2022 NFL mock draft: A shocker at No. 1 overall?

·2 min read

The predraft process for the 2022 NFL draft is ramping up, with all-star games taking place over the coming weeks, followed by the NFL Scouting Combine and pro day workouts.

As those events come and go, it won’t be surprising to see some shifting at the top of this year’s class in terms of media consensus, but The Athletic’s Dane Brugler might be setting a new trend in his latest two-round mock draft.

Brugler has a big surprise at the No. 1 overall pick, sending North Carolina State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu to the Jacksonville Jaguars with this year’s top selection.

Here’s what Brugler had to say about the pick:

After numerous conversations with NFL scouts and league execs in preparation for this mock, there were two key takeaways that led me to Ekwonu here. First, there are several evaluators around the league who have Ekwonu ranked higher than Alabama’s Evan Neal and Mississippi State’s Charles Cross. Second, several evaluators agreed that in a draft class missing a no-brainer top prospect, they prefer the tackles over the pass rushers. I have no clue how the Jaguars feel, but Ekwonu at least belongs in this conversation.

A three-year starter at NC State, Ekwonu has impressive movements for his size and generates extraordinary explosion at contact. He lacks refinement and is guilty of over-setting, but he is nimble, powerful and should get better and better as his technique and awareness mature. Ekwonu’s tape shows a tackle who can also play guard, not the other way around. For more on Ekwonu, this deep dive from Bruce Feldman is a great read.

If you’ve been following the draft for any significant period of time, you know better than to truly be surprised by anything, especially when it comes to projections this early in the process. Any class is capable of seeing a surprising prospect emerge and make a big move up the board, and without an elite quarterback or other generational talent in this year’s group, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see someone like Ekwonu steal the top spot.

The rest of Brugler’s top five was less surprising: Michigan edge defender Aidan Hutchinson (No. 2 overall, Detroit Lions), Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 3 overall, Houston Texans), LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (No. 4 overall, New York Jets), and Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal (No. 5 overall, New York Giants).

To check out Brugler’s full two-round projection at The Athletic, click here.

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