The lead-up to the 2022 NFL Draft has been a very weird and unfamiliar experience for Bengals fans. In recent years, we’ve started looking deeply at the draft by mid-November or earlier. What’s the point in waiting when they have virtually no chance to make the playoffs? Back in the day we usually got to wait until at least December or early January, but having to wait until February this year left a lot of us playing catch up. The Bengals’ scouting department has had to play catch-up too due to a short offseason.
Now, we’ve all had roughly two months to play catch-up to this draft class. The Bengals did an excellent job addressing most of their needs in free agency, so they can have the luxury of focusing on quality prospects rather than needs. They’re still hoping to address minor holes like CB2, TE2, offensive line depth, wide receiver depth, and defensive line depth. But, the nice thing is there are no glaringly obvious holes like they’ve had to address the last few years. You can thank their success in free agency and the draft over the last few years for that.
My original plan for doing a 7-round mock for the Bengals ahead of tonight’s draft was to do it on my YouTube channel. Unfortunately, a particularly noisy fridge is destroying any hope of great audio quality, so we’re going to break down my selections as I imagine myself in the position of Bengals’ general manager. The following picks are made in the spirit of the Bengals’ particular need vs BPA ratio that they tend to follow. But, the final say is entirely what I think would be the best for the team. Think of it as an educated wish list.
I also plan on releasing a full first-round mock of what I think all 32 teams will do later today. You might want to check that out too because it’s quite possible I will have a different selection for the Bengals in that article than in this one. But, without rambling any further, lets jump into these selections.
Using Pro Football Focus’s 7-round mock draft simulator as a basis for these selections, here is what we’re looking at initially.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like PFF’s simulation was terribly kind to me as Tyler Linderbaum went two picks ahead of us at 29 to the Chiefs. They, of course, received that pick from the Dolphins for Tyreek Hill. I was also hoping to get guys like Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam and Zion Johnson, who are also gone. According to PFF, the best prospects available are wide receiver Skyy Moore, safety Lewis Cine and nose tackle Travis Jones. This would be a classic situation where trading down would be in the Bengals best interest. But, will they? I doubt it. I kind of like guys like Arnold Ebiketie, Nik Bonitto, and David Ojabo here. But, I can’t lie. I already know who I’m going with.
I know he didn’t test particularly well at the combine, and I’m sure most of you reading can figure out who I’m talking about based on that alone. Personally, I’m enamored with Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon. PFF has him ranked as the 58th best prospect in this draft. But, the way I see it, he has shown everything you need to succeed at the cornerback position.
Sure, he might need a bit of time to adjust to NFL speed. Luckily, the Bengals have a great No. 1 corner in Chidobe Awuzie and a serviceable No. 2 option in Eli Apple. Don’t get me wrong, picking Gordon at No. 31 comes with the intention of him taking Apple’s spot this season. However, it doesn’t HAVE to be Week 1. For that reason, I’m cool with betting on the upside. He won’t be available when we pick again at 63. So, ideally, we’d trade down. But, in this scenario I’m just going to take him.
Moving along to pick 63 in the second round, I’m still having pretty terrible luck with who is available.
I was definitely hoping to see someone like EDGE Nik Bonitto, tight end Trey McBride, or defensive lineman Logan Hall. Nope. They’re all gone. Yikes. The two remaining players I’m interested in are Kingsley Enagbare, the pass rusher from South Carolina and Dylan Parham, the interior lineman from Memphis. I’m really of a split mind on this one but I think I’m going to go with the guy who can bolster the Bengals’ pass rush.
I’m really confident in Joseph Ossai going forward. But, you can never have enough pass rushers, and Enagbare was one of the best in the country at that particular role. My issue with Parham is I feel he’s a bit of a project and after taking Jackson Carman last year I’d rather not risk Joe Burrow third season to more speculation on the offensive line. Not to mention, I like the depth that exists at interior OL more than I do the depth at edge. So, I’m taking Enagbare with pick 63.
Now we’re moving along to pick 96 and, would you look at that! There wasn’t a massive run on players I’m looking for!
Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson did go to the Titans at 90. But, to be honest there’s another Kentucky prospect I’m eyeballing with this pick. I’m tempted to go with Virginia tight end Jelani Woods here because he has so much upside. At some point, I’m hoping to find a tight end to compliment Hayden Hurst because I REALLY don’t want to rely on Drew Sample, if possible. But, I think finishing the rebuild of this offensive line is imperative… especially going into Joe Burrow’s third season.
I’m picking up Luke Fortner here because, quite frankly, I’ve heard him described as a poor man’s Tyler Linderbaum. As a Kentucky fan, I can vouch for his consistency at the position. Personally, I’m 100 percent into the idea of taking a chance on him. If he’s ready to start right away, great! If not, Ted Karras can hold down the center position for now and Quinton Spain is still available to come back and solidify that left guard spot.
We’re moving along to the depths of the fourth round now and, once again, we’re back to slim pickings.
After losing Auden Tate to the Falcons, I think the Bengals could really use a really good fourth option at wide receiver. Perhaps I’m weird in thinking that Stanley Morgan Jr might actually be able to step into that role quite nicely. But, it might also be worth adding some talent. That’s why I’m looking at Velus Jones Jr from Tennessee.
He’s likely a developmental slot receiver at the NFL level, but that’s ok for me. Tyler Boyd only has two years left on his contract and this wide receiver room is about to get EXPENSIVE with Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins needing re-upped around that time. Jones could be a limited contributor for now and, perhaps, when the time is right, provide an insurance policy in case Boyd decides to move on in a few years.
All that said, the biggest reason I’m excited for Velus is his prowess as a kick returner. Y’all remember relying on Darius Phillips and Stanley Morgan to return kicks last season? Yeah. Muffs cost us a win against the 49ers. Darius Phillips is gone. Brandon Wilson, while reliable as a returner, doesn’t really add much value to the team at his natural position of safety. Picking Velus in the fourth round might be seen as a bit of a reach but I really don’t feel like he’ll still be there at 174. I’m making an executive decision. Let’s go.
As we move to the fifth round, it’s still looking pretty slim. I wouldn’t call this my ideal mock for the Bengals at all, but it is quite possible the real draft this weekend could play out like this.
Based on the list of available players I’m seeing here, I think most Bengals fans would want me to pick up nose tackle Curtis Brooks from UC. Personally, I don’t really get that. Definitely not in the fifth round. Yeah, sure, he’s athletic and tested very well. But, if the Bengals are going to pick up a defensive tackle I think they would probably be better off targeting a 3-tech rather than nose tackle. They’re pretty set with DJ Reader and Josh Tupou right now. Not to mention, it’s really hard to project what Brooks’ role would be in the NFL. Maybe if we see him again in the sixth round I’ll consider it but I think I’ll pass in the fifth.
I’m actually going to throw a bit of a curve ball here. I’m going to take Brian Robinson Jr, the running back from Alabama. Why? Quite frankly I’m not a fan of Samaje Perine. I love Chris Evans, but Robinson provides a completely different set of skills than Evans. Notably, PFF calls him the best short-yardage bruiser in the draft class. Y’all remember when the Bengals couldn’t pick up one yard on three tries on the last drive of the Super Bowl? Pepperidge farm remembers. And Pepperidge farm ain’t gonna let that happen again. So sue me, I’m taking a running back.
Wouldn’t you know it, the sixth round is actually shaping up the way we want! If only the earlier rounds were like that.
Curtis Brooks is still here! I’m not going to lie though I’m still wondering about the value of taking a nose tackle, especially when the Bengals still need to shore up their offensive line depth. I’ve got my eye on offensive lineman Zachary Thomas here. He can play all five positions as a rotational backup if need be. Is that enough promise to betray all the UC fans who are probably screaming at me to take Curtis Brooks? Yes, I think it is. Sorry guys, I just think nose tackle is the one position we’re set at on the defensive line. Why take the chance with poor offensive line depth again when it literally cost us the Super Bowl? I’m going with Zachary Thomas here.
The Bengals actually have two picks in the seventh round this year and I think a lot of Bengals fans are wanting to use one of those picks on PUNT GOD Matt Ariaza. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s no longer on the board.
Honestly, that’s fine with me. Ariaza might be really good. But, it seems like the Bengals’ coaching staff really likes Drue Christman. We can probably find some solid competition for him in UDFA. Also, Curtis Brooks is gone too. Sorry, UC fans.
Perhaps this is another curveball but I’m actually going to take Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy here. I was also thinking about Miami safety Bubba Bolden here but the Jags took him at the top of the round. The reason I’m thinking Purdy here is because.. let’s face it… Brandon Allen is a limited quarterback. He’s probably the best backup we’ve had since AJ McCarron, but that’s not saying much. He’s solid with his legs but he has accuracy issues and, for that reason, I don’t see any reason he shouldn’t have some real camp competition this year.
Years ago I thought Purdy was going to be a stud of a future NFL Draft prospect. He never quite hit that level, but I still think he’s really talented. I think he’ll adjust to the NFL extremely well and should be the kind of guy who can give you 70 percent of what Joe Burrow gives you in case Burrow has to miss time for any reason.
Finally, we’re moving to the Bengals’ final pick at 252 overall in the seventh round. Essentially, you’re just getting a head start on undrafted free agency here, so let’s see who is left.
I wanted to bring in a piece to compete with Drew Sample earlier in the draft. Unfortunately, the way things shook out, there were other great options available when I had the opportunity to take guys I really wanted like Colorado State’s Trey McBride, Virginia’s Jelani Woods, or Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely. So, how about we go get Iowa State’s Chase Allen? He’s not going to wow you in any particular category but he’s a decent blocker and a decent underneath receiving option. At the very least, as I said, he can give Sample a run for his money. Plus, we can pair him back up with Brock Purdy.
So, there you have it. A full seven-round mock draft for the Bengals. I have no idea what they’re actually going to do for most of the draft. So, maybe it will be fun to go back and compare my mock to the actual results after the draft is completed.
Hopefully I have a less noisy fridge by then and we can take the party back to YouTube. But, for now, this is what we’re working with and these are some of the players I think would make sense for the Bengals in 2022.
The 2022 NFL draft is on Thursday and teams will be trying to make the best selection for their needs and improve their overall talent level. The best picks will be those made that can contribute early on and help boost teams to the playoffs and potentially even past the first round. All the picks made will be based on what the teams will likely do, not what we would do in their place.
The 2022 NFL draft is on Thursday and teams will be trying to make the best selection for their needs and improve their overall talent level. The best picks will be those made that can contribute early on and help boost teams to the playoffs and potentially even past the first round. All the picks made in this mock draft will be based on what the teams will likely do, not what I would do in their place.
The Jaguars haven’t really been secretive about this selection. They need help all over the roster and Aidan Hutchinson is universally regarded as the best player in the draft. He’s going to truly help the pass rush in Jacksonville to help build that unit even more.
No. 2 Detroit Lions: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
The Lions have a great situation to have a young, developmental starting quarterback sit for a season and then have him start after that. Malik Willis is the best quarterback in the draft, and sitting a year behind Jared Goff could be the best thing for his development.
No. 3 Houston Texans: CB Derek Stingley, Louisiana State
Houston has been somewhat secretive of their plans, but with reports that Derek Stingley is being rumored as a top three pick, he makes a ton of sense for them here. Houston doesn’t have the true shut-down cornerback they need for the long-term health of their defense.
No. 4 New York Jets: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia
The Jets don’t have a prime pass rusher for Robert Saleh’s defense. Carl Lawson was supposed to be that guy, but he needs someone across from him who can also attack the quarterback. Travon Walker will come right in and be a great run defender. As he develops more pass rush moves, he’ll end up being a 10-plus sack player every year.
No. 5 New York Giants: OL Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
The Giants have a couple of solid pieces on their offensive line with Andrew Thomas and have brought in Max Garcia, Jon Feliciano, and Mark Glowinski to help round out the middle of it. They need a true bookend on the other side of the line for Thomas, and Ikem Ekwonu is the best tackle in the draft.
No. 6 Carolina Panthers: QB Matt Corral, Mississippi
NFL teams make poor decisions all the time. The Carolina Panthers haven’t figured out what kind of quarterback they should actually get in the first two years under Matt Rhule. This would be a bad pick because Matt Corral isn’t ready, but Carolina doesn’t have a competent coaching staff and front office.
No. 7 New York Giants: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
The Giants have the kind of roster where coaching should help make improvements, but adding play-makers is also important. Kyle Hamilton is the biggest defensive play-maker in the draft and would start right away at safety for the Giants. The Giants might luck out into the best player in the draft.
No. 8 Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
A lot of people point to the Falcons wide receiver corps as their biggest need, but they’re ignoring that the only edge defenders of consequence on the roster are Lorenzo Carter and Adetokunbo Ogundeji. If Kayvon Thibodeaux is there at No. 8 overall, the Falcons will sprint to the podium to select him.
After trading away Russell Wilson, the Seahawks need to fill the hole for a franchise quarterback. Pete Carroll has a knack to pick guys that make sense for a run-heavy offense and should be able to lead the offense to wins with timely, accurate throws. Desmond Ridder has exceptional leadership and, while a reach, fits perfectly for the Seahawks.
No. 10 New York Jets: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
The Jets need a true No. 1 wide receiver to give to their mistake from 2021, Zach Wilson. Jameson Williams plays most similarly to Tyreek Hill in this draft and would be an ideal fit for the Jets offense. This might be a bit higher value than expected because of his injury, but he’ll live up to it more than the rest of the wide receivers in the draft.
No. 11 Washington Commanders: CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati
The Commanders need more defensive talent, and Ahmad Gardner is the best cornerback in the draft. Gardner fits the long, fast cornerback that Ron Rivera likes for his defense. Gardner would instantly upgrade that defense and allow the Commanders pass rush to have a little more time to get to the quarterback.
No. 12 Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
The Vikings take a Minnesota native in Jermaine Johnson with this pick to help improve their pass rush. He would instantly start at edge defender for them and would complement Danielle Hunter in their defense. Johnson would start his career as a great run stuffer and should easily make an impact as a pass rusher.
No. 13 Houston Texans: OL Evan Neal, Alabama
The Texans have some talent on their offensive line, but if they are truly committed to helping Davis Mills long-term , they should continue to build out the offensive line. Evan Neal is a steal here, and would be the best player they could add. He could play any of four offensive line spots outside of center and would start in 2022.
No. 14 Baltimore Ravens: DL Jordan Davis, Georgia
The Baltimore Ravens love to take the best player available, especially when he is a freak athlete like Jordan Davis is. Davis would start his career rotating in with Michael Pierce and could eventually take the starting role when Pierce is gone. He’d do best playing on a limited snap count early.
No. 15 Philadelphia Eagles: WR Drake London, Southern California
After missing on Jaelen Reagor with the first round pick in 2020, the Eagles need a contested catch wide receiver who can replace him in the starting lineup. Drake London has a lot of Keyshawn Johnson in his game and would be that perfect possession wide receiver for the Eagles.
No. 16 New Orleans Saints: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
The Saints need a complementary wide receiver to Michael Thomas, and Garrett Wilson is a great fit in New Orleans. Wilson can do it all at wide receiver, but he’s not the largest receiver and he’s not the strongest guy at the position. He will add a deep-ball option for the Saints.
No. 17 Los Angeles Chargers: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
The Chargers need to continue to surround the franchise quarterback, Justin Herbert, with talent, and adding an offensive tackle to bookend from Rashawn Slater is a wise move. Charles Cross is insane value here, and would instantly start at right tackle for the Chargers.
No. 18 Philadelphia Eagles: DL Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
The Eagles need some depth at defensive line with Fletcher Cox on the last year of his contract. Devonte Wyatt is a great penetrator in the center of a defense and would fit in well with the Eagles defensive schemes. Wyatt can play any technique from a nose tackle role to a 3-4 defensive end role.
No. 19 New Orleans Saints: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
James Hurst is a terrible NFL offensive tackle and has no business starting for the Saints. Trevor Penning is a great athlete who has somewhat of a nasty streak, but he’s not a polished product at all. Penning would fit in well with the Saints offensive line and would help them have the infrastructure for a young quarterback to be successful.
In 1983, the Pittsburgh Steelers passed up on hometown talent Dan Marino for a defensive tackle. They never truly had a franchise quarterback from then until they took Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers should make amends for that selection with Kenny Pickett. He’s a hometown guy who could develop into a franchise guy with the right support around him.
No. 21 New England Patriots: OL Zion Johnson, Boston College
After the Patriots traded Shaq Mason to the Buccaneers, they have a massive hole on the offensive line at guard. Zion Johnson is easily the best guard in this class and should be able to slot right in in Mason’s old spot. He’d start at right guard and be a 10-year starter for the Patriots.
No. 22 Green Bay Packers: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
After trading away Davante Adams, the Packers need to do right by Aaron Rodgers. They should focus on adding receivers from this exceptional draft class. One of those options should be Chris Olave, who is a beastly speedster who will allow them to continue to burn teams deep.
No. 23 Arizona Cardinals: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
The Cardinals don’t have a starting cornerback who can be a lock-down guy on the defensive side. Trent McDuffie is a unique cornerback who may never be that shut-down corner, but could be a primary corner for a team. He would start with the Cardinals and be their No. 1 cornerback as a rookie.
No. 24 Dallas Cowboys: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
The Dallas Cowboys need a pass rusher to complement Demarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons in the rotation. Dante Fowler has been mediocre during his time in Atlanta and may not be that guy anymore. George Karlaftis is a good fit for Dan Quinn as a pass rusher and would start in base sets for the Cowboys.
No. 25 Buffalo Bills: CB Andrew Booth, Clemson
The Buffalo Bills don’t have a top-tier cornerback outside of Tre’Davious White. Adding Andrew Booth to the defense would give them a pair of cornerbacks who could help strengthen the defense for those crucial moments at the end of games when they need them. Like that AFC Championship game.
No. 26 Tennessee Titans: OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
The Titans need to have someone replace Rodger Saffold, who left them for the Bills. Kenyon Green can start right away and add some power to the inside of the offensive line that they will be missing without Saffold. He’s the perfect kind of blocker to fit in with the Titans offense.
No. 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OL Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The Buccaneers lost Ali Marpet to retirement this off-season and replaced him with Shaq Mason. However, they already had a hole at left guard. They also have Ryan Jensen nearing the end of his contract and should look to the future. Tyler Linderbaum is the best interior offensive lineman in the draft and could play left guard for a year before sliding over to take over for Jensen.
No. 28 Green Bay Packers: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
After taking Chris Olave, the Packers should continue to look for more receivers for Aaron Rodgers. Treylon Burks is another receiver who can beat teams deep, but he also does well as a big slot receiver who can attack the seams and help Rodgers have the best possible options when combined with Olave.
No. 29 Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jahan Dotson, Pennsylvania State
After losing Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs never replaced his skill set. Dotson has a similar skill set, even though he doesn’t have the top-end speed. He’s best as a yards-after-catch receiver who takes slants and screens and turns them into long catches. He can burn a defense, but that’s not where he wins the most.
No. 30 Kansas City Chiefs: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
The Chiefs are a great team without a ton of holes, but adding the best player they can in Devin Lloyd would be amazing for them. Lloyd can start out the year rushing the passer in some sets, while also playing in coverage in some nickel sets. The Chiefs have great talent everywhere, but adding Lloyd here would continue to enhance their talent.
The Cincinnati Bengals need to improve the depth of their roster overall. Boye Mafe has the potential to be a great pass rusher in the NFL, but he’s very raw at this point in his development. Mafe would do well sitting behind Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson for a season or two and eventually realizing his potential.
No. 32 Detroit Lions: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
When building a team, get the quarterback and then get players who can affect the quarterback on the opposing team or help the quarterback you got. The Lions have a No. 1 wide receiver and a couple of good offensive tackles, but they need a No. 1 corner and a top pass rusher. Kaiir Elam would be the No. 1 cornerback and would help fill the second of the five “pillar pieces” needed.
Teams around the NFL make picks based on players talents and projections. Comparisons to others who have had success are a big part of the scouting process. Teams don’t look at players for what they are now, though, when they make these comparisons. They tend to try and tap what the highest level of potential could be. So that’s what we’ll be doing here as well.
Teams around the NFL make picks in the NFL Draft based on players’ talents and projections. Comparisons to others who have had success are a big part of the scouting process. Teams don’t look at players for what they are now, though, when they make these comparisons. They tend to try and tap what the highest level of potential could be.
So that’s what we’ll be doing here as well. However, there’s not just stylistic comparisons for players in how they play. There’s also physical comparisons for their athleticism. And that’s also part of the process, because that factors into the overall potential.
This mock is an NFL mock draft with player comparisons. It will also explore not just team needs but use a bit of the philosophy of the decision makers involved to try and select who fits their team the best.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have needs all over the roster and taking the best players they can and letting it play itself out would be their best move. Aidan Hutchinson is arguably the best overall prospect and player in the draft despite his short arms. Much like another player with 32-inch arms in Patrick Kerney, he might be better off playing a 5-technique or 6-technique defensive end role in a 3-4 or a 4-3 than playing the true stand up edge in a 3-4.
In Jacksonville, he would have complementary edge rushers in Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson to help him attack quarterbacks. On base sets, Hutchinson would be a great fit as a defensive end for the 3-4 looks since the Jaguars will be running a more offset 3-4 than a true two-gap 3-4. Then in nickel sets, rotating Hutchinson, Chaisson and Allen at edge rusher will help keep fresh rushers getting after the passer every play.
No. 2 Detroit Lions: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia
Stylistic Comparison: Bruce Smith
Physical Comparison: J.J. Watt
As was noted before, these comparisons are being made for overall potential. Travon Walker didn’t shine as the primary pass rusher at Georgia, but he has all the tools to be great. He also had a selfless attitude about himself to let other players around him make the plays even if he didn’t. But in the pros, he’s going to be a star, and if he reaches his true potential, he could be the next Bruce Smith regardless of alignment.
Detroit would give him the perfect spot to really shine. He could play as a 4-3 defensive end who will sometimes 5-technique, but will primarily hold down the strong side of the defense while also being able to get after the quarterback with Charles Harris and the Okwara brothers. This would also let Brockers slide inside to a more 3-technique role that will serve the defense better as a whole. Walker should be a great fit for the Lions for the long term.
No. 3 Houston Texans: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Stylistic Comparison: Leonard Davis
Physical Comparison: Cordy Glenn
The Texans have a need on the offensive line to help out their young quarterback and having a talented guard or tackle come in would really help build the infrastructure for the quarterback to succeed. Evan Neal has a ton of talent and can play either guard or tackle in the NFL. With Laremy Tunsil manning the most important spot on the line at left tackle, they can put Neal at either left guard, right guard or right tackle to have him help where needed.
Athletically, his film is very similar to Cordy Glenn’s. While Glenn didn’t have the best combine, he still had a successful career as an offensive lineman and should be considered the floor of what Neal could provide. Neal has the kind of talent that brings to mind Leonard Davis, a guy who played for the Cowboys and Cardinals at three separate spots and went to the Pro Bowl multiple times throughout his career.
No. 4 New York Jets: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Stylistic Comparison: Chandler Jones
Physical Comparison: Gaines Adams
The Jets are on the path to a really good future if they can figure out the holes in their roster. Zach Wilson is bad, but they’ll have to figure that out in their own time before this staff loses their job. On the other side of the ball, they don’t have a primary pass rusher on the roster yet. Carl Lawson is a great complementary pass rusher and having that premiere pass rushing beast across from him will help. That’s where Kayvon Thibodeaux would come in.
The interior trio of Jonathan Franklin-Myers, Sheldon Rankins and Quinnen Williams will benefit greatly from an outside rusher. Thibodeaux is great as a pass rusher and has the athleticism to really set the outside edge. Much like Chandler Jones, he could lead a pass rush that would have quarterbacks running for their lives. Thibodeaux would instantly upgrade the Jets defense and this would be a perfect situation for him.
No. 5 New York Giants: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
Stylistic Comparison: Warren Moon
Physical Comparison: Tyrod Taylor
If your team doesn’t have a quarterback, you should go out and get one. The smoke of Malik Willis to the Giants isn’t out there, yet. But the fit just makes sense. Giants head coach Brian Daboll likes to take quarterbacks with the raw tools and make them great. Putting Willis with Tyrod Taylor and Daniel Jones in New York to learn from for a year and really develop into a pro is the right way to go. Willis would be an upgrade over Jones after his first year.
The comparison for Willis being Warren Moon may seem lofty. And he’s definitely a boom or bust type guy. Willis has all the same tools Moon had as a player. From the cannon arm to the mobility and intelligence in his reads, he can really develop into the right quarterback at an NFL level for any team. Daboll would love his tools and could mold him into an All-Pro the way he did with Josh Allen in Buffalo with the Bills.
I have a saying, “NFL teams do stupid things.” The Carolina Panthers are one of those teams that continually do stupid things. In this situation, the smart thing of getting a quarterback to try and keep the jobs of the GM and coach makes sense for the Panthers brass. Sam Darnold hasn’t worked out. Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t worked out. And ideally, the Panthers would understand that Pickett is probably a third or fourth round talent at best.
Pickett at his best would be a Joe Flacco level guy who’s a purgatory level quarterback of the likes of Andy Dalton who could potentially go unconscious one postseason and win a Super Bowl. He’s not a top five quarterback in the NFL potential guy, though. The Panthers will make a mistake in this draft, and that mistake will end up being Kenny Pickett at No. 6.
No. 7 New York Giants: OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
Stylistic Comparison: Jake Matthews at LT/Joel Bitonio at LG
Physical Comparison: Rodger Saffold
The Giants have one piece on their offensive line that’s worth having start for them in Andrew Thomas out of Georgia. They did bring in Mark Glowinski, Jon Feliciano and Max Garcia in the offseason, but adding someone who can really solidify the left side of the line and that guy is Ikem Ekwonu. Adding a franchise quarterback and a starting left guard in the same draft will only strengthen the Giants for the long term.
Ekwonu is a very unique player because he can play either guard or tackle at level that would put him in the top 10 players at his position in the league. He’s got the size, strength, speed and technique to step right in and start. If Evan Neal wasn’t in this draft, he’d be the highest rated offensive lineman with no questions asked. Ekwonu, Andrew Thomas, and the best three of the remaining offensive linemen could give the Giants a solid overall line to work behind.
No. 8 Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
Stylistic Comparison: John Abraham
Physical Comparison: Danielle Hunter
The Atlanta Falcons need a true pass rusher. They have needs all over the roster and need to add to the roster in the best player available fashion. This is a situation where Jermaine Johnson would be a better fit for what the Falcons do than Kyle Hamilton or any of the quarterbacks remaining. Malik Willis would be the best fit at quarterback for them out of the entire group, but he was taken three picks ahead of them.
Johnson is a true weak-side defensive end or outside linebacker who could really make sense for the defense in Atlanta. He’d be a big upgrade to the Falcons pass rush off the edge. He would complement Grady Jarrett more than the current stable of pass rushers and has the potential to lead the entire group. He also has the local connection that could help the fan base support him early on as well. The Falcons have a lot of options and are the wild card of the draft.
No. 9 Seattle Seahawks: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Stylistic Comparison: Kam Chancellor
Physical Comparison: T.J. McDonald
The Seattle Seahawks are in the middle of a full rebuild. They need a bit of everything, including a true defensive leader who can bring back the old ways of the Legion of Boom. And with Kyle Hamilton’s extremely high level of talent, it’s too tough to pass on him at this point for Pete Carroll. Hamilton will remind him as a true replacement to Kam Chancellor but he has a bit more athleticism than Chancellor. Carroll loves players like Hamilton.
Hamilton is the same kind of ball hawk that Chancellor was but also has that attitude and explosion in his tackles that the former Seahawk did as well. Teams love Hamilton, and it would be shocking to see him fall to nine. However, with him sitting there at nine, it would be very tough for the Seahawks to pass on the second coming of their biggest chess piece on their championship defense. Hamilton would be an instant star in Seattle until they draft a new quarterback.
No. 10 New York Jets: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
Stylistic Comparison: Laremy Tunsil
Physical Comparison: Taylor Decker
The New York Jets need to finish setting up their offensive line to try and have the best support system for last-year’s misguided quarterback selection of Zach Wilson. Charles Cross would be a great fit for the Jets as a true left tackle that would allow them to have Mekhi Becton play a more natural role at right tackle. They went out and got Laken Tomlinson in the offseason and Conner McGovern was a solid center for them in 2021.
The Jets could have the protection Wilson needs to succeed. The former BYU quarterback was at his best in college when the team protected him for his passes. New York makes sense for Cross and could really help them fix the team as a whole. Putting him Alijah Vera-Tucker on the offensive line would give the Jets a true pass blocking contingent that all fit the zone blocking scheme that Mike LaFleur is running there.
No. 11 Washington Commanders: CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati
Stylistic Comparison: Richard Sherman
Physical Comparison: Akhello Witherspoon
The Washington Commanders have needs all over the roster, but with their current cornerback situation, they should love the idea of the super athletic Sauce Gardner falling to them. They have William Jackson III and Kendall Fuller, but Fuller profiles better as a free safety and Jackson is just one side of the field. Adding Gardner could really improve the Commanders defense as whole and would give them a true No. 1 cornerback.
Gardner has one of the best profiles for a cornerback prospect in years. He’s arguably the best cornerback prospect since Darrelle Revis with his combination of film, athleticism, length and overall attitude. Teams love his competitive fire. His football intelligence shows that he can play either nickel or either outside cornerback position in the NFL and be a playmaking defender. Gardner will be a multi-time Pro Bowl defender.
No. 12 Minnesota Vikings: NT Jordan Davis, Georgia
Stylistic Comparison: Dontari Poe
Physical Comparison: Dontari Poe
The Minnesota Vikings made their bones under Mike Zimmer with a great defense. However, with new coach Kevin O’Connell, things might be a bit different to where they would focus on the offensive side of the ball. With how this draft falls, the best pick for them will be the one that really makes the biggest impact on the field, though. Jordan Davis would transform any defense he joins, but few more than Minnesota.
The Vikings brought in Harrison Phillips and have Dalvin Tomlinson on the line already, but adding a true freak athlete at nose tackle could really help those two have more single blockers against them. Danielle Hunter and new addition Za’Darius Smith should also see fewer double teams than they would be projected to see at this time because of the space eating abilities Jordan Davis has shown in his time at Georgia and could translate into the pro game.
No. 13 Houston Texans: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Stylistic Comparison: Tyler Lockett
Physical Comparison: Devin Hester
The Texans need to really surround their future quarterback if it’s not Davis Mills with weapons. Mills had a solid rookie year, though and could be a solid quarterback for them. They have some solid receivers with Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins, but they don’t have a true No. 1 guy. While there is no premiere Julio Jones or A.J. Green level wide receiver in this draft, the two guys closest to that are Garrett Wilson and Drake London.
Wilson is very similar to Tyler Lockett as a deep threat who can attack the shorter areas as a yards-after-catch kind of guy. He’s very good as a true No. 1 who can help a team with contested catches as well. The best part of Wilson’s game though is his feel against zone defense. He knows how to find the soft spots and sit there. For a young quarterback, that’s what you need to help him succeed during the early stages of his development.
No. 14 Baltimore Ravens: CB Derek Stingley, Louisiana State
Stylistic Comparison: Patrick Peterson
Physical Comparison: Trae Waynes
Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta comes from the Ozzie Newsome school of taking the best player available even if it’s a position of strength for your team. This is definitely another situation like that. However, when looking at the Ravens depth chart for 2023, the cornerback position stood out as a spot they could attack. Marcus Peters is going to be out of his contract and the need at cornerback will be prominent then.
Adding someone like Derek Stingley to the depth would be exceptionally intelligent and would allow the Ravens to have a talented player to replace the former Pro Bowl corner Peters. Stingley has all the tools to be the star of the Ravens defense at cornerback. His long-term potential is that of a Patrick Peterson. A true shut-down type corner would be the best way to describe the former LSU Tiger.
No. 15 Philadelphia Eagles: CB Andrew Booth, Clemson
Stylistic Comparison: Darius Slay
Physical Comparison: Darius Slay
Speaking of Darius Slay, if you already have one, why not have two of them? Slay is one of the best all-around cornerbacks in the NFL and pairing him with a younger version of himself only makes sense. Andrew Booth fits in well with the Eagles as a starting cornerback across from Slay and should be an upgrade over 2021 fourth round pick Zech McPhearson. Booth has the same kind of tools and raw ability Slay had coming out.
However, his technique needs a lot of work. He’s better in man than Slay was early on, but he’s a malleable ball of clay at this point and should be able to pick up NFL coverage concepts easily. Booth has the potential to be a multi-time Pro Bowl player and could give the Eagles a second shut-down level cornerback if he reaches his potential sooner rather than later. The Eagles still have another first round pick later on to continue to add to their team.
No. 16 New Orleans Saints: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
Stylistic Comparison: Taylor Lewan
Physical Comparison: Robert Gallery
Imagine losing one of the best left tackles of the last decade because the cap room just isn’t there. That’s what happened with the Saints in the 2022 offseason. So they traded their 2023 first round pick to get another first round pick and see if they could end up replacing him or potentially sending a package up for a quarterback. In this situation, they nab Trevor Penning who profiles as a 10-year starter at left tackle in the NFL.
As a player, he comes off like a fringe Pro Bowl starter the way that Taylor Lewan did. A powerful, nasty, quick offensive lineman who can pass block well and shows off the dawg that he is in the run game. Penning would instantly slot next to Andrus Peat on the left side and continue to give the Saints a well-rounded offensive line in all spots. Penning has the athleticism of a Robert Gallery, but his career should line up to be better.
No. 17 Los Angeles Chargers: OL Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Stylistic Comparison: Chris Chester
Physical Comparison: Chris Chester
The Chargers need more offensive line help to protect franchise quarterback Justin Herbert. While they would have probably preferred a tackle like Trevor Penning, the best offensive lineman available is Tyler Linderbaum, a center from Iowa. Linderbaum athletically on film looks just like Chris Chester, a former long-time starter for Washington and Atlanta. Linderbaum can play any of the three interior spots.
On top of that, Linderbaum would be an instant competitor for the starting role at either guard spot and could help solidify the blind side for Herbert if he’s played on the left side. Linderbaum is a former wrestler as well, so his use of leverage should help him. Working with Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley, the Chargers could have at least three NFL above average starters on a line that will need to hold up against the exceptional pass rushes that are in the AFC West.
No. 18 Philadelphia Eagles: WR Drake London, Southern California
Stylistic Comparison: Keyshawn Johnson
Physical Comparison: Marques Colston
The Eagles first pick was on defense, but their second pick should be to find a complement to Devonta Smith at wide receiver. Smith is a smaller, faster receiver who’s better at finding the soft spots in the zone but doesn’t go up for contested catches as much. Drake London is the opposite of that. He’s a larger, stronger receiver who is going to attack the ball over the middle and win those contested catches that no one on the Eagles roster can get.
Adding London would also help the young quarterback that Philadelphia has in Jalen Hurts. London is a true No. 1 receiver, but he doesn’t need to be the No. 1 for the Eagles, and that will help his development. Combining London’s skills with the current corps should help the Eagles get more out of both Smith and London, but it should also open up the field a little better for Dallas Goedert as well. The tight end should see a lot more looks in the seams with London there.
No. 19 New Orleans Saints: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
Stylistic Comparison: Tyreek Hill
Physical Comparison: Tiquan Underwood
The New Orleans Saints need a true deep option and speed option at wide receiver who can complement Michael Thomas. There are no better options there than Jameson Williams who is one of the fastest, smartest players out there. He was once buried on the Ohio State depth chart, but found his best production in a role at Alabama. There are few guys who can burn a defense like Williams can, and he just happened to be behind those at Ohio State.
That being said, Williams can do everything those guys can do, but he’s faster and understands the weak points of a defense better. The transfer did him well, because he can find seams to burst through after the ball is in his hands. That will help the Saints with their lack of explosion on offense. There are few quarterbacks who can complement a receiver that can burn a team as well as Williams can, but Jameis Winston has the arm to do it. The fit here is perfect.
Long-time quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger retired this past season, and the Steelers need to find his replacement. Desmond Ridder may not be a true No. 1 quarterback in the NFL, but he’s someone who should fit right in with the Steelers. He can learn how to be great with a solid coaching staff like Pittsburgh, and he has better overall tools than Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph will ever have.
Ridder knows how to make the best out of a tough situation and has shown that he can lead a deficient team to great heights in Cincinnati. However, the NFL is a whole different game. There will be some growing pains and sitting for a season would be best for Ridder. The Steelers have a well-structured organization with the right coaches and some talent around the quarterback that knows how to get open and create with the ball in their hands.
No. 21 New England Patriots: OL Zion Johnson, Boston College
Stylistic Comparison: Kevin Zeitler
Physical Comparison: Joel Bitonio
The Patriots just traded away one of the best offensive linemen in the league in Shaq Mason. That opens up a massive hole for them at right guard, and they’ll need some talent to compete there. The best guard in the NFL draft is likely Zion Johnson. He’s got all the tools and compares best to another long-armed beast in Kevin Zeitler with the advanced physical tools of a Joel Bitonio. That’s a dangerous combination.
Bill Belichick is known for focusing on his offensive and defensive lines at the top of the draft historically, and Johnson won’t change that. Johnson slides right in between Trent Brown and David Andrews and should be a decade long starter the way Logan Mankins was for the Patriots. Add in the Boston connection, and there’s few guys who fit in as well for the Patriots as Zion Johnson does for Belichick’s crew.
No. 22 Green Bay Packers: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
Stylistic Comparison: Ryan Shazier
Physical Comparison: Dan Connor
There are few players who are as well-rounded at their position in the 2022 NFL draft as Devin Lloyd is. He’s one of the best all-around linebackers whether it is blitzing, covering zones or trying to slip into the backfield against the run. Lloyd has a ton of similarities to Dan Connor as an athlete, but he’s closer to a Ryan Shazier in his style of play. Shazier was a similar guy before his neck injury, and much like Lloyd, he had no trouble laying out opposing players.
The Packers are in a unique spot here. Sure, they have a need at wide receiver, but they also could use more defensive playmakers and have a second first round pick. And sure, De’Vondre Campbell was great in 2021, but they need more than just him in the middle level of their defense. Lloyd is a perfect complement to Campbell, and they could be a heart and soul type combination for that defense. Adding Lloyd to Campbell will strengthen a packers defense.
No. 23 Arizona Cardinals: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
Stylistic Comparison: Tre’Davious White
Physical Comparison: Desmond Trufant
Trent McDuffie is a unique case in this draft. He had some real buzz before the combine as potentially the highest drafted cornerback. It’s calmed down recently, but he still has a high level of talent and is very similar to Desmond Trufant in his play as a corner who is equally adept in man and zone. He’s also similar to Tre’Davious White in that he’s a physical cornerback who can support the run just as well as the pass.
The team that ends up with McDuffie will end up with a great talent for the position, but he’s not exactly a shut down guy at the level of a Derek Stingley or Sauce Gardner. In this situation, the Cardinals should look at him heavily. Their starting cornerbacks are Jeff Gladney—a cast off due to off field issues—and Byron Murphy a second round pick. McDuffie would start on the outside in both nickel and base sets and give the Cardinals a specified piece to work with.
No. 24 Dallas Cowboys: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
Stylistic Comparison: Terry McLaurin
Physical Comparison: Johnny Knox
Chris Olave is a very dynamic receiver who can align all over a formation and burn a defense deep or with yards after carry in the open space. He would be best on a team that has an option to help him by opening up the middle of the field for him to work. Much like Terry McLaurin, though, he is best when working with a group of talented receivers that will take pressure off of him being the primary playmaker every down.
The Dallas Cowboys traded away Amari Cooper to free up cap space to build their roster. But in doing so, they got rid of a major target for the talented Dak Prescott to throw to. Olave is a great value here at the latter part of the first round, and he fits in well with the Cowboys as either a slot receiver, outside receiver or option that aligns in the backfield at times in shotgun sets to create plays. The Cowboys should add Olave to Ceedee Lamb and Michael Gallup.
No. 25 Buffalo Bills: DL Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
Stylistic Comparison: Warren Sapp
Physical Comparison: Amobi Okoye
Devonte Wyatt is a world disrupter on the interior of a defense. Much like Warren Sapp or Aaron Donald, he creates a ton of pressure on the interior of a defense and attacks quarterbacks and the run game equally as well. Physically, he compares well to Amobi Okoye who is one of the better athletes at the position of all time. Wyatt is a nasty pass rusher with violent hands and the ability to shed interior blocks against the run well.
The Buffalo Bills don’t have a ton of needs on their roster, but adding to their pass rush is never a bad idea. Wyatt could join Ed Oliver in the middle of a Buffalo defense that has already added Von Miller to create a formidable rush. Miller and Rousseau as part of the first wave with Wyatt and Oliver should be able to handle the speed and scrambling ability of the AFC’s best quarterbacks. The Bills should have a better defense with him on it.
No. 26 Tennessee Titans: OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Stylistic Comparison: Andrew Norwell
Physical Comparison: Darryl Williams
Kenyon Green is a very athletic offensive lineman, but he’s not testing well, which is very similar to Darryl Williams, a former offensive tackle with the Panthers who moved to guard with Buffalo. Green is a better pass blocker than most of the players coming out this year and fits best as a guard at the next level. He is more of a powerful offensive lineman than a technician and should see his time spent holding the depth of the pocket against defensive tackles.
The Tennessee Titans lost their starting guard Rodger Saffold to the Buffalo Bills in the offseason after cutting him for cap reasons. Saffold was a long-term starter for them and would be tough to replace if there wasn’t a perfect fit like Green available out there. Green would start on the left side, though and allow the Titans to continue to have a nasty run game contingent on that side behind Green and long-time left tackle starter Taylor Lewan.
No. 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
Stylistic Comparison: Demarcus Lawrence
Physical Comparison: Bradley Chubb
George Karlaftis is an interesting case on film. He’s a true power pass rusher who gets to the quarterback by throwing the defensive end in front of him and has a limited pass rush set. Much like when Demarcus Lawrence was coming out, he’ll have to develop. But he has the athleticism to be great as shown by his physical comparison to Bradley Chubb. Teams will appreciate how well he can set the edge and should be very high on him.
The Buccaneers lost Jason Pierre-Paul during the offseason to free agency, but they could still bring him back. That or they can do the smarter thing and draft a guy with similar tools that can win in similar ways. Karlaftis has the bull rushing and run defending down pat. He will have to develop a set of moves to help him get to the quarterback, but the Buccaneers have the right support system to help him get there.
No. 28 Green Bay Packers: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
Stylistic Comparison: Plaxico Burress
Physical Comparison: Justin Blackmon
After trading away Devonta Adams this offseason, the Packers need someone who can make a difference as an outside receiver. They need someone who will fit in with Aaron Rodgers and can go up and get the ball when Rodgers throws into traffic. Since drafting Rodgers in 2005, the Packers haven’t drafted a wide receiver in the first round of the draft. They need to show that they can provide Rodgers with some support in his last years of his career and this would do that.
Treylon Burks may not be the best athlete at the position, but similar to Justin Blackmon, he makes it work. He wins in the same kinds of ways Plaxico Burress does, though. He’s more physical; he high-points the ball and catches defenders off-guard. He can find the soft spots in zones while in the red zone, and at his best, he can burn a defense deep with his route running and ability to create separation by running routes that throw off the men guarding him.
No. 29 Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jahan Dotson, Pennsylvania State
Stylistic Comparison: Calvin Ridley
Physical Comparison: Davon Grayson
Jahan Dotson is being talked about as a potential first round pick because of his ability to create after the catch, and his exceptional route running. His ability to attack teams deep or in the soft spots of their scheme really helps boost his value. He may not be the biggest or strongest or fastest guy at the position, but he’s one of the toughest and can create big plays out of thin air. The Chiefs would absolutely love having him because of his west coast offense fit.
The Chiefs are in need of a wide receiver. Marques Valdes-Scantling is the only starting caliber wide receiver under contract after 2022. They’ll need to take a wide receiver who can fit in as one of Patrick Mahomes’ primary options in the passing game, and Dotson fits that very well. Dotson would start out as a No. 2 receiver to Valdes-Scantling and could develop into that true No. 1 for the Chiefs once he fully develops his game.
No. 30 Kansas City Chiefs: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
Stylistic Comparison: Xavien Howard
Physical Comparison: Xavien Howard
Kaiir Elam is one of the best press cornerbacks in the draft in 2022. Elam has exceptional speed and agility and has shown that he can shut down a side when he’s able to press the receiver. The best player comparison for Elam is Xavien Howard, a multiple-time Pro Bowl cornerback known for being a great press cornerback. Adding Elam will help the Chiefs for the long term considering they don’t have any true No. 1 cornerback and no one under contract worth the role.
Elam would instantly start as the No. 1 cornerback for a depth chart that is currently highlighting Deandre Baker, Rashad Felton and L’Jarius Sneed. The Chiefs for the long-term do need that featured cornerback for the defense and bringing in Elam would give them that. A wild possibility for the Chiefs could be doubling up on wide receivers here as well with an extreme talent like George Pickens or Christian Watson to be another larger option for them.
No. 31 Cincinnati Bengals: OL Tyler Smith, Tulsa
Stylistic Comparison: Kelechi Osemele
Physical Comparison: Jamon Brown
Tyler Smith was a tackle in college, but projects better as a guard in the pro level just like Jamon Brown and Kelechi Osemele were. They are his best professional comparisons as well. Brown was a solid, but unspectacular starter during his time and is probably the worst case scenario. Smith’s play is a bit nastier than Brown’s is, however. That’s where the Osemele comparison comes in. Osemele would destroy the competition just like Smith does.
The Bengals need a mauler on their offensive line to solidify the front next to Jonah Williams at left guard. With Jonah Williams at left tackle and bringing in La’El Collins at right tackle, the Bengals are finally getting a line built to protect one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Joe Burrow. Adding more competition at center and right guard would help build the line further, but Smith is that piece at left guard for years.
No. 32 Detroit Lions: QB Matt Corral, Mississippi
Stylistic Comparison: Christian Ponder
Physical Comparison: Andy Dalton
Matt Corral is a quarterback who could sneak into the first round. The former Mississippi quarterback is a potential starter in the NFL. He’s able to read defenses well and has the moxie to be a leader, but there’s a lot missing with his accuracy and arm strength on his film. He’s got solid athleticism, but he’s not the best athlete. He comes off more like an Andy Dalton who can use the athleticism in the NFL to create passing lanes more than a true dual threat.
The Detroit Lions are in amazing need for the quarterback of their future. Especially one that fits in well with their star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. The Lions currently have Jared Goff as their starter and a bunch of terrible replacement level players on the roster. They would do best to bring in a guy with a fifth year option that needs the development but has a ton of potential. That guy is Matt Corral.
Be sure to check out some of the other mock draft on atbnetwork.com and be on the lookout for more as the draft comes.
The Atlanta Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Colts for the No. 82 pick in the 2022 NFL draft. His era is now over in Atlanta, but he will always be remembered as one of the greatest Falcons of all time. To replace him, they will have to look to a combination of the NFL draft and the signing of Marcus Mariota. Mariota looks like a mentor for whoever they end up drafting.
To explore what the draft could look like, we employed the Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to develop a realistic Atlanta Falcons mock draft scenario. General Manager Terry Fontenot has stated that he employs a Best Player Available draft strategy, but in reality, he will likely focus on finding a quarterback since he doesn’t have that franchise guy right now.
Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft
Round 1, No. 8 overall: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
Sure, the Falcons signed Marcus Mariota to start for the 2022 season. And that will be fine for until the next quarterback is ready. But they should look into someone who can not just be the guy who fits what head coach Arthur Smith likes, but be the guy who can help Smith expand his playbook.
Some guys will fit that mold in this draft later on, but if you like a guy enough to take him in the first, take him at your first round pick. We’ve done just that for this Atlanta Falcons mock draft.
The guy who truly fits the Falcons as a team, a city, and an organization is Malik Willis. He’s an Atlanta native who played at a pair of high schools in Atlanta before moving to Auburn and later on Liberty in college. He has the off-field credentials that would fit in well in with the Falcons as a leader for the locker room for years. And on-field, he has the rocket arm, exceptional mobility, and football IQ to be a premier quarterback in today’s NFL.
Round 2, No. 43 overall: WR George Pickens, Georgia
The Falcons currently have just 32 catches, 420 yards and three touchdowns of wide receiver production returning to the team in 2022 from their 2021 corps. The only two wide receivers of note on the Falcons current roster are Olamide Zaccheaus and Frank Darby. The signing of KhaDarel Hodge isn’t a needle-mover, either. Because of that, the Falcons should be in search of a man who can be a No. 1 wide receiver not just in on-field ability, but attitude.
George Pickens from Georgia is that guy in true form. He’s a 6-foot-3 receiver with some of the best speed in the draft. He can burn a defense deep and has the ability to go over the middle that will be needed for coach Smith’s schemes. Pickens has had some injury issues, and without those issues, he would probably be going top 10 in this draft. The Falcons should take advantage of this slip and hope he can avoid injury moving forward.
The Falcons do have five defensive linemen on the roster now, but they could use a primary nose tackle-type to fit into the rotation with Anthony Rush, Marlon Davidson, and Ta’quon Graham. The player next to Grady Jarrett needs to be quick, strong, and large. Travis Jones fits that to a tee. He also matches the scheme defensive coordinator Dean Pees runs at the position.
Primarily someone who will eat double teams in Atlanta, Jones should open up Grady Jarrett to more one-on-one matchups with offensive linemen. Those double teams he eats should keep the linebackers behind him cleaner and the pass rushers next to him with more one-on-one matchups, as well. While an edge rusher would be helpful here, the pass rush is a multi-year project. Jones will help it more long-term than a first-year edge rusher.
With the loss of Foye Oluokun, the Falcons will need someone to take over the middle linebacker role left in the void. Darrian Beavers fits in well with the Falcons’ defensive coordinator Dean Pees role at Mike. The Falcons would get a leader for their defense. Beavers understands the adversity of playing on a roster that may not be the most talented. He’ll be able to get the most out of the players around him.
The Falcons added to their edge room with the signing of Lorenzo Carter and addition-by-subtraction of letting Dante Fowler go. Carter and Adetekunbo Ogundeji will likely be the starters, but adding a pass rusher like Nik Bonitto to the rotation would only help. It does seem like this is a minor addition to be the direct compensation for Matt Ryan, as this was the pick gained in that trade, but Bonitto has the potential to be a vital piece of a pass rush.
Round 4, No. 114 overall: OL Alec Lindstrom, Boston College
The Atlanta Falcons need to enhance the talent along the offensive line. What better way to do that than to bring in the little brother of the best offensive lineman they have? Alec Lindstrom can fit in well in the zone blocking scheme as he’s a quicker, more technical lineman. He also can play either guard or center position and allow Atlanta some competition for Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman, Jalen Mayfield, and the rest of the interior line roster for a starting role in 2022.
Round 5, No. 151 overall: CB/S Coby Bryant, Cincinnati
Based on the Falcons needs, bringing in someone like Coby Bryant to help the safeties room makes a lot of sense. Now that may sound a bit off because Bryant was a cornerback in college, but he was an extremely strong run defender and reliable tackler. More importantly, he was exceptional in zone coverages and a little weaker in man-to-man. The Falcons bringing in Bryant as a safety to be the free, deep defender makes sense as a projection this late.
Because of the lack of wide receiver depth on the Falcons roster, adding another receiver in the sixth makes sense for that purpose. Tyquan Thornton was the most athletic receiver in the draft and at 6-foot-2, he has the height to help out the new quarterbacks make those throws needed in the red zone. Thornton is a bit rough around the edges as a route runner, but he fits in well with the schemes in Atlanta and can stretch the field.
Round 6, No. 213 overall: WR Jalen Nailor, Michigan State
Our Atlanta Falcons mock draft ends the way it began: on offense. The slot receiver could also use an upgrade and bringing in someone like Jalen Nailor would help that depth there. Nailor has great big-play ability due to his run-after-catch ability to excel in the Falcons offense.
He will remind some of Russell Gage, but more polished as a route runner. The speed is there to torch a defense, and he’s great as a vertical receiver as well. Adding Nailor, Thornton, and Pickens would really give the Falcons larger, faster receivers to work with.
I tinkered with the defaults, adding one click to the Public vs PFF Board, the Care for Positional Value, and Randomness. Let’s see what we we can come up with for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati Bengals Mock Draft First Four Rounds
First Round (Pick 31): Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida All the worthy tackles were off the board with the 31st pick. If I wanted to, I could have traded the pick – but I didn’t. Elam is a physical corner who can learn from Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, and Eli Apple. It is never bad to have depth on the corners.
Second Round (Pick 63): Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky Kinnard is listed as a tackle, but he could play guard as well. Give Kinnard a shot at tackle and consider him insurance at guard.
Third Round (Pick 95): Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State With Uzomah leaving for New York, tight end suddenly became a position of need. Is this a reach? Not necessarily. Ruckert is a good blocker and has a knack for getting open. His presence and blocking ability makes play action effective, potentially helping in the red zone.
Fourth Round (Pick 133): Sterling Weatherford, S, Miami of Ohio I like taking a safety here to learn from Jesse Bates III and Vonn Bell. Weatherford is a big hitter and he could develop into an excellent tackler — but he could also become no more than a special teams contributor.
Fourth Round (Pick 137): Tyreke Smith, ED, Ohio State Caveat: There was a trade on the board, but this a no-trade mock. Am I an Ohio State fan? Yes. Was this pick influenced by my fandom? Perhaps. However, Smith is a good rusher and can drop into pass coverage when needed. Yes, the Bengals have good edge players (Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, and the injured Joseph Ossai), but Smith could be seen as an insurance policy and a contributor on defense.
Rounds Five Through Seven
Fifth Round (Pick 172): Marquan McCall, DI, Kentucky McCall is more of a true nose tackle. That said, he should be able to move around on the defensive line and stabilize the interior.
Sixth Round (Pick 208): Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State It wouldn’t be a Bengals draft without taking a specialist, would it? I honestly tried not to take Araiza here but his potential contributions outweighed people making fun of me.
Seventh Round (Pick 222):Cade Mays, T, Tennessee A four-year starter between Georgia and Tennessee? Sign me up. He could prove a starter in a few years, and a great value.
Seventh Round (Pick 248): Cameron Latu, TE, Alabama A little more potential depth in the tight end room. This is a developmental pick.
Overall grade from PFF – B-: The two best picks were Kinnard and Mays, earning “A” grades. The Ruckert and Araiza picks earned “D+” grades, but I think they will both pan out. I’ll take another stab after free agency is over and see how I do then.