The Jacksonville Jaguars will have their fair share of options with the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. While Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson seems to be the favorite to get the call, the Jags haven’t made a decision yet and could end up taking up someone else. This in turn could have an impact on the rest of the top 10.
Pete Schrager of NFL Media recently published his first mock of the year and has the Jags taking Hutchinson. However, he says that it’s not a sure thing that Jacksonville will take the former Wolverine.
"I’ve heard that this is far from a slam dunk, and that Jacksonville is keeping its options open and truly going through the process. The word out of Michigan is that Hutchinson’s the real deal in every way off the field, and he proved he can do it on the field as the Heisman Trophy runner-up with 14 sacks in 2021. He had the fifth-fastest 20-yard shuttle time out of all players at the NFL Scouting Combine, too."
Hutchinson is the top pass rusher in several big boards, including Pro Football Focus’. However, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Travon Walker are fine prospects of their own and both of them could go in the top 5. In fact, Walker has been mocked to the Jags more than once and is a darkhorse candidate at No. 1.
The Jaguars won’t necessarily take a pass rusher with No. 1 draft pick.
Hutchinson has the best shot to go No. 1 but as Schrager notes, the Jaguars are still gathering data and doing due diligence. It’s possible that Hutchinson is indeed their favorite prospect but they may not have closed the doors yet on the possibility of taking someone else with the top pick.
The Lions would gladly take Hutchinson at No. 2 if the Jaguars take Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal. This scenario is still likely even though they applied the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson. If Neal is drafted first overall and Hutchinson is No. 2, the Houston Texans could take Ikem Ekwonu, Kayvon Thibodeaux, or Travon Walker with the third overall pick. From there, it would be uncertain how the rest of the top ten would unfold. The New York Jets (No. 4) seem interested in selecting a cornerback, possibly Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner. This would allow the New York Giants to take whoever the Texans passed on.
The wildcard could be the Carolina Panthers. They have had several tries at quarterback in the past couple of years but they haven’t gotten it right. They could call the Jags and inquire about the top overall pick to make sure they get a shot at whichever signal-caller they like. After all, general manager Trent Baalke told the media they’re always open to business, which means they will be listening to offers, and if the Panthers indeed move up — as unlikely as it may be — teams in the top 10 will need to adjust their big boards accordingly.
There’s plenty of uncertainty regarding the top of this year’s draft, which may not be optimal for clubs but it certainly makes for a thrilling process for those outside looking in. The Jaguars could ultimately have a big impact on the top 5.