the Patriots or Steelers drafting him and turning him into an 8-10 sack/year disruptor once he gets comfortable learning the scheme. I could see some team trying to turn him into something he's not and he turns into Barkevious Mingo or someone of his ilk (special teams star and not much more)."

QB

Matt Corral, Ole Miss - Missed most of Draft process rehabbing ankle injury suffered in the Sugar Bowl.

Here's my Harris 100 Scouting Report on Corral:

"I did a fairly thorough scouting report after his performance against Tulane. What stood out to me was how accurate and effective he was on inside breaking routes (slants are money) and his running ability. Shoot, he ran it 30 times at Tennessee for 195 yards. He's tough as heck and that whole Cali QB thing doesn't define him at all. He's matured a ton since his days in high school and in four years at Ole Miss. He has an absolute cannon but there are times when he has to rein things in as both a thrower/passer and a runner. At this point, I have Kenny Pickett a shade ahead of him because Pickett is a little safer but if Corral is placed in the right situation, he's going to become the alpha for that team and turn it around in due time."

QB

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati - I thought he would sneak into the first round based on intangibles alone.

Here's my Harris 100 Scouting Report on Ridder:

"Ridder is certainly a rising star in the 2022 NFL Draft class. He was 2018's AAC Rookie of the Year and continued his ascent for the final three years of his career. He and his wife had a child prior to the 2021 season and it's put him on super-focus, to be honest. The coaching staff loves his work ethic, football IQ and willingness to learn the game and lead the team. He seems to be learning how to take a few rpms off the fastball to be more precise with his ball placement. Furthermore, he's doing a few more little things to polish his game. That said, he needs to continue to work on getting over the top with his throwing motion. He has a strong enough arm, no doubt, but on longer throws that need to be on a line, his elbow tends to drop and the ball can sail; he must consistently focus on mechanics on the throws he has to really rip into a tight spot. He's showing some subtle movements in the pocket this year to get cleaner throwing lanes. A great example of this was on a curl route he threw to WR Alec Pierce v. ND. He needs to be more precise on his shorter throws. Against Notre Dame, had he thrown the ball out in front RB Jerome Ford on a simple flat route, the Bearcat RB would've picked up a significant gain. Little things, really. He can DEFINITELY save a bad play against an excellent defensive play call. Overall, he's not as accurate with the ball from a clean pocket to open receivers as he should be and that has to improve over the last half of the 2021 season. That said, he's rarely frustrated or flustered - shows tremendous poise and calm backed up or in clutch situations. A perfect example of the consistency that's lacking a bit showed up against Notre Dame. Late in the 1st half, he had an all hitch/Y seam against Cover 3. He read it PERFECTLY and threw an accurate laser to his big TE that got them on other side of 50. Then, on the very next play, he threw an opposite field 3-step hitch and it was nearly a pick six going the other way. He throws the touch routes extremely well; the seven route he threw against Notre Dame was stupid good. Against Indiana, he spied a corner cat blitz right from jump and threw a perfect shot in the hole behind the blitzing cornerback for a big completion. I just study one of his games and there are times where I see THAT NFL throw and there are other times when he throws off his back foot, high, down the middle of the field and it's picked. He made both of those throws against Indiana. There's a comfort, I feel, studying him and projecting him as my quarterback but said comfort gets disrupted by his inconsistency later in the game."

RB

Breece Hall, Iowa State - As expected, no RBs were taken in the first round but Hall is RB1 in an extremely diverse class.

Here's my Harris 100 Scouting Report on Hall:

"Hall is one of my three favorite running backs in this 2022 NFL Draft class. There's been a ton of debate as to whether he or Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M) or Kenneth Walker III (Michigan State via Wake Forest) is RB 1 in this draft class. Hall is my pick although it's quite close. The first thing that stood out to me was his vision. He has such light feet and excellent vision that it's hard to corral him at any time. Against Oklahoma in 2020 on a Saturday night, Iowa State called outside zone to the left in the second half. When Hall started on his path, an Oklahoma defender popped right into view. Hall stopped on a dime, spun and went out the back door for positive yardage. It was a seven yard loss at a minimum, but his vision, quickness and twitch turned it into a positive run. What he sees and how he exploits that for his benefit is beyond me. He has suddenness and an insane ability to change direction. He can stop on a dime, scan the situation, plant that outside foot and find four to five more yards that didn't seem to be there in the first place. But, he's no light touch at 215 lb. He won't be a plow-through back ala Brian Robinson Jr. (Alabama) but he's powerful enough to break tackles and create after first contact. He's extremely patient in the zone game and he had to be with the Iowa State offensive line that didn't get a ton of movement off the ball. His touchdown run against Texas in 2021 off the option showed how dangerous he can be in the open field. He caught the pitch, had the edge, got N/S in a hurry, gave the safety the most subtle slip move and then cutback on the backside safety before racing all the way to the house for a touchdown. Later in the third quarter, he has a run that shows the full package - a juke, a spin, a hesi, a jump cut - on three defenders that had him dead to rights - it turned into a 20-yard run. He's RB1, even if it is close."

CB

Kyler Gordon, Washington - athletic, smooth and versatile at either inside or outside CB spots

Here's my Harris 100 Scouting Report on Gordon:

"Gordon made Bruce Feldman's Freaks list 2021 and for good reason. He's an explosive dude with a 42.5-inch vertical and 3.87 short shuttle and, AND, he has a background in dance, ballet and kung fu, apparently. Washington former head coach/defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake says Gordon was the most athletic defensive back he's ever coached. He played the nickel position for 2020 and transitioned outside opposite Trent McDuffie in 2021. Incredibly quick on his feet with agility for days, Gordon can transition from route to route in zone coverage with the best of them. The Oregon Ducks tried to high/low him basicall with some version of flat/short sail off of RPO action. Gordon started to the flat which forced Oregon QB Anthony Brown to re-cock his arm because he then wanted the short sail. Gordon flipped his hips as smooth as could be and ended up jumping that sail route to force an incompletion. That throw is a completion 95% of the time on an average throw and Gordon shut BOTH routes down by getting width and depth in his zone drop, all the while lashing the ability to flip his hips and transition from route to route easily. Michigan tried to beat him deep with the go route early in the game with their most explosive receiver. Gordon ran stride for stride with him. So, Michigan used the same tactic later and completed a backshoulder throw in which Gordon lost his vision on the receiver turning into the field as opposed to into the receiver. There's little question that the ATHLETE can compete at the NFL level and there's little question that the PLAYER can compete with more work on his ball skills and man technique. He can ball for sure."

WR

George Pickens, Georgia - coming off an ACL tear combined with some immature moments earlier in his career are fighting a bit with his INSANE ability in every facet of being a next level receiver. The health has improved and he's grown up a lot so some team is getting a STEAL in round two. Texans, perhaps?

Here's my Harris 100 Scouting Report on Pickens:

"Pickens can be a complete freak show. He has the size, power, strength and the ability to adjust to the ball in the air. There's still a small bit of rawness to his game. He ed the Bulldogs in all major receiving categories with 49 catches, 727 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020 and was the 2020 Sugar Bowl MVP in win over Baylor with 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown. He's physical off the snap and uses hands to get himself free down the field (his TD v. Texas A&M in 2019 was a great example of his hand usage, legal or illegal). In 2020, in just eight games in the COVID shortened season, he had 36 catches for 513 yards and six touchdowns. What complicates his analysis just a bit was that he missed the majority of his key third season with an ACL tear. He injured that knee back in spring practice and it didn't appear as if he'd be back for 2021, but he returned late in the season for the Georgia Tech game just prior to the SEC Championship. He didn't seemingly make a major impact as it was clear Georgia kept him on a pitch count but he showed the full package why I think of him so highly. He roasted the Alabama defense on a bomb in the first half of the National Championship game. Not only did he make a diving catch, the way that he protected the ball in his large hands as he hit the ground stoood out. It was one play and prior to his injury, there were a ton more. Now, he's had a few instances of immaturity in his career, nothing hugely nefarious, but teams are going to have to dive into his football/off-the-field character. But, on the field, Pickens is a major talent, to say the least."

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