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Jets Face Serious Risk With These Top Prospects in First Round of 2022 NFL Draft

This former Jets scout says New York must be careful with which prospects they select with their top first-round picks in the 2022 NFL draft.

Never in my 40 years of being around the game, have I seen more risk associated with the top-10 projected draft picks. 

Seven out of the top-10 projected selections in most mock drafts have huge question marks surrounding them as we head towards April’s draft. 

The Jets hold two picks in the top 10 (currently fourth and seventh entering Week 18). 

1. Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan 

After bouncing back from a fractured ankle late in 2020, Hutchinson has come on relentlessly and looked like a game wrecker as this season has progressed. However, he was shut down recently against Georgia in the Orange Bowl. Hutchinson was held to four tackles and no sacks against the Bulldogs, which left fans wondering if his draft stock had fallen? 

READ: Ex-Jets Scout Says Jets Should Trade Up to Draft Aidan Hutchinson First Overall

2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Thibodeaux has a big reputation as being this defensive monster, but his bark does not match his statistical bite. Over the past three years at Oregon, Thibodeaux had averaged 41 tackles and 6.3 sacks per season. Those are hardly jaw-dropping numbers against college-level competition. One has to wonder how those numbers will translate against an even higher level of competition in the NFL? 

Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux puts pressure on USC quarterback

Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux pressures USC quarterback Kedon Slovis

3. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Stingley burst onto the scene in 2019 with six interceptions and 15 passes defended. However, since then, he has zero interceptions and five passes defended in the past two injury-plagued seasons combined (missed most of 2021 with a foot injury that required a medical procedure). Stingley’s tackling statistics have also steadily been declining too. Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells had a saying, “Two years in the NFL is a lifetime.” It has been two years since Stingley has been able to produce at a first-round level. If those things were not enough to give teams pause, there is also the tragic injury (paralysis) that happened to his grandfather Darryl Stingley while he was playing with the Patriots. 

READ: Is Derek Stingley Jr. the Jets’ Corner of the Future?

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4. Kyle Hamilton, safety, Notre Dame 

Hamilton already had raised serious red flags on his 2021 game film against FSU and Purdue. In those contests, Hamilton did show elite range, but he also showed hesitation and a lack of effort in support. Hamilton is another one who had a big 2019 with four interceptions, but he has put up four interceptions combined since during the past two seasons. Add in a knee injury that has sidelined Hamilton since Oct. 23 against USC, and he is another roll of the dice. 

5. Evan Neal, offensive tackle, Alabama 

The Jets know all about offensive linemen with ability who need to lose weight with their very own Mekhi Becton. Neal was 390 in high school, but has “trimmed down” to 350 in time for the draft. Neal had been playing right tackle and guard for Alabama prior to 2021. At left tackle, Neal has shown questionable lateral foot speed against college-level competition at 350 pounds. How will that play out against premier pass rushers in the NFL? What if he puts the 40 pounds back on that he carried back in high school? 

Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal blocking

Alabama tackle Evan Neal blocking against Florida

6. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss 

Corral was regarded by many (including myself) to be the QB1 of this draft class. Corral is a fiery competitor with excellent mechanics who was a surefire top-10 pick. Corral however suffered a leg injury in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. While the extent of the injury appears just to be a sprain (X-rays were normal) according to reports late Sunday night. However, this is the third known ankle injury Corral has suffered this season. 

7. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt 

Pickett was not on preseason mock drafts for a good number of NFL media draft platforms (PFF did not even have him on their first-round mock as late as Nov. 22). Since then, Pickett’s stock has shot through the roof. The concern is Pickett’s three straight seasons of average numbers (38 TD/24 INT) he put up in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Pickett’s numbers were so average, PFF had Pickett ranked as the 67th ranked FBS QB as of July 2020. 

These seven prospects are wildcards as we head towards the 2022 NFL draft. 

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