The 2022 NFL Draft picture continues to evolve as information and testing numbers filter in for the top prospects.
The news of Michigan edge defender David Ojabo suffering a torn Achilles at his pro day on March 18 is the latest to alter expectations about how the draft will shake out. As such, Ojabo falls completely out of the first round in this mock draft — and he could go outside of the top 50 picks come April.
Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning, seemingly a lock to go in Round 1, also drops out of the first 32 selections in this mock. I’m lower on the 6-foot-7, 325-pounder due to questions surrounding his pass protection, class-high 17 penalties and the fact that the only season he graded above 72.0 in the FCS was his 22-year-old redshirt senior year.
Pittsburgh signal-caller Kenny Pickett misses out despite being the media consensus QB1 and easily the most accurate quarterback in this year’s class. He is an older prospect (turns 24 years old in June) and simply doesn’t have the high-end throw power or athleticism that prop up the ceiling projections for the other quarterbacks in this class.
With that in mind, here's how the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft would look if I was on the clock as the general manager of all 32 teams.
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1. Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Big Board Rank: 1
Profile: 6’7”, 260 | Age: 21 (August 9, 2000)
Hutchinson is currently the betting favorite (-280, per DraftKings Sportsbook) to go No. 1 overall to the Jaguars in the 2022 NFL Draft, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hutchinson is PFF’s and the media consensus’ top-ranked player entering the draft. He also led all defensive players in college football in PFF grade (94.5) during his College Football Playoff run with the Wolverines this past season.
The 6-foot-7, 260-pounder simply checks every box across the board — his production, intangibles and athleticism are all at elite levels. He cleared the 95th percentile in both the short shuttle (4.15s) and three-cone (6.71s) drills at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine and earned the highest composite score among 41 different key performance indicators that Michigan strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert tests among any Wolverine over the past two seasons.
Hutchinson projects as a high-floor edge talent who should very quickly make an impact as a double-digit sack artist and plus run defender playing opposite of Josh Allen in Mike Caldwell’s defense. Expect him to lead a much-needed culture shift as a core leader in Jacksonville early on in his career.
2. Detroit Lions: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Big Board Rank: 4
Profile: 6’4”, 254 | Age: 21 (December 15, 2000)
The media-driven narrative building around Thibodeaux’s on-field effort, off-field interests and overall passion for football has reached ridiculous levels. I, admittedly, have brought more awareness to some of that negative conversation in discussions on the PFF Tailgate podcast but remain convinced a lot of the claims are exaggerated and relatively noisy in terms of projecting on-field success in the NFL.
In interviews with media throughout the pre-draft process, including his podium session at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, Thibodeaux has been adamant about addressing those concerns. His self-confidence is wrongfully viewed as arrogance, and his interest in maximizing the value of his brand is simply intimidating to traditional NFL thinkers — not an antecedent to coachability or “love of the game” concerns.
#Oregon DL Kayvon Thibodeaux addressing concerns over his love for the game:
“I don’t think I necessarily had to convince teams of it, but that’s the media narrative… I wouldn’t have made all the sacrifices I made to get here if I didn’t love the game.” pic.twitter.com/L9xGu5bpex
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) March 4, 2022
That’s not to say Thibodeaux is a perfect prospect. More legitimate concerns surrounding his hand usage, pass-rushing technique and ability to string moves together in a pass-rush plan will need to be addressed at the next level for him to reach his maximum potential. But that maximum potential is worth investing in as early as No. 2 overall, if not at the top of April’s draft.
3. Houston Texans: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Big Board Rank: 2
Profile: 6’4”, 220 | Age: 21 (March 16, 2001)
Failing to clear the 55th percentile among safeties with his 10-yard split (1.58s) and 40-yard dash (4.59s) is more of an indictment on Hamilton’s potential to be a track star than an elite football player. He is easily the most versatile player in the 2022 NFL Draft and should be a lock to go inside the first five picks. Per DraftKings, the odds are set at -140 for him to be a top-six pick, and he is currently the media consensus' No. 4 overall player.
Houston is fortunate in that it can’t go wrong at No. 3 overall. Bereft of talent at nearly every position, the Texans can afford to draft the best player available at each of their selections in the peak of their rebuild as they navigate the additional three first-round picks they received from the Cleveland Browns in the Deshaun Watson trade.
4. New York Jets: OT Ickey Ekwonu, NC State
Big Board Rank: 6
Profile: 6’4”, 310 | Age: N/A
DraftKings’ current favorite to be the top offensive lineman selected in April’s draft (-120), Ekwonu should be considered a lock to go to the Jets at No. 4 overall if he gets past Houston. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder is a high-profile athlete with coveted positional versatility and improvement in pass protection teams that should buy into. He was also PFF’s highest-graded run-blocking offensive tackle in the FBS last season and consistently finishes blocks to a degree that evaluators will fawn over.
Ekwonu can start right away ahead of George Fant at right tackle and serves as insurance for former first-rounder Mekhi Becton if his battles with injuries persist.
5. New York Giants: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Big Board Rank: 7
Profile: 6’7”, 337 | Age: 21 (September 19, 2000)
Neal should be a priority for the Giants if he’s indeed available at No. 5 overall. He is one of the draft’s top athletes regardless of position, with over 700 career snaps played at each of left tackle, left guard and right tackle. His single-season PFF grades also improved every year of his career at Alabama despite him playing different positions all throughout.
6. Carolina Panthers: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
Big Board Rank: 25
Profile: 6’0”, 219 | Age: 22 (May 25, 1999)
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer swung and missed when they traded a second-round pick for veteran Sam Darnold and agreed to exercise his fifth-year option. The 2018 first-round pick out of USC is due an $18.8 million check from Carolina (barring a preseason trade), regardless of what the Panthers do at No. 6 overall — their lone pick inside the first 100 selections in April’s draft. I’m of the opinion that Rhule and Fitterer have to shoot for the stars in an effort to keep their key fobs working at the Panthers’ facilities, and the result of that should be a quarterback here.
As has been reiterated throughout the offseason, the 2022 quarterback class is flawed. And Liberty signal-caller Malik Willis is among the most flawed and polarizing of the bunch, but his high-end athleticism and throw power combination is enough to bypass accuracy and processing concerns in a class without a complete quarterback prospect.
So many examples of just effortless throw power on Malik Willis' tape pic.twitter.com/jtHScivBDk
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) March 26, 2022
Do I have doubts that the situation in Carolina will draw out the best-case scenario for Willis’ development? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t the best decision for the franchise right now.
7. New York Giants (via Chicago): EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 14
Profile: 6’5”, 272 | Age: 21 (December 18, 2000)
Buy into every bit of Walker’s rapid ascent up draft boards. The former Georgia Bulldog is a 90-plus percentile athlete nearly across the board who can play anywhere along the defensive line. Production concerns are valid but also heavily correlated to inexperience and the role he was asked to play on defense. He played 500-plus fewer snaps than any of the top edge players in this class and has only ever lined up outside the tackles as a pure edge defender for 529 defensive snaps. Comparatively, Hutchinson, Thibodeaux and Purdue's George Karlaftis all cleared 1,300-plus snaps at such alignments in their respective college careers.
Adding Neal at No. 5 and Walker at No. 7 would be an absolute home run of a draft for New York’s brass. Walker can immediately play anywhere along the defensive line for the Giants and improve a pass-rush unit that ranked 27th in pressure rate (31%) in 2021.
8. Atlanta Falcons: CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
Big Board Rank: 9
Profile: 6’3”, 190 | Age: 21 (August 31, 2000)
Atlanta’s current arsenal of pass-catching weapons is neck-and-neck with the Green Bay Packers’ in terms of being the worst in the NFL, giving the Falcons’ brass ample reason to lock into a wide receiver early in the draft. USC’s Drake London or Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson both are viable first-round selections for Atlanta, but — in an effort to stick to the board and draft value over need — I lean Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner at No. 8 overall. He is a perfect scheme fit for what Dean Pees and the Falcons want to do on defense and should offer immediate production playing opposite of 2021 breakout A.J. Terrell.
9. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver): OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
Big Board Rank: 5
Profile: 6’5”, 307 | Age: 21 (November 25, 2000)
North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell or another top signal-caller prospect could be in consideration for Seattle at No. 9 overall, but I lean toward letting veteran Drew Lock lead the team to the top of the 2023 quarterback class over investing in any of the quarterbacks in this class after Willis.
While the Seahawks’ two starting offensive tackles in 2021 (Duane Brown and Brandon Shell) remain free agents, the need for talent on the bookends heightens. Charles Cross should be viewed as a top-10 talent in this class after showing promise as a pass protector in the Mike Leach offense and clearing a lot of the perceived measurable thresholds at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. He is currently PFF’s top offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft and the No. 8 overall player on the media consensus board.
10. New York Jets (via Seattle): WR Drake London, USC
Big Board Rank: 11
Profile: 6’4”, 219 | Age: 20 (July 24, 2001)
Going all-in on offense with their two top-10 selections in the 2022 NFL Draft should be the strategy for general manager Joe Douglas and the Jets’ front office as they continue to prioritize quarterback Zach Wilson’s development. Adding Ekwonu at No. 4 overall and then London at No. 10 chips away at the limitations of Wilson’s supporting cast, and London, especially, fills a glaring need for a big-bodied alpha in their receiving corps.
London is also so much more than just a big body. His ball skills and body control combine for excellent play at the catch point, and he is one of the best receivers in the class at creating yards after the catch.
11. Washington Commanders: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Big Board Rank: 12
Profile: 6’0”, 183 | Age: 21 (July 22, 2000)
The Commanders’ offense needs more firepower beyond Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims, Dyami Brown and Curtis Samuel to have success with Carson Wentz now under center. Wilson is a dynamic pass-catcher who can complement McLaurin immediately as the No. 2 option. His feet are a bit erratic in his routes and releases, but he can clean that up at the next level.
What can’t be coached is his innate separation ability and suddenness with and without the ball in his hands. He is currently DraftKings' favorite (+115) to be the first receiver off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft.
12. Minnesota Vikings: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
Big Board Rank: 3
Profile: 6’0”, 190 | Age: 20 (June 20, 2001)
Stingley would have been a No. 1 overall pick candidate if he was draft-eligible after his true freshman season in 2019. Injuries derailed a lot of his progress since leading all FBS cornerbacks in PFF grade that season, but it’s very likely we’ll never see as successful a campaign from any true freshman cornerback again. He allowed just 608 yards and five touchdowns across 589 coverage snaps while facing a slate of multiple NFL talents at receiver in DeVonta Smith, CeeDee Lamb, Van Jefferson and more. He played just 289 injury-plagued coverage snaps in the two seasons following his famed 2019.
Even though Minnesota signed former Green Bay Packers cornerback Chandon Sullivan in free agency, the team’s cornerback room is still in desperate need of upgrades. Sullivan, Kris Boyd and Cameron Dantzler project as the team’s top three cornerbacks right now.
13. Houston Texans: DI Jordan Davis, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 20
Profile: 6’6”, 341 | Age: 22 (January 12, 2000)
Davis is an impact starter right away in the NFL. He won’t be coveted for his pass-rushing skill set, but his ability to two-gap in the run game is second to none in this class. He’s the exact type of player that allows for NFL defenses to run light boxes without jeopardizing support in run defense, which combats at least some of the concerns surrounding his low snap volume at Georgia and positional value.
14. Baltimore Ravens: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
Big Board Rank: 10
Profile: 6’4”, 266 | Age: 20 (April 3, 2001)
A former Greek national water polo player, Karlaftis possesses rare lower-body strength that shows up in his pass-rushing ability and run defense consistently. There are also zero question marks surrounding his work ethic and motor, as Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm has called out multiple times that there wasn’t a player who worked harder or as consistently as Karlaftis with the Boilermakers. He earned a career-high 87.2 PFF grade and 90.7 pass-rushing grade as a junior in 2021.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami): EDGE Jermaine Johnson II, FSU
Big Board Rank: 26
Profile: 6’5”, 254 | Age: 23 (January 7, 1999)
Johnson’s rise up draft boards has been significant — at least from the media’s perspective — following standout performances at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. He was highlighted as one of the top performers through the first two days of practice in Mobile and tested out at the 90th percentile or better in the 40-yard dash (4.58s), 10-yard split (1.55s) and broad jump (125”) at the combine.
Even though Philadelphia will have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat all returning in 2022, Johnson should be viewed as an upgrade over Barnett and Sweat (if not all three players). Graham turns 34 years old in April and is coming off a torn Achilles, while Sweat and Barnett both failed to crack the top 25 in terms of PFF pass-rushing grade in 2021.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis): DI Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 17
Profile: 6’3”, 304 | Age: 23 (March 31, 1998)
Wyatt cleared the 80th percentile in the 10-yard split (1.66s), 40-yard dash (4.77s) and broad jump (111”) at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. He also earned a career-high 89.8 PFF grade and ranked in the 95th percentile for PFF pass-rushing grade on true pass sets. He and Johnson should dramatically improve the Eagles' ability to get after the passer and set them up for long-term success as Graham and Fletcher Cox get older.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
Big Board Rank: 16
Profile: 6’1”, 179 | 21 (March 26, 2001)
After adding J.C. Jackson, Khalil Mack, Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson all in free agency, Los Angeles can turn its attention to the offensive side of the ball at No. 17 overall, especially if Georgia’s Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt are already off the board. Jameson Williams is coming off a torn ACL and likely won’t be 100% healthy until the back half of the 2022 season, but he’s a unique talent with rare speed that the Chargers’ brass can capitalize on knowing he’d likely come off the board much earlier if he didn’t get hurt in January.
18. New Orleans Saints: QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Big Board Rank: 43
Profile: 6’3”, 211 | Age: 22 (August 31, 1999)
Jameis Winston simply isn’t the future at the quarterback position for the Saints or any NFL team. He’s yet to show any reason otherwise, at least. New Orleans can initiate its search for a franchise signal-caller while prioritizing rookie contracts at premium positions to positively impact the team's current cap situation by selecting Ridder or another quarterback at No. 18.
Ridder is a legit athlete at 6-foot-3, 211 pounds with more than 1,500 career collegiate dropbacks under his belt. Compared to the other top quarterbacks in the 2022 class, he is best positioned to start right away. He earned a career-high 90.7 PFF grade and made 26 big-time throws in the Bearcats’ College Football Playoff run last season.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
Big Board Rank: 15
Profile: 6’3”, 237 | Age: N/A
Lloyd was a heat-seeking missile and an every-down impact player for the Utes. He earned a 91.1 PFF grade as one of college football’s top defenders in 2021. He steps in as an immediate difference-maker for an Eagles defense without any high-end talent at off-ball linebacker.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Sam Howell, UNC
Big Board Rank: 22
Profile: 6’1”, 218 | Age: 21 (September 16, 2000)
Pickett is a more likely candidate for the Steelers than Sam Howell, considering his Pittsburgh ties and where the consensus leans in terms of evaluation between the two signal-callers, but I like Howell for Mike Tomlin and company.
He has a rocket arm and good athletic ability for the position. He also gets ahead of a lot of the Baker Mayfield comparisons with his exceedingly better pocket presence. Accuracy is definitely a concern with Howell, especially when isolating his non-vertical lead throws, but it’s not too far off of Willis’ and far from a death knell for his NFL prospects. He also ranked first among Power Five quarterbacks in forced missed tackles (65) and second in total rushing yards (647) in 2021.
21. New England Patriots: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
Big Board Rank: 21
Profile: 6’0”, 187 | Age: 21 (June 27, 2000)
The Patriots likely avoid the wide receiver position in Round 1 if they can’t get their hands on London, considering their tendency to gravitate toward bigger receivers, but I love the fit for Olave in their offense. Bill Belichick spent big on pass-catchers in free agency a year ago with the additions of Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, but the offense is still without a consistent force at the receiver position outside of Jakobi Meyers.
Olave is a smooth route-runner who should consistently create separation at all areas of the field in the NFL, a skill set Mac Jones and the Patriots’ offense could desperately use as the team fights to match the firepower added to the rest of the AFC East this offseason.
22. Green Bay Packers: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
Big Board Rank: 8
Profile: 5’11”, 193 | Age: 21 (February 28, 2001)
McDuffie is a clean cornerback prospect with plus coverage ability and athleticism to overcome length and size concerns. He won’t be everyone’s cup of tea because of his sub-30-inch arms, but he’s exactly the type of cornerback Green Bay covets and draws a lot of similarities to current Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander.
23. Arizona Cardinals: CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
Big Board Rank: 27
Profile: 6’0”, 194 | Age: 21 (September 28, 2000)
Booth, a former five-star recruit, is an aggressive tackler and a smooth athlete who improved his PFF grade every year of his Clemson career. The 6-foot, 195-pounder closed the 2021 season with a 78.7 PFF coverage grade, having allowed just 29 receptions for 312 yards on 46 targets. He also allowed just two touchdowns while logging three pass breakups and three picks.
2022 NFL Draft position rankings:
Top 10 players at every position
QB | RB | WR | TE | iOL | OT | DI | EDGE | LB | CB | S
24. Dallas Cowboys: OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
Big Board Rank: 13
Profile: 6’6”, 303 | Age: 24 (September 23, 1997)
One of the biggest risers following the 2021 college football season, Raimann earned a 94.6 overall grade, 88.7 pass-blocking grade and 94.6 run-blocking grade with Central Michigan this year. He didn’t earn a PFF grade above 75.1 in any season prior. Expect his 2021 campaign and a strong Senior Bowl to vault him into the first round.
25. Buffalo Bills: IOL Zion Johnson, Boston College
Big Board Rank: 32
Profile: 6’3”, 312 | Age: 22 (November 18, 1999)
Johnson is a plug-and-play rookie at guard in the NFL. He is easily the top guard prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft and showed that and then some at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl. He earned a career-high 84.4 PFF grade in 2021 and played more than 1,400 snaps at left guard and more than 700 snaps at left tackle in his Boston College career.
26. Tennessee Titans: C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Big Board Rank: 19
Profile: 6’2”, 296 | Age: 21 (April 7, 2000)
Linderbaum finished the 2021 season as PFF’s highest-graded interior offensive lineman and the top-ranked interior offensive lineman expected to enter the 2022 NFL Draft. He’ll likely slip in the first round due to positional value, but I doubt he gets past Tennessee at Pick No. 26.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Boye Mafe, Minnesota
Big Board Rank: 34
Profile: 6’4”, 261 | Age: 23 (November 30, 1998)
Mafe is a wildly explosive player with a high pass-rushing ceiling at the next level. At 6-foot-3 and 261 pounds, the former Minnesota edge defender tested at the 87th percentile or better in the 10-yard split (1.59s), 40-yard dash (4.53s), vertical jump (38”) and broad jump (92”).
28. Green Bay Packers: WR George Pickens, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 57
Profile: 6’3”, 195 | Age: 21 (March 4, 2001)
Pickens caught just 90 passes in his college career, and more than half of them came in his true freshman season in 2019. Injuries prevented him from building on his stellar start with Georgia, but a fully healthy Pickens very well could be one of the top three receivers who come out of the 2022 NFL Draft.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (via Miami): WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
Big Board Rank: 31
Profile: 6’2”, 225 | Age: 22 (March 23, 2000)
Burks is built like a taller running back at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. He dominates after the catch and will surprise defensive backs with his speed, regardless of whether the ball is in his hands. He’ll likely assume a slot role at the next level, but he’ll still command a lot of attention from the inside. He earned 88.0-plus receiving grades in back-to-back seasons to close out his career at Arkansas.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
Big Board Rank: 29
Profile: 6’1”, 191 | Age: 20 (May 5, 2001)
Elam’s PFF grade isn’t all that impressive, but a lot of that is because of costly penalties. He still allowed just 19 receptions for 191 yards on 34 targets this season while going toe-to-toe with top-end SEC receiver talent. He's an immediate starter for Kansas City, especially now that veteran Charvarius Ward has signed with San Francisco.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
Big Board Rank: 41
Profile: 6’2”, 250 | Age: N/A
Cincinnati added three upgrades along the offensive line in free agency, which should keep the team from locking into a lineman at No. 31 overall. Veterans Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard have both played well for the Bengals, but the team overall still ranked 25th in team pressure rate in 2021. Hubbard also hasn’t earned a 65.0-plus PFF pass-rushing grade in any year of his NFL career.
32. Detroit Lions: LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 18
Profile: 5’11”, 229 | Age: 21 (December 13, 2000)
Dean possesses many of the traits NFL defenses look for in a modern off-ball linebacker. He’s a rangy athlete with insane explosiveness, and that shows up in the passing game when blitzing and in coverage. He earned a 91.6 pass-rushing grade and a 90.5 coverage grade as a key piece of the top-ranked Georgia defense in 2021.
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