2022 NFL Draft: Pre-Combine Mock Draft

by Pat Pryor
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The NFL Combine is officially upon us, and teams are in full draft mode. There will be interviews, smoke screens, athletic numbers galore, and more. Of course, we can’t forget mock drafts. Here I present my first full mock draft of the season, complete with trades. A lot will change between now and April 28th, but this is a first look. Let’s dive in:

The full list of picks and trades will be at the bottom.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

This is the same pick I used in my first mock draft, and it remains. It would simply make too much sense for the Jaguars. They got their franchise quarterback last year, and now they have to protect him. If you can do that with a 6’7”, 350 pound tackle who can be one of the best at his position day one, you do that. He has a high floor and can be a Pro-Bowl caliber player quickly. 

2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan

While it’s really a coin toss as to which of these edge defenders the Lions pick, Dan Campbell recently suggesting a scheme change makes me lean towards Hutchinson. The Lions have a long way to go before competing, but picking up Penei Sewell last year and Aidan Hutchinson this year would anchor their lines for years to come. 

3. Houston Texans: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

While many expect Houston to select a defensive player at the three spot, I think they’ll go in the opposite direction. Star tackle Laremy Tunsil’s future is uncertain, and post June 1st trade would save the Texans over $17 million both this year and next, as he currently accounts for 12% of their cap, according to OverTheCap.com. Adding Ekwonu, who can also play guard, would be a major boost to the Texans offensive line. He’s a top notch run blocker with top-notch physical tools. With the right situation, he’s the type of prospect that could become the best at his position for years to come. Bringing his sky-high ceiling to Houston adds some talent, and hope, to a team that desperately needs it. 

4. New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Derek Stingley is one of the biggest questions in the NFL Draft. His talent flashed during his freshman year, but injuries plagued the next two years of his career. He’s a ballhawking lockdown corner when healthy, but could be a considerable gamble. The Jets have a bright young talent in Michael Carter II, but could still use a boost in the cornerback room. With the benefit of two 1st round picks, they can afford to risk a pick on Stingley, who would be a slam dunk if he can prove he can stay on the field. 

5. New York Giants: Kavyon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

Once again, this mock seems somewhat similar to my previous one through the top 5, as the Giants pick up Kayvon Thibodeaux. This is bound to change after the combine, as trades happen, reports come out, and smokescreens are sent. For now though, we have the Giants picking up a stud edge rusher. Thibodeaux has a chance to develop with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and make a quality defensive line with 2021 draftee Azeez Ojulari. With Ikem Ekwonu off the board, picking up a defensive playmaker with their first pick is a no-brainer. 

Trade! CAR Receives: 14 (1), 45 (2), 138 (4); BAL Receives: 6 (1)

6. Baltimore Ravens (Via CAR): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

It’s tough to judge what Baltimore needs given their injuries last season, but it is obvious that they need pass protection. Ronnie Stanley is still recovering from a season ending injury, and there is no current solution at right tackle on the roster. Ready to start, Cross is one of the best pass blockers you’ll really ever get from the draft, and will be a great addition in Baltimore. Addressing a huge position of need with a player of Cross’s caliber is always a positive. Here, they needed to jump the Giants, Broncos, Jets, and Commanders to nab him, as any of them could have selected the former Bulldog. Despite this trade, they still have six picks between rounds 3 and 4. For a pretty low price, they get a day one starter. The Panthers, given the depth of the tackle class in the NFL Draft, and lack of a 2nd round pick, are ecstatic to make this trade. 

7. New York Giants: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

With Cross off the board, I looked at some options to trade back for the Giants, but none of them were worth losing out on Kyle Hamilton, my number one ranked player in the NFL Draft. Hamilton is a fluid safety who can appear anywhere on the field in a matter of moments. He blows up run plays, covers any level of the field. Hamilton is one of the most talented players you could possibly get. We rarely see this from a safety, a position that comes with low positional value, hence the drop to 7.  The Giants safety room is questionable at best, and Hamilton can be an All-Pro caliber weapon on their defense for years to come. 

8. Atlanta Falcons: David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan

I’ve had my concerns about David Ojabo, as he’s a one year starter at Michigan. But boy, did he make use of that one year. He’s an explosive pass rusher with a sky-high ceiling. He’s still quite raw, but would be joining veteran coach Dean Pees’ young offense. His versatile defensive schemes will allow Ojabo to gain experience in multiple areas, and hopefully become a dominant edge rusher. 

9. Denver Broncos: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

This is one of the favorite spots for the first quarterback to go off the board, but as I’ve said before, I don’t believe that teams will reach in the top ten for a quarterback. The Broncos will have to build around their quarterback, no matter who it is. Here they pick up Devin Lloyd, the Utah linebacker who can really do it all. He can play against the run, pass rush, and even drop into coverage. The Broncos currently have a very bad linebacker move, and Lloyd won’t be able to fix it all, but he could be a staple in Denver for a long time as a quality player. 

10. New York Jets: George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue

Karlaftis dropping to the 10th pick is a result of other players rising, and not a fault of his play at all. He still brings a great high floor as a pass rusher with versatility and power. Just like their previous pick, the Jets have a somewhat manageable edge room, but would be much better off with Karlaftis. Him and Stingley could be the boost they need to get to the next level on defense, all coming early in the NFL Draft. 

11. Washington Commanders: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Out of all position groups discussed thus far, the Commanders receiving room may be the worst. Beyond young star Terry McLaurin, it’s hard to say they have anyone who would start on most teams. Enter Treylon Burks. He’s a highly productive receiver with a big frame, and can line up anywhere on the field. Whether they address quarterback in the offseason, or run it back with Heinecke and push it back to the 2022 NFL Draft, they’ll have a great young duo at wide receiver. 

12. Minnesota Vikings: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati 

The Vikings have struggled to find a corner in the draft, with Mike Hughes, Jeff Gladney, and Mackensie Alexander all failing to live up to the hype. Here they try again, with their highest draft pick since 2015. Gardner is a top outside corner who has challenged Stingley for being the top CB selected. If he falls to 12, expect the Vikings to be ecstatic with this pick (think of their reaction when the Eagles passed on Justin Jefferson). 

13. Cleveland Browns: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

It’s make or break time for Baker Mayfield in Cleveland, and after the departure of Odell Beckham Jr, They need to bring Mayfield another playmaker. This comes in the form of Garrett Wilson, who with Chris Olave, formed the nation’s best receiving duo in 2021. Once he gets the ball, he’s absolutely electric, and brings the type of juice Cleveland needs on offense to return to the playoffs. 

14. Carolina Panthers (Via BAL): Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M

After picking up some extra ammunition and trading back, the Panthers will still reinforce their offensive line. They are another team with major questions at quarterback, but after spending this year’s 2nd and 4th round picks on Sam Darnold in 2021, I just don’t think they’re in a position to select a quarterback here. Instead, they get a stud offensive lineman in Green, who has plenty of experience at both tackle and guard. The Panthers will pretty much look for anything but a center along the offensive line, and should jump at the opportunity to add a versatile player like Green. 

15. Philadelphia Eagles (Via MIA): Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

With the first of their three draft picks, the Eagles bring in National Champion Nakobe Dean to Philadelphia. He has outstanding athleticism and fantastic speed. He flies around the field with top notch closing quickness. Adding an explosive player like this to a young defense is priceless, and as the Eagles start a new era, they could really use him. 

16. Philadelphia Eagles (Via IND): Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State

While some think the Eagles will make a big move with their three picks, I think they’ll stay put and continue to build their core. Jermaine Johnson is the top edge rusher remaining in the 2021 NFL Draft after the early run. He’s seen his stock fly up in recent weeks, in part thanks to a stellar Senior Bowl week. The talent has been there all along, but his transfer to Florida State from Georgia, and his week in Mobile, have really brought the attention he deserved. Johnson has all the tools to succeed at the next level as an edge rusher, and fits what the Eagles need. 

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Travon Walker, DL, Georgia

It’s time for the Chargers to give up on 2019 draftee Jerry Tillery on the defensive line, and take Travon Walker. While they could take any of the three top Georgia defensive linemen, Walker brings versatility as a pass rusher and run defender. He can play on every down, and will add a much-needed talent boost to the Chargers front seven. 

18. New Orleans Saints: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

We finally have our first quarterback taken in the NFL Draft in Malik Willis. Like I said in my previous mock, the Saints almost made the playoffs despite their quarterback play, not because of it. For some this would mean you need to draft a guy who can start day one. However, I think this awards them the ability to draft a developmental talent like Willis and still be competitive. Once he’s ready, he’ll be joining a talented team with a real chance to win. He brings fantastic physical tools to the table, with a great arm and ability to run, but has lacked consistency at Liberty. In a stable organization like the Saints, he could blossom. 

19. Philadelphia Eagles: Andrew Booth Jr, CB, Clemson

This is an excellent cornerback class, and many teams will benefit because of it. In my previous mock draft, Ahmad Garnder and Andrew Booth were in opposite landing spots, as there’s no clear cut ranking in this group. Here, Booth, a physical corner, lands in Philly with their third defensive pick of the first. They were in the playoffs last year, but still can afford to make major upgrades with three first round picks. In this mock, it comes in the form of all three levels of defense. 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh 

The Steelers are in a similar situation to the Saints, although they don’t have the same talent. However, they are both coming off Hall of Famers retiring, have winning records, and are considered quality organizations. The difference is that Pickett will likely be starting right away, as his traits are more translatable to the NFL. He has a lower ceiling than Willis, but can be manageable in the NFL under Mike Tomlin, all without having to travel… anywhere. Just like Hutchinson to the Lions, Pickett stays close to home after a great senior year. 

21. New England Patriots: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

The Patriots found their quarterback last year, but got thoroughly embarrassed in the wildcard game. With an aging defense, and a top notch corner hitting free agency, they still have a long way to go before returning to their prior dominance. Here they add deep threat Jameson Williams, who is dropping because of injury, but should return in time, and who has some experience with Mac Jones. Bringing Mac a true number one can revamp the offense, and allow them to focus on the other side of the ball in free agency and later rounds of the NFL Draft. 

22. Las Vegas Raiders: Drake London, WR, USC

While Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller make an elite receiving duo in Vegas, they could still use the skills and size of Drake London. At 6’5”, he begins every rep with a height advantage, and has a great catch radius. Before getting injured, he put up 1,084 yards in 8 games. After releasing both their 2020 NFL draft picks this season, the Raiders have to make up for some past issues, and start here with London. 

Trade: GB Receives: 23 (1), 2023 4th; ARI Receives: 28 (1), 92 (3), 170 (5)

23. Green Bay Packers: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Green Bay spends a 3rd and 5th, while receiving a 4th, to jump the Buccaneers, Titans and Bills to snag a weapon for either Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love. While they’ll know who their quarterback is by then, we don’t. Either way, they’re adding a great separator and route runner to join Davante Adams (provided he’s given the expected franchise tag). There’s uncertainty with the Packers future, but they have a chance to add Olave and add some talented stability. 

24. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa

Linderbaum, with Kyle Hamilton, may be the only player in this class who is the consensus top player at their position. Unfortunately, center and safety appear to be the least valued positions aside from special teams. However, this is good news for Cowboys fans, who get a fantastic center. Tyler Biadasz, a 4th round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, ranged from average to below average, and adding Linderbaum could be a Creed Humphrey-esque steal for Dallas. Adding to a historic offensive line, he falls to the perfect team for him. 

Trade: CIN Receives: 25 (1), 183 (6), BUF Receives: 31 (1), 95 (3)

25. Cincinnati Bengals (Via BUF): Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

Cincinnati proved that they needed a complete revamp on the offensive line in their Super Bowl loss to the Rams, so here they leapfrog Tampa Bay, Arizona, and the Dolphins to get their guy. Penning is a veteran tackle with good physicality and size at 6’7”. The Bengals have their quarterback, have their wide receiver, now it’s time to give them protection to make plays. If they can do this with Penning, we may see Cincinnati in yet another deep playoff run. 

36. Tennessee Titans: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

Jahan Dotson was my first evaluation, and remains one of my favorites. Adding him to an offense that will allow him to create on the field means he will be playing his best football. The future of Julio Jones is in question, but a core of Julio, Dotson, AJ Brown, and Derrick Henry would truly be a matchup nightmare for defenses. Adding Dotson could get them over the hump in the passing game they’ll need to be competitive. 

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

The Buccaneers lost in the playoffs after going down 27-3 against the Rams in the NFC Divisional round. Although they mounted a comeback, Cooper Kupp and Matt Stafford ended it with a deep bomb to seal the game winning field goal. It was a clear theme all season that they needed a cornerback, as their secondary was either injured or just not performing well enough. Here they take Kaiir Elam, a physical press corner with great zone ability from Florida. After returning all 22 starters last year, the Buccaneers have some big questions to answer in free agency, but adding Elam could help with stability in the secondary. 

28. Arizona Cardinals (Via GB): Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

The Cardinals get some extra picks here at no real cost. It’s a deep class for both cornerback and wide receiver, their biggest needs. Here McDuffie falls to them, but they’d take any from those positions. McDuffie is an aggressive and versatile corner who should start day one in the desert.

29. Miami Dolphins (Via SF): Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky

Kinnard can play either tackle or guard, and the Dolphins could use either. Austin Jackson had to be bumped inside after he couldn’t keep up at tackle, so they hope to correct that with Kinnad. He’s still developing, but can also be an early starter. The Dolphins have to get some protection if they’re really all-in on Tua Tagovailoa, and Kinnard brings it. 

30. Kansas City Chiefs: David Bell, WR, Purdue

The run on offensive tackles and wide receivers will leave Kansas City somewhat disappointed, but Bell brings what they’re looking for. He projects as a WR2, who is a reliable route runner and has the ability to be dangerous at times. The Chiefs don’t need a top wide receiver, they need a compliment to Tyreek Hill, and Bell fits the role perfectly. Although it isn’t flashy, this could be one of the best picks of the NFL Draft. 

31. Buffalo Bills (Via CIN): Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

The Bills, just like the Bucs, lost in heartwrenching fashion to a late drive. Patrick Mahomes torched the Bills defense all game, but really laid into them with 13 seconds remaining to tie the game, and then win it in overtime. McCreary is an athletic cornerback who just continues to improve and would join a Bills team that hopes to win a Lombardi trophy in the coming seasons. 

32. Detroit Lions (Via LAR): Sam Howell, QB, UNC

To be frank, Jared Goff isn’t the solution in Detroit. However, Les Snead did give the Lions two picks to take on his contract, and with this one he brings his possible successor. Howell is a quarterback with a quality arm who struggled with consistency after most of his supporting cast entered the league. With some NFL caliber weapons, he may be able to continue his development we saw in 2020. With the final first round pick in the NFL Draft, the Lions gamble on a quarterback, and one who may be their starter next year. 

 

Trades:

  1. CAR Receives: 14 (1), 45 (2), 138 (4). BAL Receives: 6 (1)
  2. GB Receives: 23 (1), 2023 4th ARI Receives: 28 (1), 92 (3), 170 (5)
  3. CIN Receives: 25 (1), 183 (6), BUF Receives: 31 (1), 95 (3)

Picks:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
  2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
  3. Houston Texans: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
  4. New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
  5. New York Giants: Kavyon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
  6. Baltimore Ravens (Via CAR): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
  7. New York Giants: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
  8. Atlanta Falcons: David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan
  9. Denver Broncos: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
  10. New York Jets: George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
  11. Washington Commanders: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati 
  13. Cleveland Browns: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
  14. Carolina Panthers (Via BAL): Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
  15. Philadelphia Eagles (Via MIA): Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
  16. Philadelphia Eagles (Via IND): Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State
  17. Los Angeles Chargers: Travon Walker, DL, Georgia
  18. New Orleans Saints: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
  19. Philadelphia Eagles: Andrew Booth Jr, CB, Clemson
  20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh 
  21. New England Patriots: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
  22. Las Vegas Raiders: Drake London, WR, USC
  23. Green Bay Packers: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
  24. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa
  25. Cincinnati Bengals (Via BUF): Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
  26. Tennessee Titans: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
  27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
  28. Arizona Cardinals (Via GB): Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
  29. Miami Dolphins (Via SF): Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky
  30. Kansas City Chiefs: David Bell, WR, Purdue
  31. Buffalo Bills (Via CIN): Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
  32. Detroit Lions (Via LAR): Sam Howell, QB, UNC
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