The 2022 NFL Draft is getting closer, which means you’ll start to hear comparisons between some of the top prospects in the class and current/former NFL players. These matches could be based on how the prospects play the game, their physical measurements, production, versatility and role, similar traits or a combination of these lines of thought. But regardless, NFL Draft evaluators are often comp players coming out of college to established pros to put a name and a face to what they bring.
Comps are an easy way for fans to get an idea of a player’s playing style. But they’re not always accurate — and in most cases, they don’t suggest the prospect will share the same level of success as the NFLer, for better or worse. They are simply useful for better understanding prospects and how they project themselves to the next level.
So we asked 10 of our NFL Draft analysts for their favorite lineup in this year’s class. Some you’ve probably heard before, but others might offer a new way to look at a particular prospect and what we can expect to see from them each Sunday going forward. We start with one of the best quarterbacks in the class.
Pickett has an unstable, backyard style of play. The Pittsburgh QB constantly gets out of bad situations thanks to his speed and creativity. And when he’s on pace, Pickett is very operational. That compares it to how Romo, the longtime Dallas Cowboys quarterback, played the game. — Dan Orlovsky, NFL analyst
Dynamic perspective with playmaking traits, Wilson can stretch defenses vertically or create after the catch. And with the high-level ball skills he shows on the tape, the Ohio State catcher can win isolation games. In a professional offense, look for Wilson to deploy as Diggs (Buffalo Bills) as a three-tier target with inside/outside flexibility. –Matt Bowen, NFL analyst
Lloyd is a complete player at inside linebacker, much like Warner was for the San Francisco 49ers. And their academic output and measurables are nearly identical.
During his career at Utah, Lloyd had 256 tackles, 16.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, five interceptions, eight pass breakups and three touchdowns. And in his four seasons at BYU, Warner recorded 264 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, seven interceptions, 13 pass breakups and two touchdowns.
At the combine this year, Lloyd was 6-foot-3, 235 pounds with a length of 33 inches and a speed of 4.66 seconds at the 40-yard dash. Meanwhile, Warner was 6-foot-3, 236 pounds with a length of 32 inches and a speed of 4.64 in combined workouts in 2018.
Lloyd can stop the run, make plays on the ball in coverage and go after the quarterback. And the ability to impact pass defense as an inside linebacker makes Lloyd an easy match for Warner for me. –Todd McShay, NFL Draft Analyst
Gardner is a long, sudden cornerback, and he hasn’t given up a touchdown this season at Cincinnati. We had Cromartie on the New York Jets when I was their general manager, and the builds and physical traits of those two cornerbacks are nearly identical. Gardner should be an elite man-to-man coverage corner in the NFL, just like Cro. — Mike Tannenbaum, NFL analyst
Nelson was a very good receiver for the Green Bay Packers, and Pierce has similar physical traits. He wowed with a 40-yard dash of 4.41 seconds and a 40.5-inch vertical at the combine, and the Cincinnati passer can go all the way, too — and break tackles after the catch. Maybe Green Bay could rob Pierce with one of their two second-round picks. — Mel Kiper Jr., NFL draft analyst
NC State’s Ekwonu is a tough player with impressive ability in the running game. Like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Wirfs did on their way out of Iowa, he’s a fantastic Day 1 offensive tackle that’s likely to be better early in the run game than in the passing game. Ekwonu’s advantage – thanks to traits like speed, balance and strength – makes him arguably the best tackle in this class. — Matt Miller, NFL Draft Analyst
Check out footage of NC State OT Ikem Ekwonu as he prepares to be a top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Both of these cornerbacks were known for their ball production in college. Stingley had a true freshman season at LSU that included six interceptions, while Lattimore had four picks in his final college season before the New Orleans Saints took him in the first round in 2017. Stingley has a technical faultless as a male corner but is also savvy with his eyes and instincts in zone coverage. The ability is not the hit with him. It’s his availability – he’s missed 13 games over the past two seasons. If Stingley can get back to his pre-injury form, he has the talent to become one of the top five corners in the NFL. –Jordan Reid, NFL Draft Analyst
Both of those defensive tackles are huge — Davis of Georgia is 341 pounds and Vea (Buccaneers) was 347 pounds when he entered the draft in 2018 — inside running thumpers with the strength to dominate head-to-head matchups and occupy the double-teams. I also don’t think they will ever be high volume bag makers, but the bags may be overrated. Their ability to push the pocket makes it difficult for quarterbacks to step up, and it can lead to teams doubling up on them, creating one-on-one matchups for others. — Steve Muench, NFL draft analyst
I was covering the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) in 1996 when they selected Runyan, a powerful offensive tackle with a bad streak, in the fourth round (109th overall). He then played 14 seasons in the NFL. Penning, at 6-foot-7, 325 pounds, has the same physical profile as Runyan, and his toughness and willingness to finish games with an advantage were notable traits in every game he played in Northern Iowa. But Penning won’t have to wait until round four to hear his name. — Jeff Legwold, NFL Nation reporter
Both of these tight ends have a dangerous ability to chase after the catch. Their versatile skills show how offensive coordinators have used them, each catching passes out of the backfield and even taking transfers. Like Smith of the New England Patriots, Maryland’s Okonkwo will present NFL game problems with his size against defensive backs and his speed against linebackers. — Turron Davenport, NFL Nation reporter