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NFL insider expects New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers to draft QB in Round 1

Matt Johnson
New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Many scouts and executives aren’t high on the quarterback class in the 2022 NFL Draft, With the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers both really needing to roll the dice to land a potential face of the franchise, though, both teams might take quarterbacks in Round 1.

New Orleans is in a different situation than Pittsburgh. Because of the trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Saints no longer hold a 2023 first-round pick. It’s a strong signal that the front office intends to select one in 2022, collecting assets that put this team in the best position to land their highest-rated passer.

Related: New Orleans Saints mock draft 2022

The Steelers aren’t under that pressure. Pittsburgh signed Mitch Trubisky this offseason and while NFL evaluators cast doubt on him as a starter, it’s evident the Steelers’ organization likes him. With a bridge quarterback in place, this team might not feel as compelled to take a passer in Round 1.

However, per Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, it “looks like a sure bet’ the Saints and Steelers draft a signal-caller in the first round.

Which quarterback will the New Orleans Saints draft?

NFL: Scouting Combine
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If the Saints are trading up to draft their next franchise quarterback, only one player fits. Malik Willis might not be ready to start in his rookie season, but his physical tools and upside exceed any of his peers in the 2022 draft class.

New Orleans also might be an ideal situation for him. With Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton atop the depth chart, coach Dennis Allen has two veteran quarterbacks he can start early in 2022. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and quarterbacks coach Ronald Curry devote time to helping Willis refine his game.

There would still be ways for the Saints to deploy Willis as a rookie. He’s one of the best athletes in the 2022 draft class, offering quickness and elusiveness that exceeds any NFL quarterback not named Lamar Jackson. With RPO packages and schemed-up designs, Willis can have a role in the Saints’ offense all while refining his passing behind the scenes.

As for quarterback Kenny Pickett, picking him over Willis might backfire. Pickett turns 24 in June and his upside is capped by limited tools. Considering he’s also behind in terms of his ability to progress through reads and navigate pressure, starting him early in his rookie season would be dangerous.

Desmond Ridder likely target for Pittsburgh Steelers

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As for the Steelers, quarterback Desmond Ridder always seemed like the best fit. Mike Tomlin met with him and the conversations seemed to go very well. Furthermore, NFL Draft rumors make it clear that Ridder is blowing teams away in the interview room.

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While he doesn’t have elite physical tools, there’s also upside with Ridder. He offers nice athleticism for the position, allowing him to be involved in RPOs and he’s capable of executing designed runs. More importantly, he sees the field better than anyone in this draft class and is the most pro-ready passer available.

Related: Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft 2022

Ridder’s track record speaks for itself. He enrolled at Cincinnati during a time when the program wasn’t really on the national radar. Instantly, the Bearcats’ offense took off and their quarterback led the way as this became the best Group of 5 team in college football. Between his mentality, leadership, football IQ and winning record, that’s everything NFL coaches want from a young quarterback.

He checks off all the boxes the Steelers and Tomlin want. There’s also a strong likelihood that Ridder is available with the 20th pick. If he lands in Pittsburgh, no one should be surprised if he beats out Trubisky for the starting job.