The 2022 NFL Draft class has been panned by the fantasy football community as a “weak crop,” but that’s not necessarily a fair classification. True, this quarterback class pales in comparison to next year’s, but this draft is deep at the EDGE position and features several high-end offensive line and wide receiver prospects.
It’s impossible to predict each and every landing spot of the first 32 players selected with exact precision, so expect the unexpected, especially this year. We’re likely to witness a wild variance in player valuation earlier and more often than ever before, and by extension, more trades, as well.
There are countless beat writer evaluations to sift through to gain insight into what teams are thinking, which are often more insightful than canned and rehearsed press conferences held by NFL coaches and general managers. Other good indicators are lists about each team’s Top 30 and NFL Combine meetings; these on-the-record meetings often offer a glimpse at not only players of interest, but positional leanings, as well. Taking all of that into consideration, here’s my take on what to expect on Day 1.
2022 NFL Mock Draft
|1||Jacksonville Jaguars||Travon Walker||EDGE||Georgia|
With less than 24 hours to go, Jacksonville’s decision-makers remain all over the map behind closed doors. As reported on Sirius XM, new Head Coach Doug Pederson favors a bookend left tackle to protect second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence. However, ownership and management appear to be leaning in a different direction. Perhaps that’s why oddsmakers in Las Vegas crowned the highly-versatile Travon Walker as the betting favorite to go off the board first just a day or so ago.
|2||Detroit Lions||Aidan Hutchinson||EDGE||Michigan|
Hutchinson would make a ton of sense here even if he didn’t have a standout career in Ann Arbor. A local kid who grew up in “The Mitten” of Michigan, the pride of the Wolverines should be the second player off the board and a pick that will be well-received in the Detroit Metro area.
|3||Houston Texans||Ikem Owonu||OL||North Carolina St.|
The Texans like what they have in Davis Mills, who played very well last season despite abysmal circumstances surrounding the team both on and off the field. Mills will get a full training camp and 17 games to show that he can be a franchise quarterback. If he flops, the team will go after a signal-caller in next year’s draft who’ll have the benefit of working behind a blue-chip offensive tackle who’s also a bully in the run game.
|4||New York Jets||Kayvon Thibodeaux||EDGE||Oregon|
The Jets have several needs, including offensive line, defensive back, and wide receiver. Ahmed “Sauce” Gardner is a possibility here, but I expect Joe Douglas and company to run to the podium for Kayvon Thibodeaux here, a player who was the consensus top overall player entering the 2021 collegiate season. Questions about his work ethic have swirled, but Head Coach Robert Saleh is the one man who’ll get the most out of Thibodeaux, one of this draft’s most talented players at any position.
|5||New York Giants||Charles Cross||OT||Mississippi State|
The Giants resist the urge to trade down for a package that’s not to their liking and instead get the top offensive lineman on their board, Charles Cross. The Mississippi State standout isn’t the sexiest pick, but he’s precisely the kind of building block that a rebuilding team needs.
|6||Los Angeles Chargers||Evan Neal||OL||Alabama|
There is no consensus in Charlotte on the best quarterback in this year’s draft, but it seems unanimous that Sam Darnold‘s days are numbered. The Panthers do the smart thing and trade down here to take whoever’s left of the three quarterbacks they like (Willis, Pickett, and Corral). If they strike out, they’ll eye up Desmond Ridder or local kid Sam Howell while acquiring a sorely-needed haul of draft capital: the Panthers entered this draft with no picks in Rounds 2 or 3, far from an ideal scenario for a team that’s firmly in rebuilding mode.
Meanwhile, the Chargers go up and get the last of the Big Three offensive tackles in this draft, arguably the best and most polished. Quarterback Justin Herbert becomes a very happy man.
|7||New York Giants||Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner||CB||Cincinnati|
The self-proclaimed “best player in the draft” becomes the first defensive back to hear his name called on Draft Day, as the Giants wisely select Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. With so many holes to fill, the Giants could certainly trade down, but they’d be passing on this:
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner:
Targeted 79 times in single coverage. Allowed 22/474/0 touchdowns.
15.2 passer rating in coverage. Not a SINGLE TD allowed in college.
Held Alabama WRs to 14 yards on 4 targets in 2021
This is the BEST prospect in the NFL draft. 📈
— Kyle Williams 🏈 (@betonthegame) April 27, 2022
|8||Atlanta Falcons||Drake London||WR||USC|
Many will expect the Falcons to take Malik Willis here, but I see them raising some eyebrows by making the tall, agile, big-bodied Drake London the first wide receiver off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft. Many pundits and fans will question the pick, but with Calvin Ridley suspended and Russell Gage now with division rival Tampa Bay, wide receiver is an even more pressing need if this team hopes to have any prayer of moving the chains in 2022.
Marcus Mariota will get a full training camp and long look as a possible long-term answer at quarterback. If the experiment fails, Atlanta will be well-positioned to take a better quarterback prospect early in the 2023 NFL Draft, and London will have a year of NFL experience under his belt.
|9||Seattle Seahawks||Derek Stingley, Jr.||CB||LSU|
I agree with my QB List colleague Dustin Ludke here: the Seahawks will pass on a quarterback and take Derek Stingley, Jr. The LSU star was regarded as a future Top 5 overall selection a year or two ago, and his draft stock is enjoying a renaissance as scouts, executives, and analysts start remembering how much of a difference-maker he is.
Don’t expect the Seahawks to ignore the quarterback position altogether, however: with Pete Carroll getting longer in the tooth, expect the Seahawks to make the most of his remaining years with the team by acquiring a veteran quarterback on Day 2. Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield could very well be directing the huddle in Seattle before long.
|10||New York Jets||Garrett Wilson||WR||Ohio State|
The Jets’ front office breathed a sigh of relief when London became a member of the Atlanta Falcons, as Garrett Wilson, the consensus top wide receiver in this year’s draft, falls into their laps here. No one loves this pick more than Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, who inherits the best route runner in this class. The Ohio State standout is blessed with both blazing speed and supple, reliable hands, so Jets fans will be expecting Wilson-to-Wilson to become “a thing” in the Meadowlands for years to come.
|11||Washington Commanders||Kyle Hamilton||S||Notre Dame|
The Commanders are thrilled to be the beneficiaries of Kyle Hamilton‘s inexplicable slide. Just a month ago, there was talk of Hamilton going in the Top 5, so landing a premier safety here, just outside of the Top 10, is a coup for a front office that has taken quite a beating this offseason.
|12||Pittsburgh Steelers via MIN||Malik Willis||QB||Liberty|
Groupthink has Malik Willis going to Carolina with the sixth overall pick, but I see quarterbacks sliding more than usual this year. There are no shortage of suitors for Willis, however: the Auburn transfer who showed off impressive arm strength and mobility at the Senior Bowl and Combine.
It’s no secret that Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin was one of those enamored by Willis, so the Steelers trade up and secure Ben Roethlisberger‘s replacement. Meanwhile, the Vikings aren’t in love with any remaining player, so they can’t turn down the best of a bevy of trade offers for the consensus top quarterback in this year’s draft.
|13||Houston Texans||Trent McDuffie||CB||Washington|
With Brandin Cooks inked to a multi-year extension, the Texans don’t feel pressured to take a wide receiver there, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they did. Instead, look for them to attempt to address a glaring weakness on the other side of the ball by taking Washington’s Trent McDuffie, a plug-and-play starting cornerback for years to come. The Texans could also be tempted to trade down here and target a different cornerback, such as Kyler Gordon or Andrew Booth, or perhaps an edge rusher like Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson.
|14||Baltimore Ravens||Devin Lloyd||LB||Utah|
McDuffie was no doubt on the Ravens’ radar here, but they’re happy to pivot and take Devin Lloyd, a player who’ll become a fan favorite in no time. The Utah product and two-time Butkus Award finalist was beloved in the scouting community before a slower-than-expected 40 time saw him slide down many boards. Lloyd, a true playmaker and sure tackler with a nose for the football, is a great scheme fit in Baltimore.
|15||Kansas City Chiefs via PHI||Jameson Williams||WR||Alabama|
The Chiefs have seen enough of Mecole Hardman to know that he’s not the guy to fill the shoes left behind by All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Williams, who some believe to be the best wide receiver in this year’s draft, has excelled against the best competition the collegiate ranks have to offer. A unique talent in his own right, the Alabama product’s skill set aligns more closely with Hill’s than any other wide receiver in this class. The Eagles acquire even more draft capital in 2022 and 2023, and position themselves to take other players high on their board.
|16||New Orleans Saints||Jordan Davis||DT||Georgia|
The Saints could very well take a quarterback here; Matt Corral and Desmond Ridder are two strong possibilities if they do. Jameis Winston played fairly well before going down with a season-ending injury, however, and the Saints feel they’re a playoff-caliber team right now. Enter Georgia’s Jordan Davis, a quick, agile, run-stopping defensive tackle with enough quickness and agility to get after the quarterback. No one would have batted an eye if Davis went in the Top 10, so the Saints are thrilled with the value presented by this new anchor on their defensive line.
|17||Carolina Panthers via LAC||Kenny Pickett||QB||Pittsburgh|
In a different time of his life, Head Coach Matt Rhule got Kenny Pickett to commit to the Temple Owls while serving as their head coach, only to see his prized prospect slip through his hands and end up as a Pittsburgh Panther. Years later, Rhule now leads a different pack of Panthers, and finally gets a chance to coach his guy at the professional level. As the dust settles from the trade, Carolina secures the very same quarterback that many experts expected them to take sixth overall just a month or two ago.
|18||Philadelphia Eagles||Treylon Burks||WR||Arkansas|
The Eagles had a formal meeting with Treylon Burks at the NFL Combine, then attended his Pro Day. The big-bodied Arkansas receiver is the number one wide receiver on my board in this class, and he’s a perfect compliment to 2021 Round 1 selection DeVonta Smith. Burks is a bully X receiver who can outmuscle smaller defenders for the football and is deceptively faster in pads than his NFL Combine time might indicate. The Eagles are happy to snatch up a player here that should’ve gone in the Top 10.
Treylon Burks reached a top speed of 22.6 MPH on this play in week 3. No NFL player reached a top speed higher than that this season and only Raheem Mostert did the year before. But Burks didn’t get out of the blocks well at the combine so he is probably slow 🙄 pic.twitter.com/qE0rVkPXVW
— Shane Haff (@HAFFnHAFF_TPL) April 17, 2022
|19||New Orleans Saints||Matt Corral||QB||Mississippi|
Remember how the Saints passed on a quarterback earlier? Well, their patience is rewarded here as they turn this “luxury pick” into a “legacy pick” by making Matt Corral the third quarterback off the board and their signal-caller of the future. Corral, more mobile than most realize, is the top quarterback overall on some scouts’ boards, and the Saints will love his ability to create when plays break down. Corral is one of the more NFL-ready quarterbacks in this draft, but he’ll watch and learn from the sideline in Year One of his pro career. Or, the Saints can pivot and trade Corral to one of the many QB-needy teams that covet him.
|20||Minnesota Vikings via PIT||Dax Hill||S||Michigan|
The Steelers went up and got their guy, and Willis will learn under Mitch Trubisky for at least the first half of the season. The Vikings plug a major hole in the secondary with Dax Hill, a legitimate first-round talent at safety who can also hold his own in nickel coverage.
|21||New England Patriots||Trevor Penning||OT||Northern Iowa|
The Patriots once again do Patriots things. Here, they take an offensive tackle with the 21st pick who will end up being one of the best players taken in this draft once receipts are pulled five years from now.
|22||Green Bay Packers||Chris Olave||WR||Ohio State|
The Packers signed perennial tease Sammy Watkins in a sad attempt to fill the gigantic hole left behind by the departure of Davante Adams. Olave, however, represents a major upgrade to Marquez Valdes-Scantling as a deep threat on the outside. This move allows Allen Lazard to create mismatches against undersized nickel corners underneath and appeases Aaron Rodgers, who will undoubtedly be lobbying behind the scenes once again for a significant wide receiver upgrade.
|23||Arizona Cardinals||George Pickens||WR||Georgia|
Over the past two years, Arizona fortified a patchwork defense with the first-round selections of Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins. This time, it’s the offense’s turn. Christian Kirk signed a massive contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars worth up to $84 million. Meanwhile, DeAndre Hopkins, who missed a significant chunk of time with injuries in 2021, turns 30 this year. The Cardinals will be tempted by the tantalizing size/speed combo offered by Christian Watson, but they’ll settle on a lower-risk, higher-floor player by selecting Georgia’s George Pickens.
|24||Dallas Cowboys||Nakobe Dean||LB||Georgia|
The Cowboys endured a mass exodus of key players this offseason, led by Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory, Cedrick Wilson, and Connor Williams. A team that looked well-positioned to rule the NFC East for years will find itself on the brink of a rebuild if things go south in 2022. They are still legitimate contenders for a division title, however; Nakobe Dean should help by starring in a role that Cowboys fans once hoped Keanu Neal would fill.
|25||Buffalo Bills||Andrew Booth||CB||Clemson|
Some expect the Bills to call Breece Hall‘s name here, but the star running back from Iowa State will most likely wait a day for his big moment. The Bills could also go after a defensive lineman here, but we expect them to fortify the secondary in order to match up better against the other top teams in the AFC who’ll trot out two or three stud wide receivers. Washington’s Kyler Gordon is another possibility.
|26||Tennessee Titans||Kenyon Green||OL||Texas A&M|
Although Tom Brady has given him a black eye, Father Time remains undefeated, and his clock is ticking for Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill. Both likely have one or two peak seasons left, so the Titans will be looking for immediate help up front. They’ll find it in the form of Kenyon Green. Boston College’s Zion Johnson is an alternate option.
|27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Devonte Wyatt||DT||Georgia|
Speaking of Tom Brady, he’ll once again work with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin this year, though the latter is recovering from offseason knee surgery. The Goat personally recruited Russell Gage to fill the void left behind by the walking circus known as Antonio Brown. Therefore, the Buccaneers will look to address the other side of the ball with the selection of Devonte Wyatt, who’ll hold down the fort in the interior of the defensive line for the foreseeable future.
|28||Green Bay Packers||George Karlaftis||EDGE||Purdue|
Every once in a while, a team has a player fall to them in a draft that seems to be tailor-made for them. Purdue’s George Karlaftis checks all the boxes with attributes that will endear him to the Lambeau Faithful. But why should we tell you about why the Packers love Karlaftis when they’ve done it for us?
Purdue's George Karlaftis played in 27 games over three seasons, recording 14 sacks among 29 tackles for loss.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) April 27, 2022
|29||Philadelphia Eagles via KC||Jermaine Johnson||EDGE||Florida State|
The Eagles’ fan base grumbled a bit when the team resigned penalty-prone Derek Barnett, especially given the encouraging 2021 season turned in by Josh Sweat and a terrific offseason signing in the form of Hasson Reddick. However, the team still needs depth here with Brandon Graham another year closer to retirement. Johnson, the best player left on the Eagles’ board at this point, will bolster the rotation and put pressure on Barnett to develop into the caliber of player the team envisions him to be.
|30||Kansas City Chiefs||Tyler Linderbaum||OL||Iowa|
The Chiefs get more help for Patrick Mahomes in the form of protection up front by snagging Tyler Linderbaum, a terrific value at this stage of the first round. Linderbaum, the top interior offensive lineman on several teams’ boards, will help buy time for Mahomes to create more magic in (and out of) the pocket.
|31||Cincinnati Bengals||Kyler Gordon||CB||Washington|
The Bengals were licking their chops for Linderbaum, so they quickly move to fill another gaping hole on defense. Kyler Gordon is a terrific consolation prize who’ll shore up a shaky secondary.
|32||Detroit Lions||Desmond Ridder||QB||Cincinnati|
The Lions snag a quarterback here and put the capable, yet underwhelming Jared Goff on notice. Goff gets a year to audition for a new job in another city while Desmond Ridder learns the ropes. Unlike Goff, Ridder is a dual-threat who can make plays with his impressive speed; the rookie showed growth in each season during his four-year tenure as the starting quarterback at Cincinnati. His ability to keep linebackers and safeties honest can help open things up downfield while unlocking the untapped potential of running back D’Andre Swift, who’ll have more room to create in space in the passing game.
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