We're entering the second half of the 2021 college football season, giving us a solid base of recent tape to look at for the 2022 NFL draft's top prospects. As with any year, we've already seen plenty of movement on the draft board. Look no further than the quarterback class, which has had massive shuffling since the preseason. Four QBs made the following rankings, but the two who were Nos. 1 and 2 overall in August -- Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell -- aren't among them.
Of course, there is still a lot of road ahead until the draft. Two more months of college play will be followed by showcase events, the scouting combine, interviews and pro days. But we are starting to get an idea of the talent that will be available to NFL teams when the clock starts ticking on Round 1 in April.
So as the calendar gets ready to flip to November, I ranked my top 32 prospects for the 2022 class right now. Defense dominates the top five here, but eight pass-catchers are in the top-32 mix. Let's dive in, starting with a potential franchise cornerstone off the edge.
Note: Underclassmen are marked with an asterisk, and grades are via Scouts Inc.
1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon*
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 250 | Grade: 94
Thibodeaux is a phenomenal pass-rusher with great speed and size. He gets a good push on blockers, and he shows solid initial quickness and closing speed. Thibodeaux is effective dipping-and-ripping, but he also displays a strong inside move. Against the run, he locates the ball and then stacks and sheds blockers, often making plays in the backfield. He could use a little more work as a hands fighter, but there is no doubt that he is the top edge prospect in the class. Through five games, he has 4.0 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles. Thibodeaux showed just how dominant he can be in Saturday's win against UCLA, posting 2.0 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a QB hurry. Lastly, he is versatile enough to convert to 3-4 outside linebacker or even occasionally kick inside to rush the passer.
2. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU*
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 195 | Grade: 94
Stingley burst onto the scene with six interceptions as a freshman in 2019. The numbers weren't as eye-popping last season, and he hasn't had a single interception in 10 games over the past two years, but he still has all the tools to be a truly dominant shutdown cornerback in the NFL. He is long, fast and physical, but his versatility is key. Stingley can play press-man, off-coverage, free safety and the overhang position. A bonus: Stingley also has experience returning punts. In three games this season, he has 3.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble. Stingley is out indefinitely right now after getting a procedure done on his injured foot.