With the 2022 NFL draft just over a month away, ESPN’s Mel Kiper released his latest mock draft on Tuesday.
Kiper’s mock draft comes just over a week into NFL free agency, which has been dominated by plenty of quarterback movement and some unexpected trades.
How does that impact how Kiper sees the NFL draft’s first round playing out? Here are a few highlights, including where a former Utah star lands and how two of the picks could greatly impact a pair of former BYU quarterbacks:
Jets go for a wide receiver at No. 4
So far in free agency, the Jets have re-signed one of Zach Wilson’s top targets from his rookie season, Braxton Berrios, but haven’t done anything else to bolster the team’s wide receiver group.
Kiper has New York selecting USC wideout Drake London with the No. 4 overall pick, another outside weapon for the former BYU standout Wilson to throw to. London put up 88 catches for 1,084 yards in just eight games last year before a broken right ankle sidelined him.
It’s a bit of a surprise pick considering the Jets also have the No. 10 selection as well, and most mock drafts don’t have London going in the top 5.
“They could get their choice of the best receiver in the class here, and really, if they want to take one, there’s no need to wait,” Kiper wrote. “With London and Corey Davis on the outside and Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios working out of the slot, New York would have a young and talented receiving corps for Wilson’s second season.”
Three quarterbacks go in the back half of the first round
Quarterbacks aren’t expected to come off the board nearly as fast this year as they did in the 2021 draft, when the top three selections were signal callers, and five in the top 15.
Kiper has Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett going to New Orleans at No. 18, Liberty’s Malik Willis at No. 20 to Pittsburgh and Ole Miss’ Matt Corral to Detroit at No. 32 in the opening round.
Pickett’s selection is particularly interesting, signifying a commitment to bolster the long-term future of the Saints’ outlook at quarterback a little more than a year after Drew Brees retired. On Tuesday, New Orleans announced it had re-signed veteran Jameis Winston to a two-year deal.
If New Orleans uses such a high draft pick on a quarterback, that would presumably send former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill the depth chart at QB to third string and ensure he’s used mostly as a utility player. That’s a scenario that seems even more likely with a new coaching staff in New Orleans.
“If the board shakes out this way — with all of the passers available — why shouldn’t they take Pickett?” Kiper wrote. “He’s the most NFL-ready of the bunch, leveling up last season with 42 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. He is super accurate. He understands how to run an offense and lead a team. He could be the Saints’ future.”
Devin Lloyd goes 19th
Former Utah star Devin Lloyd is seen by many experts as the best interior linebacker in this year’s draft and has been projected anywhere from a late top 10 pick to anywhere in the early 20s.
Kiper has him going 19th overall to the Philadelphia Eagles, a popular landing spot for the defensive playmaker.
“Lloyd was one of the best all-around defenders in college football last season, racking up 111 total tackles, eight sacks, 20 tackles for loss, four interceptions and a forced fumble. He has some juice as a blitzer and can cover tight ends and running backs in the passing game,” Kiper wrote.
“Lloyd’s 4.66 40-yard dash at the combine means he doesn’t have the straight-line speed of former top-five pick Devin White (a linebacker I’ve compared him to), but I don’t think he should drop past the Eagles.”
Who’s the top choice?
Michigan defensive end Aiden Hutchison is seen as the favorite to go No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and that’s the pick Kiper has as well.
“Hutchinson, my top-ranked prospect in this class, could get double-digit sacks playing on the other side of Josh Allen in new coordinator Mike Caldwell’s defense. The Jaguars made a few big-money moves in free agency, but there’s still a huge hole at defensive end,” Kiper wrote.
Other interesting picks
A few other picks from Kiper stand out.
- No. 7, New York Giants, Oregon edge Kayvon Thibodeaux: The former Duck is seen as perhaps the best pass-rusher in this class.
- No. 10, New York Jets, Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner: Kiper has the Jets going defense with their second top 10 pick.
- No. 13, Houston Texans, Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis: The 341-pounder ran a 4.78 40-yard dash time at the scouting combine last month.
- No. 28, Green Bay Packers, Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks: Kiper goes wideout here for a team in need of WR help after trading away Davante Adams.