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.
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.