2022 NFL Draft: Malik Willis tops players with star potential

by Bucky Brooks
FOX Sports NFL Analyst

The best assessors in the NFL balance expectations with production to identify prospects with extraordinary potential.

While metrics and traits are certainly key factors in every assessment, the Scout Guides in this league aren’t afraid to rely on their instincts when surveying the top prospects as potential superstars.

As a young scout, one of the guides told me that I should rank “flashes” (moments of brilliance or dominance) when evaluating players. The logic is that if a player can do it once, they are definitely able to do it again in similar circumstances. Although a scout may experience some setbacks by taking such a bold approach, the risk may be worth the reward if the potential client lives up to the hype.

While surveying the 2022 NFL Draft class are a number of players who have put in impressive numbers and great performances throughout their collegiate career. After spending some time evaluating the best “flashes” in the class, I’ve compiled a list of 10 possibilities with the talent and tools to become superstars in this league.

1. Malik William, QB, Liberty

After watching Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson emerge as outstanding quarterbacks for their gadgets and talent, the NFL scouting community identified Willis as a potential five-star QB1 despite tough patches in his game. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound playmaker displays A-plus sportsmanship and arm talent as a double-threat electrician on the backcourt.

Who will be the first QB player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Who will be the first QB player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft?

NFL insider Albert Breer told Colin Cord that he expects double-threat Malik Willis to be the first NFL player to be taken into the 2022 NFL draft.

Although not a finished product, Willis’ natural talents and dynamic skills will enable offensive coordinators to use creative schemes that test defenders’ discipline at every turn. Given how the improvisation, athleticism, and superior talent of the aforementioned triple-arm helped them become urban legends between the lines, it’s easy to imagine Willis down a similar path to stardom as a young player.

2. Aidan Hutchinsonedge, Michigan

There aren’t many stellar talents with blue-collar mindsets, but Hutchinson is “one of one” as a five-star talent with a straightforward attitude. Michigan is a polished passing game with an array of hand maneuvers made in the Karate Dojo. Hutchinson can win with speed, power, or dexterity while playing at a fast pace that defeats opponents in a 60-minute game. His tireless efforts and relentless pursuit will make it a nightmare in one-on-one situations with the game on the line.

3. Jameson WilliamsWR, Alabama

Despite an ACL injury that could limit his availability early in the season, Williams is a big game waiting to happen due to his superb pace and acceleration over the ocean. It’s a rare find as a vertical threat, with a fast A-plus pause start and blast. As an improved player in passes at great speed, Williams could develop as a deep ball specialist or as a running weapon in an attack designed to put football in the hands of its most explosive players in space.

Top 10 Joel Clatt Wide Receivers

Top 10 Joel Clatt Wide Receivers

Joel Clatt breaks his Top 10 receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft.

4. Devin Lloydpound, Utah

Lloyd is a great playing machine, a versatile defender with quick passing skills and the ability to craft side-to-side play. Whether chasing the edge in lightning attacks or chasing runners in “hit, run and chase” plays, Lloyd finds a way to get to the ball at crucial moments for his team. And this gaming industry potential is of interest to teams looking for a disruptive force on the second tier. If Lloyd lands with a team that takes advantage of his versatility and skill, the former Ute could emerge as a Darius Leonard-type defender with an All-Star Game.

5. Kayvon Thibodeauedge, Oregon

The former No. 1 recruiter in the country is a legitimate five-star talent off the edge, with exceptional speed on the first move and acceleration that lays the foundation for his fast match. Thibodeaux also has the ability to turn speed into strength, using a long-arm movement to bring defenders back into the middle lap.

Considering his game-dominating potential as a stunning quick dash specialist, Thibodeaux could reach for an all-star instantly in a scheme that allows him to attack the midfielder from a wide alignment and three-point position.

6. Ahmed “salsa” the gardenerCB, Cincinnati

Gardner checks all boxes as an elite themed locking corner. It has the size, length, and speed to challenge receivers on the line with hard punches and Shadowboxing action. It makes it difficult for receivers to escape from his clutches, using patient movements and using his long arms to force combat encounters in most landings.

Gardner could have a huge advantage over NFL receivers who lack escape velocity and power to beat an aggressive defender in the periphery. With his consistency on the island and the clamor associated with his nickname, Sauce is a standout play on becoming a living corner legend.

Joel Kalatt’s top 10 defenders

Joel Kalatt's top 10 defenders

Joel Clatt breaks down his top 10 defensive odds in the 2022 NFL Draft, highlighted by Aidan Hutchinson, Ahmed Gardner and Kyle Hamilton.

7. KYLE HAMILTON, SAFETY, our lady

It’s rare for a safety box to display quarterback-like skills, but Hamilton is a rhino with a linebacker size (6 feet-4, 220 pounds), corner ball skills (eight professional interceptions) and instincts. The combination of hitting and swiping will enable NFL defensive coaches to utilize him in a variety of roles to maximize his playmaking potential. Given his continued playing opportunities, Hamilton could emerge as an All-Star playmaker from day one.

8. IKEM EKWONUextra time , North Carolina

The menacing presence and attitude of the nightclub bouncer featured in Ekwonu’s play complete his astonishing synthesis of strength, power, and strength. Measuring 6-foot-4, 320 pounds with 34-inch arms, Ekwonu moves defenders off the ball and finishes with power that creates a bully-ball mentality throughout the team. With Ekwonu’s hyper-aggressive gameplay and demeanor sure to create an intimidation factor throughout the league, this big-bodied bully could become a household name in no time.

9. Derek Stingley Jr.CB, LSU

It’s hard to find closing angles in any league. That’s why Stingley’s name remains on this list despite falling behind a bit after a thrilling freshman campaign (2019) that would make him the first corner pick in the draft that year. As a 6-foot-1, 195-pound coverage angler with a five-star talent, Stingley has a proven track record of eliminating excellent pass catchers on the ocean. Whether the recipients are tough on the line in press coverage or shadowed from afar, LSU’s top spot showcases the instincts, awareness, and anticipation to thrive as No.

10. BREECE HALLRB, Iowa

The league’s shift toward a focus on passing has made it imperative for elite offenses to feature an RB1 with WR2 skills. Hall is a versatile hybrid playmaker that enables him to thrive as a powerhouse runner between competitions or as a scatback on zigzag passes surrounding swings and screens. He was a prolific scorer in Iowa—56 career touchdowns and 4,675 all-purpose career yards. As a professional, Hall can become a fantasy football legend as a playmaker who does everything off the field.

Bucky Brooks is an NFL Analyst for FOX Sports and appears regularly on “Speak For Yourself”. He also breaks the game for the NFL Network and is a co-host of the “Moving the Sticks” podcast.


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