Is it too early for a 2022 NFL Mock Draft? Yes. Did that stop us? No. 2022 looks to be loaded once again with quarterback talent but is much deeper on the defensive side compared to 2021. The order is set by Super Bowl odds, so if you don’t like where your team is picking get made at our friends over in Vegas.
1. Houston Texans- Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
There is no Trevor Lawrence in this class, so the race is wide open for the top spot. However, I would be very surprised if Rattler doesn’t become the first quarterback off the board. That usually makes them the first overall pick. He had a slow start in his first year as a starter, but in his last four games he threw for 10 touchdowns and just one interception. In my eyes, he’s the Heisman favorite and should take off in his second season as a starter. If the Texans are drafting this high, Deshaun Watson won’t be on the team anymore. That means it’s time to rebuild from the ground up.
2. Detroit Lions- Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Jared Goff isn’t the long-term answer for the Lions and they will be in a good place to find a new quarterback. Some people will like Howell as their #1 overall QB because he has the strongest arm in the class. Through his first two years, he has 68 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Most of that talent surrounding him has moved on, so if Howell can have another great year he will be a top-five lock.
3. New York Jets- Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
In terms of pure talent, Thibodeaux is the best player in this draft. He very well might be the number one overall pick and is a Myles Garrett-type pass rusher. In the 2020 Pac-12 championship game, he dominated first-round pick Alijah Vera-Tucker. The Jets are in need of top-end talent in a bad way.
4. Cincinnati Bengals- Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Stingley Jr. has been a slam-dunk top-ten since his freshman year. In fact, if he had come out in either of the last two drafts, he would have been an early first-rounder. After six interceptions in 2019, he missed a few games and wasn’t targeted as much in 2020. Still, he is a rare cornerback talent. Cincinnati will need defense after drafting offense in the first round in five consecutive drafts.
5. Philadelphia Eagles- Kedon Slovis, QB, USC
I am not a believer in Jalen Hurts as a starting quarterback. If the Eagles are drafting this early, that means he did not get the job done. In the last two years, Slovis has done a masterful job making USC somewhat relevant again. He is the most accurate passer in this class. I do worry a bit about his overall arm strength and lack of mobility, but in terms of sitting in the pocket and throwing in rhythm, he’s the best.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars- Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Looking for the next Jamal Adams? Look at Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton. At 6’4″, 220 pounds he can play in deep coverage or in the box. While he can still improve as a blitzer, he has the athleticism to play anywhere and would be an asset to a Jaguars defense that is young and improving.
7. New York Giants- Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
Despite the lack of production, Zach Harrison is going to become the next great Ohio State edge rusher. A five-star recruit coming out of high school, he took over for Chase Young in 2020 but due to a shortened season and missing a few games, he never got to show his potential. Coaches rave about his athleticism and size, but he needs to put it all together on the field. A team like New York will bank on getting the most out of him.
8. Carolina Panthers- Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
At the moment, it seems like the 2022 offensive line group is much stronger at guard than it is at tackle. Cross is a true left tackle, which elevates his stock, and was named All-SEC in his first season as a starter. While Mississippi State struggled, Cross graded out as their top offensive lineman and consistently held his own against the best competition in the country. The Panthers only spot on offense that needs an upgrade is left tackle, so expect them to be aggressive in finding one.
9. Atlanta Falcons- Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
Around this time a year ago, a small school quarterback named Trey Lance was just starting to get some early-round hype. This year, another guy from a small school will be doing the same. An old-school passer, Strong has the prototypical size and arm strength that’ll make scouts drool. In addition, he completed 70% of his passes with a 27:4 touchdown to interception ratio. The Falcons didn’t go with a quarterback in the first round this year, but if they land in the top ten again, you have to prepare for life after Matt Ryan
10. Washington Football Team- Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Ridder was the one quarterback prospect who surprised people by returning to school. Before deciding to return, he was getting some late first-round/early second-round hype. He took a step in the right direction as a passer in 2020 and saw his accuracy jump over 10% from 2019. Also, he has the mobility to run and escape the pocket if needed. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a short-term answer at quarterback and shouldn’t be seen as someone who will start in 2022.
11. Las Vegas Raiders- Evan Neal, OL, Alabama
The Raiders love two things in prospects: physicality and playing for a major program. Neal checks off both of those boxes. A 6’7″, 360-pound behemoth, Neal has experience playing guard and tackle and showed continual dominance as a run blocker. You can’t teach size and Neal has plenty of that.
12. Denver Broncos- JT Daniels, QB, Georgia
After getting hurt and seeing Kedon Slovis take his job at USC, JT Daniels was lights out down the stretch for the Bulldogs. The coaching staff eased him along after an ACL tear, but Daniels showed he could be a star in his four games as the Georgia starter. I’m assuming he will continue this ascent in 2021 where Georgia plays some of the best teams in the nation. With a strong season, he could become a contender for the first overall pick. The Broncos seem to be a suitor for Aaron Rodgers, but if they don’t get him they’ll need to find an answer at quarterback.
13. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears)- Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
Dave Gettleman loves offensive linemen. With Andrew Thomas scheduled to be their left tackle for the future, they’ll need a guy like Faalele to handle the other side. If you thought Evan Neal was big, Faalele is even bigger at 6’9″ and 400 pounds. That’s what the kids call a “Unit”. He opted out of the 2020 season, but did announce his intention to return to Minnesota. Should the Australian native continue to get comfortable at the position, he could become the first offensive lineman taken.
14. Los Angeles Chargers- Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
If anyone is going to be this year’s Devonta Smith, it’ll be Chris Olave. If he had declared for the draft this past year, he would have likely been a first-round pick. If he can continue to put up big numbers with a new and inexperienced quarterback, Olave will solidify himself as the top receiver in this class. The Chargers have two good receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, but the latter is constantly injured and they need to continue to build around Justin Herbert.
15. Minnesota Vikings- Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
Jackson is another pass rusher whose skillset hasn’t led to on-field production yet. Jackson has the versatility to play just about anywhere on the defensive line and has the talent to be the best player on the field. I fully expect him to be a dominant player this year and he could make himself a lot of money with more production in the sack department. The Vikings continue the search for an edge player opposite of Danielle Hunter and finally lock down an option here.
16. Arizona Cardinals- Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Elam has the size (6’2″) and ball skills (five interceptions) that you want in a modern-day corner. Stingley Jr. gets all of the headlines, but Elam might be the second-best defensive player in the SEC in 2021. Florida’s defense has been up and down as of late, but Elam will shut down one side of the field by himself. The Cardinals need a replacement for Patrick Peterson and Elam has the chance to become a superstar in the NFL.
17. Tennessee Titans- Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
We may be seeing a tight end revolution. First, Kyle Pitts goes fourth overall in 2021 and now there are two very skilled tight ends, Wydermyer and Alabama’s Jahleel Billingsley, who are eligible for the 2022 draft. Wydermyer is a more traditional tight end in the sense that he can block and catch while lining up in-line. Expect him to be the top option once again for a very good Texas A&M team. The Titans didn’t find a replacement for Jonnu Smith and Wydermyer has a very similar play style.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers- Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
The Steelers did spend a few picks on offensive linemen in 2021, but they have no left tackle for the future at the moment. Walker has 24 career starts at left tackle and is an exceptional run blocker. Three-year starters at left tackle are rare to see in college and that will make Walker a hot commodity with front offices.
19. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks)- DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
Stats don’t tell the full story when it comes to DeMarvin Leal. He led the team in TFL’s and QB pressures and was the anchor in the middle of a very good defensive line. I would expect 2021 to be a breakout season for Leal and for him to become a household name. Quinnen Williams is a stud, but pairing him with another interior rusher would force defenses to leave one of them free to work one-on-one.
20. New Orleans Saints- Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Chris Olave might be the best Ohio State receiver, but Garrett Wilson is the better athlete of the two. In just eight games, he had over 700 yards receiving and six touchdowns. Expect to see more targets thrown Wilson’s way in 2021. The Saints have a stud in Michael Thomas, but not much besides him. Wilson would be a great WR2 early in his career.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins)- George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Karlaftis only played in two games in 2020, but as a freshman in 2019 he flashed the all-around game that makes him a promising prospect. At 6’4″, 270 pounds, he can step in right away and handle the grind of a long NFL schedule. He has 9.5 sacks in 14 career games while going up against some of the best linemen in the nation. The Eagles will have at least two first-round picks and will get the chance to build an exciting and young team. Karlaftis would become their cornerstone defensive player.
22. New England Patriots- John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
After having four receivers drafted in the first round over the past two drafts, the Crimson Tide are expected to have another one coming up in John Metchie. Metchie can do a little bit of everything, but is at his best making deep plays down the field. His 16.7 yards per reception were more than Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith and now Metchie is the top target in what should be a high-powered offense. The Patriots have had no luck with drafting receivers in the early rounds, but pairing up Metchie with his old teammate Mac Jones makes too much sense.
23. Dallas Cowboys- Zion Nelson, OT, Miami
Zion Nelson is a raw, but athletic prospect at left tackle. He claimed the starting spot as a freshman and really hit his stride in the last few games in 2020. Should he continue on this path, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t hear his name early in the draft. The Cowboys once great offensive line is starting to fall apart and they need an infusion of younger players.
24. Indianapolis Colts- Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama
When you play opposite of Patrick Surtain II, you’re going to get a lot of passes thrown your way. Even though he was thrown at, Jobe played very well in his first season as a starter. However, he will be 24 years old as a rookie and that might scare some teams off. The Colts are one of the best drafting teams in my opinion, but still need help in the secondary. As a team ready to win now, they’ll target pro-ready prospects like Jobe. However, if all works out well with Carson Wentz, this pick will be going to the Eagles.
25. Green Bay Packers- Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
If you watched any of the college football playoffs, you probably saw Christian Harris make plays all over the field. Harris is a speedy linebacker who got better against the pass as the year progressed. The Packers have some young guys at linebacker, but none of them have the ceiling of Harris. He would be the playmaker on the second level of the defense that they desperately need.
26. Cleveland Browns- Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
A lot of draft pundits were high on Hutchinson coming into 2020, but with a shortened season and an injury, Hutchinson never quite blossomed. He decided to come back for his senior year and try to boost his stock in the hope that he becomes a first-rounder. I need to see more as a pass rusher before I’m as high on him as others, but there are tools there for him to succeed. The Browns signed Jadeveon Clowney, but I’m not a fan of his game. He’s not a long-term answer and Hutchinson would pair nicely with Myles Garrett.
27. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers)- Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
No team has done a better job of accumulating draft picks than the Dolphins. Spiller has averaged over five yards a carry in each of his first two seasons at College Station and has shown enough as a pass-catcher to make me optimistic that he could be a three-down running back. With Kellen Mond off to the NFL, Spiller becomes the focal point of the offense.
28. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)- Bubba Bolden, S, Miami
If you like Kyle Hamilton, you’ll probably like Bubba Bolden. Like Hamilton, Bolden is a big safety who can play near the line of scrimmage or deep in coverage. I think his role in the NFL will be as a strong safety who can play linebacker on third downs. The Lions need to stockpile talent and they could use some youth at the safety position.
29. Buffalo Bills- Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
The best running back in college football in 2020 wasn’t Najee Harris, it was Breece Hall. He might not have breakaway speed, but he is quick enough to get the job done. He is also an adequate receiving option out of the backfield. The Bills are a running back away from having the best offense in the NFL. Adding an option like Hall would allow them to have a more balanced approach.
30. Baltimore Ravens- Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee
Cade Mays has had a wild journey to Knoxville, but he finally settled in as Tennessee’s starting right guard. He is as solid as you can get and could be the most versatile lineman in this class. The Ravens need to continue to have a strong offensive line to open up running lanes for Lamar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins, so expect them to invest in the position early.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia
Before he decided to return for another season, Davis was getting some first-round buzz as a penetrating defensive tackle. At 340 pounds, he’s an unmovable object in the middle of the Bulldogs defensive line where he lines up at a traditional nose tackle spot. He’s not just limited to being a run-stuffer as he’s showed the quickness and power to get to the quarterback. The Buccaneers are absolutely loaded, but if they were to pair Davis with Vita Vea, then you have two of the largest humans in the game on the same defensive line. Good luck running against that.
32. Kansas City Chiefs- Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
Ohio State has a reputation for developing defensive backs who go on to become early draft picks and it seems that Banks is next up on that list. Ohio state coaches raved about his potential and with a full season of tape, he could grow into an elite defensive back in 2021. The Chiefs are another team with minimal holes on their roster, but they could use a cornerback and Banks is the best player available.