5 Way Too Early Predictions About the 2022 NFL Draft’s Rookie Class

Perhaps the greatest part of the 2022 NFL Draft was how wrong all of our predictions were. Who had the Houston Texans selecting LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. at No. 3? I defended the idea the Detroit Lions should select Liberty quarterback Malik Willis second overall, and he nearly fell to the draft’s third and final day.

Then, there was the Cole Strange pick. Enough said.

With the draft officially in our rearview mirror, now feels like the perfect time to start making outrageous predictions about what’s to come in the coming months. To be clear, the following predictions only apply to the 2022 season, and they’re not designed to be long-term evaluations of any prospect.

And, as with our way-too-early 2023 NFL Mock Draft, this is designed purely for fun. I look forward to being cited on Old Takes Exposed and having angry Pittsburgh Steelers fans in my Twitter mentions.

But I think I’m jumping the gun a bit, aren’t I?

1. Drake London and Jameson Williams will barely total 1,000 combined receiving yards

Honestly, this isn’t a negative indictment on either player. Although I believe London will eventually grow into a Pro Bowl receiver, he needs a reliable quarterback first. I simply do not trust Marcus Mariota to give him the targets required for the Southern Cal product to surpass 800 yards, let alone 1,000, as a rookie. Sorry, Atlanta Falcons fans.

Now, some might argue that London could get there by way of multiple big plays. However, do you really trust Mariota to be slinging it deep the way Joe Burrow did with Ja’Marr Chase a year ago?

As for Williams, there are no guarantees the Lions’ newest receiver be ready to play in Week 1 as he recovers from a torn ACL. Although I believe the two will have their moments as rookies, I think it’s far likelier they combine for, say, 1,050 yards than 1,400 or 1,500.

2. Kayvon Thibodeaux will record at least 11 sacks

I’m all aboard the Thibodeaux train, and I believe him falling to the fifth overall pick will only inspire him to take his frustration out on quarterbacks. The New York Giants’ new pass-rusher is an aggressive defender who bullied Pac-12 offensive linemen to the ground over the last three seasons.

If Thibodeaux stays healthy, I’ll predict he totals 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 17 games. Only four players — Von Miller (11.5 in 2011), Bradley Chubb (12 in 2018), Micah Parsons (13 in 2021), and Aldon Smith (14 in 2011) — have recorded 11 or more sacks as rookies since 2010.

3. Chris Olave will be the only rookie in 2022 with 1,000 receiving yards

The 6-foot, 187-pound Olave is arguably my favorite of the first-round receivers, and I loved the New Orleans Saints’ decision to trade up for Ohio State’s all-time receiving touchdowns leader. If veteran quarterback Jameis Winston stays healthy, he and the 11th overall pick should have no issues consistently making magic happen next season.

I think the New York Jets’ Garrett Wilson will come extremely close to reaching 1,000 yards, and I’m not ruling out an impressive season from Kansas City Chiefs rookie Skyy Moore, a speedy 5-foot-10, 195-pound receiver from Western Michigan. However, I’m going with Olave, and only Olave, on this one.

4. Matt Corral will throw for more touchdowns than Kenny Pickett

Well, I teased Steelers fans would be unhappy with me, so let’s get down to business. I don’t believe Pickett will win the starting job, nor do I believe the Steelers will rush him. And, speaking quite frankly, I’m not sold on the 2021 Heisman Trophy finalist as an NFL starting quarterback.

Corral, on the other hand…

Would anyone truly be surprised if Corral beats out Sam Darnold for the Panthers’ starting quarterback job? Even if Darnold wins the job, his tendency for interceptions and poor body language could doom him to the bench in a must-win season for Panthers head coach Matt Rhule.

Although Corral went 74 selections after Pickett, I have much higher hopes for the Ole Miss product in his rookie year. Besides, it’s Mitchell Trubisky time in the Steel City.

5. Four rookies will make the 2023 Pro Bowl (at first)

Four rookies — Parsons, Chase, Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Rashawn Slater, and Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts — were named to the 2022 Pro Bowl’s initial roster. New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and Steelers running back Najee Harris joined as replacements ahead of the much-criticized all-star event.

For the sake of being boring, I predict four rookies will make next season’s initial Pro Bowl rosters. You likely already guessed Thibodeaux would be one, and you’re correct. I’ll also include Jets pass-rusher Jermaine Johnson and running back Breece Hall, each of whom should be Week 1 starters. Although I’m a huge fan of Jets cornerback Ahmad Gardner, I think he’ll narrowly miss out.

Finally, let’s get Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton into the mix. Why not?

I look forward to being wrong, and I welcome being accountable in eight months. Although you’re not changing my mind on Pickett, so don’t bother.

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