The 2022 NFL Scouting Combine is set to kick off this week at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It’s one of the best weeks of the NFL draft process because of how much it impacts the landscape of the first round and beyond. Players who are routinely mocked in the top-32 of 2022 NFL mock drafts will fall out of the first-round mix while prospects who’ve been pegged as day-two guys will suddenly make that jump into day one.
Before we get there, however, it’s worth taking a look at the latest 2022 NFL mock draft from USA Today. It’s one that continues the trending storyline of Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II’s ascent into the top-10 picks and has a surprise pick for the Denver Broncos at No. 9 overall.
Here are our takeaways from USA Today’s mock draft.
Jermaine Johnson off the board at No. 7 overall
USA Today’s Luke Easterling sends Johnson to the New York Giants at the seventh overall pick in a move that is a bit rich for my blood… right now. Johnson has a chance to exit the NFL Scouting Combine as one of the big winners, as he did following his performance at the 2022 Senior Bowl. If he runs, jumps, and lifts as impressively as he practiced in Mobile, Alabama, then yeah… he’s going to be a top-10 pick.
This is part of what makes the 2022 NFL Draft so unique. There’s as much of a chance that Johnson will be a top-10 pick as there is of him falling into the 20s. The early portion of round one remains extremely unsettled, which is why this year’s scouting combine is even more important than it usually is.
Evan Neal is the safe bet to go No. 1 overall
It’s beginning to feel like Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal has a strong grip on being the first overall pick. In Easterling’s mock, Neal is the Jacksonville Jaguars’ choice, and he’s now the odds-on favorite to go No. 1 in Vegas, too.
Is this an exciting pick? No. Is it the right pick? Absolutely.
The only chance the Jaguars have at becoming a relevant team in the AFC is Trevor Lawrence. And if he’s on his back more than he’s throwing passes downfield, that’s a problem. Enter Neal, who routinely dominated top SEC defenders throughout his career with the Crimson Tide.
The goal anytime a team has the first overall pick is to land a player who can be a high-impact starter for a decade. Neal is that guy; he’s the right choice.
Broncos pick linebacker over quarterback
This is the first big head-scratcher of Easterling’s mock draft. With Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett still on the board, Easterling sends the Denver Broncos linebacker Devin Lloyd. Sure, Lloyd is a top-notch prospect who is a plug-and-play starter, but the Broncos are a quarterback away from being a legitimate playoff team.
There’s a chance the Broncos end up with Aaron Rodgers, and if they do, adding a linebacker like Lloyd is a home run. But we can only predict what a team will do based on what we know right now, and for the Broncos, that means it’s quarterback or bust.
In this 2022 NFL mock draft, Easterling has Liberty’s Malik Willis headed to the Carolina Panthers with the sixth pick, which leaves Pickett sitting there… almost begging Denver to take him. He’s the perfect facilitator; a point guard of sorts. With the cast of skill players the Broncos already have on their roster, a distributor like Pickett is a perfect value meeting need scenario.
This was a big missed opportunity.