Peter Schrager NFL Mock Draft 2022 1.0: 4 QBs in 1st Round, Sauce Gardner to JetsApril 7, 2022
While there's been much talk about this year's relatively weak quarterback class, multiple signal-callers could still hear their names called in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
At least that's the way NFL Network's Peter Schrager sees things going, according to a mock draft released on Thursday. Schrager has Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett going sixth to the Carolina Panthers, leading a group of four quarterbacks projected to go in the first round.
The other signal-callers taken in the opening round include Liberty's Malik Willis (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ole Miss' Matt Corral (Seattle Seahawks) and Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder (Detroit Lions).
Also notable is the selection of cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner by the New York Jets inside the top five. Here's a look at the complete mock draft:
The quarterback class is generating a lot of attention leading up to the draft, which kicks off April 28, because there's virtually no consensus on how things are going to play out.
Pickett is the safest bet coming off a senior season in which he tallied 42 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions across 13 games for the Panthers, but Willis presents the most upside if he can overcome some accuracy issues from his time with the Flames.
Corral and Ridder are also in the top-quarterback conversation, while UNC's Sam Howell is a sleeper candidate. Howell was mentioned as a potential No. 1 overall pick entering last season before he endured an up-and-down final campaign with the Tar Heels.
The situation is complicated by an uncertain outlook about which teams are targeting a signal-caller in the first round. There are obvious candidates, like the Panthers, Lions and Seahawks, but there are also squads like the Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles that could take a QB early with an eye toward the future.
It's going to make for an interesting draft night as teams who are looking at quarterbacks could end up jockeying for position via trades.
Meanwhile, Gardner is coming off a season with the Bearcats in which he was voted AAC Defensive Player of the Year and named a consensus All-American.
It capped a productive three-year college career that saw him record 99 total tackles, 16 passes defended, nine interceptions, 3.5 sacks and two touchdowns in 33 games.
In March, Gardner explained at the NFL Scouting Combine why he's the top corner in the 2022 class.
"My competitive spirit, my love for the game," Gardner told reporters about what sets him apart. "I truly believe I'm the best cornerback. I put the work in. Unseen work in required hours, just making sure I lead by example. I'm not a smoker, not a drinker. Never have, never will. Just make sure I do all the little things right."
His arrival would be a welcome sight for a Jets defense that ranked 30th in passing yards allowed per game (259.4) and recorded the second-fewest interceptions (seven) last season.
New York still has several other needs, including wide receiver and linebacker, so it's not a lock it'll go with Gardner despite the obvious fit.