With a new outlook on decision-making for each team, here’s my updated 2022 NFL Mock Draft, a mixture of what I think will happen and what I would do if I were making the decisions on draft day.
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The 2022 draft will be a fun one to follow and predict because we will get so many “best player available” scenarios that will look different from big board to big board. The Jaguars' pick likely comes down to four players: offensive tackles Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu or edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux.
There is plenty of variety with this pick, but I believe building the strongest offensive line in front of Trevor Lawrence is the best option. The 6-foot-7, 350-pounder allowed only 22 pressures the past two years between left and right tackle.
2. DETROIT LIONS: EDGE AIDAN HUTCHINSON, MICHIGAN
With the Lions happy at offensive tackle, they’ll look to the defensive trenches. This pick will come down to who is higher on their big board, Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux.
I have a hunch it will be Hutchinson. The Michigan player “staying home” after a stellar season — which included a trip to New York City as a Heisman finalist — feels like the most likely outcome. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound senior racked up 74 pressures and three batted passes across 429 pass-rush snaps in 2021.
The Texans are a wild card. The situation involving quarterback Deshaun Watson remains unclear, and even if Watson has played his last down for Houston, Davis Mills didn’t look too shabby down the stretch. Perhaps the Texans believe in Mills for 2022.
Then there’s the unpredictable element of those in power in Houston. Executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby and general manager Nick Caserio have already made a handful of decisions against the grain in the last year and a half. With secondary a major need for the Texans, and with Hamilton getting the label of this draft’s “unicorn player,” this feels like a match.
Kyle Hamilton: Snaps by alignment, 2019-2021
I believe the Jets will look to bring the beef with their first of two selections in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. If Alabama’s Evan Neal is gone, I expect this pick to be N.C. State’s Ikem Ekwonu, and vice versa. The Jets have to protect franchise quarterback Zach Wilson a lot better than they did in 2021. Adding Ekwonu to an offensive line that already includes Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker is a great way to do that.
5. NEW YORK GIANTS: EDGE KAYVON THIBODEAUX, OREGON
Thibodeaux coming off the board at No. 5 might feel like a “fall,” given that he was the consensus No. 1 overall pick just a few months ago. But after learning more about the class, it makes more sense that his range falls between Pick 1 and Pick 5.
He still could very well be the first player taken in the draft, but if he’s not, there’s no guarantee he’s the next name after that. His natural gifts as a pass-rusher make him a top-five lock, but I’ll give some hope to Giants fans because I do think it could play out like this, given the talent at the top of the class and the potential team needs in the top five.
It has got to be an offensive line selection for the Carolina Panthers — it just has to be. They’ll likely try to add some veteran talent at interior offensive line during free agency, but left tackle Cam Erving (56.0 PFF grade in 2021) and left guard Pat Elflien (50.1) can’t be counted on again.
Cross is still fine-tuning his craft, but he has really smooth movement for a player of his size. After flashing traits in his first year as a starter in 2020, he gave up only 16 pressures on 719 pass-blocking snaps this past season. It's hard to not think a great NFL career is ahead of him.
7. NEW YORK GIANTS (VIA CHI): IOL TYLER LINDERBAUM, IOWA
Yeah, yeah, I know. “You don’t take a center this high.”
However, I genuinely think this is where Linderbaum’s range begins, and I also think there’s a chance he could be the Giants' second selection. New general manager Joe Schoen comes over from Buffalo, where he served as assistant GM for five years. He was Brandon Beane’s right-hand man, and with 20 years of a scouting background, his voice was likely a very important one in the war room.
The Bills have honed in on the trenches in each of their last three drafts — all five of their first and second-round picks since 2019 were spent on either offensive line or defensive line.
Here, they went with a dynamic, high-ceiling pass protector at No. 5, and I bet Schoen is one of those GMs who simply says, “we’re going to draft great football players in the trenches.” Linderbaum is one of them.
It sounds like there’s a chance Calvin Ridley has played his last game in a Falcons uniform. After stepping away from the team for mental health reasons during the season, most recent reports say a fresh start is on the horizon for both sides. The Falcons drafted Kyle Pitts at No. 4 last year, but I don’t think that deters them from drafting another big-time difference-maker in the passing game if they move Ridley.
Pitts, Cordarrelle Patterson and Treylon Burks in the same offense? That’s giving me vibes of this year’s 49ers team with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. It would present so many unique players that it would make them a tough matchup every week.
There are plenty of rumors that say Aaron Rodgers is in play for the Broncos this offseason. Depending on what happens with the Packers and whether they can retain the top talent, Rodgers did say that he isn’t interested in playing quarterback for a rebuilding team. The Broncos could be a landing spot for him if Green Bay can’t make that happen.
If not, it feels as though the Broncos have to take a swing at a quarterback. If they do so, my best bet would be Kenny Pickett, a Heisman Trophy finalist who finished the year as the second-highest-graded passer in the FBS.
2022 NFL Draft position rankings:
Top 10 players at every position
10. NEW YORK JETS (VIA SEA): WR DRAKE LONDON, USC
London seems like a match made in heaven for the Jets. No wide receiver recorded more contested catches this season, and that’s with him only playing eight games due to injury.
But if you ask me, he’s more than that. I believe he’s more athletic than people are giving him credit for, and his mentality for yards after the catch is proof that he’s not just a “win in the air” guy.
He’s the big target player quarterback Zach Wilson would feed every week.
Much like the Denver Broncos, it feels as though the Washington Football Team will be taking a chance on a quarterback in the draft if they don’t add a big-name passer in free agency. Corral has a strong arm, good mobility and “moxie” for the position that will have some teams gravitating toward him.
Stingley this low in the mock draft might be a surprise, but I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch. He could certainly still be a top-10 pick — had he been eligible to declare after his true freshman season in 2019, he might have been a top-three pick — but he hasn’t quite replicated his stellar start to his career. The LSU product missed a handful of games due to injury, most notably only playing three games this past season.
The talent is absolutely still there, but I think a top-15 projection is more realistic than top-five. The Vikings are scheduled to be pretty desperate for cornerback help, with Patrick Peterson, Xavier Woods and Mackensie Alexander all pending free agents. Minnesota would jump all over a player of his caliber.
The most important element of Cleveland’s offseason is making sure Baker Mayfield is as healthy as humanly possible going into the 2022 season. The second most important element is making sure he has no shortage of offensive weapons.
Garrett Wilson has some route-running clips from this past season that could be considered teaching tape. He’s not the fastest player, but he is explosive in and out of his cuts and should be a strong separation player to give Mayfield those easy throwing windows.
14. BALTIMORE RAVENS: EDGE GEORGE KARLAFTIS, PURDUE
Karlaftis is another player who could go higher than he’s currently mocked here. Purdue’s strong base end was a monster all season, and at times he got the same double- and triple-team treatment that we saw with Aidan Hutchinson.
The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder has the size and strength to hold up and penetrate off the edge. He won’t be the quickest player or the most flexible edge-bender, but his hands are so violent and fast. He disengaged blocks as quickly as anyone in this class.
If the Ravens have that defensive line need some are projecting, they’d sprint to the podium for this guy.
15. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (VIA MIA): EDGE DAVID OJABO, MICHIGAN
It’s so much fun running through Eagles mock drafts on PFF’s Mock Draft Simulator because these three first-round picks bring endless possibilities.
With their first selection here, I have them taking Michigan’s high-ceiling pass-rusher David Ojabo. He’s green to the game and green in terms of starting experience, but his natural explosiveness and strength give him the rare combo teams just love to bet on. He’s not quite a plug-and-play guy, as he still needs more consistency in his game — especially with run defense — but the payoff could be huge.
16. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (VIA IND): LB DEVIN LLOYD, UTAH
Yes, I am well aware that this Eagles decision-making group just does not draft linebackers early. But when two of your starting linebackers are grading in the 50s and 40s, I’m going to look to upgrade in a mock draft.
Few players in college football made more money than Lloyd this past season. He was a reliable tackler in years past, but he improved as a blitzer and as a coverage player this season. He’s the total package for a team looking to upgrade at linebacker in Round 1.
The Chargers like to invite opposing teams to run the ball. Under Brandon Staley, they’re comfortable with two-high looks and lighter boxes, which has worked to their advantage at times, but it has also made them vulnerable. That's largely because of a lack of a dominant run-stopping presence in the middle. Davis gives them that flexibility to play light in the box without as much worry due to his massive 6-foot-6, 360-pound frame and crazy anchor ability in the middle.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the highest you’ve seen George Pickens in a mock draft, at least since his ACL tear last spring. But he did return to action toward the end of Georgia’s title run, and though he wasn’t used as much as before, the Bulldogs still looked his way and he still flashed that WR1 ability we saw during his freshman and sophomore years.
If he’s healthy, he's a first-round wide receiver.
For the Eagles' last of their three first-round picks, I have them grabbing one of my favorite players in this entire draft. McDuffie was a starter at Washington since his true freshman season. His understanding of the game, habit for film work and improvement and mentality toward versatility all check the boxes of a first-round player. As a high school track guy who also ran a 10.8 in the 100-meter and reached 23-feet, 9-inches in the long jump, he brings the needed athleticism, too.
20. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: QB SAM HOWELL, UNC
Like other quarterback-needy teams in this mock, Pittsburgh is still not a lock to take a signal-caller. But if things stand pat with where the Steelers are currently, they’ll need a first-round-caliber quarterback from this class. Howell feels like a good bet for the team. He posted an elite PFF grade as a passer in 2020, and then an elite grade as a runner in 2021.
My eyes tell me Nakobe Dean should go a lot higher than this. As PFF’s highest-graded off-ball linebacker, he was one of the best defenders in college football in 2021. His instincts and explosiveness when blitzing were second to none for players at his position. His tracking speed and pursuit ability were also impactful all season long. Where teams might have questions is with his overall size and arm length.
That’s why he’s lower in this mock draft than his talent warrants. But if you ask me, I wouldn’t care, and I don’t think the Patriots will either. Draft good football players.
Take away the late-season ACL injury, and Williams is likely going a lot higher than this. But even though there’s a good chance he’ll miss a chunk of his rookie NFL season due to rehab, Williams possesses rare athletic ability to stretch the field and get yards after the catch. The Raiders need a young speed element at receiver.
23. ARIZONA CARDINALS: EDGE DRAKE JACKSON, USC
As mostly a pass-rushing outside linebacker, Jackson didn’t take that leap to dominance like some (myself included) were hoping, but he still played very well and showed some elite speed-rush skills, including rare bend and flexibility. He has those athletic gifts you can’t teach, and I'm a big believer in his potential moving forward.
The Cowboys will likely be looking to add talent to both of their trenches with their priority draft capital this offseason. They could use an upgrade at defensive tackle, but they could also get some new blood along the offensive line. Green is a versatile offensive lineman who can play and succeed at both offensive tackle and guard — though I believe he’s best suited as a guard. He can be an immediate upgrade there on the left side.
25. BUFFALO BILLS: CB ANDREW BOOTH, CLEMSON
Buffalo doesn’t have a ton of needs, especially on defense — where it fielded the fourth highest-graded coverage unit in the NFL. The Bills certainly hope Tre’Davious White will be back at CB1 next year after he tore his ACL midway through this season. But they could use an upgrade at CB2. Sliding Booth in there would make that secondary, along with two of the best safeties in the league, one of the strongest in the league.
The Titans are coming off a season where they captured the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC but were bounced in the divisional round without a playoff win. Injuries and bad luck played into that, but where they should look to upgrade most is likely along the offensive line. Taylor Lewan might not be in Tennessee next season, depending on what the Titans want to do with cap space. If they decide to make some changes there, Raimann would be a good player to add at the end of the first round. If Lewan stays, look for the front office to target wide receiver or cornerback.
Carlton Davis is a pending free agent, while Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting are both up next year. I don’t think the Buccaneers will be able to hang onto all three, and getting ahead of the curve with a high cornerback selection in this draft could be the move. McCreary didn’t even play cornerback before his time at Auburn, and as a senior this past year, he recorded an elite PFF coverage grade (90.9).
Everything about this pick is up in the air. If the Packers don’t have quarterback Aaron Rodgers for next season, they’re likely shifting to a total rebuild, which will change the priorities here quite a bit. But, as of now, Rodgers is on the Packers, and if that’s still the case come draft time, getting him another offensive weapon will be on the table.
I am a big fan of Max Mitchell. Although he's on the leaner side at 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, his flexibility and movement skills are a big plus. He was a starter in college since his true sophomore season. Good experience and a high athletic ceiling make me a fan of him in the first round — especially to a team like Cincinnati, which desperately needs help keeping Joe Burrow upright.
30. MIAMI DOLPHINS (VIA SF): OT TREVOR PENNING, NORTHERN IOWA
A few months ago when I mocked a non-Power Five trench player to Miami, Dolphins fans weren’t thrilled about drafting another such offensive lineman. But they have to do something. That Dolphins' offensive line was one of the worst in the NFL in 2021. Penning might not have the tape against Alabama, Ohio State or Georgia, but he still looks like a future pro who just happened to be playing at a lower level with a 97.3 PFF grade.
31. DETROIT LIONS (VIA LAR): S JAQUAN BRISKER, PENN STATE
The Lions could opt for a receiver here, but with most of the top receivers off the board, I think they’ll broaden their options, especially with how well Amon-Ra St. Brown played down the stretch. Their secondary needs work, but cornerback isn’t the worst part of it. There’s reason to hold out hope with Jeff Okudah, and Amani Oruwariye showed improvement. Brisker could be a Day 1 player for them. He has experience in both single-high and robber roles, but his best work seems to come as a downhill defender.
You’ll see plenty of wide receiver selections for the Chiefs with their pick at the back end of the first round. And while that is certainly on the table, talented cornerbacks are falling in this mock, so I think they’d opt for a player like Ahmad “Sauce” Garder, especially if they lose Charvarius Ward this offseason.