While the real NFL Draft isn’t until April, December is the unofficial start of mock draft season. Do you think you know more than real NFL executives and scouting departments? Do you know that you do? Mock drafts are a fun way to prove just that. While any number of variables can change between now and then- blockbuster trades, free agency, etc.- mock drafts are a fun way to prove that you know
So without much ado, here is my 2022 NFL Mock Draft 1.0. (Draft positions are an estimation and subject to change)
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Evan Neal- OT, Alabama
An unconventional pick compared to every other mock draft, but the Jags need to protect the 2021 first overall pick Trevor Lawrence, who they hope will develop into their franchise QB. This should be an easy decision for Jacksonville and they should waste no time running to the podium to announce this pick.
Neal stands at a monstrous 6’7, weighing in around 360 pounds; to call him a mountain may be an understatement. But unlike mountains, Neal can move with relative ease; for most of 2019 he lined up inside at guard. Boasting a noticeably quicker than expected play speed, any power or zone running schemes should not be an issue. As for pass blocking, once he latches on a defender and sets his feet, there is no getting around him. As you would expect, he is a very powerful blocker with high upside. Neal will be the third Alabama offensive tackle taken in the first round in the last three years.
2. Detroit Lions
Aiden Hutchinson- Edge, Michigan
This pick is a toss-up between Kayvon Thibodeaux and Heisman finalist Aiden Hutchinson, two excellent edge-rushing prospects, each who has a case to be the first overall pick. For now, Hutchinson takes the lead. Last season, the Michigan end recorded 33 tackles, a school-record 14 sacks, & 2 forced fumbles.
Standing at 6’6, 265 pounds, Hutchinson is the prototypical edge rusher that NFL teams look for. While not as quick as Thibodaux, his play strength is incredible. You do not have to watch the film for long to see him plowing over an anchored offensive tackle and his ability to move laterally with quickness will translate well at the next level.
3. Houston Texans
Kayvon Thibodeaux- Edge, Michigan
Wow, what a mess the Texans are in. Sure, they could use a top-three pick on a QB to replace DeShaun Watson, but no QB this year is worth the draft capital. Or they could trade back and start a proper rebuild. Or, they could select a top edge rusher in Thibodeaux, which I have them doing here.
Speed kills and this Oregon product has plenty of it. Registering 12 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss from 2019-2020, it is hard to stop this young man. As a pass rusher, he converts his explosive speed to strength to bulldoze blockers. His physical profile also allows him to extend his arms and keep tackles at bay while he diagnoses a play. In the run game, he is able to set the edge but needs to add a little more low-end strength to compete against starting NFL running backs. While he primarily plays in a 4-3 with his hand in the dirt, Thibodeaux has the traits to succeed as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
4. New York Jets
Kyle Hamilton- Safety, Notre Dame
For defense in desperate need of some playmakers, Hamilton makes perfect sense. He is a rare breed of safety who is hard-hitting and ball-hawking. Hamilton is taller than your typical safety, measuring at 6’4 220 pounds. Truthfully, with his size, he could possibly transition to outside linebacker, but where he outperforms most linebackers is his coverage ability; his wingspan gives him an advantage in grabbing interceptions. Hamilton is the most versatile defender in this draft- he can cover in man and zone schemes, blitz from the slot, and stack the box to prevent the run.
5. New York Giants
Tyler Linderbaum- Center, Iowa
The Giants need help up front desperately. That was a fact even before starters Nick Gate and Shane Lemieux went out with season-ending injuries earlier this year. While they seem to have found a solid left tackle in Andrew Thomas, there are four other positions that need filling. Enter the trenches- Tyler Linderbaum, as much of a “sure thing” at the center position as you can get. He explodes out of his stance, keeps his feet moving, and is always looking for work.
At 6’3, 290 pounds Linderbaum is a little on the light side for a center, but no doubt can be a rock upfront for the Giants. Aside from exceptional strength and drive, he possesses a high football IQ as well as a very low bad snap percentage- in fact, last season he had zero fumbled snaps from under center. This pick should excite any Giants fan who has had the misfortune of paying attention anytime over the past eight years or so.
6. New York Giants
Kenyon Green- iOL, Texas A&M
This pick could go a few different directions; the Giants need to bolster their pass rush, which has been a non-factor since trading away Jason Pierre-Paul five years ago, or they can try to solidify their offensive line in one fell swoop. We’ll assume they take the latter option and finally make the trenches an advantage.
Green is 6’4, 325 pounds but you wouldn’t guess that from his stance. That’s not to say he isn’t an imposing figure- he is- it’s to say that he lines up lower than his teammates. Green has an excellent stance and fires off the ball with violent force and bad intentions. In the run game, he can knock over defenders on-chip blocks while putting himself in a good position at the second level to spring a big run. In the passing game, while he may need some work, once he anchors his feet it is difficult for rushers to get past him.
7. New York Jets
Derek Stingley Jr- CB, LSU
Why not try and make your defensive backfield a strength? Jets take the uber-athletic Stingley here and pair him with Kyle Hamilton, possibly finding themselves two stars in the process.
Stingley is 6’1, 195 pounds- the prototypical body type at the position. Even better than his size, he possesses above-average arm length, making him even more disruptive. He has the speed of mirroring ability to pair up with the opposing team’s WR1. His technique is picturesque and his short-area burst gives him the ability to zit back in a zone and jump routes.
8. Carolina Panthers
Charles Cross- OT, Mississippi State
The 6’5, 305 pound OT is not afraid of a fight. He is aggressive off the ball and violent at the point of attack. Along with that, he possesses top-tier athleticism allowing him to defend against pass rush moves and counter-moves, as well as climb to the next level. One area of his game that stands out is his ability to recognize stunts and pick up the blitz.
9. Atlanta Falcons
Garrett Wilson- WR, Ohio State
Matt Ryan proved this year that the tank isn’t empty just yet, so the Falcons shouldn’t try to force a change sooner than necessary. In that case, they should try to make Matty Ice (and the next QB’s) life easier by grabbing OSU product Garrett Wilson. Pairing him with TE Kyle Pitts should give plenty of opportunity for big plays through the air.
The 6’0, 190 pounds is a fluid route runner who can create separation for himself. In addition to this, his vertical jump and ability to high-point the ball on downfield passes makes up for whatever he may lack in height. OSU has produced numerous NFL-caliber WRs over the past few decades- Wilson (and counterpart Chris Olave) should be no exception.
10. Philadelphia Eagles
Andrew Booth Jr.- CB, Clemson
Booth may not be the tallest corner, at 6’0, but his ability to knock down contested catches makes up for it. He has an uncanny ability to be in the right place for pass breakups or interceptions, using his lengthy wingspan to his advantage.
11. Philadelphia Eagles
Chris Olave- WR, Ohio State
On the opposite side of the ball now, the Eagles rectify the mistake that was drafting Justin Reagor. As a former high school sprinter, Olave possesses great speed. His burst out of his stance allows him to gain ground quicker than most WR prospects.
12. Minnesota Vikings
George Karlaftis- Edge, Purdue
While being limited to two games due to injury, Karlaftis recorded two sacks. The previous year, the number was 7.5. The 6’4, 275-pound end moves well for his size and has great upper-body strength.
13. New Orleans Saints
DeMarvin Leal- DT, Texas A&M
A stout lineman at 6’4, 290 pounds. Leal has the ability to rush the passer with effectiveness from the interior, making him a coveted prospect. If he is going to transition to the inside he’ll need to add weight. He’s shown to have a small bag of pass-rush moves that, with some development, could be lethal.
14. Las Vegas Raiders
Kaiir Elam- CB, Florida
With good mechanics and instinct, Elam has the foundation to succeed at the next level. It doesn’t hurt that he has a good wingspan, either. Despite above-average speed in the short-to-mid ranges, Elam can be beaten on deep routes. This seems like a safe choice but after the Gruden/Mayock failures in recent drafts, Raiders fans will be holding their breath.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Matt Corral- QB, Ole Miss
This may be the worst class since 2013, where EJ Manuel was drafted 13th overall by the Bills. He’d be the only QB taken in the first round. Many scouts do not have first round grades on any QB prospects. Here, necessity (and perhaps desperate hope) have back-to-back QB’s taken in the first.
Ben Roethlisberger is on his way out of a move that is years overdue. The Steelers will look to Corral to replace the longtime QB. If nothing else, the redshirt Junior can sling the ball downfield with ease. He has the footwork needed to move outside the pocket and make plays with his legs when needed. Where he will need to develop is his accuracy and decision-making. The talent is there, but there are plenty of reasons why he isn’t a top-five pick and could even slip out of the first round.
16. Denver Broncos
Kenny Pickett- QB, Pittsburgh
We should know what kind of drafter John Elway is by now, which is why reaching for Pickett should not be a surprise. Pickett is 6’3, 220 pounds with a cannon for an arm- just Elway’s type. The redshirt Senior can produce through the air and on the ground (see: the fake slide), giving him tremendous potential. An aspect of his game that is as much an advantage as it is detrimental is his ability to go off-script when a play breaks down. He has the big play potential (a la Russell Wilson), but this also leads to turnovers. If he can smooth out some of these plays, expect big things from Pickett and Denver’s WR corp.
17. Cincinnati Bengals
Ikem Ekwonu- iOL, North Carolina State
Joe Burrow looks like the guy in Cincy. Now they need to protect their QB at all costs. Ekwonu has played outside at tackle but is projected to slide inside to guard at the next level. He’s 6’4, 320-pound frame is as powerful as you would expect, mauling and even embarrassing defenders. He has the athletic ability to be a plus in the run game; pulling and getting to the second level is not an issue here.
18. Cleveland Browns
Jameson Williams- WR, Alabama
The OBJ experience is over in Brown Town. Jarvis Landry battles injuries as often as he does defensive backs. So to give QB Baker Mayfield a reliable target, Cleveland selects Williams and extends Alabama’s streak of producing first-round receivers. He’s a speedy player, gaining separation with ease. Once he’s in open space, there are not many foot races he’ll lose.
19. Washington Football Team
Daxton Hill- Safety, Michigan
Hill is a dynamic athlete. Running a 4.3 40 yard dash is hard- it’s even harder to actually look that fast on the field. Hill makes it look easy. Would not be surprised if he has one of the best performances at the NFL Combine this year. Hill will be a high-upside project pick, as he will need time to develop, but with his unreal athletic ability and raw potential, it would be a shame to not find out what he is capable of.
20. Buffalo Bills
David Ojabo- Edge, Michigan
Ojabo will be Michigan’s second edge rusher taken in the first round. He uses his 6’5 frame well; it creates power and allows him to disrupt passing lanes with his arms. He has a “ghost move” that should be trademarked- he accelerates and contorts around blockers, blowing by them with only light contact. Pairing Ojabo with Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa, and Ed Oliver could make for a scary front four.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
Jordan Davis- DT, Georgia
With their third pick in the first round, the Eagles draft Fletcher Cox’s replacement. After all, why not have Davis learn from the former All-Pro veteran? Davis is a freak; standing 6’6 weighing 340 pounds and reportedly runs a sub-5.0 40 yard dash. This behemoth of a player can eat up double (and triple) team blocks easily, which may not show up in the box score, but puts his teammates in a place to succeed.
22. Miami Dolphins
Devin Lloyd- LB, Utah
There’s an old football cliché that linebackers should be the quarterback of the defensive. They need to quickly diagnose plays, make pre-snap reads, and most importantly, communicate to the other ten players on the field. Lloyd can do all of that better than most linebackers coming out of college. He is also a high-motor, physical defender. At 6’3, 230 pounds, Lloyd can be a nuisance for tackles when he lines up on the edge. The only part of his game that is lacking is top-tier athleticism. He is fast, just not twitchy; he can cover a good distance but might be the second defender to reach the ball carrier instead of the first. At any rate, Miami gets a future defensive captain and locker room leader.
23. Las Angeles Chargers
Trevor Penning- OT, Northern Iowa
Possibly the strongest tackle in the class, Penning routinely clamps down on rushers and imposes his will. At 6’7, 340 pounds, you’d expect nothing less. Let me repeat that- 6’7, 340 pounds. Still, the best part of his game may be his hand technique. He constantly shuts down counter-moves and delivers pop with his hands. If he can make his lower half as refined as his upper, he’ll keep QB Justin Herbert happy for a long time.
24. Detroit Lions
Drake London- WR, USC
The Lions replace the departed Kenny Golladay with another large target. London is 6’5, 210 pounds with long arms. He has an unreal catch radius and is a physical player, which should help him against NFL-level press coverage. Despite quick feet, he isn’t a burner.
25. Baltimore Ravens
Ahmad Gardner- CB, Cincinnati
At Cincinnati, they called him “Sauce”, but if that doesn’t tell you enough, maybe putting on his tape and seeing his fluidity will. Gardner is a great athlete that moves well. He can change directions on a dime, helping cover even the shiftiest of receivers, and has the closing speed to make plays. Route combinations rarely confuse him and he seems to always be in the right place at the right time. He has the tools required to be a starting-caliber NFL CB.
26. Dallas Cowboys
Jaquan Brisker- Safety, Penn State
Brisker has good open-field awareness in the passing game- he can diagnose routes and track WRs through smoke screens. In a class full of freakishly athletic safeties, his mental prowess sets him apart from others. Great speed in the field gives him sideline-to-sideline range. Occasionally, he will spend too much time trying to diagnose a play instead of making a play. He will need to acclimate himself to the speed of the NFL and trust himself to react quickly in order to succeed but has shown that he has the potential to do so.
27. Kansas City Chiefs
Treylon Burks- WR, Arkansas
At 6’3, 225 pounds, Burks will be a big target for QB Patrick Mahomes. Burks is a strong receiver who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty by blocking in the run game. His strength lets him power through first contact and gains valuable YAC. If Burkes can expand his route tree and avoid dropping the occasional easy catch, he may become a threat in the AFC West.
28. Arizona Cardinals
Nakobe Dean- LB, Geaorgia
Dean would pair well with linebacker/hybrid defender Isaiah Simmons and if nothing else, he would provide balance to the LB room. He is a more traditional middle linebacker, while Simmons plays all over the field, lining up wherever asked. Dean is primarily a run stopper for Georgia but is fast enough to rush the passer in blitz packages.
29. Tennessee Titans
Kingsley Enagbare- Edge, South Carolina
After returning for his senior season for the Gamecocks, Enagbare worked himself into a late first-round pick. At 6’4, 265 pounds, he can switch between a 3-technique DT in a 4-3 scheme or DE in a 3-4. While some “switch” tackles struggle with burst on the outside, Enagbare shouldn’t. He constantly chases down running backs or scrambles quarterbacks out of the backfield. If he can stay healthy, he could be a disruptive force in Tennessee.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jermaine Johnson- Edge, Florida State University
One of the biggest risers in college football last year after transferring to FSU, Johnson showed outstanding hustle and pass rush ability week after week. Johnson is a versatile defender, lining up inside and out. That versatility goes a step further as he can adequately drop back in coverage, and while that isn’t his forte, he is well equipped to take away check-downs and flat routes. The 6’5, 260-pound end is able to produce from anywhere on the front line. Here, Tampa Bay beefs up their D-line here while preparing for the eventual departure of JPP.
31. New England Patriots
Kenneth Walker III- RB, Michigan State
If the consolation prize for being a Heisman snub is getting drafted by the perennially successful Patriots, I think Walker would be okay with that. The supremely athletic and talented back is able to hit holes and shed arm tackles, giving him big-play potential. Out of the backfield, he has shown that he has to receive ability, though the MSU scheme limited him there. The 5’10, 210 pound RB is agile with decent lane vision and does not shy away from contact. All he really lacks is true breakaway speed, but watching his tape shows that he can be productive at the next level.
32. Green Bay Packers
Malik Willis- QB, Liberty
This is with the assumption that Aaron Rodgers will not be with the team past this season. Willis is an electric player, able to scramble in the pocket or downfield as well as throw anywhere on the field. Coach Matt LaFleur will likely work wonders with Willis’ decision-making, which is his worst attribute. Turning the ball over is the biggest red flag here. With the right coach, Willis could become the league’s next dynamic QB in the same vein as Lamar Jackson.
Thank you for reading.
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