2022 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Super Bowl edition
With the 2021 campaign officially concluded, it's the ideal time to look ahead to one of the most exciting days on the NFL calendar.
Below, theScore's Dane Belbeck and Dan Wilkins project how the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft could shake out.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars - Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Jaguars have to assess the offensive line after Trevor Lawrence spent most of his rookie season on his backside. New Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson grabs Neal, the massive 6-foot-7, 350-pounder from Alabama, for his first pick. Don't be fooled by Neal's substantial measurements - he's an incredibly athletic tackle who should be the cornerstone of the Jaguars line for years to come.
2. Detroit Lions - Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
Detroit gets a significant boost to its pass rush with an in-state prospect who just may be the best player in this class. Hutchinson gives the Lions a foundational piece on the defensive side of the ball as their rebuild continues.
3. Houston Texans - Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Conventional wisdom goes against picking a safety this high, but Hamilton is such a versatile defender that the selection makes sense for the Texans. The Notre Dame star is a rare combination of size and athleticism, with his 6-foot-4 frame making him an incredibly versatile talent. The junior standout is exactly the type of player Lovie Smith will covet in his first draft as Houston head coach.
4. New York Jets - Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
A high-upside pass-rusher with a case to go No. 1 overall falling all the way to No. 4? The Jets will take that. Thibodeaux's ceiling is as high as any defensive player in this draft, and if New York is going to succeed on that side of the ball, it all starts up front.
5. New York Giants - Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
Many draft analysts have Ekwonu graded as the best tackle of all prospects, and the Giants would be ecstatic if he's available at No. 5. New coach Brian Daboll's biggest task is sorting out Daniel Jones as the quarterback - and adding the NC State standout to a line that struggled last year will help immensely in that area.
6. Carolina Panthers - Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
There's certainly risk involved in taking a quarterback this early since this year's class lacks any must-have prospects at the position, but those are the kinds of swings the Panthers need to take. Pickett might be their best bet at finally finding themselves another long-term starter under center.
7. Giants (via CHI) - Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
If Stingley were able to declare after his freshman season at LSU, he likely would have been a top-three selection in the draft. The star corner was inconsistent and hampered by injuries over the past two seasons, but there's no doubting he's one of the most talented players in the draft.
8. Atlanta Falcons - Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
The Falcons need to prioritize the defensive front this offseason, and staying local with national champion Georgia would be a good place to start. Walker is a three-down force with the versatility to line up and make an impact both on the edge and inside.
9. Denver Broncos - Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The man known as "Sauce" will team with Patrick Surtain to give the Broncos an outstanding young cornerback duo. At 6-foot-3, Gardner presents matchup nightmares for most wide receivers and will be a crucial part of the Denver defense that faces Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Derek Carr twice each next season.
10. Jets (via SEA) - Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
After a major addition to the pass rush at No. 4, the Jets turn their attention to the defensive backfield with their second first-round pick, acquired from the Seattle Seahawks in the Jamal Adams trade. The latest in an increasingly long line of top cornerback talents from Washington, McDuffie gives New York a potential No. 1 cover man on the outside.
11. Washington Commanders - Tyler Linderbaum, OL, Iowa
While No. 11 seems too high for an interior offensive lineman, the impact Linderbaum can have at the center position makes this a strong pick for Washington. The Iowa product won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's best center last year and will immediately help boost a Commanders offense that ranked in the middle of the pack in rushing yards per game and near the bottom in sacks allowed.
12. Minnesota Vikings - Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
With Adam Thielen's future uncertain, finding a long-term running mate for Justin Jefferson should be a priority. You won't find many with more upside than Burks, whose rare combination of size, athleticism, and playmaking ability after the catch make him a frustrating matchup for opposing defenses.
13. Cleveland Browns - Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Wilson stays in the state of Ohio by going from the Buckeyes in Columbus to the Browns in Cleveland. The 6-foot, 188-pounder is the most polished route-runner in the draft class and should pair with Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones to beef up the passing attack for Baker Mayfield.
14. Baltimore Ravens - Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
The offensive line stands out as a major need on an otherwise solid roster in Baltimore. Whether it's at right tackle or on the interior, Penning's powerful play style fits in nicely with the Ravens' run game.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA) - George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
The first of three picks for the Eagles in this draft sees them grab Karlaftis out of Purdue. While the Philadelphia line remains highly productive, both Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are in their 30s and will benefit from increased depth along the front. Karlaftis' ability to convert speed to power is among the best in the draft.
16. Eagles (via IND) - Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Philly doubles down on the front seven with back-to-back picks, scooping up an outstanding linebacker who probably should be off the board well before this point. Dean does everything you could possibly ask of a three-down linebacker in today's NFL, making him a slam dunk for an Eagles defense that desperately needs to address that spot.
17. Los Angeles Chargers - Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
The Chargers are among the worst teams in the league at stopping the run, coming in 29th in yards allowed per rush attempt. They take a massive step towards fixing that - and we mean massive - in selecting the 6-foot-6, 340-pound Davis out of Georgia. The standout defensive tackle won the Outland Trophy as best interior lineman in the country last year in helping backstop the Bulldogs to the national title.
18. New Orleans Saints - Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Taking a chance on a quarterback would be tempting here, but the Saints running it back with Jameis Winston seems more likely. Instead, New Orleans opts to bolster the receiver room. Olave brings some much-needed speed on the outside.
19. Eagles - Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
The league's No. 1 rushing attack bolsters its offensive line with the athletic Green from Texas A&M. The 6-foot-4, 325-pounder has played four of the five offensive line positions but should be a standout at guard for the Eagles.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers - Charles Cross, OL, Mississippi State
Here's to guessing that the Steelers go the veteran quarterback route instead of reaching on a signal-caller in this draft. That would allow them to use their first-round pick on a player like Cross, who addresses a glaring need on the offensive line.
21. New England Patriots - Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Lloyd is an incredibly versatile linebacker who also played on the edge for Utah last season. He's adept against the run but really shines in pass coverage with above-average ball skills at the position. Lloyd's ability to play all over the field is something that will certainly catch the eye of Bill Belichick.
22. Las Vegas Raiders - Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
The Raiders offense needs a deep threat on the outside to reach its full potential. Patience is required as Williams recovers from tearing his ACL in the national title game, but the explosive Alabama receiver will be worth the wait.
23. Arizona Cardinals - David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan
With Chandler Jones hitting free agency, Ojabo could be the next man up in Arizona. The Michigan standout is incredibly raw and will need some development, but he's an outstanding athlete and among the quickest edge rushers in the draft.
24. Dallas Cowboys - Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
After hitting a home run with Micah Parsons in last year's draft, the Cowboys find themselves just a few pieces away from fielding a top-flight defense. Upgrading the safety spot with a versatile talent like Hill would go a long way toward making that happen.
25. Buffalo Bills - Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State
The Bills have one of the deepest and most complete rosters in the league, which allows them to take the best remaining player regardless of position at No. 25. That figures to be Johnson, the edge rusher who put up huge numbers after transferring to Florida State from Georgia.
26. Tennessee Titans - Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
Faalele is a mammoth offensive tackle who moves far better than you'd expect for someone checking in at 6-foot-9 and 380 pounds. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better candidate to fill the Titans' need at right tackle and bolster the offense's power run game.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
With Tom Brady finally retiring, it's time to turn the page at the quarterback position in Tampa. Enter Corral, who brings his energy and swagger to Florida after an impressive run at Ole Miss. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder is an excellent athlete who possesses a strong arm to get the ball down the field and could become a fan favorite with his ability to extend plays with his legs.
28. Green Bay Packers - Drake London, WR, USC
Aaron Rodgers, provided he returns, would be thrilled with this kind of addition at receiver. And if the Packers can also figure out a way to bring back Davante Adams, London's size and contested-catch ability on the opposite would make this passing attack a nightmare to defend.
29. Miami Dolphins (via SF) - Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
After operating with the San Francisco 49ers' dominant offensive line the past few seasons, Mike McDaniel faces a big challenge in getting the Dolphins unit up to speed in his first season as head coach. He addresses that with his first selection, grabbing Raimann out of Central Michigan. The Austrian was initially a tight end who moved to tackle before his junior season with the Chippewas.
30. Kansas City Chiefs - Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, Penn State
With Melvin Ingram headed to free agency, and Frank Clark's contract likely to cloud his future with the team, the Chiefs should search for long-term answers on the defensive front. Another explosive talent out of Penn State, Ebiketie could thrive as a situational edge rusher early on before settling into an expanded role.
31. Cincinnati Bengals - Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
Despite making the Super Bowl, the Bengals have a major need at the offensive line to protect Joe Burrow. Johnson impressed at the Senior Bowl after a very solid final season at Boston College.
32. Lions (via LAR) - Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Lions play this class perfectly, landing a top defensive talent early on before circling back to get their quarterback at the end of the first round. Willis can sit behind Jared Goff and develop for a season before getting his chance to make the most of his impressive physical traits.