I took a week off from writing mock drafts to start assembling positional rankings and avoid getting bogged down with too many mocks. Enough changed since the last draft that we’ve got plenty of rising prospects, unique selections, and an altered draft order. I suggest keeping an eye on the quarterbacks specifically as we simulate the 2022 NFL Draft’s first-round.
You’ll notice some prospects appear for the first time in my mock draft series. We’re deep enough into the college and NFL seasons that pretenders are crumbling while true gems are rising to the top. Of course, there’s still a lot we won’t know for months. Let’s enjoy this long, investigative process together.
This draft order isn’t constructed using the current standings. I’ve created my own order based on how I believe the season could play out for every team. Feel free to yell at me on Twitter @Sam_Teets33 if you disagree with where your team ended up.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE Oregon
Jacksonville has two first-round edge rushers on its roster in Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson, but the latter hasn’t accomplished much in his career. In 21 appearances, Chaisson has six starts and two sacks. In comparison, Allen has 16 starts and 15.5 sacks in 29 appearances. The current regime didn’t draft either player.
Allen has the talent to stick around in Jacksonville long-term, but he and Chaisson aren’t close to replacing Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. Adding Thibodeaux doesn’t close that gap entirely, but it gives the Jaguars two pass rushers with annual ten-sack potential. The Oregon product represents a significant upgrade over Chaisson.
The Jaguars have plenty of options with their pick. They could trade back for a king’s ransom, but I’m not projecting trades in mocks yet. There are four prospects that Jacksonville might deem worthy of the first overall pick. Kyle Hamilton, Evan Neal, Derek Stingley, and Thibodeaux all have decent cases for the top spot, but none run away with this selection. It’s painfully close.
2. Detroit Lions- Derek Stingley Jr., CB LSU
The Lions already have a tackle duo, so there’s no need to add Neal. Dan Campbell’s team can also pass on taking an edge rusher because they have Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara. It makes more sense to draft Stingley than Hamilton if Detroit wants to add a defensive back. Cornerback is a more impactful position and considered one of the premier spots on NFL rosters.
Stingley is the de facto top cornerback in the 2022 class, even if he peaked as a freshman. We haven’t seen any cornerback perform well enough to surpass the LSU superstar. An injured foot might’ve ended Stingley’s college career, meaning we won’t get any more tape on him.
3. New York Jets- Evan Neal, OT Alabama
Neal has significant experience at left guard, left tackle, and right tackle. In this scenario, the Jets add Neal and let him battle it out with Mekhi Becton for the blindside job. Becton performed well at left tackle during his rookie season, but New York shouldn’t turn down playing him on the right side if that makes the team better.
Defenders only registered six pressures on roughly 230 snaps in pass protection when facing Neal this season. The 6' 7", 350 lb. giant won’t have any trouble adapting to the pro game’s physicality.
4. New York Giants- Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE Michigan
Azeez Ojulari has three sacks this season, but the Giants only have eight sacks as a defense through five weeks. This team hasn’t had a reliable pass rusher since Jason Pierre-Paul, and even he only recorded ten or more sacks twice with the franchise. Hutchinson should give Joe Judge’s defense the fangs it hasn’t had since the mid-2010s.
Hutchinson is a 6' 6", 265 lb. merciless bulldozer. He has 4.5 sacks this season and is why Washington tackle Jaxson Kirkland tumbled down the board.
5. Houston Texans- Kyle Hamilton, S Notre Dame
Hamilton is the best player in the 2022 draft, but he plays an underrated position that’s producing plenty of free agents next spring. Those factors push the Notre Dame standout to fifth overall, where Houston surprisingly passes on taking a quarterback.
We don’t know how Tyrod Taylor will play once he returns or if Deshaun Watson will play in Houston again. You can mock a quarterback to Houston, and fans won’t bat an eye, but the Texans decide to kick the can further down the road. There aren’t any quarterbacks in this class worth a top-five pick.
6. Atlanta Falcons- Malik Willis, QB Liberty
Atlanta breaks first, tagging Willis as the draft’s top quarterback and Matt Ryan’s successor. The Falcons made plenty of controversial decisions last year, including messing with Ryan’s contract and taking a tight end at fourth overall. Arthur Smith decides he won’t pass on taking a quarterback again. Outside of the win in London, Ryan hasn’t looked good this season.
Willis is the draft’s top dual-threat quarterback, but he hasn’t faced many capable programs since transferring from Auburn to Liberty. He threw three picks against N.C. St. last season and threw two interceptions with no passing touchdowns against Coastal Carolina in the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl.
The quarterbacks in this coming draft aren’t worth top-ten picks, but their positional value is so great that teams are willing to reach.
7. Philadelphia Eagles- DeMarvin Leal, DL Texas A&M
Leal can play anywhere along the defensive line. He could eventually succeed Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle or immediately step in as Brandon Graham’s replacement. Graham ruptured his Achilles earlier this season and is a free agent when the year ends. Former 14th overall pick Derek Barnett also needs a new deal, and likely won’t get one.
At 6' 4", 290 lbs., Leal flashes exceptional athleticism. He needs some refinement as a pass rusher, but the Texas A&M product is a blue-chip prospect.
8. New York Giants (Via Bears)- Kenyon Green, IOL/OT Texas A&M
New York needs as much help in the trenches as it can get. Green hasn’t performed as well this season as he did in 2020, but the junior is still arguably the second-best non-center offensive lineman in this class. Tyler Linderbaum is fantastic at center for Iowa, but I don’t see any team drafting a low-value position like that in the top ten selections.
Green has at least 50 snaps at every position along the line except center this season. He primarily played left guard in 2020 and right guard in 2019 but recently played the entire game against Alabama at left tackle without giving up a pressure. The Giants could use that versatility, considering the recent injuries they’ve suffered.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (Via Colts)- Kaiir Elam, CB Florida
Darius Slay wasn’t good in his final season with Detroit, but that didn’t stop the Eagles from trading for the former All-Pro. There’s an out in Slay’s contract after 2021 that could save Philadelphia nearly $20 million over the next two years. Even if the Eagles keep their big-money veteran around, Steven Nelson is playing on an expiring contract.
Elam gives Philadelphia a cornerback capable of resetting the struggling secondary. Nelson and Slay combined for three interceptions this past week, but it seems inevitable that they’ll depart Philadelphia soon.
10. Minnesota Vikings- Andrew Booth Jr., CB Clemson
The Patrick Peterson signing hasn’t worked out in Minnesota. The future Hall of Famer is getting roasted weekly, and Bashaud Breeland is even worse. Mike Zimmer must begin replacing aging pieces of his defense, and it all starts at cornerback.
Alternatively, Minnesota could find a long-term running mate for Danielle Hunter or a protégé for Harrison Smith. However, the best defense against Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers is a shutdown corner. Booth hasn’t had the best season, but his athletic traits and willingness to make big tackles should attract teams early in the draft process.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (Via Dolphins)- Ikem Ekwonu, OT/IOL N.C. St.
Many analysts believe Ekwonu can’t stay at tackle when he enters the NFL. However, the 6' 4", 320 lb. North Carolina native hasn’t allowed a sack this season. He’s allowed three pressures, two of which came against Clemson, while only playing left tackle.
Ekwonu gives Philadelphia depth along the offensive line. He could start at either guard spot as a rookie and eventually take over for Lane Johnson at right tackle.
12. Washington Football Team- Matt Corral, QB Ole Miss
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a free agent in 2022, and Taylor Heinicke hasn’t done enough to win the starting job long-term. Corral hasn’t had any outstanding performances against quality competition this year, but he’s gotten rid of the turnovers that plagued him in 2020.
While I like Corral, taking him at 12 is a reach. None of this year’s quarterbacks belong in the first half of the first round, but Washington can’t risk waiting.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers- Carson Strong, QB Nevada
Strong hasn’t improved from last season. He’s the same quarterback, and he’s even suffered some statistical regression. This selection came down to the Nevada product and Sam Howell because there’s no way Pittsburgh can survive another year of Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers need to lose more if they want Corral or Willis.
14. Carolina Panthers- Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT Ohio St.
Petit-Frere impressed the Buckeyes so much during his time at right tackle in 2020 that the program kicked Thayer Munford inside so Petit-Frere could play left tackle. The junior is having a solid season but hasn’t performed at the level of a top-16 pick. Carolina’s desperation for a stable offensive line necessitates reaching for Taylor Moton’s running mate.
15. New England Patriots- Ahmad Gardner, CB Cincinnati
Bill Belichick reloads in the secondary now that Stephon Gilmore is in Carolina and J.C. Jackson is playing on an expiring contract. Gardner has great size for a cornerback and plays a physical brand of football that should fit New England’s defensive mindset. The Cincinnati standout has eight interceptions in 25 games with the Bearcats.
16. Cincinnati Bengals- Trent McDuffie, CB Washington
The Bengals just placed Trae Waynes on injured reserve again. The former free agent signee can’t stay healthy, and Cincinnati lacks a top cornerback despite recently signing Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton. McDuffie’s size might push him toward the bottom of the first round, but he’s the last elite cornerback prospect.
17. New York Jets (Via Seahawks)- Chris Olave, WR Ohio St.
New York invested a lot of draft capital and money in wide receivers over the past several years, but Corey Davis is the only one making a significant impact. Adding an elite route runner like Olave should make Zach Wilson’s job easier and reduce the rookie’s turnovers. Olave has four 100-yard games this season.
18. Las Vegas Raiders- Drake London, WR USC
The Raiders are in complete turmoil after losing two games in a row and parting ways with their head coach. The next regime should focus on finally getting Derek Carr a top wide receiver. London is 6' 5" and weighs 210 lbs. He has five games with at least 130 receiving yards in his six appearances with the Trojans this season. I’m one week away from declaring him the draft’s best receiver.
19. Miami Dolphins (Via 49ers)- George Karlaftis, EDGE Purdue
Emmanuel Ogbah is in the final year of his contract, meaning Miami needs another pass rusher capable of moving along the line. At 6' 4", 275 lbs., Karlaftis has the strength to play any role Brian Flores dreams up. Opinions remain mixed on the Purdue product. Some analysts view him as a top-three edge prospect, while others have him down a few spots.
20. Denver Broncos- Nakobe Dean, LB Georgia
Linebackers Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson are free agents this coming offseason. Jewell and Johnson have 63 combined starts since they entered the league in 2018. The Broncos will likely let at least one of the inside linebackers walk, which leaves an opening for Dean. The dynamic Georgia linebacker reminds me a little of Devin White in college.
21. New Orleans Saints- Garrett Wilson, WR Ohio St.
Wilson doesn’t have as many splash performances as Olave, but he’s produced at a more consistent rate. The junior has 70 or more receiving yards in his six appearances this season. He could help the Saints rebuild depth in their wide receiver room, which is devoid of stars without Michael Thomas.
22. Tennessee Titans- Darian Kinnard, OT Kentucky
Tennessee tried to fill its right tackle position a while ago and failed for reasons outside of the franchise’s control. Kinnard, who some analysts view as a guard, deserves his shot at playing outside. The 6' 5", 345 lb. tackle has only allowed two pressures this season and is notorious for creating movement in the running game.
23. Dallas Cowboys- Kingsley Enagbare, EDGE South Carolina
Dallas has an interesting combination of edge rushers between Tarell Basham, Chauncey Golston, Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, and occasionally Micah Parsons. If the Cowboys decide to keep Parsons at linebacker, they could chase a complementary rusher for Lawrence. Enagbare has 3.5 sacks this year.
24. Baltimore Ravens- Jaquan Brisker, S Penn St.
Brisker makes plays wherever he goes. He’s the best player on Penn State’s loaded defense and is surprisingly reliable in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s only allowed 11 yards in coverage this season and hasn’t given up a touchdown in his collegiate career. Brisker can start for Baltimore immediately if Deshon Elliott leaves in free agency.
25. Green Bay Packers- Nik Bonitto, EDGE Oklahoma
Green Bay could save roughly $12 million by releasing Preston Smith this coming offseason. The Packers might take a similar route with Za'Darius Smith. The former All-Pro is dealing with injuries and carries a $28.13 million cap hit for 2022. Releasing Smith clears $15.8 million in space.
Bonitto is roughly 30 lbs. lighter than Smith, which could cause the Oklahoma sack artist to fall in the draft. However, he’s one of the most productive pass rushers in football. He’s recorded four sacks and 29 pressures in only 119 pass rush snaps.
26. Cleveland Browns- Drake Jackson, EDGE USC
Jackson only has 10.5 sacks during his time with the Trojans, but he has the athleticism and polish to make a larger impact with Cleveland. Jadeveon Clowney is a free agent in 2022, creating a premier opening next to Myles Garrett. Garrett has Defensive Player of the Year potential. Adding a complementary rusher would only magnify his skills.
27. Arizona Cardinals- Adam Anderson, EDGE Georgia
In this scenario, the Cardinals decide to let Chandler Jones leave in free agency. Desperate to keep their newfound success going, Arizona chases a dynamic but undersized edge rusher. Anderson only weighs 230 lbs. while Jones weighs 265 lbs. However, the senior has four sacks this season and is finally living up to his potential.
28. Kansas City Chiefs- Jordan Battle, S Alabama
Kansas City’s defense is a train wreck. Outside of Tyrann Mathieu, the secondary looked outmatched against Buffalo. Things won’t get better when the star safety, Mike Hughes, Daniel Sorensen, and Charvarius Ward become free agents this offseason. Battle won’t replace Mathieu, but he’d serve as an ideal partner for the All-Pro if Juan Thornhill doesn’t win the starting job back.
29. Los Angeles Chargers- Treylon Burks, WR Arkansas
Burks is a towering 6' 3", 225 lb. big play waiting to happen. He’s produced multiple plays of 80 or more yards this season and has three games with at least 125 receiving yards. However, Burks only caught three passes for ten yards against Georgia’s vaunted defense. He also takes over 70% of his snaps from the slot.
Burks could replace Mike Williams if the rising receiver leaves in free agency, but only if the Aggie flips his percentages and takes more snaps lined up out wide.
30. Detroit Lions (Via Rams)- Sam Howell, QB North Carolina
Quarterbacks have unmatched positional value. Ordinarily, I’d encourage teams to focus on taking franchise players early in the first round when every team has a positive view of the prospect. However, plenty of quarterbacks have emerged from the late first-round or later in recent years. Howell carries value, and quarterbacks retain that value better than anyone else.
31. Buffalo Bills- Jahan Dotson, WR Penn St.
Buffalo has a deep receiving corps and no obvious needs worth first-round selections. However, Emmanuel Sanders is a free agent in 2022, and the team could use some more speed. Dotson is an ideal big-play target. He’s returned punts for Penn St. and plays most of his snaps out wide instead of in the slot.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Roger McCreary, CB Auburn
Injuries to Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, and Sean Murphy-Bunting forced Tampa Bay to start Richard Sherman a few days after signing him off the street. That many injuries won’t occur each year, but the Buccaneers can’t leave their secondary vulnerable. Drafting McCreary fortifies a strength and creates a backup plan if Davis leaves in free agency.
Spencer Rattler, QB Oklahoma
Desmond Ridder, QB Cincinnati
Charles Cross, OT Mississippi St.
Jaxson Kirkland, OT Washington
Tyler Linderbaum, IOL Iowa
Jordan Davis, IDL Georgia
Zach Harrison, EDGE Ohio St.
Myjai Sanders, EDGE Cincinnati
Christian Harris, LB Alabama
Devin Lloyd, LB Utah
Josh Jobe, CB Alabama
Derion Kendrick, CB Georgia