The 2022 NFL Draft is only a few days away, and the excitement is growing. As we get closer to the draft, the rumor mill becomes hotter and hotter. After an offseason full of blockbuster trades and surprising free agent moves, the draft should be full of excitement. With eight teams controlling half of the first round, there is no move that we can say was a surprise. With that in mind, let’s dive into my final mock draft of the year.
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1) Jacksonville Jaguars – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Aidan Hutchinson is the heavy favorite to go first overall to the Jaguars. However, the hype around Walker has grown by the day. Hutchinson is an elite prospect but doesn’t have the upside Walker does. After his combine performance, Walker is a lock to go in the top three picks and very possibly first overall. Pairing Walker with Josh Allen would give the Jaguars an elite pass-rushing duo.
2) Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
If the Jaguars pass on Hutchinson, the Lions will quickly turn in the card. They could consider Kyle Hamilton or Walker with this pick, but only if Hutchinson is off the board. While the Lions have several needs, they lack an elite edge rusher. In a division with Aaron Rodgers, Justin Fields, and Kirk Cousins, the Lions need to get pressure on the quarterback.
3) Houston Texans – Ikem Ekwonu, OL, North Carolina State
Houston could go in several directions with this pick. However, they need to give Davis Mills help upfront if they want him to succeed. Laremy Tunsil is locked in at left tackle, but the other four starting spots are up for grabs. Ekwonu can play either guard or right tackle as a rookie, then take over for Tunsil once his contract expires.
4) New York Jets – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
While the Jets could take an edge rusher like Kayvon Thibodeaux with this pick, they have a hole at cornerback. Despite signing D.J. Reed in free agency, the Jets still need a No. 1 cornerback on the team. Gardner is the consensus No. 1 cornerback in the draft and a top-five lock. In a division with Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill, the Jets need Gardner.
5) New York Giants – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
With two selections in the top-seven picks, the Giants can set the tone for the draft. They signed several veterans in free agency, including Jon Feliciano and Mark Glowinski. However, they still have a hole at right tackle to fill. Neal was the favorite to go first overall a few months ago, and with good reason. Pairing Neal with Andrew Thomas would give Daniel Jones elite bookend tackles.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Houston Texans receive pick 6. Carolina Panthers receive picks 13, 37.
6) Houston Texans (via Panthers) – Kyle Hamilton, SAF, Notre Dame
The Panthers have one pick in the first three rounds and reportedly want to trade back if possible. Meanwhile, the Texans could have taken Hamilton with the third overall pick but opted for an offensive tackle. However, with plenty of draft capital over the next few years, the Texans can afford to move up. Hamilton will give the Texans the centerpiece of their defense for the next decade.
7) New York Giants (via Chicago) – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
After adding Neal two picks ago, the Giants fill their other massive need. Last year’s second-round pick Azeez Ojulari had an impressive rookie year with eight sacks. However, no one else on the team had more than 6.5 sacks last season. Thibodeaux was the favorite to go first overall at the start of the college football season and is a steal at this point in the draft.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Minnesota Vikings receive pick 8. Atlanta Falcons receive picks 12, 77, 184.
8) Minnesota Vikings (via Falcons) – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Quietly, the Vikings filled most of their holes in free agency. However, they need help at cornerback, even after re-signing Patrick Peterson. Stingley had a productive pro day, and more importantly, he looked healthy. With the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders picking ahead of them and in need of a cornerback, the Vikings move up and secure the former LSU star.
9) Seattle Seahawks (via Denver) – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
When the Seahawks traded away Russell Wilson, it jump-started a rebuilding process for the team. Therefore, they can go in multiple directions with this pick or take the best player available. Johnson struggled to get on the field at Georgia. However, he exploded in his lone season at Florida State with 11.5 sacks. He would become the focal piece to rebuilding the Seahawks’ front seven.
10) New York Jets (via Seattle) – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Despite coming off a torn ACL he suffered in the National Championship, Williams has gained momentum to be the first wide receiver off the board. After missing out on Hill, expect the Jets to use this pick on a wide receiver. Williams is the best deep ball wide receiver in the draft class and a solid plan B option for the Jets after missing out on Hill.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Pittsburgh Steelers receive pick 11. Washington Commanders receive picks 20, 52, 2023 second-round pick.
11) Pittsburgh Steelers (via Commanders) – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The growing belief around the NFL is there won’t be a quarterback selected in the top 10. However, if Willis slides into the teens, expect the Steelers to explore trade options. Furthermore, two quarterback-needy teams are picking next in the Falcons and Panthers. The Steelers flip a pair of second-round picks to secure Willis. Washington happily moves back and add draft capital after trading multiple picks for Carson Wentz earlier this offseason.
12) Atlanta Falcons (via Vikings) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
With so many needs on the roster, the Falcons should be aggressive in moving back during the draft to add more picks. In this scenario, they still land a top wide receiver in Wilson. Other than Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson, the Falcons currently have no reliable weapons in the passing game. Whether it’s Marcus Mariota or a rookie under center next year, they will need more weapons in the passing game.
13) Carolina Panthers (via Texans, Cleveland) – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Could the Panthers take Kenny Pickett with this pick? Absolutely. However, it’s hard to pass on Cross. Had they stayed at pick six, Cross would have been their selection. The Panthers added several new starting offensive linemen in free agency, including center Bradley Bozeman. Pairing Cross with Taylor Moton would give Sam Darnold or whoever is playing quarterback a great pair of bookend tackles.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Los Angeles Chargers receive pick 14. Baltimore Ravens receive picks 17, 79.
14) Los Angeles Chargers (via Ravens) – Zion Johnson, iOL, Boston College
The Chargers have been ultra-aggressive all offseason long, trading for Khalil Mack and signing J.C. Jackson in free agency. While they have a hole at right tackle, the Chargers can slide Matt Feiler outside and place Johnson at left guard. Furthermore, Johnson can play all five spots on the offensive line in a pinch. With the Philadelphia Eagles, and New Orleans Saints picking ahead of them, the Chargers jump them for Johnson.
15) Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami) – Drake London, WR, USC
Even after their blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Saints, the Eagles still have two first-round picks and have a need at wide receiver. DeVonta Smith was a slam dunk from a year ago, but Jalen Reagor has been awful and reportedly is on the trade block. London is a physical outside receiver that will pair up perfectly with Smith.
16) New Orleans Saints (via Philadelphia, Indianapolis) – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Reportedly, some teams have Penning graded as a top-10 pick. If Penning makes it to their pick, the Saints quickly draft him. While they could keep or replace several of their free agents this offseason, the Saints haven’t been able to fill the hole at left tackle. Terron Armstead is now in Miami, opening up the starting role for Penning as a rookie.
17) Baltimore Ravens (via Chargers) – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
The Ravens don’t have many holes on paper. However, one under the radar need is at cornerback. Last year, the cornerback depth got tested after the Ravens had several injuries in the secondary. Furthermore, Jimmy Smith is still a free agent, while Marcus Peters is entering the final year of his contract. Pairing McDuffie with Marlon Humphrey would give the Ravens two top-end cornerbacks for the next several years.
18) Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans) – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
While the Eagles recently re-signed Fletcher Cox, it was only for one year. Furthermore, the other starting defensive tackle, Javon Hargrave, is entering the final year of his deal. More than likely, at least one, if not both, won’t be back with the Eagles in 2023. Adding Davis would give the Eagles a long-term replacement at defensive tackle while also making their already impressive defensive line even better.
19) New Orleans Saints (via Philadelphia) – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
After the trade with the Eagles, the Saints have the draft capital this year needed to move into the top 10 to grab Willis if they want. However, many believe they will stand pat in the middle of the first round and make their selections. Multiple teams, including the Saints, have done extra homework on the former Bearcat quarterback. With Jameis Winston under contract for next season, the Saints can wait till 2023 before handing over the starting job to Ridder.
20) Washington Commanders (via Steelers) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
If Washington decides to stay put at pick 11, Olave is an option. However, the Commanders land Olave after trading back in this scenario. After they traded for Wentz, Washington’s top need is a wide receiver. Terry McLaurin is entering the final year of his deal, while Curtis Samuel struggled to stay healthy last year. Adding Olave would give Washington an explosive trio of wide receivers.
21) New England Patriots – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
New England has a massive hole at cornerback after Jackson signed with the Chargers. While they signed Malcolm Butler out of retirement and added Terrance Mitchell, neither are No. 1 caliber cornerbacks. Booth is recovering from core muscle surgery but is a lock to go in the first round. In a division with Diggs, Hill, and now Williams, the Patriots need to find a cornerback who can cover all three.
22) Green Bay Packers (via Las Vegas) – Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan
Before the entire Packer fan base has a panic attack, Hill makes sense for Green Bay. They value versatile defensive backs, and Hill can play in multiple spots. Whether it’s lining up at nickel, single high safety, or in the box as a dime linebacker, Hill did it all at Michigan. Furthermore, Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos are entering the final year of their contracts. At least one of them won’t be back in 2023.
23) Arizona Cardinals – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
The Cardinals have had a rocky offseason. Not only is the Kyler Murray drama a concern, but Arizona lost several free agents, including Chandler Jones. With Jones joining the Las Vegas Raiders, the Cardinals need an edge rusher. Markus Golden and Devon Kennard are solid starters but are on the wrong side of 30. Adding Karlaftis would give the Cardinals youth and upside at the position.
24) Dallas Cowboys – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Yes, the Cowboys have more critical needs, but that won’t stop them from adding a wide receiver in the first round if one they like falls to them. Dallas traded Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns earlier this offseason. While they re-signed Michael Gallup, he is coming off a torn ACL and likely won’t be ready for the start of the season. Adding Burks would give Dak Prescott three talented wide receivers once Gallup is healthy.
25) Buffalo Bills – Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
While running back isn’t the top need for the Bills, adding Hall would give the offense a new element. Devin Singletary is entering the final year of his rookie contract, while Zack Moss has struggled to stay healthy. Josh Allen can’t continue to lead the Bills in rushing and remain healthy long term. Furthermore, Hall is a three-down running back and would have a massive impact on the offense.
26) Tennessee Titans – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
You shouldn’t be surprised if we get a run on wide receivers to close out the first round. The Titans recently traded for Robert Woods after releasing Julio Jones. However, Woods has a $13.8 million cap hit for 2023 and could get released next offseason. Furthermore, A.J. Brown is in line for a massive extension. Adding Dotson would give Ryan Tannehill three impactful wide receivers at his disposal and the Titans’ options next offseason at wide receiver.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Baltimore Ravens receive pick 27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers receive picks 45, 76, 100.
27) Baltimore Ravens (via Buccaneers) – Tyler Linderbaum, iOL, Iowa
Linderbaum is one of the more polarizing players in the draft. Some love his play, while others are concerned with his weight and arm length. However, if he slides this late in the first round, expect someone to trade up for him. After their earlier trade, the Ravens have 11 picks in the draft. They send the Buccaneers a pair of third-round picks to move up and secure their new starting center.
28) Green Bay Packers – Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
After his performance at the Senior Bowl and the combine, Watson is a likely first-round pick. The Packers have a massive hole at wide receiver, and Watson fits their desire for big and fast playmakers. While signing Sammy Watkins was a wise move, it won’t stop the Packers from drafting multiple wide receivers. Watson could step in as a rookie and fill the void left by Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
29) Kansas City Chiefs (via Miami, San Francisco) – Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
While wide receiver is arguably the top need for the Chiefs, it is far from their only one. While they managed to keep Frank Clark, the Chiefs still need help rushing the passer. Last year, Chris Jones was the only player on the team with more than 4.5 sacks. Meanwhile, Mafe has risen up draft boards the past few weeks and likely ends up going in the late first round.
30) Kansas City Chiefs – Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
If one of the top wide receivers begins to slide, don’t be surprised if the Chiefs move up for them. However, Moore is an excellent consolation prize if they stay put in the late first round. While they traded Hill to Miami, the Chiefs added Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency. Kansas City won’t be able to replace Hill with just one player. However, a trio of Valdes-Scantling, Smith-Schuster, and Moore is impressive.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Carolina Panthers receive pick 31. Cincinnati Bengals receive picks 37, 137, 2023 third-round pick.
31) Carolina Panthers (via Bengals) – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
After passing on Pickett earlier in the draft for Cross, the Panthers trade the second-round pick they received from the Texans and a pair of other picks to jump ahead of the Lions and grab Pickett. Darnold struggled last year, and the Panthers have done nothing to improve the quarterback situation. If Matt Rhule feels he needs to win this year to keep his job, don’t be surprised if Pickett ends up in Carolina.
*** TRADE ALERT ***
Atlanta Falcons receive pick 32. Detroit Lions receive picks 43, 77.
32) Atlanta Falcons (via Lions, Los Angeles) – Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
The value of the fifth-year option on rookie contracts is growing by the day, given the deals quarterbacks have signed recently. Therefore, the Falcons are wise to use a pair of day two picks to move up and get the fifth-year option on Corral’s contract. After trading Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts, the Falcons signed Mariota as a bridge gap option. With him in place, the Falcons can give Corral a year to develop before handing over the starting role in 2023.
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