We have been making the case pretty much all fall that the 2022 draft just has to be about the defense in general for the Giants and the pass rush in particular. And if you are a Giants fan, this in fact is a great weekend to check out some of the better edge rushers likely to be in the 2022 draft. On the one hand, it’s not the greatest weekend of the year coming up on the college football schedule, with no games at all between ranked opponents. At the same time, at least 4 of the very best DE prospects for this year will be on national TV this weekend.
- And it starts with #1. In fact, this could be the first weekend this season that pro scouts get their first real chance to evaluate Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (#5, 6-5, 260), the consensus overall top prospect for the upcoming draft, when the 10th ranked Ducks’ play at UCLA at 3:30 PM ET on ABC. Thibodeaux was injured in the early minutes of Oregon’s season opener and hadn’t played much at all until the Ducks’ last game. He’s finally healthy and back up to speed and should get a good test against UCLA, especially when he lines up at RDE where he’ll be facing rising Bruins’ LT Sean Rhyan (#74, 6-5, 320) who has gotten his own first-round interest from the NFL scouting community.
- While Thibodeaux, who is still thought of as the likely #1 pick this year, could ultimately go too early for the Giants, Aidan Hutchinson (#97, 6-6, 260) of Michigan, whose 6th ranked Wolverines host Northwestern on Fox’s Big Noon Kick-off on Saturday, should be there when they pick. The rangy Hutchinson isn’t as athletic as Oregon’s Thibodeaux, but he has excellent length and an explosive get-off. Plus, he’s also got one of those non-stop Bosa/Watt type motors and appears to be a top 5-10 candidate on most team’s boards around the league.
- Purdue’s George Karlaftis (#5, 6-5, 260), who leads his 25th ranked Boilermakers into Saturday’s game against Wisconsin (3 PM ET; Big Ten Network) likely won’t go quite as early as the first two guys, but he is still one of the more disruptive DEs in the country. Like UM’s Hutchinson, Karlaftis isn’t going to just run around people, but he has a really unique combination of strength, quickness and lateral agility, combined with maybe the best technique in college football. The lack of pure foot speed could ultimately keep him out of the top half of this year’s opening round, but then somebody is going to jump all over the proven productivity later on the first night.
- Under normal circumstances Southern California at Notre Dame (7:30 PM ET; NBC) would almost by definition be the game of the week in college football. And the Irish have sort of done their part, posting a 5-1 record to rank 13th nationally. However, its been a downright trying year for USC, which has already lost three times and is already mired in the bottom half of the PAC-12 standings with little hope of digging out of their current hole. The irony here, though, is that the Trojans actually have the better prospects for the 2022 draft; indeed, USC has literally as many top prospects for the upcoming draft as any program in the country. Athletic DE/OLB Drake Jackson (#99, 6-4, 255), for example, has top 10-15 potential with the athleticism to be very much in the mix to be the second pass rusher selected this year after Oregon’s Thibodeaux. The Trojan you keep hearing pro scouts can’t get enough of, though, is WR Drake London (#15, 6-4, 210), a big physical receiver with speed and athleticism who has simply been uncoverable this fall. For the record, London, the #2 receiver in the country to date, is on pace to catch 130 passes for over 1,600 yards this fall, and it shouldn’t shock anyone if he starts to get top 5-10 mentions sooner rather than later.