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 Conference USA (C-USA).
All of my C-USA previews are below. To view my grades and projected draft rounds for C-USA draft-eligible prospects, scroll to the end of the article.
2022 Conference USA Preseason Summer Scouting | Draft prospects to know
Who are the 2022 NFL Draft prospects to watch from each C-USA team?
Charlotte 49ers Draft Prospects
Charlotte had a pair of middle-round picks in 2020, then had no one selected in April. The program’s top prospect presently grades as a priority free agent, but he could slide into the last round with a good senior campaign and solid predraft workouts.
Tyler Murray, LB | Grade: 3.19 | Projected Round: FA
Tyler Murray is a swift, athletic linebacker who covers a tremendous amount of area on the field. He’s outstanding in pursuit and gets great depth on his pass drops. Murray is a run-and-chase linebacker who fits as a backup on the inside of a 3-4.
Florida Atlantic Owls Draft Prospects
FAU has placed prospects in three of the past four drafts, and most have turned into productive NFL players. This year, their top prospects return after a year off.
Zaire Mitchell, TE | Grade: 3.13 | Projected Round: FA
Tight end Zaire Mitchell heads to FAU as a transfer from Notre Dame College (the D-II Falcons, not the D-I Fighting Irish) after being highly graded by scouts entering the 2020 campaign. Mitchell is an offensive lineman in a tight end’s body, but he catches the ball well and easily moves about the field. He’s a traditional player at the position rather than a tight end that stretches the field. Mitchell is a potential late-round pick who projects as a No. 3 tight end at the next level.
John Mitchell, WR | Grade: 3.11 | Projected Round: FA
John Mitchell is a big-bodied possession receiver who showed a lot of potential in 2019, but he sat out last year with a knee injury. He’s speed-deficient and has multiple injuries in his past, but Mitchell is big, smart, and dependable.
Florida International Panthers Draft Prospects
In recent years, FIU has primarily produced players from the scoring side of the ball, including tight end Jonnu Smith — who signed a big free-agent contract in March. Once again, the program’s top prospects can be found on offense.
D’Vonte Price, RB | Grade: 3.09 | Projected Round: FA
Running back D’Vonte Price is the only player from the program who has a chance to be selected in the draft. He’s a big-bodied running back who can handle a lot of carries and picks up a lot of yardage off initial contact.
Price has a one-dimensional game, and he’s almost solely a between-the-tackles/downhill ball carrier. I grade him as a UDFA, as do most scouts. Nevertheless, there is a faction in the scouting community that believes Price is a middle-round prospect.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Draft Prospects
Louisiana Tech has had a host of players selected during the draft’s initial 125 selections since 2016, including Milton Williams, who was chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles in Round 3 this past April. However, their six-year streak of having a player drafted is in jeopardy, however, as the program could strike out next April.
Marcus Williams, RB | Grade: 3.18 | Projected Round: FA
The program’s top prospect is Marcus Williams, a graduate transfer from Appalachian State. He’s a hard-charging downhill ball carrier with decent size and above-average speed. Williams has enough skill to make an NFL roster as a fourth back.
Elijah Hamilton, CB | Grade: 3.01 | Projected Round: FA
Cornerback Elijah Hamilton has outstanding size, decent speed, and a large upside, but he must complete his game.
Marshall Thundering Herd Draft Prospects
Marshall put a prospect in the fourth round of April’s draft — Josh Ball, the talented left tackle who had off-the-field issues early in his college career. A pair of safeties will lead next year’s class.
Derrek Pitts, S | Grade: 3.08 | Projected Round: FA
Derrek Pitts is a hard-hitting safety who has shown flashes throughout his career. Transferring to Marshall from nearby West Virginia, Pitts is sized well and best making plays up the field.
Brandon Drayton, S | Grade: 3.02 | Projected Round: FA
Brandon Drayton has better size than his teammate but is a little slow. He’s also a terrific run defender who can play special teams at the next level. Though some scouts have a sixth-round grade on Drayton, I stamped him as a UDFA prospect.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Draft Prospects
It’s been hit and miss for MTSU and the draft the past dozen years. Actually, it’s been mostly miss. Next year, however, they have a pair of seniors who have a real chance to make an NFL roster to keep an eye on, even if they aren’t drafted.
Reed Blankenship, S | Grade: 3.2 | Projected Round: FA
Reed Blankenship is a tough, hard-hitting safety with excellent instincts. He throws his body around the field and constantly makes positive plays on the football. Blankenship possesses average size and poor speed, but he could make a roster as a backup strong/zone safety and line up as a core special-teams player.
DQ Thomas, LB | Grade: 3.02 | Projected Round: FA
DQ Thomas is an undersized run-and-chase linebacker with terrific speed. He gets from point A to point B quickly and works hard to make plays. Thomas lacks size, however, and needs a free shot at the action, as he’s often tied up on blocks rather easily.
North Texas Mean Green Draft Prospects
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose receiver Jaelon Darden in Round 4 of the 2021 NFL Draft, it was the first time in 32 years a UNT player broke into the top 130 selections.On the contrary, it’s unlikely any player from the program is selected in the NFL Draft come 2022.
Jyaire Shorter, WR | Grade: 3.38 | Projected Round: 6th
Wide receiver Jyaire Shorter showed a lot of potential in 2019 but played in just two games last season and finished with 4 receptions. Shorter is a big-bodied, sure-handed receiver with reliable hands. I graded Shorter as a sixth-round prospect off the 2019 film, but the fourth-year junior needs a big year and must get his game back on track.
Dion Novil, DL | Grade: 3.05 | Projected Round: FA
Dion Novil is an explosive 3-technique tackle who showed great potential in 2019 then watched his game level off last year. He possesses a great first step off the snap and a burst of closing speed. That being the case, Novil shows limited strength in his game, gets handled by blocks, and really doesn’t play like a 310-pound defensive lineman.