2022 NFL Mock Draft

It’s finally here! While we’ve wet our palettes during the NFL offseason with free agency tidbits and trade speculations, tomorrow night is the main course where we get to eat our fill! This draft is shaping up to be unlike most NFL Draft ceremonies, as the 2022 class has no clear-cut number one overall pick. In fact, there’s not a clear number one at any position, and that is shrouding this draft in an air of uncertainty. BUT, that’s half the fun and why we do mock drafts until we can’t see straight, right?  I know I have definitely done my fair share, and this latest draft is where I have landed the most often, minus trades or other shenanigans. Without further ado, here are my picks for Round One of the 2022 NFL Draft.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Needs: DL, OL, S

Pick: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama Crimson Tide

Despite recently signing left tackle Cam Robinson to a three year extension, I have Evan Neal going first overall. An imposing physical presence at 6’8” and 350 pounds of pure muscle, Evan Neal is a versatile behemoth who is also a three year starter in Nick Saban’s pro-style offense. He played every position on the offensive line aside from center, and his skill-set would immediately translate to pro production. The Jaguars made some moves in free agency to shore up their defense by acquiring Foley Fatukasi and Foley Oloukun, and they still need pieces on the offensive line to protect second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Plus, as new head coach Doug Pederson has said, “you can never have enough offensive linemen.

2. Detroit Lions

Needs: QB, LB, DL

Pick: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia

No one has shot up draft boards more than Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker, and for good reason. At 6’5” and 272 pounds, he ran a 4.51 40 at the combine, and when you pair that with his impressive film, there’s no one out there with a more impressive skill set. Even sharing the spotlight with so many talented defensive players on the 2021 National Championship team, Walker set himself apart, playing defensive tackle, defensive end, nose tackle, linebacker, and even dropping into coverage 26 times in 2021. The Lions need an imposing defensive presence, as they ranked 30th in the league in team sacks last season, and Trevon Walker would be the perfect addition.

3. Houston Texans

Needs: Basically everything

Pick: Aiden Hutchinson, DE, Michigan

The Houston Texans are in serious rebuild mode, and they can’t really go wrong with anyone at this pick. However, like the Lions, the Texans ranked near the bottom in sacks, so they would improve the most by selecting Aiden Hutchinson. After returning from a broken leg suffered in 2020, Hutchinson was a lean, mean, sacking machine, ending the year with 14 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. The Texans play 3-4 base defense, like the Michigan Wolverines, so Hutchinson should feel right at home in that formation.

4. New York Jets

Needs: WR, LB, CB

Pick: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

By now, everyone has heard the stat/talking point that Sauce Gardner never allowed a touchdown in 38 starts at Cincinnati, even as a true freshman. Despite allowing the highest completion percentage of his career at 50%, those completions only went for an average of 6.5 yards per reception. Gardner has a HUGE build for a corner at 6’3”, and is able to use his huge wingspan to knock the ball away from intended targets. The Jets ranked 30th in coverage per PFF.com in 2021, and Gardner would be an immediate upgrade in a now-stacked division with the likes of Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs.

5. New York Giants

Needs: OL, ED, LB

Pick: Kayvon Thibodeaux, ED, Oregon

Despite drafting Azeez Ojulari in the 2021 draft, the New York Giants are still in need of another edge rusher to take their pass rush up a notch. Enter Kayvon Thibodeaux; he burst onto the scene in 2019 and racked up 10 sacks as a true freshman. He never really took that next step, leading to some questions about his work ethic that were exacerbated by some questionable comments at the combine, but there’s no denying that the physical talent is there.

6. Carolina Panthers

Needs: QB, OL

Pick: Ickem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

Although it’s extremely tempting to take a quarterback at this pick, the depth of high-end offensive linemen takes a precipitous dive after the top ten, so I have the Carolina Panthers selecting “Ickey” Ekwonu at sixth overall. In 2021, the Panthers gave up the fifth-most sacks in the league with 52, a cringe-worthy average of 3 per game. Ekwonu led the Power Five with 18 big-time run blocks in 2021, and he only allowed three sacks, grading out at a 91.6 overall per PFF.com. The Panthers are bringing back an injured Christian McCaffrey, and they are going to need to protect him, making Ekwonu the logical pick.. 

7. New York Giants (from Chicago Bears)

Needs: OL, ED, LB

Pick: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Now that they presumably have their edge rushing needs taken care of, the New York Giants need to turn their attention to their abysmal offensive line. Charles Cross thrives in pass-blocking assignments, allowing a total of only 16 pressures in 2021. He has length, quick feet, and great hands, and although he may need to develop his run-blocking skills at an NFL level, his talent is undeniably there.

8. Atlanta Falcons

Needs: QB, G, C, DL, CB, WR

Pick: Derek Stingley, Jr., CB, LSU

While any pick here wouldn’t technically be wrong, it feels like the Falcons are in full rebuild mode, so why waste a pick on a premier offensive piece just to park it in the garage for a year? Derek Stingley is arguably the best corner in the draft, but he’s been sidelined by injuries, including a Lisfranc injury that sidelined him the majority of the 2021 season. However, he put up a stellar campaign during his true-freshman season at LSU, allowing only a 38.4% completion rate and six interceptions. The upside is there, and the Falcons could have a franchise piece with Stingley.

9. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver Broncos)

Needs: QB, T, ED, CB

Pick: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

The Seahawk have lots of needs in this draft after trading away franchise quarterback Russell Wilson, and, let’s face it, Drew Lock isn’t the answer. While Desmond Ridder isn’t a consensus pick for the first quarterback off the board, he’s the first quarterback to visit the Seahawks just two weeks ago, and he’s been praised around the league for his interview ability and his pro-readiness. A four-year starter at Cincinnati, Ridder improved every season, making his biggest leap from his 2020-2021 season where he led the Bearcats to an NCAA playoff berth, becoming the first AAC team in history to do so. Pete Carroll isn’t sticking around to coach a developmental player, and Ridder has the best shot to become a day one starter.

10. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks)

Needs: WR, LB, CB

Pick: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

Before suffering an ACL tear in the National Championship game, Jameson Williams was the consensus WR1 in the country. He compiled over 1,500 yards on 78 receptions, averaging an incredible 20 yards per catch. His speed allows him to blaze past defenders, and the New York Jets need a fast receiver to help them break away from the high-level corners in the AFC East. By all reports, Williams is ahead of schedule in his ACL recovery, so he should be ready to go a few weeks into the season.

11. Washington Commanders

Needs: QB, G, C, LB

Pick: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Devin Lloyd is an all-around player with the ability to play at a high-level doing whatever is asked of him. In 2021, he played in a combination of pass rush, run defense, and coverage snaps at Utah and earned a 90.6 overall PFF grade. The Commanders desperately need linebacker help, as their highest graded linebacker in 2021, Cole Holcomb, only graded out at a 56.7. Lloyd would be an immediate playmaker on this defense.

12. Minnesota Vikings

Needs: G, C, ED, CB

Pick: George Karlaftis, ED, Purdue

The Vikings were sub-par in rushing the passer last season, ranking 16th overall in 2021. George Karlaftis could get them over the hump into elite territory. While at Purdue, Karlaftis recorded a 23.6% pass rush win rate and ranked 6th in hits in 2021. He’s got extreme power and a sturdy frame, making him the perfect addition to the Vikings’ defensive line.

13. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns)

Needs: Still everything

Pick: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

In another move to improve their defense, I have the Texans taking Kyle Hamilton at 13th overall. Hamilton has a gargantuan frame for a safety at 6’4”, and he uses that big body to send tight ends packing. The Texans ranked dead last in coverage last season, and if Hamilton is still here, there’s no way they pass him up for their rebuild.

14. Baltimore Ravens

Needs: DL, CB

Pick: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

We all saw the Ravens’ defensive woes last season, and as much as we want to blame it on injury, we just can’t. The secondary in Baltimore is getting old, and Trent McDuffie is a perfect fit for their zone scheme. He’s a little undersized at 5’11”, but that doesn’t seem to affect him. In 2021, he recorded an 89.3 coverage grade and only allowed a 44.4% completion rate. If the Ravens hope to compete in a division with Joe Burrow and Deshaun Watson, they need to upgrade their secondary, and Trent McDuffie is the first step in doing so.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami Dolphins)

Needs: LB, DB, WR

Pick: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

We all know that Howie Roseman doesn’t take linebackers in the first round, but after the plea at the combine from Philly superfan Giovanni Hamilton, how could he not? Nakobe Dean won the Dick Butkus Award for the best linebacker in the country in 2021, and although he’s a little undersized for a typical NFL linebacker, Dean certainly played much bigger.. He plays extremely fast with great vision, and that’s the type of player Philadelphia needs to improve their run defense.

16. New Orleans Saints (from Indianapolis Colts through Philadelphia)

Needs: QB, WR, T

Pick: Drake London, WR, USC

After locking up Jameis Winston for another year and securing their quarterback situation, the next step for the Saints is to give him some weapons. They do that at pick 16 overall with Drake London, who has been compared to Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans ad nauseam, but the similarities are there. London doesn’t create a ton of separation or generate a lot of speed down the field, but he doesn’t need to; he uses his height to vertically outmatch defenders and come down with the ball. He is the perfect complement to Michael Thomas and add some much-needed depth to the Saints’ wide receiver room.

17. Los Angeles Chargers

Needs: WR, T, CB

Pick: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

After selecting Rashawn Slater in the first round of the 2021 draft, the Chargers continue to build their offensive line with Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa. Penning has a well-balanced profile, but he’s especially great in the run game, earning the unicorn grade of 99.9. He’s extremely flexible at 6’7” and is able to bend down low and leverage defenders, and while he may need to develop in pass protection, he has all the tools to be a high-level offensive lineman.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans)

Needs: LB, DB, WR

Pick: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

While the Eagles hit on their first round selection of DeVonta Smith in last year’s draft, the rest of their wide receiver room leaves much to be desired. Garrett Wilson is one of the top receivers in this draft class, as he possesses elite speed and instinctive route running that is not often seen, and his addition would help open up the field and pull coverage off of Smith. Adding weapons for Jalen Hurts could also put the rumblings about his abilities at quarterback to rest (or to the test).

19. New Orleans (from Philadelphia)

Needs: QB, WR, T

Pick: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan

After losing star left tackle Terron Armstead in free agency, the Saints have a huge hole to fill at the position. Bernhard Raimann is a converted tight end, but even after gaining weight to play at tackle, he hasn’t lost the athleticism he possessed as a position player. He only allowed one sack last season, and he earned very good grades in blocking for the pass and the run. Raimann would be an immediate playmaker in place of Armstead.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

Needs: QB, T

Pick: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

After Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, the Steelers are in need of a long-term quarterback. While he may not be a franchise player, they get their project in Malik Willis. Willis undoubtedly has elite arm strength and dual-threat ability, but he showed problems processing quickly and did not perform well against top-level talent. He likely won’t be a first year starter, but he’s at least a plan for the future.

21. New England Patriots

Needs: WR, ED, LB, CB

Pick: Jermaine Johnson II, ED, Florida State

While there isn’t a ton of tape on Jermaine Johnson II before he transferred to Florida State, what he does have is nothing short of impressive. In 2021, he had 14 sacks and nine tackles for loss, in part due to the extreme bend he gets to get under offensive linemen.  The Patriots only have three players who qualify as pure edge rushers, so Johnson would fill a big need at 21 for New England.

22. Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas Raiders)

Needs: WR, OL

Pick: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Look, we all know that Green Bay doesn’t take wide receivers in the first round, the last time being in 2002 when they selected Javon Walker. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and after paying Aaron Rodgers a massive contract, they have to get him some weapons. Chris Olave has elite route-running ability and blazing speed, running a 4.39 official 40 time, and although he may have gotten lost in the shuffle of the stable of Ohio State wide receivers, he’s just as NFL ready as any receiver in this class.

23. Arizona Cardinals 

Needs: G, C, DI, CB

Pick: Zion Johnson, G, Boston College

Arizona lost a ton of players in free agency this offseason, and they’re expected to lose even more after 2022, with four of their five offensive linemen set to hit the market. Zion Johnson would give them some much needed depth to the position, but he could end up making an impact sooner rather than later. While at Boston College, he only allowed six pressures on 364 pass block snaps, so he has the desired skill-set of an NFL starter.

24. Dallas Cowboys

Needs: OL, DL, LB

Pick: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

The Cowboys may not need a wide receiver, but let’s be real. If Treylon Burks is sitting there, Jerry Jones is not going to miss out on a chance to add a Razorback to his team. Burks had the highest on-field speed of ANYONE in both college football and the NFL, so despite his subpar combine showing, his film shows he’s more than able to torch defenders. He was used in a variety of ways at Arkansas, giving Kellan Moore another weapon to build unconventional plays around.

25. Buffalo Bills

Needs: WR, DI

Pick: Jordan Davis, DI, Georgia

The Buffalo Bills are already a pretty complete team, and after signing Jamison Crowder, it’s likely they opt to shore up their defensive line with Jordan Davis out of Georgia instead of going wide receiver. This monster of a man is impossible to block in single coverage, and he has impressive speed for a player his size. He excels in run defense, and would be a playmaker day one for the Bills.

26. Tennessee Titans

Needs: WR, C, G, ED

Picks: Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M

After losing left guard Rodger Saffold in free agency, the Titans need to shore up their offensive line, and Kenyon Green is the man to do it. He played every position along the line except center in 2021 and was very successful, only allowing ten pressures. He’s also an extremely fast interior lineman and should have success getting to secondary blocks with ease.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Needs: G, C, DI

Pick: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

The Buccaneers struggled with depth in their secondary last season due to injury, and three of their key players are set to become free agents next year. Andrew Booth would help them fill some gaps as a late first-round pick. He’s only 6’0”, but his arms are long for his frame, giving him an advantage over similarly situated wide receivers. He may not be an immediate starter, but he does give the Bucs some security in a position that had some question marks last season.

28. Green Bay Packers

Needs: WR, OL

Pick: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa

Tyler Smith is a sneaky climber in this draft, and if you look at his tape, you’ll see why. He led the entire NCAA in big-time run blocks last season, beating out big names like Ickem Ekwonu and Evan Neal. His 92.3 overall grade is spectacular, and although he’ll likely need to develop to play at a pro level, his power cannot be taught.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (from San Francisco 49ers through Miami Dolphins)

Needs: WR, DL, CB

Pick: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

With Rashad Fenton set to become a free agent in 2023 and L’Jarius Sneed entering the market the year after that, Kansas City needs to begin building starting quality depth. Kaiir Elam has the size and speed to be successful at the top level. He does have a propensity to draw penalties that he’ll need to work on, but with the right discipline, he could be a top-level cornerback in the league.

30. Kansas City Chiefs

Needs: WR, DL, CB

Pick: Devonte Wyatt, DI, Georgia

Despite sharing time with fellow first-rounder Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt also managed to make a case for himself as a top pick. He accumulated four sacks and six tackles for loss, and he has size and explosiveness that is uncharacteristic for a player his size. The Chiefs are currently starting Khalen Saunders and Derrick Nnadi on their defensive interior, and Wyatt is an upgrade over either player.

31. Cincinnati Bengals

Needs: G, C

Pick: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

After selecting Ja’Marr Chase in the first round of the 2021 draft, outcry abounded over their failure to select an offensive lineman. Chase looked like the right pick until the Super Bowl, where Joe Burrow was sacked seven times. Don’t expect the Bengals to pass up on an opportunity to improve their o-line this go-around. Tyler Linderbaum is the best center in this draft class; during his time at Iowa, he was PFF’s highest graded center in the NCAA. In 2021, he only allowed one sack, two hits, and four hurries on 908 snaps. The Bengals can’t go wrong here with Linderbaum.

32. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams)

Needs: QB, LB, DB

Pick: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Even with Jared Goff under contract until 2025, the Detroit Lions need to find another answer at quarterback. Kenny Pickett played in a pro-style offense as a four-year starter at Pittsburgh, and he is extremely accurate in the pocket. Detroit has one of, if not the best, centers in the game in Frank Ragnow, so even if Pickett tends to hold on to the ball too long, that offensive line should help him develop a quicker release.

There you have it! I know some of these picks weren’t conventional, so tell me what you think on Twitter @Britt_Flinn. You can also find more of my work at FantasyAlarm.com and on The Lightning Round podcast at youtube.com/lightninground.

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