These college football players will replace top stars who left early for the 2022 NFL Draft

Draft-eligible college football underclassmen faced a Monday deadline to file disclosure documents for the 2022 NFL Draft. Although there is a reconsideration period before final approval of the league, we have a pretty good idea of ​​who is leaving and returning for another season at the college level.

Many of the departures discussed here were expected, at least by the end of the season based on 2021 performances and/or a first-round projection for the 2022 draft. So coaches have either a relief in place, or an eye on the transfer portal in the hope of meeting a need before the fall. Spring practice will provide more information to help us determine who exactly will be involved in replacing the lost production of these stars.

For now, though, we have some suggestions for who might be in line to replace some of the stars heading into the NFL Draft this spring.

Alabama OT Evan Neal

Replacement — JC Latham or Tommy Brockermeyer: The top two prospects in Alabama’s signing class in 2021 were both five-star tackles, and the efforts to secure those commitments were likely made in hopes that Neal would be on his way to the NFL after his third year. with the Crimson Tide. Latham, the No. 1 tackle and No. 3 overall prospect for the 2021 recruiting class, has played on special teams and worked as a guard in the Cotton Bowl due to injury. Although Brockermeyer, the No. 2 tackle and No. 6 prospect in the 2021 class, hasn’t seen any playing action in 2021, he will likely play a role in this wave of offensive replacements as Nick Saban is loaded. to replace the two starting tackles in 2022.

Oregon OF Kayvon Thibodeaux

Replacement — Bradyn Swinson: The whole defense is going to be helped by having Justin Flowe healthy, but Flowe and fellow high-cap linebacker Noah Sewell have been inside players and can’t directly address Thibodeaux’s absence on the edge. Although just a three-star prospect from Georgia, Swinson became a regular contributor at defensive end in his second year as a freshman in 2021 with 24 tackles and four tackles for loss in 11 games. New Ducks coach Dan Lanning may turn to the transfer portal for more help, but Swinson has been reliable enough to keep the job.

Georgia LB Nakobe Dean

Replacement — Nolan Smith: While a handful of recently crowned national champions decided to enter the 2022 NFL Draft, Smith kicked off the hype for next year with his decision to return for a senior season. The shoes are extremely big and difficult to fill after the Dean’s Butkus Award-winning campaign in 2021, but Smith has been extremely hard-hitting from the outside linebacker position with 56 tackles (5th on the team) and nine tackles for loss (2nd on the team). the team) this falls. The youth move to linebacker will include more work for 2021 signers Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Smeal Mondon and Xavian Sorey, but Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart is happy to know he has the experience and proven production of Smith following all departures.

Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton

Replacement — Brandon Joseph: An All-American already since his time at Northwestern, Joseph is poised to follow in Hamilton’s footsteps on his way to Notre Dame’s defensive backfield in the NFL Draft. Houston Griffith and DJ Brown are both there to provide depth and competition, but Joseph arrives as a coveted transfer with star power and hopes of locking down the back of a defense that could be among the best in the country in 2022.

Ole Miss QB Matt Corral

Replacement — Luke Altmyer or Transfer Portal TBD: When Corral was injured in the Sugar Bowl, Altmyer, one of Mississippi State’s top five players in the 2021 recruiting class, got his first chance to make his case as the next QB1 at Oxford . Although the performance (15 of 28 passes for 174 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions) cemented very little, I expect him to still be in the competition, at a minimum, and the favorite based on the Lane Kiffin’s Offseason with the Transfer Portal. Ole Miss has used the portal extensively to meet defensive needs heading into 2021, and now it’s the offensive side of the ball that needs attention in multiple positions, including quarterback.

LSU DB Derek Stingley

Replacement — Damarius McGhee: Although Stingley’s 2021 campaign was cut short by injury, his star power and professional projections are still worth mentioning, especially given the significant staffing needs for Brian Kelly’s 2022 roster in Baton Rouge . McGhee was a four-star prospect in the 2021 recruiting class and got the start at cornerback in the Texas Bowl against Kansas State, but he’s also one of the few scholarship defensive backs left after a remarkable turnover of the list following the change of coach. . There was some good news to bolster the numbers with LSU landing a commitment from former Arkansas defensive back Greg Brooks Jr. Brooks is more of a nickel safety option, but he’s a three-year starter in the SEC and at least one other body for a secondary LSU needing numbers.

Alabama WRs John Metchie III, Jameson Williams

Replacement – Ja’ Corey Brooks: Although Brooks has been a special teams contributor all season (and a strong one at that, with a blocked punt to his name), it was a late-season breakthrough at receiver that set the stage for his emergence in Crimson Tide’s passing attack. Brooks had 15 catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns in his true first season in 2021, with all of that production coming in the final six games of the year. The tying touchdown against Auburn in the Iron Bowl hinted at what was to come in big games in 2022, where he will be joined by several other highly touted underclassmen in the effort to keep the passing offense productive in the absence of two 1,000 -yard receivers.

Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III

Replacement — Jalen Berger: Mel Tucker injected talent and experience from the outside to help spark the Spartans’ 2021 run, and he’s returned to the transfer portal once again to replace the team’s most important attacking player. Berger was a four-star prospect and a top-15 running back in the 2020 class, but he fell out of favor with Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst and was fired from the team Oct. 10. A fresh start might be what Berger needs to achieve that high school blue-chip caliber projection, and Michigan State has proven to be a great landing spot for transfers to have breakout seasons.

Arkansas WR Treylon Burks

Replacement — Jadon Haselwood: Burks meant a ton for Arkansas’ offense, and the passing game in particular, but Sam Pittman has a great option to replace his production with Haselwood, a former five-star prospect who was ranked No. 1 wide receiver and No. 4 overall prospect in the Class of 2019. After limited action in 2019, a knee injury in April 2020 impacted his contributions to the program, although he returned to full health and recorded 39 receptions for 399 yards and six touchdowns in 2021. Burks was a high-volume receiving threat. , and Haselwood has the ceiling to turn that same workload into a breakout year and achieving those five-star showings.

Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson

Replacement — Jaxon Smith-Njigba: Record-breaking Rose Bowl performance takes away any unease about life after Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave in Ohio State’s offense. But Smith-Njigba’s 15-catch, 347-yard, three-touchdown performance against Utah wasn’t even necessary to finish the season as Ohio State’s top receiver, an honor he had secured. before the playoffs. So while the 2022 NFL Draft may include two first-round wide receivers from Ohio State, their replacement is not a major concern, as the team’s first wide receiver in 2021 was not not the first either.

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