It's finally here. The 2022 NFL Draft is upon us. Hope you are ready for tonight's festivities.
After much angst, it's time to live with this final mock forever. The top 10 I produced on Monday is fairly well reflected here, and things seems to be coming into focus. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
For as wild and wacky as many thought this draft would be -- and perhaps it still will be -- the pull of certain players and certain position groups seems to be growing stronger. We have heard for months about the top offensive linemen and edge rushers and corners, and I suspect that is reflected in the actual selections once they begin coming off the board. Ready? Let's jump in.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
We told you we were hearing this weeks ago in this space. Vegas began shifted odds to reflect Walker as the most likely top pick earlier this week. I wouldn't bet my mortgage on it, but I certainly have been leaning this way for a while.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'6" / 265 lbs
With no expectation of anyone trading up – because there has been very little buzz of that sort the entire pre-draft period – the Lions run up with the card to land the hometown kid who most expected to be the top pick when the college football season ended.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
I have heard them connected to Neal dating back to the end of the college football season. GM Nick Caserio comes from the Patriots, who have very strong ties to Alabama. If you think this kid is the best OL in the draft, then you take him here. I'm betting that's what Caserio does.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
GM Joe Douglas spent much of his professional life with the Baltimore Ravens, who have always prized shutdown corners and the AFC is loaded with elite QBs to defend. If they don't grab him, then I would have the Giants – with former Ravens coordinator Wink Martindale now running their defense – grabbing the top corner with the next pick.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
I have heard the buzz about them loving this OL for months. And I have bought it. They could go Kayvon Thibodeaux here, or Derek Stingley, but if you think the Panthers might take an OL instead of a QB at 6, then you probably take the OL here and not at 7, right?
Mock Trade from Carolina Panthers
Round 1 - Pick 6
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
We know how badly the Vikings covet corner help and the strong ties the coaching staff has to the LSU defensive back. Could he be there at 12? Doubtful. Most rookie GMs might be shy to trade up in their first draft, but I could see it happening here with the Vikes looking at Stingley as a top-five player in this draft. And the Panthers pick up desperately needed draft capital and can now take their QB outside of the top 10. I really don't think Panthers owner David Tepper is in love with the idea of taking an offensive lineman with this pick.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
Too many people have told me that this pass rusher is going in the top five for me to think the Giants – once a beacon of pass-rush ferocity and now an also-ran – would pass on that much talent here. If this kid does slide, I still don't see any way he gets out of the top 9, though I know several GMs picking in the teens who are praying he somehow gets beyond the top 10. And with the top two corners gone, it's logical for N.Y. to lean into pass rush here.
Mock Trade from Atlanta Falcons
Round 1 - Pick 8
Alabama • Soph • 6'2" / 189 lbs
Another team trading down, with an eye on taking a QB lower. Sure, the Falcons could stay here and grab a WR themselves, and they love several. But who is throwing him the ball? The buzz about WRs, and possibly three going in the top 10, has been persistent this week. Few GMs are as aggressive as Philly's Howie Roseman and few hold as much draft capital over the next few years. He wants a track team around Jalen Hurts in a fairly wide-open NFC and won't worry about not getting this kid on the field until November.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
The Seahawks just traded a generational quarterback in part because he wanted out (in part) due to an inability to construct a decent offensive line. And now they no longer have an elite QB, and the run game has been suspect, and, yeah you'd best grab one of the top three offensive linemen in the draft right here (because you might be grabbing a rookie QB later in the night – hint, hint). Ickey could go top five. I can't see him going beyond this spot.
Mock Trade from New York Jets
Round 1 - Pick 10
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
The Niners get this pick as part of a package in trading Deebo Samuel to the Jets. So, who is Trey Lance going to throw the ball to now? San Fran could opt to address WR at the top of Day 2 with additional selection from Jets – corner or defensive line would make sense – but in this case I say they grab who many believe is the top pass catcher in the draft and do so paying him a sliver of what Samuel now commands.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
The run on WR is real. I would have put Kyle Hamilton here in many previous iterations of this, and I am far from convinced he will still be here (if the Jets don't land Deebo some GMs believe London is in play fourth overall). But if he is, I think that's the pick.
Mock Trade from Minnesota Vikings
Round 1 - Pick 12
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
The owner loves him. The owner is desperate for a QB and a face of franchise and someone to help him get that stadium and practice facility built. And he has no real draft capital beyond this pick. Sorry, I don't see the Panthers coming out of this process without a top QB, and going another year in nowhere land, and I don't see them going with the arguably riskier QB Malik Willis over Pickett.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 13
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
They go point of attack on offense with the first pick, and then add bite to defense here. Houston may move up – and doing so for one of the top two corners wouldn't shock me. But Johnson is a strong, solid value-play at a vital position, and I see Caserio continuing on this pragmatic approach. If Hamilton is still on the board, this is a natural spot for him, too, but I think pass rush carries the day.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Adding Michael Pierce and Calais Campbell are stopgap moves. They could see visions of Haloti Ngata with the athletic upside here. They have ignored the interior DL for years in the draft. They have done a ton of work on corners and Trent McDuffie will warrant consideration, as will OL Trevor Penning. But I lean Davis, who the Ravens will try to turn into a three-down player.
Mock Trade from Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 15
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
This Falcons roster is Swiss cheese. Holes everywhere. They can pick up extra picks by moving back and still get the Liberty QB who could bring energy and life to a long dormant franchise. They can find ways to get him on field in different roles ASAP, and start selling their future to a fanbase that has been staying away. Ownership is desperate to sell tickets; staying at 8 and taking a potential fill-in for suspended Calvin Ridley ain't it.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 16
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
They lost one top safety to a big free agent deal to Baltimore (Marcus Williams) and another (Malcom Jenkins) retired. It's long been a position they highly value and the Notre Dame prospect – slowish 40 time or not – is seen as a potential top five player in this draft. If there is a slide for Hamilton, here is where it ends.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Northern Iowa • Soph • 6'7" / 325 lbs
Protecting Justin Herbert is everything, and adding a physical edge is a must. They need to set more of a tone upfront, and this mauler plays with as much intensity and verve as anyone in the draft.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 18
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
Drafting a LB this high, to some evaluators, is not in the Eagles DNA, but I think they embrace it here for a special athlete who can shine in coverage and pass rush. The Eagles give up pick 51 as part of their mock deal with the Falcons, and a 2023 pick, but keep 18 in my trade. If Hamilton is there at 15 I think that gives the Eagles pause, and if they do land him then this is probably a WR, but I'm going to play a hunch here.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 19
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
They have had great success with Ohio State wide receivers, 2022 is probably the end for Michael Thomas there, and with him missing basically two years, they desperately need WR help ASAP.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
QB is a massive need. Sure. But with the top two gone, I don't see Pittsburgh panicking here. They really like Carson Strong in Day 2 and could always try to get back into this round later for a QB. Corner is a massive position and they had holes there for years.
Round 1 - Pick 21
This just feels like a Pats pick. A program they know well, and a position flexible defensive weapon to deploy at corner or safety to try to mitigate the exploding passing games in the AFC. Baylor's Jalen Pitre or Florida corner Kaiir Elam make sense. And LB is a big need and Georgia has a few of them still on the board who can play. But they need some playmakers on the back end with Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson gone in succession.
From Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 22
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
They have to take a WR, right? Maybe even use both first round picks on them? In this scenario there are still plenty to choose from, but several more could go before the end of this round.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
In recent years it seems that there is a strong consensus around the league about who this team will take. Conventional wisdom has been right more often than not, and they have been linked to this lineman for quite some time. Better fix the OL as you try to re-recruit Kyler Murray. Not sexy but could be smart, and a run on OL is upon us.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
Dallas was ahead of the curve of finding impact centers higher in the draft than history dictated. And the last time they were even a quasi-competitor it came through building an elite OL. That process needs to begin in earnest, and after going best-player-available in recent years I see need prevailing here.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Kyler Gordon CB
Washington • Soph • 6'0" / 200 lbs
How much of a falloff is there from the first Washington corner taken (McDuffie) to Gordon? Some GMs would say not that much. The Bills could grab a RB, or a WR, and who could argue? But this front offices knows all too well how tough it is to slow Patrick Mahomes down in the postseason. A year ago they doubled down on pass rush and adding a corner here makes sense to me.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
They need OL help, particularly a plug-and-play guard. That is what they get here. He has started at tackle and guard and might end up on the edge sooner rather than later, but short-term interior help is needed. Bernhard Rainmann and Tyler Smith are strong offensive line fits here as well.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Kaiir Elam CB
Florida • Soph • 6'1" / 191 lbs
Tampa's secondary has been an issue. Head coach Todd Bowles is a former DB. There is still some quality secondary depth on the board and GMs I spoke to midweek were convinced Elam goes Thursday night. This could be another defensive back. I'm flipping a bit of a coin at this point, so deep in the round.
Round 1 - Pick 28
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
They have shed some pass rush this offseason and this feels like the kind of player they like to me. Late bloomer whose best performance is ahead of him. His ability to convert power to pass rush seems like a fit.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 29
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Yeah, they need a WR, but it looks like some very good pass catchers will be around on Day 2. But an interior DL with pass rush? Notsomuch. Wyatt could replace Chris Jones down the line and the idea of him and Jones together next season – and then maybe add a veteran edge like Jerry Hughes after the draft – could add real bite along the line of scrimmage.
Mock Trade from Kansas City Chiefs
Round 1 - Pick 30
Sam Howell QB
North Carolina • Soph • 6'1" / 220 lbs
There will be ample pass rush around on Day 2 and K.C. loads up with early picks, while Seattle gets in position for a QB. I figure they see a little sliver of Russell Wilson in Howell – who had a poor supporting cast in 2021 – and lean to him over Desmond Ridder, whose accuracy issues may keep him out of Round 1. Seattle hasn't been a trade-up team … but they also haven't had a need a QB for a decade.
Round 1 - Pick 31
David Ojabo EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'4" / 255 lbs
How about the Bengals being able to make a luxury pick because of a loaded roster? Yeah, times have changed. Ojabo could give their potential run to another Super Bowl a late boost, once he is healed up. This is a potential top-10 pick at the end of the first round. Sure, Cincy could trade down – especially if someone wants to get ahead of Detroit for a QB – but I like this fit. You can never have too much pass rush.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • Soph • 6'2" / 205 lbs
I continue to hear that the Lions are targeting QB with this pick to get the fifth-year option. I don't buy anything Dan Campbell said about not needing a legit QB. I could see this front office being attracted to Corral.