The halfway point of the 2022 NFL season has come and gone. The draft order is beginning to take shape as teams begin to separate themselves. Draft boards are an evolving decision up until draft week, and sometimes even draft day. These five prospects are the biggest risers so far this season.
- Hendon Hooker – Quarterback, Tennessee
Hendon Hooker has had an efficient and sensational season. Besides Tennessee’s loss to Georgia, the fifth-year senior has been monumental in the Volunteer’s success. While UT’s offense is built for efficiency and speed, Hooker’s stats should not be discounted. So far this season, Hooker has completed 71% of his passes for 2,533 yards, 21 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Hooker rarely puts the ball in trouble. He can diagnose defenses quickly, knows where his hot reads are and when to get the ball out. While he may be an older prospect and closer to his ceiling, Hooker can still be a valuable NFL player. He would be perfect for a team that is not fully committed to a rebuild and needs a more polished starter, even if his ceiling is lower than other quarterbacks.
- Christian Gonzalez – Cornerback, Oregon
There are cornerbacks aplenty in this year’s draft class, and Christian Gonzalez has helped his stock more than most. The Colorado transfer has been outstanding in his first year in Oregon. During his two years at Colorado, Gonzalez failed to record a single interception, but in first year as a Duck, he has seven pass deflections and three interceptions.
Gonzalez has the prototypical size and athleticism for today’s NFL cornerback. At 6’2”, 200 pounds, Gonzalez has incredible speed and agility for his size. He pairs that with spectacular ball skills to round out an impressive scouting report. Gonzalez has been mentioned as a first round prospect and could vault into the upper half of round one if his play holds.
- Jared Verse – Edge Rusher, Florida State
Jared Verse has been one of the best stories in college football this year. The FCS Albany transfer hit the ground running at Florida State. In his first two games, Verse registered three total sacks. Through eight games, the redshirt sophomore has tallied 12 tackles for loss, including five and a half sacks.
Verse is slightly undersized at 6’4”, 248 pounds, but he packs a punch. He has one of the fastest get-offs in all of college football and can accelerate around the corner with ease. Verse’s ability to bend on the outside is what makes him truly special. Few offensive tackles are built to stop a twitchy, flexible edge rusher like Verse. While he may not be in the first round conversation yet, a strong end of his 2022 and combine workout could boost his stock even further.
- Jalin Hyatt – Wide Receiver, Tennessee
Not one, not two, not three… but five touchdowns against Nick Saban’s Alabama defense propelled Jalin Hyatt into the national spotlight. The aforementioned Tennessee offense is built to spread receivers out to give them as much space as possible. While Hyatt certainly sees a boost in his production due to the scheme, he has still been one of the most dominant receivers in college football this season. With 51 catches, Hyatt has recorded 970 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is second in the NCAA in yards and leads all receivers in touchdowns.
While he isn’t the biggest guy at 6’0”, 175 pounds, Hyatt has all the speed and juice to compete at any level. Hyatt’s game resembles Will Fuller, but he may be even more dynamic than Fuller down the field. Hyatt should hear his name called in the first-round or early second at the latest.
- Olu Fashanu – Offensive Tackle, Penn State
No one has raised their stock more than Penn State left tackle, Olu Fashanu. The 19-year-old redshirt sophomore has been an immovable object so far in 2022. 6’6”, 320 pounds, Fashanu has the prototypical size and strength of a dominant left tackle in the NFL.
Fashanu has lightning quick hands and pairs them perfectly with his feet. His athleticism to seal the edge or climb to the second level will translate perfectly to the NFL. At only 19, Fashanu has plenty of room to develop even further and many teams will want to take a swing early in the first round.