DRAFTPLEX 2023 NFL Mock Draft: 1.0 Edition projections are based on the current first-round draft order and personal impressions of team needs and interests as of March 22, and do not represent any potential trade scenarios.
The moment of truth has arrived. The 2022 NFL Draft is finally here and after spending hours evaluating, questioning, changing, agonizing, and changing again, my final selections are now locked in.
And I have to be honest — I feel both a sense of confidence in my projections and a sense of dread that those that did not make the final cut will factor into how the draft plays out Thursday night. But, this is what I’m going to let ride.
With that being said, I am pleased to present my final 2022 NFL Mock Draft. These first-round projections are based on the current draft order and my impression of team needs heading into the draft. And while many may be implied, there are no potential trade scenarios being projected.
Enjoy the mock and enjoy the draft!
1 | Jacksonville Jaguars — Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia It is rare that the first overall pick remains a relative mystery headed into draft week, but here we are. Aidan Hutchinson is still the favorite, but the meteoric rise of Travon Walker has him firmly in the conversation. Against my better judgment, I’m following the smoke and serving a last-minute swerve at #1.
2 | Detroit Lions — Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan If the first card turned into the commissioner doesn’t read Aidan Hutchinson, the second absolutely will. The fit is almost too perfect for the Lions. We’ll see if the scenario is too good to be true on Thursday.
3 | Houston Texans — Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU What the Texans do with the third overall pick was the most difficult projection for me to make, because I think it sets the tone for the first half of the draft. An offensive tackle makes total sense, as would a pass rusher. There is also Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner, who has been connected to Houston and was going to be my pick for them coming into this final exercise. But, I wonder about Derek Stingley Jr. and if a team were completely comfortable with him as a prospect after doing their homework, where he would go. While the more likely marriage between team and player is at #13 or in a trade-back scenario, I’m taking a leap that Derek Stingley Jr. becomes the next Texan at #3.
4 | New York Jets — Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon As a prospect, the personality is polarizing, but the talent is elite. Of course, we’re talking about Kayvon Thibodeaux. I am confident that if he remains on the board at #4, the Jets will bank on the promise that under the bright lights of Broadway, a star is born.
5 | New York Giants — Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State If this scenario plays out, the Giants have all of the top offensive linemen still on the board. Any one of Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu, or Charles Cross could realistically be the selection, but in a mild upset, my projection is Cross, who they reportedly favor among the trio.
6 | Carolina Panthers — Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State The Panthers have been all over the quarterbacks in this class, but at this point, I really wonder if they will go all in here when the time comes Thursday night. Having Ikem Ekwonu and Evan Neal (or potentially Charles Cross) still on the board only makes that decision more difficult. If they stand in and pick, I think they pass on a passer and draft a tackle — in this case, Ekwonu.
7 | New York Giants (via CHI) — Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner, CB, Cincinnati The Giants have been closely linked to Sauce Gardner throughout the process and he’s likely in consideration for them at #5. Unless another team steals him away, I don’t see a scenario where Sauce doesn’t become a Giant.
8 | Atlanta Falcons — Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State What the Falcons do at #8 is another pivotal point in the draft sequence Thursday night. They could draft a quarterback, draft the best player available still on the board (in this case, tackle Evan Neal), trigger the run on receivers, or draft a pass rusher. As badly as I believe they need offensive help, I have them taking Jermaine Johnson II and then looking to add weapons on day two of the draft.
9 | Seattle Seahawks (via DEN) — Evan Neal, OT, Alabama I think the Seahawks are in position to land a prospect receiving Top-5 consideration. As it turns out here, they are in position to land Evan Neal, a prospect who has and should still be receiving consideration at #1 overall. Neal would bring blue-chip talent to an offensive line that desperately needs it.
10 | New York Jets (via SEA) — Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama The Jets made a play for Tyreek Hill and are reportedly interested in trading for Deebo Samuel, so they are clearly looking to upgrade their receiver corps. While Garrett Wilson and Drake London would make sense, I am actually projecting Jameson Williams, who looks to be on track to a full, speedy recovery from his ACL tear, to be the first receiver off the board and on his way to New York.
11 | Washington Commanders — Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State The Commanders likewise have been linked to the top group of receivers, specifically the Ohio State duo of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. If Wilson ends up going to the Falcons or the Jets, I think Olave will be the pick. But, in this case, Wilson is there for the taking and is off to Washington to join fellow Buckeyes Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel in the Commanders’ receiving corps.
12 | Minnesota Vikings — Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame Kyle Hamilton has had a rollercoaster of a draft season and may now have the widest projected range of any top prospect based on the evaluation of his ability and the valuation of the position he plays. I personally feel his range is between picks 11-15 at this stage, which would put the Vikings in play as a suitor, especially with Derek Stingley Jr. off the board.
13 | Houston Texans (via CLE) — Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah Lovie Smith defenses are known for having stud linebackers. If a pass rusher they covet isn’t on the board after they secure their choice of cornerback, I could see Devin Lloyd being a consideration for the Texans at #13 or in a trade-back scenario.
14 | Baltimore Ravens — George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue The Ravens could go in a number of different ways here, but perhaps the top consideration is an edge rusher to pair with Odafe Oweh. I think the most likely options in this range would be Jermaine Johnson II and George Karlaftis. With Johnson off the board, it’s Karlaftis.
15 | Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA) — Drake London, WR, USC The Eagles continue the mid-first run on wide receivers, drafting Drake London, who would pair with last year’s first-round selection DeVonta Smith and provide a big, athletic target for quarterback Jalen Hurts.
16 | New Orleans Saints (via IND thru PHI) — Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State The Saints are another team with designs on drafting a wide receiver, with Chris Olave being perhaps the most popular target. Here, the board falls in their favor.
17 | Los Angeles Chargers — Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College The Chargers have been linked to different prospects here, but the offensive line seems to be where they have the most to sort out. Tackle Trevor Penning is a possibility, but I think it might be Zion Johnson who is primed to appear next season in powder blue.
18 | Philadelphia Eagles — Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington Back on the clock, the Eagles expect to turn their attention to defense with their second first-round pick, with cornerback and safety being the most likely considerations. I would look at Trent McDuffie being the pick here and becoming an instant starter for Philadelphia.
19 | New Orleans Saints — Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia The Saints expect to address both trenches at some point early in the draft. With that in mind, drafting either Jordan Davis or Devonte Wyatt from Georgia would go a long way toward strengthening the interior defensive line, with Davis being my pick for the Saints here.
20 | Pittsburgh Steelers — Malik Willis, QB, Liberty Like Carolina, Pittsburgh has done their due diligence on this quarterback class. But, I think the Steelers are in less of a panic position than the Panthers, and thus, can afford to let the board fall to them. But, I’m not sure that they do. That said, while they are able to draft the quarterback I believe they favor — Malik Willis — here at #20 in this scenario, I can see them making a play to move up, perhaps into the Top-10, to come away with him.
21 | New England Patriots — Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa After bouncing Trevor Penning around in various draft positions and destinations as I worked through this final mock, I landed on the Patriots — and really liked the player-team fit. Their offensive line is in a state of flux and they may also be willing to move up to get the blocker of their choosing, which puts Penning in the mix. Zion Johnson was the other name I looked at here for New England before bumping him up to the Chargers.
22 | Green Bay Packers (via LV) — Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan Will the Packers pass on drafting a receiver with their first of two first-round picks? Perhaps! I have them drafting Daxton Hill, whose versatility would be a valuable addition to the secondary now and in the future in Green Bay.
23 | Arizona Cardinals — Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State There is always a surprise or two on draft night and this would be no exception. Arnold Ebiketie is not a name commonly found in the Top-25, but is worthy of first-round consideration — especially for a team like Arizona that needs an edge and will likely be wiped out if they wait until they come back around on the clock in the second round. I think Ebiketie is also a trade-back option for the Cardinals in case a team wants to move up.
24 | Dallas Cowboys — Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M Wide receiver, pass rusher, and offensive line look to be the Cowboys first-round targets. That said, I think they are focused in on addressing left guard and will end up doing so with Kenyon Green, who will be a plug-and-play starter for Dallas.
25 | Buffalo Bills — Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State The Bills have an obvious need at cornerback that I’ve addressed with Andrew Booth Jr. in both of my previous 2022 mock drafts. But, here, I’m being a little reckless and having them finally drafting a first-round running back like it seems like we’ve all been projecting them to do for years. Breece Hall, welcome to Buffalo!
26 | Tennessee Titans — Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati Yes, the Titans are in win-now mode, but after coming up short this post-season, you have to wonder if their quarterback play with Ryan Tannehill is good enough to win now in a stacked AFC. With that in mind, the Titans might consider bringing in either Kenny Pickett or, my pick here, Desmond Ridder to push Tannehill.
27 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Devonte Wyatt, DT, Connecticut Tampa Bay has work to do on both lines, but late in the first round and with this scenario playing out as it has, offensive line help is probably not the value play. The interior defensive line, however, could receive a tremendous boost with the addition of Devonte Wyatt, who expects to go in this range.
28 | Green Bay Packers — Logan Hall, DL, Houston Will the Packers also pass on drafting a receiver with their second of two first-round picks? Apparently so! I feel like Logan Hall is making a late push for first-round consideration and the Packers could be the team to take him off the board. They still have two seconds and can also put together a package to trade up for one of the receivers in the next tier, such as Skyy Moore or Christian Watson, if they would like.
29 | Kansas City Chiefs (via SF thru MIA) — Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida The Chiefs are in a similar situation as the Packers, with receiver being a primary need and a likely target with one of their two first-round picks. But, they also have two seconds and can also put together a package to trade up on night two of the draft. They are also in prime position to trade back for a team wanting to jump back into the first round. Whether they stay or go, I think one of their early picks will be allocated to cornerback, with Kaiir Elam being my pick.
30 | Kansas City Chiefs — Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota Same story here, but with the twist I mentioned with Arizona’s pick. The Chiefs need help on the edge, but probably miss out on a player they want if they wait until the second round. Like Arnold Ebiketie, I think Boye Mafe is worthy of consideration in the late-first, with Kansas City being in the conversation to take him off the board.
31 | Cincinnati Bengals — Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington It’s difficult not just slotting in center Tyler Linderbaum to the Bengals and calling it a day. But, I think they might feel good about what they’ve done with their offensive line through free agency, and if they do decide to draft a center, are fine to do so on Friday or Saturday. Alternatively, I think cornerback is a consideration, where I decided to go with Kyler Gordon, who is in the late-first round mix.
32 | Detroit Lions — George Pickens, WR, Georgia I feel like George Pickens gets his name called at some point late on Thursday night, with Green Bay and Kansas City being the most likely to turn in his card, but what about Detroit? Aside from the physical talent, there’s a grit and intensity to his game that would seem to appeal to the Lions. If they don’t draft a potential successor to Jared Goff or another team doesn’t trade up with quarterback aspirations of their own, maybe Pickens is the pick and Goff gets another chance to find success with better talent around him.
This marks my sixth year of Drafting Dallas and while the format and frequency has changed over the years, the objective remains the same — I assume front office duties to mock draft the full seven rounds for the Cowboys using my DRAFTPLEX Board and the current official draft order.
For this year’s edition, I made my selections as realistically as I could based on my evaluations, my impressions of the team’s pre-draft activities, and how the board could potentially fall in one scenario. Unlike previous years, where I drafted from a short list of players that I personally expected to be available at the given selection, I put my approach to the test by basing Drafting Dallas on my selections for the Cowboys in my annual seven-round NFL Draft Super Mock.
With that in mind, let’s go on the clock with Drafting Dallas 2022.
Round 1 | Pick 24 Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
It’s no secret that the Cowboys are strongly considering an offensive lineman early in this draft, with Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross, Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green, and Boston College guard Zion Johnson being the most high-profile targets. Of the three, I rank Cross the highest and personally consider the player to be a Top-10 prospect in this draft. However, as with countless prospects in this year’s draft pool, evaluations and expectations are all over the map. In any event, there is a scenario that can play out where Cross is on the board when the Cowboys come up on the clock in the first round. If he were to be available, I personally think it is a no-brainer to make the pick. A plug-and-play guard, yes, would be ideal for the now, but the need for a left tackle of the future to succeed future Hall of Famer Tyron Smith creeps closer every year. Cross has the potential to be that long-term replacement while serving as a swing tackle and possibly the starting right tackle if the Cowboys wish to have him compete with Terence Steele.
Round 2 | Pick 56 Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia
With Dalton Schultz receiving the franchise tag for 2022 and with no signs of them inking the late-bloomer to a long-term deal, it would seem readily apparent that Dallas is taking aim at the tight end position yet again and looking to draft a new starter for 2023. There are a few names that span the middle rounds in whom Dallas reportedly has interest, but the most intriguing talent of the group is Virginia tight end Jelani Woods, who has had a slam-dunk draft season stretching from the Shrine Bowl to the NFL Scouting Combine to the Cavaliers’ Pro Day. I understand the optics here might point to Woods being a reach, but with his incredible size, raw talent and potential, and off-the-charts athletic profile grabbing attention, I view this selection as the Cowboys taking their guy when they have the opportunity to do so and not operating with the expectation he would still be on the board when they come back around on the clock deep in the third round. Because I don’t think he will be.
Round 3 | Pick 88 Sam Williams, EDGE, Ole Miss
Parting ways with edge Randy Gregory in very newsworthy fashion, the Cowboys are down an impact pass rusher that helped their defense emerge as a veritable force in 2022. While they still have star end DeMarcus Lawrence, return Dorance Armstrong, Tarell Basham, and Chauncey Golston, and are adding former first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. to the mix, the spot opposite Lawrence does seem prime for new blood. Sam Williams from Ole Miss is a prospect Dallas has shown interest in and who would appear to have the tools and traits to compete for that starter role. However, in addition to his early-round tape and testing evaluation, he also comes with off-field red flags that the team will need to sort through, which is why he could end up being available in this range. That said, it wouldn’t be the first time the organization has gambled on a talented pass rusher with a history of headlines — look no further than the player Williams would effectively be replacing.
Round 4 | Pick 129 Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State
With former WR1 Amari Cooper traded to Cleveland and productive role player Cedric Wilson departing in free agency, a starting-caliber wide receiver is certainly a strong consideration for the Cowboys in the first three rounds. On one hand, it makes sense to think that Dallas desperately needs to draft a direct replacement for Cooper — but, on the other, it seems like they already had that idea in mind in 2020 when they drafted CeeDee Lamb. This is how I view their de-prioritization, if you can call it that, of the wide receiver position in the draft in this scenario — Lamb is elevated from 1B to simply WR1, with the re-signed Michael Gallup eventually returning from injury to his established WR2 role, and veteran James Washington being signed as a bridge and floating between the WR3/WR4 role. Thus, I don’t have the Cowboys looking at a receiver high, but instead plucking a complementary pass catcher from their long-standing Boise State pipeline in Khalil Shakir, a route technician and separator who could operate in the slot and replace the snaps and a level of the production lost with the exits of Cooper and Wilson.
I would expect the Cowboys to consider investing at least two draft picks into the offensive line and if they were to have a chance to draft Charles Cross or another tackle early, such as in this scenario, then that would mean hunting for a potential starter at left guard in the middle rounds. North Carolina offensive lineman Joshua Ezeudu could be a candidate. He has flown relatively under the radar this draft season, but an appearance on the Cowboys’ 30-visit list now has him fully under the microscope. Ezeudu might not be a runaway favorite for the opening at left guard, but he would certainly compete for the starting role and at the very least provide valuable depth with his inside-outside position flex, having started at both guard and tackle in college.
Round 5 | Pick 167 Cade York, K, LSU
Placekicker has been a rollercoaster of a role for the Cowboys since the waning days of Dan Bailey in Dallas. Between Brett Maher, Kai Forbath, and Greg Zuerlein, the Cowboys have tried the street free agent route, the journeyman signing, and the big-name acquisition to lock down a leg the past few years, but with consistently inconsistent results. With Zuerlein being released after two up-and-down seasons and no immediate replacement on the roster, it would seem that they might finally look to the draft for a kicker. Cade York has a claim to being the top kicking prospect in this draft class and could very well have his named called by the Cowboys on day three.
Getting deep into the draft, I looked at the Cowboys filling specific roles with contributors who could emerge as potential starters in a year or two. With Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, and Donovan Wilson all returning, the top-end of the safety rotation appears to be set, but I could see Dallas adding a prospect to that mix. I personally like Delarrin Turner-Yell from Oklahoma for that role. Running back Ty Chandler I also like more than most and would not be surprised to see him go off the board earlier than the fifth round. I would also not be surprised to see him as a lead back for a team in 2023 or 2024 — and that could include Dallas depending on what the future holds for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard as soon as next offseason. Finally, with Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons’ current support at linebacker limited to Leighton Vander Esch and special-teamer Luke Gifford returning on one-year deals and the promising Jabril Cox returning from a torn ACL, I expect the Cowboys to look at drafting at least one linebacker and bringing more in as priority free agents. Of the prospects expected available in this range, linebacker Aaron Hansford from Texas A&M looks to have tools and traits that would play well in Dan Quinn’s defense and could get a call from the Cowboys to head up the road from College Station.