I’ve long maintained my personal opinion that mock drafts before the end of the season are stupid. However, it’s the easiest way for most fans to process where players stand in the draft and which teams could be targeting which players. Therefore, I will cave and admit that the mock draft is effective for that reason.

The regular season has come to a close, which means that the draft order for the first 18 picks, the non-playoff teams, is locked. I refuse to speculate on which teams could potentially win next week for the sake of a mock draft, and project the entire NFL playoffs. Instead, we will focus on Mock Draft 0.5 – it’s too early to be complete, so we will settle for a half (errr… 0.5625 of a mock draft) and start to maintain who stands where at this point.

A couple of notes before we begin

  • Two NFL teams have secured double top-ten picks in the upcoming draft – the New York Giants and the New York Jets. The Giants trade with the Chicago Bears last draft that helped Chicago secure quarterback Justin Fields gives the Giants their second top-ten pick, and the Jets trade that sent Jamal Adams to Seattle gives them the Seahawks tenth overall pick.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles will have three first-round picks in this class – we will only discuss two of them in this mock draft on account of the Eagles playoff run.
  • We will not be projecting trades this early in the cycle, but we can fully expect a lot of trades in the upcoming draft.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

The Jaguars appear to be searching for an offensive-minded coach, but it’s impossible to pass up on the talent that Kayvon Thibodeaux brings to a defense. Thibodeaux is very versatile, capable of playing several techs (three and five) while playing upright or down. He does it all and is very polished as a pas rusher.

One of the issues that Jacksonville had all season was generating a consistent pass rush. There is no doubt that they will attempt to build onto that part of their defense. Putting Thibodeaux on one side and RUSH EDGE Josh Allen on the other would be monumental for the Jaguars defense to rebuild off of in 2022.

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2. Detroit Lions: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

Becoming a very controversial player in media this season, Aidan Hutchinson put up one of the best seasons in college football last year as an edge defender. While most analysts are quick to point out it was undeserving to Will Anderson’s record-shattering season, Hutchinson was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and won several defensive player awards after helping Michigan to the College Football Playoff.

Hutchinsole’s playing stye simply screams Dan Campbell-type player. On top of that, Detroit had issues rushing the passer most of the season, despite wanting to run a multiple front defense. Hutchinson fits several of their packages and could be an excellent addition, not just for being a “hometown player.”

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3. Houston Texans: OT Evan Neal, Alabama

Evan Neal is arguably the best tackle prospect to come out of college over the last five years. He’s a dominant monster who played as the left tackle to Too Tagovailoa in 2019, right tackle to Mac Jones in 2020, and the blindside protector to Bryce Young in 2021. His dominant performance as a left tackle this season only solidified his NFL value as a versatile tackle.

The Texans appear to have found their quarterback of the future (for now) in Davis Mills, the Texans third round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft. Now, the focus should be on protecting him. Evan Neal has played all across the offensive line and would be too much of a great talent to pass on with the Texans rebuilding the trenches.

Undeclared at present time.

4. New York Jets: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

Unlike any safety prospect seen entering the NFL, Kyle Hamilton is a combination of size, speed, and physicality that makes him a dangerous prospect at the next level. It’s remarkable to observe his range and athletic ability at 6’4″ and 220 pounds.

People questioned the trade that sent Jamal Adams to Seattle during the 2020 season, but so far it appears to be paying dividends. Hamilton would be a good fit to the Jets to slide into the secondary and really help solidify the back end. While safeties aren’t normally valued this high, the Jets other top ten pick help them make the decision to pull the trigger on someone who can potentially change the way they play defense on their back end.

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5. New York Giants: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss

You have to love what Matt Corral did this season with Ole Miss, serving his team in a variety of ways while helping Ole Miss achieve their best season in school history. Corral threw for 3343 yards and 20 touchdowns this season while running for another 11 scores. The Rebels went 10-2 in games that he finished, with Corral suffering a season-ending injury in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor. He finished seventh in Heisman voting.

The end of the Daniel Jones era appears to be nigh. While a new coaching staff will figure all of that out, the Giants have the opportunity to stand pat and pick their favorite guy. It’s hard not to like what Corral brings to the league. Between his running ability and big arm, Corral is an exciting prospect with arguably the highest upside in this class and comes from the same school Eli Manning did almost two decades prior. He can usher in a new brand of the New York Giants.

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6. Carolina Panthers: QB Malik Willis, Liberty

Malik Willis has captivated football fans over his last two seasons at Liberty. His explosive running ability combined with his big arm reminded college fans of Michael Vick, who played at Virginia Tech twenty years ago. Willis has his issues that he will need to work through, but there is no denying his ability as a playmaker from the quarterback position.

The Panthers Sam Darnold experiment failed this season and Matt Rhule has traditionally liked more mobile quarterbacks – even bringing back Cam Newton during the season. With the value that Matt Rhule places in quarterbacks in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, it wouldn’t shock me if he took the guy who he came away more impressed with. We project Malik Willis having the best week in Mobile. Also – PJ Walker was resigned as the backup quarterback, and it would be smart to take someone with a similar skillset as the future of the franchise.

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7. New York Giants (from Chicago): CB Derek Stingley, LSU

Finally donning the famed number seven jersey for LSU in 2021, Derek Stingley’s season was cut short by season-ending surgery as Stingley focused on preparing for the NFL. Still, Stingley had one of the most impressive true freshman seasons in 2019 as the shutdown cornerback for the Tigers during their national championship run.

Stingley is arguably the best cornerback prospect coming from the college ranks since Jalen Ramsey, and the Giants could get him for a bargain here. Between James Bradberry and Stingley, the Giants could have a formidable 1-2 cornerback duo and really help solidify their pass defense next year.

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8. Denver Broncos: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah

Devin Lloyd had second round grades last season and could have entered the NFL Draft then. He didn’t. It wasn’t good enough for him. Rather than attempt to make a career out of it, Lloyd returned to college and produced one of the best seasons by a linebacker in college football. Here he is now, potentially a top ten pick with a linebacker-needy league looking on.

The Broncos have a new coaching staff incoming and appear ready to make a run at Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. If that’s the case, Denver will be looking for a leader on defense, and Lloyd fits that description perfectly. He’s tough, very athletic, and very physical, and would be the perfect fit for Denver.

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9. Atlanta Falcons: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

Garrett Wilson made some of the most impressive catches in the 2021 college football season, displaying his ultra-athletic abilities and impressive strong hands that allow him to make stunning catches against even the best defensive backs. Wilson could be a top-ten receiver in the league in just a few short years and has immense value and upside.

Trading Julio Jones before the start of the 2021 season was a gutsy call by the Falcons. They put their faith in Calvin Ridley, who didn’t quite show the ability to be more than a complimentary receiver. Wilson is a different type of receiver than Jones, but he still has that ability to dominate in a variety of ways. It would be helpful to the Falcons to finish out Matt Ryan’s career with a solid receiving corps once again.

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10. New York Jets (from Seattle): DT DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M

Arguably the most versatile defensive lineman in the class, DeMarvin Leal is one of 2022’s most interesting prospects. Leal has spent the last few years rotating through every position in the Aggies defensive line and playing effectively. He’s fairly athletic for his size and he moves better than his size would suggest.

The Jets had injuries that hampered their defensive line last year limiting what new head coach Robert Saleh wanted to do on defense. Adding a player like Leal would help that depth tremendously because of his versatility and could even be an impact player in year one. Leal makes a lot of sense to the Jets and should be high on their priority targets list.

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11. Washington Football Team: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State

Charles Cross has been one of the better tackles in college football over the last two seasons that he has started. A pass protector to the core, Cross has very solid athleticism and a good anchor. He’s potentially a day one left tackle, but can benefit from sitting an extra season.

The Washington Football Team (new name perhaps on February 2nd?) are caught in a tough spot currently. They are really just a quarterback away from being ultra-competitive in the NFC East, but unless the position is addressed with a trade or in free agency, Washington is not in a good position to pick a quarterback and needs to find other issues to address. Taking a top-end tackle who can be a blind-side protector is probably a great start to a less-than-ideal situation.

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12. Minnesota Vikings: DT Jordan Davis, Georgia

Jordan Davis is one of the most disruptive nose tackles that we have seen coming out of college over the last few years. At 6’6″ and 340 pounds, Davis has the athletic ability of a man forty pounds lighter than he is and can make tough plays in the backfield with that athleticism. His size and strength will be key factors to his future NFL success, but his length and agility will be the keys.

It’s hard to predict what the Vikings exactly will be looking for with a new GM and head coach incoming. For now, we’ll see them taking a rotational dominant defensive tackle to help anchor their defense in the trenches.

Undeclared at present time.

13. Cleveland Browns: G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

Kenyon Green is the best interior offensive lineman in this class. He’s a stout pass protector and a tough run blocker who can impact the second level consistently. Green is a fun guy to watch and one of the more popular interior prospects around the league.

Protecting the quarterback next year, presumably Baker Mayfield, will be the top priority this season for the Browns, who gave up 49 sacks in 2021. Considering where the Browns are at this point, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them attempt to move back in the draft for more picks. However, we’re not doing trades at this point, so expect Green to be off of the board about here.

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14. Baltimore Ravens: CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati

Ahmad Gardner solidified the hype that surrounded him in 2020 with an impressive 2021 season, playing very effectively in the National Championship against the speed of Jamison Williams. He’s more of a man corner himself, but capable playing zone and press when he needs to. His speed could be among the top of his position group.

The Ravens secondary was a liability last year, especially when the injuries decimated their unit. Looking for more length and speed on the perimeter would be very intriguing for the Ravens who could have one of the best teams in 2022. Gardner would fit that bill.

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15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami): CB Kaiir Elam, Florida

Kaiir Elam is a stiff mirror technique man cornerback who has played with great success over the last three years at Florida. He collected 5 career interceptions at Florida, defending 20 passes, but ultimately being the player that opposing quarterbacks didn’t try to test. An injury slowed him a bit in 2021, but it shouldn’t be anything that will be a worry for his rookie year.

Building back the secondary should be the main focus in Philadelphia. On one end, the Eagles have Darius Slay, arguably a top ten cornerback in the league. Putting Elam on the other side would slide Avonte Maddox back into the slot, where he is most formidable. Elam is an instant upgrade in the secondary and a great pick for the Eagles here.

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16. Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis): WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas

Treylon Burks is one of the most unique prospects coming out of college this year, and I don’t think there’s really been a player like him. Burks has remarkable size (6’3″, 225 pounds) and is more akin to the mold of a Deebo Samuel type player. His speed is gamebreaking, as he displayed against Alabama when he outran the entire Crimson Tide secondary on a slant route after the catch.

The Eagles are building themselves an offense that should be very formidable with the continued development of budding star quarterback Jalen Hurts. That being said, the inconsistency that the Eagles have faced at the receiver position should be addressed early. Treylon Burks makes so much sense for the Eagles RPO looks and schemes and would be a great pairing with DeVonta Smith.

Draft Profile | Scouting Report

17. Los Angeles Chargers: DT Phidarian Mathis, Alabama

Phidarian Mathis has been one of my personal favorite players over the last couple of years and could have easily declared last season. Instead, Mathis returned to Tuscaloosa and produced results in Alabama’s run for a National Championship. Mathis fed off of the pressure that Will Anderson and Dallas Turner were able to bring off the edge with his disruptive ability up the middle, collecting 9 sacks in 2021.

Mathis offers versatility in a 3-4 defensive front like Los Angeles plays, able to play both three and five-tech. They’d love to have someone that they can move around and potentially disrupt the interior and make things very difficult on opposing quarterbacks with Joey Bosa crashing on the edge.

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18. New Orleans Saints: DT Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma

The explosive ability and disruption that Perrion Winfrey brings to the field is what has made him one of the best defensive linemen in college football. Winfrey was a JUCO prospect, the best one in 2020 actually, and immediately brought a facelift to the Sooners defensive front. In 2021, Winfrey brought his best game to the field, collecting 11 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks, showing what he can bring to the interior of a defense.

The Saints are becoming very thin at the defensive tackle position, and it can be assumed that with their cap situation, they won’t be addressing any needs in free agency. Winfrey makes the most sense and fits what they have up front between Marcus Davenport, Payton Turner, and Cameron Jordan.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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