NFL Top 2022 Draft Prospects – Group of Five

BOISE, ID - DECEMBER 22: Quarterback Carson Strong #12 of the Nevada Wolf Pack passes the ball during second half action against the Tulane Green Wave at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Albertsons Stadium on December 22, 2020 in Boise, Idaho. Nevada won the game 38-27. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)

As we’ve seen in recent NFL Draft cycles, not all of the elite draft picks hail from Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama, and the rest of the Power Five Conference ranks. The Group of Five level and even the FCS and non-Division I levels have produced high draft picks. 

North Dakota State, Tulsa, and Houston all had first-round picks this year. Who could have predicted that under-recruited high school prospects — or players who were hardly recruited at all — could influence NFL betting lines this fall?

So when it comes to the 2022 NFL Draft cycle, which players from non-Power Five schools crack DraftScout.com’s early Top 150 rankings? Which former three-star, two-star, or no-star high school recruits are now watched closely by NFL scouting departments around the league?

We took a look at the list, and 17 of DraftScout’s Top 150 are from non-Power Five programs. It starts with Nevada’s stud quarterback Carson Strong and doesn’t end there. Strong is one of three Wolfpack studs to make the list. The top school, numbers-wise, is Cincinnati, as the Bearcats have four players listed in the Top 150.

Who said you have to go to the SEC or Big Ten to have a shot at the NFL someday?

We look at the top prospects on the list and where they’re projected to go. Top underclassmen who are draft eligible are included in the list. Check out these stars below. 

Top 2022 NFL Draft Prospects  – Group of Five Conferences

NOTE: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21, the NCAA will allow athletes to retain a year of eligibility — no matter how much they played. These are the 2022 Top 150 player rankings, according to DraftScout.com.

Top Five Prospects

Carson Strong, Soph./QB, Nevada

HGT./WGT.: 6-3/215

DRAFT SCOUT TOP 150: No. 14 overall

THE SKINNY: Strong only played in nine games last year, but he made the best of his fall throwing for 2,858 yards and 27 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He finished the year with a completion percentage of 70 percent. 

A three-star recruit coming out of high school in the class of 2018, Strong didn’t have any other college options (according to 247Sports.com). Now, he’s a pro football prospect with 5,000-plus career passing yards in just 20 career games.

DeAngelo Malone, Sr./OLB, Western Kentucky

HGT./WGT.: 6-3/230

DRAFT SCOUT TOP 150: No. 19 overall

THE SKINNY: Malone will take advantage of the NCAA rule that allows an extra year of eligibility for all athletes, regardless of how many games they played during the 2020-21 COVID-19 pandemic. He already has 42.5 tackles for a loss and 25 sacks in his career, but he’ll be adding to that this fall to improve his draft stock even more. Coming out of high school in 2017, 247Sports.com reports he only had one other FBS offer — from Buffalo.

Desmond Ridder, Jr./QB, Cincinnati

HGT./WGT.: 6-3/215

DRAFT SCOUT TOP 150: No. 65 overall

THE SKINNY: In three seasons, Ridder has thrown for nearly 7,000 yards and 57 touchdowns while rushing for another 1,800-plus yards and 22 scores. He’s a big reason for the Bearcats’ 31-6 record over the past three seasons.

Ahmad Gardner, Soph./CB, Cincinnati

HGT./WGT.: 6-1/188

DRAFT SCOUT TOP 150: No. 67 overall

THE SKINNY: In two seasons (23 games), Gardner has tallied 59 tackles, 20 passes defensed, and six interceptions — including two for touchdowns. Unlike some of the prospects listed above, Gardner did hold some Power Five scholarship offers coming out of the prep ranks (Indiana, Iowa State, Kentucky, and Syracuse), but he has flourished in Cincinnati.

Jalen Tolbert, Jr./WR, South Alabama

HGT./WGT.: 6-3/195

DRAFT SCOUT TOP 150: No. 90 overall

THE SKINNY: Tolbert caught 64 balls last fall for 1,085 yards and eight touchdowns. He enters his third season as a starter and will be counted on as the Jaguars’ top offensive threat. 

The Next 10

Romeo Doubs, Jr./WR, Nevada — Ranked No. 95 overall prospect

Cole Schneider, Jr./OG, Central Florida — No. 106 prospect

Coby Bryant, Sr./CB, Cincinnati — No. 119 prospect

Trey McBride, Jr./TE, Colorado State — No. 131 prospect

Shaun Jolly, Jr./CB, Appalachian State — No. 133 prospect

Myjai Sanders, Jr./DE, Cincinnati — No. 137 prospect

Khalil Shakir, Jr./WR, Boise State — No. 138 prospect

Cole Turner, Jr./TE, Nevada — No. 139 prospect

Steven Gilmore, Jr./CB, Marshall — No. 146 prospect

Cade Hall, Jr./DE, San Jose State — No. 148 prospect

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Brian McLaughlin is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of BMac and Herd’s FCS Podcast. He has covered the national recruiting scene in football and basketball for The Sporting News, headed up the PARADE Magazine High School All-America selections, and handled FCS college football for HERO Sports. Follow BMac on Twitter @BrianMacWriter.

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