NFL Draft 2022: Latest Order and Predictions for 1st-Round Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2022

NFL Draft 2022: Latest Order and Predictions for 1st-Round Prospects

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    The Jacksonville Jaguars are almost on the clock.

    Closing out the 2022 NFL season with a Week 18 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, which need a win to lock up their playoff berth, would give Jacksonville the top overall pick for the second year in a row. The Detroit Lions are the only other team who could land the selection.

    With only one weekend to go, the draft order is getting closer to crystallizing, so it makes sense to lay out the latest version. Playoff participants draft in order of postseason finishes, so that part of the board won't be fully set for weeks.

    After walking through the order, we'll make a pair of predictions about this year's talent grab.

Draft Order

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    1. Jacksonville Jaguars

    2. Detroit Lions

    3. Houston Texans

    4. New York Jets

    5. New York Giants

    6. Carolina Panthers

    7. New York Jets (via SEA)

    8. New York Giants (via CHI)

    9. Washington

    10. Atlanta Falcons

    11. Denver Broncos

    12. Cleveland Browns

    13. Minnesota Vikings

    14. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA)

    15. New Orleans Saints

    16. Baltimore Ravens

    17. Pittsburgh Steelers

    18. Las Vegas Raiders

    19. Philadelphia Eagles

    20. Los Angeles Chargers

    21. Philadelphia Eagles (via IND)

    22. Miami Dolphins (via SF)

    23. New England Patriots

    24. Arizona Cardinals

    25. Buffalo Bills

    26. Cincinnati Bengals

    27. Dallas Cowboys

    28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    29. Kansas City Chiefs

    30. Detroit Lions (via LAR)

    31. Tennessee Titans

    32. Green Bay Packers

Kenny Pickett Will Be First Quarterback Selected

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    The draft debates are many with this quarterback class, which lacks a clear top prospect or one expected to significantly challenge for the No. 1 spot. It could be a while before the first signal-caller comes off the board; it's possible the top five comes and goes without a quarterback getting selected.

    Teams will, of course, eventually target the most important position in the game, and they'll have several potential places to turn when they do. Ole Miss' Matt Corral, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder, Liberty's Malik Willis and North Carolina's Sam Howell all have their selling points.

    Ultimately, though, our crystal ball sees Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett leading this quarterback class. If nothing else, he arguably offers the best combination of ceiling and floor.

    That probably says everything you need to know about this class, since the 23-year-old finished each of the past two seasons with only 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. But when the light bulb finally clicked in 2021, he was spectacular. He broke Deshaun Watson's ACC record for touchdown passes with 42 and became Pitt's first player invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony since Larry Fitzgerald.

    Pickett pairs solid arm strength with excellent accuracy, and he's mobile enough to extend plays or break off the occasional run. He might peak closer to good than great, but that might be enough in this draft.

Four of First Five Picks Will Be Defenders

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    Without a clear-cut quarterback candidate to go No. 1, teams selecting at the top of this draft could instead focus on finding players who can make life miserable on opposing signal-callers.

    Edge-rushers Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon) seem destined for a two-player race to go No. 1. There are arguments to be made for both, and opinions could change from one front office to the next, but the simplest separation might be Hutchinson seems to have the higher floor while Thibodeaux boasts the higher ceiling.

    Hutchinson provides more polish, while the toolsy Thibodeaux offers more potential. The debate between them could carry on into draft week.

    The Lions and Jaguars are tied with one another for the second-fewest sacks this season (26). Whoever lands No. 1 should be thrilled to nab one of the edge-rushers, while the other should be equally giddy about their "consolation prize."

    While Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal seems locked into the top five, the other two picks could also go to the defensive side of the ball. LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton are the top prospects at their respective positions, and each can have an early (and significant) impact on an NFL defense.