The 2022 NFL Draft class is loaded at edge defender, offensive tackle, cornerback and wide receiver. Positional value and a league-wide quarterback need could push as many as three signal-callers into the first round, but that need could also be filled via a couple of blockbuster trades.
I have three trades in this two-round mock draft: The Washington Commanders secure Russell Wilson, the Pittsburgh Steelers acquire Derek Carr and the Denver Broncos make a splash move for Aaron Rodgers. Here is how the first two rounds would shake out if I were the general manager for all 32 NFL teams.
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1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Hutchinson is PFF’s top player in the 2022 NFL Draft and the obvious choice for Jacksonville at No. 1 overall.
Size, athleticism and production — Hutchinson has it all. In the PFF College era (2014-21), only Chase Young and Josh Allen have earned a higher single-season pass-rushing grade than Hutchinson’s 93.6 in 2021. The Michigan phenom also led all Power Five defenders in total pressures (73), 15 of which came against an Ohio State offensive line that was in the running for the Joe Moore Award before their November trip to Ann Arbor.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder should only continue to turn heads at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Coming in at No. 2 on Bruce Feldman’s 2021 College Football Freaks List, Hutchinson reportedly timed a 6.54-second three-cone, 36-inch vertical, 4.07-second short shuttle and 4.64-second 40-yard dash.
“He’s gonna test really well when he goes to the combine,” one source said to Feldman. “He has a huge chip on his shoulder and can be right where Kwity [Paye] was [in those agility numbers], running low 4.6s with a mid-30s vert, but he’s over 6-6, and he’s gonna bench  in the 30s.”
2. Detroit Lions: Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
ESPN’s Todd McShay voiced concerns with Thibodeaux’s stock on his podcast First Draft after talking with NFL evaluators at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl. McShay currently has Thibodeaux as the No. 7 overall player in the class and said that multiple people — “at least four different guys” — don’t view him as a lock for No. 1 or No. 2 overall and that he could fall out of the top-five picks in April’s draft.
I don’t discredit what McShay has heard and do believe people in the NFL are lower on Thibodeaux than current media consensus, but my understanding is that such beliefs are not a product of his on-field performance or talent. And until there are legit football reasons backing his slide, he remains a lock for No. 2 overall for me.
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Thibodeaux earned a 91.3 PFF pass-rushing grade that ranked fourth among all Power Five edge defenders in 2021, behind only Hutchinson (93.6), South Carolina’s Kingsley Enagbare (92.5) and Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto (92.5). Thibodeaux is a premier player at a premium position — throw need out the window if he’s available when Detroit is on the clock.
3. Houston Texans: OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
At 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, Ekwonu has guard-tackle versatility but earned a legitimate shot to start his NFL career at offensive tackle after his spectacular 2021 campaign at left tackle with the Wolfpack. He earned a 91.6 overall grade and 93.8 run-blocking grade across more than 800 offensive snaps this season, the latter of which ranks sixth among all single-season marks for Power Five tackles since 2014. He’s a true road-grader in the run game with improved polish and footwork in pass protection. A player with his skill set shouldn't fall past the first 10 picks in the draft.
4. New York Jets: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
The Jets cornerback room is bereft of talent, and Derek Stingley Jr. is a premier cornerback prospect. New York’s brass should have no issue turning the card in early if he’s available at No. 4.
Stingley's true freshman season will go down as one of the most impressive campaigns in college football history. At just 18 years of age, he earned a 91.7 PFF grade and should have won the Jim Thorpe Award for best defensive back in the country.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder battled injuries every season since but will do away with any lingering doubt when he reports to the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine fully healthy and tests out of this world.
5. New York Giants: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Evan Neal will draw comparisons to Tristan Wirfs throughout the pre-draft process because of his rare size-athleticism combination. The 6-foot-7, 350-pound behemoth landed at No. 1 on Bruce Feldman’s College Football Freaks List and drew insanely high praise for his explosiveness.
“At his size, he is the most impressive lower-body power athlete we have ever seen,” Alabama director of sports science Matt Rhea said to Feldman. “His jumping power is in the top 1% we have ever measured. At 350 pounds, he routinely hits box jumps at 48 inches.”
Always looking to one up myself! @MattRheaPhD @UA_CoachBallou pic.twitter.com/mEkce64Eqy
— Evan Neal (@ENeal73) July 12, 2021
6. Carolina Panthers: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
The 2022 NFL Draft class is rich in offensive tackle talent, and Cross is a big contributor to the class’ strength. PFF Lead Draft Analyst Mike Renner identified the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Cross as a potential riser before the 2021 college football season on Tailgate, and the big man rose to the occasion.
After earning just a 64.4 PFF grade in 2020, Cross turned in an 86.7 overall grade, 84.9 pass-blocking grade and 87.2 run-blocking grade across 900-plus offensive snaps at left tackle this season. He’s a smooth mover with great mobility for the position — traits Carolina should chase at the top end of the draft.
7. New York Giants: Edge George Karlaftis, Purdue
Karlaftis will get tagged as just a lunchpail type with a high motor in a lot of lazy analysis this draft season, but he’s so much more than that. The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder was extremely productive for Purdue this season and should surprise with his athletic testing at the combine.
Karlaftis, another Feldman Freaks List member, reportedly recorded a 10-foot-1 broad jump, 37.5-inch vertical and 4.69-second 40-yard dash at just over 270 pounds this offseason. Boilermakers head coach Jeff Brohm also raved about Karlaftis’ efforts on and off the field in a Tailgate interview before the season.
8. Atlanta Falcons: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Safety isn’t a premium position, and it is relatively low on the positional value chart because of it, but Kyle Hamilton is different. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, the Notre Dame star legitimately has all of the sideline-to-sideline range, size and ball skills to be a game-changer, regardless of scheme or role at the next level.
9. Green Bay Packers (via Denver): WR Drake London, USC
Big Board Rank: 10
- Broncos send 2022 first-round pick, 2023 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick and 2022 third-round pick for QB Aaron Rodgers
- Packers Dead Money: $26.8M
- Broncos Inherited Contract: One-year, $26.9M
The writing is on the wall for 2021 NFL MVP and future Hall of Fame signal-caller Aaron Rodgers to play elsewhere in 2022. And after hiring former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as head coach this offseason, Denver is a likely trade destination for Rodgers if both parties can get a deal done.
If Green Bay is on the clock at No. 9 overall as a result of this trade, expect their sights to be set on London to either play opposite or replace soon-to-be free agent wideout Davante Adams. With or without Rodgers under center, the Packers desperately need pass-catching talent.
London’s stellar 2021 campaign was unfortunately cut short after he fractured his right ankle in Week 9 against Arizona. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder won’t be a burner by any means, but he’s a polished possession receiver who has thrived both in contested-catch situations and after the catch. He’ll play inside and outside at the next level and should assume a very productive role early in his NFL career.
10. New York Jets (via Seattle): WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Big Board Rank: 13
This offseason, the top of the list for New York has to be equipping second-year quarterback Zach Wilson with every weapon possible to support his development. Throwing everything and the kitchen sink at offensive skill players and linemen starts with adding such players in free agency and then doubling down with a player like Wilson at No. 10 overall.
Wilson has improved every season of his career at Ohio State and caught 70-of-102 targets for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns on his way to an 84.1 PFF grade in 2021. He’s a smooth route-runner with spectacular-catch ability and dynamism with and without the ball in his hands.
11. Seattle Seahawks (via Washington): QB Sam Howell, UNC
Big Board Rank: 20
- Commanders send 2022 first-round pick, 2023 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick for QB Russell Wilson
- Seahawks Dead Money: $26M
- Commanders Inherited Contract: Two years, $51M
If the rumors mount to results and Seattle does pull the trigger on a Russell Wilson trade, Washington is a realistic landing spot for his services. The Commanders shouldn’t consider themselves in rebuild mode with a roster chock full of talent at multiple premium positions. That’s not to say they fit into the tried trope that is “being a quarterback away,” but they’re closer than a lot of other quarterback-needy teams and should view a trade for Wilson as the shorter path to a Super Bowl than drafting a rookie signal-caller at No. 11 overall.
On the other hand, Seattle essentially enters rebuild mode with Wilson off to the nation’s capital. While Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf both stand out as top-end talents at the wide receiver position, the Seahawks enter the offseason with offensive line, pass-rushing and secondary units that all arguably rank outside the top 20 in the NFL right now. Their focus shifts to hitting on picks and identifying their quarterback of the future, starting with a swing of the bat on PFF’s QB1.
Howell watched his top receivers and top running backs go onto the NFL while he stayed back at Chapel Hill, and he still managed to earn a 90.0 PFF grade in 2021. The drop-off in talent with his supporting cast took a baseball bat to UNC’s chances in the ACC, but Howell still showed out as one of college football’s top signal-callers. He has a rocket arm with plus mobility for the position, enough for Seattle to pull the trigger on his talents at No. 11 overall.
12. Minnesota Vikings: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
What McDuffie lacks in size — 5-foot-11, 195 pounds — he makes up for in short-area quicks and polish. On 296 coverage snaps in 2021, he allowed just 16 catches from 36 targets for 111 yards and zero touchdowns, earning an impressive 88.7 PFF coverage grade in the process.
13. Cleveland Browns: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
Big Board Rank: 19
Ohio State’s Chris Olave is a former high school track star with solid straight-line speed and smooth route-running ability. He averaged more than 3.0 yards per route run in his 2019 and 2020 campaigns before a crowded 2021 Buckeye receiver room drove his target share down.
14. Baltimore Ravens: CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
Big Board Rank: 11
A physical, uber-talented cover corner, Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner had one of the most impressive seasons we’ve ever seen for a college cornerback. He played 448 coverage snaps and allowed receptions on just 17-of-36 targets for 117 yards and zero touchdowns.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami): Edge David Ojabo, Michigan
Big Board Rank: 26
There’s no debating that Michigan edge defender David Ojabo had an absurd 2021 campaign. Having started his football career in 2017, he played just 26 defensive snaps for the Wolverines in 2020 before exploding with 41 pressures and an 88.2 pass-rushing grade this season. He’s a raw prospect who will need to test through the roof at the combine to go in the first round come April, but that’s well within the realm of possibility for the young superstar.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis): CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
Big Board Rank: 18
Booth, a former five-star recruit, is an aggressive tackler and 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.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
Big Board Rank: 17
The Ohio State duo will attract a number of suitors in April’s draft, but Williams will be the favorite for every team looking to add freaky high-end speed at the position. A finalist for the 2021 Fred Biletnikoff Award, Williams caught 67-of-102 targets for 1,434 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. He also dropped just six passes all year long while averaging north of 3.1 yards per route run on an absurdly high 15.2-yard average depth of target. He is the class’ premier deep threat and a perfect complement to what Keenan Allen offers in Los Angeles, especially with Mike Williams expected to enter 2022 free agency.
The injury he suffered against Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship will obviously affect his draft stock, but a successful surgery should keep him from falling completely out of the first round barring any unforeseen hiccups with his recovery.
18. New Orleans Saints: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
Big Board Rank: 22
The Saints don’t have the cap luxury to chase a veteran quarterback via trade this offseason, which should turn their attention to any of the top signal-callers in the 2022 NFL Draft at No. 18 overall.
Willis’ 2021 campaign was a bit of a roller coaster but also extremely hard to evaluate, given the disaster that was the Liberty offensive line. However, he still earned a 90.9 PFF grade and flashed a lot of high-end traits that will play at the next level if given a fair shot to develop with even an average supporting cast.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
Big Board Rank: 14
“Draft Twitter” will fall in love with Devin Lloyd. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Utah off-ball linebacker 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.
20. Las Vegas Raiders (via Pittsburgh): QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Big Board Rank: 32
- Steelers send 2022 first-round pick, 2023 first-round pick, 2022 third-round pick for QB Derek Carr
- Raiders Dead Money: $0
- Steelers Inherited Contract: One year, $19.8M
Las Vegas trading veteran quarterback Derek Carr became an increasingly unlikely scenario when the team hired Josh McDaniels to be its next head coach this offseason, but the Steelers could ultimately make an offer the Raiders’ brass can’t refuse. Pittsburgh’s roster is in a better position to win with Carr than Las Vegas' squad, as evidenced by their playoff berth with the version of Ben Roethlisberger (PFF’s 33rd-ranked quarterback) we all witnessed this past season.
The Raiders, on the other hand, are in desperate need of upgrades at receiver, four positions along the offensive line, linebacker and cornerback before their roster is even considered in the top half of the league. Fully committing to a rebuild with a wealth of first-round picks should be the preferred option over signing Carr to a $40 million per year contract with a roster lacking talent at premium positions.
If McDaniels and the Raiders do pull the trigger on the Carr trade, starting their search for the quarterback of the future with Ridder could make sense for both parties. The Cincinnati signal-caller has received the “pro-ready” label from several draft analysts because of his significant experience and growth with the Bearcats, culminating in a 90.7 overall grade in 2021 (16th in FBS).
21. New England Patriots: Edge Travon Walker, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 23
At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Walker is a project defensive lineman with an absurd size-speed combination but little polish in his pass-rushing repertoire. That’s not to say he can’t make a positive impact as a Year 1 starter, however. He should hit the ground running as a power rusher with inside-outside versatility.
22. Las Vegas Raiders: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
Big Board Rank: 29
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.
23. Arizona Cardinals: C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Big Board Rank: 12
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 Arizona at Pick 24.
24. Dallas Cowboys: IOL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Big Board Rank: 21
Green played 80-plus offensive snaps at left tackle, left guard, right guard and right tackle in 2021, and he still earned a career-high 79.8 PFF grade despite the constant positioning shifts. Teams will appreciate his versatility at the next level, but he’ll come off the board inside the first 50 picks of April’s draft more so because of what he can develop into at either guard position in the NFL. The 6-foot-4, 325-pounder projects as a Day 1 starter on the interior with a legit chance of developing into one of the league’s marquee guards.
25. Buffalo Bills: DI Jordan Davis, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 39
Davis could very well go higher in the actual draft come April, but the 6-foot-6, 340-pounder's lack of pass-rushing prowess ultimately drops him to the back end of the first round in this mock. He managed only 30 career pressures in college and totaled just 14 in the 2021 season. Of course, his ability to two-gap and positively affect the run game every time he takes the field should ultimately draw interest in the first round.
26. Tennessee Titans: Edge Jermaine Johnson II, FSU
Big Board Rank: 27
Johnson, who transferred from Georgia before the 2021 season, recorded an 81.1 PFF grade and 46 total pressures for the Seminoles last season. Both were easily career-highs, helping bump Johnson into the Round 1 conversation.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DI Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 25
While Jordan Davis drew the national spotlight, Wyatt quietly put together an equally (if not more) impressive season with Georgia last season. An uber-explosive athlete for his size (6-foot-3, 315), Wyatt won as a pass-rusher and run defender because of his get-off and finesse. He ranked inside the 90th percentile at his position in PFF pass-rushing grade and run-stop percentage in 2021.
2022 NFL Draft position rankings:
Top 10 players at every position
QB | RB | WR | TE | iOL | OT | DI | EDGE | LB | CB | S
28. Green Bay Packers: LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 16
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.
29. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco): OT Bernhard Raimann, CMU
Big Board Rank: 15
One of the biggest risers following the 2021 college football season, the 6-foot-7, 305-pound 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.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
Big Board Rank: 31
Elam’s PFF grade isn’t all that impressive, but a lot of that is because of some 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.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Trevor Penning, UNI
Big Board Rank: 24
Penning is currently PFF’s No. 24 overall player and No. 4 offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft. The former Northern Iowa offensive lineman is a freaky athlete for his size who showcased plenty of nastiness in his time at the Senior Bowl in early February. He earned a 94.2 overall grade and 97.2 run-blocking grade in 2021.
32. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles): QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Big Board Rank: 34
Corral will be in the conversation for top quarterback in the 2022 class after wrapping up his Rebels career with back-to-back 85.0-plus PFF grades (2020 and 2021). He’ll get knocked in the evaluation process for Ole Miss’ RPO-heavy offense and a lack of strong tape when working past his first read, but Corral’s arm talent and athleticism are enough to build on at the next level if paired with an offensive coordinator who can mature his game.
Even if Detroit benches or goes as far as to cut veteran quarterback Jared Goff, the team is on the hook for $30 million — the ninth-highest cap hit among NFL quarterbacks. It’s a sunk cost the Lions’ brass willfully signed up for when they received him, two first-round picks and a third-round pick in exchange for Matthew Stafford.
That doesn’t mean Detroit has to start Goff and kick the can on their search for a franchise quarterback. Paying him $30 million to ride the pine while swinging the bat on a prospect like Corral is a better use of resources than watching him play Detroit out of the top-end quarterback prospects in 2023 to the tune of four-plus wins in 2022.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma
Big Board Rank: 33
34. Detroit Lions: DB Jalen Pitre, Baylor
Big Board Rank: 28
35. Houston Texans: WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
Big Board Rank: 38
36. New York Jets: CB Daxton Hill, Michigan
Big Board Rank: 40
37. New York Giants: Edge Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina
Big Board Rank: 35
38. New York Jets (via Carolina): LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
Big Board Rank: 37
39. Chicago Bears: IOL Zion Johnson, Boston College
Big Board Rank: 41
40. Atlanta Falcons: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Big Board Rank: 47
41. Green Bay Packers (via Denver): Edge DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
Big Board Rank: 43
42. Seattle Seahawks: Edge Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
Big Board Rank: 46
43. Seattle Seahawks (via Washington): CB Roger McCreary, Auburn
Big Board Rank: 49
44. Minnesota Vikings: Edge Boye Mafe, Minnesota
Big Board Rank: 48
45. Cleveland Browns: DI Travis Jones, UConn
Big Board Rank: 45
46. Baltimore Ravens: Edge Drake Jackson, USC
Big Board Rank: 44
47. Miami Dolphins: Edge Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
Big Board Rank: 56
48. Indianapolis Colts: QB Carson Strong, Nevada
Big Board Rank: 65
49. Los Angeles Chargers: DI Logan Hall, Houston
Big Board Rank: 52
50. New Orleans Saints: WR Skyy Moore, Western Michigan
Big Board Rank: 30
51. Philadelphia Eagles: S Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
Big Board Rank: 38
52. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Kyler Gordon, Washington
Big Board Rank: 50
53. New England Patriots: S Lewis Cine, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 36
54. Las Vegas Raiders: LB Christian Harris, Alabama
Big Board Rank: 53
55. Arizona Cardinals: WR George Pickens, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 59
56. Dallas Cowboys: Edge Cameron Thomas, San Diego State
Big Board Rank: 54
57. Buffalo Bills: Edge Nik Bonnito, Oklahoma
Big Board Rank: 51
58. Atlanta Falcons (via Tennessee): IOL Dylan Parham, Memphis
Big Board Rank: 68
59. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Justyn Ross, Clemson
Big Board Rank: 61
60. Green Bay Packers: LB Chad Muma, Wyoming
Big Board Rank: 57
61. San Francisco 49ers: OT Darian Kinnard, Kentucky
Big Board Rank: 60
62. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama
Big Board Rank: 58
63. Cincinnati Bengals: OL Jamaree Salyer, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 69
64. Green Bay Packers (via Denver via Los Angeles): TE Trey McBride, Colorado State
Big Board Rank: 63