The NFL playoffs are upon us, which means the first 18 picks of the 2022 NFL Draft are officially set in stone.
The Jacksonville Jaguars secured their second consecutive No. 1 overall pick and will likely have their choice between Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson, the top two players on the PFF draft board. Meanwhile, the New York Giants will look to add reinforcements to a depleted roster with two top-10 selections.
We still have the Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine and pro days to shake the evaluation process up, but here’s how the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft would look right now if I took over as general manager for all 32 NFL teams.
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Hutchinson can change the culture in Jacksonville the way he did at Michigan. His 94.5 overall grade in 2021 was the highest of any defender in college football, and he should test at an elite level at the scouting combine.
2. Detroit Lions: Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Thibodeaux has a unique blend of physical tools that very few draft prospects possess. It’s also a tailor-made blend to play on the edge in the NFL. He showed out in a big way this season, earning a 91.5 pass-rushing grade in the process.
3. Houston Texans: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Neal was built in a lab to play offensive tackle in the NFL. At 6-foot-7 and 350 pounds, he has rare movement skills at that size. Over the last two years, he’s allowed only 25 pressures between left and right tackle.
Stingley was the highest-graded cover corner in the country as a true freshman back in 2019. However, the evaluation has gotten a little murkier in the two banged-up seasons since. The LSU star still has high-level press-man ability and would upgrade the worst unit on the Jets roster.
If you want pass protection, you might as well take the guy who did it 719 times at Mississippi State last season. Cross allowed only 16 pressures after allowing 44 as a redshirt freshman in 2020.
The dark horse QB1? The Panthers didn’t have to travel too far to scout him the past three years, and he's racked up 16 more big-time throws (85) than anyone else in college football over that span.
7. New York Giants (from Chicago Bears): Edge George Karlaftis, Purdue
They got their pass protection earlier, and now they get their pass-rush. Karlaftis has inside-outside versatility and never has to come off the field. He averaged 55.6 snaps per game in 2021.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound freak show is listed at safety but can transcend positional designations. In three seasons at Notre Dame, he racked up 14 pass breakups and eight picks.
9. Denver Broncos: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
Devin Lloyd was Utah’s defense in 2021. He finished with grades above 80.0 in run defense, coverage and as a blitzer — that’s an all-around modern linebacker.
10. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks): OT Icky Ekwonu, N.C. State
Ekwonu finished with the most big-time blocks of any offensive lineman in the country over the past two seasons. He’s a bully who could start at either guard or tackle in the NFL.
At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, London is no stranger to Mossing defenders. He led the nation with 19 contested catches on only 28 opportunities this past year.
Pickett earned the highest PFF grade of any quarterback in this class, but it was so far an outlier from the rest of his career that it will give some pause. The Pitt star earned a 92.3 overall grade in 2021 after managing a mark of just 69.8 in 2020.
Williams adds a much-needed deep threat to the Browns' offense. He averaged 20.2 yards reception this past season, his first as a starter for Alabama.
Walker looks like the Terminator with how he runs down ball carriers at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds. While he’s got almost nothing to speak of in the way of pass-rushing moves, you can’t coach what he can do physically.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami Dolphins): Edge David Ojabo, Michigan
After playing just 26 career snaps before this season, Ojabo broke out in a big way in 2021, racking up 42 pressures and earning an 86.9 pass-rushing grade. While he’s a project, he’s already progressing by leaps and bounds.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis Colts): CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
Putting Gardner across from Darius Slay would be a dream scenario for the Eagles. This past year, Gardner allowed only 20 catches from 40 targets for 131 yards.
The middle of the Chargers' defense got taken off the line of scrimmage with a slight breeze in 2021. That can’t happen again. The 360-pound Davis has no problem anchoring in the run game.
Corral lost all his weapons from 2020 but didn’t see a dip from a grading perspective. He’s got a deadly combination of mobility and arm talent that would be catnip for Sean Payton.
The comps to Jason Kelce are too obvious with how the undersized Iowa center flies across the field. The two-time highest-graded center in the FBS would make a ton of sense as Kelce’s heir apparent.
While they want Chukwuma Okorafor and Dan Moore Jr. to develop, the Steelers also need to do better. Penning can be that. He's a rib-crushing 6-foot-7, 321-pound left tackle who allowed only 13 pressures this past season.
Dotson enjoyed a monster 91-catch, 1,182-yard, 12-score 2021 campaign, and there’s no telling how many yards the shoddy quarterback situation cost him. He’s a shifty route-runner with a surprisingly large catch radius for a 5-foot-11 wideout.
22. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco 49ers): WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Wilson is another much-needed quick separator in the Dolphins' quick passing offense. He finished 2021 with 371 yards and six touchdowns in his final three games.
Thomas stuffed the PFF stat sheets in 2021, finishing second among edge rushers with 77 pressures and third with 44 stops. He can also learn from a similarly framed rusher in J.J. Watt.
With all the injuries the Bengals have had on their line of late, they could use Green’s versatility. The Aggies offensive lineman played 80-plus snaps at every position except center in 2021.
McDuffie just had one of the stingiest college careers we’ve ever seen. On 852 coverage snaps across three seasons as a starter, he allowed only 502 yards.
27. Dallas Cowboys: LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Pairing Dean with Micah Parsons would present unparalleled range at the position across NFL history. The Georgia product may not be the physical prototype at 6-foot and 225 pounds, but no one plays the game faster at the linebacker position in college football. He earned a 91.9 pass-rushing grade and a 90.8 coverage grade this season.
With Carlton Davis hitting free agency, the Bucs could be in need of a corner. McCreary has the press pedigree to fit into the Bucs cornerback room, with 669 career coverage snaps in press.
Mahomes has not had a receiver quite like Burks in his career. The Arkansas product bridges the gap between receiver and tight end at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. At that size, though, he still has elite speed and can be a downfield threat.
2022 NFL Draft position rankings:
Top 10 players at every position
30. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams): QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
With the Lions cap-committed to Jared Goff in 2022, they don’t need to reach for a quarterback. Still, if value falls into their lap, they won’t say no. Ridder qualifies as such at this point, as he took massive steps forward with his decision-making and processing speed in 2021, earning a 90.7 overall grade in the process.
31. Tennessee Titans: Edge Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
Ebiketie transferred from Temple to Penn State in 2021 and proved his pass-rushing prowess was no fluke. This past season, he racked up 52 pressures and a 90.5 pass-rushing grade for the Nittany Lions.
The Packers continually invest in their offensive line. They love athletes at the position, and the former tight end certainly qualifies. After two years at tackle, he earned the highest grade in the nation in 2021.