7 breakout defenders to watch in 2022

With OTAs ongoing in the NFL and spring football in the rearview mirror for teams across college football, it’s time to look ahead. Here are a few defenders to keep an eye on as we move toward college football kickoff in the coming months.

*Not all players listed are draft eligible in 2023*

Dallas TurnerLB, Alabama

The potential next big linebacker under Nick Saban while Will Anderson Jr. will – and rightly so – draw a lot of attention this fall. A potential top contender in the 2023 class, the real life sophomore has all the tools to become a second-level force. Last fall, he totaled 30 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. If the tide has championship ideals, as they always do, Turner’s progression will remain key in the lungs of Saban’s defense.

Andre Carter IIRAND, Army

Carter, the first AP All-American out of the Army in 31 years, is a legitimate threat to challenge Anderson for the national sacked leadership this fall. Carter is a massive 6ft 7 man who has all the qualities scouts are looking for in a 5 tech pocket pusher and could very well go into Round 1 with a dominant campaign for the Black Knights.

Carter’s name is one of the most unique stories in all of college football, while we’re often caught up with the SEC’s Bluebloods or the prestige of the Big Ten and ACC as the highest player ever drafted from Service Academy.

Jestin JacobsLB, Iowa

Jacobs is an athletic prodigy at 6-foot-4, fits the mold of a modern NFL linebacker, and checks a lot of boxes for scouts. He can play running backs, eliminate tight ends in the passing game, blitz with success, and streak from sideline to sideline with ease. He’ll only improve as he stashes more and more snaps under his belt.

Gervon DexterDT, Fla

Get to know Dexter’s name. He already has first-round hype, and if spring training was any indication, he’s a massive force to be reckoned with this fall. At 6-foot-6, he’s powerful yet agile, capable of both pocket pushing and plugging gaps in the run. He could be absolutely dominant in his junior season.

Bumper poolLB Arkansas

Not only does Pool have one of the best names in all of college football, his pop really shines in the film and he should only improve in his final season in Fayetteville. With 94, 101, and 125 total tackles respectively over the past three seasons, Pool is an extremely under-the-radar talent who could become one of the SEC’s best linebackers and a ball-carrier’s worst nightmare near the scrimmage line.

James Houston IVEDGE, Jackson State (FCS)

Houston, a Florida transfer, was a spoilsport for the Tigers from Deion Sanders last fall. With a total of 16.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for losses, Houston has been the overall lead for Jackson State and should step into a potential Day 3 pick when all comes to fruition. With the SEC pedigree and the dominant production that underpins him at the FCS level, Houston could be this fall’s most impactful edge rusher below the FBS level.

JustinFordCB, Montana (FCS)

After recording nine interceptions last season, it wasn’t long before Ford found a fat spot on NFL scouts’ “prospects to watch” list. A transfer from Louisville, Ford is a long 6ft 2 corner with elite instincts. He had three defensive touchdowns last year and is a talent who finds himself around football constantly. He’s got a lot of Jimmy Moreland vibes – but bigger and more physical – in his game due to his talent for making plays on the football and could very well be drafted.

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