3 SEC players getting too much way-too-early 2022 mock draft love and 3 who need more love
At this time last year, you would’ve thought Jamie Newman and Dylan Moses looked like locks to become first-round picks.
Both, as we found out last week, went undrafted, albeit for completely different reasons. Newman opted out of the 2020 season instead of playing at Georgia while Moses struggled to return to his sophomore year form and had his knee injury questioned during the pre-draft evaluation process.
Rare it was to see Kyle Pitts in any of the early mock drafts last May, yet he ended up being the first SEC player off the board. Mac Jones wasn’t in any of the early mock drafts, yet he ended up being the SEC’s lone quarterback representative in the first round.
In other words, the way-too-early mock drafts are destined to have a good amount of mistakes. Maybe not all of them are as obvious as having Nick Fitzgerald or Mitch Leidner as Round 1 picks, which actually happened, but they can still be considerable misses.
The goal today is to predict those future misses. Fortunately for you, I did all the digging of the way-too-early 2022 mock drafts. I based my opinions on what I saw on mock drafts from The Athletic, Yahoo, Sporting News, Bleacher Report and The Draft Network.
In other words, yeah, I like reading mock drafts, too. Don’t hate. We’re all guilty of it.
Consider this my way of predicting how wrong predictions will be.
Sure, I think that made sense. Whatever the case, I settled on 3 SEC players who are getting too much way-too-early mock draft love and 3 SEC players who aren’t getting enough love:
Too much love
1. John Metchie, Alabama WR
Where the mocks have him — No. 16 (The Draft Network), No. 23 (Sporting News), No. 29 (The Athletic), No. 30 (Yahoo), No. 30 (Bleacher Report).
Why I think they’re wrong — I’m just gonna say it; I don’t think Metchie is on that level. By “level,” I mean the level of the 4 top-15 picks at receiver who came before him. It’s interesting that all 5 mocks basically acknowledge that by having him come off the board in the 16-30 range. But even in this era when it feels like Alabama is doing nothing but cranking out Round 1 wideouts, we essentially have 1 season of data on him not seeing No. 1 corners because why? Oh, he played with DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. And when Waddle went down against Tennessee, you’ll notice that as the true No. 2, Metchie only had 1 game with 75-plus receiving yards in Alabama’s last 8 contests.
Here’s a list of SEC receivers I bet you didn’t realize finished with better Pro Football Focus grades than Metchie in 2020:
- Eli Stove, Auburn
- Ainias Smith, Texas A&M
- Cam Johnson, Vanderbilt
- Damon Hazelton, Mizzou
- Shi Smith, South Carolina
Metchie is a fine player and if he ends up leading the SEC in receiving, it won’t surprise anyone. But I like my first-round receivers to have prove that they can handle being at the top of the scouting report, which Metchie has yet to do.
2. Kenyon Green, Texas A&M OT
Where the mocks have him — No. 5 (The Athletic), No. 15 (The Draft Network), No. 25 (Yahoo), No. 29 (Sporting News).
Why I think they’re wrong — I’m really doing my best not to let the somewhat disappointing spring game performance impact this assessment. Green has entirely new surroundings as the only returning starter on the offensive line, and he’s also transitioning to left tackle. It’ll look better in the fall, but those are the reasons I question if the former 5-star recruit will be a considered a consensus Round 1 guy. Even though Green certainly possesses the size and strength to kick to that all-important left tackle spot, I questioned how seamless that transition will be.
As a pass-blocker, PFF didn’t have Green graded among the top 20 interior linemen in the SEC. Green has been more effective in the run game, and there’s no doubt that he was a major reason the Aggies were a Joe Moore Award finalist. But to be a no-doubt, Round 1 offensive tackle, Green has a major transition ahead.
3. George Pickens, Georgia WR
Where the mocks have him — No. 7 (The Draft Network), No. 15 (Yahoo), No. 18 (Sporting News), No. 20 (Bleacher Report).
Why I think they’re wrong — This would be a different conversation if Pickens were going to be healthy in 2021. Unfortunately, he’s not. A torn ACL might not sideline Pickens for the entire season as originally expected, but even if Pickens comes back for a month, will he really be able to do enough to show that he’s worthy of a mid-Round 1 pick? I have my doubts.
That’s coming from someone who didn’t buy the Pickens hype pre-injury, despite the fact that he now is in an offense (and playing with a quarterback) who can maximize his skills. Beyond the discipline issues, I still don’t think the route-running and ability to get separation is at the level it needs to be, at least based on the pre-2021 sample size. Pickens is missing valuable time to get reps with JT Daniels, though obviously they were plenty in sync down the stretch last year. The only way Pickens comes off the board Round 1 is if he squashes all of those doubts and returns to become a key piece of a national-title contending Georgia squad.
Not enough love
1. Matt Corral, Ole Miss QB
Where the mocks have him — None.
Why I think they’re wrong — I’m somewhat shocked that Corral didn’t get a single mock draft mention. At least not in the 5 mocks I saw. I’m not saying he has the same upside as Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell, but what am I missing? Is it those 2 bad games from 2020? Is it the fact that he thrived with Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby, and the assumption is that he’s a system quarterback?
I couldn’t tell you. But the arm strength and mobility aren’t lacking. And if there are questions about his accuracy, well, I don’t get that, either. The guy completed 71% of his passes for a ridiculous 10.2 yards per attempt in 2020. Oh, and he averaged over 50 rushing yards per game. Sure, he came back instead of testing the NFL waters. But for anyone sitting here claiming that Corral lacks NFL traits, tell me why someone who does this at 6-1, 205 pounds shouldn’t be getting Round buzz:
I’ve watched this throw from Matt Corral countless times, and I still can’t get over the movement the camera does in order to see where this bomb lands.pic.twitter.com/sbKq6MugD9
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) April 23, 2021
Don’t be surprised when the in-season mocks show Corral climbing into (and up) the Round 1 ladder.
2. Jordan Davis, Georgia DT
Where the mocks have him — No. 31 (The Draft Network).
Why I think they’re wrong — I get that Davis would be valued differently if this were 10 years ago. A run-stuffing giant who takes on double teams like Davis should still have serious next-level value. Look beyond the lack of tackles for loss numbers with Davis. What he does for Georgia’s defense goes well beyond that. He’s the SEC’s second-highest graded returning interior defensive lineman, though obviously, if he could stay healthy and pad the stats a bit, that would make his first-round status a bit more of a consensus.
Playing at nose tackle in Kirby Smart’s defense, Davis isn’t going to be Christian Barmore. That’s fine. Davis can still be the driving force behind a top-ranked run defense and jump off the film when he’s subjected to the typical pre-draft evaluation. He has to get his weight in check and show that he can be closer to an every-down player, but I’m surprised that with all the preseason love Davis is sure to get, he’s not a bit more highly regarded by the next-level evaluators.
3. Brenton Cox, Florida Edge
Where the mocks have him — No. 32 (Sporting News).
Why I think they’re wrong — Cox is an ideal fit in Todd Grantham’s defense rushing off the edge. We saw that last year when he dominated on third down with 21 pressures (PFF). The explosiveness was on full display. Anyone wondering if the former 5-star recruit would be worth the buzz when he crossed state lines and left Georgia for Florida certainly got an answer last year. Cox had double digit tackles for loss in what was basically his first full season as a full-time player.
What Cox has working for his favor for the NFL crowd is that he already showed he can be an every-down player. He logged 657 defensive snaps, which led SEC edge defenders and ranked No. 3 among all Power 5 edge defenders. Grantham asked him to do a lot, and he delivered. Taking his game to the next level would be getting home even more and watching that sack total rise. Then again, Jayson Oweh didn’t have a single sack last year and he became a first-round pick.
Whatever the case, Cox is a versatile playmaker who should be on the Round 1 radar going into 2021.