2022 NFL Mock Draft: Will Thibodeaux or Hutchinson Go Number One Overall?
Yes the 2022 NFL season has been an absolute whirlwind, and the Los Angeles Rams are our new World Champions; but the hustle and bustle of league activity never ends and it is now draft season! Time for my first 2022 NFL Mock Draft.
By James Pike
Now I will preface this by saying that these selections will change the closer we get to draft night. Free agency is on the horizon, and with the NFL Combine and various pro days just round the corner, this board may look very different by the time that the 28th of April rolls around. Especially when you consider the list of quarterbacks who could potentially be on the move during the off season.
So as you read through this list, please keep an open mind. I will also be doing a second, two round mock draft at a later date, so keep your eyes peeled for that one, but without any further delay please enjoy my first Mock Draft of the year as we look ahead to the 2022 NFL season.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kayvon Thibodeaux — Edge, Oregon
Aidan Hutchinson is the better player right now, and Evan Neal is the better fit, but the Jaguars are enticed by the tantalising upside of one of the most athletic players in this class. Kayvon Thibodeaux gets the nod here.
2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson — Edge, Michigan
Some picks just make themselves in the NFL Draft, and few picks have ever felt more right than the Detroit Lions landing hometown boy Aidan Hutchinson with the second overall pick in 2022. The Lions grab a player they can build their defensive identity around.
3. Houston Texans: Evan Neal — Offensive Tackle, Alabama
The Texans need to acquire talent across multiple positions, and Alabama tackle Evan Neal fits the bill as a player who provides an immediate upgrade to a position of need. His 6’7, 350 pound frame should allow him to be a dominant run blocker from day one who can help protect Davis Mills or whoever the quarterback is moving forward.
4. New York Jets: Kyle Hamilton — Safety, Notre Dame
This might not make the most sense from a positional value standpoint, but Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is too good to pass up here for the Jets. He is arguably the best prospect in this class regardless of position and you can see why. Athleticism, ball skills, tackling, coverage skills and the ability to play in the slot. Hamilton has it all and will be an immediate replacement, and upgrade, over Marcus Maye from day one.
5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu — Offensive Tackle, NC State
New General Manager Joe Schoen has stated he wants to give quarterback Daniel Jones the best possible chance to succeed in 2022. It looks like the Giants are sticking by their signal caller for at least one more season. So to give Jones the best chance at succeeding they need to protect their investment, and Ikem Ekwonu can do just that.
Athletic, excellent mobility, a powerful finisher and devastating hand power, Ekwonu represents what a modern tackle in the NFL should look like, and he will make an immediate impact playing opposite 2020 first rounder Andrew Thomas in 2022.
6. Carolina Panthers: Charles Cross — Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State
The Panthers would have loved for the Giants to pass on Ekwonu, however luck isn’t on their side. The Panthers instead select the next best tackle on the board in Mississippi State standout Charles Cross.
He isn’t a force of nature like the two tackles taken ahead of him, but he is an excellent pass protector who should find success in the NFL at left tackle. Carolina needs all the help they can get rebuilding this offensive line, and they could do a lot worse than Cross.
7. New York Giants (via Chicago): George Karlaftis — Edge, Purdue
The Giants could double down on lineman here, but decide to strengthen on the opposite side of the ball by adding Purdue star George Karlaftis. Karlaftis is a big physically imposing edge rusher who should fit in well with the pieces already in place along the Giants defensive front. The Giants walk away from day one very happy with both of their top ten selections.
8. Atlanta Falcons: David Ojabo — Edge, Michigan
Some will say this is a reach to select David Ojabo this highly in the 2022 Draft, but I believe this is a player who should test ridiculously well at the combine and whose stock will skyrocket because of this. An incredible athlete who is still learning the game; Ojabo has a very high ceiling and for a team who as a whole conjured up less sacks than TJ Watt and Robert Quinn combined in 2021, adding talent on the defensive line is an absolute priority in the off season.
9. Denver Broncos: Derek Stingley Jr, — Cornerback, LSU
Many will argue that this isn’t a position of need for the Broncos after they took Patrick Surtain II with last year’s first round selection, but in the loaded AFC West you can never have enough playmakers in your secondary, and LSU corner Derek Stingley is one of the best in this class. He’s athletic, physical, an excellent tackler with elite coverage skills. Stingley Jr should be the first corner off the board come the 28th of April.
10. New York Jets (via Seattle): Andrew Booth Jr — Cornerback, Clemson
The New York Jets double down on one of their biggest weaknesses from last season and select another elite playmaker in the secondary. Andrew Booth Jr is arguably the most athletic corner in this class, who has the top end speed to run with anyone at the next level. He is also shifty enough to mirror some of the best route runners as well. He needs to work hard to improve his skills in zone, but Robert Saleh will be salivating at the prospect of adding Hamilton and Booth Jr to his defense going into the 2022 season.
11. Washington Commanders: Malik Willis — Quarterback, Liberty
The first quarterback off the board is not one you would expect as Malik Willis rises up draft boards to claim the honour of first QB taken in 2022. His tape from this year reminds me of another young quarterback who came out of a small program who is currently taking the league by storm: Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
I’m not saying Willis is going to be the next Josh Allen, but the intangibles are there. He has elite arm talent and is a great athlete who can make things happen when the play breaks down. His accuracy needs work, but all the tools are there, he just needs some time to develop. Luckily the team with a new name has two veterans he can sit and learn behind next season before being unleashed in 2023.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Ahmad Gardner — Cornerback, Cincinnati
The Vikings were involved in more shootouts than they would have hoped for last season, and part of the reason was that they couldn’t stop anybody. By adding former Bearcat Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner; the Vikings should be able to keep the scores more manageable in 2022.
Gardner has been outstanding throughout his tenure in Cincinnati, but the national spotlight this year has allowed this player the opportunity to showcase his talents to the world and Minnesota are willing to see whether or not his dominance can translate to the next level.
13. Cleveland Browns: Jameson Williams — Wide Receiver, Alabama
Many will wonder how the ACL injury suffered in the National Championship Game will affect Crimson Tide star receiver Jameson Williams stock going into the 2022 Draft. Will he slide down boards, is he no longer a top 15 pick, Is he even a first rounder? I believe the answer is simple.
Talent wise Williams is the best in this class, and the Browns need a true X receiver in their offence now that OBJ is in LA. The team gets Baker Mayfield another weapon and a final chance to prove that he is the answer for this team at quarterback moving forward.
14. Baltimore Ravens: DeMarvin Leal — Defensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Ravens are an odd team to mock for as they’re a team who will most likely be right back in contention next season. This is a franchise which was decimated by injuries last season, but should bounce back in 2022 when they get back the majority of their starters. Therefore I have Baltimore drafting for the future by taking Texas A&M star Demarvin Leal.
The former Aggies star is as versatile and as athletic as they come, whose future in Baltimore could be as the long term replacement for Calais Campbell; a player in the twilight of his career. Leal’s freakish athleticism will see him rise up draft boards at the combine and the Ravens add another elite young talent to their already stout defence.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami): Kenyon Green — Guard, Texas A&M
Brandon Brooks’ retirement plays a huge role in this selection, as the Eagles waste little time in drafting his replacement. The offensive line for Philadelphia was one of their biggest advantages during the 2021 season, so maintaining that level of excellence should be a top priority in the off season.
Green is an excellent interior lineman who is very experienced and should come in and provide steady to good play from day one. He also has the potential to develop into one of the best run blocking guards in the league with his explosiveness. A no brainer pick here for the Eagles front office.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis): Devin Lloyd — Linebacker, Utah
The Eagles need an injection of youth on the defensive side of the ball, therefore adding former Utes enforcer Devin Lloyd should be one of Philadelphia’s top priorities in round one of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Alex Singleton is a solid contributor, but the Eagles need difference makers on the defensive side of the ball, especially with the high powered Dallas Cowboys looking like a force for many years to come. Lloyd can play sideline to sideline and has improved drastically in pass coverage. He might not be the athlete that Micah Parsons is, but he will add youth and speed to a linebacking corps which desperately needs it.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Davis — Defensive Tackle, Georgia
The Los Angeles Chargers were a flawed team last season, but one that was capable of beating anyone on any given Sunday. They were a true Jekyll and Hyde team in 2021, and most of the teams who handled the Chargers this past season had one thing in common: they ran all over them.
The Chargers were abysmal against the run in 2021, so adding former Georgia Bulldog Jordan Davis should be a priority for this team going into next season. Big, physical and outstanding against the run, Davis is an immediate upgrade over Linval Joseph, but is a player who should be able to stay on the field on third down due to his ability to move the pocket. He just needs to work on his fitness and he will be a star on this Chargers line.
18. New Orleans Saints: Kenny Pickett — Quarterback, Pittsburgh
Sean Payton walking away from football (at least for next season) marks the end of an era in New Orleans, so whoever takes his place as head coach in New Orleans will have one hell of a job on their hands to win the fans over. That could lead to the organisation selecting their quarterback of the future. Kenny Pickett is the second QB off the board in my 2022 NFL mock draft here.
Pickett flourished in 2021, seemingly putting everything together for his senior season and developed into a pro ready quarterback. This might be his only year of elite production, but that shouldn’t deter the Saints from taking the former Panthers star. Small hands and all!!
19. Philadelphia Eagles: Garrett Wilson — Wide Receiver, Ohio State
Offensive line help, check. Defensive upgrades, check. Now let’s give the Eagles another playmaker on the offensive side of the ball and find out once and for all whether Jalen Hurts is the answer at quarterback. 2022 feels like a make or break season for the former Bama signal caller, so giving him as many weapons as possible to throw the ball to should give Philly a definitive answer as to whether Hurts is the man going forward.
Garrett Wilson is electric with the ball in his hands, and can turn a quick screen pass into a house call. He has risen up draft boards this season ahead of teammate Chris Olave, and will provide the Eagles with an extra spark on offense. Devonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, Miles Sanders and Garrett Wilson is one hell of a core to build around for whoever is under center for this team going forward.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Sam Howell — Quarterback, North Carolina
Sam Howell’s stock has taken a dip in 2021, but it wasn’t necessarily his own fault. Losing basically all of his weapons and playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in college football were a big reason why Howell faltered this past year. However this year did expose some deficiencies in his game. He often gets stuck on his first read, and doesn’t have elite arm talent, but that shouldn't deter the Steelers from taking a shot with Howell here.
Offensive line should be a big area of need in free agency, should Pittsburgh want to avoid a similar situation to the one Howell found himself in at college. If they are able to improve their pass blockers however, Howell has proven that he can play at an elite level. Being an excellent athlete at the position will be a welcome addition as the Steelers move forward into a new era.
21. New England Patriots: Nakobe Dean — Linebacker, Georgia
Finding ways to stop the Buffalo Bills should be the Patriots’ number one priority in the off season, as there is no way this team will be challenging for a Super Bowl anytime soon unless they find a way to slow down Josh Allen and their high powered offense. Nakobe Dean offers the Patriots an intriguing option at linebacker who should be a hit right away with Belichick and the coaching staff.
His freakish athletic ability reminds me of 2021 prospect Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and we all saw what he was able to do as a rookie before getting hurt last year. Dean has similar traits in pass coverage, and is a missile when the football is in his vicinity. The Patriots value high motor, intelligent players, and Dean would be an excellent fit in Foxborough.
22. Las Vegas Raiders: Chris Olave — Wide Receiver, Ohio State
The Raiders thought they had found their true number one wideout in Henry Ruggs III, however his actions from this past season put a premature end to his promising career. Now the Raiders find themselves in the same position they did 24 months ago trying to add weapons to an offense which desperately needs them. Chris Olave will definitely fit the bill next season.
Easily the most polished route runner in this class, Olave should be able to contribute at a high level from day one in the NFL. He might not be as explosive as players such as Jameson Williams or Garrett Wilson, or have a higher ceiling than guys like Treylon Burks or Drake London, but Olave is going to walk into the league as a great starter with the potential to be a WR1 for years to come.
23. Arizona Cardinals: Travon Walker — Edge, Georgia
There aren’t many players left on the board who represent need and good value here, so Arizona decides to go in a different direction and tries to find Chandler Jones’ successor in Georgia edge defender, Travon Walker.
Walker is one of the great question marks in this draft class, as he has all the physical tools to be an outstanding pass rusher at the next level. However he is clearly a raw talent who will need time to develop before he reaches his potential. Few players have a higher ceiling than Walker, and he could very well be the steal of this entire class when all is said and done.
24. Dallas Cowboys: Roger McCreary — Cornerback, Auburn
One of the biggest reasons for Dallas’ success in the 2021 season was their ability to force turnovers on the defensive side of the football. There is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future of this defense with playmakers sure as Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons playing at an elite level at such a young age. Adding more young talent to this defense certainly isn’t going to hurt the Cowboys chances going forward.
That’s why taking Auburn corner Roger McCreary with the 24th overall selection in the 2022 NFL draft would be an excellent move for Jerry Jones and co this off season. McCreary is another ball hawking corner who likes to get his eyes on the quarterback, and he is also very good in press coverage making him an excellent all round defender in the secondary. Dan Quinn will be over the moon with another excellent young piece to the puzzle on defense.
25. Buffalo Bills: Tyler Linderbaum — Center, Iowa
It’s almost unfair that a team with immediate Super Bowl ambitions has a player with the talent of Tyler Linderbaum fall into their lap this late in the first round, but Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott certainly aren’t going to complain. Linderbaum is a no-brainer selection here for Buffalo as they need to improve the interior of their offensive line.
Linderbaum is excellent in pass protection, and plays the game with a level of nastiness that you rarely see at the collegiate level. He might be undersized, and isn’t as positionally versatile as other offensive line prospects who remain on the board, but the former Hawkeye is far and away the best player on the board here, and Buffalo pulls the trigger.
26. Tennessee Titans: Kaiir Elam — Cornerback, Florida
For the second season in a row, the Tennessee Titans won the AFC South and secured a high seeding in the AFC standings in the playoffs, and for the second straight season they were unceremoniously bumped from the playoffs the first time of asking. Tennessee has a flawed roster, who might even start to ask questions of their signal caller going forward, but for right now, they need to improve in the secondary.
Kaiir Elam is a true boundary corner, who has the size, speed and physicality to run down the field with anyone, and should be an excellent cover corner at the next level. He might struggle against smaller, shiftier receivers, but that isn’t Elam’s role. His job is to take away the opposition’s best receiver, and he has all the tools to do so at the next level.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Carson Strong — Quarterback, Nevada
The 2021 NFL season was Tom Brady’s last (or so we are led to believe). All great things must come to an end and the search to replace the GOAT won’t be easy, but adding Nevada gunslinger Carson Strong wouldn’t be the worst way to start.
Carson Strong is not a great athlete. That has long been established, however what he does do very well is spray the ball all over the field from inside the pocket. Playing behind this offensive line would allow Strong to play to his strengths and as far as his ability to throw the ball goes, few players can match him in this class. I believe he rises up boards after wowing scouts with his arm talent, and Tampa are the ones to pull the trigger.
28. Green Bay Packers: Treylon Burks — Wide Receiver, Arkansas
Speaking of future hall of fame quarterbacks moving on!! The Green Bay Packers are next on the board, but they already have their heir apparent to their potentially outbound quarterback. Finding weapons for Jordan Love to throw the ball to should be the Packers biggest need this off season, especially if Davante Adams is also on the move.
Treylon Burks is an excellent deep threat who should help stretch the field for Love going forward. He doesn’t have an intricate route tree, but the things Burks does well he is excellent at, and his physical tools allow him to dominate at the point of the catch. The comparisons to D.K Metcalf are a little off the mark, he’s more Alshon Jeffrey when it comes to his athleticism, but Jeffrey was an excellent receiver on his day and Burks has a much higher ceiling than that.
29. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco): Bernhard Raimann — Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
A mini run on offensive tackles continues with the Dolphins selection of Trevor Penning. Miami is another team who wants to protect their investment at quarterback from the 2020 NFL Draft, and Penning represents the best value left on the board.
A nasty run blocker who has a good frame and decent athleticism, Penning should be able to start early in his career with the Dolphins and could potentially be a fine right tackle (or left tackle with Tua being a lefty). He does have an explosive first step, and good lateral quickness which should translate well into pass protection and Miami need to find ways to protect their franchise signal caller. This team needs to start winning and soon, otherwise questions will start to be asked of the front office going forward.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Myjai Sanders — Edge, Cincinnati
It almost seems unfair for a team that has dominated the league for the past four seasons to keep landing studs in the draft, but having the opportunity to select Cincinnati edge rusher Myjai Sanders gives the Chiefs another potential steal.
Sanders is an extremely explosive pass rusher who wins with speed off the line of scrimmage. His first step is outrageous as he is able to blow by blockers with little resistance, and few tackles have the lateral quickness to keep up with him as he flies to the quarterback. He might not be an effective run defender right away, but on obvious passing downs he will be another weapon Kansas City can deploy to get after the quarterback.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: Zion Johnson — Offensive Tackle, Boston College
The Bengals made the right decision and made fools out of many an expert (do I include myself in that category?) last year when they took Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick in the draft over an offensive lineman. However this year they must absolutely help protect their franchise quarterback. Burrow is as tough as they come, but enough is enough and Cincinnati finally makes their move. Just maybe not with the player you might expect.
Zion Johnson represents elite upside across multiple positions on the interior of the offensive line due to his athleticism and length. The Eagles lineman has quickly risen up draft boards since an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl where he impressed scouts with his commitment to the game and positional versatility. This organisation is on the verge of creating something special, and gambling on the former Boston College lineman could push them over the top, providing that they address their less-than-impressive tackle situation in free agency.
32. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams): George Pickens — Wide Receiver, Georgia
The Lions avoid the temptation of Matt Corral whose slide continues down my draft board (more on him in my second mock draft), and instead chooses to find another weapon for current signal caller Jared Goff to throw the ball to.
George Pickens has the size, speed and route running ability to potentially be an excellent deep threat at the next level. He showed out in the National Championship game which won’t hurt his stock and if he performs the way many expect him to at the combine I see him as a riser in this stacked receiver class. His competitiveness should also be enticing for Dan Campbell and the culture he is trying to create in Detroit going forward.
Listen to further analysis and debate to all of James' picks on the latest episode of the Franchise 33 NFL Show. Click the image below: