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.
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.
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.
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.