NFL Draft

QB Malik Willis Among 21 Prospects Attending 2022 NFL Draft

On Thursday, NFL Network announced the list of draft prospects who will attend the 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas. There will be 21 total prospects in attendance for the first round set for April 28. As for the position group breakdown, the edge rushers, offensive linemen and wide receivers all have four players who will attend. Three defensive backs, two defensive linemen, two linebackers and two quarterbacks will also be in Sin City.

The two quarterbacks poised to shake NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand in person are Liberty’s Malik Willis, who has seemingly been connected to the Pittsburgh Steelers since the draft process began, and Ole Miss’s Matt Corral. It is worth noting that the Steelers have met with all five of the draft’s top quarterback prospects, which also include Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder. But if the Steelers really are infatuated enough with Willis, regardless of whether they have to trade up or he falls to pick No. 20, one thing is for certain—he’ll be receiving that call backstage in the green room.

The other two position groups to watch for in the first round for the Steelers are the defensive backs, especially Kyle Hamilton should he fall that far, and the two defensive lineman from Georgia in Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt. All three of those players would fill an immediate need at No. 20 if the Steelers decide to shy away from an opening round quarterback. Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Washington’s Kyler Gordon are the two other defensive backs who will attend.

As for the wide receivers, that group includes Ohio State’s dynamic duo of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Alabama’s Jameson Williams and USC’s Drake London. You’ll have to go back to 2006 when the Steelers selected Santonio Holmes with the 25th overall pick for the last time they went with a wideout in the first round. With the excellent track record of drafting and developing wide receivers picked in later rounds, that streak is almost guaranteed to continue.

The edge rushers who will be in attendance include Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, who is widely projected to be selected No. 1 overall by Jacksonville. The other pass rushers attending are Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson II, Purdue’s George Karlaftis, and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. With the class chalked full of dynamic edge rushers, all four expected to hear their names called in the first round.

The four offensive linemen include Alabama’s Evan Neal, NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu, Boston College’s Zion Johnson and Mississippi State’s Charles Cross, all of whom are projected to be Round 1 selections. The two linebackers are Georgia’s Nakobe Dean and Utah’s Devin Lloyd. Originally thought to be two significant needs at the end of February, the Steelers have adequately addressed both positions, making it tough to see any way they grab one of those players.

The last Steelers’ pick to shake Goodell’s hand was linebacker Devin Bush in 2019, when they moved up to No. 10 overall. In 2020, the NFL Draft was virtual and the Steelers did not hold a first round selection anyways. And last year, Najee Harris did not attend the draft and instead got the call from coach Mike Tomlin at a draft party at a homeless shelter where he once lived. The takeaway from this is that the Steelers, by one means or another, could very well have a player walk onto the stage holding a Steelers jersey and posing for a picture with Goodell on April 28.

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