Being a great athlete doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be a great NFL football player. With that said, there are several players in the 2022 NFL Draft who have dominant athletic abilities that should translate to the pro level.
Whether it’s strength, speed, agility, or a combination of all three, these players are undoubtedly the best overall athletes about to enter the NFL.
Kenneth Walker III, Running Back, Michigan State
Let’s give Kenneth Walker III some credit. He didn’t make it to New York to be one of the Heisman Trophy finalists for 2021, but he definitely deserved an invite.
Walker transferred to Michigan State from Wake Forest for his junior season and absolutely dominated the Big Ten. Frankly, he dominated anyone who got in his way.
He finished the 2021 season with a whopping 263 attempts for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging an incredible 6.2 yards per carry.
He’s extremely explosive when he finds a hole in the defense. He’s also simply just a gamer. He had two games in 2021 in which he rushed for over 200 yards. He put up 197 yards and five touchdowns for MSU in a huge win against the Spartans arch-rival, the Michigan Wolverines.
Walker ran a blazing 4.38 40-yard-dash at the NFL Combine, which was the fourth-best time among running backs and the 23rd best time amongst all athletes at the combine.
Not bad for a guy who checks in at a stout 5-foot-10, 210-pounds
Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Evan Neal from Alabama is a different kind of athlete. Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide know how to get football players ready for the NFL, and Neal is next in a long line of potential superstars to come out of Tuscaloosa.
He checks in at 6-foot-7, 350-pounds, which is an elite size for any offensive lineman, let alone an offensive tackle.
The thing is, Neal didn’t even participate at the NFL combine. He did interviews, but all he had to do was show up in a t-shirt and prove to the league that he looks like a modern-day Hercules despite being well over 300-pounds.
Alabama’s Pro Day is March 30th and Neal is expected to participate. If he shows up and proves his elite athleticism, there’s a good chance he could end up going No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars when April 29th rolls around.
Travon Walker, Defensive End, Georgia
Few players impacted their draft stock at the 2022 NFL Combine like Travon Walker from Georgia did.
The Bulldogs as a whole dominated the event. Fresh off an NCAA Championship win over Alabama, multiple Georgia players showed up at the combine and proved why Georgia won that game. The Bulldogs had elite athleticism and talent on the field, even compared to the Crimson Tide.
Walker, a true junior for the Bulldogs, notched 19 tackles and six sacks for Georgia in 2021. Three of those tackles and one of those sacks came in the National Championship win over Alabama. He notched another two tackles and a sack against Michigan in CFP Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl, so he proved that he can show up in big moments.
Walker checked in at 6-foot-5, 272-pounds at the NFL combine, and then absolutely dominated in the drills. He ran a 4.51 40-yard-dash, which was the third-best time amongst defensive ends and indeed the best time among players who could hypothetically go in the first round.
For comparison’s sake, consider the fact that Aidan Hutchinson out of Michigan, who many project as the No. 1 overall pick, ran a 4.74 40-yard-dash. Kayvon Thibodeaux out of Oregon, who could also go No. 1 overall, ran a 4.58.
Walker had the second-best three-cone-drill time (6.89 seconds) behind Hutchinson (6.73 seconds). He also finished among the top four defensive ends in the 20-yard-shuttle drill, proving that he’s undoubtedly one of the best quick-twitch athletes in this class.
Jordan Davis, Defensive Tackle, Georiga
Walker’s Georgia teammate, Jordan Davis, ran a 4.78 40 at 6-foot-6, 341-pounds.
Nothing else needs to be said to prove that he’s one of the most awe-inspiring athletes to come out of the draft in some time.
At his size, Davis is somehow still a sideline-to-sideline athlete. He’ll constantly get double-teams, even at the NFL level, but he has the speed and quickness to shoot the gap, get into the backfield, and make plays. He can even get out into open space and run after the ball carrier.
It’s almost unnatural at his size, but he makes it work.
Davis’ 40-yard-dash at the NFL combine was second only to his teammate, Devonte Wyatt, who also deserves a spot on this list for running a 4.77 40 at 6-foot-3, 304-pounds.
It used to be that defensive tackles of Davis’ size were used as nose tackles and gap-pluggers. Their whole job was to simply take up space and blockers so that the linebackers behind them could make all the tackles.
That wasn’t the case with Davis at Georgia, and it won’t be how an NFL team uses him.