NFL Draft 2022: Breaking down Connecticut prospects

Photo of Paul Doyle

The next wave of NFL players will be on your screen Thursday night.

The 2022 NFL Draft begins at 8 p.m. on ESPN, broadcasting live from Las Vegas. The first round will be held Thursday night, the second and third rounds Friday night (7 p.m.) and the remainder of the draft on Saturday (noon).

This much we know: Connecticut will have an early presence. New Haven’s Travis Jones has risen from the UConn football program to a favorable spot on NFL Draft boards.

Jones could hear his name Thursday night. If not, he is considered a cinch to go Friday in the second round.

From there, any number of players with state ties could be picked.

Here’s a rundown of Connecticut connections among draft-eligible players:

Top Prospects

Travis Jones, UConn/New Haven

DL

Projected: First or second round

The 6-foot-4, 325-pound defensive lineman has spent his college years with the beleaguered Huskies, yet Jones has emerged as a possible first-round pick. The former Wilbur Cross standout chose UConn over Rutgers, Boston, College, Temple and Buffalo and was a three-year starter. He played three seasons in four years — UConn did not play in 2020 — for a team that was 4-32. Yet Jones thrived under defensive coordinator and interim head coach Lou Spanos, a former NFL assistant. His stock rose at the Senior Bowl, when Jones was voted as top defensive tackle during practices. A former offensive lineman in high school, Jones has lost 30 pounds since moving to Storrs and there may be room for growth as a pass rusher in the NFL.

Josh Jobe, Alabama/Cheshire Academy

CB

Projected: Fourth of fifth round

The Miami native spent one memorable season at Cheshire Academy and was the state’s top recruit in the Class of 2018. Jobe was committed to Miami when he arrived in Connecticut but switched to Alabama by the end of the 2017 season. Jobe started as a junior and senior at Alabama, winning a national title in 2020. At 5-11, 182 pounds, Jobe is physical and athletic. He could have left for the NFL after the 2020 season, but returned for his senior year and reportedly battled a turf toe injury that required surgery in December.

Andrew Stueber, Michigan/Darien

OT

Projected: Fifth or sixth round

At 6-7, 325 pounds, Stueber has NFL size. One of the top recruits in the state out of Darien High — he was a two-time state champion and an All-State lineman — Stueber received offers from Boston College, Penn State, and Tennessee, along with interest from Yale and Harvard. He wound up at Michigan and became an All-Big Ten player as he started 20 games at right tackle and three at right guard over his career. Stueber missed his junior year with an ACL injury in 2019 and used a graduate season in 2021, starting 14 games for a unit that won the Joe Moore Award as the top offensive line in the nation. Analysts say he is a solid NFL prospect because of size and intelligence.

Ryan Van Demark, UConn

OT

Projected: Sixth round

The New Jersey native is a 6-6, 308-pound tackle who did not receive much FBS attention until UConn recruited him. Van Demark had offers from New Hampshire, Fordham and Richmond before the Huskies made an offer under the Bob Diaco regime in 2017. He emerged as a four-year starter during Randy Edsall’s tenure, returning in 2021 after UConn did not play in 2020. Van Demark gained nearly 50 pounds since his freshman year and his overall development turned him into a solid NFL prospect, even after playing for one of the worst teams in the country. He was also durable — he did not miss a game at UConn — and has the ability to play both right and left tackle.

Brad Hawkins, Michigan/Suffield Academy

S

Projection: Late round/free agent

The Camden, N.J. native spent a year at Suffield Academy, recording 51 receptions and 11 touchdowns as a receiver in 2016. But he moved from receiver to defensive back as a freshman at Michigan and became a consistent contributor — Hawkins appeared in a program record 56 games. As a senior, Hawkins had a career-high 61 tackles, yet he did not receive an NFL Combine invite and is considered a fringe draft prospect. The 6-foot, 207-pound Hawkins could land as a special teams player on an NFL roster.

OTHERS ON THE RADAR

RB Julius Chestnut, Sacred Heart: The 215-pound back ran for 3,472 career yards.

RB Kevin Mensah, UConn: The 5-9, 205-pound back is UConn’s fourth all-time leading rusher.

WR Tyshaun James, Central Connecticut: The 6-3 Middletown native had 114 career receptions.

WR Melvin Rouse, Yale: The 5-9 Rouse had 48 catches in 10 games for the Bulldogs.

TE JJ Howland, Yale: The 6-6 Howland landed at Yale after playing at Choate.

TE Jay Rose, UConn: Southington native had 27 receptions as a senior.

C Josh Sokol, Sacred Heart: The 290-pound Sokol was three-time All-NEC.

DE Chris Sampleton, Yale: Had 21 tackles and two sacks as a senior.

OLB Tre Jones, Central Connecticut: Rhode Island native had 160 tackles over 44 career games.

LB Omar Fortt, UConn: Stamford native had 24 tackles in eight games as a senior.

LB D.J. Morgan, UConn: Notre Dame transfer was special teams players.

LB/S Rodney Thomas II, Yale: Recorded 50 tackles in 10 games as a senior.

LB Micah Awodiran, Yale: Chicago native had 50 tackles in seven games last season.

CB Deonte Henson, Yale: Had 53 tackles over his final two seasons at Yale.

LS Brian Keating, UConn: Darien native was UConn’s primary long snapper over four seasons.