Soon it will all be over – the guesswork, the guesswork, the smoke barriers, the informed speculation, the uninformed speculation, and especially the billions of bogus drafts that generated countless pageviews and bouts of internet anger, but which is around 8:15 p.m. east time Thursday just as relevant as the draft samples published on Friday for 2022.
Predicting how the first round of the NFL draft will play out is a wasted exercise every year, especially this one after the pandemic hit the 2020 college football season. More than 100 Division I players chose not to play. the traditional scouting combine has been canceled; Teams’ efforts to create full profiles of prospects with limited movie and access to medical information have been hampered.
This lack of information increases the stakes for organizations, but not amateur forecasters, who have considered the randomness of their bogus designs but in all likelihood will only hit some of the 32 selection rounds. According to The Huddle Report, which evaluates bogus drafts after the actual report closes, only 13 of the 109 predictions last year got at least 10 picks right for the first round.
Some trends and themes have already emerged in this year’s projections. Some might even turn out to be true. Here you can see what forecasters expect – and what separates them from one another.
Quarterbacks are taken early – lots of them.
Five quarterbacks have never made it into the top 10 – the next was in 1999 when five were within the first 12 picks – but many forecasters believe this will be the year. Where opinions differ is after the first two picks expected to be used for Trevor Lawrence of Clemson (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Zach Wilson of Brigham Young (Jets).
Alabama’s Mac Jones is the most popular pick to land with the San Francisco 49ers, who swapped nine places in March to reach number 3. It has often been projected that Ohio state’s Justin Fields would finish 8th with the Carolina Panthers or the New England Patriots, who would likely have to move up from 15th to pick him up. NBC Sports’ Peter King wrote not to sack the Panthers despite acquiring Sam Darnold in a deal with the Jets earlier this month.
“Owner David Tepper has made no secret of the fact that finding a franchise quarterback has to be task one, two, three, and four for the team,” King wrote of Carolina. “Fields that fall on them make sense – even if that would destroy the new incumbent QB.”
The group is rounded off by Trey Lance from the state of North Dakota, who has only played once in an exhibition against Central Arkansas in October since 2019. Possible targets for him are Atlanta and Denver, which were traded for Teddy Bridgewater to compete with Drew Lock but could use a star to face Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City and Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers at AFC West.
“If you’re willing to be patient with Lance, the rewards could be far higher,” NFL.com’s Peter Schrager wrote of the Broncos. “No team wants to include the fifth quarterback in a draft. But not all teams ordered these QBs at the same time. “
The top 10 are mostly clear.
Aside from the quarterbacks, Florida’s Kyle Pitts, Louisiana’s recipient Ja’Marr Chase and Oregon’s Penei Sewell are offensive assailants. Since Denver picked Riley Odoms (you remember him, don’t you?) In 1972, the top 5 hasn’t seen a close finish, but Pitts could very well break that streak.
Analysts disagree on whether and in what order the other two elite recipients in the class, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle of Alabama, will be included in the top 10. Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, is projected ninth (for the Miami Dolphins) by Eric Eager and George Chahrouri of Pro Football Focus and 16th (for the Arizona Cardinals) by Dane Brugler of The Athletic.
“What a bargain if Smith falls this far,” wrote Brugler. “The Cardinals have solid roleplayers behind DeAndre Hopkins on the receiving depth map, and there arguably bigger team needs, but Arizona can’t pass Smith and his implications on this offensive.”
Waddle appears to have a higher draft limit, with King, Schrager and Danny Kelly expecting The Ringer to finish either sixth or seventh. But NFL.com’s Chad Reuter puts Waddle in 15th place with New England in an attempt to upgrade the Patriots’ temporary attack.
“Last month I projected this pairing and anticipated the departure of Julian Edelman,” wrote Reuter. “After Edelman announced his resignation, Wadel’s placement in the slot – and as a returnee – makes even more sense.”
Other ways to sneak into the top 10 include Rashawn Slater from the Northwest, linebacker Micah Parsons from Penn State and cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II from Alabama and Jaycee Horn from South Carolina.
When will the first defensive player be drafted?
Apart from 2012, a defensive player has been voted into the top 5 every year since 2005. This year, a defensive player may not make the top 5 due to the flood of talented quarterback prospects (and applicants for them) and excellent reception options 10.
Analysts agree that the first defensive player will be somewhere between seventh and twelfth, with Surtain, the son and namesake of the former Pro Bowl cornerback, the most likely candidate.
“With the big four-pass catchers (Pitts, Chase, Waddle, Smith) it makes sense for the Eagles to step up their defenses,” wrote Kelly, referring to Philadelphia’s number 12. “Surtain would be a great addition to that Philly’s secondary school gives length, athleticism, and natural covering instincts. “
For many years, including seven of the last eight years, a pass rusher is the first drafted defender. However, this position is not valued by forecasters who expect Kwity Paye of Michigan or Jaelan Phillips of Miami to be taken in the middle of the round.
In the Super Bowl era (since 1967), the last defensive player was the last to be drafted to seventh place in 1999 when the Washington Football team took over future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey. And only once during that time, only one defensive player was inducted into the top 10, Mean Joe Greene, who finished fourth with the Steelers in 1969.
Don’t expect a lot of running backs to be performed.
Given the overwhelming proportion of productive late-round or uncovered running backs, the teams tend not to underline them. In most of the mock drafts, neither one nor one is selected in the first round – either Najee Harris from Alabama or Travis Etienne from Clemson – and only in the second half. Neither Kelly nor Chahrouri and Eager expect a running back to take place on Thursday. King is an outlier if he picks two within the first 30 picks. King cites Pittsburgh’s miserable running game last season and sees Harris ranked 24th with the Steelers. Etienne, he wrote, fits Buffalo at number 30.
“I’m not a big fan of rushers in the first round, but the Bills are in top-off mode: which player can they use to improve a very good squad by one tick?” King wrote. “And Etienne, combined with the great weapons that are already on the offensive, would be a great addition to an offensive that averaged 31.3 points per game over the past year. It would give the defensive coordinators an additional headache. “