NFL Combine 2022: Winners and losers include Malik Willis, Tariq Woolen

With the 2022 NFL Combine wrapped up, Malik Willis and Tariq Woolen headline the winners and losers from the annual testing event.

The 2022 NFL Combine treated us to an athletic spectacle comparable to the Olympics. While the annual testing event shouldn’t be used to make sweeping statements about a player’s NFL Draft stock, there’s no doubting that there were some very clear winners and losers from the NFL Combine.

Winners from the 2022 NFL Combine

So, who were the winners from the 2022 NFL Combine? Once again, it’s important to reiterate that the event should be used primarily as a “confirm and clarify” exercise. Hundreds of hours of tape study shouldn’t be overruled by a one-off performance in Indianapolis. However, some of the events at the 2022 NFL Combine could truly shape how the 2022 NFL Draft plays out.

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

There’s little doubt that Malik Willis solidified his standing as the potential QB1 of the 2022 NFL Draft this week. From the moment he walked into Lucas Oil Stadium, the Liberty quarterback impressed everyone he spoke with. Of course, it was Willis’ actions outside of the 2022 NFL Combine that drew the eyes of the media, with his interaction with someone less fortunate than himself displaying the man behind the prospect.

Although he didn’t run the 40-yard dash, depriving the scouting community of the opportunity to put a number to his bewildering mobility, Willis wowed on the field during drills. His arm talent was on full display, drawing cheers from the assembled crowd and excitement from the commentary box. Following his stellar performance at the Senior Bowl, Willis continues to ace the process as one of the winners of the NFL Combine.

Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA

One man who did choose to run the 40-yard dash was UTSA cornerback Tariq Woolen. There was considerable excitement about his attempt before the 2022 NFL Combine, and Woolen did not disappoint. His official 4.26-second time was the second-fastest of all prospects who attempted to run in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, he notched a ridiculous 42″ in the vertical jump.

He came into Indianapolis as something of a myth. At 6’4″, 205 pounds, and boasting 33 5/8″ arms, he’s like a “create-a-cornerback” who can’t possibly be real. Yet, he is very much real — Woolen emerged as one of the big winners from the NFL Combine. What’s more exciting is that his scouting report reveals a player who is on an upward trajectory from a technical development perspective, too.

Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

From the minute that Ikem Ekwonu stepped up to the media podium on Thursday, he wowed everyone in attendance in Indianapolis. Officially 6’4″ and 310 pounds, the versatile and destructive prospect looked every inch the part of an NFL offensive tackle with arms bigger than most normal people’s legs. When he spoke, his words wooed. He talked about not just football, but he described his love of musical theater (among other topics).

Then, he went onto the field and absolutely dominated. His 4.93-second 40-yard dash was one of the fastest among offensive linemen. His on-field drills were smooth and well-executed. Ekwonu was reminiscent of a dancing bear, yet he possesses the savagery oft associated with the aforementioned animal. He did this while his main opposition for OT1 — Evan Neal — watched from the sideline, helping Ekwonu’s cause as one of the winners from the 2022 NFL Combine.

Georgia defensive linemen

Jovial, smiling, and consuming sweets in front of the NFL Network cameras, it’s hard not to fall in love with Jordan Davis. He’s had his fair share of detractors during this 2022 NFL Draft process. However, as he stood in the glow of one of the most insane athletic performances in NFL Combine history, it became impossible to view him as anything other than a first-round selection in April.

Davis exceeded all expectations on Saturday in Indianapolis. Yet, he wasn’t the only Georgia Bulldog defensive lineman that was a winner at the NFL Combine. Travon Walker, with a Relative Athletic Score of 9.99, solidified himself as one of the best prospects in the class. Meanwhile, Devonte Wyatt proved that Davis wasn’t the only big man who can run, putting up a 4.77-second 40-yard dash at 304 pounds. Those Georgia players are different.

WR-needy NFL teams

A multitude of players could be described as the winners from the 2022 NFL Combine. However, the biggest winners were the teams that get to select them in April. This class has been routinely derided due to the quarterback situation. However, people are finally starting to catch on that this is a deep class of talent — the wide receiver position is the epitome of that.

If you are an NFL team needing a WR, Indianapolis will have you salivating. This class has literally every archetype of pass catcher you could wish for. Need a speedster? EIGHT players ran under 4.4 seconds. Looking for a smooth operator? Jahan Dotson provided a clinic in the gauntlet. Do you want a tall, physical threat? Check out Christian Watson and Alec Pierce. This class is absolutely stacked with talent, and it was on display this week.

Losers from the 2022 NFL Combine

“Losers” is such a negative term for an NFL Combine event that shouldn’t significantly impact a player’s NFL Draft stock. However, we know that some NFL teams put a lot of weight on the times produced in Indianapolis.

Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame

An impressively productive running back for the Fighting Irish, Kyren Williams has also showcased the pass catching and blocking that makes for a successful NFL player at the position. However, after setting a 4.65 40-yard dash time, the slowest of all running backs, teams may be forced to reevaluate a player who many considered a top-five RB in this class. Williams has had his fair share of chunk plays at the college level. However, the Notre Dame RB wasn’t overly impressive in explosion tests either.

Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M

Being described as one of the losers of the 2022 NFL Combine is just the latest insult to a prospect who began the season as one of the top 10 players in this NFL Draft class. It really hasn’t come together at all for Kenyon Green this season. Granted, some of his in-season issues haven’t been helped by Texas A&M. However, his poor athletic testing results and average on-field workouts threaten to sink Green’s stock even further before April.

Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Although he won’t test until his LSU Pro Day on April 6, Derek Stingley Jr. could be considered one of the losers of the 2022 NFL Combine. He measured in smaller than his two rivals for the CB1 crown (Andrew Booth Jr. and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner). Subsequently, he had to watch Gardner put on an impressive athletic display, which many commentators believe cemented his place as the top cornerback. Meanwhile, questions still linger over Stingley’s NFL Draft stock. Those might not be answered until he hears his name called.

The NFL Combine

One of the biggest losers from the 2022 NFL Combine was the Combine itself. There were a multitude of issues with the event this year. Those began with the “bubble” debacle that nearly saw the event boycotted. Poor scheduling of testing events saw many prospects not attempt the agility drills. Meanwhile, the 40-yard dash times were even less accurate than some of the quarterback prospects taking part in them. With ever-evolving tracking data, the Combine faces a number of challenges to its future.

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