The 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl has come to an end, and it was another week of entertaining draft discussion and maybe just a little bit of hyperbole.
It’s no secret that a prospect’s all-star game performance or their Combine numbers shouldn’t carry as much weight as the tape itself. That said, the Senior Bowl in particular is a great opportunity for players to speak with NFL coaches and scouts, as well as compete with some of the best in the nation.
The Bears, with new general manager Ryan Poles in tow, don’t have a first-round pick but should still have a chance to acquire one of, if not multiple top performers in the Senior Bowl should they choose to do so. Their second- and third-round picks should especially be crucial for their long-term development as a team, as the roster has a few young pieces to build around, but not enough to warrant outlook as Super Bowl contenders down the line just yet.
With just one more game of football left to be played this season before the 2022 NFL offseason kicks off, let’s take a stab at what might happen in the first round of this year’s draft, as well as look at what this mock would leave the Bears with at pick No. 39.
- Jacksonville Jaguars - Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
- Detroit Lions - Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
- Houston Texans - Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
- New York Jets - Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
- New York Giants - George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
- Carolina Panthers - Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
- New York Giants (via Bears) - Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
- Atlanta Falcons - Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
- Denver Broncos - Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
- New York Jets (via Seahawks) - David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
- Washington Commanders - Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
- Minnesota Vikings - Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
- Cleveland Browns - Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
- Baltimore Ravens - Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
- Philadelphia Eagles (via Dolphins) - Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
- Philadelphia Eagles (via Colts) - Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
- Los Angeles Chargers - DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
- New Orleans Saints - Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
- Philadelphia Eagles - Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
- Pittsburgh Steelers - Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
- New England Patriots - Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
- Las Vegas Raiders - Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
- Arizona Cardinals - Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
- Dallas Cowboys - Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
- Buffalo Bills - Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
- Tennessee Titans - Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
- Green Bay Packers - Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
- Miami Dolphins (via 49ers) - Drake London, WR, USC
- Kansas City Chiefs - Travon Walker, DL, Georgia
- Cincinnati Bengals - Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
- Detroit Lions (via Rams) - Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Malik Willis: QB1?
It’s no secret that the 2022 class isn’t necessarily loaded at the quarterback position.
The 2021 class featured five quarterbacks who could confidently be described as potential franchise quarterbacks, some of whom carrying perennial Pro Bowl potential. It’s hard to say the same thing about this group, as there isn’t a bonafide QB1 setting themselves apart from the group.
That doesn’t mean no quarterbacks will succeed from this class, though, as a handful of players have the upside to do so. Perhaps no quarterback in the 2022 draft has as high of a ceiling as Liberty’s Malik Willis.
Willis is a gifted athlete with the physical tools needed to become a game-changing quarterback at the next level. He has a cannon of an arm with a quick release and the ability to throw on the move, and his flashes of deep-ball accuracy are uncanny. He will enter the NFL and immediately be one of the fastest and most elusive quarterbacks in the league, as his breakaway speed and ability to change direction in space are both unbelievable.
While Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett may be a more polished quarterback in terms of consistent pocket awareness and the ability to accurately read the field, Willis has the developmental traits that very few players can match. It wouldn’t be a total shock if Pickett was drafted as QB1 in this class, but my money’s on Willis to be the first quarterback off the board.
Why is Linderbaum so low?
When making this mock draft, I really struggled with trying to find a great landing spot for Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum.
For full disclosure, I have Linderbaum as the No. 10 overall prospect on my board right now. I see major shades of Jason Kelce in his game as a slightly undersized, yet incredibly mobile and technically refined interior blocker. Kelce is a 5-time Pro Bowler and a 4-time first-team All-Pro, and if Linderbaum is able to replicate that success, he could be a slam-dunk pick in the first round.
That said, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he falls down boards a bit, simply because of the fact that there aren’t a ton of great landing spots for him at the moment. Centers aren’t the sexiest first-round picks out there, and we saw Creed Humphrey — an obvious quality prospect who is already one of the best at his position in the NFL — fall late into the second round last year. Teams may look to correct that mistake by taking Linderbaum higher, but a run on quarterbacks in the middle of Round 1 pushed him down my board a bit.
If I were running an NFL team, I’d feel comfortable taking Linderbaum in the first half of Round 1, but I’m not picking what I would do, but more so what I think could happen. I view him as an immediate starter in the pros and a potential Pro Bowl talent, but he could fall farther than he deserves just because of positional value.
Watch out for Jermaine Johnson
Jermaine Johnson had been picking up steam as a draft prospect over the last month or two, but after a standout performance at the Senior Bowl, his stock should only continue to grow.
The ACC Defensive Player of the Year broke out in 2021 with 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss in his lone season at Florida State after two seasons as a backup at Georgia. He brings an intriguing combination of quickness and power to the table, as he has a quick first step off the snap and plays with heavy hands and good torque in his lower half. Johnson’s high-motored style of play makes him a difficult edge rusher for offensive tackles to shut down, and Senior Bowl participants witnessed that firsthand.
Johnson had a late Round 2 grade for me coming into Senior Bowl week, and while he moved up my board a bit after his stellar performances, I could see the NFL being even higher on him than I am. With how much momentum is currently behind him in this pre-draft process, he’s looking like a realistic first-round option for team in need of pass-rushing help.
According to my board, these would be the 10 best players available in Round 2, at least 4 of whom being guaranteed to fall to the Bears at No. 39 in this mock draft simulation:
- David Bell, WR, Purdue
- Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
- Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
- Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
- Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
- Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
- Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
- Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
- Kenneth Walker II, RB, Michigan State
- Sean Rhyan, OT, UCLA
There would be plenty of good value still there on the board for the Bears, especially at positions of need. Outside of these top 10 guys, offensive linemen like Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard and Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann, cornerbacks like Georgia’s Derion Kendrick and Mississippi State’s Martin Emerson, and Georgia wide receiver George Pickens are still on the board.