Thanksgiving week is more than the mountain of delicious food we all consume. It’s a time where we get three NFL games on a Thursday paired with Rivalry Week — the best spread of college football each season.
So, what better way to kick off what is arguably the best week of football in the calendar year than with a new 2022 NFL Mock Draft that is fresh out of the oven?
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Please note that this mock is not what I think NFL teams will do. Rather, this is what I would do at this moment in time.
There’s still plenty of football left to be played and evaluated, along with the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, so this is obviously subject to change in the coming months. But for now, let’s take stock of where the 2022 class stands this Thanksgiving.
1. DETROIT LIONS: EDGE KAYVON THIBODEAUX, OREGON
Thibodeaux is Michelangelo's David of pass-rushers. The 6-foot-5, 258-pound edge defender has every trait NFL teams want on the edge at the next level. From a collegiate production standpoint, Thibodeaux has grown immensely this season after earning an 80.9 pass-rush grade as an underclassman. He’s showing some refinement within his rushes, as he no longer relies on tools alone. The Oregon Duck has earned a 90.8 pass-rush grade in 2021 despite missing a couple of games early in the season due to injury. Heck, opposing teams have started to scheme away from Thibodeaux to take him out of the game completely — just like we saw with Chase Young a couple of years ago.
Colorado avg time-to-throw vs Oregon in W9:
when Kayvon Thibodeaux was on the field – 2.00s
when he wasn't – 3.75s
Colorado schemed quick throws to remove Thibodeaux from the game. That's the kind of impact Thibodeaux has & also explains his 60.2 pass-rush grade for the game.
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) November 3, 2021
2. NEW YORK JETS: CB DEREK STINGLEY JR., LSU
Stingley just might be the best all-around athlete in this class. At The Opening event in high school, Stingley posted a 4.3-second 40-yard and 42.0-inch vertical. He’s the owner of one of the best seasons PFF College has seen since its inception in 2014 as a true freshman in 2019. That year, Stingley earned a 91.7 PFF grade while allowing a minimal 38% catch rate and combining for 21 interceptions plus pass breakups. Stingley’s last couple of seasons have, unfortunately, been derailed by injury (only 289 coverage snaps played as opposed to 589 played in 2019), but he still performed admirably, allowing under a yard per coverage snap in that span.
Stingley is CB1 and should be a top-three pick next April.
Hamilton stands at 6-foot-4, 221 pounds, and he is one of the most explosive safeties in the game, which his 42-inch vertical backs up. Hamilton pairs his physical skill set with great eyes in coverage, making him a certified playmaker. The Notre Dame safety has totaled 22 combined pass breakups and interceptions in his three-year career. For reference, only five Power Five safeties have recorded more than 15 over that span. Hamilton should be in the cards for every team that has a top-five selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, whether they need a safety or not.
4. HOUSTON TEXANS: EDGE AIDAN HUTCHINSON, MICHIGAN
No one in college football has played better at their respective position in 2021 than Hutchinson. Offenses have had to hone in on stopping Hutchinson each week, chipping, doubling and committing penalties while trying to block him in one-on-one situations. Hutchinson has earned an FBS-leading 93.1 PFF grade and 25.2% pass-rush win rate through Week 12. He is also doing this after suffering a season-ending fracture in his leg during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. With his power, get off and advanced rush ability, Hutchinson has been virtually unblockable this season.
5. NEW YORK JETS (VIA SEA): EDGE GEORGE KARLAFTIS, PURDUE
Karlaftis — who was born in Athens, Greece — is the “Greek Freak” of college football. He is one of the most powerful defensive ends in the country and pairs that strength with arguably the best hand usage in the country and an explosive get-off that makes life tough on opposing offensive tackles. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Boilermaker showed a lot of promise as an underclassman and is now maximizing his full potential as a true junior, as evidenced by his 90.1 pass-rush grade this season.
6. NEW YORK GIANTS: iOL IKEM EKWONU, NC STATE
Ekwonu is one of the nastiest run-blockers PFF College has ever seen. He owns a 93.4 run-blocking grade for the 2021 season — the highest in the FBS. Ekwonu has laid down a whopping 16 big-time blocks this season. Not only does that lead every offensive lineman in 2021, but it is also the most in a single season during the entire PFF College era. He’s been that kind of a monster in the run game in all three of his years at NC State, but he's starting to pass protect better as well. After posting a poor 55.3 pass-block grade in 2020, Ekwonu has improved that to a solid 77.9 mark in 2021.
7. NEW YORK GIANTS: LB NAKOBE DEAN, GEORGIA
Dean is on the smaller end of the linebacker spectrum, but he is a freak athlete who fits the bill of a modern-day linebacker. He is undoubtedly the best off-ball linebacker in the country when it comes to defending the pass. His blitzing prowess and coverage ability are second to none, as Dean has recorded a 90.0-plus grade as a pass-rusher and in coverage this season — something no Power Five off-ball linebacker has accomplished in the PFF College era. He even housed a pick-six against Florida:
Only 1 Power Five off-ball LB has earned a 90.0+ grade as a pass-rusher & in coverage since 2014:
Nakobe Dean, Georgia (2021) pic.twitter.com/3ty82lVg5s
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) November 18, 2021
Wilson is a route-running savant. He’s sudden, fluid and getting open at an extraordinary rate at the collegiate level when going up against single coverage. Wilson has generated a step or more of separation on 78% of his targets against single coverage this season — the highest in the Power Five among receivers with at least 30 such targets. He has sustained last year's success when working primarily from the slot this year while working on the outside (3.00-plus yards per route run each year).
9. ATLANTA FALCONS: iOL TYLER LINDERBAUM, IOWA
Linderbaum went from a defensive tackle to the best offensive lineman in college football in just two years. He played both sides of the ball in high school and was recruited to play on the interior defensive line, where he logged 18 snaps in his first season. He then flipped to center for the 2019 campaign, where he started and recorded the fifth-best grade in the FBS at the position (81.7). Linderbaum claimed the No. 1 spot in 2020 and is on pace to do the same in 2021, as he owns a 94.9 PFF grade through Week 12. No interior offensive lineman in the class match Linderbaum's movement skills. His athletic profile enabled him to be one of Iowa's top wrestlers as a high schooler.
— Zach Hanley (@ZachHanley2) February 8, 2017
Howell's draft stock dipped due to a downtick in his level of play this season, but he’s making the most of an inexperienced supporting cast.
The skill-position group around him is one-dimensional, as he has Josh Downs and nobody else after losing four marquee offensive weapons to the 2021 NFL Draft. Downs has accounted for 57% of the Tar Heels’ wide receiver room targets — the highest of any team in the Power Five. The offensive line, meanwhile, has allowed pressure on nearly half of the team’s true pass sets (48.7%, 43rd in the Power Five). That predictability and incredibly poor pass protection have forced Howell to use his legs more often. Despite being on the lower end of the athleticism spectrum, the UNC quarterback actually leads Power Five quarterbacks for the most 10-plus-yard runs by a quarterback this season with 39.
Don’t forget about his 2019 and 2020 seasons as an underclassman, when he earned 83.3 and 91.5 PFF grades. The talent didn’t leave Howell, but the talent around him did. Along with that, the talent surrounding him as an underclassman wasn’t the reason for his success. Put Matt Corral in this situation, and he’d be in the same boat. It’s also worth noting Howell still owns an 89.7 PFF grade for the 2021 season.
At this point, I have him rated as the top quarterback in the class.
11. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: CB TRENT MCDUFFIE, WASHINGTON
McDuffie is one of the most underrated players in college football. He is on pace to earn an 80.0-plus grade as a true freshman, sophomore and junior. This year, McDuffie is playing at historic levels, allowing just 92 yards in 260 coverage snaps this season.
Washington CB Trent McDuffie in 9 games this year
???? 86.8 coverage grade
???? 65 yards allowed (only 2 1st downs)
???? 4 forced incompletions
???? 7 passing stops
He should be a finalist for the Thorpe Award.pic.twitter.com/YDr7N6NntS
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) November 18, 2021
McDuffie is a fantastic zone cover corner. His awareness, athleticism, physicality and tackling ability make him an issue for any underneath passing offense.
12. CAROLINA PANTHERS: QB MATT CORRAL, OLE MISS
From the accuracy and timing he puts on display on a weekly basis in Lane Kiffin’s offense to his big arm and mobility, Corral has placed himself in early-Round 1 conversation. The Ole Miss quarterback has earned a 90.5 and 88.2 PFF grade in each of the last two years and ranks inside the top five quarterbacks in accurate pass rate on throws beyond the line of scrimmage for the 2021 season. In addition, he has not only dealt with injury issues himself, but he has also had to deal with a banged-up wide receiver room.
13. DENVER BRONCOS: QB MALIK WILLIS, LIBERTY
From a tools perspective, Willis is in a class of his own. He is the most dangerous quarterback in college football from an athleticism perspective and possesses outstanding arm strength. He has recorded a 10.1% big-time throw rate and 93.9 rushing grade this season — both of which lead all FBS quarterbacks by a substantial margin.
At the same time, though, Willis is still fairly raw and going to be a bit of a project at the NFL level, which is why he’s QB3. The Liberty QB has been shredding lackluster competition for most of the season in 2021.
Liberty QB Malik Willis has 51 broken tackles in 2021, 6 shy of the @PFF_College record for most in a season by a QB.
He’s on pace to shatter that mark by a couple of dozen.pic.twitter.com/6mtJdiu61Q
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) October 26, 2021
14. MIAMI DOLPHINS: OT EVAN NEAL, ALABAMA
Neal is a 6-foot-7, 350-pound mammoth who has rare athleticism. He ranked No. 1 on Bruce Feldman’s annual “Freaks List” this past offseason for a reason, and he has the tools and collegiate production to back it up. Neal recorded an 80.0-plus grade in each of the last two seasons while facing stiff SEC competition. This year, in particular, Neal has allowed multiple pressures in a single game just twice.
15. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: CB SAUCE GARDNER, CINCINNATI
Gardner is in the midst of the stingiest seasons PFF College has ever seen from a cornerback who predominantly plays man coverage. He has allowed only 87 total yards from 368 coverage snaps and 11 starts while picking off three passes and breaking up another. Gardner's success isn't limited to this year, either. The 6-foot-3 cornerback’s length gives him an advantage against every receiver he faces. He brings a “dog” mentality to the field and is an easy first-rounder.
16. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: LB DEVIN LLOYD, UTAH
Lloyd — a fifth-year senior — has three years of starting experience and has steadily improved in each one. The Utah off-ball linebacker has graded above 79.0 against the run, as a tackler, as a pass-rusher and when in coverage en route to an 88.0 overall mark. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker has the size, length and athleticism teams covet in the first round.
17. CLEVELAND BROWNS: WR CHRIS OLAVE, OHIO STATE
Like his teammate Garrett Wilson, Olave is a seasoned route-runner. He’s been getting open at one of the highest rates in college football since he stepped into a major role as a sophomore in 2019. Olave’s 49 receptions over 10 yards downfield with at least two steps of separation since 2019 are the most in the Power Five by 11 (Wilson is No. 2, for what it’s worth). Olave's wheels have led to 19 deep touchdowns over the last three years — the most in the Power Five by five.
18. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: DI JORDAN DAVIS, GEORGIA
“They [Georgia] have a defensive lineman [Jordan Davis] that’s 340 pounds and runs better than everybody on this call,” said South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer following his team's loss to the Georgia Bulldogs.
Coach Beamer isn’t kidding, as Davis is a rare specimen at 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds. The interior defensive lineman has been a force against the run since he stepped foot in Athens in 2018. He has earned an 88.7 run-defense grade while collecting 42 run stops and 14 tackles for loss or no gain. Davis attempted 69 tackles against the run over that span (464 run snaps to be exact) and only missed four.
19. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: QB CARSON STRONG, NEVADA
If Strong just had a little bit of mobility, folks would be hyping up the Nevada passer as the next big thing. Unfortunately, his lack of mobility is a major concern when projecting him in the NFL. He has zero explosive runs of 10-plus yards in 2021, and his below-average mobility hurts him under pressure. Strong has no ability to maneuver or escape muddy pockets and often will force bad throws when pressured, which is why he has a 43.6 passing grade under pressure in 2021. However, his rocket-launcher arm — paired with an ultra-quick release and pinpoint accuracy — makes him worth a first-round flier. From a clean pocket, Strong has earned a 92.5 passing grade with 27 big-time throws to seven turnover-worthy plays.
20. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: CB KAIIR ELAM, FLORIDA
Elam dominated so much as an underclassman — 89.8 and 81.0 coverage grades as a true freshman and sophomore in 2019 and 2020 — that opposing offenses have largely avoided him in 2021. This year, Elam has been targeted 27 times in seven games, 18 of which came in just two games (Alabama and Samford). In addition, he has allowed only one explosive reception over 15-plus yards while making six plays on the ball. Elam is fantastic at the line of scrimmage in press-man coverage, but he can thrive in multiple schemes.
21. BUFFALO BILLS: DL DEMARVIN LEAL, TEXAS A&M
Leal has no clear position right now. The former five-star broke out as a sophomore in 2020 with an 88.3 PFF grade while playing predominantly on the edge. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound lineman has split time between the interior defensive line and edge in 2019, and his production diminished as a result. Leal has earned a 55.5 run-defense grade and 63.3 pass-rush grade when inside the tackles while posting a grade above 75.0 in both of those facets on the edge. Leal may be a bit heavier than the stereotypical NFL edge, but he has the power and juice to hold up there.
22. CINCINNATI BENGALS: CB ROGER MCCREARY, AUBURN
McCreary has had one of the best cornerback careers of the PFF College era, and his 2021 campaign is his best yet. The Auburn corner earned 78.0 and 80.8 PFF grades in 2019 and 2020, and he possesses an FBS-high 90.3 mark through Week 12 of 2021. He’s always at the catch point and rarely loses, as only Stingley has forced more tight coverage than McCreary since 2019. He’s smart, fast and scheme-versatile. Even in a talented corner class, McCreary is an easy first-rounder in my eyes.
Cross is one of the most improved players in college football. After allowing 44 pressures in the Bulldogs’ Air Raid offense in 2020 — his first year starting at the Power Five level — he has given up just 14 in 2021. The 2019 five-star recruit has earned a grade above 85.0 as a run- and pass-blocker this year and even kept a perfectly clean slate in pass protection against Alabama.
24. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: CB ANDREW BOOTH JR., CLEMSON
Booth doesn’t quite have the lockdown numbers as some of the other top corner prospects in this class, as he’s allowed 321 yards across 288 coverage snaps in 2021. However, he does have the tools worth taking a swing on in the first round. The 2019 five-star recruit has exceptional feet, good length and brings the physicality out on the field.
25. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: EDGE KINGSLEY ENAGBARE, SOUTH CAROLINA
Enagbare's outstanding motor has helped him earn a 92.5 pass-rush grade this season. Even against solely SEC opponents, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound edge defender is still producing at an elite level, recording an 89.7 pass-rush grade against SEC opponents.
26. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: WR DRAKE LONDON, USC
London was running away with the Biletnikoff Award, which is given annually to college football’s top pass-catcher, before fracturing his right ankle in Week 9. Despite not playing a full season, he still might — and should — take home the award given his routine dominance before the injury. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound receiver — who at one point was on the USC basketball team — earned a 91.8 receiving grade this year. He dominated in one-on-one scenarios and put up monster numbers due to his physicality and ball skills. London totaled 19 contested catches and 22 broken tackles in eight games. The former is six more than any other Power Five wide receiver through Week 12 while the latter is the second-most.
27. DETROIT LIONS: WR TREYLON BURKS, ARKANSAS
Burks has been a big-play threat over the last couple of years thanks to his size, physicality and speed. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound wide receiver has averaged 9.3 yards after the catch per reception and broken 23 tackles on 108 receptions since 2020. He’s hauled in all 19 of his catchable vertical route targets in that span for 697 yards and nine touchdowns.
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28. DALLAS COWBOYS: S JAQUAN BRISKER, PENN STATE
Brisker has been one of college football's top safeties since he transferred in from JUCO in 2019, as he is on pace to earn his third straight 80.0-plus single-season PFF grade with the Nittany Lions. Brisker's run defense and tackling have dipped a bit in 2021 due to playing closer to the line of scrimmage than in previous years, but he’s hardly made a mistake in coverage. Brisker has a couple of interceptions and four pass breakups en route to an 89.3 coverage grade this season. He’s a smart and heady player who has a high floor.
29. BALTIMORE RAVENS: S DAXTON HILL, MICHIGAN
Hill may be the only player who can challenge Stingley's status as the top athlete in this class. At The Opening event in high school, Hill posted a 4.3-second 40-yard dash, 4.13-second pro agility and 43.6-inch vertical. Hill has put those traits into action while primarily covering the slot in his 2021 true junior campaign, earning a 78.5 coverage grade overall this season. Specifically in the slot, Hill has seven forced incompletions and nine passing stops, ranking second and seventh in the FBS. He is versatile and a high-ceiling player in the 2022 class.
30. GREEN BAY PACKERS: WR JAHAN DOTSON, PENN STATE
Dotson has grown significantly throughout his four years at Penn State. He has greatly improved his speed and explosiveness while becoming a strong route-runner with elite ball skills. Dotson has earned an 84.5 PFF grade so far in 2021 and has dropped only two of his 129 total targets. The Nittany Lion is a promising receiver despite not being the most physical at 5-foot-11 and 184 pounds.
31. TENNESSEE TITANS: WR DAVID BELL, PURDUE
Bell came into 2021 with a lot of hope and expectations after a couple of promising years as an underclassman, and the Boilermaker has lived up to the billing. Bell earned 77.3 and 76.2 PFF grades as a true freshman and sophomore, and he currently has an 87.6 mark with just a couple of games left in his 2021 campaign. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound wide receiver has fared far better going up against single coverage this season while maintaining his strong play in tight coverage and top-notch body control. Bell has also been more of a threat after the catch with 25 broken tackles on 86 receptions.
32. ARIZONA CARDINALS: EDGE ARNOLD EBIKETIE, PENN STATE
Ebiketie had a mini-breakout campaign in 2020 with the Temple Owls and has since become one of the premier pass-rushers in the Power Five at Penn State. He’s been the model of consistency along the edge for the Nittany Lions, recording at least three pressures in every game that he's faced a Power Five offensive line. Ebiketie is fantastic with his hands and has stepped up in Shaka Toney and Odafe Oweh‘s absence (both are in the NFL). He has earned a 90.6 pass-rush grade this season.