College football underclassmen who are draft-eligible were faced with a Monday deadline to file declaration papers for the 2022 NFL Draft. While there is a period for reconsideration before final approval from the league, we have a pretty good idea of who’s leaving and who’s coming back for another season at the collegiate level.
Many of the departures discussed here were expected, at least by the end of the season based on performance during 2021 and/or a first-round projection for the 2022 draft. So coaches either have a backup plan in place, or have their eye on the transfer portal in hopes of addressing a need before the fall. Spring practice will provide more information to help us determine who exactly will be involved with replacing the production lost from these stars.
For now, though, we’ve got some suggestions regarding who might be in line to step in for a few of the stars headed off to the NFL Draft this spring.
Alabama OT Evan Neal
Replacement — J.C. Latham or Tommy Brockermeyer: The top two prospects from Alabama’s 2021 signing class were both five-star tackles, and the efforts to get those commitments were likely done with the expectation that Neal would be on his way to the NFL after his third year with the Crimson Tide. Latham, the No. 1 tackle and No. 3 overall prospect in the 2021 recruiting class, played on special teams and got in work at guard in the Cotton Bowl due to injury. Though Brockermeyer, the No. 2 tackle and No. 6 overall prospect in the 2021 class, did not see any game action in 2021, he’s likely going to play a factor in this replacement wave up front on offense because Nick Saban is tasked with replacing both starting tackles in 2022.
Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux
Replacement — Bradyn…