2022 NFL Draft: Mountain West Football's Winners And Losers

2022 NFL Draft: Mountain West Football's Winners And Losers

Boise State

2022 NFL Draft: Mountain West Football's Winners And Losers

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2022 NFL Draft: Mountain West Football’s Winners And Losers


Who came out ahead and who had a letdown among the Mountain West football players in this year’s NFL Draft?


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Encouragements and letdowns from the three-day event that was.

Mountain West Football: 2022 NFL Draft Central

The 2022 NFL Draft is finally over and, boy, was it a doozy. Without a clear-cut number one pick, a veritable run on edge rushers, offensive tackles, wide receivers and cornerbacks dominated the first round, reminding everyone that the National Football League is all about the pass. And though it took the Mountain West a little while to get involved, where the conference’s top prospects ended up (or didn’t, in some cases) wasn’t without its fair share of surprises.

Which athletes hit the jackpot and which ones crapped out in Las Vegas over the past few days?

Winners

1. Fresno State cornerback DaRon Bland

Of the Mountain West prospects selected in this year’s draft, Bland is probably the biggest surprise of the bunch if you weren’t paying attention. As Marcus Mosher noted, Bland was one part of the Dallas Cowboys’ broader emphasis on acquiring high-caliber athletes and he’d already proven at both Sacramento State and Fresno State he was exactly that, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of role he carves out for himself at Jerry World.

2. The Arizona Cardinals

Any time you select the first player from the Mountain West, that makes you a winner. Trey McBride ends up in a pretty sweet situation with the Cardinals, too, where he can do his thing between the numbers without the pressure of The Guy thanks to DeAndre Hopkins. He’s also part of a pass-catchi game group that suddenly has plenty of size, so that offense should be a lot of fun to watch.

Better yet, the Cardinals also selected San Diego State defensive end Cameron Thomas in the third round and then signed Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers and Boise State nickelback Kekaula Kaniho as undrafted free agents. Our acquaintances at Cards Wire have plenty to which they can look forward.

3. San Diego State

The Aztecs led the way this year with four NFL Draft selections — the Thomas brothers (Cameron and Zachary), Matt Araiza, and Daniel Bellinger — giving them another big feather in their proverbial cap to draw in future recruits. It’s a program that knows how to identify and develop talent with few real peers, perhaps just Cincinnati and Boise State, which should keep them in the running as serious conference competitors for as long as that’s the case.

Losers

1. Nevada quarterback Carson Strong

This is really only in the financial sense since, let’s be honest, there’s not much farther a prospect can fall than from a first-round projection to undrafted free agency. That the Philadelphia Eagles gave him a very rich deal by UDFA standards tells you a lot about the kind of quarterback he can be if he maintains a clean bill of health.

I doubt he regrets having played for the Wolf Pack last year because there’s a certain kind of dedication to the craft that many fans don’t understand if they haven’t done it themselves. And he goes to a situation where he can learn as part of an up-and-coming offense, so I’d be wary of betting that we’ve heard the last from him.

2. Colorado State punter Ryan Stonehouse

It seems strange that the new FBS record holder for career yards per punt couldn’t get any love, especially since four other punters ended up being picked in this year’s draft. Again, this has less to do with him as a player and more to do with the NFL’s uncertainty about him, since it didn’t take him long to land a UDFA deal with the Tennessee Titans. The upside? There are few feelings better than proving everyone wrong.

3. Recent Mountain West champions

Talk about not getting any respect: Khalil Shakir was the only player from the Mountain West’s last three champions — Boise State, San Jose State, and Utah State — to hear his name at this year’s draft. A number more quickly found deals in undrafted free agency and secured minicamp invites, but it does feel vaguely disappointing that the conference’s biggest winners couldn’t break through just a little bit more so the national audience could know just how good they actually were.

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