The 2022 NFL Draft class has a solid WR class and a RB class with real potential, but the best players at each of those positions aren’t even eligible for the draft. Texas RB Bijan Robinson and LSU WR Kayshon Boutte are incredibly talented and could play in the NFL as soon as next year, but the three-year requirement will keep them out. Both possess skills above the top players at these positions for the 2022 NFL Draft, and if you don’t know them yet, it is time to get acquainted.
Bijan was the #1 RB recruit in the 2020 recruiting class as a 5-star player from Tucson, Arizona. His Uncle, Paul Robinson, was a RB drafted in the 3rd round of the 1968 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, so he has those bloodlines that NFL teams love. Taking official visits in June of 2019 to UCLA, Ohio State, and Texas, Bijan never looked back from the Longhorns and was destined to be a stud. His calling card is a rare combination of a robust 215-pound frame with the athleticism of a 180 pound RB. With some of that old Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma vibe, Bijan can take over a game with his rushing ability creating his own space. He has also continued to develop as a player, especially in pass-catching and blocking. Bijan looks the ball into his hands while still aware of his surroundings in space to use appropriate angles and make the most of every touch. This skill set led to players like Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott being drafted in the Top 5 overall picks.
Bijan started on the bench behind veteran Keaontay Ingram as a freshman, but soon his talent was too much to keep off the gridiron. By year’s end, Ingram was going to have to transfer because Bijan was taking every snap. As a sophomore, there have been struggles due to Texas not having high-end offensive line talent like some schools, but Bijan doesn’t struggle even when the stats don’t look good. Ultimately, having a superior RB talent can be an advantage, especially for someone with the size and explosiveness Bijan possesses to run over smaller defensive players. In an NFL that has moved away from the bellcow RB, there will be questions on a player’s value like this. Expect him to be a Top 10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and maybe even Top 5.
Boutte was the #2 WR recruit (only behind Ohio State’s Julian Fleming) in the 2021 recruiting class as a 5-star player from New Iberia, Louisiana. Boutte’s recruiting came down to two big-time WR schools in Alabama and LSU, and his potential to be an instant impact player at LSU won the day. It’s never wrong going to a school that just produced three top-60 picks in the NFL Draft. Boutte won’t be confused with Julio Jones as a height, weight, speed prospect, but what he does have is natural explosiveness, outstanding contact balance, and athleticism in space that made him a dynamic high school player. He has a bit of Stefon Diggs to him as someone who can beat you deep, beat you on a crossing route, and beat you after the catch with a good shake. When a player slips off defenders who I KNOW are good tacklers, that catches my eye and makes me pay attention. Boutte does this almost every game.
LSU faced a precarious situation after their 2019 season National Championship. Not only did they have to replace QB Joe Burrow, but WRs Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson were not playing there anymore, and that production had to come from somewhere. Trying players like Racey McMath next to Junior stud Terrace Marshall Jr. did not help the team recapture that magic, and LSU was looking like a shell of the team they were a season ago. Enter Mr. Boutte, who became a consistent target in LSU’s third game against Missouri. Once Marshall was injured and opted out, Boutte showed his full potential with 4 TDs and 526 yards in 4 games to end the season. Even with average QB play, he has already scored 5 TDs in 2 games and provides that Ja’Marr Chase-like talent that is already the best in college football. He should also follow in Chase’s footsteps as a Top 10 NFL Draft pick, with the top 5 being possible in the 2023 class.
Both Bijan and Boutte are outstanding and need to be high on the radar already, but their talent poses another problem for me to wax poetic. Why do they need to stay in college another year? Yes, the NIL will help them financially, and both will make a boatload of cash before they even leave college. And yes, I love college football and want to see the great players play more (plus managing an NFL Draft site, if I have to include all college players in every year’s rankings, I may go crazy). But really, these two are ready for the NFL now, let alone at the end of the year. All it will start taking is a few players opting out of their 3rd year or worse, a bad injury to hit in that year for the NFL and NCAA to evaluate the 3-year rule and maybe tweak it. Especially with the NIL, it likely discourages players from jumping to the NFL if they won’t be high picks just for the money. I’m not sure what odds I’d get in Vegas, but I would guess that the 3-year rule will tumble at least to 2 years within the next 20 years.