2022 NFL Predictive Mock Draft: Walker goes No. 1, Steelers and Seahawks trade up for quarterbacks

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, it is draft day! Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

Draft day is finally here! We made it. At the end of the night, we will have a lot more answers and probably several more questions. I can’t wait.

Throughout the entire pre draft process, I have put out mock drafts based on what I would do as the general manager of the team. Now, I am trying to get inside the heads of these GMs with my first and only predictive mock draft. I projected a pair of trades, but let’s be honest, this is nearly an impossible exercise. Hopefully, I get at least one pick right. Let’s get started.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
I have finally bought into all the smoke. Walker is a physical edge rusher with a ridiculous amount of versatility. Him going No. 1 is all about the projection for him to turn his incredible traits into production at the next level.

2. Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Brad Holmes is turning in the card immediately if Hutchinson is on the board. Keeping the local kid in town is appealing in its own right. However, Hutchinson is incredibly pro ready and fills a big need. He will be an instant impact player for the Lions.

3. Houston Texans – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
I’m buying into the late hype here. Perhaps it is a smokescreen, but Stingley answered a lot of questions with how he tested at his pro day. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to be the best corner in the NFL. That’s a huge risk, but one the Texans are willing to take.

4. New York Jets – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Another corner here, it will be a bit of an upset at this point if Derek Stingley Jr. comes off the board first, but that won’t impact the Jets. Gardner has the length and speed to be a true lockdown corner. New York has not had that in a really long time.

5. New York Giants – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
In this scenario, the Giants get their pick of the top tackles. I know they have been linked with Charles Cross, but I think Ekwonu will be the top option on most boards. He will start at right tackle from Day 1 for New York.

6. Carolina Panthers – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Trading down is certainly an option, but I think Neal on the board means Carolina stays put and grabs their left tackle of the future. I expect the Panthers to swing a trade for either Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo. Neal would fill a huge void that this team has needed to fill for a couple seasons now.

7. New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
This feels like a slam dunk at this stage. Thibodeaux is a twitchy edge rusher with a ton of upside. He reportedly did not have a great pre draft process, but I don’t think he will slide much further. Joe Schoen does what Dave Gettleman always said he was going to: build in the trenches.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
This is another potential quarterback spot, but I think Atlanta will opt for a receiver at this spot instead. While not the top receiver on my board, I think Wilson will entice NFL teams with his speed, quickness and polish. He would immediately be the Falcons’ top receiver and potentially create an exciting pairing if Calvin Ridley returns in 2023.

9. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State
Nope, still no quarterbacks. Johnson feels like a great fit in Seattle, who moved on from Carlos Dunlap this offseason. He is strong and dominates against the run. He also had some impressive production as a pass rusher. With a lot of extra draft capital though, don’t rule out a move back into the first round if a quarterback is sliding.

10. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
If not for a torn ACL, perhaps Williams would have been the first receiver taken. He still might be. In this case, the Jets will be thrilled to find a weapon for Zach Wilson to grow with. They can target edge rushers in the second round.

11. Washington Commanders – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
This one feels pretty much set as stone, weirdly enough. Washington needs a playmaker on the backend of its defense. Hamilton is absolutely that. I think he will be a Commander by the end of the night.

12. Minnesota Vikings – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
This is a bit earlier than I think he should go, but McDuffie is an aggressive and instinctive corner. He is a bit undersized, but Minnesota historically hasn’t had an issue with that. The new front office might feel differently, but for now, I think he slots in here.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers via Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The first trade and the first quarterback. Pittsburgh won’t wait any longer to move up for their quarterback of the future. I’m not buying the buzz that they only like Kenny Pickett. I think Willis would be given a chance to sit behind Trubisky for a season before taking the reins in year 2.

14. Baltimore Ravens – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
Maybe not their biggest need, but he would have the biggest (literally) impact of pretty much any player they could take in this slot. Davis is a space eater and an athletic phenom. There are concerns about his pass rushing impact, but he will be at minimum a dominant two-down player with the potential to develop into a true three-down guy.

15. Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The top three corners are gone, as are the top four edge rushers. That points to the Eagles going receiver. Olave is a speedster with the ability to impact this offense immediately. Pairing him with DeVonta Smith would create a fun and exciting duo.

16. New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
I think we could see Cross slide a bit. The Saints would be happy to stop that slide though. After losing Terron Armstead, Cross would be in line to start from Day 1 on the left side. He is a proven pass protector, even if he might be a bit limited in the run game.

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
He might not be the most pro ready, which will annoy Chargers fans, but they need offensive line help desperately. Penning is a physical, nasty blocker with a huge frame. Protecting Justin Herbert is priority number one.

18. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Let’s go with a dynamic defensive back who can line up in a couple different spots for the Eagles. Hill has experience at either safety spot and nickel corner. Philly desperately needs someone with his type of playmaking ability in the secondary.

19. New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
I don’t think the Saints should do this, but I can’t see them passing on Pickett twice. He could find success in this offense, especially playing in a dome stadium for half the year. It will be interesting to see what happens with Jameis Winson at this point.

20. Houston Texans via Pittsburgh Steelers – Drake London, WR, USC
After moving down, Houston can still grab a talented receiver for Davis Mills. London is my favorite receiver in this draft, but I think we could see him slide after he did not run during the pre draft process. Him and Brandin Cooks would be a really impressive combination for a team still trying to replace DeAndre Hopkins.

21. New England Patriots – Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
I’m buying this hype right now. Walker is built like your prototypical NFL linebacker, with good size, impressive speed and good coverage ability. I think Bill Belichick will be eager to grab a pro ready impact defender.

22. Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
The streak could finally come to an end. The Packers haven’t drafted a first-round receiver since Javon Walker 20 years ago. Burks fits the Packers mold for a big body receiver with plus athleticism.

23. Arizona Cardinals – Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
Arizona has to protect Kyler Murray. Each of the past two seasons, he has struggled with nagging injuries. Minimizing the number of times he gets hit by adding Johnson feels like a smart move. Johnson has the versatility to play all three interior offensive line positions, which makes him even more valuable.

24. Dallas Cowboys – Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
Dallas’ offensive line lost a lot this offseason. Green can help soften the blow. He has experience at both tackle and guard, with him more naturally fitting into the latter. Expect him to be a Day 1 starter.

25. Buffalo Bills – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Buffalo needs some help in the secondary. Booth is a bit of an unknown given his offseason surgery that cost him the entire pre draft process. I think he will still go in the first round and could start opposite Tre’Davious White when they are both back to full strength.

26. Tennessee Titans – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
A popular pick in this spot, Dotson would be a great slot receiver for the Titans. He has solid speed, incredible hands and a good feel for how to get open. Even after adding Robert Woods, Tennessee seems intent on finding more receiver help.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
This almost feels unfair. Wyatt won’t be on the same level as Ndamukong Suh, but he will come close to matching the production we saw from him as an aging player. He is pro ready and fits the timeline Tampa Bay has with Tom Brady in his final season under contract.

28. Green Bay Packers – Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
With Za’Darius Smith now in Minnesota, Green Bay will turn to Minnesota for his replacement. Funny how these things work out. Mafe is strong and athletic. I think he will work his way into the first round.

29. Kansas City Chiefs via Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Receiver is certainly an option, but I think Kansas City might trust in their ability to find another mid-round impact player. Instead, they can target the defense, adding a corner to replace Charvarius Ward. Elam is a tall, fast corner who excels in bump-and-run coverage.

30. Kansas City Chiefs – George Pickens, WR, Georgia
I strongly considered David Ojabo here, but I think Kansas City will jump at adding Pickens. He is big and athletic, but very unproven after missing almost his entire junior season. The upside is enticing, but there is a lot of risk.

31. Seattle Seahawks via Cincinnati Bengals – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Another trade and one last first-round quarterback. Ridder interviewed well this offseason and has some enticing physical traits. He is just going to need time to get up to speed in the NFL and work on some mechanical things in his game, but I like his upside.

32. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
This one was tough. I thought about doubling up on Michigan edge rushers, but I think the Lions will go for a dynamic linebacker instead. Lloyd is a much better player than this draft slot would indicate, but he could slide because the league does not prioritize off-ball linebackers.

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NFL Mock Draft 2022: Five quarterbacks go in first two rounds

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 17 days until the 2022 NFL draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

We are entering the home stretch of draft prep with just over two weeks until the first round kicks off in Las Vegas. Speculation is running wild about what teams are interested in and where certain players will go. It is a really fun time, but it is also incredibly tricky to sort through what is true and what is just a smokescreen.

With the draft drawing closer, I want to go beyond just the first round for the first time in this draft cycle. There are so many teams this year that do not have a first round selection. Plus, it is important to remember that just because a team does not address their biggest need in the first round that they will not address it at all during the draft.

As always, these mocks are a reflection of what I would do if I were the general manager for each team. I will do a predictive mock draft as we get closer, but right now I am going to stick to what I believe should happen. Also, no trades just yet.

With all of that in mind, let’s dive into my latest mock.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
This is going to be unpopular. I believe Neal is the best player in this draft class and plays one of the most crucial positions in the sport. Jacksonville does not have a huge need at offensive tackle for this season with Cam Robinson on the left and some combination of Walker Little or Jawaan Taylor on the right. That being said, Robinson and Taylor are both slated to be free agents after the season and Trevor Lawrence needs protection to develop. Neal has experience playing guard from his time at Alabama and can kick out to tackle in 2023 when Robinson is gone. Finding a franchise tackle is never a bad move.

2. Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
The player that most expect to come off the board at No. 1 slides all the way to No. 2. I think Hutchinson will be the Jaguars pick on draft day, but I like Neal better in that spot. For the Lions though, this is a slam dunk. They get a local kid with a high motor and a ton of college production. He will immediately make this defense better.

3. Houston Texans – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
The smear campaign against Thibodeaux has been going on for a while now. Reports of poor interviews and criticism over a lack of fire have seemingly tanked his draft stock. Now, I wasn’t in those interviews, but when I turn on the film, I see a twitchy pass rusher with the ability to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. The Texans could desperately use a playmaker like that to pair with Jonathan Greenard.

4. New York Jets – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
New York invested a lot in its secondary over the past two offseasons between spending a bunch of draft picks in the later rounds of last year and signing D.J. Reed this year. Perhaps New York will view that as a complete cornerback room. I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring in Gardner. He is a long, athletic shutdown corner with the physical tools to become one of the best in the league. After watching the secondary get shredded last season, bolstering this group feels like a really smart move.

5. New York Giants – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
The Giants have pledged to give Daniel Jones a chance to turn things around. In order for him to do so, he needs to have some time to throw the football. Ekwonu is a road-grading tackle with all the physical tools you like to see at the position. He would pair nicely with Andrew Thomas to give New York a very solid foundation to build the offensive line around. Saquon Barkley would also greatly appreciate Ekwonu’s arrival.

6. Carolina Panthers – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
This is a tricky spot. With the top two tackles off the board, this seems like it might be a good space for the Panthers to trade down. I’m not predicting trades quite yet in my mocks, so instead, let’s go with the No. 1 quarterback on my board, which is Willis. He has a strong arm, is incredibly accurate and has plus athleticism for the position. I don’t think he is necessarily a Day 1 starter with some major concerns over his pocket awareness and ability to play against the blitz, but I really like his upside. Darnold can be the starter while Willis gets up to speed in the NFL.

7. New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
New York addressed its biggest need with its first pick. The question is where do they turn to next. I’m usually not big on drafting safeties this early, but I think Hamilton fits well with the Giants and fills a big need. He would slot in next to Xavier McKinney and give New York a really talented duo on the backend of their defense. There will be edge rushers available for them to target in the second round.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Drake London, WR, USC
Some fans will hope for a quarterback here, but I don’t see it happening. I think Atlanta recognizes this is a rebuild, especially after eating over $40 million in dead cap money in the Matt Ryan trade. The Falcons need to rebuild this roster and could even consider trading out of this spot to acquire a few more 2023 selections so they can target a quarterback there. If they stay put, wide receiver is a must here. Drake London is my top receiver here with this contested catch ability and upside in the red zone. Atlanta has no one in their receiver room that comes close to being a No. 1 receiver. London and Kyle Pitts give the Falcons a good starting point as they reshape the offense.

9. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Another spot where it feels like quarterback could be in play, but I don’t have a first-round grade on anyone other than Malik Willis. Seattle is also more than just a quarterback away from competing. Instead, the Seahawks grab one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft. At this spot, Stingley could be a steal if he is able to reclaim his 2019 form. He had a strong showing at his pro day and I think answered a lot of the questions that existed about what kind of physical shape he was in following an injury-plagued season. There is definitely a bit of projection involved here, but after losing D.J. Reed, Seattle could use an upgrade at corner.

10. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
I was tempted to go with a wide receiver here, but I can’t pass up Johnson. He put together a fantastic season with 17.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. While his pass rushing ability is impressive, I think he is an even better run defender, which goes a long way in the NFL. Pairing Johnson with Carl Lawson, who should be back to full strength after suffering an Achilles injury last preseason, would give New York a really strong complement of edge rushers.

11. Washington Football Team – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Terry McLaurin needs some help. Washington could return to the well so to speak by grabbing another former Buckeye to plug into this offense. Wilson is a talented playmaker who creates separation and has the speed to take the top off a defense. He would give Carson Wentz another reliable receiver as the Commanders hope they can get him to bounce back from a rough end to the 2021 season.

12. Minnesota Vikings – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
I have such a tough time knowing what to do with Minnesota. Corner is this team’s biggest need, but with Gardner and Stingley off the board, I don’t think there is one worth going here. This feels like a trade down spot for the Vikings if they can find a partner looking to move up. With no trades allowed though, I will tab Wyatt to take over for Sheldon Richardson on the defensive line. He is stout against the run and can collapse the pocket. Suddenly, that Minnesota front seven looks like a really good group.

13. Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
I went back and forth on this pick for a while, but ultimately landed on a wide receiver capable of changing this offense. Houston made a smart move in locking up Brandin Cooks, but there is not much other proven talent at the receiver position. Williams is coming off an ACL injury he suffered in the National Championship Game against Georgia, but that should not really impact the Texans too much. This team is not a title contender right now and would be wise to focus on the long term. Williams could be someone for Davis Mills to grow with in the coming years.

14. Baltimore Ravens – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Baltimore loves to load up along the front seven. If Walker is still on the board, I don’t see them passing. Walker is incredibly versatile. He can line up at defensive tackle, defensive end or outside linebacker. I think the Ravens will covet that flexibility and bet on Walker developing his pass rushing skills at the next level.

15. Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Yes, the Eagles have drafted a receiver in the previous two drafts. No, the Eagles do not have a very good receiver room, outside of DeVonta Smith, despite using premium draft capital at the position. Olave would give Philly a dynamic and dangerous duo to roll out. If this team is serious about giving Jalen Hurts a shot at proving he is the franchise quarterback, giving him the necessary talent to work with is crucial.

16. New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
This is likely a big part of the reason the Saints made this move. They wanted to ensure they could jump ahead of the Chargers to take the top tackle available. Cross is a proven pass blocker with sound technique and tons of reps from his time at Mississippi State. He has limited tape as a run blocker, which makes him a bit of an unknown, but there is enough upside for me to think he can develop into a solid starting left tackle in the NFL.

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
The Chargers will be disappointed to see Cross go off the board one pick before them, but Penning is a heck of a consolation prize. He tested really well and showed a good deal of nastiness at the Senior Bowl. He definitely has room to improve when it comes to his hand placement and technique, but with his size and athleticism, Los Angeles would be more than willing to bet on his upside.

18. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Darius Slay is a quality starting corner, but the Eagles don’t have much in the way of proven options behind him. Zech McPherson is worth developing, but in the meantime, Booth can start across from Slay and take some pressure off McPherson. Booth has good size and some solid tape from his time at Clemson. He adjusts well to the ball while it’s in the air. Philly will be much better on the boundaries with him and Olave on board.

19. New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
This is a little bit early for Burks, but New Orleans needs someone to play alongside Michael Thomas and some insurance in case Thomas misses time with injury again. Burks was an exciting playmaker at Arkansas, but struggled a bit with consistency. If he can find his groove, I expect him to be a really strong No. 1 receiver for the Saints with the potential to take over as the top option down the line.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
I thought about taking an offensive lineman here, but I think Pittsburgh can target an interior lineman on Day 2. Instead, they grab the best corner available. McDuffie is a bit undersized, but he plays bigger and is not afraid of contact. He has the tools to become the Steelers’ No. 1 corner, which will be even more important if they do not bring Joe Haden back.

21. New England Patriots – Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
After trading away Shaq Mason this offseason, the Patriots have a big need at interior lineman. Kenyon Green is capable of stepping in and starting from Day 1 at either guard spot. Mac Jones is not a very mobile quarterback and New England loves to run the ball, so rebuilding in the trenches feels like a wise investment.

22. Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Zion Johnson, G, Boston College
Wide receiver is the clear need here, but with five already off the board, it does not make sense to reach for one here. Instead, the Packers can bolster Aaron Rodgers’ protection with a versatile interior lineman capable of playing either guard spot or center. Johnson impressed at the Senior Bowl and has the tape at Boston College to back it up. He could be a Day 1 starter for Green Bay.

23. Arizona Cardinals – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
I have Davis rated much higher than this, but he slid based on how the board fell. He is an elite run stuffer with incredible athleticism. I think that will translate to him being a solid interior pass rusher as well, but maybe don’t expect him to become Fletcher Cox. For Arizona, this feels a clear need and gives them a devastating defensive line.

24. Dallas Cowboys – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
With Randy Gregory’s departure this offseason, Dallas has a clear need across from Damarcus Lawrence. Ojabo will not be ready at the start of the season after suffering a torn Achilles last month, but his physical tools had him projected to go in the top 10 prior to the injury. There is obviously a bit of risk involved in taking a player coming off an injury like this, but the upside is enormous.

25. Buffalo Bills – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Tre’Davious White is still recovering from a torn ACL and Dane Jackson had a rocky rookie season. That sets the stage for Buffalo to find defensive back help early in this draft. Elam is what I love in a corner: long and athletic. He has room to improve in zone coverage concepts, but he will excel in any press man situations Buffalo puts him in.

26. Tennessee Titans – Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky
Tennessee has gotten by for the past two seasons with David Quessenberry at right tackle, but he is a free agent this year and the Titans have not brought anyone in to replace him. Kinnard is a mauler with impressive play strength and superb length. He will definitely need a bit of refining at the next level, but he also has the potential to kick inside to guard if he struggles at tackle.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bernhard Raimann, OL, Central Michigan
With Ali Marpet and Alex Kappa both departing this offseason, Tampa Bay found itself needing to replace both of its starting guards. The Buccaneers already acquired Shaq Mason via trade so adding Raimann would help solidify the offensive line. Raimann played tackle at Central Michigan, but after watching some tape and seeing his arm length in the 23rd percentile for offensive linemen, I think a move inside is in his NFL future.

28. Green Bay Packers – Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Green Bay desperately needs receivers capable of playing on the perimeter. Watson fits that mold and should be someone Aaron Rodgers will enjoy throwing to. Watson is an impeccable route runner, getting in and out of his breaks quickly and understanding how to set up opposing corners to get himself open. Adding him would be a good start to the Packers rebuilding their receiver room.

29. Kansas City Chiefs via Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Karlaftis slides a bit with all the receivers and corners coming off the board. That is all well and good for the Chiefs, who need edge rushing help in the worst way. Karlaftis would be a great scheme fit as a 4-3 defensive end and could start across from Frank Clark right away. He has some areas of his game he needs to clean up when it comes to run defense and setting the edge, but he will certainly be capable of creating pressure.

30. Kansas City Chiefs – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
In a perfect world, there would be a wide receiver or corner worth taking in this slot, but with a run on both positions in the teens and 20s of this mock, the Chiefs will go with the best player available at a position of need. To me, that is Hill. Kansas City lost Tyrann Mathieu this offseason and they tend to run a lot of five or six defensive back sets. Adding in Hill, who can play either safety spot or even slot corner, gives the Chiefs a versatile playmaker on the backend of their defense.

31. Cincinnati Bengals – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
If we get to this point, I think the Bengals would be looking to trade down with a team trying to grab a quarterback at the end of the first round. In this scenario, I think continuing to bolster their interior offensive line makes a ton of sense. Linderbaum is definitely undersized, but he makes up for it with physical play and outstanding athleticism in space.

32. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Let me make something clear. I really like Devin Lloyd. I have him ranked among my top 10 prospects. I just had a hard time finding a good landing spot for him where the value of getting an off-ball linebacker made sense. Lions fans would be happy to see him fall this far. He is a dynamic playmaker with some pass rush ability and the versatility to play multiple roles. For a defense starved of talent, this is a great get.

33. Jacksonville Jaguars – Arnold Ebeketie, EDGE Penn State

34. Detroit Lions – Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State

35. New York Jets – George Pickens, WR, Georgia

36. New York Giants – Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota

37. Houston Texans – Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

38. New York Jets via Carolina Panthers – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

39. Chicago Bears – Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA

40. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

41. Seattle Seahawks – Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

42. Indianapolis Colts via Washington Commanders – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

43. Atlanta Falcons – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

44. Cleveland Browns – Cameron Thomas, EDGE, San Diego State

45. Baltimore Ravens – Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

46. Minnesota Vikings – Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA

47. Washington Commanders via Indianapolis Colts – Quay Walker, LB, Georgia

48. Chicago Bears via Los Angeles Chargers – Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan

49. New Orleans Saints – Sam Howell, QB, UNC

50. Kansas City Chiefs via Miami Dolphins – Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati

51. Philadelphia Eagles – Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

52. Pittsburgh Steelers – Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

53. Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State

54. New England Patriots – Christian Harris, LB, Alabama

55. Arizona Cardinals – Amare Barno, EDGE, Virginia Tech

56. Dallas Cowboys – Dylan Parham, G, Memphis

57. Buffalo Bills – Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

58. Atlanta Falcons via Tennessee Titans – Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

59. Green Bay Packers – Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor

60. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Travis Jones, DL, Connecticut

61. San Francisco 49ers – Cole Strange, G, Chattanooga

62. Kansas City Chiefs – Cody Bryant, CB, Cincinnati

63. Cincinnati Bengals – Cade Otton, TE, Washington

64. Denver Broncos via Los Angeles Rams – Logan Hall, DL, Houston

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.

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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.

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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.

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