Questions Abound as 2022 NFL Draft Draws Near
It doesn’t take wading through the countless mock drafts being posted on a daily basis to realize that the 2022 NFL Draft is going to be one unpredictable venture.
Unlike a year ago when it might have taken an act of Congress to prevent the Jacksonville Jaguars from selecting former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the top pick, there isn’t even a consensus on which player will go first overall. Jacksonville once again holds that top pick.
Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is the safe choice but there have been rumblings as of late that Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker could land with the Jaguars with the No. 1 selection. Hutchinson (-180) and Walker (+175) are well ahead of the other prospects when it comes to predicting who will go first overall.
Keep on reading some 2022 NFL Draft predictions to consider heading into the upcoming draft.
Texans on the Clock
If Hutchinson and Walker are the top two players off the board, as expected, it is fair to say that the draft really starts with the Houston Texans picking third overall.
The potential list of NFL picks could be rather lengthy.
North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu currently has the top odds to go off the board at pick No. 3. That won’t make the New York Giants too happy since they are expected to select an offensive lineman at either No. 5 or No. 7. There are other offensive linemen who could go in the top 10. Mississippi State’s Charles Cross is pushing Alabama’s Evan Neal as the second-best offensive lineman in the draft according to the 2022 NFL Draft predictions.
Houston could go for the other side of the ball, which wouldn’t be a shocker now that Lovie Smith, a longtime defensive coordinator. is the Texans’ head coach. There are some intriguing defensive options.
Former Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner could be the top option while Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux was considered to be the likely No. 1 overall pick heading into the 2021 college football season.
The No. 3 selection will impact the teams behind the Texans.
The other offensive tackles might go a spot or two higher if Ekwonu lands with the Texans. Gardner going at No. 3 certainly could change the draft slot of former LSU cornerback Derek Stingley. Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson is already soaring up draft boards. If three edge rushers go with the top three picks, Johnson could feel like the most popular person in the draft among teams looking for a dynamic pass rusher.
It is interesting that Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton has better odds to go third overall than Thibodeaux.
Where will Quarterbacks Land?
The feeling is that Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and Liberty’s Malik Willis will be taken in the first round. For the first time since Myles Garrett was taken by Cleveland with the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, the top selection in the draft won’t be a quarterback.
Which team will address the quarterback position first?
Carolina, picking sixth overall, is the first quarterback-needy team on the clock. However, the Panthers traded away their second- and third-round picks and there are other needs to consider. In a perfect world, the Panthers would trade back to pick up a second-day pick and still land one of the top quarterbacks.
There is also a chance that Carolina opts to ride with Sam Darnold for another season and addresses one of its other needs. Ekwonu could be an option if he falls out of the top five. The same could be said for Gardner or Thibodeaux.
Atlanta and Seattle pick eighth and ninth, respectively, and both teams traded away their longtime starting quarterbacks in the offseason. There isn’t as much buzz about either the Falcons or Seahawks going quarterback in the top 10, especially since options will be available in the second round, but could they put those picks up for bid as well?
Atlanta needs a receiver, but the Falcons also ranked last in sacks last season, so Johnson could be a fit there. An offensive tackle seems like the best option for Seattle.
If none of the quarterbacks go in the top 10, will that force the hand of the New Orleans Saints, who pick 16th and 19th, and the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20? A real wild card in the first round could be the Arizona Cardinals. Quarterback Kyler Murray is not a happy camper, so could Arizona move on from the top pick in the 2019 draft and address the sudden need for a quarterback?
The final potential landing spot for a quarterback in the first round could be the Detroit Lions with the No. 32 pick. That would be ironic since that pick was part of the trade that sent their former franchise quarterback to the Los Angeles Rams. There has been speculation that if Pickett and Willis go in the first round, as expected, former Ole Miss QB Matt Corral would be an option for Detroit with the last pick of the first round.
Willis has moved ahead of Pickett in the odds of which quarterback will be selected first.
More Veterans on Move?
Four of the first 16 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft have been traded for veteran players. With the Cleveland Browns expected to send former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield elsewhere and San Francisco 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel recently requesting a trade as contract talks have gotten a little testy, could more first-round picks be on the move?
The natural place to look would be for teams with multiple first-round picks.
The New York Jets have picks No. 4 and 10, the New York Giants pick fifth and seventh, and the New Orleans Saints currently hold picks No. 16 and 19. New Orleans is the only one of the three in the market for the quarterback. However, the Jets are very much in play for a receiver and, rather than grabbing a player who could be an impact player with the 10th selection, why not go after the sure thing with Samuel? Of course, San Francisco has to be willing to move on from Samuel and it remains to be seen if that happens.
With Davante Adams going from the Green Bay Packers to the Las Vegas Raiders and Tyreek Hill moving from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Miami Dolphins, it has been quite the offseason for elite wide receivers. Another huge move like Samuel forcing his way out of San Francisco might not be all that surprising.
Bulldogs have Plenty of Bite
Last year, Alabama dominated the first round of the drfat with six players selected, including three going in the top 10. There is a chance that Georgia could make a run at matching that feat.
Defensive lineman Travon Walker went from a likely first-round pick when the 2021 college football season ended to being in contention for the top overall selection.
It seems a safe bet that Walker will be the first Georgia product to come off the board. The second half of the first round could see many of his teammates on the Bulldogs’ ferocious defense hearing their names called on the first night of the draft.
Defensive tackle Jordan Davis figures to go somewhere in the teens. Linebacker Nakobe Dean is the No. 13-rated prospect, according to the NFL Network’s Daniel, Jeremiah. Defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, linebacker Quay Walker and safety, Lewis Cine could also go in the first round, although Walker and Cine are on the fence between being late first-round selections or waiting until the early stages of the second round.
Receiver George Pickens is a dark-horse candidate to go in the opening round. There are prop bets placing the number of former Georgia players being selected in the first round at 6½, although that number seems to be shrinking a bit as we get closer to decision time,. The question here is whether sure-fire first-round defensive end Jermaine Johnson counts toward that number. Johnson played for Georgia for two seasons but transferred to Florida State for his final campaign.
Who will be Taking a Tumble?
The faces change, but if previous NFL drafts have proven anything, it is that some top prospect will go significantly lower than projected because of negative reports about their love of football or simply because of the position they play.
Which players are primed to wait longer than they should to be selected?
Kayvon Thibodeaux: For months, he was the can’t-miss prospect in the 2022 draft. Now he seems to be sliding. At this time of the year, the amount of misinformation out there is staggering, and perhaps a team hoping to steal the Oregon pass rusher is hoping he falls out of the top five. Thibodeaux has all the tangible qualities teams want in a defensive end, but has he really fallen out of favor? Time will tell.
Kyle Hamilton: Safeties aren’t high up on the list of potential top-five and top-10 draft prospects. Some have suggested that Hamilton is the most talented player in the draft. Others have expressed concerns about his coverage instincts, and his 40-yard dash was a bit slower than expected. Hamilton has a chance to be something special at the next level. Which team will take a chance on a safety coming off an injury?
Evan Neal: The former elite high school recruit lived up to all the advance billing during his time at Alabama. Now, there are some suggesting that there are teams who don’t view him as a left tackle at the next level. Teams aren’t going to use a top-10 pick on a player who is projected to play right tackle, so if those concerns are true, Neal might fall a bit during the first round.