With the 2022 NFL Draft only a few days away, news and rumors are coming from all directions. Here is what we are hearing as the world prepares for one of the NFL’s most prestigious events of the year.
Some unexpected names climbing 2022 NFL Draft boards
I’ve reported numerous times that no team I’ve spoken with has a first-round grade on Tyler Linderbaum. The Iowa junior could still end up in the bottom half of Round 1, but that job is being made more difficult by the other centers getting very high grades from NFL teams.
Cameron Jurgens of Nebraska is moving up boards more swiftly than any center in the draft, and he could end up in the early part of Round 2. Jurgens is bigger than Linderbaum and has better growth potential, along with arms that are two inches longer. He also comes with better positional versatility, as Jurgens can line up at guard and center while Linderbaum is viewed solely as a center.
Jurgens is just as athletic as Linderbaum, timing 4.92 in the 40 at the Combine with an exceptional 10-yard split of 1.71. Linderbaum timed 4.98 and also had a 1.71 10-yard split during his pro day. The only testing event Linderbaum had a decided advantage in was the short shuttle, where he timed 4.39 to Jurgens’ 4.49, which are both terrific marks.
I’ve always felt Jurgens on Day 2 is much better value than Linderbaum in the first round. So, where does the Nebraska junior end up? Sources say Jurgens does not get past the Philadelphia Eagles’ 51st pick at the latest. The Baltimore Ravens have shown a ton of interest in Jurgens, and their second-round pick — the 45th of the draft — makes a lot of sense.
Earlier in the round, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, New York Giants, and Chicago Bears are teams showing a lot of interest in Jurgens.
Cole Strange won’t get out of the third round
The other center making a big charge up boards is Cole Strange of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Strange spent most of his college career at guard and offensive tackle before playing some center during Senior Bowl week. He could sneak into the late part of the second round and won’t get out of the third. Strange traveled to see the Tampa Bay Bucs for a top-30 visit.
He also had private meetings and a workout for the Cincinnati Bengals. Both those teams are the ones to watch as the second round closes out. The New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks have shown a ton of interest in Strange and could target him at the top of Round 3.
Zion Johnson a lock to go in the first round
One projected center who won’t make it out of the first round is Zion Johnson. The Boston College product is another who made a swift move up draft boards over the past eight months. After a terrific senior season, Johnson was another who had a great week of Senior Bowl practice.
Positional versatility is an added attraction to Johnson’s game. He played well at left tackle and guard for Boston College and showed a lot of ability at center during the Senior Bowl. I’m told the Green Bay Packers (with one of their two first-round picks), the Dallas Cowboys, and the Tampa Bay Bucs are the teams to watch as the first round closes out. The feeling is the team that selects Johnson will use him at guard early in his career with the hopes of developing him into a center.
The Packers looking to add a wide receiver
Will this be the year the Green Bay Packers finally draft a wide receiver? I’m told yes — if a highly rated player at the position falls into their laps with one of their picks in the first round. Otherwise, sources say they expect the Packers to trade out of Round 1 and look for a receiver later in the draft.
How deep is it at the receiver position? Right now, the expectation is that 19-22 wideouts will be selected in the draft by the time the fifth round ends.
The latest on Baker Mayfield
The feeling around the league is that Baker Mayfield will be traded on the second or third day of the draft. The frontrunners always mentioned are the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks, as Trey Wingo and I spoke about last Tuesday during Draft Insiders. If the Seahawks trade back into the bottom part of Round 1 for a signal-caller, as I mentioned Friday, they’ll be out of the Mayfield sweepstakes.
Sources confirm what I’ve mentioned several times with Trey. The Browns will have to pay a large portion of Mayfield’s contract in 2022 after they trade him. As one source told me, the Browns will essentially be buying a draft pick.