2022 NFL Mock Draft: Former NFL Scout Predicts the First Round
Editor’s Note: Many have asked and wondered how we would fill the content gap at The Draft Scout with founder Matt Miller spending more of his time and resources at ESPN. Here’s part of our answer.
Joining the Draft Scout team is “A. Scout”. A veteran NFL front office member of more than 10 years, A. Scout has worked as a quality control analyst, an area scout, and as a higher-level decision-maker in NFL front offices. We are keeping his identity anonymous per his requests and so that he may eventually work in the NFL again.
His first post, this mock draft, kicks off A. Scout’s content at The Draft Scout. His NFL draft rankings and insights into front offices will follow with a weekly post from his byline.
We hope you’re as excited as we are about his joining the team and hope to announce more content providers in the near future.
— The Draft Scout Team
Mock Drafts are sometimes laughed at by those who work inside the NFL, but what the league doesn’t want you to know is that we do our own mock drafts. It’s an important exercise to see where players slot in, who is expected to fall in each round, and to find strengths in position groups.
The other lesson I’ve learned after more than a decade of scouting is that no mock draft is ever wrong and that no mock draft should ever be laughed at. You can predict Kayvon Thibodeaux will fall outside the top 10 in September of 2021 and be laughed off Twitter; but how would that prediction look now?
Mock Drafts are living, breathing exercises that change often—and they should as new information comes in regarding the players, team needs, scheme fits, and even the salary cap.
Here’s my first crack at a post-combine mock draft and my first time ever posting my work on the Internet.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars — OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
Evan Neal is my top tackle, but knowing what I do about Trent Baalke, my instinct says Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu will be the pick. His toughness and ability in the run game are awesome. And he’s athletic enough to improve in pass pro.
2. Detroit Lions — DE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Easiest pick in the draft. The only way Hutchinson doesn’t go to Detroit is if the Jaguars take him. And if I’m Jacksonville, I’d start putting out rumors to the media that we liked Hutchinson to make Detroit trade up one spot for him.
3. Houston Texans — OT Evan Neal, Alabama
I actually expect the Texans to look into trading Laremy Tunsil now that his guaranteed money is mostly paid out. Moving Tunsil allows the Texans to draft the best tackle in the class who is somehow still on the board.
4. New York Jets — S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
They need pass-rushers and offensive linemen, but this draft is deep with them and they have a ton of picks. Joe Douglas needs to hit on an early round selection and Hamilton has zero bust potential.
5. New York Giants — OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
I’ve known Joe Schoen a long time and this is his type of pick. Pairing Penning with Andrew Thomas solidifies the offensive line for Daniel Jones (or Mitchell Trubisky).
6. Carolina Panthers — OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
You should definitely worry about his run blocking ability, but give me a tackle that can pass block right out of the gate over someone who is a great run blocker but needs to learn to pass block. That’s called Mekhi Becton. Cross is an immediate upgrade at left tackle.
7. New York Giants (from Bears) — DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
I could see Thibodeaux falling out of the top 10 after his interviews didn’t go very well at the combine. One former coworker of mine said Thibodeaux was the cockiest interview they’ve had all off-season. Still, he’s talented enough to draft in the top 10 in the hopes you can reign him in.
8. Atlanta Falcons — DE Travon Walker, Georgia
They could go future quarterback here but that would surprise me. I think with the NFC south down, they believe winning the division is possible now that they have the best quarterback in the group. Travon Walker is an upside player whose game is ascending. Once he’s unleashed fully on offenses, he should be a double-digit sack player.
9. Denver Broncos — QB Malik Willis, Liberty
Many expect Denver to sign or trade for a veteran quarterback, which opens the door for them to bypass quarterback in Round 1, but barring an Aaron Rodgers trade I don’t see it. Instead, they do this the smart way and draft a quarterback to develop into a long-term starter. Willis has been my QB1 throughout this process.
10. New York Jets (from Seahawks) — CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
Gardner is worth this pick and more in Robert Saleh’s defense thanks to his size, length, speed and ball skills. The Jets would have fixed their secondary and their defense if Carl Lawson comes back healthy after these two picks.