We’ve finally reached that point of the off-season where we get my first mock draft of the 2022 NFL Draft! The NFL season is officially over after Super Bowl LVI and what a season it was for us football fans. Thank you to everyone that’s been following along but from an NFL Draft perspective, we’re just getting started. There’s not much else to say other than find your teams pick(s) and give me your thoughts on Twitter!
1. Jacksonville Jaguars — Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Jaguars take the best player in the draft with Aidan Hutchinson. However, they need to build around Trevor Lawrence and show the ability to make their offense better. With Doug Pederson as the new head coach, I think they’ll do that by taking the best offensive tackle in the draft. Neal has rare athletic ability for a player of his size. He plays with great pad level at 6-7 and 350 pounds and is one of the most explosive offensive lineman in this class.
2. Detroit Lions — Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
The Lions have had a serious need for a productive edge rusher for quite some time. There isn’t a more productive one in this class than Hutchinson. In 2021, he generated 73 total pressures and 14 total sacks. His numbers were so impressive that he was the runner up for the Heisman. On the field, he’s got a relentless motor and has a rare blend of speed and power that helps him win off the edge. Keep tabs on the Lions possibly moving on from Trey Flowers this off-season as well. They’d save just north of $10 million dollars in cap space by moving him and they’d be able to reset the tone of their defense by selecting Aidan Hutchinson.
You can send multiple OL at Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan EDGE 97) but I'm not sure if it will matter. Wins with a long-arm and isn't phased by the guard. Forces the QB out of the pocket and make a bad throw on the run. pic.twitter.com/Uo62sUzPHy
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) December 6, 2021
3. Houston Texans — Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Ever since trading away Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks, they’ve struggled to find a consistent presence off the edge. Over the last 3 seasons, they’ve averaged only 32.33 sacks per season and in two of those seasons, they were one of the 7 worst teams in the NFL in getting after the quarterback. Thibodeaux has loads of potential and just needs some refinement with his pass-rush plan. It’ll be hard for the Texans to pass up his speed, burst and the potential for him to develop into one of the leagues best pass rushers.
4. New York Jets — Ikem Ekwonu, OT, N.C. State
When you look at the Jets offensive line, there’s plenty of intrigue with Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker. Becton will be coming back from a dislocated right knee cap so that’ll be worth monitoring for the Jets but it’s important for them to continue to add key pieces up front to protect Zach Wilson. Keep in mind that Becton has missed 14 out of 29 possible games so far in his career. Ekwonu is a tone-setter and has some of the best finishing ability of any offensive lineman in the draft. This would give the Jets the a reliable starter on the left side with Ekwonu who has the potential to transition into a high caliber starter at the next level.
5. New York Giants — Kyle Hamilton, SAF, Notre Dame
It’ll be interesting to see what Brian Daboll can do with Daniel Jones and some of the pieces on this Giants offense. That being said, the Giants need a play maker on defense and there might not be a better one than Kyle Hamilton. He’s versatile with great athleticism to close on the football with ease. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, he’s got rare length for the position but it helps him get a hand in every play. He’s smooth in coverage and could give the Giants the ability to move a player like Xavier McKinney around the box more and again, it would give them a much needed play maker in their secondary.
6. Carolina Panthers — Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
We all struggle with the Panthers because whenever we think they’ll go offense, they go defense. For example, look at last years draft when they could have selected Justin Fields or Mac Jones and they ended up taking Jaycee Horn. Not that Horn was a bad selection but now they have a serious need to get the right quarterback for the job or Matt Rhule could be headed back to the college ranks. Since the beginning of this draft cycle, the Panthers have been linked to Kenny Pickett. From his days of being recruited by Rhule at Temple to David Tepper being a Pitt grad. There’s plenty of dots that connect the player and the team. Pickett has the ability to move in and out of the pocket to extend plays but he’s also got accuracy at all three levels. His timing can improve on some throws and there will be concerns around his hand size but Pickett to the Panthers seems to be a likely marriage early into this draft cycle.
7. New York Giants (via Chicago) — Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
It’s remarkable that the Giants haven’t drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1984 with Carl Banks. Having multiple first round picks gives them the chance to change that. Dean is one of the most talented players in this draft class with his aggressive play-style, range and how efficient he is at attacking downhill. One of the most effective blitzers at the position, Dean gives the Giants another play maker in the middle of their defense.
One of my favorite players in the 2022 NFL Draft is Nakobe Dean from Georgia. Here’s a film breakdown on why Nakobe Dean is LB1 on the field and some details to why he’s an even better person off it. #GoDawgs #NFLDraft https://t.co/YlDBS9UdEz
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) January 18, 2022
8. Atlanta Falcons — Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
There’s no question that the Falcons could consider an edge rusher being in this spot but let’s be honest, Matt Ryan isn’t going to be around forever. After the 2022 season, the Falcons can move Ryan and save almost $25 million dollars. Arthur Smith is a young head coach but he should also be preparing for the future. Willis has a lot of intriguing traits that makes him a serious option with the 8th overall pick. He’s got one of the strongest arms in the draft but his mobility really separates him from other quarterbacks in this class. In today’s NFL, we’re seeing teams finding the value in the mobility of these younger quarterbacks and Willis possesses that. He can sit behind Ryan for a season and improve on his touch and ball placement. The Atlanta native stays home and could the difference maker to bringing them a championship.
9. Denver Broncos — David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
Under the assumption that the Broncos find a way to reel in Aaron Rodgers from Green Bay, the Broncos will look to find their Von Miller replacement. Despite already having a talented defense, they find one of the better pure pass rushers in the draft. Ojabo has a plethora of pass rush moves and understands how to translate speed-to-power. He’ll need to become more consistent in the run game but he can provide a spark to a Broncos defense that has to make a decision on Bradley Chubb after this season.
10. New York Jets (via Seattle) — Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
While Jermaine Johnson was coached by the Lions at the Senior Bowl, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jets taking a liking to him. He checked into Mobile at 6-5 and 259 pounds and put his speed and power on display. Johnson can get better with his lower body in the run game as he can turn his hips and get washed out of plays but overall, he’s an intriguing pass rusher. When you look at Saleh and his defense in San Francisco, there was a real value to defensive lineman that can generate pressure and sack the quarterback. Johnson had 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in 2021 and would be a plug and play starter for the Jets defense.
11. Washington Commanders — Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Much like the Broncos, I’m under the assumption that the Washington Commanders can land a veteran quarterback. That quarterback could easily be Jimmy Garoppolo and if there’s any owner in football that would be willing to pay him his contract, it would be Dan Snyder. While the Commanders have left tackle Charles Leno on a three-year contract, they could still look to upgrade at the position. Cross is one of the best pass protectors in the draft with how well he wins with his patience and length. He’ll need to become more aggressive in the run game but for an offense that has some question marks along their offensive line, this selection just makes sense.
12. Minnesota Vikings — Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The Vikings have revamped their entire organization with a new general manager and head coach. While they’ve been known to take cornerbacks in the past, it hasn’t worked out for all of them. Meanwhile, the Vikings are set to lose Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander to free agency so there’s a chance that cornerback becomes their biggest need this off-season. The gap is close between Gardner and Stingley but on my board, Sauce Gardner is my top cornerback. His length is intriguing and helps him make a play on the football consistently. Aside from that, Gardner has terrific coverage skills where he’s able to run with receivers constantly. He gives Minnesota a true number one cornerback with the potential to become a lock down defender.
For the 2022 NFL Draft, Sauce Gardner is CB1 on my board. I jump into the film room to show you why! Here’s my film breakdown on the talented cornerback out of Cincinnati!#Bearcats #CinCityPride https://t.co/fCaXWViNLt
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) February 12, 2022
13. Cleveland Browns — Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
I’m so torn on who the first wide receiver will be and where they’ll go. The team that makes the most sense is Cleveland with the need to add more around Baker Mayfield. This season, the Browns moved on from Odell Beckham Jr., and are set to lose Rashard Higgins to free agency. Meanwhile, they’ve got a decision to make on Jarvis Landry as he could be a cap causality. By moving on from Landry, the Browns could save $14 million dollars. We’ll see if they decide to keep him or not but one player they should consider adding is Garrett Wilson from Ohio State. Wilson has gotten better every season he was on the field for Ohio State and had a career high of 70 receptions for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns. He plays with terrific body control and consistently wins in contested catch situations. Lastly, he’s one of the more underrated route runners in this class. The Browns could take a liking to any of the wide receivers in this draft but it wouldn’t surprise me if Wilson ended up being the first one off the board.
14. Baltimore Ravens — Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
One of the biggest wildcards in the NFL Draft is the Ravens. They could look at upgrading their offensive line but with the how injured they were in their secondary this past season, drafting a cornerback would make a lot of sense. Anthony Averett and Jimmy Smith could become free agents if they’re not re-signed and even if they’re both brought back, the Ravens could still look to add another cornerback. With Stingley on the board, there’s plenty to be intrigued with looking at his skill-set. He’s a fluid athlete with terrific ball skills but what could prevent him from being a top-10 selection is the foot injury that held him to only 3 games during the 2021 season. Over the last two seasons, he’s only played in 10 games and the questions that will arise are if he can stay healthy and if he’ll be the same player we saw in 2019 for LSU? If the answer is yes to both of those questions, Stingley has the ability to be one of the best defenders from this draft class.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami) — Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
There’s a chance that the Eagles could look at going with an edge rusher or a linebacker in this spot but looking to add another piece to their offense isn’t a bad idea. While it’s a deep wide receiver draft, the Eagles get a pass catcher that has earned high praise from other players I’ve spoken with from around the Big Ten. Much of the praise is around how fluid is lower body is and how quick his feet are when releasing off the line of scrimmage. Olave isn’t the biggest wide receiver in this draft but he’s by far one of the best route runners in this class. Pairing him with Devonta Smith gives the Eagles a legitimate 1-2 punch at wide receiver and that should only help Jalen Hurts moving forward.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis) — Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson
It’s rare for teams to get back-to-back selections in the NFL Draft but the Eagles are fortunate. Despite having Darius Slay on contract for another two seasons, he isn’t getting any younger at 31 years old. Meanwhile, Steven Nelson could hit the open market so there could be a serious need for another cornerback on this defense. Andrew Booth is a physically gifted player that doesn’t shy away from contact. He runs through blockers and has shown the ability to make good tackles in run support but he lacks consistency in this area. In coverage, Booth rarely panics and shows the confidence needed to be in position to always make a play when the ball is in the air. Pairing him with Slay could give the Eagles the chance to develop him into their CB1 of the future.
17. Los Angeles Chargers — George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
I’m torn on this selection because I do love the idea of Jordan Davis or Devin Lloyd to the Chargers at this spot. But how can you not love the thought of Karlaftis being paired with Joey Bosa? This would give the Chargers a terrific pairing for their defense and it gives them a potential replacement with Uchenna Nwosu set to hit the market. Karlaftis is a terrific athlete for a player of his size and has been productive since he stepped foot on the field as a true freshman in 2019 for the Boilermakers. He plays with active hands and has shown plenty of power behind those hands. Again, pairing him with Bosa is juicy and might be too good to pass up.
18. New Orleans Saints — Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
If the Saints can’t land a veteran quarterback in free agency or somehow pull off a trade for one, they seem to be in position to take one with their first pick. Regardless of what they decide to do, they’re in a tough spot. They’re over $70 million dollars in cap space and whatever quarterback they decide to take probably won’t be ready to play right away. With that, they select Desmond Ridder and start to build their future around him. He’s a good athlete and has shown the ability to run a variety of zone-reads and RPO concepts in the Bearcats offense. Unlike Matt Corral, he’s not limited to an RPO heavy offense. Ridder has shown the ability to throw the ball at all three levels of the field while going through his progressions. His ball placement can be an issue but the upside for him to develop into a starting quarterback is there. The Saints roll the dice on Ridder as they might have to play him right away and he seems safer than some other quarterbacks on the board.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) November 16, 2020
19. Philadelphia Eagles — Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa
This might be out of the norm for the Eagles but adding the best interior offensive lineman at this stage of the first round seems like a no-brainer. Jason Kelce has flirted with retirement for a few years and the Eagles have already lost Brandon Brooks to retirement. Linderbaum gives the Eagles the ability to play him at guard to start his career or move into the starting role at center if Kelce ends up walking away. Linderbaum is a dominant reach blocker and shows great snap-to-step quickness. Always under control, Linderbaum is a “cool cat” on the field but he definitely plays with a mean streak. With question marks along the offensive line, this seems like an obvious choice to close out a successful haul in the first round for Philadelphia.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers — Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
At the Senior Bowl, everything points to the Steelers being heavily interested in Malik Willis from Liberty. Could they look to move up and get him? Sure, they could but for our sanity, they stay at the 20th overall pick and look to upgrade their offensive line. It’s been no secret that Trevor Penning is one of the nastier offensive lineman in this draft class. He looks to get in the heads of defenders and shows good athletic ability for a player that checked into the Senior Bowl at 6-6 and 330 pounds. His hands can get faster and he can clean-up the penalties but Penning reminds a lot of Garrett Bolles and the Steelers could use a player like that on their offensive line.
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) February 3, 2022
21. New England Patriots — Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
There’s most certainly a chance that Lloyd is already gone. Like most drafts, there’s a handful of talented players that slip down the board. For Lloyd, he falls into the lap of the Patriots and it would be odd for them to pass up on him. He’s a versatile linebacker that can do a little bit of everything for a defense. From blitzing off the edge to dropping to flats, Lloyd shows he can do it all. He’s got great athletic ability and length for the position and could find himself in a starting role right away. After next season, the Patriots will have some decisions to make with Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower on the last year of their contracts. By adding Lloyd, it helps make those decisions a little bit easier.
22. Las Vegas Raiders — Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Three of the Raiders listed defensive tackles are set for free agency (Jefferson, McCoy and Hankins) and it wouldn’t be surprising if they considered moving on from all three. That would present the Raiders with a glaring need for a talented interior defensive lineman. There might not be a better option than my top ranked defensive tackle in Jordan Davis from Georgia. Listed at 6-6 and 340 pounds, Davis is a constant mismatch on the interior. He possesses great length and power for the position and is essentially a walking double team. This pick has potential to lead to tons of production for Davis but also the players around him as he eats up so much space and gives linebackers the opportunity to run free.
23. Arizona Cardinals — Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College
One of the biggest risers from the Senior Bowl has been and will be Zion Johnson by the time we get to the first round. Johnson seems to be a first round lock and there might not be a better fit than the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals could lose an 11-game starter at center in Max Garcia as he’s set to hit the market. By adding Johnson, he provides the Cardinals the plug-and-play ability to start at center but he also has five position versatility. He anchors well and does a good job re-setting his hands against defenders. In 1-on-1 situations, he’s shown the ability to move defenders with his upper body strength and by adding him, the Cardinals could help solidify the middle of their offensive line.
My goodness what a rep from Zion Johnson pic.twitter.com/nZLAzm5Vg8
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) February 4, 2022
24. Dallas Cowboys — Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Cowboys brought back Connor Williams to continue to start at left guard. Unfortunately, they’re about $20 million dollars over the cap and could look into upgrading on their offensive line in this draft. Green brings plenty of experience with 35 career starts and is a “ready made” starter at the next level. He’s strong with a good anchor and consistent base but he’ll need to clean up his footwork at the next level. When he doesn’t have anyone to block out of the gates, he does consistently look for work. Add him to an aging offensive line and the Cowboys start to feel like an imposing threat again up front.
25. Buffalo Bills — Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
I’ve been on plenty of Cover 1 podcasts over the last few weeks telling Bills mafia that they need to draft a cornerback. It feels like they continue to neglect the position in the draft but with so many talented wide receivers left on the board, it’s hard for the Bills to pass on one here. Jameson Williams falls down the board due to other needs and his knee injury (torn ACL) but the Bills won’t hesitate. They’ve got a stud receiver in Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis has established himself in this offense. This off-season, they’ll have a decision to make with Sanders and Beasley but with such a good class of receivers in front of them, they go that route. Williams is a shifty route runner with top-end speed and explosive playmaking ability. He can play special teams as a return man or as a gunner. Putting him on this Bills offense gives Josh Allen a serious deep threat and it helps open up the offense even more.
26. Tennessee Titans — Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
If there was a surprise team to draft a quarterback, I think it would be the Titans. Ryan Tannehill has been steady but he’s been far from good, especially in big moments. By draft Matt Corral, the Titans prepare for the future. After the 2022 season, the Titans can move on from Tannehill and save close to $18 million dollars in cap space. With Corral, they’ll need to fix a few things. Starting with his progressions as right now he’s a one-read quarterback and much of that is off the Ole Miss offense being so RPO-heavy. He does show good mobility and has the arm strength needed to make throws at all three levels but it would be beneficial for him to ease his way into the NFL.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
This off-season, the Bucs will have to make decision on Suh and Gholston for their defensive line. With that, DeMarvin Leal falls to their lap and he would be difficult to pass up. He’s versatile and has played in a variety of spots from being a 3-tech to a 5-tech on the Aggies defensive line. He has good length for the position and moves well for a player of his size. He’ll need to get stronger against the run as he doesn’t consistently fight pressure with pressure but he provides the Bucs the potential to rush the passer inside and outside.
28. Green Bay Packers — Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Maybe he’s being dramatic but signs are pointing to Aaron Rodgers being done in Green Bay. I believe that Denver makes the most sense for him but the Packers have to figure out what they’re doing with Davante Adams as well. Even if they were to keep Adams, the Packers have needed to find another chess piece to their offense and their isn’t a better fit than Treylon Burks. He’s a versatile player who can play outside, inside or even in the backfield. He’s got a great blend of size, speed and overall athletic ability.
Treylon Burks not afraid to turn into a brick wall is fun to watch. pic.twitter.com/tBWt1QLJAu
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) February 12, 2022
29. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco) — Drake London, WR, USC
It’s clear that Tua has a connection with Jaylen Waddle but they should also look into adding another playmaker to their offense. Drake London could easily be the first receiver off the board with him here, the Dolphins get themselves a big bodied receiver that can make play after play. He’ll be 21 in the summer and has a bright future in front of him. He’s a good route runner and has the ability to win 50-50 balls consistently with his basketball background. Comparable to Mike Evans, the Dolphins grab the talented pass catcher to help establish their offense and further the development of their young quarterback.
30. Kansas City Chiefs — Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
The Chiefs could lose three defensive backs to free agency this year with Mathieu, Ward and Hughes all eligible to hit the market. We’ll see if they bring anyone of these players back, especially Ward but regardless, they should look at adding another defensive back into their secondary. McCreary is a fluid athlete that is competitive enough to play on the outside but athletic enough to cover the slot. He was one of the most consistent defensive backs at the Senior Bowl and he locates the football consistently.
The NFL Draft will be here before you know it #BillsMafia. Dive into the cornerback class in this year's draft with @Pro__Ant & @RussNFLDraft in this week's episode of Disguised Coverage presented by @OnePiePizzaWNY
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) February 10, 2022
31. Cincinnati Bengals — Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
I struggle with this selection as I believe there’s a gap between some of the offensive tackles that have already been selected and the ones still left on the board. With that, the Bengals need to get better up front and there’s plenty to be intrigued with when watching Faalele. For starters, he’s massive at 6-8 and 389 pounds and consistently displays the grip strength needed to re-direct defenders off their path. He does show the strength needed to anchor and to win in the run game. However, he does give up counter moves inside on pass rushes and there are concerns over his balance. Fairly new to the game of football, Faalele can still develop into a starting tackle at the next level. The Bengals will look to get protection for Joe Burrow and they’ll do so by putting the drafts biggest player on the right side of their offensive line.
32. Detroit Lions (via LA Rams) — Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Torn on what the Lions do with this pick, they could go in a bunch of different ways. It wouldn’t be surprising if they brought back Josh Reynolds to be paired with Amon-Ra St. Brown at receiver. However, they need to add another playmaker who can win at all three levels and Dotson is dangerous in that regard. He’s a fluid route runner and has shown the ability to win after the catch. He does a good job catching the ball away from his body and has the ability to be a day one starter in the NFL. After a run on wide receivers to close out of the first round, it would be hard for the Lions to pass on Dotson.