AAC 2022 NFL Draft prospects and scouting reports

With the 2021 NFL Draft behind us and the college football season around the corner, it’s time to set our eyes on the next group of NFL hopefuls that could be available next April in the 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas. In this edition of my annual Preseason Summer Scouting series, we’ll take a look at the draft prospects and scouting reports from the American Athletic Conference (AAC).

Check out our completed reports from the 2021 Preseason Summer Scouting series: MAC

All of my AAC previews are below. To view my grades and projected draft rounds for AAC draft-eligible prospects, scroll to the end of the article.

2022 AAC Preseason Summer Scouting | Draft prospects to know

Who are the 2022 NFL Draft prospects to watch from each AAC team?

Central Florida Knights Draft Prospects

UCF is under new management, as Gus Malzahn takes over after his dismissal at Auburn. He’s a natural fit, as his high-flying offense is perfect for Central Florida as well as its top NFL prospect.

Jaylon Robinson, WR | Grade: 3.75 | Projected Round: 3rd

Junior receiver Jaylon Robinson is someone who stands out on film, and he’s a playmaker who projects well to the next level. He’s quick with a burst of speed and comes with reliable hands. Robinson makes a ton of catches in underneath coverage as well as down the field. He has Kadarius Toney-like playmaking ability. Although I presently grade Robinson as a third-round prospect, a top-45 calling of his name is plausible if he improves upon last season.

Tatum Bethune, LB | Grade: 3.55 | Projected Round: 4th

Tatum Bethune is a safety-sized linebacker who shows great ability in pursuit and solid ball skills. Bethune gets terrific depth on drops and covers a tremendous amount of area on the field. Scheme fit is a question for the next level.

Big Kat Bryant, DE | Grade: 3.20 | Projected Round: FA

Two former Auburn players have transferred to Central Florida to play for Malzahn once again, and both bear watching. Big Kat Bryant flashed ability and even dominance on occasion at Auburn, but he was never a consistent pass-rushing threat. He comes with terrific size and speed as a pass-rushing OLB, but he must pull it all together quickly.

Nate Craig-Myers, WR | Grade: 3.00 | Projected Round: FA

Receiver Nate Craig-Myers showed flashes three years ago at Auburn and transferred to Colorado State only to play uninspired football, but he’s now back with Malzahn at UCF. He’s a nice-sized receiver with solid hands, but like Bryant, Craig-Myers must elevate his game.

Cincinnati Bearcats Draft Prospects

The reigning AAC champions bring back a solid team with good players returning at important positions. Despite their success on the field, the Bearcats have had just a single player selected within the top 100 picks of the NFL Draft in the past five years. Nevertheless, I expect they will add another to that total in 2022.

Myjai Sanders, DE | Grade: 3.98 | Projected Round: 2nd

Edge rusher Myjai Sanders is all over draft boards, with scouts grading him anywhere from the middle of the third round to late on Day 3. I disagree and have Sanders graded as a solid, early-Round 2 prospect. The senior pass rusher is a terrific athlete who makes a lot of plays up the field, in pursuit, and in space. He’s agile and explosive and plays fast. Size — primarily weight — is an issue for some teams; Sanders’ 6-foot-5 frame tips the scales at barely 225 pounds.

Desmond Ridder, QB | Grade: 3.54 | Projected Round: 4th

While some outside the scouting community believe quarterback Desmond Ridder is a top-60 choice, I agree with the scouts and rank him as a Day 3 pick. Ridder has terrific size, arm strength, and athleticism. However, he lacks the ability to accurately place passes, especially downfield and out to the flanks (when his throws become an adventure). Ridder is in a similar position to Jamie Newman from one year ago. He’s an athletic arm talent who must develop from thrower to passer.

Josh Whyle, TE | Grade: 3.41 | Projected Round: 5th

When I mention the name of UC tight end Josh Whyle to scouts, it’s usually met with a shoulder shrug, which boggles my mind. Whyle is a terrific pass-catching tight end who, while lacking top deep speed, catches just about everything thrown in his direction and gives effort blocking. He’s a solid mid-Day 3 prospect.

East Carolina Pirates Draft Prospects

ECU has had just three players drafted since 2015, even though all were selected before the end of Round 4. However, it may be a while before that happens again, as the Pirates’ depth chart lacks any next-level talent.

D.J. Ford, S | Grade: 3.00 | Projected Round: FA

Safety D.J. Ford looks like the only ECU player with a chance of being selected in the NFL Draft — and even he’s a long shot. Beginning his college career at North Carolina, Ford has not played much football lately and opted out of the 2020 season. He possesses the size and athleticism to be a Day 3 pick but must produce on the football field.

Houston Cougars Draft Prospects

The Cougars came away with the surprise of Round 1 last April when the New Orleans Saints made Payton Turner the 28th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Moving towards the 2022 NFL Draft, UH has another defensive lineman on the radar.

Hasaan Hypolite, S | Grade: 3.39 | Projected Round: 6th

Junior safety Hasaan Hypolite is a prospect I grade as draftable, as he possesses next-level size, ball skills, and tenacity against the run.

Logan Hall, DT | Grade: 3.30 | Projected Round: 6th

Logan Hall is a long defensive tackle with terrific athleticism and growth potential. He’s quick, mobile, and has a closing burst. Hall must improve his playing strength but comes with scheme and position versatility.

Max Banes, G | Grade: 3.28 | Projected Round: 7th

Junior guard Max Banes is a long, powerful blocker with growth potential. He’s not great in motion and is better in a power-gap system, but he presently grades as a late-rounder on my board.

Damarion Williams, CB | Grade: 3.27 | Projected Round: 7th/FA

Cornerback Damarion Williams returns for another senior season and has received draftable grades from a few scouts. Williams is aggressive covering opposing receivers and stopping the run, but he struggles to make plays with his back to the ball.

Mulbah Car, RB | Grade: 3.26 | Projected Round: FA

Running back Mulbah Car has limitations but could make an NFL roster as a short-yardage ball carrier. Car is also a decent pass catcher out of the backfield.

Memphis Tigers Draft Prospects

Players from the scoring side of the ball have highlighted the prospects drafted from Memphis over the past dozen years. That’s about to change, however.

Quindell Johnson, S | Grade: 3.39 | Projected Round: 6th

Three players from the back end of the Memphis defense have draftable grades on my board, starting with junior safety Quindell Johnson. Agile with good ball skills, Johnson covers a lot of area on the field and shows speed in both a straight line and laterally.

Zay Cullens, LB | Grade: 3.33 | Projected Round: 6th

Zay Cullens is a safety-sized linebacker who is coming off a poor 2020 campaign. As a junior in 2019, Cullens was a playmaker who stood out in pursuit. Still, he must get his game back on track to have any chance of being drafted.

La’Andre Thomas, DB | Grade: 3.31 | Projected Round: 6th

La’Andre Thomas is another defender who turned in a terrific 2019 campaign and chose to opt out last year. He has better size than Johnson and is equally adept at covering the pass and defending the run. Not graded by the area scouts I’ve spoken with, Thomas is a sleeper to keep on your radar.

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