2022 NFL Mock Draft: Post Super Bowl Predictions
The nail is in the coffin on the 2021 NFL season with the Los Angeles Rams defying conventional team-building principles to become Super Bowl champions with an NBA-like “Super Team” mentality. There will be many conversations and think pieces penned about if the Rams’ strategy is the new way to build in the NFL, but for today we’ll instead focus on something Les Snead and Sean McVay won’t be—the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
#1 Jacksonville Jaguars —— OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Mock drafts are what I am hearing will happen, not what I would do for each team. They’re a prediction. This is what I think happens if the draft were tomorrow based on current intel. A lot can and will change—the Jaguars are still figuring out their front office—but all the word around the league is that protecting Trevor Lawrence will be the team’s priority at No. 1 overall.
#2 Detroit Lions —— DE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
With Aidan Hutchinson available this becomes a very easy pick for the Detroit Lions with no quarterback of value on the board. Hutchinson, an in-state product, has the toughness and non-stop motor that head coach Dan Campbell loves. He also plays one of the two most important positions in football.
#3 Houston Texans —— S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
The Texans are in a tough spot with a draft board that doesn’t match their team needs—which makes them an interesting candidate to trade out of this spot. If they stay put, Kyle Hamilton is a very nice piece they can build around. Talking to some scouts and coaches, there are many teams that have him ranked as the best overall player in the draft class.
#4 New York Jets —— DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Yes, there will be talk about poor work ethic and a lack of competitiveness, but turn on the tape and Thibodeaux was a dominant force for three seasons at Oregon. If he throttled down on a subpar Ducks team to protect his future in the NFL, it’s hard to blame him or claim that he lacks the competitive juices to win the pros. The Jets should be thrilled that he’s available here.
#5 New York Giants —— OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
With the emerging Andrew Thomas on one side and the powerhouse Ikem Ekwonu on the other, Brian Daboll should see a huge spark for his new offense with the Giants. The team has to get accurate evaluations of Daniel Jones and Saquan Barkley this season. Investing in an offensive line that can help them produce is crucial to that evaluation.
#6 Carolina Panthers —— OT Charles Cross, Miss. State
The quarterback talk will be real as the Panthers are expected to be very active this offseason, but for right now their books still have Sam Darnold on them for the 2022 season. The word around the league is that a new offensive coordinator and an improved offensive line will be the key to Darnold’s success in Carolina. Charles Cross and Taylor Moton as bookends will certainly help that.
#7 New York Giants (from Chicago) —— DE David Ojabo, Michigan
As important as it is for the Giants to fix their offensive line this offseason, equally important is upgrading the defensive line and pass rush. Ojabo is a raw player who just came on in 2021, but his athletic upside is through the roof. Some scouts believe he has a higher upside than teammate Aidan Hutchinson.
#8 Atlanta Falcons —— QB Malik Willis, Liberty
The Falcons are the ideal situation for Malik Willis to thrive given the presence of Matt Ryan for the 2022 season. Willis can learn, acclimate and improve on a plan very similar to the one put in place for Trey Lance by the San Francisco 49ers. His arm talent and elusiveness as a runner are electric.
#9 Denver Broncos —— LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
The Broncos are more likely to solve their opening at quarterback through a trade or free agency; that opens the door for a rangy, athletic, attacking linebacker to fill a huge need on defense. Lloyd was a one-man wrecking crew for the Utes.
#10 New York Jets (from Seattle) —— CB Sauce Gardner, Cincinnati
6’3” cornerbacks with sweet feet are hard to come by. That’s why the Jets pull the trigger on Gardner even if head coach Robert Saleh’s defenses have in the past featured non-premium picks at the position. In Gardner—who didn’t allow a touchdown in college—Saleh just might see a young Richard Sherman.
#11 Washington Commanders —— QB Kenny Pickett, Pitt
There are only so many quarterbacks to go around this offseason and the Commanders must get one. Kenny Pickett’s accuracy and the catchable way he throws the ball will no doubt be appealing to an offense that has key weapons already in place.
#12 Minnesota Vikings —— CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
The Vikings will no doubt have more of an analytics look with new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah coming in, but this pick is all about the best possible value. Stingley fills a need and when healthy would be a top five player in this class.
#13 Cleveland Browns —— WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
The first wide receiver comes off the board and gives Cleveland—and more importantly Baker Mayfield—a big (6’3”, 225 lbs) target that has run-after-catch ability. Burks’ tape in 2021 was elite and has pushed him to the top of wide receiver boards around the league.
#14 Baltimore Ravens —— OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
Ronnie Stanley is great when active, but he’s missed the most of the last two seasons and is a health risk currently. Even if he’s back, the Ravens’ offensive line needs upgrades. Penning has the size and athleticism to play either left or right tackle from Day 1.
#15 Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami) —— WR Drake London, USC
It’s easy to forget that Drake London was doing a Randy Moss impersonation before fracturing his ankle in late October. London gives Jalen Hurts the big strike zone he needs as a passer and immediately upgrades the Eagles’ redzone offense.
#16 Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis) —— DE Travon Walker, Georgia
The pass rush in Philadelphia will undergo a makeover this offseason due to age and free agency. It also helps that they have three first-round draft picks to rebuild with. Travon Walker flashed for the national champion Bulldogs this year as a powerful, 275-pound rusher with the speed to win around the edge.
#17 Los Angeles Chargers —— DL Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
It’s very tempting to think about the Chargers’ offensive line here or even another receiver, but Brandon Staley needs a better defensive tackle in the mix and Devonte Wyatt is the best in the draft class. At 310 pounds, he’s expected to run in the 4.7-second range in the 40-yard dash and was a huge, constant, three-down force for the Dawgs’ defense.
#18 New Orleans Saints —— QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
We could definitely see the Saints be active in the veteran quarterback market, but while they’re starting over with a new head coach (Dennis Allen) we could also see a rookie quarterback come into the fold. Matt Corral is undersized (6’1”, 205 lbs) but has a live arm and very good agility. A big NFL Scouting Combine performance could rocket him into top 20 contention.
#19 Philadelphia Eagles —— OC Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
If Jason Kelce opts to retire, the Eagles have a replacement tailor made for his spot available in the first round. Tyler Linderbaum is an elite athlete at the center position, a mauler in the run game, and he has the football IQ to step in as the Day 1 center for the 2022 season.
#20 Pittsburgh Steelers —— OT Daniel Faalele, Minnesota
Fans will be upset that this isn’t a quarterback, but with three off the board already there simply isn’t a value available if the draft board falls this way. And that’s a reality fans and front office members need to start preparing for. The next franchise quarterback for the Steelers might not come from the 2022 first round.
#21 New England Patriots —— DE George Karlaftis, Purdue
It’s impossible to project what the Patriots will do this far out from the Draft, but it is easy to connect the dots of how slow they looked on defense against the Bills with this upcoming draft class’ strength on defense. Karlaftis looked like JJ Watt to start the ‘21 season before cooling off, but he has the player profile to fit the Patriots’ defense to a T.
#22 Las Vegas Raiders —— WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
As great as Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow are, the Raiders have to give Derek Carr more weapons in the passing game. Garrett Wilson won’t wow scouts with size or speed, but his route-running is the best in the class and he’s a monster after the catch.
#23 Arizona Cardinals —— OG Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Despite reports of unhappiness from both Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, the expectation is that he’ll return in 2022. With that in mind, the Cardinals must do a better job protecting their investment. Kenyon Green can play anywhere on the offensive line but should slide in as a high-impact rookie guard.
#24 Dallas Cowboys —— LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
The Cowboys could go a few directions in Round 1, but the need for a consistent linebacker is huge in my opinion and according to sources I’ve spoken to. Nakobe Dean won’t test exceptionally well and he’s undersized, but he’s also a great football player. That can work in Dallas and in Dan Quinn’s defense.
#25 Buffalo Bills —— WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
A potential top 10 pick before an ACL injury in the national championship game, Jameson Williams falls into a great situation with the Bills. His speed—before and after the catch—will open this offense up and allow the team to move on from pending free agents at the receiver position.
#26 Tennessee Titans —— DE Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State
Free agency will be crucial in determining the needs of the Titans—notably pass-rusher Harold Landry. But even if Landry is back, the Titans could beef up a unit that hasn’t had the success most expected under Mike Vrabel. Coming off a red hot Senior Bowl week, Jermaine Johnson II definitely has the look of a first-rounder.
#27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers —— CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
Tom Brady’s replacement isn’t on the board at pick No. 27 overall, but the Buccaneers have more than just quarterback to worry about. A young secondary propelled the defense to a Super Bowl in 2020 and GM Jason Licht must focus on churning the talent on the back end of his defense every year. McDuffie is a steal at pick No. 27 overall.
#28 Green Bay Packers —— DE Boye Mafe, Minnesota
Wide receiver would be a great pick for the Packers, but we’ve seen that show before. Instead, look for the Green Bay Packers to continue building their defense through the early rounds of the draft. Boye Mafe had a great Senior Bowl and showed the speed and power to place himself into the first round.
#29 Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco) —— OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
No matter who is coaching or quarterbacking, the offensive line needs addressed in Miami. Bernhard Raimann didn’t have quite the Senior Bowl bump I expected, but he still showed himself to be a viable Round 1 option at either tackle spot.
#30 Kansas City Chiefs —— S Daxton Hill, Michigan
There is a long list of pending free agents in Kansas City but none is bigger than safety Tyrann Mathieu. If the leader of the defense leaves for a bigger payday, the Chiefs are in desperate need of a new safety. In a heavy three-safety defense, they are with or without Mathieu. Daxton Hill’s athleticism and range should be attractive to those fans tired of seeing Daniel Sorensen in coverage.
#31 Cincinnati Bengals —— OG Zion Johnson, Boston College
You watched the Los Angeles Rams sack Joe Burrow seven times to win the Super Bowl; and the Bengals watched it too. Expect early resources to be spent upgrading the offensive line. With the return of 2021 second-rounder Jackson Carman and adding Zion Johnson, the interior in Cincinnati could be a stretch in no time.
#32 Detroit Lions (from LA Rams) —— WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
The Lions’ wide receiver room is the weakest in the NFL by a healthy margin. That’ll change this offseason as the position is a priority from what I’m told by those close to the front office. Brad Holmes knows as general manager how important the position is and Chris Olave’s route-running and toughness would be a quick upgrade.