Soon it will all be over – the guesses, hunches, smokescreens, educated speculation, uninformed speculation and, in particular, the billions of fake drafts, which have sparked untold pageviews and spells of internet rage. but that as of around 8:15 p.m. EST, Thursday will be as relevant as the mock drafts released Friday for 2022.
Scheduling the first round of the NFL Draft is a futile exercise every year, especially this one, after the pandemic hit the 2020 college football season. More than 100 Division I players have chosen not to play ; the traditional reconnaissance combine has been canceled; and teams’ efforts to compile comprehensive prospect profiles, with limited play film and access to medical information, have been compromised.
This lack of information increases the stakes for organizations, but not for amateur tipsters, who have factored in randomness into their fake drafts, but will likely only nail a few of the 32 first-round picks. According to The Huddle Report, which rates simulated drafts after the live version concluded, only 13 of 109 predictions last year got at least 10 first-round picks.
Some trends and themes have already emerged in this year’s projections. Some might even turn out to be true. Here’s a look at what forecasters expect to happen – and what divides them.
Shifts will be taken early – a lot of them.
Never have five quarterbacks placed in the top 10 – the closest was in 1999, when five of them were in the top 12 – but many forecasters believe it will be the year. Where opinions diverge is after the top two picks, which should be used for Trevor Lawrence of Clemson (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Zach Wilson of Brigham Young (Jets).
Mac Jones of Alabama is the most popular choice to land with the San Francisco 49ers, who traded nine spots in March to secure the No. 3 Justin Fields of Ohio State has often been screened to land with the Carolina Panthers at No.8 or with the New England Patriots, who would likely have to drop from No.15 to take it. NBC Sports’ Peter King wrote not to fire the Panthers, even though they acquired Sam Darnold in a trade with the Jets this month.
“Owner David Tepper made no secret that finding a franchise quarterback has to be one, two, three and four work for the team,” King wrote of Carolina. “The fields assigned to them make sense, even if it would crush the new outgoing QB.”
Rounding out the group, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, who has only played once since 2019, in an exhibition against central Arkansas in October. Potential destinations for him include Atlanta and Denver, who traded for Teddy Bridgewater to rival Drew Lock, but could use a star to face Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert in the AFC West.
“If they’re willing to be patient with Lance, the rewards could be much greater,” NFL.com’s Peter Schrager wrote of the Broncos. “No team wants to take the fifth quarterback in a draft. But not all teams ordered these QBs in the same way. “
The top 10 is generally clear.
Beyond quarterfinals, the early starters are tight end Kyle Pitts of Florida, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase of Louisiana and offensive tackle Penei Sewell of Oregon. No tight end has been drafted into the top five since Denver selected Riley Odoms (remember him, right?) In 1972, but Pitts could very well break that streak.
Analysts are divided on whether and in what order the other two elite receivers in the class, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle of Alabama, will be in the top 10. Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, is expected to reach ninth (at the Miami Dolphins), by Eric Eager and George Chahrouri of Pro Football Focus, and as low as 16th (at the Arizona Cardinals), by Dane Brugler of The Sportif.
“What a flight if Smith falls this far,” Brugler wrote. “The Cardinals have some solid players behind DeAndre Hopkins on the receiving depth chart, and the team’s needs are arguably greater, but Arizona can’t pass Smith and his impact in this offense.
Waddle appears to have a higher draft cap, with King, Schrager and Danny Kelly of The Ringer expecting him to be sixth or seventh. But NFL.com’s Chad Reuter landed Waddle with New England, at No.15, to improve the Patriots’ passing offense.
“Last month I screened this couple, anticipating Julian Edelman’s departure,” Reuter wrote. “Now that Edelman has announced his retirement, Waddle’s placement in the lunge – and as a turner – makes it even After meaning.”
Other opportunities to sneak into the top 10 include offensive tackle Rashawn Slater of Northwestern, linebacker Micah Parsons of Penn State and cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II of Alabama and Jaycee Horn of South Carolina.
When will the first fielder be drafted?
Outside of 2012, a defensive player has been picked in the top five every year since 2005. This year, with the glut of talented quarterbacks (and contenders for them) and excellent receiving options, a defensive player may not. not be caught in the top ten.
The consensus among analysts is that the first defensive player will go from seventh to twelfth, with Surtain, the son and namesake of the former Pro Bowl cornerback, as the most likely candidate.
“With the big four pass catchers (Pitts, Chase, Waddle, Smith) all off the board, it makes sense that the Eagles are looking to bolster their defense,” Kelly wrote, referring to Philadelphia’s 12th pick. “Surtain would be a great addition, bringing length, athleticism and natural covering instincts to Philly high school.”
For many years, including in seven of the last eight, a passer is the first defenseman drafted. But that position does not appear to be appreciated by forecasters, who expect Michigan’s Kwity Paye or Miami’s Jaelan Phillips to be caught in the middle of the round.
During the Super Bowl era (since 1967), the last defensive player was drafted in 7th place in 1999, when the Washington football team took on future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey. And only once in that span has only one defensive player been caught in the top 10, Mean Joe Greene, who went fourth to the Steelers in 1969.
Don’t expect a lot of back to back to be taken.
Given the preponderance of productive running backs late in the round or not drafted, teams tend not to draft them high. Most simulation projects have none or only one chosen in the first round – either Najee Harris of Alabama or Travis Etienne of Clemson – and not until the second half. Neither Kelly nor Chahrouri and Eager predict that a running back will be taken on Thursday. By picking two to go in the top 30 picks, King is an outlier. Citing the miserable Pittsburgh running game last season, King sees Harris join the Steelers at No.24. Etienne, he writes, is an adjustment with Buffalo at No.30.
“I’m not a big fan of the rushers in the first round, but the Bills are in top-off mode: which player can they use to roster a really good tick?” King wrote. And Etienne, combined with the excellent weapons already present on offense, would be a very good addition to an offense that averaged 31.3 points per game last year. It would be an additional puzzle for the defensive coordinators to solve.