10. Strong offensive linemen can be found throughout the first round.
There were whispers in the beginning of draft season that Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu would be the pick for the Jaguars at #1 overall. That might still be the case but there is a good chance that a team like the Giants or Panthers will be able to get a Pro Bowl caliber tackle or guard at #5 or #7. Charles Cross also is worthy of a top 10 selection but might be available mid first round. Trevor Penning has the size and nasty some like from linemen and Tyler Linderbaum is the consensus top center in this draft who might still be available late in the first round. Zion Johnson also had a strong week at the Senior Bowl. If you want to improve your O-line, there will be opportunities in 2022.
9. Nobody knows when the first QB will be selected but it will be either Pickett or Willis.
The 2022 NFL Draft will also go down as one of the weaker quarterback drafts we’ve seen in a while. Kenny Pickett is probably most deserving as the first QB selected based on stats and his production at Pitt but even his ceiling has been questioned due to concerns about arm strength and hand size. Malik Willis is the most athletic QB in this draft with his running ability but I still think he needs plenty development and would benefit from sitting in his first season. The Steelers make a lot of sense for Malik at #20 and the Panthers will be linked to Pickett due to Matt Rhule’s relationship with him since Pickett’s high school days. Personally, I most enjoyed watching Matt Corral this past season as he has arm strength, athleticism, and good anticipation. He might be getting slept on just a bit in this class.
8. David Ojabo had an unfortunate Achilles injury at his pro day which will slide him to Round 2.
David Ojabo had a terrific season, racking up 11 sacks and 12 tackles for loss, for the Michigan Wolverines. Before his pro day, Ojabo was in consideration as a top 15 pick. He grew up in Nigeria and played all types of sports in Scotland and then New Jersey as football is a relatively new sport for him. His fast twitchiness and length have allowed to quickly get the hang of football and he has an extremely high ceiling as a linebacker who can pose a threat off the edge. The value of this intelligent young linebacker will be too good to pass up for teams in Round 2 despite his Achilles tear.
7. The linebackers in this draft class are being severely underrated.
The NFL places higher values on pass rushers and cornerback play recently so it’s not a huge surprise that linebackers don’t go as highly as they once did. We just discussed the fall of David Ojabo. But Devin Lloyd from Utah has all the makings of a potential top 10 pick who falls to a playoff contender in the 20s. He has the size and speed and ability to take away the football which can be game changing. Nakobe Dean is another linebacker who may be penalized for his small size but he played like a rocket missile. His energy is contagious as a strong leader for the national champion Georgia Bulldogs. If he’s available in the late first or early second round, Nakobe Dean will make his next team very happy.
6. Jermaine Johnson made others recognize him as a great player during this draft process.
Jermaine Johnson was not even regarded as a potential first round prospect in Kiper’s first mock draft. Now, he has the Florida state defensive end going #7 to the New York Giants. Immediately, Johnson impressed at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and he had the production to match at Florida State. Early on, he might’ve got knocked for being older for his draft class and leaving a Georgia program which was stacked defensively. But I believe Jermaine Johnson made the right decision playing to his strengths as edge rushing big fish in a small pool. He is extremely impressive; as I hear him speak, he sounds like a leader and someone who wants to prove he is a top NFL guy. Johnson is deserving of a top 10 selection and he has that bend and body type you want to see in a premium pass rusher.
5. There does not seem to be a consensus WR1 in this draft and that’s okay.
Last year, everyone and their mother knew Ja’Marr Chase would be the first wide receiver taken and the Bengals look pretty smart for picking this generational WR at #5. This year, there is no Chase but there seems to be healthy options of receivers available with many considered first round talents. They just come in different flavors. The national draft media has most likely gone with Garrett Wilson as the first receiver taken but I can see USC’s Drake London or Alabama’s Jameson Williams also take that honor. Wilson might be the safest receiver but I would roll the dice on London’s ability to be an X receiver putting up monstrous numbers in a few college games and the game changing speed of Williams. Chris Olave might be the best route runner in this draft and Treylon Burks can easily be a steal in the later first round (I’m looking at you 49ers if you trade Deebo Samuel).
4. Kyle Hamilton didn’t test well and it potentially will cost him being a top 10 pick.
In Kiper’s initial mock draft, Kyle Hamilton went in the top five and now is slated to go outside the top 10. The reason: hIs reported 40-yard dash time of 4.59s didn’t wow execs and may have run slower at his pro day. I personally don’t think that should stop a team in the top of the draft from selecting Hamilton. His game speed is very real and can close in on players quickly. By all accounts, he was a strong leader at Notre Dame. His position as a safety is why he won’t be selected in the top five but some team will get a steal in Kyle Hamilton especially with the rise of cover 2 defenses.
3. The rise of Sauce Gardner combined with the fall of Derek Stingley Jr.
Initially the top cornerback in Kiper’s mock draft was Derek Stingley Jr. going #8 to the Falcons and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner later going #12 to the Vikings. In his latest mock draft, they reversed spots. Sauce is now mocked to go as high as #2 overall to the Detroit Lions while Stingley Jr. goes #12. Teams have probably been impressed with not only Gardner’s tape (where college offenses preferred not to test Sauce) but also his extreme confidence in interviews. He is the self proclaimed best player in this draft and it’s hard not to have him as the top CB in this draft. Stingley Jr, however, hasn’t played enough recently to stick out in the minds of NFL decision makers. Although he ran reportedly in the low 4.40s at his pro day, I’m sure people would’ve preferred to see Stingley run at the combine due to his health concerns. He is still known as the natural wonder CB with great ball skills but Gardner has run away as the CB1 of this draft with his length and speed.
2. The draft will swing based on where Kayvon Thibodeaux falls.
Kayvon Thibodeaux might be the most polarizing player in the 2022 NFL Draft. While it may not seem like a big deal that Mel Kiper had him going #2 in his first mock draft and now #4 to the Jets, there has been talk that KT may fall to the latter half of the top 10. It’s pretty shocking considering that he was once considered as the best player let alone pass rusher in the draft. Watching his film, he certainly looks powerful off the edge and I’m not worried about the chatter that football isn’t the most important thing in his life. Maybe Thibodeaux’s confidence just rubs some NFL front offices and coaches the wrong way? The only question to me is that KT doesn’t have the same physical traits of a Myles Garrett or Aaron Donald but he doesn’t have to be those guys to be successful.
1. Nobody has won this draft more than Travon Walker.
In the beginning of draft season, Kiper had Georgia’s Travon Walker going #24 to the Cowboys and now has him going #3 overall to Houston. Recently, there have even been whispers the Jaguars are thinking about selecting Walker with the first pick. Out of all the Georgia first round defensive whiz prospects, Walker is most enticing due to his athleticism displayed at the combine. He put up some ridiculous numbers for his size so it’s not hard for teams to dream of Walker being the next great pass rusher. Although Walker doesn’t necessarily have the collegiate production you want to see in a top five pick, a team will take the chance to mold him. Kayvon Thibodeaux’s fall as a consensus top two edge rusher also may have helped to secure Walker seemingly going top three overall.