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These college football players will replace top stars who traveled early for the 2022 NFL Draft

The college football undergraduates who qualify for the draft were faced with a Monday deadline to submit declaration papers for the 2022 NFL draft. Although there is a period for reconsideration before the final approval from the league, we have a pretty good idea of ​​who is leaving and who is coming back for another season at the collegiate level.

Many of the departures discussed here were expected, at least at the end of the season based on performance during 2021 and / or a first-round projection for the 2022 draft. So coaches either have a backup plan in place or have an eye on the transfer portal in hopes of meeting a need before the fall. Spring practice will provide more information to help us determine exactly who will be involved in replacing the production lost from these stars.

For now, though, we have some suggestions on who might be in line to step in for a couple of the stars heading to the NFL Draft this spring.

Alabama OT Evan Neal

Replacement - JC Latham or Tommy Brockermeyer: The two best prospects from Alabama's 2021 signing class were both five-star tackles, and efforts to meet those commitments were likely made with the expectation that Neal would be heading to the NFL after his third year with the Crimson Tide. Latham, the No. 1 tackle and No. 3 overall prospect in the 2021 recruiting class, played on special teams and came to work as a guard in the Cotton Bowl due to an injury. Although Brockermeyer, the No. 2 tackle and No. 6 overall prospect in the 2021 class, did not experience any fighting action in 2021, he is likely to play a factor in this replacement wave at the front of the attack because Nick Saban is tasked with replacing both starting tackles in 2022

Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux

Replacement - Bradyn Swinson: The entire defense will be helped by having Justin Flowe healthy, but Flowe and other high-ceilinged linebacker Noah Sewell have been inside players and cannot directly address the absence of Thibodeaux on the edge. Although only a three-star vantage point coming out of Georgia, Swinson emerged as a regular contributor on the defensive during his second-year first-year season in 2021 with 24 tackles and four tackles for losses in 11 games. It is possible that the new Ducks coach Dan Lanning will turn to the transfer portal for more help on the edge, but Swinson has been reliable enough to keep the position down.

Georgia LB Nakobe Dean

Replacement - Nolan Smith: While a handful of newly crowned national champions have decided to participate in the 2022 NFL Draft, Smith got the hype started for next year with his decision to return for a senior season. The shoes are extremely large and difficult to fill after Dean's Butkus Award-winning campaign in 2021, but Smith was extremely powerful from the outside linebacker position with 56 tackles (5th on the team) and nine tackles for loss (2nd on the team). fall. The linebacker youth movement will include more work for 2021 signers Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Smeal Mondon and Xavian Sorey, but Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart has been delighted to know he has gained the experience and proven production of Smith in the wake of all departures .

Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton

Substitute - Brandon Joseph: An All-American already from his time in the Northwestern, Joseph is set to follow in Hamilton's footsteps on the road from Notre Dame defensive backfield to the NFL Draft. Houston Griffith and DJ Brown are both there to provide depth and competition, but Joseph comes as a much-coveted transfer with star power and the expectation of locking the back end of a defense that may be among the best in the country by 2022.

Ole Miss QB Matt Corral

Replacement - Luke Altmyer or TBD from the transfer portal: When Corral went down with an injury in the Sugar Bowl, Altmyer, a top-five Mississippi player in the recruiting class in 2021, got his first chance to make a case as the next QB1 at Oxford. Although the performance (15-of-28 passing 174 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions) cemented very little, I expect he will still be part of the competition, at a minimum, and the front-runner depending on Lane Kiffin's offseason with the transfer portal. Ole Miss used the portal a lot to meet the needs of the defense heading into 2021, and now it is the offensive side of the ball that requires attention in several positions, including quarterback.

LSU DB Derek Stingley

Substitute - Damarius McGhee: Although Stingley's 2021 campaign was interrupted by an injury, his star power and pro-projections are still worth mentioning, especially given the extensive staffing needs of Brian Kelly's 2022 list in Baton Rouge. McGhee was a 4-star prospect in the recruiting class in 2021 and earned the start of a cornerback in the Texas Bowl against Kansas State, but he is also one of just a few scholarship defenders left after a remarkable roster turnover in the wake of the coaching change. There has been some good news in increasing the numbers with LSU landing a commitment from former Arkansas defensive back Greg Brooks Jr. Brooks is more of a nickel-security option, but he is a three-year-old starter in the SEC and at least another body for an LSU secondary in need of numbers.

Alabama WRs John Metchie III, Jameson Williams

Substitute - Ja'Corey Brooks: Although Brooks was a special team contributor all season (and a strong one at that, with a blocked punt to his name), it was a breakthrough in the receiver's late season that set the stage for his appearance in the Crimson Tide pass attack. Brooks had a total of 15 catches on 192 yards and two touchdowns during his true freshman season in 2021, all of which came in the last six games of the year. The matching touchdown against Auburn in the Iron Bowl hinted at what awaits in big fights in 2022, where he will be joined by several other loud-mouthed underclassmen in an effort to keep the passing attack productive in the absence of two 1,000-yard receivers.

Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III

Substitute - Jalen Berger: Mel Tucker added talent and outside experience to help kick-start the Spartans' race in 2021, and he has returned to the transfer portal again to replace the team's most important offensive player. Berger was a 4-star prospect and top-15 back in the 2020 class, but he fell out of favor with Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst and was fired from the team on October 10th. A fresh start could be what it takes for Berger to reach the blue-chip-caliber projection from high school, and Michigan State has proven to be a good landing place for transfers to have breakout seasons.

Arkansas WR Treylon Burks

Substitution - Jadon Haselwood: Burks meant a ton for Arkansas' offense, and especially the passing game, but Sam Pittman has a good chance of replacing his production with Haselwood, a former five-star prospect who was rated No. 1 wide receiver and No. 4 overall. recruiter in the recruiting class 2019. After limited action in 2019, a knee injury in April 2020 affected his contribution to the program, though he worked his way back to full health and made 39 receptions in 399 yards and six touchdowns in 2021. Burks was a large-volume reception threat. , and Haselwood has the ceiling to turn the same workload into a breakout year and the fulfillment of those five-star forecasts.

Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson

Substitute - Jaxon Smith-Njigba: A record-breaking Rose Bowl appearance removes any unrest over life after Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave in the Ohio State offensive. But Smith-Njigba's 15-catch, 347-yard, three-touchdown performance against Utah was not even necessary to end the season as Ohio State's leading receiver, an honor he had unlocked on his way into the off-season. So while the 2022 NFL Draft may include two first-round wide receivers from Ohio State, replacing them is not a primary concern, as it was not the team's leading receiver in 2021 either.

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