2022 NFL Draft: 5 Players Who Would Be Huge Round 1 Mistakes

Alex KayContributor IApril 26, 2022

2022 NFL Draft: 5 Players Who Would Be Huge Round 1 Mistakes

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The 2022 NFL draft will see 32 players taken in the first round, almost all of whom will be expected to make a significant and early impact for the team that selects them.

    Unfortunately, not all 32 of these picks will pan out. It's inevitable that some prospects will disappoint, struggling to live up to their lofty draft status due to injuries, poor performance or other issues.

    While even some "can't-miss" prospects taken early will inevitably fail to meet expectations, there are some potential Day 1 picks who carry additional risk due to issues like poor testing numbers, a concerning injury history or limited high-level collegiate production.

    With that in mind, here are five players who have generated first-round buzz but whom franchises would be wise to avoid using premium picks on this year.

Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Daniel Faalele is one of the most interesting prospects in the 2022 draft class.

    The hulking Minnesota offensive tackle is poised to become the largest player in the league when he's drafted this week, measuring in at a massive 6'8" and tipping the scales at 384 pounds. That makes him 15 pounds heavier than any other prospect recorded at the combine since 2003.

    While that size has helped him against smaller competition during his time with the Golden Gophers, he was never truly dominant, and his testing numbers were rather concerning. Faalele only threw up 24 reps on the bench press in Indianapolis, fifth-worst of all offensive linemen in attendance.

    The 22-year-old didn't do much else at the combine but did post a middling 5.60 40-yard dash time and 29.5-inch vertical at Minnesota's pro day last month.

    The Australian native is also raw when it comes to football knowledge and technique. He's only been playing competitive football since 2017, making him one of the less experienced prospects in this class.

    Despite this, some analysts still have Faalele coming off the board on Day 1. That would be quite a reach for a prospect whom Bleacher Report's Scouting Department has ranked No. 48 overall on their big board and not being selected until the third round in their latest mock.

    Although B/R noted how well the three-year starter moves for a player of his size, Faalele's susceptibility to inside counters, poor control and wide hand placement were cited as negatives on his scouting report.

    While you can't teach size, Faalele has plenty of learning and improving to do before he's ready to become an impact NFL player. For a late Day 2 pick, that may be worth the risk, but teams should be leery of taking him in the first round.

Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Even some of the consensus best prospects could be a major mistake on the first day of the draft.

    Derek Stingley Jr. is considered by many to be one of, if not the top cornerback in the 2022 class, and it's easy to see why scouts—including the B/R Scouting Department, who rate him No. 7 overall on their big board—are high on the LSU product.

    Stingley stands just a smidge over 6'0" and weighs 190 pounds, giving him solid size for an NFL defensive back. He's also shown to be an extremely smooth and explosive athlete but has hardly had a chance to show it on the field.

    The 20-year-old has only played in 10 games for the Tigers over the past two years and hasn't been a consistent contributor since his freshman season in 2019.

    While Stingley has shown tremendous flashes of potential when on the field, most of his film comes from his freshman year. His snap count dropped from 1,166 in 2019 to just 672 in 2020 and 2021 combined.

    The corner looked fantastic for much of 2019, recording six interceptions—the only picks of his collegiate career—and 15 pass breakups, but he did allow five touchdowns that season.

    The years that followed saw Stingley deal with injuries and inconsistent play. Not only did he have just five passes defensed in that span, but his most recent season also came to an end after just three games due to a Lisfranc injury.

    While he bounced back to showcase his athleticism leading up to the draft, posting a 4.43 40-yard dash and 38.5-inch vertical leap at LSU's pro day, his durability is still a major concern.

    With teams having to hope he can stay healthy and that his 2019 season isn't an outlier, there's just too much risk in taking Stingley early in the first round.

Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The strength of the 2022 draft class is not at the quarterback position. Despite that fact, there's a chance multiple signal-callers come off the board on Day 1. This is due to the sheer number of teams being in the market for one coupled with a dearth of quality free-agent options to meet that demand.

    One player who could hear his name called early in the draft is Sam Howell, the North Carolina gunslinger who displayed some intriguing potential during his three seasons as the Tar Heels' starter. While Howell racked up 10,283 passing yards and 92 touchdowns during his time in Chapel Hill, he's still got plenty of work to do before he's ready to take over a starting role in the NFL.

    It's one of the most significant concerns the B/R Scouting Department has regarding Howell, a player they ranked No. 82 overall on their latest big board. The UNC signal-caller was not only criticized for his lack of experience outside an RPO-heavy offensive scheme, but also his below-average height, lengthy throwing motion and tendency to take off and run too early.

    The B/R Scouting Department has Howell coming off the board in the third round in their latest mock, but other analysts have him being selected as early as midway through the first round, as well as the first quarterback off the board.

    It's understandable why some teams high on Howell may want to take him on Day 1, as the lure of getting a fifth-year option on a potential franchise quarterback can pay dividends. ESPN's Jordan Reid reported the Detroit Lions are likely to field plenty of trade offers for the No. 32 pick from QB-needy teams, but that spot would be far too early to roll the dice on Howell.

    Even if there's an unexpected run on quarterback come Day 1 (the B/R Scouting Department only has two coming off the board within the first 32 selections), it's hard to justify using such a lofty pick on a player with such mediocre evaluations and so many concerns about his ability to translate his game to the pros.

    Howell has a long road to becoming more than a project buried on the depth chart, making him a pick to avoid in the first round.

DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Going into this past season, some considered DeMarvin Leal to be the top defensive lineman in this draft class

    The Texas A&M star is still a relatively well-regarded prospect, but his draft stock has taken some hits after he failed to live up to the hype during a mediocre 2021 campaign. He put up some decent numbers, notching 8.5 sacks and 58 tackles (12.5 for a loss), and showcased his ability to play multiple techniques along the Aggies' line. But he fared poorly in head-to-head matchups against quality foes like Charles Cross and Evan Neal.

    Already undersized for the defensive tackle position at just 6'4" and 283 pounds, Leal did little to ease concerns when it came to his testing numbers.

    The junior didn't display the athleticism that scouts were hoping to see, posting a five-second flat 40-yard dash, 27.5-inch vertical leap and 106-inch broad jump during his trip to Indianapolis. Those stack up poorly against top-tier edge-rushers and don't even look good in comparison to defensive tackles.

    Already a tweener who was supposed to punch up and be worth taking a chance on due to his athleticism and versatility, Leal could struggle to find a role at the next level.

    While he has shown glimpses as a pass-rusher, he lacks a closing burst and may not do much more than hurry quarterbacks when he gets by his defender. Leal isn't physical enough to be an elite run-stopper either, struggling to play through his blockers, and he gets shut down completely on most double-teams.

    The B/R Scouting Department recently dropped Leal's grade down to a 7.4—placing him eighth amongst interior defensive linemen—in their latest big board update while giving him a third-round projection.

    Despite this, some still have the Aggies product coming off the board on Day 1. Given his lack of clear positional fit and subpar athleticism, it would be a mistake to take Leal anywhere before the mid- to late second round.

Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    In the span of one season, Kenneth Walker III underwent a meteoric rise from an unheralded Wake Forest transfer to being one of the nation's best running backs for Michigan State.

    The Spartans product was impossible to bring down this past season, forcing more missed tackles (89) than anyone in the country (and most in the Big Ten since 2014) on his way to 1,636 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on 263 carries.

    Those may be star numbers, but Walker still isn't worth using a first-round pick on this year. It's simply too high of a cost to pay for almost any player at the running back position. Walker is the highest-rated back and is ranked No. 36 overall on the B/R Scouting Department's latest big board, but they don't have him being selected until No. 55 overall in their latest mock.

    Guys like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Saquon Barkley, Rashaad Penny and Sony Michel have all been varying levels of regrettable Round 1 RB selections over the last four drafts alone.

    Jonathan Taylor, who was the NFL's leading rusher in 2021, was a second-round pick. Derrick Henry, the league's most feared runner for the last half-decade, was also taken in the second. Even undrafted backs such as James Robinson have been making a major impact in recent seasons.

    While Walker could well become a three-down back for his pro team, there are several others, including Iowa State's Breece Hall, who also have sky-high potential.

    With so many viable backs—there are five total in the top 100 of the B/R Scouting Department's big board—to choose from, teams will want to shy away from taking Walker or any other running back on Day 1.