The 2022 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and the rumor mill is in full swing. The debate still rages on as to what the Jaguars will do at first overall, as their decision will dictate the complexion of the top-10 picks. We expect a number of trades throughout the draft but will keep this as a no-trade mock to keep things honest as far as the current draft order is concerned.
1.01: Jacksonville Jaguars (Evan Neal, LT – Alabama)
Aidan Hutchinson is the prohibitive favorite to be selected first overall as far as the odds are concerned. Still, with Cam Robinson getting tagged again due to the two sides being unable to agree on a long-term agreement, the Jaguars have a massive need for a succession plan. Ikem Ekwonu should also be considered here, but Neal’s superior tape against the pass gets him the nod. Hutchinson would still be a strong pick for the Jaguars but need factors into the decision-making process for a team that has drafted two first-round edge rushers in the last three years. Protecting Trevor Lawrence should be the Jaguars’ priority after a tumultuous rookie season.
1.02: Detroit Lions – Malik Willis (QB – Liberty)
Willis was long thought to be the quarterback with the most upside in this class, and with most of the others projecting as backup/developmental types in most other draft classes, Willis’ stock has soared. The Lions, if they keep this pick, can let Willis learn from Jared Goff for a year before handing him the reigns in 2023. Rumor has it this pick is available, and teams like the Carolina Panthers, the Seattle Seahawks, and possibly the Pittsburgh Steelers or New Orleans Saints may choose to move up to ensure they walk away with the quarterback they are targeting. A lot can happen between now and draft day, but Willis at second overall should be the pick, regardless of who is on the clock.
1.03: Houston Texans – Aidan Hutchinson (Edge – Michigan)
There is no way the Texans pass on Aidan Hutchinson if he is still on the board. He has the skill and leadership the Texans desperately need as they embark on the full rebuild in the post-Deshaun Watson era and plays a position of need. Hutchinson and Jonathan Greenard’s ability to keep constant pressure on the opposing passing games should help elevate the back end and morph the Texans front seven into one to be feared.
1.04: New York Jets – Kavyon Thibodeaux (Edge – Oregon)
The Jets run their card to the podium in this scenario as Thibodeaux is who the Jets were targeting all along. Ahmad Gardner and Ikem Ekwonu will also be considered here, but with Carl Lawson aging and Thibodeaux projecting as a potential Pro Bowl edge rusher, he is too tempting for Robert Saleh to pass up. Thibodeaux will likely start his career in a rotational role if Lawson and John Franklin-Myers are healthy, but that may be ideal for his development.
1.05: New York Giants – Ikem Ekwonu (OT – NC State)
Ekwonu is a slam dunk pick for a Giants team needing offensive line help. Ekwonu and Andrew Thomas will give the Giants franchise bookends for at least the next half-decade and should help spark a reinvigorated Giants rushing attack. Landing on the Giants is perfect for Ekwonu as he projects to be much better on the right side. Five years from now, this may be looked back on as the steal of the draft.
1.06: Carolina Panthers – Ahmad Gardner (CB – Cincinnati)
The Panthers were hoping for Malik Willis or Kayvon Thibodeaux here but gladly add Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner to what instantly becomes one of the most exciting young cornerback rooms in the entire NFL. This addition will give the Panthers three young studs to develop in Gardner, Jaycee Horn, and C.J. Henderson. Charles Cross and Travon Walker will also be considered here, but Gardner is the pick with Stephon Gilmore exiting stage left.
1.07: New York Giants (from CHI) – Derek Stingley Jr. (CB – LSU)
Stingley looked like he wouldn’t fall past the Giants at seventh overall prior to free agency, and with James Bradberry now on the block, Stingley should be a lock here, especially now that he has already progressed to on-field work. Kyle Hamilton should also get a long, hard look.
1.08: Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Hamilton (S – Notre Dame)
Atlanta passed on Justin Fields and Mac Jones last year but won’t double down on their mistake by reaching for one of the remaining signal callers at eighth overall. If they trade down, all bets are off, but if they keep the pick, they should finally go best player available and add a player some have rated as the top talent in the draft in Kyle Hamilton.
1.09: Seattle Seahawks – Charles Cross (LT – Mississippi State)
Right, so Russell Wilson leaves town, and the Seahawks start investing in blue-chip offensive line talent. That seems about right. In all seriousness, the Seahawks will need to drastically improve their offensive line now that they no longer have a rare specimen like Russell Wilson and his elite ability to extend the pocket. Cross will help keep whoever is under center for the Seahawks upright. Malik Willis will be the pick here if still available, but Desmond Ridder and Sam Howell should also be strong considerations.
1.10: New York Jets (from Seattle) – Garrett Wilson (WR – Ohio State)
The Jets thought they had their hands on Tyreek Hill, but everything changed when Miami entered the fray. However, their heavy interest signaled that they are in the market for a number one wide receiver, and in this draft, that means Garrett Wilson or Drake London. London may be a better fit with Zach Wilson’s playstyle, but Garrett Wilson is widely viewed as the more complete prospect and has a higher floor.
1.11: Washington Commanders – Daxton Hill (S/CB – Michigan)
Washington re-signed Bobby McCain and still has Kamren Curl but Hill, like McCain, is a versatile defensive back who can start at safety or nickel corner. He has the talent to start over McCain from day one and should be the Commanders pick if they stand pat at 11.
1.12: Minnesota Vikings – Trent McDuffie (CB – Washington)
The Vikings looked like the ceiling for Devin Lloyd or Nakobe Dean, but the signing of Jordan Hicks to play alongside Eric Kendricks changes that. This pick will be an edge rusher if Danielle Hunter is moved on or prior to Day 1, but this pick should be a cornerback if he’s still on the team. Trent McDuffie should be the pick but expect Roger McCreary to get a long look as well, especially if they feel McDuffie is a slot only.
1.13: Houston Texans (from CLE) – Jordan Davis (DT – Georgia)
The Texans are now set on the edge with Hutchinson and Jonathan Greenard, so they turn their attention to the inside. They re-signed Maliek Collins and drafted Ross Blacklock in the second round just last year, but Davis is a true difference-maker at the position. Questions persist as to what type of weekly snap count he can handle in the NFL, so teammate Devonte Wyatt will also be in play here. Drake London should also be a consideration if the Texans move Brandin Cooks (and his new contract) before draft day.
1.14: Baltimore Ravens – Tyler Linderbaum (C – Iowa)
Baltimore will have a tough decision on its hands in this scenario. Center Tyler Linderbaum remains on the board but so do players like Trevor Penning and Tyler Smith. However, the addition of Morgan Moses likely means they will not use a premium pick on a tackle. Baltimore still has a need on the edge and has their pick of potential studs like Travon Walker, George Karlaftis, Jermaine Johnson, and potentially (the now injured) David Ojabo. In this mock, the Ravens prioritize the O-Line while looking to secure a free-falling edge or corner at 45th overall.
1.15: Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA) – Drake London (WR – USC)
Philadelphia added Zach Pascal in free agency, but that will not make them pass on a receiver in the first round. They need a 1a or 1b for Jalen Hurts to have a chance of progressing, and it has become painfully clear that Jalen Reagor is not going to work with a quarterback like Hurts. London gives Hurts a massive target with a giant catch radius and has the talent to punish opponents if they dare roll a safety to Devonta Smith’s side of the field.
1.16: New Orleans Saints (from IND through PHI) – Trevor Penning (OT – Northern Iowa)
Offensive tackle is suddenly a major need with Terron Armstead now a Miami Dolphin. The Saints were likely looking to kick the tires on a quarterback or add an edge rusher or wide receiver with their first-round pick, but now that they have two, they have options. Armstead’s exit necessitates landing a true answer at the position. Penning is the top tackle left on the board in many eyes and comes with the mean streak needed to deal with the types of talent currently residing on edges across the NFL. While he is a first-round prospect due to his prowess in the run game, he is a strong pass protector. He should improve considerably with an NFL O-Line coach and getting to practice against Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport every day.
1.17: Los Angeles Chargers – Tyler Smith (OT – Tulsa)
The Chargers have very few holes on either side of the ball, thanks to one of the most intriguing free agency and trade classes in the league. They no longer have a need on the edge, on the inside, at wide receiver, at corner, or linebacker (despite the loss of Kyzir White). They do, however, still need a right tackle and right guard. Kenyon Green’s stock appears to be in free fall, and tackle is the more premium position, so expect the Chargers to go with Smith now that the Saints jumped them for Penning. Smith gets the nod here because head coach Brandon Staley will fall in love with his tape. Smith and Rashaawn Slater will instantly form one of the most ferocious bookends in the entire NFL.
1.18: Philadelphia Eagles (from NO) – Devin Lloyd (LB – Utah)
The Eagles added Hasson Reddick in free agency and no longer have as big of a need on the edge, causing them to pass up intriguing names like Karlaftis and Walker. The positions they will likely be looking to address with their now two first round picks are linebacker and wide receiver, or guard. Devin Lloyd is viewed as better in coverage than the hard-hitting Nakobe Dean and will be the Eagles pick if they opt to finally solve their long-term need in the middle with the 18th overall pick.
1.19: New Orleans Saints (from PHI) – Sam Howell (QB – North Carolina)
This pick should be Howell or Desmond Ridder. Kenny Pickett and Matt Corrall make sense for a team looking for a 2022 starter, but for a team with a legit starter in place, chasing upside trumps the low upside, higher floor types the Pitt and Ole Miss products represent. New Orleans gave up a lot to move ahead of the Chargers to secure the left tackle they were after but had been internally debating the merits of passing on a Day 1 tackle to add a first-round quarterback before adding the additional first. Howell, viewed as a potential first overall pick not too long ago, gets the nod here but don’t be surprised to see the Saints move down a few spots to take the same player.
1.20: Pittsburgh Steelers – Travon Walker (Edge – Georgia)
With Malik Willis long gone, the Pittsburgh Steelers are forced to wait until Day 2 to bring in some quarterback competition for Mitch Trubisky. That should lead to them targeting an edge rusher in the first round.
George Karlaftis is still on the board, but the Eagles giving up a first, also left Walker on the board. The Georgia product has an All-Pro ceiling. Walker is dripping with upside and looks like the better fit than Karlaftis, who, while an exciting bull rusher, has not shown enough in the run game to make Pittsburgh comfortable in a division with the likes of Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, and Kareem Hunt. Walker is the type of talent Mike Tomlin covets but can rarely get his hands on but in this scenario lands one of the top edge rushers on the board due to an unusually deep class at the position. If Walker is no longer on the board, the Steelers may target Jermaine Johnson or Desmond Ridder.
1.21: New England Patriots – Roger McCreary (CB – Auburn)
The Patriots need some help at cornerback and will likely be enamored with Roger McCreary from Auburn. Andrew Booth also makes some sense here due to his elite feet, but the Patriots opt for tape and floor over upside in this scenario. The Auburn product has the talent to start from day one and gives New England a potential future Pro Bowler at the position. Expect Jameson Williams to be firmly in play here if the Pats sign another corner before the draft.
1.22: Green Bay Packers (from LV) – Jameson Williams (WR – Alabama)
The Packers need a wide receiver in the worst way and are expected to address the position in the first round. Following the Davante Adams trade, this pick was penciled in as being Treylon Burks from Arkansas. However, with Jameson Williams progressing well, he is rising back up draft boards. Green Bay needs to compete immediately, and with Williams now expected to play this season, he fits their timeline.
1.23: Arizona Cardinals – George Karlaftis (DL – Purdue)
Karlaftis has the talent to be a top-15 pick in this draft class but inexplicably slips all the way to the Cardinals at 23rd overall. The Purdue product has the talent to play upfront or as an outside linebacker in an odd front, making him a perfect fit for the Cardinals defense. He will need to improve against the run to be an every-down player for Arizona. With that being said, he has the temperament and motor to become a force with some tutelage. Arizona will tackle wide receiver and running back on Day 2. Devonte Wyatt is also a very real possibility.
1.24: Dallas Cowboys – Treylon Burks (WR – Arkansas)
The Cowboys may trade up a few spots for Burks if he makes it to 21st overall, as Jerry Jones will be worried that his fellow alum may be selected by the Packers, especially if Jameson Williams gets tapped before then. Whenever they select, if Burks is still on the board, expect Dallas to pull the trigger quickly. Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson both departed in free agency, with James Washington being their top addition at the position. Washington can help stretch the field, but Burks is the type of modern NFL receiver that can help the Cowboys be a threat on all levels.
1.25: Buffalo Bills – Andrew Booth Jr. (CB – Clemson)
The Bills could go in a lot of directions here. Running back and defensive tackle make some sense, especially with Breece Hall and Devonte Wyatt still on the board, but the Bills biggest need is undoubtedly at cornerback. Tre’Davious White is recovering from a devastating ACL tear, and former number two corner Levi Wallace is now plying his wares in Pittsburgh. There are still some top corners available in free agency but expect the Bills to roll the dice on Day 1 in the hopes of landing someone not getting the love he deserves (due to inconsistent tape) like Booth.
1.26: Tennessee Titans – Nakobe Dean (LB – Georgia)
The Titans mercifully stop the draft day slide of Nakobe Dean. With Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown now with the Atlanta Falcons and Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee has a need in the middle. David Long and Zach Cunningham can start in 2022, but Cunningham will be released before the 2023 season, and Long, despite his on-field juice, remains undersized. Dean has the talent to supplant Cunningham as a rookie and will be expected to do just that. Cornerback should also be an option here, but with names like Kristian Fulton, Caleb Farley, and Elijah Molden already on the roster, the Titans will wait until Day 2 to add some depth. Jahan Dotson should be the pick if Dean is off the board or the Titans decide that the tier drop in Day 2 wide receivers is steeper than that of the middle linebacker position.
1.27: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Kenyon Green (G – Texas A&M)
The Buccaneers could go in a number of directions here but opt to solidify the interior of their offensive line with Kenyon Green. Widely viewed as a top 15 prospect prior to the NFL Combine, Green slips to a less than ideal performance. Green should start as a rookie and has the tape to suggest that he can turn into a Pro Bowl level player in time. His addition is a home run for a team that lost Alex Kappa and Ali Marpet this offseason.
1.28: Green Bay Packers – Jahan Dotson (WR – Penn State)
Green Bay may have wanted to wait until Day 2 to add a second receiver but can’t pass up Dotson at 28th overall if he is still on the board. Dotson can play inside or out and profiles as a receiver who can catch 80-90 balls as a rookie regardless of where he lands. If he ends up with Aaron Rodgers, he may push for offensive rookie of the year. Pairing Dotson with Williams is a dream scenario for Rodgers, the Packers, and Dotson alike.
1.29: Kansas City Chiefs (from SF via Mia) – Devonte Wyatt (DT – Georgia)
Can you imagine Devonte Wyatt and Chris Jones lining up next to each other on the inside? Andry Reid and Steve Spagnuolo can, and that is precisely why they forgo the cornerback and edge positions to select someone they had as a top-15 pick on their draft board. Kansas City never envisioned a scenario where Wyatt would still be available this late but happily select the disruptor at 29th overall.
1.30: Kansas City Chiefs – Chris Olave (WR – Ohio State)
Olave was in danger of falling out of the first round entirely before the Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill trades but now lands in a dream scenario with Patrick Mahomes. He may never be a number one receiver in the traditional sense but possesses the speed and route-running prowess to become an immediate go-to receiver for the Chiefs. His deep speed will help open things up underneath for Travis Kelce and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
1.31: Cincinnati Bengals – Kaiir Elam (CB – Florida)
The Bengals looked to have solved much of their offensive line issues in free agency, so they turn their sights to the defensive backfield in round one. Kaiir Elam has been battle-tested against SEC competition and should push to start right away for the reigning AFC Champions.
1.32: Detroit Lions (from LAR) – George Pickens (WR – Georgia)
The Lions will likely deal this pick to someone looking for a fifth-year option on a premium position but if they keep the pick, expect them to go wide receiver. Christian Watson has been getting a lot of pre-draft love due to insane measurables and strong tape, but the fiery Pickens has been on NFL radars for years and tested better than expected. If he can add some functional muscle while maintaining his speed, Pickens will become a number one receiver for the Detroit Lions.
The Lions may also choose to go with an edge rusher here if they indeed draft Willis over a Hutchinson or Thibodeaux. Players like Boye Mafe, David Ojabo, Drake Jackson, or Arnold Ebiketie have the upside to make keeping this pick worth it. If the Lions trade this pick, it should be to a team looking to land Desmond Ridder or Kenny Pickett. Ridder, if still available, should be the Lions pick if they do not take a quarterback with their early first round pick.
So… Trayvon Walker is getting serious consideration for the #1 overall pick, and yet this mock has him falling to 20th overall?? Help me make sense of that.