Expert Analysis


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Real Gold or Fool's Gold? Assessing the Top 10 NFL Draft Risers

Top 10 NFL Draft Risers

From the end of the college season through the various all-star games, combine, and pro days, there is much more information on each player for teams to look into. 

In every NFL draft, there are numerous prospects who win the draft process, as they dramatically improve their stock thanks to their athletic testing and interviews. The 2022 NFL is no exception, as we have highlighted 10 prospects that have increased their draft position thanks to their performance after the season. However, while these players deserve the attention they have garnered, many of these players could be over-drafted due to their recent rise.

Trevor Penning, OT, UNI 

Penning was well known throughout the season, as he put himself on the map by dominating any defender put in front of him at the FCS level. However, due to the low level of competition, and some balance and pad level issues, Penning was not viewed as a day one draft pick. When the senior bowl rolled around, Penning let nobody forget his presence, as he showed off his natural strength and nastiness in the run game. He followed that up with a great performance at the combine, showing off his incredible size and athleticism. Going into the draft, it would surprise nobody if Penning ends up getting picked in the top half of the first round.

  • HT: 6071
  • WT: 325
  • 40: 4.89 (Combine)
  • Bench: 29 reps (Pro Day)
  • VJ: 28.0” (Combine)
  • Broad: 9-3 (Combine)
  • Shuttle: 4.62 (Combine)
  • Three-cone: 7.25 (Combine)

Verdict: Real Gold

There is a gap between Penning and the other top three tackles, but Penning, a massive and athletic LT, should be a day one starter, who will drastically improve a team’s run game. 

Consensus Big Board Rank: 17 | 33rd Team Big Board Rank: 17

Christian Watson, WR, NDSU 

Despite the depth of the WR class, Watson’s name has continued to be included in the mix as a first round pick. Watson was without a doubt a playmaker at the FCS level, but some drop issues and stiffness coming out of breaks caused him to be viewed only as a late day two pick. However, despite coming from lesser competition, Watson showed he belonged and left as one of the best players at the senior bowl. Gaining momentum into his combine and pro day, Watson left few doubters, as he tested off the charts, showcasing his elite size and speed. 

  • HT: 6040
  • WT: 208
  • 40: 4.36 (Combine)
  • Bench: 18 reps (Pro Day)
  • VJ: 38.5” (Combine)
  • Broad: 11-4 (Combine)
  • Shuttle: 4.19 (Pro Day)
  • Three-cone: 6.96 (Pro Day)

Verdict: Real Gold

Watson may not be worthy of a top 20 pick, but his athleticism combined with his great performance at the senior bowl warrant a top 50 pick.

Consensus Big Board Rank: 48  | 33rd Team Big Board Rank: 49

Boye Mafe, EDGE, MINN

Like many prospects on this list, Mafe, a very raw player coming out of college, was viewed as a late round player who may be worth taking a developmental shot at. However, Mafe went to the senior bowl and played well all week, before winning the game’s MVP. He, then, worked out very well at the combine and pro days, testing at the top of his position group. While Mafe is still a developmental player from day one in the NFL, he could be worth a high pick due to his athleticism and the flashes that he has shown. 

  • HT: 6036
  • WT: 261
  • 40: 4.53 (Combine)
  • VJ: 41.5” (Pro Day)
  • Broad: 10-5 (Combine)
  • Shuttle: 4.46 (Pro Day)
  • Three-cone: 7.24 (Pro Day)

Verdict: Fool’s Gold

Due to the depth of this edge class, Mafe is too raw to warrant such a high pick despite the incredible draft process he has had. While he’s an athletic freak who could continue to ascend, his tape does not currently match up with his projection as a late-first round pick or early-second round pick.

Consensus Big Board Rank: 33  | 33rd Team Big Board Rank: 69

Jelani Woods, TE, UVA 

In a unique TE class without a defined second tier of prospects, Woods’ late rise in his draft position could see him selected as one of the top players at the position. Woods’ name was not heard for much of this draft process, but upon further study of his lone year as a Cavalier and his phenomenal testing numbers, Woods is no longer being ignored. Showcasing stronger hands and improving his blocking ability will help his game a lot, but the testing numbers speak for themself as this prospect could hear his name called sooner than later. 

  • HT: 6071
  • WT: 253
  • 40: 4.61 (Combine)
  • Bench: 24 reps (Combine)
  • VJ: 37.5” (Pro Day)
  • Broad: 10-9 (Pro Day)
  • Shuttle: 4.2 (Pro Day)
  • Three-cone: 6.91 (Pro Day)

Verdict: Real Gold

Woods’ rise is coming at the right time, as he has a real shot to be one of the first TEs off the board. As we approach the third round, taking a shot on a developmental TE with high-end athleticism could pay off. 

Consensus Big Board Rank: 103  | 33rd Team Big Board Rank: 72

Leo Chenal, LB, WISC 

Any person studying the draft knew of Chenal as a bruising old school LB, who was very productive in the Big Ten over the past few years. However, the “old school” tag is not something you desire as a LB prospect these days, usually implying that the player may not have the athleticism or instincts to be a reliable pass coverage defender at the next level. Chenal seemed like he fit the billing, however, he tested as one of the best LBs and most athletic players in the draft, potentially answering some of the prior concerns. Due to the production and athletic testing, Chenal could hear his name called early on. 

  • HT: 6026
  • WT: 250
  • 40: 4.53 (Combine)
  • Bench: 34 reps (Pro Day)
  • VJ: 40.5” (Combine)
  • Broad: 10-8 (Combine)
  • Shuttle: 4.24 (Pro Day)
  • Three-cone: 6.84 (Pro Day)

Verdict: Fool’s Gold

Chenal is a very good football player and tested like an incredible athlete, but whispers of a first round selection are just too rich for Chenal’s current skill set.

Consensus Big Board Rank: 62  | 33rd Team Big Board Rank: 90

Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA 

Woolen is one of the more unique prospects in the past few years and certainly in this draft process. Woolen, a former WR, is still raw at the CB position but his size and athleticism are very hard to ignore. There are many talented cornerbacks in this class, so Woolen likely will not be drafted within the top 50, but soon after, Woolen may be drafted to a team willing to bet on his incredible size and speed for the position.

  • HT: 6040
  • WT: 205
  • 40: 4.26 (Combine)
  • Bench: 12 reps (Pro Day)
  • VJ: 42.0” (Combine)
  • Broad: 10-11 (Pro Day) 

Verdict: Real Gold

The CB group is made up of six to eight players that seem like locks to be picked from the early first to middle of the second round. However after that, it is justifiable to take a chance on a raw player like Woolen, who demonstrates rare size and speed. 

Consensus Big Board Rank: 72  | 33rd Team Big Board Rank: 98

Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston 

Like many others on this list, McCollum is a smaller school standout, who opened eyes with his high-level athleticism. As a player, McCollum was very productive at Sam Houston, but in terms of projecting to the next level, he is very raw and has a ways to go. That said, McCollum’s H/W/S combination is very impressive, so it would be no surprise if a team took a chance on him earlier than anticipated. 

  • HT: 6020
  • WT: 199
  • 40: 4.33 (Combine)
  • VJ: 39.5” (Combine)
  • Broad: 11-0 (Combine) 
  • Shuttle: 3.94 (Combine)
  • Three-cone: 6.48 (Combine)

Verdict: Fool’s Gold 

The H/W/S is hard to look past for McCollum but he is too far away in his technique to draft before day three. From then on, McCollum could prove to be a valuable developmental piece. 

Consensus Big Board Rank: 120  | 33rd Team Big Board Rank: 214

DeAngelo Malone, EDGE, WKU 

The 2022 EDGE class is very deep and highly talented, which could cause a player like Malone, who is undersized and comes from a smaller school, to slip. Malone has been one of the most productive and disruptive defenders over the past few seasons in college. Projecting him to the next level is difficult because he is light and likely will not make too much of an early down impact. However, Malone weighed in at 243 pounds, which was a large increase from his play weight during the season. He also tested very well, showing off his obvious athleticism.

  • HT: 6032
  • WT: 243
  • 40: 4.55 (Pro Day)
  • Bench: 23 reps (Combine)
  • VJ: 35.5” (Pro Day)
  • Broad: 9-11 (Pro Day)
  • Shuttle: 4.29 (Pro Day)
  • Three-cone: 6.95 (Pro Day)

Verdict: Real Gold

Malone flashes a wide array of pass rush tools thanks to his high-level athleticism, which he confirmed with his elite testing at his pro day. Malone’s weight increase may get him drafted sooner than expected, as he can come in and likely make an immediate impact as a situational pass rusher. 

Consensus Big Board Rank: 140  | 33rd Team Big Board Rank: 108

Skyy Moore, WR, WMU 

Moore likely has the talent and production to be a top 50 pick in the draft, but due to the deep class and him coming from a smaller school, he could slip. This is the case for many receivers in the class but it is especially true for a player like Moore. Moore tested very well in the pre-draft process and showed smooth and reliable hands on tape. As a result, he could be a hot commodity come draft time. 

  • HT: 5010
  • WT: 195
  • 40: 4.41 (Combine)
  • VJ: 34.5” (Combine)
  • Broad: 10-5 (Combine) 
  • Shuttle: 4.32 (Combine)
  • Three-cone: 7.13 (Combine) 

Verdict: Fool’s Gold

Moore is no doubt a talented playmaker, but due to the plethora of receiver options in this draft, there is no reason to reach on a player like Moore, who is undersized and may be limited to the slot. 

Consensus Big Board Rank: 54  | 33rd Team Big Board Rank: 98

Travon Walker, EDGE, UGA 

Nobody has risen more in the pre-draft process than Walker. He once looked like a day two lock, as a team would be willing to take a chance on the high-level run defense and his freakish build. However, upon more reflection and his athletic testing that was off the charts, Walker will likely hear his name very early in the draft. He is still raw as a pass rusher, as he had minimal college production relative to his peers, but his athleticism and natural traits cannot be ignored.

  • HT: 6050
  • WT: 272
  • 40: 4.51 (Combine)
  • VJ: 35.5” (Combine)
  • Broad: 10-3 (Combine) 
  • Shuttle: 4.32 (Combine)
  • Three-cone: 6.89 (Combine)

Verdict: Unclear

While Walker provides a lot of upside, his lower status on The 33rd team’s big board amidst a deep edge class suggests that teams may regret taking the boom-or-bust prospect. However, his off-the-charts athleticism is hard to ignore. It’s unclear whether Walker will be a regrettable selection, which makes him so polarizing.

Consensus Big Board Rank: 6  | 33rd Team Big Board Rank: 37