The 2022 NFL Draft is just over a month away. It's a strange draft this year, with a crop of three or four prospects everybody collectively considers to be elite and then a massive group of question marks with both high upside and bust potential. The draft is always a crapshoot to an extent but it's even more so this year.
All the top draft gurus agree on one thing, though-- it's a weak quarterback class. And it looks even more so considering it's coming one year after an absolutely loaded 2021 draft. There are no prospects thought to be on the same level as Mac Jones, much less Trevor Lawrence, in 2022. That doesn't mean that no good QBs will emerge from this draft-- but it's a much longer shot to find a franchise signal-caller than last year or, probably, next year.
That is why Mel Kiper Jr., in his latest mock draft for ESPN+, doesn't have a quarterback going in the first half of the first round. Kenny Pickett is the first off the board, at No. 18 to the New Orleans Saints. Per ESPN:
The Saints tried and failed to add Deshaun Watson, so are they definitely committed to Jameis Winston now? I don't think so. If the board shakes out this way -- with all of the passers available -- why shouldn't they take Pickett? He's the most NFL-ready of the bunch, leveling up last season with 42 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. He is super accurate. He understands how to run an offense and lead a team. He could be the Saints' future.
This is a strange quarterback class, and the range on when Pickett and Malik Willis come off the board varies from everyone I talk to in the league. No one knows for sure. I would not be shocked if either of them fell into New Orleans' lap here.
As previously mentioned, it is widely accepted at this stage that the 2022 class is unspectacular at quarterback. It's still crazy to consider that the first one to come off the board may not be until the second half of the first round. Especially after the 2021 draft featured no less than five QBs taken in the first 15 picks.
Kiper had Malik Willis going two picks after Pickett and finished the first round with Matt Corrall to the Lions with the 32nd overall selection. Three QBs taken in the first round total. And the range of outcomes with all three is varied, to say the least.
The NFL Draft is never a sure thing. That is more true this year than most, and no more so than in regards to the crop of quarterbacks. Kiper Jr. seems to think the uncertainty will only push the prospects back in the first instead of out of it entirely.