The NFL Draft is now officially one week away. I will have more pieces coming out centered on the draft, including a mock draft, in the next week but I want to start it out with some predictions for the event. I have made some by-the-numbers predictions, which means I have made a prediction based on each number between one and seven, with a bonus prediction at the end.
1: One quarterback drafted in the top 10
In almost every draft the quarterbacks are the hottest commodity. Almost every draft. This draft is not one of those. There is no quarterback making a case for the top overall pick or even a top-five pick. But the value of the position has to win out at some point so I predict that one team will take a signal-caller within the top 10. It could be quarterback-needy teams like the Panthers, Falcons, or Seahawks but it could also be a team that we wouldn’t expect to go in that direction. For extra credit, I will predict that the lone quarterback drafted in that range will be Malik Willis because his blend of raw talent and potential will be enticing enough to make him the first quarterback off the board.
2: Two cornerbacks drafted in the top 10
Another very important position in football is the one that tries to pick off the quarterbacks. Corners have certainly gotten more valuable in recent years and that value is starting to show on draft night. Most teams don’t draft corners near the top of the order but players such as Denzel Ward and Jeff Okudah have started to buck that trend (with a lot of credit due to Jalen Ramsey as well). This year’s class of corners is strong and it may be strong enough to get two of them into the top 10. Ahmad Gardner is close to a lock to go that high, and could even go in the top five, so it will just take one more for my prediction will hit. I think Derek Stingley Jr. can be that guy. He has the talent worthy of being selected that high, he just needs a team to believe in him.
3: Three quarterbacks drafted on day one
I mentioned earlier the underwhelming nature of this year’s crop of quarterbacks, but that won’t stop teams from drafting them. Even if they don’t go as high as usual, three passers will be off the board by the time round one is over. Willis will be the first one gone with Pickett not too far behind, the only question is who the third one will be. Desmond Ridder, Matt Corral, and Sam Howell are the next three guys and it’s safe to say one of them will hear their name called on Thursday. The last 12 picks will be a perfect place for a team to jump on the quarterbacks that are falling. Teams such as Detroit (with their second pick) or Pittsburgh could opt for a quarterback to contend for the starting job. Teams can also trade pick into the first round from the early second round in order to select a quarterback and have the valued fifth-year option.
4: Four schools have multiple players drafted in round one
To be honest I am a bit surprised at how low this number is. Seven schools had multiple players selected in round one last year. There were the usual suspects (Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Penn State) but there were also some surprise schools such as Northwestern, Miami, and Virginia Tech. Those last three schools aren’t expected to repeat and neither are Clemson and Florida. Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia are almost guaranteed to accomplish that feat and could even have it done by the middle of the round. That leaves one school left to hit that mark for my prediction to be correct. Cincinnati is a possibility with Gardner being a near-lock for the top ten and Ridder being considered a top quarterback. Michigan could do it if Dax Hill joins likely first overall pick Aidan Hutchinson. Even Penn State has an outside chance of getting it done if both Arnold Ebiketie and Jahan Dotson sneak into the back of the first round. The best bet is on Cincy to be the fourth team to have multiple players selected but if it doesn’t get it done then one of the other schools certainly could instead.
5: Five draft day trades in the first round
Trades are always one of the most talked-about aspects when it comes to the draft. Every team is rumored at one point or another to be interested in trading up or back, but only a handful end up doing so. Last year there were just three trades made in the first round (although we did see three trades involving first-rounders happen before the draft). This year’s draft has all the makings of a trade-happy extravaganza. First off, eight teams have two selections on day one. The Lions, Texans, Jets, Giants, Eagles, Saints, Packers, and Chiefs all have two picks and could be looking to move around the order. The teams in the back of the draft that have multiple selections seem like the perfect candidates to package their picks together and move up for a more valuable prospect. Another reason for the likely increase in trades is the lack of top quarterbacks. Without a true difference-maker at the quarterback position, teams in the top ten may be inclined to trade back and accumulate more picks to fill out the rest of their roster. The Panthers, Falcons, and Seahawks are ideal options for that strategy if no players they love fall to them. Even though the draft order is set, don’t be surprised if we see a lot of movement on draft night.
6: Six wide receivers drafted in the first round
The resurgence of superstar rookie receivers has led to an increased number of them being drafted in the first round. Every team wants to find the next Justin Jefferson or Ja’Marr Chase so expect teams to take a look at wide receiver at every spot in the draft, from the top five to pick number 32. Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Chris Olave, and Jameson Williams are sure bets to go in the first round, and likely pretty early, which leaves two more spots open in my prediction. An early run on receivers would certainly help this come true because it would force teams near the end of the round to take a look at different options. Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson, Skyy Moore, and George Pickens are all realistic possibilities to sneak into the end of the opening round. And with teams that have just traded away a star receiver (Green Bay and Kansas City) and teams that love to throw the ball (Arizona, Dallas, Buffalo, Tampa Bay) all picking within the final ten picks of the round, receivers could start flying off the board as we near the end of the selections.
7: Seven offensive linemen drafted in the first round
The big guys up front are always highly valued on draft night and 2022 is no different. Three of the last four drafts have had at least six o-linemen taken in the first round so it is not completely out of the realm of possibility. But so much of that depends on the class that year, and this year’s crop of future blockers is pretty deep. There will be a handful of tackles that will go in the top half of the draft (Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, Charles Cross, and Trevor Penning) but that won’t be it for the linemen. The back half of the first round is where teams start to take interior offensive linemen as well as some of the less-refined tackles. I expect Bernhard Raimann, Zion Johnson, and Tyler LInderbaum to all come off the board after about pick 20, bringing the total number of offensive linemen drafted to seven.
10: Ten Georgia Bulldogs defenders drafted
I needed to include this bonus prediction because this is something worth monitoring over the course of the draft. The record for most draft picks from a single school in a draft is 14, set by LSU in 2020 and Ohio State in 2004. Georgia could end up challenging that but the real story will be how many players from their world-class defense in 2021 will be selected. I think they could get to a whopping ten draft picks, which would almost certainly challenge or break the record. There are eight players that seem like locks to be drafted (with possibly five of them going in the first round). That means it will just take two extra players to make it double-digit Bulldog defenders drafted in 2022. It wouldn’t surprise me if teams in the sixth or seventh rounds decide to take a chance on a player that was just a part of one of the best defenses in modern college football history. There aren’t a ton of reasons to care about the draft when it gets into the last couple of rounds but this could be something to pay attention to if you find yourself tuning into the broadcast for the final day.