1. JAX: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE Michigan
Unlike in most years, there is some intrigue at the top of the draft. Without a clear-cut first overall pick, the Jaguars will have to make a tough choice. It’s not actually that tough though, because Hutchinson should be the pick. He was one of the most productive defenders in college last season and should be able to translate that talent to the next level. Plus, he seems like the type of player that can be one of the faces of a franchise for years to come. He may not develop into an All-Pro player like some edge rushers atop other drafts but he should at least form a very capable pass-rushing duo with Josh Allen that will attempt to turn Jacksonville back into Sacksonville.
2. DET: Travon Walker, EDGE Georgia
Detroit’s pick should be fairly simple. Take either Hutchinson or Walker, whoever Jacksonville doesn’t pick. Walker had one of the most amazing combines in recent memory and has skyrocketed up draft boards as a result. He has immense potential as a pass rusher and at the very least will be a stellar run defender. The downside with Walker is that he didn’t produce enough in college and wasn’t even the best defensive lineman on his team. But playing the upside game is common at edge rusher and when the player has the tools and freakish physical ability that Walker has, you take that chance 10 times out of 10.
3. HOU: Ikem Ekwonu, OT NC State
Ekwonu may not be the most refined tackle prospect to ever enter that draft but what he lacks in polish he makes up for with pure talent. He is an incredible athlete and can do things in the trenches that many other NFL linemen cannot do. Houston could use that type of player to go along with Laremy Tunsil up front. To be fair, Houston can use a lot of players, and at every position, but starting a rebuild by fortifying the offensive line is never a bad idea. Drafting Ekwonu into a situation where he won’t have to be the left tackle from day one will also help him develop. He can learn from Tunsil while playing on the right side before taking over when he is finally ready.
4. NYJ: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE Oregon
Thibodeaux is the biggest wild card in this entire draft. He would likely go first overall if there weren’t questions surrounding his commitment to football and his team. But those concerns are all speculative because so far all he has done in his football career is produce. He was the number one overall recruit in high school and then was one of the best defensive players in the country while at Oregon. The Jets could use someone with that type of talent and don’t think for a second that head coach Robert Saleh wouldn’t love to add a player like Thibodeaux to his defense. And maybe being in a big city like New York would help Thibodeaux be able to have off-field endeavors that don’t distract him too much.
5. NYG: Evan Neal, OT Alabama
New head coach Brian Daboll has the unenviable task of coaching Daniel Jones this season so the Giants have to do whatever they can to surround him with talented players. Neal would be a great first pick for new GM Joe Schoen as he looks to quickly turn this team around. New York, fortunately, got improvement from former top pick Andrew Thomas last year but that doesn’t remove offensive line from the needs list. Neal can play all over the line and could start at either tackle or guard spot for the Giants immediately. He would fortify one of the most important positions in the game and hopefully make it so New York doesn’t have to spend this high of draft capital on the position anytime soon.
6. CAR: Charles Cross, OT Mississippi State
Carolina should take a quarterback. Sam Darnold is not the answer and head coach Matt Rhule’s butt is starting to get warm with how hot his seat is becoming. But this draft class is not very strong in the quarterback department, and it doesn’t seem like the Panthers will be taking a quarterback with their pick at number six. Getting a tackle of the future in Cross will make life a little easier for whoever ends up taking snaps for Carolina in 2022 and beyond. Cross will be a very good pass protector in the NFL, but there are concerns about his run-blocking abilities. Carolina would be betting on Cross developing that part of his game in order to become a franchise left tackle.
7. NYG (from CHI): Ahmad Gardner, CB Cincinnati
The Giants find themselves lucky enough to pick twice within the first seven selections. With their second pick, they should aim for a home run by taking Gardner. He was by far the best cornerback in college football last year, intimidating opposing teams and quarterbacks to the point where they wouldn’t even test him in coverage. That type of lockdown corner is very rare to find in the NFL and is definitely worth the seventh overall pick. Gardner will instantly become a key part of the Giants’ defense and will hopefully be a huge part of them returning to the playoffs.
8. ATL: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE Florida State
Atlanta is another team that could take a look at quarterback early in the draft but will likely opt to go in another direction. There are a few different areas that the Falcons could look to improve with this pick. Wide receiver and offensive line are both deserving of an upgrade, but defensive line is the most glaring weakness. Johnson would have immediate playing time on a defense that has struggled to get to the passer in recent years. He put together an incredible year at Florida State that has deservedly moved him into the first half of the opening round. He can do whatever is needed of him up front with his ability to dominate against both the pass and the run. Atlanta doesn’t have a great track record with first-round edge rushers (Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley anyone?) but Johnson should be able to buck that trend.
9. SEA (from DEN): Derek Stingley Jr., CB LSU
Could Seattle draft a quarterback with this pick? Absolutely. Will Pete Carroll and John Schneider do something totally random instead? Probably. In reality, the Seahawks will probably trade down from here in order to get more picks to fuel their rebuild. But if they do pick at number nine and don’t do something weird then taking Stingley would be a great idea. Stingley was one of the best corners in college football as a freshman in 2019 but has struggled since then, largely due to injuries. But the talent that once had Stingley poised to be a top-five pick is still there somewhere. Seattle has a massive need at corner that would be adequately addressed with the selection of Stingley. He may not bring back the Legion of Boom by himself but it would be a good start.
10. NYJ (from SEA): Garrett Wilson, WR Ohio State
There aren’t a lot of foregone conclusions in the draft this year, but the Jets taking a wide receiver in the first round seems like one of them. The Jets need to do everything they can to maximize second-year quarterback Zach Wilson in 2022. Adding Wilson to catch passes from Wilson would be helpful for the offense and not at all confusing. The Ohio State pass-catcher is the best of a very strong receiver class and has earned a selection this high. He is simply a playmaker with the ball in his hands and will no doubt produce at the next level. Even though New York already has Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, adding a legitimate number one wideout like Wilson would make the pass-catching group even more dangerous.
11. WAS: Kyle Hamilton, S Notre Dame
Washington already filled the hole at quarterback this offseason. Well, they got Carson Wentz so they just kind of put a bunch of leaves and twigs over the hole as opposed to filling it. But with that out of the way, the Commanders are able to go with the best available player with the 11th overall pick. That player would certainly be Hamilton if the board were to fall this way. He can fill whatever role is needed of him within the defense. He can play deep safety, move down into the box, or even line up in the slot. He is a supreme athlete that will make an immediate impact upon arrival in Washington D.C.
12. MIN: Trent McDuffie, CB Washington
The Vikings are one of the teams that would not be happy with how the board has fallen in this mock draft. Minnesota wants a corner, which makes a lot of sense considering it is betting on an aging Patrick Peterson to be the number one corner this season. Although they miss out on Gardner or Stingley, McDuffie is not a bad consolation prize. He lined up all over the field in college and can do the same thing for Minnesota. Whether he is needed as an outside corner or in the slot, he will be a day one starter for the Vikings.
13. HOU (from CLE): Drake London, WR USC
If Houston is set on rolling with Davis Mills at quarterback for this season, then this will be the pick that makes it clear. If they don’t draft a quarterback with pick number 13 then they need to get a big-time weapon for Mills. London fits that bill perfectly. He is the best in the class at contested catches and brings his basketball skill set to the field. He was on an absolute tear last season before suffering an ankle injury. There should be no lingering issues from that injury which means he will make his mark for Houston right away. He will have the chance to develop chemistry with Mills as his go-to receiver and could form a lethal combination for years to come.
14. BAL: George Karlaftis, EDGE Purdue
Baltimore probably did not expect to be picking this high in the 2022 Draft but, alas, here they are. They have the chance to draft a difference-maker on defense with this pick, which is exactly what they hope Karlaftis will be. He isn’t exactly in the same tier as the previous edge rushers taken but he is very talented nonetheless. He has all the makeup needed to be an effective pass rusher and would benefit from playing in a very good Baltimore defense. The Ravens still have a need for pass rushers even after taking Odafe Owen with one of their first-round picks last year. This is a team that is looking to get back to contention right away and taking Karlaftis would get them one step closer to that goal.
15. PHI (from MIA): Jordan Davis, DT Georgia
Philadelphia’s biggest need right now is defense. Not any position in particular, just defense. Davis is a player that makes a defense better. He was one of the most disruptive defenders in college football last year, so much so that he even earned Heisman buzz despite being a defensive tackle. He doesn’t necessarily impact a game on the stat sheet but he sure does influence the game with his play. His size alone dictates attention from opposing offenses and his athleticism, which he demonstrated with an all-time performance at the combine, makes him a nightmare. Some people may question his ability to play enough snaps to make a difference but the Eagles should take a chance on a player with as high a ceiling as Davis.
16. NOR (from PHI from IND): Trevor Penning, OT Northern Iowa
The draft isn’t always as simple as replacing whatever player departed in free agency, but sometimes it is that easy. The Saints lost starting left tackle Terron Armstead so using this pick to fill the hole he left isn’t the worst idea. Penning isn’t the most polished tackle prospect in the draft but when you pick in the middle of the first round you don’t usually end up with the best prospect. Penning would benefit greatly from learning from Ryan Ramczyk, who mans the right tackle position. Penning is a massive player and if he develops into what he is capable of he could end up being a steal at this point in the draft.
17. LAC: Jameson Williams, WR Alabama
The Chargers don’t necessarily need to add another receiver to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, but it would make for a great offense. Williams’ speed is his most elite trait, but he also has the ball skills needed to be a very good wide receiver. He is coming off a torn ACL, which is the only reason he is even available this late, but that shouldn’t stop him from being productive in Los Angeles. He would be the perfect complement to Allen’s possession and route running and Mike Williams’ physicality and ability to win jump balls. Justin Herbert has already been extremely dangerous in his NFL career but the addition of the rookie from Alabama could take him to the next level.
18. PHI (from NOR): Nakobe Dean, LB Georgia
As I mentioned earlier, the Eagles need help on defense. Dean is a do-it-all backer that plays with his hair on fire. There is no play on defense that he can’t make. Dean was the best player on the Georgia Bulldogs’ defense most of the time, and that is saying a lot because he is going to have a lot of teammates drafted this year. To put it simply, a defense is better when Dean is on it and that is exactly what Philadelphia needs out of this pick.
19. NOR (from PHI): Malik Willis, QB Liberty
At some point, a team is going to have to draft a quarterback. Right? New Orleans made the trade with Philadelphia to add another first-round pick this year for some reason, so maybe it is to get Willis. The Saints will probably have to trade up to get him in the real draft if they do want to make sure he doesn’t get selected by a different team. Willis is considered by most to be a project quarterback, which wouldn’t be a problem with Jameis Winston under contract. New Orleans has shown the willingness to build a unique offense around a quarterback and his skillset, but that was under Sean Payton who is no longer the coach. If the Saints commit to letting Willis sit and mature for however long he needs before tailoring an offense for his abilities, then he should succeed in the NFL.
20. PIT: Desmond Ridder, QB Cincinnati
For the first time in approximately 18,00 years, the Steelers won’t have Ben Roethlisberger under center. Pittsburgh did sign Mitch Trubisky in free agency but he doesn’t necessarily scream franchise quarterback. Ridder is very much ready to be a pro quarterback right now so he could step in and start over Trubisky in a heartbeat. Pittsburgh is in a position where it can win now. The defense is incredible and the offense is full of weapons. Adding Ridder to Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Najee Harris, and Pat Freiermuth could be a very good offense from day one.
21. NE: Zion Johnson, OG Boston College
The Patriots have lost guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason in the past two years so guard is an area of need. Johnson is a big, athletic guard that would have no problem stepping into the New England offensive line at either guard spot. The Patriots have done a great job of drafting and developing o-linemen over the years so imagine what they could do with a first-round talent like Johnson. He would fit well in the offense, given that it seems like New England wants to run the ball as much as possible to take some pressure off Mac Jones. If the Patriots don’t opt to trade back, which is a very strong possibility, then Johnson seems like a great pick.
22. GB (from LV): Chris Olave, WR Ohio State
Now, we know this won’t actually happen because the Packers are allergic to first-round wide receivers, but just think about what it would look like if they did select Olave. I like Allen Lazard but I don’t believe in him as a number one receiver and Randall Cobb’s best days are behind him. Olave would also probably love to be drafted by Green Bay because he could come in and immediately become Aaron Rodger’s favorite target. Olave is a very talented receiver that had elite production in a stacked wide receiver room at Ohio State. He would actually have less competition for targets in Green Bay so he should be able to go off.
23. ARI: Treylon Burks, WR Arkansas
Burks would be an amazing fit in the Arizona offense due to his playmaking ability, especially with the ball in his hands. He isn’t the most talented receiver in the class, but he may be the best suited for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. The Cardinals would be elated to select Burks. It would be a good way to appeal to Kyler Murray, who is causing his fair share of drama. It would also make up for the loss of Christian Kirk, who signed a massive contract with Jacksonville. Burks wouldn’t have to become a star right away. He could slide in right behind DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green and learn the game from two very experienced veterans.
24. DAL: Kenyon Green, OG Texas A&M
The Cowboys have a few different directions they could go with this pick but offensive line seems to be the way to go. Dallas has been its best when the o-line is strong, yet it has gotten away from that recently. Green played every position but center in college, but he will end up being best used at guard. He would be a perfect replacement for Connor Williams, who wasn’t a fantastic guard anyway. Green will bring his big-time experience from the SEC and apply it to an offensive line that already has Tyron Smith and Zack Martin. Once those two players are ready to move on, Green should be able to transition to franchise player and leader along the line.
25. BUF: DeVonte Wyatt, DT Georgia
Buffalo has the fewest number of holes as any team and is deservedly the Super Bowl favorite. Due to that, they can just take the best player available when they are on the clock. Wyatt would be a very good best player available. He may have gotten overlooked playing in a very good Georgia defense, and playing right next to Jordan Davis, but he is a very good player. He could be a very useful piece for the Buffalo defense and won’t have a ton of pressure placed on him from the start. If he ends up just being a role player, then he can fit in just fine. But if he develops into a star then he can eventually take over the defensive line.
26. TEN: Andrew Booth, CB Clemson
If the Titans could draft “guaranteed health for Derrick Henry” with this pick they definitely would, but since that isn’t how the NFL Draft works then they will pivot to an actual player. The Titans’ strategy at the corner position has been to draft a bunch of young assets and see who emerges, so Booth is consistent with that strategy. He would arguably be the most talented of all the recent corner draftees for Tennessee, meaning he would have an inside track to immediate playing time. This would also be a good way for the Titans to try to keep up with the incredible offenses that make up the AFC.
27. TB: Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE Penn State
Tampa Bay wishes that one of the guards would have fallen this far, but since neither of them did they will change courses and go with a pass rusher. Even though the Bucs selected an edge rusher with their first-round pick last year, you can never have enough talent on the edge. Ebiketie is a long and twitchy pass rusher that could add more depth to the Bucs’ defense. This may not be the move that elevates Tampa Bay back to Super Bowl favorite but it could help them maintain a top-tier defense for a long time.
28. GB: Travis Jones, DT UConn
After making a great pick with their first pick of Olave, the Packers go back to their roots with a defensive tackle here. Green Bay loves to stack the defensive line and selecting Jones would do just that. The fact that Jones could even get draft buzz, let alone first-round buzz, while playing at UConn is a testament to his level of play. He was able to overcome playing for a terrible team and prove that he deserves to play at the next level. Going from UConn to the Packers would be a huge jump in competency for Jones but he will be up for it. There is a spot next to Kenny Clark on the interior defensive line open right now and Jones could very easily come in and fill it.
29. KC (from MIA from SF): Dax Hill, S Michigan
When you lose a player like Tyrann Mathieu that can be a huge blow to your defense. While technically Mathieu hasn’t signed with a different team yet, it seems like Kansas City has decided to move on. The Chiefs have already signed Justin Reid to go along with Juan Thornhill in the secondary, but that doesn’t have to stop them from taking a safety like Hill with their first first-round pick. The Chiefs could try to replicate some of Mathieu’s versatility with Hill, who may end up eventually becoming a similar player. He can line up at safety or in the slot so he could give Kansas City a weapon on that side of the ball. The Chiefs are clearly trying to get younger in certain areas and Hill would be a good way to do that at safety.
30. KC: Logan Hall, EDGE Houston
It is highly unlikely that Kansas City actually makes these picks back-to-back since they will either look to trade up or down depending on how the board falls. But if they were to select twice in a row, Hall would make a nice pick. He is more of a tweener when it comes to the defensive line, meaning he could either be a defensive end or tackle. But the Chiefs can be creative enough to use him in the best way to maximize his skill set. Kansas City also has some talent to replace along the d-line so Hall could come in and at least make up for a bit of that.
31. CIN: Tyler Linderbaum, C Iowa
Linderbaum should not last this long in the draft but since he plays center, he probably will. He was an absolute monster at the position in college and projects as at least a very competent starter in the NFL. If you’re a team like Cincinnati that just got the Super Bowl despite poor offensive line play, he is exactly the type of player that you want on your team. Protecting Joe Burrow is the number one priority of the organization and making this selection would only further demonstrate that. If Linderbaum fulfills his potential, then he and Burrow will win a lot of games together as Bengals.
32. DET (from LAR) Lewis Cine, S Georgia
Usually, the last pick of the first round is the defending Super Bowl champions fortifying their already stacked roster. This year it is the Lions making their second selection of the opening round because of the Matt Stafford trade. Detroit could look to take a quarterback here but since there are more needs on the roster than just under center, Cine makes for a better pick. He played for the best defense in college last year, as did a few other first-rounders, and his talent is undeniable. He would be a great player to bring Dan Campbell’s intensity to the field and would create a possible safety tandem of the future with Tracy Walker.