NFL Draft News & Analysis

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Houston Texans select Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton at No. 3 overall, Desmond Ridder lands in Denver at Pick No. 9

It’s already NFL draft season for 30 of the 32 teams in the NFL.

While the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams battle it out in Super Bowl 56, the rest of the league turns their attention toward adding talent to help them challenge for the next one.

This year's draft is fascinating, as the New York Giants, New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles hold multiple first-round picks to really reinforce their rosters.

This mock draft is heavily influenced by what I would do as general manager for each team, but also with a grounding in reality that keeps some guardrails on exactly how left field this gets.

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 1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: T EVAN NEAL, ALABAMA

The top of the draft is more fascinating than it was a year ago when the same team had the first pick. Trevor Lawrence was always going to go first overall, but with him already on board, the Jaguars now have an interesting decision to make. They would likely love to trade down, but with no quarterback pushing to trade up to the top, the Jaguars may have to make a decision and draft somebody.

Edge rusher is in play, and you can even make an argument that a cornerback such as Derek Stingley Jr. would move the needle more than anyone else, but helping Lawrence will be paramount in Jacksonville's mind. Therefore, they select the best available offensive lineman.

Neal allowed 15 pressures on 670 pass-blocking snaps for the Crimson Tide this past season.


2. DETROIT LIONS: EDGE AIDAN HUTCHINSON, MICHIGAN

Hutchinson is arguably the best player in the draft, and the Lions would be over the moon if he was still on the board at No. 2 overall. Hutchinson was elite this past season at Michigan, totaling 74 pressures from 429 pass-rushing snaps. He recorded a 94.5 overall PFF grade, which puts him in the same ballpark as the Bosa brothers and Myles Garrett, who have translated into dominant players at the next level.


3. HOUSTON TEXANS: S KYLE HAMILTON, NOTRE DAME

If there’s one thing you can predict about the Texans under general manager Nick Caserio, it’s a curveball. Everything Houston has done from a personnel standpoint since he took over has been from left field, and Caserio has witnessed the importance of elite safety play for years in New England.

Hamilton has the potential to be special and has some mind-blowing plays on his college tape. Houston still needs an upgrade almost everywhere on the roster, so any player and position is a live possibility, which gives them the flexibility to just chase greatness, and that’s Hamilton.

4: NEW YORK JETS: CB DEREK STINGLEY, JR., LSU

The Jets secondary was a mess in 2021, as a collection of young but not highly-touted prospects tried to stitch together a capable pass defense. It naturally didn’t result in a whole lot of success, so the Jets need to throw significant resources at the group this offseason. They will likely attack it in free agency, but grabbing Stingley would make a huge difference as well.

In his college career, Stingley allowed 41.1% of passes thrown into his coverage to be caught in addition to recording a 91.7 PFF coverage grade as a freshman.


5. NEW YORK GIANTS: EDGE KAYVON THIBODEAUX, OREGON

A player who was recently expected to be the No. 1 overall pick — and still could be when we reach April — lasts to the fifth spot to the Giants.

Thibodeaux never quite dominated the way Hutchinson did this season, but his PFF pass-rushing grade was over 90 in 2021. He accrued 48 pressures from 290 pass-rushing snaps and has the prototypical size and athletic profile that the Giants have traditionally coveted.


6. CAROLINA PANTHERS: T CHARLES CROSS, MISSISSIPPI STATE

The Panthers badly need a quarterback but may not see a good option at No. 6 overall. They may also have filled this spot by aggressively targeting a veteran before the draft even arrives — potentially even sending this pick as part of a trade package. Whoever the Panthers quarterback is next season, they need a vastly upgraded offensive line to function, so Carolina snags Cross, who PFF’s Seth Galina believes could be the best player in the draft.


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7. NEW YORK GIANTS (via CHI) : C TYLER LINDERBAUM, IOWA

Interior linemen are not sexy draft picks, and there seems to be an unspoken cap on how high they can be selected them in the draft, but when they’re special, they can make an impact worthy of a top pick.

Tyler Linderbaum is special. The Giants' offensive line is a mess, and with the team's two selections in this mock, they emerge with two of the top five players in the entire draft. Linderbaum allowed 19 pressures in three years of college football. 

Iowa Hawkeyes offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum (65) hugs tight end Sam LaPorta (84) after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

8. ATLANTA FALCONS: EDGE GEORGE KARLAFTIS, PURDUE

Atlanta was in the playoff hunt until late in the season, but its roster is a 53-man group that badly needs upgrades across the board.

Karlaftis is an ultra-durable, big-bodied defensive lineman who has some real versatility to upgrade a defensive line that has been Grady Jarrett and little else for too long. He generated at least 50 pressures in each of his two full seasons of play.


9. DENVER BRONCOS: QB DESMOND RIDDER, CINCINNATI

The first team to bite the bullet and grab a quarterback is the Broncos, who select Ridder. The quarterback rankings are going to be all over the place this year, and the beauty truly lies in the eye of the beholder.

Ridder has some size and athleticism to him and rarely put the ball in harm’s way this season, ending with a 2.0% turnover-worthy play rate. This may seem like a reach to some, but quarterbacks always get pushed up the draft board, and few teams are as desperate for a fix as Denver.


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10. NEW YORK JETS (via SEA): WR GARRETT WILSON, OHIO STATE

The Jets select an offensive lineman in most mocks, but their line was actually pretty good in 2021 despite missing left tackle Mekhi Becton for almost all of it. They need to help Zach Wilson, but an impact receiver would be the biggest boost he could receive.

Wilson has always impressed during his college career, as he averaged over 3.0 yards per route run in each of his last two seasons despite Justin Fields leaving for the NFL halfway through that time.


11. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM: CB SAUCE GARDNER, CINCINNATI

Washington needs a quarterback, but for the second season in a row, it might not love the options at No. 11 overall. Washington's defense was a disaster in 2021, and the secondary was a major issue despite additions such as William Jackson III last offseason. Gardner has prototypical size and went through his entire college career without surrendering a touchdown, allowing a 32.6 passer rating — lower than simply throwing the ball away every play instead. Washington’s defense needs that kind of impact in coverage. 


12. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: LB NAKOBE DEAN, GEORGIA

The Vikings are entering a new era after general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer were both fired following the 2021 season. The once-great defense has eroded in recent years and could use a real injection of youth and athleticism.

Dean ticks those boxes, as he could slot next to Eric Kendricks and form a formidable linebacker duo in a league that’s struggling for linebacker play. Kendricks would also smooth Dean’s transition, allowing the Vikings to limit what’s asked of him initially.

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13. CLEVELAND BROWNS: WR JAMESON WILLIAMS, ALABAMA

The Browns had the right idea by connecting Baker Mayfield with Odell Beckham Jr., but for whatever reason, that connection just wouldn’t work. Whether or not Mayfield remains the starter in 2022, the Browns need an upgrade at receiver with Beckham playing elsewhere.

Williams would bring blazing speed and game-breaking ability to the table, and a torn ACL suffered in the national championship shouldn’t scare teams away. Williams averaged 20 yards per catch and over 3.0 yards per route run this past season.


14. BALTIMORE RAVENS: T IKEM EKWONU, NORTH CAROLINA STATE

Baltimore was battered by injuries in 2021. The Ravens secondary was decimated and they lost their entire running back stable at one point or other, but the offensive line could use some contingencies even if Ronnie Stanley returns to play at 100 percent.

Ekwonu is flying up some draft boards with 85.0-plus PFF run-blocking grades in each of his college seasons and above 90 in his last two. In Baltimore's offense, he is a dream fit.

 


15. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (via MIA): LB DEVIN LLOYD, UTAH

Philadelphia’s linebacker situation has been a problem for a number of years now and while T.J. Edwards looks to have solidified one spot, he has average athleticism and physical tools at best, relying on instincts and his ability to read the play.

Pair him with Lloyd and the Eagles defense might really be getting somewhere. Lloyd has the size and skill set to do anything Philadelphia needs a linebacker to do, earning an 89.2 PFF grade this season with above-average marks in every facet of play.


16. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (via IND): EDGE DAVID OJABO, MICHIGAN

The Eagles' defensive line was once the strength partly because of star players such as Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham but also because they could run seven-deep on a defensive line and each player could generate pressure and make an impact. The depth has taken a hit in recent seasons and a player such as Ojabo could help redress that balance. Ojabo recorded 42 pressures from 300 pass-rushing snaps in a breakout season that came out of nowhere. 

Dec 31, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) scrambles against Michigan Wolverines linebacker David Ojabo (55) during the third quarter in the Orange Bowl college football CFP national semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: CB TRENT MCDUFFIE, WASHINGTON

The Chargers defense didn’t quite live up to expectations with Brandon Staley now installed at head coach, so it makes sense to expect them to pursue upgrades in the draft.

McDuffie doesn’t have ideal height at under 6-feet tall, but Staley has embraced that in the past, and those smaller players have thrived within his defense. In 416 coverage snaps over the last two years, McDuffie allowed 163 yards in total.


18. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: QB SAM HOWELL, NORTH CAROLINA

The first year in a post-Drew Brees landscape wasn’t great for the Saints, and now head coach Sean Payton has walked away on top of that. They have money committed to the position in strange places (hello, Taysom Hill…), so the Saints may not have the stomach to spend big on a veteran.

This is a natural spot to grab a new quarterback of the future, and Howell has as much potential and upside as anyone. After showing his big-play potential as a passer last season, he turned into a rushing force this year, breaking 63 tackles and racking up over 1,000 rushing yards. Howell needs work but has true franchise player potential.


19. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: WR DRAKE LONDON, USC

Having spent two first-round picks on defense already, the Eagles attack the offensive side of the ball with their third.

London racked up over 1,000 yards in eight games before injury shut down his season, but he has No. 1 traits, possessing great size in addition to an ability to aggressively attack the football against physicality and tight coverage. He would be an outstanding complement to DeVonta Smith.


20. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: QB MATT CORRAL, OLE MISS

The Steelers can’t go into the 2022 NFL season with Mason Rudolph as the starting quarterback, and they don’t necessarily have the ammunition to get into a trade auction for veteran superstars who may be available. Inevitably, they may have to just grab the best quarterback available when their pick comes up in the draft.

Corral’s best season was 2020, where he earned a 90.5 PFF grade, but he cut down on turnover-worthy plays in 2021, slashing his rate of those plays from 3.8% to just 2.0%. Corral will be the top quarterback on some draft boards.


21. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: CB ANDREW BOOTH JR. CLEMSON

The Stephon Gilmore era is over in New England and now, the Patriots have to determine whether J.C. Jackson is worthy of taking on the crown and the massive money that comes along with it.

Either way, the Patriots defense could use an upgrade at corner on the other side. Booth has slick footwork and movement skills. He did give up some plays, but he will be landing in one of the best coaching environments to iron out those lapses and take advantage of his skill set.


22. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: WR CHRIS OLAVE, OHIO STATE

The Raiders offense fell apart over the course of the season due to various reasons — the most damaging of which may have been cutting Henry Ruggs after he was involved in a car crash that left a woman dead.

The Raiders never successfully replaced Ruggs' speed, but Olave could provide that. He has smooth route-running skills, and there is talk that he will record a faster 40-yard dash time than many expect. Olave generated an impressive 2.8 yards per route run over his entire college career.


23: ARIZONA CARDINALS: G KENYON GREEN, TEXAS A&M

Arizona’s biggest issue this season was on the offensive line, where weak links caused problems that, at times, took over games.

Green has outstanding movement skills for his size — a must for this system — and has experience at multiple positions on both side of the line. He should slot in Day 1 at right guard but has the flexibility to man other positions if needed.


24. DALLAS COWBOYS: CB ROGER MCCREARY, AUBURN

The Dallas defense didn’t just play well this season but was one of the better units in the NFL. Its success was largely a result of an incredible run of turnovers, which rarely sustains year to year, so Dallas would be wise to continue to invest on that side of the ball, bringing in McCreary.

Few players have been as tested in their college careers — 183 targets over four seasons — but he improved year on year and allowed 45.3% of targets to be caught this past season.


25. BUFFALO BILLS: CB KAIIR ELAM, FLORIDA

Losing Tre’Davious White late in the season did little to dull Buffalo’s pass defense — at least until it ran into Kansas City in the playoffs. Levi Wallace is the type of No. 2 cornerback who opposing teams will always be looking to challenge, and Elam is a perfect addition. Elam has prototypical size and length, and he allowed 18 catches all of last season in the SEC.


26. TENNESSEE TITANS: WR TREYLON BURKS, ARKANSAS

The Titans offense is built on the backs of athletic freaks, as Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones represent some of the most gifted athletes in the NFL.

Burks is a perfect stylistic addition to the group. He has some work to do from a route-running standpoint, but if he finds a crease of space, he can outrun the entire defense. He also has the power to gain yards after contact. Burks was deployed in creative ways in college and could be used in the same way initially in the NFL.

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27. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: WR JAHAN DOTSON, PENN STATE

The Buccaneers will be without Antonio Brown next season and will have a fight on their hand to retain Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski, leaving the ranks unexpectedly bare at receiver.

Mike Evans is still an elite player on the outside, but Dotson brings some shiftiness and a likely role in the slot at the next level. Dotson only lined up inside on around 25% of his snaps in college, but his skill set is perfect for that inside alignment.


28. GREEN BAY PACKERS: T BERNHARD RAIMANN, CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Green Bay’s offensive line was patched together this season and would have looked a lot worse if not for Aaron Rodgers pulling the strings at quarterback. A healthy David Bakhtiari next year will make a big difference, but the Packers could still use some contingency there. 

Raimann allowed 10 pressures all year with a 94.6 PFF grade and outstanding movement skills. He was a tight end just a few years ago. 


29. MIAMI DOLPHINS (via SF): T TREVOR PENNING, NORTHERN IOWA

Miami had the worst offensive line situation in the NFL this season, and it can’t allow that to go unaddressed again. The Dolphins will likely acquire some proven veterans in free agency, but they should also attack it in the draft.

Penning has elite physicality in the run game, and his pass-blocking improved each year of his college career.


30. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: EDGE CAMERON THOMAS, SAN DIEGO STATE

The Chiefs defense turned things around during the season, but it still needs a long-term solution to its edge rusher position. Melvin Ingram was a valuable source of pressure, but he is a stopgap.

Thomas generated 77 pressures this past season with a PFF pass-rushing grade just below 90 (89.2). He never had a season in college that wasn’t impactful, and he kicked that up to dominant in his final year.


31. CINCINNATI BENGALS: T DANIEL FAALELE, MINNESOTA

Cincinnati’s offensive line has been a problem for a while, and though it was better in Year 2 of Joe Burrow’s career, it was not good.

Faalele is a mountain of a human being who can still move well despite threatening 400 pounds. Players his size are assumed to be immobile pass-blockers, but Faalele allowed just eight pressures and one sack all season.


32: DETROIT LIONS (via LAR): QB MALIK WILLIS, LIBERTY

The Lions don’t need to make a move at quarterback in this draft, but they also have the kind of freedom to draft a guy with elite upside who needs some work.

Willis has the most spectacular highlight reel tape of any of these quarterbacks but needs time in an NFL system to see if he can play the game in a different way. A sky-high scramble and sack rate this past season are areas of concern, but looking at his best throws will make some teams overlook a lot of negatives. His Senior Bowl week is huge for his draft stock.

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