Mock Draft season is upon us! Who goes in the top five? Which quarterback is QB1? And where are the blockbuster trades?
Ladies and Gentlemen, draft season is upon us. The NFL offseason is unlike any other offseason. Every single fan has hope that their favorite team can have the elite offseason to either turn their franchise around or catapult their team to a championship contender. Hope is the buzzword for every team’s fanbase during every NFL offseason, and that starts with “Mock Draft SZN.”
A few housekeeping rules before we get started here. When people view a mock draft, it’s hard to know whether the mock draft expert is using his or her feelings about players to project each selection. Even when someone has a big board separate from mock drafts, plenty of experts do not do a great job of describing whether their mock is intended for accuracy, or whether it is their own opinions of what the teams should do.
The only goal of this mock draft is to predict what the first round of the draft would look like if the draft was held tomorrow.
In short, if you object to certain selections or think there is no chance that your favorite team makes that move, understand that every pick is an educated guess based on the information out there right now.
Or you can comment on why everything is wrong and what your favorite team should do instead. It’s not my evaluation of players so I won’t be offended.
1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Ikem Ekwonu, OT NC State
Don’t be shocked if Jacksonville looks to trade out of this selection in a few months. Jacksonville has to protect its franchise quarterback in 2022. Trevor Lawrence had nothing to work with during his rookie year. If that happens again in year two, you risk turning him into David Carr. If Aidan Hutchinson solidifies himself as a runaway top choice over the next few months, you could see this pick dealt because Jacksonville must address their offensive line. However, you could also see one of the tackles emerge; like Ekwonu or Evan Neal.
The reason Ekwonu is here over Neal is that he’s more athletic, his kick slide is more polished in pass protection, and he has more versatility.
2) Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE Michigan
Detroit is in a different position than Jacksonville. While they need talent in a number of areas, they don’t have a young quarterback that they must build around. They can take whatever player at the top fits them the best.
Hutchinson has the kind of motor and move-set that Dan Campbell will be infatuated with. This could be the only lock of the draft.
3) *TRADE* Washington Commanders (from Houston Texans): Malik Willis, QB Liberty
Let’s get this out of the way; a quarterback is going in the top five. Every year with subpar quarterback prospects we always hear that this is the year none go in the top five. Every year that is proven wrong.
The team that makes the most sense to move into the top five is Washington. They are not heavily linked to any of the veteran quarterbacks expected to hit the market, they have a very good defense, and they have a true number one wide receiver in Terry McLaurin. If they fall in love with one of the QB’s, they could leapfrog Denver and others to ensure they get their guy.
Willis has flashed the most upside throughout Senior Bowl week. His tape has moments of absolute brilliance, but it also has so many instances of mechanical flaws. Having said that, he’s the only quarterback in the class with elite arm talent. That could make him the first quarterback taken, despite a number of mechanical flaws.
The Trade: Washington sends the #11, #42, #104, and a 2023 first-round pick to the Houston Texans for the #3 and #164 overall selections.
4) New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE Oregon
The Jets are in a position of strength for the first time in a long time. They have a ton of draft capital and a ton of cap space. With two picks in the top 10, the Jets are in a spot to take the best player available at the fourth selection.
There are some that feel Kayvon Thibodeaux is the best player in this draft. He’s an elite athlete off the edge and has flashes where he is absolutely unblockable. However, questions are being raised about his consistency and his ability to dip and bend around the edge at an elite level. If he does fall, this is his floor.
5) *TRADE* Seattle Seahawks (from NY Giants): Evan Neal, OL Alabama
Call it bold, but the New York Giants are my favorites to land Russell Wilson. There are some cap issues to work around, but the Giants are the one team that can give both parties what they desire. If Seattle wants a bunch of young assets, the Giants can give them players like Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Xavier McKinney, and others. If the Seahawks want a bunch of draft picks, the Giants have four picks in the top 100 and multiple first-round selections. On top of that, Russell Wilson gets to go to a big-time market with a Head Coach that matches his playstyle in Brian Daboll. This may not be the trade on everyone’s radar at the moment, but it truly is the one with the best “win-win potential,” if Wilson decided he wanted to leave Seattle.
Now in a sick twist of irony, the Seahawks use this selection to do the one thing Wilson begged them to do for years; address their offensive line. Evan Neal is one of the premier tackles in the draft because he has immense power at the point of attack and gains leverage on defenders easily. Even if the Giants keep this pick, this is probably his floor in terms of where he is selected.
The Trade: The New York Giants trade Daniel Jones, Xavier McKinney, the fifth overall selection, a 2023 first-round pick, and a 2024 conditional third-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for Russell Wilson.
6) Carolina Panthers: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB Cincinnati
Sauce Gardner could easily be the top corner in a few months. He’s elite in man coverage, he’s extremely competitive on every down, and he’s got the mental makeup of a shutdown corner. If he tests well in Indianapolis, lookout.
7) New York Giants: David Ojabo, EDGE Michigan
This is not on everyone’s radar just yet, but Ojabo is going to rise during the draft process. We know the tape is there. Ojabo showed elite ability to dip and bend around the edge at Michigan. He also shows multiple moves as a pass rusher, which is impressive because he’s still relatively new to football. On top of that, Ojabo was a track guy in high school, so he will dominate the NFL combine.
In short, Ojabo could easily leapfrog the other pass rushers because his ceiling is immense. NFL teams always believe they can teach technique, but teaching freak athleticism is impossible. This is why Ojabo will go higher than most prognosticate.
8) Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Hamilton, S Notre Dame
It may not be the “sexy pick,” but Kyle Hamilton is a playmaker in the back end that Atlanta desperately needs. Adding him to a young and improving secondary can take the group over the top. Plus, there are some that feel Hamilton is the best player in the draft, as well as the safest selection in the top 10. He likely doesn’t make it past Atlanta if he falls a bit.
9) Denver Broncos: Kenny Pickett, QB Pittsburgh
Denver is in the mix for a number of veteran quarterbacks that could be available this offseason, and they stand a solid chance at landing one. Should they miss, they’ll likely result to whomever they feel is the most NFL ready. The consensus feels that player is Kenny Pickett.
10) *TRADE* Pittsburgh Steelers (from NY Jets): Matt Corral, QB Ole Miss
Corral likely will miss the majority of his rookie year, if not all of it. This is actually why Pittsburgh makes the most sense to move up for him in round one. Corral will get a free redshift year without the pressure from the fan base to enter the lineup. He will learn NFL coverages, he will see what “NFL open,” is on film, and he can work on mechanical flaws in practice. On top of that, Pittsburgh can sign a veteran quarterback that will get them back to the playoffs in 2022. This could be the perfect storm that allows one of these quarterbacks to become significantly better than the draft pundits expect.
From the Jets’ perspective, they will not use both picks in the top 10. They might move up into the top three for an edge rusher, they might move the 10th pick for an established star, or they might move back, as they did here, and acquire future assets.
The Trade: Pittsburgh Steelers trade the #20, #84, and a 2023 first-round selection to the New York Jets for the 10th and 102nd overall selections.
11) *TRADE* Houston Texans (from Washington): Devin Lloyd, OLB/ILB Utah
If Houston is unable to pick one of the top two edge rushers, they become a likely team to trade backward and acquire assets. Even though the Texans were a competitive four-win team, this offseason is still a continuation of a rebuild. Houston is better served looking for future assets, trading backward, and selecting the best player on their board at their new selection.
Devin Lloyd is a darling of many in this draft class. He’s a three-down linebacker with the ability to rush the passer and he shows terrific instincts on tape.
The Trade: See Pick Number Three
12) Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB LSU
Stingley is elite in man coverage, but he has durability issues and an inconsistent final year of film. Now he’s a big-time athlete, and he’s going to wow during the combine. However, where he lands in the draft actually has more to do with how his counterparts test than how he does. Stingley is exactly who you think he is on film. If you need that kind of physical man corner, he’s your guy.
13) Cleveland Browns: Chris Olave, WR Ohio State
This likely would have been Jameson Williams prior to the injury. Now, the competition for “WR1,” is wide open once again. One name to keep an eye on is Treylon Burks. He has a big frame, elite athleticism and he makes plays with the ball.
Having said that, the guy that fits the Browns’ offense the best is Chris Olave. He’s an elite route runner and he’s more athletic than the masses realize, which means he can stretch the defense. His ability to win in short-yardage situations is pivotal for a team that needs a third-down security blanker for Baker Mayfield.
14) Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Davis, IDL Georgia
Scooping up talent teams left on the board is such a Baltimore move. Jordan Davis is not only an elite one-tech, but he has the athleticism to play three-tech as well. On top of that, he’s actually a need because Brandon Williams is a free agent. This is a home run selection.
15) Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins): Jermaine Johnson, EDGE Florida State
The biggest senior bowl riser by far is Johnson. He dominated all week, showing some immense power and technique that was more advanced than some scouts thought. Philadelphia is in desperate need of an elite edge rusher, making Johnson a perfect match here at 15.
16) Philadelphia Eagles (from Colts): Garrett Wilson, WR Ohio State
There is no number two receiver on the Eagles roster. That’s all the analysis needed for this selection, but let’s expand on why Wilson is the choice.
Much like Olave, Wilson’s athleticism is going to jump off the page during the combine. He’s also a terrific route runner and would allow the Eagles to do some interesting things schematically with him and Devonta Smith. Yes, both players have similarities, but both players fit Jalen Hurts really nicely. This is why Wilson is the pick.
17) Los Angeles Chargers: Kenyon Green, IOL Texas A&M
If there is a first-round lock this far from the actual draft, it is the Chargers addressing their offensive line. The right side of their line needs an overhaul if they’re going to take a step forward in 2022.
Green is one of the most underappreciated prospects in this class. He played a lot of spots along the offensive line, and he has a powerful frame. Combine that with his ability to anchor, and he can be a pro bowl caliber player on the right side of anyone’s offensive line.
18) New Orleans Saints: Sam Howell, QB North Carolina
Full disclosure, anyone who tells you they know what New Orleans is doing this offseason is lying. The Saints will likely have a veteran quarterback on their roster, but the question is how will that impact their decision in round one? Do they select a quarterback project in hopes that Sean Payton can develop a gem? Do they add a weapon to pair with Michael Thomas who is coming back from injury?
Sam Howell has a tape with some immense highs and some incredible lows. The goal for him at the next level should be to make him a modern-day game manager. For a team that’s about to become defensive-oriented with the absence of Sean Payton and an elite running back in Alvin Kamara, New Orleans could be a perfect fit for Howell.
19) Philadelphia Eagles: Nakobe Dean, LB Georgia
After having addressed two primary needs, Philly’s third pick, which they definitely will not use, however, I couldn’t find a trade for, gets to be a “BPA,” selection. Let’s be honest, Nakobe Dean has no business being on the board after the season he had. Nevertheless, this is what can happen when you insert an average quarterback class into the top 20. Talented players fall down the board just because they are not quarterbacks.
20) *TRADE* New York Jets (from Pittsburgh Steelers): Tyler Linderbaum, IOL Iowa
Operating under the assumption that the Jets address their pass-catching needs at wide receiver before the draft, O-Line becomes the next point of emphasis. Linderbaum has been on the radar of many Jets fans for quite some time because he’s the top center in the draft. Having said that, 10 is a reach for him. The more likely scenario is the Jets trading down and selecting him around this range.
The Trade: See Pick Number 10.
21) New England Patriots: Travon Walker, EDGE Georgia
Okay Patriots fans, mentally prepare yourselves for this scenario. Mac Jones needs a true number one receiver to ride with. The top-end receivers in this draft are incredibly skilled. With multiple receivers on the board, including one of Jones’s targets from his time at Alabama, Belichick takes an athletic defensive lineman with power at the point of attack and a great understanding of gap control.
22) Las Vegas Raiders: Trent McDuffie, CB Washington
McDuffie is an interesting prospect because he also adds value as a nickel corner. His toughness and ability in multiple coverages make him a safe option in the top 40. His ceiling might not be at an upper-echelon tier, but McDuffie should be a quality pro for whoever takes him.
23) Arizona Cardinals: Charles Cross, OT Mississippi State
Arizona has had a ton of production from Kelvin Beachum, but he will be 33 in June. Cross is a perfect fit for the tempo offense that Kliff Kingsbury wants to run because he’s an elite athlete upfront and excels in pass protection. This is a perfect match in the backend of round one.
24) Dallas Cowboys: Treylon Burks, WR Arkansas
Pass-catcher is going to be a sneaky high priority need for the Cowboys this offseason. Amari Cooper is likely going to land on the trade block because of his cap hit. Michael Gallup may not be back due to his injury and pending free agency status. If that wasn’t bad enough, Dalton Schultz could get a massive contract this offseason that Dallas may not want to pay.
25) Buffalo Bills: Trevor Penning, OL Northern Iowa
Buffalo is definitely in a “best player available,” situation because their roster is loaded. Lo and behold, the best player available is also one of their few needs.
The interior of the Bills offensive line is aging, and a few starters could be cap casualties to improve other areas on the roster. Penning has a ton of nastiness to his game. Many think his physicality lends to becoming a guard at the next level. Regardless, his ability to gain leverage and drive in the run game would be an excellent fit in Buffalo with all of the designed QB runs they have.
26) Tennessee Titans: Quay Walker, LB Georgia
Tennessee walks into the offseason with very few needs. However, one of those needs is finding a replacement for Rashaan Evans. Quay Walker is an elite athlete and a thumper in the middle of the defense. He replaces Evans from day one.
27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jahan Dotson, WR Penn State
Following the shocking retirement of Tom Brady, Tampa Bay’s roster decisions become even tougher to make. Chris Godwin is one of those tough decisions. There’s a real argument the Bucs should re-up him and give whomever their quarterback is two legit “WR1’s.”
The counterpoint is taking one of the highly talented receivers at the top of this draft and using Godwin’s money elsewhere. My bet is on the latter.
28) Green Bay Packers: Trey McBride, TE Colorado State
It’s hard to call McBride a “Senior Bowl riser,” because many suspected he would be the first tight end off the board. However, his work as a pass-catcher this week, combined with his willingness to block, might have made him a first-round lock. Green Bay needs an elite tight end for whoever is under center in 2022.
29) Miami Dolphins: Drake London, WR USC
Until London works out at the combine, he’s a tough guy to judge. Many as putting him in their top 15 because he’s 6’5, he has elite ball skills on 50/50 throws, and he’s a deep threat. However, everyone at the top of this receiver class has elite skills in their own right, and London is coming off of ankle surgery. Therefore, much like Jameson Williams, London could slide farther than expected.
Nevertheless, London is exactly the kind of playmaker the Dolphins need opposite Jaylen Waddle.
30) Kansas City Chiefs: Jameson Williams, WR Alabama
Okay, so pass-catcher doesn’t look like a big need for the Chiefs. However, consider this; Tyreek Hill is soon to be 28 years old and he’s on the last year of his deal. Travis Kelce will be 33 next season, and at some point, the decline has to start. So when you have the chance to take “WR1,” at the 30th pick and basically give him a free redshirt year, how exactly do you pass on that?
31) Cincinnati Bengals: Zion Johnson, IOL Boston College
One of the senior bowl prospects that could emerge this season is Zion Johnson. He’s a perfect fit for a zone-blocking system, which is exactly what he will be featured in under the Jets coaching staff. Cincinnati needs to bolster their offensive line if they wanna take a step forward in 2022, so the fit makes sense as well.
32) Detroit Lions (from Rams): Desmond Ridder, QB Cincinnati
Detroit is actually in a perfect place to take a quarterback with physical traits and high upside here at 32. While some would argue that player does not exist in this class outside of Malik Willis, Ridder’s size and athleticism have plenty believing he can develop into a quality starter. The question will be around his arm talent. Is it truly upper-echelon, or does he not have the elite arm strength to make up for some accuracy concerns?