2022 NFL Mock Draft: Post-free agency edition
With the NFL Scouting Combine and free-agency period wrapped up, the draft can really take shape, as all 32 rosters have clear needs.
That clarity changes the top of the draft, as the Jaguars are now set to grab a defensive prospect after addressing their offensive line in free agency.
Here's the full first-round projections in our third mock draft of the year.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars - Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
The Jaguars would probably love to trade down, but that's easier said than done without any can't-miss quarterbacks on the board enticing other teams to move up. After Jacksonville surprisingly used the franchise tag on Cam Robinson for a second straight year, Hutchinson is now the clear favorite for this top spot.
2. Detroit Lions - Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
The draft's biggest riser comes in at No. 2 with the Lions grabbing the athletic Walker out of Georgia. While his college production of six sacks in his final season might not blow people away, much of that can be attributed to the overall depth of the Bulldogs' incredible defense. The 6-foot-5, 275-pounder would instantly bring much-needed pop to the Lions' defensive front.
3. Houston Texans - Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
The Texans need help everywhere. Edge would also make sense, especially with Kayvon Thibodeaux still available, but building the offensive line is never a bad idea. Ekwonu joins Laremy Tunsil to give Houston a strong tandem at offensive tackle.
4. New York Jets - Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Don't be deterred by Hamilton's underwhelming 40-yard dash times - the Notre Dame star pops off the screen when watching his tape. Hamilton's versatility at the safety position adds a big-time playmaker to the NFL's worst defense last season.
5. New York Giants - Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
The top five falls perfectly for the Giants in this scenario, as you can bet they'd love to come away with one of this year's top pass-rushers. Thibodeaux pairs with 2021 second-rounder Azeez Ojulari to form an impressive young duo on the edge.
6. Carolina Panthers - Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Through no fault of his own, Neal has fallen from the top spot in our previous mock draft. After the Jaguars used the franchise tag on Cam Robinson, it became clear they would go with defense at No. 1. That has Neal slipping to No. 6, which will massively benefit the Panthers. Neal's incredible athleticism at 6-foot-7 and 350 lbs should shore up the offensive line and help one of the league's worst offensive units take a big step.
7. Giants (via CHI) - Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Cross takes care of a glaring need at right tackle, giving the Giants another talented young lineman for Brian Daboll to build the offense around. Coming away from the first round with top talents at edge rusher and offensive tackle would be a home run for New York.
8. Atlanta Falcons - Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Outside of the electric Kyle Pitts, the pass-catching cupboard is largely bare in Atlanta. That's addressed early on Day 1 via the selection of Wilson out of Ohio State. He's not the fastest receiver in the draft, but a sub-4.40 time in the 40-yard dash is plenty quick enough. He's arguably the most polished route-runner in this year's class and should instantly boost the anemic Falcons passing attack no matter who's at quarterback.
9. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN) - Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Nobody really knows where the first quarterback will be drafted, and given the uncertainty around this year's passers, it could very well be later than people expect. But if there's one obvious spot, it has to be Seattle. A team that's gotten used to life as a perennial playoff contender isn't really going to come out of the Russell Wilson era starting Drew Lock ... right? Willis has the most upside of any quarterback in this class.
10. Jets (via SEA) - Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
After grabbing Hamilton at No. 4, the Jets make another effort to address the league's worst defense by selecting the Cincinnati star. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder possesses elite size at the cornerback spot and has the speed burst to recover in the rare instances when a receiver can get separation. His blend of size and ability is exactly what Robert Saleh needs to fix the back end of the Jets' defense.
11. Washington Commanders - Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Let's go ahead and assume that, rightly or wrongly, the Carson Wentz trade rules out a quarterback for the Commanders. Cornerback may not be their most pressing need, but a potential top-five talent like Stingley falling this far may be too appealing to pass up.
12. Minnesota Vikings - Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Minnesota makes it three straight corners with McDuffie out of Washington. While he isn't the biggest cornerback, the standout junior flashed 4.44 speed in the 40-yard dash at the combine and has tremendous lateral quickness. McDuffie also offers great production as a run-stopper and blitzer from the corner position.
13. Texans (via CLE) - Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State
With their second first-round pick in this draft, and the first of three acquired from Cleveland in the Deshaun Watson trade, the Texans continue to create a foundation in the trenches. Johnson brings major pass-rush talent to a rebuilding Houston defense.
14. Baltimore Ravens - George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
The Ravens going for an offensive tackle at No. 14 seemed like a certainty, but their signing of Morgan Moses makes defense the likely pick here. Karlaftis is one of the more powerful edge rushers in the draft and his versatility should play well in the Ravens' defense.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA) - Drake London, WR, USC
Wide receiver remains an area of focus for Philly after recent draft misses, so it's fair to assume the Eagles will use one of their three first-round picks on the position. London's size and contested-catch prowess could make him an outstanding complement to DeVonta Smith.
16. Eagles (via IND) - Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Lloyd's talent could lead him to emerge as one of the best players in this draft. The 6-foot-3, 237-pounder is one of the best cover linebackers in this class, frequently demonstrating his ball skills and ability to shut down tight ends across the field.
17. Los Angeles Chargers - Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
The Chargers made some excellent moves in free agency to shore up their interior defensive line, allowing them to zero in on their most obvious need on the other side of the ball. Penning's impressive blend of athleticism and physicality gives L.A. another foundational player on the offensive line opposite 2021 first-round left tackle Rashawn Slater.
18. New Orleans Saints - Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Olave gives the Saints the vertical deep threat they need as the post-Sean Payton era begins. While the Ohio State star needs to increase his upper-body strength, his polished route-running and excellent speed make this a strong pick for the Saints.
19. Eagles - Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
Davis isn't just a run-stuffing defensive tackle - he might be one of the best interior run-defending prospects we've ever seen. That alone warrants the Eagles spending this pick to solidify the future of the defensive front - and his freak athleticism means there's a chance he'll bring something to the table as a pass-rusher, too.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers - Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
Not only does Pickett stay in Pittsburgh, but the former Panthers star remains in Heinz Field, the same stadium where Pitt plays collegiate home games. Much has been made of Pickett's hand size, but the senior standout has proved he's more than capable of throwing the ball in poor conditions. Pickett could immediately challenge Mitch Trubisky for the starting role with the Steelers.
21. New England Patriots - Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Putting Mac Jones in a position to succeed means surrounding him with more explosive playmakers. Patience is required, as Williams is recovering from an ACL tear suffered in the national championship, but he's the kind of dynamic receiver who can help take the Patriots' offense to the next level.
22. Green Bay Packers (via LV) - Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
With Davante Adams now in Las Vegas, the Packers need to fill the receiver room with weapons for Aaron Rodgers. At 6-foot-2, 225 lbs, Burks provides a big target with an exceptional ability to turn short gains into huge plays. The Arkansas star isn't a finished product, but Matt LaFleur's offensive plan should help him with a variety of bubble screens and short passes.
23. Arizona Cardinals - Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
With most of the top receivers off the board, the Cardinals turn their attention to a defensive front that needs an overhaul. Wyatt may not be getting as much attention as some other standouts from that Georgia front seven, but he's got just as much star potential.
24. Dallas Cowboys - Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
With La'el Collins and Connor Williams gone, the Cowboys need depth on the offensive line to keep Dak Prescott in a clean pocket. Though they already have Tyler Biadasz at center, Linderbaum is too good a prospect to pass up. Pro Football Focus rated his 2021 as the best run-blocking single-season performance by a Power 5 offensive lineman since 2016.
25. Buffalo Bills - Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
The Bills' well-built roster really doesn't have many needs, especially after adding Rodger Saffold to upgrade the offensive line. They could use another corner after losing Levi Wallace, though, and Booth has the makings of a long-term starter on the outside.
26. Tennessee Titans - Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
It's hard to watch Dean's tape at Georgia and see anything but a future All-Pro linebacker. The Bulldogs star absolutely flies around the field and totally ruins even the most developed offensive game plans. While he is a bit undersized at the NFL level, his incredible ability to read plays more than makes up for it.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
Just when it seemed like the Bucs were losing not only Tom Brady, but also all three of their starters on the interior offensive line, Brady returns, Ryan Jensen re-signs, and Shaq Mason comes over in a trade from New England. Add in Johnson to replace the retired Ali Marpet and this group likely won't miss a beat.
28. Green Bay Packers - Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
Raimann hails from Austria and has only played tackle for two seasons, but he's already developed into a pro prospect. He's one of the more powerful offensive linemen in the draft and should continue to progress with more experience. Although he may not be a very high-profile pick for Packers fans, he could end up being a very important piece in terms of protecting Aaron Rodgers.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (via MIA, SF) - Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
One of the fastest receivers in the draft lands in Kansas City by way of the first-round pick acquired from the Dolphins in the Tyreek Hill trade. Dotson can't be expected to completely replace Hill, but his vertical ability makes him a strong fit for an offense that's always looking to push the ball downfield.
30. Chiefs - David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan
It's unlikely Ojabo plays in 2022 after tearing his Achilles at Michigan's pro day, but the talented edge rusher represents great value with the 30th pick. An incredibly raw prospect who flashes unique athleticism, Ojabo will need to improve his skill set to be elite at the NFL level. A year on the sidelines with the Chiefs should give him the opportunity to do that.
31. Cincinnati Bengals - Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, Penn State
The Bengals knew exactly what needed to be done after a playoff run in which Joe Burrow was constantly under pressure. Following three important free-agent signings, the offensive line appears to be in good shape. That aggressive approach allows Cincinnati to avoid forcing this pick and lets the Bengals instead upgrade the pass rush with Ebiketie.
32. Lions (via LAR) - Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
The Lions grab a potential quarterback of the future with Ridder out of Cincinnati. The star passer was a major factor in the Bearcats becoming the first Group of 5 team to ever make the College Football Playoff. Jared Goff would still be Detroit's starter in 2022, but with Ridder turning 23 before the season begins, expect to see him on the field sooner rather than later.
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