By Scott Engel, The Game Day
We are hearing and reading all types of various speculation about how early quarterbacks may be taken in the 2022 NFL Draft, or if they will slide later than some expect. This has not been an easy draft to mock or project because this incoming QB class is not regarded as an impressive one. Taking a QB early could be seen as “reaching.”
At the same time, many NFL teams cannot afford to miss out on an opportunity to select one of the best passers available. The QB position is the most important one in the league, and more than half of the league’s teams don’t have a truly ideal starter right now. For instance, the entire NFC South has a shaky outlook at quarterback outside of Tampa Bay.
Expect The 2022 NFL Draft To Feature Early QB Drama
This Isn’t A Great QB Class, But Needs Must Be Filled
Some mock drafts you read or analysts you listen to will project more than two QBs being taken in the Top 15, and we have seen some say no QB will come off the board in the first round at all. The opinions and expert takes are wide-ranging. But the reality is that several teams must consider taking the shot to land one of the better QBs in this season’s draft class. That’s because of major needs at the position and a lack of other quality options.
Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo remain available as apparent veteran routes to consider, and one or both of them could be traded before the draft. But both come with obvious concerns of their own, such as Mayfield’s contract and Garoppolo’s health, which is a consistent issue. Some QB-needy teams may decide it’s better to take the chance on a newcomer than to see if they can help Mayfield turn his career around, or hope Garoppolo stays healthy.
Team front offices and talent evaluators cannot afford to listen to all the outside noise. Many of them realize that draft choices can often be lottery tickets, and some turn out to exceed expectations. Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott did not come into the league with much fanfare or backing from analysts, yet both are now among the best quarterbacks in the league.
The Carolina Panthers add certain drama
For instance, Carolina is the most QB-desperate team heading into the draft, especially if they do not make a trade. Going back to Sam Darnold simply is not a viable option. Robby Anderson will be happy to know that, at least according to recent reports, Carolina is unlikely to trade for Mayfield.
Sitting at No. 6 overall, the Panthers would be in a good spot to possibly land one of the top two quarterbacks off the board. But there are at least five other teams that have a significant hole at QB or the desire to upgrade from their current options. Ultimately, the Panthers, Lions, Falcons, Seahawks, Saints and Steelers cannot be concerned about what anyone else outside their building says about this year’s prospects. They must strongly consider taking the opportunity to land one of the incoming rookies, because the alternative choices are severely lacking. If a QB-needy team doesn’t draft one early this season, then it hasn’t attempted to solve one of its biggest problems.
What’s available in the draft may not be comparable to previous seasons or what we may see coming into the NFL at QB in 2023. But when a team has a chance to address one of its glaring roster issues without many other viable paths to consider, it makes a lot of sense to take the best of what is currently available. So, we may see any one of the aforementioned six teams attack the position aggressively.
Strap in For Early 2022 NFL Draft QB Excitement
The drama may start as early as the second pick, with Detroit. If the Lions decide that one of the best rookies can be groomed to be an eventual starter behind Jared Goff, it’s very possible we could see Malik Willis taken as early as second overall. He is the best pure talent in this year’s QB group and would likely benefit from not being rushed into a starting role.
If the Lions pass on a QB, though, we could see one of the other teams try to trade into one of the next three draft positions ahead of Carolina. The Saints have already completed a trade to give them two first-rounders that they could swap for a move up. Pittsburgh could also attempt to deal up from No. 20 overall. The Panthers are lacking in 2022 picks because of the Darnold trade, making their situation even more frustrating if they watch other teams leap ahead of them.
Still, if Willis or Kenny Pickett are taken ahead of them, the Panthers should still have a good crack at one of the top two QBs available. Without second and third rounders in this year’s draft, passing on a quarterback could turn out to be a highly questionable move unless Carolina does indeed change its reported stance on Mayfield, or acquires Garoppolo.
Could divisional opponents push Carolina into rushing their quarterback selection?
The Falcons could potentially opt for a quarterback at eighth overall, as Marcus Mariota is certainly no lock to hold the job down. With two second-rounders, they could address a WR need later in what is considered a deep class.
Seattle is another team that will be heavily in the QB mix after ending the Wilson era. They could be one of the teams to trade up ahead of the sixth pick, or they could wait to see which one falls to them at No. 9 overall. Despite what’s been said publicly, the Seahawks likely don’t want to go into the new season with Drew Lock and Geno Smith competing for the starting job. The big question will be, do they take Wilson’s potential replacement in the top 10, or wait until the second round to address the position at No. 40 or 41 overall?
If the Saints or Steelers do not trade up, they could still take QBs with their first rounders. The 2022 NFL Draft promises to be an exciting one in terms of quarterback drama, even if this season’s group lacks the overall appeal of some other years. Too many teams have a pressing need and the draft is their best option to fill it. We just have to wait and find out how early these franchises will make the moves to get the guys they want, and we’re betting that there will be aggressive pushes to land them. Desperate times will call for frenetic measures or usage of significant draft capital.