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2022 NFL Draft Prospects: Defensive Player Rankings

We compiled the defensive player rankings from four of the top sports websites and came up with our points-based defensive player rankings. Here are the best rookie defensive player prospects heading into the 2022 NFL Draft.

RESOURCES: Player Ratings by PFF.com | Player Contracts by Spotrac.com | Stats by ESPN.com | Player Bios/Analysis by NFL.com

YOU CAN ACCESS EVERY ‘STATE OF THE FRANCHISE’ ARTICLE FOR FREE. // 2022 NFL Draft Top Prospects: DEFENSIVE PLAYERSWRS, OL, TES, QBS, RBS

With Super Bowl LVI and the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine in the rearview and the 2022 NFL Draft on the horizon (April 28th), it’s time to look toward the next group of talent to hit the pro ranks. Below is our rankings list of the top prospects at the defensive position in the 2022 NFL Draft class.

To make our rankings we reviewed all the major rankings out there [drafttek.com, draftkings.com, nfldraftbuzz.com, cbssports.com, si.com, & walterfootball.com]. We then allocated points to each player in each ranking to come up with the most comprehensive list with the highest power.

Check back with us after the draft for our thoughts and fantasy football projections.

Top 20 Defensive Players In The 2022 NFL Draft

Ht: 6′ 7”     Wt: 260 lbs
Arms: 32 1/8”  Hands: 10 1/4”
School: Michigan
Prospect Grade: 6.80 
Next Gen Score: 95

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.74 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:     36
Broad Jump:        117
3 Cone Drill:         6.73
20 Yd Shuttle:      4.15
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Player Analysis

Defensive end prospect with a can’t-miss combination of football character, skill and physical traits who is more likely to contend for occasional Pro Bowls than become an All-Pro playmaker. Hutchinson’s strength and flexion allows him to drop a deep anchor and set a very firm edge, and that is unlikely to change as a pro whether he’s used in 4-3 or 3-4 fronts. He can be too mechanical, engaging in cursory contact rather than using his hands to whip the man in front of him quickly. Hutchinson is an instinctive rusher, assailing the pocket with a non-stop barrage of activity. His hands are skilled and efficient to grease the edge while fluid counter steps open inside paths to the pocket. He needs to add a few more items to his rush menu in order to maintain his rush production against NFL tackles. Hutchinson is scheme versatile and should be a very good starter with a very high floor, but his ceiling might not be as elevated as some of the talent he’s been compared to.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Drafted

Pk. 2, Detroit Lions

Ht: 6′ 4”     Wt: 220 lbs
Arms: 33”  Hands: 9 1/8”
School: Notre Dame
Prospect Grade: 6.81 
Next Gen Score: 90

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.59 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:     38
Broad Jump:        131
3 Cone Drill:         6.9
20 Yd Shuttle:      4.32
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Player Analysis

High-impact safety with unique blend of traits and characteristics that make him a bit of a unicorn at the position. Hamilton has the eyes and speed to play over the top, the strength and toughness to play near the line, and coverage length to guard elite pass-catching tight ends who often mismatch opposing defenses. It’s rare to find such a ferocious striker and intimidator who has the football intelligence and athletic prowess to go make plays in the passing game, but Hamilton provides it all. He thrives playing downhill or sinking into a robber alignment on the back-end but will have occasional missteps in coverage when in retreat from his pedal. Hamilton has the traits and football character to transition from standout college moments to a standout pro career as a future Pro Bowler with All-Pro potential.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

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Ht: 6′ 4”     Wt: 254 lbs
Arms: 33 1/8”  Hands: 9 3/4”
School: Oregon
Prospect Grade: 6.72 
Next Gen Score: 92

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.58 
Bench Press:         27
Vertical Jump:    
Broad Jump:        
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Player Analysis

Enticing edge defender whose game is fueled by traits and power over skill and instincts at this juncture of his career. Thibodeaux is hardly a finished product, but has pro-ready attributes that should help him acclimate quickly. He’s a plus run defender who punches above his weight at the point of attack with heavy hands and a sturdy base. He has some suddenness in tight quarters and above-average pursuit speed, which should keep the tackles for loss rolling in throughout his career. Thibodeaux rushes with effort, upfield burst and play-through power that should bring reasonable sack/pressure production. However, he needs to add some go-to moves and more skilled hands to his bag if he is to affect the quarterback more frequently and reach his lofty potential as a standout, two-way edge defender.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Drafted

Ht: 6′ 3”     Wt: 190 lbs
Arms: 33 1/2”  Hands: 9 5/8”
School: Cincinnati
Prospect Grade: 6.72 
Next Gen Score: 93

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.41 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:    
Broad Jump:        
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Player Analysis

Long, lean and linear, Gardner’s physical and football growth are on full display when comparing his 2019 tape to 2021. He’s highly competitive with a confidence level that will be labeled as cocky by some evaluators. “Sauce” uses length and hand activity to impose his will on the release and stall the route on the tarmac. Staying connected to the route is a priority, which leads to grabbing when he feels it slipping away but that can be corrected by improving his footwork and trusting his technique. His movements lack fluidity, but he’s urgent and aggravating in man-to-man, which could become a deterrent for NFL quarterbacks scanning to his side of the field if he can avoid a big spike in penalties as he adjusts to NFL officiating. Gardner has the traits and demeanor to become a highly effective CB1 within his first couple of seasons.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Ht: 6′ 0”     Wt: 190 lbs
Arms: 30 5/8”  Hands: 9 5/8”
School: LSU
Prospect Grade: 6.50 
Next Gen Score: 89

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:       
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:    
Broad Jump:        
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Player Analysis

Uniquely gifted cornerback with rare blend of size, speed and explosiveness that will have teams willing to judge his upside off of tape from two seasons ago. Stingley played in just 10 games over the last two years, offering flashes of his upside rather than sustained play. Regardless of season, he’s long, loose and extremely athletic. Elite speed and ball skills give him a chance to thrive as a bump-and-run corner capable of shadowing top talent around the field. He allows some separation from off-man but bursts to close distance instantly. He’s well-suited for a variety of zone coverages but needs to play with much better zeal and toughness in run support. Stingley will likely measure and test like Marshon Lattimore, Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie (depending on his weight), but he needs to find that breakthrough 2019 form in order to reach his potential as a lockdown cover talent.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Drafted

Ht: 6′ 3”     Wt: 237 lbs
Arms: 33”  Hands: 9 1/2”
School: Utah
Prospect Grade: 6.38 
Next Gen Score: 86

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.66 
Bench Press:         25
Vertical Jump:     35
Broad Jump:        126
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Player Analysis

Highly productive and highly physical, Lloyd could create interesting discussions in draft rooms as teams work through his process versus production. Lloyd can be a little inconsistent with early diagnosis and fit recognition and unorthodox in how he flows to the football. With that said, he has a stat sheet full of production in every major category, including 43 tackles for loss over the last three seasons. He plays with the willful demeanor of an NFL alpha linebacker and is sneaky talented as a rusher either blitzing or aligning off the edge. Lloyd will make plenty of plays and should become a good starter as an inside or strong-side linebacker, but inconsistent process could limit his consistency.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

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Ht: 6′ 5”     Wt: 272 lbs
Arms: 35 1/2”  Hands: 10 3/4”
School: Georgia
Prospect Grade: 6.48 
Next Gen Score: 80

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.51 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:     35.5
Broad Jump:        123
3 Cone Drill:         6.89
20 Yd Shuttle:      4.32
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Player Analysis

Walker is a big, rugged run-stopper with the playing style and body type to play 3-4 end. He consistently outreaches blockers and takes control at the point of attack, and sets firm edges despite playing with limited knee-bend. He plays with violent hands, sluggish feet and all-day aggressiveness. He has quick-shed ability to make plays near his gaps but lacks lateral quickness to play with desired range. He won’t be considered a skilled or threatening rusher from any alignment but can plow his way forward to find occasional success. He’s effective against the run but is likely to be a one-way player who comes off the field on passing downs.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Drafted

Pk. 1, Jacksonville Jaguars

Ht: 5′ 11”     Wt: 193 lbs
Arms: 29 3/4”  Hands: 8 3/4”
School: Washington
Prospect Grade: 6.70 
Next Gen Score: 84

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.44 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:    
Broad Jump:        
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Player Analysis

Three-year starter whose average size is overshadowed by skillful ruggedness, allowing him to contest throws from a variety of coverages. He’s an elite competitor with a route-hugging mentality fueled by body control, foot agility, aggression and burst. He’s a pesky press-man defender with the tools to excel in zone. He’s willing to fly downhill and hit anybody near the football. He keeps his eyes on the prize and has an itchy, twitchy trigger to close throwing windows and make plays on the ball. He lacks lockdown traits but has lockdown talent and his competitive energy is contagious. He can play outside or from the slot and carries a very high floor with the potential to become one of the league’s top corners at some point during his first contract.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Ht: 6′ 4”     Wt: 266 lbs
Arms: 32 5/8”  Hands: 10 1/4”
School: Purdue
Prospect Grade: 6.40 
Next Gen Score: 86

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:       
Bench Press:         21
Vertical Jump:     38
Broad Jump:        121
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      4.36
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Player Analysis

Edge defender with good power and a relentless motor to keep the heat on offensive counterparts throughout the game. Karlaftis’ best production came in 2019, as he missed half of Purdue’s 2020 season and saw teams focus more energy toward stopping him in 2021. He’s a lift-and-leverage run defender at the point of attack but fits into a “team defender” column more than “premium run-stopper” category. He’s a force-based rusher with anchor-busting power and the ability to get to his counters when the rush begins to stall. With just two full seasons under his belt, there will be more development headed Karlaftis’ way. He’s a future starter as a strong-side defender in an even or odd front.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Ht: 5′ 11”     Wt: 229 lbs
Arms: 31 7/8”  Hands: 9 1/8”
School: Georgia
Prospect Grade: 6.40 
Next Gen Score: 90

Player Analysis

Explosive, three-down linebacker with the demeanor and quickness to become a volume tackler while holding down third-down duties at a high level. Dean’s play recognition is a work in progress, which limits reaction time and forces him to deal with more blockers than he’ll see as he gains more experience. Quick feet and plus agility will bring him to ball-carriers at a high rate but a lack of size and length means he’ll need to fine-tune his approach as a tackler to make sure he finishes what he starts. He might lack measurables, but he has the toughness and technique to see a boost in his performance once his play becomes more proactive.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

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Ht: 6′ 5”     Wt: 254 lbs
Arms: 34”  Hands: 9 7/8”
School: Florida State
Prospect Grade: 6.49 
Next Gen Score: 81

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.58 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:     32
Broad Jump:        125
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Player Analysis

Ascending edge prospect. Johnson has NFL traits and the potential to keep getting bigger and better as a pro. He is a one-year full-time starter with an underdeveloped pass rush and occasional lapses in awareness, but both areas should be correctable with more coaching and game experience. He’s more instinctive and consistent as a run defender, but his length and relentlessness are excellent building blocks for challenging protection. Johnson’s blend of strength and athleticism should make him a firm edge-setter and playmaker near the line of scrimmage for odd or even fronts. He has the traits, athleticism and talent to project as a top-40 pick with a bright future.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Ht: 6′ 4”     Wt: 250 lbs
Arms: 33 1/2”  Hands: 9”
School: Michigan
Prospect Grade: 6.39 
Next Gen Score: 84

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.55 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:     35
Broad Jump:        122
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      4.45
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Player Analysis

Emerging edge defender who should see a substantial leap in play consistency with more time to work on his technique and learn the game. The upside is evident, despite his inexperience. At times, the run tape can be a rough study, but it improved as the 2021 season progressed. Ojabo’s rush approach is fairly sophisticated with the feet and agility to juke, stutter, spin and race his way past offensive tackles. He’s not ready to take on pro run blockers, but Ojabo is in the early stages of his physical and play development. The Achilles tear he suffered at his pro day is likely to hurt his draft stock, but it will be hard for teams to pass on his upside if he remains available in the second round.

— Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Ht: 6′ 6”      Wt: 341 lbs
Arms: 34”   Hands: 10 3/4”
School: Georgia
Prospect Grade: 6.50 
Next Gen Score: 84

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.78 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:     32
Broad Jump:        123
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Ht: 6′ 0”      Wt: 194 lbs
Arms: 31 1/2”   Hands: 9 3/8”
School: Clemson
Prospect Grade: 6.40 
Next Gen Score: 84

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Ht: 6′ 3”      Wt: 304 lbs
Arms: 32 5/8”   Hands: 9 7/8”
School: Georgia
Prospect Grade: 6.35 
Next Gen Score: 77

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.77 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:     29
Broad Jump:        111
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Ht: 6′ 1 1/2”      Wt: 191 lbs
Arms: 30 7/8”   Hands: 8 7/8”
School: Florida
Prospect Grade: 6.38 
Next Gen Score: 83

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.39 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:     
Broad Jump:        
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Ht: 6′ 0”      Wt: 191 lbs
Arms: 32 1/4”   Hands: 9 1/2”
School: Michigan
Prospect Grade: 6.33 
Next Gen Score: 88

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.38 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:     33.5
Broad Jump:        121
3 Cone Drill:         6.57
20 Yd Shuttle:      4.06
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Ht: 5′ 11”      Wt: 198 lbs
Arms: 30 5/8”   Hands: 9”
School: Baylor
Prospect Grade: 6.16 
Next Gen Score: 77

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:       
Bench Press:         16
Vertical Jump:     35
Broad Jump:        
3 Cone Drill:         6.74
20 Yd Shuttle:      4.18
60 Yd Shuttle:      

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Ht: 6′ 4”      Wt: 261 lbs
Arms: 32 5/8”   Hands: 9 7/8”
School: Minnesota
Prospect Grade: 6.35 
Next Gen Score: 76

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      4.53 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:     38
Broad Jump:        125
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      
60 Yd Shuttle:      

Ht: 6′ 4”      Wt: 283 lbs
Arms: 33 1/4”   Hands: 9 1/2”
School: Texas A&M
Prospect Grade: 6.23 
Next Gen Score: 82

Combine Results

40 Yard Dash:      5 
Bench Press:         
Vertical Jump:     27.5
Broad Jump:        106
3 Cone Drill:         
20 Yd Shuttle:      4.49
60 Yd Shuttle:      

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