The College Football Playoff will begin tonight as (1) Georgia takes on (4) Ohio State in the Peach Bowl and (2) Michigan and (3) TCU will face off in the Fiesta Bowl, with a shot at a National Championship on the line. Like every year, some of the best players in the country and future NFL stars will be featured. This year's semi-final games are no different; three Heisman finalists, the Davey O'Brien, Jim Thorpe, John Mackey, Outland, and Rimington trophy winners will be on display in tonight's games. With several of these standout players likely headed for the NFL in the near future, let's take a look at the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2022-2023 Playoff.
C.J. Stroud QB, Ohio State
Stroud is a two-year starter for the Buckeyes and is a back-to-back Heisman finalist for their explosive offense. This season, Stroud has thrown for 3,340 yards and 37 touchdowns while turning the ball over just six times and ranking top three in the nation in QBR (87.7). Stroud doesn’t show off the same dual-threat ability that some QBs in College Football have, but he’s shredded defenses with his arm over the last two seasons. Scouts often point to his decision-making ability due to his efficiency as a passer, as well as his blend of arm strength and touch while throwing. Although Stroud has yet to decide his future and the NFL Draft, he is a consensus top-three Quarterback and a projected top-ten pick in this year's class. The California native will have a great opportunity to improve his stock in the Peach Bowl, against Georgia’s stifling defense.
Quentin Johnston WR, TCU
Johnston is TCU Quarterback Max Duggan’s favorite target and has caught fire after a slow start to his junior campaign. Johnston leads the Horned Frogs in receptions(53), yards(903), and touchdowns(5) this year and has shown in big-time games why he should be considered one of the top wideouts in this draft class. Johnston’s mixture of size (6’4”, 215) and speed makes him a tough matchup for any defense. He possesses a wide catch radius and has an incredible ability to win 50-50 balls and make contested catches due to his size advantage and overall physicality. He’s not quite as dynamic in the open field as some of his NFL Draft counterparts, but that hasn’t made it any easier for defenses to contain him. Michigan’s secondary could be in for a long day against Johnston in the Fiesta Bowl.
Jalen Carter DT, Georgia
Carter is the most dominant player for the Bulldogs’ defense and has been a game-wrecker all year. He’s been so impressive the last two seasons, that many believe he was the best player on Georgia’s historic defense from their National Championship roster; which featured two first-round picks from the same position as Carter. Georgia’s All-American lineman has recorded three sacks and two forced fumbles, both of which are team-highs. The junior defensive lineman is currently ranked the number one prospect in this year’s draft by many and is a projected top-five pick
Paris Johnson Jr. OT, Ohio State
Johnson has been a standout player for Ohio State’s offensive line and is regarded as one of the top-two Offensive Tackles in the upcoming draft. Johnson has allowed just one sack this year while starting every game and has given up under ten pressures. Impressive numbers for an offense that averages around thirty passing attempts per game (29.5). At 6’6”, and 310 pounds, Johnson handles power rushers with ease but is also quick enough to beat more athletic and faster defenders. The matchup of Johnson versus Georgia’s linebackers and edge rushers will be a deciding factor in The Peach Bowl.
Blake Corum RB, Michigan
Corum unfortunately will not be suiting up for the Wolverines in the playoffs due to a knee injury, but he was undoubtedly their most dynamic offensive player before getting hurt. Corum ran for 1,463 yards in twelve games this season, setting a new career high. He also recorded eighteen touchdowns on the ground in his junior season, marking back-to-back seasons with ten or more rushing touchdowns. A 2022 All-American, Corum is currently undecided about his future, and rumors have suggested that he could return to Michigan for his senior year. He’s currently ranked as a top-five running back in the 2022 class and is a projected day-two selection if he declares.
Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson CB, TCU
TCU’s Senior defensive back has been a shutdown corner all year and has allowed a passer rating of 38.9 in 2022, which is the lowest among corners in the Big twelve (ProFootball Focus). Hodges-Tomlinson was able to take away the 2022 Jim Thorpe award, given to the nation’s most outstanding defensive back after recording a career-high three interceptions and 42 total tackles. The 2022 First-team All-American will be tasked with slowing down Michigan’s passing offense in a potential matchup with the Wolverines’ wideout Ronnie Bell. Hodges-Tomlinson’s NFL Draft status is unknown as of now, but if he continues his outstanding season, he could see a jump in his draft stock.
Kelee Ringo CB, Georgia
Ringo will always be remembered for his game-sealing pick-six in the National Championship a season ago, but his talent stands out in far more than just one history-making play. Ringo will be one of those players come draft time that is said to have “all the physical tools” that make an NFL prospect. Ringo stands at 6 '2”, 210 pounds, his size along with his speed will make NFL scouts take an extra look at the former five-star recruit. The junior Cornerback plays extremely physical as well, which has resulted in some penalties in coverage this year. Nonetheless, Ringo has the second most interceptions on the team (2) and has totaled 36 tackles this year, along with six pass breakups. After having some struggles at times down the stretch for the Bulldogs, Ringo will have the chance to help lead Georgia to another title, and boost his draft stock. He’s currently ranked as one of the top corners in the class and is a projected first-round pick.
Olusegun Oluwatimi C, Michigan
Oluwatimi has been hands down one of the best linemen in the country this year, as he helped the Wolverines win their second straight Joe Moore award, given to the best offensive line in the nation. Oluwatimi and the other big men up-front have done an incredible job of opening up running lanes for Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards and keeping J.J. McCarthy upright. Oluwatimi won both the Rimington and Outland trophies, awarded to the nation’s best Center (Rimington award) and interior offensive lineman (Outland award), further highlighting his stellar performance all season. Oluwatimi will look to help the Wolverines win their first championship since 1997, and then possibly head to the NFL, where he’s viewed as one of the top interior linemen in this year’s class.
*All stats were received from ESPN Stats & Info. Department