Insider Notes from the 2022 NFL Draft: Here’s How Jason La Canfora Sees the Top 10 Picks Playing Out

It’s draft week! Almost Christmas! Are you counting the hours?

Of course you are. Why wouldn’t you be? It’s also a week of great derision and derision for us at NFL Football Media as we publish many final mock cases… and in some cases, a single mock draft. I fall into that category. We do it once and then we live with the consequences forever. And it’s almost time to publish the annual exercise in (mostly) futility – this will be on Thursday morning.

I sort of work through this each spring with a series of rituals planned in an attempt to help formalize my real simulation. Often this just makes me stagger in one or more ways that serve to hinder me more than anything ourselves. But unfortunately, I suppose this has become part of my reverse “process” at this point, so give me the pleasure if you like. It’s top 10 times.

I’ve gone through a few notebooks and produced countless iterations of this top 10, but I think it’s time to share a prototype. As a warning, I have a lot less conviction on this list than most I post at this time of year. In many years gone by, I would have felt pretty strong with not just the players listed, but the order. But now, with so much uncertainty with the first overall pick, and so many teams desperately in need of quarterback help, and so many teams with multiple first-round picks — and the top 10, itself — it feels as complicated and complicated as ever. And it just can be.

Anyway, here goes. My best shot at the top 10 as we enter actual draft week.

1. Jaguars – Travon Walker

I’m going to go ahead and buy the train of thought that GM Trent Baalke might be too cute for his own good, again. If they were stuck on Aiden Hutchinson, they have a funny way of showing it. Walker’s athleticism is advertised in this team’s analytics department and they won’t hesitate as an organization to do their own thing in the top 10. Heck, they’ve done a lot of this before.

2. Lions – Aidan Hutchinson

I’ve had them take Liberty QB Malik Willis in many previous versions of this drill and they’ve put so much effort into trying to lower their QB-taking intention by 2 – or even their QB need – that I wouldn’t be surprised to see them actually take one. on here. However, they take the local product in this top 10, and league sources continued to point out to me that the Lions are more likely to get a QB on pick 32, or move up a little from there to do so.

3. Texans – Evan Neal

I’ve heard them linked to Neal since the end of the college football season. GM Nick Caserio comes from the Patriots, who have very strong ties to Alabama. If you think this kid is a pure left tackle with a legitimate advantage and the best OL in the draft, then you take him. It smells to me like the kind of fundamental building block you take when going through the kind of massive overhaul that Texans are in.

4. Jets – Gardner Sauce

GM Joe Douglas has spent much of his professional life with the Baltimore Ravens, who have always valued sharp turns and who currently have basically all of their defensive assets in the back end. This kid has all the makings and guts of the kind of singing the Ravens would covet. And with two picks in the top 10, the Jets can try the pass rush later if the board goes down that way.

5. Giants – Kayvon Thibodeaux

They could go OL here. It wouldn’t surprise me at all. And I’ll tell you in a minute who I think they’re targeting if they go in that order… pass-rush ferocity and now a also-run – there would be so much talent here. They need to add bite.

6. Panthers – Kenny Pickett

From what I hear, owner David Tepper adores the boy. And if you pay attention to those parts, I’ve been telling you this since the end of college football season. Tepper is a great Pitt booster. Do you think he’s willing to see a Pitt QB shine elsewhere when he had the chance to catch him first? After all of Carolina’s many failures at the QB position, do you think this billionaire is going to hear scouts or “football people” pitching in for Malik Willis? I am not.

7. Giants – Charles Cross

I heard they love this boy. I’ve heard it from a lot of people I trust with a lot of teams to rule it out at this point. So I’m shopping. They think he is the best OL in the draft and manage to catch him with their second pick.

8. Hawks – Malik Willis

Would they really make their sophomore coach Arthur Smith – a quarterback guru – wait until their third year to actually make a move to land a potential QB of the future? I do not think. Willis has the Mike Vick vibes in the best way possible, they need a face of the franchise to sell some tickets and build some verve and no one wants to see Marcus Mariota start games for too long at this point. Willis will help your racing game immensely from day one. He has a magnetic personality. If they don’t QB here, I hear they love Desmond Ridder, and them making a move to grab him later in the draft wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they were CB or pass rush here.

9. Seahawks – Ikem Ekwonu

The Seahawks just traded a generational quarterback in part because he wanted out (in part) due to an inability to build a decent offensive line. And now they don’t have an elite QB anymore, and running play has been suspect, and yes, you better get a top 3 OL in the draft here. Yes, corners and fast passes also make a lot of sense here, but this team needs to start building back up from the inside out and they do that with some of the plays they got for Russell Wilson.

10. Jets – Garrett Wilson

They probably think Jameson Williams is the best WR in the draft. And they should. But owner Woody Johnson hasn’t signed these guys and he’s itchy trigger finger and calling up a top 10 kid who might not play until November might not be the best move as they try to prop up QB Zach Wilson. So Williams won’t have to wait much longer, but I suspect they’ll go with a safer choice and get Wilson here.

11. Commanders – Kyle Hamilton

Okay, it’s a bonus pick and out of the top 10, but if it drops remotely that way, and Washington can’t find a trade because someone wants to skip the vikings for a corner – because the vikings want a corner – or if nobody wants to go up to a QB or a pass rusher here, so I see the team formerly known as the WFT grabbing the safety of Notre Dame.

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