2022 NFL Mock Draft: We Have Arrived

Matthew Durgin

It’s here! Draft day has arrived. Here is how I see the first round shaking out:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

Baalke gonna Baalke. That’s the only way I can describe this. This pick should be Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux but it looks like it’ll be the pass rusher from Georgia. While he has all of the physical skills, Walker just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe for the first time in a long time, Baalke will get something right.

2. Detroit Lions- Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

The Lions want to build a team on toughness and grit. Hutchinson is the definition of that. Detroit would be ecstatic to see the Michigan man be on the board here. I guess there’s a possibility of the Lions considering a quarterback at this spot, but that wouldn’t be wise. I believe that teams should fit the identity of their city. No player would describe the blue-collar mentality of Detroit like Hutchinson.

3. Houston Texans- Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

If things shake out this way, the Texans should run to the podium. Thibodeaux is the best prospect this year in my opinion and one of the better edge rushers coming out of college I’ve seen over the past five years or so. A freak of nature off of the edge, Thibodeaux has the raw talent to develop into a Hall of Famer. He does need to be coached up and there are some worries about his attitude, but the skillset he provides doesn’t grow on trees.

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

All of the noise about Stingley Jr. falling down boards seems to be false as there are now reports of him being a possible top-five pick. Some may be surprised, but not me. Stingley Jr. is the best cornerback I’ve watched at the college level. Seriously. His 2019 season was special. He dealt with injuries and a dumpster fire of a program at LSU the last two years, but I don’t hold those against him. The Jets defense needs a star and they may have found one here.

5. New York Giants- Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

Andrew Thomas played better in 2021, but hasn’t lived up to his fourth overall selection. I don’t think he’s left tackle quality. Ekwonu is a monster on the line and a tone-setter. His nastiness and aggression is infectious and will improve both the pass and run game for the Giants. With Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley facing important seasons, Ekwonu helps stabilize their offensive line.

6. Carolina Panthers- Evan Neal, OL, Alabama

The Panthers haven’t had a true franchise left tackle in years. That needs to change. Their quarterback situation is a disaster, but neither Kenny Pickett nor Malik Willis will help them next year. The next best thing is protecting Sam Darnold and Neal can do that. He has guard or tackle versatility and is particularly strong in the run game, something needed from this stagnant offense.

7. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears)- Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

The Giants need an edge rusher desperately, but could look to trade down here. If they do stay, Johnson is an easy pick. Despite playing on a crappy Florida State team, Johnson was a sack machine in 2021. There is some worry that he is a one-year-wonder, but I see the athleticism and size for him to succeed as a pro. Pairing Johnson and Azeez Ojulari gives the Giants a much better defensive front.

8. Atlanta Falcons- Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Speed kills. Simple as that. We are seeing fast receivers drafted earlier and earlier every year because of their ability to stretch defenses. The Falcons seem content with Marcus Mariota as their starter, so they need to find him more weapons. Kyle Pitts and Wilson aren’t enough, but they’re a great foundation for this offense to grow.

9. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos)- Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

Like the Falcons, the Seahawks seem content with mediocre who they have at quarterback. Gardner is an alpha male and would bring some much needed swag to the Seattle defense that has been missing that since Richard Sherman left. Many people think he is the top corner in this class and for good reason. He was dominant in college and should be a high-level corner right off the bat.

10. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks)- Drake London, WR, USC

The Jets have been aggressive trying to trade for a wide receiver to help out Zach Wilson and an offense that was pretty poor last year. While they need to improve their running game, they need playmakers. Drake London is Mike Evans 2.0 and will be a great deep-threat based on his ability to go up and get the football. Slowly but surely, the Jets are building a winner.

11. Washington Commanders- Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

If this happens, the Washington defense will be STACKED. Hamilton is a stud, but will likely fall in the draft because of positional value. Against the run, he plays like a linebacker and can move sideline to sideline with ease. In coverage, he can line up against tight ends, but deep in coverage as well. A top-three player is somehow falling out of the top ten and one team will be very lucky.

12. Minnesota Vikings- George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

The team did sign Za’Darius Smith, but that doesn’t mean their defensive line is in good shape. Danielle Hunter, their best defender, has battled injuries despite his young age. As they shift to a 3-4 defense, they’ll need a better depth on the line. Karlaftis is a versatile defender who can win with power and speed. While likely to play on the edge early in his career, I think he will be able to gain more weight and play with his hand in the ground.

13. Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns)- Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

After drafting a pass rusher with a high ceiling in Thibodeaux, the Texans draft another player with massive potential in Cross. He played in an Air-Raid offense so has minimal run blocking experience, but is a strong pass blocker. He’ll likely start at right tackle and then move to the left side in a few years. It might take a while, but the Texans can turn things around with hauls like this.

14. Baltimore Ravens- Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia

Davis just seems like a Raven already. He is physical, comes from a big program, and doesn’t care about his own personal stats. In a division with Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, and Najee Harris, you need some run stuffers on the defensive line. Davis will never develop into a big sack total guy, but he does occupy blocks to give others favorable matchups.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins)- Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

It’s going to be three straight years of first-round receivers for the Eagles and back-to-back Alabama receivers in the first. Devonta Smith and Williams give Jalen Hurts a legit receiver group to throw to. After this year, there will be no more excuses for him and they’ll be able to figure out if he’s the quarterback of the future or not.

16. New Orleans Saints (via Indianapolis Colts)- Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

In all likelihood, the Saints or Steelers will make a trade up to draft Willis. Willis has all the tools in the world but needs a lot of refinement. He’s an A+ athlete who could run for 1,000 yards a season but is undisciplined as a passer. He is an inaccurate passer who escapes the pocket too early, which will get him in trouble. However, he has a cannon for an arm and is a coach’s dream to develop. He and the Saints would be a match made in heaven.

17. Los Angeles Chargers- Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

Team team hit it out of the park last year with Rashawn Slater, but it doesn’t mean they are done building the offensive line. Right tackle is a need and Penning is a great fit here. While he could play on the left, he is better suited on the right where he can be a bully in the run game. The AFC West is stacked and this move would be helpful for both the present and the future.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans Saints)- Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

Outside of Darius Slay, the Eagles secondary is suspect. They’re lucky they have Carson Wentz and Daniel Jones in their division or it would become a massive liability. While McDuffie isn’t close to the level of Stingley or Gardner, I think he’s a very safe prospect. On top of that, I think he’s quite pro-ready and ready to start as a rookie. He can play out wide or in the slot and despite not being the biggest guy, he is extremely physical in coverage and as a tackler.

19. New Orleans Saints (via Philadelphia Eagles)- Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

After getting Malik Willis earlier, it’s time to get him some weapons. The last two years have shown you can’t trust Michael Thomas and right now there’s no dependable WR2 on the Saints roster. Burks provides a unique skill set and gives the Saints two players, along with Alvin Kamara, that are nightmares for opposing defenses. The new-age Saints will be exciting to watch if things break this way for them.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers- Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

The Steelers can say they’re committed to Trubisky, but no one believes it. They’ll look to try and move up, but I’m starting to believe that Pickett will be available at this spot. Unlike Willis, Pickett is ready to start now. He could have an Andy Dalton-like career where, at a certain point, he’s a borderline top twelve quarterback. That’s great value at this spot. He won’t be a star, but the Steelers don’t need one to be successful.

21. New England Patriots- Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

This is an ideal scenario for the Patriots. They have some guys at the cornerback position, but they’re either old or unproven. By drafting Booth, they address the need while also acquiring a high-ceiling prospect. They can slowly bring him into the lineup and have him ready for the playoff stretch. Belichick should not be allowed to draft athletes like Booth.

22. Green Bay Packers (via Las Vegas Raiders)- Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

The Packers will draft a receiver in the first round. I’ve said this three straight years now but this time I actually believe it. With Rodgers, they are still in win-now mode and need to draft prospects who can start right now. No receiver might be more ready to produce as a rookie than Olave. I don’t know if he can develop into a star, but he will be a solid receiver for a long time. A not-so-hot take is that he would immediately be their best receiver and could have 80 catches as a rookie.

23. Arizona Cardinals- Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Just like their play on the field, the Cardinals are tough to predict. They’ve picked back-to-back linebacker hybrids in the first round the last two years, ignoring needs on the offensive line and in the secondary. Despite this, there are some talented cornerbacks that they simply cannot pass up on this year. Elam has the physical tools and has played against elite competition in his college career. While he didn’t play as well in 2021, you can blame that on the entire Florida team underperforming.

24. Dallas Cowboys- Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

If there is one team that doesn’t care about your opinions on positional value in the first round, it’s the Cowboys. We’ve seen them draft linebackers, running backs, and centers in past years because they valued the player and not the position. Linderbaum is a beast and an elite player in this draft. Cowboys would be getting a steal here.

25. Buffalo Bills- Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

The Bills roster is stacked right now. Honestly, they don’t have a ton of needs. This makes me believe they’ll either move back here or make an aggressive move up to look for a quality player who can help their championship aspirations. In this case, they get a guy who does a little bit of both. McCreary is a very good player but doesn’t have the length. He also is ready to play right away, likely as a slot corner. He’s a low ceiling, high floor guy that fills a role.

26. Tennessee Titans- Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M

Mike Vrabel wants to play physical football. Despite this, the Titans’ offensive line has been far from elite. Green is a versatile mauler who fills a need for a team that could use upgrades at both guard and tackle. As dominant as he’s been, we don’t know how many years left of elite football Derrick Henry has left. It’s time to give him as much support as possible.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia

Ndamukong Suh has filled the role of a physical interior lineman that is equally strong against the run as he is against the pass. However, he is getting old and the team needs to look forward. Wyatt won’t become a superstar, but he does know how to make his teammates better around him as we saw in the Georgia National Championship run.

28. Green Bay Packers- Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College

With Elgton Jenkins moving to tackle, the Packers need some beef on the interior. Johnson is best suited at guard but also showed a willingness to play center if need be. With a strong one-two punch of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, the Packers will be more dedicated than ever to running the football and capitalizing on defenses preparing to stop Aaron Rodgers.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (via San Francisco 49ers)- Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State

Not many teams love speed more than the Chiefs. Watson did play at a 1-AA program and didn’t put up eye-popping stats, but he can sure fly. At 6’5″, Watson ran a 4.38 40 and looked impressive at the combine. He does have some boom or bust worry about his game, but on the Chiefs, I could see him having a great career. While I’m not sure he will be a guy who catches ninety passes a year, he should be among the league leaders in yards per catch.

30. Kansas City Chiefs- David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan

Frank Clark was seemingly very close to getting released this offseason, but is still on the team. A main reason for that is likely because he’s the only pass rusher on the team besides Chris Jones who can get to the quarterback. The Chiefs can be patient with Ojabo’s recovery from a torn achilles and get him ready for important December and January games.

31. Cincinnati Bengals- Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

Eli Apple absolutely sucks. He should not be starting on a team that made the Super Bowl. Gordon is still a huge work in progress but has the athleticism and versatility to become a high-level starter. In the meantime, he could make the same mistakes Eli Apple does, but likely learn from those and get better.

32. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)- Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

I think there’s a very strong chance a quarterback is taken here. Whether it’s the Lions making the pick or another team trading up is the question. The last pick of the first round is always a popular one for teams to trade up in due to the fifth-year option these guys get compared to second-rounders. Corral would fit with Detroit in that they need a quarterback of the future but can allow him to sit behind Goff for a year while he recovers from a torn ACL.