The first round of the 2022 NFL Draft is in the books.
Five straight defensive players kicked things off while wide receivers dominated the middle of the round.
However, multiple talented prospects who were projected to go in the first round ended up falling into the second. These players are among the best available ahead of Round 2 on Friday:
QB Malik Willis, Liberty
The 2022 quarterback class wasn’t regarded as a marquee one. Among the potential draftees, Malik Willis out of Liberty stood out as a field general who could keep plays alive with his legs. Willis was projected to be the first quarterback to go in the opening round, but that title instead went to Kenny Pickett out of Pittsburgh.
Willis broke out during his last two seasons at Liberty. This past season he threw for 2,857 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He’s one to watch for throughout the second round.
LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Somehow Nakobe Dean did not hear his name called despite arguably being a top-10 caliber player in this year’s class. Linebackers that went ahead of Dean were Quay Walker (No. 22, Green Bay Packers) and Devin Lloyd (No. 27, Jacksonville Jaguars).
Dean registered 72 total tackles last season (36 solo), six sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions, one of which he took to the house. He’s one of the smartest players in the draft and some team will land an absolute steal.
RB Breece Hall, Iowa State
No running backs were taken in the first round, but Breece Hall out of Iowa State could be the first to go from the class. He posted impressive numbers as a sophomore and junior as a workhorse back.
As a junior, Hall rushed for 1,472 yards on 253 attempts for a strong 5.8 yards per carry average. He found the end zone 20 times after rushing for 21 touchdowns the season prior. Let’s see which team takes a running back first.
EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
As far as pass rushers go, Arnold Ebiketie out of Penn State is among the best remaining. After spending his first three seasons at Temple, Ebiketie came to Penn State for his senior season and raised his draft stock with a strong campaign.
Ebiketie logged career-highs in total tackles (62) and sacks (9.5). The 6-foot-3, 256-pound edge rusher could make a strong addition to a defensive line rotation. Boye Mafe out of Minnesota is another edge rusher still available.
WR Christian Watson, North Dakota
As wide receivers went left and right throughout the first round, there are still multiple solid names who could go in the second round. Out of the group, North Dakota wideout Christian Watson has been a riser on draft boards after his performance in the combine.
The 6-foot-5, 208-pound receiver had a breakthrough senior year where he logged 43 receptions, 800 yards and seven touchdowns on a 18.6 yards per catch average. His intangibles and potential makes him an intriguing option once the clock starts again on Friday.
Other key players still available:
QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
WR George Pickens, Georgia
CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
EDGE David Ojabo, Michigan
QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
CB Kyler Gordon, Washington
TE Trey McBride, Colorado State
OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
DT Travis Jones, Connecticut
RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
S Jalen Pitre, Baylor
DL Logan Hall, Houston