Draftly has a roster filled with exciting college athletes who have proved their pedigree with brilliant performances in 2021. Draftly athletes made waves across college football and basketball in their most recent seasons with breakout years from the likes of Tyler Van Dyke, who went from battling for the backup QB spot to one of the hottest young players in the country; and Colin Gillespie, who averaged almost sixteen points a game to lead Villanova to a two-seed in the NCAA tournament after winning the Big East conference championship. Although 2021 had some electric moments, the way 2022 is lined up for the Draftly athletes will be 100 times bigger. Here are five Draftly athletes I think will have a massive year.
Blake Corum is coming off a reasonably productive sophomore year in which he had over 1,000 all-purpose yards helping Michigan have their best season since 1997 when a young Charles Woodson, who became the only defensive player at the time to win the Heisman, led a historic Big Blue defense to a 12-0 season finishing atop the AP poll. Corum established himself as the secondary rusher this year behind upper-classman Haasan Haskins, who, following his massive season, is heading to the NFL draft. Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis won the 2021 Broyles Award for top assistant in the country, leading the way with the 15th best rushing attack with 214.4 yards per game. Although Gattis is leaving for Miami, Michigan is returning all but one offensive lineman, with plenty of talent competing to fill that vacant spot. Last year's offense primarily fed lead back Haasan Haskins, who had 270 carries compared to Corum's 144; with Corum's consistency at the secondary back position last year, these 270 carries should see a considerable share finding their way into Corum's hands. Corum had 144 carries for 952 yards last year, giving him over 6.6 yards per carry which is over a yard and a half more than Haskins had last season. With an increased workload in the run game, Corum is set to put up monster numbers for the Michigan run game. His ability to catch out of the backfield makes Corum set for an even more significant role in the offense than Haskins had. Although Michigan did not pass to their backs out of the backfield much, when they did, it was to Corum, who tripled Haskins receptions last season, frequently taking on the duty as the 3rd down back. With Corum's ability to hit holes and pick up big plays in the run game and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, he can become an every-down back in an offense that loves feeding their running backs. Haskins is getting love in the combine and is set to get drafted. Corum can have an even better year and explode as one of the most productive players in college football next year.
Zion Nelson decided to return for the 2022-23 season and play his fourth season for the Miami Hurricanes, and they are grateful he did. Zion was a projected top-five pick before the 2021-22 season by Adam Schefter following his standout second year in which he did not allow a single sack. Zion was expected to play the year out and go to the NFL draft but the roller-coaster season for Miami left Zion's draft stock below what he must have felt it should be. This extra year can become a blessing in disguise for Zion, with Miami adding Coach Cristobal, an Offensive line specialist as head coach, and one of the best Offensive line coaches in the country with Alex Mirabal. Zion, who PFF already rates as a top 10 returning Offensive Lineman in the country, can take a monstrous leap with the help of this new coaching staff. Zion is a 6 foot 5 and 320-pound offensive tackle with an insane combination of length, athleticism, and size. His measurables are precisely what every scout looks for in a left tackle prospect. He is nimble on his feet and effortlessly ascends to the second level with frequent success. His athletic ability has often been highlighted as a pass protector in former offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee's spread scheme as he can be lightning-quick out of his stance, has great range, and contains the ability to mirror and redirect even some of the best pass rushers (PFF pass block 90.8). One of the biggest criticisms of Zion's game is that he needs to add strength and size to his body as he lacks that pop that great blockers have at the point of attack. This lack of "pop" can be seen in his deficiencies in the downhill run blocking the game (PFF run block 64.1). However, I have heard that the addition of Coach Fields for strength and conditioning is "light and day" compared to their previous regime. As well as the ultimate focus and coaching he will get from Coach Mirabal and Coach Cristobal, and Zion could finish the 2022-23 season as one of, if not the top offensive lineman entering the next draft.
While Julian Flemming's statistics for the last two years do not jump off the page, with only seven receptions for 74 yards in his 2020 campaign and only 12 receptions for 86 yards last year, it was not for lack of skill or pedigree. Ohio State has been a comprehensive receiver factory recently, and Flemming has had to sit back and learn from those ahead of him. Flemming struggled to see the field in his first two seasons, not because of a lack of trying but because the wide receiver room was LOADED. Including two players about to be 2022 first-round picks, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Between those two elite upperclassmen and other standout superstars like Smith-Nijigba, who caught everyone's attention with 15 catches, three touchdowns, and 347 yards during the Rose Bowl. Flemming had little chance to prove his ability. This year will be different with Olave and Wilson; Flemming will become the co-star with Njigba. These two will hopefully create the same 1-2 punch Wilson, and Olave gave C.J. Stroud. Flemming is a 5-star recruit in the 2020 class with a .9979 rating! Flemming was the number one receiver in his class nationally. Standing at 6 foot 2 inches and over 200 pounds; his combination of size, strength, speed, leaping ability, and ball skills, he will be a beneficiary of Ohio State airing the ball out with their Heisman Candidate at QB. A former basketball and long jump standout, the red zone, and contested-catch ability will hopefully be a comfort blanket for Stroud, leading to countless touchdowns, a massive leap in production, and likely a first-round draft pick with his teammate Njigba giving Ohio state two first-round receivers in consecutive drafts.
Colin Gillespie just capped off his career at Villanova by taking the Wildcats to the final four as the lead Guard for a deep and talented team coached by Jay Wright. Gillespie will enter the 2022 NBA draft fresh off this deep tournament run and a season filled with career highs. In 38 games this season, Gillespie averaged a career-high from 3 with over 41% shooting, from the line with an over 90% free throw percentage, and in points with over 15 points per game. Although Gillespie will not be seen as a lottery pick or perhaps even a first-rounder, Jay Wright has a history of producing undervalued guards in the NBA. Undersized guards like Kyle Lowry (who stared in their 2006 Elite 8 run and is a six-time NBA All-Star), Ryan Archideiacano, and more recently Jaylen Brunson (who has emerged as a co-star to Luka this year and is set to sign a huge extension in the offseason), and Donte DiVincenzo (who won a ring with the Bucks last season). All these players fell in the draft due to their size, "athleticism", age, and lack of raw numbers due to the team play Jay Wright runs and the depth of the Villanova rosters. Gillespie is 6 foot 4 and 200 pounds, allowing him to play both guard positions. Gillespie is a great on-ball defender with great instinct and IQ; this will enable him to play a role in team defense even from the guard position, which helped in average over a steal a game every year of his college career. Since Gillespie will not be a defensive liability in most matchups, his 3-point shooting, hoops IQ, and ability to play off the ball on offense as a swingman will give him value to an NBA roster for years to come. Although Gillespie will likely get a two-way deal to start or be a second-round pick with limited playing time, like all Villanova guards, he will win over his coaching staff. His work ethic, IQ, shooting ability off the catch, and ability to attack closeouts, and make the right reads, will let him eventually blossom into a legit role player or even something greater like we saw this year with Jalen Brunson.
Tyler Van Dimes... of course, has to take the #1 spot after the season he just had. The 2021 Canes were a roller coaster, with high expectations, early let-downs, injuries, bad luck, and ranked wins. At the start of the season, what seemed like the darkest cloud was Heisman candidate and star QB1 D'Eriq King having a season-ending injury against Michigan State in the third game. The injury and the home loss took the hearts of Canes fans in what seemed like such a hopeful year. The sun would shine through that cloud as early as the following week. In a cash game against Central Connecticut, Tyler Van Dyke got his chance to throw some dimes… and that he did. In their 69-0 route, TVD threw 10/11 for 270 Yards and three touchdowns. Although nobody was overreacting to beating up the lesser competition, it soon became clear maybe that was translatable to better competition. At the start of the season, TVD was fighting with Freshman 5 star Jake Garcia for the backup behind the veteran King, hoping to get a foothold on the job after the season. Now going into week five against UVA at home, the start of conference play, King and Garcia had suffered season-ending injuries, and any hope of salvaging the season laid on the shoulders of Van Dyke. He was a Redshirt freshman who had one start just the week before against a team closer to his high school competition than the ACC. In the first half of the game, Van Dyke showed his lack of experience by frequently
missing throws and reads. Van Dykes slow start, paired with the defensive issues the Canes had all year, allowed for UVA to go into the half with a lead. In the second half, however, TVD came out ready. Although the raw stats of the game do not jump off the page, he played his heart out, clawing the Canes back into the game and eventually leading a game-winning drive down the field to set up the game-winning field goal. Although the storybook ended, crashed, and burned with a DOINK off the post, Van Dyke flashed mobility with a substantial first down run along with his electric arm that he showed off the week prior. The following week a similar story occurred at UNC. The slow first half left Canes in a hole in the locker room. Electric second half and game-winning drive by TVD… which led to a tipped ball interception sealing a 48-45 loss to break the hearts of the Canes for the second game in a row. But at UNC, Lashlee and TVD started to mesh; 45 points were scored with so many mistakes and missed chances. After that, it started; no more coming out of the gates slow. Lashlee was going to let his guy cook, and that he did. In the next game, TVD threw for 325 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions to take down the 30th-ranked NC State. He immediately followed it up with a 425+ yard 3 touchdown game to outduel Heisman candidate Kenny Pickett to take down 13th ranked Pittsburgh in Pitt. That put the country on notice and let everyone know that TVD was real. He let it fly, filling the stat sheet with 300+ yard 3+ touchdown games the rest of the year. TVD flipped from a redshirt freshman fighting for a backup job into the ACC offensive rookie of the year within a few months. TVD is 4th in Heisman odds going into next season, with expectations at an all-time high. Coach Cristobal says he thinks Van Dyke is "the best QB in the country". Although the offensive coordinator Van Dyke was flowing with Rhett Lashlee is off as a head coach, he has been left in good hands. The new offensive coordinator is a dream replacement; 2022 Broyles award winner Josh Gattis. This, coupled with the change from a defensive-minded head coach to an offensive-minded one who will sure up the offensive line, wide receiver play, and running game, is a great sign. There is no ceiling on Tyler Van Dimes this year. Heisman trophy, top 5 picks in the draft, college football playoff…? You are just going to have to wait and see…