2022 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Clouded at the Top

Once again, we have arrived at my favorite time of the year.  For now the 10th year, I’m unveiling my Mock Draft series as we kick off the draft season.  It started in the 2012 Draft debating between Andrew Luck and RGIII with my hatred for Brandon Weeden.  After countless misses but also multiple major hits, we’ve made it a decade.  This year’s draft marks only the 2nd time (2013) where I do not have a first-round grade on a quarterback, which leaves this draft in a state of unpredictability.  Because of the need to find a QB, teams will reach now as we’ve seen in drafts in the past, but the question becomes who?

This draft starts with the Jacksonville Jaguars who last year selected QB Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick.  That means barring a trade, a quarterback won’t go #1 overall.  The Jags have multiple needs and could look at either EDGE or OT to be the #1 pick.  It’s after them where things become interesting and create the potential unpredictability that Draft fans love to see.  Add to that there are potentially multiple veteran QBs available for trade, it’s setting it up to be one of the most chaotic drafts we might ever see.

So with that said, let’s not waste any time.  It’s time to unveil Mock Draft 1.0:

2022 Mock 1.0

NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu heads to the Jags at #1 in Mock 1.0
  1. Jacksonville Jaguars- OT Ikem Ekonwu NC State- This is quite possibly the most unpredictable #1 overall selection I’ve come across in my 10 years, but it’s not because of the player, it’s the GM.  I personally do not trust Trent Baalke at the head of any Football team and believe he’s extremely likely to go off the wall at #1.  With the pressure on Baalke from fans, I believe he goes swinging for the fences and takes the higher upside OT in Ekonwu over the “safer” pick in Evan Neal.  The Jags need a LT to protect Trevor Lawrence and by drafting Ekonwu, attempting to hit a grand slam. It’s still possible they go Kayvon Thibodeaux, but with Doug Pederson coaching, he’ll want the protection for Lawrence. It comes down to who does Trent Baalke want?

2. Detroit Lions – EDGE Aidan Hutchinson Michigan- The Lions have never consistently had a dominant pass rush and now sit with the top pass rushers sitting on the board.  The question is which one?  To find the answer, look at the head coach and find the player that fits his personality best.  The Lions don’t have to look far to Ann Arbor to select Aidan Hutchinson.  Aidan is a dominant force and a freak of nature.  He can play with his hand in the ground but prefers to stand up as a rusher.  Add to that he’s had experience moving inside as well.  His work ethic, leadership, and talent make him the perfect fit for Dan Campbell to build his defense around.

3. Houston Texans – EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux Oregon- The Texans come into this draft with a possible QB solution in Davis Mills, so that isn’t a priority now.  The debate is who is the best player for their needs right now.  Kyle Hamilton would fit perfectly depending on the Defensive scheme, but the Texans need to rebuild the pass rush and get the best pass rusher in the draft.  Thibodeaux is the most explosive and disruptive pass rusher in the draft where he can play in any scheme.  He’s going to be a prolific pass rusher in the league and will be a strong foundation for the Texans rebuild.

4. New York Jets – S Kyle Hamilton Notre Dame- The Jets two years ago traded away Jamal Adams.  What if I told you two years later they’d trade for an upgraded version?  If you haven’t read Big Board 2.0, Hamilton is my #1 player on the board and a player I’ve given a perfect grade to.  I do not see a flaw in his game and his character is outstanding.  For a Coach like Robert Saleh, this is a perfect guy in his defense and someone who he can immediately look at as a leader for his team.

5. New York Giants – OT Evan Neal Alabama- With picks 5 and 7 the Giants have two glaring holes they need to fill with these picks.  With Thibodeaux and Hutchinson off the board, the Giants can afford to wait on an EDGE rusher.  So with their first pick, they take the standout Tackle from Alabama in Neal.  After seeing the lack of progression in former top pick Andrew Thomas, the Giants can now slide him to the right side and put the more physically talented Neal on the left side.  With the Giants investing their time in Daniel Jones, they got to be able to protect him.  Adding Evan Neal would be a positive step forward towards that.

6. Carolina Panthers – QB Kenny Pickett Pittsburgh- At this point, if you’re Carolina, you’re reaching on a player no matter what.  Either you go with OT Charles Cross, a slight reach at 6 with no QB to protect him, or you go with Pickett and swing on a QB.  For Carolina, you can’t go into next year with the QB situation they had, so you swing at QB.  Pickett to a lot of people is QB1, while I see some problems with happy feet and lower body mechanics that will affect his accuracy.  He’s very athletic and can extend a play, but he tended to do that too much at Pitt and had problems holding onto the football.  He has the capability of being a starting QB in the NFL, he has the arm and athletic ability to survive in the NFL that make him worthy of the pick.  I’m not sure if he’s going to translate to the NFL.  The question going forward is will Pickett remain the first QB selected in April?

7. New York Giants (from Chicago)- EDGE George Karlaftis Purdue- After locking down the left side of their O-Line at #5, the Giants now invest in a pass rusher.  The debate will be between Karlaftis and Michigan’s David Ojabo.  With how raw Ojabo is against the run, the Giants might prefer the more well rounded prospect in Karlaftis.  Karlaftis will never blow up the stat book, but he’ll be a consistent threat in the backfield against the pass and run.  To pair him with their interior defenders, he could be even more effective in New York out of the gate.

8. Atlanta Falcons- QB Malik Willis Liberty- There’s no questioning the pure tools that Malik Willis possesses and he’s showcasing that at the Senior Bowl.  The question is why did he struggle so much this past season?  Was it an inexperienced supporting cast?  Did Malik take a step back?  No matter the answer Malik needs to sit behind someone for a year to develop.  Atlanta for years has ignored selecting a successor to Matt Ryan.  Why not pick the highest upside QB with possibly the best arm in the draft to sit and develop under Ryan and unleash when he’s ready.  It’s a perfect fit for both parties.

9. Green Bay Packers (from Denver)- TRADE: Green Bay acquires #9 overall pick, 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick, and WR Jerry Jeudy from Denver in exchange for QB Aaron Rodgers- OT Charles Cross Mississippi State – I firmly expect Denver to be the ones who acquire Aaron Rodgers and they will have to do it via trade.  They give up a haul of picks, including a talented young WR in Jerry Jeudy to Green Bay to make this happen.  With this pick, Green Bay could either go EDGE with all the guys they could be losing or draft to build around Jordan Love.  I would bet they’d focus on Jordan Love knowing this process will take time.  Cross immediately steps in as a possible David Bakhtiari successor going forward and could slide over to the right while he’s waiting.  Cross has great athletic ability and is extremely strong in the passing game.  His rushing game might need some work, but he should be a good LT of the future for Green Bay to protect Jordan Love.

10. New York Jets (from Seattle)- WR Drake London USC- For the Jets after getting the top safety in the draft now deliberate between getting an EDGE rusher or getting another weapon for Zach Wilson.  Recent rumors suggest the Jets are interested in USC’s Drake London and the rumor makes a lot of sense.  The Jets seemed to strike big with Elijah Moore as a legitimate WR and could use someone to pair him with.  London’s size and ability will be a perfect pairing opposite Moore and give Zach Wilson.  If the Jets are going to have any chance to let Wilson succeed, they must give him all the weapons necessary to thrive.

11. Washington Commanders- QB Matt Corral Ole Miss- For the Commanders, they need someone steering the ship at QB.  They’ve tried the veteran route with Ryan Fitzpatrick and countless other options at QB without taking a serious swing in the Draft.  They take that swing by taking Matt Corral.  There’s no question that when it comes to pure arm talent, Corral is near the top of this class and has all the tools you want in a QB, plus he played very well in the tough SEC.  The big knock on him is consistency, Corral would have great games but they were against lesser opponents.  When he faced tougher teams like Auburn and Texas A&M, he wasn’t as effective.  The upside is one of a Franchise QB, but the floor is someone that will leave the Commanders looking for a new leader in a few years.

12. Minnesota Vikings- CB Derek Stingley Jr. LSU- For the Vikings, they have an opportunity with Aaron Rodgers leaving Green Bay the Vikings have a small window to run the division with Kirk Cousins.  But their defense has to be improved.  With Derek Stingley still on the board, the Vikings have to pounce and build up a secondary that outside of Harrison Smith hasn’t had a shutdown guy there.  Stingley’s ideal size and athletic ability to go with his production at LSU make him a potential shutdown corner the Vikings have lacked for years.

The Cleveland Browns select Michigan’s EDGE David Ojabo with the 13th Pick

13. Cleveland Browns- EDGE David Ojabo Michigan- For the Browns, this pick comes down to whether or not one can believe this front office will prioritize WR over other potential pressing needs.  My belief, with the potential loss of Jadeveon Clowney who was outstanding opposite Myles Garrett, they will prioritize a pass rusher over WR.  Ojabo is all upside, but his ceiling is one of a Pro Bowler.  He is an athletic freak who explodes into the backfield after the QB.  His weakness is that he’s not strong against the run and will need to develop that.  If the Browns can pair him with Myles Garrett, the Browns might have the best pass-rushing duo in the league.  It could allow them as well to not prioritize finding a DT early in the draft too.

14. Baltimore Ravens- EDGE Trevon Walker Georgia- The loss of Matt Judon last year was painfully obvious for the Ravens.  While Tyus Bowser broke out with 7 sacks, that was the team lead.  They need more depth on the EDGE and Walker adds that coming from a dynamic Georgia defense.  He’s rising on a lot of draft boards and you can see why, he’s explosive off the edge, plays with a high motor, and is effective against the run.  The question is only was he a product of having great talent around him?  For the Ravens, while they could look at teammate Jordan Davis for DT, you can never have too many pass rushers, and a collection of Bowser, Oweh, and Walker gives them a great core.

15. Seattle Seahawks (from Philadelphia via Miami)- TRADE: Seattle acquires #15 and #16 overall picks, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick and QB Jalen Hurts in exchange for QB Russell Wilson and a 2023 3rd Round pick- C Tyler Linderbaum Iowa- If the Philadelphia Eagles are serious about competing right now with what they got, they are in the best position to make the move for Russell Wilson over everyone.  Jalen Hurts is a similar mobile QB to Wilson, just not the same passer.  Throwing him in, along with 2 of their 3 1st Round picks and picks in the future will get it done.  Seattle in this scenario with Jalen Hurts has the Draft picks to build around him starting with an O-Line.  The Seahawks were never the same after trading Max Unger in 2015 for Jimmy Graham.  They lacked the anchor to their O-Line.  Tyler Linderbaum offers that immediately and will immediately make an impact on an O-Line that needs a ton of help.

16. Seattle Seahawks (from Philadelphia)- OT Trevor Penning Northern Iowa- With their 2nd pick obtained from Philly, the Seahawks double-dip at O-Line.  The Seahawks have lacked a reliable LT for years and need to fill it if making a trade as this could work.  Penning is arguably in that conversation to be one of the Top 3 OTs on the board, but he’s just sitting on the outside.  He’s got everything you look for in an LT, but it comes down to where he played in Northern Iowa.  Although the Senior Bowl has got him going in the right direction, it still might keep him out of the conversation.  For the Seahawks, adding Linderbaum and Penning would give them foundations to their O-Line and if Jalen Hurts could get on page with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, the Seahawks could still be a problem next season.

17. Los Angeles Chargers- DT Jordan Davis Georgia- The Chargers are a team that’s very close to breaking through in the AFC West, but they’re missing a few pieces.  With what’s left on the board, the Chargers look to shore up the interior line.  Davis is a beast who moves extremely well for his size and is difficult to stop.  For what the Chargers need, he’s going to fill the gap in the middle and take up defenders that would normally focus on Joey Bosa, making their pass rush even more dynamic.  While the Chargers could go OT here, the chance to put Davis in this defense is going to create headaches for AFC West to figure out.

18. New Orleans Saints- WR Treylon Burks Arkansas- The Saints are one of the bigger wild cards of the draft.  Without Sean Payton, there’s now an uncertainty on the direction of the franchise and one without a QB.  The Saints could move up and chase a QB, or they could plan for the future.  With Michael Thomas’ future up in the air, they will potentially need a top WR target.  Burks is a freak of nature who dominated the SEC all season and is worthy of being the 1st WR taken.  While there may not be a QB to throw to him, Burks can be that top option for whoever they can get him to throw the ball going forward.

19. New England Patriots (from Philadelphia)- TRADE: New England acquires #19 overall pick from Philadelphia in exchange for #21 overall pick and 2023 third Round pick- WR Garrett Wilson Ohio State- The Patriots have learned a hard lesson last season.  They may have a great defense and Bill Belichick can build a playoff team, but without a playmaking WR, it doesn’t matter if Mac Jones is just a solid QB or a good QB, if he has that game-breaking weapon, things could change.  Garrett Wilson may have some pass-catching issues, but he’s a playmaker who can change the game in one play.  He’s exactly what the Patriots have lacked at the position.  While it’s going to take paying up to make sure they get their WR, it’s worth it in the long run.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers- QB Sam Howell North Carolina- If the Steelers want a top QB, they’re going to have to move up, which they normally won’t pay the price for so instead, they’ll have to settle on Sam Howell.  Howell going into the year was in a battle with Malik Willis for QB1 but fell off in production.  It could be attributed to the loss of talent to the NFL this past year (Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dyami Brown, Dazz Newsome).  Howell showcased this past season the ability to run, rushing for 828 yards and 11 TDs, but his passing took a hit throwing more INTs and fewer TDs to 2020 to go with a 6% drop in completion percentage.  Howell is a solid QB prospect, but he’s not special.  Going to Pittsburgh he’ll have weapons to work with immediately as long as he can get a line to protect him, he should be a solid starter for them.

21. Philadelphia Eagles (from New England)- CB Ahmad Gardner Cincinnati- After trading down and acquiring an extra pick, the Eagles get a big-time prospect in Gardner.  Gardner has the ideal size you want at the Cornerback position.  Add to that he was an outstanding leader on the Defensive side for the Bearcats who had one of the best defenses in the country.  He doesn’t get fooled often and can get physical with bigger WRs.  Depending on the process, Gardner is a talent that can rise into the Top 10 when it’s over.

22. Las Vegas Raiders- IOL Zion Johnson Boston College- For the Raiders, Kenyon Green out of Texas A&M makes a lot of sense, but he doesn’t play the Center position.  Zion Johnson showed at the Senior Bowl his outstanding work ethic, being the last one off the field every day and learning to play the Center position for the game and dominated all week.  The Raiders desperately missed Rodney Hudson this past year and Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy said Johnson reminds him a lot of Hudson…just feels like a perfect fit for the Raiders.

23. Arizona Cardinals- WR Chris Olave Ohio State- While not the most pressing need, one thing to remember is that the Cardinals are probably going to lose Christian Kirk to Free Agency, so they will have a glaring need at WR.  Olave is almost as seamless as a transition you can get who would fit perfectly opposite DeAndre Hopkins.  Olave’s route running and ability to separate will also work perfectly for Kyler Murray who can extend plays with his legs.  While there may be more pressing needs for the Cardinals, this is a near-perfect fit for both parties to not have happen.

24. Dallas Cowboys- WR Jameson Williams Alabama- Ok…hear me out.  The Cowboys are pretty much in cap hell and Amari Cooper may be a casualty of that when it’s time to extend Ceedee Lamb.  So why not find his replacement?  Williams will need time to recover from his torn ACL, but in a situation like Dallas in Year One where he can recover and be unleashed at full strength opposite Ceedee Lamb is just scary to think about.  His pure explosiveness will have defenses scared to cover him and that’s just by himself.  With Lamb, he’d get a lot of opportunities.  When you’re in a cap situation like Dallas, you got to plan ahead.  That’s what this pick does.

25. Buffalo Bills- EDGE Jermaine Johnson Florida State- For the Bills Mafia, this would be a dream pick after the week Johnson had in Mobile.  Johnson dominated the Senior Bowl and showcased his athletic ability and strong technique that put him in that Top 5 EDGE conversation.  Add to that he’s got the ideal size you want out of the EDGE position at 6’5’’ 265lbs., Johnson is going to be someone who flies up the boards and wouldn’t shock me if he jumps into the Top 15, maybe the Top 10 when it’s over.  The crazy part is, he was originally at Georgia before he transferred to Florida State this past season…

26. Tennessee Titans- TE Isaiah Likely Coastal Carolina- For the Titans, the board falls in a way where they have options.  They could go LB with Devin Lloyd or Nakobe Dean, but there’s a void that needs to be filled at the TE position.  After a strong week at the Senior Bowl, Likely has emerged as the top TE in the Draft.  He was the constant at Coastal Carolina the past 3 years, improving his game every year ending with a big season receiving for over 900 yards and 12 TDs.  With his ability to make plays and surprising ability to be a strong blocker, he’ll be a perfect fit in Tennessee and fills the void for Tannehill lost in Jonnu Smith.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- DT DeMarvin Leal Texas A&M- The Bucs stand at a crossroads with the retirement of Tom Brady.  Will they move forward with Kyle Trask?  Will they try to maneuver for a QB?  Will they blow it up and rebuild?  This pick will remain shrouded in mystery until the Bucs Free Agency plans are revealed.  Jahan Dotson makes sense with Chris Godwin leaving, but Leal is a bargain at this pick and is a perfect fit.  With Vita Vea, they have an interior force that takes up space and eats up the run.  With Leal, they get a versatile lineman with great pass-rushing skills.  Putting him next to Vea will create headaches for opposing Offenses.

28. Green Bay Packers- WR Jahan Dotson Penn State- After selecting their LT of the future, the Packers double down on their commitment to building around Jordan Love by getting another WR for him.  Jahan Dotson should be in the conversation with the other top WRs.  He’s explosive, elusive, has the ability to separate, is versatile, and has great hands.  He gets slept on only because this class is so deep at WR.  Dotson would immediately come in as WR2 in this scenario opposite Jerry Jeudy giving Jordan Love weapons of his own to work with.  If Love can develop into what the Packers hope, this rebuild may not take that long to build.

29. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco)- LB Devin Lloyd Utah- The Dolphins are an interesting team.  Tua did lead the team to a winning season last year, but there are still questions surrounding him.  The O-Line is a mess and the other needs don’t have guys that fit what’s on the board.  Devin Lloyd is the best player on the board, who just excels at everything and has the size and athletic ability to hold up at the position in the NFL.  Lloyd was the leader of the Utes’ Defense that won the Pac 12.  He projects to be a 3 down linebacker, a leader of the Defense who can transform a Defense.

30. Kansas City Chiefs- RB Kenneth Walker III Michigan State- The Chiefs were so close to winning their 3rd straight AFC Title, but yet were so far.  The Chiefs as talented and explosive as they are still have some holes on the offensive and defensive sides.  While George Pickens makes sense, the Chiefs have lacked a true running attack for Pat Mahomes.  That changes in Walker who dominated the Big 10 and can do it all.  He provides the Chiefs with an explosive 3 down back that Clyde Edwards-Helaire hasn’t become.  If the Chiefs can’t establish a running game going forward with the teams in AFC catching them, they could fall back.

31. Cincinnati Bengals- OT Bernhard Raimann Central Michigan- The Bengals have an elite WR core now along with a strong rushing attack for Joe Burrow.  But it’s been evident all year, as great as Burrow is, the Bengals must protect him if they want to create a potential dynasty.  Enter Raimann who dominated the Senior Bowl and is flying up the boards.  He entered Central Michigan as a Tight End and converted to LT.  He has the athleticism and IQ to thrive at the LT position, but he needs to continue gaining in his strength to truly be an anchor on the line.  Raimann is all upside, with a ton of talent to help right away, but he’ll need to be developed still to reach his full potential.  But his potential alone could have him going in the Top 20 when this is over.

32. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams)- CB Andrew Booth Jr. Clemson- Without a top QB prospect on the board, the Lions can fill other more pressing needs on the board with their next pick.  Jahan Dotson would’ve been a perfect WR opposite Amon Ra St. Brown, who broke out at the end of his rookie year.  The Lions instead will target improving their secondary after improving their pass rush.  Andrew Booth was an outstanding CB at Clemson who lived up to his 5-star hype.  He’s got the ideal size for the position and was a strong man coverage corner, who played with the physicality and toughness that’s needed.  He needs to improve in Zone and Tackling at the next level, which is why he’ll slip.  But he’s a bargain at the end of the 1st Round and Dan Campbell will love the competitiveness and toughness that he’s going to bring.

This year’s draft is unique for the fact that there’s no top QB on the board, with multiple elite Defensive and O-Line prospects.  With the unpredictability of the Top 3 picks, each Mock this year can go in completely different directions.  Add to that the players from the Senior Bowl who have played their way into potential Day One consideration, as the process goes on you’ll see a lot of changes in the latter part of the first round because of the depth of Mid-Tier prospects in the 1st Round.

With the Combine now only a few weeks away we will get to see who stands out athletically and potentially if any prospects have any medical red flags.  With the battle at the top of the Draft, the Combine will be must watch to see who can make the move to potentially be the guy the Jaguars end up selecting at #1.  If there’s anything I know from the last decade, the most fun drafts are the ones that don’t have a lock at the #1 pick.

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