It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Draft SZN! Well, I have said that before, but still, now it’s actually the same year as the 2022 NFL Draft. It only seems fit to kickoff the new year with a new mock, with a new draft order, new players, new analysis, and of course, new nonsense that will look completely different come April.
If you are looking for more draft coverage, including mocks, player rankings, and of course, Patriots analysis, check out Tailgate Talks, a podcast where myself and my co-host Bobby talk all things football, and will be diving deep into the NFL Draft.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Let me start by saying that in a perfect world, the Jaguars would trade down from this pick. This team needs a serious influx of talent on both sides of the ball, and if there was a quarterback worthy of a top 5 pick in this year’s class, they could get a package of picks to help them fill premium positions. But alas, this is not a perfect world, and the Jags are, shockingly, not a perfect team. The goal of this draft, and the goal of the next coaching regime to come in, is simple; help Trevor Lawrence develop. Neal is the best tackle prospect in this draft class and is an athletic freak at 6’7 350. In 532 pass blocking snaps this season, while protecting Heisman winner Bryce Young’s blindside, Neal allowed just a single sack, and against SEC pass rushers none the less. The Jacksonville offense needs a ton of help, and Neal is a projected long-term, high-level starter at a premium position. It won’t fix this offense, but it will certainly help.
2. Detroit Lions: Edge Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
We know Detroit needs a quarterback, but as I mentioned before, there isn’t one worth taking here. After quarterback, the Lions need to focus on one thing, talent. Hutchinson, Pro Football Focus’s highest graded edge defender in college football this season, dominated this year, finishing 3rd in the nation with 14 sacks, most notably 3 in an upset win over Ohio State in which he had 15 QB pressures. Detroit adding an in-state star is a good storyline, and he would give them a huge boost on their young defensive line. Plus, he just seems like a Dan Campbell kind of player, right?
3. Houston Texans: Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Another QB needy team picking too high to take a QB, so instead they take the best player available. Davis Mills is playing well enough to warrant another chance to be the quarterback on this team, which allows Houston to take the ultra-athletic Thibodeaux, the Oregon edge rusher and former top overall recruit. A star player at a high importance position will be a huge step in the right direction for the struggling franchise.
4. New York Jets: CB Derek Stingley Jr, LSU
The Jets spent most of their draft capital last year on offense, drafting a QB, offensive linemen, a wide receiver and a running back in the first 4 rounds. It only seems right defensive minded head coach Robert Salah would want to take some high-level defensive talent to help his young, struggling defense. Stingley Jr burst onto the scene in 2019 when he had one of the best seasons by a freshmen corner in college football history as part of LSU’s undefeated national championship team. Stingley has dealt with some injuries since then, but his athletic profile and coverage skills are something to behold. There will be questions around him, but Stingley has top-5 cornerback potential.
5. New York Giants: OL Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
Head coach Joe Judge and quarterback Daniel Jones are getting another chance in 2022, so the Giants need to draft to make them successful. One thing the Giants need to address is their abysmal offensive line. Whether Ekwonu, a monster at 6’4, 320 pounds, plays guard or tackle in the NFL, he will be an absolute force in the run game and can develop into a top offensive lineman in the league. With 2 early picks in the draft, this would be a good start for the Giants.
6. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks): Edge George Karlaftis, Purdue
Remember when the Seahawks traded 2 first round picks for Jamal Adams? Yeah, not looking good for the Seahawks now. Meanwhile, this is a huge win for the Jets, who after addressing the secondary with the Stingley pick, pickup Karlaftis, another freakishly strong edge rusher who will likely just outwork anyone he goes up against. If Carl Lawson, the pass rusher signed last offseason who suffered an Achilles injury ahead of the 2021 season, can return, he and Karlaftis could be a nightmare pass rush duo in the AFC East for a long time.
7. Carolina Panthers: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
We all know Carolina has a quarterback problem, but with Sam Darnold already getting his 5th year option paid next year, little draft capital, a quarterback class that isn’t as strong as in past years, and lack of available money, forcing a rookie signal caller into this situation doesn’t make a ton of sense. The Panthers offensive line is a big reason why Darnold, Cam Newton, and PJ Walker have struggled this season, and Cross provides a young, long-term option at tackle going forward.
8. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears): Edge David Ojabo, Michigan
I’m not as high as others on Ojabo yet, but that could soon change. Ojabo is an athletic freak (yes, I know I have said that a lot so far), that has only been playing football for a few years, and is still learning the game. For a kid who barely knows what he is doing, it’s impressive that Ojabo put up 11 sacks this season. The Giants have essentially no pass rush, and no illusions of competing soon, so taking a high potential project in Ojabo is a good move that could pay off big.
9. Washington Football Team: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
It’s real simple here. The Washington Football Team needs a quarterback, and they need to take the best one available, and at this point in the draft process, it’s Pickett. The Heisman finalist threw 42 touchdown passes this season on route to an ACC Championship and has had an almost Joe Burrow-like rise to the top of quarterback boards. Pickett is seasoned, mobile, and can step in as the starter for Washington on day 1. They don’t need to overthink this.
10. Atlanta Falcons: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
There are a few directions that the Falcons could go, and what they do with Matt Ryan and his massive contract is still up in the air, but the fact is, they need to address the quarterback position soon. Corral, who I think has the most swagger of any quarterback in this class (personally one of my top characteristics) could come in, learn behind Ryan for a season, and take over if they are able to move on from him. Receiver is a possibility here as well, and basically anywhere on the defensive side of the ball.
11. Denver Broncos: LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
We all know the Broncos need a quarterback, but I am more than convinced that they will look to address that with a veteran option. If a trade doesn’t include their 1st round pick, addressing the thin linebacker spot with Dean would be a great move. A rangy athlete who was a leader on Georgia’s top ranked defense, Dean is a long-term starter who fills an immediate need for Denver and, if they get a veteran QB, could be a championship piece.
12. Minnesota Vikings: CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
It seems like I mock a cornerback to the Vikings every year, and that will likely continue until they can figure out this defensive backfield. Gardner is a physical corner who has dominated for the playoff bound Bearcats, against both group of 5 and power 5 competition, and can step in day 1 for Minnesota.
13. New Orleans Saints: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
Williams transferred out of Ohio State after being stuck in a super talented and crowded wide receiver room that featured 2 players I will talk about later in this round, and it was the best decision he could have made. A Biletnikoff finalist, Jameson featured his insane downfield speed and shiftiness with Bryce Young throwing to him this season. The Saints should get Michael Thomas back next season, but they will need more help on this offensive side of the ball, and Williams offers a downfield threat they have lacked for a long time.
14. Cleveland Browns: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
As I mentioned before, Williams was stuck behind talented wideouts at OSU including Wilson, my top WR for this year. A surehanded route runner who always seems to find a way to win downfield, Wilson can be a weapon in any offense. Cleveland finally moved on from Odell Beckham Jr this season, and is left with a group of young, unproven players and veteran Jarvis Landry at the position. Wilson offers a big-time upgrade and will help whoever is playing quarterback for Cleveland next season.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: OC Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Ben Roethlisberger is on his way out of Pittsburgh, we all know this. At this pick, with Corral and Pickett off the board, I don’t see a QB worth taking a chance on, especially with the abysmal state of their offensive line. Linderbaum, even being a center and thus a low impact position, is arguably a top 10 player in this class, and can help stabilize the Steelers line and help open holes in the run game for last year’s first round running back, Najee Harris. Pitt will need to address QB at some point, but going the veteran route and using the draft to upgrade their offensive line would be a good route to go.
16. Los Angeles Chargers: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Finally, the slide stops for Hamilton, a consensus top 5 player on most boards, who falls in this case simply because he plays safety. The Chargers did something similar a few years ago when they took Derwin James after he fell down boards. With James’s injury issues piling up, Hamilton is a talent grab and a potential replacement for James.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: WR Drake London, USC
We all know what happened to Henry Ruggs, and since he was let go, the Raiders offense has struggled mightily. London, prior to suffering an ankle injury that cut his season short, was on pace for a Biletnikoff season. He’s big (6’5, 210), moves well, has a large catch radius, and he is simply very difficult to tackle. A better version of his former teammate and current Colts star Michael Pittman Jr, London will give Derek Carr a strong outside weapon that the Raiders have been trying to get him for years.
18. Baltimore Ravens: OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Baltimore has been decimated by injuries this season, so assessing their biggest needs is difficult as they could easily just have players return next season. The offensive line needs help, and Green, a tweener linemen who could be a guard or tackle at the next level, offers the Ravens a young and flexible talent to help their line while they continue to take advantage of their Super Bowl window.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins): CB Andrew Booth Jr, Clemson
It feels strange not to finally be mentioning the Eagles, who at one point this season were in line for 3 top 10 picks! But with their own success and the success of the Dolphins and Colts, top 10 isn’t looking likely. Of the many needs on this team, the defensive backfield needs a boost, and Booth Jr, a long corner with strong coverage skills, fits right in and gives them something they desperately need, youth at a premium position.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Edge Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina
Speaking of premium positions, edge rusher is another position for the Eagles to target. Enagbare brings a size/speed combination that can develop on the Eagles deep defensive line behind veteran stars including Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham.
21. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers): OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
We are seeing the potential Tua Tagovailoa has during this Dolphins 7 game winning streak, and it seems that what will continue to hold them back is their offensive line. Penning may come from a smaller school, but is a big, athletic freak who is scratching the surface of his potential as a pass protector. They will need veteran help as well, but Penning could be their left tackle of the future.
22. New England Patriots: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
It pains me to mock a wide receiver to the Patriots in the 1st round, but hey, we need it! Olave’s straight line speed will give the Pats a weapon they hoped Nelson Agholor would be, and his ability to win at the catchpoint and smooth route running make him strong red zone threat, part of how he set the all-time record for touchdown catches at Ohio State.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts): QB Sam Howell, UNC
Same deal as before, the emphasis for the Eagles will be on premium positions, and yes, quarterback is something they have to look at. Jalen Hurts may have done enough to get another chance, but he is nowhere near locked in as their long-term answer. With 3 first rounders, it would be a mistake for them not to take a shot on another quarterback. Howell is mobile, tough, and has an arm that can make all the throws needed in the NFL. Some questionable decision making is why he falls to 23, but I believe he still offers a ton of upside.
24. Arizona Cardinals: DL DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
Arizona has no issue getting after the quarterback right now, but going forward, that might be an issue. JJ Watt, Chandler Jones, and Markus Golden are all on the wrong side of 30, so Arizona will want to focus on adding youth at the position. Leal is a tweener who can play on the inside of the defensive line and on the edge, with an Aaron Donald body type. Hard to argue with that pick.
25. Buffalo Bills: CB Roger McCreary, Auburn
Tre’Davious White will enter 2022 coming off a season ending injury, and behind him the Bills don’t have much. McCreary put together a strong, consistent career at Auburn and his speed should assist the Bills with stopping players like Tyreek Hill in the AFC.
26. Cincinnati Bengals: DL Jordan Davis, Georgia
I already know what people are going to say. The Bengals need to take an OFFENSIVE lineman, not a defensive one. Well, at this point in the 1st round, I don’t see an offensive big man worth taking. Davis is an absolute unit at 6’6, 340, and is a force when it comes to stopping the run. The Bengals play in a division with the run first Ravens, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and Najee Harris. Not a bad plan to add a giant in the middle of their defensive line.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
I have had a defensive lineman or a defensive back in this spot for a while, but the Chris Godwin injury has me doing a complete 180 toward the offensive. With Godwin out for the year and playing on the franchise tag, I am not sure the Bucs will look to resign him. Dotson’s speed and ball skills can slide into the slot for Tampa Bay, who will look to keep their Super Bowl window open.
28. Detroit Lions: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
The Lions are stuck paying Jared Goff next season no matter what, and that is exactly why I don’t have them reaching for a quarterback in this spot, when frankly, there aren’t any worth taking. The fighting Dan Campbell’s lack talent at a lot of positions, including wide receiver, where they get a steal in Burks, a rocked up, big and fast playmaker who they can pair with rookie star Amon-Ra St. Brown. They can’t pair him with anyone else because, well, they have no other wide receivers.
29. Tennessee Titans: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham has called Lloyd one of the best defensive players to come out of Utah, a program that has produced a lot of NFL defensive talent, so that says something to me. Tennessee could look at a few different positions here, perhaps wide receiver, offensive line, or even quarterback, but taking a sideline to sideline, smart linebacker is a safe bet and will give a boost to their defense.
30. Dallas Cowboys: S Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
The Cowboys have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL and aren’t particularly old anywhere. Safety is one spot they could use an upgrade, and Brisker is a physical playmaker who could fit right in.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Edge Travon Walker, Georgia
Melvin Ingram came in and upgraded the Chiefs pass rush immediately this season, but he is on the older side and Kansas City doesn’t have much youth at the position. Walker is young, and will need time to develop at the next level, but he has rare pass rush skills and a physical profile that will intrigue NFL coaches.
32. Green Bay Packers: OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
Whether Aaron Rodgers is back next year or not, the Packers could use some depth on the offensive line, especially with David Bakhtiari getting toward the end of his career. Raimann is a big man (6’7, 305) who only allowed 10 pressures this past season and won’t have to be forced into the lineup day 1.
Happy New Year!
Image: (Junfu Han – USA Today)
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