Rivals Rankings Week continues to roll on Thursday as we address the defensive position rankings. There is still plenty to debate before the final position rankings are locked into place.
Who is the next five-star defensive end?
Who’s the next rising star at the defensive tackle position?
What prospects would make up a dream secondary?
Our analysts – Adam Friedman, Adam Gorney, Josh Helmholdt and Sam Spiegelman – sit down at the Rivals Roundtable and discuss.
Here is the full Rivals Rankings Week schedule:
MONDAY: Five-Star Countdown
TUESDAY: Full Rivals250 revealed
WEDNESDAY: QB rankings | RB rankings | WR/TE rankings | OL rankings
THURSDAY: DL rankings | LB rankings | DB rankings | ATH rankings
FRIDAY: State rankings
MORE 2022 RANKINGS RELEASE: Roundtable on the offensive position rankings | Biggest movers in updated Rivals250 | Gorney’s thoughts | Meet the new five-stars | Schools most repped in the new R250 | Who should be the top-ranked DT? | What to do with Travis Hunter? | Who should be the top-ranked CB? | How things stand with uncommitted five-stars
If I could buy stock in one player in the 2022 class right now, it would be Quency Wiggins. The defensive end out of Louisiana is an absolute monster and is as athletic as they come for a player of his size at his position. He is drawing comparisons to former five-star Calais Campbell, the perennial NFL Pro Bowler and All-Pro. What’s so exciting about Wiggins is that he’s still starting to understand effective hand techniques. Once he’s really filled out his repertoire there’s going to be no stopping him. – Friedman
The state of Florida is absolutely loaded at defensive end in the 2022 class and the one prospect who has the best possibility to move up to five-star status is Shemar Stewart. The Opa Locka (Fla.) Monsignor Pace standout does not work out at many events, so the justification might have to come through his senior season and the all-star events but he has elite athleticism, he can move so well for his size and in the last few days Stewart was super impressive working out at Ohio State. I also think Gabe Dindy is a name to watch in Florida, but I’m leaning Stewart right now. – Gorney
The more I hear about Wiggins, even in the last week, the more I like him. I like that he has the fire to fly up to New Jersey the day after his spring game to compete at a Rivals Camp. I like his physical tools and his upside potential. He is a standout right now, and I think he continues to develop going into his senior year. – Helmholdt
Jeremiah Alexander. The state of Alabama’s No. 1 player for the 2022 class and a one-time Crimson Tide commitment is a uniquely explosive edge-rusher that’s capable of playing with a hand in the dirt or a stand-up rusher. His versatility – paired with elite closing speed and explosive get-off – is special, which is why schools like Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Auburn and Georgia all covet him. In the right situation, Alexander has a chance to be a dominant edge-rusher, particularly with his blend of speed and athleticism for the position.
This position is absolutely loaded and the top 20 players at the position are really talented. I wouldn’t be surprised if a player like Jaray Bledsoe, Hero Kanu or Nick James made their way up the rankings in the next update. Bledsoe is a prospect many are still trying to figure out. Kanu is blowing people away at a number of college camps this month. James has a chance to really prove himself this fall when IMG Academy plays a national schedule. – Friedman
Originally from Germany, Kanu has now established himself not only at Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita Catholic but as one of the best defensive tackles in the 2022 class, and his stock could only continue to rise. The 6-foot-5, 293-pound four-star has traveled the country over the last week or so seeing some top programs and working out at some schools and completely dominating the competition. He does not have an extensive resume against elite competition yet, but that will change over the next many months and Kanu could keep moving up. – Gorney
We were out early with a four-star rating on Missouri commit Marquis Gracial, but I am not sure we have him high enough. He is a homebody, but hopefully we can see him live sometime in the near future. That live evaluation will give us a better feel for his frame and physical growth potential as well as his movement skills. – Helmholdt
There are a handful of good candidates here, from Oklahoma product Chris McClellan (RCS Dallas DL MVP) to Alabama’s Antavious Woody (RCS Atlanta DL MVP), but my pick is small-town defensive lineman Jaray Bledsoe. Bledsoe clocked a 4.7-second 40 time this spring at 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds. He plays running back for his high school, but he’ll be corralling backs behind the line of scrimmage when he arrives at Oklahoma or Alabama or Texas or Texas A&M. Bledsoe possesses an elite skill set, and he’s just tipping the scales of his potential. His best football is still ahead of him. – Spiegelman
Versatility is key when building a secondary, but nothing makes it easier on a defense than when they don’t have to worry about an outside receiver because they have a lockdown cornerback shadowing him on every play. I’ll take Jaheim Singletary and a healthy Denver Harris at cornerback and Xavier Nwankpa and Bryce Anderson at safety. I’d want Travis Hunter in my secondary, too, but we have him listed at athlete so I’d take Daylen Everette as my fifth defensive back. – Friedman
I want a long, rangy cornerback and a physical hitter who can run, so I’m taking Singletary and Domani Jackson at cornerback. They’re the two best corners in this class by my vote, and with their speed and length on the outside not many passes are going to be completed. Safety is also a very loaded position, but my particular favorites are Nwankpa and Sam McCall. Nwankpa can cover ground and he’s a headhunter back there, while McCall is an athletic specimen who is rangy and a playmaker. They might not be right at the top of each position group, but I’ll take my chances with those four. – Gorney
I am apparently partial to those Big Ten commits, but I want a physical phenom like Singletary on one side and a big, lockdown corner like Will Johnson on the other. I want a safety who puts fear in wide receivers, so I’m taking Nwankpa, and then I like the range and athleticism of Jacoby Mathews at the other safety spot. Finally, I want a nickel corner who has that competitive fire to get in the face of slot receivers and still has the athleticism to stay with them through their routes, so I’m going with Arkansas commit Myles Rowser. – Helmholdt
I don’t even need to leave the South to put together this star-studded secondary. At cornerback, Harris, a five-star, and Julian Humphrey give a defense sub-4.4 speed on the outside. On the back end, Mathews, a five-star LSU commitment, is a modern-age strong safety that can cover, play the run and give the defensive coordinator some position flexibility to use him as an athletic outside linebacker or a more traditional, in-the-box safety. Plug Anderson, a Rivals100 safety, in at the nickel. There may not be a more versatile defensive back in Texas than Anderson, who is being recruited by Texas, Texas A&M and LSU to play corner and safety. Round out this group with Rivals250 safety Bryan Allen from Aledo (Texas) in centerfield. With Anderson in the nickel and Mathews as a moveable Jenga piece, Allen — a Texas commitment — patrols the back end of the unit with five interceptions and two state titles over the past two seasons. – Spiegelman