As the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams turn their attention to Super Bowl 56, the rest of the league is already thinking about the 2022 NFL Draft. Many of the players who will hear their names called this spring have an opportunity to boost their stock at the 2022 Senior Bowl, which will take place on Saturday, Feb. 5.
Unlike the NFL Combine, not every player attending the Senior Bowl is a near-lock to be drafted. For every first-round pick participating in the game, there are plenty of late-round prospects who have an opportunity to stand out and prove their worth. Now feels like the perfect time to analyze some offensive prospects who are sleepers entering this year’s Senior Bowl.
For this list, we tried to exclude players who are widely known, such as North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell, and prospects who are currently considered near-locks to be drafted in the first round. This sleeper list does include players from Power 5 programs as opposed to only featuring Group of 5 players or “small-school” prospects.
Based on consideration of the aforementioned prerequisites, the most intriguing Senior Bowl sleepers rank as follows:
6. D’vonte Price, RB, Florida International
Although FIU’s football team was among the nation’s worst in 2020, Price tried boosting his stock with a career-high 682 yards and six touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior flashed impressive speed during his college career and averaged 6.8 yards per carry during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.
Although Price has size and speed working in his favor, there will be questions about his durability and how much of his success came against mid-major programs. A strong showing at the Senior Bowl could propel Price into the fourth or fifth round.
5. Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
Born in Austria, Raimann had a fascinating path to Central Michigan. After moving to Michigan as a foreign exchange student in 2016, he returned to Austria for his senior year, served six months in the military, and then returned to the U.S. and enrolled at CMU as a tight end. He spent two seasons and made 11 starts as a tight end before CMU wisely decided his 6-foot-7 frame would be perfect on the offensive line.
Although he played left tackle in 2021, Raimann could be a candidate to move inside in the NFL. He earned rave reviews throughout the 2021 season for his run-blocking skills and earned first-team All-MAC honors. He’ll be 25 at the start of next season and is currently projected to be selected on the draft’s second day.
4. Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State
After originally beginning his career at Division II Nebraska-Kearney, White spent time at Mt. San Antonio College (Calif.) before jumping to Arizona State in 2020. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound running back rushed for 240 yards and five touchdowns on an even 10 yards per carry in his first year as a Division I player.
As the Sun Devils’ starting running back last year, White tallied 1,462 total yards (1,006 rushing and 456 receiving) and 16 total touchdowns. His abilities as an all-purpose back could greatly boost his draft stock in the coming months. Although White is currently a projected Day 3 pick, he has the size and skillset to go within the draft’s first 100 selections and make an NFL team extremely happy.
3. Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis
Austin was quietly one of the nation’s most prolific receivers over the last two years, hauling in 137 catches for 2,202 yards and 19 touchdowns. However, his 5-foot-9, 162-pound frame could work against him in the predraft process — and that’s assuming his 5-foot-9 frame is even close to being accurate. Every school jukes the numbers where it can.
The Senior Bowl should provide Austin an excellent opportunity to show what he can do as an all-purpose weapon. Football fans should start paying attention if he’s still available when the NFL draft’s sixth round begins.
2. Cole Strange, OG, UT-Chattanooga
At 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, Strange will bring instant size to whatever NFL team drafts him. Although there will naturally likely be questions about how well he’ll succeed in the NFL after spending six years at UT-Chattanooga, an FCS school. The powerful offensive lineman impressed against Kentucky, an SEC program, last year and even saw action at left tackle before the season ended.
Strange is a projected Day 3 pick who might need plenty of help to be selected on Day 2. Still, he’s absolutely a prospect worth monitoring in the coming months.
1. Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
Smply put, Daniel Faalele is big. At 6-foot-9 and 380 pounds, Faalele used his size to dominate in Minnesota’s run-heavy offense. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Faalele made 31 career starts at right tackle and thrived in the Big Ten.
The Australian even lined up at fullback late in the year and scored a touchdown against West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. It’s a play which needs to be seen to be believed.
Faalele is a projected second-round pick who could sneak into the first round or fall to the third. When the Senior Bowl ends, we feel comfortable the entire football world will know his name.