NFL Draft 2022: Which Players Might Get Drafted Too High?
The NFL playoffs may be ongoing, but fans of most franchises are already looking forward to the offseason.
The upcoming draft represents a chance for many of the teams that were eliminated early or missed out on the postseason entirely to improve in 2022.
The draft could also set organizations back, especially if they make a mistake in the early rounds. Whiffing on a first-rounder costs a club dearly in terms of draft capital and on-field talent, making rebuilds take even longer.
With that in mind, here are some prospects with a high chance of busting who have a realistic shot at being reached for in the upcoming draft.
QB Malik Willis, Liberty
The quarterback position isn't the strength of the 2022 draft class.
Even last year, a loaded class with five signal-callers coming off the board in the first round, only one ended up leading his team to the playoffs as a rookie and earned higher than a 64.2 PFF grade.
Regardless, there are still plenty of teams in dire need of a franchise QB. Many will be willing to expend a first-rounder on a flawed prospect to try and fill that void.
Organizations should think hard before investing premium draft capital on Malik Willis, though, as there are concerns surrounding the Liberty quarterback's ability to translate his game to the next level.
Willis has piled up huge numbers since transferring from Auburn in 2019, throwing for over 5,000 yards and 47 touchdowns while adding another 1,822 yards and 27 scores on the ground in two seasons.
However, much of that production came against subpar competition.
The 6'1", 215-pound quarterback has unpolished mechanics as well.
Bleacher Report's Scouting Department has put a third-round grade on the 22-year-old, citing inconsistent timing, erratic pocket movement and lack of familiarity with a pro-style offense.
Despite this, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. recently had the Flames star coming off the board at No. 11 overall to Washington, one of the squads more desperate for a promising prospect at the position.
Using that early of a pick on Willis, who has undeniable upside but an extremely low floor could be a costly mistake.
QB Carson Strong, Nevada
Carson Strong is a statuesque 6'4", 215-pound pocket-passer who can make all the throws, but his one-dimensional style of play could hurt his chances of success in the modern NFL.
The 22-year-old just finished up his three-year run as a starter with 139 rushing attempts for negative-305 yards.
Strong took 36 sacks this past season alone, while his longest rush in that span was a mere 13 yards.
While Strong possesses a cannon arm—which helped him complete 70 percent of his passes for 36 touchdowns against eight interceptions in 2021—the rest of his game leaves much to be desired.
Strong's mobility has been hindered further by a string of knee injuries and surgeries that have plagued him since high school.
That knee should be a major red flag for teams considering drafting Strong in the first round this year.
While Strong recently sat out Nevada's Quick Lane Bowl appearance, saying the time away from football helped his knee recover, it remains to be seen if his knee can withstand the grind of a 17-game NFL schedule.
Given the sheer amount of issues with it over the past few years, it's not a bet a team looking to turn its fortunes around should be making.
Even if Strong can stay healthy, he's an incomplete prospect who tends to hang onto the ball too much and force throws when pressured.
That, coupled with limited mobility, may result in him taking plenty of sacks and committing too many turnovers.
RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
Taking a running back early in any draft is a risky strategy.
While it can pan out well—the Steelers got plenty of mileage out of No. 24 pick Najee Harris, the first back off the board this past year—there has been a slew of first-round misses like Trent Richardson and David Wilson.
Even someone like Kenneth Walker III isn't a sure thing.
Despite coming in as the No. 1 RB prospect on many big boards, including the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's, it would still be a huge gamble to take the Michigan State product on day one.
Walker has undeniable upside and a real shot to be a three-down back in the NFL but only has one season of big-time production under his belt. He transferred from Wake Forest after rushing for 579 yards in both the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
He found his footing with the Spartans, exploding for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns on 263 totes.
While the Heisman-finalist was a playmaker in East Lansing, his game still needs work before he can become a star in the pros.
Walker's not a quality pass protector, one of the key skills a back needs to be trusted in an NFL offense. He's also had limited experience as a pass-catching back, hauling in just 13 receptions for 89 yards and a score in 2021, but he has at least flashed promise in that area.
At 5'10", 210 pounds, concerns about Walker's ability to take on a high volume of touches on a weekly basis are valid. It'd be a stretch to consider him a bell-cow back at the NFL level.
While B/R mocked Walker to the Dolphins at No. 22 recently, they could end up being disappointed by the returns from using such an early selection on a back.
With so many backs taken in the second round and later finding historical success, teams may be best served waiting rather than risking it all on Walker.
TE Trey McBride, Colorado State
There will be at least a handful of teams looking to improve their offense with the addition of a playmaking TE in the upcoming draft.
That could result in someone like Trey McBride coming off the board far earlier than he should.
The Colorado State star is regarded as one of the top players at his position in this class, with Bleacher Report's Scouting Department grading him out as a second-round prospect.
It's easy to see why a team could fall for McBride in the first round.
At 6'4", 260 pounds, the Rams product possesses good size for the position. He's a quality athlete that runs crisp routes and rarely drops the ball.
Still, McBride isn't a complete tight end and may never become one in the professional ranks.
There are knocks on his ability to block, something that will be difficult to hide against elite competition. He's also not going to make anyone miss or outrun many defenders when he does have the ball.
Perhaps most concerning is that McBride only notched one touchdown during the entire 2021 campaign. Already lacking red-zone area production in college, it's hard to envision him improving on that much.
While McBride could be a fit in offenses as a sure-handed safety valve on short throws, he's unlikely to evolve into anything resembling a game-changer.
If a team uses a first-round pick on him, they might be disappointed with the results.
Edge David Ojabo, Michigan
Few players have ascended big boards like Michigan's David Ojabo did during the 2021 campaign.
Ojabo entered the Wolverines' starting lineup this season for the first time and had a massive impact on the program. He finished the year with 35 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 14 games.
Those are noteworthy numbers, but the edge-rusher is still a risky pick for teams early in the upcoming draft.
Ojabo was not only a one-year starter at Michigan, but the Nigerian-born linebacker only began playing competitive football at the age of 17 when he moved from Scotland to New Jersey.
Scouts have since fallen in love with Ojabo for his athleticism, explosiveness and flexibility to disrupt in the backfield despite seeing limited tape.
There's still room for the 6'5", 250-pounder to put on some weight, something he'll have to do to evolve into more than a speed-rusher.
There are other drawbacks with Ojabo, including hand use that slightly improved in 2021 but won't be up to snuff in the NFL without further development.
It's unlikely he'll ever turn into much of a power-rusher either, which makes him rather predictable for opposing linemen.
The biggest concerns are centered around Ojabo's inexperience and lack of awareness.
While this stems from a limited amount of exposure to high-level play—Ojabo didn't see the field at all in 2019 and only earned 26 snaps during the 2020 season—it could take him some time to make his way onto the field regularly too.
Bleacher Report's Scouting Department foresees Ojabo having immense growing pains when it comes to run defense and struggles against pullers and kick-out blocks, making him a strict edge-setter unless he develops in that area.
B/R had Ojabo at No. 28 to the Cowboys in the latest mock, but Kiper had him going as early as No. 7 to the Giants.
Rolling the dice that early on this raw of a prospect would be a risk for any club that has holes at multiple positions.
CB Kyler Gordon, Washington
Kyler Gordon and Trent McDuffie are both Washington cornerbacks who could hear their name called on the first day of the 2022 NFL draft.
While each flashed plenty of skill and potential during their time with the Huskies, Gordon would be more of a reach than his teammate in the early rounds.
Washington lined Gordon up in both the slot and outside, and that versatility may help his stock, but he never consistently produced for the program.
Gordon only started one full season for the Huskies, never had an interception until this past year—securing two picks as a redshirt sophomore—and defended just 12 passes in 29 total appearances.
While the 21-year-old looks like a quality tackler for the position—recording 97 tackles in total, including 75 solo—and has plenty of strength packed into his 6'0", 200-pound frame, he's far from a complete prospect.
Much of Gordon's hype comes from his potential and athleticism. He posted a 42.5-inch vertical leap and completed the pro agility and three-cone drill in 3.87 and 6.52 seconds, respectively, in 2019.
Those may be impressive feats, but Bleacher Report's Scouting Department highlighted some of the negatives surrounding Gordon.
He's prone to getting burnt by faster wideouts and has hip tightness that makes him a liability in press coverage and against double-moves.
Gordon is not a corner that defensive coordinators will want tracking the ball on deep routes either, showing a tendency to miss plays down the field.
While there should be a spot for Gordon on an NFL roster, he won't raise his team's defensive capabilities.
Despite this, Gordon's athleticism could still help him come off the board early, with Kiper mocking him at No. 31 to the Titans.
B/R has a much more fitting third-round grade on Gordon, projecting him as a backup with a chance to crack the starting lineup.