2022 NFL Draft: Three Instant-Impact Players Taken Outside The First Round | GMTM
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2022 NFL Draft: Three Instant-Impact Players Taken Outside The First Round

ByBryan Armetta

Published on Fri Apr 22 2022

|

3 min read

2022 NFL Draft: Three Instant-Impact Players Taken Outside The First Round

Every year, we hear all about the "can't-miss" prospects in the NFL Draft, those highly touted rookies from powerhouse programs or with a trophy room full of collegiate accolades. Yet every year the NFL also sees rookies from lesser-known universities that reap major rewards for the smart franchises that draft them on Day 2 or 3 of the draft. Here are some small-school sleepers that could make an instant impact at the next level.

Cameron Thomas - DL, San Diego State

Versatility on the defensive front is all the rage in today's NFL, and for good reason. With high-octane offenses playing at a faster pace than ever before, it's hard to rely on a big, lumbering defensive tackle to consistently stay on the field. Thomas isn't the most refined player at this point in his career, but at 6'4" and 270 pounds, he's a physical force offensive lines must commit to stopping regardless of where he's playing. Although he could still use some work as a pass rusher, Thomas' ability to defend the run should allow him to carve out a significant role in short yardage situations. Fans will also notice Thomas' exceptional effort; simply put, the guy gives his all on every snap. For some lucky franchise, a starting-quality lineman will be available in Round 2 or 3.

Alec Pierce - WR, Cincinnati

While former Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder could find himself drafted as soon as Round 1, his top college target will have to wait until Day 2 to find out where he'll be playing. That shouldn't be an issue for Alec Pierce, who has one of the better 'floors' in this year's class of wide receivers. While Pierce's 6'3" height made him a red zone threat in college, he projects more as a possession receiver in the NFL. The former Bearcat's skillset includes an exceptional catch radius, toughness, and a knack for finding open space. Pierce's size should also make him a quality run blocker on the outside. Teams in need of a third wideout that can do a little bit of everything should look to add this reliable playmaker.

Zyon McCollum - CB, Sam Houston State

It's difficult to assess the potential of prospects who played against non-FBS competition in college. In McCollum's case, playing FCS receivers in college shouldn't dissuade front offices from gambling on untapped potential and freak athleticism in the later rounds of the draft. Despite his size (6'4"), McCollum has plenty of speed, a necessary trait to keep up with today's smaller, shiftier wide receivers; he ran a blazing 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. To top it off, McCollum also has a reputation as a ballhawk, a necessity for a rookie that quarterbacks will likely target early and often. Footwork could be an issue, but that's something that can be improved on while training over the summer. Even if he starts the season taking snaps on special teams, don't be shocked when McCollum works his way near the top of someone's depth chart by season's end.

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