Editor’s note: Our annual Top 25 preview week continues with a breakdown of the best draft prospects from the Pac-12.


The NFL Draft is a fickle beast.

A player can shine for years at the college level and not get a sniff. (*cough* Scooby Wright *cough*) A workout wonder can turn middling production and one terrific day on the bench press into a seven-figure contract.

Scouting is not an exact science. It’s not even an inexact science. In fact, it’s the opposite of science. It’s pure speculation, opinion, and wishful thinking.

But we can project, can’t we?

Here’s a look at my top 25 Pac-12 NFL Draft prospects in the conference right now. Some of these stars, most notably a certain QB at USC, aren’t draft-eligible until 2024. And one is a true freshman.

25. TJ Bass, OL, Oregon

An all-conference first-team selection by Pac-12 coaches in 2021 after earning honorable mention status as a sophomore, Bass combines plenty of strength and versatility. He was Oregon’s highest-graded player by Pro Football Focus last year at 86.0, fifth in the conference for linemen. He was originally a big score out of the junior college ranks for the Ducks in 2020 after he starred at Butte College in 2018 and ’19.

24. Mohamoud Diabate, LB, Utah

This one is up for … Diabate. Based on measurables and production, he shouldn’t be on this list. But based on the growth I think he’ll see in 2022, and the training he’ll get from one of the best defensive staffs in the country, and when all is said and done, the Florida Gator transfer will get a good look from NFL teams. At 6-4, 222 pounds, he’s a bit undersized for the role he’d play in pro football, but he has a frame to work with, and he boasts terrific lateral speed. He was more active last year with 89 tackles – though his pass-rushing stats fell – and his coverage skills need some work. But he should be one of the league’s best ‘backers in 2022.

23. Mario Williams, WR, USC

Williams was a top recruit for Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, and he followed Riley soon after he left the Sooners for Los Angeles. USC added plenty of talent at the position this offseason, but Williams will get a further chance to grow and learn in what should be a dynamic passing game. Though slight at 5-9 and 186 pounds, Williams has great body control and fantastic hands. Pro Football Focus noted that Williams was one of just five Power 5 wideouts with 40-plus targets and zero drops. For the season, he had a 79.2 receiving grade.

22. Darius Muasau, LB, UCLA

Muasau might be the most impactful transfer in Los Angeles – well, in Westwood – and among the most valuable defensive pickups of the offseason. He was ultra-productive the past 2 years, with 212 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks as a 2-time first-team All-Mountain West pick for Hawaii. Given the holes on the UCLA defense, Muasau will be an instant leader.

21. Cam Rising, QB, Utah

Mel Kiper is all in on Rising as a first-rounder next year. And for good reason: Rising claimed the starting role in the third game of last year, passing for 20 touchdowns and 5 interceptions while being named first-team all-conference. Rising was very consistent, throwing for multiple touchdowns 7 times while only throwing interceptions in 3 appearances (two times twice, one time once).

20. Jaxson Kirkland, OT, Washington

Kirkland is a cautionary tale for young massive offensive linemen who try to play through pain. Kirkland injured his ankle early last year but pressed on. So much so that after the season, he required surgery, which nixed him from the 2022 NFL Draft process. When healthy, Kirkland is among the league’s biggest and baddest. That “when healthy” is a big caveat, though.

19. Benjamin Yurosek, TE, Stanford

Yurosek’s father played football and his mother played volleyball at Colorado State, which explains his hops. A very talented pass-catcher, Yurosek led the Cardinal with 658 receiving yards last season on 43 catches. His 13 receptions of 20-plus yards ranked No. 2 among Power 5 tight ends. If he improves his blocking just a bit, he’ll be in the running for a Day 2 draft selection.

18. Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon

In a conference loaded with talented wideouts, how do I list a kid with 18 total catches for 209 yards? Franklin is all potential, and he’s one of my breakout stars for 2022. He had a polite introduction to Oregon faithful as a true freshman last year, even if his name had been known. Franklin was ranked the No. 3 wide receiver in the nation by 247Sports and Rivals as a high school senior. He was also ranked as the No. 2 overall player in talent-rich California. He shouted his name from the Alamo Bowl rooftop after catching four passes for 65 yards and a score. Both he and Kris Hutson are due for big seasons.

17. Braeden Daniels, OT, Utah

NFL scouts love offensive linemen who project to play three or more positions, and Daniels has shown incredible versatility at the college level. A Utah mainstay for years, Daniels slides into the always-crucial left tackle spot to protect Rising’s blind side, though he probably won’t play the position at the next level. He has 29 starts so far in his career, which sets him up well for his senior season.

16. Merlin Robertson, LB, Arizona State

Robertson has been steady and productive for the Sun Devils, but he has the chance to take it to another level this year. He’s impressive in coverage, with six interceptions in his career, including three last year. He’s also got four forced fumbles.

15. Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA

As you might tell from this list, I am running back averse by nature. While there are other productive backs in the conference – USC’s Travis Dye, Utah’s Tavion Thomas, etc. – Charbonnet is the most well-rounded. If he can put up an 1,800-yard season, he’ll play himself into the top 2 rounds of the NFL Draft.

14. Domani Jackson, DB, USC

Lightning fast. Incredibly quick. Physical and assertive. Jackson has all the attributes you want in a cornerback and then some. He projects as a first-rounder, and he enters the season as one of the most exciting freshmen in the country. He’s also the only freshman on this list.

13. Korey Foreman, DL, USC

Question this placement if you will, but like Jackson, Foreman is all upside. He’ll be one of those players who breaks out in such a big way, he vaults himself up the projected draft charts. With his size and skill, scouts will drool after him. Ranked the No. 1 recruit in the country coming out of high school, Foreman hasn’t lived up to the billing. But once he does show some of that promise, there will be no looking back.

12. Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Edge, Washington

After a disappointing 2021 campaign that saw him sidelined at the start (ruptured Achilles) and at the end (concussion), ZTF saw his draft stock plummet. He’ll not just have to look healthy in 2022 but productive. If he performs anywhere near how he did in 2020, it’ll be a quick process. Tupuola-Fetui led the country in sacks per game and forced fumbles in 2020 in just 4 games.

11. Brandon Dorlus, DL, Oregon

Playing on a defense loaded with stars, Dorlus commanded his fair share of attention last year as he burst onto the national scene. Selected first-team all-conference by the AP, PFF, and by Pac-12 coaches, Dorlus was a physical presence for the Ducks in 2021 and he’s only expected to carve out an even bigger role in 2022. He had 42 total pressures and 33 quarterback hurries as a junior, finishing with 25 tackles, including 7 tackles for loss with 2.5 sacks. That production was good enough to rank him No. 2 among Pac-12 interior defensive linemen with a 79.2 overall PFF grade.

10. Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford

Kelly, a two-time all-conference selection (honorable mention, second team), has emerged as one of the best defensive backs in the country. He’s been a mainstay for David Shaw, but he has the opportunity to make a big leap this year. He has the traits that make scouts interested: foot speed, lateral speed, and arm length.

9. Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon

Off to one of the fastest starts for a Pac-12 defender in recent memory, Sewell has been truly fantastic since joining the Ducks as a 5-star recruit in 2020. In a COVID-shortened season 2020, he was the only Power 5 true freshman to lead his team in tackles and finished as PFF’s No. 6 linebacker in the Pac-12. Last year, while maintaining freshman status, he became the first Duck to be named a Butkus Award semifinalist, ranked No. 2 in the league in tackles, picked up 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks and earned a stellar 88.6 pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus, good for 13th among FBS linebackers. His overall grade was just 71.5, meaning he has some room to improve in coverage and against the run. But he is a pure talent just scratching his potential. He’s probably too low on this list.

8. Andrew Vorhees, OL, USC

How old is Vorhees now? Put it this way, he got married 4 years ago. Vorhees is one of a handful of Pac-12 players making the most out of a surprise 6th season. When he got his start back with USC in 2017 (!?!), Vorhees was an instant hit, starting 9 games at right guard. Since then, he’s played guard and tackle. The hulking 6-6, 320-pound stud is projected as a top-75 pick but can play himself into the first round with one last impactful year. How’s this for a stat from PFF: He’s the only returning offensive lineman in the country to earn run and pass-blocking grades over 90.0 last season.

7. Dalton Kincaid, TE, UTah

Both Kincaid (No. 7) and fellow Utah tight end Brant Kuithe (No. 5) ranked in the top 10 in PFF’s top returning tight ends in 2022. One big difference is Kincaid’s big body. While Kuithe is a less-than-desirable (by NFL standards) 6-2, 220 pounds, Kincaid is an ideal 6-4, 240 with terrific hands (45 receptions, no drops) and solid acceleration. Kuithe is higher on my top players list, but Kincaid is going to be a bigger draft darling.

6. Tuli Tuipuloti, Edge, USC

Much like Utah’s Daniels on the offensive line, Tuipulotu provided the Trojans with incredible versatility as a sophomore starter. He had impressive production, including 48 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, a team-high 5.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, and that helped him earn all-conference first-team nods from conference coaches and from Phil Steele. According to PFF, 76 of his 630 snaps last season were from inside the tackles, while 305 came outside the tackles entirely. As an edge rusher, Tuipulotu had some big wins, earning an overall 82.6 grade from PFF.

5. Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford

NFL Draft analysts have a full-blown infatuation with McKee, who is getting major buzz as an early first-round pick in 2023. Scouts love his arm and his ability to fit balls into small windows, and they really love to cite the lack of talent around McKee last season at Stanford. But are they overcorrecting? It’s true the Cardinal lacked weapons last year, and probably still do this year. But at some point, McKee is going to have to put up production that matches his lofty status.

4. Jordan Addison, WR, USC

As a true freshman with Pitt in 2020, Addison flashed some of the genius he would display regularly a year later. Posting 8 catches for 147 yards and 11 for 127 against the likes of Miami and Florida State, respectively, shows immense talent. Coming back in 2021 with 8 100-yard games, including 202 yards against Virginia, 171 at Duke, 126 against Wake Forest in the ACC Championship Game, and 114 against Michigan State in the Peach Bowl shows a lot more than that. Addison caught 5 or more passes in every game last year. Will Addison form the same kind of rapport with Caleb Williams that he did with Kenny Pickett? If he does, Pac-12 defensive backs will need umbrellas.

3. Justin Flowe, LB, Oregon

A fascinating case study in the power of patience. Flowe showed a glimpse of his enormous talent in his lone appearance last season, which, of course, followed his lone appearance in 2020. That’s right, in 2 seasons (well, one-and-some), Flowe has missed all but 2 games because of injury. In his lone game last year against Fresno State in the season opener, Flowe had 14 tackles, a tackle-for-loss, and a forced fumble. After joining the Ducks as the second-highest-rated recruit in program history, it was like getting one bite of a delicious cake. If he’s healthy this year, he can play himself into the first round.

2. Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah

There will certainly be some teams scared off by Phillips’ 5-10, 185-pound frame. But the Utah corner plays much bigger than his height, particularly in the midfield and running game. He had 59 solo tackles last year as a sophomore, displaying a willingness to mix it up that NFL teams covet. PFF ranks Phillips among the nation’s top 3 returning cornerbacks and graded him as the best outside corner in the country over the last 6 games last year.

1. Caleb Williams, QB, USC

PFF is very high on Williams, but then again, so is everyone else. How high? Williams has visions of being the No. 1 pick, and he’s very well on his way. Using some of PFF’s most important scouting measurements, as a true freshman for Oklahoma, Williams’ 3.51-second average time to throw and 29.2% rate of quarterback-fault pressures ranked among the top 3 nationally. Even more importantly, his 91.3 overall grade set a new standard for freshmen starters. Now transitioned to a USC team that loaded up the offense around him, Williams should contend for postseason awards if he can do more than flip the Trojans’ 4-8 record around. Anything less than 10 wins would be considered a disappointment.