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2022 NFL Draft: Ranking the top 10 defensive prospects by position

Who are the top 10 defensive prospects at each position?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 Big Ten Championship Game - Michigan v Iowa Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Scouting Combine is officially in the books. With only Pro days and private workouts to go, the draft is on the horizon. We still have about a month to go until this year’s NFL draft gets underway, and until then the evaluation process for this year’s draft class continues.

Here are my top 10 prospects by position for the defensive players in the 2022 draft class. The list will continue to fluctuate between now and Draft Day as to which player is slotted where, but the top 10 at each position shouldn’t change all that much over the next month.

Edge Rushers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 10 CFP National Championship Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  1. Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan (6’7”, 260)
  2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon (6’4”, 254)
  3. Travon Walker, Georgia (6’5”, 272)
  4. Jermaine Johnson, Florida State (6’5”, 254)
  5. David Ojabo, Michigan (6’4”, 250)
  6. George Karlaftis, Purdue (6’4”, 266)
  7. Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State (6’2”, 250)
  8. Kinsley Enagbare, South Carolina (6’4”, 268)
  9. Drake Jackson, USC (6’3”, 254)
  10. Boye Mafe, Minnesota (6’4”, 261)

There’s a good chance all of the edge rushers the Cowboys have a first-round grade on are all off the board by the time they are on the clock at No. 24. If they are hoping to replace DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory with their first-round pick they may be out of luck. There are some intriguing candidates who could be drafted later, but it’s always a crap shoot to know whether or not they will still be available when it’s time for them to pick.


Defensive Tackle

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 UConn at UMass Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  1. Devonte Wyatt, Georgia (6’3”, 304)
  2. Jordan Davis, Georgia (6’6”, 341)
  3. Travis Jones, UConn (6’4”, 325)
  4. Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma (6’4”, 290)
  5. DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M (6’4”, 283)
  6. Logan Hall, Houston (6’6”, 283)
  7. Phidarian Mathis, Alabama (6’4”, 310)
  8. Neil Farrell Jr., LSU (6’4”, 330)
  9. Matthew Butler, Tennessee (6’3”, 297)
  10. John Ridgeway, Arkansas (6’5”, 321)

Despite knowing it’s a weakness year after year, the Cowboys still haven’t found a way to upgrade their run defense. Maybe 2022 is that year. There are some intriguing interior defensive lineman in this year’s draft class who would help immediately and they could have their pick among the best at No. 24. Devonte Wyatt, Jordan Davis, and Travis Jones could all be in consideration there and all are worthy of the pick.


Linebacker

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  1. Devin Lloyd, Utah (6’3”, 237)
  2. Nakobe Dean, Georgia (5’11”, 229)
  3. Quay Walker, Georgia (6’4”, 241)
  4. Chad Muma, Wyoming (6’3”, 239)
  5. Christian Harris, Alabama (6’0”, 226)
  6. Damone Clark, LSU (6’2”, 239)
  7. Leo Chenal, Wisconsin (6’3”, 250)
  8. Troy Anderson, Montana State (6’3”, 243)
  9. Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma (6’0”, 226)
  10. Channing Tindall, Georgia (6’2”, 230)

If the Cowboys draft one of the top 10 linebackers this year odds are good it’s going to be one of the three from Georgia. Anyone of them are plug-and-play starters and all would be an excellent fit if paired with Micah Parsons. Even if they don’t draft a LB from Georgia, this position is deep this year and they should be able to come away with a starting caliber player at any point on Day 2 or maybe even early on Day 3.


Cornerback

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  1. Ahmad Garner, Cincinnati (6’3”, 190)
  2. Derek Stingley Jr., LSU (6’0”, 190)
  3. Trent McDuffie, Washington (5’11”, 193)
  4. Kyle Gordon, Washington (5’11”, 194)
  5. Kair Elam, Florida (6’1”, 191)
  6. Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson (6’0”, 194)
  7. Roger McCreary, Auburn (5’11”, 190)
  8. Tariq Woolen, UTSA (6’4”, 205)
  9. Cobe Bryant, Cincinnati (6’1”, 193)
  10. Marcus Jones, Houston (5’8”, 174)

Will the Cowboys invest more draft capital at CB after spending two picks on the position last year? There is no doubt some talented players in the top 10 who should be available at No. 24 and one of the best could slide to them due to his injury history over the past couple years. Case in point, if Derek Stingley is somehow still available when they are on the clock, he’d be hard for them to pass up because he’d be a perfect counterpart to Trevon Diggs.


Safety

Texas Tech v Baylor Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images
  1. Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame (6’4”, 220)
  2. Daxton Hill, Michigan (6’0”, 191)
  3. Jalen Pitre, Baylor (5’11”, 198)
  4. Jaquan Brisker, Penn State (6’1”, 199)
  5. Lewis Cine, Georgia (6’1”, 199)
  6. Kerby Joseph, Illinois (6’1”, 203)
  7. Bryan Cook, Cincinnati (6’1”, 206)
  8. Nick Cross, Maryland (6’0”, 212)
  9. JT Woods, Baylor (6’2”, 195)
  10. Vernon McKinley III, Oregon (5’10”, 198)

The Cowboys haven’t drafted a safety in the top 100 since 2013 (J.J. Wilcox) or one in the first round in two decades since 2002 (Roy Williams). That may or may not happen again in 2022, but if they do, Jalen Pitre is one of my favorites for them. He plays with the instincts of Tyrann Mathieu and has the versatility of Jamal Adams in and around the line of scrimmage. Being a local prospect from Baylor hopefully helps his chances of ending up in Dallas.