Hello and thank you for joining me, along with the collective draft community in the hellscape of hypotheticals once again. It’s been fun these past couple months, right? Draft season is winding down and we are now officially in the week where we will finally know just how misinformed we all are in these mock draft exercises. But before we get there, I want to take one last crack at it. By no means do I think I’ll be any better than most, but if I have the opportunity to secure any sort of bragging rights over my colleagues here at The Draft Network, you best believe I’m going to take advantage.
This mock draft is predictive, meaning it’s largely what I think teams could do without actually having any idea at all. It’s me piecing together bits of information and trying to put two and two together as best I can, while sprinkling in some of my own hopes and dreams. So without further ado, here goes nothing.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
There has been no shortage of chatter about Walker going first overall and the Jaguars have no reason to smokescreen with the first overall pick. Walker also makes it an easy pick with a skillset that was on display all last season as part of the best defense in college football.
- Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
If Hutchinson doesn’t go first, he goes second. Period. Measurables be damned. Turn on his film and you’ll see a game-wrecker in every sense of the word. Plus, Detroit loves a homegrown product.
- Houston Texans: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
I met Ekwonu on Wednesday and talked a big game on Twitter about him being my top tackle now so here we are.
- New York Jets: Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Jets are scared they aren’t going to get Gardner with their second pick and get a big need out of the way now.
- New York Giants: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
They’re prioritizing protection for Daniel Jones and with Ekwonu already off the board, they don’t wait until their next pick to take Neal.
- Carolina Panthers: OT Trevor Penning
After further consideration, I’m thinking the whole potentially forcing a quarterback was more smoke than fire. They need a tackle if whoever under center is going to stand a chance. If they can find a trade-back partner, I think they do that but if they can’t, they’re taking a tackle.
- New York Giants: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
My prior rationale for this happening stands… positional value is a sham and Hamilton can change that entire defense.
- Atlanta Falcons: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
Atlanta needs edge help, obviously and they’ve been able to develop some pretty good talent over the years. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees should be able to continue that trend with a guy whose raw talent alone is likely to make him successful.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Williams isn’t going to fall how people think he’s going to because of the injury and Philly doesn’t want to take a chance. They pair Williams with his former Alabama teammate and create a very scary wide receiver tandem for quarterback Jalen Hurts.
- New York Jets: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The Jets got the sauce and now they get some more help for Zach Wilson and all of a sudden the offense isn’t looking half bad.
- Washington Commanders: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Washington has wide receiver Terry McLaurin and… that’s about it. If you’re going to give new quarterback Carson Wentz any chance at all to succeed, you’re going to need to give him some guys to throw to and Olave is the best route runner in this class.
- Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
This is my favorite spot for Stingley and while this mock is supposed to be predictive, why can’t good situations also be accurate ones? Stingley would get to assimilate into a system that very much needs him under another former LSU corner in Patrick Peterson. That should dispel any sort of off the field or intangible concerns about Stingley. His athletic ability was never in question.
- Dallas Cowboys: Drake London, WR, USC
Is trading up like this crazy? Yes. Does that mean it’s out of the realm of possibility in Frisco? Absolutely not. I’ve heard the Cowboys absolutely adore London and with the receiving corps currently resting on Michael Gallup’s shoulders, no price is too high to upgrade the unit. It costs them a third and a fifth but it just might be crazy enough to work *pounds table*
- Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia
Of the two Georgia interior defensive linemen, I still think Devonte Wyatt is the best but Davis’ versatility fits better for the Ravens. Plus, with all the pre-draft talk about the needs out there, this is all but a lock in Baltimore.
- Seattle Seahawks: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
The Seahawks do as they’ve done in nearly every draft in recent memory and yet again trade back. But they still land a stud. I’ve made no secret of the fact that McDuffie is my favorite prospect in this year’s class and it’s not close. Seeing him at the NFL Scouting Combine talking about how he watches 4-5 hours of film a night is enough to make any prospective team swoon. Add in his skillset on top of that work ethic and he’s all but guaranteed to be a star at the next level. Sure, I’ve heard the ‘concerns’ over his ‘short arms’ and quite frankly, I don’t care. Neither do the Seahawks as the Washington product gets to stay home and start building another Legion of Boom from the ground up.
- New Orleans Saints: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
Drew Brees 2.0 who says no?
- Los Angeles Chargers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Protect Justin Herbert at all costs and now that more tackles are off the board, Cross falls into LA’s lap.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Thibodeaux takes a bit of a fall but I don’t think he falls entirely out of the first round and the Eagles still get a freak athlete on the edge.
- New Orleans Saints: Devonte Wyatt, IDL, Georgia
There are some off the field concerns I’ve heard about Wyatt that could result in a fall much further than this but if things stay where they are currently, I don’t think the Saints let an interior space eater like Wyatt get past them.
They have a serviceable but aging defensive line that could capitalize on the years edge rusher *grumbles* extraordinaire Cam Jordan still has with some youth. Wyatt provides that and more.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
We get another quarterback off the board. You’ve heard ad nauseam about how lackluster this quarterback class is – and it’s true – none of the people around the league I’ve talked to have first-round grades on any of these under-center prospects. That, however, won’t keep truly needy teams from taking one, though. I’ve heard things all over the board on Willis, in particular. But I think it’s time for a totally fresh offense that can keep up with the AFC North division and that means getting a guy like Willis who can be that dual-threat Pittsburgh needs.
Fair warning: Steeler fans will undoubtedly still have to endure at least half a season of Mitch Trubisky. If you want to get the most out of Willis, you simply can’t start him right away. He has the highest ceiling of anyone in the 2022 class – it’s just a matter of letting him reach it.
- Tennessee Titans: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
I’ve said it multiple times during this pre-draft cycle: we’re all in agreement Bill Belichick is going to trade back, right? Belichick knows he can hit in the later rounds and Tennessee really wants Burks, especially if things with A.J. Brown truly end up going south. The Titans give up a fourth-rounder and hope that the added weapon takes quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s game over the hump and into the AFC Championship, at least.
- Green Bay Packers: Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
Will the Packers finally take a receiver in the first round? You’ll have to check back later because it isn’t with this pick. They need help in the pass rush department if they are also going to get over the proverbial playoff hump and Mafe sitting there at No. 22 is too good to pass up.
- Arizona Cardinals: Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College
The Cardinals throw Kyler Murray a bone and give him a more solidified pocket to work with. Murray took 31.0 sacks last year, which at first glance isn’t terrible, good for middle of the pack in 2021. However, it should have been more. Murray was consistently trying to make things happen on the run and often did given his elusiveness. But just because he can, doesn’t mean you want him to. Johnson helps tremendously with that.
- Houston Texans: Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
Here’s my wildcard. This is based solely on things I’ve heard around the league in that Pitre can play. Though he’s flying under the media radar, he isn’t among multiple front offices. The Texans could very much use a heady player on the back end of their new Lovie Smith defense and Pitre seems like he could be that guy.
- Buffalo Bills: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
The Bills have held their breath this long but can finally exhale, getting cornerback help for opposite Tre White. There are some injury concerns with Booth but the former Clemson Tiger knows what it takes to go against the best of the best as far as receiving talent goes.
- New England Patriots: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
There are things that just make sense and Belichick trading back while still getting the inside linebacker of his dreams is unfortunately one of them. The Patriots aren’t going anyway and although last season saw an early postseason exit, something tells me after this draft, they’ll be right back in contention for the AFC title, even with 2022’s stacked house.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
Ah, my old friends. The offensive line was one of the best in 2021 (in more ways than one) but the continuity the Bucs enjoyed the last couple years within the unit is no more. Budding ukulele star Ali Marpet has retired, former Humboldt State standout Alex Cappa has gone on to colder pastures in Cincinnati and Tampa Bay is left with some holes to fill. They signed Shaq Mason this offseason, which was a tremendous pickup, and re-signed Aaron Stinnie, who had filled in seamlessly on both sides at the guard position over the last few years. That being said, you can never have too much depth or competition at the O-line position and getting a guy like Green is another offensive win for the now defensive-minded Bucs under Head Coach Todd Bowles.
- Green Bay Packers: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
As funny as I thought it would be to see Green Bay not take a wide receiver in the first round, the competitor in me (wanting to get the most picks I possibly can correct) wouldn’t allow me to follow through on that wishful thinking. Turns out, there is a way to get the Packers to take a wideout in the first round and it rhymes with Schmaron Lodgers.
I have no basis for this but I imagine that was part of the conversation when quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed his contract extension. Reports came out that Rodgers knew the team was getting ready to deal Davante Adams so I have to think they assured the veteran signal caller they would get him additional help. Otherwise, I don’t think you sign that deal. Now, they get an underrated prospect in Dotson that will by no means be an Adams replacement, but should give Rodgers a useful tool.
- Kansas City Chiefs: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
I’ve been on record saying I don’t necessarily understand the hype around Karlaftis. I think he’s a solid defender, especially against the run, and his second efforts often help him get to the quarterback. That being said, I think he needs to be in the right system and by right system, I mean a 4-3. And hey, would you look at that, the Chiefs run a 4-3. They are also desperate for some edge help so I think this is a good marriage and Karlaftis will work well opposite Frank Clark.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
Kansas City is also in need of some additional help to mitigate the loss of wide receiver Tyreek Hill, obviously. There isn’t anyone that can flat out replace Hill, though. After all, this is a guy that in the first quarter of the Chiefs vs. Bucs matchup in Week 12 of 2020 had over 200 yards and two touchdowns within that 15-minute span. I don’t still have PTSD from that at all or anything. But what isn’t being talked about enough is that the Chiefs don’t need a Hill replacement to still be great. Not when they have a guy like quarterback Patrick Mahomes under center and other weapons on the roster. Give Mahomes a bunch of viable targets and defenses will have a tough time, I promise.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa
Give Joey B all the help you can possibly get. That is all. That is it. If the Bengals’ first pick isn’t some form of offensive lineman – we riot.
- Detroit Lions: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Well well well, look who snuck into the first round after all. Another quarterback. Jared Goff can’t be the long-term answer in Detroit, but he can be the answer for now. Get Ridder up to speed this year under Goff and watch this offense flourish in 2023.