Top Picks for NFL Draft
In recent years, there hasn’t been much drama about who is going to hear their name called first at the NFL draft.
Trevor Lawrence was expected to be the first pick in 2021 once he made it clear he was making himself eligible for the NFL Draft and that was how it worked out.
The year before, Joe Burrow incredible season at LSU sent him flying up the draft boards. After leading the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl in his second season, there’s no doubting that pick.
Jacksonville is on the clock yet again. This much is known: A quarterback won’t be going first overall and it is hard to say when the first QB is selected.
Which Way will Jaguars Go?
Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is considered by many draft experts, or at least those who consider themselves as draft experts, to be the best player available.
A dynamic pass rusher isn’t the worst way to go, but there has been some talk that it might be the other side of the line that Jacksonville addresses.
Alabama mammoth offensive tackle Evan Neal is a potential No. 1 overall pick. The last time an offensive tackle was taken with the top pick, Eric Fisher hardly reached the level expected of the No. 1 overall selection.
Before that, the results were much more impressive.
Ron Yary, the top pick in 1968, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as is Orlando Pace, the No. 1 overall selection in 1997. Jake Long, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, could very well join them in the Hall of Fame one day.
The last time a defensive end was the top pick came in 2017, when Myles Garrett was selected by Cleveland. Garrett is one of the best defensive players in that draft so that worked out pretty well.
Will Lions’ Pick Cause an Uproar?
If Hutchinson does go first, which was will the Detroit Lions go with pick No. 2?
The Lions used their first-round pick on offensive tackle Penei Sewell in 2021 so it seems more likely that they will look to improve on the other side of the ball according to the NFL draft rumors.
There are plenty of options.
Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux came into the season as the most likely player to go first overall. His stock has dipped a little bit since then, but he is a dynamic player who checks all the boxes for what teams are looking for at the defensive end position. No player is flying up the draft boards more than Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker. Ahmad “Juice” Gardner was slotted to the Lions in a mock draft done by former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
Detroit recently used the third overall pick on cornerback Jeff Okudah so doing that twice in three drafts would be a rather risky move. There are injury concerns surrounding former Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, so a defensive lineman here would certainly make the most sense.
The New York Jets and New York Giants have multiple top-10 picks so let’s see if they try to trade up.
Prospects on Rise
We are in the middle of pro day season where one drill can impact how a team views a player.
The NFL scouting combine certainly helped some players, and perhaps no two players are trending upward heading into the 2022 NFL draft more than Georgia’s Walker and Ikem Ekwonu, an offensive tackle out of North Carolina State.
Walker has been showing up as high as No. 2 on mock drafts, which seems a bit on the high side. There have been some who suggest that Ekwonu could be a better choice than Neal to be the first offensive lineman off the board.
The good news for them is that pass rushers and tackles who can neutralize pass rushers are always in demand, so neither of them should need to wait very long to hear their names called.
Quarterbacks to Play Waiting Game?
Not too long ago, the Denver Broncos and Washington Commanders were among the teams with solid chances to take a flier on a quarterback in the first round, even if this is hardly the best quarterback class in recent memory.
Russell Wilson is now with the Broncos and Carson Wentz is a member of the Commanders, so those teams can be crossed off the list of quarterback-needy teams that could impact the NFL draft odds of the quarterback prospects.
There are teams drafted in the top 10 that might go the quarterback route, led by Carolina at No. 6. Atlanta, which traded Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts, picks eight while Seattle gets Denver’s selection (No. 9 overall), although picks that high would go against the current NFL draft odds.
Malik Willis is the most physically gifted of the quarterbacks in this draft, but his results in 2021 at Liberty were just so-so. He threw 11 interceptions in one six-game span. Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett is viewed as the most pro-ready out of this year’s quarterbacks. Matt Corral out of Ole Miss could also land in the first round.
If no quarterback goes in the top 10, the next potential landing spots could be New Orleans at No. 18 and Pittsburgh at No. 20. There have been some suggestions that no quarterback goes in the first round.
Ready to Catch On
While there are plenty of pass rushers in this draft, with many of them going early and others likely to land in the second half of the first round, this is also a draft with a deep pool of pass catchers. Receivers are likely to catch on as top prospects according to the NFL draft odds.
Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson is emerging as the top-rated receiver while Southern California’s Drake London could also land in the first round.
Chris Olave, also out of Ohio State, is garnering plenty of differing opinions. Maybe he’ll go in the top-15 picks or perhaps a team will get a steal late in the opening round.
Alabama’s Jameson Williams’ stock fell a bit thanks to his torn ACL during the College Football Playoffs, but he is too talented to make it through the first round even if teams will have to wait a little to have him on the field.
Treylon Burks of Arkansas, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson and Christian Watson out of North Dakota State don’t receive as much buzz as the aforementioned wideouts, but don’t be surprised if they all are gone by the end of the first round.