With the playoffs here, and the top 18 picks of the first round set, take a look at my first 2022 NFL Mock Draft! Comments, questions, and critiques are always welcome!
1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Jaguars could go with one of the elite edge rushers in this class, but Josh Allen is a stud, and the team may not want to give up on Chaisson yet. Jacksonville’s offensive line needs to be upgraded, and the team needs to build around Trevor Lawrence. Neal allowed only 1 sack this season, and is a plug and play left tackle. Current left tackle, Cam Robinson, is a free agent.
2. DETROIT LIONS
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Detroit has needs everywhere, so they can go the ‘best player available’ route, as there is no QB worth taking this high right now. There are rumors the Lions prefer Thibodeaux over Hutchinson due to his elite athleticism and pass rush potential. Either way, Detroit has a chance to add a difference maker on the edge. Thibodeaux finished 2021 with 9 sacks and 28 QB hurries in 11 games.
3. HOUSTON TEXANS
Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Houston could go a number of directions here after firing head coach David Culley, but if Hutchinson is available, he would have to be the pick. Hutchinson is coming off a dominant season at Michigan, with 14 sacks and 51 QB hurries. With his combination of strength/quickness/hustle, Hutch would be a great building block for this rebuilding franchise.
4. NEW YORK JETS
Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Stingley showed just how good he can be in 2019, but he didn’t play as well in 2020, and missed all but three games this season due to a foot injury. When healthy, Stingley is a playmaker with top notch quickness/athleticism, and is a top 5 prospect. The Jets badly need upgrades on defense, and while they’ve had good play from their young corners this season, Stingley is a plug and play CB1.
5. NEW YORK GIANTS
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
After the firing of Joe Judge and retirement of Dave Gettleman, things could be very different for the G-men next season. Even after spending tons of money and resources up front, beefing up the offensive line is still a top priority. Cross needs to add strength for the next level, but he is a good pass blocker, and one of the better offensive linemen in this draft. He would start at left tackle, and would beef up two spots by allowing Andrew Thomas to move to right tackle.
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6. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Going into next season with Sam Darnold as the starter at quarterback is unacceptable based on what we’ve seen this season. There are questions about his hand size and decision making, but Pickett has had a Zach Wilson like rise up draft boards this season, and could be the first QB off the board after a stellar season.
7. NEW YORK GIANTS (from CHI)
David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
After the offensive line was given a boost with the 5th pick, the Giants can focus on helping out the defense here. Ojulari was a steal in the 2nd round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and has played well as a rookie, but he could use some help on the other side with Lorenzo Carter a free agent. Ojabo is a bit raw, but he had a breakout season, netting 11 sacks and showing speed off the edge.
8. ATLANTA FALCONS
George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
The pass rush has been a top need for years now in Atlanta, despite adding pieces in free agency and the draft in recent off-seasons. Karlaftis is a true 4-3 defensive edge, has a good power to speed game, and would give the Falcons a solid inside-outside rush duo with Grady Jarrett. Edge rushers Dante Fowler Jr. and Steven Means are free agents as well, and help is needed even if both return.
9. DENVER BRONCOS
Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
With a new head coach in town after the firing of Vic Fangio, a fresh start at quarterback might be in the cards. Teddy Bridgewater is a free agent, and Drew Lock hasn’t played well when called upon. Corral is not a finished product, but he is a dual threat quarterback who played very well this year in the SEC and showed overall improvement from 2020.
10. NEW YORK JETS (from SEA)
Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
Adding help at offensive tackle or receiver will be strongly considered here, especially if the Jets go defense with their first pick. In this mock, the Jets add a physical blocker in Ekwonu. His height will make some wonder if he belongs at guard, but I believe he can start at tackle. He would plug in at right tackle for New York right away, or take over at left tackle if Becton continues to fall out of favor with the team.
11. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Kyle Hamilton, S/LB, Notre Dame
The Fitzmagic era is likely over, and Taylor Heinicke has shown to be nothing more than a serviceable backup. With the top two quarterback prospects already selected, however, they may opt to go with the best player on their board. They have other needs (besides QB) along the offensive line, wide receiver, and defensive back. With the top two QB’s off the board, Washington goes best player available here. Hamilton has been a top 5 prospect all season, and could be the rare safety who gets selected in the top 10.
12. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander are set to become free agents this off-season, and Minnesota has no quality options at corner otherwise besides Cam Dantzler. Gardner has excellent size/length, and may be the top man/press corner in this class. He didn’t allow a touchdown in college in over 1,100 coverage snaps during his three years at Cincinnati, and had nine career interceptions.
13. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Cleveland has Jarvis Landry and a couple young receiving options in their run first offense, but is lacking a true outside threat after releasing Odell Beckham Jr. Garrett Wilson was one of the best wideouts in college football this past season due to his strong hands and sharp route running. Not the biggest or the fastest, but Wilson just gets open, and would add yet another weapon for Baker Mayfield.
14. BALTIMORE RAVENS
DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
Baltimore has several free agents on the defensive line, including Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams. Leal played all along the line in college, and fits any defensive front. This versatility and his ability to make plays in the backfield will fit well with the Ravens. Leal had 9 sacks and 23 QB hurries in 12 games this season.
15. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (from MIA)
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
The Eagles have needs at all three levels of their defense, but could look to add to the offensive line if a prospect as good as Linderbaum is available. Longtime star center Jason Kelce is a free agent this off-season, and will be 35 next season. Center isn’t a highly valued position, but Linderbaum’s mobility, toughness, and fundamentally sound game make him surefire first rounder.
16. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (from IND)
Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
The Eagles have one of the worst linebacker groups in the league. Nakobe Dean is one of the best coverage linebackers in the nation, and fits the mold of the modern linebacker. At 6’0″, 220 lbs, his size is the biggest concern, as he can struggle against the run. There are no other concerns with his game. Dean led Georgia in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks this season, while allowing a passer rating of only 31.3 in coverage.
17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
The Chargers’ run defense has been this team’s Achilles heel this season. They sit at 30th in the league vs the run, and have allowed the 3rd most rushing touchdowns. They also have three free agents on the defensive line, and former 1st round pick Jerry Tillery has been inconsistent. Enter Jordan Davis. While he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, he will instantly improve the leaky run defense.
18. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The top need in New Orleans is quarterback, but with the top two prospects off the board, going for one of the remaining options at the position would be a reach at this point. With questions surrounding Michael Thomas, they may opt to add help at receiver for whoever is their starting QB in 2022 (Jameis Winston tore is ACL in week 8 and is a free agent). Chris Olave is one of the top wideouts in this class, due to his reliable hands, burst, and savvy route running.
19. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Philly adding Dean to its defense was a great start, and they do need help on the edge, but you can never have too many good corners. Booth Jr. is a fast, physical corner with long arms, but he lacks experience and has injury concerns. He will need some time to develop, but a trio of Darius Slay, Booth Jr., and Avonte Maddox would give the Eagles a solid corner group.
20. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been inconsistent, and they have a couple of starters who will be free agents this off-season: guard Trai Turner and tackle Chukwuma Okorafor. Penning is a powerful blocker, and has prototype physical traits for a left tackle. His level of competition is a question, however; how he performs at the Senior Bowl against NFL talent will be telling.
21. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
J.C. Jackson is an unrestricted free agent, and the secondary could use some reinforcements anyway even if he returns. Jalen Mills has played well at times, but adding an athlete like Elam would be a solid addition to an already solid defense. Elam has the height, athleticism, and length to be a difference maker at corner for the Pats. He needs to be coached up a bit, but New England has proven to be adept at developing defensive backs over the years.
22. MIAMI DOLPHINS (from SF)
Drake London, WR, USC
Miami has several wide receivers slated for free agency, and DeVante Parker’s contract expires after next season. Miami could go for a big bodied running mate for Jaylen Waddle. London is a physical, 50/50 jump ball ace, and has gotten some comparisons to Mike Evans. He has had some struggles with separation, but led the nation in contested catches. London was lighting it up before fracturing his ankle in the 8th game of the season, finishing with 88 receptions, 1,084 yards, and 7 touchdowns.
23. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Darren Waller is an elite tight end, and Hunter Renfrow has performed at a Pro Bowl level this season as the default WR1 after the release of Henry Ruggs. That’s a good start, but Renfrow is a slot receiver, and the team needs an outside threat. Burks is a beast after the catch – just watch his 60+ yard catch and run touchdown versus Alabama to see what he can do. Burks had 65 receptions for 1,100 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
24. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Chandler Jones is a free agent, so the Cardinals might look at an edge rusher here, but corner is by far Arizona’s biggest need. Robert Alford is 33 year old pending free agent coming off injury, but he was the team’s best corner this season (which isn’t saying much). McDuffie lacks prototype size, but is an excellent athlete who isn’t afraid to come up in run defense. He allowed only 16 receptions on 36 targets this season, and a passer rating of 52.
25. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Kenyon Green, T/G, Texas A&M
Burrow sustained a whopping 51 sacks this season and the offensive line absolutely must be addressed this off-season. Green is one of the more mobile offensive linemen in this class, despite being 325 lbs. He has experience at every position along the offensive line except center, and will help Cincy protect their star QB as a starter at either guard or tackle.
26. BUFFALO BILLS
Darian Kinnard, T/G, Kentucky
Buffalo’s offensive line wasn’t very good this season, so there may be a few changes up front. Kinnard has started exclusively at right tackle for Kentucky, but there are some who view him as a candidate to move to guard. While Kinnard is one of the better run blockers in this draft, he also allowed only one sack in over 400 pass blocking snaps this season. He could start at right tackle for Buffalo, with Daryl Williams moving to guard, or vice versa.
27. DETROIT LIONS (from LAR)
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Detroit definitely needs to get an upgrade at QB over Jared Goff, but they might prefer to keep adding to a talent deficient roster. Wide receiver is a huge need, despite Amon-Ra St. Brown being a 4th round steal and having a great rookie season. Dotson has size concerns, but is a big play threat with sure hands (only 2 drops all season). He can take the top off of a defense and really open up the middle of the field for Hockenson, St. Brown, and Swift.
28. DALLAS COWBOYS
Bernhard Raimann, T/G, Central Michigan
Both Tyron Smith and La’el Collins have played in only 10 full games this season, and depth is thin. Starting guard Connor Williams is a free agent, while backup Connor McGovern’s contract expires after next year. Raimann started only at left tackle for Central Michigan, but he could plug in at guard as the replacement for Williams as a rookie. His ability to play tackle would only add to his value in Dallas as insurance behind Smith and Collins.
29. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Travon Walker, DL, Georgia
Kansas City could consider adding another weapon at receiver for Mahomes, but the focus should be on beefing up the defense. The secondary needs help, but the Chiefs have a few free agents on the defensive line, including Jarran Reed. There’s also a chance that Frank Clark gets cut to clear cap space this off-season. Walker needs to work on his technique and pass rush moves, but has potential as an inside-outside rusher. With long arms, explosiveness, and power, he would give Kansas City plenty to work with.
30. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Chris Godwin tore his ACL in the week 15 loss to New Orleans, and is a free agent who will command a ton of attention on the open market. In addition, Antonio Brown is no longer in Tampa’s plans moving forward, and there is little else of note at wideout other than Mike Evans. Williams was one of the top deep threats in the nation in 2021 – he averaged over 20 yards per reception. He suffered a torn ACL in the National Championship, so we’ll have to see how it affects his draft stock. If Williams comes back 100%, he would be a huge steal for the Bucs.
31. TENNESSEE TITANS
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
The defense has played better in the second half of the season, but they could still use some upgrades on that side of the ball. Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans are entering free agency. The team has Zach Cunningham and David Long at the position, but neither is a difference maker; Long is also going into the last year of his contract. Lloyd has been one of the best linebackers in the nation the last two years, and is a solid all-around linebacker. He can get after the quarterback (8 sacks), make plays in coverage (4 interceptions, 2 of which went for touchdowns), and shows up in run support (22 tackles for loss).
32. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
Green Bay will have to make major roster moves to get under the cap, and there is a lot of money tied up in edge rushers. Rashan Gary and Preston Smith both have one year remaining on their current deals, and Za’Darius Smith is a name to watch as a potential cap casualty. Jackson is long, quick, and has gotten better each year in college. He can be dominant off the edge, but also has the athleticism to drop into coverage; his versatility will help his stock.
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