2022 NFL Draft: Four players destined for the first round

04/20/2022
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While we’re a week away from the 2022 NFL Draft, there are still a lot of question marks around the entire top-10 of the board. We truly don’t know who’s going first overall and there’s speculation that the Lions could still target a quarterback such as Malik Willis with the second overall pick.

We could see a run of trench players (EDGE and OT) taken within the top-15 of the opening round. If that’s the case, we could see other teams reach on a couple of different positions. That’s even after some cornerbacks and wide receivers get selected. So with that, here are four players that I think are destined for the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft!

Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Often times, I get asked about how many quarterbacks we’ll see selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. The obvious choices and locks are Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett. Beyond that, I think it’s evident that we’ll see at least a third quarterback selected in the first round.

That player would be Desmond Ridder from Cincinnati. He’s already visited with the Seattle Seahawks and has actually compared his game to Ryan Tannehill. Is that intriguing enough for a team such as the Atlanta Falcons to bring him in for a last minute visit? It’s very possible.

Aside from teams in the top-10, there are two teams that need another quarterback on their roster. The New Orleans Saints have two picks in the top-20 and with the 20th pick, we see the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’ve done extensive work on the position and I think the best fit for them is Ridder.

He’s got great mobility with how he’s able to extend beyond the pocket and execute zone-read concepts. Meanwhile, his ability as a passer is impressive from how he throws deep down the field and with how the ball jumps out of his hand. At this point, I’d be shocked if he made it past the 32nd overall pick.

Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

Staying down the path of quarterbacks, we get Matt Corral from Ole Miss. There’s a ton of potential with him and the ball also jumps out of his hand. Two seasons ago, he threw six interceptions against Arkansas but only threw five interceptions this past season. His ball security improved and so did his decision-making.

One key issue I have with him is his overall frame and that Ole Miss ran a single-read RPO-style offense. Can he consistently work through progressions? Meanwhile, can he withstand some of the contact he will absorb in the NFL at 205 pounds?

That being said, his draft stock is starting to rise and some believe he could go at the 8th overall pick to the Atlanta Falcons. To my board, that’s a bit rich but I think there are some really intriguing teams on the back end of the first round that makes sense. In my first mock draft of the year (day after the Super Bowl), I had Corral land with the Titans at the 26th overall selection. There’s also a belief that the Lions could pass on a quarterback at two and take on with the 32nd overall selection.

Add in the teams such as New Orleans and Pittsburgh and the range for Corral ranges from 16-32 and there’s a realistic chance he goes in that range. Keep in mind, teams like Atlanta could pass on a quarterback at 8th overall and move back into the first round to grab Corral, if he’s available. Kansas City and Green Bay could be interested in moving out of the first round and the Falcons do have multiple 2nd round picks.

Regardless, Corral is interesting because he’s got the tools to develop into a QB1 for a team. That could intrigue a team to grab him earlier than expected and utilize the 5th year option that comes with first-round draft picks. Keep in mind, he will be 1 of the 21 prospects in attendance for the 2022 NFL Draft.

Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State

Some people would consider me crazy for having Ebiketie with a first round grade in my 2022 NFL Draft Guide. I’d propose for you to re-check the tape. He’s one of the most natural pass rushers in the draft and does a great job utilizing his length and swipe move to pressure quarterbacks. He can turn the corner at ease and if he can figure out his first step with better timing and more consistency, he could become an absolute terror off the edge for a team.

With that, it wouldn’t be surprising if a team such as the Philadelphia Eagles grab him earlier than expected. Brandon Graham isn’t getting any younger and Josh Sweat is returning from a “life-threatening surgery.” Is that enough for them to justify taking Ebiketie with the 15th or 18th overall pick? He’d be a great fit for them, that’s for sure.

Aside from the Eagles, what about the Steelers, Chiefs or Cowboys? Starting with the Steelers, they always seem to put value in edge rushers and while they do have Alex Highsmith, could they find value in selecting Ebiketie to be paired with Highsmith and Watt? In an AFC that is dominated by quarterbacks, that could be a similar recipe we’ve seen teams such as the Buccaneers use.

Lastly, keep tabs on the Cowboys and Chiefs. The Cowboys lost Randy Gregory to the Broncos. While they do have Dante Fowler, I don’t believe he’s a long-term option for the team. Ebiketie could be for a team that needs help to consistently get after the quarterback. As for the Chiefs, they have multiple picks in the first round and could look to add a pass rusher as there’s been rumblings of them moving on from Frank Clark.

Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota

Similar to Ebiketie, we could see Boye Mafe get into the first-round conversation due to his explosiveness and athleticism. He tested off the charts at the Scouting Combine and could easily be an intriguing option for a team on the back end.

He’s still raw as a pass-rusher as he doesn’t have a defined pass rush plan and didn’t have a defined role for Minnesota. While he might have played out of place at times in college, he could be a stud with a role that allows him to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback.

The first team that catches my eye is the Titans with the 26th pick. While they have Bud Dupree, they could look at getting out of his contract after this season and save close to $20 million dollars. This past season, Dupree battled through injuries and as you look at the current situation with receiver AJ Brown, they might need the money to pay him.

Aside from the Titans, the Chiefs make a lot of sense (for reasons listed above) but so do the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. While the Packers could look at a receiver with the 22nd overall pick, they could be intrigued with Mafe despite paying Preston Smith this off-season. For the Lions, there’s interest in a quarterback with the 2nd overall pick and if they pass on an edge rusher in that spot, Mafe would make a ton of sense for them at the 32nd pick of the draft.

National Scout for Cover 1. Host of Cover 1 | The NFL Draft Podcast. NFL Draft Enthusiast. X's and O's. Heard on ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio.

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