Does anyone want a quarterback? Or do we just want to talk about it for a while?
As we continue to roar toward the 2022 NFL Draft, the first-round QB conversation remains…well, cloudy.
Here at the Athletic, we’re reviewing team-specific mock drafts this week with direct input from our writers on the ground. As of today, 24 teams have a first-round pick. Only one of those teams, in our most recent full-league mock, selected a quarterback in the first round. At No. 6, Carolina selected Liberty QB, Malik Willis.
“It’s not just Willis’ skill set that impressed the Panthers. Like everyone at Willis’ pro day two weeks ago, (general manager Scott) Fitterer felt “the excitement in the building” that came from Willis’ energy, enthusiasm, and 65-yard rainbows. the athleticJoseph Person notes. “If you haven’t noticed, and owner David Tepper certainly has, there was a lack of energy in the organization during the final month of the 2021 season. Cam Newton brought the juice during those heady days from 2013 to 2015 and again last season when he returned, though it proved to be short-lived.
“There’s only one Newton. But Willis, who attended Newton’s high school south of Atlanta and spent two years at Auburn, has the same kind of charisma and confidence.”
The Panthers obviously have a need. Willis is impressive. So that pick makes a lot of sense. But what about (check notes) everyone else who should at least talk about a quarterback? Houston, Detroit, Atlanta, Atlanta, Seattle, Washington, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Detroit again?
Everyone passed, Our Steelers mock draft (led by the mock general manager and beat writer Mark Kaboly) talked about that but opted for Devonte Wyatt before trading up to 32 with Detroit to take Ridder. Saints beat writer Kat Terrell painted a similar picture, explaining how New Orleans certainly needs to do its homework at QB, but ultimately made a similar decision: drafting right tackle Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa was a much more comfortable selection.
Seahawks writer Michael-Shawn Dugar thought QB early on but instead opted for Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross, a very good player and in shape, at No. 9 before making a trade at 30 with Kansas City for Ridder. Tennessee Titans mock draft Joe Rexrode thought about a QB and didn’t take one. Ben Standig’s Washington Commanders mock draft…same thing. They’re not alone.
Will it be just Willis in the first round, or will there be a run? Time will tell.
Other notes from our latest series of team mock drafts:
No Beat Writer selected Notre Dame deep Kyle Hamilton in an individual team draft. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that we at athletics are low on Hamilton. On the contrary, our Dane Brugler has rated Hamilton as one of the best defensive prospects in the draft, regardless of position. But Hamilton is safe and, in terms of the position name alone, that can scare people off when you start talking about a top 10 pick. When we did the full 32-team beat writer mock last month, Hamilton slipped to Atlanta at No. 8. Hamilton will be a first-round pick in this draft, probably very high. But depending on team needs, uncertainties, and everything else going on inside the top 10, a Hamilton slide could absolutely be in the cards. This means someone outside the top 10, possibly, could end up with a gigantic steal. We’ll see.
If you’re interested in what our beat writers think regarding their team’s first-round pick, here’s the top 10 (note that these drafts were done independently, so there will be repeats).
Jacksonville (Aidan Hutchinson, Edge), 2. Detroit (Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge), 3. Houston (Ikem Ekwonu, OL) 4. New York Jets (Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge), 5. New York Giants (Evan Neal, OT), 6. Carolina Panthers (Malik Willis, QB), 7. New York Giants (Sauce Gardner, CB), 8. Atlanta (Travon Walker, Edge), 9. Seattle (Charles Cross, OL), 10. New York Jets ( Drake London, WR)
The player who finished on the most first-round boards this time around? Texas A&M shooting guard Kenyon Green. In our last round of mock drafts, Green went off the board to Dallas, Tamba Bay, and Cincinnati at the end of the first.