Mountain West Football: First Look At 2022 NFL Draft Prospects
The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, but the 2022 edition could be epic.
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Who could be the next men up?
The Falcons always face long odds when it comes to getting a player selected in the NFL Draft, but Corvan Taylor could defy them if that’s where his interests lie. The 6-foot-2 and 205-pound strong safety ascended to the starting lineup in the wake of numerous turnbacks which saw established starters sit out the 2020 season and he responded by racking up 33 tackles, two interceptions and three passes defended.
Slamming the door shut @corvan_taylor pic.twitter.com/oPoe1FlZyh
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) October 8, 2020
Wide receiver Khalil Shakir often looked like a one-man wrecking crew in the Broncos’ passing game during the very strange 2020 season, taking on a huge volume of targets to average 7.4 catches and 102.7 receiving yards per game. He’s also flashed the versatility that NFL teams have come to crave in recent years by developing into a weapon on fly sweeps, as well, so while he won’t be the biggest prospect in next year’s draft class, NFL teams will want to get a long look at the biggest playmaker on the blue.
In the mix: John Ojukwu, OT; Jack Sears, QB; Jake Stetz, OL; Riley Whimpey, LB
If anyone in the Mountain West is a lock to get picked in the 2022 draft, it is probably Ryan Stonehouse. It isn’t every day, after all, that NFL teams will get a chance to select one of the best punters the FBS has ever seen because Stonehouse would sit atop the record book with a 46.8 yards per punt average if he qualified. With 74 career punts of over 50 yards, he’s as qualified as anyone in next year’s class to consistently flip a field.
In the mix: Marshaun Cameron, DB; Manny Jones, DL; Trey McBride, TE; Scott Patchan, DL
He got nicked up at the end of the 2020 season, but Ronnie Rivers already has a pretty convincing case to be considered the best running back in Bulldogs history. Another campaign like the one he’s averaged over the last three years — 106 yards from scrimmage and over a touchdown per game — would remove all doubt.
Though Rivers is perhaps a little undersized (5-foot 9 and 195 pounds) compared to other potential prospects next year, that he’s one of the most effective pass-catching runners in Mountain West history, can run physically and contribute on special teams should earn him a shot at the next level.
In the mix: Kevin Atkins, DL; Kwami Jones, DL; Matt Smith, OL
Cortez Davis had a very productive 2019 by breaking up 12 passes and returning his lone interception for a touchdown and he followed that up last fall by further establishing himself as the best player in a suddenly stingy Warriors secondary. Among other things, he was one of the few cornerbacks in the Mountain West to stymy Nevada’s Romeo Doubs, holding him to one catch for ten yards in Hawaii’s upset win.
Heading into his third year as a starter on the islands, Davis is a underrated but well-rounded defensive back who isn’t shy about getting physical against receivers and running backs alike — he’s also recorded 7.5 tackles for loss in his two full seasons with Hawaii — which makes him an underrated reason to stay up on Saturdays for those late-night Warrior broadcasts.
⏳The beginning pic.twitter.com/av2PMyipWB
— Cortez Davis (@1Tez_Davis) January 9, 2020
In the mix: Kohl Levao, OL; Gene Pryor, OL; Calvin Turner, RB
This one is easy. Quarterback Carson Strong has already received a bit of helium in a position class that projects to also include standouts like North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, being named the sixth-best QB prospect by College Football News recently. He made good on a strong November 2019 to lead the Mountain West last fall in pass attempts per game, passer rating, passing touchdowns, and completion percentage while averaging a healthy 8.1 yards per attempt.
The stigma surrounding Air Raid signal-callers has diminished in recent years, too, and he already possesses the physical profile (6-foot-4 and 215 pounds) that NFL scouts dream upon, so a comparable 2021 could push the ceiling even higher and tempt him to leave Reno early.
In the mix: Elijah Cooks, WR; Romeo Doubs, WR; Lawson Hall, LB; Sam Hammond, DL; Dom Peterson, DL; BerDale Robins, DB
The Lobos had a rollercoaster 2020 season that included some growing pains on defense, but it’s hard to argue that anyone other than safety Jerrick Reed II had a bigger breakout on that side of the ball. Under the tutelage of head coach Danny Gonzales and defensive coordinator Rocky Long, Reed II was a first-team all-Mountain West performer after finishing in the top ten nationally with four interceptions.
Jerrick Reed II (@JerrickReed) with his 3rd INT of the season to give UNM the ball back before half.#GoLobos #WeAreNM @abqdowns pic.twitter.com/0Evba9E8jk
— New Mexico Football (@UNMLoboFB) November 15, 2020
In the mix: Kyle Stapley, C