NFL Mock Draft 2022: Falcons find quarterback of the future, while edge rushers dominate the first round

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We are drawing closer and closer to the 2022 NFL draft. The NFL offseason has given us plenty of clues as to what might happen come April 28th, especially in the past week as three different first-round selections were traded. Deshaun Watson is a Brown. Russell Wilson is a Bronco. Carson Wentz is a Commander. Tom Brady is back. Aaron Rodgers is staying with the Packers. Matt Ryan is a Colt. Yup. That has all happened since last Sunday, and those are just the quarterbacks.

With the combine and Senior Bowl in the books, we have a ton more information about these prospects than we did the last time I put together a mock draft. It is interesting to sort through the numbers that are significant and the ones that can be dismissed as nothing to worry about. Free agency has had a major impact on team needs across the league as well.

With all of that in mind, let’s dive into my latest mock as we approach the one month mark in the countdown to the 2022 NFL draft.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14) – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
After franchise tagging Cam Robinson and signing Brandon Scherff, Jacksonville frees itself up to take the best player available. Pairing Hutchinson with Josh Allen would give the Jaguars a lethal pass rush off the edge and something to build their entire defense around. They can always grab a tackle at pick No. 33 as well to help bolster the offensive line.

2. Detroit Lions (3-13-1) – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
The Lions actually have a good problem here. They have two great tackles, so Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu aren’t really in play here. I think this is actually a good spot for the Lions to trade down from, maybe with the Giants or Panthers, who both have big needs at offensive tackle. I know that Thibodeaux’s draft stock has slipped a bit in recent weeks, but I still see a dynamic edge rusher with tons of potential. Detroit would get a player at a position of need and an incredibly valuable one.

3. Houston Texans (4-13) – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Houston finally knows how it can move forward with the Deshaun Watson situation finally resolved. Well, at least it is as far as the Texans are concerned. With an extra first-round pick in the next three drafts, Houston can start to rebuild a roster in desperate need of more talent. With Laremy Tunsil already on one side, Neal would give the Texans two good bookends to work with. Whether Davis Mills is the answer or not, this sets up the offensive line for long-term success. Neal has experience playing on the right side as well, so this wouldn’t be a huge change for him.

4. New York Jets (4-13) – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Go ahead and grab the best lockdown corner your organization has had since Darelle Revis. I don’t know if Gardner will quite reach that level, but he does compare well to another former Jets corner in Antonio Cromartie. He is long and physical with more than enough speed to thrive in the NFL. He would give New York a really strong, and young, cornerback room.

5. New York Giants (4-13) – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
Daniel Jones probably isn’t the answer long term, but the best way to find out is to protect him. Ekwonu is one of the best athletes in the draft, which is saying something. He still has more room to grow with his technique as a blocker and footwork, but the power he brings to the table is incredibly enticing. He and Andrew Thomas would certainly make life easier for Saquon Barkely, too.

6. Carolina Panthers (5-12) – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
With how the first-round has played out so far, this is a really tough spot for the Panthers. This is too early for Charles Cross in my eyes. They don’t need a cornerback right now after drafting Jaycee Horn last year and bringing back Donte Jackson. This is a bit earlier than I think a quarterback should probably go, but Carolina needs one badly. Sam Darnold is not the answer. Neither is Cam Newton. Willis is a project, no question about it. However, he has elite physical tools and by all accounts is an incredibly high character player. I can see him finding long-term success with this team. This will be a tough sell for Matt Rhule, who is unquestionably coaching for his job this season. Willis is definitely not a plug-and-play option.

7. New York Giants via Chicago Bears (6-11) – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
The buzz right now is that James Bradberry could be on his way out in New York. If the Giants do in fact trade or release their top corner, they will need someone to start across from Adoree’ Jackson on the outside. Stingley has some red flags given his medical past, but his top-end potential is the best player in this draft class. If he comes anywhere close to his 2019 form, this will be a slam dunk addition for the Giants.

8. Atlanta Falcons (7-10) – Drake London, WR, USC
Matt Ryan is gone, but there are no quarterbacks worth taking at this spot. Calvin Ridley also won’t be playing in 2022. Russell Gage is headed for Tampa Bay. Atlanta desperately needs an outside receiver. Drake London was putting up video game-like numbers before suffering an ankle injury. He is tall and has long arms to catch the ball away from his body. I think he can have a Mike Evans-type impact on an offense. Arthur Smith also has a good track record with big, physical receivers.

9. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos (7-10) – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Seattle is in a very different spot than it was the last time I published a mock draft. Russell Wilson is gone, along with defensive stalwarts Bobby Wagner and Carlos Dunlap. Duane Brown is still a free-agent. There are a lot of directions the Seahawks could head with this pick. Landing an athletic pass rusher who can drop into coverage and play the run seems like a good place to start. Walker’s stock is on the rise. He had a phenomenal combine and some impressive tape. He won’t change Seattle’s fortunes immediately, but it is a good start.

10. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (7-10) – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Jets fans might be skeptical of taking another safety with a premium draft pick, but Hamilton is not like Jamal Adams. Hamilton is big, fast and great in open space. His coverage ability is what sets him apart from Adams. With Marcus Maye now in New Orleans, New York desperately needs someone to step into that role. Adding Gardner and Hamilton would give the secondary a full makeover.

11. Washington Football Team (7-10) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
With Carson Wentz now on board, Washington has to do everything it can to put him in a position to be successful. Adding a talented route runner with impressive speed would give the Commanders a fantastic duo to roll out. Wilson and Terry McLaruin would be an exciting one-two pairing, especially with Dyami Brown playing out of the slot and stretching the field.

12. Minnesota Vikings (8-9) – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
The Vikings have already plugged a few holes on their defense this offseason, signing Jordan Hicks and Harrison Phillips. They still need a plan out on the edge across from Danielle Hunter. Minnesota already tried to move Hunter once, so it is no guarantee he will be there long term either. Jermaine Johnson is an incredible run defender with room to grow as a pass rusher. He tested well at the combine and cleaned up during Senior Bowl week. If he can develop as a pass rusher, this will be a steal. Editor’s note: the Vikings have since signed former Packers pass rusher Za’Darius Smith.

13. Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns (8-9) – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
Building in the trenches. That seems to be the mantra echoing from the Texans front office this offseason. After taking a mountain of a man in Evan Neal with their first pick, Houston grabs another big body to transform their defensive line. Jordan Davis is an athletic monster with incredible speed for a man his size. He plugs up the middle against the run and is capable of collapsing the pocket on passing downs.

14. Baltimore Ravens (8-9) – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
With Bradley Bozeman now in Carolina, the Ravens need to find a replacement, especially after Lamar Jackson spent much of 2022 scrambling from the pass rush. Linderbaum could be a perfect fit here. He is a bit undersized, but he has excellent movement skills and a bit of nastiness to him as a run blocker. With a mobile quarterback like Jackson, having someone to block in space could be very useful.

15. Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins (9-8) – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
With three first-round picks, this could finally be the year the Eagles draft a linebacker. I think it should be. Devin Lloyd is a versatile option who can blitz off the edge and plug up the middle. He has really good range and checks all the physical boxes you expect from a modern linebacker. He would be an improvement over basically everyone the Eagles currently have under contract.

16. Philadelphia Eagles via Indianapolis Colts (9-8) – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
The Achilles injury for Ojabo is really unfortunate and of course concerning. He will likely be slow-played for much of his rookie season as a result. That being said, the Eagles have the benefit of multiple first-round selections. They can afford to take a chance on a player with tremendous upside and great physical traits. Philly also really needs an upgrade on the edge.

17. Los Angeles Chargers (9-8) – DeVonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
Quickly becoming one of my favorite players in this draft class, Wyatt stands out whenever you watch the Georgia defense. When you consider that I have four other former Bulldogs in the first-round in this mock, that should let you know how special he is. He is relentless in his pursuit of the ball and he can get after it as a pass rusher. He lacks elite length, but his burst usually gives him an edge. He would create a scary setup alongside Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack.

18. New Orleans Saints (9-8) – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
This is assuming that Terron Armstead does not return to the Saints this season. If he does, Cross won’t be the pick. With Armstead out, Cross would step in to protect Jameis Winston’s blindside. Cross has faced more pass rushing snaps in the past season than many tackle prospects do in their college careers. He will be ready to anchor in pass pro, even if he does over set on occasion. His lack of tape as a run blocker is a bit of a risk, but his body type makes me believe he develop in that space.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Another year, another receiver for the Eagles. While they seem to have hit on last year’s pick in DeVonta Smith, the former Heisman winner could use some help. Olave can take the top off a defense. He is a smooth operator in open space as well. Philadelphia seems serious about giving Jalen Hurts a chance to succeed. Finding him as many weapons to grow with is the best way forward.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) – Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
It is unlikely Mitch Trubisky is the long-term answer at quarterback for the Steelers. However, reaching on a quarterback is a really good way to get fired. Instead, Pittsburgh continues to rebuild its offensive line with one of the best interior linemen in this draft class. Green even has some experience at tackle, only adding to his value. It feels like there are not enough resources for the Steelers to throw at their offensive line given how bad it was a year ago.

21. New England Patriots (10-7) – Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
Yet another former Georgia player I am very high on. Walker is big and long and fast. Three things Bill Belichick covets in linebackers. He has true sideline-to-sideline range and can drop into coverage well. The Pats could head a different direction if they bring back Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, but right now, linebacker is a clear need.

22. Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
This move would help take some of the sting off no longer having Davante Adams. Green Bay has a wide receiver room full of complementary players. Williams has a chance to be the leader of the group if he can regain his pre-injury form. With impressive speed and agility, he can be a game-changer. He does have some drops on tape, which is a concern. If can minimize the negative plays, this has the potential to be a great new partnership for the Packers.

23. Arizona Cardinals (11-6) – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Inside linebacker is set for Arizona. Outside linebacker is very fluid at the moment. At worst, Karlaftis would be a situational pass rusher on a team that just lost Chandler Jones in free agency. Ideally, the former Purdue star steps in and takes a starting role. He is very gifted, but has to improve when it comes to reading his keys.

24. Dallas Cowboys (12-5) – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Wide receiver is certainly an option after sending Amari Cooper to Cleveland, but there is depth in this receiver class. Instead, Dallas opts for a bigger corner to start opposite Trevon Diggs. Booth unfortunately did not test at the combine, where I really think he could have boosted his stock. His film shows a player capable of making some important plays on balls down the field and enough speed to be a capable NFL starter.

25. Buffalo Bills (11-6) – Zion Johnson, G, Boston College
Josh Allen has taken a beating in recent years mostly due to poor interior offensive line play. Zion Johnson has a chance to change all of that. He is a plug and play option with tons of experience. In this scenario, he would slot in at left guard and provide some stability at the position. His athleticism gives him a really high ceiling to reach in the NFL.

26. Tennessee Titans (12-5) – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
The Titans took the edge of their need at wide receiver by trading for Robert Woods. That allows the address one of the biggest holes on their defense by tabbing Dean. Dean is an instinctive playmaker. He attacks downhill and is a great situation blitzer. He is definitely a bit undersized, but he has the speed to drop into coverage, making him a true three-down player. With Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans both still unsigned, Dean would help soften the blow if neither of them return.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4) – Bernhard Raimann, OL, Central Michigan
Ali Marpet surprised a lot of people when he retired at the age of 28. Holding out hope that he pulls a Tom Brady and returns to the team is probably irresponsible team building. Raimann is a former tight end who has spent the past two seasons learning to play offensive line. He doesn’t have the measurables to continue playing tackle in the NFL, but he is stout and physical. He should be in contention to start at left guard from Day 1 in Tampa Bay.

28. Green Bay Packers (13-4) – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Green Bay’s offensive line has quietly deteriorated over the past few seasons. David Bakhtiari has struggled to stay healthy. Right tackle has been a revolving door. Adding Penning gives the Packers some insurance if Bakhtiari gets hurt again and a potential long-term answer at right tackle. He is a hulking figure at 6’7″, 325 pounds. He has good athleticism too for a man his size.

29. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers (10-7) – Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State
This pick is solely about projection. Ebiketie might seem a bit undersized, but he has long arms, big hands and good burst off the edge. The former Temple transfer built on his success in AAC by posting 9.5 sacks in 2021 while playing against Big Ten competition. He is still relatively new to football after discovering the game as a sophomore in high school. I believe he will take the next step in his development in the NFL and turn into a dynamic pass rusher.

30. Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) – Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky
The Chiefs found another weapon for Patrick Mahomes to work with when they signed JuJu Smith-Schuster. Now they need to make sure Mahomes is standing long enough to get him the ball. The Chargers have Bosa and Mack. The Raiders have Crosby and Chandler. The Broncos have Gregory and Chubb. Kansas City better have a plan for right tackle. Kinnard can step in and provide some nastiness on the right side of the line. He has tremendous length and heavy hands. He is not the most athletic prospect of all time, but he should help anchor down the right side of the line next to Trey Smith.

31. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
After bolstering their offensive line in free agency, Cincinnati can turn its attention to the defense. McDuffie is a bit undersized, but he has the closing speed and physicality you want to see from a starting corner. He notably did not allow a touchdown in 2021 and is credited for playing bigger than his size. Those are two good signs for him in the NFL. Even after hitting on Chidobe Awuzie, there is still room for some more talent in the Bengals cornerback room. After all, the AFC is loaded with talented quarterbacks.

32. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles (12-5) – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
I strongly considered a quarterback here, but I think Detroit is more interested in building the framework for Jared Goff and whoever succeeds him down the line. Treylon Burks is a physical playmaker who can stretch the field and make plays in the red zone. He has good initial burst, even if he lacks elite long speed. His three cone was a bit of a red flag, but his long arms should allow him to make contested catches even if he cannot generate a ton of separation. Look for him to form a solid young tandem with Amon-Ra St. Brown.

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