Each week during the season, On3 teams up with Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy to identify some senior 2022 NFL Draft prospects generating buzz in the scouting world.
Here are four who fall into that category for Nagy based on their play during Week 2.
Oregon RB C.J. Verdell
Week 2 stats: 20 carries, 161 yards, three catches, 34 yards, three total TDs in a 35-28 upset of Ohio State
Nagy breakdown: “Verdell was a player that flashed to us a couple of years ago when we were scouting reigning NFL Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert, but quite frankly we didn’t see the same level of player when we evaluated him last fall. Fast forward to Saturday and Verdell made a clear jump. Verdell, who accounted for 195 yards from scrimmage and three TDs, showed a different burst than he did as a junior and he is an ‘arrow-up’ player on our Senior Bowl board.”
Wyoming LB Chad Muma
Week 2 stats: 10 tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception in a 50-43 win over Northern Illinois
Nagy breakdown: “Another ascending prospect who we named our ‘Stock Up’ player for Week 2 is Muma. We had Bengals 2020 third-rounder Logan Wilson in the Senior Bowl two years ago and his former Wyoming teammate just might end up in Mobile as well. Muma is an instinctive, all-out player who has the speed to run things down from sideline to sideline, which he did in the opener against Northern Colorado and again last week at Northern Illinois. Our scout at the NIU game said he was all over the field.”
Liberty QB Malik Willis
Week 2 stats: 13-of-18, 154 yards, two passing TDs, 93 rushing yards, one rushing TD in a 21-13 win over Troy
Nagy breakdown: “We got our first live look at Willis and walked away with as much useful info from pregame as we did from the game itself. Anyone can identify Willis’ tools — i.e., running back-like body, live arm, unique speed — on tape, but talking to friends on the Liberty staff is what gets us most excited about Willis. Coaches raved about Willis’ football intelligence. The former Auburn transfer, who many in the media have projected to be a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, has a full grasp of essentially two different offenses — the RPO game and the drop-back game — in his second year as a starter. The Senior Bowl scouting staff will get a second look at Willis in two weeks at UAB.”
USC RB Vavae Malepeai
Week 2 stats: 15 carries, 94 yards in a 42-28 loss to Stanford
Nagy breakdown: “Our West Coast scout made a trip to the L.A. Coliseum last Saturday to check out USC running back Keaontay Ingram, and we came away equally impressed by Vavae Malepeai, a fifth-year senior. Malepeai was on the Senior Bowl radar last fall, so this was not our first look, and he got our attention with how aggressive he attacked the line of scrimmage. The NFL is looking for bigger 220-plus-pound downhill backs, and Malepeai fits that size and style. Malepeai has been a key contributor for the Trojans throughout his career, but he’s never been the workhorse, so there’s still plenty of tread left on the tire. Ingram and Malepeai are a nice 1-2 punch for interim coach Donte Williams.”
A player scouts will be watching in Week 3
Northern Iowa OL Trevor Penning vs. St. Thomas (Minn.)
Nagy breakdown: “One small-school prospect we look forward to seeing in-person this Saturday is Penning. NFL scouts started making their way through UNI at the start of fall camp, and everyone we’ve spoken with who has visited the state of Iowa raves about Penning. Penning’s former bookend tackle, Bills third-rounder Spencer Brown, played in last year’s Senior Bowl, and Penning is carrying similar Day 2 grades for most NFL clubs. While Brown is the better athlete, which is no knock on Penning considering Brown ran a receiver-like 6.99 three-cone at his pro day, Penning is a mountain of a man (he’s listed at 6 feet 7 and 321 pounds) and one of the angriest finishers in college football.”
The 2022 NFL Draft will be April 28-30 in Las Vegas.
Jim Nagy has been the executive director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, the nation’s premier college all-star game, since 2018 after 18 years as an NFL scout. For interesting feedback and information on senior NFL draft prospects throughout the year, follow Jim on Twitter. For information on the Senior Bowl, follow both Jim and the Reese’s Senior Bowl main account.