NFL Mock Draft 2022 - Round 1
All 262 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft will soon become an official reality. Until then, it's anybody's best guess how this year's selections will unfold, starting with the Jaguars on the clock at No. 1 overall on down. The Sporting News' official mock draft below attempts to project each pick from what could be one of the more chaotic first rounds in recent draft history.
The Jaguars have been locked into taking the best defensive player available for a while and that won't change as they go after the cornerstone for their new-look defense under coordinator Mike Caldwell. Expect them to complete the late pivot to this rising versatile hybrid stud. Walker can deliver in multiple spots for their front, from end to tackle to even outside linebacker at times, the reason he's the choice over the more position-limited Aidan Hutchinson.
The Lions also feel like they're going for defensive impact and the decision for Brad Holmes, Dan Campbell and Aaron Glenn will be made easy should Hutchinson be still available after the Jaguars take Walker. Hutchinson is relentless and explosive and can be downright dominant, taking over games at times with his pass rush skills.
The Texans are holding on to Laremy Tunsil for left tackle but now they can look at Neal to dominate the right side and provide powerful bookends for Davis Mills or whoever is their starting quarterback in 2022. They have a big void at the other tackle and Neal can flip a massive weakness into a big strength. He gets the edge at the position barely over Ickey Ekwonu and Charles Cross.
New York Jets
The Jets should be thrilled if Thibodeaux slips here to become the explosive cornerstone pass-rusher for coach Robert Saleh, which will remind him of having Nick Bosa powering his defense in San Francisco. This makes great sense as the follow-up high first-rounder to quarterback Zach Wilson.
New York Giants
OT/G, North Carolina State
The Giants, as expected, removed the hefty contract of right tackle Nate Solder from the books and here's their direct replacement for him opposite Andrew Thomas New GM Joe Schoen needs to upgrade the offensive line well for new coach Brian Daboll and started with adding center Jon Feliciano and right guard Matt Glowinski in free agency. Ekownu's strong and powerful frame makes sense with Neal taken but one shouldn't sleep on the Giants preferring Cross if they are thinking more left side.
The Panthers have been thinking offensive lineman for a while too but are getting to the point with the existing Sam Darnold mess and the failed Baker Mayfield dalliance that they can't ignore a top QB when given this early high-first-round opportunity. Willis offers the most upside with his big arm and athleticism and the Panthers are in position to wait with Darnold serving as a bridge for Ben McAdoo and Matt Rhule.
New York Giants
The Giants need a young alpha playmaker on the back end of their defense and Schoen has given serious consideration to move the hefty contract of James Bradberry before or during the draft. Gardner can give them that kind of juice as he's settled into to be a safer pick that Derek Stingley Jr. with more athletic upside and more reliable size.
WR, Ohio State
The Falcons also will have quarterback in the back of their minds as well as best defensive player available, but it's hard to pass up on Wilson to give bridge option Marcus Mariota a bona fide No. 1 with his smarts, route-running, quickness and hands given Calvin Ridley's suspension and Russell Gage's departure.
OT, Mississippi State
The Seahawks also could be thinking quarterback with the pick they got from trading Russell Wilson, but they also could be looking at neither Pickett nor Willis being an option for them. That would lead them into tapping into Cross, a replacement for left tackle Duane Brown before a drop-off in outside pass protectors.
New York Jets
After investing highly in two tight ends and showing some interest in veteran wideouts in the open market, the Jets have been zoned into getting one more weapon to round out Zach Wilson's arsenal in trying to getting a big healthy bump from the QB in Year 2. Williams' outside big-play skills are the ideal complement to the games of Corey Davis and Elijah Moore.
WR, Ohio State
Ron Rivera and Scott Turner have hinted at how much they love the Ohio State wideout options early in the draft and with Wilson gone they will be fine going with his equally dynamic teammate. Olave offers a great quickness, speed and burst to be a No. 1 and complement fellow former Buckeye Terry McLaurin well to boost new starting QB Carson Wentz.
Derek Stingley Jr.
The Vikings brought back fading Patrick Peterson because of hurting depth but they still need to address corner to get the ideal complement to well-rounded Cameron Dantzler. They would be thrilled, if they don't trade down, to have Stingley still available with the Gardner rise. He can be what Peterson was earlier in his career coming out of LSU for the Cardinals as a natural highly competitive ballhawk with an excellent overall coverage profile.
Jermaine Johnson II
EDGE, Florida State
Defensive-minded coach Lovie Smith can turn Nick Caserio's attention to revving up the pass rush away from Jonathan Bullard after addressing pass protection earlier. Johnson has gone from having great appeal as a freaky pass rusher to showing a complete game for the outside.
The Ravens are in a decent position to take the best defensive player available for their needs vs. an offensive lineman. Davis no doubt eats up space against the run but he's also shown the athleticism to be disruptive as an interior pass rusher in the right scheme, which Baltimore has for him.
The Eagles will find it hard to pass on London should he be available given his outside big-play skills and big fame. He would be great complement to last year's first-rounder DeVonta Smith and help the Eagles move on from disappointing 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor.
New Orleans Saints
OT, Northern Iowa
The Saints look like they're fine bridging at quarterback for another season with the combination of Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton after losing out on Deshaun Watson but they do need to replace left tackle Terron Armstead opposite Ryan Ramczyk. Penning has similar smaller-school big body traits to Armstead with his blend of power and athleticism.
Los Angeles Chargers
With Davis off the board to potentially beef up their defensive line, the Chargers have an easy pivot to think about their interior offensive line, where right guard is a big weakness next to solid veterans Matt Feiler and Corey Linsley. They hit big-time on Rashawn Slater for starting left tackle and Smith, a late fast-rising powerful natural run blocker with great athletic upside, would be another smart choice.
S, Notre Dame
The Eagles should be thrilled to catch a falling Hamilton for their secondary after addressing wide receiver earlier with London. Hamilton flat-out makes impactful plays all over the field vs. the run and pass with a great ballhawking mentality. Marcus Epps has been just OK and Anthony Harris has faded fast.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints should welcome the development of landing this different kind of "Greek freak" after desperately missing the production Trey Hendrickson opposite Cameron Jordan and Karlaftis can be either a key situational asset or push Marcus Davenport back into that role.
The Steelers cannot mess around with Mason Rudolph or limited bridge option Mitchell Trubisky. They could think offensive line here, but with Pickett still available from having a big breakout season in the same city, he's the ideal deep-ball accurate pocket passer for Matt Canada, also packed with athleticism and moxie for a transitional playoff team.
New England Patriots
Lloyd is slipping a bit because of his position and how his skill set relates to Georgia's Nakobe Dean, also a strong second-half first-round prospect. Given their shaky interior situation without Dont'a Hightower and also moving on from Kyle Van Noy, the Patriots can plug Lloyd in to become an immediate impact playmaker and leader for Bill Belichick's defense.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers can explore a speed demon such as Jahan Dotson to help replace Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but ultimately, they can opt to go for an Adams-like frame to help Aaron Rodgers. There also were questions about Adams' speed coming out and Burks makes up for that concern regarding him with strength, route-running and more than enough quickness.
J.J. Watt just turned 33 and fellow 3-4 end Zach Allen has been a disappointment in the final year of his rookie contract. Wyatt's versatile explosiveness would be ideal to be disruptive in Vance Joseph's front.
G/OT, Boston College
The Cowboys need to add some strong, powerful run blocking to the mix after moving on from Connor Williams and Lae'l Collins. Johnson has the potential to play either left guard or right tackle to boost Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
Andrew Booth Jr.
The Bills lost good No. 2 corner Levi Wallace in free agency and No. 1 Tre'Davious White will be coming off a torn ACL for his Age 27 season. With limited weaknesses as Super Bowl contenders, they should look for a direct replacement for Wallace outside. Booth's size, strength and aggressiveness that add up to big plays on the ball make him a fine fallback should McDuffie go to the Patriots.
G, Texas A&M
The Titans must develop some depth and starting potential around center Ben Jones and with Johnson and Smith off the board, Green is a great value pick given his strength and nastiness needed for their downhill running game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Aging Ryan Jensen is back for Tom Brady but the team also lost Ali Marpet to retirement and Alex Cappa for free agency at guard. Linderbaum can take over for Jensen if needed soon after initially upgrading their overall inside blocking at the latter position.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers need a versatile subpackage option behind Preston Smith and Rashan Gary. Mafe has been an astronomical riser because of recent showcases of his explosiveness and top-flight athleticism.
Kansas City Chiefs
WR, Penn State
The Chiefs added JuJu Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling after trading Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins but they also lost Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson in free agency and the jury's out on Mecole Hardman beyond return duties. Dotson's speed-quickness big-play skill set for either outside or inside is how they can tap best into what Hill gave them for Patrick Mahomes.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs could use some help in the middle between Nick Bolton and Willie Gay and very much like Lloyd in a smaller, more compact package, Dean is a rangy playmaker who does everything well required of the position, including fly over the field and inspire with his leadership.
The Bengals brought back Eli Apple to keep with top veteran corner Chidobe Awuzie and slot man Mike Hilton, but the cerebral, nice-sized and ballhawking McDuffie would be a best player available upgrade.
The Lions have been thinking more about quarterback in the first round and Ridder being available here would be almost a no-brainer. Ridder's experience, leadership, strong arm and sometimes dazzling athleticism provides the welcome makeup for their new franchise passer to replace Jared Goff.