The NFL draft has a long history and tradition. With the old system, scouts would watch players in college games or play against them during their career. In 2017, when Nike was preparing to do a commercial with Odell Beckham Jr., they released details of an algorithm that had predicted he’d be drafted 1st overall in 2014 which turned out to be true. The new technology is coming at you from every angle and as it gets smarter so will our drafts get more competitive.

The “nfl mock draft 2022” is a blog that covers the NFL Draft. It has been released for the upcoming draft in 2022. The article has rumors and running back fits about what might happen during the next year.

As we move into Friday night and Rounds 2 and 3, you’ll know who your favorite team chose — or didn’t choose — in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft in just four weeks.

But why wait until then when you can find out today if Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu will be the first offensive tackle off the board? — or why Kayvon Thibodeaux has gone from being the early favorite to be the No. 1 pick to now being a possible Day 1 faller?

In this week’s buzz notebook, ESPN NFL draft experts Jordan Reid and Matt Miller go over all of this and more. Find out what we know about Neal and Ekwonu after their pro days, what we know about Thibodeaux, their thoughts on six of the best running backs in this class, news and notes from the pro day circuit, and more as Round 1 approaches.

Let’s start with some Thibodeaux news, since he may not be chosen as high as you think:

Let’s take a look at a major topic: Who will be the first to be chosen as an OT? Top running backs’ landing destinations Notes from this week’s pro days Is Kyle Hamilton doomed? What is Carolina’s quarterback strategy?

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Big questions: a fading possibility and an OT argument

Kayvon Thibodeaux, the Oregon defensive end, may go as low as he wants.

Miller: When we looked forward to this draft class a year ago, the Oregon pass-rusher was a strong contender for the first overall pick. Thibodeaux is one of the more divisive prospects in the class a month out from the start of Round 1. Following a spectacular true freshman season in 2019, in which he recorded nine sacks, he battled through a pandemic-shortened 2020, recording only three sacks in seven games, a statistic his fans would cite to as productive given the attention he was receiving from opposing offensive lines. However, the problems started last season when Thibodeaux was forced to leave the Ducks’ Week 1 game in a walking boot.

Thibodeaux is now slipping in the eyes of NFL clubs rather than vying for the No. 1 selection as scouts and general managers compile their final rankings. Here’s what I know about the circumstances behind his departure:

  • Thibodeaux’s production: On his route to seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss, Thibodeaux didn’t demonstrate the speed and burst anticipated of a man regarded as a front-runner for the No. 1 selection. Beyond those figures, scouts and front-office executives with whom I’ve talked have continually commended his potential but questioning his drive. Prospects don’t want a label that says “lack of fire.”

  • Interviews: It’s always difficult for me to write on prospects’ interviews with NFL clubs because I want to be fair to the player, which is why it’s critical not to disclose information from a single source. Thibodeaux did not impress scouts in interviews with their teams, according to more than a half-dozen. “Poor” is a phrase that is often used to characterize his interviews. This is a major warning signal, particularly for organizations trying to deploy a high draft selection.

  • Injury: In September, Thibodeaux hurt his ankle, which takes time to recover. However, one scout in charge of analyzing Thibodeaux believed he was hesitant following the injury, and others in the Oregon program concurred.

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Of course, all of the aforementioned worries might be for nought, since it only takes one club to fall in love with a potential. Thibodeaux might be picked in the second or third round by the Lions or Texans, but league insiders say he’ll be selected below the top five selections, perhaps even outside the top 10.

If the Seahawks (No. 9) and Jets (No. 10) don’t choose Thibodeaux, he might fall even farther in the draft order, since Washington, Minnesota, Houston, and Baltimore aren’t projected to take pass-rushers at Nos. 11-14. A lot can happen once the draft begins and panic sets in, but one month from now, Thibodeaux might be on the Eagles’ board at No. 15.

Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal will be the first offensive tackle chosen.

Reid: This is a deep tackle class, with four players possibly going in the top 20, but Ekwonu and Neal are in a league of their own. However, opinions on who is the best player in the league are divided.

Last season, I had the opportunity to scout both of them up close on many times, and they are both as terrific as they seem. Ekwonu, who played both guard and tackle at NC State, is a 6-foot-4, 320-pound dynamic playmaker. Over the last two seasons, he has developed into a mainstay at left tackle, displaying great play power and ferocity while completing blocks. Scouts want to see him work on his over-aggressiveness in pass sets, which causes him to surrender inside pressure.

Neal, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 337 pounds, has one of the most outstanding builds for a player at his position. His physical talents jump out on video, but it’s his positional versatility that has aided his game the most. Neal started his career as a right guard, then moved to right tackle before finishing his junior season as a left tackle. Where might he make improvements? When scouts were polled, the two criteria that came up most often were balance and consistency in finishing.

The Texans start the clock for Ekwonu and Neal at No. 3, but there isn’t yet a consensus on which player Houston will choose. Could Neal’s week-to-week experience playing against SEC opponents win out? At Alabama’s pro day earlier this week, an area scout told me the following: “I really like Neal,” he remarked. “I like him even more now that he’s done it at a high level in the SEC and played tackle on both sides.” Reid’s comment

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How excellent is this group of running backs? Let’s see what works best for them.

Here are the top six running backs, along with their best qualities and possible landing spots:

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What he excels at: Almost everything. Hall is a traditional three-down back with NFL starting potential. During his time at Iowa State, he shown both inside and outside vision, as well as the speed to break away on big plays and the hands to impress in the passing game. His potential to jump in as a real featured back wows teams with his mix of stature (5-11, 217) and speed (4.39-second 40-yard sprint).

Where he may fit: Hall’s sweet spot is the conclusion of Round 1. The Bills (25th overall) may be on the lookout for a versatile back with pace. Even after re-signing Leonard Fournette, the Buccaneers (No. 27) are in the same boat. The Texans (No. 37) are a good match for him if he makes it to the second round. Miller’s words

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What he’s known for: Walker is a natural tackler. In his lone season at Michigan State, he led the FBS with 1,001 running yards after contact. He has a thick body and a low center of gravity, which makes it tough for opponents to get him to the ground at 5-foot-9, 211 pounds. Many scouts were surprised by his 4.38-second 40 time, but it added another good to his scouting report.

Where he may fit in: Walker is most likely to be selected in the mid-to-late second round. He’d be a good fit for three clubs in need of a running back. The Bills (57), Falcons (58), and Buccaneers (60) are all possible landing sites. Reid’s comment

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What he excels at: On Spiller’s scouting report, vision and decisiveness are at the top of the positives list. Another quality that might be added to the mix is his contact balancing, as he has the capacity to battle through any sign of touch and burst through the second level to produce good runs.

Where he may go: In a deep running back class, Spiller is among the rushers who could be selected anywhere from the second to the late third round. His talent spans a broad spectrum of genres. The Buffalo Bills (No. 89), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 91), and Miami Dolphins (No. 102) are all teams where he might be added to a committee and play a role early in his career. Reid’s comment

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Pierce is a punishing, vicious runner who thrives on contact and is often the one fleeing after a collision. His instincts as a runner are top-notch, and they complement his natural leverage and balance nicely. Pierce’s fast feet help him fool opponents, but it’s his strength that stands out on film.

Where he may fit: Pierce will most likely be taken in the third round. Pierce’s power would compliment a current runner on the Seahawks (No. 72), Falcons (No. 74), and Chargers (No. 79) schemes. Miller’s words

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What he excels at: Cook’s specialty is versatility. He can run between the tackles, but in the NFL, he’ll be known for his perimeter runs and inventive pass-catching techniques. He might be a popular target to add to a committee because of his ability to speed and produce explosive plays.

Cook is most likely to go in the early-to-mid third round, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he went much sooner. The Texans (No. 80) and Giants (No. 81) make sense, but the Dolphins (No. 102), who have a flexible offensive scheme in which he might flourish, may be his best option. Reid’s comment

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What he’s known for: Strong is a dynamic back with game-changing speed (4.37 40) and explosiveness. With his incredible field vision and the quickness to break away for big yards, he makes defenders miss. He’s also powerful and wiry enough to deflect tackles and continue running after initial contact.

Where he may fit: Assign Strong to a team that plays outside zone and watch him go wild. The Miami Dolphins (No. 102), Kansas City Chiefs (No. 103), San Francisco 49ers (No. 105) or Houston Texans (No. 107) are all viable options. Miller’s words

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Pro day notes for Zion Johnson, Jalen Pitre, and others

Reid: Boston College’s Zion Johnson has made a strong case to be the first interior offensive lineman drafted. Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa) and Kenyon Green (Texas A&M) are the other candidates, but when combining what each has shown on tape and the boxes they have checked throughout the pre-draft process, Johnson has cleared the most hurdles. He’s my No. 14-ranked prospect.

The Bengals, Falcons, Jaguars, Patriots, and Texans were among the 31 clubs represented at Boston College’s pro day, which included offensive line coaches from the Bengals, Falcons, Jaguars, Patriots, and Texans. The Steelers (No. 20 overall), Cardinals (No. 23), Cowboys (No. 24), and Bills (No. 25) are all possible landing locations for him due to his scheme adaptability and positional flexibility throughout the inside.

Miller: There were a lot of NFL hopefuls at Baylor’s pro day, but safety Jalre Pitre stood out since he didn’t participate in every exercise at the combine. Scouts at the exercise said he ran a 4.44-second 40-yard sprint. Pitre is ranked No. 46 overall on my big board, but his flexibility as a matchup defensive back who can play safety or slot cornerback might help him slip into the late first or early second rounds.

Pitre, like Antoine Winfield Jr. from the 2020 draft, is known for his flexibility. In Kansas City (Nos. 29, 30), Cincinnati (No. 31), or Jacksonville (No. 32), he may be a good match (No. 33).

Reid: In a loaded cornerback class, Florida’s Kaiir Elam seems to be overlooked. He is the nephew of 2013 first-round selection Matt Elam, and he has maintained the Gator trend of secondary players becoming high-round draft choices. He’s a large, strong press-man corner with ball skills, at 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds. At the combine, he ran a 4.39 in the 40, but at his pro day, he had a 37.5-inch vertical and ran a 4.21 in the short shuttle.

For teams that use a lot of press-man coverage or strategies that depend on outside corners getting their hands on receivers early in routes, Elam will be a viable option. He might slip into Round 1 — keep an eye on the Chiefs (Nos. 29 and 30) and Bengals (No. 31) — or make sense on Day 2, with the Giants (No. 36) as a possible landing spot.

Reid is a running back at the University of North Carolina. Ty Chandler is a sleeper I’d want to highlight since he’s impressed me along the process. I watched him play live against South Carolina in the Duke Mayo Bowl and again during the East-West Shrine Bowl practice week. His fast feet and patience impressed out the most. When it comes to finding running lanes, he is speedy and has some potential in the passing game.

He’s a tough pass blocker and a natural hands catcher who can run a variety of routes out of the backfield at 5-foot-11, 204 pounds. At the UNC pro day, he ran a 4.38-second 40, bolstering his case as one of the more intriguing Day 3 change-of-pace backs. He might fit in with the Dolphins, 49ers, and Falcons, as well as other teams who use zone-blocking schemes.


This week’s news, nuggets, and everything we heard

Reid: I’ve spent the last two weeks on the pro day tour, getting a personal look at all of the best quarterbacks, and here’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned: The Steelers are putting in a lot of time and effort into the whole quarterback class. Outside of Sam Howell’s workout in North Carolina on Monday, coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert, and pro scouting coordinator Brandon Hunt — who many feel will be the GM’s heir apparent — have all been keeping a close eye on each quarterback. (Because of league meetings, Tomlin was unable to attend Howell’s workout.)

Pittsburgh just signed Mitch Trubisky to a two-year, $14 million contract, but some in the league feel Trubisky’s addition is more about the club having a seasoned option in place than a willingness to take a chance on a rookie. The Steelers have the No. 20 overall selection, so Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett are likely out of reach. They may either be conservative and choose a passer available at No. 20, or they could be proactive and move up.

Miller: Following an unsatisfactory performance at his pro day, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton’s draft value was one of the hottest topics of the week. According to NFL scouts who were there, Hamilton had a 40-yard dash time in the low 4.7-second range. Many in the league believe that his testing statistics, along with a knee injury that interrupted his season and his positional worth as a safety, will prevent him from being taken in the first five choices.

Hamilton is my No. 3 overall player and has been one of my favorite prospects since his freshman season. He’s a fantastic leader and playmaker, but in the eyes of NFL evaluators, he was already fighting a losing battle in a non-premium position. It’s conceivable he’ll make it all the way through Round 1’s second half. Now, all it takes is one club to alter that, but the league as a whole is expecting a decline.

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Kiper » | McShay » | Positions » • Ranks: Kiper » | McShay » Kiper » | McShay » | Reid » Mocks • Stacking the Quarterbacks » | Interesting groups » • Order of the draft » | First Draft podcast » • More information » | Complete ranks »

Miller: The Panthers are in desperate need of a quarterback. Scott Fitterer, the general manager, is well aware of the situation. Fitterer, speaking at the owners’ meetings, stated, “The tackles will be the greatest players on the team, so this should be intriguing. But we do need a quarterback, and you have to take a chance at some point, particularly if you’re in the top 10. You don’t want to push it because you’re afraid you’ll make a mistake.”

This is noteworthy for a number of reasons, the first of which is that they control the No. 6 overall selection and have a quarterback need. Coach Matt Rhule recruited Kenny Pickett to Temple before becoming the head coach at Baylor, so there’s a clear link there. It’s also worth noting that the Panthers don’t have a pick in Rounds 2 or 3 of this year’s draft. This seems to be setting them up beautifully to trade back a few positions, enabling a club in need of an offensive lineman to move up while gaining a Day 2 pick and putting themselves in a better position to choose Pickett or Liberty’s Malik Willis.

Reid: LSU linebacker Damone Clark had a herniated disk during the combine, which necessitated spinal fusion surgery, according to medical reports released this week. He will miss his whole rookie season as a consequence of the surgery, but he is anticipated to recover well. Clark had been projected as a late second- or early third-round selection, but he may now be completely off some clubs’ radar.

The “nfl draft rumors” is a topic that has been talked about a lot in recent months. The NFL Draft will take place on April 25, 2022.

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