New York Jets address both sides of the football in 2022 NFL first-round mock draft
The 2021 NFL season is officially over after the Los Angles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl by a score of 23-20. With the draft order now set, it’s time to turn the attention to the offseason, and most importantly, the 2022 NFL draft.
To start the offseason, I’ve gone through the whole first round for my first of three full mock drafts for 2022. The next mock will come out after the first week of free agency, and the final mock will release the morning of the draft itself.
Team needs will change drastically as the offseason progresses, with trades, free-agent signings, and rumors creating constant disarray. That said, this mock will feature no trades or other speculated offseason additions. The draft order will remain as is, and team needs will be assessed based on where they currently stand.
February mock drafts aren’t expected to be viewed as set-in-stone predictions. Rather, they are a summary of the draft landscape as a whole. As time goes on, the storylines of the 2022 draft will become clearer and clearer. Until then, treat this first-round mock draft like a prologue to the coming summer blockbuster.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Aiding Trevor Lawrence has to be the top priority for the Jaguars, and Neal might be the best overall player, not just tackle, in the class.
The 6-foot-7, 350-pound mammoth combines devastating upper and lower body strength with surprising foot-speed to wall-off defenders in the run and pass games. His balance and technique aren’t perfect, but his potential is sky high, and his floor is more than pro-ready.
2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
I personally don’t view Hutchinson as highly as the rest of the league media (he’s actually my fourth-ranked edge rusher), but the Michigan product is still worthy of a first-round selection, and the proximity to Detroit makes this an easy call.
Hutchinson wins with a great first-step and powerful bull-rushes that overwhelm tackles. However, he lacks the flexibility in his hips and ankles to consistently turn the corner, leading to him getting run up the arc more than he should.
Regardless, Hutchinson’s technique, motor, and strength will make him a productive player in the pros, even if he never lives up to his high draft status.
3. Houston Texans: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
Unlike Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux’s flexibility is elite. Combine that with his length, explosion, power, and you get a blue-chip pass rusher prospect with the potential to strike fear in any tackle that lines up against him.
Thibodeaux has faced criticism over his love of football recently, but like Jadeveon Clowney in 2014, the late-winter chatter is usually nothing more than team-leaked smokescreens. If the Lions do indeed take Hutchinson over him, Houston should be running in the card.
4. New York Jets: Jermaine Johnson, DE, Florida State
Jermaine Johnson’s meteoric rise is only just beginning, and I’d recommend everyone get on board with the idea of the Jets taking the FSU phenom fourth overall sooner rather than later.
Johnson, the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year, got lost amongst the crowd of talented edge rushers like Hutchinson and Thibodeaux, but make no mistake – he deserves to be mentioned among them.
Possessing a deadly combination of explosion, length, power, and awareness, Johnson profiles as an immediate impact player in the trenches with room to grow into one of the best at his position early in his career.
His Home Depot-sized toolbox of pass rush moves was on full display during Senior Bowl practices, and after he flexes his athletic prowess at the combine, Johnson will be viewed as the top-five player he’s always been from the start.
5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
New Giants head coach Brian Daboll knows the importance of a strong offensive line for a young quarterback. The Bills loaded up on free agent linemen before Josh Allen’s second season, and along with Daboll’s tutelage, Allen prospered into one of the best passers in the league. If the Giants want there to be any chance of Daniel Jones being successful, they need to protect him.
Ikem Ekwonu might just be the meanest lineman in the 2022 class, punishing defenders in the run game with virtual ease. His strength carries over into his pass blocking, where he shows a great anchor against power rushes and the strength to recover when first beaten.
6. Carolina Panthers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is currently fighting for his life. The Sam Darnold experiment didn’t work. The Sam Darnold/Cam Newton experiment also (predictably) didn’t work. If Rhule doesn’t solve the problem at quarterback, he may be coaching his last season in Charlotte.
In a class of generally underwhelming quarterback talent, Malik Willis stands out. His rocket arm and elusive running make him a big play waiting to happen at any moment, but he needs to be more consistent with his play-to-play accuracy.
The Liberty signal-caller was the best passer at the Senior Bowl, leading many to speculate if any teams would be willing to trade up to acquire his services. If the Panthers want Willis, they may have no choice but to take him here.
7. New York Giants: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
After securing the offensive line with Ekwonu, the Giants can turn to the other side of the ball and add a playmaker in the back end.
Kyle Hamilton is one of the best safety prospects of the last handful of years. His elite size at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds along with his impressive range and ball skills allow Hamilton to be a center-field eraser in the back end.
His coverage ability goes beyond just playing deep, however. Hamilton is also adept in man coverage on slot receivers or tight ends. Jabril Peppers’s future in New York is uncertain, and if he leaves, the G-Men could upgrade the position immensely by drafting Hamilton.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Matt Ryan’s career in Atlanta has been excellent, but it can’t last forever. Eventually, head coach Arthur Smith is going to want to start the process of finding Ryan’s heir apparent.
Ryan’s contract makes it all but certain he’ll be under center in 2022, but the Falcons can save over $20 million in cap space if he’s cut in 2023. After Willis, Ridder has the best physical tools in the class and can win with his arm, his legs, or his brain. In this scenario, Ridder can spend his rookie year learning the offense while also learning from Ryan directly, then take over in 2023.
9. Denver Broncos: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Whether Aaron Rodgers ends up in Denver, or anywhere else for that matter, is still up in the air. Regardless, the Broncos need to round out their offensive line.
Left tackle Garett Bolles finally looked like the first-round pick he was drafted as in 2021, but the Broncos’ right tackle spot lacks a defined future.
Cross is the most natural pass protector in the class, using his quick feet and excellent technique to mirror pass rushers up the arc. He’d have to change sides in Denver, but Cross’s technique is refined to the point that I think he’ll more than hold his own.
10. New York Jets: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Sadly, Jets fans quickly learned that their wide receiver room was not in fact the deepest in the league, as some had thought over the summer (looks away in shame), and instead was a few injuries and a piece of bad salmon away from disaster.
If the Jets can learn anything from the 2022 playoffs, it’s that you can never have enough talented receivers. Garrett Wilson is the most complete receiver in the class with elite speed, route running, body control, and run-after-catch ability. He would combine with Elijah Moore to immediately form one of the most dangerous young receiver duos in the league.
If the Jets want Zach Wilson to make a big leap in year two, they need to get him more weapons, and there’s no better weapon in the class than Garrett Wilson.
Play: 👉 the Jet X Offseason Simulator
11. Washington Commanders: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
The newly coined Washington Commanders are one of the most intriguing teams of the 2022 offseason. They have expressed a desire to upgrade at quarterback, even mentioning a veteran trade, and could possibly even draft a passer if they fall in love with a certain prospect. With so much uncertainty under center, the Commanders could benefit from adding another explosive receiver to their quietly ascending group.
Terry McLaurin is a superstar in hiding, and rookie Dyami Brown flashed his potential in his first year, but the room needs one more piece to take them over the top. Burks would fit right in as a speedy playmaker who can win down the field or with the ball in his hands. We don’t know who will be throwing passes for Washington in 2022, but at least he should have some open targets.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The Vikings have a penchant for drafting corners early, and with Patrick Peterson and Mackenzie Alexander both set to hit free agency, “Sauce” makes too much sense here.
Sauce Gardner is the best corner of the 2022 draft class. His fluidity in his hips is borderline unfair when combined with his 6-foot-3 frame, making him a nightmare for opposing receivers. He impresses on the stat sheet as well as the eye test, going his entire college career without allowing a touchdown. Gardner would bring some much-needed “Sauce” to the Vikings’ secondary.
Related Article: Ahmad Sauce Gardner Film Breakdown - Why He's An Elite CB Prospect
13. Cleveland Browns: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
While it’s rather obvious Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t the problem in Cleveland, the Browns still have a hole at receiver that needs filling after Beckham’s exodus from Ohio.
Chris Olave has been a forgotten name in a deep receiver class, but the Buckeye star has always been a top-15 talent. His blend of sharp routes, strong hands, and deceptive deep speed make him a dangerous target for any quarterback. Olave first found fame as Justin Fields’s security blanket, and he could do the same for Baker Mayfield.
14. Baltimore Ravens: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
As is tradition, the Ravens stick to their guns and let a talented defender fall into their laps by stealing George Karlaftis at 14.
Karlaftis, better known as “The Greek Freak” or “Hercules”, was born to be a Raven.
Standing 6-foot-4 and a rocked-up 274 pounds, Karlaftis lives up to his nicknames with jaw-dropping athleticism for his size. His first step is excellent and his flexibility is also better than expected considering his frame. He’s strong against the run and can put all 274 pounds he has into a bull rush en route to toppling opposing tackles.
Calais Campbell, as great as he is, is not immortal, and Karlaftis is the perfect fit to replace him as an early-down five-technique and passing-down edge rusher opposite Odafe Oweh.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Darius Slay is one of the best corners in the league, but the Eagles have been searching for his running mate for what seems like decades. With their first of two back-to-back picks, Slay finally gets his sidekick in LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr.
Stingley was considered a future top-five pick after his true freshman season, helping LSU win a national championship. But in the two years since, injuries have plateaued his development, and his draft stock subsequently fell. If Stingley can regain his freshman form in the pros, the Eagles will be getting a steal.
16. Philadelphia Eagles: Drake London, WR, USC
The NFL is won through the air, and that equally applies for offense and defense. After boosting their secondary with Stingley a pick prior, Philly looks to improve their own passing game with the big-bodied Drake London.
I first noticed London last year while scouting Alijah Vera-Tucker, since I kept finding myself forgetting to watch AVT, and instead, watching London run through Pac-12 defenders like they were still in Pee Wee.
London will be coming off of a broken ankle suffered last October, and I do worry about his ability to separate from coverage, but at the very least London should provide a safety valve for Jalen Hurts, and a solid complement to Devonta Smith.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
The Chargers roster is more talented than their record indicates, and if they can improve in a few key areas, they may be the next team to take the league by storm. The main pitfall of the 2021 Chargers was their run defense, and there’s no better way to fix that run defense than to add Jordan Davis.
Davis was the block of solid granite in the middle of the Georgia defense that won a national championship. He was simply immovable on interior runs, opening space for the rest of the hungry Bulldogs behind him to come up and eat.
Davis isn’t just a run stuffer, however, as he can also use his brute strength to collapse the pocket on pass downs and take away a quarterback’s ability to step up. A defensive line of Joey Bosa, Jerry Tillery, and Jordan Davis should make the rest of the AFC West scared for their own safety.
18. New Orleans Saints: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
Drew Brees is now on TV, and Sean Payton’s most significant contribution of late to the football world has been a movie staring Kevin James as Payton himself. Not to mention, New Orleans is currently projected to be a staggering $76 million over the cap in 2022.
Saints fans aren’t just down bad; they’re down horrendous.
“Who Dat Nation” needs an injection of new life, and Pickett could be the one to do it. Pickett rose to prominence after leading Pitt to a 12-2 record and throwing for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. His hand size became an area of concern at the Senior Bowl after Pickett refused the measurement, but his playmaking ability and quick processor could make the Saints’ brass nostalgic for the glory days of Brees.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Philadelphia rounds out its trio of first-rounders by adding the draft’s best center in Linderbaum to be Jason Kelce’s next-in-line.
Linderbaum is near-perfect as a prospect, bullying defenders in the run game with his trademark quickness, leverage, and core strength. In the passing game, he is technically sound and aware, picking up stunts well and correctly identifying blitzes.
Kelce’s contract means 2022 will likely be his last as an Eagle, and with guard Brandon Brooks retiring, Philly has holes on the interior of their line now and in the future.
The debate on how high Linderbaum could go will rage on until the end of April, but that debate is about positional value, not Linderbaum himself. Eagles fans know the importance of a quality center, so I doubt they’d think this is too high to take a guaranteed great one.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: David Ojabo, DE, Michigan
The Steelers will be in the quarterback market after Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, and while Matt Corral is tempting, David Ojabo is too good to pass up.
T.J. Watt deservedly won Defensive Player of the Year after racking up an astronomical 22.5 sacks in only 15 games, but the Steelers need another presence off the edge to take their defense to the next level.
Ojabo is as raw in his technique as he is athletic, flashing moments of brilliance amongst moments of question. That said, Pittsburgh is the perfect place to iron out his kinks. Ojabo will see plenty of one-on-one matchups with Watt on the other side, all while picking Watt’s brain on how to truly maximize his talents.
21. New England Patriots: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Bill Belichick has strayed from his traditional draft philosophies in recent years, to mixed results, but he gets back to his roots with Nakobe Dean.
Dean was the leader of Georgia’s ferocious defense, doing whatever was asked of him by head coach Kirby Smart and former defensive coordinator (now-Oregon head coach) Dan Lanning.
Dean is a missile in the middle of the field, using his elite speed to smother tight ends and running backs in coverage, shoot gaps in the run game, or terrorize quarterbacks on designed blitzes. Belichick will love Dean’s attitude and versatility, and he could be one of the best at his position early in his career under Bill’s guidance.
22. Las Vegas Raiders: Andrew Booth Jr, CB, Clemson
The Raiders cornerback group is one of the worst in the NFL and desperately needs some young talent. Casey Hayward Jr. has had an excellent career, but he will be 33 before the 2022 season begins and is set to become a free agent. Besides Hayward Jr., there isn’t much else.
Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. is a wiry cover man with pitter-patter feet who can easily hang with receivers down the field. His elite speed and change of direction let him play with little fear of deep routes, keeping him in phase while not giving up too much ground underneath.
Booth would immediately become the Raiders’ best corner and would go a long way towards stopping the plethora of receivers in the AFC West.
23. Arizona Cardinals: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
The Cardinals’ successful 2021 ultimately fell short after a first-round playoff loss. If they want to get back to the postseason, and eventually beyond the first round, they need to secure the protection in front of quarterback Kyler Murray.
Both of Arizona’s starting guards, Justin Pugh and Max Garcia, could be due for a replacement. They also could need a right tackle, as Kelvin Beachum will turn 33 in June and could retire or be released.
Drafting Kenyon Green would guarantee the Cardinals solve at least one of the questions on their line. Green has spent time at four of the five positions on the line in his time in College Station; both guard spots and both tackle spots. With that versatility, Arizona could take Green and fit him however they need to get their best five players on the field.
24. Dallas Cowboys: Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
The Cowboys’ success in the modern era has mainly come by way of two things: great quarterback play and an elite offensive line.
Unfortunately for Dallas, right guard Connor Williams is set to hit free agency, and their cap situation makes it unlikely he will return. In order to keep the great wall of Dallas in top condition, Williams will need a replacement.
Enter Zion Johnson. Johnson won Senior Bowl Practice Player of the Week for his impressive on-the-fly switch to center, and for staying after practice to continue working on the transition. For the Cowboys, Johnson would get to stay home at guard and do what he does best: drive defenders out of gaps in the run game and anchor down against power rushes in the passing game.
25. Buffalo Bills: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Bills fans may have beef with the NFL’s overtime rules, but if it wasn’t for their defense letting Patrick Mahomes cruise down the field at the end of the game, those rules wouldn’t have mattered.
That’s not to say the Bills’ defense was bad in 2021 – quite the contrary, as they finished as the top overall defense in points and yards allowed. This selection is not about fixing the Bills’ defense. It’s about making an already strong unit that much stronger.
McDuffie isn’t a big name yet, but the league is already well aware of him. The Husky cover man’s instincts and experience in zone coverage make him the perfect fit opposite Tre’Davious White.
26. Tennessee Titans: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Just like his mentor Bill Belichick, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel steals a rangy inside linebacker to be the new leader of his defense.
Like Dean, Devin Lloyd fits the mold of the modern undersized linebacker who excels in coverage with speed and instincts. In Tennessee, Lloyd could let that speed shine while being kept clean by Jeffrey Simmons and Denico Autry, while also teaming up with Rashaan Evans to give Vrabel an interchangeable pair of inside backers.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Tom Brady’s retirement throws a wrench in the Bucs’ plans, but whoever follows in the GOAT’s footsteps will need quality receivers. Tampa’s receiver group is quite talented right now, but that could change in the near future. Chris Godwin is expected to leave in free agency and Mike Evans can’t do it all himself at almost 29 years old.
In this scenario, the Bucs replace a former Penn State wideout with another Nitanny Lion pass catcher in Jahan Dotson. Dotson lacks the size of a traditional outside receiver, but you wouldn’t know it based on his tape. He’s excellent at tracking the ball and high-pointing it in the air to make circus catches and has the body control to extend his catch radius at will.
With Evans still handling a bulk of the load, for now, Dotson can ease into the game while feasting on opponents’ number two cornerbacks.
28. Green Bay Packers: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
No team’s future is currently more uncertain than the Green Bay Packers. What happens with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Davante Adams is a mystery. Will Rodgers seek a trade? Will Adams seek a pay-day? Will the Packers have any chance of mending the wounds and keeping the band together for another year?
Where those dominos fall will certainly change the Packers’ draft strategy, but regardless of Rodgers or Adams, the Packers could use another talented corner.
Rookie Eric Stokes played well in his first year, and Jaire Alexander is a budding star, but the group is still one piece away from being complete. McCreary would round out the back end by giving Green Bay three corners capable of holding their own in man coverage, a favorite of defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
29. Miami Dolphins: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
The Miami Dolphins should have one mission and one mission only in the 2022 offseason: upgrading the offensive line. The Dolphins’ line has been a revolving door of traffic cones since Adam Gase was beefing with Jarvis Landry, and if they want any chance of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa living up to the fifth pick, they need to keep him upright.
Trevor Penning won the unofficial award of “nastiest lineman” at the Senior Bowl, a nastiness that carries over to the film. Penning has awesome upper body strength and cinder block hands that allow him to toss defenders around with ease. His technique can get sloppy at times, but his athleticism and attitude are both more than NFL caliber.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
Jalen Pitre in the first round may sound crazy now, but trust me, it’s gonna happen. Baylor head coach Dave Aranda is one of the most respected names in defensive football at any level, and he made Pitre his personal pet project.
Pitre played the “star” position for Baylor, a hybrid defender that shares time at linebacker, safety, or slot corner depending on the opposing offense’s personnel, and he did well in every role. He’s a gnat in coverage, sticking to receivers’ hips in and out of breaks. He also shows no fear of tackling or playing the run, doing both with calculated violence.
Daniel Sorensen cannot spend another year as a starting safety for the Chiefs. Jalen Pitre would be a massive upgrade.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky
This time last year, Bengals fans were enthralled in a debate over whether to draft an offensive lineman to protect quarterback Joe Burrow, or draft Burrow’s favorite college weapon, receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
Cincinnati ultimately took Chase, and the Bengals found themselves in the Super Bowl after Burrow blossomed into a star passer in his second season, with Chase a major part of that leap.
However, in almost poetic fashion, the Bengals’ season came to a crashing end when Burrow was pressured on a gotta-have-it fourth down at the end of the game, while Chase ran free down the right sideline for what would’ve been the championship-winning score if Burrow were protected well.
If Cincinnati wants to turn its Cinderella story into a regular occurrence, they can’t expect Burrow to block for himself any longer. Kinnard offers the Bengals options as a potential starter at right tackle, or at worst, an immediate starter at right guard. His brute strength and solid anchor should not only help keep Burrow off the turf but also open lanes for running back Joe Mixon.
32. Detroit Lions: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
Corral could end up going much higher than this, but a late-season ankle injury and questions about his college offense may push him down the board. If Corral does fall, Detroit would be wise to scoop him up with the last pick of the first round, securing his fifth-year option.
Corral has a live arm with a twitchy release and enough mobility to keep plays alive or gain chunk yards on scrambles. Coming from Lane Kiffin’s RPO-heavy offense, Corral will need time to adjust to an NFL system. He’ll get just that while serving as Jared Goff’s backup in his rookie year, allowing the coaches to ease Corral in rather than throwing him to the wolves.
With the Lions adding an immediate impact player earlier in Hutchinson, they can afford to use their latter pick on the future.
I happen to agree with Johnson at #4 if we don’t go OLine. Showed better skills than KT, far more passion and way more relentlessness. If we don’t go Edge in R1, i’m a fan of Cameron Thomas of SD State in R2. I’d take 2 Edges also in this draft.
What the Hell are you smoking? There is no way Joe Douglas will draft Jermaine Johnson with the #4 pick! That pick is way too valuable and that would be a terrible reach pick for the Jets! Please stop it with these ridiculous and unrealistic mock drafts already!
the GOAT? I didn’t know Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, John Elway, and Dan Marino played in Tampa Bay recently…
F that overrated cheat
Ok, I could live with that. JJ’d better be a force this year, and address OL and TE in round 2