We’ve almost made it. The 2022 NFL Draft is just over one month away, and after a full year of player evaluations, position rankings, and mock drafts, we’ll soon find out what the NFL thinks of this year’s NFL draft prospects.
But this can also be the most painful month of the draft process. Mock drafts get wild in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, and the latest mock draft from NFL.com’s Chad Reuter is a great example.
Reuter published a four-round mock draft this week and it featured an incredible run on quarterbacks in the first 32 picks.
Here are the main takeaways from Reuter’s mock draft.
So much for quarterbacks sliding in the first round
In this NFL.com mock draft, two quarterbacks — Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett — are selected with the second and third overall picks. Willis goes to the Lions at No. 2, while Pickett is the Falcons’ choice to replace Matt Ryan in a trade up to No. 3.
“The trade of Matt Ryan to the Colts seemed a fait accompli after Atlanta’s failed attempt to land Deshaun Watson,” Reuter wrote. “Picking up Marcus Mariota is a nice insurance policy, but the Falcons find their future starter by trading up for Pickett, giving up a 2023 first-round pick as well as a second- and fourth-rounder this year. ”
I don’t hate the idea of a quarterback-needy team trading up to land Pickett, but I’m not sure why a club like the Falcons would have to be so aggressive. Sure, the Panthers at No. 6 are the big threat to take Pickett ahead of them (at No. 8), but the dropoff from Pickett to, say, Matt Corral isn’t significant enough, in my opinion, to trade away a first-round pick in 2023 to make the jump. Instead, the Falcons should let the quarterback class fall to them; whoever is on the board when they pick, that should be their guy.
As for Willis? He seems to be the odds-on favorite to be the Lions’ pick at No. 2 at this point. I’m not a fan if that happens, but there’s no denying his massive ceiling. And with Jared Goff on the roster as a perfect veteran bridge to 2023, there is a way to make sense of the logic. Still, Willis is a ways away from being ready to start an NFL game. Detroit better have a good plan for him if they decided to make such a hefty investment in the Liberty star.
The quarterback party continues!
I’ll be surprised if more than two quarterbacks are selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. But in this mock draft, Reuter has five — yes, FIVE — quarterbacks coming off the board in Round 1.
Corral is the No. 6 pick to the Panthers; Desmond Ridder goes 12th to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who trade up for him; and Sam Howell goes 15th to the Tennessee Titans, who also make a trade to move up.
This. Is. Crazy.
I think there’s a chance Corral could sneak into the latter portion of the first round. Ridder is in that mix, too. But I can’t imagine any scenario that Howell is a first-round pick, let alone a quarterback who gets drafted in the top 15.
The Steelers remain in the quarterback market despite their decision to sign Mitch Trubisky. It’s a transaction that will allow them to kick the quarterback can down the road a bit — I think they’ll target a passer in the second-round market now.
The Titans are a complete surprise as a team that selects a quarterback in the first round of this mock draft. Ryan Tannehill is a quality NFL starter and he’s under contract through the 2023 season. At 33 years old, he has plenty of juice left in his arm. They aren’t taking a quarterback in the first round. No shot.
Ikem Ekwonu falls to No. 9 overall
Ekwonu falling out of the top five picks is almost as big of a surprise as five quarterbacks going in the first round. There’s a reasonable chance that Ekwonu is the first player drafted in April, and with a grade that high, there’s no way teams will watch him fall this far without making a trade to go up and get him.
The Seahawks are the lucky beneficiary of Ekwonu’s fall in this mock draft, which is pretty bizarre. In a mock draft that’s so quarterback-heavy, Seattle should be a prime target to take one. Instead, they land Ekwonu, who has All-Pro potential as an offensive tackle with the kind of natural athleticism, power, and IQ to be a star.
Don’t get your hopes up, Seahawks fans. Ickey won’t be there when you pick.
Drake London is WR1
This is a prediction I can get behind. In Reuter’s mock draft, the USC star wide receiver goes to the Washington Commanders at No. 11 overall. The biggest surprise with this projection is that the next pass-catcher doesn’t come off the board until No. 19 overall, when the Philadelphia Eagles snag Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson. It’s a sizeable gap between two players who’ve risen to the top of the wide receiver class in most NFL mock drafts.
London has an appealing blend of elite size and length and profiles similarly to today’s top big-bodied targets like Mike Evans. He has an extremely high floor as a prospect because of his status as a receiver who’s open even when he’s covered. Guys like that tend to provide a baseline of production that justifies a first-round grade. For the Commanders, London would be the perfect complement to Terry McClaurin, who has more of a field-flipping skill set.