2022 NFL Mock Draft

The NFL Draft is only a day away. 32 players will hear their names called on opening night, and we will all learn where they will play as rookies. This year, however, is more mysterious than most. The top-level talent in this class is not the strongest; in fact, many analysts agree that the 2022 class is the weakest since 2013, though its depth is quite good. Therefore, there is little consensus regarding who the top players are and what various teams should do. This is true even within specific position groups.

Here, I give my best guesses as to how each team will approach this draft. Please note that these picks do not represent my personal preferences about who teams should select, although I do provide analysis about each player. As in many mock drafts, trades are not permitted here. With the lack of top talent, there is little demand for some of these picks anyway, but teams are bound to surprise us with their moves. Without further ado, here are my thoughts about what will happen in round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft!

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Travon Walker, Georgia
    This pick will come down to two options: Walker or DE Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan. The rumor is that owner Shad Khan prefers Hutchinson, likely because he is the “safe” selection and his team has a history of first-round draft busts, while GM Trent Baalke prefers the upside of Walker, who he views as a version of Aldon Smith without the off-the-field concerns. In theory, the GM should have final say about draft selections, so I’m tentatively going with Walker here. No player in this draft is #1 overall quality, but Walker has elite athletic ability. The question is whether he can produce at a matching level.

  2. Detroit Lions – DE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
    Detroit is going to pick whichever of the top 2 DEs Jacksonville passes on. Here, that’s Hutchinson. Hutchinson is a really good player, but he doesn’t have the upside of other DEs that were recently chosen in the top 5, such as Myles Garrett and the Bosa brothers. The Lions wanted to trade out of this pick, but there was no demand from teams below them due to the lack of premium talent in this class. Therefore, the Lions grab themselves a day-1 impact edge rusher who happens to be a local kid.

  3. Houston Texans – CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati
    The Texans are the first real wild card in this draft. Lovie Smith has never prioritized corners, but his Bears defenses were always better when he had premium play at the position (think Charles Tillman). They’re probably choosing between an offensive tackle, Gardner and Derek Stingley, and Sauce is the type of building block that GM Nick Caserio covets. Gardner is a fast, long corner who never allowed a TD in coverage during his college career.

  4. New York Jets – DE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
    This is one of the hardest picks to project. We know the Jets covet a receiver, but they can get a top prospect with their second pick. The question becomes whether they want a tackle (given their supposed unhappiness with Mekhi Becton) or an edge rusher (Robert Saleh really needs one to make his defense go like it did when he had Nick Bosa). I don’t think they’re ready to give up on Becton just yet, so which pass rusher should they choose? This is a choice between Kayvon Thibodeaux and Jermaine Johnson. Most drafts that you’ll read will slot Thibodeaux in here, but my intel suggests that Jets GM Joe Douglas prefers Johnson. A former Georgia Bulldog, Johnson transferred to FSU due to a lack of playing time on Georgia’s loaded defensive front. He broke out for the Seminoles, and some believe he and Walker have the highest upside of any defensive players in this draft.

  5. New York Giants – OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
    Nope, it’s not Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu! The Giants actually have Cross as the top tackle in this class, as do a few other teams (including the one right below them at 6, who misses out here). Andrew Thomas improved greatly in his sophomore season, but they still need another bookend. The Giants believe that Cross can play right tackle very effectively in the NFL, as can Thomas. This is good, because some teams have Cross as a pure LT (and one of the best). Cross put together a lot of good tape in the toughest division in college football (the SEC West).

  6. Carolina Panthers – OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
    Bummed out about their tackle being snatched from their clutches, the Panthers now must decide if they want to pull the trigger on a QB. Sam Darnold has been informed that the Panthers are likely to draft a QB this weekend. However, GM Scott Fitterer did not say which round that would happen in. Additionally, he has discussed trading back with a few teams, something he wouldn’t do if he had his heart set on a particular QB prospect. With that in mind, I’ll give them the best offensive player available, top LT Ickey Ekwonu. Opinions are split regarding the order of the tackles, but multiple teams consider Ekwonu to be the best blindside protector. He tested amazingly at the Scouting Combine, and with a bit of development, he could become the cornerstone of the Panthers’ currently maligned O-line.

  7. New York Giants – DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
    With their second pick, the Giants switch to the defensive side of the ball. Thibodeaux is one of the more challenging players to slot. On pure ability, he might have been the first player off the board (though certain scouts and I don’t consider him elite). However, he has character concerns, some of which are real while others might be overblown. He is considered as a guy who is selfish and cares more about his brand than his team, but he also fought through an ankle injury last season to play. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. The Giants take a chance on his upside given that they have almost no exterior pass rush.

  8. Atlanta Falcons – S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
    I really struggled with what to do for Atlanta. Their top edge rushing targets are all gone, and I get the sense that they prefer to wait for the 2023 QB class as opposed to taking one here. They also don’t figure to target the offensive line or receiver this early. Instead, they take one of the most perplexing prospects in the entire draft. Many top prospect lists have Hamilton in the top 5. Analysts rave about his athleticism and versatility. However, as scouts have noted, where does he play? His college position was safety, but his size suggests an off-ball linebacker. His slow 40 time (for a safety) didn’t help matters. He strikes me as a tweener who plays a hybrid SS/LB role, which could see him slide into the teens, but Atlanta seems to love those types of players (see Deion Jones and Keanu Neal), so they take him here and figure out what to do with him later.

  9. Seattle Seahawks – OT Evan Neal, Alabama
    How ironic that the Seahawks finally take a premier lineman the second they trade Russell Wilson away. Evan Neal’s slide stops here. A few teams have the Alabama product as their top lineman, but many others question if his feet are fast enough to man the left side of the offensive line at the next level. Some consider him a right tackle-only prospect at his massive size (a shade over 350 pounds), but an elite one. The bottom half of the top 10 is an appropriate time to grab a right tackle, but the Seahawks get the best of both worlds: they need both types of tackles! If Neal can play on the left side, then they’ve solved a massive problem. If not, they still picked a great lineman, just on the other side.

  10. New York Jets – WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
    The Jets clearly want a receiver in spite of the presence of Corey Davis and Elijah Moore. We know this because they attempted to trade for Tyreek Hill before the Dolphins swooped in, and they’ve dangled this very pick in front of the 49ers in an attempt to acquire Deebo Samuel. Since we are assuming no trades here, I am giving the Jets a draft WR with the pick instead. Garrett Wilson is considered the top WR on many team’s boards (and my own). He is fast and runs crisp routes. His production was excellent in each of the past 2 seasons, and he is a superior prospect to his teammate Chris Olave.

  11. Washington Commanders – WR Drake London, USC
    I thought about Jameson Williams here. He might have been the first WR to go if he hadn’t torn his ACL in the College Football Playoff. Ron Rivera and Carson Wentz need to win now though, so they can’t afford to wait for a recovery period. Instead, they take the big-bodied London, who would be a great complement to Terry McLaurin. London does not have elite speed, but he has just about everything else: size, a great catch radius, strong YAC ability, and good hands.

  12. Minnesota Vikings – CB Derek Stingley, Jr., Louisiana State
    Stingley is likely the best CB in this draft, but he has a serious red flag. He is coming off of a Lisfranc injury, which is one of the worst injuries in the sport. His injuries impacted him his last couple seasons, and he didn’t play as well as he did in 2019, where his freshman season was among the best ever. That said, he appears to be recovered now, having run a 4.37 40-yard dash at his pro day. Teams are wary of his injury concerns, but if he slips this far, he’s well worth the risk, as the Vikings desperately need CB help and Stingley could become a shutdown player.

  13. Houston Texans – OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
    The Texans eschewed the tackle position at 3, but they circle back here. Penning is rising up many draft boards because he has the ability to be a true left tackle at the next level. He played against a lower level of competition, but he dominated at that level. Penning might be a bit raw, but the Texans are in the midst of a full rebuild and can afford to groom him. Laremy Tunsil is not guaranteed to be a Texan a couple years from now, so Penning could start out on the right side (where his nasty streak would be perfect) and then move to the left later. The team also needs to put as many pieces as possible around Davis Mills to properly evaluate him.

  14. Baltimore Ravens – DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
    Now for my #1 overall player in this draft. If he played at a more premium position than nose tackle, we would have been discussing him 13 picks earlier. The Ravens get a steal here in this mountain of a man who somehow ran a 4.78-second 40 at 340 pounds. This should not be possible. His play on the field backs up his testing numbers. He is an elite run stuffer who clogs the interior better than almost anyone. Davis does not have high sack numbers, but he pushes the pocket with his sheer size and strength to let his teammates feast. He reminds me of Vita Vea in that regard. Calais Campbell is 35 and is only signed for one more year, so they might want to think about his successor now.

  15. Philadelphia Eagles – WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
    The Eagles cannot stop drafting first-round receivers. They still feel the sting of selecting Jalen Reagor just before Justin Jefferson, and Devonta Smith is not enough to truly evaluate Jalen Hurts. Going back to the Alabama well for the second straight draft, Philly selects the guy who might is viewed by some as the best receiver in the class if he’s healthy. He has speed to burn, runs crisp routes, has played spectacularly in the SEC, and would complement Smith really well on the outside as someone who could stretch the defense or help Hurts during scramble drills.

  16. New Orleans Saints – QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
    The first quarterback comes off the board! Let me be clear: I do not endorse this. I don’t have a first-round grade on any QB in this class. Regardless, the Saints traded for this pick by mortgaging a 2023 first-rounder, so they had clear plans for it and are rumored to be gunning for a QB. Among their options, Pickett seems most likely. He better fits the win-now Saints than the raw Malik Willis, and they likely aren’t concerned with his small hands as a southern team that plays in a dome. Pickett was slightly above average for most of his college career before exploding last season and becoming a Heisman finalist. The Saints would be betting that he has taken a Joe Burrow-style path to the league.

  17. Los Angeles Chargers – LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
    The chargers have to do SOMETHING to fix their atrocious run defense. The top defensive tackles are gone (the Bolts are rumored to be after Jordan Davis), but the top inside linebacker is still available. Lloyd isn’t speedy, but he’s an instinctive tackling machine that Brandon Staley would love to have. He has improved his abilities in coverage and rushing the passer, but as his 111 tackles in 2021 show, his strength lies in taking down ball carriers.

  18. Philadelphia Eagles – DT Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
    The Ravens snagged Calais Campbell’s successor a few picks ago, but the Eagles want to do the same with Fletcher Cox. They take the next-best option here in Wyatt. Wyatt is a very polarizing player. Some teams have serious off-field concerns with him and have removed them from their boards entirely. I do not believe that the Eagles are one of these teams. On the positive side, Wyatt tested almost as well as Davis despite being a bit smaller, and he offers quite a bit in the pass rush department due to his quickness inside. He broke out in 2021 with 7 tackles for loss, and he has improved steadily throughout his Georgia career.

  19. New Orleans Saints – WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
    The second of the premier Buckeye receivers, Olave joins former Buckeye Michael Thomas in a revamped receiving corps. Without Thomas, the Saints had nothing at WR in 2021, but they learn from their mistake here. Thomas is a big possession receiver, so Olave complements him well was a speedster who can take the top off of defenses. Olave went back to school last season despite receiving high second-round grades from evaluators, and it appears that he made the correct decision. He took his game to another level this past year.

  20. Pittsburgh Steelers – QB Malik Willis, Liberty
    The Steelers get their man in this mock draft without needing to trade up. I’m told that Pittsburgh is willing to trade up a bit to land Willis if need be (likely no higher than 13 due to the cost of such a trade), but he falls to them here. The Steelers have been associated with Willis throughout the entire draft process, and they love his arm strength and mobility (the latter is something they never had with Big Ben). Mitchell Trubisky can hold down the fort while Willis learns, at which point he can take over in 2023. This is the epitome of a boom or bust pick; Willis turned the ball over constantly whenever he played Power-5 school, and he does not see the field or read defenses well. This pick is 100% bound to his athletic ability.

  21. New England Patriots – CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
    The Patriots are always candidates to do one of two things: trade down (often out of the first round) or draft the best player available. The do the latter here. McDuffie is the consensus #3 CB. As a smaller corner at 5’11”, he doesn’t have a lot of length, but he has speed and skill to with his natural coverage instincts. He has been productive throughout his college career and is viewed in league circles as a day-1 starter on the outside or in the slot. The Patriots badly need a cornerback after losing J.C. Jackson to the Chargers in free agency.

  22. Green Bay Packers – WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
    This might be blasphemy. The Packers have NEVER selected a WR in round 1 with Aaron Rodgers as their QB. It’s both comical and tragic. This year simply must change that. The Packers haven’t been loaded at receiver for a while, and that was before the Davante Adams trade. Burks is a possession receiver who runs a 4.55-second 40 yard dash. His top-end speed concerns some teams, but remember that Antonio Brown and Michael Thomas ran 4.57s before becoming stars. Burks always makes plays with the ball in his hands, and he’s the type of player that could do great things if he mind melds with Rodgers.

  23. Arizona Cardinals – DE George Karlaftis, Purdue
    The Cardinals take a replacement for the recently departed Chandler Jones. Karlaftis had his best sack production as a freshman (7.5), but has continued to show plus pass rushing ability throughout his time at Purdue. He has good strength and speed, but he only excels at using those traits to pursue quarterbacks, not to defend the run. For the Cardinals, JJ Watt can be the run-stopping DE while Karlaftis uses his advantageous matchups to hunt QBs. Ideally, he will improve his run defense with NFL coaching.

  24. Dallas Cowboys – G/T Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
    The Cowboys need to restock their line after releasing La’el Collins and losing Connor Williams to the Dolphins in free agency. Green is a highly versatile lineman, as evidenced by his “G/T” listing. He played all 5 positions on the line for the Aggies, but he projects as an inside player for the NFL. He is experienced, skilled, and tough, but he lacks the arm length typically needed to play tackle, specifically left tackle. Green likely takes over for Williams as a Cowboy, with the ability to fill in admirably at center and make spot starts at RT if required.

  25. Buffalo Bills – CB Andrew Booth, Jr., Clemson
    Buffalo needs another starting corner due to Levi Wallace’s departure to Pittsburgh and All-Pro CB Tre’Davious White’s ongoing recovery from ACL surgery. Booth has good length and decent speed (4.5-second 40), but his instincts are lacking. Sean McDermott would be an ideal coach to work with him given his success as a defensive tutor both in Carolina and in Buffalo. Booth would likely go higher than this based on his measurables and pedigree at Clemson, but recent hernia surgery has some teams a bit wary. Buffalo is playing for the end of the season, so they can be patient if necessary.

  26. Tennessee Titans – WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
    The Titans whiffed on their Julio Jones trade, as he did not seem to fit them well or stay healthy. Here, they take a swing at another running mate for AJ Brown. Dotson is a slightly smaller receiver (5’11”, 183 lbs.), but he has good speed (4.43-second 40) to run by defensive backs and great verticality to make contested catches. He is excellent with the ball in his hands, and he showed this despite the inability of Penn State QBs to get him the ball regularly. Despite this, he topped 1000 yards receiving in 2021 and would make Ryan Tannehill very happy.

  27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – G Zion Johnson, Boston College
    Tampa lost two guards to free agency and retirement in Alex Cappa and Ali Marpet, respectively. This wouldn’t have been a big issue for a rebuilding/retooling team, but now that Tom Brady has returned from his brief retirement, protection is once again paramount. Enter Johnson. Though he sometimes struggles with speedy edge rushers that line up inside on 3-4 looks, he does well in strength matchups against interior defenders. The senior has lots of experience and should be a starter right away for the Buccaneers. He likely has 2nd-round grades from teams, but some teams only have 15 players with first-round grades this year, so a bunch of these types of guys are going to hear their names called on Thursday.

  28. Green Bay Packers – LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
    Talented players like this seem to fall into the Packers’ laps every year late in the first round, and here we have another. Like Eric Stokes last year, a skilled Bulldog defender lands with Green Bay. One of the leaders of the vaunted National Championship-winning Georgia defense, Dean can slot right into Za’Darius Smith’s spot as an edge-rushing OLB. His instincts and vision are excellent, and he tackles well despite being a bit undersized. Evaluators are split regarding his potential, but with Damone Clark’s spinal fusion surgery, Dean is the consensus #1 OLB in the 2022 draft.

  29. Kansas City Chiefs – WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State
    The Chiefs select speed to replace speed. Kansas City begrudgingly traded Tyreek Hill after the receiver market exploded during free agency and the WR’s contract demands skyrocketed. It’s hard to replace the fastest player in football, but this might be their best bet to do so. Watson, at 6’4″, should not be able to run as fast as he does, but his 4.36-second 40 time confirmed it. His biggest question mark is his FCS level of competition, but he showed out at the Senior Bowl against mostly FBS players. KC can use this pick, acquired from Miami for Hill, to replenish their WR room with a rookie salary while keeping the other picks obtained in the deal to use at other positions.

  30. Kansas City Chiefs – S/CB Daxton Hill, Michigan
    The Chiefs signed Justin Reid to replace Tyrann Mathieu, but he is more of a true safety and not a hybrid who can roam the entire field. Hill provides that ability. He played both safety and nickel corner for the Wolverines, but he was better in the slot. Hill is very athletic and blazed a 4.38-second 40 yard dash at the combine. The word that scouts use most to describe Hill is “smooth”, which is appropriate given how he is tasked with roaming the entire backfield and even providing support at the line of scrimmage. He makes tackles in space and in the run game, and he would enable the Chiefs to play Reid at his natural free safety position while filling the Honey Badger’s role in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense.

  31. Cincinnati Bengals – CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
    After attacking the offensive line exactly the way they should have in free agency, the Bengals can look at other positions with this pick. The biggest remaining weakness for the Bengals is at cornerback, where the re-signing of Eli Apple fixes absolutely nothing. He’s a serviceable depth piece, but the team needs a true CB1 opposite Chidobe Awuzie. Elam has the length to play in press man coverage, and he has strong cover skills should he be asked to play zone. His two knocks entering the draft process are his speed and his tackling. The first concern was alleviated after Elam ran a 4.39-second 40 at the combine, though some scouts are still worried that he doesn’t play at that speed. The second is harder to judge. Recent Gator corners, such as CJ Henderson and Vernon Hargreaves, have been soft tacklers, and it’s unknown whether Elam will follow suit. Still, he is the best CB remaining at this juncture and is solid value at pick 31, where most teams are selecting players with second-round grades anyway.

  32. Detroit Lions – QB Matt Corral, Mississippi
    One last QB in round 1! This pick is very likely to be a QB, but it’s not necessarily the Lions that will hand in the draft card. Teams have historically traded back into the bottom of the first round (the last pick in particular) to take a QB so that they can benefit from the all-important 5th-year option on his rookie contract. The Ravens did this with Lamar Jackson in 2018, and the Vikings did it with Teddy Bridgewater in 2014. Since the Lions can’t trade the pick in this draft, I’m going based on who I think they like best and who their potential trade candidates like best. Some teams prefer Desmond Ridder, but the Seahawks and Falcons, two teams likely to made such a move, prefer Corral, as do the Lions themselves. Corral is a gritty player who plays with a ton of fire, but there’s just something missing to me. He’s a natural passer who can run, but he isn’t large, so he shouldn’t run with regularity unless he learns to slide. His counting stats like TD passes are lackluster for someone in a college-style offense. However, in a weak class, it’s not surprising that teams view him favorably relative to their other options.

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