Any opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.
In just a few days, college football's top prospects will be at Lucas Oil Stadium for the 2022 Scouting Combine.
The event, which was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be one of the best opportunities for players to get noticed by scouts and improve their stock, and with more than 300 athletes getting ready to converge on Indianapolis, it's time to get more acquainted with them.
Over the next week, Commanders.com will take a dive into each position to see what they have to offer. After taking a look at the running backs, next up is the defensive line.
The top prospect: Aiden Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
There isn't a consensus on who the Jacksonville Jaguars will take with the No. 1 overall pick in April, but Aiden Hutchinson is a popular choice as the first player off the board.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has kept Hutchinson at the top of his big board since the beginning of last December, and for good reason. He was just that good in the latter portion of the season with 7.5 of his 14 sacks coming in that span (he had three in both of the Wolverines' wins over Penn State and Ohio State). Not only did he have 19 tackles for a loss, but he also finished fifth in pressure rate (16.5%). He was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy and left Michigan with a slew of other awards.
"He is advanced as a pass-rusher -- he already has a few go-to moves -- and is relentless on every snap," Kiper wrote.
Hutchinson was the highest-graded edge defender by Pro Football Focus in 2021 and generated 74 pressures, which was tied for the second-most in the Power 5. His performance in Indianapolis is likely to be surveyed by several scouts.
Looking to improve their stock: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Let's be honest: Kayvon Thibodeaux is one of the top players available this year, so putting him in this category doesn't mean he's trying to convince people that he's a first-round pick. Most people already have him as that, and some experts have him going No. 1 overall over Hutchinson.
But as Kiper said in his January big board, Thibodeaux and Hutchinson will be battling for the top spot for the next two months, and it's a guarantee Thibodeaux would like to secure his status as the top overall defensive prospect.
Thibodeaux suffered an ankle injury in the season opener, but that wasn't enough to slow him down in his return. He had four sacks in his first four games, finishing with seven, and he racked up 49 total tackles. PFF’s Michael Renner wrote that Thibodeaux had "an elite first step," which helped him finish the year with a 91.5 pass-rush rating.
Renner also noted that Thibodeaux needed some "refinement," though, and that sentiment was shared by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, who would like to see Thibodeaux show better hand usage. Next week should be an opportunity to show how much he's improved in that area.
Most intriguing: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
Bulldogs defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt's stats don't necessarily jump off the page. He had 2.5 sacks with 39 tackles as he helped Georgia claim a national championship. With that said, he has garnered a lot of attention. The Athletic's Bruce Feldman even called Wyatt the Bulldogs' "biggest freak," which is high praise considering how stacked their defense was in 2021.
"His most impressive testing number is the 4.87 40 he clocked this offseason," Feldman wrote. "He also vertical jumped 31 inches and broad jumped 9-3. The former high school shot putter is also very strong, benching 385 pounds and squatting 585."
Wyatt has already impressed people with his performance in the Senior Bowl, but some strong Combine numbers could get even more eyes on him.
Full list of prospects
- Amaré Barno, Virginia Tech
- Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma
- Thomas Booker, Stanford
- Matthew Butler, Tennessee
- Zach Carter, Florida
- Micheal Clemons, Texas A&M
- DJ Davidson, Arizona State
- Jordan Davis, Georgia
- Kalia Davis, UCF
- Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
- Noah Elliss, Idaho
- Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina
- Neil Farrell, LSU
- Jonathan Ford, Miami
- Haskell Garrett, Ohio State
- Jeffrey Gunter, Coastal Carolina
- Logan Hall, Houston
- Chris Hinton, Michigan
- Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
- Jordan Jackson, Air Force
- Tyree Johnson, Texas A&M
- Travis Jones, Connecticut
- George Karlaftis, Purdue
- DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
- Jesse Luketa, Penn State
- DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky
- Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
- Marquan McCall, Kentucky
- Otito Ogbonnia, UCLA
- David Ojabo, Michigan
- Esezi Otomewo, Minnesota
- Joshua Paschal, Kentucky
- Jayden Peevy, Texas A&M
- LaBryan Ray, Alabama
- John Ridgeway, Arkansas
- Dominique Robinson, Miami (Ohio)
- Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
- Tyreke Smith, Ohio State
- Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Notre Dame
- Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
- Cameron Thomas, San Diego State
- Isaiah Thomas, Oklahoma
- Eyioma Uwazurike, Iowa State
- Travon Walker, Georgia
- Sam Williams, Mississippi
- Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma
- Alex Wright, UAB
- Devonte Wyatt, Georgia