As the NFL draft quickly approaches, the mock drafters are busily putting together their final mocks and pretty soon Mel Kiper and his legion of copycats will update and publish their final Big Boards, or Little Boards in some cases.
Last year I decided to get in on the action by publishing my Dozen Bold Predictions for the 2021 Draft. It was so much fun that I have decided to make it an annual tradition for as long as the editors let me. This year I came up with one extra to make it a baker’s dozen. And I decided to end with a challenge of sorts.
Before I sink into the 2022 predictions, lets recap the 2021 predictions to see how I did.
2021 Draft Predictions Revisited
1. Jacksonville will select Trevor Lawrence first overall.
This one was more of a joke than a prediction because it was so obvious. It doesn’t really count toward the final score.
Correct, of course
2. New York Jets will select Zach Wilson or Justin Fields at number 2.
Again, I thought I’d ease my way into the hard predictions with a few soft balls.
3. Whichever QB San Francisco picks 3rd overall will be a massive bust.
One year later this one is still an incomplete. All we know for sure is that Trey Lance, targeted in the biggest draft trade since RG3, was not a day one starter, or even a year one starter. We should find out this season whether Kyle Shanahan got his draft capital’s worth.
4. Five QBs will be selected before pick #19.
The WFT will not select any of them.
5. At least two of the first five QBs selected in this draft will be busts.
So far so good. If early returns are anything to go by, the cream of the deep 2021 QB class could turn out to be the 5th off the board, Mac Jones, and third round pick Davis Mills (8th QB selected). Meanwhile, generational QB prospect, Trevor Lawrence, has yet to set the league on fire. That’s OK. Generational talent Peyton Manning also had a crap rookie year before going on to have a Hall of Fame career.
Nevertheless, the four QBs selected before Mac Jones posted fairly uninspiring numbers (ESPN Total QBR): Lawrence QBR 33.5, 28th ranked QB, 12 TD:17 INT; Zach Wilson QBR 28.2, 30th ranked, 9 TD:11 INT; Trey Lance 2 starts, QBR 33.4, 5 TD: 2 INT; Justin Fields QBR 26.4, 31st ranked, 7 TD: 10 INT.
We should have a better sense of how well this one is tracking by the end of this season. I’ve got my money on Lance and Wilson making this come true, although Trevor’s rookie season interception total was impressive.
Incomplete, but well on pace
6. Either Denver or Chicago will trade up into the top 8 for a QB.
If I had just stopped at “trade up” I would have nailed it. Do I get partial credit for Chicago trading up to #11 for Justin Fields?
7. The Washington Football Team will not select Micah Parsons.
In hindsight, this might have looked like an inspired move if they had done it, but they would have had to trade ahead of Dallas to pull it off. If we are to believe Rivera’s mantra about character, Parsons was never on his board, making this a safe bet. Mock drafters Todd McShay, Charley Casserly, Dan Kadar and Doug Farrar thought otherwise.
8. Washington’s pick at #19 will be a surprise.
I claimed credit for getting this one correct in my post draft recap to loud objections from HH authors and editors who had mocked Jamin Davis to Washington at #19. To my credit, I was surprised with the pick, because it was such a massive reach. I have to concede, though, that some in the mock draft community were onto it.
9. Either Terrace Marshall or Rashod Bateman will be one of the best three wideouts selected in 2021 and will outperform at least 4 receivers selected ahead of them.
This prediction was inspired by my review of WR draft classes which found that WRs drafted 5th or later in their position group frequently outperform their earlier selected classmates. Wouldn’t you know, 2021 was an atypical year in which the first WR selected, Ja’Marr Chase, was far and away the star of the class, and the first three WRs off the board all lived up to their draft status.
Meanwhile, Rashod Bateman was the 5th WR selected. After missing the first five games to injury, he got off to a promising start, with 46 receptions for 515 yds (11.2 Y/R) and one TD in 12 games and 4 starts. His yardage per game would have had him on pace for a 730-yard rookie campaign, good for 5th place in his draft class, if he had stayed healthy. The only WR picked ahead of him that he outpaced was Kadarius Toney.
Terrace Marshall did about as much as a rookie as Dyami Brown.
The late round sleeper WR in this class was Amon-Ra St Brown.
Incomplete, but not looking great
10. The WFT will select a larger power running back after the third round
By my own admission, this was really more of a wish than a prediction. My guy in 2021, Rhamondre Stevenson, had a strong rookie campaign in New England, racking up 606 hard yards on 133 carries and 14 receptions for 123 yards, with 8 total TDs. I continue to hold out hope that the Commanders will draft a bruising, between the tackles RB in 2022, such as Kenneth Walker, Tyler Allegier or Hassan Haskins.
11. The WFT will select three new starters in the 2021 draft
For some reason I didn’t count on the team selecting a long-snapper. Fortunately, that’s not a starting position.
This one is almost on track, with Jamin Davis assured a starting role for a few more years by virtue of his draft status, and Samuel Cosmi appearing to have locked up the starting RT spot. Now I just need John Bates, Benjamin St-Juste, Dyami Brown or wildcard Dax Milne (assuming I can count slot WR as a starting position) to step it up in their second years to give me the save.
12. The three starters the WFT selects in 2021 will be drawn from the following rounds: 1 in round 1, none in round 2, 1 in rounds 3 to 4, and one in rounds 5 to 7.
What was I thinking, making a prediction this specific? There was practically no way to get this completely right. Anyway, I seem to have got this one wrong unless Sam Cosmi unexpectedly loses his starting job. Never again.
To round up the 2021 results, that’s four correct, including the two gimmes, four incomplete and four incorrect. Thus far, I’m doing about as well as NFL teams trying to draft starters in the second half of the second round. I find the large number of incompletes to be unsatisfying. I will try to do a better job this year of making predictions that will be decided after the draft, or at least by this time next year.
2022 Draft Predictions
1. At least 2 QBs will be taken in the top 10.
This is a weak QB class, with no clear-cut QB1. This might be the first draft since 1996 that no QB was selected in the first round, right? Nonsense.
Since the overheated free agency market for wide receivers has shifted attention to that position, people seem to have forgotten all the talk about where the quarterback market was headed just a few months ago. Let me remind you.
QB salaries above 14% tend to force difficult personnel decisions. In 2022, only two QBs will have cap hits well above the pain threshold: Patrick Mahomes (17.1%) and Ryan Tannehill (18.3%). In 2023, that number accelerates to eight, with three above the 20% mark: Deshaun Watson (24.4%), Patrick Mahomes (20.8%), Dak Prescott (21.8%).
This trend is not showing any signs of letting up. As a result, teams are under increasing pressure to find signal callers on affordable rookie contracts. This draft features at least three QBs that teams could easily convince themselves have potential to become viable starters: Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis and Matt Corral. The number could increase by adding Sam Howell, Desmond Ridder or Carson Strong. At least five teams enter the draft with obvious needs at QB: Carolina, Atlanta, Seattle, New Orleans, Pittsburgh. Tennessee, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York Giants and Washington should all be thinking about their futures at the position, and one of them might have a surprise in store for opening night of the draft.
There is no way that fewer than two QBs are taken in the top ten. I would not be the least bit surprised if three or more are taken in the top 15, weak QB class or not.
2. Two QBs in this draft class will go on to become long-term starters
The average over the past decade or so is 1.8 long-term starting QBs per draft. As mentioned above, I predict that the increasing demand for QBs on rookie contracts will override concerns about the weak QB class. Two of the top five QBs in this class will find good landing spots at the NFL level, allowing them to develop into at least decent starters.
I have confidence that Matt Corral will be one of the two hits from this draft class and that he will become a stud, more so due to his exceptional leadership and dedication to improve than because of tangible traits, which are not too shabby either. The other is likely to be one of Pickett or Willis, but I wouldn’t rule out Sam Howell, either.
3. Seven wide receivers will be drafted in the first round
Enough about quarterbacks. That was last year’s topic. This draft is all about wide receivers. The expectation is that record contracts for free agent wide outs will drive a run on wide receivers in the first round, despite the fact that wide receiver is the riskiest position to draft that high. With Terry McLaurin due for an extension, no plan B on the roster, and a strong need to make the new starting QB feel loved, the Commanders might lead the charge.
The most wide receivers drafted in the first round this century was seven in 2004. I predict this draft will tie that number. There are five WRs who should be first-round locks: Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Jameson Williams, Treylon Burks, Chris Olave. That means two more will hear their names called on opening night: Jahan Dotson and someone else.
4. WR Wan’Dale Robinson will outperform his draft status
Each draft going back as far back as I care to look seems to feature at least one wide receiver picked after five or more have come off the board, who outperforms many of the higher drafted WRs. Some examples: Tee Higgins (WR7), DK Metcalf (WR9), Terry Mclaurin (WR12), Michael Gallup (WR9), Cooper Kupp (WR7), Michael Thomas (WR7), Tyreek Hill (WR18).
Robinson is a quick, and sudden receiver with an ability to make plays from all over the formation, like a miniature Deebo Samuel. The main knock on him is a lack of prototypical size. He makes up for it with exceptional competitiveness and toughness.
Some other players who could join Dale on the WR sleepers list are Jalen Tolbert, Alec Pierce, Calvin Austin and Bo Melton. The 2020 draft had four of these guys, 2019 three, 2018 one, 2017 four, 2016 four. There is no reason to expect that the 2022 receiver class won’t produce one or more star receivers on days two and three.
5. WR Treylon Burks will be a stud in the NFL.
A couple of names from my past NFL Draft Little Boards: Deebo Samuel, AJ Brown, Chase Claypool. Another name to add to the list is Michael Thomas. We regularly see bigger wide receivers taken a little later in the draft outperform many of the “elite” prospects taken near the top of the first round. Quite a few of them run the 40 yard dash in over 4.5 seconds and still manage to get separation from NFL DBs. Burks just strikes me as being cut from that same mold. Burks has nearly identical measurements and concerns about his worse than expected combine testing numbers as Michael Thomas, which means he might still be available if the Commanders trade back into the twenties for more picks.
6. LB Devin Lloyd will be a stud in the NFL.
Lloyd is the type of fast, athletic LB who excels equally in coverage, run support and pass rushing that teams have been moving to for about a decade or more. I think Lloyd has potential to be the next LB to make teams question how well their concepts of position value are serving them in the first round. He should instantly upgrade any team that struggles to cover tight ends and running backs. Too bad the Commanders are focused elsewhere because that has been a glaring need for pretty much ever.
7. The Commanders will not draft Matt Corral, Treylon Burks or Devin Lloyd.
With the exceptions of Jonathan Allen, Dwayne Haskins (RIP) and Derrius Guice, the team does a great job of avoiding players on my annual Little Board. Corral will do well in Seattle if he’s not forced to start too early. Lloyd will fit right in as a Raven and Burks will be a beast wherever he lands. Burks has had a top 30 visit with Dallas. Please, God, no.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
8. The Commanders will draft a running back.
But, but, but, we’ve got much bigger needs! It’s a luxury pick! Antonio Gibson had the sixth highest rushing total in 2021, and then we have this guy and this other guy. I don’t think NFL teams think like that.
The league is moving away from single lead backs toward multiple-back rotations. Adding another back to share the load will allow OC Scott Turner to make better use of Antonio Gibson’s multifaceted skillset. This makes too much sense not to happen. The Commanders have had top-30 visits with RBs Kenneth Walker III, Breece Hall, Brian Robinson, Isaiah Spiller and Tyrion Davis-Price. I’d keep my eye on Spiller, Robinson and Davis-Price on day three.
Why it might not happen: when was the last time the Commanders did something that made too much sense not to happen?
9. The Commanders will draft a linebacker.
The Commanders coaching staff appears to be strangely indifferent to the sparse lineup at linebacker, considering that head coach and defensive coordinator are both former linebackers. The current depth chart on the team website shows David Mayo at starting SLB. I don’t even know who backups De’Jon Harris and Milo Eifler are.
This is ridiculous. I simply refuse to accept that the plan is to pick up one of the remaining free agent LBs after the draft to be the third starter. The team just has to take a shot at upgrading the third starting LB position, or at least bolster the depth chart. Do we really want to start Milo Eifler if one of our starters is injured?
I actually think they might draft two, one pure LB in rounds two or four, and a hybrid LB/S later on. But for purposes of this prediction, I’m only committing to the first one.
10. The Commanders will make more than seven selections in the 2022 draft.
Ron and the Martys traded away two of their 2022 draft picks: the third round pick for a mid-level starting QB with a checkered past who was about to be released, and the fifth round pick in a trade for picks and a long snapper. Now, they have to make it look like they didn’t throw away valuable draft capital in a panic, so they will trade down once or more to get more picks.
11. The Commanders will not add any day two picks.
Although I just predicted that the Commanders will trade back to acquire more picks, they will not do so in the first round, because Ron Rivera has his heart set on a player, or two. I will reveal the name(s) in a second. Since the first trade back will not occur until the second or fourth round, it is not likely to net more than a day three pick. The Commanders will be adding two or more picks in rounds four through seven.
12. The Commanders’ first-round pick will be one of the two Ohio State wide receivers.
Ron Rivera traveled to Ohio State’s pro day and spent a lot of time with the wide receivers. That is unusual for him. In his time with Panthers he traveled interstate to three pro days. Two of those featured Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey whom he went on to draft.
He has staked his future in DC on a risky trade for Carson Wentz. To make that work he has to get his QB more receiving weapons. I hope the pick is Garrett Wilson. However, with the expected high demand for WRs, there is no guarantee that he will be available at #11. Also, the team pretty much never does what I want them to. I have a growing sense that it will be Chris Olave. I could live with that selection, if he’s not a bust.
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Bold Predictions Challenge
There you have it. I have put up thirteen targets and welcome everyone to fire away.
Last year, when I published my first Dozen Bold Predictions , one or two commenters suggested that, rather than being bold, I had actually gone vanilla. In the lead up to this year’s draft, a few of our regular commenters have also suggested that they have superior powers of draft prognostication.
Therefore, rather than simply opening this up to pot shots, I would like to take this opportunity to invite everyone – whether you think my predictions are bold and insightful or you think that Vinny Cerrato and Dan Snyder could have done better while drunk on Coors Light – to post your own bold predictions about the draft. Next year, when I revisit these predictions, I will also recap the notable predictions that commenters got right and otherwise. This is your chance to prove to all of Hogs Haven that you are truly the boldest draft prognosticator, if you dare.
That’s it, no rules, no prizes and no poll. Just one shining opportunity for death or glory. I look forward to seeing your predictions.
Acknowlegement: thanks to James Dorsett for his usual excellent editorial assistance