College Football Teams Needing to Replace the Most NFL Talent

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2022

College Football Teams Needing to Replace the Most NFL Talent

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    It's essential to build a talented roster to chase conference and national titles in college football, but those players won't stick around forever. Soon enough, they're headed to the NFL draft.

    And every year, those departures hammer quite a few programs around the nation.

    If you even casually follow the college game, most of the schools losing top talent to the draft in 2022 won't be a surprise. Several are recent national champions or College Football Playoff qualifiers, while the only exceptions each recruit at a high level and play in a Power Five conference.

    Because the NFL draft is subjectiveall 32 franchises have varying gradesthe group we consider top players naturally is, too. Still, the emphasis is on colleges with a handful of high-end prospects.  

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Same old, same old in Tuscaloosa.

    Headlined by offensive tackle Evan Neal, the Crimson Tide may approach double-digit selections in the 2022 draft.

    Wide receiver Jameson Williams, pending his medical evaluations after a torn left ACL, should be a first-round candidate, too. Fellow wideout John Metchie III is also recovering from an ACL injury.

    More players to know are running back Brian Robinson Jr., defensive linemen Phidarian Mathis, D.J. Dale, Justin Eboigbe and Byron Young, linebackers Christian Harris and Henry To'oto'o, cornerback Josh Jobe and safety Jordan Battle.

    Several of those players are still making a formal decision about the 2022 draft, but most are expected to head to the NFL.  

Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    It certainly isn't a coincidence that Cincinnati reached the College Football Playoff in the 2021 season.

    Desmond Ridder is among the highest-valued quarterbacks in the class. He's a four-year starter who threw for 10,239 yards, ran for 2,180 and accounted for 116 touchdowns with the Bearcats.

    Plus, the defense is stacked with pro-level talent. Star cornerbacks Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant both earned AP All-America honors and should be Day 1 or 2 picks. Edge-rusher Myjai Sanders and linebacker Darrian Beavers have Day 2 potential, too.

    Rounding out the list, running back Jerome Ford and top receiver Alec Pierce should both be selected on Day 2 or 3. We aren't ruling out a middle-round rise for safety Bryan Cook, either.  

Clemson Tigers

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    Hakim Wright Sr./Associated Press

    Clemson's streak of six ACC titles ended in 2021, but the Tigers still reached 10 wins and have a noteworthy NFL-bound group.

    Maybe.

    Cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. is Clemson's top first-round candidate. Over the last two seasons, he tallied six takeaways (five interceptions) and broke up nine passes.

    NFL teams will be interested in the medical evaluation for wide receiver Justyn Ross, who underwent spinal surgery and missed the 2020 season. He returned in 2021, leading the Tigers with 46 catches for 514 yards and three touchdowns.

    First-team All-ACC cornerback Mario Goodrich has declared for the NFL draft. The impending decisions of four othersdefensive tackle Tyler Davis, wideout Joseph Ngata, edge-rusher Xavier Thomas and tight end Davis Allenwill determine just how much NFL talent Clemson will need to replace.

Georgia Bulldogs

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    Thanks to a steady flow of elite prospects choosing Georgia, the program is built to withstand a flood of departures. There's a bunch of talent leaving Athens this year, though.

    Prime first-round possibilities are defensive tackle Jordan Davis, linebacker Nakobe Dean, corner Derion Kendrick and defensive lineman Travon Walker. Davis and Dean are most likely to hear their names on the opening day of the draft.

    Beyond them, NFL scouts will be monitoring safety Lewis Cine, defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, wideout George Pickens, linebackers Channing Tindall, Quay Walker and Nolan Smith, offensive linemen Jamaree Salyer and Justin Shaffer, running backs James Cook and Zamir White and safety Tykee Smith.

    The finalized list of early entrants is important to watch, but Georgia likely expects most of this group to chase the NFL.

Michigan Wolverines

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The 2022 cycle is primarily about defense for Michigan.

    Heisman Trophy runner-up Aidan Hutchinson is a potential top-five pick, and fellow edge-rusher David Ojabo is a first-round talent. Versatile defensive back Daxton Hill, the brother of Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill, also has Day 1 upside.

    Behind that trifecta, linebacker Josh Ross, defensive tackle Christopher Hinton and safety Brad Hawkins should also be selected. All six players held a vital role on the Big Ten-winning team.

    Michigan's two offensive players to know are running back Hassan Haskins and offensive lineman Andrew Stueber.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Unlike Michigan, Ohio State's top draft prospects mostly play offense.

    Wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are strong first-round candidates, and offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere is within the Day 1 or 2 range. Tight end Jeremy Ruckert and offensive lineman Thayer Munford are potential Day 2 picks, and running back Master Teague III is a late-round option.

    Pending a few stay-or-go decisions, the Buckeyes could have defensive linemen Haskell Garrett, Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith and cornerback Sevyn Banks headed to the draft, too.

    In all likelihood, Ohio State will extend its streak of having a first-round selection to seven consecutive drafts.

Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Barry Reeger/Associated Press

    After a 5-0 start, Penn State dropped from the national radar and kept on falling. Ultimately, the Nittany Lions finished with a 7-6 record in a disappointing 2021 campaign.

    But the 2022 draft will be a chance to celebrate again.

    Wide receiver Jahan Dotson leads a top-heavy group of Penn State prospects. He's a first-round talent, while safety Jaquan Brisker, edge-rusher Arnold Ebiketie, offensive tackle Rasheed Walker and linebacker Brandon Smith are definite Day 2 options.

    Along with cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields, linebackers Jesse Luketa and Ellis Brooks are Day 3 prospects. Defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo merits a late-round look, too.

Texas A&M Aggies

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    As the Texas A&M Aggies place the final touches on the nation's top recruiting class, they're also set to replace many key contributors.

    Versatile offensive lineman Kenyon Greenwho played every position but center in 2021is Texas A&M's consensus first-round prospect. After him, there's a collection of intriguing talent that will be heavily dependent on NFL evaluations.

    Even if they aren't first-rounders, defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal, running back Isaiah Spiller and tight end Jalen Wydermyer are unlikely to fall past Day 2. Maybe not even the second round.

    Plus, the middle-to-late rounds should be kind to the Aggies. Defensive linemen Micheal Clemons, Tyree Johnson and Jayden Peevy, linebacker Aaron Hansford and safety Leon O'Neal Jr. are each on the radar. Safety Demani Richardson would be also if he declares, but that isn't a certainty.

              

    Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR

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