2022 NFL draft live updates: Travon Walker taken first by Jacksonville Jaguars – live!2022-04-28 18:00:00

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The Seattle Seahawks are on the clock now with the ninth pick, which means that I managed to have something pre-written about the first eight picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. This is my own personal Super Bowl championship.

Profile: Drake London, Wide Receiver, USC. In a first-round class that doesn’t project to have a lot of fantasy stars, Drake London has it all from his name on down. He’s not very fast but the 6ft 4in London has numbers that bumped up his draft stock over these last couple of weeks: his 88 catches and 1,084 receiving yards last year were more than Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, who make up his main competition at receiver here.

8. Drake London, Wide Receiver, USC

Oh there’s a leftfield pick. The Atlanta Falcons pick USC wide receiver Drake London. I would have thought Garrett Wilson would be up higher on their board as far as receivers.

Atlanta Falcons are on the clock with the eighth overall pick. I’m going to guess Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross here.

Profile: Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, Alabama. Neal gives you versatility: he’s started at right and left tackle, for a total of 40 games. That’s a lot of high-pressure experience, especially given that playing for Alabama often feels like it could count as the NFL’s minor leagues. Neal has both size and speed and feels like he fits just about anywhere.

7. Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, Alabama

The Giants are back on the clock and they quickly snap up the other great tackle on the board in Evan Neal with the seventh pick.

Random note: the broadcast gave us one of our first looks backstage where Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett is preparing for what might be a long night. His girlfriend spent the entire time on camera scrolling through her phone with a “how long are we going to be stuck here?” look on her face.

That’s the kind of reality show stuff that I love about NFL Draft broadcasts.

Profile: Ikem Ekwonu, Offensive Tackle, North Carolina State. It appears to be a coin flip between Ekwonu and Evan Neal as far as the best offensive tackle in this bunch. It feels like last season’s NFL playoffs highlighted the importance of keeping one’s quarterback upright, so expect plenty of teams to take advantage of this unsexy draft by making moves to solidify the o-line this draft. One could do worse than snapping up Ekmonu, a unanimous All-American who ended his college career being named the best blocker in the ACC.

6. Ikem Ekwonu, Offensive Tackle, North Carolina State

The Carolina Panthers do indeed take the first offensive player in the 2022 draft by selecting North Carolina State tackle Ikem Ekwonu. The Panthers were definitely, a team that desperately needed some offensive-line help and they’ve got the best available player for those purposes.

That’s five straight picks without an offensive player being selected, which is basically the story of this first round in a nutshell. Let’s see if the Carolina Panthers change that trend with the sixth pick.

Profile: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge Rusher, Oregon. Concerns about an early departure from the combine, along with the fact that he missed some of last season, caused him to tumble down several mock drafts. Still, Thibodeaux is one of the most talented defensive players in the draft and had the talent to be first overall: the ceiling is super-high here.

Kayvon Thibodeaux falls to New York Giants at No 5

A Make-A-Wish kid helps the commissioner announce the New York Giants’ pick at number five, which is nice to see. They select Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, who I think fans will quite like.

The Giants pick is already in! I approve of this pace, let’s keep this up!

It should be legally mandated.

I absolutely love the tradition of lustily booing the commish. In all sports! It’s cathartic as hell.

“You can never have too much sauce.” I love this guy, hope the Jets don’t break him.

Profile: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Defensive back, Cincinnati. Let’s give it up for the best nickname among the likely lottery picks (he’s a fan of Wendy’s dipping sauces, apparently). The AAC Defensive Player of the Year was great for all three years of his time in Cincinnati. As the nearest defender, he was targeted just 31 times so he didn’t quite have the big stats of some of his peers but that’s because other teams were desperately afraid of throwing the ball anywhere in his vicinity.

New York Jets go for cornerback Sauce Gardner at No 4

Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner with his family shortly before being picked by the New York Jets
Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner with his family shortly before being picked by the New York Jets. Photograph: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

With the fourth pick, the Jets pick Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner!

Once again we’re greeted with some Weeknd bumper music. Because, Vegas, get it? The Jets pick apparently is already in!

The New York teams are about to go on a selecting spree, with the New York Jets currently on the clock. Chances are that they’re going to be at least one player they weren’t expecting to be here at number four.

Profile: Derek Stingley Jr, Defensive Back, LSU. Here’s our “off-the-charts skills, not much of a recent resume” candidate of the early draft. Stingley’s last two seasons were cut short by injury, meaning that he’s a shutdown cornerback-type who didn’t manage a single interception in his seven games in 2020 or his three in 2021. Still, he helped lead LSU to a championship in his true freshman year, showing flashes that he could be a game-changer in the right situation.

Houston Texans take surprise pick of Derek Stingley Jr at No 3

At number three, the Houston Texans select… Derek Stingley Jr.? Oh wow then, we’re into uncharted waters already.

The Houston Texans are now on the clock. I’m guessing that it’s either Kavyon Thibodeaux here, or Thibodeaux is going to start plummeting here.

Profile: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge Rusher, Michigan. There was no real clear-cut, universal favorite for No 1 overall this year, but plenty of experts defaulted to Hutchinson. The Michigan defensive end had 16.5 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks last season. In the process, he ran away with Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors and the Ted Hendricks Award for best defensive end. Many teams saw him as close to a sure thing as was available in this draft.

Lions select Aidan Hutchinson, Defensive End, Michigan No 2

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson after being selected as the No 2 overall pick
Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson after being selected as the No 2 overall pick. Photograph: Gary Vasquez/USA Today Sports

To nobody’s surprise, the Detroit Lions swiftly pick up Aidan Hutchinson, who probably should have gone first but also doesn’t have to move to Jacksonville.

Profile: Travon Walker, Edge Rusher, Georgia. None other than Peter King himself slotted Walker as the top overall pick in his influential mock draft, which is very impressive given that this class in particular is loaded with edge rushers. On the other hand, King also sort of casually mentions at the end that he had just 9.5 career sacks in 29 games, which isn’t super-great compared to the competition.

Travon Walker is the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft

With the first overall pick, the Jacksonville Jaguars do indeed select Georgia linebacker Travon Walker!

I would absolutely die of happiness if we get a punter selected in the first round. It’s not going to happen, but I can dream.

Pretty sure the most popular thing the Jags could do in College Football Internet is draft Matt Araiza

— Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB) April 29, 2022

And the Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock! At this point, I have no choice but to assume that my mock draft is already a bust because this is probably Travon Walker.

Roger Goodell emerges to boos, which he strongly encourages. At this point, leaning into it is the only move. He’s there with some Raiders past and present: their presence does not help tamper the boos.

So he calls up Ice Cube. That helps a little.

And we have our first comment and I will admit that I really love this first rule.

Just remember, if Mel Kiper Jr says it will happen, then you can stake your house that it won’t.

If Deebo Samuel leaves the 49ers to go to the Jets, that move suits San Francisco way more than New York can hope to benefit from.

Wide receivers are not only dime a dozen, but the nature of the pro and college games means they come out better prepared than ever, hence guys like Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson lighting up the league immediately.

The Niners can pick up a great receiver, the Jets will be 4th in the AFC East.

The NFL Draft has now officially begun and, of course, we’re also getting our first leaks. Is Shams right? Will Travon Walker go number one? Well, we’ll find out shortly.

Hearing whispers the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft will be Georgia’s Travon Walker.

Waiting on @rapsheet to confirm.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 28, 2022

ESPN is giving us the view from the New York Jets and the New York Giants’ draft rooms, and all that this reminds me of is that the draft isn’t taking place in New York and we’re not going to get my favorite draft day tradition: New York fans booing their own pick.

Maybe they will at least have a live video link that they can cut to when the time comes?

A classy gesture from the Seattle Seahawks to legendary sportswriter and former ESPN personality John Clayton, who sadly passed away in March. NFL coverage really isn’t the same without him.

The stars of the show make their first appearance of the evening
The stars of the show make their first appearance of the evening. Photograph: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

The pomp and circumstance has already begun in Vegas. We just had a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” followed by a moment of silence for the late Dwayne Haskins and now Kodi Lee is playing a restrained solo piano rendition of the national anthem. It’s serviceable, I’ll give it a 5/10.

Predictions

Let me be honest: I did a lot of research for this draft and I’m pretty sure I’ve retained absolutely none of it. Luckily I have a prewritten cheat sheet that will hopefully get me through the first 10-15 picks. If I make it through the eight picks without a team going out of its way to pick a player I have nothing on, I’ll count today as a success.

So, along the way, feel free to send us your thoughts via email (to hunter.felt.freelance@theguardian.com) or Twitter (to @HunterFelt, until I’m banned by the site’s soon-to-be new owner yet). Oh, and as an experiment, they’ve opened up the comments section on this liveblog and I’ll do my best to try to keep tabs on whatever’s going on there.

In any case, if you’re wondering who I listed as my top five draft picks in today’s preview, here was my attempt.

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, edge

(NOTE: I already absolutely don’t feel comfortable at all with this one, just a few days after making this prediction.)

2) Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, edge.

3) Houston Texans: Ikem Ekwonu, offensive tackle.

4) New York Jets: Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner, cornerback.

5) New York Giants: Evan Neal, offensive tackle.

Vegas, Baby, Vegas!

So, the NFL Draft is coming to us from Las Vegas this year. Why exactly? Well, there are several reasons. Obviously, the NFL wanted to show off the fact that they have a team in Las Vegas now, what with the former Oakland Raiders playing there. They would have been here earlier, but those plans were delayed by the pandemic. (Yes, that’s technically still going on, but let’s not dwell on that today.)

Then, of course, there’s the pageantry involved in putting on one of the league’s showcase events in such a legendary setting. Apparently, they have constructed a red carpet stage over the fountains at the Bellagio. Also, let’s face it, they also wanted an excuse to hang out in Vegas for a week.

There is one unspoken storyline here: the NFL is broadcasting from Las Vegas because they want you to gamble on their product. I’m already gearing myself up for nonstop ads from all sorts of questionable football betting relating services throughout the next few hours. It’s hard to think of any potential drawbacks to sports leagues embracing betting: after all, it’s not like there’s any history of outcome-fixing in US sports or anything like that. (Citation needed.)

If you are watching ESPN’s draft coverage and wondered why draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. isn’t with the rest of the crew on what’s basically his Christmas? Well, let him explain:

Preamble

Welcome everybody to the 2022 NFL Draft, where I hope that you have all done your homework! This year’s draft is not exactly filled with household names. Last year we had desperate teams battling each other a fresh crop of hot, young quarterbacks, ones who could either turn franchises around or help sink their fortunes for years to come. Those are big-time stakes.

The stakes feel somewhat lower today, as this feels like a rare draft without any guaranteed high-profile “can’t miss” types. This draft is full of edge rushers and offensive tackles, who are extremely important when putting together a football team but are often overlooked when it comes down to endorsement deals. This, however, doesn’t mean that this won’t be an interesting draft: sometimes it’s more fun when nobody has any idea what they are doing. That feels like the 2022 NFL Draft in a nutshell.

Let’s start with the fact that the first overall pick is still up in the air. Usually, we’re so used to a consensus number one that it’s annoying to wait for teams to run the clock out before making their long-predetermined selection. This time around the Jacksonville Jaguars might end up having to milk the clock because they genuinely aren’t 100% on the same page.

So, fingers-crossed, we should be in for a surprise-filled few hours, one of those days where even the Mel Kipers of the world are ripping up their mock drafts in disgust. In the meantime, feel free to send out your thoughts, questions and commentary either via email, to hunter.felt.freelance@theguardian.com, or tweet them to @HunterFelt and we’ll use them throughout today’s blog. It’s the 2022 NFL Draft, live at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas, Nevada. The ceremony itself is set to start at 8:00 pm EST, but we’ll be back well before then.

Who will the No 1 pick be? Well, our panel (including myself) had differing views:

Travon Walker, edge, Georgia. Aidan Hutchinson, the favorite to go first overall, makes sense. He probably should go first overall. But Trent Baalke, the Jags’ chief decision-maker, is always liable to do Trent Baalke things. Walker is an outrageous athlete who can shift all along the defensive front. Baalke loves to draft toolsy prospects rather than those who have racked up college production. It would not be a shock to see him swing for the fences with a name other than Hutchinson. Oliver Connolly

Aidan Hutchinson, edge, Michigan. There’s a reason the Jags have the No 1 overall selection and are perennially picking in the top 10: they need a boatload of help. Hutchinson is a safe but polished player who should give the Jags’ pass rush a much-needed boost. Melissa Jacobs

Aidan Hutchinson. It’s not a complete lock, but the experts seem to have hitched their wagons to Hutchinson as the likely first pick, especially since the draft stock of his peer at edge rusher, Kayvon Thibodeaux, has fallen thanks to an early exit at the NFL scouting combine. Hunter Felt

Evan Neal has crept up some pundits’ boards in the last few weeks
Evan Neal has crept up some pundits’ boards in the last few weeks. Photograph: Steve Luciano/AP

Evan Neal, offensive tackle, Alabama. Neal has been dominant throughout his career at Alabama while playing against elite competition, and he has also showed the versatility to play multiple positions along the offensive line. New Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson knows he must protect quarterback Trevor Lawrence to have even the slightest chance of success in Jacksonville. Tyrell Feaster

Draft order for the first-round

And here’s a reminder of tonight’s draft order. The Jaguars are picking No 1 for the second year in a row, which tells you a lot about the current regime in Jacksonville. Eight teams have multiple picks in the first round, with the Giants and Jets each getting two Top 10 picks.

1) Jacksonville Jaguars
2) Detroit Lions
3) Houston Texans
4) New York Jets
5) New York Giants
6) Carolina Panthers
7) New York Giants (from Chicago Bears)
8) Atlanta Falcons
9) Seattle Seahawks (from Denver Broncos)
10) New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks)
11) Washington Commanders
12) Minnesota Vikings
13) Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns)
14) Baltimore Ravens
15) Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami Dolphins)
16) New Orleans Saints (from Indianapolis Colts through Philadelphia Eagles)
17) Los Angeles Chargers
18) Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans Saints)
19) New Orleans Saints (from Philadelphia Eagles)
20) Pittsburgh Steelers
21) New England Patriots
22) Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas Raiders)
23) Arizona Cardinals
24) Dallas Cowboys
25) Buffalo Bills
26) Tennessee Titans
27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
28) Green Bay Packers
29) Kansas City Chiefs (from San Francisco 49ers through Miami Dolphins)
30) Kansas City Chiefs
31) Cincinnati Bengals
32) Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams)

Hunter will be here shortly, in the meantime here are our writers’ verdicts on this year’s draft class:

Is this a bad draft class or are there just no great quarterbacks?

This is a great draft class! It is unusually loaded at edge rusher and offensive tackle, two of the game’s premier positions. Where discussing this class gets sticky is that there are such slender gaps between the upper tiers of any given position group: there isn’t an obvious ‘elite’ sect. There are 50 players this year worthy of going in the first round. It just so happens they don’t play the game’s most valuable position. Oliver Connolly

There is much talent to be had in the trenches and fascinating pass rush options. And a reminder that 2017 was also supposed to be a “weak quarterback class.” That’s the year Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were drafted. (We’ll ignore the Bears whiffing on Mitch Trubisky at No 2 overall.) Melissa Jacobs

It’s an unsexy draft class that’s for sure: the most talented players are edge rushers and offensive line types, not guys likely to transform the course of a franchise. But that could lead to teams building a deeper pool of talent rather going all-in on a star quarterback. A draft for the true football geeks, in other words. Hunter Felt

This class may not have any great quarterbacks, but it does have depth. Lots and lots of depth, at key positions at that. Edge rushers, wide receivers, and offensive tackles taken early (and some picked long after most fans stop paying attention) will make huge impacts for years to come. Tyrell Feaster

And you can also catch up on more of our draft previews here:



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