Now that it’s officially the NFL offseason, that means it’s actually officially NFL Draft season.
It’s truly a no-days-off type of league, and that’s never been more apparent as ESPN Draft analyst Todd McShay released his first 2022 NFL mock draft of the offseason just three days after the Super Bowl. His mock has plenty of interesting notes and selections, which we’ll dive into here.
The first thing that jumps out is what happens at the top of the draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars have a ton of places they desperately need to upgrade. They need some new wide outs, tight ends, pass rushers and even DBs. But the area McShay thinks they target with the top overall selection is on the offensive line with Alabama OT Evan Neal.
It makes sense, the Jags have three starters along the line who are set to become free agents and Neal would honestly be an upgrade over Cam Robinson, the team’s current left tackle. Protecting Trevor Lawrence is clearly top priority for Jacksonville if they make this pick, would just be odd to leave Aidan Hutchinson, who is ranked as McShay’s top overall prospect, on the board. It would also be the first time an offensive lineman is selected first overall since 2013 and only the fifth time ever in the modern draft era.
It’s also a bit surprising Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux doesn’t come off the board until the New York Giants select at the fifth overall spot. It would be a good spot for him, but many are considering him the top prospect in the draft over Hutchinson, so to see him drop to five would be strange.
McShay has the Panthers pick Sauce Gardner, a DB out of Cincinnati, even though the organization has a total mess under center. Gardner is a stellar athlete and a true technician at cornerback. Carolina used a top-10 pick on a corner last season too, Jaycee Horn. So the pairing of Gardner and Horn would be fantastic for the foreseeable future, just a bit weird to attack the same position group in the first round of two straight drafts, especially considering how many other spots Carolina needs to upgrade.
The final thing that’s notable in this mock draft is all about the quarterbacks. We all know that this year’s QB class is nothing to write home about in comparison to recent years. It makes sense why there are zero signal-callers going in McShay’s top 10 picks. But where it gets strange is that he has four (Kenny Pickett to the Commanders, Malik Willis to the Steelers, Matt Corral to the Saints and Sam Howell to the Lions) in the final 22 picks of the first round.
A couple of these make sense, Pickett is the most pro-ready of the group and Willis had a head-turning Senior Bowl performance that made his draft stock skyrocket back into the first round. But the other two seem like a bit of a reach, especially with all the legitimate first-round talent at other positions still on the board, and considering that both those teams need help pretty much everywhere on the field. But, it’s the NFL and quarterbacks are always going to be at a premium, so GMs are always going to reach for one if they think he has even the slightest chance of panning out.
Give Todd McShay’s full mock draft a look here.