Shadow League Top 10 NFL Draft Prospects | Derek Stingley Jr. And Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner Proving Cornerbacks Are The New Glamour Position

Cover cornerback sensations such as Derek Stingley Jr. & Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner have made the position one of glamour in the 2022 NFL Draft. (Getty Images)

There are many questions to be answered in Thursday’s opening round of the NFL draft. Everyone wants to know who goes first overall, which QB comes off the board first, which players slips, and will Mike Tomlin get his hands on Liberty signal caller Malik Willis.

Some things are pretty obvious, like who the top prospects are heading into festivities at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. As with any draft, there will be players that are overrated and overlooked.

These players are the supposed sure shots. The can’t-miss prospects that shouldn’t last past pick No. 5. 

1. Travon Walker – Georgia – (Edge)

NFL Team: Jaguars

Walker didn’t have a ton of production at UGA, but his physical traits are otherworldly.  He’s 6 feet 5, 272 pounds, runs a 4.5 in the 40. As a key cog in Georgia’s No. 1-ranked defense, Walker had to share the spotlight with other established linemen. He played inside the tackles, where there’s less room to roam free. Having played just 22 snaps per game during his time in college, NFL scouts are unsure about his ability to be an every-down edge rusher.

According to several draft experts, including Booger McFarland, Walker’s measurables are off-the-charts and he displayed his freakish athleticism during impactful combine and pro day workouts. 

The Jaguars need to significantly upgrade at several positions, but Jacksonville GM Trent Baalke has 12 draft picks and says he will draft according to talent, not need.

 Walker is considered too generational to pass up.

2. Aidan Hutchinson – Michigan – Edge

NFL Team: Lions

Hutchinson has been the top overall pick in most mock drafts since December, and while he’s done nothing to dispel the notion, the rise of Walker and his physical attributes have changed the pecking order a bit. Last minute changes of heart are common come draft time. There’s always a player who shoots up the board past everyone.

Hutch is no second fiddle as far as how his talents will translate to the NFL. A Michigan native who had 14.0 sacks for the Big Ten champion Wolverines this past season, Hutchinson’s instincts, intellect and perky motor are what make him a special player. The Lions are in rebuild and would be fortunate to land a defensive cornerstone piece like Hutchinson.

 

 

3. Derek Stingley Jr – LSU – Cornerback

NFL Team: Texans

After a freshman season which saw Stingley record five picks and 15 pass breakups, he barely played the final two seasons. Injuries and COVID-19 had lots to do with his inactivity, but Stingley’s freshman season tape and his lights-out pro day reaffirmed his status as the top corner in the draft. Stingley’s ballhawk skills and ability to turn and run with receivers is the best in this class. 

 

4. Ikem Ekwonu – N.C. State – Tackle

NFL Team: Jets

While Alabama’s Evan Neal was getting all of the love leading up to the draft, his refusal to work out for teams hurt his stock.

Ekwonu is the beneficiary of Neal’s chess game and now has the opportunity to be the first offensive lineman drafted. Blessed with long arms and quick feet, “IE” held it down for the Wolfpack this past season and really ascended. He will have the unenviable task of protecting a young franchise signal caller in New York. With all of the pressure that comes with it. If game tape is any indication, he can handle the job. He surrendered two sacks all of last season, while also allowing an ACC low 10 QB pressures. 

5. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner – Cincinnati – CB

NFL Team: Giants

The self-proclaimed “best player in the draft” is a special talent who allowed just 131 yards over 14 games this past season. He didn’t surrender more than 13 yards receiving in a single game. He also never allowed a touchdown or a catch in the red zone. Point blank, “Sauce” is a lockdown corner with great length (6 feet 3). The one question was his 40-yard dash, which he ran at 4.41 at the NFL Combine.

 Picks 6-10

Kenny Pickett – Pitt – QB – Panthers

Evan Neal – Alabama – Tackle – NYG

Jameson Williams – Alabama – WR – Falcons

Kayvon Thibodeaux – Oregon- Edge – Seattle

Jermaine Johnson – FSU – Edge – Jets

Possible First-Round Movement: The New York Jets are really looking to trade for disgruntled Niners wideout Deebo Samuel, meaning that would require them to relinquish one of their top-10 picks.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.