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Thursday, September 29, 2022

2022 NFL Draft guide

Major storylines, top players and more as we approach one of the most unpredictable drafts in recent memory

 

By OMAR NAVARRO — sports@theaggie.org

 

With the NFL Draft inching closer, the only thing we know at the moment is where the teams are picking — and even that is subject to change. Despite this year’s class not having that elite quarterback name that could change the trajectory of a franchise, it is a draft that will almost certainly provide teams with incredible players at other positions that can have a major impact from day one. From who’s getting drafted first overall to will there even be a quarterback drafted in the first round, this is the first draft in recent memory that there seems to be no consensus on who’s going where.

 

Who’s No. 1?

With the Jaguars holding the No. 1 pick again this year, their selection isn’t as set in stone as it was last year. After picking quarterback Trevor Lawrence last year, the Jaguars are looking to add a high-impact player to a team that needs a lot of rebuilding. Although Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux was ranked as the No. 1 prospect throughout the fall, the consensus has changed. As it stands, Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson has the best odds to be the first overall selection. The 2021 Big Ten Conference Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year had a dominating season that saw him finish second in the Heisman Trophy voting. 

With 14 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss, the standout defensive end gained momentum as the season went on — non more than a dominating performance against Ohio State. Whether it’s Hutchinson or an offensive tackle like North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu or Alabama’s Evan Neal, 2022 will be only the second time since 2015 a quarterback is not selected with the number one overall pick — the last being Browns DE Myles Garrett in 2017. 

 

Where will the quarterbacks go?

This is the question that a lot of people have speculated about, but none know for sure. Headlined by Liberty QB Malik Willis, Pitt QB Kenny Pickett and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, this year’s quarterback class doesn’t have a guarantee on who will be the first quarterback selected. If you search between different mock drafts, you are likely to find that everyone has their own opinion on who will go in the first round — if they even think anyone will. 

According to Vegas Insider, Willis is favored to be the first quarterback selected. Even if some analysts believe that no quarterback in this year’s draft is a top 10 overall player, need will always trump that — especially at the most valuable position in the sport. Looking at the teams with the first 10 picks, the Carolina Panthers (#6), Atlanta Falcons (#8) and Seattle Seahawks (#9) standout as the teams that might roll the dice and select a quarterback. What these three teams have in common is no quarterback of the future. What they decide to do here can have ripple effects on the entire draft as the Washington Commanders (#11), New Orleans Saints (#16, #19) and others might be in the running for a new man under center if a player they like were to fall. 

 

Wide receivers at a premium

After the record-setting deals given to WR’s Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill this offseason, the wide receiver market has changed forever. This may have a ripple effect for this year’s draft, as it has now become another position (like a quarterback) where a team must take advantage of their rookie contract. As it stands, the belief is that five wide receivers will be taken in the first round. Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson has a slim odds advantage over USC’s Drake London for being the first WR selected with Jameson Williams, Treylon Burks and Chris Olave behind them. 

After teams like the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs traded their star receivers this offseason, they will surely be in the running to select at least one of them on Day One. With multiple first round picks and other draft capital, both teams will also be able to trade up if they feel great about one in general. Even outside of the top five, the position is loaded this year with Jahan Dotson, Christian Watson and Skyy Moore continuing to rise on some boards. The WR position has been one that has gotten more and more talented as the years progressed. With the passing game being such an important part of modern NFL offenses, the position is more important than ever — and the 2022 draft will continue to show it. 

 

Who’s rising and who’s falling?

Going back to a previous point about quarterbacks based on need, players like Ridder and Ole Miss’ Matt Corral have an opportunity to sneak into the first round if a team really wants them. WR Christian Watson from North Dakota State is another player who has gotten some momentum recently as his size, athleticism and quickness are all traits that teams around the league feel like they could mold. While other players who were projected in the late first round have risen to the middle like WR Jameson Williams, CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and QB Malik Willis, none have risen to the level of Georgia DE Travon Walker. Since March 1, Walker has seen his name in mock drafts rise from 17-20 position to almost a lock to be a top five pick — even No. 1 overall in some. His versatility, great tape and pre-draft testing has a lot of people thinking he will be one of the first names called in 2022. 

In terms of those who might be slipping, none have gone to the degree of Oregon’s DE Kayvon Thibodeaux. As mentioned, he went from likely No. 1 overall pick to maybe getting chosen at the end of the top 10 or even outside of it. Whether it was injuries late in the season or questions about his passion for football, he has fallen a considerable amount for the player he is. On tape, Thibodeaux deserves to be one of the top three players selected in this draft so his fall has been interesting to see. Another player who saw their name in the top five and now is falling is Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. His testing numbers not being good plus his position has many having second thoughts on where he might be selected. It remains to be seen where teams rank him, but having him fall outside the top 10 now seems to be a realistic possibility. 

 

Most draft capital, least draft capital

This draft is interesting due to the fact that many teams hold multiple first round picks. Both New York teams, the Giants and the Jets, hold two top 10 picks respectively. This allows them to have a lot of flexibility, as they could pick two premier players in the top 10 or trade down and accumulate more draft capital. A rare occurrence, eight different teams hold two first round picks in this year’s draft. Seven teams hold five Top 100 picks, including contenders like the Chiefs and Green Bay Packers.

On the flip side, after a huge offseason highlighted by the acquisition of WR Tyreek Hill, the Miami Dolphins hold only four picks in the entirety of the draft — and they don’t pick until the bottom of the third round. They can always use future draft capital if needed, but they will have to nail these picks. The Raiders have five picks, but do hold some in the middle of the draft while the Super Bowl Champion Rams don’t late third round. However, the Rams do hold eight total picks and have more of a possibility to move around if needed. While these picks may not seem like much, the later rounds of the draft are what elevates contenders and also what can hurt some waiting to get over the hump.

 

Expect the unexpected

This year more than others in recent memory, there is no such thing as a guarantee. With teams doing their final due diligence, things may change and it feels like the majority of people do not know what to expect. Whether it be by trades, players going earlier or later than expected, it is shaping up to be a surprising draft filled with a lot of storylines. The NFL Draft is where the elite teams reinforce and the bad teams stay bad and with so many impact players available this year, there’s a great chance a lot of the players that hear their name called will have a major impact every Sunday from the beginning. 

 

Written by: Omar Navarro — sports@theaggie.org

 

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