What to know about the 2022 NFL draft
By Emmanuel Morgan
The first round of the 2022 NFL draft, the most important date in the league’s offseason, begins Thursday, and this time with more than the typical pomp and circumstance from the glitz of being set in Las Vegas.
This year’s event also comes amid a frenzied free-agency period, when franchise centerpieces such as quarterback Russell Wilson and receiver Tyreek Hill departed their teams via trades. Over seven rounds across three days, 262 prospects will be welcomed into the professional ranks and fans will immediately begin to speculate about whether their teams’ new stars will contribute immediately or need time to develop. And as seen through last season’s fireworks with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, veteran players can grab the spotlight based on their teams’ decisions.
Below is a look at everything to know before the draft.
What time does the NFL draft start?
The first round begins Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern. ESPN, NFL Network and ABC will broadcast the event, and it will be streamed on the ESPN and NFL mobile apps. Rounds 2 and 3 will kick off Friday at 7 p.m., and Rounds 4 through 7 will start Saturday at noon.
Where is the draft?
For the first time, Las Vegas will host the draft. The city was scheduled to stage the event in 2020, but the league held the event virtually because of the pandemic. Las Vegas has become the next stop on the NFL’s draft map after the league in 2015 relocated the event from New York, its usual location since 1965, and began taking bids for different host cities. Since then, Chicago, Philadelphia, Nashville, Tennessee, Dallas and Cleveland have hosted the event, which will be in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2023.
What will the draft’s staging look like?
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce the teams’ selections at a constructed stage near the Caesars Forum on the Las Vegas Strip.
Which team is set to have the most picks?
The Jacksonville Jaguars, who will be selecting first overall for the second consecutive year, and Kansas City are tied for the most total draft picks: 12. The Miami Dolphins hold the fewest selections: four.
The New York Jets hold five draft picks in the first three rounds, including the fourth and 10th selections. Look for the team to potentially trade down to acquire even more picks, or perhaps offload that draft capital to acquire a veteran player. With little consensus about impactful players atop this year’s draft, the budding leaguewide trend of trading out of the first round could continue: Because of previous blockbuster trades, including the pickups of Matthew Stafford by the Los Angeles Rams and Deshaun Watson by the Cleveland Browns, eight NFL teams could enter this year’s draft without a first-round pick.
Which prospects will attend?
The NFL confirmed that 21 prospects will be in Las Vegas to attend the draft. Georgia, the reigning national champion, will have the most players there, with defensive linemen Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt and linebacker Nakobe Dean all planning to be on site. Travon Walker, another of the team’s defensive linemen, will participate remotely despite his rising draft stock and rumors he could be selected first overall.
Aidan Hutchinson, a defensive end from Michigan who finished second in Heisman Trophy voting and set a program record for the most sacks in a season (14), still leads most mock drafts and will attend the event in person. Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, another pass rusher who will attend the draft, was once viewed as the top player available but slipped in projections as evaluators questioned whether he always played at full speed.
At No. 2, the Detroit Lions could potentially take a cornerback, which would be the highest slot that position has ever been drafted. Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner, known as Sauce, who did not allow a receiving touchdown in his collegiate career, seems to be the likely choice.
Only two quarterbacks — Liberty’s Malik Willis and Mississippi’s Matt Corral — will be on hand.
Potential first-round picks who declined the NFL’s invitation and will participate in the draft remotely include Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder and Louisiana State cornerback Derek Stingley.
Why are there so few quarterbacks in attendance?
Because this year’s group — unlike last year, when five teams selected quarterbacks in the first 15 picks — is considered weak by evaluators. The Athletic’s most recent mock draft projects that only three quarterbacks will be taken in the first round.
Which position groups are the strongest?
Defensive lineman, by far. The Athletic’s mock draft predicts that eight defensive linemen and edge rushers will be taken in the first round, including three — Hutchinson, Walker and Thibodeaux — in the first five picks.
The demand for those players atop the draft demonstrates the league’s renewed emphasis on pass rushers after successive Super Bowl victories by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Rams, teams whose defenses dominated the line of scrimmage. Offensively, teams will look to protect their quarterbacks and give them passing targets, as seven offensive linemen and six wide receivers are projected as first-round picks.
Where will the draft drama come from this year?
Frustrated wide receivers could possibly ignite the news cycle before Goodell even calls a name. The Jaguars gave Christian Kirk a $72 million contract in free agency, setting the market for Hill and Davante Adams in their quests for contract extensions. Both receivers got paid, but only after being traded to new teams.
San Francisco 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel asked to be traded, reportedly unhappy with his contract and usage as a running and receiving hybrid. The Tennessee Titans’ A.J. Brown did not report for voluntary offseason workouts. Although their coaches have said they would not trade Samuel or Brown, a team with a strong offer in the draft could potentially sway front offices. The 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo and the Browns’ Baker Mayfield, castaway quarterbacks who have yet to be traded by their teams this offseason, are also candidates to be moved during the draft.
What’s the first-round order?
1. Jacksonville Jaguars; 2. Detroit Lions; 3. Houston; Texans; 4. New York Jets; 5. New York Giants; 6. Carolina Panthers; 7. Giants (from Chicago); 8. Atlanta Falcons; 9. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver); 10. Jets (from Seattle); 11. Washington Commanders; 12. Minnesota Vikings; 13. Houston Texans (from Cleveland); 14. Baltimore Ravens; 15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami); 16. New Orleans Saints (from Indianapolis through Philadelphia); 17. Los Angeles Chargers; 18. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans); 19. New Orleans Saints (from Philadelphia); 20. Pittsburgh Steelers; 21. New England Patriots; 22. Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas); 23. Arizona Cardinals; 24. Dallas Cowboys; 25. Buffalo Bills; 26. Tennessee Titans; 27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 28. Green Bay Packers; 29. Kansas City (from San Francisco through Miami); 30. Kansas City; 31. Cincinnati Bengals; 32. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams).