This 2022 NFL Draft is supposed to get crazy, so I made my final 2022 NFL mock draft crazy. We'll break down our mock drafts on YouTube at 11am EST on Thursday with the mock draft king himself. See you then.
#SizeMatters truther Trent Baalke likes Walker. Doug Pederson likes OT Ikem Ekonwu. Some of the defensive coaches and most importantly owner Shad Khan likes Aidan Hutchinson. So who has the final say? Has Khan seen the media crush Baalke enough to grab the wheel? I’m unsure. ESPN’s Adam Schefter believes it’s more likely to be Walker or an OT and most of the other national media members agree. I lean Walker because of that, but I don’t think this is 100% yet after learning my lesson with Mac Jones > Trey Lance last year. I’m somewhere around 75% Walker, 20% Hutchinson, 4% Ekwonu, and 1% other.
New Pick: Where do I begin? First off, you can argue that Thibodeaux is the best player in the entire draft. He’s off boards. There’s no doubt about that, but that doesn’t mean he’s off others. The Lions have done more research on Thibodeaux than any other player this year. Here’s what GM Brad Holmes said: “For example, I didn’t see a Michigan game live last year. So, when I went to the Michigan pro day, that was my first really live exposure, up close, seeing (Aidan) Hutchinson and (David) Ojabo and all those guys. With Oregon, I went out there and I went to a Thibodeaux game. But I went out there [to his pro day] and I just wanted to see him live again. … I just wanted to see Thibodeaux again and give him another look."
The Lions beat has consistently mocked Thibodeaux here, sharp betting syndicates have hammered this, and Josina Anderson in December tweeted “No mock needed” because she was confident the Lions loved Thibodeaux. But none of this is more telling than his 1 on 1 interview this week when he wore “White Sticks” aka “Buffs” aka the White Cartier sunglasses that are deeply tied to Detroit culture. Let’s get weird in a draft supposedly full of surprises. Kayvon at 2.
New Pick: The unimaginable happens, and the presumed top pick falls to Houston. He seems like the perfect culture fit and checks a massive need.
The Athletic’s Connor Hughes has been adamant that the Jets want an edge rusher, citing coach Robert Salah’s need for edge depth going back to his days with the 49ers. We initially had reports that Kayvon Thibodeaux was their guy, but things changed on Monday. ESPN’s Jordan Raanan (who covers the Giants) tweeted that Johnson “seems to be a Top 10 lock. Maybe even sneaks into Top 5?” Then Hughes, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, and Benjamin Allbright shortly after said Thibodeaux is falling, leaving Johnson as someone of interest. This was backed up by ESPN’s Rich Cimini’s narrowed down big board of Ikem Ekwonu, Sauce Gardner, and Johnson. Then Hughes mocked Johnson here on Tuesday. ETR’s Anthony Amico notes that 16-of-17 picks made by GM Joe Douglas have been captains. Johnson, who was coached up by this staff at the Senior Bowl, was a college captain.
New Pick: With James Bradberry too expensive to keep, the Giants have a massive need at corner in their new man-heavy scheme. The Athletic hears that DC Wink Martindale “really wants Gardner”, who fits this system even more than Stingley because he has 90th percentile length and athleticism. It’s been reported that the Giants dream is a right tackle and Sauce. This is step one with all three offensive tackles still on the board.
New Pick: The chances Ekwonu fall this far are relatively low, but he'd be a sprint the card up type of pick. I think the Panthers pass on QB if one of the stud offensive tackles are available. Which specific OT? I'm unsure. But they have enough cap space to bring in Sam Darnold competition, and there are rumors that new OC Ben McAdoo still believes in some of Darnold's traits.
New Pick: The Giants for sure like Cross. That's been reported a bunch of times. It's also been reported multiple times that the Giants had Evan Neal still graded ahead of Cross. Here's the catch. There are late rumors of Evan Neal having some knee issues. If true, he's a candidate to slide a tiny bit. Either way, I think New York goes OT + CB with these picks, assuming they can't find someone really desperate in trading up.
New Pick: This blurb from SI’s Albert Breer sums this pick up: “A lot of people have the Falcons pegged to take a receiver here, with USC’s Drake London and Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson names to watch. It’s to the point where Atlanta is seen as the team to get in front of if you want your pick of the receiver group. London is very much seen as Arthur Smith’s type of wideout—big and tough and a strong blocker. But if the right edge rusher falls to No. 8, I wouldn’t rule out Smith and Terry Fontenot going in that direction either, with four other top-100 picks to address the receiver need.” That right edge rusher didn't fall. All of the receivers did. I think Drake London would be a perfect fit here, but let's mix things up after NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah put this in his mock.
New Pick: The Seahawks are going to catch a falling player, and they have the team needs available to be very happy with their selection -- CB if Stingley falls, EDGE if Thibodeaux or Johnson falls, or OT if Cross or Neal falls. It's hard to see Stingley falling outside the top-10 with how much smoke he has right now.
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said that he’d “be surprised if the Jets don’t walk away from their top two picks without a wide receiver.” London (+300) would complement the current Jets receiving corps best and could take over for Corey Davis ($10.5M in cap savings if cut after this season), as the physical X receiver capable of bunch-set blocking in their balanced offense. The Athletic’s Connor Hughes recently mocked this, sharing a similar evaluation. London has -105 odds of being a top-10 selection. He is my WR1 in this class.
New Pick: Coach Ron Rivera and company made a visit to Ohio State's Pro Day, and The Athletic's Ben Standig believes Washington is looking at receiver or Kyle Hamilton. This is a luxury pick for an offense that needs even more spark.
New Pick: I know the Saints have interest in trading up to secure an offensive tackle. If there's a candidate to fall, it's Neal after some concerns popped up with his medicals. The "win now" Saints wouldn't care, and he'd be the ideal replacement of LT Terron Armstead.
New Pick: Arguably a fall, Hamilton fills a huge position of need in Lovie Smith's secondary, one that Smith said needed upgrades.
Daniel Jeremiah is as plugged in to the Ravens as anyone. He said that he can't see the Ravens passing on Jordan Davis if he's available because he's such a culture and scheme fit. Baltimore's 14th overall selection is right in Davis' draft projection sweet spot. Most teams have about 15 first round grades, and Davis seems like a universal first-round prospect. ESPN’s Todd McShay reports that those around the league would be shocked if he falls past 14.
It’s a premium position for the analytically-savvy Eagles front office, and McDuffie fills a big need at CB2. While small, McDuffie can adjust to the size of the NFL as Darius Slay’s CB2. He has been mocked from 12th to 25th overall in 13-of-14 mock drafts and is 1-of-2 remaining prospects ranked inside the top-17 by both Dane Brugler and Daniel Jeremiah. Speaking of him, Jeremiah said, “I wouldn’t rule out corner if Trent McDuffie were to get there.”
Wide receiver is Nick Underhill’s biggest Saints need, followed by left tackle. Olave is the last remaining top-four receiver here and is the perfect complement to Michael Thomas. He can stretch the field while Thomas and Alvin Kamara create yards underneath. This is a win now and build for the future selection after trading a 2023 first rounder (and more) for another first rounder in 2022.
New Pick: The Athletic’s Daniel Popper said, “If [Penning] is there, I believe the Chargers pull the trigger.” NBC Sports’ Peter King says there is buzz that the Chargers like Penning, too. That’s because the Chargers are one, maybe two, starters away from having a very solid offensive line. This can be a guard or right tackle depending on Matt Feiler and if they re-sign Oday Aboushi (ACL), but Penning is ranked ahead of the top guards and is ranked well ahead of the remaining tackles.
New Pick: There is some smoke that Karlaftis could completely fall out of Round 1, but he checks a ton of boxes, especially for analytics-based front offices like Philly's. He's young, plays a premium position, is a decent athlete, and was productive in college. The Eagles' edge group quietly needs upgrades.
Johnson fills a need at guard/center and is a perfect scheme fit as a nimble mover in this outside zone rushing offense. New GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah comes from Cleveland, where they built the offense from the trenches outward and mostly focused on young and athletic prospects. There isn’t a box that Johnson doesn’t check, aside from not being a premium position. After trading down that’s less of an issue. One other note, with OG Kenyon Green (knee) having medical concerns, I like Johnson’s under at 24.5 overall (-125). There are a million teams in this range that need a guard.
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah and NBC Sports’ Peter King are hearing that the Steelers like Pickett more than Malik Willis. Taking the win now QB over the developmental QB makes sense to me on the surface with this win now defense, and this Mike Tomlin quote about not running away from competition caught my eye with Willis transferring out. Either way, I think the Steelers are the most likely team to draft a QB. Long-time GM Kevin Colbert is retiring after the draft and finding a QB could be his parting gift like it was for Ravens’ ex-GM Ozzie Newsome (Lamar Jackson). More importantly, if the Steelers weren’t serious about this incoming QB class, then they wouldn’t have Mike Tomlin on the pro day circuit or they would’ve given Mitchell Trubisky more than $6.3M in cash.
New Pick: ESPN’s Patriots reporter Mike Reiss mocked this selection, and the fit makes sense. He’s the consensus top off-ball linebacker, but he can also rush the passer and would be an ideal culture fit. New England is also a team that doesn’t seem to care as much about older prospects. That’s Lloyd’s biggest knock.
New Pick: NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero wrote, “At this point, it'll be a surprise if Walker isn't a first-round pick.” In a draft without many elite players, Walker (21 years old) should be liked in this range given his 88th percentile athleticism and violent play. The Packers need a LB2 alongside De’Vondre Campbell.
New Pick: The Cardinals can't be bad at both EDGE and CB. The debate is one or the other. Not neither. Arizona got sniped pretty hard here and are certainly trade down candidates because they don't have 4th or 5th round picks, but they stand their ground and draft the 92nd percentile athlete at a position of need after losing Chandler Jones this offseason.
Mike McCarthy went to Dotson's Pro Day, and it's obvious that Dallas needs to find a one-for-one Amari Cooper replacement. Dotson's primary weakness of beating press man coverage would be minimized as a secondary target in this loaded offense. He'd crush against zone coverage and is far cheaper than Cooper was going to be. I could also see how Treylon Burks would be a scheme fit here, especially with Jerry Jones' roots to Arkansas. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler mentioned this Burks fit here.
Buffalo doesn't have any glaring weaknesses, so they can afford to go best player available here with Hill, who is the only remaining player to be ranked inside the top-20 in both Daniel Jeremiah and Dane Brugler's big boards. Hill is depth behind Micah Hyde (32) and Jordan Poyer (31), is a potential nickel starter, and is a long-term answer with Poyer heading into a contract season.
New Pick: I really think Malik Willis makes sense here, but I just never saw anything from reporters linking the two. Sadly, I pivot to what I know most about the Titans -- they want tone setters. Smith is exactly that. He can play tackle or kick inside to guard, a position that the Titans need to fill. Daniel Jeremiah had this mocked.
New Pick: Vita Vea is a true nose tackle, so Hall would line up next door at three tech with William Gholston on a one-year, $4M contract and Ndamukong Suh being a free agent. Wyatt has been included in all mock drafts I trust this month, often going in the early 20s. The Bucs would be stoked if this plays out.
New Pick: I haven't seen him in a single Round 1 mock, but ESPN's Adam Schefter randomly tweeted that Jackson could be a surprise in Round 1. Schefter hasn't done much NFL Draft tweeting this year, so this caught my eye. More importantly, Packers analyst Justis Mosqueda noted that Jackson checks the three major boxes for Green Bay - youth (21), athleticism (7.09 three cone), and a top-30 visit. Let's roll with the surprise.
Burks might be slipping. He had a disappointing NFL Combine with 41st percentile adjusted SPARQ athleticism. Then there were two reports that caught my eye. First, Dane Brugler and Brett Kollmann both relayed that Burks has weight concerns, even checking in at 240 pounds at 6'2" last season. Secondly, Burks hasn't been nailing the interviews, primarily because he's raw at what the responsibilities are as an outside receiver. If so, he could fall to the Chiefs. They have a more freestyling offense that features screens, so those concerns wouldn't be as big as they would be elsewhere. Burks (X or slot), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Z), JuJu Smith-Schuster (slot), and Mecole Hardman (gadget) complement each other pretty well.
New Pick: Booth is the consensus CB4 in the class, but I do like Booth's over 26.5 (-115) after listening to Dane Brugler and Lance Zierlein talk about his injury history, but he could still easily go Round 1 and would be a near lock if not for his short-team issue. There's an argument that Kansas City has the worst CB room in the NFL right now, so it's worth the gamble.
New Pick: The Bengals biggest need is CB with free agency filling most OL holes, and Elam has the tools to develop into a legit CB1.
New Pick: Some reporters believe Willis is well-liked by the Lions, but will he fall? Daniel Jeremiah had him sliding to 32nd overall. Peter King left him out of Round 1. Albert Breer had him at 20th overall. After watching a ton of Willis film, I just don't think he's good enough to justify a high-end pick. The Lions would be a team that can justify the gamble, as this pick was the one they got in the Matthew Stafford trade. Let him sit behind Jared Goff for one season, and then let's see if he can play in 2023.