As the Playoffs began, I started with my Mock Draft 0.5, which you may have seen, only including the teams that missed the playoffs. My issue with making a mock draft before the Combine was that I didn’t have a good feel for who anyone really liked in this class, making my mock feel somewhat irrelevant. Now, after spending a week in Indianapolis and speaking with dozens of people around the league in a variety of jobs, I think my mock is much more confident.
That being said, the Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers news that broke on Tuesday in the NFL forced me to restart my mock draft almost from scratch. Still, it’s here, it’s done. That’s all that matters.
In this mock draft, I am projecting several trades. Those trades will be mentioned under the highest pick involved in the projection where the projected details will be. The terms aren’t meant to be terribly accurate, as this is a first round mock and just an idea of what compensation could look like. It’s also worth mentioning that from what I understand of the Deshaun Watson case, he may not be playing in 2022 either, which means that a trade for him will most likely not take place. Therefore, there is no projected trade in the mock draft involving Watson.
Alright, ladies and gents, let’s get it.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Honestly, it feels like the Jacksonville Jaguars are trying to move this pick. They won their last game, destroying the Indianapolis Colts to eliminate their chances of making the playoffs in quite the fashion. They weren’t concerned about the first overall pick and in this class, its really debatable whether there is a prospect who really fits that spot.
However, one of the keys to this – Evan Neal opted out of the NFL Combine drills and elected to do everything on his pro day at Alabama. As I noted on Twitter, it’s for one of two reasons – he’s worried about his results or he’s been told by someone where he is going. Where would that spot be? Probably Jacksonville – who has the number one spot.
As I mentioned on Twitter as well, word around Indianapolis is that Neal is going first overall – and Vegas has adjusted their odds accordingly, with Neal becoming the favorite betting choice for the number one pick over the week. With Cam Robinson headed to free agency, that makes a lot of sense. The Jaguars would see their pick as very suitable, assuming they can’t move it, to use it on a player that they could regard as a decade-long starter.
2. Detroit Lions – EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
The Detroit Lions have another top-five pick in this class, this time following the inaugural season of head coach Dan Campbell. It was certainly a promising season with the Lions finishing stronger than expected despite injuries.
Aidan Hutchinson simply spells “Dan Campbell-steriotype player.” In fact, I think those are his initials. Not only is he a hometown kid for fans to get excited about, but the style and intensity that Hutchinson plays with embodies everything that Campbell wants in a player. That’s not to mention the fact that Hutchinson is a home town kid, another reason to keep the Detroit faithful in the seats of Ford Field.
3. New York Giants (Projected from Houston) – OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
Projected Trade: 5th overall pick, 7th overall pick, and 108th overall pick for 3rd overall pick and 35th overall pick.
The Giants are reportedly “in love” with Ikem Ekwonu and feel as though he is a must get for their offense. So much so that they’re willing to shuffle some picks around to land him. For Houston, the trade is a win because they have so many holes that they need to fill both as a short term and a long term plan. For the Giants, it’s basically swapping first round picks and then trading a second for their other first to move up.
Ekwonu is viewed by many in the league as a long-term starter at left tackle who can flex inside and be an even better guard. For the Giants, Ekwonu could fit very well into what new head coach Brian Dabball wants to run. For starters, the Giants do need to get their offensive line straightened out, and drafting a potential decade-long plug-and-play starter would be the perfect first pick. It makes sense why they could feel the need to do this.
4. New York Jets – S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
It would be ironic for the Jets to have gotten so much in return from the Jamal Adams trade and then end up taking an even better safety prospect than Adams ever could have been. Kyle Hamilton here makes too much sense. The rangy safety is unlike any safety prospect we’ve seen in recent memory with size and ball skills that aren’t very comparable to another prospect. In fact, if there is a generational talent in this class, it’s Kyle Hamilton.
That being said, the Jets do need help in their secondary and could benefit from having a player like Hamilton on their back end. Hamilton is a quarterback of a secondary – he has the leadership, range, and instincts to make plays all over the field at any given moment. We’ve seen them too many times and his production lines up with everything that the league is looking for in that position. He will be a great player at the next level and it makes sense, if you’re the Jets, to take him there.
5. Houston Texans (Projected from NY Giants) – EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
There are all sorts of rumors floating around about Kayvon Thibodeaux’s desire to play the game. These are mostly unfounded, as I reported, but I spoke with a bevy of teams on Sunday while walking around Indianapolis and he was the talk of the town. No one was concerned with his opt-out of positional drills at the Combine.
The Texans could use his talent to start on the edge, even if he has some hand technique and other finer tuned mechanics to work through. However, his size, strength, and quickness are already great and could put him ahead of most in the league. Thobodeaux could be a strong cornerstone to build around for years on the Texans defense.
6. Carolina Panthers – QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
The Panthers are just a quarterback away from being a competitive team. Injuries and other detriments held their team back from really performing last year, but the quarterback play between Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, and PJ Walker was simply abysmal outside of the first three weeks.
Matt Corral is the best “pure quarterback” in this class, meaning from a mechanical and fine tuned standpoint. He is not, by any definition, a finished product, but he’s better than most in this class. He can manipulate defenses with his eyes and understands some more complex play designs than most players in this class. Corral should be a fun project for Carolina to work out, and may end up starting too early.
7. Houston Texans (Projected from NY Giants) – LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Attacking another need are the Texans here, selecting arguably the best linebacker in the NFL Draft. Nakobe Dean certainly has the traits and athleticism to be a very good off-ball linebacker for a long time in the NFL.
The Texans have every single middle linebacker on their roster hitting the free agent market. Dean tested extremely well and showed incredible instincts on tape too. Knowing that the Texans will attack this position in the free agent market as well, Dean has the flexibility to spread out as a strong-side linebacker too, which could use and upgrade and is losing depth too. His versatility make him a no-brainer pick for the Texans right here.
8. Atlanta Falcons – EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
The Atlanta Falcons had one of the most surprisingly good offenses in the NFL last year, led by quarterback Matt Ryan and the usage of all-purpose player Cordarrelle Patterson. That being said, the real issue that Atlanta had this year was on the defensive side.
Jermaine Johnson makes sense here because not only is he a scheme fit, but he also fits a need. The biggest issue with the Falcons last year was the inability to generate pressure as a defense – they collected just 18 sacks in 17 games last year. Johnson not only gives them the pass rush (as both a standup on-ball linebacker and a 4-man front defensive end), but also the run support ability as well. It’s not the fix all patch for Atlanta, but he will help them consistently get more pressure in the backfield.
9. Seattle Seahawks (From Denver) – OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
There was a point I believe that Benjamin Albright made that talked about the type of quarterback that Pete Carroll wants in his system. He pointed out that the USC quarterbacks that Carroll had recruited were all middling arm “point guards” who distributed the ball. Even when he took over the Seahawks, his original plan was to start Matt Flynn, who they signed to outrageous money for the position at the time, and Russell Wilson ended up taking the job as a rookie third-round pick. That being said, the Seahawks should make a move for perhaps a Jimmy Garoppolo or player of the sort in the next few weeks.
Kenyon Green to Seattle makes a lot of sense. For starters, if they’re going to run the ball better, they need to upgrade the offensive line. Green is a very good run blocker – in fact you can make an argument for him being the best in the class. Also, he started four different positions on the offensive line this year for the Aggies. FOUR! With that kind of versatility, he’s a plug-and-play guy. Perfect for what Seattle needs right now.
10. New York Jets (from Seattle) – CB Sauce Gardner, Cincinnati
Now, the former Seattle Seahawks pick that the Jets acquired when they sent Jamal Adams in a trade to the Seahawks. The Jets, earlier, picked the player that I tabbed as the only prospect in this class who could be considered a “generational” prospect. Now, they turn to the secondary again, which was perhaps their biggest weakness on their team.
I’m still cautiously pessimistic about the future of Sauce Gardners success at the NFL level, as my latest article detailed about cornerbacks and their length getting into situations where perhaps they are too long to react. But, that being said, it certainly seems that because of Derek Stingley’s injury history and those concerns, Gardner will be the first cornerback off of the board. Going to the Jets makes sense, as they continue to bolster their secondary.
11. Washington Commanders – WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
The Commanders need a receiver, so it does make sense that they would target the best guy in the class with their first pick. Mostly, they need a solid #2 receiver. Last season, they acquired Curtis Samuel, who plays much stronger out of the slot. With Terry McLaurin staring so far at the next level, it’s not difficult to see Washington closing on yet another Ohio State alumni for their new quarterback, Carson Wentz.
12. Minnesota Vikings – CB Derek Stingley Jr, LSU
It’s hard to believe that such a talented player, like Derek Stingley who’s arguably the best player on tape in the class, could fall so far. However, he’s had some issues over the last couple of years with injuries and some teams are seriously concerned with his UCLA performance in week one of the 2021 season.
However, Stingley’s tape from 2019, his freshman season at LSU, was absolutely incredible. He was smooth, crisp, and almost flawless in that year as the star cornerback for the team. In fact, if we’re working off of tape alone, Stingley is the best player in the class. The Vikings are confident enough in his abilities to stop his fall here and get a very good player for their secondary.
13. Cleveland Browns – WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
The Cleveland Browns like speed on the perimeter. Last year, they drafted Anthony Schwartz in the third round. This year, they’re looking for another receiver to potentially replace Jarvis Landry, who appears to be headed out the door. Last year, they famously cut Odell Beckham Jr for the play ability of Donovan Peoples-Jones and now find themselves in a dilemma, mostly due to poor management and the ego of quarterback Baker Mayfield.
That being said, Jameson Williams would be an excellent addition to their receiving corps. Coming off a MCL sprain, Williams should be ready to go by rookie minicamp and can be that piece that replaces Landry. He should be able to step into that role in Cleveland’s offense immediately.
14. Baltimore Ravens – DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
Years ago, the Baltimore Ravens spent their twelfth overall pick on a defensive tackle named Haloti Ngata who ended up becoming a versatile piece in their defense for almost the next decade. Now, seventeen years later, the Ravens find themselves in a similar spot and with a similar need, looking to plug a hole on the inside.
Lo and behold, the Ravens have the opportunity to draft a nose tackle who’s size is very comparable to Ngata’s and could develop into the same type of a versatile piece. Davis had arguably the most impressive combine performance in history with his size (6’7″ 344 lbs) and his speed (4.78 forty-yard dash). He looked great through movement drills and solidified his spot in the top fifteen.
15. Los Angeles Chargers (From Miami projected through Philadelphia) – EDGE David Obajo, Michigan
Projected Trade: 17th overall and 2023 3rd round for 15th overall.
Many people expect the Eagles to trade up throughout the class, but why wouldn’t they trade down? The opportunity here is good, grabbing an extra pick in next years class. As for the Chargers, they are looking for a player who can effectively help compliment Joey Bosa coming off of one edge. Jermaine Johnson would have been the perfect fit, but the next best thing is David Ojabo, who’s been a very effective complimentary piece for Aidan Hutchinson.
The Chargers pass rush certainly didn’t have the same implications that it had previously, especially after the team moved on from Melvin Ingram. Obajo is still a raw prospect but it’s because he hasn’t;t been playing football very long. We’ve watched him get better every year at Michigan, and he still is climbing as he learns and understands the game better. Why wouldn’t they take a shot to move up and pick Ojabo?
16. Philadelphia Eagles (From Indianapolis) – LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
Devin Lloyd has been all over the media mock drafts over the last couple of months. In fact, going into the Combine week, I viewed Lloyd and Nakobe Dean as a 1a 1b option in the NFL Draft. However, Dean out-tested everyone’s expectations, as did almost every Georgia player at the Combine. Lloyd under-performed significantly where we thought he’d test. Now, I think those two have flip-flopped.
That being said, Lloyd is still a very good player and this has only positioned him better for the Eagles to draft him. They need help at the linebacker position drastically and Lloyd is a game-changer. I still think he has an excellent career at the next level, but Dean simply overtook him in the positional group.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (Projected from LA Chargers) – WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
The Philadelphia Eagles last year ran a lot of RPO-centered designs to try and give quarterback Jalen Hurts easier and faster progressions. What ended up happening was that the lack of a presence of a bigger, more physical receiver became noticeably absent and it held the offense back when their one-trick pony was found out.
Enter Treylon Burks.
At Burk’s pro day, he ran through positional drills led by Eagles wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead. This is significant because typically pro coaches don’t work out college players in their drills at their pro days – their college coaches do. The Eagles have a lot of interest and it appears that the interest is mutual. Burks adds that size and physical presence to the Eagles RPO looks and offers schematic versatility.
18. New Orleans Saints – QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
The New Orleans Saints find themselves strapped in an unprecedented salary cap situation. As of now, they are currently $70M over the salary cap. That being said, they need a quarterback and are trying to figure out how to effectively replace Drew Brees. There is one answer – draft someone.
The Saints are also stuck right now. They can’t afford to spend the picks that it will take to move up in the draft to get their guy. In this case, it will be Kenny Pickett, who could do some things in their quarterback room that they don’t have anyone capable of doing. Pickett has a middling arm, and then of course the infamous hand issues, but understands his game well. He’s a capable athlete and can create plays outside of the pocket – particularly in the red zone. It’s not ideal for him to start right away, but he could manage it in New Orleans.
19. Philadelphia Eagles – EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia
The Eagles understand that their pass rush has to get better too. I think that if they don’t move up with any of their picks, this will be why – understanding that they aren’t a player or two away from winning the Super Bowl and that they have to continue to build the depth and set the foundation for what they are creating.
Travon Walker is another Georgia prospect who exceeded all expectations at the Combine last week, settling himself into a high draft pick. His speed rush and hands are both very well crafted, as is his pass rushing plan. It’s very possible he foes higher than this, but we will settle him here for now.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – QB Malik Willis, Liberty
The Pittsburgh Steelers love Malik Willis. That’s been no secret since the Senior Bowl back in early February. By staying patient through the process, the Steelers were able to land their guy, yet again, and bet on the upside that he presents.
Willis is a very hard worker and I’m more than willing to bet on him growing into a very good player. His athleticism and arm talent are both very difficult to project at the next level – and while he needs a year or two to develop, if he can get that time I think he can grow very well into it. He just needs time to grow into it.
21. New England Patriots – WR John Metchie, Alabama
Last year, we saw two quarterbacks paired with college receivers that had an established connection. LSU’s Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase dominated AFC defenses during their Super Bowl run, while Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and Tua Tagovailoa set the all-time rookie reception record together in Miami. It would make sense for the New England Patriots, who are in need of a wide receiver, to pair their young quarterback, Mac Jones, with his college teammate for that chemistry connection.
Metchie is an all-around talent, much in the same mold as a Calvin Ridley. While he doesn’t really have a defining, elite trait, Metchie brings a lot of versatility to a receivers room and can play almost anywhere in the lineup. Add that to Bill Belichick’s scheme designs and New England has a very competitive offense in 2022.
22. Las Vegas Raiders – DT Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
The Las Vegas Raiders had quite the season in 2021, and are looking to settle down with Josh McDaniels as the new head coach (good luck with that, Raiders).
Right now, five of the eight inside defensive linemen on the team are scheduled to hit free agency, including the first four on the depth chart. Devonte Wyatt, the next best defensive tackle in the class, makes an awful lot of sense here for the Raiders. He’s a versatile 3-tech who’s stout against the run and offers some pass rush ability as well.
23. Arizona Cardinals – S Lewis Cine, Georgia
The Cardinals have Budda Baker, who is among the best safeties in the NFL. He’s very flexible around the game, yes, and can play as a deep safety, a box safety, and even play out of the nickel. However, the other safety spot is in need of an upgrade.
I think Arizona would love to get out of a position where Baker has to play a lot of one-high coverage. Add someone like Lewis Cine, who just ran a 4.37 forty yard dash, can play downhill and as a one-high guy, and you could have one of the most versatile secondaries in the NFL. Arizona is reportedly looking for a safety, per their local journalists, and Cine would make a lot of sense right here.
24. Dallas Cowboys – DT DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
Building back the trenches on both sides of the ball is a priority for the Dallas Cowboys, who are in need of some help inside. Add DeMarvin Leal, a homegrown talent from down the road at College Station, who is very versatile and can play all across the defensive front. He’s a good fit for the weakness of this group and could start several games effectively this season in Dallas.
25. Seattle Seahawks (Projected from Buffalo) – CB Andrew Booth Jr, Clemson
Projected trade: 41st overall and 75th overall for 25th overall.
Using some of their newly acquired ammo, the Seahawks move back up into the first round, taking advantage of the Buffalo Bills looking to trade down. Seattle needs to bolster their secondary as well, and their particular target here, Andrew Booth, has fallen farther than most people had expected. The Seahawks pull the trigger for a potential position-altering player and add him to the squad.
26. Tennessee Titans – TE Trey McBride, Colorado State
Hear me out on this one, Titans fans.
The truth is that the Titans need some tight ends. Someone who can help stretch the field and block for Derrick Henry would be a huge get for the Titans offense. However, they’re picking late in the rounds and don’t have their second round pick (given to Atlanta for Julio Jones), which means that the first round is where they need to pull the trigger on their top guy.
Trey McBride does all of that for you. He’s a powerful run blocker, a very capable receiver across the field, and has the potential to be versatile and fluid throughout the offense in a variety of positions and roles. Is he a top ten tight end someday? Probably not in the eyes of the media, who view receptions and fantasy points as the sole answer for those types of questions. However, McBride is going to bring that toughness and grit that the Titans love and it makes all the sense in the world.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DT Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
Wait, I can hear you all saying. Didn’t the Buccaneers draft a defensive tackle early recently?
Why, yes. Yes they did. They took Vita Vea in 2018 and recently signed him to a massive contract extension. That doesn’t fix the fact that every single 3-tech/4i player on the roster is a free agent this year. Mathis played 3-tech and has the size and physicality to play the 4i as well, which could potentially be a fit for what Tampa Bay needs. It’s going to be a slow rebuild in Tampa, fans will need to be patient.
28. Green Bay Packers – WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
Green Bay is losing two receivers to free agency this offseason and is strapped with some serious cap issues. Plus, Randall Cobb is becoming older and probably won’t be playing much longer. They have a need at wide receiver, even after getting Davante Adams franchise tagged. Olave fits that bill as a guy who can create separation and gain the trust of Aaron Rodgers.
29. Miami Dolphins (From San Francisco) – LB Quay Walker, Georgia
The Miami Dolphins are looking for a linebacker, and with the two best guys off of the board, Quay Walker is certainly a suitable fill for that gap. With new head coach Mike McDaniel in the area, the defense needs a facelift and Walker would be a good fit as both a coverage linebacker and a run plugger.
30. Kansas City Chiefs – CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
Kansas City struggled over the last few years with consistent cornerback play and watching the AFC Championship game this year, it was evident that it was the cornerbacks who surrendered the chance to play in yet another Super Bowl. Trent McDuffie could certainly provide a spark to the secondary in Kansas City, and has the potential with his fluid ability to be a shutdown cornerback.
31. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
Joe Burrow’s new left tackle is almost as interesting of a person as he is. Trevor Penning has a lot of hype surrounding him, following his Senior Bowl week and All-American FCS awards. It would make sense that the Bengals would take a powerful left tackle who dominated Big Ten and SEC talent in the Senior Bowl week with his overly physical play and punishing finish.
There are issues with him, which is why he doesn’t go towards the top of the round. First of all, Penning drew 14 penalties last year alone – far beyond the next highest penalized player in all of college football. So his aggression will need to be tempered by the staff that takes him. Also, he showed some susceptibility to players with better bend to work underneath him. Regardless, he’s a good player and the Bengals feel that they have Burrow’s blind side protected.
32. Detroit Lions (From LA Rams) – WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
The Lions are losing Josh Reynolds and Kha’Darrell Hodge to free agency, which means that they will need some help at the position. Enter Jahan Dotson, who shows several playmaking traits on film with subpar quarterback play. I think this makes the most sense to fill the need and with who’s left not he board, Dotson fits what Detroit wants in a receiver.