The National Football League is the pinnacle of American football, with the best teams in the country going head to head for many months.
Not only do fans tune in to watch the teams that will make the playoffs and eventually compete in the Super Bowl, but they also want to enjoy watching promising football stars.
Every year, the best young players come through the NFL Draft and attempt to earn starting spots on various NFL teams. Some of these players struggle to achieve the same greatness in the pro league, while others thrive.
Below is a list of four rising football stars in the NFL ahead of the 2022 season.
When you see Ickey Ekwonu for the first time, you can understand why he is such a huge prospect. The offensive tackle, who played for N.C. State in college is expected to go very high in this year’s NFL Draft.
Ekwonu is 6-foot-4 and weighs more than 300 pounds. He is an excellent edge blocker who is also capable of stopping passes with his long arms. He has been an outstanding element of the N.C. State defense over the past few years and is likely to bring a lot of qualities to the NFL team he eventually joins.
While there is never a guarantee that a prospect pans out, Ekwonu has all the tools to become an NFL star. He is still working on the technical aspects of his game but appears to improve with each passing season. If he can continue to work hard and improve when he lands in the pro league, he can become a superstar in no time.
Another offensive tackle, Evan Neal, starred for Alabama during his college career. The best tackle in his class, Neal, is someone who can help any team in the NFL become better at protecting their quarterback.
One of the teams being linked to Neal is the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags have a notorious issue of being unable to protect their QB, which cost them a great deal during the 2021 season. They will be hoping that acquiring Neal can boost their offensive line significantly.
For his part, Neal has shown a lot of improvement in college at Alabama. He came into the NCAA with raw talent but areas where he had to get better, and he has shown a willingness to learn and adapt.
A quarterback who played for the Ole Miss Rebels in college, Corral is expected to be among the top ten picks in the NFL Draft of 2022. Fans are very excited by his play, as he has an impressive record in his four years at college.
Corral took a while to get going, only playing four times in the 2018 season. But he was ever present in the 2019, 2020, and 2021 campaigns, starring with six, 29, and 20 touchdowns, respectively.
Aside from his passing, Corral is also a decent rusher, which could make him a twin threat in the NFL for a team lucky enough to grab him early in the draft.
A Greek native who moved to the United States when he was only 13 years old, George Karlaftis is one of the best prospects in college. He is set to go very high in the NFL Draft and will likely have a stellar NFL career.
Karlaftis was excellent for Purdue in the 2019 season, starting 12 games and managing 54 tackles and almost 8 sacks. He did not play much during the 2020 season, as he had a positive COVID-19 test, only managing four tackles and two sacks.
He did play impressively in the 2021 season and then decided to declare for the draft instead of completing his fourth year of college. Karlaftis believes that he has the quality to go all the way and is committed to joining an NFL team this year.
Who Can Make the Step Up?
The question that football fans always ask about young players is whether they can take the next step. Impressing in college does not always translate to NFL success, which is why rookie and second-year players that shine are already achieving a great deal.
Whether those players go on to become greats of the sport or enjoy stellar careers depends on whether they can take the next step. Can they transition from being a promising talent to someone who consistently delivers for the team?
The next season or two will give us an indication of whether the players mentioned above have what it takes to go all the way in the NFL.