We have officially crossed the one-third mark of the season and team identities are close to if not fully actualized. I would like to use this point of the season to do something fun and special: a way, dear lord it is way too early NFL Mock Draft. Everything will be based on current rankings, and I will not add in trades as they can be too hard to predict. That said let’s have fun with this and laugh about it once April hits. A special thanks to our editor for putting up with this monstrosity of an article. I promise I won’t do it again unless it performs well.
Now let’s make some fan bases unhappy!
1.01, Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
I’m not going to overthink the first pick; right now its clearly in Kayvon Thibodeaux’s hands. He stands to grade out similarly to Chase Young. Thibodeaux boasts elite length, bend, and twitch. Detroit could use a lot, and a key edge threat is a blue-chip type of piece that every team wants to add. The only thing that could move this needle is a clear QB1 rising the boards, but currently one does not seem to stand out among the crowd. Also, Jared Goff is on the books till 2024 with a reasonable out not even appearing till 2023.
1.02, Philadelphia Eagles from Miami Dolphins: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Howie Roseman is starting to look like the patron saint of team building. With savvy trades, the team has the possibility of three first-round picks and two of them are likely to be top-ten selections. The Eagles defense needs help and I have a feeling the 2022 NFL Draft will be loaded with potential additions to that side of the ball. It’s too early in the season to judge Jalen Hurts’ progression, so I don’t see them going quarterback here. I would also wager a guess that the Eagles are in a prime position to trade down if they don’t see a player of value at this position. That said, I’m going to side with adding another defensive end to their roster. It’s a valuable position and Aidan Hutchinson is a very talented player. Hutchinson is not as dynamic as Kayvon, but he has the grit and motor to get past defenders. He flashes of strength and speed alongside a get-off that stands out on the tape.
1.03, Houston Texans: Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
My (very) unfinished big board has Corral just outside the top ten, but that isn’t exactly how teams look at quarterbacks when they draft them. The position carries a clear extra value that elevates them past their nominal rankings. That means that picking the right QB at the right time can immediately skyrocket a team’s potential. Watson clearly won’t suit up for the Texans ever again, and they’ve started the hunt for the next possible franchise quarterback. Corral’s ball has great speed, and he can fit it into tight windows, he runs the offense at a great level, and he has shown that he is willing to tuck the ball and run it downfield. I would like to see continued deep ball accuracy improvement, but that touch can take time to develop.
1.04, New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr, CB, LSU
The Jets’ backfield has been bleeding points and players for years. Adding a potential lockdown corner is going to be on Joe Douglas’ list. Douglas, to his credit, has done a good job rebuilding a foundation since taking over in 2019. The second and third rounds are going to have offensive linemen to add, and it’s much harder to find a key matchup corner. I don’t have access to doctors or medical data, so I do my best to remove medical flags from a player’s history, but it’s hard to ignore his October 6th foot surgery at this point. That said, Derek has all the tools and practices to make him a phenomenal prospect. He sits at 6’1” and near 200 pounds, so he has the size and length NFL teams look for in a premier corner. His hips are quick and fluid when needing to break or turn and he shows the long speed needed to make up ground if he gets beaten by NFL wide receivers.
1.05, Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
An offensive tackle was bound to come off the board at some point, and I don’t feel the need to remind Jaguars’ fans that the Jags’ OL has allowed ten sacks of Trevor Lawrence in seven weeks, but I will. Plus, Cam Robinson is set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2022 and the cap budget is likely to be tight for every team, including Jacksonville. Evan Neal has a powerful punch and great hand placement. His first step is quick and long, and his kick slide is smooth. He mirrored every match I watched well, and he was able to anchor well against power rushers. He will be a very early starter at the NFL level.
1.06, Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Fans won’t have to wait long for the second selection from the Eagles and for them to add to the defensive side of the ball. Hamilton is likely to be inside the top ten on the majority of draft boards for his instincts on the field and dreamy sideline-to-sideline range. My biggest knock-on Hamilton is his tackling; I don’t want to say he is averse to tackling, but I don’t see or hear that pop during the hit when coming downhill. He won’t be the kind of elite in-the-box safety, but over the top, his ability to read the quarterback and his speed are both elite.
1.07, New York Giants: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
Giants need help pressuring the quarterback and preventing pressure on their quarterback. With the seventh selection, I decided that pressuring the other quarterback would be the better option as several solid offensive linemen are still on the board and the Giants have another first-round pick coming up. 2022 will be the draft for defensive ends and edge players and Karlaftis is part of that conversation. Karlaftis has been the guy for Purdue showing both a good bull rush and that he can bend the arc. He is very fun to watch almost exploding off the line of scrimmage each snap.
1.08, New York Jets from Seattle Seahawks: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
The Jets and the Eagles are going to be the talks of the town during the first day of the 2022 NFL Draft, as both are looking at two top-ten picks. This Jets pick comes from the Jamal Adams trade with Seattle. There are lots of possible directions for the Jets to go, from adding an Edge rusher with the early run on them to adding an outside threat from a wideout or looking to add protection for Zach Wilson. Right now, I’m leaning towards some defensive line help, but we will see as the season progresses. Leal is a massive presence inside the gaps; a power blocker that moves the pocket back creating chaos for another man to do work. What is most scary to me is even with the size of a traditional DT, Texas has lined him up at DE on several occasions.
1.09, Washington Football Team: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Taylor Heinicke has been serviceable but its time to add a prospect that can hopefully take his place and excel. The selection will more than likely come down to Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder and based on my current knowledge of the two I’m going to give Willis the edge. A big-time dual-threat quarterback, Willis has all the tools you look for in a day 1 prospect. He works well once the play breaks down, having the speed to extend plays; Willis is always looking downfield for a long throw or an open lane to run. I would like to see him become more comfortable taking the check-down throw more often as he often attempts to use his athleticism to buy time for bigger tosses.
1.10, Miami Dolphins from San Francisco 49ers: Sean Rhyan, OT, UCLA
Miami needs help upfront and there are several possible first-round tackles to pick from. Sean Rhyan’s physical profile is amazing for the position he has a large frame and has a good amount of power in his lower half combined with flexibility to boot. The only item that may come into question is his length, but I won’t really know that until I have more time with tape and the Combine numbers come out.
1.11, New England Patriots: Ahmade Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
I was tempted to be cute with this selection, but New England’s biggest need is clear and considering the amount of talent left for the defensive backs it makes too much sense to jump in with this selection. Gardner is a sticky corner that plays with some great tenacity. That aggressive and physical play style has led him to get touchy at times and yellow flags at the NFL level could be an issue.
1.12, Denver Broncos: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Desmond is a clear draft board riser during this season and some early watches it isn’t a question why people are clamoring for him to be a first-round selection. He is a clear dual-threat quarterback that has a lively arm and good instincts inside the pocket. His accuracy issues are hard to ignore and he has some funky mechanical tendencies with his body and feet when throwing the ball. But to his credit, even under pressure he keeps his head up and his eyes downfield, looking to make the play.
1.13, Philadelphia Eagles from Indianapolis Colts: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
I told you the Eagles would load up the defensive side of the ball. Elam plays with great physical confidence and so far, he has been a nuisance to every player he’s lined up against this season. He has smooth and quick hips, great length, and instincts. He has been beaten up a few times but his play-making potential shines. Elam would make for a fantastic addition to a needy defense.
1.14, Carolina Panthers: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Oh man, this was an easy selection for the Panthers, the interior line has been a sore spot for the team all season and Tyler Linderbaum isn’t just the best center in the country right now he is the best interior offensive lineman. He excels in pass protection and even when pushed he resets and anchors. In the run game, he is missing some power I would like to see but his understanding of angles and leverage more than makeup for it.
1.15, New York Giants from Chicago Bears: Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
Protecting Daniel Jones is the next step to seeing if he is the future of the franchise, and Petit-Frere is another physically gifted monster on the outside. He has constantly been displaying his power and motor playing to the whistle. He has made subtle improvements each week and continues to develop as a prospect. I’m willing to bet a lot of boards have him as an early day two player, but someone in his position with his physicality and traits can easily climb into the first round.
1.16, Kansas City Chiefs: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Back-to-back Buckeyes in the first, what a wild time we live in. The Chiefs could use a solid #2 wide receiver next to Tyreek Hill, and Olave will be a premier wide receiver during the 2022 NFL Draft cycle. Olave has proven his ability to get open, even lined up across from some very solid cornerbacks. He runs solid routes and has the speed to get over the top and punish teams. He has already shown the skills needed to deal with press coverage with a smooth and nuanced release.
1.17, Atlanta Falcons: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Matt Ryan isn’t the long-term answer for Atlanta, but they desperately need help on the other side of the field. Booth is by far the best pick available for them, and the team needs help at cornerback. He is quick, sticky, smart, and he has proven his ability in coverage. Even when he has an off night, he can keep on pushing and working on his assignment. He is a tough cookie who isn’t afraid of contact, which is a big plus for run support and special teams.
1.18, Pittsburgh Steelers: Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
This pairing might become chalk on draft boards as Strong is slowly turning into this year’s Joe Burrow or Zach Wilson, a somewhat unknown quarterback that rapidly climbs Twitter scout and national media draft boards. Just because it becomes chalk for pundits doesn’t mean it will be correct, as I could easily see the team avoiding a quarterback in this draft and going with a veteran option. He stands out in this class, as he is more of a true pocket passer than a dual-threat quarterback. He has a powerful arm that can add a decent bit of zip on midfield plays and he plays with a ton of passion and confidence. Strong’s confidence has also been a downfall, as he throws some balls into spaces where he can’t fit them. Sometimes he gets away with it and sometimes he ends up walking back to the sideline.
1.19, Minnesota Vikings: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
The Vikings’ cornerback corps has been surviving on the backs of a rookie and two guys on one-year deals. McDuffie has been a ballhawk for Washington, and he also carries special teams upside. He isn’t afraid to show some power with his tackles and he’s developed precise attack angles. On the technical side, his tackling needs work, as he tends to rely on the pure force of his body ramming into the target knocking them down than properly wrapping up his opponent. McDuffie’s athletic and physical traits will make him a standout in the class, but his body composition is a possible problem area. He doesn’t show elite length and his overall frame is small by NFL standards, so he will likely have a matchup problem against more physical wideouts at the next level.
1.20, Cleveland Browns: Garret Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The Buckeyes have produced several standout NFL wide receivers over the last few years (Michael Thomas, Terry McLaurin, and Curtis Samuel, to name a few) and Wilson is likely to join that mix. He has been used primarily in the slot as a check-down receiver. Wilson has a massive catch radius and has a surreal level of body control and awareness always finding ways to keep his feet inbound. His tenure as a motion and slot receiver has given him a good feel for soft spots in zones and he has an ability to create misses in the open field. Cleveland needs a new weapon on the outside as contracts with the current corps are starting to expire.
1.21, Buffalo Bills: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
Green carries an impressive frame with broad shoulders and a good base, and he plays with aggression and tenacity. He excels in the run game popping out of his stance with strong hand placement and power. In terms of position, he has spent some time at RT this season but will be a guard at the next level. Green’s game doesn’t have a ton of holes that I could find, though sometimes his aggression causes him to overextend his blocks and miss his target. However, I think that is a fair trade for what you get when he lands his hits. Teams are always looking to improve the offensive line and the Bills have had some question marks on the inside lines.
1.22, Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
The Chargers need help in the middle of their defensive line and Jordan Davis is an answer and a major threat. He is a mauler that often walks the opposing blocker back into the pocket. Davis has a nose tackle build with the power and a ton of sand in his pants. His stat lines won’t impress but his impact will; he eats double blocks and disrupts the pocket. He makes sure his presence is known and is a dominating force in run defense. My biggest concern for him is his threat as a pass rusher. But given his ability to push back his assignment, even if he doesn’t get to the quarterback, he will still disrupt the pocket and be noticed by the quarterback. If teams do decide to double him someone else is free to the sack he helped to create.
1.23, New Orleans Saints: Drake London, WR, USC
The Saints have been struggling in the outside pass game this season and it’s easy to see them looking to bolster their wide receivers early in the draft. London can separate so well, given his frame and his scarily consistent ability to extend after the catch. He excels with 50/50 balls with his size and athleticism. London’s length and size give him an absurd catch radius and although that also comes with some disadvantages, he can get open in the middle of the field and puts himself in good positions for the quarterback to find him. He won’t have that twitch speed the smaller wide receivers have, and his long speed isn’t elite. He played the slot during most of his USC tenure, but they’ve moved him outside more this season. He has been a player to watch as he keeps proving himself on the outside.
1.24, Dallas Cowboys: Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati
A small frame edge that packs a punch, Sanders has the length needed at the next level, but he does have some size concerns. Sanders makes up for his small size with an explosive first step and great use of his length. He is lean and fast, even with some questions regarding his size he is sturdy at the line of scrimmage and draws extra attention his way. They only need to somehow stop Jerry from drafting another offensive threat in the first round, and to get him to draft Sanders, instead.
1.25, Tennessee Titans: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Having a chance to play on an air raid team has given Cross the chance to show off some of his athletic prowess. Mike Leach spreads the offense and offensive line wide, and that can take some adjustment time. Cross has taken his lumps during his tenure at Mississippi, but he has also shown improvement almost every week. At the start of the season, I was thinking he was more of a prospect with all the tools but needed more time to develop, but his progression has been rapid this season into a first-round prospect. He is also young, something that you can take as a positive and a negative. He has lots of room and time to grow both physically and mentally but needing to grow in both fields could extend his time to helping a squad. Due to the scheme teams will want to see and test his run blocking, whether that happens during team visits or at the NFL Combine. I think Cross has some traits that would fit well in the Titans’ scheme, plus offensive lines are always the focus with early picks. If Cross pans out, the Titans get a good tackle that can last years and they can shore up a “blue chip” position for the squad.
1.26, Cincinnati Bengals: Dohnovan West, C, Arizona State
Protecting Joe Burrow will be a theme during the 2022 offseason. West may surprise some, but he is an impressive prospect. He has both experience and high-level physical traits that teams look for when drafting an interior offensive lineman. He also carries insane versatility, as he played right guard, left guard, and center allowing the Bengals to move him around as needed to create the best possible situation for Joe Burrow. I have not seen a ton of noise surrounding him in the media but as the year closes, I expect his stock to rise.
1.27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sam Howell, QB North Carolina
Sam Howell has had a very up-and-down year, given that the North Carolina system has proven to provide for a difficult transition for quarterback success in the NFL. Howell may need a year or two on the bench developing himself to make it in the league. But, he has a snappy and quick release with good to great accuracy. Howell has good speed and has the ability to extend plays, but he can get overwhelmed under pressure leading to poor footwork. I think spending a year or two behind someone like Tom Brady would be great for his development, as both have fast releases and a compact throwing style. Brady has some amazing footwork and has adjusted his stance over the years, he is in a place that the threat of a young quarterback won’t damage his ego and would be an excellent mentor for a young talent like Howell.
1.28, Detroit Lions from the Los Angeles Rams: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Burks is one of the scariest wideouts after the catch I’ve seen this season. His good to great long speed for his size to his combinations of other physical traits causes him to be a problem after the catch, causing subpar tackling attempts to bounce off of him. Burks will be a dominant threat in the slot at the NFL level. Cooper Kupp has been wanting more opportunities on the outside and selecting a wideout like Burks in the first opens that chance for Kupp in 2022 and beyond.
1.29, Las Vegas Raiders: Devin Lloyd, ILB, Utah
Lloyd is a long, athletic, and intelligent linebacker from Utah. He has good range and wastes no time filling gaps. He has plus coverage abilities and has been used as a pass rusher. His versatility and athletic profile make him a problem for opposing offenses. Lloyd’s biggest area of opportunity is that he doesn’t always take the best angles on his tackles. The Raiders don’t currently have long-term players at linebacker, and Lloyd has proven his abilities at the MIKE position and has the potential to be that centerpiece for the Raiders at the next level.
1.30, Green Bay Packers: Drake Jackson, DE/EDGE, USC
No Green Bay, I’m not giving you a wide receiver, go yell at the ghost Ted Thompson, not me. But, what I will give you is some much-needed help on the edges. Drake Jackson is lightning fast off the snap and shows great bend and agility in the pass rush. He holds his ground well enough against the run and maintains edge good control. Jackson attacks the ball on tackles and in his Washington game, he was able to turn a strip-sack into a touchdown. He has been ascending draft boards and mock draft lists during the 2021 season and may play himself into the top-twenty conversation. His athletic profile, length, and bend give him outstanding upside. The Packers are looking at losing both Smiths after the 2022 season so having a young athletic threat behind them only makes sense.
1.31, Baltimore Ravens: Ikem Ekwonu, OG/OT, North Carolina State
Ekwonu has been lining up as a LT but at the next level he will likely grade out as a guard… but that is not a knock against him as he is a people mover. It’s fun to watch him on the line as he lands some explosive blocks in the run game. He carries a powerful first punch and a motor that pushes the other man up and then back. He has decent pass protection abilities, but every prospect has items they need to work on at this point in their career. Ikem Ekonu will open some much-needed running lanes for the Ravens and no matter if he lands as a guard or tackle on the roster, he will be a great addition.
1.32, Arizona Cardinals: Jaxson Kirkland, OT, Washington
It’s a close battle between Trevor Penning (OT, Northern Iowa) and Jaxson Kirkland for me in my rankings. As for the Cardinals, I’m going to side with what Kirkland could bring to the team and their zone scheme. I’ve graded Jaxon out as a tackle at the next level, but he has tenure at guard, so he carries that versatility and fail-safe bonus. Kirkland is athletic and quick, and he can land his hands with great hand placement off the snap. His body control and bend are what make me think he will slide well into the zone system employed by Sean Kugler and Kliff Kingsbury. His functional strength was an issue in prior seasons and more size and power could be added, judging by his frame. But he seems to have added a good amount of sand to his pants this year, so that could be less of a concern going forward.