As the NFL offseason approaches the combine, it seems like an appropriate time to write up the first mock draft of the year. There is a lot of time between now and the 2022 draft, and a lot of news will inevitably shift the outcome. Regardless, if it was taking place today, this is how I believe it would play out.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – OT Evan Neal, Alabama
While many regard Aidan Hutchinson as the best overall player in the draft, it would not make sense for the Jaguars here to take him here at one. With the selection of Clemson standout Trevor Lawrence a year ago, it should be Jacksonville’s top priority to protect their young quarterback.
2. Detroit Lions – DE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Aidan Hutchinson’s addition to the Lions would fit perfectly into the culture Dan Campbell is attempting to build in the motor city, and fill an immediate need for Detroit. Hutchinson finished the 2021 college season as a Heisman finalist, as he was unblockable in the second half of the year.
His best game of the year came against rival Ohio State, where he would record three sacks and help lead Michigan to its first series win under Jim Harbaugh. In this scenario, Hutchinson gets to stay in the state he played in college and work to turn around a franchise that is still looking for its first ever Super Bowl appearance.
3. Houston Texans – S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Despite the inevitable departure of superstar Deshaun Watson, Houston does not have a need at the quarterback position. 2021 3rd round pick Davis Mills was a pleasant surprise, displaying great arm strength and improved in decision making throughout the year.
Kyle Hamilton is my pick for the best remaining player in the draft, as he is one of the most unique prospects from the safety position in the past fifteen years. He is a ballhawk with an incredible tackling ability.
4. New York Jets – DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Another contender for the number one overall pick, acquiring Thibodeaux with the fourth pick would be a steal here for the Jets. A defensive line already featuring Quinnen Williams and Carl Lawson, the addition of the Oregon standout will give Robert Saleh a nice young core on the defensive line.
5. New York Giants – OT Ickey Ekwonu N.C. State
The best tackle outside of Evan Neal, Ickey Ekwonu will fill an immediate need for the New York Giants offensive line. While Daniel Jones has been far from spectacular over his tenure with the Giants, the team has never given him a serviceable line to protect him in his young career. The addition should also help open running lanes for the struggling Saquon Barkley.
6. Carolina Panthers – QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
The Carolina Panthers have a stellar defense and star playmakers, however they have not found a quarterback under head coach Matt Rhule. Pickett is the best overall quarterback in the draft class, and Rhule’s last hope to save his job in Carolina.
7. New York Giants (via Bears) – CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
Stingley is the best remaining player at this point, and provides the Giants with a great cornerback tandem. James Bradberry and Stingley will go a long way in matchup up with a division rival Cowboys offense that features three great wideouts.
8. Atlanta Falcons – WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
If Calvin Ridley is in fact leaving Atlanta, Burks will fill a necessary hole if Atlanta wants to stick with Matt Ryan in 2022. Burks is a large, athletic receiver who has a similar play style to the Titan’s A.J. Brown. Pairing Burks with young tight end Kyle Pitts in the passing game gives Atlanta an exciting group of playmakers to attack the defenses of the NFC South.
9. Denver Broncos – QB Matt Corral, Mississippi
While there is still a real possibility of Denver acquiring quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as of now, a quarterback has to be the pick here at nine. Corral, despite playing SEC defenses, put up some of the best statistics in all of college football, and has proven to have NFL arm talent and accuracy.
10. New York Jets (via Seahawks) – OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
Similar to the Jaguars, the Jets also should invest draft capital in protecting second-year quarterback Zac Wilson, who showed promise at the end of the 2021 season. Charles Cross would be the newest addition to the young offensive line, which includes first round picks Mekhi Becton and Alijah-Vera Tucker.
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