NFL Draft News & Analysis

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Travon Walker goes to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1 overall, Kayvon Thibodeaux lands with the Jets

Now just one week away from the 2022 NFL Draft, the full picture of the first round is coming into focus. There will, of course, be plenty of surprises as always, but a consensus is emerging around the nucleus of players who are most likely to go on Day 1. My first two mock drafts of the offseason (here and here) were more about what I thought made the most sense, especially with respect to guessing which teams will inevitably make moves for quarterbacks. 

This time around, the picks are influenced by what I'm hearing around the league. Late-stage risers and fallers made their case at the final few pro days, “30 visits” and Zoom meetings across the country, and now, all 32 teams are finally beginning to set their boards. Plenty can change from now until draft day, but I will take my first crack at an intel-based mock.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia

2021 Record: 3-14

The Walker No. 1 overall buzz is very real, and many have cited the rationale that general manager Trent Baalke likes to bet on athletic traits over college production, notably selecting edge defender Aldon Smith in the 2011 NFL Draft over a long list of other edge rushers. Sidenote: the 2011 NFL Draft had, arguably, the best collection of edge defenders in NFL history. 

Two legendary San Francisco 49ers tackles in Joe Staley and Trent Williams agreed that Smith was the toughest player they ever faced. Perhaps there’s another component to Baalke taking a swing on Walker: If he really has the most upside, does he provide Baalke with the best opportunity to keep his job long-term? A safe pick on a very good player may not offer the same potential benefits as a risky pick on a potentially great player. It’s a gamble worth weighing, as just one great pick can sometimes provide a few years of job stability. 

While all of this Walker hype could, undoubtedly, be a smokescreen of some sort, Jacksonville isn’t exactly infamous for running a tight ship when it comes to information getting out. Also, when you’re picking first overall, who cares if it gets out? Last year, the Jaguars also owned the No. 33 overall pick, the first pick of the second round. Word spread that former Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell was their guy several hours before Day 2 got underway. 

2. Detroit Lions: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

2021 Record: 3-13-1

This would be a dream scenario for the Lions, as the hometown hero stays in Michigan and provides a major boost to Detroit’s front seven. Lions edge defenders Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris — currently slated as the top two players on the edge after big-ticket free agent Trey Flowers was a cap casualty this offseason — are much better suited as Nos. 2 and 3 options, respectively. 

Detroit has one of the better offensive line units in the NFL, and unless it wants to get a head start at developing quarterback Jared Goff’s eventual successor, this pick is a no-brainer.

3. Houston Texans: T Ikem Ekwonu, N.C. State

2021 Record: 4-13

The first of Houston’s two picks in the top 13 likely puts them in a great position for a tough decision: take the third edge defender or the first offensive tackle? New head coach Lovie Smith would certainly love to add more talent to his defensive line, the unit that carried his vaunted Chicago Bears defenses. However, the defensive linemen who will potentially be available with the No. 13 pick, and Houston’s second-rounder at No. 37, appear stronger than the offensive linemen who will potentially be available at the same spots, so the Texans can address that unit a bit later. 

Tackle Laremy Tunsil has just two years remaining on his contract, and Houston’s 2019 first-round offensive lineman Tytus Howard has been shuffled all over the line during his first three seasons. The Texans clearly want to give 2021 third-round quarterback Davis Mills a real shot at becoming their next franchise quarterback after extending wide receiver Brandin Cooks for two more years at just under $40 million. Adding a premier talent to their offensive line does just that.

4. New York Jets: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

2021 Record: 4-13

With the majority of mocks sending an offensive tackle or Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner to the Jets here at No. 4 overall, a big need for head coach Robert Saleh’s defense is often overlooked. It’s certainly possible the Jets select Gardner or Alabama tackle Evan Neal here, but it may be too hard to pass up a legitimate No. 1 overall pick talent in Thibodeaux. 

In 2019, the 49ers with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh traded for and signed edge defender Dee Ford to a huge contract before using the No. 2 overall selection on edge defender Nick Bosa a month later. Saleh’s defense wins with big bodies up front are protecting the secondary by getting pressure on the opposing quarterback as fast as possible. Edge defender Carl Lawson — the Jets’ big-ticket free-agent signing in 2021 — is on the road to recovery from a torn Achilles, but even if he gets back to 100% before Week 1, the team needs more juice off the edge. 

This offseason, the Jets signed cornerback D.J. Reed to a very respectable three-year, $33 million deal, reuniting him with Saleh. Bryce Hall also showed promise during the 2021 season, earning a 63.2 grade on 1,171 snaps — the most of any cornerback in 2021. Jets general manager Joe Douglas has been consistent that he believes football ultimately comes down to the trenches, so we’d be surprised if this pick isn’t an offensive or defensive lineman. 

5. New York Giants: T Evan Neal, Alabama

2021 Record: 4-13

With many holes on the Giants roster and not a lot of resources to fill them, it’s no secret that new general manager Joe Schoen would be open to moving down from one of the team’s two picks in the top seven. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem very likely unless Schoen is willing to take, what would be perceived as, a weaker trade package due to the lack of top-end quarterback prospects in this year’s class. 

The situation is reminiscent of the 2020 NFL Draft when the Giants had the No. 4 overall selection and drafted Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas with the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers sitting right behind them. New York couldn’t get either team to bite on a potential trade-up, and unless a club is dying to leapfrog the quarterback-needy Carolina Panthers at No. 6, the Giants will likely find themselves in the same scenario. With that said, New York takes another SEC tackle in Neal, book-ending its offensive line with two high-pedigree tackles for quarterback Daniel Jones

The decision on Jones’ fifth-year option is due the Monday following the NFL draft, and the Giants will do their best to give Jones no excuses entering his pivotal fourth season. 

6. Carolina Panthers: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

2021 Record: 5-12

Carolina currently leads the NFL in 2022 cap space with just over $30 million, as it made almost every move available to add room this offseason. The Panthers restructured contracts on tackle Taylor Moton and running back Christian McCaffrey while adding void years for free agent signings Austin Corbett and Matt Ioannidis. It would be more than reasonable to assume these efforts were made in hopes of trading for a veteran quarterback, but that list is now down to the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo and Cleveland BrownsBaker Mayfield

According to’s Mary Kay Cabot, the Panthers are the most likely team to land Mayfield, but there are certainly some issues with this idea. For starters, Mayfield is set to play on the same fully guaranteed $18.858 million fifth-year option that Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold is currently clogging up the team’s cap sheet with. Perhaps more importantly, newly hired offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo told the New York Post that he had Mayfield as the QB6 in the 2018 draft. Finally, it’s probably not great for chemistry if the team's WR2 publicly came out against the move. 

Long story short, Carolina needs a new quarterback, and the quality veteran options may have run out. Panthers head coach Matt Rhule recruited Pickett when he was at Temple, and Rhule loves nothing more than to add players he crossed paths with during his college days.

7. New York Giants (via CHI): CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati

2021 Record: 4-13

The expectation entering the 2022 offseason was that Giants cornerback James Bradberry would be on another roster long before the NFL draft kicked off, presumably getting traded to a club in need of a veteran No. 1 outside corner. Now just one week away and with the Giants clearing over $6 million in 2022 cap space via other means, Bradberry remains a Giant, for now. 

Perhaps the club wants to see how the draft unfolds before making a move, and ideally, things don’t go according to plan for another club hoping to take a cornerback early. Here, the Giants add the top cornerback in the 2022 class — a player tailor-made for new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s system — giving them flexibility with Bradberry. 

The Giants need around $12 million in cap space to sign their current draft pick allotment, so their work in clearing space is far from done. Trading Bradberry clears $12 million alone, and it may even happen during draft weekend if they do land “Sauce” Gardner here.

8. Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State

2021 Record: 7-10

Wide receiver has become a popular choice here for the Falcons after Calvin Ridley was suspended for the entirety of the 2022 campaign, but after using the No. 4 overall selection on tight end/wideout Kyle Pitts in 2021, Atlanta may prioritize defense with its second consecutive top-10 selection. The Falcons registered a league-low 18 sacks in 2021 — the only team below 29 on the year. They also desperately need edge rushers alongside interior defender Grady Jarrett, who is entering the final year of his contract and has every right to be frustrated with the complete lack of talent around him along the defensive line. 

While this may be a bit of a reach for a late-breakout player such as Johnson, the edge defender position in the class falls off a bit, so Atlanta could be wise to land one early.

9. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN): CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

2021 Record: 7-10

Stingley quieted his doubters with a strong pro day performance after a foot injury prevented him from doing drills at the NFL combine, and there aren’t many questions remaining about his game. While he graded out best in his true freshman season in 2019 (a 91.7 overall grade), he should be re-energized and refocused upon taking the next step. Stingley battled in practice with wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, and both were among the best wide receivers in the NFL from Day 1… Stingley could be the next in line. 

Vikings defensive backs coach Daronte Jones was Stingley’s defensive coordinator for his final season at LSU, so the No. 12 pick could potentially serve as Stingley’s floor.

Ohio State's Garrett Wilson could be the first wide receiver selected in April's draft.

10. New York Jets (via SEA): WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

2021 Record: 4-13

The Jets came close to landing wide receiver Tyreek Hill in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs before he ultimately landed in Miami, and they’ve made it clear that they’re looking to add more talent at the wide receiver position. Keelan Cole and Jamison Crowder are now free agents, and Wilson could be the final weapon that puts this offense over the top. AWilson, Corey Davis and 2021 second-rounder Elijah Moore trio plus the addition of two solid tight ends in C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin remove all excuses for sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson. There’s no reason the offense shouldn’t be, at least, average with the offense the team has built over the last few offseasons. 

Caesar’s Sportsbook currently lists Wilson at +135 to be the first wide receiver taken — I like the value here. The Jets, at 10th overall, could very well be Wilson’s floor.

11. Washington Commanders: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama

2021 Record: 7-10

With Washington star wideout Terry McLaurin looking for a new contract before the 2022 season gets underway, Washington makes a pick that provides leverage in negotiations in addition to the obvious value that comes with landing the Alabama speedster. 

New Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz certainly made a habit of finding one of the great deep threats in wide receiver DeSean Jackson deep downfield during their time spent together in Philadelphia, and Williams could provide the field-stretching presence this offense needs. 

Both Wentz’ Eagles and Ron Rivera’s Panthers teams put a lot of value on big-bodied receivers, so perhaps USC’s Drake London is the target here with a skill set that no one in Washington currently has, but Williams has the rare speed that can give opposing defenses fits while opening things up for others around him.

12. Minnesota Vikings: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

2021 Record: 8-9

One decade ago in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Vikings used their first-round selection on a Notre Dame safety — perennial Pro Bowler Harrison Smith. Here, they select another Notre Dame safety after a mini-slide out of the top-10 makes Hamilton just too good to pass up. 

With the rise of two-high defenses across the NFL, and with the Minnesota Vikings hiring defensive coordinator Ed Donatell — a Vic Fangio disciple — an elite safety tandem on the backend could be very appealing. Smith will be 33 years old in 2022, and while he’s shown no signs of slowing down yet, landing his eventual successor could be the perfect long-term plan.

13. TRADE: New Orleans Saints (via CLE through HOU): T Charles Cross, Mississippi State

2021 Record: 9-8

Here, the Saints jump ahead of the Ravens for a premium tackle prospect in Cross without giving up the second of their two first-round picks in the process. New Orleans lost its longtime blindside protector in tackle Terron Armstead to the Dolphins in free agency, so it needs an immediate starter at left tackle to protect quarterback Jameis Winston, who is coming off a torn ACL. 

While many believe the Saints may have made their trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to position themselves for another trade-up for a quarterback, that doesn’t totally add up. Instead, the Saints look to add a blue-chip tackle to fortify their offensive line, which is always a top priority for the club.

14. Baltimore Ravens: T Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa

2021 Record: 8-9

With the Saints leapfrogging the Ravens for Cross, Baltimore takes the last tackle prospect before pick No. 28. This could be a tough decision if the Ravens believe Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis is the run-stuffing presence they need long-term alongside 2020 third-rounder Justin Madubuike, as Calais Campbell is set to be 35  years old while Derek Wolfe will be 32 years old for the 2022 campaign. However, tackle Ronnie Stanley has struggled to get back to 100% health, and Baltimore is still looking for their Orlando Brown Jr. replacement.

Penning is just that, bringing a nastiness and edge to an offensive line that needs to crave contact to clear lanes for quarterback Lamar Jackson.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA): WR Drake London, USC

2021 Record: 9-8

The Philadelphia Eagles were reportedly among the teams interested in former Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker, who is now a New England Patriot following the rare intra-division trade, according to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson. The Eagles traded up in the 2021 draft for Alabama wide receiver and Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, and London provides the perfect complement as a big-bodied “X” receiver who can win with physicality more than finesse, much like Parker. 

It may be tough for the Eagles to internally justify using a first-round pick on a wide receiver for the third consecutive year, but this shouldn’t influence their decision-making at a position of need, and it is negated by the fact they have multiple first-round selections this year and in 2023. The Lions used top-10 picks on wide receivers three years in a row from 2003-05, selecting Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams (not the Chargers' Mike Williams). None worked out particularly well in Detroit, but in 2007 with the No. 2 overall selection, the Lions drafted Calvin Johnson, making him the fourth wide receiver that Detroit took with a top-10 pick in five years. 

We’re not saying London is the next Johnson, but if the Eagles like London, they shouldn’t hesitate to take another shot at the position.

16. TRADE: Houston Texans (via IND through PHI and NO): DI Jordan Davis, Georgia

2021 Record: 4-13

After a trade down with the Saints, the Texans can still land one of the freakiest prospects the NFL has ever seen in Davis, who is the exact type of space-eating defensive lineman that Lovie Smith would love to get his hands on in Houston. Here, the Texanssmartly accumulate more draft capital and perhaps still pull this off. However, if they fear Baltimore will pounce with pick No. 14, they could also stay at No. 13 and take Davis.

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

2021 Record: 9-8

The Chargers addressed all of their glaring weaknesses this offseason, trading for another edge defender opposite Joey Bosa in Khalil Mack, signing cornerback J.C. Jackson to a long-term deal and moving nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day’s locker from the Rams‘ side of SoFi Stadium to the Chargers' side. They still have a hole at right tackle, but for the most part, they have enabled themselves to take a best-player-available (BPA) approach with their first-round pick in this year’s draft. 

Olave may be too good to pass up even with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams becoming the first pair of teammates at wide receiver to both make $20 million per year. In addition, 2021 third-round pick wide receiver Joshua Palmer showing promise at the end of the 2021 campaign. Justin Herbert could have one of the league’s best wide receiver units for years to come.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO): CB Trent McDuffie, Washington

2021 Record: 9-8

The Eagles signed cornerback Steven Nelson to a one-year flier for the 2021 season, but he has now departed in free agency for the Texans on a two-year, $9 million deal, leaving a pretty big hole at the CB2 spot opposite Darius Slay. McDuffie is a physical zone corner who looks to be the latest product from a school that deserves more love as DBU.

He earned 80.0-plus grades in three straight seasons — no small feat at a volatile position — and would be a good fit in defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s zone-heavy scheme on the backend. His bend-don’t-break philosophy would be bolstered by a corner who loves to come up and make plays in the run game.

19. New Orleans Saints (via PHI): QB Malik Willis, Liberty

2021 Record: 9-8

It wouldn't be surprising if the annual run on quarterbacks in the draft happens once again in 2022, as several quarterbacks could go much earlier than perhaps their tape indicates. Nevertheless, the Saints' trade with the Eagles ultimately ends up being centered around getting two picks ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who could certainly counter by making a move up with the Los Angeles Chargers, who are now down their second-round pick following their trade for Khalil Mack, but Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has never traded down in the draft. 

Willis can take his time learning the NFL game while backing up Winston in the same way Winston sat behind Drew Brees. Recent addition Andy Dalton also provides a strong veteran presence in the quarterback room. 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

2021 Record: 9-7-1

Ridder has become the darling of many NFL Draft analysts over the last few months with quarterback mania in full swing, receiving high praise for his processing ability, including this piece from PFF’s Seth Galina breaking down why Ridder is the most technical quarterback in this year’s class. 

Caesar’s Sportsbook currently has Ridder’s over/under listed at 30.5, and I like the under here. Even if Ridder slips past Pittsburgh, there are three more potential landing spots before pick No. 31: 

  1. The Tennessee Titans at pick No. 26. With quarterback Ryan Tannehill entering the second-to-last year of his contract and the final year with salary guarantees, maybe the Titans get a jumpstart on finding their signal-caller of the future. 
  2. The Green Bay Packers have their second selection in the first round at pick No. 28 and the Kansas City Chiefs have their second selection in the first round at pick No. 30 — perhaps the Seattle Seahawks look to move up with their two second-round picks (No. 40 and No. 41).

21. New England Patriots: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah

2021 Record: 10-7

Lloyd falling outside of the top 20 after garnering top-10 buzz for large stretches of the 2022 offseason would make this a classic Patriots selection, and Lloyd seems like a perfect replacement for longtime Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower

PFF’s Sam Monson highlighted some of the pass-rush reps that illustrate Lloyd’s acumen in getting after the quarterback, as he displays some of the abilities that made Hightower such a valuable member of New England’s defense for the last decade.

Sep 18, 2021; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Treylon Burks (16) runs for a touchdown against Georgia Southern Eagles cornerback Darrell Baker Jr (14) during the third quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas won 45-10. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

22. Green Bay Packers (via LV): WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas

2021 Record: 13-4

Even after signing free-agent wideout Sammy Watkins, the Packers still desperately need to add, at least, one pass catcher, so here, they stop Burks' slide. Burks can win in so many different ways — his acceleration ability as a big-bodied wide receiver on screen passes and other quick-developing routes is impressive, and he can win on contested balls downfield. He can line up anywhere in the formation and would be an offensive chess piece that head coach Matt LaFleur would have a lot of fun deploying all over.

23. Arizona Cardinals: G Zion Johnson, Boston College

2021 Record: 11-6

With the top crop of wide receivers off the board and A.J. Green recently re-signed, Arizona addresses a critical need: the interior of their offensive line. In the disastrous playoff game against the Rams that ended Arizona’s season, Aaron Donald recorded four quarterback pressures and a sack on just 28 pass-rush snaps. The Cardinals got beat on the interior far too often, and that left quarterback Kyler Murray running for dear life shortly after the snap. 

Johnson has the ability to play all three spots along the interior, so he could become Rodney Hudson‘s eventual successor at center. Presumably, he would start ahead of free-agent addition Will Hernandez at right guard early in his career.

24. Dallas Cowboys: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue

2021 Record: 12-5

The Cowboys believed they had agreed to terms on an extension with edge defender Randy Gregory before the deal fell through and he ultimately signed with the Denver Broncos. Since then, they signed Dante Fowler Jr. on a one-year flier for $3 million, but Karlaftis represents a potentially long-term addition on the outside for Dan Quinn’s defense. 

Even with edge defender Demarcus Lawrence taking an extremely team-friendly pay cut — which he frankly deserves more acknowledgment for — Dallas needs more juice off the edge alongside Lawrence and 2021 Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons. Offensive line could be too tough to pass up, especially if Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green and Tulsa’s Tyler Smith are still available, but here, Dallas prioritizes the defense and will address the offensive line on Day 2.

25. Buffalo Bills: WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State

2021 Record: 11-6

Dotson’s ability to produce in the slot as well as out wide makes him an intriguing prospect for the  Bills after they moved on from slot receiver Cole Beasley. He also has a polish to his game that could be enticing for a Bills team that's looking to win a Super Bowl right now. Dotson knows how to get open and stay open, and he is very sure-handed even with defenders bearing down on him. He’s a perfect complement to Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis, and he could be the final weapon that puts this Bills team over the top. 

With star cornerback Tre’Davious White still on the mend from a torn ACL suffered in 2021, Buffalo could look to address cornerback here as well with Florida’s Kaiir Elam, Washington’s Kyler Gordon and Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. still available.

26. Tennessee Titans: G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

2021 Record: 12-5

This is the Titans’ only pick before No. 90 overall in the third round after they traded their second-rounder to the Falcons last offseason for Julio Jones, so they need to add a player who can make an impact right away with this selection. Green has inside/outside flexibility and could perhaps take over at right tackle eventually, but he projects as the Day 1 starter at left guard if the Titans take him here. 

The Rodger Saffold loss in free agency to the Bills will be felt, but Green — an All-American at left guard for Texas A&M in 2020 — could immediately fill the void. He can quickly get to the second level for a player his size, so he could be a good fit in Tennessee’s wide zone rushing attack.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DB Daxton Hill, Michigan

2021 Record: 13-4

The Buccaneers scrambled to add veteran defensive back help throughout the 2021 campaign, relying on the likes of Richard Sherman and Pierre Desir to play significant snaps at times. Even after signing versatile defensive backs in Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal this offseason, Hill would be a great addition to the group with cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting set to be free agents after the season.

Hill is versatile and would probably fit best in the slot out of the gate, but he could also play single-high safety if new Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles wanted to get Neal closer to the line of scrimmage as a hybrid linebacker. Hill is no slouch on the occasional pass rush snap either, and he sorts through blockers well when coming down from a deep alignment. He’s a chess piece Bowles would have a ton of fun with for years to come. 

28. Green Bay Packers: T Tyler Smith, Tulsa

2021 Record: 13-4

One of the biggest risers of the pre-draft process, Smith has really impressed teams during interviews. While Smith’s game is still a bit raw and in need of refinement, he has the physical traits teams look for when projecting a tackle to the next level. He could also kick inside to guard for the short or long term. Smith’s 93.9 run blocking grade in 2021 was the best mark by an AAC offensive lineman since 2014, and Green Bay can develop him as a pass protector over time while he mauls opponents in the run game in the immediate future. 

PFF’s lead draft analyst Mike Renner dubbed Smith “the Group of Five version of [N.C. State tackle] Ickey Ekwonu” and teams seem to believe he has that kind of potential, as well.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (via SF through MIA): DI Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

2021 Record: 12-5

The Chiefs have cycled through a handful of interior defenders next to stalwart Chris Jones, even moving Jones out on the edge more in an attempt to generate more pass rush production. While Jones appears to fit best as a three-technique defensive tackle — the same spot where Wyatt thrives — perhaps Kansas City and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can get creative again with a better fill-in for Jones in Wyatt. 

Wyatt’s talent may simply be too good to pass up if he falls this far. The Chiefs will sort out the rest later. 

30. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Kyler Gordon, Washington

2021 Record: 12-5

The Chiefs would, of course, like to add more weapons for Patrick Mahomes after trading Hill to the Dolphins, but bolstering a defense that can get the ball in his hands more frequently would also be wise. With an early run on wide receivers in this mock, Kansas City stays patient and takes the best player available. 

The Chiefs have two selections in the second round at No. 50 and No. 62 overall, so they can look to add a wide receiver with one of these picks in a deep class. There is no need to force the issue early after signing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency, even if they may not be premier receiving options like Hill. 

Gordon has the flexibility and quick footwork to play out wide and in the slot, adding a versatile defensive back for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on the backend.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida

2021 Record: 10-7

The Bengals have plenty of options here after addressing all of their biggest weaknesses in free agency, most notably the offensive line. Even after signing IOL Ted Karras with the intent to start him at center, it wouldn’t come as a shock if Cincinnati felt Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum was too good to pass up here. 

Another interior defensive lineman such as UConn’s Travis Jones or Houston’s Logan Hall could also make sense here, as would a potential trade down if the Bengals want to stockpile draft capital in hopes of adding a lot of surplus value rookie contracts before potentially doling out massive extensions to safety Jessie Bates III, quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Tee Higgins

Another defensive spot that remains a bit shaky is outside cornerback, as Eli Apple was brought back on a one-year flier after mixed results in 2021. Elam is similarly physical and a good fit in defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s coverage scheme, and he can take some time to develop if necessary, as the ideal outcome is that Elam takes over as the Bengals top cornerback for 2023 and beyond.

32. TRADE: Atlanta Falcons (via DET through LAR): QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss

2021 Record: 7-10

Almost every position for the Falcons is a need, as they comfortably have the worst roster in the NFL. While they could choose to prioritize other spots and prepare to pick very high in the 2023 NFL Draft, targeting Alabama quarterback Bryce Young or Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud among others, they move up here to secure the fifth-year option on Corral. 

Marcus Mariota, who is Atlanta's current presumed starter at quarterback,  has a lengthy injury history and struggles to stay healthy almost every time he touches the field, especially when his legs are used as a weapon. Mariota’s rushing ability will have to be utilized if his wide receiver group consists of Olamide Zaccheaus, Damiere Byrd and Auden Tate. Corral can start on the bench but may be suiting up quite early in the 2022 season.

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