NFL Draft Top 5 Positional Rankings: Offensive Skill Positions
The First Edition of the 2022 NFL Draft Positional Rankings looking at all of the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball.
The College Football Season is coming to an end after this weekend and while they may be sad, it also means it’s full throttle for Draft Season. I wanted to use this final weekend to turn from a CFB Watch List to more direct NFL Draft talk. It’s still early in the process so not every prospect has been thoroughly graded or even watched, but it’s time to move beyond the college football field and look towards how these prospects will transition to the NFL.
With that in mind, I’m going to start working through some top end positional rankings over the next couple weeks to set a baseline. As the draft process continues we’ll look at risers, fallers and get a few more in-depth film studies on some of these prospects. Let’s get started with some Top 5’s for the Offensive Skill Positions!
Top 5 Prospect Rankings
Quarterback | Need Tier: low/none
6’4” 216lbs, Cincinnati
Desmond Ridder isn’t sitting atop most people’s quarterback rankings but he’s maintained that spot throughout the season for me simply because no one else has taken the throne. He has the best blend of size, arm talent, and mental processing to be enticing to the widest array of teams. His game reminds me a lot of Trey Lance - without being quite as athletic - from a standpoint of working as an quality pocket passer despite the athletic traits. The biggest concern is a general lack of the “it” factor that most top quarterback selections have. He doesn’t always put his best foot forward in the biggest games and almost lets the talent on the field dictate how he plays rather than rising to the occasion.
6’4” 215lbs, Nevada
6’1” 205lbs, Ole Miss
6’3” 220lbs, Pittsburgh
6’1” 225lbs, North Carolina
Overall thoughts: This year’s quarterback class simply isn’t that good. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s incredibly dangerous because all five of these guys - and prospects like Malik Willis and Kaleb Eleby just on the outside - have enticing traits. They all also have glaring weaknesses that could flame them out of the league. The Chiefs are pulling for as many teams as possible to have different QB1’s to get them off the board early.
Ultimately I settled on Desmond Ridder as my top quarterback due to him being the safest while still possessing good upside. He’s a good sized athlete, with a strong arm, and has shown as much mentally as any other guy in this class. He doesn’t seem to have the “it” factor and always plays his best vs the top competition, but his ability to operate the quick game and be a significant factor in the run game gives him the nod.
Running Back | Need Tier: Moderate
Kenneth Walker III
5’9” 206lbs, Michigan State
6’ 220lbs, UCLA
5’9” 194lbs, Notre Dame
6’1” 210lbs, Iowa State
5’11” 190lbs, Georgia
Cook is the quicker, big play running back for the Georgia Bulldogs and he’s really come on strong down the stretch for them. His ability to get split out wide and run receiver-esque routes will certainly entice NFL teams but it’s his running style that really sold me. He runs very similarly to his brother Dalvin Cook. It’s a very smooth run without many herky-jerky type cuts but rather just gliding through his changes in direction so he’s always operating at near full speed.
Overall thoughts: While James Cook is an early My Guy for the running back position in a year that doesn't have a ton of juice, there are a handful of bigger, powerful runners that the NFL will like. Walker, Hall, Hassan Haskins, etc.. are all exceptionally physical runners the NFL will love. Guys like this are coming back into vogue a little more in the NFL as every other position gets smaller but there is a lack of homerun hitting ability throughout this class.
That’s why there aren’t many names popping up towards the top of the draft board because so many of these prospects don’t provide explosive plays. It’s a good draft class to find a complimentary runner that can fulfill what a team’s #1 RB may not excel at, but teams looking for the three down stud may be waiting it out another season.
Wide Receiver | Need Tier: High
6’4” 210lbs, USC
6’1” 188lbs, Ohio StateChris Olave 2020 film + Incredibly smooth hips through single and double moves ++ Footwork off LoS and into/out of route stem + Body control when elevating or running ++ Hands & catch through contact + Attacks DB leverage and manipulates cov short & vertical + Zone understanding
This is about as anyone will have Chris Olave anymore and I’m simply not moving on this spot. So many other receivers have had massive years in 2021 that it’s almost made people forget just how good Olave is. His route running ability is unmatched in this class, his footwork is some of the best you’ll see coming out of college, and just in case that wasn’t enough, he touched 21.8mph on a TD reception this season. He’s the full package just happens to be a little thin and playing with two other top-50 selections at the same position while at Ohio State.
George Pickens (not declared)
6’3” 205lbs, Georgia
6’ 192lbs, Ohio State
Overall thoughts: I am sorry I left off your favorite wide receiver but honestly this class is really tightly grouped. I do think it’s a step back from a few of the recent classes but it’s still a really good group. My biggest hesitation about this entire class is how specialized a ton of the receivers appear to be not providing a ton of options to be a true #1 WR that can do it all.
There are a ton of big bodied prospects in this class, which is something the Chiefs clearly need and that recent drafts had lacked. There are few guys here and there with over the top speed and another handful of guys that operate best in the open field. There just doesn’t seem to be many prospects that check multiple boxes in a single package and when that happens, it becomes near impossible to slot this position group in broad strokes.
It is a quality draft for the Chiefs from the aspect that there is size at the position. There are a handful of “X WRs” to be had out of this draft class if that is indeed what they are looking for. The trick will be netting the right one in the right draft range because there is a bit of a fall off that I anticipate happening somewhere between pick 50 and pick 75.
Tight End | Need Tier: Low
6’4” 260lbs, Colorado State
6’5” 260lbs, Texas A&M
6’5” 251lbs, Washington
6’4” 249lbs, IowaSam LaPorta, TE, Iowa - Fluid mover in space - Willing blocker that works his tail off - Natural attacking the ball from multiple angles - Great Y-TE route tree (Seams and Corners all day) - Frames blocks well out in space
Sam LaPorta is an interesting tight end given his background as a wide receiver paired with the history of Iowa tight ends. He doesn’t have the same blocking prowess as Iowa tight ends of the past but he’s shown promise in the area. He’s taking to the coaching and is willing to be physical while welcoming the extra contact. LaPorta really impresses with his ability as a receiver despite working in a very run-centric system. He looks natural and fluid on the traditional Y-TE route tree when working the seams or out-breaking routes from an in-line position.
Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State
Overall thoughts: This years’ tight end class lacks the Kyle Pitts - what class doesn’t - or TJ Hockenson level prospect. There may not even be a player with a good chance to be taken in the first round but there is a quality amount of depth in this group. Even better, there appears to be a lot of tight ends that fit the traditional Y-TE model rather than the Joker/move-TE that often fills up the draft crush list.
There is a little something for everybody in this draft class but a lot of the players share similar skills. The trick will be determining whether or not a team can turn one of these prospects into a true top tight end or if they’d all be better playing second fiddle. The Chiefs currently aren’t in the market for a tight end because of a recent investment in Noah Grey, but if they are unable to retain Blake Bell’s services, they could certainly use another in-line tight end on the roster moving forward.
Next week, we’ll work down into the trenches to look at the offensive and defensive line units before wrapping up with the defensive skill positions on January 22nd!