Miller Mock Draft: Early 2022 NFL Mock Draft
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It never fails—the minute one draft class ends, people are looking for information on the next class. Even though a mock draft posted 360 days before the actual draft isn’t expected to be accurate, people have fun looking at team needs, the players who are expected to be drafted highly as of now, and even looking at predictions of what will happen in terms of win-loss records.
And my job is to provide you that entertainment.
Round 1 of the 2022 NFL draft is below. Some housekeeping items:
The draft order is based on NFL Super Bowl odds and reversed for draft positioning.
The Carson Wentz to Indianapolis trade is valued at a conditional second-rounder that can become a first-rounder if he plays 75 percent of snaps or they make the playoffs. I’m projecting one (or both) will happen, turning that selection for Philadelphia into a first-rounder.
Let’s get weird.
1. Houston Texans — EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
A quarterback could be the clear-cut biggest need for Houston when the 2022 NFL Draft begins, but after using their first selection in the 2021 draft on quarterback Davis Mills, we’re holding off on projecting a quarterback here.
Instead, the Texans land an elite pass-rusher in Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. He’s an athletic rusher at 6’5” and 250 pounds with the first step to give left tackles nightmares.
Thibodeaux has a strong chance to go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 overall player in the class.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars — OT Evan Neal, Alabama
The Jaguars got their quarterback in 2021 with Trevor Lawrence; now it’s time to protect him. Evan Neal is a monster product at 6’7” and 360 pounds but he’ll be playing on the left side of the line for the Crimson Tide in 2022. That position has a way of boosting a prospect’s stock.
Neal enters the process as my top-rated tackle with an early comparison to Mekhi Becton thanks to his size, mobility and dominance in the run game. There are questions about his ability to handle speed rushers on the left side, but he has an entire college football season to prove he can handle them.
3. Cincinnati Bengals — CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
No offensive tackle for the Bengals!? Not here, as any tackles other than Neal would be a reach. Instead, the Bengals turn their eyes back to LSU and nab the best defensive back in the class.
Derek Stingley, Jr. is one of the most impressive physical talents at the cornerback position in quite some time. It’s safe to say he’ll have a grade that puts him in the top five cornerbacks I’ve ever evaluated barring a shocking 2021 season.
And keep an eye on him this year, as LSU might even use him on offense.
4. New York Jets — EDGE Zach Harrison, Ohio State
A projection more than a prediction, as Zach Harrison hasn’t quite broken out and become the playmaker many expected him to be when he arrived in Columbus. But the time is now for him to step into the spotlight and become the next great Buckeye pass-rusher. The tools are all there.
The Jets have filled most of their needs on paper and still have another first-rounder from the Seattle Seahawks coming in this draft. Getting a potential edge-rusher for Robert Saleh’s defense to pair with Carl Lawson is a money pick.
5. Detroit Lions — QB Sam Howell, North Carolina
And the run on quarterbacks begins. Who will be the first passer drafted in 2022 is a mystery right now, but the early favorite among NFL scouts is North Carolina’s Sam Howell. A Baker Mayfield clone in terms of body type and play, Howell has to prove he can carry the Tar Heels after having his top two wide receivers and two one-thousand yard rushers drafted in the 2021 class.
Howell is accurate, tough and poised but has to cut down on miscues and prove he can elevate the young talent around him in 2022 to earn the QB1 label.
The Lions should be all-in on quarterbacks after the Jared Goff experiment this season. With two first-round selections and a shaky roster, they are very well positioned to make a splash at quarterback.
6. Denver Broncos — QB Carson Strong, Nevada
After not selecting a quarterback in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, the Broncos have to be considered an early favorite to select one next year (unless they can land Aaron Rodgers, of course).
Carson Strong is my early QB1 with a 6’4” frame, monster arm and the production to match. He’s accurate, poised and has enough mobility to make things happen when the play dictates that he go off-script. It’s early, but his traits are the most appealing to me currently. Strong missed the Nevada spring game due to a minor knee surgery, but given a previous injury to the knee it’s something worth monitoring.
7. Atlanta Falcons — QB Kedon Slovis, USC
Just like Denver, the Atlanta Falcons did not select a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. If the team is selecting in the top 10 again in 2022, expect that to change as the front office shifts to eyeing life after Matt Ryan.
Slovis is accurate, but gives off some game-manager vibes with an elite supporting cast around him. Of course, that could have been a line about Mac Jones at this time last year. Slovis has the keys and traits to emerge as a top quarterback for 2022.
8. New York Giants — S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
It’s finally time to talk about Kyle Hamilton after loving his game as an underclassman for the last two years. The Notre Dame safety is picture-perfect at 6’4” and 219 pounds as a Derwin James-like defender.
The Giants traded back in the 2021 class but still netted top players. They’ll want to hold tight for Hamilton as a defensive game-changer if he’s still on the board when Trader Dave Gettleman comes on the clock.
9. Washington Football Team — QB Phil Jurkovec, Boston College
Another team that missed out on the 2021 quarterback crop finds their future passer as Washington nabs big-armed Boston College slinger Phil Jurkovec.
The 6’5”, 226-pounder has an elite arm and tore apart defenses in 2021 with his touch and timing. He could be this year’s riser or he could be a Kyle Trask-like quarterback who’s lack of mobility plagues him in the eyes of scouts.
Either way, right now Jurkovec has the traits to warrant a first-round projection if he plays like he did in 2020.
10. New York Giants (from Chicago) — EDGE Drake Jackson, USC
With two first-round selections thanks to the Bears’ trade up for Justin Fields, the Giants are loaded with capital next year. Here they double-down on improving the defense and get an outside rusher with stand-up or hand-down ability.
At 6’4” and 255 pounds, Jackson is scheme-fluid and a big time rusher with the burst and power to be a problem for NFL offensive tackles. The potential of teaming him up with Azeez Ojulari should excite Giants fans.
11. Philadelphia Eagles — DL DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
The Eagles’ pass rush could use a boost, especially as they eye the turnover of the roster in future years. Texas A&M defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal has the body type to dominate as a 4-3 defensive tackle or 3-4 defensive end. He’s a scheme-fluid athlete with the power and agility to penetrate from either scheme.
Leal has big-time breakout potential. And after a lackluster defensive tackle class, Leal could shoot up boards and find himself in the top five.
12. Carolina Panthers — IOL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
The Panthers continue to build the wall in front of Sam Darnold—who I am projecting to keep the job in Carolina in 2022 after they picked up his fifth-year option—with a mauler of an offensive lineman.
Green lines up at tackle for the Aggies, but at 6’4” and 325 pounds a projection to the inside is very likely. Especially when the Panthers already have Taylor Moton at right tackle and the addition of Brady Christensen in the 2021 draft, Green could star at guard for Carolina.
13. Las Vegas Raiders — DL Jordan Davis, Georgia
A player with first-round buzz headed into the 2020 season, Jordan Davis is looking for a rebound year in ‘21.
The Raiders needs in the middle of the defense were largely satisfied with selections in the 2021 draft, but a space-eating defensive tackle who can also push the pocket and get after the quarterback is still a future need in Las Vegas.
If Davis can get back to his ‘19 form, he’s a value pick here.
14. Arizona Cardinals — CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
Here’s a cornerback prospect with the tools to rise and become a Jaycee Horn in 2022.
Kaiir Elam is a baller at 6’2” and 195 pounds with the closing speed, agility and ball skills to be an elite man coverage prospect. He also brings the length and footwork combination to become a top 10 player with another good season.
Florida knows how to coach ‘em at cornerback and Elam is the next great one.
15. Minnesota Vikings — EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
If you haven’t noticed, the 2022 edge-rusher class is nice. Purdue’s big boy George Karlaftis is a name to get familiar with in Round 1. Coming off just a two sack season in 2020, Karlaftis has the power at 6’4” and 270 pounds to be an enforcer as a 4-3 defensive end.
Karlaftis is a bit of a projection, but the Vikings have a need for another pass-rusher even after selecting Patrick Jones II in the third-round. Until Danielle Hunter is happy with his contract, edge-rusher is a need for the Vikings.
16. Los Angeles Chargers — WR John Metchie III, Alabama
As I prepared to publish my 2022 NFL draft watchlist, I reached out to multiple NFL scouts about players to keep an eye on and know. One hit me back with, “Metchie is better than [Jaylen] Waddle or [Devonta] Smith. Wait and see.”
While that might be a little premature, Metchie is legit. At 6’0” and a listed 195 pounds he’s a little undersized, but his hands and routes are first-round caliber. He debuted at No. 5 overall on my big board.
17. New England Patriots — WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
It’s time to get Mac Jones some help. The Patriots haven’t had a ton of success in Round 1 at the receiver position since Terry Glenn, but the connection of Bill Belichick to Ryan Day and Ohio State should make him comfortable with the prospect of adding this former Buckeye.
Olave is a slick route-runner with good hands and a knack for playmaking. His ability to break back to the ball and become a go-to threat in the passing game will make him a Mac Jones favorite and year one impact.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers — QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
The Steelers have three quarterbacks but do they really have one for the future? I’m betting on no, which puts them in position to roll the dice on a quarterback in the loaded 2022 class.
Rattler is undersized (6’1”, 210 lbs) but there is an obvious Zach Wilson or Kyler Murray element to this game. His arm strength is impressive, he has a natural ability to make off-platform plays and he’s a plus-level athlete.
If that sounds like something Pittsburgh needs, it’s because it’s exactly what they’re lacking.
19. Cleveland Browns — LB Christian Harris, Alabama
The Browns have few legitimate on-paper needs. An area where we could see player turnover is at linebacker where the Browns have a lot of players but no go-to guy.
Christian Harris has every opportunity to break out in 2021. He’s athletic, rangy, and will have a world-class defense around him. The middle linebacker at Alabama has been a bit of a cursed position lately, but Harris has the tools to overcome that in the pros.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis) — TE Jalen Wydermeyer, Texas A&M
Another Eagles pick in Round 1 and with this they get an athletic, move tight end with all kinds of positional versatility. Wydermeyer could see a step back in 2021 with Kellen Mond no longer at quarterback, but this Aggies’ tight end is a stud.
At 6’5” and 265 pounds, Wydermeyer had the production in 2020 to turn heads. With his six touchdowns last year, he showed he can be a big-time post-up tight end who also has the athleticism to break defenses.
21. Dallas Cowboys — EDGE Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
One of my favorites from the 2020 college football season, Myjai Sanders decided to return for the 2021 season. Sanders is a juicy pass-rusher with a 6’5”, 260-pound frame and seven sacks in a shortened 2020 season.
The Cowboys reached for three defenders in Round 3 but still don’t have a pass-rusher to work opposite Tank Lawrence in the Cowboys’ 4-3 scheme.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami) — OT Zion Nelson, Miami
After selecting a defensive tackle and tight end who are the top players at their position in this class, the Eagles use their third first-rounder to bolster the offensive line with Miami’s Zion Nelson.
Lane Johnson has been fantastic, but is aging. Andre Dillard hasn’t proven himself yet. The Eagles could have a sneaky need at tackle and Nelson looks to be one of the draft’s biggest risers if he continues on his strong play from 2020.
23. Tennessee Titans — WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Many Titans fans reached out to me over the three days of the draft to share their complaints that the Titans weren’t prioritizing the wide receiver position. Here they correct that with a player Mike Vrabel will know well thanks to his Ohio State connection.
Wilson has the tools to emerge as the best receiver in college football. He was electric in 2020 but has to start fresh with a new quarterback at Ohio State. And while that might mean a drop in production, his traits and position-specific tools are first-rounder all the way.
24. New York Jets (from Seattle) — RB Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M
I know, I know. The Jets drafted Michael Carter from North Carolina in the fourth round and he’s a good player. But he isn’t Isaiah Spiller. Because Isaiah Spiller is a dude.
The Aggie running back shakes, spins, and speeds past defenders at 6’1” and 225 pounds with the power to lower his pads and crush tacklers. Spiller’s all-around game should have him off the board way before No. 24 overall, but with the position being devalued he could slip on draft day.
25. New Orleans Saints — QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
The Saints selected Ian Book from Notre Dame in the fourth round, but we aren’t really thinking he’s the quarterback of the future in New Orleans. Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder can be.
Ridder is an exciting prospect with dual-threat capabilities. At 6’4” and 215 pounds he has the arm strength to whip the ball all over the field but needs a breakout season. That could happen statistically as the Bearcats are loaded for 2021.
26. Miami Dolphins (from 49ers) — RB Breece Hall, Iowa State
The Dolphins didn’t address their biggest need—at running back—throughout the 2021 draft. It’s time to get a home-run hitter who can be the guy in the backfield behind Tua.
Breece Hall is electric, but must prove he can be the chunk-yardage specialist and pull-away back the NFL desires. At 6’1” and 216 pounds he has three-down ability, but how well he produces down the field in 2021 could push him up or down the board.
27. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams) — WR George Pickens, Georgia
A torn ACL for Pickens could push him down the board but if his recovery looks on track by the time his draft decision happens, he has WR1 talent.
Pickens was elite as a freshman and sophomore but his late-March ACL timeline could get tricky for the 2021 season. Still, we’ve seen elite receivers miss the start of a season before and come back strong. There’s no IR in college football, so as soon as he’s cleared to go the Bulldogs will get him back onto the field.
28. Buffalo Bills — RB Kyren Williams, Notre Dame
The Bills have very few needs headed into the 2021 season, but one area they weren’t able to address in the draft was a go-to running back. Sure, Devin Singletary or Zack Moss could emerge as the dude this upcoming season, but neither player has the three down ability of Kyren Williams.
A 5’9”, 195 pound wrecking ball with deep speed; Williams has the hands, power, vision and balance to be an elite NFL running back. Especially combined with all the weapons in Buffalo.
29. Baltimore Ravens — OT Charles Cross, Miss. State
Alejandro Villaneuva was added at right tackle and will be a short-term fix, but the long-term answer at right tackle must come through the 2022 NFL draft. Athletic blocker Charles Cross from Mississippi State can be that answer.
While Cross might not fit the traditional Ravens’ mold at right tackle—he’s right at 305 pounds—his ability to win on angle blocks and in space is perfect for the blocking scheme around Lamar Jackson.
If the Ravens can keep the offensive line stocked, good things will happen.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Even after getting a premier edge-rusher prospect in Joe Tryon with their first round selection in 2021, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can still continue to add big-time rushers in 2022.
Aidan Hutchinson is 6’6” and 270 pounds and plays with the length and power of that size. That gives him the flexibility to play inside or outside in the Tampa scheme and gives Todd Bowles another pass-rusher to attack opposing quarterbacks.
31. Green Bay Packers — OT Rasheed Walker, Penn State
Nope, not a wide receiver in Round 1 this year either. The Packers instead look at the offensive line and start getting younger (and cheaper) at key positions. Rasheed Walker is a natural left tackle at 6’6” and 312 pounds but has the power to handle the right side.
The Packers could look to wide receivers or linebackers here, but building the offensive line for the Jordan Love era is most important.
32. Kansas City Chiefs — TE Jahleel Billingsley, Alabama
The Kansas City Chiefs have to think about what the offense will look like once Travis Kelce starts to slow down. Does the offense still roll through the tight end? It can with Jahleel Billingsley.
The Alabama offensive weapon is another elite athlete at the position. At 6’4” and 240 pounds he’s more of an “F” tight end but has the positional versatility to line up inline, in the slot, in a flex position or even split out wide at receiver.
Does Patrick Mahomes need a weapon like that? Yes, yes he does.
Derek Stingley Jr. to Cincinnati is spot on.
Bengals love them some LSU Tigers.
Jahleel Bilingsley could have a monster season. He’s easily the number two weapon behind Metchie and it’s a Bill O’Brien offense. He might end up being a top 20 pick, especially if he and Bryce Young have a connection.