NFL draft 2022 buzz notebook, rumors and first-round chaos picks

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Who doesn’t love some chaos in the NFL draft? That’s among the topics analysts Matt Miller and Jordan Reid are talking through in this week’s notebook, looking at the pivot picks in Round 1 that could shake up the rest of the class. We’re talking about the what-if scenarios that might cause other teams to scramble, including what could happen at Nos. 1 and 2, where there’s still some mystery.

With less than two weeks until Round 1 begins on April 28 (8 p.m. ET on ESPN and ABC), Miller and Reid also discuss the most likely team to trade up, contemplate pick floors for top defenders Derek Stingley Jr., Kayvon Thibodeaux and Kyle Hamilton and dive into everything else they heard over the past week. Those notes include nuggets on Travon Walker, Kaiir Elam, Drake Jackson, Nick Cross and more prospects, along with which players the Cowboys and Giants might be targeting with their first-round selections.

Let’s get into their latest notebook, starting with two big questions:

Jump to a big topic:
Pick floors for three defenders
Six picks that could cause chaos
Are the Jags locked in at No. 1?
Two sleeper prospects to watch
Why this team could trade up
Which prospect do the Giants ‘love’?

The big questions: Trades and pick floors

Which team is most likely to trade up in the first round?

Reid: The team that seems destined for a move up is the Saints, who just added an extra 2022 first-round pick in a deal with the Eagles, while sending Philadelphia a 2023 first-rounder and a 2024 second-rounder. Whenever a team gives up future early-round capital — especially weeks before the draft — that often signals that it is targeting a quarterback.

The Saints could package Nos. 16 and 19 to maneuver higher up the board, and they have the capital to get to No. 5 to leapfrog their NFC South foe Panthers at No. 6. With Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton on the roster, they have a bridge option and could try to groom a young signal-caller behind them, likely Malik Willis (Liberty) or Kenny Pickett (Pitt).

It’s widely speculated that the Panthers could be targeting a quarterback, and the Saints could be slowly making their way up, similar to how the Eagles did during the 2016 draft when positioning themselves to trade up to No. 2 to select Carson Wentz.


What is the pick floor for Derek Stingley Jr., Kayvon Thibodeaux and Kyle Hamilton?

Miller: These three prospects were once thought to be likely go in the top three, but now there are questions about how far each could drop. Here’s how I see the realistic pick floors — the furthest they could fall — in Round 1:

For Stingley, the LSU cornerback, the Vikings at No. 12 feels like the absolute bottom of his range. The Vikings have had a lot of success drafting LSU players (Justin Jefferson, Danielle Hunter) and have Patrick Peterson there to mentor Stingley.

I don’t see Thibodeaux dropping past the Jets at No. 10. The Oregon edge rusher had a strong pro day performance, and there is still chatter that he could go in the top three, with the Texans as a wild card. The Seahawks (No. 9) are also an option.

Hamilton is harder to peg because the Notre Dame safety’s positional value and a slower-than-expected 40-yard dash time seem to have cooled his stock. I see the No. 15 and the Eagles as his floor. He’s a top-five prospect on my board because of his toughness, physicality and playmaking skills, but not every team will value a safety that high.

Where could chaos happen in Round 1?

We’ve all seen various mock drafts over the past few weeks predicting the most likely outcome for every pick in Round 1, but those don’t always go to plan. We looked at six draft slots that could mix things up. These are unlikely-but-possible scenarios that would drastically affect how the first round plays out.

No. 1: Jacksonville Jaguars

For the first time since 2018 — when Baker Mayfield was a surprising selection at No. 1 overall — we have real intrigue at the top of the draft. We think the Jaguars will select pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan), but it’s not set in stone, as the Jags have been linked to defensive end Travon Walker (Georgia) and could still consider offensive tackles Ikem Ekwonu (NC State) and Evan Neal (Alabama).

If they take Walker or a lineman, you have to think the Lions would pounce on Hutchinson and keep him in the state. — Miller

No. 2: Detroit Lions

With so many holes on the roster, this Lions pick is a toss up. Pass-rusher is one of their biggest needs, and going with a quarterback — they could have their pick of the class here — could cause some chaos in the top 10.

But what about a cornerback? That’s the direction Mel Kiper Jr. went in his latest two-round mock draft, with Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (Cincinnati) projected to Detroit. The Lions lack high-end front-seven talent, but they could choose to beef up the best part of their defense with Gardner. That would ensure that two of the top edge rushers — Hutchinson, Walker and Thibodeaux — are on the board for Houston at No. 3. — Reid

No. 6: Carolina Panthers

What if Carolina doesn’t take a quarterback? An offensive tackle — maybe Charles Cross (Mississippi State)? — might make the most sense given the needs and value of the selection, but a trade back and/or a quarterback selection could start a wild domino effect.

The Panthers don’t have any picks in Rounds 2 or 3 and could look to slide back a few spots to recoup draft capital while getting into a more comfortable position to select quarterback Kenny Pickett. The problem with trading back? You have to find a team that wants to move up, which isn’t always easy. — Miller

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Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay go through the Panthers’, Seahawks’ and Steelers’ draft needs and whether they could each select a quarterback in the first round.

No. 9: Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are a team with a unique draft board that is always impossible to predict. They have made a few surprising Round 1 picks recently, with running back Rashaad Penny (2018), defensive end L.J. Collier (2019) and linebacker Jordyn Brooks (2020) leaving many people scratching their head.

With the No. 9 pick and needs at several important positions, there are many different directions they could go. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them shy away from the consensus again — and cause some chaos for the Jets at No. 10. — Reid

No. 16: New Orleans Saints

The Saints already shook up the draft by trading with the Eagles to move into picks Nos. 16 and 19. As Jordan mentioned above, packaging those picks to move into the top 10 to take a quarterback could change all of Round 1.

If New Orleans keeps its picks, I expect it to take a left tackle and wide receiver. But if the front office views Willis or Pickett as franchise quarterbacks, the Saints have the capital to make a huge move up the board. — Miller

No. 20: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are another team to watch in the quarterback race. General manager Kevin Colbert, coach Mike Tomlin and pro scouting coordinator Brandon Hunt have been present at the pro day of each signal-caller over the past month. With Mitch Trubisky on a short-term bridge deal, they have a hole for a long-term answer at quarterback.

Another thing to consider: Pittsburgh owned the No. 20 pick in the 2019 draft — and traded up 10 spots to take linebacker Devin Bush. The organization has a history of making a move for the guy it wants. If the Steelers don’t go quarterback, they could look to add a player in the secondary or bolster the trenches on either side of the ball. — Reid

News, notes and everything we heard this week

Miller: Talk to people around the league this week and you’re destined to hear whispers that the Jaguars could select Georgia defensive end Travon Walker with the No. 1 overall pick. Walker, who turned heads at the combine with a 4.51-second 40-yard-dash at 272 pounds, is being touted as a kind of Aldon Smith-like pass-rusher for Jacksonville general manager Trent Baalke, who drafted Smith in San Francisco.

Are we buying it, though? Two weeks before the draft is when these types of stories come up, and the Jaguars could be trying to drum up interest in trading for the No. 1 pick. Time will tell what the Jaguars do, but it’s hard to imagine an embattled general manager going away from the safe pick of Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson.

Reid: Speaking to a few NFL scouts now that the pro day frenzy has settled down, Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam is one name repeatedly brought up as a player who was impressive during his workout and could go higher than expected. At 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds, Elam has great technique as a press-man corner and can consistently affect throwing windows.

With the corners expected to come off the board quickly, Elam — who I have ranked No. 4 at the position — could be selected as high as the Bills at No. 25.

Miller: Keep an eye on Maryland safety Nick Cross early on Day 2. Scouts I’ve spoken to believe he has the tools to be a surprise top-50 pick after starring at the combine. Cross, at 6-foot and 212 pounds, has the size teams look for at free safety. His 4.34 40 speed doesn’t hurt, either. With measurables that excited evaluators, a recheck of Cross’ tape moved him way up my big board (No. 51 overall).

Reid: One player who has crushed the pre-draft process? USC edge rusher Drake Jackson. The biggest question scouts wanted answered was: Why did his weight fluctuate so much in college? After entering campus at nearly 270 pounds, his weight reportedly dropped to as low as 235 pounds in 2020 prior to beefing back to 250 pounds, which is where his weight hovered around last season.

One of the youngest prospects in this class — he turned 21 on April 12 — scouts are intrigued by him as a 3-4 outside linebacker. As a sophomore, he showed flashes of being able to drop in coverage, but as a junior last season, he showed the ability to bend and win the corner, picking up five sacks. Consistency in big games was an issue when talking to scouts, but the versatility and the upside as a stand-up outside linebacker could result in him being an early second-round pick.

Miller: We all love sleeper picks, and one player I’m hearing a ton of late buzz on is Northern Iowa wide receiver Isaiah Weston. At 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, Weston nearly jumped out of Lucas Oil Stadium during his combine performance with a vertical of 40 inches and a broad jump of 135 inches. He also put up a respectable 20 reps on the bench press and ran a 4.42 40. Weston led the FCS with 23.9 yards per catch in 2021.

Reid: Can I one up your sleeper pick, Matt? Here’s a deep sleeper whose name has come up when I’ve talked to scouts: Lenoir-Rhyne wide receiver Dareke Young. His testing numbers stood out while participating in pro day at UNC Charlotte. Measuring at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, he ran a 4.47 40 and jumped an eye-popping 11-feet, 3 inches in the broad jump to go along with 37 inches in the vertical.

Having seen Young during practices at the East-West Shrine Game, it didn’t take long for him to stand out physically. He’s the exact type of prospect teams should target in the late rounds or as a priority free agent. He was the ultimate weapon in the Bears’ Wing-T offense, taking carries from the backfield while also being a receiving threat. Because of that, he’s underdeveloped as a route runner because of his lack of exposure on the perimeter. A strong runner after the catch, Young has received draftable grades from multiple teams that view him as a late-round project.

Miller: We all expect a lot of trade activity throughout the first several rounds of the draft, and one team to keep an eye on is the Cowboys. Having had a look at their visits list and seeing comments from owner Jerry Jones about being open to trading up from No. 24 overall, it seems likely they could look to mortgage some future draft capital to secure a higher pick.

The Cowboys have been heavily linked to wide receivers throughout the pre-draft process and could be targeting a move up to land Garrett Wilson (Ohio State) or Jameson Williams (Alabama).

Reid: Scouts and front-office execs will gather at USC on Friday for the long-awaited private workout for wide receiver Drake London. Viewed as a likely top-12 selection, his workout was originally scheduled for April 5, but a nagging hamstring injury forced him to push it back. The 6-foot-4 London played just 10 games last season before breaking his ankle and undergoing surgery. He didn’t work out at the combine, which means his pro day is extremely important.

Miller: Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross has been making the rounds on pre-draft visits, and one team has shown a ton of interest, according to sources: the Giants. With pick Nos. 5 and 7 in the first round, they might miss out on top tackles Ikem Ekwonu and Evan Neal, which could put them in prime position to draft the former Bulldog tackle.

One source I spoke to noted the Giants “love” Cross at right tackle, where he has not started a game in college but has spent considerable time working out this offseason.



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