2022 NFL Draft: Five college stars who left NIL paydays on the table, then slipped big in the draft

After every draft in every professional sport that utilizes a collegiate feeder system, it’s easy to look back with the 20-20 vision of hindsight and identify early entrants who would have benefitted from staying in college another season. The same goes for the 2022 NFL Draft, except this season there is an added wrinkle to the equation because of how name, image and likeness is changing college sports.

While back-room deals and bag drops have long been part of college football’s seedy underbelly, the amount of money available to star players now is increasing rapidly as we enter a new world for the sport. No longer is the NFL the only place to legally make life-changing money playing football, as the NCAA takes a hands-off approach to policing the NIL game.

Playing college football in this era is going to be more lucrative for some players than moving on and fighting for an NFL roster spot. While early-round draft picks at the pro level still live in a unique financial stratosphere, the lack of guaranteed money available to late-round draft picks should give some college juniors something to think about as they ponder decisions about their futures.

For most young football players, reaching the NFL is the ultimate dream, and fulfilling that goal may transcend a simple financial equation. But for some juniors from the 2022 draft class, it seems the benefits of playing a final college season might have outweighed the benefits of moving on. Here are five juniors from the 2022 draft class who may have been in position to cash in via NIL but will now be fighting for their proverbial lives in the NFL instead. 

The players below are ranked in order of how poorly things played out for them during the draft relative to pre-draft expectations…

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