It’s that time of the year again, the 2022 NFL Draft is less than a week away. From the standpoint of someone who is tasked with making a mock draft on it, that is quite worrisome. It honestly feels like a test that you didn’t study enough for, and now it’s time to take it. There are so many question marks throughout this draft, and I feel bad for saying that last year’s draft was the hardest to mock, because this one blows it out of the water. Nonetheless, I still feel confident about many parts of this draft and after hours of research and scouting and many debates, this is what I have. This is a unique draft class filled with many players who have the potential to be high-end starters, but many of them won’t be playing flashy positions such as quarterback and running back. Let’s go through the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft and predict some landing spots, and who knows, maybe we’ll even nail a few picks.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Aidan Hutchison, Michigan DE
Prospect fatigue is a phenomenon in which prospects get talked about so much as top picks that people try to start and sound different by predicting other players as the top pick and everyone slowly forgets who should really be the top pick. We have a prime example of this at pick one, with Aidan Hutchison. The Jaguars need an edge rusher and there is a clear-cut favorite for them to take. I like the idea of Hutchison to Duval County at pick one here, as I think they resist the urge to reach on an offensive lineman at the beginning of this draft.
2. Detroit Lions – Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon DE
This is a tough pick to nail, as some reports say that the Lions are surprisingly not huge fans of Thibodeaux, but I have a hard time believing that. He is a special player at a position of need for Detroit, so hearing the rumor that his attitude won’t match up well with head coach Dan Campbell sounds fabricated. There are plenty of options here at pick 2, and they’d probably love Hutchison the most, but the idea of Hutchison and Thibodeaux seems more likely and they should feel pretty happy with a player who was once the consensus favorite for the top overall pick.
3. Houston Texans – Evan Neal, Alabama OT
This will be an interesting pick on draft night, as we could see Houston trade back and collect multiple picks because of how many positions of need their depleted roster has. I think that they’ll elect to stay put and get a polished tackle prospect in Evan Neal. Neal has been rumored to go at pick one to another offensive line needy team, but I think he slips through and that Houston is more than happy to get a great prospect here at the third pick, especially with the possibility of Laremy Tunsil being a trade chip and leaving a hole at left tackle.
4. Seattle Seahawks (via New York Jets) – Malik Willis, Liberty QB
This is my first very bold pick of this first round, and I’m surprised that I haven’t seen this idea thrown around more by other draft analysts. Seattle would trade up and take this fourth pick from the Jets in exchange for their ninth pick and a future first or second rounder most likely. This would allow the Seahawks to get a guy under center that really reminds me of the guy they just traded away in Russell Wilson. Willis could sit behind Drew Lock and learn, as he is a raw prospect, but would be the quarterback of the future in Seattle shortly after Russell Wilson and the Seahawks decided to see other people. It’s a very bold take, but I think there’s a chance we could see Seattle climb up the board and get their quarterback of the future at the forth pick.
5. New York Giants – Ikem Ekwonu, NC State OT
The Giants, as usual, have no real direction and have lots of needs to fill in this draft. Sorry Giants fans, but I’m sorry you guys already knew that. One of the biggest needs is getting the shaky Daniel Jones a big man up front to protect him. Enter Ikem Ekwonu. The standout tackle from NC State is a hard guy to judge, but I think he is very solid and the clear cut second best offensive lineman in this draft. The Giants would be wise to snag him here, as Willis going the pick before would make the idea of trading back more unlikely between New York and quarterback needy teams here. Take the smart approach and draft a solid player at a position of need here if you’re the Giants.
6. Carolina Panthers – Charles Cross, Mississippi State OT
This was a tough pick to make (I know, that seems to be a trend at this point). I wanted to maybe have them taking QB Kenny Pickett here, but my hope is that they will be smarter than that and take a former five star offensive tackle out of high school in Charles Cross. Cross will immediately improve what was a weak offensive line last year and protect whoever the Panthers decide to start under center next year. I am not as high on Cross as Neal and Ekwonu, but he would be a great pick here, though it is not a super flashy one.
7. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears) – Travon Walker, Georgia DE
Travon Walker is the weirdest player in this draft to me. At the end of the college football season he was a mid to late first round projection, and he is now among the betting favorites to go first overall and may even surpass Aidan Hutchison as the favorite. Some people and rumors say that he will be the first pick, and other sources say the hype is fake and that he is still a mid first round prospect. This is very odd and makes it hard to find him a home with such different sources. I have the Giants snagging the intriguing Walker at pick seven to shore up a weak defensive front seven and he could end up being quite the value pick if he reaches this point. I just can’t personally hop on the train for Walker as the first overall pick, despite many people believing this after his combine performance.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Garrett Wilson, Ohio State WR
As the person responsible for the scouting reports at the WR position at Sports Wave this year, I can confidently say that I really like this receiver class. I also think Garrett Wilson is right at the top. While there is tons of debate about the ranking of wide receiver prospects 2-5, it seems to finally have come to the consensus that Wilson is the number one guy. While we could see a shocker on draft night, this is one of the picks that I am more confident in, as Wilson fills a huge need for the Falcons at receiver and is rumored to have a good chance at being selected in the top ten.
9. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks) – Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame SAF
When I say that I am infatuated with Kyle Hamilton, it may still be an understatement. He is my favorite player in this draft class by far and could be among the best at his position very quickly when he enters the NFL in my opinion. Safety is rarely a position that gets drafted very high, and I would love to put him in the top five picks for this mock, but it is safer to assume he finds his home around closer to this point in the draft. It’s the Jets that get him here after trading back with the Seahawks, and I think they’ll be very happy with the player they get in Kyle Hamilton.
10. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks) – Jermaine Johnson, Florida State DE
The Jets are on the clock again, and they keep up the theme of defense by selecting Johnson at pick ten. I am not that high on Johnson, but the attention he is getting will likely have him coming off the board pretty quickly. I have chosen to bite the bullet and side with what many others are saying even though I think this is too high for him to go. He could end up being a great player though, and the Jets get a wrecking ball at edge rusher, and leaving the first round happy after getting two defensive studs in the top ten, while also securing extra draft capital in the trade with Seattle.
11. Washington Commanders – Drake London, USC WR
The Commanders have a name finally, but they still don’t have a great roster unfortunately. They could elect to do a number of things here, but I think getting Carson Wentz a weapon to pair with Terry McLaurin here may be very enticing. This is where it gets tough though, because which receiver would they take here? I think it would end up being Drake London. I am a huge fan of London, and I think they will be too. The former basketball star is a physical freak that wins every jump ball and uses his size to bully smaller corners. I think he is exactly who Wentz and the Commanders need for their offense. I like the idea of London in the nation’s capital here at pick 11.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati CB
I am a huge fan of Ahmad Gardner, and choosing between him and Stingley for who would end up off the board first was not easy. I still think there is a very good chance he goes before this pick, but based on the trends with my mock draft I don’t have the run on cornerbacks starting until here with Minnesota. The Vikings ultimately elect to take Gardner over Stingley and get one of the best value picks of the first round at a position of major need. Only time will tell if the man they call “Sauce” will be on the board long enough to make it to Minnesota though.
13. Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns) – Jordan Davis, Georgia DT
Let’s be honest, this Houston roster is not going to be fixed by one draft class, but after taking Neal earlier and now Davis, they have a good start at least. Jordan Davis is a space eater at defensive tackle, and I am a huge fan of him. He is going to shore up a weak Texans front seven on defense and be a run stuffer inside. Houston should be very excited if they are able to Neal and Davis in round one, and this pick just makes a lot of sense to me here.
14. Baltimore Ravens – George Karlaftis, Purdue DE
Baltimore has a large hole at edge rusher, but they missed the run on edge rushers a little earlier in the draft. They elect to take Karlaftis here, a prospect that was considered a top ten talent before a recent slip has some analysts projecting him outside of the first round completely. Now I wasn’t big on Karlaftis from the jump, but I still think he hears his name called on night one. Baltimore could be the ones that end up making his phone ring here at pick 14, and I think it is a great fit overall.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins) – Derek Stingley Jr., LSU CB
If Stingley could have kept up his production from his freshman year of college, he may have ended up being the number one pick in the entire draft. Injuries and poor play have caused his draft stock to take a tumble though. He is still a fringe top ten prospect that has to wait a little longer to hear his name called because of my belief that the run on cornerbacks will start later than expected. The Eagles would love to see Stingley on the board here, and he would end up being one of the best value picks of the first round, along with Ahmad Gardner a few picks before. Stingley will look to recreate his freshman year in Philly, who gets a stud here at the 15th pick.
16. New Orleans Saints (via Philadelphia Eagles) – Chris Olave, Ohio State WR
I said Kyle Hamilton was my favorite prospect in this draft, and Chris Olave is my second favorite. I think he is the second best receiver in this class, but many disagree because about concerns with his size and frame. The simple fact of the matter is that those concerns are idiotic and misplaced. This man has be terrorizing Big Ten defenses for four years at Ohio State and he will continue to do so in the NFL. The Saints are in desperate need of a right hand man for Mike Thomas, and Jameis Winston would love throwing to the speedy Olave. I love everything about this guy, and him coming off the board at pick 16 makes a lot of sense to me.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – Zion Johnson, Boston College OG
The Chargers have been on an absolute mission this off-season, adding two defensive superstars in J.C. Jackson and Khalil Mack, and now their roster looks pretty balanced and could contend with the best of them next season. That makes this pick fall right into a personal rule that I have when it comes to drafting: when in doubt, protect the quarterback. The Chargers offensive line is mediocre, and adding an offensive lineman when the rest of your roster looks pretty good is a great call. I think that lineman will be Zion Johnson, and it would be a very wise pick to protect Justin Herbert while you try and make a deep playoff run next year.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans Saints) – Jameson Williams, Alabama WR
The Eagles got a great corner a few picks prior, and now they can move to another position of need here and take a wide receiver. They nailed their pick last year by taking an Alabama receiver in Devonta Smith, and the chance to add an absolute speed demon in Jameson Williams here would make a lot of sense. The only knock on Williams is his recently torn ACL will cause him to fall behind on many other rookies when it comes to off-season workouts and practice. His speed and production cannot go unnoticed though and he would become a game breaker as soon as he was able to get on the field.
19. New Orleans Saints (via Philadelphia Eagles) – Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa OT
The Saints could not afford to keep Terron Armstead this off-season, leaving a gaping hole at left tackle. That is a major problem for a team intent on competing and battling through salary cap problems with their talented roster. The best way to do that is to address the offensive line position early in this draft. They missed the run on offensive tackles earlier in the first round, leaving a picked apart board of tackles to choose from. I like the idea of them taking a chance on Trevor Penning here, a guy that flew up boards after the Senior Bowl. Some say he is a third round talent, some say he looks more like a guard in the long run, and some think he is the prime example of what a diamond in the rough could look like. The Saints have long been a team that loves taking projects, and Penning would fit this mold. I could see the Saints calling his name here.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh QB
We finally see our second quarterback come off the board here at pick 20. Man this QB class sucks. The Steelers are heavily in the market for a franchise guy under center though, and I feel like they will take Pickett here. I am not a fan of Kenny Pickett. Like at all. Some sources say that the Steelers are high on him though, and it makes sense to take him here while he’s still on the board. He would likely begin his career behind Mitch Trubisky in Pittsburgh, but he could get a chance to fight for the starting job. I think this pick would be a mistake, but I can definitely see it happening if they cannot find a good trade up partner.
21. New England Patriots – Trent McDuffie, Washington CB
After an off-season that saw the Patriots spend an egregious amount of money on numerous free agents in 2021, they went very quiet this off-season. They allowed many stars to head out the door in free agency, clearly electing to take the path of replacing them rather than paying them. The biggest name was their cornerback, J.C. Jackson. He needs a replacement, and McDuffie is likely the guy that would make the most sense. I’m not super high on McDuffie but he is flying up draft boards, passing guys like Andrew Booth and Kaiir Elam on most people’s rankings. I think he fits very well with the Patriots though, so I will once again bite the bullet and have McDuffie get his name called by New England at pick 21.
22. Green Bay Packers (via Las Vegas Raiders) – Treylon Burks, Arkansas WR
This would be the best case scenario for the Packers at pick 22, as the run on wide receivers never really develops and a great playmaker in Treylon Burks falls right into their lap. This would be very surprising, but every draft has a couple guys that slip down the board, and I think Burks could be one. After losing Davante Adams because Aaron Rodgers signed a contract to make 50 million a year, and he will probably complain about the lack of talent around him now, they need to find a replacement for Rodgers to throw to. I think Burks would be a great pick and a blessing for Green Bay at this pick.
23. Arizona Cardinals – Boye Mafe, Minnesota DE
Arizona is coming off of back to back years of strong starts and disappointing finishes. That needs to change or Kliff Kingsbury needs to go. They also lost a superstar pass rusher in Chandler Jones. This pick could end up being a receiver also, but I really like the thought of them taking Boye Mafe here. Many people don’t have a first round grade on him, but I have heard from some sources that he is very high on a couple team’s boards in the back half of round one, and I think he could end up getting his name called by Arizona right here, ahead of what many people expect.
24. Dallas Cowboys – Kenyon Green, Texas A&M OG
The Cowboys had a bad off-season, and that is surely frustrating for their fans after such a promising season last year. They need to reload on their offensive line badly, and they could definitely do so at this pick. Kenyon Green has been sliding down boards, but that slide ends here as the Cowboys add him to potentially replace either La’el Collins or Connor Williams. This isn’t a flashy pick, but it makes a lot of sense. Dallas would be wise to scoop up Green here and protect Dak Prescott.
25. Detroit Lions (via Buffalo Bills) – Matt Corral, Ole Miss QB
Another quarterback trade up occurs right here at the 25th pick, after the Lions move up in front of some potential suitors by trading with Buffalo and getting Matt Corral. I am actually pretty high on Matt Corral, and Detroit could view him as a franchise QB. This puts pressure on Jared Goff and Corral will obviously have time to learn the system and then likely get a crack at the starting gig. Moving up seven spots at the end of the first round and getting a guy that was at one point regarded as the consensus top QB in this class would be a very solid move for Detroit, and I have a feeling they won’t pass on a quarterback twice in the first round.
26. Tennessee Titans – Devin Lloyd, Utah LB
After a wild first round, Devin Lloyd finally hears his name get called at pick 26. Lloyd is one of my favorite players in this draft and the Titans would be getting one of the highest value picks of the first round if Lloyd ends up falling in their laps here. Replacing Rashaan Evans becomes easier in this scenario, and I could see Devin Lloyd becoming one of the better linebackers in the league if he lives up to the expectations that I have for him. Some reports say a QB could be in play here, but I don’t really believe that. Take Lloyd and bolster your defense if you are Tennessee.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati QB
What looked like Tom Brady’s retirement turned out to be a little attention grab apparently, but it put fear in Buccaneers fans everywhere when they realized they’d be starting Kyle Trask at QB. A roster still with very few holes, they can afford to go out and get a QB to compete for the eventual throne left by Tom Brady in Tampa. That QB could be a number of guys. I like Carsen Strong and Sam Howell more, but many analysts think that Desmond Ridder is not getting nearly enough love and that he will be a first round pick. I can understand that, and I think he fits in the Tampa system very well. This leads to Ridder being the fourth QB off the board in round one and finding a home in Tampa learning behind Tom Brady.
28. Green Bay Packers – Devonte Wyatt, Georgia DT
After finally nailing a first round pick earlier and getting Treylon Burks, the Packers take more of a “best player available” approach here and get a great space eater at the defensive tackle position here. Wyatt will be a run stuffer and help shore up a front seven in Green Bay that has declined over the last couple of seasons. I could see them going offensive line, safety, or defensive end as well here though.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (via San Francisco 49ers) – Nakobe Dean, Georgia LB
Kansas City is in an interesting spot. They have no serious glaring needs, but they also need to nail this draft as other AFC West teams are making strong pushes to try and dethrone Patrick Mahomes and company. I like the thought of adding a “best player available” type of pick here, and Dean fits that mold pretty well. He has slid down draft boards over fear of his size, but could be a great player at the next level. The Chiefs are in position to take a risk and snag Dean towards the end of the first round here.
30. Kansas City Chiefs – Jahan Dotson, Penn State WR
The Chiefs are right back on the clock here, and they address what many see as their biggest hole and get a solid receiver in Jahan Dotson. There are big shoes to fill in Kansas City for Dotson, but his playstyle could lead to him finding a lot of success and building quite a repertoire with Pat Mahomes pretty quickly. While Kansas City could trade both picks here and trade up for a higher rated receiver, I think they’d be wiser to get two great players here and reload at some of their thinner spots on the field.
31. Cincinnati Bengals – Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan OT
The Bengals probably would have hoisted the Lombardi trophy last year if they didn’t have such a putrid offensive line. They have worked hard to address that during the off-season, but they should not be done yet. Getting a guy like Raimann here would be a solid pick, and I could also see them getting Tyler Linderbaum here. I ultimately decided that Raimann made more sense and filled a bigger need as his ability to play tackle is better than that of Linderbaum. This should be a no brainer in terms of position though, protect Joe Burrow. Please.
32. Buffalo Bills (via Detroit Lions) – Andrew Booth, Clemson CB
After trading back from pick 25, the Bills really didn’t have a glaring hole to address. They have the luxury of just picking one of the best players left on the board and it was tough deciding between Andrew Booth and Kaiir Elam. I ultimately thought that Booth had the edge and he fills a cornerback spot while Tre’Davious White recovers from the ACL tear that ended his season last year. As Booth hears his name called, it will mean the end of a wild and unpredictable first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Summary of the First Round:
The clear positions of strength in this draft class were defensive end and wide receiver. We saw a run on cornerbacks later than expected, and we saw a lot of the top defensive ends get taken pretty quickly. Some of the highest value picks were that of Ahmad Gardner, Derrick Stingley, Treylon Burks, and Devin Lloyd, as they heard their names later than most are expecting. We saw many teams with two first round picks getting multiple positions of need, but none of them elected to use both picks to trade up on draft night. We did see some draft night trade ups related to quarterbacks though, as Seattle and Detroit elected to climb up the board and get franchise guys in this opening round. I can safely say that the best players still on the board heading into the second round are Daxton Hill, Kaiir Elam, Christian Watson, Tyler Linderbaum, and Arnold Ebiketie. We can now close out our 2022 final mock draft by looking at the top available players by position still left after an exciting first round.
The Best Still Available:
QB: Sam Howell, Carsen Strong, Bailey Zappe
RB: Breece Hall, Kenneth Walker, Isaiah Spiller
WR: Christian Watson, George Pickens, Skyy Moore
TE: Trey McBride, Isaiah Likely, Jeremy Ruckert
OL: Tyler Linderbaum, Tyler Smith, Nick Petit-Frere
DT: Dermarvin Leal, Travis Jones, Perrion Winfrey
DE: Arnold Ebikitie, Drake Jackson, David Ojabo
LB: Quay Walker, Chad Muma, Troy Andersen
CB: Kaiir Elam, Kyler Gordon, Coby Bryant
SAF: Daxton Hill, Lewis Cine, Jalen Pitre