2022 NFL Mock Draft: 1.0 Edition

As the wildest NFL offseason in recent memory — if not ever — continues to unfold, the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft is shaping up to be just as unpredictable.

With this draft class lacking the typical buffet of budding superstar quarterbacks and blue-chip positional prospects at the very top, this was initially viewed to be a ‘down’ year. But instead, it looks to be one of the deepest drafts in quite a while, as teams can expect to find starting-caliber talent three to four rounds deep and intriguing developmental talent well beyond the seven rounds of official selections.

Of course, it all starts with the first round. And approximately one month ahead of the commissioner coming to the podium to open the proceedings, we’re no closer to a consensus on how night one of the draft is going to play out than we were in January — which just adds to the excitement and enjoyment of doing this year after year.

With that being said, I am pleased to present my 2022 NFL Mock Draft 1.0. These first-round projections are based on the current draft order and my impression of team needs as of March 26, and do not reflect any potential trade scenarios. Enjoy!

1 | Jacksonville Jaguars — Aidan Hutchison, EDGE, Michigan
For the second straight draft, the Jaguars find themselves picking first. With last year’s selection of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the choice comes down to a top pass rusher or a top offensive tackle. Aidan Hutchinson is a safe prospect and a safe bet to be the first player off the board.

2 | Detroit Lions — Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
The Lions could press for a quarterback here, but they would be better served taking the best defender on their board. If it’s not Hutchinson, it could be Travon Walker, whose rise has been one of the most interesting storylines to watch this draft season. If he lives up to his pro projection, he could be a dominant force for Detroit for many years to come.

3 | Houston Texans — Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
After effectively hitting the reset button each of the past two offseasons, the Texans finally have premium draft capital again and expect to build around quarterback Davis Mills, who showed promise in his rookie campaign. With that in mind, it would be no surprise if offensive tackle Evan Neal was on short list of options and ultimately the selection here.

4 | New York Jets — Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Once projected to be the headliner of this draft class before he was even eligible to declare, Kayvon Thibodeaux has seen his stock cool to a degree throughout the process. But, there’s no denying the talent and potential to be an impact pass rusher from day one. The Jets would be hard-pressed to pass if he were to be available when they go on the clock at #4.

5 | New York Giants — Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
The Giants’ offense has been a disaster the past couple of seasons, with poor offensive line play contributing to the disappointment. Despite their veteran signings in free agency, a forward-thinking solution is needed to fortify the offense front. Charles Cross has been less heralded than the other edge blockers throughout the process, but would be an instant starter at right tackle.

6 | Carolina Panthers — Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Sam Darnold experiment hasn’t been declared ‘over’ by the Panthers, but it would appear to be trending in that direction with the attention they’ve been giving to the top quarterback prospects in this draft. Malik Willis has arguably been the most impressive and expects to be the first signal caller to hear his name called on draft night.

7 | New York Giants (via CHI) — Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Back on the clock, the Giants turn their attention to defense with cornerback James Bradberry rumored to be on his way out. Should that turn out to be the case, Sauce Gardner heads to New York as the new CB1 and becomes the centerpiece of the secondary under new defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale.

8 | Atlanta Falcons — Drake London, WR, USC
With glaring holes at receiver and pass rusher, the Falcons are one of the most ill-equipped teams at the moment on either side of the passing game. In this case, the need for another playmaker to help new quarterback Marcus Mariota wins out, as Atlanta selects tall target Drake London to pair with Kyle Pitts.

9 | Seattle Seahawks (via DEN) — Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
This would be a surprise slide for Ikem Ekwonu, who expects to be in contention for the first overall pick, but the board doesn’t always fall the way it’s supposed to on draft night. That being said, the Seahawks’ representative should be sprinting to turn in the card if this scenario should play out given their longstanding offensive line woes.

10 | New York Jets (via SEA) — Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
With their second Top-10 selection, the Jets could look at a pass catcher or potentially a corner, but strong consideration would expect to be given to drafting unicorn safety Kyle Hamilton. Considered by many to be the top overall prospect in this draft class, there’s a chance he’s the best player remaining on New York’s board at this juncture.

11 | Washington Commanders — Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
The newly-christened Commanders were thought to be a contender to draft a quarterback, but the trade for Carson Wentz makes the possibility less likely. However, they could have interest in Devin Lloyd as their defensive signal caller after trotting out a string of stop-gap veterans recently. Drafting a first-round linebacker two years in a row probably isn’t ideal resource allocation, but Washington has shown that they will double down on defensive talent in consecutive drafts.

12 | Minnesota Vikings — Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Derek Stingley Jr. exploded onto the scene with his stellar play as a freshman and was projected to be one of the highest-drafted cornerbacks in recent memory once he was eligible. But, it’s been a long, winding road over the past two years that expects to come to an end later in the first round than initially anticipated. With vacancies in the secondary, the Vikings are among the potential investors who could bank on him returning to form.

13 | Houston Texans (via CLE) — Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
With the AFC expecting to be more competitive than ever in the coming years, the Texans’ path back to contention will need to run through their division — which means defending against two of the most potent rushing offenses in the NFL in the Titans and the Colts. Adding the one-of-a-kind Jordan Davis could help tip the scales in the Texans’ favor.

14 | Baltimore Ravens — Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State
With their effort to land free agent and former Raven Za’Darius Smith falling through, the Ravens expect to take another stab at improving their pass rush. Provided they don’t add another name veteran ahead of the draft, Jermaine Johnson II would be an excellent fit on the edge opposite Odafe Oweh.

15 | Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA) — Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The Eagles haven’t had the best of luck drafting wide receivers in recent years, with only last year’s first-rounder DeVonta Smith emerging as a viable offensive weapon from among their high picks. They’ll hope to have similar luck with the selection of Ohio State stud Garrett Wilson.

16 | Philadelphia Eagles (via IND) — George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Staying on the clock with the second of their three first-round selections, adding the relentless George Karlaftis to their stable of edge rushers would give the Eagles an immediate contributor and building block for the future of their defensive front.

17 | Los Angeles Chargers — Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College
The Chargers appear to be on the verge of contending in the AFC and certainly made the investments in their defense this offseason to do so. However, one area where they’re coming into the draft reasonably thin is the offensive line. Zion Johnson could be a name to watch as they look to put complementary players into position alongside left tackle Rashawn Slater and center Corey Linsley.

18 | New Orleans Saints — Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
The Saints expect to be in the market to draft a quarterback, but at this stage it’s still difficult to tell if they prefer any one prospect over the others. But, what is clear is that the departure of Terron Armstead leaves a sizeable void at left tackle. Trevor Penning has performed his way into first-round consideration and would bring aggression and attitude to the Big Easy.

19 | Philadelphia Eagles — Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan
Linebacker might be the most pressing need remaining — but Philadelphia simply doesn’t draft the position in the first round. Alternatively, the Eagles aren’t locked into any safety for the long-term, which could see them look at the position early. Daxton Hill, who might be the most versatile secondary prospect in this class, could be a potential target.

20 | Pittsburgh Steelers — Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Like Carolina, the Steelers have had their eyes on all of the top quarterbacks in this class, even after bringing free agent Mitch Trubisky into the fold. Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett have both been connected to the Steelers early and often, and seem to be the two most likely choices. With Willis off the board here, it’s almost poetic that Pickett gets the nod and gets to remain in Pittsburgh.

21 | New England Patriots — Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
The Patriots released Stephon Gilmore during the season and allowed J.C. Jackson to leave in free agency. Their recourse thus far has been limited to luring Malcolm Butler out of retirement. Drafting a cornerback early would seem to be on the table, with the ultra-competitive Trent McDuffie being a prime candidate to assume CB1 duties in Foxboro.

22 | Green Bay Packers (via LV) — Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
For years, the Packers’ passing game has leaned on Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams and a cast of late-round characters. Now that Adams has been traded away to the Raiders, the Packers’ need to reload the receiving corps is even more painfully obvious. An early selection of — or perhaps a double-dip starting with — Chris Olave would be a big step in the right direction.

23 | Arizona Cardinals — Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
With Chandler Jones charting a path northwest to Las Vegas, edge rusher is likely the more urgent front-seven need and certainly the case can be made for offensive line help as well. But, the Cardinals could also look at adding an active interior disruptor in Devonte Wyatt to replace the released Jordan Phillips.

24 | Dallas Cowboys — Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
This offseason, the Cowboys effectively created more holes for themselves to address coming into the draft, but one that has been lingering since before season’s end has been a long-term answer at left guard. To that end, the Cowboys have been and are reported to continue doing their due diligence on Kenyon Green, who is an NFL-ready interior blocker and would be a step-in starter for Dallas.

25 | Buffalo Bills — Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
The Bills appear to be on the cusp of joining the NFL’s elite and a strong roster is certainly an indication of that. After bringing in front-seven reinforcements in free agency, their draft focus could be on the defensive backfield, putting a well-rounded, physical cornerback like Andrew Booth Jr. in play.

26 | Tennessee Titans — Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
The Titans are a team that I think could be a dark horse candidate to draft a first-round quarterback. That said, with a firm grasp on the AFC South, their early approach is more likely to involve adding more firepower to compete now. Treylon Burks is a big, athletic target who could be deployed in a variety of ways by Tennessee.

27 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut
Tom Brady had a cup of coffee with retirement, but is now back to captain the ship in Tampa. And with his return, much of the uncertainty with the Bucs’ offensive personnel was washed away. The defensive line, though, is a different story. Travis Jones has been a riser at every stage of the draft process and could be a strong consideration here late in the first round.

28 | Green Bay Packers — Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
I wouldn’t rule out the Packers drafting an offensive lineman with their second first-round selection, but perhaps they throw caution to the wind and, like wide receiver, draft another position early that they historically don’t. With the exception of his size, Nakobe Dean has everything you look for in a linebacker and would be a premium value selection here for Green Bay.

29 | Kansas City Chiefs (via SF thru MIA) — Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
With back-to-back selections in the first round now, I expect the Chiefs to leverage one to trade up or to draft an injured top prospect at a bargain — with Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams and Michigan edge David Ojabo being the obvious candidates. Seeing that Tyreek Hill was traded away, Williams makes sense as the new high-speed target for Andy Reid’s offense once he’s back to 100%.

30 | Kansas City Chiefs — Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
The Chiefs have taken different approaches to bring consistency to their pass rush, but are a few years removed from their last attempt to address the edge with a first-round prospect. Boye Mafe has impressed throughout the process and could be in the mix as as night one of the draft comes to a close.

31 | Cincinnati Bengals — Tyler Linderbaum, OC, Iowa
The Bengals came up just short of completing an incredible two-year turnaround with a Lombardi Trophy. Heading into the offseason, they knew they would need to drastically improve the offensive line to earn another opportunity at a Super Bowl and have done an admirable job shoring up their front in free agency. They could view stud center Tyler Linderbaum as the last piece of that puzzle.

32 | Detroit Lions — Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
As noted earlier, the Lions could go quarterback at #2, but #32 and #34 overall might be more likely, with the final pick in the first round being the more favored draft position thanks to the prized fifth-year option. In this scenario, the Lions have Matt Corral, Desmond Ridder, and Sam Howell still on the board. I’ll pencil in Ridder, a proven leader from a blue-collar program, which could appeal to the Detroit front office.

Jason Pruett

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