2022 NFL Draft: Day 3 Names to Watch (Defense)
Written By: Aaron Ussery
It's one of the most challenging yet important exercises in every draft cycle -- finding those "value" guys on Day 3. Landing contributors in the draft's later rounds is obviously easier said than done, but it can put a roster over the top. Almost nothing is more valuable when building a roster than stumbling upon an All-Pro talent in the fifth round.
Below is a list of 2022 draft prospects, all with a chance to make an impact for teams as Day 3 selections. I've highlighted one name from each defensive position group.
EDGE - Amare Barno, Virginia Tech
Biggest Strength: Outside speed/counter moves
Barno is a bolt of lightning when coming off the edge. He pairs a good first step with some truly rare athletic traits (4.36 40 and a 131" broad jump), giving him very high upside as a speed rusher at the next level. That kind of explosiveness keeps tackles hyperfocused on not letting him win the outside edge track, which Barno uses to his advantage. He already has a handful of inside counter moves he likes to deploy, such as the nifty spin move he uses on Notre Dame's Joe Alt (a 2021 Freshman All-American) in the gif below.
Biggest Weakness: Inconsistency when setting the edge
Even with his absurd testing numbers, Barno is a likely Day 3 selection due to concerns about how he'll hold up as an every down defender. His lower half is very slight, and that lack of play strength manifests itself from time to time. When it became clear the opponent was set on trying to run the ball and grind out tough yards, Virginia Tech often took Barno off the field entirely. He was easily erased with double teams as well. See below, where the left tackle and tight end are able to push Barno nearly five entire yards backwards.
I think Barno's best fit in the NFL will be as a stand up, situational pass rusher. He has the speed and explosiveness that teams like to see from that type of role, and if deployed effectively could absolutely notch a few eight-plus sack seasons despite playing on limited downs.
Pro Comp: Arden Key, Jacksonville Jaguars
IDL - Eyioma Uwazurike, Iowa State
Biggest Strength: Excellent use of length and powerful hands
Uwazurike has some rare arm length for a defensive tackle, at over 35". He uses this well, getting his hands directly into blocker's chests and dictating the rep. Once engaged, he shows the athleticism and savvy to switch things up from power to finesse at any given moment during the rep. See below where Uwazurike comes around on a stunt and uses his length and powerful hands to disengage from the left guard in order to quickly smother a potential running line for the QB across the line of scrimmage.
Biggest Weakness: Pad level.
Uwazurike stands 6'6", and as you'd image for a defensive lineman that height he can sometimes let blockers get underneath and uproot him. This showed up a few times in his battle with Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum. The center prospect is highly regarded in part due to his wrestling background and understanding of leverage. Despite Uwazurike's superior length and power, Linderbaum is able to stall him out on the below rep by immediately getting his hands up underneath Uwazurike's pads.
I really like Uwazurike as a versatile interior defender who can handle multiple gap responsibilities. I think his best value will come right around the early 5th round. He knows how to use his length and hands in order to win, and plays with a ton of energy and effort. Those are traits that can help him stick in the league for a long time as a rotational defensive lineman.
Pro Comp: Brent Urban, Free Agent
LB - Aaron Hansford, Texas A&M
Biggest Strength: Fluidity and range
With NFL offenses doing more and more to try and stretch defenses horizontally, having guys in the middle of your defense who have high-end change of direction capability is increasingly important. That's Aaron Hansford. When he has to, he can cover a lot of ground between the hashes in order to make plays. Below against LSU, he's able to sniff out the halfback screen, weave through traffic, and make the tackle for a minimal gain.
Biggest Weakness: Developing instincts/lack of awareness
You really don't want your middle linebackers to get caught napping, and that happens a bit too often to Hansford. His recognition skills are a work in progress, and sometimes that can lead to him getting washed out of plays. This is especially a problem for him when in coverage. Below against Colorado, Hansford fails to clock the tight end coming to block him out of the slot and winds up getting put on the ground. When seeing the receiver coming across the line of scrimmage, he should have been searching for a blocker coming to his left. It's little play details like that which still give him trouble.
Hansford's athleticism will get him selected on Day 3, likely somewhere around the fifth or sixth round. But he's not ready at all right now to step in and be a starting linebacker for a team. I view him primarily as an early career backup with developmental upside and the athletic traits to make an impact on special teams.
Pro Comp: Mykal Walker, Atlanta Falcons
CB - Mario Goodrich, Clemson
Biggest Strength: Tackling and aggression
That might sound like a strange thing to highlight for a corner, but it shouldn't be. A great way to judge whether or not a late-round corner has what it takes to stick in the NFL is to watch what they do when taking on ballcarriers. Corners who tackle will always have a place in the NFL, and Goodrich tackles. He's a very solid corner with good reactiveness and plus-level ball skills -- but this what really sets him apart. He's a former special teams gunner, and you can tell. His form is good, his play speed is great, and his willingness and attitude are even better.
Biggest Weakness: Average speed
Goodrich is a very good athlete. But to be a high-end outside NFL corner, you need to be more than just "a very good athlete". And Goodrich just doesn't have the long speed to stay with the NFL's fastest. Below against NC State, Goodrich loses a step on the Wolfpack's Anthony Smith, a former HS track star who several set state records in Maryland. Smith loses the ball in the sun at the last second, otherwise this is an easy touchdown.
I'll be upfront: I love this guy as a prospect. He carries a Round 3 grade for me due to his ball production and tenacity. I do like him a bit better as a zone coverage player as opposed to man, but there's a place for that in the league (most defenses run majority zone anyways). However, the NFL covets speed from its corners first and foremost. Many player with inferior tape are going get taken ahead of him, simply because they ran faster. I see Goodrich falling to round 4 or 5, where. I think he'll be a great value.
Pro Comp: Sean Murphy-Bunting, Buccaneers
S - Yusuf Corker, Kentucky
Biggest Strength: Smarts and physicality
The best way I can describe Corker is this. He's the type of safety who makes Bill Belichick smile like a kindergartner at recess. This guy is quick to diagnose plays, and even quicker to bring ballcarriers down. He brings that physical mindset to more than tackling, however. One of his best traits is an ability to fight through contact in contested catch situations in order to generate turnovers and pass breakups. It's reflective of the entire competitive mindset Corker plays with.
.Biggest Weakness: Tightness/linear athleticism
What will likely hold Corker back a bit in the NFL is a lack of fluidity. His hips are tight, affecting his ability to change direction and recover lost ground when playing deep. And in the NFL, stiff hips sink ships.See below where South Carolina's Josh Vann is able to get behind Corker on a simple go-route, despite the safety having a massive amount of cushion when the play starts. Plays like this make me feel Corker will struggle if tasked with covering some of the quicker and speedier receivers that the league has to offer.