Which Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football players could be picked during 2022 NFL Draft

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

UL has 13 players on NFL rosters.

One, running back Elijah Mitchell, was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Three – running back Trey Ragas (Las Vegas), safety Deuce Wallace (New Orleans) and tight end Nick Ralston (Dallas) – signed this month as undrafted free agents.

Three others – Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Robert Hunt, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive guard Kevin Dotson and Los Angeles Rams kick returner Raymond Calais Jr. – were drafted last year.

Which Cajuns have a chance at getting drafted in 2022? Here’s a look at some of the top candidates:

Related:Which former Ragin' Cajuns can make regular season NFL rosters in 2021

Motivation:How fatherhood drives 2021 NFL rookies Mitchell, Ragas

Defensive lineman Tayland Humphrey

Humphrey might have gotten picked if he had declared for this year’s draft.

But the Florida International transfer stayed so he could improve his foot quickness and lateral quickness, put up more film and perhaps improve his stock.

“I want to be stronger and faster,” the 6-foot-5, 333-pound Humphrey said. “I still have some goals I want to reach.”

More:Tayland Humphrey, UL nose tackle, having a blast as a Ragin' Cajun

Quarterback Levi Lewis

Lewis has thrown for 6,286 career yards and 54 touchdowns, including 5,324 and 45 the past the two seasons.

But he’s returning for a third season as a starter with the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA because of COVID-19, and another prolific year could draw draft attention.

With UL going 21-4 the past two years, Lewis is a proven winner. With a 62% completion rate, he’s an efficient passer. Connecting on the deep ball must improve. But the Senior Bowl already is high on Lewis, and with the Cajuns finishing last season nationally ranked eyes will be on him.

More:Cajuns coach Billy Napier had pointed meeting message for QB Levi Lewis

Ragin' Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis, who already is receiving attention from the Senior Bowl, throws during UL's Dec. 26 First Responder Bowl win over Texas-San Antonio in Dallas.

Defensive end Chauncey Manac

An outside linebacker/standup defensive end, the 6-3, 251-pound Manac has the right measurables – and enough athleticism – to intrigue NFL scouts.

The former Georgia redshirt had 5.5 tackles for loss in 10 games as a fifth-year senior last season, and with starter Joe Dillon not returning Manac could use the extra snaps for a big statistical season that gets him plenty of attention at the end of long road that also included a juco stop.

Offensive lineman Max Mitchell

Mitchell returns for a third season as a full-time starter. If he can improve this year like he did the last two, NFL scouts should notice.

Mitchell plays on a unit ranked first in the Sun Belt in both tackles for loss allowed (fifth nationally) and sacks permitted (seventh). At 6-6 and 297, he looks the part. The Neville High product from Monroe can play tackle on either side of the line. He’d be eligible to return in 2022, but another solid season could prompt him to go pro sooner.

Safety Percy Butler

Butler also could return as a fifth-year senior in 2022.

But with good length and red line to red line range, a strong season could put the post safety into decision-making mode and perhaps put him into position to become the third Cajun from Plaquemine High to make it to the NFL along with Dotson and Brian Mitchell.

The athletic Butler also has cornerback coverage potential. He’s a reliable tackler, a strong communicator and his passion for special teams play could make the gunner a valuable NFL asset.

Ragin' Cajuns safety Percy Butler (9) celebrates after making an interception in the first quarter of the Dec. 26 First Responder Bowl in Dallas.

Running back Chris Smith

After playing behind Mitchell and Ragas last year, and Calais as well in 2019, Smith could become a viable NFL prospect with a productive 2021.

His speed is in the same eye-popping range as that of Calais and Mitchell, if not better, and his breakaway potential is evident. Kickoff return skills akin to that of Calais – Smith returned two for touchdowns last season – could translate to the NFL.

Smith, also eligible to return in 2022, just needs to show he do on a consistent basis under the grind of a heavy workload what he has flashed on occasions when opportunity presented itself.

Fast:Watch UL running back Chris Smith return kickoff 100 yards vs UAB

Offensive guard O’Cyrus Torrence

Trimmed down from 420 pounds in eighth grade, the 6-5 Torrence still is a giant who now carries around 330.

He will be just a junior in 2021, and it would take a stellar season to make coming out early a wise move. Coming out so early is rare for Group of Five players. But coaches rave about Torrence’s NFL potential, and some day – perhaps after next season, perhaps later – Torrence should be quite high on NFL radars.

Slim: Huge 8th grade, UL guard Torrence didn't wait to stand out

Others to watch

Defensive lineman Zi’Yon Hill is a bit undersized at 6-1, and he’s had injury issues, but his strength could get the New Iberia Catholic High product a look. … NFL scouts love their Aussie punters, and Rhys Byrns is one of the Sun Belt’s best. … Safety Bralen Trahan had four interceptions last season; more of the same could get the Acadiana High product a look.