2022 NFL MOCK DRAFT: 1.0

BY ADAM GREENE

With two weeks to go until the offseason officially begins, it’s time to unleash the first Mock Draft of 2022.

Regular readers will know that I don’t suggest or predict trades this early on. Not unless something is already in the works. I don’t do it even if I know something is going to happen, a potential Jimmy Garoppolo trade that might net a low first rounder or a Calvin Ridley deal that definitely should.

This could be a very active draft as trades go. The Los Angeles Rams have used their draft picks to land star players already in the league to great success. If another team wants into that “win now” window, they might start doing the same.

But, that’s not my job. I’m making the selections for the teams with the picks. Here’s my first go at it.

1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS — Kayvon Thibodeaux, sophomore, Edge, Oregon

(6-5, 250 pounds, 2021: 49 tackles, 12 for a loss, seven sacks, one pass defended, two forced fumbles)

I’ve seen drafts where Hutchinson was the pick here and it’s hard to argue that. Thibodaux is a little younger (and more raw) and I’m not a big believer in a “ceiling” as its just the draft guru’s imagination, but if two guys are coming in equal and one is a couple years younger, that tells me there’s plenty of room to grow. There’s really no way to screw up this pick if you take one of them.

Thibodeaux pays at +165 as the No. 1 overall pick.

2. DETROIT LIONS — Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Senior, Michigan

(6-6, 265, 2021: 62 tackles, 16.5 for a loss, 14 sacks, three passes defended, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles)

Ultimately, it comes down to being more fun for all involved if Hutchinson remains in Michigan. The excitement that took the Lions into the offseason will only grow with hometown kid Hutchinson joining Dan Campbell’s squad. Thibodeaux isn’t a bad consolation prize.

3. HOUSTON TEXANS — Tyler Linderbaum, Offensive Line, Junior, Iowa

(6-2, 270 pounds, PFF Grade: 95.3)

Who do you pick when your team needs everything? How about the best offensive lineman on the board. Davis Mills might not be the guy, but there’s no QB in this draft worth taking this early, so Houston might as well go ahead and shore up their offensive line for Mills or whoever they trick into taking the job.

4. NEW YORK JETS — Derek Stingley, Jr, Cornerback, Junior, LSU

(6-1, 195 pounds, 2021: 8 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, one forced fumble)

Like the Texans, the Jets need a little bit of everything. And while Stingley might not be the best guy on the board, a safety like Kyle Hamilton will be sitting a while simply because of his position. Plus, New York just chucked a first round safety a year ago in a trade to the Seattle Seahawks. As such, Stingley, the top rated corner, gets the call.

5. NEW YORK GIANTS — George Karlaftis, Edge, Junior, Purdue

(6-4, 275 pounds, 2021: 39 tackles, 10 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, four passes defended, two fumbles recovered, one defensive touchdown, two forced fumbles)

The Giants were one of the worst pass rushing teams in the NFL, with Azeez Ojulari leading the team with eight sacks. As an entire front line, New York recorded 21.5. TJ Watt, by himself, recorded 22.5. Ojulari was tied at No. 31 with four other guys. He’s not bad, but to win in the NFC especially, the Giants need more than that. Plus, it’s always good for a new “offensive” head coach to take a defensive player first in the draft.

6. CAROLINA PANTHERS — Evan Neal, Offensive Line, Junior, Alabama

(6-7, 360 pounds, PFF Grade: 85.8)

There’s a good chance the Panthers want to take a shot at one of these lackluster quarterbacks in this draft. If they do, they should trade down. But since I don’t factor in trades until they actually happen, I’m leaving Carolina here and taking Neal, a guy that could go as early as No. 1 overall on some boards.

7. NEW YORK GIANTS (from Bears) — Ikem Ekwonu, Offensive Line, Junior, NC State

(6-4, 320 pounds, PFF Grade: 91.6)

With their defensive line taken care of, the Giants need to boost the other side of the trenches. I can’t see Brian Dabol giving up on Daniel Jones without testing him out for a season first. They’ll need lots of help on offense, but the skill positions can be addressed later in the draft and in free agency. Ekwonn could be a cornerstone of NY’s offensive front for the next decade.

8. ATLANTA FALCONS — Garrett Wilson, Wide Receiver, Junior, Ohio State

(6-0, 192 pounds, 2021: 70 catches, 1,058 yards, 12 touchdowns, 76 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown)

While I’m not factoring in potential trades in draft seeding, I am in the draft results. The word is that Atlanta, continuing its soft rebuild, is looking to deal wide receiver Calvin  Ridley. If they do, they’ll need to draft his replacement, so Wilson becomes the first offensive skill position player to come off the board.

9. DENVER BRONCOS — Nakobe Dean, Linebacker, Junior, Georgia

(6-0, 225 pounds, 2021: 72 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, six sacks, two interceptions, one defensive touchdown, five passes defended, two forced fumbles)

The Broncos have a new head coach, a lot of draft capital and might not pick here if they trade for Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson. But, again, my rules are my rules so I’m having Denver take the best non safety on the board to add to a defense that was already pretty good.

10. NEW YORK JETS (from Seahawks) — Charles Cross, Offensive Line, Sophomore, Michigan State

(6-5, 310 pounds, PFF Grade: 86.7)

After taking a corner with their top pick, the Jets decide to help Zach Wilson out with their second Top 10 pick, this time with one of the draft’s best offensive linemen. There’s still so many holes in New York’s roster, but with a second year QB coming off a, let’s just say, not so great rookie campaign, this is the time to invest in his protection.

11. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM — Kenyon Green, Offensive Line, Junior, Texas A&M

(6-4, 325 pounds, PFF Grade: 79.8)

By the time the draft rolls around, the WFT will already have a new name. This could be the time to pick a new QB as well, but I think that Rivera will hold off on that for a round (if not entirely by getting involved in one of the QB trades or free agent acquisitions). It’s a run on offensive lineman as every team high up in the draft was ransacked, literally, by pass rushers this season.

12. MINNESOTA VIKINGS — Ahmad Gardner, Cornerback, Junior, Cincinnati

(6-2, 188 pounds, 2021: 40 tackles, five for a loss, three sacks, three interceptions, four passes defended)

Already loaded up on offense, the new Vikings regime should add to the defense, taking Gardner here to match up against some of the best receivers in the game. No team in the NFC stands a chance with mediocre corners and pass rushers.

13. CLEVELAND BROWNS — Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver, Junior, Alabama

(6-2, 189 pounds, 2021: 79 catches, 1,572 yards, 15 touchdowns, 23 rushing yards)

After cutting Odell Beckham Jr. and receiving nothing in return, the Browns now have a job opening they’ve yet to fill. Williams’ injury in the National Title game will keep him off the field for a while, but he’s too talented to slip that far in the draft. And the Browns need a guy like him who’ll be ready in November.

14. BALTIMORE RAVENS — Devin Lloyd, Linebacker, Junior, Utah

(6-3, 235 pounds, 2021: 111 tackles, 22 for a loss, seven sacks, four interceptions, two defensive touchdowns, six passes defended, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble)

After missing the playoffs for the first time in the Lamar Jackson era, there’s plenty of upgrades required to get Baltimore back into contention. Firing defensive coordinator Wink Martindale probably means parting ways with all their defensive free agents, so the draft is a good time to start loading back up that side of the ball.

15. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (from Dolphins) — Kyle Hamilton, Safety, Junior, Notre Dame

(6-4, 220 pounds, 2021: 34 tackles, two for a loss, three interceptions, four passes defended)

Hamilton is the top ranked player on a lot of boards in this draft. Unfortunately for him, his position is undervalued, like running back, because so many teams find value at that position later in the draft. Still, Hamilton is a difference maker and day one starter that should make Philly’s entire defense better.

16. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (from Colts) — Andrew Booth, Jr., Cornerback, Junior, Clemson

(6-0, 200 pounds, 2021: 37 tackles, three for a loss, three interceptions, five passes defended)

Since they grabbed a new starting safety, they might as well add a cornerback. Even with Tom Brady (probably) gone and Aaron Rodgers (maybe) leaving the NFC, this is still a pass happy league and Philadelphia has to continue building up their defensive unit.

17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS — Jordan Davis, Defensive Line, Senior, Georgia

(6-6, 340 pounds, 2021: 32 tackles, five for a loss, two sacks, one pass defended)

The Chargers could be losing key pieces all over both sides of the ball. One that could be replaceable this late in the first round is at defensive tackle. They can let Linval Joseph walk and slide Jordan Davis into the defensive tackle slot. It’ll be hard enough to re-sign wide receiver Mike Williams and maybe a few other pieces.

18. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — Treylon Burks, Wide Receiver, Junior, Arkansas

(6-3, 225 pounds, 2021: 66 catches, 1,104 yards, 11 touchdowns, 112 rushing yards, one touchdown)

Here’s another perfect spot for a quarterback and, if Sean Payton was still there, a Matt Corral would definitely be an option. I feel the weakness of this QB draft class, along with the strength of who will be available via trade (Wilson, Rodgers Watson, Jimmy Garoppolo) and free agency (Marcus Mariota, Mitchell Trubisky and Jameis Winston), there’s just no reason to reach. They could also look to trade Michael Thomas’ big contract since they’re in a complete rebuild and are $74 million over the cap as of this writing. They need wide receiver help regardless.

19. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — Kingsley Enagbare, Edge, Senior, South Carolina

(6-4, 340 pounds, 2021: 43 tackles, seven for a loss, 4.5 sacks, two passes defended, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles)

It’s a whole new defense for the Eagles. They get a safety, a corner and now an edge rusher to a team that was ranked No. 31 in total sacks.

20. PITTSBURGH STEELERS — Kenny Pickett, Quarterback, Senior, Pittsburgh

(6-3, 220 pounds, 2021: 67.2 completion percentage, 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns, seven interceptions)

At last a quarterback shows up as the Steelers go locally sourced for Ben Roethliberger’s replacement. Is Pickett worth a first round pick? I have no idea. I have repeatedly stated the unambiguous truth that no one knows anything about quarterbacks. Mike Mayock spent a TV career comparing every guy that came out in the draft to Matt Ryan and not of a one of them turned into Matt Ryan. Mel Kiper Jr. said that JaMarcus Russell would be the next John Elway. Is Pickett my top QB? Nope. Injury aside, I like Corral the best, but I’m just like everyone else. I don’t know anything. In past drafts I would have hit on Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson and completely whiffed on Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes. I’m as clueless as anyone.

21. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS — Chris Olave, Wide Receiver, Senior, Ohio State

(6-1, 188 pounds, 2021: 65 catches, 936 yards, 13 touchdowns)

Yes, I have the Patriots once again taking a wide receiver in the first round, something that doesn’t usually work out well for them. But, it’s the position they most need to upgrade and I can’t see a storm of free agent wideouts begging to play on a Mac Jones offense without coordinator Josh McDaniels, who just took over the next team drafting.

22. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS — Drake London, Wide Receiver, Junior, USC

(6-5, 210 pounds, 2021: 88 catches, 1,084 yards, seven touchdowns)

The Raiders will have a new front office and coaching staff. What that group will have to do is make up for the years of horrid drafts and lost players under Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock. Taking a wide receiver here, a big body and red zone target, should help. But Vegas, a legit playoff team in 2021, has its work cut out for it. They should be a lot further along.

23. ARIZONA CARDINALS — Kaiir Elam, Cornerback, Junior, Florida

(6-2, 196 pounds, 2021: 29 tackles, 1.5 for a loss, one interception, five passes defended

The Cardinals wilted again down the stretch, but need to continue building on their defense. Elam adds size and playmaking ability to the back end that Arizona needs when facing some of the best wide receivers in the NFL in the NFC West multiple times a season.

24. DALLAS COWBOYS — Travon Walker, Defensive Line, Junior, Georgia

(6-5, 275 pounds, 2021: 33 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, six sacks, two passes defended, one fumble recovery)

The Cowboys are loaded, which makes the fact that they’re wasting another year with Mike McCarthy at head coach all the more ridiculous. They aren’t losing anyone replaceable in free agency, so when you don’t have a lot of needs, it’s never a bad idea to bulk up on the defensive line.

25. BUFFALO BILLS — Derion Kendrick, Cornerback, Junior, Georgia

(6-0, 192 pounds, 2021: 41 tackles, two for a loss, four interceptions, three passes defended)

Buffalo faltered against Kansas City again, so it’s back to the drawing board. While the offense stood toe to toe with Kansas City, defensive let downs doomed the Bills. That means adding talent and speed on that side of the ball.

26. TENNESSEE TITANS —Daxton Hill, Cornerback, Junior, Michigan

(6-0, 192 pounds, 2021: 69 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, 0.5 sacks, two interceptions, eight passes defended, one fumble recovery)

For the second year in a row, the Titans were one and done in the playoffs. This year, there’s not a particular part of the team to focus on, but they definitely need an upgrade at cornerback. The other QBs in the AFC aren’t going away. They’re not even 30 yet.

27. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS — Jahan Dotson, Wide Receiver, Senior, Penn State

(5-11, 183 pounds, 2021: 91 catches, 1,182 yards, 12 touchdowns)

Speaking of quarterbacks, the Buccaneers could be in the market for a replacement. Tampa drafted Kyle Trask last season and he never saw action this year. Arians likes to recycle old guys, so we could see a wild card QB end up with the Bucs, but either way, they’re going to have to find a way to replace Antonio Brown’s production.

28. GREEN BAY PACKERS — Matt Corral, Quarterback, Junior, Ole Miss

(6-2, 205 pounds, 2021: 67.7 completion percentage, 3,343 yards, 20 touchdowns, five interceptions)

Picking another QB this soon after nearly blowing up your franchise for Jordan Love would be a huge white flag. But Love has shown very little in his time with the team and no one there seems overly enamored with their first round pick. If Rodgers does decide to stay, then this pick will rightly be used at another position, but after the way this run ended, I see no reason to stand in the way of a divorce.

29. MIAMI DOLPHINS (from 49ers) — Jaxson Kirkland, Offensive Line, Junior, Washington

(6-7, 310 pounds)

The Dolphins have set themselves up for one of the weirdest offseasons of all time. After trying to trade for a quarterback when they have one they can win with, they went ahead and fired the head coach that led them to two straight winning seasons. I have no idea if Tua Tagovailoa is in South Beach to stay, but either way, they need some offensive line upgrades and Kirkland is the next one up on my list.

30. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS — Jaquan Brisker, Safety, Senior, Penn State

(6-1, 200 pounds, 2021: 63 tackles, six for a loss, two interceptions, five passes defended, one fumble recovery)

The Chiefs might still be stunned by their AFC Championship loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, but there’s no time off. Tyrann Mathieu is set to be a free agent and looks like he’ll walk. Kansas City needs to keep a quality safety on the field and drafting and developing what you need is the cheapest option.

31/32. CINCINNATI BENGALS — Bernhard Raimann, Offensive Line, Junior, Central Michigan

(6-7, 305 pounds, PFF Grade: 94.6)

I’m listing the Bengals first because of their win-loss record, not as a Super Bowl prediction. Since the Divisional Round, anything can happen and nothing occurring on Super Bowl Sunday will surprise me. As such, I’m not even close to making a pick yet. But somebody’s going first and Cincy’s 13-7 overall mark puts them behind the Los Angeles Rams, who are 16-5. It’s no secret where every single aspect of Cincinnati’s offseason should be pointed, win or lose on Feb. 13. They had the worst offensive line in the playoffs and won in spite of them. They need to keep Joe Burrow, not only the face of the franchise, but now one of the faces of the league, healthy. With so many QBs switching teams and possibly retiring, there’s a potential Bengals dynasty on the table. Therefore, they need to beef up the O-line both in free agency and the draft.

31/32. DETROIT LIONS (from Rams) — Roger McCreary, Cornerback, Senior, Auburn

(6-0, 190 pounds, 2021: 49 tackles, two for a loss, one sack, two interceptions, one defensive touchdown, 14 passes defended, one fumble recovery)

The Lions get the first of their Matthew Stafford first rounders and, as expected, they’re coming in late. Picking at No. 31 or 32 should make no difference. While Detroit needs playmakers all over, general manager Brad Holmes has seen first hand what putting star defensive backs with elite pass rushers can do. There’ll be plenty of time to address the offensive shortcomings high in the second and third rounds (as well as free agency). It’s time to put a championship defense together now that the NFC North could be opening up (and be Aaron Rodgers free).

Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.

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