The College Football Playoff championship matchup of Alabama and Georgia has all the makings of an exciting finale to the 2021 college football season. It has been about a month since the Crimson Tide beat the Bulldogs 41-24 in the SEC Championship, and now we get a second edition of the top-tier matchup. The game will feature numerous prospects for the 2022 NFL draft, starting with a game-breaking receiver for Alabama.
In all, five players from either side are included in my current top 32 rankings of draft prospects, but don't be surprised to see a few more join the ranks by April, especially with a big performance in the title game (8 p.m. ET on Jan. 10, ESPN). Who will separate themselves from the pack with one final piece of standout game tape? For everyone else, the Senior Bowl, the scouting combine and pro days lie ahead. That means prospects have plenty of opportunities to rise over the coming months, and a lot will change before the draft.
But for now, here are my top 32 prospects for the 2022 class, updated from my Dec. 6 version.
Note: Underclassmen are marked with an asterisk, and grades are via Scouts Inc.
1. Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Height: 6-foot-6 | Weight: 269 pounds
Grade: 94 | Previous rank: 1
Hutchinson plays a powerful game and is truly relentless in pursuit. He also has fast eyes and locates the ball really well. I like his inside move, and his ability to line up on either side and drop in coverage will be valuable to NFL teams. The senior can stack blockers at the point of attack and has active hands. He had 14.0 sacks (third in the country), 19 tackles for loss (tied for 23rd), 75 tackles, 66 pressures (second) and two forced fumbles this season for the Wolverines. If you want to see just how dominant Hutchinson can be, go watch his tape from Michigan's late-November win over Ohio State, when he had three sacks, 14 pressures and 10 tackles.
2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon*
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 250
Grade: 94 | Previous rank: 2
Thibodeaux is a phenomenal pass-rusher with great speed and size. He gets a good push on blockers, and he shows solid initial quickness and closing speed. Thibodeaux is effective at dipping and ripping, but he also displays a strong inside move. Against the run, he locates the ball then stacks and sheds blockers, often making plays in the backfield. And he is versatile enough to convert to 3-4 outside linebacker or even occasionally kick inside to rush the passer. He could use a little more work as a hands fighter, and I'd like to see him play with a little more fire. Thibodeaux finished the season with 7.0 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 46 pressures (10th in the nation) and two forced fumbles.