By: Nathan Subelka
The Super Bowl matchup is set. A couple more coaching vacancies have been filled. Senior Bowl week (also Shrine Bowl) concluded and with all that some rankings have been shaken up. Some prospects solidified 1st round status, some proved they belong in the discussion, and others didn’t quite live up to expectations. There were no trades in doing this mock but as we get closer to the draft and more things are clear (coaching vacancies filled, full order set, free agency, etc.), future versions will likely contain trades. This was done purely based on what I think is the best move for each team. Let’s go ahead and kick off the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Jaguars are on the clock with the 1st overall pick for the second straight year. They selected their QB of the future in last year’s draft. Obviously having the first pick, there are many holes that need to be filled and the Jaguars have a few options at premium positions with the first pick. New Head Coach Doug Pederson knows the importance of having a premier Left Tackle to protect his young QB. Neal is the top tackle in this class for good reason. He has a massive frame and unreal athleticism for his size. Neal uses his length and power effectively, stopping pass rushers in their tracks or plowing a lane for the run.
For Detroit, this should be a no-brainer. The Lions have a HUGE need on the edge and a hometown kid is one of the best edge players in the draft. They finished in the bottom three in sacks, QB hits, and QB knockdowns in the league and were also bottom five in rushing defense. Hutchinson made many believe he deserved to be the top overall pick with a stellar year for the Wolverines. Instead, he gets to stay home and is selected second.
Houston finds a little bit of luck here and select what many have long considered the top prospect in this draft class. Thibodeaux is an explosive athlete with the speed, length, and power to be a dominant edge player. The new Texans coach gets a nice piece to help rebuild the defense.
New York Jets
S, Notre Dame
The Jets seem to be sticking with George Fant at Left Tackle and appear to be either moving Mekhi Becton to the right side or finding options to move on from the former first-rounder. Since they feel they have the left side locked in, the Jets take the top defensive player available in Hamilton. The safety from Notre Dame has the versatility to be moved all over the defense and be a game-changing type of player.
New York Giants
OT, NC State
The Giants have the luxury of having two picks in the top ten. They need to upgrade the offensive line to give Daniel Jones (or whoever the new regime goes with at QB) and Saquan Barkley a better chance to succeed. Ekwonu played himself into a position to be one of the top three tackles selected in a deep class. He will be a day one starter on the Giants line and has the versatility to line up wherever they need him.
OT, Mississippi State
The Panthers desperately need better play from the offensive line. They could go with an upgrade to the interior, but I believe they will choose Cross here to bookend with Taylor Moton. Cross is an athletic tackle who will greatly help out in the Panthers run game. He is very sound in pass blocking as well.
New York Giants
Back on the clock and the Giants choose to stick with upgrading the trenches. Karlaftis is a power rusher who possesses the size and speed to man the edge. The former Boilermaker has a violent punch and a relentless motor.
The Falcons had one of the league’s worst defenses. They do have some bright spots on the defense but need to continue to add talent. They could go with a CB here to pair with Terrell, but I think the Falcons go with the best interior defensive lineman in the draft. Davis is crazy athletic for a man of his immense stature and will solidify the defensive front with Grady Jarrett.
The Broncos have a new head coach in Nathaniel Hackett and the former Green Bay OC will look to take the first QB off the board here. Willis has shown he has NFL caliber tools in his excellent arm strength and athleticism. Taking him in the top 10 is a high-risk, high reward scenario for the Broncos though. Willis is a bit of a project but clearly has the highest ceiling of any QB in the draft. If he is able to hit his ceiling, he can be a franchise player. They could also keep Teddy Bridgewater to help fill in while Willis gets acclimated to the NFL game.
New York Jets
The Jets look to continue the defensive upgrade with the second of their two top ten picks. Michigan made it into the CFP mostly on the strength of their defense. Ojabo was one of the biggest reasons alongside Hutchinson. He is fast on the edge with a variety of pass rush moves in his arsenal.
QB, Ole Miss
Washington has put some surrounding pieces in place on both sides of the ball to contend within the division if they could lock in better QB play. Corral has plenty of solid traits as a passer and gives the Commanders a QB who can be a threat to make plays on the run as well. I believe he has the best chance to step in and start for a team on day one if necessary and Washington has some decent weapons already to help him out.
Andrew Booth Jr
The Vikings are in need of some defensive upgrades. They start here by selecting one of the top DBs in the draft. Andrew Booth Jr is a do-it-all corner who is best in man coverage. He is highly capable in zone coverage with room still to improve. Booth has elite ball skills and isn’t afraid to come up and help with the run either.
WR, Ohio State
Cleveland is going to roll with Baker at QB for one more year at least. They don’t have a ton of needs but one area they need to restock is at WR. After trading OBJ mid-season and rumors of not retaining Jarvis Landry, the Browns will need to provide Baker with some weapons. Wilson has exceptional route running and the athletic ability to be a big threat after the catch.
EDGE, Florida State
The Ravens could select an offensive tackle with this pick but there may be a greater need with free agency likely depleting their defensive front. Johnson opened a lot of eyes this past week and was the clear top edge player in Mobile. The former Seminole has the versatility to play either side of the line, stand up and rush, or put his hand in the dirt. He has a variety of pass rush moves and counters and is tenacious in getting after the ball.
Derrick Stingley Jr.
Even though the Eagles made the playoffs, they still have several holes to fill in order to take the next step. They do have three first-round picks to help fill them. Here they take one of the top DBs in the class to pair alongside Slay. Stingley Jr has long been considered the top CB in this class however injuries and some inconsistent play have brought that into question. The Eagles are trusting that Stingley Jr’s elite athleticism and ball skills can elevate their defense.
IOL, Texas A&M
The Eagles offensive line was surprisingly good this past season, but they are losing key pieces from that squad on the interior. Luckily, one of the top interior linemen in the draft falls to them at 16. Green is an athletic guard who is a mauler in the run game and solid in pass protection.
Los Angeles Chargers
OT, Northern Iowa
The Chargers just missed out on the playoffs so don’t have many glaring holes. One thing for sure is that they need to protect their star QB Justin Herbert at all costs. Penning had a good showing in Mobile. There were a few hiccups to be sure but he more than held his own. On top of that, Penning played with a mean streak and physicality that coaches love to see from their linemen.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints will have a new Head Coach and so the Taysom Hill experiment is likely over (though due to his contract he may still have a role). Jameis Winston may not be retained either and so the Saints look to draft a QB. Pickett shot up draft boards with his play this past season. He demonstrated growth in every facet of his game and has all the tools to be an NFL starter. Pickett could step in and start day one, but the downside is he may have already hit his ceiling. He could be a steady hand and be successful with the right scheme/coaching.
Back on the clock for the third time, the Eagles choose to upgrade their pass rush. Walker possesses rare athleticism for a defensive end and can be moved all around the front. He converts speed to power well and is a high effort player in pursuit. Walker also sets the edge well in the run game.
Big Ben announced his retirement from what should be a Hall of Fame career. Pittsburgh may bring in a new QB to come in and compete or stick with Mason Rudolph and Dwyane Haskins. Whoever the Steelers go with at QB will need better line play in order to be successful though. Linderbaum can anchor the line and is a mauler in the run game. He is the best center in this draft and possibly the best lineman overall.
New England Patriots
Lloyd falls into what could be a perfect situation for him in a Belichick defense. He is a long, athletic linebacker who is fantastic against the run and can also cover Tight Ends and backs out of the backfield.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders could easily take a number of different positions here like WR, OL, or DL. They also need some help in the secondary to slow down the high-powered offenses in their division. Sauce is a long, athletic corner who can shut down a number one WR. He had a fantastic career in college and may end up being the best corner in the class.
The Cardinals have had a need for a DB for some time now and finally address it early in the draft. McCreary has the potential to lock down his side of the field. He is a physical, athletic corner with great awareness and experience in any coverage.
DL, Texas A&M
The Cowboys could have a hole at defensive end with Randy Gregory set for offseason surgery and free agency and Demarcus Lawrence's future with the team in question. Leal has the versatility to be moved around the defensive front. He should pair well with rookie DPOY Micah Parsons and help to collapse the pocket from the interior while Parsons takes the edge.
The Bills are one of the most complete football teams in the league and don’t have any real needs. They could add to the Edge, O-Line, or even CB depth. Coming off a crushing loss they look to load up even more firepower to compete with the other explosive offenses in the AFC and select Burks. The Arkansas standout is a big, athletic target who the Bills just need to find a way to get the ball in his hands quickly or send up for 50/50 balls. He can line up in slot, outside, or even in the backfield. Burks could be used much like the 49ers utilized Deebo this year and be a star.
The Titans have one of the best defensive fronts in the league and now look to upgrade the linebacker corps. Dean would fit nicely in the Titans scheme and upgrade a weak spot in their defense. Dean is an instinctive, downhill player who can drop into zone well and cover backs out of the backfield. The Titans could also go with some help in the secondary or at OT here instead.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
IOL, Boston College
The Bucs may have quite a few needs to fill after the retirement of Tom Brady and likely the loss of a few key players in free agency. They could take a QB, WR, DL, or even a running back. However, they also need some help on the offensive line. The Bucs select Zion Johnson, the versatile lineman that has experience at tackle and guard. He even took some work at center during the Senior Bowl where he was a bit raw but competent. Johnson would help to provide good protection so the team can get the best look at whoever they tab at QB going forward.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers will probably need to draft offensive weapons if they hope to keep Aaron Rodgers happy and playing in Green Bay. The Packers could also select an OT or get help on the Edge. If not for the injury in the National Championship game, Williams might well have been the top WR drafted. He is an excellent route runner with the speed to make plays in the open field.
WR, Ohio State
Miami is going to give Tua every chance to be successful here by pairing rookie standout Jaylen Waddle with Chris Olave. The career receiving TD leader for Ohio State is an outstanding route runner. He creates separation in a number of ways and would be a prime target for the young QB.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City must make improving the pass rush a priority this offseason. With many of the top edge rushers off the board already, the Chiefs look to bolster the interior of the defensive line. Winfrey turned heads during Senior Bowl week and was unblockable in 1v1 drills. He was just as disruptive in the team inside run drills. Pairing Winfrey on the inside with Chris Jones would certainly help in collapsing the pocket and making it easier for edge rushers to get home if Winfrey or Jones doesn’t get there first.
OT, Ohio State
The Bengals surprised by taking the division crown and AFC title on the back of their explosive offense. They really need to protect their young star QB Joe Burrow, though, as they let him get sacked more than any other single QB. Petit-Frere has the long frame and fluid athleticism to play left tackle in the NFL. He certainly has room to grow and needs to improve against pure speed rushers in particular but if coaches can clean up his technique, the ceiling is high.
S, Penn State
I would have the Lions select a QB but it would make no sense since there are no trades in this scenario. Jacksonville is not taking a QB with the next pick so Detroit can take a QB at 34. The Lions instead continue to upgrade the defense by selecting the safety from Penn State. Brisker has the versatility and experience to be used in multiple coverages in the back end, move down in the box, blitz, or be lined up in man to man. A true do-it-all type of safety who could be a huge playmaker at the next level.