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Here are the Mountain West's top 2022 NFL draft prospects

Romeo Doubs
Nevada's Romeo Doubs, middle, and Carson Strong, to his left, are both 2022 NFL draft prospects. (David Calvert/Nevada athletics)

The Mountain West had an FBS-low three players selected in the 2021 draft, but that was an anomaly after having 10 players selected each in the 2019 and 2020 drafts and nine in 2018 when the MW had a conference-record three players picked in the first round. The 2022 draft, which will be held in Las Vegas from April 28-30, should be a banner event for the MW, which has nine players listed in Pro Football Focus' recently released big board, which featured 247 players (there are 259 picks in the 2022 draft).

Here is an early look at the 2022 draft from the MW's perspective, with the Senior Bowl to be played in early February and the NFL Combine in early March. Included is the player's overall rank on the PFF Big Board, their PFF position placement and grade for the 2021 season, their class, height/weight, a comment from PFF (if applicable) and a comment from me.

No. 44 Cameron Thomas, San Diego State

Position: Defensive end (No. 17 out of 821 with a PFF grade of 89.3)

Class: Junior

Height/weight: 6-5/270

Skinny: The 2021 MW defensive player of the year, Thomas put up huge numbers this season, racking up 71 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. ESPN ranks Thomas the No. 31 player in the draft, so he could be a late first-round draft pick as a well-sized defensive end who has a proven history of getting into the backfield.


No. 46 Carson Strong, Nevada

Position: Quarterback (No. 25 out of 292 with a PFF grade of 89.9)

Class: Junior

Height/weight: 6-4/215

PFF says: "No quarterback in this top 100 shouldered a bigger load as a passer. Strong had a six-game stretch toward the end of the season where he dropped back to pass over 50 times every game. Still, he finished with a career-high 90.3 passing grade this season."

Skinny: Perhaps the most gifted quarterback in the class based on arm talent, Strong has ideal size and can make all the throws. The two-time MW offensive player of the year was highly productive at the Group of 5 level and got the ball down the field without many turnovers. He showed limited mobility last season, in part because he was playing post-knee surgery. That knee will play a big role in his draft stock, but you can dream on him being a franchise quarterback.


No. 52 Chad Muma, Wyoming

Position: Linebacker (No. 7 out of 810 with a PFF grade of 90.3)

Class: Junior

Height/weight: 6-3/242

PFF says: "Muma was one of the most productive defenders in all of college football in 2021. He racked up 68 total defensive stops, three picks and 21 pressures for the Cowboys. At 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, he has legit NFL size and athleticism, as well."

Skinny: PFF is much higher on Muma than ESPN, which ranked him No. 195 on its big board, but he's a big linebacker who can play the run and in coverage. He only missed 13 tackles while racking up 142 tackles last year, including eight for loss. He also had three interceptions. Wyoming has sent a number of defensive players to the NFL in recent years, and Muma will be the next.


No. 68 Trey McBride, Colorado State

Position: Tight end (No. 1 out of 434 with a PFF grade of 94.7)

Class: Senior

Height/weight: 6-4/260

PFF says: "McBride put up an all-time season for the tight end position. In 12 games, he racked up 1,125 yards on 91 catches. That was over a third of Colorado State's passing yardage this season. Everyone knew the ball was coming his way, and he still dominated."

Skinny: PFF's highest-rated college tight end in 2021, McBride caught 91 of his 122 targets while showing he's an above-average blocker, which separates him from other tight ends in this draft (and it's a great tight ends draft). He only had one touchdown this season with 10 in his four-year career, but that's about the only weakness. ESPN places McBride No. 30 on its big board.


No. 70 Khalil Shakir, Boise State

Position: Wide receiver (No. 19 out of 1,008 with a PFF grade of 86.7)

Class: Senior

Height/weight: 6-0/190

PFF says: "Shakir is a human highlight reel for the Broncos. His body control and hands are the stuff of legend. He likely profiles best from the slot after putting up over 1,000 yards there in 2021."

Skinny: A slot receiver at the NFL level, Shakir doesn't have great size or electric speed (he should run a 4.45-second 40-yard dash), but he's an excellent route runner with awesome hands and has some wiggle to his game (14.5 yards per catch in 2021). Shakir scored 24 touchdowns in four college seasons, including at least six in each of his last three years.


No. 107 Derrick Deese Jr., San Jose State

Position: Tight end (No. 11 out of 434 with a PFF grade of 86.1)

Class: Senior

Height/weight: 6-4/235

Skinny: Deese's father was an NFL offensive tackle for 14 seasons with the 49ers and Bucs, playing 152 career games. That certainly helps his draft stock since teams like good bloodlines. The younger Deese is an excellent blocking tight end who showed more ball skills in 2021, reeling in 47 balls for 730 yards and four scores. He was a two-time Mackey Award semifinalist who should earned a mid-round selection.


No. 130 Romeo Doubs, Nevada

Position: Wide receiver (No. 46 out of 1,008 with a PFF grade of 82.1)

Class: Senior

Height/weight: 6-2/200

PFF says: "Doubs was Carson Strong's top target for the Wolf Pack the past two seasons and went over 1,000 yards in each. He has good size at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and consistently separates down the field."

Skinny: One of the nation's most productive wideouts the last two seasons, Doubs enters the draft coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, compiling 225 receptions for 3,322 yards and 27 touchdowns during his four-year career. He has good size, and while he's not known for his clock speed, he did routinely get behind defenses while becoming an improved route runner in 2021. His 40-yard dash time at the combine will be big.


No. 193 Cole Turner, Nevada

Position: Tight end (No. 41 out of 434 with a PFF grade of 73.5)

Class: Senior

Height/weight: 6-6/240

Skinny: ESPN has Turner at No. 110, so higher than PFF. A lot of it comes down to whether you consider Turner a big receiver or a true tight end. He made the switch from wideout to tight end in 2020 and blossomed thereafter, catching 111 passes for 1,282 yards and 19 touchdowns in 20 games during his junior/senior seasons. He only took 74 in-line snaps last year, per PFF, and will have to work on his blocking. But Turner is a huge, sure-handed target and lethal around the goal line.


No. 222 Jordan Jackson, Air Force

Position: Defensive tackle (No. 374 out of 854 with a PFF grade of 67.9)

Class: Senior

Height/weight: 6-5/285

Skinny: A rare NFL prospect at a service academy, Jackson has a huge body and was highly productive in 2021 after sitting out the 2020 COVID-19 season. He had 39 tackles, including 11 for loss, and six sacks last season. There's always the military commitment issue with players from Air Force/Army/Navy, but Jackson's size fits at the next level.

The only other MW players to make ESPN's 323-player Big Board that weren't on PFF's Big Board were SDSU safety Trenton Thompson (No. 161 overall) and SDSU tight end Daniel Bellinger (No. 286 overall). SDSU punter Matt Araiza and SJSU offensive lineman Jack Snyder also should draw draft interest. From Nevada's perspective, LB Lawson Hall, CB BerDale Robins, OL Jermaine Ledbetter, DL Sam Hammond and DL Tristan Nichols also could push for NFL opportunities.

Also of note

No. 170 Joseph Ngata, Clemson

Position: Wide receiver (No. 425 out of 1,008 with a PFF grade of 66.3)

Class: Junior

Height/weight: 6-3/220

Skinny: A Sparks native who played his high school ball at Folsom (Calif.) High to draw more college interest, Ngata is more projection than production as his PFF grade shows. ESPN rates him as the No. 129 prospect, so Ngata should be drafted despite posting only 47 catches for 761 yards and four touchdowns during his three active seasons at Clemson. The upside is tremendous.

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