NFL Mock Draft 2022
It’s never too early for a mock draft and it’s always draft season.
This will be the first of several mock drafts I will write between now and the 2022 NFL Draft. With that in mind, I have some advice to offer on how to navigate this first iteration.
First, the order is determined by the reverse Super Bowl odds courtesy of BetOnline, so your displeasure regarding where your team is picking in the order should not be directed toward me.
Secondly, while it’s never too early, it is early. My primary objective with this mock draft is to start the conversation when it comes to potential team needs, top prospects, and potential fits. The process is fluid and a lot is going to change from now until the end of April.
Lastly, many of the prospects I have mocked in this first round aren’t first round-caliber prospects at this point because they haven’t proven enough. Much of this is projection-based and I hope you can sense some of that as you read the analysis that accompanies the picks.
With all that out of the way, enjoy my first mock of the season!
1. Houston Texans: QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
While he’s far from a finished product, Rattler’s natural accuracy throwing the football, arm strength, and passing game instincts have him on the trajectory of becoming a high draft pick. He played well down the stretch in 2020 and should be incredibly productive for the Sooners in 2021 as part of a loaded offense.
Rattler hasn’t proven enough at this point to be considered a No. 1 overall pick lock, but with the uncertainty at the quarterback position for Houston, this is a logical direction. His arm talent gives him a chance to be a difference-maker in the passing game at the next level.
2. New York Jets: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
The more the Jets continue to distance themselves from Mike Maccagnan and Adam Gase, the more formidable the roster has become. The team already has more talent and the leadership of Robert Saleh is promising. With that said, the cornerback position is still an area that needs attention. In this scenario, New York has its pick of the litter in a loaded crop of corners slated to be available in the coming draft.
The cream of the crop is Stingley Jr., who took college football by storm as a true freshman in 2019, instantly meeting the expectations of his recruiting profile. Stingley Jr. is exceptional in press coverage where his balance and sequencing lead to consistent route disruption and he’s sticky down the field. He also features elite ball skills, making him the total package and destined to be a shutdown corner in the NFL.
3. Detroit Lions: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
The Lions are once again a work in progress and expectations for 2021 are low. The new direction under Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell is exciting, but the roster has a ways to go. The good news is that Detroit is loaded with draft capital to find the talent necessary to turn things around.
Thibodeaux is an exciting talent that offers plenty of versatility. He’s already an outstanding run defender and his toolbox to become a dynamic pass rusher is loaded. He features burst, bend, length, and power to be a nightmare to block off the edge. The key for Thibodeaux in 2021 is fine-tuning his technique and plan to deploy his pass-rush repertoire more effectively by showcasing better vision, timing, and consistency attacking half a man. He has all the makings of a high first-round pick and an impactful defensive playmaker in the NFL.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
For a team that earned the No. 1 overall pick in 2021 by logging a 1-15 season, the roster is more formidable than one might expect. There’s a mix of developing young talent and veterans that could get Jacksonville on track quicker than expected, especially if Trevor Lawrence delivers a promising rookie campaign.
One area of the roster that still needs work is the safety position and Kyle Hamilton is a special prospect. He offers a rare blend of size, athleticism, versatility, physicality, and coverage instincts. He’s the ideal matchup-neutralizer and defensive chess piece needed to counter today’s NFL offenses that challenge opponents with pace, space, and creating mismatches.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Between signing Riley Reiff and drafting Jackson Carman, D’Ante Smith, and Trey Hill, the Bengals made strides to improve the offensive line in front of Joe Burrow—the investments shouldn’t stop.
Neal is a mountain of a man with athleticism that simply doesn’t make sense for his size. He has the functional strength needed to overwhelm opponents as a run blocker and pass rushers have no chance to go through him. He needs to grow when it comes to pass sets and footwork in pass protection, but he has the makings of a high first-round selection and long-term impact starter in the NFL.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
Darius Slay’s play over the last two seasons has been uneven and he’s now on the wrong side of 30. The projected starter opposite of him is Steven Nelson, who Philadelphia recently signed to a one-year deal, so it’s safe to say the Eagles have a considerable need at cornerback.
While Booth Jr. has only started four games and played a tick over 400 snaps to this point, he could not have been more dominant in that limited sample size. He offers a blend of size, athleticism, physicality, ball skills, coverage skills, and competitive spirit that shine on tape. He’s one of my favorite prospects that I studied this summer and he should thrive as Clemson’s top corner in 2021.
7. New York Giants: EDGE Drake Jackson, USC
The Giants defense is a stout unit and strength of the team but it can still use more options rushing the passer. I’m a huge fan of 2021 second-round pick Azeez Ojulari but he needs a running mate.
Jackson had exciting flashes in 2020, where his burst, length, and flexibility led to high-impact reps rushing the passer. If he puts it all together in 2021 and maximizes his physical upside, he can elevate himself to becoming a high first-round pick.
8. Las Vegas Raiders: IDL DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
The Raiders have been searching for answers on defense for a long time. In every season since 2003, the Raiders have finished in the bottom half of the league when it comes to scoring defense and not higher than 20th since 2007.
In a group of underwhelming options, the only defensive tackle currently under contract beyond this season is Darius Stills, an undrafted rookie. Landing a talent like Leal would provide Las Vegas with a talented building block to reshape the interior of its defensive line. Leal is explosive, powerful, versatile, and disruptive.
9. Carolina Panthers: OT Jaxson Kirkland, Washington
A tired but still relevant talking point regarding the Panthers is that the team has featured a different primary starting left tackle every season since 2013, the final season of Jordan Gross’ career. He anchored the position for a decade and now Carolina is nearing another decade of complete instability at the position. It’s time for that to change.
Kirkland was one of the most impressive film studies I did over the summer. He features exceptional length, quickness, coordination, and ability to stay square in pass protection with plenty of functional strength to excel in the run game. 2020 was his first season at left tackle for Washington after beginning his career at guard. His transition was seamless and he should grow even more at the position in 2021.
10. Atlanta Falcons: QB Sam Howell, North Carolina
Matt Ryan could very well end up being the Falcons’ starting quarterback through the 2022 or even 2023 season, but that doesn’t mean Atlanta shouldn’t be mindful of identifying his successor, especially as the team develops and hopefully continues to pick lower in the draft as Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot move the team forward.
Considering the style of offense Smith was successful with in Tennessee, featuring a heavy dose of play-action and vertical passing, Howell is an intriguing target. He excels with accuracy down the field and has enough mobility to get outside the pocket and hit throws on the move. Given the simplicity of the North Carolina offense, Howell entering a situation where there is no expectation for him to start right away is ideal.
11. New York Giants (via CHI): OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Whether it’s Will Hernandez in a contract year or questions about who replaces Kevin Zeitler, the Giants’ interior offensive line needs attention and we know general manager David Gettleman loves his “hog mollies” up front.
While Green is likely to get an opportunity to play offensive tackle in 2021, he has previously played at guard where he has shined for the Aggies with time spent on both the left and right side. His experience at tackle will be beneficial, but ultimately he projects better at guard in the NFL, where his size, power, and technique give him a chance to be a long-term impact starter.
12. Washington Football Team: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
While it’s exciting to see how Ryan Fitzpatrick can elevate the Washington offense in 2021, he isn’t a long-term solution at quarterback and the need to secure a new franchise quarterback is obvious.
Corral is one of the buzziest quarterback prospects entering the season. His impressive 71% completion percentage and monster outings against the likes of Florida and Alabama in 2021 have captured the attention of many. Corral is a creative playmaker with impressive flashes of accuracy. While his overall physical package is modest, envisioning his creativity and accuracy down the field in Scott Turner’s offense that also features plenty of schemed throws and an abundance of young offensive playmakers makes this an intriguing fit.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Darian Kinnard, Kentucky
Once a strength of the team and lauded as one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, the Steelers offensive line looks a lot different than it has in recent years entering the 2021 season. There are some likable young pieces in Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore, but the tackle combination of Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner is concerning.
Kinnard is a massive man that brings elite functional strength to the table. He’s a mauler in the run game and his anchor in pass protection is stout. He does need some technical improvements with his hand and footwork, but his power at the point of attack is elite. With the arrival of running back Najee Harris and long-term uncertainty at quarterback, the Steelers are likely to embrace a run-first mindset on offense, which makes Kinard even more of a sensible option.
14. Arizona Cardinals: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
After years of writing mock drafts and discussing how the Cardinals need to find a reliable option opposite of Patrick Peterson, we’ve reached the point where Arizona now has to replace Peterson. Meanwhile, the CB2 role remains unsettled. Malcolm Butler can provide short-term help, but the overall outlook of the position group is concerning.
McDuffie was one of my favorite studies over the summer. He’s a terrific athlete with outstanding balance, coverage intinction, physicality, and tackling ability. He’s a dog triggering downhill, playing off contact, and tackling while also being sticky in coverage.
15. New Orleans Saints: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
The Saints have lacked depth at wide receiver for years now and failing to build out the group raises plenty of questions entering the season with the recent news that Michael Thomas could miss up to four months with an ankle injury. Even if Thomas is healthy, the Saints simply need more at receiver.
Olave is an elite route-runner with exceptional hands and ball skills. He has blazing speed and is a true threat at every level of the field. While he isn’t the biggest receiver, he addresses contact well and creates consistent separation. He’s the perfect answer opposite of Thomas for whoever the quarterback is.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA): EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
The Eagles are facing a number of expiring contracts at defensive end, where Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett, and Ryan Kerrigan are in the final year of their deals and Brandon Graham is up after next season. Philadelphia has been known to prioritize the position group and investing an early pick on a defensive end in 2022 seems likely.
Karlaftis has only played in 14 career games but has compiled 19 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in those contests. He’s a powerful defender that knows how to reduce rush angles and squeeze gaps as a run defender. He’s primed for a big year in 2021 and has the makings of a first-round selection if he builds off his early success.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: WR John Metchie III, Alabama
After Justin Herbert quickly established himself as a rising star in the NFL after a historic rookie season, Los Angeles should remain deliberate about building around him. The Chargers did a wonderful job of stabilizing the offensive line this offseason, which opens the opportunity for premium assets to be invested in offensive weapons—especially with Mike Williams in a contract year and his injury history.
Metchie III would be a wonderful complement to Keenan Allen, where his speed, hands, and ability to win down the field can help lift coverage and provide Herbert with a vertical option. Metchie III has been part of an Alabama wide receiver corps that has been loaded with elite talent and 2021 is his chance to be the go-to guy. I expect him to excel.
18. Denver Broncos: S Jordan Battle, Alabama
The Broncos are loaded on defense and feature an exceptional pair of safeties that complement each other perfectly in Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson. However, Jackson is 33 and in a contract year, creating the need to find a long-term option to play alongside Simmons.
What has made the Simmons-Jackson pair so successful is how they balance each other out. Simmons is an incredibly versatile playmaker while Jackson is an elite tackler that excels triggering downhill, which is exactly what Battle does as well.
19. Tennessee Titans: TE Jahleel Billingsley, Alabama
There’s plenty of hope that Anthony Firkser can quickly make the Titans forget about Jonnu Smith and handle the tight end role in the offense. While that may prove to be the case, Firkser is only on a one-year deal and still has a lot to prove.
Billingsley is set to claim a prominent role in the Alabama offense this season and I expect him to excel. He is a terrific athlete for the position and has outstanding ball skills. He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands and the Crimson Tide has even given him chances to serve as a kick returner. Considering the way Tennessee has proven to incorporate tight ends in the offense, Billingsley is a perfect fit and he should be a household name by the end of the 2021 season.
20. New England Patriots: WR George Pickens, Georgia
The wide receiver position group in New England has been concerning for a number of years. While the Patriots have done well with the offensive line and making sure that is stabilized, they need to find dynamic options at receiver to give Mac Jones his best chance to succeed. The likes of Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor don’t erase the need for New England to have more at receiver.
Pickens is one of the few options in the rising class that profiles as a true “X” in the NFL. He has exceptional ball skills and physicality. While his playmaking skills have been evident at Georgia, the instability of the quarterback position has limited him. Pairing him with a passer like Jones, who is consistent with reads, timing, and accuracy could lead to exciting production.
21. Minnesota Vikings: S Brandon Joseph, Northwestern
The Vikings roster has been in transition in recent years and the next spot to be overhauled could be safety where projected starters Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods are both in contract years and the team lacks replacements on the roster. Even if either Smith or Woods is brought back, the team needs to find another starter.
Joseph was exceptional for Northwestern in 2019 where his coverage instincts and ball production shined. He snagged six interceptions in just eight games, showcasing his instincts and playmaking ability. Joseph was universally loved by the TDN Scouting Department during our summer scouting and we’re expecting another big year from him.
22. New York Jets (via SEA): WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
With the Jets hiring Mike LaFleur to be their offensive coordinator, it’s logical to think that the principles of a Kyle Shanahan offense will be implemented in New York. Shanahan and LaFleur have worked together for the past six seasons, so the influence should be notable.
Burks is a big-bodied weapon (6-foot-3, 232 pounds) that Arkansas prioritizes getting the ball to in a variety of ways, which speaks to his playmaking ability. His size, ball skills, and ability to create after the catch make him an intriguing do-everything weapon in LaFleur’s system.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (via IND*): OT Thayer Munford, Ohio State
Entering his third NFL season and set to turn 26 years old in October, left tackle Andre Dillard has started a total of four games and we know very little about what he is as a player. Dillard always faced a steep transition to the next level coming out of the Washington State offense, but injuries and lack of time on the field don’t inspire hope that he is the answer for the Eagles at left tackle. While he could prove a lot in 2021, it’s fair at this point to be concerned about the position.
Munford has blossomed into a high-quality blocker for the Ohio State offensive line at left tackle. He offers a terrific blend of size, length, mobility, and functional strength to go with sound technique that makes him an exciting projection to the next level. His consistent ability to stay square, coordinated, and balanced leads to consistent wins. He’ll make whatever team drafts him forget about who is handling the blindside blocking duties for a long time.
24. Dallas Cowboys: S Daxton Hill, Michigan
The Cowboys' defense remains a work in progress. The unit needs more size on the interior defensive line, pass-rushing consistency, and playmakers to emerge in the secondary. Dallas has options at safety, but the group has a lot to prove and can use a featured piece to help stabilize the secondary.
Hill is a former 5-star recruit that has quickly emerged as a star on the backend for Michigan. He has terrific size, athleticism, physicality, and ball skills, making him the total package. He can line up in a variety of spots, including from the slot, as a one-high safety, and in split zones.
25. Cleveland Browns: EDGE Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
Cleveland kicked the tires on Jadeveon Clowney to provide an answer opposite of Myles Garrett, but it’s only a one-year deal and his injury history is a major concern. With him unlikely to be a long-term solution, Cleveland needs to prioritize finding one.
Sanders delivered a breakout season in 2020, where in 10 games he compiled 10.5 sacks for loss, seven sacks, and five pass break-ups. He’s a balanced defender with the ability to affect the quarterback and defend the run. His blend of burst and power is intriguing.
26. Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Adam Anderson, Georgia
Baltimore has seen plenty of good edge rushers come in recent years and reinforced the group in the 2021 Draft by selecting Odafe Oweh. With that said, the Ravens could use even more to continue replenishing a critical area of the defense.
Anderson was a big-time high school recruit that flashed exciting pass-rush ability across his first three seasons at Georgia. His burst and bend off the edge are outstanding and he’s a better run defender than expected for his size. Anderson is expected to claim a lead role for the Georgia defense in 2021 and he should put everything together and solidify his draft stock while doing so.
27. Miami Dolphins (via SF): EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Jaelan Phillips is a star in the making but his running mate Emmanuel Ogbah is on an expiring contract, potentially creating a need to find a new direction at the position. The Dolphins love versatility with its defensive linemen, making Hutchison an intriguing target.
Hutchinson features a long and stocky build with legitimate ability to serve as a five-technique or reduce inside and work from the interior. He’s a disruptive and physical defender that owns the line of scrimmage with his powerful frame, active hands, and length. He’s a perfect fit for a Dolphins defense that is multiple with their fronts.
28. Detroit Lions (via LAR): WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
The Lions have a ways to go in building up the wide receiver corps. Tyrell Williams is on a one-year deal while the only intriguing young options are recent day-three picks in Amon-Ra St. Brown and Quintez Cephus.
Wilson makes a lot of sense for Detroit. His hands, ball skills, speed, and route-running ability are notable strengths of his game while he also features the ability to win from the slot and out wide. He can provide Jared Goff with a Robert Woods-like presence for the Lions’ offense.
29. Green Bay Packers: OL Zion Johnson, Boston College
The Packers have said goodbye to stalwarts along the offensive line in recent years like Corey Linsley and Bryan Bulaga while making only modest investments to replace them. With that in mind, the Packers could be in the market for offensive line help early in the coming draft.
Johnson transferred from Davidson to Boston College in 2019 and it didn’t take long for him to claim a starting role at guard for the Eagles and he was outstanding right away. His power, block temperament, and technique immediately shined. In 2020, Johnson kicked out to left tackle for Boston College and held his own. He’s scheduled to return to guard in 2021 as he continues to showcase his versatility and thrive in any role. With potential question marks at guard and right tackle, Johnson is a sensible target.
30. Buffalo Bills: IOL Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The Bills are tight when it comes to available salary-cap space and franchise cornerstones Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds are due for massive extensions. When it comes to finding areas on the roster that the Bills can clear salary-cap space, the contracts of offensive linemen Mitch Morse and Jon Feliciano stand out. Morse took a pay cut to come back in 2021 and he was reportedly a cut candidate. With that in mind, Buffalo could be in the market for a new center.
Linderbaum is a match made in heaven for the Bills. Both general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott rave openly about the Iowa program and the types of players they produce. Additionally, Linderbaum is an accomplished wrestler, which vibes perfectly with McDermott, a former wrestler himself. Lastly, Linderbaum’s range and mobility mesh perfectly with the shift in the run scheme that Buffalo adopted last season where the unit tilted heavily toward zone-style runs.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
With Jason Pierre-Paul, Ryan Jensen, Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, and Carlton Davis among others scheduled to become free agents after the season, the Buccaneers cannot possibly bring everyone back once again, can they? Likely not, and one of the spots that could require an early investment in the draft to solidify could be cornerback if Davis is unable to be re-signed.
Elam is a long and physical press corner that meshes perfectly with the style of defense that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles employs. He is disruptive at the line of scrimmage and features impressive ball skills. He’s built for what Tampa Bay asks from its corners.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
Wide receiver is a sneaky need for Kansas City. Only Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Cornell Powell are under contract beyond this season, with Hill and Hardman expiring after the 2022 campaign. Powell is a fifth-round rookie, Hardman brings speed but has been inconsistent, and Hill figures to be pricey. With that in mind, it would be wise for the Chiefs to add a receiver early in the draft and Dotson is a perfect fit.
Dotson is a deceptive route-runner with outstanding ability to produce yardage after the catch. He has strong hands and terrific ball skills while providing additional value as a punt returner. He can instantly add to the Chiefs offense and special teams while being groomed to be the long-term solution opposite of Hill.