This week in August brings a full slate of NFL preseason action. Now's the time to look back on draft crushes and pinpoint rookies I'm most excited to see during the preseason.
Last week, Josh Edwards pinpointed the rookies he's most excited to see this preseason. Because Josh is a fellow NFL Draft analyst here at CBS Sports and a genuinely great, hard-working dude, I'm not borrowing any of his selections.
Kyle Hamilton, S, Ravens
As my No. 1 overall prospect in the 2022 class, I'm enacting a rule on myself that Hamilton is to be listed first. The Notre Dame product had everything I look for in not just a safety by classic definition, but a modern-day, do-everything safety. Seriously, safeties' job responsibilities have significantly grown over the past decade. In almost every defense, the strong/free delineation is gone, linebacker duties are prevalent, and your safeties better be able to moonlight as a slot cornerback.
Even at 6-foot-4, and 220 pounds, Hamilton handled all the safety assignments comfortably, and his range downfield in coverage was spectacular. Now, I will say, at his size, I am intrigued to watch him against lightning-quick slot receivers in the NFL. Even for the most naturally gifted safeties -- which Hamilton certainly is -- that task is typically a tall one early in their pro careers.
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Derek Stingley, CB, Texans
It was love at first film session watch for me with Stingley. He dominated as an 18-year-old perimeter corner in the SEC during LSU's legendary national-title winning campaign of 2019. And it wasn't just his play. The traits jumped off the screen. Beyond-his-years press-coverage skill, mirroring brilliance, track speed, magnets on his gloves whenever the ball was in his vicinity, Stingley instantly soared.
After 2019, a massive drain in talent around him coupled with injuries created space for critics to sneak into the crevices of Stingley's draft profile, but my belief never wavered. This man was born to play man or zone, on the outside, in the NFL, against No. 1 receivers. Stingley wasn't quite as tall nor as long as many expected at the combine, yet he still has the physical makeup and exquisite skill to be an instant star as a pro. I'm pumped for the first look at Stingley in the preseason, where he presumably won't see many top wideouts. He should lock it down.
Drake London, WR, Falcons
London seems like a throwback type. But he's not really, which is essentially why he finished as my No. 1 wideout in the 2022 class. Nearly 6-4 and 220 pounds with never-ending arms, London can win where you'd think he'd win -- over the top. My favorite stat from last college football season: at USC, London led the entire nation in contested-catch victories, and he appeared in only eight games. Insane.
I get it though, at receiver in today's NFL, separation ability is the name of the game, and believe it or not, London has that in his bag too. He's not going to suddenly create space like Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, or Tyreek Hill, but at his size, he's athletically fluid enough to get open with route sharpness.
And yards after the catch is as en vogue as it's been in a long time, and London dominates in that area too. Atlanta is clearly rebuilding, and its roster renovation plan is clearly to construct a towering pass-catching group with Kyle Pitts, London, Bryan Edwards and Auden Tate. Seeing that group matching up with opposing team's secondaries will be fascinating, even in August.
Malik Willis, QB, Titans
The last, and in a way, maybe the most important of my obligatory picks for this article. Willis was my No. 1 QB, with a first-round grade, in the 2022 class. His footwork was in dire need of coaching, and he didn't read defenses as efficiently as Drew Brees in college. I adored everything else about what he showcased during his tenure as Liberty quarterback.
See, I'm a major believer that in today's NFL, being capable of routinely connecting on high-degree-of-difficult throws at the intermediate level and deep down field is the ultimate indicator of how successful a quarterback can be at professional level. Willis has that ability. And then some. He made an assortment of throws in 2021 at Liberty that Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, Matt Corral, and Sam Howell simply cannot physically execute.
And Willis should get plenty of burn in the preseason. He won't be perfect. I just hope to see the tantalizing franchise-caliber throws downfield in his exhibition outings.
Khalil Shakir, WR, Bills
Shakir is a rare cat. Three-consecutive seasons as a full-time, high-volume contributor in college despite not boasting intimidating size, electric speed, or otherworldly athleticism. Dude can just absolutely do it. Shakir mostly excels after the catch, and as far as catching, he has a flair for the acrobatic snag on throws slightly off-target.
He enters Bills receiver room with superstar Stefon Diggs, budding stud Gabriel Davis and perennially steady slot wideout Jamison Crowder. Thing is, Crowder was on the shelf with injury for most of training camp, and Shakir immediately took advantage, flashing his plucking ability at all levels of the field. And any Buffalo pass catcher will get a boost with Josh Allen. Now, we may not see Allen all preseason, but Shakir's also showcased rapport with Bills backups Matt Barkley and Case Keenum too, who'll be throwing him passes this August.
Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cardinals
I didn't think Sanders was Randy Gregory 2.0 -- you know, the edge rusher who signed a five-year, $70M deal with the Broncos in March -- but I got serious Gregory vibes while watching him at Cincinnati over the past two years. He's impossibly gangly and even more unfathomably powerful despite his tall, slender stature. He bends. He understands his hands are his best friends when dealing with offensive tackles.
As someone who thought Sanders should've been picked higher than where he was ultimately selected -- Round 3 -- I need to see this man rush the passer.. As his body grows from prospect to professional, I really believe the sky's the limit for Sanders.
Romeo Doubs, WR, Packers
Doubs gets this nod for two reasons -- from all reports, he's been the brightest star in Packers camp, and I still have "I'll believe it when I see it" thoughts with him. I want to see if he proves me wrong. Without question, Doubs was a big-play weapon at Nevada. I thought he struggled mightily against physical cornerbacks and didn't thrive after the catch.
Apparently he's morphed into Davante Adams in camp. Let's see if the Packers found a gem in their quest to replace Adams and maximize the twilight of Aaron Rodgers' career.
Luiji Vilain, EDGE, Vikings
As the founder of The Practice Squad Power Rankings, did you think I wasn't going to include someone likely destined for the practice squad in September? Are you crazy? Vilain was one of the final prospects I watched in the 2022 class, and I instantly felt lucky, because he's a pass-rushing gem.
Vilain was a sought-after recruit who began his career at Michigan but didn't reach his perceived potential until transferring to Wake Forest and finishing 2021 with nine sacks and 10 tackles for loss. His a sleek 6-3 and 255 pounds with smooth athletic traits and slick hands to slip past blockers en route to the quarterback.
Sure, as an undrafted free agent, Vilain's chances are low to make the Vikings roster and even lower to become a regular contributor. But as an undrafted free agent, he's going to be on the field a lot in the preseason. The more opportunities, the better. And from his Wake Forest film and athletic profile, Vilain should be able to beat bottom-of-the-roster blockers in the second half of Minnesota's preseason outings.
David Bell, WR, Browns
Bell makes the list because he's a fascinating film vs. athleticism case study. At Purdue, Bell was a downright stud. Tracking the ball downfield. Check. YAC mastery. Check. Route running. Yep.
But he tested horribly in Indianapolis and at his Pro Day. Regardless of who their quarterback is this season, the Browns are in dire need of playmaking options on offense. Due to his on-paper athletic limitations, did Bell reach the utmost ceiling of his football-playing potential in the Big Ten? Or can he outperform what his workout indicates about how swiftly and explosively he moves compared to other NFL receivers? The preseason will provide an early indication of the answer to those questions.
Dominique Robinson, EDGE, Bears
Robinson's one of those fun positional converts with monstrous potential. This man was a receiver during his first two seasons at Miami of Ohio, then the flip was made, and Robinson finished with 4.5 sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss and 28 pressures on 248 pass-rushing snaps.
No, none of those stats are incredible. It's those respectable numbers coupled with Robinson's length and tremendous untapped talent that makes him so damn captivating. Without Khalil Mack, the Bears pass-rush group is barren. Robinson will have plenty of chances to showcase how much development he's made on the field this preseason.