Now that the regular season is over, it’s time for some mock drafts! This class is pretty unique. It’s heavy on defensive talent and lacks a true top quarterback prospect. Ok, enough of me talking so here is the January edition of my 2022 NFL mock draft.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon EDGE
I’m still sticking with Thibodeaux at the top spot despite Hutchinson gaining a lot of momentum. The Jaguars are set at quarterback but need to find a defensive franchise player. Josh Allen is a good player, but they haven’t gotten much from 2020 first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson (two sacks in two years). Thibodeaux is a freak of nature who can single-handedly change the outcome of a game.
2. Detroit Lions- Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan EDGE
The Lions are in need of help at every position, so it makes sense for them to go with best player available. Hutchinson might be the most pro-ready player in this draft and gets to stay in the state of Michigan. Head coach Dan Campbell preaches toughness and a blue-collar mentality, which perfectly describes Hutchinson’s style of play.
3. Houston Texans- Derek Stingley Jr., LSU CB
I don’t know what the Texans are thinking, but I think Davis Mills showed enough to be a possible franchise quarterback this season. Pair that with the lack of a true top quarterback prospect and the Texans should be drafting the best player available. Stingley Jr. becomes their best defender right off the bat and could become a regular All-Pro by the time he retires.
4. New York Jets- Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame S
Marcus Maye has been a good player for the Jets, but has been injured and will be expensive. The Jets are a mess in the back seven of their defense and could really use a playmaker like Hamilton. With Zach Wilson looking much better down the stretch, the Jets can pair Hamilton with Quinnen Williams to start to build a fearsome defense.
5. New York Giants- Evan Neal, Alabama OT
With the front office turnover happening in New York, it’s tough to figure out what the Giants will look like next year. One spot they could use an upgrade is on the offensive line, where they weren’t horrible but need a boost. Andrew Thomas has been much better in 2021, but moving him to the right side and letting Neal take over on the left. They have to give Daniel Jones, assuming he’s still with the team, and Saquon Barkley as many resources to succeed as they can.
6. Carolina Panthers- Ikem Ekwonu, NC State OT
I’m almost positive that the Panthers are going to be aggressive yet again in the quarterback market and won’t go for a rookie quarterback. Owner David Tepper wants to see some results and head coach Matt Rhule is on the hot seat. If they do keep this pick, they’ll target a left tackle who can protect the blindside. Ekwonu has been a steady riser this season and is equally dominant in the run and pass game. He would be able to start as a rookie and play at a high level right away.
7. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears)- George Karlaftis, Purdue EDGE
Azeez Ojualri looks to be a good player for the future, but the Giants are still in desperate need of some pass rush. Karlaftis is a versatile pass rusher whose stats don’t tell the full story of his impact. He’s a powerful rusher who does his best work from the edge but could be lined up inside of third downs. He and Ojulari would form a nice one-two punch.
8. Atlanta Falcons- David Ojabo, Michigan EDGE
Arthur Smith took the Falcons job knowing that their defense was a huge work in progress. The offense is in good shape with Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts but might look at a quarterback for the future. I think they’ll look at the position in the second round and get themselves a defensive stud early. Ojabo is raw, but is full of talent and getting better every week. He could be a force of nature in two or three years.
9. Denver Broncos- Devin Lloyd, Utah LB
I expect the Broncos to either acquire Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson. There’s no way they won’t make a move at the position and I don’t expect them to start a rookie either. It’s likely they don’t keep this pick should a trade happen, but they could use another linebacker. Lloyd can do a lot of the same things as Micah Parsons does for the Cowboys. He might not be the same type of athlete, but he can rush the passer and drop into coverage at a high level.
10. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks)- Sauce Gardner, Cincinnati CB
The rebuild of the Jets defense continues. Gardner is a ball-hawking corner who has shut down pretty much every receiver to go against him. Right now, the Jets might have the worst cornerback room in the league. I know Robert Saleh will want to find some more pass rusher, but Gardner and Hamilton would provide a long and rangy secondary duo.
11. Washington Football Team- Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh QB
The first quarterback off the board! Pickett has made great strides this year and is by far the most pro-ready quarterback in this class. Washington can’t rely on Fitzpatrick or Heinecke to be their quarterback of the future and need to find an answer for the position. They do have a lot of cap room so might be aggressive in the quarterback, but I’m willing to bet that they look to draft one.
12. Minnesota Vikings- DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M DL
I’m not sure what the Vikings will do with several of their highly-paid stars, but their defensive line needs some work. Danielle Hunter is a beast when healthy, but there’s not much there besides him. Leal provides inside-outside versatility and is a three-down player. He and Hunter would provide a strong pass rush attack, but also would boost their run defense that was horrible this year.
13. Cleveland Browns- Jameson Williams, Alabama WR
It’s clear that the Browns need to find Baker Mayfield a top receiver. They thought it was going to be OBJ, but that didn’t work out. I originally wasn’t a huge fan of Williams, but the more I watch him the more I am impressed. He does need to get stronger, but the talent is undeniable. He excels after the catch, meaning that Baker will benefit by throwing to Williams on shorter routes. It might be a last-ditch effort to save the young quarterback’s career, but Williams will provide them a needed boost.
14. Baltimore Ravens- Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State OL
If the Ravens could draft some better injury luck, they would. Instead, they should focus on the offensive line, a unit that was hampered by the injury bug. Ronnie Stanley is the clear-cut starter at left tackle but has had season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Petit-Frere could lock down the right side of the line, but also provide the versatility to play on the left. If they’re going to pay big money to Lamar, they need to protect him.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins)- Andrew Booth, Clemson CB
The first of three Eagles first-round picks should be focused on the defense. They’ve done a decent job of building the o line and skill players, but still lack that second gear on defense. Booth is still raw and might not be a starter right away, but has as much upside as any defender in this class. The Eagles are a team to look out for, they will be serious contenders sooner rather than later.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts)- Nakobe Dean, Georgia LB
Oh hey, another Eagles pick. It’s likely they’ll trade this pick for a proven player or to move down, but in this case, they finally figure out the linebacker position. I’ve said for years that the Eagles lack a true three-down linebacker and Dean would fit that role. He’s a little small for a linebacker but has great range and superb coverage skills.
17. Los Angeles Chargers- Kenyon Green, Texas A&M OL
I applaud the Chargers front office for doing an excellent job of investing in their offensive line. However, I couldn’t help but notice the Raiders on week 18 continually getting pressure on Justin Herbert. Green could play tackle, but is more likely to be a dominant guard and could give Los Angeles one of the strongest lines in the league.
18. New Orleans Saints- Drake London, USC WR
Marquez Callaway lead the Saints this year with 698 receiving yards. That’s embarrassing regardless of who the quarterback is. Losing Michael Thomas, a player who hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with the coaching staff and front office, really hurt this offense. They had to go-to option besides Kamara. London is a Mike Evans clone and a big-bodied receiver who will make life easier for whoever is under center in the Big Easy for the future.
19. Philadelphia Eagles- Darrian Kinnard, Kentucky OL
The Eagles offensive line was vastly improved in 2021 and was one of the main reasons they were able to make the playoffs. However, their line is getting old and is expensive. Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson are making a lot of money and are all in their thirties. Kelce is a free agent and they’ve already drafted his replacement last year in Landon Dickerson. Brooks has had three straight years with major injuries and he can’t be relied upon anymore to be an ironman. Kinnard is a mauler in the run game and can kick out to tackle if needed. On the surface, it’s a luxury pick but makes more sense if they do want to continue to play their current style of football.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers- Malik Willis, Liberty QB
It appears that the Big Ben era in Pittsburgh is finally coming to a close. While he’s a legend, I’m pretty sure that Steelers fans are ready for someone who can actually push the ball down the field. Willis isn’t ready to start right away, but he is the most talented quarterback in the draft. The team should look at a one-year veteran option to let Willis develop more then unleash what can be a strong running attack with him and Najee Harris.
21. New England Patriots- Chris Olave, Ohio State WR
As usual, the Patriots have very good depth across their roster. Also, the Patriots are known to trade down in the draft to acquire more day two or three picks. If they do keep this selection, look for them to find a playmaker. They did a good job this offseason of finding a few pass-catching options in free agency, but Nelson Agholor didn’t work out as they planned. Olave is a silky smooth route runner who can do damage on all three levels. His consistency and ability to get open will make him Mac Jones’s new favorite weapon.
22. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers)- Charles Cross, Mississippi State OT
The Dolphins offensive line is a mess right now. They’ve invested early draft picks at the position, but have whiffed too many times. Cross is raw but is a true tackle that could play either side. If Tua is indeed their guy, they need to keep him from getting him and to build a line that will create some running lanes for whoever is in the backfield for them.
23. Las Vegas Raiders- Roger McCreary, Auburn CB
Gus Bradley has done a solid job as defensive coordinator, turning the Raiders defense into an average one instead of a putrid one they have been in past seasons. Nate Hobbs has been excellent for a rookie, but could still use another cover guy. McCreary is a battle-tested corner from a big-time program, which fits the bill of a Mike Mayock draft pick. Of course, they’ll have a new head coach which can change things, but the defense needs a facelift regardless.
24. Arizona Cardinals- Trent McDuffie, Washington CB
I questioned the Cardinals when they elected to not replace longtime shutdown corner Patrick Peterson who left for Minnesota. While the team still finished in the top ten in pass defense in 2021, they need to find some more talent and depth in the secondary. McDuffie is a high-floor corner prospect who can step in as a rookie and play in the slot or out wide. This kind of versatility seems to fit the direction in which the Cardinals defense is going.
25. Cincinnati Bengals- Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa C
This is the easiest pick if Linderbaum does indeed fall this far. The Bengals need a boost on the offensive line and Linderbaum is projected to become one of the best centers in the game sooner rather than later. Cincinnati looks smarter than all of us by selecting Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell, but they can’t ignore the big boys up front this time around.
26. Buffalo Bills- Garrett Wilson, Ohio State WR
I’ve seen wide receiver mocked to the Bills as of late and originally didn’t understand why. Their top four guys are legit but then you start looking at some other factors. Emmanuel Sanders is turning 35 and is on a one-year contract. Cole Beasley will be 32 next year and is in the last year of a three-year deal. If they were to cut him, they’d owe him very little and he did take a step back in production in 2021. Thus, a receiver is a need for Buffalo as they build around Josh Allen. Wilson is a freak athlete with top-end speed. He will be the deep option for years to come.
27. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)- Matt Corral, Ole Miss QB
After not going with a quarterback with their first pick, they use their second pick on a developmental one. Corral isn’t my favorite quarterback at this point as I prefer Nevada’s Carson Strong, but Corral has the tools to become a good starter in the league for the next decade. With Goff likely to start next year, the Lions can be patient with Corral. The Lions could also use a receiver, but because they will pick again at the top of the second round, they can target that position at that point.
28. Dallas Cowboys- Daxton Hill, Michigan S
It seems that the Cowboys have largely ignored the safety position over the past few years and in return their defense has suffered until this season. While Dan Quinn has turned that unit around, they could still really use his versatility and toughness on the back end. Not only would Hill help against the pass, but he’s an aggressive player who can come up and make a tackle in the backfield.
29. Kansas City Chiefs- Drake Jackson, USC EDGE
Frank Clark hasn’t lived up to his contract the last two seasons and Melvin Ingram is a band-aid solution rather than a long-term one. As a result, the Chiefs defense needs more guys who can get to the quarterback. Jackson is a good athlete but needs more experience. Utilizing him as a pass rusher early in his career before he develops as an all-around defensive lineman is best for his future, but he can also help you in this championship window.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Kaiir Elam, Florida CB
The Buccaneers have gotten pretty desperate at the cornerback position and it’s currently the Achilles’ heel of the defense. When healthy, it’s an average unit but they’ve been dealing with injuries all year long. Elam has the length and production desired for the position but is still a little raw. I’m higher on him than most and believe that with proper coaching can be a starter right off the bat.
31. Tennessee Titans- Jordan Davis, Georgia DL
In my opinion, this would be the steal of the draft. I love the way Davis plays, but that’s probably because I love nose tackles. The rest of the league on the other hand seems to be not valuing the position in favor of a better pass-rushing defensive lineman. Davis will never put up big stats but will eat up offensive linemen and occupy double teams on every play. His toughness and physicality is the exact kind of thing Mike Vrabel preaches and he’d open up every more favorable matchups for Jeffrey Simmons and Harold Landry.
32. Green Bay Packers- Jahan Dotson, Penn State WR
This is the year the Packers draft a wide receiver in the first round. I’m speaking it into existence. Davante Adams might not be back next year and Jordan Love could be the starting quarterback. If that’s the case, the Packers need two or three new receivers and Dotson is a great fit. He’s not the biggest guy but does a little bit of everything for an offense. His explosiveness and ability to stretch the field can fit into any style of offense.