The NFL draft is the ultimate made-for-TV reality show depicting the greatest crapshoot in sports.
As much as the unknown lurks in the draft every year, Thursday’s first round represents one of the most difficult to predict in memory. There’s less chalk among the first 10 picks than there is lying around in an abandoned grade-school classroom.
Usually, with the hype that comes with the NFL draft as it’s grown into to the beast of the event that it’s become, you could poll a group of people from Finland who don’t pay any attention to the NFL and they’d probably be able to tell you who the first three or four players drafted will be, perhaps even in order.
This draft is anything but that. A look at eight up-to-date mock drafts on Monday, written by some of the most knowledgeable NFL media minds in the business, showed almost zero continuity among their respective picks at the top of the board.
With the Giants and Jets owning four of the top 10 picks on Thursday night — the Jets have Nos. 4 and 10 and the Giants have Nos. 5 and 7 — this makes for some nervous nights as they approach draft day, because of the added unknowns.
It makes for a particularly precarious draft for the Giants and Jets because they’re both teams with gaping holes to fill, two teams that have been losing for too long and are desperate for an infusion of talent to put an end to it all.
Of the eight mock drafts — Pro Football Focus, NFL.com, CBSsports.com, Sporting News, USA Today, NFL Network, Peter King and our own Steve Serby — four different players were predicted for the Jets at No. 4 and three different players were predicted for the Giants at No. 5. Six different players were predicted for the Giants at No. 7 and four different players were predicted for the Jets at No. 10.
We know what each team needs. The Jets are focused in on edge rushers, receivers and cornerbacks. The Giants are locked in on offensive tackle, cornerback and defensive line.
The questions for both Giants first-year general manager Joe Schoen and Jets GM Joe Douglas are which players to pick to fill those holes, because it’s positively imperative that they land four quality starters with those top-10 selections and cannot afford to miss that high in the draft.
There’s been a late hype rush on Georgia edge-rusher Travon Walker, an explosive player with a lot of upside, as the first overall pick. But Walker produced only 9.5 sacks in 29 college games.
The Jets, by all accounts, figure to use the fourth overall pick on one of the edge-rushers with Robert Saleh’s defense predicated on an aggressive pass-rushing front, and they’ll have a shot at one of them.
Depending on what takes place with the first three picks, they may have a shot at any of them — Walker, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, who has a motor that never shuts off, or Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux.
The Giants, at No. 5, seem almost certain to draft a tackle — either Mississippi State’s Charles Cross, North Carolina State’s Ickey Ekwonu or Alabama’s Evan Neal. But they’re believed to like Thibodeaux a lot as well. Like the Jets with the edge-rushers, the Giants figure to have a choice from almost all of those offensive linemen.
A wild card for both teams is at cornerback, a position where the Jets have more need, but the Giants also will if (when?) they part ways with James Bradberry because of his unwieldy salary cap number.
A number of the mock drafts have both the Giants and Jets taking either Ahmad “Sauce’’ Gardner from Cincinnati or LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. This will be a position to watch.
Among the eight mock drafts, four chose Thibodeaux for the Jets at No. 4, one picked Hutchinson, one Walker, one Gardner and Serby picked Jermaine Johnson, a defensive lineman from Florida State.
At No. 5, three selected Ekwonu for the Giants, three picked Cross and two picked Gardner.
At No. 7 for the Giants, two picked Gardner, two picked Stingley and one each picked Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, Walker, Ekwonu and Thibodeaux.
At No. 10 for the Jets, three picked Alabama receiver Jameson Williams, three USC receiver Drake London, one took Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson and one took Gardner.
That’s an unusually wide range of divergent predictions that high in the draft. The chalk has been erased from the 2022 NFL Draft board before it’s begun.
That’s surely why neither Schoen nor Douglas is getting a lot of sleep these nights as Thursday fast approaches.