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There are no quarterbacks in the pipeline to be the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL draft, which is far from typical.
Last year’s top pick Trevor Lawrence became the fourth straight No. 1 quarterback after Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals), Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals) and Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns).
The last time a QB wasn’t No. 1 overall, the Browns picked pass rusher Myles Garrett first in 2017.
With the Jacksonville Jaguars taking first place again this year, the team isn’t looking for a quarterback.
Pitt’s Kenny Pickett is considered a top-10 draft pick, but he’s not among the top-five players that oddsmakers believe could become the No. 1 overall. Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, who excelled at the Senior Bowl, is being cited as a player who could conquer the draft boards if he shines at the NFL Scouting Combine this week.
Instead, a conglomeration of players vying to be the best pick is a combination of prospects who are meant to be paid to protect — or beat — quarterbacks.
FrontPageBets breaks down the top five players overall to be picked first at DraftKings odds:
The Favorite: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama (-150)
At 6-foot-7 and 350 pounds, Neal has the stature of a food truck and atomic hands to deflect pass rushers out of the game. Fast for his size, the junior played on an offensive line that required diligent preparation and dominant playday play.
Neal makes sense in Jacksonville for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to protect investments already made in Lawrence. New head coach Doug Pederson had top offensive tackles during the Philadelphia Eagles’ run to the Super Bowl — the late prime Jason Peters at left, former tight end Lane Johnson at right — and knows the importance of Keeping QBs safe in the pocket.
Aidan Hutchinson, OLB, Michigan (+200)
Temptation could provide a pause as the Jaguars stack Michigan’s Hutchinson and mad athlete Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon) against available offensive tackles. It’s entirely possible that Jacksonville will decide that fourth or fifth best offensive tackle is enough and attempt to return to the first round. Remember the chargers that snapped Rashawn Slater 13th overall, and he made it to the 2022 Pro Bowl as a rookie. That’s the same spot the Buccaneers met Tristan Wirfs in 2020.
Hutchinson’s non-stop engine is intriguing, and its size compares to a few other sublime picks that emerged as Big Ten products in Nick Bosa (runner-up overall, 2019) and Joey Bosa (third overall, 2016).
Jacksonville’s defense produced just 32 sacks and seven interceptions last season. 7.5 of the team’s total sacks came from Josh Allen, a first-rounder in 2019.
Ikem Ekwonu, OT, State NC (+700)
Ekwonu isn’t a household name, but rest assured, scouts ranked him high in this draft. His combination of ferocious tenacity as a run blocker and length and power in passing sets make for a franchise-caliber left tackle. He has a bullying playstyle and remains a bit rough on the technical aspects of the game, but some reviewers see this as a sign he’ll grow into an unstoppable machine on the blind side.
For teams concerned about his size (6-4), Ekwonu was an easy guard and played more than 200 snaps at the position at NC State.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, OLB, Oregon (+1000)
If the NFL draft flipped to an Olympic contest to be the top pick, good luck battling Oregon’s Thibodeaux. When design reviewers use the term “tooly,” they are memorizing an image of Thibodeaux. He’s sudden on the ball, flexible in movement and explosive in straight and sideways movements – a nightmare for an edge player against whom the only stroke was consistency.
At 6-5, 260, Thibodeaux will be attractive regardless of the scheme, meaning he can play at full-back when needed. The physical condition and potential are there to suit Garrett, who is from Texas A&M.
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi (+3500)
Just ahead of Willis, Cross is the third offensive tackle on this list and a natural athlete entering the draft as a redshirt sophomore. But he’s as smooth as they come at every position on offense and is an overall better athlete than his OT competition on this list.
The Mississippi state product is only 21 years old but seasoned as a full-time left tackle starter in the SEC at two years old.
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