The 2021-2022 NFL season officially concluded with the Los Angeles Rams as the Super Bowl champions. While the Rams spend some time celebrating their achievement, they will soon pivot their attention toward the 2022-2023 campaign. The NFL Draft is difficult to predict this far out, but let’s give it a shot! Who does your favorite team select in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft?
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With the NFL Draft order officially set and keeping team needs, free agency, and talent available in mind, here is how I believe the 2022 NFL Draft could shake out without any further trades.
1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke drafted a defender in the first round from 2011 to 2015 as the 49ers GM. In 2016, his last year with San Francisco, he took a swing on an offensive player — guard Joshua Garnett. So, it’s safe to say offense isn’t his thing. Nevertheless, with Doug Pederson now Jacksonville’s head coach after watching Carson Wentz crumble in Philadelphia, I’m sure the Jaguars will have a much different approach this year.
Thus, they invest in protecting their franchise QB Trevor Lawrence with Evan Neal. Cam Robinson is a free agent, and Jawaan Taylor is entering the last year of his rookie deal. At 6’7″ and 350 pounds with experience at both tackle positions, Neal can be a stonewall wherever the Jags need him to be.
2) Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Aidan Hutchinson doesn’t need two lengthy paragraphs to justify his selection at No. 2 overall. After a solid 2019 campaign followed by an injury-shortened 2020, Hutchinson blew up in 2021. He generated 14 sacks, earned first-team All-Big Ten and All-American honors, and was the third defensive player to finish second in the history of the Heisman Trophy.
3) Houston Texans: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
The Texans sit at third overall and nab quite possibly the best player in the draft. Despite the nonsensical rumors of Kayvon Thibodeaux’s questionable work ethic, the Oregon star is a freak athlete with a future All-Pro skill set. Length? Check. Bend? Check. Speed? Check. Thibodeaux is the prototypical edge rusher in today’s NFL.
4) New York Jets: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Robert Saleh is a defensive-minded head coach and could get the most out of Kyle Hamilton. The 6’4″ and 220-pound safety possesses elite range in the back end and flies around the field. Saleh loves to run zone, and Hamilton can thrive in his scheme.
5) New York Giants: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Make no mistake, the Giants need offensive line help. After a rough rookie year, Andrew Thomas has come into his own at left tackle. Charles Cross only played left tackle in college (outside of a handful of snaps at RT), but he can start from Day 1. His mirror ability is among the best in the class, and he owns plus arm length.
6) Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
I’m not sure there is a quarterback worthy of a top-10 pick, but that won’t matter too much to QB-needy teams. We’ve seen franchises reach for quarterbacks before, even though nearly everyone knew the talent wasn’t there. Yet, Kenny Pickett has the talent. And if he produced his Year 5 numbers a couple of seasons earlier, he would likely be the No. 2 pick in this draft.
7) New York Giants (from CHI): Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
I promise this is not a biased pick, although I love Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner‘s game. Patrick Graham is out as the Giants’ defensive coordinator, and Don “Wink” Martindale is in. If there’s anything we know of Martindale’s defenses, they will blitz and run man coverage the majority of the time. So, why not give him the best man-coverage corner in the class?
8) Atlanta Falcons: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
The Falcons have been searching for a star edge rusher for years. The drought ends with George Karlaftis entering the fold in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. The “Grecian Goliath,” as PFN’s own Oli Hodgkinson has coined, easily sets the edge.
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Karlaftis’ lower-body power is insane, especially when you consider he is just a true junior. Dean Pees is a blitz-happy defensive coordinator, but having someone like Karlaftis on the line makes it easier to drop an extra body or two into coverage.
9) Denver Broncos: David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
With a new regime taking over in Denver, it’s a little unclear what defense they will run. Ejiro Evero was the Rams’ secondary coach last year but will man the entire defense in 2022. He’s never been a defensive coordinator before, but he’s learned from the likes of Raheem Morris, Brandon Staley, and Wade Phillips during his time in LA.
Nevertheless, David Ojabo can star as a 3-4 OLB or weakside defensive end. He’s still a bit raw and may be a designated pass rusher from Day 1 while he builds on his game. But Ojabo can shine in that role, and his potential is sky-high.
10) New York Jets (from SEA): Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
The theme of protecting franchise QBs continues here with the Jets taking Ikem Ekwonu. “The Pancake King” is a mauler on the ground and usually finishes blocks on top of his opponents. He has some fixable technical issues in pass protection, but he can start at right tackle or guard for New York.
11) Washington Commanders: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
It only takes five picks for the next QB to come off the board in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner loves the quick passing game, which Matt Corral excels at. Washington should be bullish in the veteran QB market as their roster is ready to compete now. But if they are unable to land a star, Corral is a high-upside contingency plan.
12) Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Mike Zimmer is gone, but new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell runs a similar off-zone scheme. Derek Stingley Jr. has the athleticism and ball skills to lock down receivers in any coverage. In fact, his skill set may be best utilized in press-man looks on an island. Still, Minnesota has been longing for a CB1, and if Stingley can stay healthy, he could be just that early on.
13) Cleveland Browns: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
This one is simple. Cleveland’s biggest need is at wide receiver. And while I subscribe to the “best player available” strategy rather than the “draft for need,” Garrett Wilson is the best of both worlds. Due to his slight frame, he will likely start as a slot or secondary outside receiver, but he adds juice to a unit severely lacking some.
14) Baltimore Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Baltimore seems content with Ronnie Stanley at left tackle and Patrick Mekari on the right side. So, it’s time to attack the interior. Bradley Bozeman was played well at center, but he is a free agent. Why pay to retain him when you can draft Tyler Linderbaum, saving money and upgrading at the same time? Linderbaum is a generational center prospect thanks to his insane athleticism at the position and easy-to-see wrestling background.
15) Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA): Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
With the first of three first-round picks, the Eagles address their cornerback room in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Andrew Booth Jr. has the best feet in the class and can fit any scheme. That’s good news for DC Jonathan Gannon, who likes to vary his looks. However, Philly ran some of the most zone looks in 2021.
16) Philadelphia Eagles (from IND): Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Linebackers typically aren’t worth high draft picks due to their positional value. Yet, Devin Lloyd is worthy of a top-16 selection. Lloyd’s an all-around LB with few, if any, holes in his game. Need him to drop back in coverage? Done. How about a linebacker blitz? Easy. Stuff the run? Yup. Lloyd is the most complete LB in the class and instantly transforms Philadephia’s defense.