In my NFL Draft 2022 Preview earlier in the week, I highlighted that unlike recent years, there isn’t a consensus choice for No.1 pick. Ikem Ekwonu’s stock has risen in recent weeks, Aidan Hutchinson, so long considered the obvious top pick, and Evan Neal, the outstanding Alabama left tackle, have all been in the conversation since the college season finished in January.
Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux was the front runner in preseason and the early weeks of the college football season until unfounded whispers about appetite and attitude dropped him down some teams’ draft boards. Kyle Hamilton could be the most talented player available, but the safety position doesn’t attract the same priority as quarterback, tackle or defensive end, so expect to see him taken later than his talent deserves.
Six teams have two picks in the first round, armed with trade bait that could propel them up the draft order to secure that game-changing player. Eight teams have already made trades that have impacted the running order. Expect there to be more as teams jostle for the top available talent. Receivers will be in demand. I have picked six to go in my mock draft first round but there could be more.
The Jaguars pick at No.1 for the second successive year after the Urban Meyer coaching experiment backfired spectacularly. Look for new coach Doug Pederson, a Super Bowl winner with Philadelphia, to build around last year’s No.1, Trevor Lawrence. The Jags will be looking for either a strong defensive presence or a solid offensive lineman to try and take the pressure off the former Clemson standout.
There will undoubtedly be more storylines to be written, trades to be made and eyebrows to be raised. This is one of college football and the NFL’s most anticipated dates, and for good reason.
Let's see what happens. In the meantime, here is my 2022 NFL mock draft:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ikem Ekwonu – OT, North Carolina State
The Wolfpack left tackle has been rising up draft boards and can give Trevor Lawrence much needed protection. Evan Neal seemed to be the preferred pick for much of the close season, but Doug Pederson is rumoured to be a fan of Ekwonu.
2. Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson – EDGE, Michigan
Dan Campbell will be delighted to see the local hero from Ann Arbor add some much needed bite to Detroit's pass rush. Likened to the Bosa brothers, Hutchinson gives the Lions a leader on defense.
3. Houston Texans – Evan Neal – OT, Alabama
Houston needs help everywhere. Neal has been a foundation of Alabama's impressive offense and adds another bookend to accompany Laremy Tunsil.
4. New York Jets – Kayvon Thibodeaux – EDGE, Oregon
The Jets have apparently been impressed with Thibodeaux at recent visits and he adds some extra pressure to the Jets' defensive edge.
5. New York Giants – Kyle Hamilton – S, Notre Dame
The Giants, who have multiple needs, take the best player available in the talented South Bend product Hamilton.
6. Carolina Panthers – Kenny Pickett – QB, Pitt
Carolina could go for offensive line here but the experienced passer from Pitt could offer a fresh start at quarterback. Malik Willis could be the pick here, but I think Matt Rhule goes for a proven competitor in Pickett.
7. New York Giants (from Chicago Bears) – Charles Cross - OT, Mississippi State
Cross is an excellent pickup for the Giants, who need to protect young QB Daniel Jones. One of the best offensive linemen available and will be a day one starter.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Malik Willis – QB, Liberty
Marcus Mariota isn't the long term answer. The arrival of the exciting dual threat quarterback from Liberty gives Atlanta an overdue shot in the arm and will get fans excited.
9. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver Broncos) – Devin Lloyd – LB, Utah
The Seahawks could opt for a quarterback here, but Lloyd is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker with huge potential. Seattle can develop Drew Lock or pick up a passer with a trade.
10. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks) – “Sauce” Gardner – CB, Cincinnati
Cincinnati's ball hawk tightens up the Jets' secondary and, with Thibodeaux taken earlier, can energise New York's defense.
11. Washington Commanders – Garrett Wilson – WR, Ohio State
In a deeply talented receiving class, former Buckeye Wilson is the first taken. NFC East defenses won't relish the prospect of him lining up opposite Terry McLaurin.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Stingley, Jr. – CB, LSU
The Vikings need to turn the ball over and defend Aaron Rodgers twice a year. Stingley, whose injuries have caused him to slide down the order, would be a great addition here.
13. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns) – Jermaine Johnson - EDGE, Florida State
Johnson gives the Texans, desperate for help all over the field, an additional threat on the defensive edge.
14. Baltimore Ravens – Travon Walker – EDGE, Georgia
Walker has been in the conversation to be the first player taken, but he slides in my mock, happily snapped up by the Ravens who add him to their menacing defense.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami Dolphins) – Drake London – WR, USC
Philadelphia pairs a large athletic receiver with last year's top pick, the speedy DeVonta Smith to give NFC East cornerbacks nightmares.
16. New Orleans Saints (from Indianapolis Colts through Philadelphia Eagles) – Jameson Williams – WR, Alabama
Arguably the best receiver coming out of college football, Williams' torn ACL in the national championship game has caused some teams to hesitate but New Orleans are happy to pull the trigger here for the talented Alabama wideout.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – Andrew Booth – CB, Clemson
Booth addresses a big need in the secondary for the Chargers who can afford to take receiving help for Justin Herbert in later rounds.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans Saints) – Jordan Davis – DT, Georgia
The Eagles' run defense is immediately upgraded by the giant Davis, who can stuff the opposition running game.
19. New Orleans Saints (from Philadelphia Eagles) – Trevor Penning – OT, Northern Iowa
The 6'7", 320lb lineman's draft stock jumped up after an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl. Penning loves battling in the trenches and will give the Saints some steel up front.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Desmond Ridder – QB, Cincinnati
They would have hoped for local boy Pickett or Malik Willis to be available here, but Desmond Ridder has put on some impressive workouts in the Draft process and the Steelers take him to give Mitchell Trubisky some competition for the starting job.
21. New England Patriots – George Karlaftis – EDGE, Purdue
New England needs an edge with some edge and the impressive Purdue product can bolster the Patriot's pass defense.
22. Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas Raiders) – Chris Olave – WR, Ohio State
This almost seems too good to be true but if Chris Olave falls to 22 on Draft night, the Packers will be sprinting to hand their card in. A polished route runner with real speed, Olave can be a perfect replacement for Vegas-bound Davante Adams, The Packers could even trade up to get him.
23. Arizona Cardinals – Devonte Wyatt – DT, Georgia
Wyatt is one of the lesser heralded players of last years' championship winning Bulldogs defense but was an integral part of the defensive line alongside Jordan Davis.
24. Dallas Cowboys – Nakobe Dean – LB, Georgia
Perhaps not a priority need for the Cowboys, but Dean is too good a talent to pass up, and Dallas has form selecting linebackers. See Leighton Van der Esch and Micah Parsons in recent years. Another outstanding Georgia defender goes in the first round.
25. Buffalo Bills – Tyler Lindebaum – C, Iowa
Running backs Kenneth Walker or Breece Hall would be good fits here but Lindebaum can anchor the Bills' offensive line in front of Josh Allen for the next decade.
26. Tennessee Titans – Bernhard Raimann – OT, Central Michigan
Quarterback is rumoured to be a consideration for Tennessee as Ryan Tannehill needs competition but this is late in the first and not a great QB class. Raimann will strengthen the Titan's offensive line.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Zion Johnson – G, Boston College
Tom Brady's back. Better protect the interior offensive line. Johnson is the best guard in the Draft and an ideal pick for the Bucs here.
28. Green Bay Packers – George Pickens – WR, Georgia
You wait ages for a bus and two come along at once. I'm going to be bold and predict the Packers, who haven't taken a receiver in the first round since they selected Javon Walker in 2002, take TWO in the first round. The athletic Pickens is a great compliment to the speedy Olave.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (from San Francisco 49ers through Miami Dolphins) –
Jahan Dotson – WR, Penn State
Tyreek Hill's trade to Miami means the Chiefs have an opening for a talented, speedy receiver. Step forward, Jahan Dotson.
30. Kansas City Chiefs – Kaiir Elam – CB, Florida
Former Gator Elam bolsters Kansas City's secondary who will face Justin Herbert, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr twice a year.
31. Cincinnati Bengals – Kenyon Green – G, Texas A&M
The Super Bowl runners up can give Joe Burrow some added protection on the offensive line with Green.
32. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams) – Daxton Hill – S, Michigan
Detroit may take a quarterback with this pick to take advantage of the fifth-year option a first-round pick would give them. Matt Corral and Sam Howell are possibilities. I think Daxton Hill is far too good to pass up here though. The Lions can get their quarterback early in Round 2.