This year’s edition of the College Football Playoff Semi-Final featured four teams filled with future NFL talent. Between Michigan falling to Georgia and Alabama defeating Cincinnati, these five 2022 NFL Draft prospects really showed out when their team needed them most.
Five 2022 NFL Draft Prospects That Stood Out in the CFP Semi-final
Brian Robinson Jr., Running Back, Alabama
There was a very apparent size mismatch in this year’s edition of the Cotton Bowl. Alabama owned the line of scrimmage all game, and when Cincinnati did breakthrough, they were met by 6’1, 225 pound Brian Robinson. The fifth-year senior finished the game with 26 carries for 204 yards, an average of 7.8 yards per carry. Prior to the Cotton Bowl, Robinson had 1071 yards on 233 carries and 14 rushing touchdowns in the 2021 season.
Robinson’s best strengths were put on full display Friday afternoon, showing great power, vision, and the ability to grind out yards after contact. As of right now, the Alabama rusher projects as more of a mid-late day three player, but this performance could be the start of that rising. With the national championship around the corner and a senior bowl appearance, Robinson should be a name to keep an eye on if your team needs help in the backfield.
Nakobe Dean, Linebacker, Georgia
Nakobe Dean has been sensational all season and the Orange Bowl was just another one of those nights. Seven tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble was Dean’s night against the #2 seed Michigan Wolverines. Of all the plays he made against Michigan, the most notable was when he went sideline to sideline to stop Blake Corum in the backfield, showing exceptional speed for a linebacker.
Arguably the nation’s top linebacker, Dean really solidified himself as a day one prospect in this upcoming draft. He consistently shows great speed, coverage, and the ability to make tough open-field tackles. I saw the comparison of Dean to Jonathan Vilma yesterday and I can absolutely see it. The way they see the field, and the quickness they have to get to the football and break up plays is what makes a top linebacker. For a team looking to add some speed, and playmaking ability to their linebacker core, Nakobe Dean should be at the top of the list.
James Cook, Running Back, Georgia
There were a lot of questions surrounding the Georgia Bulldogs offense after their loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game, but they shut a lot of those down in the CFP Semi-final. James Cook, brother of Vikings standout Dalvin Cook, played a big role in Georgia’s 34-11 victory of Michigan.
Cook had six carries for 32 yards on the ground but made some impact plays in the receiving game with four receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown. The Georgia senior really showed his pass-catching ability, catching a 53-yard pass from Stetson Bennett, then following it up later with a 39-yard touchdown reception to put the game away.
Similar to Robinson, Cook was expected to be a day three pick, but with a good National Championship performance, and a senior bowl appearance coming up, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Cook creep his way into a potential day two pick. His explosiveness at the line of scrimmage and great pass-catching ability reminds me a little bit of Alvin Kamara. And, in a league where you need somebody that can catch the ball out of the backfield, James Cook would be able to fill that role perfectly in the NFL.
Derion Kendrick, Cornerback, Georgia
Yet another Georgia player on this list, Derion Kendrick was a big part in Georgia locking down Michigan most of the game. The Orange Bowl defensive MVP had five tackles and picked off Cade McNamara twice. His first interception 1:31 left in the second quarter, when he cut off a McNamara pass to the sideline, and his 2nd interception came early into the second half when he picked off an overthrown ball in the endzone.
The Clemson transfer showed everyone why he is getting first-round grades from multiple scouts. His ball skills and physicality were in full display in the semi-final, and with a potential matchup against Jameson Williams in the championship, all eyes among teams looking for a corner will be on Kendrick.
Ahmad Gardner, Cornerback, Cincinnati
Ahmad Gardner finishes his college career having never allowed a touchdown pass. Cincinnati had a really difficult time against Alabama, but Gardner still stood out to me. Gardner faced a tough task in covering Jameson Williams and Ja’Corey Brooks, but considering how explosive those guys can be the 6’3 200-pound cornerback played it better than expected.
One play that really stood out was early in the second quarter when he shook off a block and made a terrific open-field tackle on Williams that ended up losing two yards. When lined up against Williams, Gardner only allowed one catch for minus-two yards on two targets. No doubt this game was a big boost in the 21-year-old’s draft stock.
Ahmad Gardner is a consensus first-round talent for a reason, it was on full display in the AAC championship game, and was on display again in the CFP Semi-final. There is a rare size and athleticism combination that should translate well to the NFL.