2022 Mock Draft: December Edition

Matthew Durgin

* Order decided before the Rams Vs Cardinals Monday Night Game on December 13th.

1. Detroit Lions- Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon EDGE

While Thibodeaux isn’t the consensus number one overall pick that he was just a month ago, he’s still the top prospect in this class. His combination of raw athleticism and pass rush moves make him an All-Pro in the making. The Lions need all the talent they can get and can count on Thibodeaux as their star defender.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars- Evan Neal, Alabama OT

The Jaguars need to move on from Urban Meyer. I had to get that off my chest first because this team isn’t as talent deficient as their record shows. That being said, they have an all-time talent in Trevor Lawrence (regardless of his stats this season) who they need to continue to build around. There might be some worry about Neal’s weight and conditioning, but he should at worst be an above-average left tackle with the potential to be one of the best in the league.

3. Houston Texans- Aiden Hutchinson, Michigan EDGE

Many now have Hutchinson as the top prospect in the 2022 draft and it’s easy to see why. He’s been a menace on the defensive line and looks like a Bosa brother. Any team that drafts him can expect a high-level contributor from the get-go. The Texans are a mess and need to find a quarterback, but they aren’t a quarterback away from being a contender. Build up this defense and acquire more talent, then pick the right quarterback instead of reaching for one.

2022 NFL mock draft: Hutchinson is the real deal

4. New York Jets- Derrick Stingley Jr., LSU CB

It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for Stingley Jr. since his impressive 2019 campaign. When on the field, he’s a true lockdown corner, which is what the Jets need. Well, the Jets actually need a lot but this is a good first step.

5. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears)- Ikem Ekonwu, NC State OT

It’s very possible that the Giants jump ship on the Daniel Jones project, but he’s not the sole reason they’re in such a bad spot right now. They can’t protect their quarterback nor can they get to the quarterback on defense. Ekonwu would be able to play either tackle spot and is a mauler in the run game. Saquon Barkley should jump for joy with this pick.

6. New York Giants- George Karlaftis, Purdue EDGE

It’s true that Karlaftis isn’t the sexiest name in the draft, but he could turn this Giants defense around quickly. Azeez Ojulari has shown promise as an edge rusher, but pairing him with Karlaftis makes things much brighter for Big Blue. Unlike Ojulari, Karlaftis can rush from a number of spots on the line and brings the power to Ojulari’s speed.

2022 NFL mock draft: Karlaftis could make a nice pair with Azeez Ojulari

7. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks)- Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame S

There are usually two or three guys in every draft where you can say that they have Hall of Fame potential. It doesn’t usually work out that way, but that won’t stop the projections. Hamilton is one of those guys. He is the difference maker the Jets need. He can play anywhere and turns a weak point into a strength.

8. Carolina Panthers- Charles Cross, Mississippi State OT

The Panthers have quickly become one of the more aggressive front offices in football. They are very active in the trade market, which means they will likely be one of the teams to acquire a new quarterback this offseason. If that’s the case, then they could use a left tackle like Cross to solidify the offensive line. He’s still a bit raw, but his potential is through the roof.

9. Atlanta Falcons- DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M DL

I really don’t know what to think of the Falcons. They aren’t good, yet find themselves in the playoff hunt. Matt Ryan is still playing well, but he might only have one or two more seasons left as a starter. Since there is no quarterback worth taking here, they grab a versatile defensive lineman in Leal. Currently, they get absolutely no pressure on the quarterback and they could use the pass rush and run-stopping ability of Leal.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins)- Sauce Gardner, Cincinnati CB

Darius Slay is a good corner, but he is getting older. The opposite corner spot for the Eagles is far from figured out, so they get a very talented player in Gardner here. Gardner is the best player on the undefeated Bearcats defense and he might not be a huge name at this point, but he has been a rising prospect all year. If you plan on competing with the Cowboys for the division, you’ll need to find guys who can guard all types of receivers.

2022 NFL mock draft: Sauce Gardner gives the Eagles two great corners

11. Philadelphia Eagles- Devin Lloyd, Utah LB

We’ll continue to rebuild the Eagles’ defense here and give them the linebacker they have needed for the past few years. Lloyd does a little bit of everything for the Utes and is by far the most complete linebacker in this class. One play he will lock up the opposing tight end and the next he will get pressure on the quarterback. This type of versatility brings a new dimension to any defense.

12. Minnesota Vikings- Jordan Davis, Georgia DL

There are not too many teams with a worse rush defense than the Vikings this year. It’s true that they’ve had several injuries to the defensive line, but they are missing a big presence in the middle. Luckily for them, they don’t get much bigger than Davis. At 6’6″ and 350 pounds, Davis doesn’t put up the eye-popping stats, but he is unmovable in the run game and occupies double teams on every snap.

13. New Orleans Saints- Drake London, USC WR

With Michael Thomas missing the entire season and having inconsistent quarterback play, the Saints are missing a big-play target outside of Kamara. London is Mike Evans 2.0 in that he looks more like a power forward catching the ball. As a big target, he makes the life of his quarterback much easier and is a weapon in the red zone. A smart play-caller like Sean Payton will love the possibilities of London in his offense.

14. Las Vegas Raiders- Kenyon Green, Texas A&M OL

It made no sense when the Raiders tore apart their offensive line this past offseason and then promptly over-drafted a lineman in Alex Leatherwood. The only way to address the offensive line problem is going back and picking up a mauler at guard in Green. Putting him at right guard and settling Leatherwood in at right tackle can make the unit much more cohesive.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers- Malik Willis, Liberty QB

The first quarterback finally comes off of the board. Willis is a prospect whom I’m not as sold on, but man does he have the physical tools to be special. He is a dynamic runner and has a very strong arm. However, he has questionable decision-making and looks to leave the pocket too early. On this Steelers team, he will be surrounded by some good receivers and a promising running back so he can develop as a player while still starting for a playoff-caliber team.

2022 NFL mock draft: Malik Willis is as dynamic as they come

16. Denver Broncos- David Ojabo, Michigan EDGE

Many were surprised when the Broncos traded their longtime face of the franchise in Von Miller, but looking back it may have been a smart move. Regardless, the need for another pass rusher is evident. Ojabo has come on strong this season for Michigan playing opposite of Aidan Hutchinson, but still has a long way to go as a player. The tools are there, but he still needs some refinement and will grow in Denver’s defense.

17. Cincinnati Bengals- Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa C

Ja’Marr Chase looks like a stud so the whole “Penei Sewell vs. Chase” argument might be in their favor, for now. The Bengals can’t ignore the offensive line once again and should look to target the best center in this class. Linderbaum can play in any offense and is as balanced of a lineman as you’re gonna see. Time to protect Burrow at all costs.

18. Cleveland Browns- Chris Olave, Ohio State WR

The OBJ experiment did not work in Cleveland, so it’s back to the drawing board to find Baker Mayfield a legit WR1. Luckily, they have to look just a two-hour drive away. Olave has been a star the last few seasons for the Buckeyes and might be the most pro-ready receiver in this class. He isn’t built like a top receiver, but his route-running and IQ make him a 1,000-yard receiver right off the bat.

19. Washington Football Team- Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh QB

While Washington is still very much in the playoff hunt, their season ended week one when Ryan Fitzpatrick got hurt. Taylor Heinicke is a great story, but he is destined to be a career backup. Pickett has looked much more mature as a passer this year and is ready to start as a rookie. He doesn’t have the highest of ceilings, but he be a rock-solid starter for years to come.

2022 NFL mock draft: Pickett could contribute to Washington right away

20. Buffalo Bills- Darrian Kinnard, Kentucky OL

It’s taken me until this mock draft to realize what the Bills need. What they need is offensive balance. They can’t run the ball at all and that has to change, regardless of how good Josh Allen is. They could target a running back, but since I don’t think any are worth a first-round pick, they need to look to upgrade the offensive line. Kinnard is the best pure run blocker in this class and could play tackle, but is likely better suited at guard.

21. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts)- Jaquan Brisker, Penn State S

If the Eagles don’t go for a quarterback (which they shouldn’t unless they swing for a big name), they should go all-in on their defense. Their safeties might be solid, but they aren’t great. Don’t let solid players stop you from drafting great ones. Brisker is raw and lacks big-game experience, but he is an athletic freak who played his best this past year. With these three picks, the Eagles defense will be one of the best in the league sooner rather than later.

22. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers)- Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa OT

Despite what the national media tells you, Tua is not the problem for the Dolphins. Actually, he has played pretty well as of late. Their offensive line and running game is a disaster though. They’ve used high draft picks on the position group, but have constantly missed. Penning is raw because he’s from a small school and hasn’t played big-time defensive linemen, but he’s still a high floor player and can play either tackle spot.

23. Los Angeles Chargers- Drake Jackson, USC EDGE

Joey Bosa is an elite pass rusher, but he’s carrying the defensive line by himself. Nwosu and Fackrell are solid NFL players, but neither inspire much hope. Jackson is a developmental player and has the size to provide some versatility to the defensive line to go along with major pass-rush upside.

2022 NFL mock draft: Drake Johnson can take some attention off of Bosa

24. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)- Carson Strong, Nevada QB

Just because the Lions won’t draft a quarterback with their first pick, don’t be surprised if they go for value by drafting one at the end of the first. Strong is the most gifted thrower of the football in this draft and has the arm strength to play in cold-weather games at the end of the season. The Lions are still a ways away, but this would be a positive step for a sputtering offense.

25. Baltimore Ravens- Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State OT

When Ronnie Stanley went down, the Ravens offensive line struggled to generate much push in the run game. As a result, they’ve had to really rely on Lamar Jackson to carry them. Alejandro Villanueva won’t be on the team next year, so it’s time to an offensive tackle. Petit-Frere got destroyed by Hutchinson in the Ohio State-Michigan game but is still a solid tackle who has room to grow.

26. Dallas Cowboys- Daxton Hill, Michigan S

As a whole, the Cowboys secondary is playing much better than anticipated. There is still a lot of room for improvement. Jayron Kearse is a solid player, but pairing him with Hill leaves the Cowboys to be more creative in the deep third of the field. Hill can play both as a single high safety or drop down into the slot. This type of versatility adds another playmaker on an exciting and young defense.

2022 NFL mock draft: Hill’s versatility adds another layer to the Dallas defense

27. Kansas City Chiefs- Andrew Booth, Clemson CB

The Chiefs would be ecstatic to see a player with Booth’s skill drop this far to them. Their defense as a whole is coming on strong the last few weeks, but they are still missing an elite corner. Sneed and Booth would form a strong cornerback duo. Booth is more of an upside pick who’ll really blossom in year 2, but a team with this much talent can be patient.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Kaiir Elam, Florida CB

Everybody knows that the Buccaneers weakness is their cornerbacks. They’ve had to rely on short-term solutions like Richard Sherman to patch together the positional group. Elam might be more of a long-term pick, but he’s a borderline top-ten player in this class. He has had experience in big games by playing in the SEC, so he could be serviceable as he continues his growth as a player.

29. Tennessee Titans- Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati EDGE

Harold Landry III has emerged as a star for the Titans this season, but their pass rush could use another piece. Mike Vrabel has done a heck of a job despite dealing with some injuries to key contributors. Sanders didn’t put up the sack totals this year, but he was constantly in the backfield. In particular, he showed up and dominated in Cincinnati’s biggest game of the season against Notre Dame. He might not develop into a star, but he will be a nice complementary piece to the puzzle.

30. Green Bay Packers- Treylon Burks, Arkansas WR

We all know the Packers won’t draft a receiver here, but they should. Just like they should have the last two years. Burks is a big-play machine and might not be as refined of a route runner as others, but he can win on all three levels. He’s much better after the catch than people give him credit for and is a great option for whoever is under center for the Packers in 2022 and beyond.

31. New England Patriots- Roger McCreary, Auburn CB

The most complete team right now is the Patriots. Stop me if you’ve heard that sentence before. While JC Jackson has developed into a turnover machine, he is a free agent after the year. It would be a very Belichick-like move to let a player leave one year too soon than one year too late. Even if he stays, Jalen Mills can be a liability. McCreary is a steady force and should become an above-average starter for years to come.

32. Arizona Cardinals- Trent McDuffie, Washington CB

After Patrick Peterson moved on, I questioned the depth of the Cardinals secondary. While they haven’t hurt their playoff chances, they are still a bottom-half unit in pass defense. Robert Alford isn’t a starter anymore and is a free agent after the season. Byron Murphy is a solid player, but is a free agent after the 2022 season. McDuffie could provide talent for the future and for the present. He’d fit in nicely in a division that has some of the best wide receiver talent in the league.

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