With that, the 2022 NFL Draft order is set, which means it’s time to present my first post-Super Bowl mock draft. And for this edition, I’m going to introduce everyone’s favorite pre-draft wrench: first-round trades.
Here’s how the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft would look right now if I took over as general manager for all 32 NFL teams. This first-round mock draft features two big moves for quarterbacks — the first is for an established starter, and the second is an established team looking for the next franchise guy.
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This one ain’t changing until I hear differently. The Jaguars simply need to chalk up a win after taking multiple first-round Ls in recent years. There’s no safer pick than Hutchinson, the highest-graded defender in college football last year.
Hamilton isn’t just the most impressive safety prospect by far; he’s one of the most impressive prospects in the entire draft. The fact that he plays a low-paid position like safety isn’t a big factor in my eyes, given how versatile he is at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds.
3. Houston Texans: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
The Texans go for the proverbial 10-year starter in Neal, who can pair up with Laremy Tunsil to protect whoever lines up behind center in Houston next season. The 6-foot-7, 350-pounder started at right tackle in 2020, so the transition should be seamless.
Mekhi Becton and Ickey Ekwonu would present an incredibly imposing tackle duo. Ekwonu led all Power Five tackles in big-time blocks last season.
5. New York Giants: Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Thibodeaux’s mini-slide ends with the edge-needy Giants. The Oregon product teams up with Azeez Ojulari to give the Giants an athletic duo to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Cross is one of the most battle-tested tackles in the class in terms of pass protection. While Mike Leach’s offense doesn’t ask many NFL things from its tackles, Cross’ 1,293 pass-blocking snaps over the past two years are far and away the most of any top tackle.
7. New York Giants (via CHI): CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
Gardner comes off the board as CB1. With James Bradberry’s massive cap hit throwing his future in New York into doubt, the Giants need a guy to match up with top wideouts. Gardner allowed a 32.6 passer rating on throws into his coverage during his college career.
Pairing Stingley with A.J. Terrell would give the Falcons defense remarkable potential. Terrell is already one of the best shut-down corners in the league, while Stingley has been the same at the collegiate level. Over his college career, the LSU product broke up or picked off 26 of his 129 targets in coverage.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (via DEN): QB Malik Willis, Liberty
The big move of the draft.
The Steelers made their interest in Willis no secret at the Senior Bowl. He is immediately a Tier 1 rushing threat at quarterback and has all the tools needed to develop at the position. The Liberty signal-caller racked up an insane 11.0% big-time throw rate this past season.
10. New York Jets (via SEA): WR Drake London, USC
London is quite easily the one receiver from this draft class who I’d want to pair with a young quarterback. Even when he’s not open, London is open. He hauled in an NCAA-high 19 contested catches in only eight games last season.
Pickett may not be the flashiest prospect, but he had a nearly flawless redshirt senior campaign. He took a massive leap in accuracy, with his adjusted completion percentage going from 73.7% in 2020 to 78.8% in 2021.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Edge George Karlaftis, Purdue
The Kwesi Adofo-Mensah era kicks off with a fairly safe player at a valuable position. Karlaftis earned a 90.6 pass-rushing grade in 2021 despite seldom leaving the field.
The Browns don’t just need a receiver, they need a receiver with speed. They wanted Anthony Schwartz to be that, but he’s still exceedingly raw as a true receiver. Williams looked a lot more polished after transferring from Ohio State to Alabama, where he went for 1,561 yards and 15 scores.
Penning was built to run-block. The Ravens are built to run the ball. It’s a match made in heaven. While Baltimore has already re-signed both tackles long-term, Patrick Mekari could easily kick inside.
15. Seattle Seahawks (via PHI, via MIA): QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
This year, the Eagles have more to move than anyone else outside the Giants and could be looking to set their sights higher after Jalen Hurts’ disappointing playoff performance. The Seahawks get to start afresh with quarterback Matt Corral, who has a deadly combination of mobility and arm talent.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via IND): LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
The Eagles’ offense should be set with Russell Wilson, and so they turn their attention to a guy who can make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. Lloyd earned grades above 80.0 in run defense, coverage and as a pass-rusher last season.
The defensive interior is easily the Chargers’ biggest need heading into 2022, as teams ran through them like a hot knife through butter last season. Davis may not be a three-down player, but he is as good as it gets in run defense.
Ridder pairs the ability to start right away with some serious developmental tools, as well. His ability to work quickly within an offense will fit in nicely, given that it is precisely how the Saints have operated over the past decade and a half.
19. Seattle Seahawks (via PHI): OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
Pick 19 is the other first-rounder that got flipped to Seattle. The Seahawks use it to better protect their new franchise quarterback in Matt Corral. Raimann showed well at both tackles at the Senior Bowl and can be the heir apparent to veteran Duane Brown.
20. Denver Broncos (via PIT): Edge Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
Johnson is as NFL-ready as it gets in the draft class. He’s at the very least a hard edge-setter and an every-down player and averaged over 60 snaps a game last season.
Chenal isn’t for everyone’s scheme, but any of Belichick’s disciples will love the skill set he brings to the table. The Wisconsin product has the block-beating ability and football IQ to seamlessly replace Dont’a Hightower. He recorded the highest run-defense grade and second-highest pass-rushing grade among linebackers in college football last year.
Dean is a leader and playmaker at the linebacker position — both things the Raiders have been lacking. He’s a little undersized at only 225 pounds, but he has elite sideline-to-sideline ability.
Booth is scheme-versatile and possesses some of the best feet at the position in the draft class. He ended his college career with three picks and two pass breakups in his final two games.
Linderbaum may slide because of his size at 290 pounds, but he shouldn’t. The Cowboys would happily reinvest in their offensive line after things fell apart down the stretch last year. Linderbaum would bring Travis Frederick levels of assuredness to the position.
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McDuffie is the best pure zone corner in the class and one heck of a tackler. That would fit in perfectly with the Bills. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound corner missed only six of 101 tackle attempts in his career.
26. Tennessee Titans: Edge David Ojabo, Michigan
The Titans could have a big need on the edge if Harold Landry III walks in free agency. Ojabo would fill his shoes seamlessly with how athletic and flexible he is. The Titans deploy their edges on stunts a lot, and that’s where Ojabo could make an impact early on.
The Bucs' receiving corps could quickly go from stacked to depleted this offseason. Olave has the kind of vertical ability to fit in Bruce Arians’ offense.
Burks can be a better version of Allen Lazard as the Packers’ No. 2 wide receiver. He’s big enough to get involved as a blocker, which Matt LaFleur loves, and he has a speed element to his game that the Packers may miss if Marquez Valdes-Scantling walks in free agency.
29. Miami Dolphins (via SF): WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Wilson is the kind of yards after the catch threat Mike McDaniel will assuredly covet in his offense. The Ohio State pass-catcher broke 19 tackles on 70 receptions this past season.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Edge Travon Walker, Georgia
Walker is still a project as a pass-rusher, but he can come in and be a plus run defender from the rip. He has a similar physical profile to someone like Rashan Gary coming out, and he is similarly unpolished.
The dream scenario. The Bengals badly need offensive line help that can step in right away. The good news is that Green has shown he can start anywhere, as he logged reps at every position except center this season.
32. Detroit Lions (via LAR): QB Sam Howell, North Carolina
Howell will almost assuredly have to redshirt once he gets to the NFL, given the difference between his college offense and the one he'll be running in the pros. However, he has more proven performance — at a younger age — than any quarterback in the draft class.