Here’s a list of five 2022 NFL Draft Sleepers defensive skill players who caught my attention during the Combine weekend. In every draft, there are a few players who end up being selected on Day 3 and wind up becoming stars in the NFL. Classic examples include Tyreek Hill (fifth round), Dante Hall (fifth round) and Jared Allen (third round). Today, I am looking at players who will likely be selected after the top-100 picks who could be high-end starters sooner rather than later, especially for the Chiefs.
1. Amare Barno, EDGE, VA Tech
The NFL is obsessed with size on the defensive line. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll always find productive edge rushers that are a tad overweight (250+ pounds). A defensive end likely to out-produce his draft spot is Virginia Tech’s Amare Barno. Barno shined at the 2022 NFL Combine as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds. It was the fastest time by an edge rusher since 2003. What’s more impressive is that he recorded a 10-yard split of 1.54 seconds, which is freaking crazy. Originally from Butler CC, Barno transferred to Virginia Tech in 2020 and continued to dominate.
In 11 games with the Hokies, he recorded 5.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. In his two years in college football, he totaled 22 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. His elite speed and quickness off the edge could allow him to be a Robert Quinn-type of player in the NFL.
If he is available anytime after the top 100 picks, he will be a steal for the Chiefs. Barno is a locker-room dream that is going to work hard and drive others to do the same. On the field, the measurables are fantastic and the athletic profile has a lot to offer. For the Chiefs, Barno fits most of the criteria they look for in defensive ends — especially if he can add some mass for his pro day. His football character would make for an exceptional developmental defensive end with early career sub-rush potential.
2. Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston State
If there is the Richard Sherman pick of 2022, cornerback Zyon McCollum would be that guy, he stole the show at the Combine. McCollum put up some truly eye-popping numbers, running a 3.94 shuttle time, with the next closest time behind him being 4.06. It didn’t stop there, either, with him recording a 6.48 three-cone (best at combine), 4.33 40-yard dash (sixth-best at combine), 132-inch broad jump (seventh-best) and 39.5-inch vertical (10th-best). The fact he did all of this at 6-foot-2 and 199 pounds is astounding.
McCollum is a tall cornerback with excellent length. In 2021, he had 50 tackles, three interceptions and eight passes defended. An injury cost him time in 2020, but McCollum had three interceptions each season in 2017-2019. He wasn’t terrible at the Senior Bowl, but moving to safety might be the best fit for McCollum in the NFL. For that role, he will need to add some strength to tackle.
McCollum’s length, athleticism and intelligence would be too tempting to pass up for Steve Spangnuolo and the Chiefs defense. His potential would be a great fit in the cornerback room and his physical abilities could afford him special teams playing time early. He would do well as an underneath defender in the Chiefs zone-heavy schemes.
3. Sam Williams, EDGE, Ole Miss
There was talk about cutting Frank Clark but as I kept telling people who kept arguing with me on social media, Frank Clark isn’t going anywhere.
The Chiefs and Clark agreed Monday night to a two-year, $29 million-base restructured contract with $7 million in incentives , per ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter.
The Chiefs prove that Frank Clark wants to be here and that the team believes he can produce at a high level especially with addition of New DL Coach Joe Cullen. The Chiefs need to find Frank Clark, someone on the opposite side of him with speed and power.
A player that Brett Veach in my opinion should target late on day two or early on day three of the upcoming draft is Sam Williams. The Ole Miss edge rusher is a JUCO transfer from Northeast Mississippi, where he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2018, after recording 75 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, and 17.5 sacks.
Sam Williams might profile as a stand-up 3-4 outside linebacker. However, Williams’ athletic profile matches up on film as he’s able to bend around offensive tackles and finish for the sack. He had the second-fastest 40-yard dash time of all defensive linemen (4.46) and looked fluent in all his on-field drills at the 2022 NFL Combine.
Williams’ speed makes you think that he’s solely a pass-rushing specialist, but he can hold up against the run. In the special 3-2-6 base that Lane Kiffin ran at Ole Miss, Williams worked from the outside-in. This meant that his approach was to gain the inside edge and beat the outside tackle. In his senior season, Williams totaled 57 total tackles, 12 and a half sacks, and four forced fumbles. Numbers like these compare to elite designated pass rushers such as Von Miller and Khalil Mack.
That’s why I hope the Chiefs would consider Williams. He would potentially provide speed and precision to the defensive lineman’s room that we haven’t had probably since Derrick Thomas. On a team that is looking to remake their pass rush, the Chiefs could be a perfect spot for Sam Williams.
4. Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
After the release of veteran linebacker Anthony Hitchens, vacancy is left within the Chiefs’ starting linebacker rotation. Chiefs’s best young defenders, Willie Gay Jr. and Nick Bolton will takeover the mass majority of snaps, However, Steve Spagnuolo will still use four different linebackers in large roles in the upcoming 2022 season — so look for additional depth via free agency and the draft before training camp starts.
After his combine workout, Montana State LB Troy Andersen has a case as the most explosive linebacker prospect in this class. It’s not as if he rose from complete obscurity, there was some pre-combine buzz for him, but you never know how the lower-level prospects are going to test. Andersen made his presence felt. Coming off a college campaign that ended in the NCAA FCS Championship Game, Andersen, who won the 2021 FCS ADA National Defensive Player of the Year award, ran 40 yards in 4.42 to top the field in Indianapolis.
Troy Andersen was a dominant college football player at the FCS level. He impressed many at the Reese’s Senior Bowl and proved he can be a quality asset at the next level.
Andersen has the desired size, athletic ability, and leadership to potentially be a starter in the NFL. He has the coverage skills to play SAM, the pursuit to be a WILL, and, if he develops a bit more, he could be a MIKE in the Chiefs scheme. Like Spagnuolo using Devon Kennard or Willie Gay in his scheme. He won’t have to be substituted during passing situations; he is raw and needs to develop, but he is a very interesting player who could be selected on day two if not, probably first 10 picks gone on day three.
5. JT Woods, S, Baylor
If the Chiefs were to look for a player to play the third safety role that was held by Daniel Sorensen, they’ll consider that option in the first 3 rounds of the draft. One safety prospect the Chiefs should consider selecting in the later rounds of the draft is Baylor safety JT Woods, who has legit track-level speed at 4.36 and with an impressive 1.55 10-yard split. He was also among the most explosive safeties in the entire group, finishing with the best vertical and fourth-best broad jump. Woods makes sense as an early Day 3 option for teams in search of a deep safety with range.
A big, physically imposing player with a long frame to add more weight, Woods is a high-motor athlete with a great pursuit to the ball who quickly sheds blockers in his path. In 2021, Woods both led his team, the Baylor Bears in interceptions and earned All-Big 12 honorable mention recognition. The Baylor safety amassed 57 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in 14 games, to go along with 5 interceptions, 2 deflections, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. 3 of his interceptions came in the final two games of the season, the conference championship and a bowl game against Ole Miss.
Early on, Woods is best projected as a deep safety in two-high and single-high looks, but his ability to play at different depths and adapt is extremely valuable. You rarely find defensive backs with ball-hawking and enforcing traits all in one, but that’s what Woods provides for a team like the Chiefs. Woods’ combine performance further added to the notion that reliable secondary depth will be available in the later rounds of this draft.