The 2021 NFL regular season will come to an end once the final whistle blows in Week 18. Fourteen teams will advance to the playoffs, leaving 18 clubs to begin their preparations for 2022. Several of those teams will be searching for a new quarterback, and the 2022 NFL draft will give them a chance to land their QB-next in the first round.
Take the Detroit Lions, for example. Veteran Jared Goff has been downright brutal at times this season, and while his play has improved over the last month or so, there’s no doubt that general manager Brad Holmes will prioritize upgrading the position in some manner sooner than later.
Currently slated to pick second overall, the general theory is that the Lions will take one of the two blue-chip edge rushers — Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson or Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. Detroit has a second first-rounder from the trade that sent Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams, and if the season ended today, it’d be No. 30 overall. With how underwhelming this year’s quarterback class is, it’s assumed the Lions will wait until that selection (or later) before taking a swing on a passer.
But this is the NFL draft, after all, and anything is possible. Take the latest 2022 mock draft from USA Today’s Luke Easterling, who went outside the box and had the Lions picking their quarterback — Pitt’s Kenny Pickett — at No. 2 overall.
“Start getting comfortable with the idea of Pickett going higher than you might expect,” Easterling wrote. “He’s got many of the same traits that sent Joe Burrow flying up the board not too long ago, and a strong predraft process could easily convince a QB-needy team like the Lions that he can have the same kind of impact Burrow is having right now in Cincinnati.”
I love this take and applaud Easterling’s effort to be bold in his mock draft. Remember, the best mock drafts at this time of year offer scenarios that sometimes go against groupthink. And that’s what this pick does.
If Pickett emerges from the 2022 draft cycle as QB1, there’s no reason to bet against him ending the process as a top-five pick. And if he generates enough buzz about his upside, he could very easily be the second overall selection to the Lions. You may not think he deserves to be picked that high, but neither did Mitch Trubisky, Daniel Jones, or even Blake Bortles. Sure, those names don’t paint a pretty outlook for Pickett if he enjoys a meteoric rise up the first round, but that’s not the intent. Pickett profiles as a quality NFL starter; if a team overdrafts him, that’s on them. Not him.
Easterling’s mock has a few other surprises too, so make sure you check it out. One that stands out to me is how far he has Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton slipping — No. 9 overall to the Washington Football Team.
Hamilton may just be the best pure football player in the 2022 NFL Draft and I find it hard to believe (if not impossible) that he’ll fall outside the top five picks. But if a player like Pickett makes the kind of jump Easterling is predicting, someone has to fall. In this mock draft, it’s Hamilton.
For Easterling’s complete mock draft, click here.