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2022 NFL Mock Draft: Elite Defensive Talent Falls, Quarterbacks Scattered Across Board

This year's draft remains a mystery heading into it's final hours. Here's one final mock draft before round one is under way.

The football world's favorite day of the offseason is finally here. 

Later today, 32 players will have their lives forever changed when they hear their names called during the first round of the NFL draft. 

A fitting scene in Las Vegas, this year's draft class is full of gambles and uncertainties, as questions follow every team and prospect beginning with the No. 1 overall pick. 

There's no need to set the scene any further. If you clicked on this mock draft, you're here to learn who will go where. 

In 2020, yours truly scored an unofficial 29th place out of all mock drafts in The Huddle Report's scoring system. Last year's mock finished tied for 17th. 

This year, we're aiming for 10th place or better, although this was without a doubt the most difficult year to predict. We might just add a zero to that number and call it a day if things go south. 

Here's to another draft cycle down, and many more to come!

"And with the first pick in the 2022 NFL draft ..."

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

The Jaguars have at least done their part in making things interesting throughout the draft process on who would be the first overall pick. However, the smoke eventually clears up. Jacksonville could take a number of suitors here, yet the extremely athletic and versatile Walker lands on a Jaguars defense simply looking to add talent anywhere possible. 

ESPN's Todd McShay offered these comments on why the Jaguars prefer Walker over Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson:

"The belief around the league is Jacksonville prefers the upside and traits of Walker over the proven production, motor and leadership that Hutchinson brings to the table. And it is nearly a lock that one of them will come off the board first."

Walker provides Jacksonville with cornerstone material as an edge rusher to go along with quarterback Trevor Lawrence. 

2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

The Lions are the true winners of draft day, as they are poised to welcome either Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux to the mix with the second pick. Both are expected to be terrific at the next level.

The great debate between the two is almost like splitting hairs, and while the whole "hometown hero" narrative is a fun talking point in conversation, the Lions opt for Hutchinson due to his production and strong draft profile. 

It almost feels destined, no? 

McShay said he's "95% certain" the Lions take Hutchinson in this scenario, and Fox Sports' Joel Klatt said Detroit would "sprint to the podium" to take the Michigan product. 

At this moment, it feels like there's no right or wrong answer here, but when the clock hits zero on their timer, the Lions seem to favor Hutchinson for good reasons. 

3. Houston Texans: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

This is where the draft truly can be taken for a whirl, as the Texans are favored to go at just about any position group besides quarterback. 

Plenty of top-tier talent remains on the board, and there's been plenty of smoke about Houston grabbing corner Derek Stingley Jr. at No. 3.

However, that smoke arrived too late for any real consideration here, although another defensive prospect is very much in play for the Texans. 

Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner is considered to be the top corner prospect in this year's draft, a position of need that Texans head coach Lovie Smith admitted improvement was mandatory from last season.

"We’re looking at the roster right now and you see who we have there," Smith said earlier this month. "You also see our play at the cornerback position. Our play at the cornerback position last year was not good enough; it’s as simple as that."

Tackle was a very strong consideration here, yet Houston grabs one of the best playmakers in the draft and works towards improving a historically bad secondary. 

4. New York Jets: Ikem Ekwonu, T, North Carolina State

When I tell you that Thibodeaux was extremely tough to pass here at No. 4, I mean it. 

However, The Athletic's Connor Hughes (with Ben Allbright co-signing on this take) believes he's out of the picture for the Jets for various reasons.

New York, which also picks at No. 10, makes this pick very difficult to project as many believe the Jets are set on a receiver for their second selection later on. 

Jermaine Johnson has received a tremendous amount of hype in the days leading up to the draft, as many believe he could land in the top five before the night is over. Could the Jets try their luck and wait for him later down the road?

"The Jets like both pass-rushers, especially Johnson, but No. 4 is too high for him. He’d be a strong consideration at No. 10," said ESPN's Rich Cimini.

With Zach Wilson showing signs of potentially being everything the organization wanted out of their top pick last season, the importance of protecting him now intensifies. 

Mekhi Becton's status is all but questionable after head coach Robert Salah said he would have to battle for his starting job this season, potentially tipping their cap for taking a tackle early. 

Alabama's Evan Neal makes a lot of sense here, yet the Jets are reportedly higher on Ekwonu. 

5. New York Giants: Evan Neal, T, Alabama 

Neal makes even more sense here. 

There are very few picks that feel like they're meant to happen, but the Giants taking an offensive tackle with either of their top picks is almost promised to be a home run. 

There's smoke that Charles Cross could land as the second tackle taken, yet Neal is believed to be the safer prospect. 

Could we see a quarterback taken here? Although not likely, the clock is ticking on Daniel Jones' time in New York. Don't discount the best available defensive end here as well.

However, the Giants appear to be in favor of getting Jones more help before making any franchise-altering decisions at the position. The protective talents of Neal is a nice step in the right direction. 

Trade Alert! The Philadelphia Eagles have traded picks with the Carolina Panthers, and are now on the clock. 

6. Philadelphia Eagles: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

The slide is finally over. 

The Eagles have plenty of ammo to move up and snag a player of this caliber should they fall, and the Panthers (who would wait until pick No. 137 to draft again) are a prime candidate to regain some desperately needed draft capital.

"Moving up is a fascinating one because you do wonder if the Eagles move up from 15 -- of course they do have plenty of ammunition, two first-round picks -- who would they be targeting?" NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport said on Tuesday's edition of NFL NOW. "Potentially, would a corner be someone they'd be targeting? Would it be an edge rusher? What if (Oregon edge rusher Kayvon) Thibodeaux slid? Lot of options here for the Philadelphia Eagles."

Thibodeaux, who was once considered to be in the running for the first overall pick, now finds himself dropping down theoretical boards due to concerns about his injuries, final year of production and "lack of love for the game" among others. 

Aside from the noise, teams know Thibodeaux can play at a high level, as he has the opportunity to emerge as the best player from this draft if he makes good on his talent. 

The Eagles don't want to leave this draft without making a splash, and if the price is right to move up and get a potential game-changer, there will be no hesitation to wheel-and-deal. 

7. New York Giants: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Had this draft been a few years ago, Stingley may have been the first overall pick. 

Stingley's play during his freshman season at LSU turned heads across the country, giving hope that he would continue to build himself into a soon-to-be perennial All-Pro at the next level. 

Stingley didn't disappoint, but rather displayed flashes of his brilliance rather than continually prove it throughout his final games with the Tigers. 

However, his traits, athleticism and overall upside leaves corner-needy teams salivating at the mouth to get him. 

The Giants, opting for a top offensive tackle with their first pick, take a roll of the dice on Stingley's coverage abilities to return to pristine form as a pro. He could easily be New York's first pick if they prioritize the secondary immediately. 

They like their chances, and ultimately stay put despite heavy consideration of moving back from pick No. 7. 

8. Atlanta Falcons: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

Right about here is where many expect a receiver to come off the board, and with the absence of Calvin Ridley next season (and perhaps beyond), that is very much in play for the Falcons. 

Could a quarterback be in the fold? With Matt Ryan gone and Marcus Mariota surely not a long-term answer, the door shouldn't be shut on the position either. 

However, Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot made an interesting comment when evaluating floors and ceilings of players.

“We want to bring in players who have a high floor because we’re focusing on the makeup and bringing in the right human beings,” Fontenot said

“Usually if you have players who have the right makeup, who are wired the right way, they are going to work and they’re going to get the coaching here, so they are going to have that high floor. When we focus on makeup, we usually get players who will have high floors.”

By those comments, that should all but eliminate consideration for Malik Willis here, and it's far too early for Kenny Pickett or Matt Corral at this point. 

BPA (best player available) is normally a strategy that can be applied in most situations, and the Falcons are looking to upgrade a large amount of spots throughout the roster. 

Johnson would fill a need as an edge player with the Falcons also not needing to reach. 

9. Seattle Seahawks: Charles Cross, T, Mississippi State 

The Seahawks tried their darndest to trade back in typical Seattle fashion, but with how the board fell, finding an obvious trade partner was a bit difficult. 

Willis here was tempting. Very tempting. However, the Seahawks have other plans at quarterback, which we'll see unfold later in this mock draft. 

Seattle stays put and takes who many consider to be the draft's best pass-protector in Cross. 

The Seahawks reportedly also like Trevor Penning, as a scenario where the team moves back and takes him could be considered ideal. 

Yet in this mock, the Seahawks are able to piece together valuable protection at left tackle, as Cross would be able to start right away and hopefully become a franchise anchor for whoever will be throwing the ball in Seattle for years to come. 

Stingley would be the ideal pick if he's still available. 

10. New York Jets: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

With their first pick, the Jets opted to protect Wilson. 

Now, they get the top-graded receiver in the draft in Wilson to pair with him for the foreseeable future (if this pick isn't traded for Deebo Samuel).

Regardless, a receiver goes here, and a very versatile one in the Ohio State product. Wilson is superb with the ball in his hands after the catch and could slide into New York as the starting slot receiver to immediately provide his quarterback a safety net. 

There's concerns about his ability to beat press coverage, but with his pro-comparison akin to Diontae Johnson, the Jets would gamble on that upside in a heartbeat with Elijah Moore also in the mix.

There's smoke on the Jets potentially taking Wilson at four, but with a wealth of receivers still available to them at this pick, New York is more than happy to get two immediate contributors in the top ten. 

11. Washington Commanders: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

Kyle Hamilton or Drake London here would also be superb picks. 

But if you're going to trade for Carson Wentz, you need to add a dynamic playmaker to your receiving corps opposite Terry McLaurin. 

Enter Williams. 

Without the ACL injury, Williams is likely the first receiver off the board thanks to his game-altering speed that makes him a true deep threat that can expand the field.

However, injury concerns push Williams outside of the top 10 in a loaded class that could realistically see him as the third or fourth option depending on how teams value him.

The Commanders have a surprisingly strong amount of talented players throughout the roster, and are just a few pieces away from being serious contenders in the NFC East. 

While Williams isn't the biggest piece to the puzzle, he sure fits nicely for any team wanting to open up the playbook and utilize the one thing you can't coach: speed. 

12. Minnesota Vikings: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

Talent fits need here, and I would be somewhat surprised if the Vikings weren't players in trying to trade up for Gardner or Stingley. 

However, the Vikings here are able to snag the talents of McDuffie, a popular pick in mock drafts for Minnesota. 

There's good reason, as McDuffie started multiple years in a strong Washington secondary that continually produces quality talent in the secondary. 

The Vikings need corner help badly. McDuffie is a quality pick that provides instant help in run and pass support while remaining physical yet disciplined. 

13. Houston Texans: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

You know those picks that just feel natural? This is one of them.

Kyle Hamilton projects as one of the best players in this draft, yet positional value diminishes his draft stock and the Texans are able to take advantage of it. 

Described as a "unicorn" by The Draft Network, Hamilton possesses the ability to do everything asked and more. He may even fill the water coolers without being asked. 

His versatility to become a ballhawk safety in pass coverage or a hammering presence when stopping ball-carriers while virtually playing anywhere on the field provides an immediate luxury to any team that takes him. 

The Texans, who opted to take Gardner earlier in this mock draft, shore up their secondary with a "no fly zone" mentality that could shape their defensive mindset for years to come. 

14. Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Davis, NT, Georgia

Davis' nickname is "Godzilla", and for good reason. 

He is essentially a freak of nature for a man of his size and position. He won viewers over at the NFL Scouting Combine with his impressive 40-yard dash, yet he was an athletic specimen before he ever stepped foot in Indianapolis.

The Ravens could look for corner or edge help here, yet a combination of top talent not sliding and Davis landing in their lap makes this pick a slam-dunk on all fronts. 

ESPN's Jamison Hensley agrees, and offered more insight into how Davis could anchor the team's interior moving forward. 

15. Carolina Panthers (with previous mocked trade from Eagles): Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt

The great mystery of where the first quarterback will be taken is finally solved. 

Look, Willis could very well be the first quarterback off the board, and the Panthers just might take him at No. 6. 

The job status of head coach Matt Rhule beyond 2022 is cloudy, and simply put, Rhule needs the Panthers to start winning sooner rather than later. 

Carolina's first option certainly may not be to roll with Sam Darnold for another season. Trade options for Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo are still possible, but also carry an unknown amount of reality with them.

The Panthers won't be trading for a quarterback before the first round, but the desire to grab a quarterback at some point early on exists. 

The consensus is Pickett is the guy best prepared to walk onto an NFL field immediately and have the best chance at winning games. He's also too early of a pick from where the Panthers were currently sitting due to a cited lack of upside when compared to Willis and others (also, the hands thing, which is a different argument in itself).

Trading back is a win-win move for Carolina. The Panthers move back and gain pivotal draft capital to replenish the roster while putting themselves in a position to reasonably select Pickett. 

If Pickett is gone, the Panthers are still in position to either trade down (again) or take a player that possibly fell through the cracks. 

Time is not on the side of Rhule or anybody attached with his name. The Panthers need to show concrete improvement for the current regime to remain intact, and Pickett is the best short-term fix to save jobs in Carolina.

16. New Orleans Saints: Trevor Penning, T, Northern Iowa

With two picks, the Saints could easily trade up and make a splash for nearly any player of their choosing. 

However, New Orleans feels as if they still have a competitive roster, staying put and taking whatever emerges from the top half of the first round. 

With Terron Armstead out of the picture, the Saints would love nothing more than to grab a potential tackle of the future, and many believe Trevor Penning could be their guy. 

Penning is a prototypical "nasty" blocker, which could bode well for running back Alvin Kamara and his obvious desire to run through clean rushing lanes. While his pass blocking isn't terrible, his 6-foot-7 frame can sometimes hurt more than help. 

Regardless, there's a lot for the Saints to like in Penning, who may have gone to the Chargers with the next selection. 

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Drake London, WR, USC

To be very honest, it's hard to believe London falls this far. 

Yet such is life in the world of mock drafts, and while London was nothing short of a productive machine at USC, his fractured ankle from last season has been a major talking point throughout the draft process. 

London, when healthy, is arguably one of the best receivers, and the Chargers would be ecstatic for him to fall this far. 

The AFC West continues to rapidly change, as each team has done their best to add weapons in what will be a fun arms race to watch unfold in the coming season.

Here, the Chargers grab just another toy for the young and talented Justin Herbert to sling bombs to, joining the likes of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. London won't create massive separation, but has shown the ability to come down with nearly any pass thrown his way while vertically stretching the field.

There's no such thing as too much firepower on offense, and Los Angeles would love nothing more than to put up video-game numbers with the help of London on the field. 

18. Philadelphia Eagles: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

After moving up and snagging Thibodeaux, the Eagles now can focus on grabbing one of the several talented receivers in this draft class to help quarterback Jalen Hurts.

For the third year in a row, the Eagles add to their receiving corps early. And boy, does this pick feel good for Philadelphia. 

Olave is the fourth receiver off the board, but is universally coveted as a fan-favorite, perhaps for his value and where teams could draft him. 

The Eagles need playmakers, and Olave's crisp ability to run routes is an exciting prospect to combine with the talents of DeVonta Smith in the receiving corps. 

19. New Orleans Saints: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Three receivers in a row? We've officially reached the OK, now we know this won't happen part of the program. 

Yet the Saints remain insistent they can compete here and now, and what better way to improve your odds of doing just that by adding the versatile talents of Burks.

Burks has been lightly compared to Deebo Samuel after lining up across the board (and effectively performing in each position) at Arkansas, yet his best ability is snagging 50-50 balls from nearly every defender that guards him. 

Playing opposite Michael Thomas, Burks would have the ability to make an impact in New Orleans right away. With Kamara and Burks, the creative abilities are endless on offense. 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty 

For years, Ben Roethlisberger marched the Steelers out of Heinz Field to yield successful after successful season. 

Now, the future Hall of Fame passer is retired, and the Steelers are in search of their next franchise quarterback. 

Pittsburgh may very well wait for a quarterback after next season, assuming Mitchell Trubisky is merely a short-term rental. 

However, without trading up, the Steelers are able to land a player they've gushed over throughout the entire offseason leading up to the draft. His ceiling is considered to be the highest of any passer in the draft, although he will take time to develop. 

Willis would get the luxury of not having to start right away, rather letting Trubisky take the bumps and bruises of 2022 before potentially sliding into the starting position afterward. 

21. New England Patriots: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Like most picks made by the Patriots, this just makes too much sense. 

Lloyd is an extremely versatile linebacker that would make an immediate impact in New England. Lloyd roamed across the field for Utah last season and proved he could handle essentially any duty asked of him.

Big plus versatile plus high football IQ plus character equals the prototypical Patriots pick, as if he was manufactured to play under head coach Bill Belichick. 

Trade alert! The Seattle Seahawks have traded with the Green Bay Packers to get back into the first round, and are on the clock.

22. Seattle Seahawks: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati 

For the Seahawks, this was the plan all along. 

Willis would have been an interesting pick at No. 9, but Seattle is more interested in either taking a quarterback on Day 2 or moving back into the first round. 

Here, they find the sweet spot to cut off any chance for teams picking earlier in the second round and make the move for Ridder. 

Ridder isn't a flashy prospect, but the high character, intelligence and athleticism are enough to make him a formidable project moving forward. 

This move doesn't help the Seahawks immediately, which could be frowned upon by fans who will watch Geno Smith and Drew Lock battle for the starting job this season. 

However, the prospects of what Ridder could eventually become is exciting enough to look into 2023 and beyond. 

23. Arizona Cardinals: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

After losing Chandler Jones, the Cardinals will need to once again solidify their ability to get to the quarterback. 

Here, they land Purdue's George Karlaftis, an edge rusher that bullied offensive linemen throughout his college career and would bode well playing alongside the talents of J.J. Watt.

The Cardinals also look to improve on their run defense, a department where Karlaftis again can be of service.

Receiver Jahan Dotson is another strong possibility here, and as much as Arizona would love to surround quarterback Kyler Murray with talent, the defensive side of the ball is just as important in their quest to win a Super Bowl. 

Karlaftis' high motor should help Arizona's defensive front, and the prospect of him learning up close and personal with Watt should be exciting. 

24. Dallas Cowboys: Zion Johnson, G, Boston College

Everything is in place for Dallas to make a strong run in the NFC playoffs, yet pieces of the offensive line has yet to be addressed in free agency. 

The Cowboys could easily go receiver or safety here and nobody would blame them. 

Yet, Dallas' bread and butter has been the ability to move defensive fronts, and while Zion Johnson isn't a sexy pick that will sell jerseys, he is ultimately a piece that will help quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliot in what they do best: moving the football. 

If needed, Johnson's versatility at guard or tackle can be used, although he is best suited inside. 

25. Buffalo Bills: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Buffalo looks for a lengthy corner to replace Levi Wallace at the end of the round, and finds a gem in Elam. 

His athleticism is appealing, yet will his tackling woes hold him back? 

If the Bills are able to develop that part of his game, there's a lot to like about him as a coverage man. 

There aren't many glaring holes for Buffalo to fill, as the Bills are able to take Elam and plug him into their CB2 spot right away. 

26. Tennessee Titans: Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M

It's never a bad option to get more help for running back Derrick Henry, right? 

The Titans need receiving help, yet with much of the top talent gone, Green could slot in as an immediate starter thanks to his ability to play every position but center. 

Paving a path for Henry remains an important key to success for the Titans, and Green's presence ensures the train keeps on rolling at a high level in Tennessee. 

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

There's still some very valuable players left on the board, but Tampa Bay snags the versatile Cine and bolsters their secondary. 

Cine specializes in run support and brings runners down with authority, fitting best as a strong safety that plays near the box and fills lanes at a high level thanks to his high football IQ. 

28. Green Bay Packers: Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia

After trading down with Seattle for more draft capital, the Packers are able to take whichever player they have highest on their board. 

That could very well be Wyatt, who provides an extremely athletic presence in Green Bay's defensive interior next to Kenny Clark. The Packers would be smart to fully take advantage of his ability to play anywhere on the defensive line. 

29. Kansas City Chiefs: Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota

Everybody and their mother has mocked a receiver within these next two picks for Kansas City, and I get the appeal.

However, with most of the top talent gone, Kansas City may be willing to wait a bit later to add a pass catcher after signing Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the offseason. 

There is much to develop when it comes to Mafe, but the raw tools are there for him to one day grow into a dangerous presence along the Chiefs' defensive front. 

30. Kansas City Chiefs: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan

n the second of their back-to-back picks, the Chiefs continue to stack talent on defense by adding Hill. He was a productive chess piece at Michigan that could one day help replace the overall responsibilities Tyrann Mathieu is leaving behind. 

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

Corner feels like a real possibility here, and it was tough not to give the Bengals the athletic profile of Andrew Booth Jr. to add to the secondary. 

However, the Bengals will covet the versatility of Kyler Gordon very much on the back end. He didn't test well at the Combine, but Gordon displayed insane athleticism and might just be one of the more underrated prospects in the first round. 

32. Detroit Lions: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

The Lions are a sneaky pick to have a quarterback land here, yet with Dean still available, Detroit pulls the trigger on a linebacker that thrives on getting after the quarterback and can handle coverage duties when asked.