2022 NFL Draft: Highlighting Last-Minute Fallers Down Big Boards

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2022

2022 NFL Draft: Highlighting Last-Minute Fallers Down Big Boards

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    Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett
    Pittsburgh QB Kenny PickettButch Dill/Associated Press

    The NFL draft is always interesting because of the uncertainty surrounding it.

    Fans and analysts alike spend months trying to predict how things will unfold, only to be wrong on the vast majority of picks. Surprise selections and trades can quickly throw off the most carefully constructed mock draft, but there's another element in play: secrecy.

    Teams don't like to lay bare their draft intentions, and the media and front-office decision-makers often have different views of prospects. When players seem to suddenly fall down or rise up boards just before the draft, it isn't always an indication that teams have changed their opinions. In many cases, inside info is finally coming to light, and outsiders are finally catching up with how teams truly feel.

    Here, we're going to examine some of the 2022 draft's top prospects whose stocks appear to be sliding entering draft week. While everything must be taken with a grain of salt—it's still smoke-screen season, after all—recent rumors and reports suggest teams aren't as high on these players as some may have believed.

    Here, we'll dive into both current and past evaluations, along with any relevant recent buzz.


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    Malik Willis
    Malik WillisKendall Warner/Associated Press

    We'll start with the quarterbacks, as they're the NFL's most important position and are always focal points on draft weekend. Liberty's Malik Willis, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder and Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett have all been projected as first-round selections at one point during the predraft process, and many mocks have all three going on opening night.

    A few weeks ago, NBC Sports' Peter King had intel suggesting all three could be top-20 selections. However, more recent chatter suggests that teams aren't as high on the quarterback class as many thought.

    "As the draft nears, the momentum that swung Kenny Pickett (Pitt) and Malik Willis (Liberty) up the board seems to be swinging back the other way," ESPN's Matt Miller wrote. "In conversations with league sources this week, one told me that Pickett to the Steelers at No. 20 is the only Round 1 quarterback on which he would bet."

    King had Pickett and Mississippi's Matt Corral as the only first-rounders in his latest mock on Monday.

    In the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's most recent mock draft, Willis and Ridder were the only first-round quarterbacks, though both went in the top 10. It wouldn't be a total shock, though, if no signal-callers are top-10 selections, and only one goes in the first round.

    This is pretty much where we were a few months ago, when the quarterback class was viewed as underwhelming and before a largely media-driven surge in quarterback stock. Again, this could all be smoke, but it could also be another example of why things aren't always what they seem in the months between the Senior Bowl and the draft itself.

David Bell, WR, Purdue

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Purdue wideout David Bell has experienced more of a steady fall than a sudden plummet. He was ranked as the 51st overall prospect on the B/R Scouting Department's post-Senior Bowl big board and has dipped to No. 59 on its latest board.

    However, Bell's disappointing 4.65-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine could have him falling even further in the eyes of NFL teams.

    "Bell was one of the class' biggest fallers from the NFL combine, where he posted a 4.65-second 40-yard dash (11th percentile)," Kevin Cole of Pro Football Focus wrote. "That slower performance, combined with running an even worse 4.74-second time at his pro day, has pushed his status from a possible second-round pick to potentially falling out of Day 2 altogether."

    This doesn't mean that Bell won't be a solid NFL player. Track speed isn't game speed, and he was highly productive in college. This past season, Bell tallied 1,286 yards and six touchdowns on 93 receptions.

    However, teams won't outright ignore the fact that the 6'1", 212-pound wideout logged a 40 time more in line with those of tight ends and linebackers. Before the combine, Bell looked to be a lock for Round 2, but that's no longer the case after a disappointing combine and pro day showing.

Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. has actually risen one spot—from No. 26 to No. 25—on the B/R board since the Scouting Department's post-Senior Bowl rankings. However, teams don't seem to be as high on the 6'0", 194-pound pass defender.

    According to NFL Network's Mike Giardi, injury concerns could cause Booth to fall out of the first round.

    "Now talking to more people around the league about his draft status, because of the double hernia surgery, they're not sure he ends up going in the first round," Giardi said on NFL Network (at the 27-second mark).

    This could be another example of smoke. Teams picking late in Round 1 could look to play up the injury angle while secretly hoping that Booth falls to them. For example, the Cincinnati Bengals hold the 31st pick and brought in Booth for a top-30 visit, according to ESPN's Jordan Schultz (h/t James Rapien of FanNation).

    Injuries can't be dismissed, however, and Booth's inability to participate at the combine could have teams wary. It's worth noting that NBC Sports' Peter King, who is quite tuned in to insider buzz, didn't list Booth in the first-round mock draft he published Monday.

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is the fifth-ranked prospect on the B/R board—a ranking that hasn't changed since the Senior Bowl—and he had long felt like a surefire top-10 pick. However, teams might not value Hamilton as much as some analysts do, and the perception of his draft range has shifted.

    In the Scouting Department's post-combine mock, Hamilton went fourth overall to the New York Jets. In its recent mock, the scout team had Hamilton falling to the Washington Commanders at No. 11.

    Slow 40-yard-dash times could be behind Hamilton's falling stock.

    "If I would have to guess, it would come down to testing and positional value," Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus wrote. "Teams still value 40-yard dash speed, and Hamilton ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine and a 4.70-second 40 at his pro day. ...it might give a team second thoughts if they’re thinking about spending a top-five pick."

    That meshes with what one source told The Athletic's Bruce Feldman: "He has above-average instincts, and he has great length. We didn't think he was that fast or that he could cover a slot."

    A team could quietly be in love with Hamilton and still grab him in the top 10, but it wouldn't be a shock to see him fall to the middle of Round 1, either.

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

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    Andy Nelson/Associated Press

    Oregon pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux is the top-ranked prospect on the B/R board, which has been a constant throughout the predraft process. However, there's a chance that he falls outside of the top five or even further.

    According to ESPN's Todd McShay, teams are wary of Thibodeaux's commitment to football.

    "The general consensus, and it's almost across the board, is he’s a 'me' guy," McShay said on Green Light with Chris Long (h/t Austin Nivison of 247Sports). "He definitely wants to be broadcasting. He's got his eye on the other things, but he knows he has to have football to get all that other stuff, and he really truly wants to be a great player."

    McShay had similar comments to share back in February.

    "I heard a lot about Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, including concerns that he just doesn't play with the same fire as some other top prospects," he wrote. "His ceiling is high, but the floor is lower than what you want for a top-five pick."

    The Scouting Department has Thibodeaux going fifth to the New York Giants in its latest mock, but he might tumble even further. NBC Sports' Peter King has Thibodeaux lasting until No. 13 in his mock, where the Seattle Seahawks would stop his slide after trading down from No. 9.

    While teams may be attacking Thibodeaux's motor to cause him to slide to them, he is a traits-based and somewhat unpolished prospect with legitimate boom-or-bust potential. A draft-day fall could indeed be in store.

Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Georgie defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt is the 24th-ranked prospect on the latest B/R big board and could be a mid-first round selection. He went 16th overall to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Scouting Department's recent mock (which was written before the Eagles traded that pick to the New Orleans Saints).

    Wyatt has fallen only one spot since the Scouting Department's post-Senior Bowl big board. However, he is reportedly off some teams' boards entirely, according to Charlie Campbell of Walter Football.

    Wyatt was arrested in 2020 for family violence, trespassing and property damage. According to Campbell, private team investigators have since uncovered "three additional domestic violence incidents."

    "He's off our board," one AFC general manager said, per Campbell. "If teams are okay with the character, I think he goes between No. 21-32. He has a lot of red flags."

    Wyatt, who is scheduled to attend the draft on Thursday night, may not fall out of the first round entirely. It only takes one defensive-lineman-needy team to make him a Day 1 pick.

    However, Wyatt no longer appears to be the first-round lock he was earlier in the predraft process.