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2022 First Round NFL Mock Draft

After the Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl in February and a crazy NFL Free Agency where we’ve seen Tom Brady unretire, Khalil Mack got traded to the Los Angeles Chargers, and much more, it’s now time for teams to gear up and draft the best young players in the college ranks. In this article I will be going through my first round NFL mock draft in what is considered a weak quarterback class, but is strong in other positions. I will be using to see what teams need the most throughout the article. Without further ado let's get started!

1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan- With the Jaguars franchise tagging left tackle Cam Robinson, and having their quarterback of the future already in Trevor Lawrence, they can look to add Hutchinson who is a relentless pass-rusher, and possesses great power as a pass rusher. He can help improve a defense that was ranked near the bottom in many defensive categories from sacks (30th), last in turnovers forced in the league, 28th in points allowed, and 29th in rush touchdowns allowed.

Adding the 2021 Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year recipient should help upgrade the Jaguars defense in many of the aforementioned categories.

2. Detroit Lions- Kyle Hamilton, Safety, Notre Dame- Having Jared Goff at quarterback, and considering this is a weak class for that position, the Lions should look to improve their defense as they ranked 30th in points allowed, 30th in sacks, 31st in red zone touchdown percentage, and 27th in touchdowns allowed. Hamilton is a defensive game-changer who can do it all, and add him to the back end of the Lions defense, he’ll surely make an impact and ensure the back field is locked up in deep-half coverage.

He is a versatile defender who can guard tight ends, receivers, and even defend the rush if asked to. His versatility at 6-foot-4 220 pounds will surely make the general managers willing to take the 2021 census All-American.

3. Houston Texans- Ikem Ekwonu, OT, N.C. State- With Deshaun Watson potentially on his was out of Houston, and a dearth of quarterback talent, the Texans can plug a 6-foot-4 310 pound freak of nature in Ekwonu who can immediately help improve the Texans offensive line and give Davis Mills more room to operate, helping to anchor their offensive line.

Ekwonu is quick laterally, and at his best on wide zone runs where his timing, mobility, and feel are impeccable. He tends to struggle in pass protection when he has to redirect his weight with oncoming defenders and the mobility of quarterbacks nowadays, but due to his length and IQ, expect the unanimous All-American to make an instant impact in Houston.

4. New York Jets- Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon- The New York Jets need a lot of things, but their first priority should be on improving their defense, which was ranked dead last in the NFL last season in almost every defensive category. Drafting Thibodeaux, who stands at 6’4 and 254 pounds with an elite first step, great agility, and has great coverage versatility.

He will need to improve his hand technique, often latches on rather than striking his appointment, and can struggle against none-zone runs from the opposition. Overall, the two-time first team All-Pac 12 selection in back-to-back years should make for a dangerous disruptor on defense for whatever team drafts him, and as he improves his technique and knowledge of the game, he should become one of the best defenders in the league in a few years.

5. New York Giants- Evan Neal, OT, Alabama- The Giants need a lot of things, but having two top ten picks with one here and at number seven from the Chicago Bears sure doesn’t hurt. With the Giants current best lineman in Matt Pearl coming off an ACL injury and being inconsistent last season, they can look to upgrade at the position to protect Daniel Jones and newly signed quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and Evan Neal seems like the perfect pick here.

Neal is huge for a lineman, listed at 6-foot-7, 337 pounds with massive shoulders and a shredded muscular frame that helps him use his power to move defenders off the line of scrimmage and wear them down. He made the transition from right tackle to left tackle this past season at Alabama which paid dividends and shows his ability to play either tackle position.

He tends to lean too much sometimes when engaging blocks. He can get caught lunging, which causes him to lose his balance, and may not have the speed to prevent oncoming defenders consistently. But Neal is a tremendous offensive tackle in a loaded draft for offensive lineman and defensive players, and he goes here to the Giants that were one of the worst offensive teams last season in large part due to their offensive line.

6. Carolina Panthers- Kenny Pickett, QB, Notre Dame- With Cam Newton a free agent and Sam Darnold not the answer long-term for the franchise, the Panthers could look to select the first quarterback here in Pickett at number six overall. He is confident, tough, and has a good arm. Pickett had a Zach Wilson type rise last college football season and he has sniper-like accuracy, refined throwing technique, and has shown some ability to run the football as well, which is important for today’s quarterbacks.

Pickett has small hands, measured at 8 ½ inches, which could be a red flag for the Panthers, not even also factoring in that he is already 23 years of age and will turn 24 during his rookie season, which definitely puts a ceiling on his potential. But, the Panthers desperately need a quarterback with Newton gone and Darnold not being fully reliable, and they could look to select the man who threw 42 touchdowns last season.

7. New York Giants (Via Chicago)- Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansa- With the Giants boosting their offensive line by selecting the man-child that is Evan Neal, they need to look to try to improve offensively, as they were one of the worst offenses last season in many categories due to inconsistent quarterback play, but also because of a lack of offensive playmakers. Selecting the 6’2, 225 pound Burks out of Arkansa would do wonders for the Giants in the playmaker department as Burks combines elite athleticism, physicality, and size for the receiver position.

In three seasons with the Razorbacks, Burks caught 146 passes for 2,399 yards for 18 touchdowns, putting an emphatic stamp to his explosive game in 2021 with a 1,104-yard, 11-touchdown campaign, adding 112 yards and a score on the ground. He stresses defenses with his agility and verticality, while also being a capable blocker on run plays, displaying his versatility.

He tends to have lapses from time-to-time, and can look to improve his concentration in the heat of the moment, while also elevating his ability as a route runner, which will be key if he wants to become the star receiver he has all the tools to be.

8. Atlanta Falcons- Derek Stingley Jr., DB, LSU- The Falcons look to be in a clear rebuild, as they just traded away the greatest quarterback in their franchise’s history, Matt Ryan during free agency. With a lack of elite quarterbacks in this class, the Falcons can look to go defense here, which is what they desperately need anyways. They ranked near the bottom in almost every defensive category from points allowed (29th), pass touchdowns (26th), touchdowns (31st), and first downs allowed (28th), just to name a few.

Stingley has a pro-ready frame for the defensive back position at six feet tall and 190 pounds of muscle. He was the top ranked cornerback back in high school and has lived up to those expectations in his time as a LSU Tiger. In his freshman year, Stingley picked off six passes and 15 passes deflected to help the Tigers capture the national championship. Injuries and COVID hindered his next two seasons as a Tiger, but Stingley has already proven what he is capable of at the highest level.

He has a unique blend of athleticism and reactive quickness to stay with the opposition’s top wide receiver. Stingley is able to change direction in a blink of an eye, which is what you want in an elite defensive back prospect, he also is a very patient defender who trusts his footwork and speed to stay with his opponent with little wasted movement.

Questions Stingley will have to answer is if he can regain the production he showed in that promising freshman season of his, as he was never quite able to regain that form again. But, Stingley would make a great fit for the Falcons and will be a ballhawk for an organization that desperately needs one.

9. Denver Broncos via Seattle- Malik Willis, QB, Liberty- After trading away their longtime franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson, and with Geno Smith on the free agency market, the Seahawks could use a potential star at the quarterback position if all things go right in his development. Drew Lock is someone who is solid, but doesn’t project as a guy who can become a franchise quarterback, that is where selecting the polarizing Willis becomes so enticing here for the Seahawks.

Willis first started his career at Auburn, but would eventually transfer to Liberty to get more playing time, and boy did he explode onto the scene by throwing for 20 touchdowns on only six picks, while also rushing for 944 yards for 14 rushing touchdowns. In his second season with the Liberty Flames, Willis became a little more erratic in throwing the ball by throwing for 12 interceptions ,along with his 27 touchdowns.

Willis' lack of height will hinder him (6’0), but due to his muscular frame, rocket arm, and the mobility that is needed for the modern day quarterback. He can make the tight passes, whip it downfield, and is creative out of the pocket. He reminds of Wilson in the way he can run the ball, and he also doesn’t shy away from contact. He won’t have to come in right away and start to save the Seahawks with Lock there for the next four years, as the Seahawks can slowly groom Willis into potentially becoming their leader of the future in the post-Wilson era.

10. New York Jets via Seattle- Ahmad Gardner, DB, Cincinnati- The Jets need defense more than anything, as they ranked dead last in numerous defensive rankings from rushing touchdowns allowed, touchdowns, points given up, red zone touchdowns, and first downs. If they weren’t last, they were dead close to it in any other defensive metric. This is where plugging in a guy like Gardner from Cincinnati who would be able to significantly help the Jets defense from being in the gutter in the NFL.

Gardner is an extremely aggressive corner at 6-foot-3 and a fluid 190 pounds. The last three seasons as a Bearcat he showed his ability as a ball-hawk by accumulating three interceptions each season, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks for his career, and 18 passes batted. His elite on ball production earned him first team an AP All-American selection, while also winning the AAC Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Gardner is very patient in defending his opponent, and does a great job of taking advantage of his length by disrupting routes and timing of receivers. He has great hip flexibility, which is extremely important for the defensive back position. He has great awareness of where the ball and his man is at all times, who is also a dangerous blitzer.

He has a very thin frame that could use more muscle, and occasionally gets knocked around against the run. But overall, Gardner’s elite instincts as a defender, length, and elite top end speed makes him a must for the Jets defense.

11. Washington Commanders- Trent McDuffie, DB, Washington- The Commanders were the worst defense last season when it came from stopping the opposition from scoring touchdowns by the pass. Adding in a player like McDuffie who is a lockdown, hard-nosed, stingy defender despite his small size at 5’11 will do wonders to help them improve on that front. He is a swift footed corner with excellent athleticism and a rugged frame who plays bigger than his size indicates.

McDuffie racked up 35 tackles that also included four for a loss of yards in 2021. He was named a first team All-Pac 12 selection, and in his three years as a Washington Huskie, he totaled 94 tackles, two picks, eight passes defended, and three forced fumbles. He has a tracker in his mind, always seeming to know where the ball will precisely be at a particular time before snatching it out of receivers grasp.

He is lightning quick out of the blitz, being able to easily slip through offensive linemen. His lack of elite length combined with his lack of ideal size will make some question his selection this high, but, due to his elite instincts, ball skills, internal tracker, and versatility in schemes, he’ll be a very valuable pick here for the Commanders.

12.Minnesota Vikings- Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia- One of the Vikings biggest needs is an elite edge rusher who can put pressure on the opposing team's offensive linemen and quarterback, and that’s where Walker fits right in and can make an immediate impact. Walker has a solid, thick, muscular frame combined with explosiveness, and long arms that makes him one hell of a prospect.

He made a huge impact in his three years as a Bulldog, one one of the most feared defensive lines in college football history. This past season he had the best year of his career by accumulating 37 tackles, 7.5 sacks for loss, six sacks, and two passes defensed. Walker has great lateral quickness post snap which helps him slip and bulldoze his way through offensive linemen. Walker has great flexibility in that massive 6-foot-5, 272 pound frame of his.

He may be a tweener at the next level, as he never has been a highly productive sacker, however, due to his ferocity, instincts, and ability to use his frame, and agility to slash into the pocket whenever he wants, will give the Vikings the edge rusher they need.

13.Houston Texans via Cleveland, Drake London, WR, USC- The Houston Texans can use defense here, after I selected Ekonwu earlier to improve their offensive line. But, they desperately need an offensive playmaker Davis Mills can rely on to be effective on important drives in big moments of games, and that is where Drake London comes in here. He has a pro-ready frame and top-tier size for a receiver at 6-foot-4 with great body control, and concentration at all three levels from deep balls, to close routes.

London was a former hoops star as well, averaging 29 points and 12 rebounds a game back in high school, even playing for the USC basketball team, talk about a versatile, elite athlete. He knows how to get separation from corners and safeties by subtle push-offs and tugs, and knows when to precisely bring his hands up to make it hard for the defender to anticipate when he’s ready to catch the pass.

He can line up on the outside or in the slot, and is great at swiping corner’s hands to get free. London suffered a ankle fracture that ended his 2021 season prematurely, and teams will have to make sure there are no red medical flags before investing their draft pick in him. However, London’s combination of size, athleticism, route-running skills, and strong hands should help him become a top receiver option if all things go well in his development.

14.Baltimore Ravens, George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue- The Ravens are in need of a pass rusher as they ranked dead last in passing yards allowed, and 25th in yards allowed. Drafting a powerful, tenacious edge rusher in Karlaftis out of Purdue, who stands at 6-foot-4, 266 pounds who will be able to line up with just about anyone in, while also wreaking havoc with his bulldozer style of play.

He is an explosive athlete who can play all across the line, showing the ability of an elite first step combined with heavy hands to combat block attempts by the offensive line to quickly get to the quarterback. Karlaftis utilizes a very nifty arm-over swim move, is very quick laterally, but can tend to be somewhat stiff at the top of his rush which hinders him sometimes when attacking.

Karlaftis tends to be overzealous when rushing the pocket sometimes, which leads to him losing control of his body at times. Overall, he has the power, sheer athletic ability, versatility, and size to be a force from day one in this league. If he can improve his flexibility in certain spots, this spot might be too low for the Boilermaker stud.

15.Philadelphia Eagles via Miami, Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State- The Eagles could use an edge rusher or safety here, but they can address that with their 18th pick from the New Orleans Saints later in the draft. The Eagles signed edge rusher Hasson Reddick to a three-year deal, and linebacker Kyzir White to a one-year deal, with both having great seasons last year, so that takes some pressure off in having to select a defensive back at this spot.

The Eagles desperately struggled offensively last season, ranking 32nd (last) in pass attempts, 31st in pass completions, and 25th in pass touchdowns. Eagles franchise quarterback, Jalen Hurts had no reliable receiver to throw to, as you had guys dropping wide open passes left and right, making it hard to put points on the floor and get the ball downfield.