2022 NFL Mock Draft 1.0 – Edge rushers dominate top five picks

The NFL Draft is the Super Bowl of the offseason calendar, and there’s no better way to get in the mood than with mock drafts. Obviously there’s never going to be a perfect mock draft, but for the third consecutive year, our crew of NFL Draft experts went at it, splitting up selection duties for the 32 first-round picks with the goal of improving each respective team the most.

This year’s fearless drafters: Joe Pohoryles, Christian Clark, Patrick Andres, Daniel Olinger, Davis Johnson, John Volk and myself. For past years’ mock drafts, here are the results of the 2020 Draft and the 2021 Draft. And be sure to tune in Thursday for all of the action and drama in the ACTUAL first round of the NFL Draft (though this one was pretty fun, too).

1) Jacksonville Jaguars – Joe Pohoryles – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

In a draft with no clear cut number one prospect, Jacksonville goes with the guy who has had staying power on NFL mock drafts for months. Hutchinson will pair with Josh Allen to give Jacksonville a great young duo.

2) Detroit Lions – Christian Clark – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

A riser in recent weeks, Walker adds a championship background and plenty of talent to a Detroit defense looking to replenish its pass rush. Hutchinson went off the board with the top pick, but Walker is a great backup plan.

3) Houston Texans – Patrick Andres – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Three picks, three edge rushers. At this time last year, Kayvon Thibodeaux looked destined to be a top pick before an uneven 2021 season raised some question marks here. Houston has had great returns on its first round rushers over the years, including J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

4) New York Jets – Daniel Olinger – Ikem Ekwonu, T, North Carolina State

Ekwonu is the first offensive player taken and gives the Jets bookend tackles to protect second-year quarterback Zach Wilson. He can also slide into left tackle if recent pick Mekhi Bechton doesn’t pan out.

5) New York Giants – Davis Johnson – Charles Cross, T, Mississippi State

The Giants fortify the trenches with the fifth overall pick, taking Charles Cross out of the ultra-competitive SEC. New York might be a couple years away from contention, but this pick helps build a bright future on the O-line.

6) Carolina Panthers – Christian Clark – Evan Neal, T, Alabama

After edge rushers go 1-3, offensive tackles take over the next three picks. Carolina passes on a quarterback here to get its first franchise left tackle since Jordan Gross in the early 2010s and gets a good one in Neal.

7) New York Giants – Davis Johnson – Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

The Giants spend their second pick on the other side of the ball, adding the top-rated defensive back in the draft in “Sauce” Gardner. A standout on CFP finalist Cincinnati who nobody wanted to throw near next year, Gardner instantly improves New York’s defense.

8) Atlanta Falcons – John Riker – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

The Falcons have a need everywhere except tight end, and primary needs O-line and pass rush see runs on top talent early. Atlanta goes with Kyle Hamilton here to get a face of the defense and make secondary a clear strength on the team.

9) Seattle Seahawks – John Volk – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

The first quarterback goes off the board at 9. Seattle’s post-Russell Wilson plans include dual threat playmaker Malik Willis, the draft’s most highly rated quarterback and an option to improve the Seahawks’ current de facto starter, Drew Lock.

10) New York Jets – Daniel Olinger – Derek Stingley, Jr. – CB, LSU

The Jets bet on Stingley returning to 2019 form and make sure the talented defensive back doesn’t slide out of the top 10. With Josh Allen and Mac Jones in the division, New York’s secondary figures to be tested often the next couple years.

11) Washington Commanders – Joe Pohoryles – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

The fourth defensive back in five picks, McDuffie adds to a Commander defense with a promising group of young playmakers.

12) Minnesota Vikings – John Volk – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

Just imagine a receiver group with Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Jameson Williams, with Dalvin Cook in the backfield. Williams is coming off an injury but could give the Vikings the lift they need to pass the Packers in the NFC North.

13) Houston Texans – Patrick Andres – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

The Texans use the pick they gained in the Deshaun Watson trade to shore up the interior of their offensive line. Linderbaum is the clear number one center in the draft and gives the Texans a proven player to build around.

14) Baltimore Ravens – John Riker – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia

Baltimore doesn’t go the defensive line route often with their first round picks, but Jordan Davis is player they can’t miss at a position of need. Offensive line and corner were options here, but the national champion fits the Ravens’ best player available draft philosophy and improves the defense considerably.

15) Philadelphia Eagles – Daniel Olinger – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

The first Ohio State receiver goes off the board. Olave gives the Eagles a dynamic option opposite last year’s first rounder, DeVonta Smith, and should get Philly fans excited for Jalen Hurts’ second year.

16) New Orleans Saints – Joe Pohoryles – Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State

The Saints use the first of their two first-round picks on one of the top pass rushers in the draft, Jermaine Johnson II. With defensive coordinator Dennis Allen now promoted to head coach, don’t be surprised if New Orleans goes the defensive route to start the Allen era, especially if a talent like Johnson is available.

17) Dallas Cowboys (TRADE) – John Riker – Drake London, WR, USC

PROJECTED TRADE: Cowboys trade first round pick, third round pick, seventh round pick and RB Ezekiel Elliott to L.A. Chargers for No. 17 overall pick.

Dallas takes advantage of the falling stock of receivers to pick one of the premier receivers, Drake London from USC. The Cowboys have to pay a first and third rounder to move up seven spots but also unload Ezekiel Elliott’s contract on LA. London’s arrival should define the Cowboys’ offensive identity and help replace Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson.

18) Philadelphia Eagles – Daniel Olinger – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

The Eagles go defense here and look for Dean to become an answer at the linebacker position that they haven’t had in years. Dean was one of the faces of the Bulldogs’ championship defense and should contribute immediately.

19) New Orleans Saints – Joe Pohoryles – Trevor Penning, T, Northern Iowa

Instead of going the quarterback or receiver routes, New Orleans opts to bolster its offensive line with Penning, who projects as one of the draft’s top offensive lineman even after competing in the Missouri Valley conference.

20) Pittsburgh Steelers – Christian Clark – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh develops a succession plan to Ben Roethlisberger, picking the former Pitt Panther to compete with Mitch Trubisky for the starting job. Pickett’s stock skyrocketed after a dream season that saw him lead Pittsburgh to an ACC championship and sneaks him past the other top quarterbacks with first-round grades.

21) New England Patriots – Davis Johnson – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

The Patriots address a position of need here by selecting the Clemson corner. With J.C. Jackson leaving for the Chargers in the offseason, Booth becomes the future of the secondary for New England.

22) Green Bay Packers – Patrick Andres – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

After sending Davante Adams to Las Vegas, the Packers use the pick they received in the trade to select a new top target for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Wilson improved every year in Columbus, racking up 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns on 70 receptions in 2021.

23) Arizona Cardinals – Joe Pohoryles – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia

The Cardinals help replenish their defensive line as yet another Georgia Bulldog comes off the board. Arizona will hope pairing Wyatt with J.J. Watt in the trenches can give the boost needed to get into the playoffs for the first time in the Murray-Kingsbury era.

24) LA Chargers (TRADE) – Christian Clark – Zion Johnson, G, Boston College

PROJECTED TRADE: Cowboys trade first round pick, third round pick, seventh round pick and RB Ezekiel Elliott to L.A. Chargers for No. 17 overall pick.

The Chargers use the pick they received in the Cowboys/Ezekiel Elliott trade to add to the interior of the offensive line. With Rashawn Slater at left tackle and Zion Johnson inside, quarterback Justin Herbert is in good hands.

25) Buffalo Bills – John Volk – Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

Quarterback Josh Allen has turned the Bills’ offense into one of the NFL’s best, but adding a top running back could bring Buffalo’s offense to another level. Hall was the most productive running back in college football the past couple of seasons and would make Allen even harder to slow down.

26) Tennessee Titans – Patrick Andres – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

The Titans’ new-look receiver room gets another upgrade, adding Treylon Burks to a group that already has former Ram Robert Woods and A.J. Brown.

27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – John Riker – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Tampa Bay has a couple of areas of need, especially on the trenches, but the Bucs take a best player available approach and add the highly rated linebacker to a defense loaded with Pro Bowlers at each level.

28) Green Bay Packers – John Volk – Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan

The Packers double up on receivers, adding Skyy Moore to Rodgers’ arsenal. With two rookie first rounders, Rodgers and Aaron Jones leading the offense, Green Bay will be the team to beat in the NFC North.

29) Kansas City Chiefs – Davis Johnson – Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State

Tyreek Hill is in Miami, and while JuJu Smith-Schuster flashed potential in his time in Pittsburgh, investing a first round pick in the receiver position might be a good call for the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. Watson doesn’t come from a Power Five school but is a proven playmaker.

30) Baltimore Ravens (TRADE) – John Riker – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

PROJECTED TRADE: Ravens trade second rounders in 2022 and 2023 to Kansas City for No. 30 overall pick.

The Ravens trade back up in the first round after seeing George Karlaftis, a candidate for their first selection at 14, fall so far. A pair of second rounders is a steep price to move into the first round’s final picks, but Baltimore improves its pass rush mightily on Day 1 of the draft.

31) Cincinnati Bengals – Patrick Andres – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

With Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson in the division, Cincinnati chooses to fortify a secondary that already saw safety Jessie Bates III break out in 2021.

32) Detroit Lions – Christian Clark – Sam Howell, Quarterback, UNC

The final pick of the first round is at quarterback, though potential first rounders Desmond Ridder and Matt Corral have to wait at least another day for their names to be called. The Lions go with Sam Howell as the future of their franchise at 32nd overall, a slot which has also seen Lamar Jackson and Teddy Bridgewater find their homes in the last decade.

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