Since my last mock draft, posted right before the start of free agency, three more teams have traded away their first-round picks in the 2022 draft.
Blockbuster trades have led to new homes for Deshaun Watson, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill, and now eight of the NFL’s 32 teams don’t have a pick in the first round this year.
ESPN’s Field Yates tweeted, “This is the craziest NFL offseason ever,” and it would be difficult to argue.
As Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer notes, “It’s a unique quarterback class, because there’s not a clear number one, number two, number three.” The comment is even more interesting given that the Panthers control the earliest pick of teams most often linked to first-round quarterbacks.
Draft-day trades during the first round often involve quarterbacks, and the lack of clarity at the position adds to the level of complexity. But I will attempt to project trades in this iteration of my two-round mock draft. This mock features five trades, two of which involve quarterbacks.
With that said, here’s how the draft could play out at the end of the month.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, edge, Michigan
The Jaguars designated tackle Cam Robinson with the franchise tag, signed guard Brandon Scherff to a three-year deal in free agency and are high on second-year, second-round tackle Walker Little, who could beat out Jawaan Taylor to start at right tackle. Even if we can’t rule out Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu, it’s likely that the Jags will go in a different direction from one of the top two offensive tackles here.
Hutchinson is the top-ranked prospect on my top 100 big board and set Michigan’s single-season sack record (14) in 2021. His 10-yard split (1.62) was better than his 40-yard dash time (4.74) at the combine, but he posted elite agility numbers. Not only did he lead all defensive ends this year in the three-cone (6.73) and 20-yard shuttle (4.15), but his three-cone time trails only Bruce Irvin (6.70 in ’12) all-time among defensive ends. He’s as safe as it gets due to his combination of leadership, athleticism, nonstop motor, polish and production.
2. Detroit Lions: Travon Walker, edge, Georgia
If Hutchinson isn’t the top pick, the local prospect would be an easy choice for the Lions, but Walker isn’t just a consolation prize. In fact, it’s possible that the former Bulldog will end up being Jacksonville’s choice over Hutchinson. Already an outstanding run defender, Walker’s elite combination of strength, length (35½” arms) and athleticism (4.51 40-yard dash at 272 pounds) should allow him to develop into a more productive pass rusher at the next level than he was asked to be on Georgia’s star-studded defense.
3. Houston Texans: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Laremy Tunsil and the Texans agreed to a restructured contract despite speculation earlier this offseason that the two sides could part ways. While there is a potential out in 2023 on Tunsil’s contract, the Texans also released Marcus Cannon recently.
Neal started at a different position—left guard and both tackle spots—in each of his three seasons at Alabama. The versatile lineman could immediately bookend Tunsil, allowing the team to kick Tytus Howard inside, and provide the Texans with the long-term upside to start at left tackle should the team change directions next year. The former five-star recruit has size and tremendous power but also the movement skills of a much lighter player.
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4. New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, edge, Oregon
The Jets met with Thibodeaux at the combine, and the former top high school recruit felt that meeting went really well. At the combine, he showed an impressive combination of speed (4.58 40-yard dash) and strength (position-high 27 bench press reps). With an ideal frame, explosive first-step quickness and closing burst, double-digit sacks should become the norm for Thibodeaux relatively early in his NFL career.
5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
Left tackle Andrew Thomas played better in 2021 than he did as a rookie in ’20, but the Giants still had one of the league’s worst offensive lines last season. A mauler in the run game, Ekwonu has high-end traits to continue developing as a pass blocker, as well as the experience and versatility to play either tackle or guard.
6. Carolina Panthers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
After missing out on a trade for Deshaun Watson, Carolina’s preferred quarterback prospect is a possibility here. There are 130 picks before their next selection, as the team has no second-round (Sam Darnold trade) or third-round (C.J. Henderson) pick, so seeking a trade-back partner would also make sense.
According to Fitterer, Darnold is “in the lead” for the starting quarterback job. And while he said he’d “hate to force it,” he also said the Panthers “need a quarterback, and at some point you have to take a shot, especially in the top 10.”
If David Tepper doesn’t force the issue, Cross would fill the team’s (other) biggest need. He had 1,293 pass-blocking snaps over the past two seasons, per PFF, and the former five-star recruit uses his length (34½” arms) and light feet to excel in pass protection.
7. New York Giants (via Bears): Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Brian Daboll recently described James Bradberry’s status (and a potential trade to the Chiefs) as a “fluid situation,” but it’s a reasonable assumption that Bradberry won’t be on the Giants’ roster in 2022. New York is fortunate to have the opportunity to select the CB1 of this draft class to fill the void.
Gardner is a lanky corner with elite length (33½” arms), toughness and confidence. He checked the box by showing his long speed (4.41 40-yard dash) at the combine and his change of direction and agility are good for a corner with his height. “Sauce” has ended each of his three seasons in Cincinnati with three interceptions.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Jermaine Johnson II, edge, Florida State
If the Falcons had 10 more sacks in 2021, they still would have ranked last in the NFL. After leading the ACC in both TFLs (17.5) and sacks (11.5) in ’21, Johnson has continued to raise his stock throughout the predraft process. Arguably the biggest winner during Senior Bowl week, Johnson ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at the combine with an even more impressive 1.55 10-yard split.
Projected trade: The Seahawks send No. 9 to the Texans. The Texans send No. 13 and 68 to the Seahawks.
9. Houston Texans (via Seahawks, via Broncos): Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
The Seahawks are always willing to move back, but will Nick Caserio be willing to part with an early third-rounder to move up a few spots, given the number of holes on Houston’s roster? Not only is Hamilton the best player available, but he also addresses one of the team’s bigger needs. With a unique blend of height, length and athleticism, Hamilton has outstanding range, ball production (eight career interceptions) and the traits to neutralize the top pass-catching tight ends in coverage.
10. New York Jets (via Seahawks): Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The Jets missed out on Chandler Jones in free agency, and a Tyreek Hill trade was “almost a done deal” before the receiver instead went to the Dolphins. By selecting Thibodeaux and Garrett Wilson in this mock, they address both needs with their first two picks. Wilson is my top-ranked wide receiver prospect, has outstanding body control and is dynamic after the catch. The former Buckeye ran a (slightly) faster-than-expected 40-yard dash (4.38) in Indianapolis and posted a 70/1,058/12 line in 2021.
11. Washington Commanders: Drake London, WR, USC
Injuries limited tight end Logan Thomas and wide receiver Curtis Samuel to only 294 and 84 offensive snaps, respectively, as Terry McLaurin (1,053 yards) was the only Commanders pass catcher to exceed 400 yards last season. London uses his 6’5″ frame and large catch radius to turn contested catches into his advantage. The former basketball player had 88 catches for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in only eight games before his season was cut short by an ankle injury.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Patrick Peterson is returning to play his age-32 season in Minnesota, which could give the former LSU Tiger an opportunity to mentor the 20-year-old Stingley, assuming Minnesota is comfortable with his medical evaluations. Stingley gave us a glimpse of his upside from his elite true-freshman season in 2019. He has the speed, athleticism and fluidity to thrive on an island in addition to outstanding ball skills (six INTs in ’19).
Projected trade: The Texans send No. 13 and No. 68 to the Seahawks. The Seahawks send No. 9 to the Texans.
13. Seattle Seahawks (via Texans, via Browns): Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
I slotted Malik Willis to the Seahawks in my mock 2.0, but they’ll pass on a quarterback (for now) in this iteration to address their offensive line. Northern Iowa’s left tackle will be making a jump from a much lower level of competition, but Penning has outstanding size, length (34¼” arms), strength, toughness and the nasty demeanor that his coaches will appreciate.
14. Baltimore Ravens: George Karlaftis, edge, Purdue
Karlaftis often faced double or even triple teams at Purdue, but he wins with power, heavy hands, a quick first step and a relentless motor. At 275 pounds, the true junior has inside-outside versatility and ran a 4.71 40-yard dash at Purdue’s pro day this week.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Dolphins): Devonte Wyatt, IDL, Georgia
The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman listed Wyatt as the “biggest freak” at Georgia in his 2021 list of college football freaks. While teammates Jordan Davis and Travon Walker stole the combine’s headlines, Wyatt ran a 4.77 40-yard dash at 304 pounds to show off his elite quickness and athleticism. Even though the Eagles re-signed Fletcher Cox shortly after releasing him, there’s a decent chance that Howie Roseman will use (at least) one of his three first-round picks on a defensive lineman.
Projected trade: The Eagles send No. 16 to the Lions. The Lions send No. 32 and No. 66 plus the 2023 first-round pick acquired from the Rams to the Eagles.
16. Detroit Lions (via Eagles, via Colts): Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
If he reaches his full potential, no quarterback in this year’s draft class has as much upside as Willis. While he needs to improve his consistency as a passer, the ball jumps out of his hands, and he’s dynamic as a rusher. Since the Lions had the opportunity to coach Willis at the Senior Bowl, they have unique insights about him as a prospect. Willis could sit for a season to help ease his adjustment to the NFL before taking the reins, because the Lions can go into 2022 with Jared Goff (who has a potential out in ’23).
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia
The Chargers’ offseason moves have shown their commitment to stopping the run in 2022. Georgia has a loaded defense, but Davis was a big reason why the Bulldogs ranked top-three nationally in run defense in each of the past three seasons. While he may primarily be utilized as a two-down run stuffer early in his career, his freakish mobility (4.78 40-yard dash at 341 pounds) could enable him to develop into a more disruptive player on passing downs.
18. New Orleans Saints: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
While re-signing Jameis Winston to a two-year deal and bringing in Andy Dalton to back him up doesn’t rule out a quarterback here, the Saints may be better off upgrading the weapons to whom Winston will throw. Since leading the NFL in receiving yards in 2019, Michael Thomas has played only seven games (none last year).
Olave creates easy separation as one of the most polished route-runners in this year’s draft class. Due to his speed and ability to track the ball well, he can be a weapon in the vertical passing game and would complement Thomas well. He finished his Ohio State career with a school record for receiving touchdowns (35) and averaged 15.4 yards per catch.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
As noted in previous iterations of my mock draft, Burks (6’3″, 225 pounds) would be an ideal complement to DeVonta Smith. Once Burks builds up speed, few defenders will catch him from behind, even if his 40-yard dash (4.55) was a bit disappointing at the combine. While not a polished route-runner, the former Razorback said that he tries to mimic his game after Deebo Samuel, and it’s easy to see Samuel’s versatility in Burks.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Even though the Steelers signed Mitchell Trubisky in free agency, the two-year, $14.285 million contract “will not preempt” the Steelers from drafting a quarterback. A four-year starter who has already played his home games at Heinz Field, Pickett broke Deshaun Watson’s ACC record for most passing touchdowns in a season (42) while cutting down on interceptions (seven) in 2021. Pickett has good arm strength and mobility, throws well on the move and moves quickly through his progressions.
Projected trade: The Patriots send the No. 21 to the Chiefs. The Chiefs send No. 29 and No. 62 to the Patriots.
21. Kansas City Chiefs (via Patriots): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling together won’t replace what the Chiefs lost by trading Tyreek Hill, so there’s a strong chance that they’ll use one of their first-rounders to add to the position. Williams is the WR5 in this mock, but there’s a good chance he would have been WR1 if he hadn’t torn his ACL in January. The Ohio State transfer had a breakout season (79/1,572/15) in 2021 and his game-breaking speed would allow the Chiefs to use him similarly to how they used Hill.
22. Green Bay Packers (via Raiders): Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
After trading Davante Adams, it’s clear the Packers need to upgrade their receiving corps, given that their top receivers are Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers. Dotson creates separation with his nuanced route-running and quickness, has outstanding hands and is elusive in the open field even though he won’t break a lot of tackles. Dotson finished his final season at Penn State with 91 catches for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns and added value as a punt returner.
23. Arizona Cardinals: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
McDuffie has just average size and lacks length (sub-30″ arms), but he’s aggressive and physical in run support and limits yards after the catch. He has outstanding short-area quickness, fluid hips and is rarely out of position.
Projected trade: The Cowboys send No. 24 and No. 155 to the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers send No. 27 and No. 91 to the Cowboys.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via Cowboys): Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College
Guard Ali Marpet retired this offseason, but he won’t unretire (like Brady) after having “already bought a backpack” (to get his master’s degree). In addition, the Bucs lost Alex Cappa to the Bengals in free agency. While Johnson also has experience at left tackle at Boston College and took snaps at center at the Senior Bowl, he’d be a plug-and-play starter for the Bucs at guard in Week 1.
25. Buffalo Bills: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
The Bills’ top corner (Tre’Davious White) is recovering from a torn ACL, and their 2021 CB2 (Levi Wallace) signed with Pittsburgh. Elam’s father (Abram) and uncle (Matt) both played safety in the NFL. Elam has an ideal combination of size and speed (4.39 40-yard dash).
26. Tennessee Titans: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Lloyd is a do-it-all linebacker who stuffed the stat sheet last season with 110 tackles, 22 TFLs, eight sacks and four interceptions (including two returned for scores). The rangy former high school safety is instinctive dropping in coverage with the size and length (33″ arms) to match up with tight ends, and has outstanding ball skills.
Projected trade: The Buccaneers send No. 27 and No. 91 to the Cowboys. The Cowboys send No. 24 and No. 155 to the Buccaneers.
27. Dallas Cowboys (via Buccaneers): Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
The Cowboys hit the jackpot with their first-round pick last year (Micah Parsons) and re-signed 2018 first-round linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to a one-year deal. Dean is a three-down linebacker who led the best defense in the country and won the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate linebacker. His football IQ, instincts and speed allow him to play fast, and he’s always around the ball.
28. Green Bay Packers: Boye Mafe, edge, Minnesota
Mafe is an ascending prospect who has generated plenty of momentum throughout the predraft process and could sneak into the back end of Round 1. He would make sense here after Za’Darius Smith joined the division-rival Vikings in free agency. After turning heads at the Senior Bowl, Mafe showed off elite athleticism at the combine with a 4.53 40-yard dash (1.59 10-yard split) and explosive jumps (38″ vertical and 10’5″ broad).
Projected trade: The Chiefs send No. 29 and No. 62 to the Patriots. The Patriots send the No. 21 to the Chiefs.
29. New England Patriots (via Chiefs, via 49ers, via Dolphins): Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
After trading Stephon Gilmore to the Panthers last season and losing J.C. Jackson to the Chargers in free agency, the Patriots could look to use their first-round pick on a cornerback. Booth recently had sports hernia surgery, but he’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp. He is an athletic, agile and scheme-diverse cornerback. While he has a few missed tackles due in part to being overly aggressive, Booth is physical and willing as a run defender. The former five-star recruit is competitive at the catch point and has outstanding hands as this highlight-reel grab demonstrates.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
The Chiefs signed safety Justin Reid in free agency and Tyrann Mathieu remains unsigned, but defensive backs Charvarius Ward, Mike Hughes and Daniel Sorensen all have new homes in 2022. With the versatility the Chiefs should covet, Hill can play single-high, nickel or potentially outside cornerback and has tremendous range. Not only did Hill run a 4.38 40-yard dash, but his performance in agility drills—three-cone (6.57) and 20-yard shuttle (4.06)—both finished second at the combine behind only Zyon McCollum.
Projected trade: The Bengals send No. 31 to the Seahawks. The Seahawks send No. 40 and No. 72 to the Bengals.
31. Seattle Seahawks (via Bengals): Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
The Seahawks have quarterbacks Drew Lock and Jacob Eason on their roster, and even if they re-sign Geno Smith, Pete Carroll says the team is “definitely still in the quarterback business.” By trading up into the first round, the Seahawks would secure the fifth-year option for Corral. Improved decision-making and ball placement helped Corral cut down on interceptions in 2021 (five) compared to the previous season (14). While he has benefited from playing in Lane Kiffin’s offense, Corral has above-average arm strength, and his mobility helps him to evade pressure and extend plays.
Projected trade: The Lions send No. 32 and No. 66 plus the 2023 first-round pick acquired from the Rams to the Eagles. The Eagles send No. 16 to the Lions.
32. Philadelphia Eagles (via Lions, via Rams): Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa
Jason Kelce is back for another season, and Landon Dickerson could move from guard to center after Kelce retires. Or he could stay at guard and the Eagles could draft a player who has drawn some comparisons to Kelce at a lower draft-day cost than expected. Unlike Dickerson, Linderbaum’s frame may limit him only to center, but the Rimington Trophy winner is the best center prospect in not only this draft class but over the past several drafts as well.
33. Jaguars: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
34. Lions: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
35. Jets: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
36. Giants: Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
37. Texans: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
38. Jets (via Panthers): Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
39. Bears: Logan Hall, DL, Houston
Projected trade: The Seahawks send No. 40 and No. 72 to the Bengals. The Bengals send No. 31 to the Seahawks.
40. Bengals (via Seahawks via Broncos): Arnold Ebiketie, edge, Penn State
41. Seahawks: David Ojabo, edge, Michigan
42. Colts (via Commanders): Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
43. Falcons: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
44. Browns: DeMarvin Leal, IDL, Texas A&M
45. Ravens: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
46. Vikings: Travis Jones, IDL, Connecticut
47. Commanders (via Colts): Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
48. Bears (via Chargers): Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
49. Saints: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
50. Chiefs (via Dolphins): Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
51. Eagles: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
52. Steelers: Drake Jackson, edge, USC
53. Packers (via Raiders): Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
54. Patriots: Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
55. Cardinals: Perrion Winfrey, IDL, Oklahoma
56. Cowboys: Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
57. Bills: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
58. Falcons (via Titans): Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
59. Packers: Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State
60. Buccaneers: Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA
61. 49ers: Kingsley Enagbare, edge, South Carolina
Projected trade: The Chiefs send No. 29 and No. 62 to the Patriots. The Patriots send the No. 21 to the Chiefs.
62. Patriots (via Chiefs): Cameron Thomas, edge, San Diego State
63. Bengals: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
64. Broncos (via Rams): Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
Kevin Hanson is contributing mock drafts and position rankings to The MMQB during the 2022 NFL draft season. His mock drafts have been graded as the seventh-most accurate (tied) over the past five years, per The Huddle Report. His ’15 NFL mock draft was graded as the most accurate.
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