I want to spend a lot more time this year looking ahead to the next draft. That’s what we’re doing here in these posts about the 2022 NFL Draft and if that’s too far ahead to look for you, then all I ask is that you read every article in the series, consume every word, comment every thought you have about it (even if it’s just “too soon”), and share everything I write with everyone you know.
That’s all I ask.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper recently released his Top-25 big board for the 2022 NFL Draft and that’s a good way to get started on becoming familiar with some names that will be taken on day one next year. We also know that some of them will go on day two, some on day three, and some won’t be drafted at all. A few of them probably won’t even declare.
But the 2022 NFL Draft class is expected to be a lot better, and significantly deeper, than the edition we just went through. The LA Rams do not have a first round pick in 2022 or 2023, but they’ll have four compensatory picks and plenty of work to do.
These are a few names to start chewing on for the 2022 NFL Draft and we can speculate on which of them might be available when the Rams are on the clock, whenever that ends up being.
G Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
In 2019, Garrett Bradbury became the first NC State offensive lineman to be drafted in the top-35 picks since guard Jim Ritcher in 1980. The list of NFL linemen to come from the Wolfpack is not a long list, but does also include Joe Thuney, a third round pick of the Patriots in 2016, and Ted Larsen, a sixth round pick of the Patriots in 2010.
Is Ekwonu guaranteed to go to New England? It’ll depend on how high he gets drafted and that may depend on his potential transition to left tackle this season.
Slide protection here with Ikem Ekwonu at LG (#79) and he ain’t passive in pass pro, sees the LB coming down and effortlessly throws him to the ground. pic.twitter.com/ZZGPhDi2gx— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) May 24, 2021
The 6’4, 320 lb has been called “the most feared lineman in the ACC” by an opposing coach and his versatility and athletic ability could secure him a spot on day one.
Pretty easy to see why Ikem Ekwonu is viewed as a top OL in the ‘22 NFL Draft. Playing LT here, does an incredible job reaching and getting under the 3T with explosion out of stance + body control and then finishes the job by putting him in the dirt. pic.twitter.com/qbseWXjUFH— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) May 24, 2021
I'm loving the Zion Nelson hype because he has loads of potential but we also should give some love to some of the offensive tackles in the ACC who have had sustained success.— ACC Content (@ACContent__) May 24, 2021
- Luke Tenuta, VT
- Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
- Jordan McFadden, Clemson
The Rams made zero picks along the offensive line in 2020 and have only selected one of those players in the last two years combined. Les Snead likes to draft tackles, so Ekwonu sliding outside might just put him on the GM’s radar.
Six other guards who could be in the 2022 draft: Kenyon Green, Texas A&M (potential top-10 pick), Evan Neal, Alabama (potential top-10 pick), Thayor Munford, Ohio State, Cade Mayes, Tennessee, Chasen Hines, LSU, Ed Ingram, LSU
CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
The Bearcats are more relevant in college football than they’ve ever been before, and that includes a 31-6 record over the last three seasons, including 14-1 in conference over the last two. That put players like safety James Wiggins, a seventh round pick of the Cardinals, into the NFL, but Gardner figures to go much higher than his former teammate.
By next April, Gardner could even be the number one cornerback in the 2022 draft class.
Cincinnati Bearcats CB trio Ahmad Gardner, Coby Bryant and Arquon Bush have combined to allow a 23.8 passer rating in coverage this year (@PFF_College).— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) October 15, 2020
Throwing the ball in the dirt every play would give the QB a better passer rating at 39.6. pic.twitter.com/tMNgeON2mI
Ahmad Gardner career coverage stats:— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 17, 2021
598 coverage snaps
0 TDs allowed
35.3 passer rating when targeted pic.twitter.com/wjk29Lb55A
Would it be possible though that he could get surpassed by a few other players at the position and become available on day two?
Here’s what ProFootballNetwork said about Gardner:
The 2020 cornerback class spoiled us with how many lengthy athletes were available. Nevertheless, the 2021 class might be just as enticing. Ahmad Gardner owns many of the desired high-end traits. He’s 6-foot-2, 188 pounds, but he offers exceptional hip fluidity and upfield burst. Moreover, he’s naturally instinctive and quick to react. Some of his traits share a similarity with 2020 first-rounder Greg Newsome II.
The Rams lost Troy Hill to free agency in 2021 and Darious Williams is a free agent in 2022, but they haven’t drafted a cornerback since David Long in the third round two years ago. We also know that Les Snead has been favoring exceptional athletes at the position and if Gardner compares favorably to 2021 first round pick Greg Newsome, then “athlete” is something he probably qualifies as.
Six other cornerbacks who could be in the 2022 draft: Derek Stingley, LSU (top-rated, potential top-three pick), Andrew Booth, Clemson, Trent McDuffie, Washington, Sevyn Banks, Ohio State, Kaiir Elam, Florida, Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU
Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida
Miller didn’t make Kiper’s list, but was on PFN’s Top-50 big board, checking in at 21. Here’s what they said:
Some of the linebackers with high-end traits may naturally rise early in the process in a weaker class. Such is the case for Florida’s Ventrell Miller. He still needs to become a more consistent player in multiple phases. Nevertheless, he has a solid 6-foot-1, 230-pound frame, and he’s a superb athlete for his size. Miller has already proven his ability to make plays in the box, and he has definite three-down potential.
Miller is entering his fifth season at Florida and he had 86 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, and three batted passes as a junior. Had a minor setback as a freshman when he was busted with marijuana. Is now described as a vocal leader on the defense of a disappointing Gators team.
He’ll need to avoid plays like this one against potential first round pick Isaiah Spiller:
This might be my favorite play of the Jimbo era so far...— Ryan Brauninger (@R_Brauninger) October 14, 2020
Ventrell Miller is a 6-2, 235 pound SEC linebacker, and Isaiah Spiller dropped him like a little boy.
The Rams picked linebacker Ernest Jones in the third round this year but that may not do enough to secure the position for 2022 and beyond. I wouldn’t say that there is a single inside linebacker on the roster who seems like a lock to start next season and Micah Kiser could leave in free agency next year. That’s only a loss if Kiser steps up and earn the starting job, or Troy Reeder does, or Kenny Young does, but there’s nobody who has locked it in like Cory Littleton did a few years ago.
Miller is an example of a potential inside linebacker to target and he might not be a day one pick yet.
Six other linebackers who could be in the draft next year: Christian Harris, Alabama, Mike Jones, LSU, Nate Landman, Colorado, Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma, Devin Lloyd, Utah, Brenton Cox, Florida
Which position would you like to see the Rams target and therefore greater focus on this year?