Saturday draft buzz

April 22, 2022

Friday night roundup … With just 5 days to go until the start of the 2022 draft, it is still pretty darn quiet around the NFL. However, there are a few little tidbits along the way. For starters, buzz continues to grow that Jacksonville could actually prefer Georgia DE Travon Walker over Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, the presumptive favorite to be the first pick selected next week. If that’s the way the Jaguars go it will be because they ultimately preferred Walker’s athletic upside over Hutchinson’s proven productivity and intensity. In fact, Jags’ G.M. Trent Baalke added a little drama to the scenario by telling local reporters at his pre-draft presser on Friday that they there are ‘still four players under consideration for that first pick. Presumably that short list includes the two DEs as well as OTs Ickey Ekwonu of NC State and Alabama’s Evan Neal. Baalke also indicated that he’d be more than happy to consider trade offers for the top pick, but confirmed that to date the Jags haven’t had so much as a nibble.

Of course, no team would be happier if the Jaguars left Hutchinson on the board than Detroit, although the likelihood is that the Lions would simply take Walker themselves if Jacksonville went the other way. At the same time, though, there has been a faint buzz that just won’t go away that if Hutchinson was not available at #2, the Lions are seriously considering taking Liberty QB Malik Willis. There are also some rumblings out of Detroit if the Lions didn’t go QB at #2, then they could very well explore trade opportunities to move up from the 32nd pick, which they acquired from the LA Rams in the Matt Stafford trade, for one of the other QBs.

Whatever the Lions decide to do at the position, there does not appear to be any consensus at all around the league where the top QBs are going to end up. Talk to one person in the know, for example, and they’ll tell you that the earliest they expect a QB to be selected is Pittsburgh with the 20th pick. Then the next guy will tell you that he hears that as many as 4 QBs could go in the top ten, which may be a little excessive, but you get the picture. Its also been really hard to find any kind of consensus on Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. Some people are suggesting he could drop out of the top ten while other consider him to still be a top 5 type guy despite not running all that well at the combine and pro day. On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be much debate that LSU CB Derek Stingley is back in the good books of the NFL. He was considered to be a potential #1 pick overall at the start of the season, but saw his stock drop precipitously after an indifferent season this year. However, he was injured all year with a lisfranc foot problem that he tried to play thru and once cleared medically appears to be back up in the top 5 range.

There are also a couple of unrelated rumors buzzing about the NY Giants who have the 5th and 7th picks. As we have been suggesting for several weeks now, the Giants, who have always been thought to be targeting one of the top OTs for one of their first-round selections, could actually prefer Mississippi State’s Charles Cross over Ekwonu and Neal, both of whom are generally considered to be somewhat more highly rated. That the Giants might prefer Cross, though, should come as no surprise. On the one hand, they were all over Cross at his pro day last month. At the same time, the team’s new adminisitration led by G.M. Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll have been pretty clear that they aren’t thinking of taking an OT with one of their two top picks because they currently have a big hole at RT, which they clearly have; rather because they want to run a lot of 4-5 receiver sets and if they are going to do that they’d really like a pair of OTs with LT blocking skills. And Cross is the consensus top pass blocker in the 2022 draft class.

Meanwhile, the Giants hopes of running a lot of 4-5 receiver sets may be taking on water as there are reports that the Giants are shopping WR Kadarius Toney who has been pretty much a pain in the butt since they selected him with the 20th pick overall last year. Things may have come to a head earlier this month when Toney did not bother to show up to the team’s OTAs. They were voluntary, but Toney clearly needs all the work he can get after missing much of his rookie season with a variety of nagging injuries. And that may have the Giants rethinking some of their draft options as they appear to have been thinking that they could get by with a receiver crew featuring WRs Toney, Kenny Golladay, and Sterling Shepard and RB Saquon Barkley, all of whom spent most of the 2021 season in the trainer’s room. And losing Toney would leave a huge hole in that group.

The Giants might want to give Kansas City a call. The Chiefs, who have the 29th and 30th picks at the end of the opening round, are reportedly exploring trade up options to find both a replacement for WR Tyreek Hill who was traded to Miami earlier this year, as well as a defensive front 7 guy to bolster that side of the ball.