The NFL Draft is now less than two weeks away and there is no clear consensus on the first overall pick. And certain scenarios that may have seemed unusual or extreme early in this process, for those actually involved in it, may just come to be outside the time the Jacksonville Jaguars actually make their first choice.
It’s a complicated way of saying that Michigan passer Rus’ Aidan Hutchinson, as many would have written with this election weeks or months ago, may not be the guy for the Jags. And Georgia pass rusher Travon Walker, who blew up the combine with ridiculous athletic feats but who doesn’t necessarily have the feature film to support it, may just end up being the first name to be named. At this point, none of the scenarios would be shocking to the evaluators I spoke to this week who are preparing to make choices.
Jaguar’s general manager, Trent Baalke, has a history of playing on talent, and in particular of being heavily influenced by athletic measurements. He was rarely afraid to trust his gut feeling or take a shot at an injured player or be some sort of conflicting, and although it ultimately had a lot to do with his death in San Francisco, there is not much to suggest that his peers have changed. to some extent. Furthermore, the Jaguars have long been an organization that has focused on numbers – and test results – as a significant factor in player selection, and Walker is, of course, that vintage’s beloved.
Does Baalke look at Walker and see Aldon Smith, the former 49’s former pass-speed savant, only without the off-track problems that derailed what may have been Smith’s Hall of Fame career? Is he caught by Walker’s boundless upside and eager to take him, with a higher ceiling, over Hutchinson, who is a safer pick, who has a higher floor, and whose production on a weekly basis outshined Walker? Baalke will try to play it close to the West, but there have been some narrators in his past that some GMs think are in play again this spring.
“I’m buying it,” said a top manager picking in the first half of the first round. “We run scenarios based on Walker being the first choice. It feels like something Trent would do.”
Of course, the Jaguars have managed to fool everyone at times in the past when they have chosen close to the top of the draft. Their selection of Blake Bortles was closed; it was also, to say the least, unfortunate. The team’s draft record has mostly been awful, despite spending a decade or so picking in the top 10. That may be enough to get some in that organization to go with something closer to the safe, a super-confident, highly productive team leader who plays a prime position with a very high floor. But that may not be enough for Jacksonville either.
What Lions and Texans Will Do at Nos. 2 and 3
If Walker goes first, then the Lions take Hutchinson, if they keep that choice, I’m convinced. But they will listen to offers and see what that pull spot will bring in the trade and that they move down and then pick a quarterback is another scenario that gets lots of traction in scout circles.
But if there is no deal that makes sense, the Lions would definitely throw themselves over Hutchinson, a local product that would be the face of a defense that desperately needs it and bring instant blows to the line. They let Charles Harris go free. They desperately need pass rush. And the other players that most people think are worth considering are tackles; it’s the rare listing spot where Detroit is not in crisis.
Could it be Malik Willis at 2? I do not want to completely rule it out, but if Hutchinson is sitting there, my feeling is that the Lions are playing it a little safer here, grabs the Michigan man and addresses the quarterback by jumping back in the bottom half of the first round – in addition to No. 32, which they already hold via the Rams – and grabbed a passerby there.
So let’s just say it’s Walker and the Hutchinson. What comes next?
“If that’s the way it goes down, Nick (Texans GM Nick Caserio) will take Neal (Alabama tackles Evan Neal) with the third pick,” said a leader who knows the Texans GM well. “I do not even think it’s much of a debate for him. It would be Neal at 3.”
Giants, Jets have similar draft plan
Several executives told me they expect the Jets and Giants following a similar philosophy with their duo of first-round picks. The question is, in what order?
“We think they take both an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman,” said an evaluator. “Which one do you think they get hold of first?”
Good question. I wish I had a better answer. Hopefully I will do so at the beginning of the draft. I would take a flyer on the Giants who snatched North Carolina State tackle Ickey Ekwonu with their first pick, if possible, as a 5-year-old, and then turn around and take his practice sparring partner for the next 10 years in Oregon passer Kayvon Thibodeaux with their choice. 7 o’clock.
First draft for rookie head coach Brian Daboll and GM Joe Schoen. They have to build this thing from the inside out, whether Daniel Jones turns out to be part of the equation moving forward on QB or not. It feels like the basis of a basic draft, and the Giants have been awful for the most part in the trenches for far too long.
Why two QBs will go in the top 10
Keep shaking your head at many of these mock drafts that do not place at least two quarterbacks in the top 10.
“Atlanta and Carolina almost have to take a quarterback,” said an evaluator who knows both organizations well. “They can not wait another year. And they can not sell the (quarterbacks) they have right now. If Willis or (Pitt QB Kenny) Pickett are there, I do not think they can pass them on. I’m pretty convinced. about that.”
Panthers owner David Tepper has been rejected too many times before, he has failed to land a legitimate QB via free agency or trades, and the best part of the draft is that the child cannot say no. He can not choose another team over you. You can not be left to the altar (this is how the agreement works). It will resonate with this owner. Carpets is trying to get a new stadium and training facility built, and he is trying to fight fanapathy.
Running Sam Darnold out there without any replacement or potential upgrade on the list will not fly. He runs a football team, but he also runs a business. And he has no hope of selling. Top 10 QBs are instant hope. You can market it (and cross your fingers that they are ready to play at some point sooner rather than later). Owner and top strategist Steven Drummond will definitely be a part of this process – the consensus among the people in this league, I know well, who know this franchise well, is that they will take Willis if both QBs are there and they will take Pickett if Willis is gone.
As for the Falcons, can Arthur Blank at this stage of his life afford to go through an entire season with Marcus Mariota as the best chance to win a football game in QB spot after finally moving on from Matt Ryan? Would you really wait until the third year of coach Arthur Smith’s regime to allow him to start shaping a college quarterback with serious upside? Does it make sense?
Yes, they love some of the corners in this draft, but will Sauce Gardner be able to trigger a rebuild? I think both of these NFC South teams are taking a pass player at the top of the draft.
More insider notes on the 2022 draft
- If both of the top quarterbacks are gone when the Seahawks pick 9, several managers told me they think the odds of a downturn are very high. The Vikings are clearly in the market for a top corner, and jumping up to 9 is likely to provide an opportunity to secure one of the top two (Gardner or Derek Stingley, Jr), and Seattle at 12 can most likely still land a of the top pass rushers on the board plus continue to secure much-needed extra capital (even after the Russell Wilson deal). It’s a potential draft scenario to keep an eye on …
- The Steelers and Saints are heavy on the QB market. And this does not appear to the industry as merely to show, or a kind of complicated smokescreen. “I’ve seen the Steelers contingent on these professional days,” said one evaluator. “This is not a scam. It’s not the way Kevin (GM Kevin Colbert) operates. I know they like some of these kids. I do not think they’ve really jumping on Willis, but they’re doing something.” Cincinnati QB Desmond Knight may be the guy, and maybe they’ll move up a bit to do it …
- The more people I talk to directly involved in the selection of players in this draft, the more I lean into Garrett Wilson as the top wide receiver coming off the board. There are different opinions about this group, some of which have more size than speed, or generally at least one feature that makes them a little but. It’s deep and it will produce NFL quality, but the order remains up for debate. But I expect Wilson to be the first to go. “He’s the best in the group and I think a lot of teams agree with us on that,” said one GM. “There’s not a Ja’Marr Chase in this group – no one is like that guy, it’s not that unique – but Wilson should be the first to be elected.”