NFL Draft News & Analysis

2022 NFL Mock Draft: New York Jets select Ahmad Gardner, Kenny Pickett lands in Carolina

Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) and cornerback Coby Bryant (7) react after cornerback Arquon Bush (not pictured) blocked a field goal by the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL Draft can’t get here soon enough, but in between now and then the information flow is in overdrive, as it seems that various players' draft stocks are flying all over the map. 

Here is my latest attempt at making sense of the noise and pulling some signal from all of the talk that’s out in the ether. So let's dive into my latest 2022 NFL mock draft.


1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: EDGE AIDAN HUTCHINSON, MICHIGAN

PFF MOCK DRAFT SIMULATOR Pick Grade: A+

There is an ever-increasing buzz around Travon Walker as the No. 1 overall pick, but I just can’t see a good justification to put him above Hutchinson. The Michigan standout also has an incredibly impressive athletic profile but is in a different world in terms of proven college production. Hutchinson recorded 14 more pressures this past season than Walker had in his entire college career, and he posted a PFF grade that puts him in the same ballpark as the Bosa brothers and Myles Garrett when they were coming out.


2. DETROIT LIONS: EDGE KAYVON THIBODEAUX, OREGON

PFF MOCK DRAFT SIMULATOR Pick Grade: A-

I think the hype surrounding Walker is real, but any time I go back to the tape, I see a phenomenally good pass-rusher in Thibodeaux, who seems to be the target of a negativity campaign as the draft approaches. He possesses elite burst and twitchiness at the position and can win in a variety of different ways. Thibodeaux posted a 92.0 pass-rush grade against true pass sets this past season and a pass-rush win rate that doubled Walker's mark. We’re overthinking things right now, but the Lions won’t when they pick.


3. HOUSTON TEXANS: EDGE TRAVON WALKER, GEORGIA

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: B-

Walker is a rare athlete in a sport of rare athletes. Of the 12 primary physical and athletic measurables, Walker doesn’t rank lower than the 72nd percentile in any while ranking in the 94th percentile or better in at least half of them. He is an NFL edge rusher drawn up in a laboratory who hasn’t had the production of one at the college level. Georgia’s defense lined him up inside a lot more than other prospects, and it certainly explains some of Walker's lack of production, but it doesn’t get you all the way there. A team such as Houston will be banking that it can help him reach his sky-high potential because 60 pressures in three years won’t cut it. 


4. NEW YORK JETS: CB AHMAD ‘SAUCE’ GARDNER, CINCINNATI

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A-

Jets fans believe cornerback isn’t amongst the team’s biggest needs, but Gardner could change how the defense functions. He has great coverage skills and incredible length for the position, and those traits simply give opposing quarterbacks nowhere to put the football. Gardner famously didn’t give up a touchdown in his entire college career and passes thrown into his coverage generated a 31.8 passer rating — lower than if the quarterback had just thrown the ball at the ground every play instead.


5. NEW YORK GIANTS: T IKEM EKWONU, NC STATE

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A

The Giants need offensive line help, and the start of this draft would be a dream scenario for them, as it allows them to have their pick of the group. Ekwonu brings an unparalleled dominant streak to his play and will form a natural bookend pair with Andrew Thomas. The work up front isn’t complete even with this pick, but it’s a selection that goes a long way to addressing the Giants' biggest problem area.


6. CAROLINA PANTHERS: QB KENNY PICKETT, PITTSBURGH

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: F

Nobody is happy about this — aside from the teams lower down that benefit from a player getting pushed one spot closer to them — but it looks more and more like the Panthers are going to make Pickett their Hail Mary attempt at rescuing the current regime and answering their issue at quarterback. Pickett recorded an elite 92.2 PFF grade this past season — the best of any of the top prospects — but averaged 3.2 seconds to throw — an eternity even at the college level and a potentially massive problem in the NFL.


7. NEW YORK GIANTS (via CHI): LB DEVIN LLOYD, UTAH

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: C

The more people you talk to in the NFL, the more it becomes clear that the NFL is higher on Lloyd than the draft community in general, so he could easily go well inside the top 10. Lloyd is the modern prototype for the position, possessing the size, length, range and complete skill set to make an impact in all phases of play. It’s not the most acute need the Giants could attack, but they might feel he represents the best player they can select due to the run on edge rushers and a tackle already in the bag.


8. ATLANTA FALCONS: WR GARRETT WILSON, OHIO STATE

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: C+

Atlanta could go in a variety of different directions here, as this is one of the real pivot points of the draft. Given the way things have unfolded thus far, I think the Falcons would look to grab the No. 1 receiver on their board to pair with Kyle Pitts. For me, that’s Wilson, who has the cleanest assemblage of skills and abilities in this class. Wilson is good at everything and could have a higher ceiling than people would like to believe.


9. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (via DEN): QB MALIK WILLIS, LIBERTY

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: B-

Seattle is the other team in this draft that has an acute, desperate and unavoidable need at quarterback. The only place that could potentially be filled outside of the draft is Jimmy Garoppolo — which is unlikely given that he would have to be acquired via trade within the division — or Baker Mayfield, and Seattle doesn’t seem tremendously interested in that. Willis has the best arm in this draft, and his rushing ability gives him a much higher floor and Day-1 starting ability than many people think. Willis broke an absurd 90 tackles this past season — the most in the nation.


Nov 20, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) reacts after catching a pass for a touchdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the second half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

10. NEW YORK JETS (via SEA): WR JAMESON WILLIAMS, ALABAMA

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: B+

Williams brings a game-changing degree of speed to the table. He could be a healthy version of Will Fuller whose impact is felt far in excess of his individual production because of how he changes coverages. Williams can torch defensive backs with speed, but he also has a much greater sophistication to his route running than most when given that speed advantage. He could transform a Jets receiving corps that will be better across the board for his presence.


11. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS: T EVAN NEAL, ALABAMA

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A

At some point, the top tackles in this draft that have been sliding represent too much value to pass up. Washington may not need a tackle, but Neal could potentially play guard early in his career and would provide a contingency against injury to either tackle spot. Washington fans won’t love this pick, but sometimes the smartest picks are the ones when a team just takes an excellent player and worries about how it fits later.


12. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: CB DEREK STINGLEY, JR., LSU

PFF MOCK DRAFT SIMULATOR Pick Grade: A+

Stingley is a polarizing prospect at cornerback. Injuries and lackluster play over the last two seasons have some down on his prospects, but his 2019 freshman season was one of the greatest cornerback performances PFF has seen at the college level, and it shows an elite ceiling to his play. That year, Stingley allowed just 37% of the passes thrown his way to be caught and recorded 15 pass breakups along with six interceptions. He would make an immediate impact on a struggling Vikings secondary.


13. HOUSTON TEXANS (via CLE): S KYLE HAMILTON, NOTRE DAME

PFF MOCK DRAFT SIMULATOR Pick Grade: A+

Hamilton’s average 40-yard dash times have probably caused him to slip away from the very top of this draft. He was already battling the perception that a safety isn’t worth a top-five selection, and his fate was sealed when he couldn’t show elite speed to counter it. At No. 13, though, Hamilton represents great value. He is a huge safety who has fantastic vision and an innate ability to make big plays in coverage. The Texans need talismanic figures on both sides of the ball, and Hamilton could provide one on defense.


14. BALTIMORE RAVENS: DI JORDAN DAVIS, GEORGIA

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A-

Davis is an enigma — an all-time freak of an athlete who needs projection in several different ways to justify a draft pick this high. Baltimore has a history of coveting big bodies up front and has the kind of program to help him realize his potential. Davis has only played a little over 1,100 snaps in his entire college career and notched only 30 pressures in four years. A team drafting him believes his impact can be orders of magnitude higher than that.


15. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (via MIA): DI DEVONTE WYATT, GEORGIA

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: B

The Eagles need to get younger on the defensive line. The leaders on that unit are past their prime, so the Eagles need to re-tool that area to make a continued strength. Wyatt is getting overlooked while people focus on Walker and Davis' freakish potential, but Wyatt was the best-graded of the group on that Georgia defense last season, and he was dominant at the Senior Bowl. He can be an heir apparent to Fletcher Cox.


16. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (via IND through PHI): T CHARLES CROSS, MISSISSIPPI STATE

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A+

One of the biggest questions in the draft is whether the Saints traded with the Eagles to position themselves for a second trade into the top 10, or if they just wanted an extra first-round selection in this draft because they have more than one acute need that needs to be filled quickly. If they stay where they are, they would be over the moon that Cross falls this far and lets them replace Terron Armstead at left tackle. Cross allowed 16 pressures on over 700 pass-blocking snaps this past season.


17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: T TREVOR PENNING, NORTHERN IOWA

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: B+

The Chargers need to attack their offensive line again to make sure that the good work from a year ago is not undone by this offseason's losses, and a lineman such as Penning would go a long way toward ensuring that. Penning has supreme size and athleticism as well as a nasty streak that will make NFL coaches drool. He had an absurd 97.3 PFF grade at Northern Iowa this past season and has been working with offensive line guru Duke Manyweather to clean up some of his flaws. 


18. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES via (NO): EDGE GEORGE KARLAFTIS, PURDUE

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A+

Karlaftis reminds me a lot of Brandon Graham in terms of playing style, and he’s being similarly overlooked at the moment even if he still ends up being drafted in the middle of the first round. Karlaftis had a 90.0-plus. PFF pass-rushing grade last season and a 23.6% pass-rush win rate, which is better than Thibodeaux. He wins with power and versatility, and he will never stop attacking.


19. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS via (PHI): WR CHRIS OLAVE, OHIO STATE

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A

The Saints' two biggest needs are offensive tackle and wide receiver, so grabbing Chris Olave here allows them to attack both needs in the first round. Olave has incredibly slick movement skills with a gliding style that works before and after the catch. Passes thrown his way in college generated a 133.4 passer rating for his entire career.


20. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: T BERNHARD RAIMANN, CENTRAL MICHIGAN

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A

I could be convinced the Steelers draft a quarterback with this pick, but I think the two most likely to make them pull that trigger are already gone in this scenario. Raimann is just scratching the surface of how good he can be as an offensive tackle, and he’s already very good. He allowed just nine pressures across almost 500 pass-blocking snaps and gave up one sack in two years at tackle. He already looks the part of a polished NFL player, and he has only played the position for two years.


21. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: CB TRENT MCDUFFIE, WASHINGTON

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A+

McDuffie has top-10 tape but could slide as far as this because he doesn’t have the measurables teams want to see at the position. His arm length ranks in the ninth percentile while is height sits in the 39th percentile. Chasing outliers is typically a fast track to a bad draft, but McDuffie has the kind of production that warrants overlooking those concerns. He didn’t give up a touchdown in either of his last two years and at this point in the first round, he would be a steal for New England at a position of need.


Indianapolis, IN, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver George Pickens (1) catches a pass against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry (1) in the first quarter during the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

22. GREEN BAY PACKERS (via LV): WR GEORGE PICKENS, GEORGIA

PFF MOCK DRAFT SIMULATOR Pick Grade: D-

The Packers need receiver help in a big way after trading away Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders. Adams is arguably the best receiver in the league, and even with him in the offense, the Packers haven’t had enough firepower at the position in critical situations in recent seasons. Pickens is one of the few receivers in the draft who has a true No. 1 “X” receiver skill set and can replace some of what Green Bay gave up in Adams. Pickens is being underrated because of a torn ACL and a small sample size, but he has elite potential.


23. ARIZONA CARDINALS: C TYLER LINDERBAUM, IOWA

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A

Linderbaum may be a top-five overall player in this draft, but he doesn’t tick all of the size measurables teams want to see while playing a position that is less valuable. The Cardinals' offensive line was transformed when the team traded for Rodney Hudson, but he is coming off the worst PFF season grade of his career and will be 33 years old when the new season starts. Linderbaum would give them a Hudson successor and could challenge to start at guard right away even at his size.


24. DALLAS COWBOYS: G ZION JOHNSON, BOSTON COLLEGE

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: B-

You could make the case that Dallas could use help at left guard and right tackle, but the team seems to have more faith in Terence Steele to step up than Connor Mcgovern even if there is little evidence that’s likely. Neither player earned a PFF grade above 68 last year, but if guard is the move, Johnson makes a lot of sense at this spot. He is the top guard on PFF’s big board and allowed six total pressures in 2021.


25. BUFFALO BILLS: CB ANDREW BOOTH, JR., CLEMSON

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: B

Buffalo needs cornerback help and Booth is a physical corner who can fit perfectly into that defense and bring a very high ceiling to the table — even if he needs a little work to get there. Booth has elite footwork but just one year as a full-time starter while posting some ugly losses in that season. Booth is a pick long on potential, but one who could become good in a hurry given the tools he has at his disposal.


26. TENNESSEE TITANS: T TYLER SMITH, TULSA

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: F

A player who is becoming more of a common first-round pick, Smith has been described as the Group of Five version of Ekwonu. Incredibly raw, Smith nonetheless posted a 93.9 PFF run-blocking grade this past season. He has elite power and impressive tools, and he can move inside to guard at the next level if a team doesn’t think it can get his tackle mechanics squared away.


27. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: G KENYON GREEN, TEXAS A&M

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: C+

With offensive linemen flying off the board in addition to the Bucs needing to replace Ali Marpet at left guard, they grab Green, who has been all over draft boards as draft day approaches. Green is a massive body who had an elite 93.2 PFF run-blocking grade on zone runs last season. His pass-blocking isn’t as clean as some other players, but Tom Brady has amongst the fastest average time to throw in the league, so that job gets easier in this offense.


28. GREEN BAY PACKERS: JERMAINE JOHNSON II, FLORIDA STATE

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A-

Double-dipping at receiver here wouldn’t be crazy, particularly if the Packers wanted to stick it to Kansas City coming up one pick later, but Johnson represents a value that would be tough to turn down. Johnson needed to transfer away from Georgia’s loaded defense just to get the opportunity to prove he is a first-round talent, and there are some who think he could go as high as the top five selections in this draft. Johnson posted good-not-great grades and production this season but was outstanding at the Senior Bowl and that will go a long way.


29. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (via SF through MIA): WR DRAKE LONDON, USC

PFF MOCK DRAFT SIMULATOR Pick Grade: A+

London could easily be the best receiver in this draft, but the ankle injury that ended his season means he may not run a 40-yard dash before the draft to put to bed concerns about his speed. An elite contested-catch target, London led the nation in that category despite playing just eight games. Speed isn’t everything, but if he can’t prove he has a more-than-pedestrian pace, he could see a slide down the draft when the first round begins.


30. Kansas City Chiefs: EDGE BOYE MAFE, MINNESOTA

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: A-

Few players have the kind of burst and acceleration off the line than Mafe possesses, and he was another player who dominated during the Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Alabama. Mafe recorded a 90.3 PFF pass-rush grade against true pass sets this past season and a 19.2% pass-rush win rate. If he can produce quickly for the Chiefs, he will give them the ability to move away from Frank Clark’s onerous contract.


31. CINCINNATI BENGALS: CB KAIIR ELAM, FLORIDA

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: B+

Cincinnati’s aggressive free agent strategy means it can enter the draft and not have to force an offensive lineman or attack a glaring weakness. Cornerback makes a lot of sense, but the Bengals also have the capacity to grab a player of value if they see one. Elam has gone toe to toe with some of the best receivers in this draft class, including completely disrupting Williams any time he got up in his face when facing Alabama. His consistency has been spotty, but his potential is elite.


32. DETROIT LIONS (via LAR): WR TREYLON BURKS, ARKANSAS

PFF Mock Draft Simulator Pick Grade: B+

Burks is a confusing prospect. His workout numbers were average — even adjusting for his size — but his tape shows a consistently explosive playmaker who could have been even more productive with better quarterback play. His college role was a big departure from a conventional NFL receiver, and any team drafting him will need to have a plan to develop that, but the Lions can afford to take a chance on somebody who has that kind of upside to see what they can make of him.

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