2022 NFL Mock Draft


On Thursday night, front office executives for the 32 NFL teams will convene in war rooms all over the country. It’s an annual tradition with a profound effect on the league, unfolding live in front of the millions watching across multiple television networks. It’s the three-day event that changes the lives of brilliant athletes and their families. It’s the most challenging stage of constructing an NFL roster, but also the most rewarding. It’s the most anticipated part of the offseason, with the first game still months away. It’s the NFL Draft.

Here’s how the first round could play out on Thursday night:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
The Jaguars won’t overthink this one, will they? Hutchinson is the most pro-ready prospect in the draft, bringing a tenacious work ethic and elite pass-rushing ability. He dominated opposing offenses in his senior year at Michigan, racking up 14 sacks and earning Big Ten Most Valuable Player. After finishing near the bottom of the league in sacks last season, Hutchinson fills a glaring need at pass rusher. (Also considered: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia)

2. Detroit Lions – Malik Willis, Quarterback, Liberty
The first shocker of the night comes early! Many analysts project the Lions to bolster the defense with this pick. But that wouldn’t be any fun. The Lions have been awfully quiet during the quarterback carousel this offseason, despite being completely unwilling to commit to Jared Goff in the long term. Although it may be perceived as a bit of a reach, Willis is the leader, dual-threat, kneecap-biting quarterback that Dan Campbell loves, with plenty of room for growth. If the Jags choose Travon Walker first overall, this pick will undoubtedly be Aidan Hutchinson. (Also considered: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia)

3. Houston Texans – Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
This is a tough pick to project, given that the Texans have needs at every position. Walker is the draft’s best run-stopper at edge rusher and is among the best at shedding blocks. Having a top-notch run defense is especially important for a team that faces both Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor twice a year. Another reason for this pick is general manager Nick Caserio’s history of selecting Georgia players. As director of player personnel for the Patriots, Caserio drafted two former Bulldogs in the first round in 2018 (Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel). (Also considered: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State)

4. New York Jets – Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
Once viewed as the surefire top pick, Thibodeaux has fallen down draft boards due to overblown concerns about his work ethic and commitment. However, his intangibles and production at Oregon are undeniable. Thibodeaux and Carl Lawson can become the league’s next intimidating pass-rushing duo, similar to what head coach Robert Saleh had with the 49ers. (Also considered: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati)

5. New York Giants – Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Earlier this offseason, Giants owner John Mara asserted, “We’ve done everything possible to screw [quarterback Daniel Jones] up since he’s been here.” If the Giants are committed to Jones, their first priority must be the offensive line, which has been nothing short of a disaster in recent years. With high-level experience from his days at Alabama, Neal has proven he can hold his own against premier pass rushers. Facing DeMarcus Lawrence and Chase Young twice a year is no small task. Neal will be at least a 10-year starter in the NFL, book it. (Also considered: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State)

6. Carolina Panthers – Kenny Pickett, Quarterback, Pittsburgh
It’s hard to believe that the Panthers are sold on Pickett, given the team’s on-again, off-again commitment to Sam Darnold, reported interest in Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo, and workouts with many of the draft’s best offensive linemen. Despite that, Pickett boasts elite arm talent and scrambling ability that opens up an offense. Head coach Matt Rhule will be out of a job if the team underperforms again this season, so it is vital that he finds a quarterback he can trust. It is worth considering that Rhule recruited Pickett while coaching at Temple, and Panthers owner David Tepper is a longtime donor to the football program at Pitt. (Also considered: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State)

7. New York Giants – Ahmad Gardner, Cornerback, Cincinnati
As of now, cornerback is not a glaring need for the Giants, but it appears that they won’t be keeping starter James Bradberry at his current contract. Enter “Sauce” Gardner, who didn’t allow a single touchdown in three seasons at Cincinnati. The Giants will value his swagger and leadership, especially after losing captain Jabrill Peppers in free agency. (Also considered: Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State)

8. Atlanta Falcons – Garrett Wilson, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
Wilson is the most explosive playmaker in the draft, drawing comparisons to Davante Adams and T.Y. Hilton. He would instantly become the top receiver in a depleted Falcons offense after the team lost top wideouts Calvin Ridley (suspension) and Russell Gage (free agency) this offseason. Atlanta won’t make the playoffs this season, but Wilson is the perfect investment for long-term production on offense. (Also considered: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame)

9. Seattle Seahawks – Ikem Ekwonu, Offensive Tackle, NC State
After trading away Russell Wilson, the Seahawks would love to see Malik Willis fall to them at this pick. This, however, is very unlikely to happen. Throughout the Wilson era, Seattle failed to field a top-tier offensive line. Ekwonu is widely considering top-five talent, so Pete Carroll and company should not waste a second pondering any other option unless they have identified their next franchise quarterback. (Also considered: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU)

10. New York Jets – Drake London, Wide Receiver, USC
It’s a real possibility the Jets trade this pick to San Francisco for All-Pro receiver Deebo Samuel, who recently requested a trade. However, if the Jets don’t acquire Samuel, there is a solid chance this pick will be a receiver. London’s unique size and speed allow him to haul in contested catches and make plays after the catch. His skillset will maximize Zach Wilson’s potential, particularly with the deep ball. Don’t look now—the Jets’ rebuild is actually coming together quite well. (Also considered: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU)

11. Washington Commanders – Kyle Hamilton, Safety, Notre Dame
The Commanders are not far off from being contenders. They have a well-respected coach, a top-three front-seven when healthy, and two rising stars on offense in Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin. However, they lack the “glue” players that hold it all together. Hamilton is the best safety in the draft due to his size, football IQ, pass-coverage prowess, and tackling skillset. Safeties are generally undervalued (see Derwin James in 2018) in the draft, causing him to fall outside the top-10. (Also considered: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama)

12. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Stingley Jr., Cornerback, LSU
The Vikings are loaded with stars on offense, but a high-powered offense means nothing if your opponent matches every score. Stingley was once considered the indisputable best corner in the draft, but an injury-plagued final season at LSU and the emergence of Ahmad Gardner changed things. Without Davante Adams, the Packers suddenly look more vulnerable in the NFC North. The Vikings can capitalize by adding Stingley and shoring up a secondary that has struggled in years past. (Also considered: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia)

13. Houston Texans – Charles Cross, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State
The Texans are going to prioritize the trenches in the draft. Cross was an outstanding pass blocker in two starting seasons at Mississippi State and would be an immediate starter at right tackle opposite Laremy Tunsil in Houston. When the Texans inevitably move on from Tunsil in the coming years, Cross can slide over to left tackle. The Texans need foundational pieces to have a successful rebuild, and few players are more valuable than a reliable tackle. (Also considered: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama)

14. Baltimore Ravens – Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State
After missing out on Za’Darius Smith in free agency, the Ravens still have a hole at edge rusher opposite 2021 first-rounder Odafe Oweh. Johnson posted double-digits in both sacks and tackles for loss on the way to winning ACC Defensive Player of the Year at Florida State last season. The Ravens have greater needs along the offensive line and in the secondary, but Johnson’s talent and potential are too great to pass up. (Also considered: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia)

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Jordan Davis, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
Longtime starter Fletcher Cox is likely entering his final season in Philadelphia. The Eagles, who have a history of selecting defensive linemen and edge rushers in the early rounds, have the perfect opportunity to find Cox’s replacement with this pick. Davis was the driving force of Georgia’s defense on the way to their National Championship victory. His unreal speed and athleticism at over 340 pounds were on full display at the Combine last month. (Also considered: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington)

16. New Orleans Saints – Trevor Penning, Offensive Tackle, Northern Iowa
The Saints could opt for a quarterback with one of their two first-rounders, but by drafting for needs — particularly at receiver and offensive/defensive line — they have a solid chance of contending for a Wild Card spot this season. Penning garnered attention at the Senior Bowl for finishing every block with authority on every down he played. He will have huge shoes to fill after longtime starter Terron Armstead left for Miami this offseason. (Also considered: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia)

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Zion Johnson, Offensive Guard, Boston College
Last year, the Chargers found a generational left tackle in Rashawn Slater in the first round. The Chargers have a franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert and many weapons surrounding him, but the right side of the offensive line could improve. Johnson is coveted for his versatility in the interior offensive line, with experience at guard and center. His ability to sustain blocks will keep Herbert upright for years to come. (Also considered: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M)

18. Philadelphia Eagles – Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Would the Eagles really take a receiver in the first round for the third year in a row? Definitely. Last year, general manager Howie Roseman leapfrogged the Giants to select Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith. They won’t have to move up to land Smith’s former teammate. Before tearing his ACL in the National Championship, Williams flaunted his blazing speed and elusiveness for the Crimson Tide. Quarterback Jalen Hurts will be thrilled to have another weapon as the Eagles look to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. (Also considered: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah)

19. New Orleans Saints – Chris Olave, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
After locking down Jameis Winston’s blindside protection with Trevor Penning, the Saints and new head coach Dennis Allen continue to bolster their offense. Michael Thomas will be back on the field for New Orleans this season, but there aren’t many other receiving threats besides the former All-Pro wideout. Olave is close with Thomas due to their Ohio State connection. He also happens to be the best remaining receiver on the board. Olave joins the Saints after breaking the record for most touchdown receptions in Buckeyes program history (35). (Also considered: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss)

20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Desmond Ridder, Quarterback, Cincinnati
It appears Ridder will be a first-rounder after rising up draft boards in recent weeks. He reportedly made a strong impression on many teams leading up to the draft. His mobility outside the pocket, as well as leadership traits, stand out the most. The Steelers will definitely consider moving up for a quarterback if one falls, but in this mock, both Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett came off the board in the top six. Nonetheless, Ridder is a great fit that will mesh well with Mike Tomlin. (Also considered: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M)

21. New England Patriots – Trent McDuffie, Cornerback, Washington
The Patriots’ defense was exposed in their 47-17 Wild Card loss to the Bills, proving they need to get younger and faster. On top of that, J.C. Jackson’s departure in free agency left a gaping hole in the secondary. If McDuffie falls, then Bill Belichick should draft him without hesitation. He has all the tools to succeed in New England’s man-to-man-oriented defense due to his aggression and speed. (Also considered: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia)

22. Green Bay Packers – Treylon Burks, Wide Receiver, Arkansas
The Packers’ receiving corps will look much different next year after trading Davante Adams to Las Vegas and letting Marquez Valdes-Scantling walk. Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard remain, but neither should be the number one receiver. Burks has drawn comparisons to A.J. Brown for his size, speed, and route running. With Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, Burks could potentially put up some high-level stats right away. He would also be viewed as an initial favorite for Rookie of the Year. (Also considered: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia)

23. Arizona Cardinals – George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
The Cardinals posted a respectable amount of sacks last season, but leading pass rusher Chandler Jones signed with the Raiders in free agency. Considering J.J. Watt’s extensive injury history, Arizona should address this position in the early rounds. Karlaftis could be selected as early as the top 15 picks, but the domino effect of two quarterbacks in the top-10 pushes him into the late first round. (Also considered: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson)

24. Dallas Cowboys – Kenyon Green, Offensive Guard, Texas A&M
In the last two drafts, Jerry Jones put off taking an offensive lineman in the first round, opting instead for CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons. Losing starters at left guard and right tackle forces his hand this year. Green’s versatility — with experience at both guard and tackle — fits perfectly in their offense. This allows the coaching staff to try Green at different spots on the line in training camp. (Also considered: George Pickens, WR, Georgia)

25. Buffalo Bills – Andrew Booth Jr., Cornerback, Clemson
Star cornerback Tre’Davious White may miss the beginning of the season as he recovers from knee surgery. Additionally, Levi Wallace joined the Steelers this offseason. Buffalo cannot afford to be weak at this position after all three division rivals enhanced their receiving corps this offseason. Booth is a popular pick for the Bills among draft experts, given his success in man-to-man coverage at Clemson. (Also considered: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida)

26. Tennessee Titans – Devin Lloyd, Linebacker, Utah
It is always difficult to project who the Titans might draft, given that they tend to field a well-rounded roster every season and get the most out of their Day Two and Three draft picks. A guard to replace Rodger Saffold could be in the cards, but the only two first-round caliber guards were already selected. Taking Lloyd means taking the best player available, and there’s no shame in that! He dominated opposing offenses at Utah last season, proving his reliability in blitzes and pass coverage. (Also considered: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa)

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devonte Wyatt, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
Tampa has not yet re-signed veteran Ndamukong Suh, meaning they want to get younger on the defensive line. 350-pound Vita Vea has been a one-man wrecking crew at nose tackle since entering the league in 2018, but he needs a running mate in the trenches. Wyatt differs from Vea with much more lateral quickness and mobility. (Also considered: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington)

28. Green Bay Packers – Bernhard Raimann, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
Aaron Rodgers is back in Green Bay once and for all. He is coming off back-to-back MVP seasons, but on the other hand, the roster has taken a step back this offseason. Six picks earlier, they landed Treylon Burks as a new weapon, so now it’s time to add some protection. David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins are dependable on the left side of the offensive line, but the right side has been too inconsistent. Raimann, a former tight end, is a great long-term option at right tackle. (Also considered: Boye Mafe, DE, Minnesota)

29. Kansas City Chiefs – Kaiir Elam, Cornerback, Florida
Just like the Packers, Kansas City has also lost several key members of their roster this offseason. Although they need a receiver to replace Tyreek Hill, general manager Brett Veach won’t force the issue if there isn’t one available. Elam brings impressive size and physicality to the cornerback position, which the Chiefs coveted from Charvarius Ward before his departure last month. (Also considered: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State)

30. Kansas City Chiefs – David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan
Ojabo could have gone in the top-10 if he hadn’t suffered a torn Achilles tendon during his Pro Day. Even if he cannot play right away, the Chiefs can afford to wait. He could be the steal of the first round, assuming he thrives in the NFL as he did for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. Placing Ojabo alongside Frank Clark and Chris Jones will elevate this defense tremendously. (Also considered: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan)

31. Cincinnati Bengals – Kyler Gordon, Cornerback, Washington
Two Washington cornerbacks go in the first round! Gordon did not receive the same recognition as his teammate Trent McDuffie, but he has the raw athleticism to develop into a starter. Cincinnati’s two greatest needs were on full display for the world to see in the Super Bowl, at both offensive line and cornerback. The Bengals spent a ton of money improving the line, but cannot go another year with Eli Apple starting in the secondary. (Also considered: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa)

32. Detroit Lions – Nakobe Dean, Linebacker, Georgia
The Lions started off this mock draft by shocking the world with Malik Willis, and now they close it out with one of the draft’s top defenders. Dean played a critical leadership role at the center of the defense in Georgia’s title run. He is a top-10 caliber player, but linebackers are often overlooked for linemen or skill positions in that area of the draft. Dan Campbell will love to have Dean anchoring his defense. (Also considered: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan)

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