Gifts of the holiday season can come in many forms. From some, it can be literal gifts under a Christmas tree — a PlayStation, a fancy new air fryer, some fresh socks. For others, it could be just seeing friends and family more this time of year. And for certain fan bases around the NFL, it can be the gift of hope in the form of a new mock draft.
With the college football regular season all wrapped up, we now have almost all the tape we’ll need to sharpen up our draft rankings and big boards. The strength of this draft class lies in the trenches, as offensive and defensive linemen will likely dictate most of the first round.
Here’s how the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft would look if I took over as general manager for all 32 NFL teams. I've added the win-loss strength of schedule using all 17 opponents.
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1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: EDGE AIDAN HUTCHINSON, MICHIGAN
Strength of Schedule: .508
Well, well, well. Welcome back, Jacksonville.
With no need for a quarterback, the Jags look to take a true “best player available” approach.
The Michigan star earned one of the best grades PFF College has ever given to a college edge defender. He earned a 90.0-plus PFF grade in the pass rush and against the run and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Hutchinson landed at No. 2 on Bruce Feldman’s CFB Freaks list this offseason thanks to a reported low-4.6 40-yard dash and a 6.54-second three-cone.
2. DETROIT LIONS: EDGE KAYVON THIBODEAUX, OREGON
Strength of Schedule: .537
While Hutchinson is the hot name for the No. 1 overall pick right now, Thibodeaux shouldn’t be far behind if he doesn’t end up going No. 1 himself. Though he was banged up this season, he still produced one of the highest pass-rush win rates in college football at the edge position.
It can hardly be considered “settling” with Thibodeaux.
3. HOUSTON TEXANS: CB DEREK STINGLEY JR., LSU
Strength of Schedule: .498
It’s been a tough few years for Stingley since his sensational true freshman season — when he was boasted as one of the best defensive players in the country. The exodus of talent from LSU from 2019 to 2020 was a big adjustment, and he was playing hurt most of the time he was available in 2021.
Though it feels like a long time ago, that elite cover corner from 2019 is still there.
4. NEW YORK JETS: OT EVAN NEAL, ALABAMA
Strength of Schedule: .502
Neal has a really good chance to be the top offensive tackle in this year’s class purely because of his rare combination of size, speed and athleticism. Neal is listed at 6-foot-7 and 360 pounds, yet he’s a smooth and explosive mover. Of his 879 snaps at left tackle this season, he yielded just 14 pressures and one sack.
Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Evan Neal all on the same team and 100% healthy? Sheesh.
5. NEW YORK GIANTS: OT IKEM EKWONU, N.C. STATE
Strength of Schedule: .532
Take one look at Ikem Ekwonnu, and you can safely assume it will be a long day at the office for anyone standing in his way. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, he not only has the size, but he also has the tape that evaluators will love. He’s a true eraser in the run game and has some of the most punishing blocks of the 2021 season for any offensive lineman.
Size and strength have always been Ekwonu’s game, but he really took his pass protection to the next level this year. He’s really started to hone in on the finesse part of his game, and that combo will likely spell a top-15 selection.
6. NEW YORK GIANTS (VIA CHI): EDGE DAVID OJABO, MICHIGAN
Strength of Schedule: .524
If we’re talking about traits, Ojabo is one of the first players to come to mind. His rare combination of size, speed and power were put on display as a total package this year, and while his teammate Hutchinson got most of the publicity, it was Ojabo’s presence that forced teams not to run away from Hutchinson as much as they wanted to.
Ojabo’s 11 sacks were tied for the 10th in the country in 2021.
7. CAROLINA PANTHERS: OT CHARLES CROSS, MISSISSIPPI STATE
Strength of Schedule: .502
Cross has made himself a lot of money this year. First and foremost, he checks the size boxes at 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds, and he brings the kind of natural strength one would expect from a player that big. However, his improvement and consistency in pass protection have been most impressive when it comes to his 2021 season.
The Mississippi State tackle covers a ton of ground in his kick slides in pass protection and is really poised at initiating contact, as well as redirecting it. However, he can be guilty of missing his target as a run-blocker and, at times, can let guys out of his grasp quicker than you’d like. Still, to me, those are correctable things.
The natural gifts with size, movement and balance are what you draft early and bet on, and Carolina must improve its offensive line this offseason, or it won’t matter who’s playing quarterback.
8. NEW YORK JETS (VIA SEA): WR DRAKE LONDON, USC
Strength of Schedule: .515
Drake London still leads the FBS in contested catches with 19 — and he hasn’t played since Oct. 30 when he suffered a season-ending injury in the second quarter of USC’s game against Arizona.
Drake London leads the country with 19 contested catches…
He hasn't played since October 30th ????pic.twitter.com/eihh1UPO0N
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 4, 2021
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound London racked up 19 contested catches in just eight games. What might be even more impressive is that the towering wideout is also still tied for fifth in the FBS with 22 forced missed tackles after the catch, so he’s not just a big-bodied red-zone target.
The USC product recorded more than 100 yards receiving in six of his first seven games and was well on his way to another one before getting hurt. If he had stayed healthy, this would have been the runaway Biletnikoff Award winner. He could be the NFL antidote for Zach Wilson.
9. ATLANTA FALCONS: EDGE GEORGE KARLAFTIS, PURDUE
Strength of Schedule: .464
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Karlaftis brings a power profile to edge play that many NFL teams will covet. His hands are heavy, violent and fast, and his relentless motor makes it a long day at the office for any offensive tackle in front of him. Though he isn’t twitchy or super flexible with how he rushes the passer, he’s great at conveying speed to power and at disengaging blockers, making his attack on the pocket feel like a speed rush for how quickly he can get in the backfield.
10. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: S KYLE HAMILTON, NOTRE DAME
Strength of Schedule: .479
It’s a shame we didn’t get a full season of Kyle Hamilton this season. The versatile and almost alien-like 6-foot-3, 220-pound defensive back is the latest and greatest in the line of safety/nickel defender/box player hybrids. His size and speed make him a unique chess piece for various defenses. The best part is that, unlike some who came before him, he’s more impactful as a deep safety than most who carry that “positionless” DB tag.
11. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: CB ANDREW BOOTH, CLEMSON
Strength of Schedule: .517
Booth is one of the top athletes in this class. He has the kind of size and ball skills that make it easy to confuse him with a wide receiver at times, and there’s reason to believe his best ball is ahead of him. He’s still learning the discipline and anticipation needed to be a true shutdown corner, but he’s shown flashes of first-round ability.
12. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM: QB KENNY PICKETT, PITTSBURGH
Strength of Schedule: .526
When it comes to the players in this class who have “made the most money” this season, look no further than the Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett.
Pickett entered this season as a projected mid- or late-round pick. But, over the past few months, he played like one of the best quarterbacks in all of college football. His 92.7 passing grade is the third-highest in the FBS and highest among draft-eligible quarterbacks. His arm isn’t the strongest, and you’ll hear about potential hand-size concerns, but the confidence with which he played gave him a command of Pitt’s offense that was rarely outmatched.
Though the QB1 title is far settled right now, Pickett looks like he’s in the driver’s seat, which means he could go much higher than this, even in a “down” QB class.
13. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: WR TREYLON BURKS, ARKANSAS
Strength of Schedule: .536
You’re going to hear the D.K. Metcalf comp often throughout draft season as analysts and fans try to best explain what they’re seeing when they watch Burks at his best. The Arkansas pass-catcher lines up as a versatile receiver at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds — a similar size to Metcalf, who was in the 80th and 90th percentile for height and weight, respectively. But then you watch Burks blow by corners, and that’s when fans will really get the Metcalf flashbacks.
He won’t be a shifty change-of-direction guy who will break multiple times in a route — that’s not how he wins. Where he does win is down the field, which has proven to be unstoppable for most defenders at the college level. How he wins is Metcalf-like. But what makes Metcalf is that he’s that dominant attacking vertical. Can Burks be as dominant? Testing will help answer that at the scouting combine.
14. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (VIA MIA): IOL TYLER LINDERBAUM, IOWA
Strength of Schedule: .456
Not only was Linderbaum named PFF’s top center this season, but he was also named the top offensive lineman overall. He was a top-three-graded interior offensive lineman in PFF’s database last season, and this year he was No. 1. His pass blocking and run blocking have been top class for two straight seasons.
Linderbaum cutting off all of the backside pursuit pic.twitter.com/V331gl5Mcq
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 20, 2021
The Iowa star also brings a wrestling background to his skill set, which was pointed out for guys like Creed Humphrey and Tristan Wirfs. And Linderbaum even beat Wirfs in wrestling back in high school.
Interior offensive linemen don’t often get drafted high, but Linderbaum could very well be a top-15 guy.
15. DENVER BRONCOS: QB MATT CORRAL, OLE MISS
Strength of Schedule: .481
Corral brings a “moxie” to the position that some coaches are just going to absolutely love. He operates Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss offense with a ton of confidence, and it’s an offensive system that has allowed him to show off his skills as a runner and a passer.
For RPO-heavy offenses and coaches who want that movement ability from their passer, Corral will be high on their list. He’s finished each of the past two seasons with a passing grade above 84.0 and a rushing grade above 71.0.
16. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: QB SAM HOWELL, UNC
Strength of Schedule: .528
With Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome as his receivers and Javonte Williams and Michael Carter in the backfield, Howell put on an absolute show in 2020, racking up over 3,500 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions. With all four of those players gone this season, Howell has had to pivot what was asked of him to win. This year, he was just one of three quarterbacks in the FBS to rush for over 1,000 yards, adding a mobile element to his game not many thought he had.
17. CLEVELAND BROWNS: WR GARRETT WILSON, OHIO STATE
Strength of Schedule: .526
In an age when offensive versatility — especially in the passing game — is coveted, Wilson looks like the prototype. The 6-foot, 190-pound former five-star receiver can do it all. If you need him to get off press and get open quickly, he can. If you need him to eat cushion and get vertical on the sideline, he can. Even if you want to throw this guy a goal-line fade, he’s shown he can do that, too.
GARRETT WILSON IS INSANE ????#CFB
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 27, 2021
Wilson is athletic, reliable and versatile. It’s hard not to see Wilson as one of the top three receivers in this class.
18. BALTIMORE RAVENS: OL DARIAN KINNARD, KENTUCKY
Strength of Schedule: .532
Kinnard sets in a really wide base, can sink his hip low and looks like he's just about to overpower you before he even moves. Once he fires off the ball, he shows really good movement skills for a player of his size at 6-foot-5, 340 pounds.
The arm length is a bit of an issue, and he can lose leverage and balance due to a good long-arm from at times. I see him as a high-upside guard in the NFL who can dominate in close quarters and as a puller for man-blocking run games, but he has the versatility to fill in at tackle down the road if needed.
I really like the thought of Kinnard in the Ravens offense with Lamar Jackson. He’s a mauler, but not one who is completely limited in the passing game — he fits the culture and has the upside.
19. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: WR JAMESON WILLIAMS, ALABAMA
Strength of Schedule: .511
Wilson and Olave were getting all the preseason pub as the Ohio State wide receivers who could be drafted early in the 2022 NFL Draft. But, there was another Ohio State wide receiver who is now firmly in the first-round mix with them — only he’s just not at Ohio State anymore.
The speed demon of the Crimson Tide’s vertical passing attack, Williams, transferred from Ohio State in May of 2021. In his first year with the Tide, not only did he get the playing time he was after, but he made a national name for himself with it as a junior.
W O Wpic.twitter.com/HdnkAG2ikm
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 4, 2021
Williams was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and was named PFF’s Wide Receiver of the Year. Williams’ 21.4 yards per catch was the best mark in the Power Five, and he averaged 9.9 yards after the catch per reception, as well. He’s the top deep threat in this class.
20. BUFFALO BILLS: CB ROGER McCREARY, AUBURN
Strength of Schedule: .470
McCreary really saved his best season for his last. The senior earned the sixth-highest coverage grade in the FBS at 90.2, and that top-tier play earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl, where we’ll get to see his skills up close and personal against some of the top upperclassmen receivers. I expect him to fare well and solidify his first-round status.
21. MIAMI DOLPHINS (VIA SF): OT BERNHARD RAIMANN, CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Strength of Schedule: .491
I was very impressed with Rainmann’s tape. Yes, he obviously isn’t playing top-of-the-line college football competition at Central Michigan, but he moves really well for an offensive tackle, and when you learn about his background, it makes sense.
Raimann was born in Austria and only started playing football when he came to America on an exchange program. He initially played wide receiver and tight end before packing on some pounds at Central Michigan to transition to offensive tackle. He’s still relatively green to the game but shows a good understanding and already good consistency with blocks in space and when left one-on-one. Miami has to prioritize the offensive line in this draft.
22. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: DI JORDAN DAVIS, GEORGIA
Strength of Schedule: .519
This year’s Bednarik Award winner for best defensive player in the country was hard to miss — literally. At 6-foot-4 and 360 pounds, Davis was an exposing anchor in the middle of Georgia’s top-ranked defense. His snap count compared to others in this mock is low, and that’s because he’s more of an early-down run defender by nature. Still, he’s an elite one.
His presence impacts every player in the front. The Chargers like to play with light boxes and can get away with it with a player like Davis in the middle.
23. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (VIA IND): DEVIN LLOYD, UTAH
Strength of Schedule: .472
Lloyd has been reliable as a run defender for two straight seasons. He recorded a 72.0 run-defense grade as a true sophomore in his first season as a full-time starter and an 86.3 run-defense grade last year. This season, he’s rounded his game by taking a leap in his coverage success — his 90.0 coverage grade was the seventh-highest among all linebackers in the FBS.
The Eagles rarely draft linebackers this early, but as the third of three first-round picks, they could make an exception.
24. DETROIT LIONS (VIA LAR): WR GEORGE PICKENS, GEORGIA
Strength of Schedule: .485
Before his injury, Pickens gave you a WR1 profile during his sophomore season at Georgia. He was on the line of scrimmage and faced a good amount of press coverage. He has a big enough body to handle the physicality at the line yet the speed to stretch the field vertically to keep cornerbacks hesitant from pressing too hard.
His hands were consistent throughout the season; he has the ability to come down with spectacular catches and tracks the ball well through contact. He tore his ACL back in the spring of 2021, so we haven't seen much of who he is as an athlete since then. But he’s been able to suit up late in the season, and if the player we’ve previously seen comes back, that’s first-round tape.
25. CINCINNATI BENGALS: CB SAUCE GARDNER, CINCINNATI
Strength of Schedule: .483
In what would be a bit of a hometown hero story, Gardner could stay in the city he currently calls home and play just a few miles down the road. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Gardner is a very impressive athlete who can keep up with almost any receiver in the country. In fact, he hasn’t given up a single touchdown in man coverage. The upcoming College Football Playoff will be a great test of his abilities.
26. TENNESSEE TITANS: WR CHRIS OLAVE, OHIO STATE
Strength of Schedule: .464
Olave is one of the smoothest route-runners you’ll find in this class. It was reported that he received a late first-round, early second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board last year and opted to return to make sure he could solidify that first-round status. I think he did just that with yet another year of consistently good play.
Of his four years at Ohio State, he never recorded a single-season grade below 72.0. The Titans have A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, but with both banged up this season, we’ve seen they could use another starting-caliber receiver and a good field-stretcher at that.
27. ARIZONA CARDINALS: EDGE DRAKE JACKSON, USC
Strength of Schedule: .483
Though Jackson didn’t take the leap in production many hoped he would this season, those top-end pass-rush flashes still showed up often. Jackson brings rare speed ability on the edge with his burst, bend, and ability to execute speed pass-rush moves. Strength is the main concern with the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Jackson, both in run support and while pushing the pocket. Still, he should be a player a team takes a chance on in the middle or late part of the first round.
28. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: DI DEVONTE WYATT, GEORGIA
Strength of Schedule: .470
Wyatt didn’t get the national publicity that his teammate and fellow defensive tackle Jordan Davis got, but Wyatt made plenty of an impact of his own. While Davis was the strength component on the interior, Wyatt was one of a few faster options. He’s a well-rounded defensive tackle who would fit well as a 3-tech for a team that asked their interior linemen to penetrate often. Wyatt next to Vita Vea in the middle in Tampa would guarantee that interior stays a strength.
29. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: OT MAX MITCHELL, LOUISIANA
Strength of Schedule: .468
Mitchell moves really well for a player of his size. At 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, his flexibility and movement skills are a plus. He can really sink his hips with a good base and is also fluid with flipping his hips. He's been a starter for ULL since his true sophomore season. He's a small-school player who I believe is ready for the next level of competition and would be a welcomed addition to the Pats' offensive line.
30. DALLAS COWBOYS: LB NAKOBE DEAN, GEORGIA
Strength of Schedule: .500
The best way to describe Nakobe Dean is that you hope every linebacker on your team has the mentality and approach to the position like Nakobe Dean.
Alabama tries to catch Georgia off guard with a quick snap after pretending to look to the sideline. Nakobe Dean (17) is too quick for the pulling H pic.twitter.com/zwaC6IQBAo
— SyedSchemes (@syedschemes) December 10, 2021
The Georgia star looks like he is shot out of a cannon whenever he goes into pursuit. Though he is a smaller backer, at about 5-foot-11, 225 pounds, he packs a punch at the point of contact, even against offensive linemen. He’s also a fantastic blitzer with a relentless motor and nice bend to get around blockers, especially up the middle. This is a high-floor player who brings great anticipation and mentality to the middle of the defense.
With Leighton Vander Esch likely on the way out, you know Jerry will be all over a player like Dean.
31. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: S JAQUAN BRISKER, PENN STATE
Strength of Schedule: .543
The more I watched Brisker, the more I liked him. And now I’m comfortable projecting him as a first-round player. He has a cornerback background that shows up in his play speed from coverage range to pursuit. He’s very comfortable and confident in a strong safety role that allows him to walk up and play in the box as well as play in two high shells. The Chiefs have a handful of defensive backs set to hit free agency this spring.
32. GREEN BAY PACKERS: WR JAHAN DOTSON, PENN STATE
Strength of Schedule: .480
After starting the season ranked high in the AP Poll, Penn State did not finish the year as strong as they started. But that wasn’t the case for their go-to receiver Jahan Dotson, who continued to shine brighter and brighter as the season went on.
At just 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, Dotson doesn’t stand out in a crowd, but he proved this year that he can be a reliable receiver. His 88.1 receiving grade was top-15 in the FBS. His 93.8% catch rate is one of the highest marks in college football.
Dotson is an all-around receiver who has plenty of experience in the slot and on the outside. With some uncertainty at the receiver position in Green Bay heading into the 2022 offseason, getting a player like Dotson would ensure another go-to target on a favorable rookie deal.