Five bold 2022 NFL draft predictions: Big trades and QBs

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Looking for a safe bet in an NFL Draft 2022 otherwise shrouded in mystery?

Aaron Rodgers will do something to try to upstage the college prospects. That’s the Green Bay Packers quarterback’s modus operandi, based off the news during the 2021 draft that he was unhappy and looking for a change of scenery, followed by the implication on social media during 2022 NFL Combine week that he was considering retirement.

So, Rodgers redirecting attention back to himself is not going too far out on a limb.

But here are five bolder predictions:

Deebo Samuel, Baker Mayfield and James Bradberry traded

The best time to trade for a draft pick is between mid-January and draft weekend, when the order is known. Time is ticking. Deadlines make deals.

Beginning Sunday, when all 2022 picks are in the rear-view mirror, acquiring a 2023 draft pick is a crapshoot – like when the Texans unwittingly gave up No. 3 in 2021 for Laremy Tunsil or when the Lions surprisingly got stuck with No. 32 in 2021 for Matthew Stafford.

We’re expecting Deebo Samuel to be just one of the big names on the move during draft weekend.
Getty Images

Samuel gets traded to the Jets (and works out a contract extension) on Thursday. The 49ers replace him by using the trade return (No. 10 pick) on Garrett Wilson. Mayfield gets traded Friday, after the dust settles on the first-round quarterbacks and the Seahawks don’t have one. The Chiefs call the Giants about receiver Kadarius Toney’s availability Saturday, but wind up settling on giving up a late-round pick for cornerback James Bradberry.

Two quarterbacks picked in the top 10

Months of chatter about a weak quarterback class with maybe no worthy top-20 picks gets replaced by a sense of urgency when push comes to shove.

Sure, Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder are flawed, but do the No. 6 pick Panthers really need to see more of Sam Darnold (after four years in the NFL) with head coach Matt Rhule on the hot seat? Are the No. 9 Seahawks really going to go the route of Geno Smith or Drew Lock? The unknown is more tempting than the same-old results.

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett looks to pass
A weak QB class won’t stop teams for trading up to snag signal-callers like Kenny Pickett.
AP Photo

The No. 8 Falcons are perfectly set up to let hometown native Willis learn for one or two seasons behind stopgap Marcus Mariota. The No. 16 and No. 19 Saints have the assets to trade up. The No. 20 Steelers have a retiring general manager looking to set up the future – without paying the future consequences if he whiffs.  

The prediction here is Pickett to the Panthers, Willis to the Falcons and Ridder to the Steelers on a trade-up over the Saints.

Notorious first for running backs, tight ends

At least one running back or tight end has been picked in the first round every year during the common draft era (since 1967). That streak ends now.

When there were no first-round running backs in 2013 and 2014 for the first time since 1963, there was one tight end taken both years to fill the gap. History almost was made in 2020, when running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the first running back or tight end taken with the last pick of the first round.

Top running back Breece Hall and top tight end Trey McBride are consensus early second-round picks.

Patriots win Jameson Williams sweepstakes

Maybe the biggest X-factor in the first round is receiver Jameson Williams, who is coming off a torn ACL in the College Football National Championship Game.

The worst-kept secret in the NFL is the Chiefs are eyeing the lightning-fast Williams. But, unless they are willing to package both picks No. 29 and No. 30 plus more, they are likely out of range to trade up and steal him.  

If the Jets don’t trade for Deebo Samuel, then they could shock the league by picking Williams at No. 4 instead of gambling that he slides to No. 10. In these predictions, however, it’s the Samuel-less 49ers who pass on Williams at No. 10, prompting the No. 15 Eagles, No. 16 and No. 19 Saints, No. 21 Patriots and No. 25 Bills to start making trade calls.

Jameson Williams #1 of the Alabama Crimson Tide
Jameson Williams will have plenty of teams vying for his services.
Getty Images

Known for trading down and collecting more picks, the Patriots uncharacteristically make the bold move up to No. 13 (with the Texans) to steal Williams.

Defense! Defense! Defense! Defense!

The last time that the first three picks in a draft all were used on defensive players was 1992. One year earlier, the first four picks all went to defense.

Time to party like it’s 1991!

The Jaguars are considering three options at No. 1: Offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu, and edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and Travon Walker. They decide to go Walker, which gift-wraps Michigan native Hutchinson to the Lions.

The real intrigue lies with the No. 3 Texans and No. 4 Jets. While choosing a receiver (Williams, London, Wilson) or an offensive lineman (Ekownu, Evan Neal) is tempting to both teams, they will make it four straight on defense by choosing from a pool of edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, safety Kyle Hamilton and cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr. If Hutchinson goes No. 1, cornerback becomes an option for the Lions at No. 2.

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