The 2022 NFL Draft is approaching, which means you’ll start hearing comparisons between some of the best prospects in the class and current / former NFL players. These matches could be based on the way the potential players play the game, their physical goals, their production, their versatility and role, similar traits or a combination of these mindsets. But no matter what, NFL draft evaluators often leave players coming out of college, to established professionals, to put name and face to what they bring.
Comps are an easy way for fans to get a feel for a player’s playing style. But they are not always accurate – and in most cases, they do not suggest that the prospect will share the same level of success as the NFL player, for better or worse. They are simply helpful in better understanding leads and how they project to the next level.
So we asked 10 of our NFL draft analysts about their favorite comp in this year’s class. Some you have probably already heard, but others may offer a new way of looking at a particular customer and what we can expect to see from him every Sunday from now on. We start with one of the best quarterbacks in the class.
Pickett has an unresolved playing style in the backyard. The Pittsburgh QB consistently comes out of bad situations with its speed and creativity. And when he’s in rhythm, Pickett is extremely operational. It compares to the way Romo, the longtime Dallas Cowboys quarterback, played the game. – Dan Orlovsky, NFL Analyst
Wilson is a dynamic view with playing characteristics and can stretch defenses vertically or create after the catch. And with the high-level ball skills he shows on the tape, the Ohio State receiver can win isolation fights. In a professional offensive, look for Wilson to be deployed as Diggs (Buffalo Bills) as a three-level goal with inside / outside flexibility. – Matt Bowen, NFL analyst
Lloyd is a complete linebacker, just as Warner has been for the San Francisco 49ers. And their college production and measurable elements are almost identical.
During his Utah career, Lloyd had a total of 256 tackles, 16.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, five interceptions, eight passes and three touchdowns. And during his four seasons at BYU, Warner recorded 264 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, seven interceptions, 13 passes and two touchdowns.
At the combine this year, Lloyd measured 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds with 33-inch length and 4.66-second speed in the 40-yard line. Meanwhile, Warner measured 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds with 32-inch length and 4.64 speed during 2018 combine training.
Lloyd can stop the race, make bets on the ball in coverage and come after the quarterback. And the ability to influence the passing defense as an inside linebacker makes Lloyd an easy comp to Warner for me. – Todd McShay, NFL Draft Analyst
Gardner is a long and sudden cornerback, and he did not give up a single touchdown this season in Cincinnati. We had Cromartie on the New York Jets when I was their GM, and these two cornerbacks build and physical characteristics are almost identical. Gardner should be an elite man-to-man cover corner in the NFL, just like Cro. – Mike Tannenbaum, NFL Analyst
Nelson was a really good receiver for the Green Bay Packers, and Pierce has similar physical traits. He impressed with a 4.41-second 40-yard line and 40.5-inch vertical at the combine, and the Cincinnati pass can also run every route – and break tackles after the catch. Maybe Green Bay could steal Pierce with one of its two selections in the second round. – Mel Kiper Jr., NFL Draft Analyst
NC State’s Ekwonu is a strong player with amazing abilities in the running game. Like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Wirfs did when he came out of Iowa, he projects as a great Day 1 offensive tackle that is likely to be better early in the running game than the passing game. Equonus’ upside – thanks to qualities such as speed, balance and strength – makes him without a doubt the best tackle in this class. – Matt Miller, NFL Draft Analyst
Watch footage from NC State OT Ikem Ekwonu as he prepares to become a top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Both of these cornerbacks were known for their ball production in college. Stingley had a strikingly 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 squeaky clean technique as a man corner, but is also knowledgeable with his eyes and instincts in zone coverage. The ability is not tuberous in him. That’s his availability – he’s missed 13 games in the last two seasons. If Stingley can regain his form before the injury, he has the talent to become a top-five cornerback in the NFL. – Jordan Reid, NFL Draft Analyst
Both of these defensive tackles are massive – Georgias Davis weighs 341 pounds and Vea (Buccaneers) weighed 347 pounds when he joined the draft in 2018 – inside runners with the strength to dominate one-on-one matchups and occupy double teams . I also do not think there will ever be high volume sack manufacturers, but sacks can be overrated. Their ability to push the pocket makes it hard for quarterbacks to go up, and it can cause teams to double them, effectively creating one-on-one matchups for others. – Steve Muench, NFL draft analyst
I covered the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) in 1996 when they picked Runyan, a powerful offensive tackle with an ugly streak coming after it, in the fourth round (109th overall). He went on to play 14 seasons in the NFL. Penning, at 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds, has the same physical profile as Runyan, and his play-to-play toughness and willingness to finish games with an edge were noticeable features in every single game he played in Northern Iowa. But Penning does not have to wait until the fourth round to hear his name called. – Jeff Legwold, NFL Nation Reporter
Both of these tight ends have a dangerous ability to run after the catch. Their versatile skill set shows how offensive coordinators have used them every time they catch passes out of the backfield and even take passes. Like the New England Patriots’ Smith, Maryland’s Okonkwo will present matchup issues in the NFL with his size against defensive backs and speed against linebackers. – Turron Davenport, NFL Nation reporter