The 2022 NFL draft is getting closer, which means you’ll start hearing comparisons between some of the top prospects in the class and current/former NFL players. Those matches could be based on the way the prospects play the game, their physical measurements, their production, their versatility and role, similar traits or some combination of those lines of thought. But regardless, NFL draft evaluators often comp players coming out of college to established pros to put a name and a face to what they bring.
Comps are an easy way for fans to get a sense of a player’s style of play. But they aren’t always exact — and in most cases they don’t suggest the prospect will share the same level of success as the NFLer, for better or worse. They are simply helpful in better understanding prospects and how they project to the next level.
So we asked 10 of our NFL draft analysts for their favorite comp in this year’s class. Some you’ve probably already heard, but others might offer a new way to look at a particular prospect and what we can expect to see from him each Sunday going forward. We start with one of the top quarterbacks in the class.
Pickett has an unsettled, backyard style of play. The Pittsburgh QB consistently gets himself out of bad situations with his quickness and creativity. And when he is in rhythm, Pickett is highly operational. That likens him to the way Romo, the longtime Dallas Cowboys quarterback, played the game. — Dan Orlovsky, NFL analyst
A dynamic prospect with playmaking traits, Wilson can stretch defenses vertically or create after the catch. And with the high-level ball skills he shows on the tape, the Ohio State receiver can win isolation matchups. In a pro offense, look for Wilson to be deployed like Diggs (Buffalo Bills) as a three-level target with inside/outside flexibility. — Matt Bowen, NFL analyst
Lloyd is a complete player at inside linebacker, much like Warner has been for the San Francisco 49ers. And their college production and measurables are nearly identical.
During his Utah career, Lloyd had 256 total tackles, 16.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, five interceptions, eight pass breakups and three touchdowns. And during his four seasons at BYU, Warner recorded 264 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, seven interceptions, 13 pass breakups and two touchdowns.
At the combine this year, Lloyd measured 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds with 33-inch length and 4.66-second speed in the 40-yard dash. Meanwhile, Warner measured 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds with 32-inch length and 4.64 speed during the 2018 combine workouts.
Lloyd can stop the run, make plays on the ball in coverage and get after the quarterback. And the ability to impact the pass defense as an inside linebacker makes Lloyd an easy comp to Warner for me. — Todd McShay, NFL draft analyst
Gardner is a long and sudden cornerback, and he didn’t give up a single touchdown this season at Cincinnati. We had Cromartie on the New York Jets when I was their GM, and these two cornerbacks’ builds and physical traits are nearly identical. Gardner should be an elite man-to-man cover corner in the NFL, just like Cro. — Mike Tannenbaum, NFL analyst
Nelson was a really good receiver for the Green Bay Packers, and Pierce has similar physical traits. He wowed with a 4.41-second 40-yard dash and 40.5-inch vertical at the combine, and the Cincinnati pass-catcher can also run every route — and break tackles after the catch. Maybe Green Bay could steal Pierce with one of its two second-round picks. — Mel Kiper Jr., NFL draft analyst
NC State’s Ekwonu is a stout player with awesome ability in the run game. Like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Wirfs did when coming out of Iowa, he projects as a fantastic Day 1 offensive tackle who will likely be better early in the run game than the pass game. Ekwonu’s upside — thanks to traits like quickness, balance and strength — makes him arguably the best tackle in this class. — Matt Miller, NFL draft analyst
Check out footage from NC State OT Ikem Ekwonu as he gets ready to be a top pick in the 2022 NFL draft.
Both of these cornerbacks were known for their ball production in college. Stingley had a standout true freshman season at LSU that included six interceptions, while Lattimore had four picks in his final college season before the New Orleans Saints took him in the first round in 2017. Stingley has squeaky clean technique as a man corner but is also savvy with his eyes and instincts in zone coverage. The ability isn’t the knock with him. It’s his availability — he has missed 13 games over the past two seasons. If Stingley can recapture his pre-injury form, he has the talent to become a top-five corner in the NFL. — Jordan Reid, NFL draft analyst
Both of these defensive tackles are massive — Georgia’s Davis weighs 341 pounds, and Vea (Buccaneers) weighed 347 pounds when he entered the draft in 2018 — interior run stuffers with the strength to dominate one-on-one matchups and occupy double-teams. I don’t think either will ever be high-volume sack manufacturers, but sacks can be overrated. Their ability to push the pocket makes it tough for quarterbacks to step up, and it can cause teams to double them, effectively creating one-on-one matchups for others. — Steve Muench, NFL draft analyst
I was covering the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) in 1996 when they selected Runyan, a powerful offensive tackle with a get-after-it nasty streak, in the fourth round (109th overall). He went on to play 14 seasons in the NFL. Penning, at 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds, has the same physical profile as Runyan, and his play-to-play toughness and willingness to finish plays with an edge were noticeable traits in each and every game he played at Northern Iowa. But Penning won’t have to wait until the fourth round to hear his name called. — Jeff Legwold, NFL Nation reporter
Both of these tight ends have dangerous run-after-the-catch ability. Their versatile skill sets show in how offensive coordinators have used them, with each catching passes out of the backfield and even taking handoffs. Like the New England Patriots‘ Smith, Maryland’s Okonkwo will present matchup problems in the NFL with his size against defensive backs and speed against linebackers. — Turron Davenport, NFL Nation reporter