As the NFL world descends on Indianapolis for the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, Head of Content and Marketing Michael Schottey is ready with his first 2022 NFL Mock Draft of the season.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars — Ikem Ekwonu (OT NC State)
This pick is all about franchise building block Trevor Lawrence and making sure he has the tools to succeed. I could easily see an offensive tackle, an interior offensive lineman and a handful of offensive weapons land in Jacksonville in this draft class…along with a bunch of free agent acquisitions. Here, they grab a blue chip left tackle with tons of experience. Ekwonu isn’t the top guy tackle on everyone’s board, but he’ll impress throughout the workout process and in interview rooms.
2. Detroit Lions — Aidan Huchinson (EDGE Michigan)
This pick makes almost too much sense to actually happen. The Lions have a desperate need for a pass rusher and this hometown Heisman finalist has all the markings of a franchise cornerstone both on the field and in the locker room. Throw in the fact that he’s the same blue-collar type of player that Lions Team President Chris Spielman was a few decades ago and this seems like a lock if he’s on the board
3. Houston Texans — Kyle Hamilton (S Notre Dame)
Other than size (both height and bulk), Hamilton is the cleanest prospect in the draft class and if safeties were a more valued position, he’d be in the conversation for No. 1. Houston needs to hit this pick out of the park, and while taking a safety at No. 3 carries some risk, he will be an important chess piece for Lovie Smith’s defense.
4. New York Jets — Kayvon Thibodeaux (EDGE Oregon)
Thibodeaux is a better natural athlete than the guys above him on this list and may be the purest prospect in the draft from that sense. However, he’s really raw as a pass rusher and may top out more as a situational guy or need to play in a very specific role. For the Jets, there’s both reason to chase upside and some comfort in another pick just a few slots down.
5. New York Giants — George Karlaftis (EDGE Purdue)
In a lot of other draft classes, Karlaftis might be a Top 3 pick because he’d usually be the top pass rusher—a coveted position. The “Greek Freak” is more of a strong-side, do-it-all defensive end than a pure pass rusher and could fall because of it. The Giants, however, need talented players on their defensive line in a big way.
6. Carolina Panthers — Evan Neal (OT Alabama)
This would be huge for the Panthers. There’s a solid chance Neal could go No. 1. The margin between him and Ekwonu is razor thin and Neal is a much more traditional looking prospect from a size (especially height) standpoint. Here, the Panthers lock down the left side of their line, hopefully for the next decade.
7. New York Giants — Charles Cross (OT Mississippi State)
The Giants’ offensive line is a shambles and while tackle wasn’t the biggest issue that lesson, they don’t have a player the caliber of Cross. Even if he doesn’t end up as the team’s starting left tackle (Andrew Thomas played a lot better last season), putting the large, strong and sticky Cross on the right side would be a great pairing and help both Daniel Jones and the running game.
8. Atlanta Falcons — Derek Stingley Jr. (CB LSU)
This is a huge boon for the Falcons who need cornerback help and Stingley has been on the top of lots of people’s cornerback board since he was in high school. His college production never quite lived up to the hype but every single NFL coach can see he has the tools to work with.
9. Denver Broncos — Kenny Pickett (QB Pitt)
At the Combine, everyone is talking about Pickett’s tiny hands, but the production is there in spades at the college level. Will his physical limitations submarine his draft stock? It’s absolutely possible, but Denver has missed on the QB position so frequently, it’s time they go hard against the grain.
10. New York Jets — Ahmad Gardner (CB Cincinnati)
Although Stingley is the long-coveted name at the cornerback position, there’s an argument to be made that Sauce Garnder had the far better college career—never allowing a touchdown in coverage. Now, he wasn’t playing in the SEC either, and NFL teams will take that into consideration, but his physical profile and gaudy numbers make him a Top 10 guy.
11. Washington Commanders — Garrett Wilson (WR Ohio State)
If anyone claims to know where this receiver class is shaking out, call them a liar right to their face. No one knows, because Wilson could do as high as No. 5 or 6 or could easily be the third or fourth receiver off the board. I like him here as a complement to Terry McLaurin with his catch-and-run ability and room to grow as a route runner.
12. Minnesota Vikings — Tyler Linderbaum (OC Iowa)
If positional value weren’t a thing, Linderbaum would have a legit shot at being the top pick this season—and if you feel like that’s a thing we say about an interior lineman from Iowa just about every year, you would be correct. Dalvin Cook needs a lot more help in front of him, and so does whoever ends up playing quarterback long term for this franchise.
13. Cleveland Browns — Drake London (WR USC)
Like Wilson a few slots above, I think London goes higher toward the end of the wide receiver spectrum and others have him falling out of the first round. There are raw physical tools and length here that simply can’t be ignored.
14. Baltimore Ravens — Trent McDuffie (CB Washington)
A lot of people were so focused on Lamar Jackson this season that they forgot the Ravens had massive injury issues that hit in rapid succession right as the season was starting. The defensive backfield took a huge hit and the Ravens were consistently unable to stop the deep ball. They’re getting some of those players back, but McDuffie fits their profile for a versatile, scrappy defensive back.
15. Philadelphia Eagles — Nakobe Dean (LB Georgia)
If I’m making decisions for one of these teams, Dean goes off the board a lot sooner. Off the ball linebackers aren’t as valued, but teams (especially those in the NFC East) understand that Dallas got a heckuva deal last year when they drafted Micah Parsons and while Dean isn’t that guy, he’s a very talented player.
16. Philadelphia Eagles — Jermaine Johnson II (EDGE Florida State)
Let’s take a moment to remember just how good Philadelphia’s 2021 offseason was. No one expected them to contend the way they did and now they’ve got plenty of draft capital to improve even further. Johnson is an ascending talent and will help the Eagles round out what was an overachieving defensive line effort last season.
17. Los Angeles Chargers — Jameson Williams (WR Alabama)
Were it not for an unfortunate ACL tear in the championship game, Williams would likely be a lot higher on this mock draft (and Alabama would probably be National Champions at the moment). Here, the Chargers take a shot on a uber-talented player who will need a redshirt year with the hopes of securing a long-term running mate for Justin Herbert with Mike Williams likely getting the franchise tag this offseason and who knows what after that.
18. New Orleans Saints — Sam Howell (QB North Carolina)
I don’t know what the Saints are thinking at the QB position with the upheaval in their coaching staff and front office, but I do know that, with Sean Payton out of the building, they may want to shuffle the QB depth chart a little bit moving forward. Howell from a pure talent standpoint is an upgrade (but with similar tools) to just about everyone who has played QB for them since Drew Brees retired. I don’t know if he beats out Jameis Winston immediately for the starting job, but he’s a better long term bet.
19. Philadelphia Eagles — Andrew Booth Jr. (CB Clemson)
Do the Eagles need help offensively? Absolutely. However, it was too juicy not to jump at the chance to improve every level of the Eagles defense here. The Eagles defensive backfield has some age and expiring contract issues so Booth steps in as a rangy, ball-hawking developmental option who may not make a massive impact in Year 1 but isn’t going to hurt them if he’s forced into playing right away.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers — Malik Willis (QB Liberty)
Imagine going from Ben Roethlisberger who could barely push the ball downfield the last couple of seasons to Malik Willis’ cannon for an arm. Willis is an inconsistent passer, but all of the tools are there in spades. He also has the mobility that the Steelers crave for their offense and has a level of maturity that will fit well in their locker room.
21. New England Patriots — Chris Olave (WR Ohio State)
Olave is the sort of receiver who could really thrive in New England’s system if they didn’t typically pass on guys like this for tall, bulky “tools” guys who never pan out. The Patriots need receiving talent, and Olave is a sharp route runner who does most of his damage in the intermediate game but with the speed to take the top off the defense at any time.
22. Las Vegas Raiders — Devonte Wyatt (DT Georgia)
This feels, simultaneously, like the sort of pick Mike Mayock/Jon Gruden would’ve made but also a little “Patriotsy” for a couple of guys moving to the desert from New England. Wyatt isn’t enormous and he’s not ridiculously athletic, but he’s just enough of both to stand out as a guy who can move around the front of a multiple defense and make everyone else around him better with the pressure he creates.
23. Arizona Cardinals — Kenyon Green (OG Texas A&M)
The Arizona offensive line game is built around being able to win one-on-one in run blocking situations and they were unable to do that in 2021. Green didn’t flash great potential as an offensive tackle, but he’s a mauler as an interior run blocker and has the athleticism to succeed as a pass blocker in the spread/Air Raid.
24. Dallas Cowboys — Treylon Burks (WR Arkansas)
This pick makes a lot of sense, as the Cowboys need to reshuffle the receiving core a little bit and Burks’ alma mater will appeal to Jerry and Stephen Jones who both played for Arkansas as well. He’s the last receiver on the board with premium size/speed/production although he’s not as gifted with the ball in the air or when contested as you’d usually like a No. 1 receiver to be.
25. Buffalo Bills – Zion Johnson (OG Boston College)
Depending on what a team is looking for, Johnson could be the first interior offensive lineman off the board. He falls in this mock because he’s a little “lumbery” at the moment which worked at Boston College but he’ll need to move better in an NFL system. Buffalo, though, is going to love a guy who can latch on and drive because they’ve been trying to get their run game going for far too long without the guys up front to manage it.
26. Tennessee Titans — Travon Walker (EDGE Georgia)
The Titans need more help on the defensive front moving forward and Walker has the pedigree to step right in and play a role for them. They have a history of taking blue collar guys and getting better-than-expected production out of them and Walker fits that mold. Starting out, he’s likely an early-down defensive end in their base 3-4 sets, but he has the ability to move around as the Titans have shown more multiple looks recently.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jahan Dotson (WR Penn State)
If Dotson were two inches taller and 20lbs heavier, he’d be a Top 10 pick and the consensus No. 1 receiver in this class. Instead, the Buccaneers pick up someone who can do much of what Antonio Brown was supposed to do for them. He wins one-on-one at every level of the field, but he’s going to get bodied by some bigger defensive backs and isn’t the guy you want going over the middle.
28. Green Bay Packers — Devin Lloyd (LB Utah)
At this point, giving the Packers something other than an offensive player to “help” or “coddle” Aaron Rodgers just feels mean, but it’s something the actual Packers front office also does, so I don’t feel too badly. The Packers really struggled at the linebacker position—even when they overachieved at the position—and Lloyd is an immediate upgrade. He’s super aggressive and sometimes finds himself in the wrong gap, but he’s rangy and makes plays in the backfield.
29. Miami Dolphins — Bernhard Raimann (OT Central Michigan)
On natural tools alone, this Austrian prospect could go a LOT higher. He’s big, athletic and his best football is ahead of him. I particularly like his potential in the kind of short passing game in which Tua Tagovailoa excels. He’s not the best run blocker in this class, but the tools are there—especially for the kind of zone blocking scheme Mike McDaniel will run.
30. Kansas City Chiefs — David Ojabo (EDGE Michigan)
Worst case scenario for Ojabo is the kind of one-dimensional pass rusher that Kansas City could have actually really used last season. He’s got more upside than that, though, and the physical ability to be an every down player in the NFL sooner rather than later. His ability to get to the QB is why he’s getting drafted here, though, and he’s one of the more savvy, technical pass rushers in the entire class.
31. Cincinnati Bengals —Trevor Penning (OT Northern Iowa)
Best available lineman? Check. No one (especially Joe Burrow) would be shocked if the Bengals spent just about every pick on offensive linemen in this class. Penning can play left tackle for sure, but I think he’s a better fit on the right side and potentially on the interior as well (although he’s a little tall for most team’s liking there). He’s a massive, immediate upgrade.
32. Detroit Lions — Quay Walker (LB Georgia)
I thought about putting Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder here because I am a fan, but the Lions will almost certainly roll with Jared Goff heading into 2022 due to salary reasons so they’d really have to love a passing prospect to take him here. Instead, they grab Walker who has the athleticism and instincts the Lions have been missing at linebacker for about two decades.