The first wave of NFL free agency is almost over and team needs are all but finalized, which means its time to cast an eye to the upcoming NFL Draft.
This three-round NFL mock draft represents what I'd do right now if I took over as general manager for all 32 NFL teams. Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson remains the crown jewel of the class, and three quarterbacks come off the board in the first round.
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1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: EDGE AIDAN HUTCHINSON, MICHIGAN
This pick is a no-brainer at this point, especially after Jacksonville franchise tagged Cam Robinson yet again. There’s no reason to draft for need at the top of the draft, so go get the best overall player in Hutchinson. He was the highest-graded defender in college football last year.
2. DETROIT LIONS: T IKEM EKWONU, N.C. STATE
You want the best run-blocking offensive line in the NFL? Because you just got it. Ekwonu can slot in at guard immediately while developing to be Taylor Decker’s eventual replacement at left tackle. The Power Five leader in big-time blocks would create a juggernaut offensive line in Detroit.
3. HOUSTON TEXANS: T EVAN NEAL, ALABAMA
The Texans simply need good players at valuable positions, and Neal ticks both of those boxes. Even if they don’t move Laremy Tunsil, Neal has played right tackle as recently as 2020.
4. NEW YORK JETS: EDGE KAYVON THIBODEAUX, OREGON
I’m not buying the slide, given how perfect a fit Thibodeaux is for Robert Saleh’s defense. He may not be NFL-ready out the gate, but he’s got the kind of tools to be a force off the edge.
5. NEW YORK GIANTS: T CHARLES CROSS, MISSISSIPPI STATE
The run on tackles continues. The Giants are almost assuredly going to take one with how the talent is stacking up in the class. Arguably the most NFL-ready pass-protector in the class, he took massive strides from 2020 to 2021 in that regard allowing only 16 pressures last season.
6. CAROLINA PANTHERS: QB MALIK WILLIS, LIBERTY
As much as you’d love to get more picks after the Sam Darnold trade, the Panthers will still have time to build an offensive line by the time Willis is likely ready to take over in Year 2. They’ll also have the cap space to do so once Darnold’s contract comes off the books.
7. NEW YORK GIANTS (VIA CHI): EDGE TRAVON WALKER, GEORGIA
You won’t find any advanced stats from Walker’s on-field performance that suggest he should be drafted this high. But any analysis of his combine performance puts him as one of the best athletes on the edge of all time. That’s a lot of developmental tools to work with.
8. ATLANTA FALCONS: EDGE JERMAINE JOHNSON, FLORIDA STATE
Johnson is one of the most polished prospects at the position in the draft class. Watching him set the edge is teaching tape. He can be the pocket-collapser that Atlanta has desperately been looking for the last handful of years.
9. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: T TREVOR PENNING, NORTHERN IOWA
Tom Cable may be long gone at this point, but his spirit lives on in this selection. Penning is the single nastiest offensive lineman in the draft class, and he wants to hurt the man across from him — so much so that he earned an absurd 99.9 grade against FCS competition last year.
10. NEW YORK JETS: CB AHMAD “SAUCE” GARDNER, CINCINNATI
The Jets can very easily lock down the cornerstones of their defense with two top-10 picks in this draft. Gardner was born to play cornerback for Robert Saleh. He allowed a 31.8 passer rating on throws into his coverage in his entire college career.
11. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS: S KYLE HAMILTON, NOTRE DAME
One need look no further than this year’s safety market in free agency to see why a talent like Hamilton could fall. The Commanders aren’t complaining in this scenario, though. Hamilton could even slot next to Jamin Davis if they wanted him and his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame to do so.
12. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: CB TRENT MCDUFFIE, WASHINGTON
McDuffie is a perfect scheme fit for Ed Donatell’s defense. He’s quite easily the headiest corner in the draft class and only allowed 111 yards all last season. He’s the No. 1 corner they were looking for when they drafted Jeff Gladney.
13. CLEVELAND BROWNS: WR DRAKE LONDON, USC
Finally, a receiver comes off the board as the Browns completely overhaul their receiver room in one offseason. London has the best ball skills of any receiver in the draft class with the easy ability to haul in passes outside his frame or through contact. His 19 contested catches led the nation last year.
14. BALTIMORE RAVENS: DI JORDAN DAVIS, GEORGIA
The Ravens defensive line has been decimated in recent years without much talent stepping up to replenish it. Davis can fix that overnight. He’s deadly on the stunts and slants this defense loves.
15. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: CB DEREK STINGLEY, LSU
If he gets any sort of clean bill of health prior to the draft, the Eagles can’t pass on a talent like Stingley. Pairing him with Darius Slay immediately transforms their cornerback room. Stingley has the best pure man-coverage traits in the draft and only allowed a completion percentage of 39.2% in his career.
16. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: DI DEVONTE WYATT, GEORGIA
No one loves investing in their defensive line more than Howie Roseman. With Fletcher Cox on the steady decline, the Eagles tab one of the few 300-plus-pounders in combine history who tested out more explosive than Cox to be his replacement.
17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: WR JAMESON WILLIAMS, ALABAMA
Williams may not be ready by Week 1 after tearing his ACL in the National Championship Game, but after the offseason the Chargers have had so far, they’ll be thinking more about a playoff run. Williams provides something that offense is desperately missing: pure deep speed. His 20.0 yards per catch figure last year was the best of any top receiver in the class.
18. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: WR GARRETT WILSON, OHIO STATE
The Saints get another Ohio State receiver in the mix. This one has a little more field-stretching ability, though. Wilson can get open at every level of the defense and is a weapon in the screen game, with 19 broken tackles last season.
19. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: EDGE GEORGE KARLAFTIS, PURDUE
Karlaftis is arguably the best power rusher in the draft class. With Brandon Graham nearing the end of the line, Karlaftis can be a seamless replacement. He’s a consistent bull-rusher who put up 54 pressures for the Boilermakers last season.
20. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: QB KENNY PICKETT, PITTSBURGH
Mitchell Trubisky is not the future. Kenny Pickett can be. The Panther legend stays home and gets a chance to compete for a starting job Day 1. Of all the quarterbacks in this draft class, Pickett had the highest overall grade last season.
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21. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: LB DEVIN LLOYD, UTAH
The Pats trade for linebacker Mack Wilson may signal that they are in play for a smaller linebacker than their normal 250-pound-plus type. Lloyd can fit that bill while still being a threat as a blitzer. He racked up 31 pressures and an 88.4 pass-rushing grade last season.
22. GREEN BAY PACKERS (VIA RAIDERS): WR CHRIS OLAVE, OHIO STATE
With Davante Adams' move to Las Vegas, the Packers should invest as much possible in their receiver room. Olave is one of the most pro-ready receivers in this class and should have an immediate positive effect on the passing offense.
23. ARIZONA CARDINALS: EDGE DAVID OJABO, MICHIGAN
Ojabo slots in as the replacement for Chandler Jones across from J.J. Watt. He’s far less of a project than he’s been billed as, and he is far more an ascending prospect who is relatively new to the game. His 87.3 pass-rushing grade last season didn’t happen solely because he’s a high-end athlete.
24. DALLAS COWBOYS: EDGE BOYE MAFE, MINNESOTA
Mafe made himself some serious cheddar in the pre-draft process. He had the highest pass-rushing grade of anyone in the week of Senior Bowl practices then put together an outstanding combine performance for a 260-pounder. With Randy Gregory walking, the need is there in a big way.
25. BUFFALO BILLS: G ZION JOHNSON, BOSTON COLLEGE
Brandon Bean has historically coveted valuable positions early in drafts. The Bills' first selection in each of the past three drafts has been along the defensive line. That being said, the dire straits at guard may force his hand. Johnson is as NFL-ready as it gets after allowing only six pressures last season.
26. TENNESSEE TITANS: QB MATT CORRAL, OLE MISS
Ryan Tannehill just got expensive. The contract he signed two years ago is finally coming back to roost, with cap hits of $38.6 million and $38.8 million the next two years. It’s going to be difficult for the Titans to keep their roster together with those cap hits making Tannehill a candidate to be moved at some point. If that’s the case, it would be some well-planned forethought to have Corral waiting in the wings.
27. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: S LEWIS CINE, GEORGIA
With Jordan Whitehead gone to the Jets, the Bucs may look for his replacement to keep Mike Edwards in the slot role he played last year. Cine is the kind of elite athlete who would pair perfectly with Antoine Winfield Jr.
28. GREEN BAY PACKERS: T BERNHARD RAIMANN, CENTRAL MICHIGAN
It’s not a sexy pick, but it’s how the Packers operate. Raimann is yet another in the line of athletic tackles that the Packers have coveted over the years. He can slot in at left guard early in his career while being the heir apparent to David Bakhtiari.
29. MIAMI DOLPHINS: C TYLER LINDERBAUM, IOWA
Not every scheme will covet Linderbaum highly, but Miami certainly qualifies as one. They’ve invested a lot of draft capital in recent years into the line, but until any of them come good they can’t just stop. Linderbaum was the highest-graded center in college football each of the past two seasons.
30. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: CB KAIIR ELAM, FLORIDA
Elam is the dream scenario for the Chiefs after losing Charvarius Ward in free agency. The man is built to play press coverage and the Chiefs played more of that than any team in the NFL last season.
31. CINCINNATI BENGALS: DI TRAVIS JONES, UCONN
Jones has been a big pre-draft riser after the Senior Bowl and combine. Even though the Bengals re-signed B.J. Hill and still have D.J. Reader, they employed a healthy defensive tackle rotation last year that saw Larry Ogunjobi also play 752 snaps. Jones can seamlessly replace those snaps while keeping the Bengals defensive front stout.
32. DETROIT LIONS: WR TREYLON BURKS, ARKANSAS
The Lions now remake their receiving room with one speedster in D.J. Chark and one power forward in Burks. Burks has been one of the best YAC receivers in the country, averaging 9.3 yards after the catch per reception last year.