With the first two weeks of the 2021 college football season in the books, I'm updating my ranking of the top 25 prospects for the 2022 Reese's Senior Bowl. For the most part, it's been so far, so good for this group early in the season. There are eight newcomers to the list this week (along with an expanded OTHERS TO WATCH section), with prospects rising to the high standards required by NFL scouts to be selected in the top 75 overall picks next April.
The 2022 NFL Draft is still more than seven months away (April 28-30 in Las Vegas), so the evaluations of these players will change based on their play as the season unfolds, their results in athletic testing and, if they are fortunate enough to receive an invite, their performance at Senior Bowl week practices and the game itself (Feb. 5 on NFL Network).
One player from my initial list, Alabama edge rusher Christopher Allen, is not included here because he broke his foot while strip-sacking Miami Hurricanes quarterback D'Eriq King in the season opener and is unlikely to play again this year.
NOTE: Prospects are listed in ascending order. Heights and weights are via school measurements.
25) Kennedy Brooks, RB, Oklahoma (5-foot-11, 215 pounds)
Brooks opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns but made clear he was all the way back with a lead block on the goal line to spring quarterback Spencer Rattler for a score against Tulane in the season opener. He's a smooth, decisive mover after the handoff, not showing elite straight-line speed but winning with patience behind his blockers and a north-south style. Brooks ran through contact against the Green Wave and then Western Carolina, maintaining his balance to keep churning whether in the open field or lowering his pad level to get across the goal line.
24) Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming (6-3, 242)
Muma is living up to the hype after receiving breakout-candidate buzz coming into the year, leading the Cowboys with 21 total tackles in wins over Montana State and Northern Illinois. He often lines up outside but finds the ball in the box and will attack blocks from offensive linemen when required. Muma displayed excellent hands on a pick-six against NIU, reading the quarterback's eyes and leaping up to grab the pass. Muma's speed was evident on that return, as it was when coming off the edge for a sack against MSU and chasing down receivers 15-20 yards downfield in both games. He even blocked a field goal attempt by the Bobcats, jumping high in the air to make a key play.
23) Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State (6-0, 190)
Shakir has been a playmaker for the Broncos since 2019, but the outstanding catches he's made in the first two games of the 2021 season earn him a spot on this list. After scoring twice against UCF in the opener, he showcased exceptional body control and in-air ball adjustments on two highlight-level grabs against UTEP. Shakir lines up inside and outside the hashes to make use of his quickness and elusiveness after the catch. He's become a wily veteran, using his hands to get separation downfield. He has a shot to become a WR2 at the next level.
22) Amaré Barno, Edge, Virginia Tech (6-6, 245)
Previous rank: No. 14
The Hokies took care of North Carolina and quarterback Sam Howell in the opener, thanks, in part, to Barno's play on the edge. He posted 3.5 tackles for loss, attacking Howell in the pocket and in the open field while also stopping running backs before they got started. Barno's relative lack of bulk kept him from making plays at times against the Tar Heels, though, and he failed to record any stats the next week against Middle Tennessee State. He was on the ground too often vs. the Blue Raiders, and didn't make a stop despite getting two hands on the ball-carrier on his one open-field chance to bring down a running back.
21) Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State (6-1, 200)
Brisker started the season on a high note, intercepting a fourth-quarter pass in the team's road win over Wisconsin (adding four stops, including a TFL) despite fighting through injuries throughout the game. He played most of the first half against Ball State, lining up as a blitzer as well as in the deep half, then sat out the rest of the blowout win to let those injuries heal. Brisker made a nice open-field tackle against the Cardinals to prevent a touchdown in the first quarter (they settled for a field goal).
20) Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah (6-3, 235)
Previous rank: No. 16
Lloyd did a bit of everything in the opener against Weber State, leading the team with 12 stops (two for loss), intercepting a deflected pass and teaming with cornerback Clark Phillips to force a fumble midway through the fourth quarter. BYU's offensive linemen posed a greater challenge the next week, finding Lloyd often in the Cougars' win. He still posted a game-high 13 stops, though. Lloyd often dropped into coverage, breaking up a pass late in the game to keep the Utes' comeback dream alive.
19) Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State (6-0, 185)
Lucas somewhat surprisingly returned for a sixth year with the Sun Devils in 2021 instead of moving on to the next level. He's sticky in man coverage whether lined up in the slot or outside and is not contact-shy when facing larger receivers and running backs in the open field. Lucas used his good short-area quickness and length to break up two passes against UNLV last week, giving him 30 for his career. He made one breakup in trail coverage from the slot and the other when attacking the ball after a smooth transition from his backpedal.
18) Haskell Garrett, DT, Ohio State (6-2, 300)
Previous rank: No. 17
Garrett earned the respect of defensive linemen everywhere when he recovered a fumble and returned it 32 yards for a score against Minnesota. He has been disruptive when matched up one-on-one, swimming past blockers and attacking plays in the backfield. He saw a lot of double teams in the loss to Oregon but managed to split them or hold his ground on most plays despite not being the largest of interior linemen in the class.
17) Nick Ford, OL, Utah (6-5, 317)
Previous rank: No. 23
The Utes regularly ran the ball up the gut in their opener against Weber State because of Ford's powerful blocks. His combination of strength and mobility allows him to move defensive tackles and linebackers out of his running back's path. The BYU linemen Ford faced last weekend were stouter, but he still controlled them, allowing the Utes to rush for 193 yards in the loss. Typically strong in pass pro, Ford's excellent awareness led him outside quickly to shove a late Cougars B-gap blitzer in the third quarter, giving quarterback Charlie Brewer enough time to make the throw.
16) Cade Otton, TE, Washington (6-5, 250)
Previous rank: No. 15
Otton was the Huskies' best offensive threat in their season-opening loss to Montana, catching eight passes for 82 yards. One early throw in Otton's direction from quarterback Dylan Morris was intercepted after the tight end tipped the ball, and the game-sealing turnover late in the fourth quarter was made by a linebacker stepping into a pass intended for Otton. Against Michigan, Otton was targeted eight times but the Wolverines' athletic defenders also knew he was Morris' go-to guy, so they made plays to limit him to three grabs. When the ball got into his hands, he showed quickness and strength after the catch.
15) Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota (6-9, 380)
Faalele (pronounced fah-ah-LAY-lay) opted out in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. In his starts at right tackle this season against Ohio State and Miami (Ohio), however, he looked healthy and ready to go. Attempting to bull-rush this massive human is futile, and his initial kick-slide in pass pro stones most defenders. Faalele will have issues with better pass rushers beating him inside, but he has slimmed down a bit this year and is quite mobile for his size. The former rugby player from Melbourne, Australia, will be interesting to watch for the rest of the year. He has the potential to continue rising on this list.
14) Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn (6-0, 190)
Previous rank: No. 13
McCreary was not challenged much in Auburn's 60-10 opening win over Akron, posting three tackles. He played an integral part in the team's 62-0 blowout of Alabama State, however. McCreary pressed and played zone, securely tackling receivers coming into his area (even slamming one to the ground). He gave up one downfield throw when boxed out by a larger receiver, but ASU threw quick screens to his side too often. McCreary made them pay by blasting through a block for a tackle for loss and then beating his man to the pass for a pick-six later on.
13) Kingsley Enagbare, Edge, South Carolina (6-4, 265)
Previous rank: No. 7
Enagbare did not have to play a lot of snaps in the Gamecocks' 46-0 win over Eastern Illinois in the opener. He did pressure the quarterback when playing in the first half, though, and drew a holding penalty by fighting through multiple blockers with strong hands. East Carolina double-teamed Enagbare regularly last week. He consistently used his hands to force his way through blockers, posting two sacks and one other QB hit against the Pirates. Officials initially flagged him for targeting on the game's first play from scrimmage, but the call was overturned after review.
12) Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State (5-11, 184)
Previous rank: No. 10
One of the quickest receivers in the country showed that speed and agility in Penn State's wins over Wisconsin and Ball State on speed outs, screens and as a punt returner. He scored a 49-yard touchdown against the Badgers (whose poor coverage left him alone in the secondary) and took a quick pass into the end zone against the Cardinals using his elusiveness. Dotson has 10 catches for 167 yards so far this year, but he has gotten open on many other plays after shaking corners off the line and cruising downfield.
11) Thayer Munford, OT, Ohio State (6-6, 320)
Previous rank: No. 9
Munford played well in his first two starts at left guard, both in the win against Minnesota and the loss to Oregon. He controlled his man on most snaps with length and strength inside to open holes in the run game and provide protection for quarterback C.J. Stroud. Munford's punch is quite powerful, sending smaller defenders to the ground. If his man attempts to slip by him, the veteran usually recovers to head the defender off before he can reach the ball.
10) Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa (6-7, 321)
The Panthers couldn't quite get the win on the road against Iowa State to start the season, but Penning verified himself worthy of an early-round selection. His widely anticipated matchup against edge rusher Will McDonald IV was one-sided, as the tackle dominated the lean pass rusher. Penning also finished blocks regularly and cleaned up piles, displaying the nasty attitude offensive line coaches love. His performance last week in UNI's win over Sacramento State was interesting; he usually threw his man to the ground or ended up on the ground himself after lunging to his man or tripping over someone's feet. NFL coaches will want him to play a bit more under control.
9) Jaxson Kirkland, OT, Washington (6-7, 310)
Previous rank: No. 4
The Huskies shockingly lost to Montana in their home opener. Kirkland was solid, as usual, throughout the contest, but the Grizzlies' blitzes caused troubles for Washington quarterback Dylan Morris. Kirkland had his hands full last week against Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson, especially after the Huskies fell behind and could not sustain a run game. The senior tackle often handled Hutchinson's initial rush, but the Wolverines star continued to work through the block to disrupt the offense. Kirkland also gave up a sack in the fourth quarter on a defender's nice spin move.
8) Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama (6-1, 194)
Previous rank: No. 12
For the most part, Miami stayed away from Jobe in the Tide's season-opening victory. He was physical within five yards of the line of scrimmage, knocking receivers off their routes. He was also able to maintain outside leverage to funnel runs inside. Jobe used his length and speed to stay with receivers downfield and across the middle, as he showed when knocking away a pass in the end zone while in trail position late in the third quarter. He also displayed zone awareness by taking away a tight end in the red zone on a drive in which the Hurricanes eventually failed to score. An undisclosed injury kept him out of the team's game against Mercer last week, but Nick Saban told reporters he expects Jobe back this week.
7) Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky (6-5, 345)
Previous rank: No. 11
Kinnard expected to switch to left tackle in 2021 but stayed on the right side after LSU transfer Dare Rosenthal joined the team this summer. Kinnard imposed his will against Louisiana-Monroe, as expected, latching onto smaller defenders at the line and hitting linebackers at the second level. It takes a 300-pounder to get a push against Kinnard in pass protection, but he finds his anchor in time. Kinnard was a brick wall in pass pro and a people-mover against Missouri, as well, helping the team score 35 points and rack up 500-plus yards.
6) Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State (6-5, 262)
Johnson is making the most of his transfer from Georgia to the Seminoles' multiple-fronts scheme, where he can show his power and quickness on the edge whether standing up or in a three-point stance. Against Notre Dame, he used a strong punch to shock tackles and guards in the run game, power to attack the quarterback as a rusher and his reach to affect passing lanes. He was dominant in FSU's loss to FCS foe Jacksonville State, leading his squad with 11 tackles, including 2.5 sacks. He forced holds (often not called) and false starts with his strength and quickness, chasing plays from behind when JSU attempted to avoid him.
5) Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (6-6, 340)
Previous rank: No. 6
In the highly anticipated opener against Clemson, Davis showed he can contribute on more than just a rotational basis in the NFL. Despite being 6-foot-6, Davis got under the pads of his man to drive him into the backfield. He was late off the snap at times, but he often flashed nice quickness off the ball for his size to win a gap. Davis beat a double team late in the fourth quarter and showed a bit of agility to corral quarterback DJ Uiagalelei in the pocket for a sack. Davis got big props from his teammates in the first half of the team's win over UAB by chugging to the sideline to bring down the Blazers' mobile quarterback, Tyler Johnston III. He had two other tackles before resting for the rest of the Bulldogs' 56-7 win.
4) Adam Anderson, Edge, Georgia (6-5, 230)
Previous rank: No. 8
Anderson was active in Georgia's ballyhooed matchup with Clemson, getting a sack in the second half by exploding from his stance and shedding the right tackle with his hands to grab the quarterback. He posted five total tackles while coming on late blitzes to force DJ Uiagalelei to get rid of the football. Anderson didn't get the start in the Bulldogs' 56-7 drubbing of UAB, but played throughout the first half, recording a sack on an inside twist.
3) Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (6-1, 188)
Previous rank: No. 2
In my initial top 25 senior prospects list, I called Olave smooth. His route-running and tight-roping on the sideline against Minnesota proved that adjective lacking. Olave scored twice, first from 38 yards to give the Buckeyes the lead early in the third quarter, and then from 61 yards to seal the win with less than five minutes remaining. He caught 12 passes for 126 yards against Oregon, exhibiting nimble feet and strong hands. He short-armed one deep pass in the first half and lost his footing in the end zone to miss out on a touchdown in the second half, though, and the Buckeyes fell at home to the Ducks.
2) Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan (6-6, 265)
Previous rank: No. 3
Hutchinson felt his way through the first half of the Wolverines' win over Western Michigan, standing up on the edge in Michigan's new scheme under former Baltimore Ravens assistant Mike Macdonald. Hutchinson came out in the third quarter and fully put his injury from last season behind him to be his usual run-stuffing, quarterback-chasing, fumble-forcing, field-goal-blocking self. It was more of the same against Washington last week. Hutchinson was constantly around the ball whether attacking the backfield or hustling 10 yards or more downfield (four tackles, 2.5 sacks).
1) Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (6-1, 225)
Previous rank: No. 1
Willis' ability as a runner sometimes overshadows his efficiency as a passer, which he's displayed in the Flames' 2-0 start. His feet are strong and quiet in the pocket. He throws deep with touch and across the field on intermediate routes with accuracy. Even Willis' quick throws to the flat put receivers in position to make plays. His mobility helps him elude rushers in the backfield and break off big gains on called rush plays. The former Auburn Tiger has lived up to his billing so far this season, throwing for 371 yards on 28-of-41 passing (68.3%) with a TD-to-INT ratio of 3:0, and rushing for 148 yards and two TDs on 25 attempts (5.9 average).
A dozen more to watch
Listed in alphabetical order:
- Christian Beal-Smith, RB, Wake Forest (5-10, 200)
- Zachary Carter, Edge, Florida (6-4, 285)
- Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut (6-5, 333)
- Boye Mafe, Edge, Minnesota (6-4, 265)
- DeAngelo Malone, Edge, Western Kentucky (6-4, 240)
- DeMarvion Overshown, LB, Texas (6-4, 223)
- Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan (6-7, 305)
- Myjai Sanders, Edge, Cincinnati (6-5, 255)
- Jamaree Salyer, OL, Georgia (6-4, 325)
- Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama (6-3, 190)
- Cordell Volson, OL, North Dakota State (6-7, 313)
- Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma (6-4, 292)