ESPN’s Draft Challenge is back for 2022!
How does ESPN Draft Challenge work? Well, it’s a free-to-play game that challenges you to answer questions about the upcoming NFL draft, which begins April 28 and ends April 30. You can compete with your friends and try to climb the overall leaderboard to win a share of $10,000. You could win $100,000 with a perfect score!
Below are the 20 questions (plus a bonus one) you’ll need to answer. Here is some background information from ESPN Stats & Information, which should help guide you through your decision-making process.
The following are some of the resources used throughout this article: Mel Kiper Jr.’s mock draft from April 13, Todd McShay’s mock draft from April 5, Jordan Reid’s mock draft from April 11th, their big boards and odds from Caesars Sportsbook.
Note: Caesars Sportsbook odds are as of April 16.
1. Who will be the first overall pick?
b. Any Other Player
Have you all played ESPN Streak? Surely you do. You get a free win in ESPN Streak at the beginning of every month, so this is similar to that. Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Doug Pederson shelled out $162.5 million in guaranteed money on eight free agents. However, they have another need to address in the draft, and that’s on the defensive side of the ball. After finishing with 32 sacks last season, tied for fifth fewest in the NFL, the Jaguars must improve their pass-rush pressure. Hutchinson is considered the top prospect in the 2022 draft class. The pass rush win rate of the Heisman runner-up was 24.8%. This is what you want. If you want to win this contest, you’ll have to be contrarian at a few points, but this is not the time to do so. Kiper, McShay and Reid all have Hutchinson as the first overall pick in their respective mock drafts.
2. Who will be picked first?
b. Malik Willis
It seems highly likely that the Panthers will select a quarterback with the No. 6 overall pick after failing to land any high-end options through trades. Whether they take Pickett or Willis is the only question. Pickett is the most pro-ready prospect in this quarterback class, and probably the safer pick given that coach Matt Rhule is on the hot seat. The Pitt quarterback finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards (12,303), completions (1,045), total offense (13,112) and passing touchdowns (81). Pickett has good mobility and size at 6-foot-3. Rhule has experience with Pickett, which makes this a logical selection.
3. Who will be picked first?
It’s difficult to make this choice. A big, rugged run-stopper, Walker has the body type and playing style to play 3-4 end in the NFL. His stats included 37 stops, 7.5 for losses, and two pass breakups in six starts for Georgia in 2021. Thibodeaux is an intriguing edge defender who relies heavily upon his physicality over his skills and instincts. Despite that, Thibodeaux should adapt quickly, though he’s not a finished product. Though he opted out of the team’s bowl game to prepare for the draft, Thibodeaux led Oregon in tackles for loss and sacks with 12 and 7.0 respectively in 11 games last year. According to Kiper, there is a lot of buzz on Walker being drafted early.
4. Who will be picked first?
a. Ikem Ekwonu
b. Evan Neal
Ekwonu and Neal are two of the top offensive line prospects in this year’s class and, according to Kiper, McShay and Reid, the Giants and Texans are two teams likely to target offensive linemen early in the draft. Both teams ranked near the bottom of the league in pass block win rate. Neal is likely to be selected before Ekwonu and has a unique combination of pedigree, measurables and talent. While at Alabama, Neal played against some of the best competition in the college game as a three-year starter. It’s likely he could play either right tackle or left tackle at the NFL level because of his versatility.
5. Who will be picked first?
Gardner is the consensus top cornerback in this year’s NFL draft with a terrific combo of size, length and speed. In more than 1,000 coverage snaps in college, he did not allow a touchdown. Kiper has him being drafted No. 2 overall by the Lions. The Lions have plenty of cornerback depth, but there are questions regarding whether they’ll have Jeff Okudah (Achilles injury) and Jerry Jacobs (ACL) back in the mix this summer. A team can never have too many good cornerbacks.
6. Who will be the first wide receiver picked?
a. Drake London
d. Any Other Player
Let’s look at Caesars for insight into this question. Wilson (+135), London (+140) and Williams (+300) are the favorites. Kiper, in his most recent mock draft, has Wilson going No. 8 overall to the Atlanta Falcons and I’m aligned with his assessment. Wilson has drawn comparisons to Odell Beckham Jr. and Stefon Diggs for his speed and big-play ability. One of the biggest questions this offseason centers around the Falcons’ wide receivers. Currently, the only receiver returning to the group in 2022 is Frank Darby, who caught one pass in 2021. The Falcons signed Auden Tate and Damiere Byrd to short deals in the offseason, but their role in the offense remains to be seen. Atlanta has the opportunity, and Wilson could have an immediate impact.
7. Which of these players will be picked first?
a. Jordan Davis
According to McShay and Reid in their most recent mock draft, the Minnesota Vikings will select Stingley at 12th overall. I agree with them, because Minnesota needs a corner and has a plethora of LSU connections. Stingley would have the opportunity to learn from veteran Patrick Peterson. Stingley’s prototypical size, speed and physical ability make him an impact player in man coverage. If Stingley’s health holds up, the Vikings could land one of the best value picks in this year’s draft.
8. Which of these players will be picked first?
a. Nakobe Dean
b. Jahan Dotson
c. Devin Lloyd
d. Chris Olave
Kiper projects Olave to 15th overall to the Philadelphia Eagles. Olave can play inside or outside, which is appealing to a team looking for a vertical threat with the capability of catching a significant amount of passes. One of the greatest receivers in Ohio State history, he finished third in school history in receptions with 176 and fifth in receiving yards with 2,711. He set the school record with 35 touchdown receptions, fourth most in Big Ten history. Eagles QB Jalen Hurts will be evaluated during the 2022 season, according to many. Olave is the type of playmaker Hurts needs to succeed.
9. Which of these players will be picked first?
a. Matt Corral
b. Sam Howell
This is a difficult question. Kiper ranks Corral (third), Ridder (fourth), Strong (fifth) and Howell (sixth) closely together at the quarterback position. I’m leaning toward Corral. Among these quarterbacks, he is the only one who will attend the draft in Las Vegas later this month. In his college career at Mississippi, Corral threw for more than 8,000 yards with 57 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. In his latest mock, Kiper has Corral landing in New Orleans with the Saints. If this comes to fruition, it would be a good move.
10. How many trades will be announced during Round 1?
d. 6 or More
In the world of media scouting, few people are more familiar with what teams are looking for than ESPN’s very own Kiper. In his most recent mock draft, the Cincinnati Bengals traded out of the first round with the New York Jets. McShay, meanwhile, had the Los Angeles Chargers trading with the Kansas City Chiefs to move up to select a wide receiver in his latest mock. In Round 1, how many trades have taken place historically? From 2010 to 2018, there were on average 5.6 draft-day trades during Round 1. From 2018 to 2021, however, an average of 4.3 draft-day trades took place.
11. How many Georgia players will be picked in Round 1?
d. 6 or More
Travon Walker, Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean are locked in as first-round picks, which already has us at three. However, Devonte Wyatt and Lewis Cine are projected as late Round 1 picks. McShay has four Georgia players selected in the first round of his latest mock, while Reid also has four. Kiper on the other hand has five. Since 1967, 33 Georgia players have been selected in Round 1 of the draft.
12. Will a running back be picked in Round 1?
It’s difficult to envision a running back being selected in Round 1, and here are some reasons: First of all, Kiper and McShay don’t have any running backs being selected in the first round of their mock drafts. Secondly, over the past 20 years an average of 2.1 running backs have been taken in Round 1. The 2022 class isn’t the best for finding a true every-down back, like Najee Harris from the 2021 class, but there are a number of prospects who have specific skills to offer NFL teams.
13. Who will be the first running back picked?
a. Breece Hall
c. Kenneth Walker
d. Any Other Player
For this one, we can head back to Caesars. Hall (-225) is the favorite and deservedly so. He’ll be a starter in the league sooner rather than later due to his unique mix of size, power and creativity. In 2021, Hall became the ninth player in Iowa State history to rush for more than 1,000 yards on more than one occasion, the fifth-best total in the school’s history. Walker (+150) and Isaiah Spiller (+900) have the next best odds. Kiper, McShay, Reid and Miller all have Hall as the first running back selected in their most recent mock drafts.
14. How many quarterbacks will be picked in Round 2?
d. 3 or More
In Round 2, quarterbacks are selected on average 1.2 times per draft since 2009. The only two drafts in which two quarterbacks were selected were in 2014 and 2011. Corral and Ridder were selected in Round 2 in Kiper’s, McShay’s, Reid’s and Matt Miller’s most recent mock drafts. I agree with their analysis. Willis and Pickett are the only quarterbacks likely to be selected in the first round. Teams will take their chances even in what’s considered to be a weaker class. However, it would be surprising to see Corral or Ridder selected in Round 1.
15. How many Alabama players will be picked in Round 3?
d. 3 or More
The third round includes picks 65 through 105. Reid’s seven-round mock draft features one Crimson Tide prospect in this range (Jalyn Armour-Davis). In the past decade, 14 Alabama players have been selected in the third round. This is an average of 1.4 per season, though we’ve hit two twice over the past four drafts.
16. Which of these players will be picked first?
a. David Bell
b. James Cook
c. Greg Dulcich
d. Justyn Ross
Reid’s latest mock draft has Dulcich going to the New York Giants at No. 67 overall. He could play a major role on a team without tight ends Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph. In the upcoming draft, Dulich is expected to be drafted in the third or fourth round. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might also be a good fit for him, because he can develop at the tight end position if Rob Gronkowski returns to play with Tom Brady next season. I don’t believe Bell, Cook or Ross will be drafted ahead of him.
17. Which of these schools will have a player picked first on Day 3 (Rounds 4-7)?
d. Penn State
It’s time for the late rounds, so get your dart board ready. Considering recent history, it makes sense to chase volume. LSU (59 players picked on Day 3) has had the most picks over the past 20 years, followed by Oklahoma (52), Clemson (45) and Penn State (43). Penn State and Oklahoma both have five players selected in rounds 4 through 7 in Reid’s most recent mock draft. It’s hard not to go with either of those schools.
18. How many kickers and punters will be picked in Round 6?
d. 3 or More
Over the past 20 years, a total of 21 kickers and punters have been selected in the sixth round but only two have been selected since 2016. Reid’s mock has both Cameron Dicker and Cade York going off the board in round 6.
19. Which conference will “Mr. Irrelevant” (last pick of draft) come from?
b. Big Ten
d. Any Other Conference / No Conference
There are so many variables in answering a question like this. I believe the best approach is to keep things simple and go with volume. Over the past 20 years, the SEC leads all conferences in players selected last in the draft.
20. Which of these schools will have the most players picked?
c. Notre Dame
d. Ohio State
Reid’s recent mock draft shows seven Buckeyes selected. Ohio State has had 139 players selected in the past 20 seasons, followed by Notre Dame (93), Michigan (90) and Cincinnati (36). It’s a good idea to lean toward volume.
Tiebreaker: What number pick will David Ojabo (MICH) be selected?
Kiper (first), McShay (first), Reid (first), and Matt Miller (third) all have Ojabo ranked among their top three outside linebackers. The tiebreaker question is the toughest in the contest (and for good reason). Due to suffering a torn Achilles last month, Ojabo could slip, and Reid has the Chiefs taking him at No. 50 overall. In the first three rounds of the draft, the Chiefs have six picks. They would be in an ideal position to select Ojabo.
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