The majority of the NFL Draft order for 2022 is known, with it expected there would be some minor shuffling in the days leading up to the opening night.
However, the NFL is in such a fantastic place right now, with dramatic moments seemingly around every corner this offseason; it’s impossible to truly count out several wildcard moves in the 2022 NFL Draft.
In negotiations over Tyreek Hill, the New York Jets showed their desperation for a wide receiver, and they are likely to revisit that this week.
So, the 2022 NFL Draft could be the most dramatic in living memory…
What are 5 of the boldest NFL Draft moves teams could make in 2022?
#1 - Kansas City Chiefs will gamble on Tyquan Thornton
The Kansas City Chiefs traded away Tyreek Hill because the price was simply too reasonable to turn down.
Fans are worried because they’ve lost their primary receiving target and the player who stretched defenses with his immense speed.
These plays made his connection with Patrick Mahomes so difficult to defend against, and there are obvious concerns about letting him move on.
This is where the Chiefs could gamble on an NFL Draft prospect either at the end of the first round or in the second… and that prospect is none other than Tyquan Thornton.
Thornton is a valid wildcard heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, given the fact that his best asset is his supersonic speed.
After initially registering the fastest 40-yard dash time ever recorded at the combine, the NFL ruled that the time was a little slower than the initial 4.21 seconds.
The wideout from Baylor is predicted to be a top-100 pick, but his NFL Draft stock has exploded since his display at the combine.
Teams are looking at the success Hill had in the NFL and want to replicate that without parting with the multiple assets it would take to sign a veteran.
So, who better than the Chiefs to take a gamble on Thornton? Physically it’s clear he already fits their offense, and there is a sense that Mahomes could make passes that even writers could catch.
He needs to improve on the fundamentals of wideout play, but so did Tyreek Hill, and Thornton is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting prospects in this NFL Draft. The Chiefs can continue Hill's legacy without missing a beat by making this gamble.
#2 - San Francisco 49ers could trade back into the first-round
Deebo Samuel wants to leave San Francisco, which has been made abundantly clear.
He instructed the 49ers not to make him any contract offers this offseason, and the fiasco is set to come to a head in the final week before the NFL Draft.
The reason for this is the 49ers can’t expect to receive as much value as they want once the draft has passed. A move must be made before opening night, and the Niners could trade back into the first round.
New York looks like a virtual lock of a destination for Samuel. Robert Saleh knows him well from their time in the Bay Area together, and the Jets have serious NFL Draft capital to give up at the front end of the first round.
Holding the #4 and #10 picks in the 2022 draft, the Jets have a lot of room to move to secure one of the best playmakers in the NFL.
San Francisco won’t accept a trade involving Samuel unless they get a first-round selection in 2022. What better team to negotiate with than the Jets, who’ve already shown their desperation for a proven, elite wideout.
John Lynch will be brilliant here, knowing he can fleece the Jets for multiple draft choices, and it would be a bold move for him to secure one of the New York picks on the opening night of the NFL Draft.
This would give the Niners the chance to have a shot at one of the elite offensive linemen to protect a still unproven Trey Lance or even select a direct replacement for Samuel in the form of Drake London.
#3 - Jacksonville Jaguars will copy the Cincinnati Bengals and reunite Trevor Lawrence with Justyn Ross
LSU’s national championship was built heavily around the partnership of Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow on offense, and the Cincinnati Bengals almost rode the same pair to a Super Bowl title after reuniting them in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The NFL is a copycat league, and the Jacksonville Jaguars will be looking for some out-of-the-box thinking to get much more out of Trevor Lawrence in 2022.
“We had a great connection in college, he’s special with the way he can cut and all those things he can do. I think he’s gonna be great wherever he ends up, but it would be nice to have a familiar face and pick back up where we left off,” explained Lawrence when asked about Justyn Ross this offseason.
Their generationally talented quarterback needs some serious help on offense, and the Jags could give him a massive boost by bringing onboard former Clemson target Justyn Ross.
Ross isn’t considered one of the elite receivers in this class, but he had excellent timing with Lawrence at Clemson.
Predicted to be selected in the third or fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, serious spinal surgery has limited the value teams have been willing to place on Ross. Still, he is swift and a reliable catcher and Lawrence will immediately trust him from day one.
Considering their sizable draft capital, the Jaguars will see this as a low-risk move, but it could kick-start their offense.
#4 - New Orleans Saints pay a heavy price to get into the top 8 and draft Malik Willis
The quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft class have divided opinions that we haven’t seen for years.
There is no consensus on a guaranteed-success selection, and teams appear to be falling over themselves trying to figure out who is most likely to succeed in the NFL.
Kenny Pickett is perhaps the most balanced prospect in this crop of signal-callers, but he lacks the explosive athleticism that has marked Malik Willis out as a potential superstar wildcard in 2022.
NFL franchises have been monitoring his development throughout the 2021 season, and it is expected that a team will make a move for him in the upcoming NFL Draft.
New Orleans have positioned themselves as the most likely team to do just that. Seeing Drew Brees retire in 2021, re-signing Jameis Winston, and then trading up to #16 with the Philadelphia Eagles have been critical moments in the build-up to what would need to be the most significant trade of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Holding #16 and #19 in the first round, the Saints will assess which teams are open to moving down and who could rival them to move up.
The Pittsburgh Steelers also love Willis and have an opening at QB following Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement.
The Saints will need to beat them out and negotiate a deal with a team inside the top-8, likely to be the Atlanta Falcons, to grab Willis first.
If this happens, it will be the story of the night. Picks as high up as #8 are very expensive, especially when the selling team knows there is desperation in the air.
The Falcons need to look towards their rebuild but could see the 2023 NFL Draft class as the better arena to start it in earnest. They could take a lot of future draft capital from the Saints, and this is a potentially explosive move to watch out for.
It could either make or break the Saints’ hopes for life after Sean Payton.
#5 - Bill Belichick trades up to draft his highest pick since Richard Seymour
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots don't trade up. They don’t do exciting things on NFL Draft night, and the closest we’ve gotten to entertainment from Belichick in an NFL Draft was when his zoom camera showed his dog sitting in front of a laptop during the COVID-19-impacted 2012 NFL Draft.
This is a long shot, but all that could change in 2022, with Belichick perhaps finally ready to make a move and draft his highest pick since taking Richard Seymour with the sixth-overall pick back in 2001.
It’s simple. Belichick doesn’t like losing. His Patriots team has underwhelmed since Tom Brady departed, and with Mac Jones appearing to be the long-term choice, the Pats now need a defensive stud.
This is the time for Belichick to break his own draft rules, significantly if a possibly generational athletic talent like Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson somehow drops past #5.
New England want to bolster their defense, especially from the edge positions, and with Belichick knowing that at 70 years old, retirement can’t be staved off indefinitely, he might decide to take a page out of the Los Angeles Rams’ playbook and gamble.
This would entail moving up into the top-10 and taking a player who could steer him to one final Super Bowl in Foxboro.