Top 2022 Offensive/Defensive Under-the-Radar Prospects

Photo: Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK

Just 24 hours until the draft kicks off in Vegas and all eyes remain focused on the first 32 selections. However, championships are won on Day 2 and 3, and there is depth aplenty within all three days. Here are my most underrated players at each position on either side of the ball.

Offense

QB: Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati 

My top quarterback in an overall underwhelming class, Ridder is a leader of men with a skill set that could blossom three to four years down the road. While his accuracy issues remain a concern for teams, he’s a dual-threat talent who can start from year one and operate a professional playbook seamlessly. He’s not perfect but he has everything you look for in a modern-day signal-caller and the leadership qualities to win over a locker room. 

RB: Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State

The fastest running back at the combine, Strong could be the steal of this year’s class. He is a violent runner with the necessary burst to slip out of tackles and escape around the edge to paydirt. His film consistently popped at the FCS level and Strong should present teams with a heck of a value towards the backend of the selection process.

WR: Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama

A standout at the Senior Bowl, Tolbert’s name has flown under the radar but man can the kid play. A winner at all three levels of the defense, he has experience running the full route tree and touts the ideal frame (6-foot-3) to handle a ton of targets at the next level. He’ll make a nice option as a third receiver in his first year. 

WR: Bo Melton, Rutgers

A shifty wideout who could earn snaps on special teams due to his electric ability in the open field, don’t be shocked to hear Melton’s name on Day 2. He checks a ton of boxes for teams in need of a burner on the perimeter and his skillset with the ball in his hands will earn him touches early this fall.

TE: Greg Dulcich, UCLA

The argument for ‘TE1’ has been a topic of conversation for some time and while Dulcich has remained uber-impressive throughout the pre-draft process, he hasn’t received enough recognition. A fluid-moving talent that should be able to work on all three downs as an impact blocker and sure-handed, sneaky athletic pass-catcher, I wouldn’t be shocked if he progresses into the top in-line talent in the class. 

OT: Zach Tom, Wake Forest

A versatile athlete along the front five, Tom’s smooth feet remain extremely intriguing as a foundation to build upon. Tom is a ball of clay and will be added as a depth piece, but could very easily challenge for starter’s reps with the inevitability of injuries down the road.

OG: Jamaree Salyer, Georgia

A versatile athlete, Salyer was impressive all year long. Turn on his film against Michigan and just watch his reps against edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson. Salyer is a talent teams could take in the middle of round two as a day one starter within the interior. He hasn’t been discussed with the names of Kenyon Green, Zion Johnson or even Memphis’ Dylan Parham, but he has a ton of tools with which to work.

C: Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

Linderbaum’s stock has fallen due to the positional need of teams on Day 1 but make no mistake, he is a one of one talent within the interior. Noise surrounding his name has simmered over the last few months but he will be a cornerstone addition along the interior for the next decade-plus. 

Defense

EDGE: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

Stop getting cute when it comes to Karlaftis. No, he isn’t the sexiest player in comparison to Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux, but he understands the optics of winning off the edge and is only getting better with each snap. Sign me up.

IDL: Thomas Booker, Stanford

Some teams are higher on him than the media but Booker can play up and down the defensive line with pop at each spot. A standout at Shrine Bowl, he’s an all-around talent with a powerful lower half all the way up to his quick hands. His elite football intelligence constantly puts his body in the right spot to make plays. Whoever takes him on Day 3 will add a heck of a talent between the hashes and a leader in the locker room.

LB: Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State

A physical presence within the nucleus of the Cowboys defense last fall, Rodriguez has a ton of Blake Martinez vibes to him when he came out of Stanford. A powerful tackler with excellent leadership qualities, Rodriguez is an early down backer but will also offer immediate help on special teams.

CB: Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State

McCollum doesn’t project right away as a corner to place opposite anyone’s top pass-catcher but he has all the tools in the bag to become a high-level defender down the road. He showcased well at the Senior Bowl and if he’s able to work on his lower-half flexibility, which will allow him to turn and sit with wideouts, he has a chance to become a steal.  

S: Lewis Cine, Georgia

I get it, he’s a potential Day 1 guy, but in comparison to Kyle Hamilton, Jaquan Brisker, and Daxton Hill, Cine’s game has flown under the radar. A culture changer on the backend, his physical brand of football will win over a locker room quickly. He is the glue that held together a historic Georgia defense this fall and is a high-impact talent that can do it all at the safety spot. 


 











 


Written By:

Ryan Fowler

Staff Writer

Feature Writer for The Draft Network. Former Staff Writer for the Washington Football Team. Multiple years of coverage within the NFL and NBA.

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