NFL Draft 2022: Where Malik Willis, Top QBs Are Being Selected in Mocks

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 23, 2022

NFL Draft 2022: Where Malik Willis, Top QBs Are Being Selected in Mocks

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    The 2022 NFL draft is lacking top-shelf prospects at the quarterback position.

    Still, at least a few of them will crack Thursday's opening round, and if their organizations ace their development, they might one day become high-level players.

    To get a feel for when those picks might happen, we're scouring over several expert mocks to see where Malik Willis and the top signal-callers are landing.

Malik Willis, Liberty

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    As both an explosive rusher and a dynamic passer, Malik Willis has the highest ceiling in the quarterback class. His game needs plenty of refinement, though, so he also arguably has the widest gap between his floor and ceiling.

    That kind of prospect can be tricky to place, and these expert mocksโ€”from The Ringer's Danny Kelly, CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli and NFL.com's Chad Reuterโ€”bear that out.

    Reuter is the most bullish about Willis' draft projection and has him joining the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8. The Falcons, of course, need a long-term solution under center after trading away Matt Ryan, and they happen to have the perfectly capable Marcus Mariota to hold things over until Willis is ready.

    Kelly and Fornelli, meanwhile, both have Willis going to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20. The Steelers are in a similar spot with Ben Roethlisberger retiring and Mitch Trubisky in place as a bridge quarterback.

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

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    If two of these experts are right, Kenny Pickett will hear his name among the first announced on Thursday night.

    If the other one proves prescient, though, his name won't be called at all in the opening round. Welcome to 2022, folks. This should be a thrill ride.

    Reuter has the Detroit Lions snagging Pickett second overall. In Reuter's eyes, Pickett has enough polish to meet Detroit's need for an instant impact but also possesses enough potential for the franchise to value its future. The Lions have Jared Goff around, so they don't have to play Pickett, but they can if Goff gets hurt or underperforms.

    Kelly sees Pickett sliding into the six spot and joining the Carolina Panthers.

    "The Panthers have painted themselves into a corner at the quarterback position in the past year, but they luck out and get their choice of all the top signal-callers in this class here," Kelly wrote. "Pickett has an established relationship with head coach Matt Rhule, who recruited Pickett to Temple (Pickett eventually decommitted and went to Pitt instead) and should win the starting job from day one."

    Fornelli, meanwhile, didn't include Pickett among his three first-round quarterbacks.

The Fringe First-Rounders

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    In a nod to how little feel everyone has for this quarterback class, there isn't even a consensus among experts on how many of them will crack the opening round.

    In Kelly's mind, only two will go: Willis and Pickett. For Reuter, though, he has five different quarterbacks making the cut.

    With Pickett and Willis gone in the top 10, Reuter mocked the Steelers trading up to No. 12 for Mississippi's Matt Corral. Reuter then paired Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder with the New Orleans Saints at No. 16 before closing out the round with the Seattle Seahawks trading up to No. 32 for North Carolina's Sam Howell.

    As for Fornelli, he actually has Howell leading the class and being snatched up by the Saints at No. 16. He then had Ridder landing with the Lions at No. 32.

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