Prior to 2021, we would be reaching the halfway point of the NFL regular season right. With a 17th game, there is no clean midway point of the season, so this is still close enough. The league standings are starting to take shape and it is clear which teams should start thinking about which players they could draft come April.
I am so excited that mock draft season is heating up. With tons of college football action already in the books, we are starting to get a sense for who the top prospects in the upcoming 2022 NFL draft will be. We still have a long way to go though before final rankings are in or the draft order is even set, so this more about starting to familiarize ourselves with upcoming team needs on the NFL side and players to watch as the college season continues.
This is the most up-to-date draft order according to Tankathon through the conclusion of Sunday Night Football. The outcome of Chiefs-Giants on Monday night will likely see each team slide a couple spots in either direction.
With the trade deadline right around the corner, it will be interesting to see if any of these teams’ needs change, but for right now, this is which players I could see teams targeting when the draft rolls around.
1. Detroit Lions (0-8) – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
It is hard to find much to be positive about following a 44-6 loss. However, it moves the Lions one step closer to landing an elite edge rusher in Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Oregon star has been incredibly disruptive this season, racking up sacks and tackles for loss while just generally wreaking havoc. He would immediately provide a boost to this overmatched Detroit defense. Dan Campbell will love his motor and his nose for the football.
2. Houston Texans (1-7) – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Houston’s secondary is a mess. The trio of Desmond King, Terrance Mitchell and Vernon Hargreaves do not inspire much confidence for the future, nor have they done much to deserve to stick on the roster past the 2021 season. Derek Stingley Jr. will have some questions to answer in the pre-draft process after missing much of this season due to injury. When healthy though, he is a sticky cover man with good physical traits and above average instincts. If he can return to the level he played at in 2019, when LSU won a national title, he will be a very good corner in the NFL.
3. Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins (1-7) – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Miami is probably really regretting trading away their first-round pick right about now. Philadelphia will be happy to jump on an elite edge prospect who is drawing comparisons to J.J. Watt. He missed much of the 2020 season due to a broken leg and it might have been a really good thing for him. He has been on a tear in 2021, demonstrating good pass rush moves and overwhelming opposing offensive tackles. I would be surprised if he made it out of the top 10 with the production and tape he has put together this season.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
This is a perfect example of need meeting value and talent for the Jaguars. Evan Neal is built like a small mountain or a very large human being. Measuring in at 6’7″, 360 pounds, he checks all the physical boxes for a prototypical left tackle in the NFL. He also brings above average athleticism for the position, especially given his size. He brings a ton of experience going up against top-end competition in the SEC at both tackle spots in his college career. Trevor Lawrence needs to be protected and this is a smart move to accomplish that goal.
5. Washington Football Team (2-6) – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Another week, another lackluster showing from the Washington offense. Taylor Heinicke is not the only reason for those struggles, with the offensive line and running game failing to provide much help, but it is clear Washington needs a new quarterback. Malik Willis brings the best physical tools of any quarterback in this class. He has a huge arm with impressive elusiveness and burst as a runner. There is no question he is a bit of a project at this point. He holds onto the ball for far too long in the pocket and needs to learn when to get rid of it. Given his running ability and the lack of talent around him, he rarely works through more than one or two reads. Given time though, Willis could end up being a high-end NFL starter.
6. New York Jets (2-5) – Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
Despite another improbable victory, the Jets offensive is still a work in progress, especially along the interior. Greg Van Roten turns 32 this offseason and could be a cap casualty. Kenyon Green could step in and start from day 1 in his place. He has experience at both tackle and guard in his college career, which could come in handy given Mekhi Becton’s injury history. Zach Wilson has been one of the most pressured and hit quarterbacks in the league this year. Green could help solidify an improving unit.
7. New York Giants (2-5) – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
The Giants will be disappointed Green lands with the team that shares their stadium, but it allows them to grab the electric George Karlaftis. He would be an excellent complement to Azeez Ojulari, giving New York an exciting young duo of pass rushers. So far this year, Joe Judge’s defense ranks 30th in pass-rush win rate. Karlaftis has a quick first step and some impressive pass rush moves. He has room for improvement in the run game, but is incredibly disruptive. Most of his reps come with his hand on the ground, but he could operate a standup rusher if needed.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
A dynamic, ball-hawking safety would be a great addition to the Eagles secondary. Kyle Hamilton could very well be off the board before this spot, given his range and versatility in coverage schemes. He has already flashed his speed this season on a couple of remarkable plays. I am always a bit skeptical of drafting a safety this high given the positional value, but Hamilton is a complete package with the ability to drastically change the outlook of this defense. Philly definitely needs to rebuild the defense.
9. Philadelphia Eagles via Indianapolis Colts (3-5) – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Let’s keep rebuilding this defense. I expect that Philadelphia will likely trade one of these picks away, but I’m not ready to project mock draft trades in early November. Assuming they stay put, grabbing a toolsy linebacker to play at really any of their linebacker spots. I don’t think it is unfair to say that there is not an NFL starting-caliber linebacker on the Eagles’ roster right now. Devin Lloyd is one of my favorite prospects in this draft cycle. He is very aggressive and athletic. I expect him to be a playmaker at the next level with the speed to hang in coverage.
10. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (3-5) – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
After addressing the offensive line with their first pick of this draft, New York goes defense to find another corner to pair with Bryce Hall. There is still a chance one of their young defensive backs could develop, but Ahmad Gardner is a better prospect than anyone the Jets have in their secondary right now. He is big and long at 6’3″ with plus ball skills. He has been a major part of Cincinnati’s impressive season. While Robert Saleh’s scheme does not prioritize corners, finding two long, athletic corners to run the system with would only increase its effectiveness.
11. New York Giants via Chicago Bears (3-5) – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Five of the first 11 picks belong to the Eagles, Jets and Giants right now. Fun time to be a scout in the tri-state area. New York grabs an edge rusher at No. 7, so this time they go to the other side of the line of scrimmage. With Nick Gates suffering a potentially career-ending injury earlier this year Dave Gettleman attempting to rebuild the interior of his offensive line with castoffs on the trade block, center feels like a big need. Tyler Linderbaum is one of the fastest interior linemen that I have ever watched. He is great as a pulling blocker and operates well in space. He would be a welcome addition to the offense for Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.
12. Atlanta Falcons (3-4) – DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
Unquestionably, Grady Jarrett needs some help along the Falcons defensive line. Atlanta struggles to rush the passer and has gotten very little production from anyone other than Jarrett. DeMarvin Leal is a talented defensive lineman who can play as a 3-4 end or a 4-3 tackle. He sets the edge well and shows a good initial punch at the point of attack. He would definitely command some attention, which would open things up more for Jarrett.
13. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers (3-4) – Sean Rhyan, OT, UCLA
There are a few directions the Dolphins could head here. I think the urge to move on from Tua Tagovailoa is fading slightly even though Miami continues to lose. Honestly, Tua seems to be very far from the problem right now. The Dolphins’ offensive line is the worst in the league in terms of pass-block win rate. That has to be the focal point in the draft and free agency. Sean Rhyan is an intriguing prospect with really impressive agility and technique. He keeps the play in front of him and understands blocking angles. He could potentially be Miami’s long-term answer at left tackle, Austin Jackson continues to struggle.
14. Minnesota Vikings (3-4) – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
I know it is a running joke right now and fans will push back, but it is hard to see who else the Vikings truly trust at corner outside of Patrick Peterson. Neither Bashaud Breeland nor Mackensie Alexander has done much to indicate they have what it takes to start on the outside. Andrew Booth Jr. would give Minnesota a projectable starter in 2022 and beyond. Putting him in a position to learn from Peterson while he acclimates to the NFL would be a phenomenal situation for him. He checks all the boxes from a measurables standpoint as well.
15. Kansas City Chiefs (3-4) – Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
While the offense has not been good this season, the Chiefs defense might be the worst in the league. They lack playmakers at every level. Most notably, Kansas City ranks dead last in run-stop win rate this season. Bringing in Christian Harris should help get this defense back on track. He is incredibly athletic, flying around the field. 10 years ago, Harris likely would have been a safety in the NFL. He is one of those new-age linebackers that brings a ton of speed and coverage ability to the position. He has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to reading his keys and finishing tackles, but his athletic profile makes him an exciting prospect.
16. New England Patriots (3-4) – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
It is a little too early for a safety and the top three corners are already off the board, so the Patriots opt to protect Mac Jones instead. Isaiah Wynn is playing well enough to keep his job, so Charles Cross could be in line to start at right tackle in 2022. Trent Brown has not played since the season opener and will be a free agent following the season. Neither Justin Herron nor Yasir Durant has done much to indicate they should be the long-term starter. Cross is one of the best run blockers in this draft with a lot to like in pass protection as well. He struggles when opponents work across his face, but he can anchor and stem pass rushing moves. With a bit of polishing, he could be a really strong starter.
17. Denver Broncos (3-4) – Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
I would be shocked if Denver went into 2022 with Teddy Bridgewater as the unquestioned starter. He has been serviceable, but far from impressive enough to indicate that he should be the starter long term. Matt Corral would be a fun prospect for the Broncos to work with. He has played at a high level in 2021, piloting a high-scoring Ole Miss offense. He is a dual threat player, scoring 23 touchdowns this season, including eight on the ground. He has cut down on the interceptions this year, which is a huge improvement, but there is still plenty of upside left for him to tap into.
18. Cleveland Browns (4-3) – Drake London, WR, USC
Two years ago, the idea of the Browns spending a first-round pick on a wide receiver would have seemed outlandish. However, with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry continuing to show signs that their best football is behind them, Cleveland will be searching for Baker Mayfield’s new top target. Drake London is not for everyone, but he can be a game-changing player with his ability to adjust to balls in midair and make catches away from his body. If you throw it within his zip code, he has the size and ball skills to bring it in. There is room for improvement as a route runner, but he would be a very reliable option for Mayfield to work with in this offense.
19. Carolina Panthers (4-4) – Darian Kinnard, G, Kentucky
Quarterback is definitely a possibility here given Sam Darnold’s struggles this season, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Carolina targeted a veteran passer to fill the void. The team has been heavily linked to Deshaun Watson after all. No matter who is quarterback for the Panthers next year, he will need to have an improved offensive line front of him. Darian Kinnard is a vicious run blocker with plenty of power. He starts at right tackle for Kentucky, but his skill set definitely points towards him fitting best on the interior at the next level. Kinnard is a bit raw and will likely need some seasoning before he can truly contribute, but the upside given his physical traits is enormous.
20. Los Angeles Chargers (4-3) – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
Los Angeles has struggled against the run this season. Linval Joseph is 33 and will be a free agent at the end of the season. Jordan Davis is more than capable of plugging the hole, literally and figuratively. He is a people mover with good athleticism for a man his size. He has been a menace this season in that Georgia defense. Every once in a while, he will simply bench press an opposing interior lineman to crash the pocket. That is something the Chargers desperately need.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) – Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
Ben Roethlisberger is doing just enough to keep the Steelers offense afloat. While Pittsburgh assuredly needs help along the offensive line, they also need a succession plan for their 39-year-old quarterback. If Mike Tomlin wants to keep a similar playstyle, Carson Strong is an excellent fit in this scheme. He is a big, strong-armed pocket passer who can hit the far hashes. He has work to do on his deep ball, but he has nice touch on his intermediate passes. Unfortunately, Strong brings little to the table with his legs, but he can move around the pocket to extend plays, keeping his eyes downfield whenever he does. He would slot into this offensive nicely.
22. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
While Cincinnati seems to have unearthed a diamond in the rough with Chidobe Awuzie, the rest of the cornerback room is subpar. As demonstrated on Sunday, when the Bengals surrendered more than 400 yards to Mike White, the pass defense is still a work in progress. Kaiir Elam would give Cincy a long corner with good speed to play on the outside. He still has some room for improvement in zone coverage, but his physical traits bode well for success in the NFL. If Awuzie can keep this up, the Bengals would suddenly have a pretty imposing cornerback duo.
23. New Orleans Saints (5-2) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Quarterback is a clear need, but I don’t have a first-round grade on anyone other than Willis, Strong or Corral right now. Instead of reaching for someone like Desmond Ridder, New Orleans can grab a talented receiver. As evidenced by Kevin White leading the team in receiving yards against the Buccaneers, the Saints need help at the position, even when Michael Thomas returns. Garrett Wilson is a smooth route runner with impressive production to match. He would be an interesting addition to a receiving corps that would feature Thomas, Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris when healthy.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) – Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
Quickly rising up draft boards, Roger McCreary is playing some good football in 2021. In his latest outing, he had five tackles and two pass deflections against a talented Ole Miss offense. The six-foot tall senior is turning some heads with his athleticism and production on the outside playing against top competition in the SEC. With Tampa Bay’s defense struggling all year long, especially in the secondary, McCreary would be a welcome addition. With Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting still in place, McCreary would not have to start right away, but could provide some much-needed depth and develop into a starter down the line with both Dean and Murphy-Bunting set to hit free agency in 2023.
25. Buffalo Bills (5-2) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Buffalo already has a super reliable possession receiver capable of giving defensive backs nightmares with his route running ability. Why not add someone capable of taking the top off? That’s not to say Chris Olave isn’t also a good route runner in his own right. He is one of the more polished players in this year’s class, opting to return to school after drawing first-round consideration a year ago. Olave is not the most physically imposing receiver in this class, but he brings an exciting blend of size and speed that has led to a very productive college career. He could take over for Emmanuel Sanders, who will be out of contract after the season.
26. Las Vegas Raiders (5-2) – Nicolas Petit-Frère, OT, Ohio State
The Raiders have pieced together an impressive first half of the season despite having one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Las Vegas tore apart what had been a strong unit in 2020, trading away or cutting all five of its starters and drafting Alex Leatherwood in the first round. It remains to be seen if Leatherwood can really compete at tackle or if he might be best suited for a move inside. Meanwhile, Nicolas Petit-Frere has been crushing it for Ohio State in his first season at left tackle. His experience at right tackle only increases his value. With good size and ample experience, he could continue to move up draft boards.
27. Dallas Cowboys (6-1) – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Dallas’ defense has been a revelation this year following a historically bad 2020 campaign. Still, there are definitely areas for improvement. The biggest one that stands out is safety. Donovan Wilson and Damontae Kazee are serviceable, but Daxton Hill has a much higher ceiling than either of those two players. He is the latest nickel corner-safety combo, showing an ability to disrupt plays in multiple roles. His versatility and athleticism would both be welcome in the Cowboys secondary.
28. Green Bay Packers (7-1) – Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
Maybe I should learn my lesson and stop mocking receivers to the Packers in the first round. Aaron Rodgers showed on Thursday he can win with pretty much anyone catching passes. While Za’Darius Smith should return from injury soon, he is also a potential cap casualty this offseason, saving the team over $15 million in cap space if they cut or trade him. Keeping him at a $28 million cap hit feels untenable. That could put the Packers in the market for an edge rusher. Drake Jackson has the body type and quickness to excel as a standup pass rusher. He could help improve a Green Bay defense that ranks 22nd in pass-rush win rate.
29. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
After trading away Orlando Brown Jr. and seeing Ronnie Stanley suffer a second-straight season ending injury, tackle feels like a pressing need for the Ravens. Alejandro Villanueva is a stop-gap solution and he has had his fair share of struggles this season. Trevor Penning could be the long-term answer at right tackle with the experience to fill in for Stanley if he were to go down again. He is powerful and should fit well into Baltimore’s run-heavy approach. He might need a little bit of time to get up to speed coming from the FCS, but he handled himself well against Iowa State, which points to that being a shorter ramp up period than you might expect.
30. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles (6-1) – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
No team in the league needs receiver help more than the Lions. Detroit’s top two receivers this year are T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift, neither of whom are wide receivers. I am a fan of Amon-Ra St. Brown long term, but Jared Goff needs someone to target now. It is hard to miss Treylon Burks at 6’3″. At that size, it would be easy to assume he was a possession or jump-ball receiver, but he has the athleticism to be a true No. 1 option. The biggest concern is how he fares against elite competition. Georgia’s defense held him to just three catches for 10 yards, but he was hardly the only Arkansas player to struggle in that game. It seems to be an outlier in what has otherwise been a stellar season.
31. Tennessee Titans (6-2) – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Considering that the Titans are leading the AFC at the moment after wins over the Bills, Chiefs and Colts, this team does not have too many holes. However, linebacker is definitely one of them. Rashaan Evans has been very underwhelming this year and it simply feels unacceptable for a Mike Vrabel coached team to have subpar linebacker play. Adding Nakobe Dean would instantly change this defense. He is an effective blitzer with a nose for the football. He even flashed his coverage ability with a pick-six against Florida. Adding a dynamic player to the middle of this defense would help it take a step in the right direction.
32. Arizona Cardinals (7-1) – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
The Cardinals are a miscommunicated route away from being 8-0 right now. While Arizona has been one of the more surprising teams this season, especially defensively, its secondary has some question marks. Robert Alford has played well, but he turns 33 today (Happy Birthday) and is set to be a free agent after the season. Meanwhile, Byron Murphy has yet to really live up to the hype. Arizona could opt to return for another Washington corner to continue building out this group. Trent McDuffie might not be the biggest player on the field, but he meets my threshold for size when it comes to scouting perimeter corners. He also flies around the field, blowing up plays with his incredible closing speed and explosiveness. He would be fun to watch in Vance Joseph’s defense.