Mel Kiper 2022 NFL Mock Draft: Willis to WFT, Pickett to Saints, Corral to Steelers

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 19, 2022

MOBILE, ALABAMA - DECEMBER 18: Malik Willis #7 of the Liberty Flames throws the ball during the first half of the LendingTree Bowl against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Hancock Whitney Stadium on December 18, 2021 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL draft class isn't littered with elite quarterback prospects, but ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. still has four going in the first round of his initial mock draft.

The draft guru has the Washington Football Team grabbing Liberty's Malik Willis at No. 11 overall, Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett going No. 18 to the New Orleans Saints, Ole Miss' Matt Corral going two picks later to the Steelers and North Carolina's Sam Howell rounding things out at No. 28 with the Detroit Lions. 

No consensus has been struck on which quarterback will go off the board first in April's draft—nor is it clear where the quarterbacks will land. The Lions are the only team selecting a quarterback in Kiper's mock we can reasonably rule out of trading for a veteran option.

The Steelers and Saints likely fashion themselves as Super Bowl contenders with a top-flight quarterback, and it's unlikely Washington wants to go into the third year of Ron Rivera's tenure with uncertainty at the position. While Detroit is certainly a potential landing spot for one of the names, it seems more likely the team uses 2022 as another rebuilding year before landing its quarterback of the future near the top of the 2023 draft.

Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are among the top names who could be available via trade this offseason. Even if both stay put, names like Matt Ryan, Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr could make the rounds.

Once the veteran quarterback situations are played out, Kiper seems to be honing in on Willis as his top quarterback. The draft guru highlights Willis' huge arm and scrambling ability, calling him the "most talented quarterback in this class."

While the Liberty product does not have much high-profile experience under his belt, he could be this year's Trey Lance, who starred at FCS South Dakota State before going No. 3 overall to the San Francisco 49ers.