NFL MOCK DRAFT ROUND 1
Alright we know… “Another mock draft? Really? You’re going to be just as wrong as everyone else so why even bother?” And you’re right…. It is utterly impossible to figure out what teams are really thinking in draft war rooms. Its smoke city for all we know as teams are trying to get other teams to fall for their traps so they can take advantage. The draft is a football junkie phenomenon. There’s always intrigue every single year no matter who is coming out. Plus, I like to create a mock draft to see myself go head-to-head with the “know-it-all” writers and insiders. My goal is to hit on 10 or more of these picks but hopefully this mock draft will go down as the best mock draft in history. Here is my 2022 NFL mock draft for the first round!
PICK 1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Travon Walker (DL – Georgia)
The Jags are back here again. Except this time they have their franchise QB in Trevor Lawrence. They could give him some protection but the defense was abysmal. Lots of speculation on if it could be Aidan Hutchinson here but I went with the guy who’s draft stock has shot right up since the combine. Jaguars GM Trent Baalke has a history of picking guys with better measurables over production. Walker might not blow you away on the stat sheet but when you turn on the tape, he’s a freak of nature. His combine numbers back it up too. At 6-foot-5, 272-pounds, he recorded a 4.51 in the 40, a vertical jump of 35.5 inches and a three-cone drill of 6.89 seconds. That’s insane for a big man. He’s a top-notch run defender with raw pass-rush skills and can even drop into coverage. A big part as to why that Georgia defense was so nasty and suffocated opposing offenses. He’s going to do well in the one-gap schemes that Jacksonville is going to implement into their new defense.
PICK 2. Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson (DE – Michigan)
Detroit needs some guys that can execute Dan Campbell’s plan of biting off some kneecaps. Get the home-state kid and bring in Aiden Hutchinson who had a terrific year (Heisman finalist) at Michigan getting after the opposing quarterbacks of the BIG 10. Hutchinson is an ultra-productive edge rusher with outstanding athleticism and technical skills with quickness, bend, and power which excels against both the run and the pass. His ceiling may not be as high as other edge rushers, but the potential of him being a solid difference-maker is there for many years in the Motor City.
PICK 3. Houston Texans – Ikem Ekwonu (OT – NC State)
This pick is the first wildcard of the draft. Houston could go a lot of places here, or even the possibility of trading down and acquiring picks. However, there doesn’t seem that much interest in numerous teams wanting to jump up the draft order. So I have the Texans staying put and deciding between the best tackle in the draft or a premier pass rusher. The decision in this mock is going with Ekwonu who is one of, if not THE, most dominant run-blocking tackle in the country. They really like to see what Davis Mills can bring to the table so protecting him with a versatile lineman is a big plus. LT Laremy Tunsil probably won’t be around Houston after this year so letting Ekwonu begin as a guard or a RT if necessary would be a plus before he takes over at LT.
PICK 4. New York Jets – Kayvon Thibodeaux (DE – Oregon)
The Jets add to their pass rush by getting one of the most talked about prospects in the draft. Kayvon Thibodeaux is super talented (number one recruit in the 2019 class coming out of high school) with an elite first step combined with an ideal frame for the position providing him with massive upside. He had some injuries in his final year and there were time where he disappeared in big moments. Robert Salah’s defense has success when he has guys that can wreck havoc on opposing QBs. Thibodeaux will get after it giving Jets fans some hope in the Big Apple.
PICK 5. New York Giants – Evan Neal (OT – Alabama)
The Giants use their first pick on protecting their quarterback. If you know any Giants fans, the first thing they want to complain about is their offensive line. It’s been a mess for years and years. Andrew Thomas is starting to get into a comfortable groove at LT as the end of the year tape indicates. So selecting a massive human in Evan Neal (6-foot-7, 350) makes sense. He played at Alabama so you know that 350 isn’t all blubber you and me get after eating some fried Twinkies. Neal is versatile enough to play either side and lock down the edge. He’ll help the Giants assess the on-going mystery of if Daniel Jones is a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL.
PICK 6. Carolina Panthers – Charles Cross (OT – Mississippi State)
Quarterback?! Where’s the quarterback? Newsflash, none of these QBs are going to save the Panthers this year. Not when you’re constantly getting pressure in your face on every snap. This Carolina offensive line was horrendous last year. Bulk it up with an absolute stud at LT in Charles Cross. Some scouts think Cross has the highest ceiling among the highly rated offensive tackles. He was a dominant pass-protector in 2021. Cross’ play strength, hand placement and body control should allow for a relatively smooth transition into the league where he can provide some protection to Sam Darnold or whoever is going to throw the ball.
(Note…. this may be a trade down spot if Carolina doesn’t get the guy they want. they don’t have another pick till the 4th round….)
PICK 7. New York Giants – Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (CB – Cincinnati) (via Chicago)
There’s been some rumblings of the Giants possibly moving back and acquiring more assets with the 7th pick, but I have them staying here and picking the lock-down corner from Cincinnati in Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. His nickname is literally Sauce. That’s all you need to know. You just don’t get that nickname for being a bum. The guy was absolutely sensational. He’s never allowed a touchdown in his career despite starting since he was a true freshman. In 2021, he only allowed 131 yards in 14 games. That’s remarkable for a corner in today’s pass happy game. He was a big reason Cincinnati became first team ever outside the Power-5 to reach the College Football Playoff. New defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale will be glowing after the Giants secure the Sauce…
PICK 8. Atlanta Falcons – Jermaine Johnson (DE – Florida State)
Atlanta has a lot of holes to fill. QB could also be filled here, but 8 is way too high to take any of these quarterbacks. They have a bad offensive line, a somewhat decent secondary but this team can’t rush the passer off the edge. Jermaine Johnson can help with that with his explosiveness and great bend off the edge. He’s big, fast, and he was incredibly productive for the Seminoles this past season with 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. You put on the tape of this kid and he jumps right out. He also had a tremendous Senior Bowl impressing the scouts and coach in front of their eyes. He’ll be great along side DT Grady Jarrett hunting down quarterbacks in the NFC South. A QB in round 2 is a possibility though….
PICK 9. TRADE! – Houston Texans – Derek Stingley Jr (CB – LSU) (via Seattle) (via Denver)
Seattle is notorious for trading back. They do so here and let the Houston Texans jump back into the top 10 to get their top corner in Derek Stingley Jr. Stingley had a phenomenal freshman year that had scouts drooling over the potential of him being the next-great lockdown corner the draft has ever seen. Injuries and inconsistent tape in games after his freshman season have halted those dream. Stingley is a five-star talent with the tools to play at an All-Pro level on the island. Perfect for Lovie Smith’s scheme.
PICK 10. TRADE! Philadelphia Eagles – Jameson Williams (WR – Alabama) (via NYJ) (via Seattle)
The Jets got sniped by the Texans with the Stingley pick so they decide to move back and regroup. That allows Philadelphia to jump up the board to take another Alabama receiver. This time around it’s the speedster Jameson Williams who is the best deep threat in the class. He can take the top off of the opposing secondary with his lightning speed. He is coming off an ACL tear but all signs point to him rehabbing tremendously. The Eagles hope that this is it when it comes to drafting first round receivers. Pairing Williams with DeVonta Smith should result in approval from the city of brotherly love.
PICK 11. Washington Commanders – Garrett Wilson (WR – Ohio State)
The Commanders… still doesn’t sound right… get Carson Wentz another pass catcher to go along with Terry McLaurin (if he’s not traded and gets that extension he want). Wilson has the ability to generate separation with smooth route running and speed causing him to be wide open. He also possesses the skill of making plays happen after the catch. He can produce at a high level whether that’s in the slot or outside. Doesn’t matter. This guy will be a superstar in the DC area, hoping that Carson Wentz figures out that every play doesn’t have to be the play of his life.
PICK 12. Minnesota Vikings – Trent McDuffie (CB – Washington)
The Vikings got eaten up in the passing game last year by a lot which is one of the reason of firing HC Mike Zimmer. They can boost it up with a terrific corner from the northwest part of the country in McDuffie. Outside of length, McDuffie has everything you could want from a high-end cornerback. At only 5-foot-11, he plays consistently bigger than his listed size. He also has a great ability to make plays on the ball in difficult situations. He’s a guy that Vikings fans will appreciate and a guy that Patrick Peterson will have fun teaching and mentoring.
PICK 13. Seattle Seahawks – Devin Lloyd (LB – Utah) (via Houston) (via Cleveland)
Seattle moves back and fills one of their holes left with the departure of Bobby Wagner with a great all-around linebacker in Devin Lloyd. Lloyd can take on blocks, blitz, and cover tight ends at a high level with his speed and athleticism. His experience in 32 starts over three Utah seasons molded him into being the jack of all traits. His 43 career tackles for loss show he’s a play-wrecker in the run game. He’ll thump you too..
PICK 14. Baltimore Ravens – Jordan Davis (DT – Georgia)
One of my favorite players in all of college football last year. Imagine a 6-6, 341-pound monster… you just imagined Jordan Davis. He’s freakish athletic giving him the ability to impact the game all over the defensive front. He ran a 4.78 40 yard dash at the combine… At that size, that’s scary. The league’s No. 1 rush defense gets that much better after adding Davis. Good luck moving this guy.
PICK 15. New York Jets – Trevor Penning (OT – Northern Iowa) (via Philadelphia)
The Jets move back to strengthen their offensive line. This might not be well received from all the Jets fans after taking Mekhi Beckton in the first round 2 years ago but questions surrounding the durability of Beckton have sparked recently resulting in this pick. Penning is a uber-physical run-blocker who is also a nasty finisher. The 6-foot-7, 321-pounder moves people with ease with his combination of length, strength and awareness. Now Zach Wilson will get a clean pocket to throw from. The Jets address their receiver need in the 2nd round with this deep receiver class. Or who knows, maybe they do pull a rabbit out of the hat and trade for Deebo Samuel.
PICK 16. New Orleans Saints – Bernhard Raimann (OT – Central Michigan) (via Philadelphia)
The Saints trade up to replacing Terron Armstead with a athletic blocker like Bernhard Raimann. A former tight end-turned-offensive tackle, Raimann has picked up the position incredibly fast thanks to his balance and body control that handled athletic edge rushers. He’ll be a reliable starter for the Saints in his first few years.
No QB here for New Orleans.
PICK 17. Las Angeles Chargers – Kenyon Green (OG – Texas A&M)
The Chargers are caught with 2 straight tackles getting taken off the board so they go with the next best lineman to help out with the right side. Green is a pancake specialist with his size, power, and movement skills. He’ll be the road-grading specialist providing holes in the run game and creating a firm pocket for Justin Herbert.
PICK 18. Philadelphia Eagles – Kyle Hamilton (S – Notre Dame) (via New Orleans)
Philadelphia loves the fact that a top-10 talent came all the way down to 18. A bit of a slid for the Irish safety but the 6-foot-4, 220-pound playmaker is a modern hybrid defender who can do whatever is asked of him. Hamilton has all of the tools to emerge as a Pro Bowler early in his career with outstanding instincts, awareness and ball skills. He could add a dimension to the Eagles’ defense as a versatile box safety which is something Philly has been missing since the departure of Malcolm Jenkins.
PICK 19. New Orleans Saints – Chris Olave (WR – Ohio State)
Olave’s big-play ability should make life easier for Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas. Olave is one of the most consistent downfield threats in the class. He’s a home-run hitter with outstanding route polish. 13 of his 65 catches ended in scores last season. The pairing of Thomas and Olave would give the Saints a very balanced pass-catching duo on the perimeter.
PICK 20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Malik Willis (QB – Liberty)
Finally! A quarterback! The Steelers take a QB that they can mold to create an innovated offense like the one their division rivals have. Willis is a thick, sturdy quarterback with elite arm strength and play-making ability. Not a fan of his accuracy and didn’t really impress me when he faced top competition but the ultra-athletic playmaker would enable offensive coordinator Matt Canada to utilize his skills and create a very intriguing offense that’ll change the perception of Steelers football.
PICK 21. New England Patriots – Andrew Booth Jr (CB – Clemson)
The Patriots let JC Jackson walk out of the door but are replacing him with a top corner from the ACC in Booth. Booth is an athletic, quick-footed cornerback with very good ball skills. He’s fluid in his hips allowing him to open up and stay with receivers with his speed. Belichick will have fun molding this kid into a corner that will be making tons of plays on Sundays.
PICK 22. Green Bay Packers – Drake London (WR – USC) (via Las Vegas)
WHAT? Green Bay picks a WR in the first round to help Aaron Rodgers? Impossible…
Well this year it is possible. London sliding to the Packers laps makes Aaron Rodgers a happy camper. He’ll get a big-bodied pass catcher with a wide catch radius. His 2021 season unfortunately ended with a broken ankle after playing eight games but he was an absolute menace for opposing defenses, racking up 88 catches for 1,084 yards and 7 TDs. The guy has the potential to be a superstar. One that can possibly fill the big shoes left by Davante Adams.
PICK 23. Arizona Cardinals – George Karlaftis (DE – Purdue)
The Cardinals have seen some of their key players ditch the desert for a new oasis. They fill one of those voids left by Chandler Jones with a high-motor pass rusher from Purdue. Karlaftis has outstanding size, power and instincts off the edge. He’ll keep rushing and rushing to sack opposing QBs before you know how to say his last name. The versatility will give the Cards the freedom to expand their pass rushing game.
PICK 24. Dallas Cowboys – Zion Johnson (OG – Boston College)
Dallas has had a bit of turnover on their star-studded offensive line. They bring in Johnson who has 36 starts at guard and 13 at LT. He will most likely be a guard in the league but has ideal size, length and intelligence for guard with outstanding awareness in both the run and pass game. Fixing the offensive line will help the Cowboys’ offense regain its explosiveness with Dak and the weapons on the outside with Zeke in the backfield in Jerry’s World.
PICK 25. Buffalo Bills – Kaiir Elam (CB – Florida)
I still can’t believe Buffalo allowed the Chiefs offense to walk right down the field in 13 seconds…. Still blows my mind to this day….. They improve the secondary by getting the long-lengthy corner out of Florida. Elam is a long, physical corner who shut down some of the SEC’s best talent in the past couple seasons. He possesses top-notch deep speed but also great awareness in zone coverage and good ball skills. He’ll be a good fit to go on the opposite side of Tre’Davious White.
PICK 26. Tennessee Titans – Tyler Linderbaum (C – Iowa)
The Titans select the center from the cornfields of Iowa. Linderbaum is a rock-solid center, with 35 starts at the position over the past three years. He’s a little undersized for NFL center (6-2, 298) but he’s a physical, competitive player with excellent awareness and intangibles coming from the Ferentz system. Iowa turns out terrific offensive linemen and Linderbaum can be added to that list. The Titans may try to see if he can be versatile outside of center but he’ll definitely clear paths for Derrick Henry between the tackles.
PICK 27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devonte Wyatt (DT – Georgia)
The Bucs let Ndamukong Suh walk and add Wyatt instead. Wyatt is a big defensive tackle with great quickness and burst creating the ability to rush the passer. Putting an athletic big body beside Vita Vea would make the Buccaneers’ defense downright scary in the middle.
PICK 28. Green Bay Packers – Abraham Lucas (OT – Washington State)
Green Bay uses their 2nd first round pick to help out with the right side of the offensive line by picking a massive human being out of Wazzu. This might be a bit of a curveball for some of the hardcore mock draft readers but many teams have brought Lucas in for pre-draft visits. Lucas has good patience and core strength along with nimble feet making him a solid blocker in the passing game. Very experience too as he played 2,195 pass-blocking snaps across four years at Washington State. He has starting potential right away at either right tackle or guard depending on what Green Bay needs this season but can mold into a stud for years to come.
PICK 29. Kansas City Chiefs – Boye Mafe (DE – Minnesota) (via Miami) (via San Francisco)
A lot of people are speculating that the Chiefs may go with a receiver with one of their two first round picks. However, they need to improve that defense who lost some pieces and it starts with solidifying the edge with the Golden Gopher. An athletic edge rusher with the speed, quickness and burst to create havoc off the edges, Mafe has ascended across draft boards. He will add some juice to the Chiefs’ front.
PICK 30. Kansas City Chiefs – Daxton Hill (CB/S – Michigan)
The Chiefs use 29 on an edge rusher, they’ll use 30 on the secondary by adding a Wolverine. Hill is a versatile safety with outstanding instincts and play speed. He can be a nickel defender with “hit, run and cover” skills that the Chiefs need going against all the passing arsenals the AFC West provides.
PICK 31. TRADE! Indianapolis Colts – Kenny Pickett (QB – Pittsburgh) (via Cincinnati)
A TRADE BACK IN THE FIRST ROUND FOR A QB!!
The Bengals swap and gain some picks with the Colts who didn’t have a first round pick allowing Indy to take a quarterback. Pickett had a phenomenal senior year at Pitt completing 67.2% of his passes along with 4,319 yards, 42 TDs earning him a trip to NYC as a Heisman finalist. He has the ideal size, athleticism and accuracy for the position. The arm talent and strength may not be there but he makes the most of it. Playing indoors won’t impact him throwing with gloves on. He’ll learn and sit behind Matt Ryan for a couple of years before he takes over. Does he become a solid starting quarterback? No idea. But a situation like Indianapolis will definitely help his chances.
PICK 32. Detroit Lions – Nakobe Dean (LB – Georgia) (via Los Angeles Rams)
Detroit goes defense again picking a member from the National Champions. Nakobi Dean is an incredible linebacker with exceptional instincts and play-making ability. He’s very skilled with sideline-to-sideline coverage against the run and pass. He’s not only straight-line fast, but he also processes and reacts with elite quickness. Questions about his size and length don’t bother me as he makes up for it with his hitting. Someone Dan Campbell is going to really like.
– Wesley Splain