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Top 10 Best defensive ends in the 2022 NFL Draft

Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson Could Be Top Pick

Teams in need of a dynamic edge rusher are going to have plenty of opportunities to fill that role as the 2022 NFL Draft is loaded with top defensive ends.

There was a time when it seemed like Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux was the cream of the crop when it came to defensive ends in the 2022 draft but he has been surpassed by Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and possibly by Georgia’s Travon Walker.

Top 10 Best defensive ends in the 2022 NFL Draft
Top 10 Best defensive ends in the 2022 NFL Draft

Hutchinson (-300) and Walker (+325) have the best odds to be the top overall pick.

10 Drake Jackson | Southern California

The numbers (37 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five quarterback sacks) don’t jump off the page especially when he put up better statistics during the 2019 season.

Jackson has one attribute every NFL team is looking for in an edge rusher and that is length as the 6-foot-4 Jackson has an 82-inch wingspan. That doesn’t figure to get him into the first round but could make him a second-round selection.

Drake Jackson Profile

9 David Ojabo | Michigan Wolverines

A healthy Ojabo would likely have gone in the first round at the NFL Draft. However, he suffered a torn Achilles at Michigan’s Pro Day, which makes him a bit of a wild-card pick in the draft. Whoever calls out his name knows they’ll have to wait to see him on the football field but the team that is willing to take that chance should be rewarded down the line.

After making only one tackle during the 2021 season, Ojabo erupted for 11 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in leading Michigan to the Big Ten title and a spot in the 2021 College Football Playoff.

David Ojabo Profile 

8 Nik Bonitto | Oklahoma Sooners

Bonitto first made his presence known with a two-sack effort against Baylor in the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game. He followed with 25½  tackles for loss and 15 sacks over his final two seasons with the Sooners. He doesn’t carry the same amount of weight as other top defensive end prospects so he may need to prove that he can drop into pass coverage at the next level.

Bonitto was in the top three among defensive ends in both the 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Nik Bonitto Profile

7 Arnold Ebiketie | Penn State Nittany Lions

Ebiketie made the most of his lone season at Penn State with 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Two of those sacks came against Michigan.

Ebiketie debuted at Temple listed at 225 pounds and by the time he arrived at Penn State, he was 30 pounds heavier. He posted the second-best marks in the vertical and broad jumps in his position group at the NFL Scouting Combine.

With 10½ tackles for loss and four sacks in his three seasons at Temple, he could be viewed as a little bit of a one-year wonder although he has all the traits to make an impact as an edge rusher at the next level.

Arnold Ebiketie Profile

6 George Karlaftis | Purdue Boilermakers

George Karlaftis #DL33 of the Purdue Boilermakers speaks to reporters during the NFL Draft Combine

With 14½ sacks over the last three seasons at Purdue, Karlaftis may not have as many splash plays as other edge rushers being touted as potential first-round picks but his ability to play either defensive end spot at the next level due to his ability to stuff the run makes him an enticing prospect.

A solid time in the 20-yard shuttle at the NFL Scouting Combine only improved his potential draft slot.

Karlaftis was listed as the 18th best prospect in the draft by the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, who spent nearly a decade as an NFL scout. Jeremiah compared him to fellow Purdue product Ryan Kerrigan, a four-time Pro Bowl selection and No. 16 pick in the 2011 draft. There’s a chance Karlaftis could be taken around the same spot.

George Karlaftis

5 Boye Mafe | Minnesota Golden Gophers

If Georgia’s Travon Walker tops the list of defensive ends/edge rushers who have helped themselves the most since the end of the college season, Mafe would be a close second. Mafe helped himself with a strong performance during the week of practices at the Senior Bowl. two sacks and a forced fumble in the Senior Bowl didn’t hurt either.

Mafe came into the 2021 season with as many points as a placekicker as quarterback sacks.

Back-to-back games with two sacks in games against Colorado and Bowling Green put him on the radar of NFL scouts. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Mafe is viewed to be a player yet to scratch the surface of his potential as a pass rusher.

He was not as productive against elite competition as other defensive ends in this draft class which could be a reason why he has been showing up as a first rounder in most mock drafts but he has slipped into the second round in others.

Boye Mafe Profile 

4 Jermaine Johnson | Florida State Seminoles

One has to cringe to think what that Georgia defense would have looked like if Johnson remained in Athens for his final season. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Minnesota native made the most of his one season at Florida State. He had 11½ sacks, 70 tackles, 12 quarterback pressures, and even returned a fumble for a touchdown.

Johnson had four games with multiple tackles for loss including a monstrous game with five TFLs in a win against rival Miami. Johnson managed just eight tackles for loss in his two seasons at Georgia.

Running the 40 in 4.58 seconds to go with a 10-5 mark in the broad jump helped Johnson make the jump to possible first-round selection to a near lock to go on the first night of the draft.

Jermaine Johnson Profile 

3 Travon Walker | Georgia Bulldogs

Every year there seems to be a player whose stock goes skyrocketing after the all-stars and NFL Scouting Combine.

Walker is that player this year. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Walker ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds, had a 10-3 broad jump, and posted the second-best time among defensive ends in the 3-cone drill.

Walker didn’t have that one game in 2021 that jumps off the page although finishing with sacks in both of the Bulldogs’ games in the College Football Playoff didn’t hurt his profile in the eyes of talent evaluators.

With so many standouts on one of the most dominating defenses in recent memory, it was easy to overlook Walker during the season. He is certainly not flying under the radar any longer. There have been some mock drafts predicting that he could go first overall.

It seems unlikely that he would be taken ahead of Aidan Hutchinson but he shouldn’t have to wait long to hear his name once the draft kicks off. For much of the 2021 college football season, the words “likely No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft” were uttered seemingly whenever Thibodeaux’s name was mentioned. Now, there is a chance he could be the third edge rusher selected in the draft.

Thibodeaux had a solid final season at Oregon with 49 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and seven sacks while missing three games. He has all the tangible qualities teams are looking for in a defensive end but he seems to be trending in the wrong direction as draft day approaches.

Travon Walker Profile 

2 Kayvon Thibodeaux | Oregon Ducks

For much of the 2021 college football season, the words “likely No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft” were uttered seemingly whenever Thibodeaux’s name was mentioned. Now, there is a chance he could be the third edge rusher selected in the draft.

Thibodeaux had a solid final season at Oregon with 49 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and seven sacks while missing three games. He has all the tangible qualities teams are looking for in a defensive end but he seems to be trending in the wrong direction as draft day approaches.

There are reasons why he was so highly touted earlier in the draft process and somebody could get a steal if he does tumble a bit on draft night.

Kayvon Thibodeaux Profile 

1 Aidan Hutchinson | Michigan Wolverines

No defensive player has gone first overall in the NFL Draft since Myles Garrett in 2017. Every indication is that the Jacksonville Jaguars are seriously considering selecting Hutchinson with the top pick.

Hutchinson is the top-rated player in Daniel Jeremiah’s list of top 50 prospects and is sitting on top of almost every player ranking.

When Hutchinson had 15 tackles and no sacks in the three games that he played during the 2020 season, not much was being made of his future at the next level. Fast forward a year and now the former Michigan star is the favorite to be taken first overall.

With 16½ tackles for loss and 14 quarterback sacks in 14 games during the 2021 season, he certainly put up numbers worthy of a top selection. Scouts also love the intensity that he plays with. His ascension to the top of the draft board didn’t start with his three-sack performance against Ohio State, that effort certainly caught people’s attention.

Aidan Hutchinson Profile 

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