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

College football underclassmen who qualify for draft were faced with a deadline on Monday to file declaration papers for the 2022 NFL Draft. While there will be a period of reconsideration before the league is finally approved, we have a pretty good idea of ​​who is leaving and who is coming back for another collegiate-level season.

Many of the departures discussed here were expected, at least towards the end of the season based on 2021 performances and/or a first-round prognosis for the 2022 draft. So coaches either have a backup plan, or have the transfer portal in the hopes of meeting a need before the fall. The spring exercise will provide more information to help us determine exactly who will be involved in replacing production lost by these stars.

For now, though, we have some suggestions on who might be lining up to step in for some of the stars heading to the NFL Draft this spring.

Alabama OT Evan Neal

Replacement — JC Latham or Tommy Brockermeyer: The Alabama signing class’s top two prospects in 2021 were both five-star tackles, and the efforts to deliver on those pledges were likely made with the expectation 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 in the 2021 recruit, played on special teams and was banned from the Cotton Bowl due to injury. While Brockermeyer, the No. 2 tackle and No. 6 overall prospect in the 2021 class, will not have seen any game action in 2021, he will likely play a part in this replacement wave up front as Nick Saban is tasked with helping him out. to replace. both starts in 2022.

Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux

Replacement — Bradyn Swinson: The whole defense will be helped by having Justin Flowe healthy, but Flowe and fellow high-ceiling linebacker Noah Sewell have been inside players and can’t directly address Thibodeaux’s absence on the rim. Though Swinson comes only from a three-star perspective from Georgia, he emerged as a regular contributor to the defense during his sophomore freshman season in 2021 with 24 tackles and four tackles for losses in 11 games. It is possible that new Ducks coach Dan Lanning is turning to the transfer portal for more help on the fringe, but Swinson has been reliable enough to hold the position.

Georgia LB Nakobe Dean

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

Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton

Replacement — Brandon JosephAlready a Northwestern All-American, Joseph will follow in Hamilton’s footsteps on the path from Notre Dame’s defensive backfield to 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 the expectation of closing the back of a defense that could be among the best in the country by 2022.

Ole Miss QB Matt Corral

Substitution — Luke Altmyer or TBD from Transfer Portal: When Corral suffered an injury in the Sugar Bowl, Altmyer, a top-five Mississippi state player in the 2021 recruiting class, got his first chance to defend a case as the next QB1 in Oxford. While the performance (15-of-28 passes for 174 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions) cemented very little, I expect he will at least still be part of the league and lead the way depending on Lane Kiffin’s offseason with the transfer portal. Ole Miss took full advantage of the gantry to cater for defense needs heading into 2021, and now it’s the offensive side of the ball that requires 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 pro projections are still worth noting, especially given the expanded staffing needs for Brian Kelly’s 2022 roster in Baton Rouge. A four-star prospect in the 2021 recruiting class, earning the cornerback start in the Texas Bowl against Kansas State, McGhee is also one of the few scientific defense defenders left after a remarkable roster turnover in the wake of the coaching change. There has been some good news to boost the numbers with LSU making a commitment from former Arkansas defense attorney Greg Brooks Jr. Brooks is more of a nickel-safety option, but he’s a three-year starter in the SEC and at least another body for an LSU secondary that needs numbers.

Alabama WRs John Metchie III, Jameson Williams

Replacement — Yes’Corey BrooksWhile Brooks was a special team contributor all season (and a strong one, too, with a blocked point to his name), it was a season-end breakthrough at the receiver that paved the way for his rise in the Crimson Tide- passage attack . Brooks had a total of 15 catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns during his true freshman season in 2021, all of that production coming in the last six games of the year. The tying touchdown against Auburn in the Iron Bowl hinted at what’s to come in big games in 2022, where he’ll be joined by several other highly regarded underclassmen in a bid to keep the passing strike productive in the absence of two 1,000-yard receivers. .

Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III

Replacement — Jalen Berger: Mel Tucker has brought in outside talent and experience to fuel the Spartans’ run in 2021, and he has once again returned to the transfer portal to replace the team’s key attacking player. Berger was a four-star contender and top-15 falling back in the 2020 class, but he fell out of favor with Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst and was fired from the team on October 10. A fresh start could be what Berger needs to reach that high school blue-chip-caliber projection, and Michigan State has proven to be a great landing place for transfers to have breakthrough seasons.

Arkansas WR Treylon Burks

Replacement — Jadon HaselwoodBurks meant a lot for the Arkansas offense, and especially passing game, but Sam Pittman has a great option to replace his production with Haselwood, a former five-star prospect rated as the No. 1 wide receiver and No. 4 in the overall prospect in the 2019 recruiting class. After limited action in 2019, a knee injury in April 2020 affected his contributions to the program, although he recovered to full health and recorded 39 receptions for 399 yards and six touchdowns in 2021. Burks was a major reception threat, and Haselwood has the ceiling to turn that same workload into a breakout year and the fulfillment of those five-star projections.

Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson

Replacement – Jaxon Smith-Njigba: A record-setting Rose Bowl performance clears up all the turmoil about life after Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave in Ohio State felony. 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 leading receiver, an honor he earned heading into the postseason. So while the 2022 NFL Draft may feature two Ohio state first-round wide receivers, replacing them isn’t a primary concern given that it wasn’t the team’s leading receiver in 2021 either.

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