Dueling Mocks: Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft

Atlanta Falcons mock draft
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Hunter’s Falcons Mock Draft (@hthompsonFB)

After the whole Lamar Jackson conversations on Twitter we decided to to take a breather from that and just talk NFL draft. Today, Falcons Around the Block contributors Hunter Thompson and Saivion Mixson go toe to toe in an Atlanta Falcons mock draft duel. Let us know who won over @Falcons_atb on Twitter!

Pick 8: CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State

After choosing not to pursue Lamar Jackson this offseason, I have the Falcons kicking off my mock draft by taking my number one quarterback in the draft. Ohio State’s CJ Stroud is incredibly accurate, poised, and can be the superstar point guard that this offense needs to achieve new heights.

Pick 44: John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota

Drew Dalman was fine this past season, but he had his fair share of issues. For me, adding a franchise quarterback and a starting center in the same draft is too good to pass up. John Michael Schmitz would fit Arthur Smith’s zone blocking scheme to a T and should be able to build long-term chemistry with both Chris Lindstrom and our QB of the future. Oh, he is also the best center in this draft — so that is a bonus.

Pick 75: Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State

New Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen has a type at EDGE, with what seems to be bigger bodied guys being his preference. Zach Harrison fits that mold at 6’5″ 274lbs. Harrison could be used in a variety of ways across this defensive line as Ryan Nielsen looks to give it any sort of pulse going forward.

Pick 110: Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State

Julius Brents is a Senior Bowl standout who could be enticing for Ryan Nielsen and new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. Brents and his 6’3″ frame tested very well at the NFL Combine, with a vert of 41.5″ and a broad jump of 11’6″. Those traits could are too enticing for the new defensive staff to pass up on in the fourth round of this Falcons mock draft.

Pick 113: Zacch Pickens, DL, South Carolina

Grady Jarrett can’t do it all by himself from the interior this season. Zacch Pickens is a guy who could be a good rotational piece with Ta’Quon Graham to help complement Grady and keep the defensive line refreshed. Pickens is a 4-year starter for South Carolina’s defense and got better each season. He has a powerful first step that can really disrupt opposing offensive lines.

Pick 161: Jadon Haselwood, WR, Arkansas

Jadon Haselwood falls into that category of “players from Georgia” that Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have been talking about. Plus they witnessed his ability first hand at the Shrine Bowl. Haselwood is a possession receiver who never truly broke onto the scene in college, but his frame and skillset could provide a nice piece opposite of Drake London and help chunk away at opposing defenses.

Pick 226: Warren McClendon, OT, Georgia

The Falcons choosing not to tag right tackle Kaleb McGary makes me a little wary of what they could be doing at the position, which is why I grabbed Warren McClendon here. McClendon is a solid lineman who lacks some of the athleticism to be a star, but could develop into a strong swing tackle — or even future starter.

Pick 247: Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion

Is it really an Arthur Smith draft without drafting a tight end? As weird as it sounds, the Falcons could really benefit from upgrading the TE2 spot. Kuntz is a physical specimen with a 6’7″, 255lb frame who tested the best of any TE at the combine this season. He has a lot of work to do in polishing his game, but this late it just feels like a move we would make.

Saivion’s Mock (@MixsonS_NFL)

Pick 8: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

My FAVORITE cornerback to pair with AJ Terrell. This would lock up the cornerback position for years to come in Atlanta. Do I need to say more?

Pick 44: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

You can’t simply pass up running backs like Jahmyr Gibbs. An Alvin Kamara-type of back who is more than comfortable receiving in the slot. He would add yet another weapon for the quarterback of the future of this franchise.

Pick 75: Keeanu Benton, iDL, Wisconsin

The interior defensive lineman from Wisconsin is one of Chuck Smith’s protege’s from this draft cycle. You can bet that he will be more than ready to come into camp and add his pass rush chops to a defense begging for help getting to the quarterback.

Pick 110: Andrew Voorhees, iOL, USC

THIRTY EIGHT BENCHPRESS REPS. Now, the ACL tear may cause the Trojan lineman to slide some, but his strength makes his potential as a cornerstone of this Falcons offensive line worth it.

Pick 113: Jayden Reed, WR, Michigan State

Listen, do you want to stretch the field on offense? If so, Jayden Reed is 100% your guy. His ability as a route runner also makes him a perfect pick here, and a fantastic “Robin” to Drake London’s “Batman”.

Pick 161: Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati

This is a guy who plays much bigger than his 5’10 and-a-half-inch frame. Pace is an absolute baller and adds a much needed “thumper” to this linebacker room.

Pick 226: YaYa Diaby, EDGE, Louisville

Another combine standout who just so happens to check off the “from Georgia” box that Terry Fontenot has hinted at. Diaby has a solid 6’3″ 263lb frame that would be a nice off-the-bench contributor to a defensive line that needs all the help they can get.

Pick 247: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA

You really thought we weren’t going to add to the quarterback room? UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson (DTR) is a fun, athletic option who can be developed into a solid QB2 option for the Arthur Smith offense. And grabbing a guy like this, this late, feels like it’ll work.

Krumich’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Anthony Richardson: Florida Gators quarterback will no longer use 'AR15'  nickname for this reason | CNN
Photo Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Alright, folks, it’s time, and I am just so confused by the first round of this draft. None of it makes sense, it doesn’t feel right, and I have no clue what is going on. So with that in mind, let’s get into this 2023 NFL mock draft.

2023 NFL Mock Draft: The Top 10

Pick 1: Bears, Jalen Carter DL

We kick off this 2023 NFL mock draft with Jalen Carter. Firstly, I think that Carter is the pick here. Not because he is the best player, but because he fits best with head coach Matt Eberflus. Don’t get me wrong, Carter is a freak. However, I think there are better players in the NFL draft. Carter with the Bears just feels right in this mock draft.

Pick 2: Texans, Bryce Young QB

Realistically, this is the guy for Houston. Bryce Young is the future for Demeco Ryans and the Texans. Young is a creative, intelligent, and accurate quarterback. He would be perfect for the Shanahan system, now that Ryans has hired an offensive coordinator who (presumably) runs that system.

Pick 3: Cardinals, Will Anderson EDGE

Will Anderson is the best player in this class. Point blank, period. New head coach Jonathan Gannon loves to rush the passer with speed, which is right up Anderson’s ally.

Pick 4: Colts, C.J. Stroud QB

Here is where things start to get weird. I genuinely believe any of C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, or Anthony Richardson could be headed to Indianapolis. I think it’s going to be Stroud, but man, it’s a toss up.

Pick 5: Seahawks, Christian Gonzalez CB

Firstly, at the year’s end, Pete Carroll said this about his defense: “It’s killing me.” So it only feels right he takes a corner early in the draft. This corner class is loaded, and Christian Gonzalez is the best of the bunch. With great length and athleticism, he and Tariq Woolen would be a deadly combo.

Pick 6: Lions, Devon Witherspoon CB

The Lions desperately need cornerback help. They can add a bonafide top-level corner in Devon Witherspoon. Witherspoon has crazy instincts and plays the ball better than most corners. He is an excellent fit in Detroit.

Pick 7: Raiders, Will Levis QB

Listen, I am not the biggest fan of Will Levis, but he just makes more sense here than Anthony Richardson. Levis is very rough around the edges. He has excellent traits; however, he isn’t very refined. Levis’ career is going to be an interesting one.

Pick 8: Falcons, Tyree Wilson EDGE

Now, Tyree Wilson is a freak. His whole draft stock is going to be decided at the combine. He is strong, has prototypical size, and is super versatile. He is an excellent fit for the Falcons, who desperately need to rebuild their defensive line.

Pick 9: Panthers, Anthony Richardson QB

Firstly, Anthony Richardson is really good. Coaching is going to be really important for his development. Carolina feels like the perfect place for him. Head coach Frank Reich can unlock the huge potential of Anthony Richardson.

Pick 10: Eagles, Bijan Robinson RB

Surprisingly, I don’t know what to do with Bijan Robinson in this 2023 NFL mock draft. He is a weapon, but where is he going to get drafted? I have no clue. I know he will go in the first round, but he could go anywhere from 10-31. He makes no sense. Miles Sanders is a free agent, so the Eagles replace him with a better player.

2023 NFL Mock Draft: Picks 11-20

Pick 11: Titans, Peter Skoronski OL

Peter Skoronski will be the first offensive lineman off the board, but where will he play? He can try to play tackle, where he has good tape, but does he have the length to play there? He can play guard, but he feels better suited for tackle.

Pick 12: Texans, Lukas Van Ness EDGE

Realistically, with a defensive head coach, the Texans will go defense here. I think wide receiver is the bigger need, but Van Ness isn’t a bad pick. Firstly, he has a lot of strength. Secondly, his burst and bend are crazy for his size. Lastly, he has sky-high potential.

Pick 13: Jets, Paris Johnson Jr. OT

New York has a Mekhi Becton problem. Robert Salah has to make a choice, run with him or draft another tackle. I am taking the easy way out in this mock draft and drafting a guy who can play inside and out. Paris Johnson Jr. is a beast, but like Peter Skoronski, he can play guard and tackle.

Pick 14: Patriots, Quinton Johnston WR

Bill Belichick is a sicko. He loves fast downfield wide receivers, but only allows them to run curls and jet sweeps. Mac Jones desperately needs a weapon, and Quinton Johnston is just that. Fast, explosive, and has good hands — something I’m sure Mac Jones would welcome in New England.

Pick 15: Packers, Myles Murphy EDGE

We all know this won’t be a wide receiver. However, it will be a freak in Myles Murphy. Murphy is 6’5, 275lbs with crazy speed and burst. However, with how this EDGE class stacks up, I have no clue how far he falls. The Packers just felt like the right place for him.

Pick 16: Commanders, Joey Porter Jr. CB

I don’t think Porter is the best cornerback available (I feel like I have said this a lot). I do think he fits the best in Washington. Porter has an impressive combo of height, weight, and speed. He has also improved technically every year he’s played.

Pick 17: Steelers, Broderick Jones OT

Pittsburg needs offensive line help, and a lot of it. Luckily, Broderick Jones is a lot of human. Jones is a people mover who will help Najee Harris and Kenny Pickett stay upright next season. He would make for an instant starter next year for Pittsburgh.

Pick 18: Lions, Bryan Bresee DL

Many things are going on in Bryan Bresee’s life. Hopefully, the former number 1 recruit in the nation can return to that level. I think Bresee’s versatility will be a huge asset for him. He can play 4i, 3T, or nose tackle on pass downs. The superb athlete has picked up a few severe injuries over the past three years, which is a concern.

Pick 19: Buccaneers, Cam Smith CB

Cam Smith is my CB3 in this class and feels like a steal at 19. The Buccaneers might be blowing it all up. If so, you can’t go wrong with a blue chip corner. A physical and quick cornerback with fluid feet and hips, Cam Smith makes any unit better.

Pick 20: Seahawks, Keion White EDGE

White is a freak off the edge, making him a good fit with Pete Carroll. 6’4 ¾” and 280 pounds with 33 ⅝-inch arms and blazing speed off the edge. Much like their earlier round one pick, Pete Carroll wants a great defense again.

2023 NFL Draft: Picks 21-32

Pick 21: Chargers, Zay Flowers WR

GET JUSTIN HERBERT A PLAYMAKER, PLEASE! That’s really it. Zay Flowers will continue to shoot up draft boards as the cycle continues. He showed out in his one day at the Shrine Bowl, and the buzz was that the Chargers fell in love with him there.

Pick 22: Ravens, Jaxson Smith-Njigba WR

A little run on wide receivers here. The Ravens need to find Lamar Jackson a wide receiver 1 or 2. Honestly, they just need wide receivers. Jaxson Smith-Njigba was the best wide receiver in college football in 2021. With some injuries and the emergence of Marvin Harrison Jr., Smith-Njigba fell to the wayside. Hopefully, he can get back on track in the NFL.

Pick 23: Vikings, Brian Branch S

It is no secret that the Vikings’ secondary was bad. Brian Branch is one of the best athletes in this draft, and new defensive coordinator Brian Flores loves athletes in the secondary.

Pick 24: Jaguars, Kelee Ringo CB

The Jaguars need corner help. Luckily for them, this corner class is absolutely loaded. Kelee Ringo is a super raw corner and is going to need some time. He will be great paired with Tyson Campbell.

Pick 25: Giants, Jordan Addison WR

The Giants have been looking for a game-changing wide receiver. They finally get one in USC’s Jordan Addison. A reliable target throughout his college career, Addison would be an instant impact player in New York.

Pick 26: Cowboys, Jalin Hyatt WR

Jalin Hyatt is a Jerry Jones pick, no questions asked. He has next-level straight-line speed and is good enough at everything else. The majority of his production came on go routes at Tennessee.

Pick 27: Bills, O’Cyrus Torrence IOL

The first true interior offensive lineman off the board, O’Cyrus Torrence is a big man. I think he drops down from his Florida playing weight to get more mobile for the next level. The Bills need to work on their run game, and a blue-chip guard is a perfect place to start.

Pick 28: Bengals, Michael Mayer TE

It feels like we have been talking about Michael Mayer as the next big thing for five years, but now the time has come for him to leave South Bend and head to the NFL. There is no good offensive line value here for Cincinnati, so why not add a great blocking and receiving tight end.

Pick 29: Saints, Nolan Smith EDGE

Nolan Smith is electric. A great athlete, but he doesn’t have a great pass-rush arsenal. He falls here to 29, making the Saints’ pass rush even more deadly. Smith is going to test really will at the combine, which could lead to him climbing draft boards.

Pick 30: Eagles, Emmanuel Forbes CB

After the Super Bowl, it feels like secondary will be on the Eagles’ minds. Emmanuel Forbes has been shooting up draft boards of late, and now makes it into the first round with Philly.

Pick 31: Chiefs, Dawand Jones OT

Dawand Jones is a mountain of a human. Nicknamed “Big Thanos” by teammates, Jones is a certified people mover. The Chiefs’ two tackles are free agents, and everyone knows there is never enough money to go around after you win a Super Bowl. This solves a potential tackle problem.

With that, this 2023 NFL mock draft comes to an end. We only have 31 picks this year (thanks, Miami), so one less player will be getting first-round money. This is just the first iteration of this year’s mock draft, and a lot will change post-combine.

7-round Mock Draft for the Cincinnati Bengals

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.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

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.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

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!

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

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.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

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.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

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.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

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.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

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.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

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.

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Mitchell Wolfe’s Predictive Final Mock

How will Thursday’s draft shape out?

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We are now less than a week away from the 2022 NFL Draft. By this time, the number of 2022 NFL mock drafts is reaching critical mass. But with such little time until Roger Goodell takes the podium and declares the draft officially open, too many mocks focus on what the writer would do. Now is this the time for more predictive 2022 NFL mock drafts.

This 2022 NFL Mock Draft is more focused on the predictive aspect of mock drafts, as opposed to my personal feelings or seamless team fits. In the coming days before the actual draft, there will most likely be a significant uptick in rumors surrounding certain draft picks and players. Generally, smoke coming out during draft week is just that.

One more note: this 2022 NFL Mock Draft will not try to predict any trades. While there will certainly be several major moves made on draft night, it is simply too difficult to predict the exact moves or terms of the deal. Therefore, the order reflects the standings as of April 25th.

Mitchell Wolfe’s Predictive 2022 NFL Mock Draft

1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan

At this point, just over a week before the 2022 NFL Draft, the #1 overall pick seems pretty set. Entering the 2021 season, some expected Hutchinson to be a first-round pick, returning to his 2019 form when he was healthy. But even with rumors of dominant testing, most would have been surprised to learn that come April, Hutchinson had all but locked himself into being the first pick in the draft. 

Hutchinson’s ascension is partially due to a weak quarterback class and multiple teams in the top five. He is a dominant run defender with significant pass-rushing upside. He may not have the elite ceiling of other edge defenders, but his floor is exceptionally high. Hutchinson should also take a major leadership role for Jacksonville’s defense. 

2. Detroit Lions – Kayvon Thibodeaux, OLB, Oregon

The Kayvon Thibodeaux “nose dive” is starting to level out as we approach draft day. Thibodeaux may have earned excessive hype due to his recruiting process and early success. Injuries and unwarranted concerns about his attitude and motivation caused him to slip down the board in mock draft and edge defender rankings. However, the cycle of non-sensical draft takes might be turning the corner at the perfect time for Thibodeaux, as those issues are making increasingly fewer appearances. 

While Thibodeaux is not the elite edge prospect of years past (e.g., Young, Bosa, Garrett), he is still one of the premier players in this class. He is a game wrecker in all aspects of defense such that offenses will have to gameplan around him. Thibodeaux has apparently met with the Lions multiple times this draft cycle. There’s a decent chance that he and head coach Dan Campbell hit it off, especially since the Lions desperately need a premier pass rusher. 

3. Houston Texans – Travon Walker, DE, Georgia

Travon Walker and Kayvon Thibodeaux have ridden opposite trajectories during the draft process. Where Thibodeaux has been slowly falling, Walker has been rising rapidly. He has tested like an athletic marvel and is a unique physical specimen. When it comes to edge defenders, teams are willing to bet on insane traits, even if the player does not have great production. The Texans need talent across their entire roster. Luckily, they have been successful at drafting edge defenders. Walker fits seamlessly into two archetypes that Houston’s decision-makers want in an edge defender. There’s a decent chance that Walker will be the best player in this class. 

4. New York Jets – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

This mock draft is meant to be predictive instead of what I would do if I ran each team. Therefore, I do not necessarily agree with this pick. I do not think tackle is among the Jets’ most pressing needs, especially with the players remaining on the board. But George Fant is certainly upgradeable, and there seem to be some issues with Mekhi Becton. Furthermore, I do not believe Ekwonu is the best offensive tackle on the board. Nevertheless, I think Joe Douglas will flex his decision-making muscles and use this pick to help rebuild the trenches and protect Zach Wilson. 

5. New York Giants – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Moving onto my top offensive tackle and my top offensive lineman overall, the Giants dip into the SEC well again to continue rebuilding their offensive line. Evan Neal is nearly the platonic ideal of an NFL right tackle. He played left tackle this past year but also played right tackle and left guard for the Crimson Tide. He is not a perfect tackle prospect, as he has some consistency and technical issues to fix. But he’s still young and has excellent physical tools. 

Predictively, I could see this being a prime trade-down spot. Even though this quarterback class is not as strong as previous ones, teams will always be greedy for them. The Panthers have been at the forefront of investigating the quarterbacks in this class. Therefore, jumping in front of the Panthers would allow that team to steal their preferred quarterback.

6. Carolina Panthers – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

The Panthers have been putting some smoke out into the world about their interest in the other quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, namely Malik Willis and Matt Corral. At the end of the day, however, I’m not buying it. Matt Rhule and Kenny Pickett have a very long relationship, and the Panthers’ brass was heavily involved during Pickett’s pro day. While he does not have the highest upside among the quarterbacks this year, Pickett would bring an immediate level of competency to Carolina’s quarterback room. 

Obviously, most teams want a little something more than “competency” from a top-10 selection, especially for a quarterback. One might argue that investing in one of the quarterbacks with higher upside might buy Rhule more time, as most consider him to be on the hot seat this season. However, that strategy did not save Matt Nagy last year, and he even had a competent backup in Andy Dalton. Rhule needs to get this team out of the basement and make them competitive this season; Pickett offers them the best opportunity to do that. 

7. New York Giants (from Chicago Bears) – Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

With their second first-round pick, the New York Giants find their lockdown corner of the future. Ahmad Gardner is one of the best press corners to come down the draft pipeline in many years. With that being said, if any of the top three edge rushers fall to this spot, New York could select one of them instead. 

Due to his cap hit, James Bradberry will most likely be on the move soon, whether by trade or cut. Therefore, the Giants will need a new number one lockdown corner; even if they retain Bradberry, pairing him and Gardner would make an incredible duo. Regardless of Bradberry’s status, Gardner is an excellent fit in Don “Wink” Martindale’s scheme. Wink relies heavily on blitzes with man coverage behind it, perfectly matching Gardner’s skillset. 

8. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Atlanta secures the steal of the draft, acquiring my #1 overall player with the eighth pick. The Falcons are generally devoid of talent, especially on defense. For this reason, they can adhere closely to the “best player available” strategy, as they need help everywhere. Luckily, they also have a dire need at safety; two career special teamers (Erik Harris and Dean Marlowe) are the projected starters, with young players (Jaylinn Hawkins and Richie Grant) backing them up.

Hamilton would bring an immediate impact to Atlanta’s defense. The regime in Atlanta is young, but this pick meshes with Atlanta’s strategy from last year. Despite perhaps more pressing needs at more valuable positions, the Falcons took Kyle Pitts, an uber-athletic freakish hybrid player. That description fits Hamilton as well, despite what his testing numbers indicate.

READ MORE: 2022 NFL Mock Draft – Hussam Patel 
9. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver Broncos) – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Even though Seattle seems interested in giving Drew Lock a fair shake at quarterback, they still need to look towards the future in finding their franchise QB. Luckily, with Lock and Geno Smith on the roster, Malik Willis would not need to play in his first year with Seattle. Additionally, given the Russell Wilson trade, it seems clear that the Seahawks’ ownership is comfortable letting John Schneider and Pete Carroll manage the rebuilding process. 

Willis should work well with Carroll and the Seahawks in terms of fit. He brings a lot of the same physical and mental characteristics that Wilson brought. Willis obviously needs significant polishing and refinement. But Seattle is well-positioned to give Willis enough time to marinate while rebuilding the rest of the roster around him. Therefore, when he is ready to ascend to the starting quarterback position, he will inherit a well-rounded team. 

10. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks) – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

Once again, the New York Jets make a selection at a position that they don’t direly need. However, based on recent news, the Jets may be looking for a speed threat to help Zach Wilson. New York lost the Tyreek Hill trade sweepstakes, but had they been successful, one has to imagine that this pick was part of the trade deal. Therefore, securing the most dangerous speed threat at wide receiver makes sense for the Jets.

An ACL tear notwithstanding, Jameson Williams is still my WR1 in this class. He is a one-year wonder, but that one year was truly…wonderful. Williams possesses foot speed unlike any other receiver in this class. He was able to consistently separate from SEC defenders with speed alone but also has good hands, surprisingly good route running, and excellent toughness. Even if he misses the first few weeks of the season, Williams will be a major asset to Zach Wilson’s development. 

11. Washington Commanders – Drake London, WR, Southern California

Frankly, the Washington Commanders are in a bit of a pickle here. One could argue that they’ve been brining in one for years, but I digress. Regarding the draft, the Commanders do not have many immediate pressing needs; where they do have needs, their positioning in the first round and the distribution of talent among the class do not align very well. Furthermore, the Washington brass is, shall we say, relatively unpredictable, making this prediction somewhat tricky. 

With all that being said, Washington grabs a big, deep ball, contested-catch specialist for Carson Wentz. This season, after serving as a dynamic “big slot” matchup nightmare for USC, Drake London transitioned into an outside deep threat, routinely Mossing defenders up and down the field. Carson Wentz likes these big targets because he can throw up deep balls to them, hoping for chunk plays. There is no better receiver in this class more perfectly situated for that role. 

12. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, Louisiana State

Another massive steal at the defensive back position. By now, everyone knows Derek Stingley’s story. If not for injuries and illness the past two seasons, Stingley would most likely have continued the trajectory established by his spectacular 2019 season. While the past two seasons have raised some questions and concerns about Stingley, he’s still a great athlete with a year of some of the best cornerback tape in the last decade. Furthermore, he would be able to learn directly from his LSU brethren, Patrick Peterson, in Minnesota, a team that desperately needs cornerback help. 

13. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns) – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

As previously mentioned, the Texans need help across almost their entire roster. There was some smoke that the Texans could take an offensive tackle with their earlier first-round pick. However, I think the upside of going edge, then tackle, is higher than the inverse. Furthermore, Charles Cross can fill in at multiple positions along the offensive line. His future at left tackle could materialize soon, as Laremy Tunsil’s contract becomes unsustainable very soon. Therefore, selecting Cross here fills needs in the short and the long term. 

14. Baltimore Ravens – Jermaine Johnson, OLB, Florida State

As a Steelers fan, I hate making this pick, mainly because it just makes so much sense. But Jermaine Johnson is a fantastic prospect, and his slide ends here. He’s a great run defender with pass-rush upside defined by strength and technique. Johnson is a perfect complement to athletic freakazoid Odafe Oweh, who wins with elite burst, bend, and athleticism. But Johnson is no slouch of an athlete himself and should fit well as an outside linebacker in Baltimore’s 3-4 defense.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami Dolphins) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Even though the Eagles may have a more pressing need at cornerback, and they have another pick coming up very soon, they need to take a #2 WR here to pair with Devonta Smith. Both the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Chargers would be interested in taking a wide receiver in the next two picks. Therefore, the Eagles need to get their guy here instead of waiting until 18.

Olave gives the Eagles a serious deep-speed threat that should help open up their offense. Few teams will be equipped well enough in the secondary to cover both Smith and Olave, the latter of which has met with the Eagles multiple times in the pre-draft process. 

16. New Orleans Saints (from Philadelphia Eagles via Indianapolis Colts) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

As previously mentioned, the New Orleans Saints will most likely be very interested in drafting a wide receiver. Their trade with the Eagles could be interpreted as a move to ensure they get one of the top four or five WRs. Luckily, one of them falls to 16. Like I said with the Eagles, they would need to prioritize receiver here, so their target does not get sniped by the Chargers or the Eagles. 

New Orleans would likely prefer Chris Olave, but Garrett Wilson is more than an adequate consolation prize. He might be an even better complement to Michael Thomas. Whereas Thomas wins with route running and physicality, Wilson wins body control and after-the-catch skills. The Saints love their Buckeyes, so pairing Wilson with another one should be fruitful. 

READ MORE: 2022 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 – Daniel Garrett
17. Los Angeles Chargers – Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

Moving into the second half of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the board did not fall particularly well for the Chargers. After going on a spending spree on defense, they most likely planned to use the draft to help build the offense for Justin Herbert. However, Jordan Davis is one of the most dominant prospects in this entire draft class. He also fits the defense that Brandon Staley wants to run.

I think this selection is less likely given that LA signed Sebastian Joseph-Day, who fills a similar role. But with how poor the Chargers defended the run last year, extreme measures might have to be taken. Lining Davis up next to SJD would allow the Chargers’ edge defenders and linebackers much more freedom to make plays with those two behemoths eating up multiple blockers. 

18. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans Saints) – Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

The Philadelphia Eagles put up some very specific guardrails for their first-round picks, not only for certain positions but ones that exclude others entirely. While the Eagles have dire needs at linebacker and safety, do not expect the Eagles to use premium selections at these positions. Conversely, corner is a position where they have been willing to invest. Plus, they also have a pressing need there. 

Andrew Booth has had a wild ride this season. Going into the year, some draft pundits ranked Booth as their top corner in the class. He had a solid season, despite Clemson struggling. But injuries in the postseason, which prevented him from working out, have seemingly tanked his draft stock. There’s a possibility that Booth falls out of the first round altogether. But the Eagles have not shied away from injured prospects before, specifically at the corner position. 

19. New Orleans Saints (from Philadelphia Eagles) – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

New Orleans assuages their other most pressing need at left tackle. Trevor Penning is far from a finished product. But surrounded by veteran talent on the line with an experienced coaching staff, they should be able to get him up to speed quickly. His rookie season could be a bit bumpy due to penalties and just adjusting to the speed of the NFL. But by the end of his rookie contract, Penning could very likely turn into a long-term starter for New Orleans. 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

With only one of the top group of wide receivers remaining, I would expect this pick to be traded. While the Steelers could use receiver help, Treylon Burks is a bit of an asymmetric fit. Furthermore, several teams in the 20s might be willing to part with significant assets to jump ahead of each other.

While I hope the Steelers would end up trading down with this pick, that is something they rarely do. There is also the distinct possibility they choose a quarterback. In this scenario, two quarterbacks are gone, but I could still see the Steelers picking Ridder. I would be pleased if they traded down and then decided to take Ridder. 

Nevertheless, I have the Steelers taking Lewis Cine here. Cine checks lots of boxes the Steelers have for first-round picks: Power-Five (ideally SEC) school, incredible athleticism, and experienced but young. He also fits a very pressing need for Pittsburgh as they currently do not have a legitimate Week 1 starter at strong safety. They still have time to sign Tyrann Mathieu or bring Terrell Edmunds back. But they could be interested in deploying more three-safety packages this season. 

21. New England Patriots – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

The New England Patriots are traditionally challenging to mock draft for. They primarily draft for value, but Bill Belichick is obviously a tough nut to crack. Given that the Patriots have a few apparent needs (CB, WR, OG), I would expect multiple teams to try to trade up in front of 21 to secure certain players. Therefore, while I’m not predicting a specific trade, I’m operating somewhat under the assumption that one will be made. 

Devin Lloyd is slowly falling down draft boards as people continue to sour on the positional value of linebackers. However, I think this is due in part to unrealistic expectations. I have seen comparisons where Lloyd is held up against Fred Warner and Micah Parsons. He is neither of these players, either as NFL players or as draft prospects.

With that being said, I still really love Lloyd’s game. He offers exceptional versatility, something Belichick covets. Lloyd doesn’t have the size or strength to perfectly replicate D’onta Hightower. But he could be a Jamie Collins type.  

22. Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas Raiders) – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas 

Stop me when you’ve heard this before: the Green Bay Packers need to draft a wide receiver early in the draft. We’ve been saying this for years, yet the Packers have avoided it for as long as possible. Now their primary receivers are Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Sammy Watkins. By acquiring so much capital in the Davante Adams trade, Green Bay could trade up to secure a receiver of their choice instead of waiting to see who falls to them.

Nevertheless, Treylon Burks is a perfect scheme fit for the Packers and is an excellent value selection here. The Packers essentially require that their receivers weigh more than 200 pounds. Burks might be the heaviest wide receiver in the draft class, but he has excellent speed for his size and great run-after-catch ability. This comparison is rapidly becoming overused, but Burks could become the Packers’ version of Deebo Samuel. 

23. Arizona Cardinals – Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College

Despite desperately needing cornerback help, I expect the Cardinals to target offensive prospects early in the 2022 NFL Draft. They seemingly need to placate Kyler Murray; even though he would probably enjoy a receiver more, reinforcing the offensive line should also make him happy.

Zion Johnson would be an ideal fit with the Cardinals. He is powerful and technically refined. He’s also a pretty good athlete, which fits nicely in the Cardinals’ running game that is primarily Zone-based. Even though Johnson doesn’t have the ceiling of previous elite guard prospects (e.g., Zack Martin and Quenton Nelson), he should be a good starter in the league for the next decade, something Arizona desperately needs. 

24. Dallas Cowboys – Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M

The Dallas Cowboys let two of their primary starters walk in free agency, and thus need help rebuilding their once-vaunted offensive line. They have reportedly been very interested in both of the top guards in this year’s draft class. Both Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green have met with Dallas multiple times.

With Johnson off the board, Green is the logical selection. He is bigger than Johnson and could legitimately play offensive tackle in the NFL. But for now, Green can slide right into the left guard position. Assuming Tyron Smith stays healthy (a dubious assumption), Green could be the final piece of the Cowboys’ offensive line puzzle.

READ MORE: 2022 NFL Mock Draft with Comparisons – Scott Carasik
25. Buffalo Bills – Devonte Wyatt, DT, Buffalo

We now enter the home stretch of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. This final group of teams has few needs and might be looking to trade out of the first round, exchanging talent for value and depth. The Buffalo Bills have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. One of their few holes is at defensive tackle, especially regarding a run-stuffing 1T.

Luckily, the board fell perfectly for Buffalo, as arguably the best defensive tackle in the class fell right in their lap. Due to his pass-rushing ability, some prefer Devonte Wyatt to his Georgia teammate, Jordan Davis. But he is truly a complete player and will be a three-down defender for the Bills. His power and strength will most likely command double teams, opening up more opportunities for Ed Oliver and the other young defensive linemen. 

26. Tennessee Titans – Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa

This is a pick that I’m sure will happen but will be one of the worst picks in the first round. The Titans desperately need a new right tackle. Tennessee looks for three qualities when drafting offensive linemen: big, strong, and angry. Tyler Smith is all of these things. He’s young and extremely raw, but the Titans’ scheme might be able to mask some of Smith’s most glaring flaws. In the long term, maybe he can even switch sides and take over for Taylor Lewan in a few years. 

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have very few pressing needs. They also need players that can help their team immediately. Luckily, the Bucs are getting most of their cornerback room from injury this season. With that being said, you can never have enough good cornerbacks. Furthermore, two of their starters, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, are entering contract years. Kaiir Elam has a similar skillset to the three prominent Tampa Bay corners, making him a seamless fit with this team. He might not play a lot this year, but he will gain valuable experience if someone gets hurt. 

28. Green Bay Packers – Dax Hill, DB, Michigan

In some ways, Dax Hill is almost the defensive mirror of Treylon Burks. Hill is an undersized safety, recruited as a corner, that mainly played in the slot. But he can also play in the box and help stop the run. He certainly won’t be a Landon Collins or Johnathan Abram type, but he won’t be a significant liability against the run when appropriately used. He’s also excellent in coverage, especially from the slot, where so many teams play their best receiver.

Drafting Hill accomplishes two goals for the Packers: it allows them to keep Jaire Alexander on the outside instead of playing the slot. It also softens the possible blow of Adrian Amos’ departure at the end of next year. 

29. Kansas City Chiefs (from Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers) – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

Many expect the Kansas City Chiefs to use one of their first-round picks on an offensive weapon for Patrick Mahomes, gained in the wake of trading Tyreek Hill. I’m not so sure. The Chiefs haven’t used a first-round pick on a receiver since 2011, when they selected Jonathan Baldwin.

The last receiver they used a premium selection (i.e., first three rounds) on was Mecole Hardman. They also signed Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Juju Smith-Schuster. While neither of those receivers is a genuine #1 threat, Patrick Mahomes should be able to elevate these weapons to a higher level. 

Furthermore, the Chiefs have significant needs on defense, especially now that they are in the throes of a deadly arms race in the AFC West. The depth charts at cornerback and defensive end are very concerning. Luckily, one of the best corners in the draft fell right into Kansas City’s lap.

Trent McDuffie is relatively undersized, but this is not something the Chiefs have cared about in the past. Furthermore, they previously had great success with a cornerback from Washington: Marcus Peters. McDuffie is an excellent technician and will not give the Chiefs any of the headaches that Peters provided. 

30. Kansas City Chiefs – George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue

With all that being said about the Chiefs not taking an offensive player, they could always trade up for one. They have six picks in the first three rounds, so they have plenty of ammunition. Then again, this also means they have plenty of opportunities to pick a receiver in the next two rounds. Conversely, the chance to get a premier edge defender rarely comes along.

George Karlaftis is one such defender. While he is not an explosive speedy pass rusher, he is very powerful and will be a strong run defender. I would expect the Chiefs to draft another lighter edge rusher in the later rounds, allowing them to move Karlaftis inside on passing downs, where he is arguably at his most dangerous. 

31. Cincinnati Bengals – Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

Thanks to a massive spending spree in free agency, the Bengals don’t necessarily need to take an offensive lineman in the first round anymore. They don’t have that many pressing needs, to begin with. Unfortunately, those needs don’t align with how the board fell to them. They do need an outside corner, but the top five are gone.

This might need to be a case where they reach for need instead of taking the best player available, as the BPA might not provide much value in terms of that player seeing the field.

Luckily, taking Kyler Gordon is a pretty solid solution. He tested below expectations at the Combine, but it was reportedly because he got very sick that week. Gordon is an excellent man coverage corner with great footwork, hand usage, and athleticism on the field. The Bengals like to mix up the coverages on the backend but getting a reliable, shutdown man corner would be very useful. 

32. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams) – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

There was some smoke that the Lions could take a quarterback, most likely Malik Willis, at #2 overall. This always seemed a little far-fetched, given that Detroit is still pretty far away from legitimately competing. Even though Willis needs time to develop, Detroit would be better served by getting an elite, immediate impact starter.

With that being said, getting a QB with the final pick of the first round is a nice alternative. Desmond Ridder is certainly far from a perfect prospect. But he could give Jared Goff a run for his money for the starting job and allow the Lions to move on from Goff after this season, saving over $20 million with only $10 million in dead cap.

Typically, these things are overblown, but Ridder was a major part of returning Cincinnati to prominence. He’s a highly competitive winner, which the Lions desperately need.

2022 NFL Draft: Scott Carasik’s Final Mock Draft

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.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Al Goldis

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.

No. 1 Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

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.

Sean Gardner / Getty Images
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.

No. 9 Seattle Seahawks: QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

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.

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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.

Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
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.

No. 20 Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

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.

John Quackenbos / Boston College Athletics
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.

Sam Craft / Associated Press
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.

Douglas DeFelice / USA Today Sports
No. 31 Cincinnati Bengals: EDGE Boye Mafe, Minnesota

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.