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  • Iestyn Withers

NFL Draft 2022: Mock 1 - Post Senior Bowl

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

As Joey Ice and Matthew Stafford prepare to do battle in this year’s Superbowl, the remaining 30 NFL franchises have already turned their eyes towards the 2022 draft class. Talent aplenty - loaded with freak athletes and potential franchise players – this draft class has it all. Coming from a season that saw rookies standout amongst veterans – Ja’Marr Chase, Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah, Kyle Pitts and Micah Parsons (to name a few) – NFL General Managers will be frothing at the bit as they seek to recreate that impact next season. But the draft is not without its pitfalls; a shot at success does not come without risk. One need only look at this year’s Quarterback class to see a clear display of ‘what could be’ versus ‘what might not be’. Throw in some trades and you have the kind of sporting theatre that also serves the nerd in us all. With the 2022 Senior Bowl done and dusted, no more collegiate football to be played, and the days quickly counting down, draft boards are becoming finalised and fans are ready to ride a rollercoaster of emotions. In what could be make or break for future Superbowl hopes, let’s dive into this year’s draft class. NOTE: Whilst potential trades will be discussed, this mock will remain trade-free. All selections take into account team needs, positional value, game-film, player potential, expert draft boards, and personal opinion. The selections are who the writer would take at that spot if they were that respective team’s General Manager – not a prediction. #1 Jacksonville Jaguars – OT Evan Neal, Alabama A year on from Trevor Lawrence being the consensus first overall pick, the Jags return to the number-one spot and once again it should all revolve around Lawrence. But this time, Jacksonville are looking to protect their investment. Having failed the former Clemson signal-caller, the Jaguars can attempt to make good by offering Lawrence a wall to hide behind. After all, once you get the mortgage, then you need the insurance. With experience and skillset to play at the tackle or guard spot, Neal is a freak athlete that looks the part on and off the field. Likely an immediate upgrade on both Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor, the 6”6 360-pounder is a man-mountain and a sure-fire day-one starter. That said, this could be a potential trade spot with Detroit if the Jaguars are sold on Neal. The Lions are unlikely to have anyone over Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson on their draft board and Jacksonville may be wise to leverage an additional mid-round pick for a swap of the number-one and number-two picks. #2 Detroit Lions – EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan Michigan made? Check. A leader? Check. Epitomises hustle? Check. A culture-changer in the locker room? Check. Hutchinson is everything the Lions want… and that’s before we talk about his excellence on the field. Perhaps unlucky to miss out on this year’s Heisman Trophy, Hutchinson is a pro-ready prospect who plays with explosivity and total effort. Young at only 21 years of age, Hutchinson plays with a maturity beyond his years and will likely blow people away at the NFL combine. The Lions fans are due a win – particularly after seeing Stafford leave and become Superbowl-bound – and the man born and raised in Michigan is a big W. Detroit cannot overthink this, they need to get their man.

#3 Houston Texans – EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon The Texans can upgrade in every single position, and theoretically that should make this pick easy. That said, Houston has a plethora of talents to pick from. The decision likely comes down to the ‘best player available’ but that remains subjective from team to team. Kyle Hamilton, Derek Stingley Jr., Charles Cross and Kayvon Thibodeaux should all be in consideration, but the latter should be the pick. Possessing a thick, powerful frame, with the flexibility of a bendy outside rusher, the Oregon EDGE is not the level Myles Garrett was coming out of college, but he still has perennial 10-plus-sack potential and that is number-three pick worthy. Still a position that can win you a football game, pairing Thibodeaux on the edge with Jonathan Greenard could at least give Houston something to be positive about. #4 New York Jets – S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame The Jets defensive backs group was the target of jabs and comedic ire last off season. Though no surprise given its make-up of late round draft picks and relatively unknown names, they have the chance to add an absolute stud to that group come draft day. Derek Stingley Jr. is another potential pick up at this spot, but ignoring positional value, Hamilton is a blue-chip prospect and the better player. Nobody allows for the creativity defensively that the Fighting Irish safety does, even as a freshman he was the best player on the field for Notre Dame. With particularly notable size and length, Hamilton’s mass does not affect his ability to change direction and impact a play. In fact, he is so explosive it may well be an advantage. Add in the fact that he can move down into the box and bring intensity to the run defence, and Robert Saleh is likely enamoured with Hamilton. It would not be a stretch to say Hamilton is the best player in the 2022 NFL Draft, and thus spending a number-four pick on him is definitely worth it. #5 New York Giants – OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State The G-Men need offensive line help and they have two exciting prospects to pick from. Mississippi State’s Charles Cross is an effortless mover at offensive tackle, with strength and excellent hands. However, the behemoth that is Ikem Ekwonu makes this a difficult choice. Originally slated as a guard at the pro-level, Ekwonu is a monster of a man that has fixed most of his technical issues and become a well-rounded tackle this season. The NC State man is as dominating as Cross is effortless, and that bite and ferocity is exactly what the Giants – and GM David Gettleman – need. Though there remains work to be done in terms of technique, Ekwonu has a violence that you cannot teach. Andrew Thomas showed improvements this past year, and Ekwonu can further bolster that desperately needy Giants O-line. #6 Carolina Panthers – OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State The Panthers sit in a somewhat enviable position with the risk factor taken out of their pick. Carolina must go O-line here, and it should be a case of drafting whoever the Giants don’t. Whilst not possessing the bullying power of Ekwonu, Cross is so seamlessly smooth he should be referred to as a skill player. Carolina have a long way to go to become contenders yet again, but Cross has the potential to be a stalwart on the line for the foreseeable future. Who he will be protecting at QB, that’s more uncertain. #7 New York Giants – CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU The New York Giants could look to double-up on O-line help here, though they may see this as too early to select Center Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa – despite his ridiculous talent. This likely shifts David Gettleman’s attention to the defensive side of the ball, and it’ll be a toss-up between cornerback and edge. Though the Giants GM can be quite partial to a behemoth, Stingley Jr. is the pick here. It is highly doubtful that the Giants want to pay James Bradberry’s hefty contract - $13.4 million in 2022 salary with a $21.8 million cap hit – if they can get a worthwhile replacement, and though Stingley Jr. has tailed off since his insane freshman year he remains a player with huge potential and upside. #8 Atlanta Falcons – EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue The Falcons pass rush in 2021 was downright woeful at times – outside of Grady Jarrett – and they can get some immediate help in the form of Purdue’s George Karlaftis. Big-bodied and ready for the attrition of the NFL, Karlaftis should be fancied ahead of Michigan’s David Ojabo because he is more pro-ready. An every-down defensive end at 6”4 and 275lbs, the Purdue Boilermaker might be the best power rusher in this year’s class. A prospect who exploded onto the scene during a breakout 2019 freshman season, Karlaftis pieced together another tremendous campaign in 2021, demonstrating great punch and tenacity off the edge. The debate will ramble on in terms of speed versus power off the edge, but Karlaftis would be an immediate upgrade in Atlanta. #9 Denver Broncos – LB Devin Lloyd, Utah Arguments can be made that linebacker is becoming a position of reduced importance due to the passing-heavy nature of the modern game. However, with teams needing to protect against the pass defensive schemes required limited personnel in the box – thus meaning a top-class linebacker can prove invaluable. The quarterback class is not one the Broncos are likely to dip into at the number-nine spot – particularly given they passed up on Mac Jones and Justin Fields last year – and thus they need to look at objectively good football players. Denver landed an impact defender with the ninth pick last year and could do so again with Lloyd, an explosive presence with the athleticism to make plays in coverage – evidenced by four interceptions, two pick-sixes in 2021. #10 New York Jets – CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati Robert Saleh should be looking to bring some sauce to the Jets; he won’t find a more apt acquisition than Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner. Gardner locked down an entire side of the field for Cincinnati in 2021 as the Bearcats made the CFB playoffs. Forcing throws away from his coverage, and in the process setting up his teammate Coby Bryant to win the Jim Thorpe Award, Gardner did not concede a single touchdown in his college career – an outrageous stat. Enough has already been said about the Jets need for defensive back improvements, and Kyle Hamilton and Sauce Gardner would give the franchise an A++ draft grade. #11 Washington Commanders – LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia

In all honesty, the newly christened Washington Commanders likely take a punt on their pick of the quarterback class here. It would be extremely unlikely that a handful of QBs don’t go in this year’s first round, but Washington may be better served shooting their shot in free-agency. A few pieces away from win-now mode, a high-risk rookie is not the answer. Instead, the Commanders should follow Denver’s lead and look to pick up a good football player. Despite being undersized, Nakobe Dean has the leadership, instincts and playmaking ability to be the missing piece for a talented defensive unit that underperformed in 2021. Aligned alongside Cole Holcomb, the Commanders would have two young talents with game-changing ability in their linebacker room. #12 Minnesota Vikings – C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa You can hear it already: “yOu dON’t drAFt a CenTer tHAt hiGhLy!!”. But Tyler Linderbaum is no normal center prospect. A highly polished, highly cerebral, and dynamic weapon on the offensive line, Linderbaum is one of the best center prospects scouts and pundits have seen. In fact, Linderbaum could go in the top-10 – he’s that good. Garrett Bradbury has had a far from convincing 3 years in Minnesota and Linderbaum would be an immediate improvement. With elite quickness for the position, the Iowa man famously beat Bucs man-mountain Tristan Wirfs in amateur wrestling. Though not necessarily needed, Linderbaum is a luxury that the Vikings may be unable to turn down. #13 Cleveland Browns – WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State The OBJ saga is over and the Browns need to rectify that this off-season. It seems likely that Cleveland runs it back one more time with Baker Mayfield in 2022, and they must give him the best chance to succeed. The O-line – when fit – is one of the best in the league, but Mayfield and the Browns were let down on numerous occasions with dropped catches and poor route running last year. Jarvis Landry is not a WR1, and whilst Donovan Peoples-Jones continues to improve, the Browns need to improve both the quality and depth of their receiving corps. With their pick of the bunch at this point, Drake London, Chris Olave, Jameson Williams and Garrett Wilson should all be considered. The latter gets the nod here though. An acrobatic wideout who is already used to playing in Ohio, Wilson could become the immediate WR1 in Cleveland. Throw in the fact that Mayfield and Wilson should have an automatic connection as both attended Lake Travis High School and this is an ultimate win for the Dawgpound. #14 Baltimore Ravens – EDGE David Ojabo, Michigan David Ojabo is more than the ‘upside’ pick people view him as. Yes, Ojabo is so raw in footballing terms that the concept of a spike needed to be explained to him. And yes, Ojabo has only 19 collegiate games on his resume. But it’s not about the time you get, it’s what you make of it. And the Michigan man made those games count. Playing with outstanding leverage, good footwork and an exceptional body lean, Ojabo is a perfect fit at the Ravens – for both parties. Baltimore can pick up another explosive player to help them compete in the toughest division in football, whilst Ojabo can become a pro-bowl talent under the Ravens superb coaching staff. Nigerian-born before relocating to Scotland, there is a naivety to Ojabo that makes his ceiling almost unimaginable; already playing with a maturity beyond his limited experience, Ojabo could be that guy. #15 Philadelphia Eagles – WR Drake London, USC Philadelphia has 3 of the next 5 picks here and is armed to make major improvements to their team. With Philly likely set on keeping Jalen Hurts in charge of the reins, they should look to fill gaps on the roster… or should they? It is highly likely that one of the – if not more – top calibre edges, cornerbacks and wideouts will be available here. Though it may seem somewhat of a luxury pick, the Eagles should pursue Drake London here. London was running away with the Biletnikoff Award before fracturing his right ankle in Week 9. Despite not playing a full season, he should still probably should take home the award, given how dominant he was.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound receiver makes 50/50 catches 90/10, and he is the big-bodied receiver who could compliment the smaller Devonta Smith and Jalen Reagor well. Uncertainty surrounding the performances of JJ Arcega-Whiteside should be enough of a reason to give Hurts a bigtime target.

#16 Philadelphia Eagles – CB Kaiir Elam, Florida Next the Eagles can look to get the best available cornerback off the board. Who that might be is dependent on a myriad of factors though. Trent McDuffie seems to be favoured by many pundits, but prior to the season analysts were very high on Florida’s Kaiir Elam. This writer remains high on Elam. With the top-end speed to keep up with receivers down the field, as well as good physicality and feel for the position, Elam would be a long-term upgrade in Philly’s secondary. There are questions to be asked around his leveraging in tackling, but his long and rangy body coupled with speed could be invaluable at the pro-level. #17 Los Angeles Chargers – CB Trent McDuffie, Washington Following Philadelphia’s lead, the Chargers can also upgrade their secondary at the seventeen spot. Asante Samuel Jr. impressed after being draft last year – though his concussions are worrying – whilst Chris Harris Jr. will be a free agent after this season. This is where the Chargers can look to the Washington Huskies’ secondary. There wasn’t a lot to boast about regarding Washington’s 2021 collegiate season, but McDuffie was a very notable bright spot. Allowing zero touchdowns on 296 coverage snaps and missing only 6 tackles on 101 attempts, McDuffie has inside-out versatility that Head Coach Brandon Staley will covet. Additionally, McDuffie is an athlete. Period. And you can’t teach that. #18 New Orleans Saints – WR Chris Olave, Ohio State Saints fans will be clamouring for a quarterback here, but any QB – rookie or veteran – will struggled with no one viable to throw to. Let’s bang that drum once again: the New Orleans Saints need wide receivers. This is where Chris Olave comes in. He would have been a first-rounder last year. He should be a first-rounder this year. A refined route runner with top-level speed, Olave may be gone by the time the Saints are on the clock. Though his size may be less desirable at 187lbs, Olave can add to that given his 6”1 frame and add some physicality to his otherwise very well-rounded game. New Orleans already has a handful of Ohio State products on their books, and they can add another here.

#19 Philadelphia Eagles – G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

The Eagles are back on the clock and once again they should be looking to fill a need. Thankfully, their foresight last season has helped them here. The tenured, perennial pro-bowler Jason Kelce has retired at Center but last year’s rookie Landon Dickerson can now slide across to that spot. This leaves a gap at guard. A gap that Kenyon Green should be poised to fill. Taking into account that Brandon Brooks has retired at the other guard spot and the Eagles must make this move. Should Green be off the board, Philly can hope for a falling Linderbaum or look to slightly reach for Boston College’s Zion Johnson. Either way, they must go O-line.

The former five-star out of Texas, Green has amassed a ton of experience throughout his college football career and his exceptional lower-body thickness can prove hugely beneficial in the NFL. With a great ability to anchor and not be moved backwards, Green is a competitor who will battle for every inch. That’s the work ethic a city like Philadelphia will cherish.

#20 Pittsburgh Steelers – QB Malik Willis, Liberty

One of the biggest news stories coming out of the Senior Bowl was the attention Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin gave to Malik Willis. The Liberty man had a notably strong week of practice, showcasing his cannon arm, running back frame and athletic mobility. As noted at the Commanders’ spot earlier, quarterbacks will be drafted in the first-round. For this reason, Willis may well be gone by the time Pitt is on the clock. The Steelers can then opt for hometown prospect Kenny Pickett, but Willis would give Tomlin the polar opposite quarterback to Ben Roethlisberger. Additionally, Willis could sit behind Mason Rudolph for the year and be primed to generate a lot of buzz in the future. Pickett would bring a semblance of mobility and more consistent passing, but Willis has the speed that we have seen prove highly advantageous in the league.

#21 New England Patriots – WR Jameson Williams, Alabama

The Patriots were uncharacteristically active in free agency last year, but they still need to add more talent in this year’s draft. Mac Jones could benefit from more catchers and Alabama’s breakout star of the year could be a great choice.

Williams spent his first two years of college with Ohio State, but his transfer to Alabama was just what Williams needed to take his game to the next level. Despite tearing his ACL in the National Championship game, Williams should remain highly coveted for one primary reason: his speed. With the ability to create separation from his defender on almost every play, regardless of what route he is running. Williams will just outrun his defender on a deep route, but could be even more dangerous in Mac Jones dunk and dive passing offence; the ability to make himself open for the quarterback quickly means the Alabama receiver could rack up targets in New England.

#22 Las Vegas Raiders – EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State

Maxx Crosby had a breakout year for the Raiders last year – capped with a Pro Bowl selection – but Las Vegas still need an added boost of explosivity on their defensive line. Crosby is a talent that wanted to prove he could be elite, and this draft pick can be used on someone who is similarly motivated.

Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie transferred from Temple after spending three seasons with the Owls, and he’s been on a mission to show everyone how good he is (and can be). Ebiketie went on to finish the season with 52 pressures, 62 total tackles, 9.5 sacks, 18 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. If that isn’t impactful, then what is?

Ebiketie should be able to line up as a day one starter for the Raiders, creating more pressure in Sin City and perhaps causing carnage himself, or taking defenders away from Crosby. The Raiders have a chequered history in recent drafts, they don’t need to overthink this.

#23 Arizona Cardinals – G Zion Johnson, Boston College

The Cardinals need to ensure that they protect Kyler Murray, and this year’s first-round could be the place to do so. This is where Zion Johnson comes in. After a stellar Senior Bowl week, Johnson could well have pushed himself into the first-round and he would be an immediate plug and play guard in Arizona.

Johnson was consistently the best offensive linemen during his week in Mobile, and has already begun work at both guard and center. This versatility and potential could make Johnson even more valuable as a prospect, and the Cardinals should consider taking the Boston College man. That said, if Kenyon Green is available then this pick is worth a debate.

#24 Dallas Cowboys – OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa

Having just referenced an offensive lineman who stood out at the Senior Bowl, be ready for some de ja vu here. Trevor Penning entered the Senior Bowl already expected by many to be a first-round pick, with his film at Northern Iowa showcasing his physical style of play. After doubling down on this in Mobile, Penning is exactly who is needed in Dallas.

Offensive tackle may not be an obvious priority for the Cowboys right now, but they’d have a hard time passing on Penning if he was still available at this spot. A physical, almost bully, on the O-line, Penning would bring a much needed viciousness to Dallas.

#25 Buffalo Bills – DT Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

The Bills seemed primed to chase the Superbowl again next season, and thus they need to be looking for immediate upgrades. Though the defensive tackle class is decidedly poor this year, Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt is definitely not.

Wyatt possesses great get-off and pass-rush skills, showcasing an ability to apply pressure from the inside. With a noticeable maturity to his hand technique, Wyatt could line up against Ed Oliver – or look to beat out the man who has so far failed to live up to his potential. Fans may clamour for Wyatt’s Georgia teammate Jordan Davis here, but his conditioning concerns should see him edged out.

#26 Tennessee Titans – EDGE Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State

The Titans still need upgrades in terms of pass rush, and they may well have a pick of players to choose from at the twenty-six spot. Jermaine Johnson III of FSU was yet another standout at the Senior Bowl, and his plethora of rush moves likely impressed scouts across the league. Attacking with a rip-and-run move, a bull rush, an inside spin move and outside spin move, Johnson’s draft stock will have definitely risen.

Johnson is preferred to Kingsley Enagbare and former defensive tackle Travon Walker here, though both prospects have their merits.

#27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson

When healthy, the Bucs cornerback group is among the NFL’s best, but injuries dealt multiple blows to Tampa Bay’s impressive stable of corners last season. Given their lowly first-round spot, Tampa Bay may be best served taking their preferred cornerback here. Too many picks away from having any shot at Stingley Jr. or Sauce Gardner – as well as McDuffie and Elam – Tampa could take a look at Andrew Booth Jr.

A former 5-star recruit, Booth Jr. was well respected and fancied early on in this year’s draft process – though this hype has died down. That said, the Clemson man offers an exciting blend of size, athleticism, instincts, physicality, ball skills, and competitive toughness that give him the makeup of an impact starter in the NFL.

#28 Green Bay Packers – OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan

The Packers faithful always want a wide-receiver in the first-round, but O-line struggles last season should dictate the team’s strategy here. Pro Football Focus mocked Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann to Green Bay in their latest mock, and this writer agrees.

Green Bay’s offensive line was patched together during the season and would have looked a lot worse without the exemplary Aaron Rodgers. A healthy David Bakhtiari next year will make a big difference, but the Packers could still use some contingency there.

Raimann has excellent athleticism for a player of his size – 6”7, 305lbs- and is able to burst off the line as a run blocker, getting to the second level. Additionally possessing very good lateral quickness, which is paramount for a player of his size, Raimann is generating some buzz as the draft approaches. As a long-term – and immediate term – impactful player, Raimann would be a good pick-up.

#29 Miami Dolphins – WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas

The Miami Dolphins wideout room could be – and should be - facing a complete shakeup this offseason, which could lead the team to target Arkansas’ Treylon Burks. With a draft grade around the back-end of day 1 or early day 2, Burks is a big-bodied receiver who could help get the best out of Tua Tagavailoa.

Pairing Burks with the impressive Waddle in Miami would give the Dolphins a dynamic one-two-punch similar to that of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. New Head Coach Mike McDaniel has been brough in to be somewhat of a QB whisperer to Tua, and he would be well served to give him another offensive weapon to throw to.

#30 Kansas City Chiefs – WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State

Patrick Mahomes has said that he won’t get over not making the Superbowl, until he is back in the Superbowl. If you give him more offensive weapons, he will be a very happy camper.

Given the Chiefs recent history of deep scouting at the Senior Bowl – both Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith became week 1 starters last season – Penn State’s Jahan Dotson likely received a lot of attention from the team in Mobile. Not necessarily the big, physical target most Chiefs fans want, Dotson’s production shows he can be very dangerous against opposing corners nonetheless. With great burst, Dotson is an excellent route-runner, has dependable hands, and comes back to the ball well. The Chiefs will likely need to continue their “we score more points than you” gameplan in the 2022 season and Dotson could be a valuable part of that.

#31 Cincinnati Bengals – OT/G Darian Kinnard, Kentucky

This is Joe Burrow’s world and we are all just living in it. Though if he doesn’t get some better protection, the Bengals are playing a high-risk game with their face of the franchise. For this reason, Cincy may be prepared to reach slightly in order to add another O-line recruit – especially given the Ja’Marr Chase and Penei Sewel debate last year.

Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard gets the nod in this mock given his versatility at both the tackle and guard spot, however Kinnard’s skillset would be best optimised inside where he’s given tight angles and alignments, with the Kentucky man a solid shout for a week 1 starter in Cincinnati.

#32 Detroit Lions – QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Detroit has Jared Goff as their current quarterback, and he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. That said, the Lions may be well placed at the final pick of the first round to take a future signal-caller.

In this mock there would be numerous QBs available at the thirty-two spot, however Detroit should focus their attention on the Cincinnati Bearcat’s Desmond Ridder. Widely regarded as the most “pro-ready” quarterback in this year’s draft class, Ridder could be more than just a future starter; Ridder could compete with Goff sooner rather than later.

Ridder has a good arm, as well as mobility and decision-making, and it would be a great choice to take him at this spot. Should the Lions wait they would lose the fifth-year option on whichever QB they draft, and thus they should bring in Ridder here.

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