NFL Draft 2022: Highlighting Riskiest Mid-1st-Round Picks in Latest Expert Mocks

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIApril 17, 2022

NFL Draft 2022: Highlighting Riskiest Mid-1st-Round Picks in Latest Expert Mocks

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    Kendall Warner/Associated Press

    Not every player successfully makes the transition from college football to the NFL. Somebody who had success at the lower levels may not turn out to be a star in the pros, even if he has an impressive skill set and seemed set up to perform well at the next level.

    That's why there's risk associated with every player selected during the NFL draft, particularly those taken with early picks. Some prospects seem safer bets than others, but a franchise never knows until those players are on the field.

    Every year, there are boom-or-bust prospects among the incoming group of players. These former college standouts have a ton of potential, but for one reason or another, it might not work out for them in the NFL.

    Here's a look at several players among the class of 2022, along with projections from recent mocks on where they could land in this year's draft, which is set for April 28-30.

Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Jameson Williams has a ton of talent and was a standout wide receiver for Alabama during the 2021 season. After spending two years at Ohio State, he transferred and joined the Crimson Tide, recording 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns in 15 games.

    But in the last of those contests, Williams tore his left ACL in Alabama's loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship. So it's possible he won't be ready to play at the start of the 2022 season. There's also risk associated with him considering nobody knows how he will perform once he gets back on the field.

    Still, some team is likely to use a first-round pick on Williams in the draft. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and The Athletic's Dane Brugler have Williams going to the New Orleans Saints at No. 19. That's a selection that would make sense, as the Saints need to improve their receiving corps and give quarterback Jameis Winston more top playmakers to throw to.'s Peter Schrager has Williams getting drafted even earlier, projecting him to go to the New York Jets at No. 10. The Jets own two first-round selections and are likely going to add a wide receiver, making this another strong potential fit.

    As long as Williams is the same type of playmaker he was prior to his injury, then there's no reason to think he won't have success at the next level. Not only that, but he could also develop into a top-tier NFL wide receiver.

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

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    Kendall Warner/Associated Press

    This year's quarterback class doesn't have a clear-cut top prospect. It's not like 2021, when Trevor Lawrence went No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, or 2020, when Joe Burrow was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals with the top pick.

    It's possible no signal-callers are drafted in the first half of the opening round. And when a quarterback finally is selected, there are several prospects who could hear their names called. Among them is Liberty's Malik Willis, who has the talent and potential to emerge as the top QB to come out of this draft. But he didn't face elite competition in college, so there could be concern regarding how quickly he will adjust to the pro game.

    Many mocks haven't agreed on when Willis will get drafted. Kiper has him going No. 6 to the Carolina Panthers, while Brugler predicts he'll get taken by the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8. Schrager has Willis falling to No. 20, where he gets picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    "Willis is going to make some mistakes, but he will be fun to watch," Kiper wrote.

    If Willis goes somewhere like Pittsburgh, he may not even start in 2022 because the Steelers could opt to play Mitchell Trubisky while letting Willis sit and develop. But if a team needs Willis to immediately step in as a rookie, there's the potential for him to end up being a bust.

Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Derek Stingley Jr.'s talent and skill set make him one of the top cornerback prospects in this year's draft class. But the former LSU corner wasn't on the field much over the past two seasons, and he wasn't quite the same player he was in 2019 when he played.

    Stingley had six interceptions in 15 games for the Tigers as a freshman but recorded none while playing only 10 games between 2020 and 2021. Last year, he took the field for only three contests because of a foot injury that also prevented him from participating in the combine.

    So teams can't be sure which version of Stingley they are going to get. But his high-level potential could make him difficult to overlook. Brugler is projecting Stingley to go to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 9, while Kiper and Schrager both believe the Minnesota Vikings will draft the former LSU defensive back at No. 12.

    "The concern about Stingley is that his best tape is from 2019, when he starred as a true freshman," Kiper wrote. "Can he return to form in the NFL—and stay healthy? That's a risk teams will have to consider."

    It could either work out really well or Stingley may end up not making much of an impact in the NFL. Some team is going to take that chance early in the draft.