NFL Draft Daily: How an injury helped Aidan Hutchinson make nearly $30 million

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 351 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

Aidan Hutchinson’s 2020 season had barely gotten started when it abruptly ended. The junior outside linebacker suffered a broken ankle against Indiana that required surgery. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Big Ten did not start its season until October after initially canceling it altogether. In the end, Hutchinson had appeared in just three games, recorded nine tackles, no sacks and no tackles for loss. For a player hoping to make the NFL leap, there was not much positive momentum.

Still, there was some draft buzz surrounding Hutchinson. If memory serves, he was projected to go somewhere in the mid-to-late second round. Perhaps if he hadn’t hurt his ankle, he would’ve finished a bit stronger. A chance to test at the combine could have secured himself in that middle part of the second round. Even with the injury, Jim Nagy thought he would have been a Day 2 pick in June of 2021.

At this point, we all know what happened instead. Hutchinson underwent surgery on his leg, returned to school and finished as the runner up for the Heisman as Michigan made its first ever appearance in the College Football Playoff. He posted 14 sacks, 16 tackles for loss and forced two fumbles. He wound up being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft and will suit up for his hometown team this season.

We’ve seen it happen so many times before where a player is on the cusp of reaching the league, but an injury sends them back to school and their draft stock drops significantly. Hutchinson clearly bucked that trend, and that was not lost on him.

“I did have an opportunity to leave my junior year,” Hutchinson said in an interview with ESPN Radio’s Spain & Fitz. “That injury was the greatest blessing that happened to me in my life.”

It turned out that the injury ended up making Hutchinson about $30 million dollars. That’s right, the injury made him money, not lost him. It’s hard to know exactly where he would have been selected in 2021 had he come out, but make some assumptions and take a look at the finances.

Hutchinson helped lead Michigan to its first College Football Playoff appearance. (Wikimedia Commons)

If we assume that Nagy was right with his projected draft range, which he often is, Hutchinson could have come off the board instead of Dayo Odeyingbo in the second round. The Colts took the Vanderbilt defensive end coming off a torn Achilles, so I can’t imagine that a broken ankle alone would have prevented the front office from taking Hutchinson.

Odeyingbo signed a four-year deal worth roughly $6.17 million. According to Spotrac, about $2.8 million of that was guaranteed. Under the assumption above, that’s approximately what Hutchinson was in line for as far as contract compensation goes had he come out in 2021.

Instead, Hutchinson’s stellar senior season propelled him to the second pick in the draft and he cashed in. Hutchinson signed his rookie deal with the Lions on Monday for $35.7 million, including a $23.1 million signing bonus. By the way, that deal is fully guaranteed. That’s a difference of $29.5 million. He will be paid $23.8 million in cash this year, which is the second most in the entire league among defensive ends, second only to Travon Walker, who went No. 1 overall. Danielle Hunter is third at $19.7 million. Odeyingbo ranked 53rd among defensive ends last year. He ranks 106th this year.

That’s a staggering difference. And that’s just a rough estimate of the difference because Hutchinson could have slid even further if he was unable to participate fully in the pre draft process, including the combine and his pro day. Maybe teams would have knocked him for a lack of production. He only had 4.5 sacks during his 2019 season and didn’t record one in 2020 before he got injured.

It was a miraculous year for Hutchinson and I have no doubt his talent would have eventually won out. That being said, this is a truly unusual situation and it is nice to see an injury lead to something positive for once. Way too often, we see injuries derail careers. Hopefully, we will get more stories like Hutchinson’s in the future.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

NFL Draft Daily: The case for Evan Neal at No. 1

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 31 days until the 2022 NFL draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

For the second straight year, the Jacksonville Jaguars have the first overall pick in the NFL draft. In 2021, they used it to select their quarterback of the future and one of the most anticipated prospects in the past decade, Trevor Lawrence.

My message to the Jaguars: don’t pass up the opportunity to give Lawrence the support system he needs. Doug Pederson arriving is already a good start. Jacksonville spent big in free agency, but the upgrades they’ve made feel pretty marginal. Brandon Scherff is a really good addition on the offensive line, but the Jags overpaid for Christian Kirk and probably Foyesade Oluokun as well. They really need to crush it in the draft.

After franchise tagging Cam Robinson, the assumption has been that Jacksonville will now select Aidan Hutchinson No. 1 overall. Pairing the edge rusher from Michigan with Josh Allen would give the Jaguars a talented duo off the edge. However, I’m here to advocate for Evan Neal going first overall.

Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke says extension talks with Robinson are ongoing. (Wikimedia Commons)

I talked about this idea a bit this week on my podcast. This has less to do with Hutchinson and more to with both Neal and the Jaguars future at offensive tackle. Lawrence’s rookie season was nothing shy of a train wreck. He threw 12 touchdowns and a league-high 17 interceptions while completing fewer than 60 percent of his passes. That included an eight-week stretch where he only had one touchdown. However, Lawrence was rarely the subject of scrutiny when it came to the Jaguars. Urban Meyer racked up controversy after controversy to keep the spotlight off the former Clemson star. By all accounts, it was a very toxic environment and Jacksonville did not allow Meyer to even finish his first season.

On top of that, his supporting cast was underwhelming at best. Fellow first-round pick and former Clemson teammate Travis Etienne suffered a Lisfranc injury that cost him the whole year. The receiving corps was often banged up and lacked a go-to playmaker. The offensive line left a lot to be desired as well.

The case for Neal requires a bit of projecting into the future. This is the second straight year the Jaguars tagged Robinson. I can’t see them doing it a third time and clearly they have some reservations about handing him a long-term extension. On the right side, Jacksonville also has a question mark. Jawaan Taylor is in the final year of his rookie deal and has done little to indicate he deserves an extension. According to PFF, he led the league in penalties for offensive tackles last season on top of allowing six sacks. So both of the Jaguars starting tackles could be gone next season and neither one is truly deserving of being the long-term starter.

That’s why I think Neal should be the pick. He measured in at 6’7.5″ and 337 pounds with 34-inch arms at the combine. In addition to being a massive human being capable of moving like a man 100 pounds lighter, he has experience at both tackle spots from his time at Alabama. He could easily play right tackle this season before sliding over to the left side in 2023 when Robinson’s deal is up. Jacksonville also has 2021 2nd-round pick Walker Little in the fold. If he can continue to develop. He could be in line to be the team’s starting right tackle with Neal on the left in 2023.

Put on Neal’s tape and you can see why he is special. He is rock solid in pass protection and can get to the second level as a run blocker. There is definitely room for him to improve his pad level and balance. If you want to see what he looks like going up against NFL talent, here is his film from the SEC Championship game against Georgia.

I have long been an advocate for building in the trenches, especially on the offensive side. Jacksonville has already invested some resources there this offseason, but they shouldn’t stop. Especially after Brandon Linder announced his retirement on Sunday, this unit still has room to grow.

There is one last piece to this that I think is important to consider. The depth at edge rusher in this draft class is impressive. Players like Arnold Ebiketie, Nick Bonitto, Drake Jackson, David Ojabo, Kingsley Enagbare, Cam Thomas, Josh Pascal and Myjai Sanders will all likely come off the board on Day 2. Jacksonville will absolutely be able to find a quality edge rusher to pair with Josh Allen with the 33rd pick in the draft.

I don’t think the same can be said for offensive tackle. The drop off from Neal to players like Darian Kinnard, Abraham Lucas, Nicolas Petit-Frere and Tyler Smith is much larger than the drop off from Hutchinson to the group I mentioned before. As great a player as Hutchinson may be, the strength of this class is at edge rusher.

If and when Jacksonville ultimately drafts Hutchinson No. 1 overall a month from now, I won’t crush them for making the safe and obvious pick. I will wonder a bit about Lawrence’s long-term protection and if passing on Neal will hurt his long-term development.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

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

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 37 days until the 2022 NFL draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

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.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Georgia and Alabama players dominate first round following national championship game

College football is officially in offseason mode. While it is obviously sad we won’t have college football to fill up our Saturdays anymore, it was a thrilling season, capped off with an exciting championship game. Now, we shift our focus even more so to the upcoming NFL draft, as many players who featured in Monday’s game expect to hear their names called early on draft night.

One of the unfortunate storylines of the night though was the non-contact knee injury suffered by Jameson Williams. This came just about a month after his partner in crime, John Metchie III, tore his ACL in the SEC title game. Both were potential top-50 picks, with Williams rising into the top 10 for several draft experts. With such a serious injury this late in the season, I wonder if he might not be better off returning to school for his senior year. Williams would still likely garner significant draft interest, but this likely hurts his stock. With so much uncertainty surrounding the situation right now, I left him out of the first round until I know more.

Meanwhile, in the NFL, 18 teams are officially in offseason mode as well, with the remaining 14 gearing up for the postseason. There are definitely some changes since my last mock draft as I’ve continued to sift through film and the draft order has changed based on the final few results of the NFL regular season.

We still have a long way to go until we reach the draft in Las Vegas, but the pre draft process is just beginning to heat up. Players are accepting Senior Bowl invites, which is coming up at the beginning of February in Mobile, Alabama. Plus, the East-West Shrine Bowl and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl are also just weeks away.

With all of that in mind, let’s dive into my first mock of 2022. The draft order is according to Tankathon.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14) – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Jacksonville had a fun Week 18, stunning the Colts to keep them out of the playoffs and still holding onto the No. 1 pick. With that top selection, it is hard to overlook Aidan Hutchinson. This Jaguars defense, outside of a surprising six-sack showing to close the season, has struggled to generate pressure. Hutchinson will give the Jags a nightmarish duo with Josh Allen playing opposite him.

2. Detroit Lions (3-13-1) – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
This is a pretty great consolation prize for the Lions. While not quite on the same level of Chase Young, Thibodeaux is a dynamic pass rusher with an impressive array of pass-rush moves. He has disappeared at times and can struggle when put into conflict by RPOs and read options. Overall, he would be a great pairing with Romeo Okwara and hopefully help transform a Lions’ defense lacking talent.

3. Houston Texans (4-13) – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Houston could head a number of directions here. I personally love Ahmad Gardner, who has the makings of a lockdown corner. I’ve talked about it before, but it is impossible to be a true No. 1 corner in the NFL without length. The threshold seems to be right around 5’11”. Gardner is 6’3″ and moves exceptionally well for someone that size. He will need some coaching to improve his man coverage technique, but already dominates as a zone corner. He would give the Texans a talented defensive back to rebuild the defense around.

4. New York Jets (4-13) – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
While the Jets might have more pressing needs, Evan Neal is too big a talent to overlook. Literally. At 6’7″, 340 pounds, the Jets could potentially bookend their offensive line with massive tackles to protect Zach Wilson now and into the future. Neal played at right tackle prior to taking over at left tackle in 2021. With Morgan Moses and George Fant headed for free agency, this makes a ton of sense as well. If one or both of them is back, then that could reshuffle New York’s priorities in the draft.

5. New York Giants (4-13) – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
Dave Gettleman may have retired, but the Giants could take a page out of his book and do what he always promised: build an offensive line. Ikem Ekwonu is a nasty run blocker with impressive power. He has room for growth in pass protection, but all the physical tools to excel. Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones would both greatly benefit from his addition.

6. Carolina Panthers (5-12) – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Carolina needs a quarterback, but I don’t have a first-round grade on any of the passers in this class at the moment. Instead, the Panthers can rebuild an offensive line that was among the worst in the league in 2021. Tyler Linderbaum is an athletic center who can get out in space to lead the way on outside runs and screen plays. That bodes well for a team with Christian McCaffrey. Make no mistake though, Linderbaum is still capable of putting defenders on their back if they aren’t careful.

7. New York Giants via Chicago Bears (6-11) – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
New York continues to build in the trenches with their second pick in the top 10. George Karlaftis is not quite on the same level as the top two edge rushers in this class, but he has a great first step off the edge and some enticing physical tools. He has the versatility to play with his hand on the ground in a 4-3 alignment or stand up on the edge in sub packages. This would give the Giants an exciting pairing on the edge with Azeez Ojulari.

8. Atlanta Falcons (7-10) – Drake London, WR, USC
Will Calvin Ridley return to the Falcons? We’ve not seen the former first-round pick since October as he stepped away from his mental health. Now, there is buzz that he could be traded. That would leave Atlanta desperately needing a new No. 1 receiver. I know Kyle Pitts is already in place, but he cannot do it alone, nor has he shown an ability to produce in the red zone. Drake London should help with that. He plays a lot like Mike Evans, using his massive frame and athleticism to high point the ball and catch it away from his body. London led the nation in receptions prior to a season-ending ankle injury.

9. Denver Broncos (7-10) – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Denver traded away Von Miller this season and has two pending free agents for starting linebackers (when healthy). Nakobe Dean might actually find a way to fill all of those voids to a certain degree. He is an athletic linebacker with great range and some sneaky good pass rush ability. He will be a difference maker at the next level with his closing speed. He draws comparisons to Jonathan Vilma, which the Broncos could desperately use in the middle of their defense.

10. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (7-10) – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
New York’s secondary was bad in 2021. The Jets allowed the third most yards per attempt, yards per game and third-highest completion percentage in the league this season. Landing Derek Stingley Jr. here could be a coup. He was assumed to be CB1 heading into the season, but injuries and some inconsistent play since that dominant freshman year make his projection a bit more murky. I sincerely hope we get to see him at the combine.

11. Washington Football Team (7-10) – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
This is still too early for a quarterback if you ask me. Instead, Washington can attempt to address its very underwhelming defense. Supposedly the strength of this team, Washington allowed the fourth-most passing yards per game this season. Landon Collins had a rough season at safety, but seemed to excel when he moved into a hybrid linebacker role. He could be a post-June 1 cut to save cap space as though. Kyle Hamilton is essentially a better, more well-rounded version of Collins. Adding him to save money and upgrade at the same time makes a ton of sense.

12. Minnesota Vikings (8-9) – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Minnesota will be disappointed to see Hamilton off the board, but Andrew Booth Jr. is an excellent consolation prize. With Jeff Gladney gone and Patrick Peterson turning 32 in July, the Vikings need some new blood at corner. Yes, they have spent a number of premium draft picks at the position, but that doesn’t mean they should stop trying. Booth is a projectable starter in the NFL. I know it is important to scout the player, not the helmet, but the development of A.J. Terrell and Trayvon Mullen in the NFL makes optimistic there is still untapped potential for Clemson’s No. 1 corner.

13. Cleveland Browns (8-9) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
There buzz continues that Baker Mayfield could be done in Cleveland, but this is not the draft to try to replace him. Instead, the Browns should put their former No. 1 pick in the best position to succeed. Adding Garrett Wilson would do just that. He is a proven playmaker with good hands, above average quickness and a nose for the end zone. Cleveland’s wide receiver room is fairly deep, but lacks a true No. 1 option. Wilson could develop into just that.

14. Baltimore Ravens (8-9) – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
With the top three corners off the board and the Ravens set to get a number of key players back in the secondary from injury, I think they should target the defensive line. Jordan Davis is a disruptive people-mover and space eater. He is massive, listed at 6’6″, 340 pounds. Brandon Williams turns 33 in February and is a pending free agent. Davis would step into that run stuffing role with some added pass rushing ability.

15. Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins (9-8) – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
I know, the Eagles don’t prioritize linebackers, but maybe they should. Avery Genard and Alex Singleton are both replaceable. Devin Lloyd is a dynamic off-ball linebacker who can rush the passer. He has the range to make plays sideline-to-sideline and hang with backs and tight ends in coverage. After a slow start to the season, he finished the year strong. There is room to improve as a block shedder, but I really like what he brings to the table.

16. Philadelphia Eagles via Indianapolis Colts (9-8) – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
Might as well continue to retool that front seven. David Ojabo has an underwhelming performance in the College Football Playoff semifinal, but the upside he brings is still apparent. His athleticism pops off the charts. Still relatively new to the sport, he is just scratching the surface. He could contribute early on as a third-down sub package player as he continues to develop his technique as a pass rusher.

17. Los Angeles Chargers (9-8) – DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
The Chargers defensive line is in desperate need of a boost. DeMarvin Leal projects best as a three-technique tackle, but he has the versatility to kick outside as well. He flashes some exciting potential as a pass rusher, but disappeared at times as well. Playing alongside Joey Bosa should allow him to have a larger impact. He will be someone I am eager to see test in Indianapolis.

18. New Orleans Saints (9-8) – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
With Terron Armstead unlikely to be back in 2022, the Saints will have a huge hole at left tackle. Charles Cross is a good candidate to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL. There will be some growing pains with limit run snaps and some concerns about how grabby he is in pass protection. That being said, he is a fluid mover and anchors well against power rushers.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
After going defense with their first two picks, the Eagles turn to the offense to find another weapon for Jalen Hurts to work with. DeVonta Smith has proven himself thus far as a reliable target, but the rest of the receiving corps is a bit more suspect. Treylon Burks brings an exciting combination of size and speed. He was a bit inconsistent against some of the top teams he faced this year, but flashed the potential to be a quality receiver in the NFL.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Finally, we have a quarterback come off the board. The likelihood is that one will go before this point, but I don’t think any should. Pittsburgh unquestionably needs to find its quarterback of the future with Ben Roethlisberger headed for retirement. Kenny Pickett obviously gets to stay home, but he also has the best resume of any of the draft eligible quarterbacks. He has a live arm with impressive accuracy. He has enough athleticism to compete in the modern NFL, extending plays with his legs. His ceiling might be a bit lower than others in this class, with Pickett set to turn 24 in June, but that works well for a Steelers team that is otherwise ready to contend now.

21. New England Patriots (10-7) – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
If Trent Brown returns, then there is no reason to target a tackle here, but if Brown leaves, then New England will need someone to take over at right tackle. Trevor Penning could be the perfect candidate. He is a large human being, measuring in at 6’7″ and 320 pounds. He moves really well for a player that size and shows a lot of requisite skills to succeed in pass protection in the NFL. There will unquestionably be a learning curve coming from the FCS level, but we’ve seen plenty of players make the jump in recent years.

22. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers (10-7) – Nicolas Petit-Frère, OT Ohio State
Miami’s offensive line is still a patchwork unit with a lot of holes. Maybe the Dolphins will give the young unit another year to gel, but they had the worst pass block win rate in the league this season. Reinforcements are likely needed. Perhaps a move in free agency will be required, but until then, Nicolas Petit-Frère seems like a worthy option at this spot. He looked strong against George Karlaftis this year, which underlines his talent. He also struggled mightily against Aidan Hutchinson, which highlights areas for growth. Either way, he likely won’t be much worse than Miami’s current tackles.

23. Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Unfortunately, Henry Ruggs is done in the NFL. That means the Raiders once again have a need for a receiver. Chris Olave can help fill the void. While he is not quite the speedster that Ruggs was, he does have some wheels. He is capable of stretching the field, can work the middle of the field on crossing concepts as well. Adding him alongside Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow would give Derek Carr a solid complement of weapons.

24. Arizona Cardinals (11-6) – Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
The Cardinals’ defense has stepped up in the second half of the season while the offense has slumped a bit. However, the loss to Seattle points to Arizona’s clear offseason needs in the secondary. Roger McCreary would give the Cards a long, rangy corner with the ability to develop into a true No. 1 option. He put together an impressive season against good competition.

25. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) – Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
While the Bengals feel good about drafting Ja’Marr Chase, the pressing need for offensive line help has not disappeared, especially on the interior. Kenyon Green has experience all over the line and should be a plug-and-play option to help protect Joe Burrow. He has plenty of reps against elite defenders playing in the SEC. Cincinnati gave up the third-most sacks in the league this season.

26. Buffalo Bills (11-6) – Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA
As the season has worn on, it has become clear that Buffalo needs to revamp the interior of its offensive line. Sean Rhyan is your classic college tackle who might be better off playing guard in the NFL. He is a steady operator, but lacks the elite athleticism needed to contend on the outside with pro-caliber edge rushers. His history as a tackle likely boosts his value though because he could start there in a pinch.

27. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles (12-5) – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
While this is not a great quarterback class, the Lions can take a crack at the one with the highest upside. Malik Willis is cut from the same cloth as Lamar Jackson with his electric running ability in the open field and dazzling arm strength. However, Jackson was likely a bit further along in his development as a passer than Willis is at the moment. The Liberty star hangs onto the ball for way too long and tends to play hero ball. He struggles with accuracy. That being said, his upside is worth gambling on in this spot. If Detroit ends up with a top-five pick next season, they can always move Willis for additional draft capital and take a more proven prospect like Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud.

28. Dallas Cowboys (12-5) – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Dallas’ defense has been one of the most surprising stories of the year, but it is unlikely to sustain this success without reinforcements. Daxton Hill is a versatile safety who can line up in the slot. He has the speed to track down players on the boundary and the physicality to make plays in space. Given the Cowboys’ salary cap constraints, there is a good chance Damontae Kazee will not be back and Donovan Wilson is heading into a contract year.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Jahan Dotson has the explosive playmaking ability and proven production that puts him in the conversation to go in the first round. He has great hands and can separate from defenders. He is not the biggest receiver, but he is still capable of playing on the outside. While that might feel a bit redundant given Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman filling similar profiles, Dotson can operate as a bit more of a possession receiver than either of them.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4) – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
Tampa continues to stay ahead of future needs by drafting for its front seven. While Vita Vea is locked in to a long-term deal, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston and Steve McClendon are all pending free agents. Devonte Wyatt cannot replace all of them, but he can soften the blow. Often overlooked, he has been one of the key contributors to this Georgia defense. He would help the Buccaneers continue to stay stout against the run and offer some interior pass rush ability as well.

31. Tennessee Titans (12-5) – Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
With Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans both headed for free agency, Tennessee has a need at linebacker. Christian Harris feels like great value to fill that need at the back end of the first round. Harris is a bit like an attack dog, when you let off the leash, he is capable of wreaking havoc. However, he also locks in sometimes and loses track of his assignment. There is also room for improvement when it comes to block shedding. That being said, his ability to shoot the gap and make a big play is enticing.

32. Green Bay Packers (13-4) – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Another Georgia defender in the first round. Travon Walker is built like Za’Darius and Preston Smith, Green Bay’s two current edge rushers who could both be cap casualties this offseason. Walker will help fill the void. He was a consistent performer on the Bulldogs’ championship-winning defense, producing six sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in 2021. His versatility, lining up on the interior, on the edge or even as a stand up backer, would make him an intriguing chess piece for Joe Barry to deploy.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Panthers, Lions find QBs of the future and six WRs go in first round

There are still two weeks left in the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs to be played, but for a number of fans, the look ahead to 2022 has already started. At this time, eight teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention. More are sure to follow in Week 17.

That means it is time for mock draft season. This is already my third mock of the season and my final one of 2021. The draft order has changed quite a bit over the course of the season as Miami and Kansas City completely turned around early-season slumps. Meanwhile, Carolina and Washington have faded down the stretch to the point where they are picking in the top 10.

This is the most up-to-date draft order according to Tankathon through the conclusion of Sunday Night Football. The outcome of Dolphins-Saints on Monday night will likely see each team slide a couple spots in either direction. So much of the NFL is grouped around that .500 mark right now.

As I continue to dissect film during bowl season, my evaluations of players have definitely changed. I know that there will likely be more quarterbacks off the board in the first round, but this is how I grade them at this stage. With no trades allowed, this is how I see the first round shaking out as of right now.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Jacksonville could head a number of directions with the first pick, but taking the dominant edge rusher out of Michigan to pair with Josh Allen feels like the best bet. Hutchinson finished as the runner up for the Heisman for a reason. He has a bit of J.J. Watt to his game, beating tackles with a combination of speed and power.

2. Detroit Lions (2-12-1) – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EGDE, Oregon
This is a pretty great consolation prize for the Lions. While not quite on the same level of Chase Young, Thibodeaux is a dynamic pass rusher with an impressive array of pass-rush moves. He has disappeared at times and can struggle when put into conflict by RPOs and read options. Overall, he would be a great pairing with Romeo Okwara and hopefully help transform a Lions’ defense lacking talent.

3. Houston Texans (3-12) – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
This is a situation of the Texans simply going with the best player available. Laremy Tunsil remains well entrenched at left tackle, but Houston could use an upgrade on the right side. Neal would give Davis Mills a chance to prove himself at quarterback. If not Mills, then whoever replaces him would have one of the best tackle pairings in the league. Neal is a mountain disguised as an offensive tackle. He checks all the physical boxes and passes the eye test.

4. New York Jets (4-11) – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
Morgan Moses is on an expiring contract and Mekhi Becton has not shown he can stay healthy. That creaks the door open for the Jets to sure up their offensive line. The offensive lineman in Joe Douglas will not be able to resist taking Ekwonu either. This guy is nasty and brings power that teams crave. He is certainly a bit raw in terms of technique. He needs a bit of polish, but keeping Zach Wilson upright has to be the biggest priority of the offseason.

5. New York Giants (4-11) – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Daniel Jones is coming back in 2022. At least that is the word out of East Rutherford. That opens the door for New York to go with the best player available and continue to overhaul its roster. Kyle Hamilton is a bit of a unicorn. He has the size of a linebacker, but lines up at safety. He has the coverage skills to be a centerfielder, but can drop down into the box as well. With Jabril Peppers out of a contract this season and Logan Ryan turning 31, there is some need for another safety in New York as well.

6. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (5-10) – Ahmed Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
When you start all first- and second-year players in the secondary, there are bound to be some growing pains. That said, New York clearly still has a need for a true No. 1 corner. The man they call “Sauce” absolutely fits the bill. He has yet to allow a touchdown in his three years as a starter at Cincinnati. He brings the requisite length needed to play on the outside in the NFL. The only question will likely be about his speed. Gardner will be one to watch at the combine.

7. Carolina Panthers (5-10) – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Let’s make this clear, this is a reach! I like Pickett as a passer, but at 23 years old, it is safe to assume he is already pretty far along in his development as a quarterback. Read that as a potentially low ceiling. However, this feels like a really good landing spot for Pickett. There is a lot of talent on the defense and a solid receiving corps. If Christian McCaffrey can get healthy, he will have one of the best offensive weapons in the entire league. Carolina would need to bolster the offensive line to make this work, but there is potential for this to be a hit.

8. New York Giants via Chicago Bears (5-10) – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
The aforementioned Daniel Jones has had his struggles, but he has rarely been protected. Tyler Linderbaum will help change that. He is an incredibly agile center with good blocking angles and great open field speed. He should be an asset in the run game as well with his ability to pull outside and set the edge. Targeting offensive line help makes a ton of sense for the Giants. Saquon Barkley would probably appreciate the move as well, assuming he can get onto the field.

9. Washington Football Team (6-9) – Drake London, WR, USC
With Pickett off the board, there are no quarterbacks that I can justify going in the top 10. Instead, Washington addresses the massive issue facing its receiving corps. There is no size. Drake London would solve that immediately. He might not be the most explosive athlete, but he plays a lot like Mike Evans. His ability to catch the ball away from his body and make contested grabs makes him an excellent security blanket for any quarterback. Perhaps Washington could trade back into the end of the first to snag a rookie quarterback. If not, load up this roster and try to find a veteran who can lead you to the playoffs.

10. Atlanta Falcons (7-8) – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
A perfect blend of need and value, Atlanta desperately needs someone with George Karlaftis’ skill set. There is definitely some cause for concern when you put on the Ohio State film and see him overmatched by a pair of quality tackles. However, Karlaftis’ upside and raw traits make him worth the gamble in this spot. The Falcons desperately need pass rushing help. They rank last in the NFL in sacks by a sizeble margin, totaling nine fewer than the Jaguars and Lions so far this season.

11. Denver Broncos (7-8) – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
Denver will be disappointed to see Karlaftis off the board, but will take the next best edge rusher on the board. That has to be David Ojabo after the breakout season he had across from Aidan Hutchinson. Ojabo is not nearly as polished as his partner in crime, but his traits are incredible. With Von Miller now in Los Angeles, the Broncos definitely need someone to pitch in across from Bradley Chubb. Ojabo has a long way to go in order to replicate Miller’s production, but he will help soften the blow nonetheless.

12. Minnesota Vikings (7-8) – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Another mock, another corner to the Vikings. If it’s broken, keep trying to fix it. Minnesota ranks in the bottom 10 for passing yards and passing touchdowns allowed. The Vikings will be thrilled to see Singley still available. His stock has slipped following an injury-riddled season, but the physical ability and top-end potential is all still there. If he tests at the combine, there is a good chance he will not last this long on draft day.

13. Cleveland Browns (7-8) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Baker Mayfield may well be the problem in Cleveland, but he could still definitely use an improved receivers room. Jarvis Landry is declining and Odell Beckham Jr. is gone. Rashad Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones are excellent depth options, but the Browns need a new go-to playmaker. Enter Garrett Wilson. He is a silky smooth route runner with solid speed, good hands and a nose for the end zone. Keeping him in state would be a great move by the front office.

14. Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins (7-7) – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Philadelphia has been a pleasant surprise in the second half of the year. While there are questions about Jalen Hurts as the long-term answer at quarterback, there is no one worth replacing him with in this spot. Instead, the Eagles finally address the shortcomings of their linebacker unit. Lloyd would be an upgrade over any of Philly’s current starters. He is very athletic with some ability to rush the passer. Feels like a slam dunk pick for this defense.

15. New Orleans Saints (7-7) – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
While quarterback could certainly be in play, this is still much too early for QB2 on my board. Even if the Saints did take a quarterback, he would have no one to throw to. New Orleans’ group of receivers is on par with Detroit and the Jets when it comes to proven playmakers. If Michael Thomas returns, that could change things a bit, but there is still room for more additions at the position. Burks was a bit inconsistent this year, but showed flashes of elite ability. He lit up Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M, but disappeared against LSU and Georgia. There is a lot to like about his upside.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1) – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Yes, the Steelers need a new quarterback. No, that does not mean they should reach for one in the middle of the first round. Pittsburgh has a host of other issues it still needs to address to get back into championship contention. The biggest being a porous offensive line. Cross lacks much experience as a run blocker, but has a lot of solid tape in pass protection. He is far from perfect, with several holding calls and uneven technique, but he anchors well and has the size to excel at the next level. He would be in the mix to start at left tackle from Day 1 in Pittsburgh.

17. Los Angeles Chargers (8-7) – DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
Same old Chargers. Los Angeles has shown signs of progress this season, but it still cannot avoid the pitfalls. The Achilles heel has been the run defense. Only three teams are allowing more rushing yards per game or yards per attempt this season. Finding some help on the interior of the defense line is the key to turning things around. Leal is a talented pass rusher who can hold his own against the run. He has the versatility to flex out to the edge as well. Brandon Staley would have a lot of fun exploring the ways he could deploy Leal against opposing offenses.

18. Las Vegas Raiders (8-7) – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
Las Vegas has room to improve in the trenches on both sides of the ball. It is hard to overlook Jordan Davis, both literally and figuratively. He is huge, listed at 6’6″ and 340 pounds. He definitely excels as a run stuffer, but shows flashes of pass-rush brilliances. He has a quick first step and rarely loses ground. He could help transform the Raiders defensive front. Davis, Max Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue is the beginnings of a scary unit.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
As great as Darius Slay has been this season, Philadelphia cannot continue to rely on him to do everything in their secondary. Clemson might have had a down year, but the struggles were all on the offense. Defensively, the Tigers were still stocked with future NFL players, led by Andrew Booth Jr. The rangy cornerback has good size and impeccable athleticism. He will need a bit of coaching to truly take the step in his development, but there is a lot to like about his potential fit in the NFL.

20. Baltimore Ravens (8-7) – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Baltimore is tied for the most sacks allowed this season. Some of that is a byproduct of having mobile quarterbacks who hang onto the ball longer than he probably should, but most of it falls on underperforming tackles and injuries. Trevor Penning may face a bit of a learning curve arriving from FCS powerhouse UNI, but his intangibles point to a seamless transition. If he can protect Lamar Jackson, this will be a pick well spent.

21. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers (8-7) – Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
Miami is on an incredible run right now, winning six in a row heading into Monday Night Football. However, that should not erase the deficiencies that showed up during the first half of the season when the Dolphins were 1-7. Tua Tagovailoa’s protection has room for improvement. Kenyon Green has the potential to be a Day 1 starter at either guard spot, providing some much-needed stability. He has some experience at tackle as well, which only adds to his value.

22. New England Patriots (9-6) – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
This may be my worst nightmare. Letting Bill Belichick get his hands on a playmaker like Dean is dangerous for the rest of the league. He is often compared to Jonathan Vilma between his size and downhill play style. Dont’a Hightower is turning 32 in March and will be a free agent after the season. Dean could help fill the void and eventually grow into a similar defensive leader.

23. Philadelphia Eagles via Indianapolis Colts (9-6) – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Might as well return to the well. Philadelphia seems to have hit big time with Devonta Smith, so it would be wise to find another Alabama receiver to play alongside him. While Smith is certainly capable of big plays, Williams excels at it. He would be what the team hoped to get in drafting Jalen Reagor. There are certainly some drops on his film, but most of them are avoidable. Coaching could solve that. It’s not something to ignore, but it is correctable. This sets up Jalen Hurts or whoever takes over at quarterback in the future for success.

24. Arizona Cardinals (10-5) – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Arizona is once again fading in the second half of the season. While there are questions to ask of the offense, the secondary is getting torn to shreds. Adding a tall, long corner in Elam could change the trajectory of the unit entirely. Hopefully, that size will come into play in the red zone, where the Cardinals have been dreadful down the stretch.

25. Buffalo Bills (9-6) – Nicolas Petit-Frère, OT, Ohio State
Buffalo needs to invest along the interior of its offensive line. While Petit-Frère is not an interior lineman, he could allow the Bills to kick Spencer Brown inside. If not, the Ohio State tackle could move to guard himself. He has shown the ability to handle top speed rushers on the outside with his play against George Karlaftis. On the other hand, he struggled against Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. Either way, he should help keep Josh Allen clean now and into the future.

26. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) – Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
Cincinnati’s secondary has played surprisingly well this season, but lacks staying power. For one, the Bengals can get out from under Trae Waynes’ horrible contract this offseason. They also need Chidobe Awuzie to replicate a career year for this unit to have a chance in 2022. Adding the upside of McCreary gives them someone to develop into the future. He brings an exciting blend of athleticism and size that makes it easy to project him as an NFL starter.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) – Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
Tampa Bay will be disappointed to see the top corners off the board by this stage and will simply turn to a best player available approach. With a number of key defensive players on expiring contracts, adding another player in the front seven could help ease the blow. Drake Jackson is a long edge rusher with solid production from his time at USC. Much of his stock is based on the projection of what he could become if he can marry his physical tools with improved technique and pass-rush planning at the next level.

28. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles (11-4) – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
If there was ever a team that could afford to gamble on a high-risk, high-reward quarterback, it is the Detroit Lions. With the extra pick in the 2022 draft from the Matthew Stafford trade, the Lions could attempt to find his replacement. Willis brings incredible physical traits, namely blazing speed and a very strong arm. He needs a lot of refining though. He has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, often times misses reads and bails out of the pocket a bit too frequently. Selecting Willis does not prevent Detroit from taking a quarterback in the first round of the 2023 draft either if it ends up with a chance to take Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. This is just one shot at the dartboard with potential to net future draft capital if he is moved. What I love about this is that Jared Goff can start for one more season before his contract expires and the Lions can make a real run at turning the roster around.

29. Tennessee Titans (10-5) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Julio Jones has not been the reliable option across from A.J. Brown that the Titans were hoping for. Injuries have derailed most of his previous two seasons and he will turn 33 in February. Tennessee needs another receiver for Ryan Tannehill to turn to. Chris Olave could be the perfect complement to Brown. He is well-rounded and can generate separation. Not to mention good size at 6’1″. He would only open things up more for Derrick Henry as defenses had to respect his speed.

30. Dallas Cowboys (11-4) – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
The turnaround by Dallas’ defense is truly remarkable. However, it is also benefiting from an unsustainable turnover rate. 33 forced turnovers in 15 games is impressive and hard to repeat. With the top corners off the board, the Cowboys grab a versatile safety with some slot corner experience in Hill. He has tons of athletic upside and regularly ends up around the football. The offense has had its struggles, but there is more than enough talent to see things stabilize. Now it is time to build a defense to match.

31. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Kansas City has evolved over the course of the season. Its defensive renaissance does not mean help on that side of the ball is no longer needed. That being said, it is hard to resist Jahan Dotson in this spot. He is a reliable target capable of making contested catches over the middle of the field. I think he could be a perfect fit for what the Chiefs need in this offense past Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. If Kansas City lands a defensive lineman or cornerback in the second round, this will feel like a really strong start to the draft.

32. Green Bay Packers (12-3) – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
Aaron Rodgers does not care about the wide receivers you would like to mock to Green Bay. Instead, the Packers continue to build in the trenches. Devonte Wyatt does not get the headlines of his more famous teammates like Nakobe Dean or Jordan Davis, but he should start soon. He is a violent game wrecker. He might not be quite as athletically gifted as those teammates and definitely needs to improve his gap discipline, but there is a lot to like about his tape. With a few potential cap casualties on defense this offseason, finding cost-effective defenders is a must. Don’t rule out a trade back with a quarterback needy team here. Washington, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Denver could all move up to get a quarterback with that coveted fifth-year option.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.