the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Peter Miller '22
The end of April brings lots of excitement– the heart of spring is right around the corner, the start of stickball season on Williams Hill, and the annual NFL Draft. From April 28th to the 30th, 262 college athletes’ lives will change forever as they receive a phone call from one of the 32 NFL franchises informing them of their selection. After the 2021 draft featured five quarterbacks selected in the top 15, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts set the record for the highest tight end drafted in history at fourth overall, and the Bengals draft kicker Evan McPherson (yes, a kicker) in the fifth round, 2022 is not as star-studded with blue-chip talent. However, this year could potentially be more exciting than last, as the sheer unpredictability of how it will play out has draft experts scrambling to predict the results in their mock drafts. In this article, we will analyze how the incalculable results might play out and receive some team-specific insight from Westminster’s most avid football fans.
In 2021, it was no secret that the Jacksonville Jaguars would select Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick. Lawrence had been heralded as a future NFL superstar going back to his high school days but was unable to deliver on the hype in his rookie season as coaching turmoil in Jacksonville saw them wind up with the first overall pick yet again in 2022. This year is a tougher projection, however, as the 2022 draft class does not have a must-take player like Lawrence. With the Jags in need of an edge rusher, experts have been debating which end it will be for Jacksonville: Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson or Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. Before the previous college football season, it was Thibodeaux who was slated to be the top pick. But, after Hutchinson’s breakout season and rumors of Thibodeaux’s potential lack of motivation and commitment to the game, it seems to be a coin flip at this point. If you’re asking me, I would say both are great players who bring different styles off the edge, but Hutchinson seems to be the safer selection and the likely choice in Duval county for general manager Trent Baalke.
After Jacksonville, the Detroit Lions are on the clock. In all likelihood, general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell will select whoever remains between Hutchinson and Thibodeaux, but rumors have emerged that they could be looking to select Liberty QB Malik Willis with the second pick, and may even shock the world and take Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. Or, a real curveball would be the selection of either top offensive lineman, hybrid tackle/guard Ikem Ekwonu from NC State, or Alabama’s Evan Neal, who some regard as the best player in the whole draft, including myself. If it doesn’t seem like it could be any more confusing, keep in mind the possibility that Detroit could choose to trade back with a team looking to come up for a player they like a lot and add more draft picks over the ensuing seven rounds (the Lions also have the 32nd overall pick, the last in the first round, which they received from the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams when they traded QB Matt Stafford to the west coast). The millions of potential outcomes have captivated NFL fans and draft analysts, despite not being the most talent-filled draft ever.
While I could sit here and hash out a detailed analysis for all 32 NFL teams, I will spare you the extra paragraphs and instead go around the Westminster community to see what our very own NFL enthusiasts think of this year's draft and who they think their favorite team might end up selecting when they go on the clock.
When I asked fellow draft enthusiast and mock draft expert Alexei Kocatas ‘25 about his New York Giants, he was excited about the uniqueness of this year’s draft for Big Blue: “The cool thing about this year is that the Giants have two picks in the top 10,” he said, as the G-men have the 5th and 7th picks after a draft-day trade with the Chicago Bears in 2021. When I asked Alexei who he thinks the Giants will wind up taking, he gave me a detailed explanation: “I feel as though it can go in any direction. Realistically, we’re looking at Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal at 5, which would solidify the tackle position for the foreseeable future, and a defensive player at 7, such as Travon Walker (DE, Georgia), Kyle Hamilton, or Amhad “Sauce” Gardner (CB, Cincinnati). However, Giants fans would call this draft a colossal success if they came away with Ekwonu or Neal and Kayvon Thibodeaux.” Kocatas evidently is hoping teams allow the Oregon edge rusher to fall into the Giants’ lap as they address the trenches and provide QB Daniel Jones with some protection up front with their first pick.
Heading to the middle of the draft order, the Baltimore Ravens select at 14th overall. I talked with Ben Mihailovich ‘22 about who he thinks general manager Eric DeCosta may end up selecting: “I’d look for a defender at 14, especially in the secondary at cornerback or safety. I also wouldn’t be opposed to an offensive lineman if we see one we like. I don’t care who, just someone who’s good at football.” Names to keep in mind for Baltimore include Washington’s Trent McDuffie or Florida’s Kaiir Elam at cornerback, Daxton Hill from Michigan at safety, and Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning at offensive tackle.
A little further on at the 21st pick, the New England Patriots select. After finding the heir to Tom Brady in Mac Jones last year, Ryan Jainchill ‘23 thinks this pick might be on the defensive side: “My hope would be Devin Lloyd (LB, Utah) if he’s available, but the Clemson cornerback [Andrew] Booth Jr. is also of interest.” Jainchill added that he’d prefer defense in the first round because “getting torched in the latter half of the season needs to be addressed.” New England might opt to add a wide receiver in a draft class highlighted by the depth at that position. USC’s Drake London fits the mold of a receiver Bill Belichick likes but may also prefer either one of Ohio State’s wideouts. Garrett Wilson is a crafty route runner who can make defenders miss in the open field, and Chris Olave is a consistent player who can attack all three levels of the defense.
Only time will tell whether or not these first-round predictions will come to fruition for Westy’s own. But there’s one team missing: my very own beloved Indianapolis Colts. (I mean, how can a guy who gave a chapel talk about his favorite team resist the urge to educate the Westminster public on their draft situation?) The interesting thing for Indianapolis is that they do not have a first-round pick, which they lost in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles after acquiring former second overall pick and QB Carson Wentz. (Wentz was traded away after just one season with the team, a sign that general manager Chris Ballard admits that Indy lost the trade). Instead, we will have to wait until Saturday evening for the Colts to select their first player with the 42nd overall pick. With the team in desperate need for wide receivers to help out new QB Matt Ryan, I predict that’s the area they address first. Ideally, I would love Georgia’s George Pickens but would also be elated to land North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, who, in my opinion, has the potential to be an All-Pro caliber player. Tight end is also an area of need, and while the team may choose to wait until their third-round pick to take one, Jeremy Ruckert from Ohio State is my favorite of a very talented group of tight ends in this draft and would love to be able to write his name down on the card. If the team were to go with a defender, University of Texas-San Antonio’s Tariq Woolen would be an intriguing selection at cornerback, and landing Michigan’s other edge rusher, David Ojabo, would be a dream come true. Ojabo was a projected top 15 pick before he tore his Achilles during a pre-draft workout and will instead likely be a second-round pick. The Colts took Michigan DE Kwity Paye in 2021, so reuniting him with his college teammate in Ojabo would make an already lethal pass rush on paper even scarier for the Colts defense.
With all the different options on the table, this year's draft makes up for a lack of star talent with the unpredictability of its outcome. NFL fans across the country and globe will be tuned in on Thursday, April 28th, to see who the Jaguars end up pulling the trigger on. If you feel so inclined to watch it play out yourself, tune into either ESPN or NFL Network on Thursday night for round one. If Day 1 sucked you into the excitement, the second and third rounds, which I would argue are the most unpredictable and the most exciting, begin Friday evening, with rounds 4-7 wrapping up Saturday afternoon. Don’t underestimate the importance of the final day, as those are the rounds where teams find diamonds in the rough. NFL great Tom Brady is perhaps the most famous, being the 199th selection to the Patriots in 2000, and the rest is history. Regardless of your interest in the 2022 NFL Draft, know that millions of people, including some of Westminster’s very own, will be dialed into the first round, hoping to see their team select the player to push them to a Super Bowl title in the future.