NFL Draft News & Analysis

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Jacksonville Jaguars opt for Travon Walker at No. 1, Pittsburgh Steelers land Malik Willis

This is the only mock I’ll write for the 2022 NFL Draft where I will highlight what I think will happen with all 32 picks and not what I’d do as the general manager for the selecting teams.

As a result, prospects like Trevor Penning, Kenny Pickett, Jahan Dotson and Quay Walker all come off the board on Day 1 despite my evaluations having the four outside the first-round conversation.

1.  Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia

6-foot-5, 272 pounds | Age: 21 (12/18/2000)
DraftKings Pick Prop: UNDER 3.5 (-500)
Media Consensus Rank: 9

All signs point to general manager Trent Baalke locking into Georgia edge defender Travon Walker – not Hutchinson – at the top of the 2022 NFL Draft. The rumors are, per multiple sources, Baalke is all-in on Walker while coach Doug Pederson leans toward Ikem Ekwonu and the scouts favor Hutchinson. Baalke said the selection is down to four players in his Friday press conference but showed no particular love toward the famed Michigan defensive end.

“Aidan [Hutchinson]’s a good football player,” Baalke said. “There’s other good football players in this draft.”

Walker is another one of the good football players in this draft. The 6-foot-5, 272-pounder is a top-10 player on the media consensus board and one of the rarest athletes who has ever entered the NFL draft.

Walker, however, has played very few career snaps at edge defender compared to the consensus top edge defenders in this class (Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux). Even in his limited experience, Walker has been significantly less efficient as a pass-rusher regardless of alignment, situation, etc. 

Nothing in Walker’s profile suggests that he can’t improve as a pass-rusher in the NFL, but the inexperience and unpolished pass-rushing technique still makes him much more of a project player than Hutchinson or Thibodeaux. Baalke’s bet on Walker – if he does pull the trigger at No. 1 overall – will be that his coaching staff can develop him into a more productive player than the other coveted edge defenders in the class who have significantly out-produced in college.

2. Detroit Lions: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

6-foot-7, 260 pounds | Age: 21 (9/9/2000)
DraftKings Pick Prop: OVER 1.5 (-180)
Media Consensus Rank: 1

Hutchinson is PFF’s No. 1 overall player in the 2022 NFL Draft class and the No. 1 overall player on The Athletic consensus board. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Michigan native is a sprint-the-card-in type for Dan Campbell and the Lions if Baalke balks in the first 10 minutes of Round 1. 

3. Houston Texans: CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati

6-foot-3, 190 pounds | Age: 21 (8/31/2000)
DraftKings Pick Prop: UNDER 5.5 (-125)
Media Consensus Rank: 6

Houston is fortunate in that it can go any direction at No. 3 overall. PFF’s mock draft simulator accurately states their positional needs are, quite literally, every position. 

Gardner is ultimately my prediction for the Texans in this spot due, in large part, to the lack of depth at outside cornerback in this class in addition to the rumors swirling around the idea that multiple teams have Gardner as the No. 1 overall player in this class. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder is tailor-made for press coverage and should be a lock to go inside the top-five picks in a league that prioritizes that exact skillset. 

4. New York Jets: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

6-foot-4, 254 pounds | Age: 21 (12/15/2000)
DraftKings Prop: UNDER 4.5 (-165)
Media Consensus Rank: 4

Stop listening to the garbage that is the media-driven discourse following Thibodeaux like a shadow and pay more attention to the excellent work that has been done on one of the draft’s top prospects. The Ringer’s Kaelen Jones has written two in-depth pieces on Thibodeaux over the last year, and Sports Illustrated senior writer Greg Bishop just recently published a profile on Thibodeaux’s reactions to the relentless criticism.

Thibodeaux’s self-confidence is wrongfully viewed as arrogance, and his interest in maximizing the value of his brand is simply intimidating to traditional NFL thinkers — not an antecedent to coachability or “love of the game” concerns. All of the effort concerns that unnamed sources have seen on tape are exaggerated. That’s not to say Thibodeaux is a perfect prospect, as there are more legitimate concerns surrounding his hand usage, pass-rushing technique and ability to string moves together in a pass-rush plan that will need to be addressed at the next level for him to reach his maximum potential. However, that maximum potential is worth investing in as early as No. 1 overall and very unlikely to be available when either the two New York teams pick at No. 4 and No. 5 overall.

5. New York Giants: OT Ickey Ekwonu, NC State

6-foot-4, 310 pounds | Age: 21 (10/31/2000)
DraftKings Pick Prop: OVER 4.5 (-125)
Media Consensus Rank: 3

DraftKings’ current favorite to be the top offensive lineman selected in April’s draft (-175), Ekwonu should be considered a lock to go to the Giants at No. 5 overall if he falls that far. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder is a high-profile athlete with coveted positional versatility and improved pass protection ability that teams should buy into. He was also PFF’s highest-graded run-blocking offensive tackle in the FBS last season and consistently finishes blocks to a degree that evaluators will fawn over.

6. Carolina Panthers: OT Evan Neal, Alabama

6-foot-7, 337 pounds | Age: 21 (9/19/2000)
DraftKings Pick Prop: UNDER 5.5 (-125)
Media Consensus Rank: 4

Neal should be a priority for the Panthers if he’s indeed available at No. 6 overall. He is one of the draft’s top athletes regardless of position, playing over 700 career snaps at each of left tackle, left guard and right tackle. His single-season PFF grades also improved every year of his career at Alabama despite playing different positions all throughout.

7. New York Giants (via Chicago): CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

6-foot, 190 pounds | Age 20 (6/20/2001)
DraftKings Pick Prop: UNDER 9.5 (-140)
Media Consensus Rank: 8

Stingley would have been a No. 1 overall pick candidate if he was draft-eligible after his true freshman season in 2019. Injuries derailed a lot of his progress since leading all FBS cornerbacks in PFF grade that season, but it’s very likely we’ll never see as successful a campaign from any true freshman cornerback again. He allowed just 608 yards and five touchdowns across 589 coverage snaps while facing a slate of multiple NFL talents at receiver in DeVonta Smith, CeeDee Lamb, Van Jefferson and more. He played just 289 injury-plagued coverage snaps in the two seasons following his famed 2019.

Per multiple sources, New York is eager to come out of the first round with one of Gardner or Stingley if Hutchinson, Walker and Thibodeaux all come off the board in the first four picks.

8. Atlanta Falcons: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

6-foot-0, 183 pounds | Age: 21 (7/22/2000)
DraftKings Pick Prop: UNDER 9.5 (+105)
Media Consensus Rank: 10

Wilson is a dynamic pass-catcher who can immediately step in as the Falcons’ top wide receiver. His feet are a bit erratic in his routes and releases, but he can clean that up at the next level. What can’t be coached is his innate separation ability and suddenness with and without the ball in his hands. He is currently DraftKings' favorite (+110) to be the first receiver off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft.

9.  Seattle Seahawks (via Denver): OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State

6-foot-5, 307 pounds | Age: 21 (11/25/2000)
DraftKings Pick Prop: OVER 7.5 (-125)
Media Consensus Rank: 7

Kenny Pickett or another top signal-caller prospect could be in consideration for Seattle at No. 9 overall, but I lean toward head coach Pete Carroll letting veteran Drew Lock lead the team in 2022.

While the Seahawks’ two starting offensive tackles in 2021 (Duane Brown and Brandon Shell) remain free agents, the need for talent on the bookends heightens. Cross should be viewed as a top-10 talent in this class after showing promise as a pass protector in the Mike Leach offense and clearing a lot of the perceived measurable thresholds at the 2022 NFL scouting combine. He is currently PFF’s top offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft and the No. 3 overall player on the media consensus board.

10. New York Jets (via Seattle): WR Drake London, USC

6-foot-4, 219 pounds | Age: 22 (05/25/1999)
DraftKings Pick Prop: OVER 10.5 (-130)
Media Consensus Rank: 28

London is so much more than just a big body. His ball skills and body control combine for excellent play at the catch point, and he is one of the best receivers in the class at creating yards after the catch.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (via Washington): QB Malik Willis, Liberty 

6-foot, 219 pounds | Age: 22 (05/25/1999)
DraftKings Pick Prop: OVER 10.5 (-130)
Media Consensus Rank: 28

Trade Details:

Commanders Receive: No. 20, No. 52 and 2023 third-round pick
Steelers Receive: No. 11

If Willis falls outside the top 10, Pittsburgh should be on the phones looking to move up ahead of the Saints to ensure it lands the consensus top quarterback in this class. Trading future first-rounders to get to the very top of the draft should be off the table for the Steelers’ brass considering all the risk embedded in Willis’ profile, but this year’s second-rounder (No. 52) and a future third are much more palatable.

12. Minnesota Vikings: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama

6-foot-1, 179 pounds | Age: 21 (3/26/2001)
Media Consensus Rank: 11

Minnesota is one of the best landing spots for Alabama wideout Jameson Williams. With Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson still leading receiving corps, the Vikings don’t need to rush Williams back from the torn ACL he suffered in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 10, 2022. And if Williams didn’t get hurt in that game, I’m of the opinion that he’d be the consensus WR1 in the 2022 class. His speed and movement skills are a tier above any other pass-catcher entering this year’s draft, and he’s still just scratching the surface on his route-running technique having just one season with more than 20 targets under his belt.

13. Houston Texans (via Cleveland): S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame 

6-foot-4, 220 pounds | Age: 21 (03/16/2001)
Media Consensus Rank: 2

Failing to clear the 55th percentile among safeties with his 10-yard split (1.58s) and 40-yard dash (4.59s) is more of an indictment of Hamilton’s potential to be a track star than an elite football player. He is easily the most versatile player in the 2022 NFL Draft and should be a lock to go inside the 20 picks. The Athletic’s consensus board also has him as the No. 2 overall player in this year’s class.

Bereft of talent at nearly every position, the Texans can afford to draft the best player available at each of their selections during the peak of their rebuild as they navigate the additional three first-round picks they received from the Cleveland Browns in the Deshaun Watson trade.

14.  Baltimore Ravens: DI Jordan Davis, Georgia

6-foot-6, 341 pounds | Age: 22 (1/12/2000)
Media Consensus Rank: 16

Davis is an impact starter right away in the NFL. He won’t be coveted for his pass-rushing skill set, but his ability to two-gap in the run game is second to none in this class. He’s the exact type of player who allows for NFL defenses to run light boxes without jeopardizing support in run defense, which combats at least some of the concerns surrounding his low snap volume at Georgia and positional value. 

15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami): EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State

6-foot-5, 254 pounds | Age: 23 (1/8/1999)
Media Consensus Rank: 12

Johnson’s rise up draft boards has been significant — at least from the media’s perspective — following standout performances at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. He was highlighted as one of the top performers through the first two days of practice in Mobile, Al., and tested out at the 90th percentile or better in the 40-yard dash (4.58s), 10-yard split (1.55s) and broad jump (125 inches) at the combine.

Even though Philadelphia will have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat all returning in 2022, Johnson should be viewed as an upgrade over Barnett and Sweat, if not all three players. Graham turns 34 years old in April and is coming off a torn Achilles, while Sweat and Barnett both failed to crack the top 25 in terms of PFF pass-rushing grade in 2021.

16. New Orleans Saints (via Indianapolis): OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa

6-foot-7, 325 pounds | Age: 22 (5/15/1999)
Media Consensus Rank: 25

Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning put up freakish testing numbers for a player his size and will be coveted for an uncoachable mean streak by a lot of the league’s old-school offensive line coaches. He earned a 97.3 overall grade and 99.9 PFF run-blocking grade across 771 offensive snaps at left tackle in 2021. There are still concerns with his feet in pass protection and overall pad level, but he’s exactly the type of project player NFL teams like to bet on at offensive tackle.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State

6-foot-0, 187 pounds | Age: 21 (6/27/2000)
Media Consensus Rank: 19

This is a dream scenario for the Chargers. If Georgia’s Jordan Davis and Alabama’s Jameson Williams are both already off the board, Ohio State wideout Chris Olave — my No. 2 wide receiver in the 2022 class — should be the selection for Los Angeles at No. 17. Olave is one of the best route-runners in the 2022 class with easy straight-line speed and unparalleled efficiency with his feet across the full route tree. He’s a true separator who complements the current skill sets in the Chargers’ receiving corps perfectly. 

18. Philadelphia Eagles (via New Orleans): CB Trent McDuffie, Washington

5-foot-11, 193 pounds | Age: 21 (9/13/2000)
Media Consensus Rank: 18

McDuffie is a clean cornerback prospect with plus coverage ability and athleticism to overcome length and size concerns. He won’t be everyone’s cup of tea because of his sub-30-inch arms, but he’s definitely a fit for an Eagles defense that runs press coverage at the lowest rate in the league (39%).

19.  New Orleans Saints (via Philadelphia): QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

6-foot-3, 217 pounds | Age: 23 (6/6/1998)
Media Consensus Rank: 43

PFF currently doesn’t view Pittsburgh signal-caller Kenny Pickett as a first-round player in this class, and nor does the media consensus. However, a lot of the rumors swirling around his NFL prospects hint that the league is a lot higher on him and that his floor is likely the Steelers at No. 20 overall.

New Orleans should prioritize offensive tackle over Pickett with their initial first-round pick (No. 16 overall), knowing that the Chargers are heavily interested in adding a right tackle, Philadelphia is likely to pass on a quarterback as they continue to evaluate Jalen Hurts and (in this case) Pittsburgh has already moved up for their quarterback.

20. Washington Commanders (via Pittsburgh): WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas

6-foot-2, 225 pounds | Age: 22 (3/23/2000)
Media Consensus Rank: 20

Burks is built like a taller running back at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. He dominates after the catch and will surprise defensive backs with his speed, regardless of whether the ball is in his hands. He’ll likely assume a slot role at the next level, but he’ll still command a lot of attention from the inside. He earned an 88.0-plus receiving grade in back-to-back seasons to close out his career at Arkansas.

The Commanders’ bet on quarterback Carson Wentz will fall flat on its face if the team doesn’t prioritize adding talent around him. Burks can step in immediately and play the role they hoped for Curtis Samuel at a much higher level right out of the gate.

21. New England Patriots: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah

6-foot-3, 237 pounds | Age: 23 (9/30/1998)
Media Consensus Rank: 13

Lloyd was a heat-seeking missile and an every-down impact player for the Utes. He earned a 91.1 PFF grade as one of college football’s top defenders in 2021. Age is a bit of a concern, but that shouldn’t hold back Patriots coach Bill Belichick from pulling the trigger at No. 21 overall.

22. Green Bay Packers (via Las Vegas): OT Tyler Smith, Tulsa

6-foot-5, 324 pounds | Age: 21 (4/3/2001)
Media Consensus Rank: 53

Tulsa’s Tyler Smith is entering the draft as a redshirt sophomore with over 1,700 career snaps played and a high-end production profile that screams his best football is still ahead of him.

His PFF grade has improved every year of his career, and he tested in the 90th percentile in 10-yard split (1.71) and 40-yard dash (5.02) at just 20 years old (turned 21 on April 2, 2001). Smith is exactly the type of offensive line prospect Green Bay covets and shouldn’t come as a surprise when he’s drafted inside the first 32 picks — bet him +110 to be a first-rounder on DraftKings while you still can.

23. Arizona Cardinals: IOL Zion Johnson, Boston College

6-foot-5, 312 pounds | Age: 22 (11/18/1999)
Media Consensus Rank: 23

Johnson is a plug-and-play rookie at guard in the NFL. He is easily the top guard prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft and showed that and then some at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl. He earned a career-high 84.4 PFF grade in 2021 and played more than 1,400 snaps at left guard and more than 700 snaps at left tackle in his Boston College career.

24. Dallas Cowboys: C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

6-foot-2, 296 pounds | Age: 22 (4/7/2000)
Media Consensus Rank: 16

Linderbaum finished the 2021 season as PFF’s highest-graded interior offensive lineman and the top-ranked interior offensive lineman expected to enter the 2022 NFL Draft. He is an immediate upgrade over Cowboys veteran Tyler Biadasz, who earned just a 65.1 overall grade across 1,274 snaps played at center last season.

25. Buffalo Bills: IOL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

6-foot-4, 323 pounds | Age: 21 (3/15/2001)
Media Consensus Rank: 21

PFF is a lot lower on Green than the media consensus and likely how the league views his NFL prospects. He’s one of the younger players entering the 2022 NFL Draft and will benefit significantly from NFL coaching when given the opportunity to play just one position (likely guard) at the next level. He has 1,098 career snaps played at left guard, 853 at right guard, 142 at right tackle and 81 at left tackle.

26. Tennessee Titans: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue

6-foot-4, 266 pounds | Age: 21 (4/3/2001)
Media Consensus Rank: 17

A former Greek national water polo player, Karlaftis possesses rare lower-body strength that shows up in his pass-rushing ability and run defense consistently. There are also zero question marks surrounding his work ethic and motor, as Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm has called out multiple times that there wasn’t a player who worked harder or as consistently as Karlaftis with the Boilermakers. He earned a career-high 87.2 PFF grade and 90.7 pass-rushing grade as a junior in 2021.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DI Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

6-foot-3, 304 pounds | Age: 24 (3/31/1998)
Media Consensus Rank: 26

Wyatt cleared the 80th percentile in the 10-yard split (1.66s), 40-yard dash (4.77s) and broad jump (111 inches) at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. He also earned a career-high 89.8 PFF grade and ranked in the 95th percentile for PFF pass-rushing grade on true pass sets.

28. Green Bay Packers: S Daxton Hill, Michigan

6-foot, 191 pounds | Age: 21 (9/29/2000)
Media Consensus Rank: 27

Hill is one of the best safety prospects in this class and can immediately slot in as either a slot corner or free safety in Green Bay’s defense. He is a wildly explosive player who ran a 1.47-second 10-yard split and 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, ranking in the 97th and 95 percentile, respectively. He also clocked a 97th percentile three-cone time at 6.57 seconds and an 87th percentile short shuttle (4.06s).

Adding Smith and Hill, Green Bay avoids wide receiver altogether in this scenario, which can’t be ruled out, given the team’s history in how they’ve avoided the position in Round 1 in previous years. No amount of need should have general manager Brian Gutekunst changing his stripes, especially if the consensus top-five receivers are all already off the board by his first pick at No. 22.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (via Miami): WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State

5-foot-10, 178 pounds | Age: 22 (3/22/2000)
Media Consensus Rank: 30

The media consensus and betting markets all point to Penn State’s Jahan Dotson being valued a lot higher than how PFF currently views him. The 5-foot-10, 178-pounder is one of the most experienced wide receiver prospects in the class and possesses insane ball skills, but size concerns along with middle-of-the-pack explosiveness drive him outside of PFF’s top-50 2022 NFL Draft rankings. 

Even though Kansas City added Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency, neither veteran is going to wholesale fill the void left by Tyreek Hill. Dotson isn’t the burner Hill is, of course, but he still is an impressive YAC type that attacks the ball a lot better than Valdes-Scantling and Mecole Hardman.

30. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson

6-foot, 194 pounds | Age: 21 (9/28/2000)
Media Consensus Rank: 24

Booth, a former five-star recruit, is an aggressive tackler and a smooth athlete who improved his PFF grade every year of his Clemson career. The 6-foot, 195-pounder closed the 2021 season with a 78.7 PFF coverage grade, having allowed just 29 receptions for 312 yards on 46 targets. He also allowed just two touchdowns while logging three pass breakups and three picks.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: EDGE Boye Mafe, Minnesota

6-foot-4, 261 pounds | Age: 23 (11/30/1998)
Media Consensus Rank: 38

Mafe is a wildly explosive player with a high pass-rushing ceiling at the next level. At 6-foot-3 and 261 pounds, the former Minnesota edge defender tested at the 87th percentile or better in the 10-yard split (1.59s), 40-yard dash (4.53s), vertical jump (38 inches) and broad jump (92 inches).

32. Detroit Lions: LB Quay Walker, Georgia

6-foot-4, 241 pounds | 21 (5/8/2000)
Media Consensus Rank: 52

Put simply, the league is a lot higher on Georgia off-ball linebacker Quay Walker than the media. Standing at 6-foot-4, 241 pounds with a 96th-percentile wingspan (79 7/8 inches), Walker is a less explosive Jamin Davis with better film. Teams covet his size-athleticism combination at the linebacker position and very well could covet him over his much smaller teammate Nakobe Dean.

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