Feels like the top of the draft is starting to take shape
2022 NFL Mock Draft: Where does that leave the Seahawks at 9?
The closest thing the 2022 NFL Draft has had to a “consensus” is that I can-sense-us not coming to any sort of agreements prior to next Thursday’s first round.
However, I actually do think that clarity in the first three selections is starting to come to the surface and that’s potentially why “Travon Walker to the Jaguars” and “Dan Campbell thinks Kayvon Thibodeaux is a lazypants” may merely be smokescreens designed to keep us off the increasingly evident trail of bread crumbs.
After all, I do still think that every team in the top-10 wants to trade down. Where there’s smoke, there’s a hot seat. But given that this class offers few reasons to trade up, that may not happen between now and April 28th. So why do you subscribe to Seaside Joe? Hopefully at least part of the reason for that is that I’ll give my best effort every day to sift through smoke and to deliver reality, a commodity that is becoming harder and harder to find from your favorite NFL media analysts.
Maybe I’m not your favorite… but I can-sense-you coming around. Here’s how I see the first eight picks unfolding so far.
1 - Jaguars select DE Aidan Hutchinson
Early draft reports suggested that Jacksonville could favor Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu, or Charles Cross. The reason I never bought that? Simply because the Jaguars are only one year removed from drafting a franchise offensive player with the number one pick in the draft and I believe that Doug Pederson’s goal is to focus all of his attention on how to make Trevor Lawrence into a great NFL player.
Being the number one overall pick, especially at QB, is a tremendous amount of pressure. Yes, Neal might literally alleviate some pressure off of Lawrence, but then who takes the pressure off of Neal? You now have great prospects on either side of the ball and Jags defensive line coach Brenston Buckner is the perfect person to mold Jacksonville’s next number one overall pick and I believe that has to be an edge rusher.
So why Hutchinson over Travon Walker, who supposedly is the hot ticket now? Again I would suggest to stick to the most basic answer: To be the nicest anyone could possibly be to the franchise, the Jaguars have been an absolute shit organization for far too long. Jacksonville is not a good football team, so why would they draft someone who isn’t a good football player yet like Walker?
The Jaguars have an opportunity to draft a football player who has all the athletic traits you want in a pass rusher and he was also the best defensive player in college football last season. All the noise that Jacksonville might not select Hutchinson seems to be that right now: Noise. Because Jags GM Trent Baalke wants to trade down but unfortunately for him there will be no takers.
2 - Lions select DE Kayvon Thibodeaux
Michigan native Braylon Edwards has been saying that the Lions will take an edge rusher and he believes it will be Kayvon Thibodeaux. I will side with him for two reasons:
He makes a great point. “Now all of a sudden Thibodeaux isn’t a “Dan Campbell guy” but Baker Mayfield is?” Hypocrisy.
I’ll take his word because at least he’s putting his name on his take, rather than Albert Breer spouting a rumor from an unnamed source.
I have been monitoring Kayvon Thibodeaux for a while and I did a deep dive on his Twitter account a couple months ago, even going way back into high school. I’ll tell you this: I’ve done the dive into other player’s high school history and I’ve seen the dirt. I don’t report the dirt because I don’t do that, but I’ve seen it from players you’d believe and players you wouldn’t believe.
I haven’t seen any dirt on Thibodeaux. From all I’ve seen, he’s got a great personality. He’s also obsessed with becoming a great edge rusher and he’s the last guy to rely solely on his athleticism. Kayvon Thibodeaux screams “Dan Campbell guy” to me because Dan Campbell wants great football players… and because the Lions have had horrible play along the edge.
GM Brad Holmes, who worked in Los Angeles with the Rams from 2016 to 2020, is also probably intimately familiar with Thibodeaux: He was USA Today’s High School Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 while playing at Oaks Christian School… in Los Angeles. I’m sure that Holmes also did plenty of homework on Thibodeaux before picking Oregon teammate Penei Sewell in 2021. I’m now as confident in the Lions picking Thibodeaux as I am in the Jaguars picking Hutchinson.
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3 - Texans select OL Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
Other than some reports that they could take Sauce Gardner, pretty much everyone agrees that Houston will target offensive line with the number three pick. There are only two names in play then: Ekwonu and Evan Neal. But nine days before the draft, Ekwonu is the name that seems to be coming up for practically everyone.
The reason for that could simply be versatility and culture fit. Not that Neal is a bad culture fit, but Ekwonu’s “nasty” run-blocking and will to embarrass the guy opposite of him may suit Lovie Smith, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, and GM Nick Caserio’s vision to stop the Texans from being the laughingstock of the league for another season.
It’s also his versatility that will allow Houston one more year to start Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, while either moving Tytus Howard to left guard or sliding Ekwonu inside at guard to start his career. I wouldn’t love it if the Texans picked a guard in the top-three, but it wasn’t Caserio who traded for Tunsil in 2019 and he didn’t extend him in 2020. That was the last regime.
Instead, the Texans could try to trade Tunsil in 2022 or 2023 (the last year of his contract) to recoup some of what they lost in acquiring him from the Dolphins. If Tunsil is healthy enough to play in more than 14 games next season, Houston could even get a first round pick and change from a team willing to pay him on his next deal. Ekwonu would then become the Texans’ franchise left tackle in 2023.
I’m very, very confident in these top three picks. Way more confident than I should be!
I also don’t see any trades out of the top-three because these prospects won’t compel any teams to move up, but that doesn’t mean that good players aren’t “falling” at this point and now I could see the phone start to heat up for the New York Jets…
4 - Jets select OT Evan Neal, Alabama
When you look at the board, the draft order, and the team needs, I think it becomes apparent that Neal is the prize at four. With Ekwonu off the board at three, and Charles Cross fitting only a specific role at the next level right now, I think Neal is the must-have player left on the board. Nothing against Sauce Gardner, Travon Walker, Garrett Wilson, Cross, etc., but all you have to do is look at pick five…
The Giants will absolutely pick Evan Neal if they can, and if they don’t, the Panthers will do it, and if they don’t, then the Giants will do it!
The problem with trading down is that even if a team outside of the top-10 was willing to do it, I don’t think that Jets GM Joe Douglas is willing to move that far down the board and to leave the draft without getting a blue chip prospect. I think he would want to stay in the top-six or seven, and that’s just hard to do when the Giants own two of those picks—and also New York wants to trade down.
It would make sense for Carolina to trade over the Giants to get Neal but we already know that Carolina is going to trade down—which is coming up soon.
For that reason, I believe the Jets will have to stick-and-pick and the player who makes the most sense to me is Neal. Yes, Douglas picked and may have whiffed on Mekhi Becton in 2020, but you live and learn. New York is saying that they aren’t concerned with Becton at all, and that’s exactly what you would say if you were hoping to trade a former first round pick.
What the Jets can’t do is hope to pick a franchise tackle with pick 10 because that’s after the Giants pick (twice), as well as the Panthers and Seahawks. There’s a good chance that between picks 5 and 9 that at least two of the selections will be a tackle. If the Jets don’t take one, then I’d say it’s guaranteed that they won’t get Neal and they might not get Cross. Now compare that to the other players who they’re passing on: There’s a good chance that one of the corners will fall to 10 and there’s a good chance that an edge player will fall to 10 and it’s guaranteed a good receiver will be there at 10. It’s TACKLE that won’t be there without being a reach.
Douglas will look at the players available and the teams behind him and when he doesn’t get a good enough trade offer, he will pick Evan Neal.
5 - Giants select CB Derek Stingley, Jr., LSU
The first surprise! I know I’ve expressed plenty of concerns with a team using a top-10 pick on Stingley, but hey I’m just one guy with some shitty stupid opinions. And I’m not blind to the fact that Stingley was a lock as a top-five pick if he had been in either of the last two drafts because he looked that good after his freshman season. So I’m more than open to the idea that not only could he still be a top-five pick, he could also be the first cornerback taken. The Jaguars had a meeting with Stingley this week and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t to discuss pick 33.
If we were having this discussion a year ago, nobody would’ve thought it possible that Sauce Gardner could go over Stingley. And I wonder to what degree Giants GM Joe Schoen, who worked for the Bills previous to this year, had thoughts about Stingley while watching Buffalo cornerback Tre’Davious White (himself a former LSU team captain with comparable testing and measurables) become one of the NFL’s top defensive backs.
I did a write up on Schoen, a first-time GM, and laid out why I think cornerback, tackle, and edge are the targets for New York. Gardner might be my top corner on the board, but nobody would be that shocked if Schoen’s top corner is Stingley.
6 - Jets select EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State (TRADE!!!)
The trade: Jets send picks 10, 38 to Panthers for picks 6, 199
I think the Jets want to come away with their offensive tackle and pass rusher of the future. They’ve reportedly fallen for Johnson and many draft experts are saying that he won’t make it outside of the top-eight. Travon Walker and Sauce Gardner are still on the board, but there’s nothing that Johnson is really missing as an heir apparent to Carl Lawson.
Johnson’s measurables are even better than Lawson’s, an edge player who is almost guaranteed to be cut in 2023, when the Jets will save $15 million by releasing him with virtually no dead money. You can’t compare anyone in this draft to what Robert Saleh had in Nick Bosa with the 49ers, but again, Johnson has the measurables and unlike Walker, was a good and productive college player.
The Jets have Carolina’s second and fourth round picks because of the Sam Darnold trade, plus another fourth and two fifths. The trade compensation is based on two recent trades of similar placement in the last four years. Now assess the top players on the board again: CB Sauce Gardner, LT Charles Cross, DL Travon Walker, WR Garrett Wilson, S Kyle Hamilton, QB Malik Willis
Is anyone going to help Schoen by trading up? I think the Giants may have no choice. Which of those players do they really want? They just picked a corner at five. They already have Andrew Thomas at left tackle. Walker may be redundant to what they already have on the defensive line. (And if you’re Seattle, this board is exactly why you trade down too.)
7 - Lions select CB Sauce Gardner (TRADE!!!)
The trade: Lions send pick 32, Rams 2023 1st round pick to Giants for pick 7
Brad Holmes also comes from the Les Snead school of “Fuck them picks” and this might be Detroit’s best opportunity to take advantage of the Giants’ accounting problems to move up and select two defensive players in the top-seven of this draft.
The Lions currently hold the Rams’ first round picks in 2022 (32nd) and 2023 but I also think—and I know this is controversial—that Detroit could make the playoffs this year. Campbell and Holmes certainly expect to and I think they’re in the “all gas, no breaks” mindset of believing that you win now, even if you only won three games last season. The Lions aren’t getting a game-changing prospect like Gardner if they stick at pick 32 and they aren’t getting a franchise QB there either.
Similar to the Jets and Becton, Detroit could keep Jeff Okudah around and see how he holds up in 2022 or they could trade him, but having Gardner gives the Lions options and arguably the best DB prospect in the entire class.
What the hell are the Giants doing? It’s the worst kept secret that New York’s financial constraints have forced Schoen to shop one of his first round picks and that means moving far down the board and trying to acquire future draft capital. It so happens that the Lions have four first round picks in the next two years, and they’ll still be able to nab an exciting wide receiver prospect at pick 34.
8 - Falcons select DE Travon Walker, Georgia
It’s a pick that nobody has predicted because almost everyone at this point has Walker going in the top-three. That’s not something I’m ready to lock in and looking at the first seven picks I’ve made, you can re-read my reasoning for that.
The “nation” keeps saying that the Falcons will draft a wide receiver because they noticed that Julio Jones and Roddy White aren’t playing in Atlanta anymore, plus Calvin Ridley is “suspended for the year” (he will be suspended for four games after his appeal is done). But every time I watch a channel or read a report from someone who actually covers the Falcons, they’re as sick of receiver talk as I am of quarterback talk with the Seahawks. I buy what they say and what they say is: EDGE RUSHER.
Travon Walker grew up one hour and 17 minutes away from Atlanta. He played for the University of Georgia, which is about one hour and nine minutes from Atlanta… I’m just tracking him like Santa on Christmas Eve and he seems to be getting closer and closer to Atlanta.
The Falcons currently employ Lorenzo Carter and Adetokunbo Ogundeji at outside linebacker. They have more talent at receiver than they do at edge rusher.
Remaining prospects: LT Charles Cross, OT Trevor Penning, WR Garrett Wilson, S Kyle Hamilton, QB Malik Willis, QB Sam Howell, DT Jordan Davis, DE George Karlaftis, C Tyler Linderbaum
If this is the board, what do you do for the Seahawks? Here are 7 trade down scenarios for Seattle. Tell me what you would do in the comments!