2022 NFL Draft Rumors: Roundup of Latest Buzz Around the League

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2022

2022 NFL Draft Rumors: Roundup of Latest Buzz Around the League

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    We're closing in on the 2022 NFL draft, which is set to kick off April 28 in Las Vegas. With just over two weeks remaining before opening night, the draft picture is starting to become clearer.

    And that picture doesn't quite look like it did a few weeks ago. As is always the case this time of year, information is leaking that suggests teams and those in the media don't hold every prospect in the same regard.

    Take Oregon pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, for example. He's frequently been mocked in the top 10, but some teams aren't sold on his potential to be consistently great at the next level.

    "I don't see it, man. He's good. He's not great," one source told The Athletic's Bruce Feldman.

    In the days leading up to the draft, the truth about where teams stand generally begins to come out.

    Smokescreens are still common, so it's worth taking every fresh rumor with a grain of salt. However, ignoring them entirely would be just plain silly. With this in mind, let's dive into the latest leaguewide buzz surrounding the first round of the 2022 draft.

Desmond Ridder Could Be a Top-15 Pick

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    Quarterbacks are going to be a big focus over the next couple of weeks, and that feels inevitable. Liberty's Malik Willis and Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett appear to be first-round locks, but there's no telling exactly where they'll land.

    Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder hasn't been receiving as much attention, but teams believe he has a real shot of going in the top half of the first round.

    "There is legitimate buzz about him going in the top 15. He has wowed decision-makers with his interviews dating back to the Senior Bowl, and he put on a show with his 4.52-second 40 at the combine," ESPN's Matt Miller wrote.

    Ridder—who is the top quarterback on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's big board—has an appealing resume. He's a four-year starter with dual-threat ability who helped lead the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff this past season.

    It shouldn't come as a surprise that Ridder could join Willis and Pickett as an early first-round pick. And according to ProFootballTalk's Peter King, all three could go top 20.

    "One GM told me he sees three in the top 20," King wrote. "... Those three are likely Kenny Pickett of Pitt, Malik Willis of Liberty and Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder. I've heard very good things about Ridder's exchanges with teams over the past month, but each QB has his critics."

    There is no sure thing in this year's quarterback pool, but it appears that signal-callers will once again be the story of Round 1.

Quarterbacks and Receivers Could Push Talent Down the Draft

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    Kendall Warner/Associated Press

    Willis, Pickett and Ridder aren't the only quarterbacks who could go in Round 1. Mississippi's Matt Corral could potentially sneak into the round as well, and North Carolina's Sam Howell could be a wild card on the threshold of Day 1 and Day 2.

    We could also see an early run on wide receivers, with players like USC's Drake London and Arkansas' Treylon Burks going near the top of the first round. This could lead to a domino effect where elite talent at other positions—like pass-rusher and offensive line—gets pushed down significantly.

    "One source I spoke to this week expected notable names to be available 'into the teens' as quarterbacks and wide receivers dominate the top 15," Miller wrote. "Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum is the consensus top center in this class, but the same source told me that mock draft scenarios have been run in which Linderbaum is available in Round 2."

    Naturally, this would be a great development for teams picking late in Round 1.

    Here's another thing to consider, though purely a speculative take: If Miller's source is correct and teams have held this view throughout the predraft process, it could explain why some teams have been so willing to part with 2022 first-round picks.

    The Philadelphia Eagles, for example, dealt one of their three first-rounders to the New Orleans Saints—they actually traded the No. 16 and No. 19 picks for the No. 18 selection—to acquire a 2023 first-rounder, a 2024 second-rounder and third- and seventh-round picks in this year's draft.

    This is a trade that really makes sense for the Eagles if they believe they can still find a first-round talent somewhere in Round 2.

Differing Draft Boards Could Lead to Trade into the Bottom of the 1st Round

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    There's another potential domino effect of an early run on quarterbacks and receivers. If top-15 talent is still on the board late in the first round—and players like Linderbaum head to the second—we may see teams scrambling to trade back into Round 1.

    A large disparity in draft boards could lead to the same effect, according to King.

    "I've heard this from a couple of draft rooms: Because of wide variety of opinions on board-stacking throughout the league, some team drafting in the 50s could see its 12th-rated player still alive at 30 and be motivated to jump up there," King wrote.

    This could be a very interesting development, as four teams selecting in the top half of Round 2—the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts—don't currently have a first-round selection. If they believe they can land a top-15 talent by moving back into Round 1, they're going to do it.

    The fifth-year option that comes with first-round selections is also going to be a factor. Teams can get an extra year of control by taking a prospect at the bottom of Round 1 instead of early in Round 2. For some, the fifth-year option will be worth parting with a middle-round pick.

    While there's no guarantee that we'll see an early run on quarterbacks, a bunch of top prospects falling or a late flurry of first-round trades, it's all feasible. This gives the first round of the 2022 draft the potential to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.