The 2021 NFL draft is officially in the rear-view mirror. So what does that mean? Time to start on the 2022 NFL draft. Next year’s class will be very strong, with a lot of talent from top to bottom. Here is what things could look like, in a way-too-early 2022 mock draft.
1. Houston Texans: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
The Texans just need to add quality players. Thibodeaux has been fantastic for the Oregon Ducks and looks like an elite prospect. He doesn’t have the same size as Chase Young or Myles Garrett, but Thibodeaux is just as good as both of them as a prospect.
2. Detroit Lions: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
If Detroit is picking this high, it means quarterback Jared Goff was a product of Rams head coach Sean McVay’s system. Willis is the perfect quarterback for today’s NFL. He has a gun for an arm and is a phenomenal athlete. Willis can work outside of structure and is a playmaker. He has the ability to elevate his teammates and has been very impressive at Liberty.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
There is an argument to be made that Hamilton is the best safety prospect ever. He has every quality a defensive coordinator is looking for in the position. Hamilton’s football IQ is off the charts, he has unbelievable range and is a vocal leader on the field. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Hamilton get a Gold Jacket after his playing days are over.
4. New York Jets: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
The Jets went heavy on offense in the 2021 draft, so they will like to continue to bolster their defense next year. Leal is one of the strongest players in the nation. As a true sophomore, he threw 320-pound offensive lineman around like rag dolls. He also has versatility. Leal can play defensive end or defensive tackle and can step in on Day 1 and be an immediate contributor.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kenyon Green, iOL, Texas A&M
Few prospects can compare to Quenton Nelson as a prospect, but Green can. He has started in the SEC for two seasons and is a very consistent player. He is athletic enough to deal with speed, but Green also has a mean streak and can put players into the dirt. He’s the best offensive lineman returning to college football in 2021.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
There just isn’t enough upside to keep Jalen Hurts as the starter, if the Eagles are picking sixth next year. Howell is a very similar prospect to Baker Mayfield. He needs to cut down on his turnover-worthy passes, but when in rhythm, Howell is an extremely accurate quarterback.
7. New York Giants (via Bears): Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
The Giants have gone aggressive on offense as of late and have put together a very good group of weapons. Daniel Jones is a solid quarterback, but Strong would be a clear upgrade over him. He throws an unbelievable deep ball and has all the tools to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. With another year at Nevada, Strong could hear his name called even higher than this. He is a better prospect than Josh Allen, who came out of a Mountain West school a few years ago
8. Carolina Panthers: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
General manager Scott Fitterer has done a very good job in his first offseason at the helm. He has assembled a good team, but just needs a quarterback to lead the Panthers to the Super Bowl. Ridder's upside is tantalizing. He has a cannon for an arm and is an elite runner. Ridder is a true dual-threat. He’ll be an All-America candidate at Cincinnati next season.
9. Atlanta Falcons: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Based on his freshman tape, Stingley was worthy of being a top-five pick. As a sophomore, he took a step back. It was an odd year for LSU and Stingley should play more as he did as a true freshman. Atlanta doesn’t have a No. 1 cornerback and Stingley has the upside to be an elite one in the NFL.
10. Las Vegas Raiders: Tyreke Smith, DE, Ohio State
Ohio State produces first-round edge rushers. Smith is next up on defense. His tape down the stretch in 2020 was some of the best from a pass rusher in recent memory. He is very advanced for his age and can win in a lot of different ways. Evaluators should expect double-digit sacks for Smith next season.
11. Washington Football Team: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The first wideout comes off the board at 11. Washington addressed the position this offseason, but the value is too good with Olave. He is the best route-runner in college football and has great body control. Players like Derion Kendrick and Patrick Surtain II couldn’t compete with Olave. He was torching defenders on almost every rep this past season. Pairing him with Terry McLaurin will give Washington the best wide receiver duo in the NFL.
12. New York Giants: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman loves linebackers. Harris is a gifted athlete, who has all the traits to be a very successful player in the NFL. He tackles well, has sideline-to-sideline range and is very good in coverage. His tape is on par with the top linebackers from the 2021 draft.
13. Minnesota Vikings: Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
The Vikings have a hole at tight end after the departure of Kyle Rudolph. Wydermyer is 265 pounds and moves like a wide receiver. His hands are fantastic and he can box out defenders with his size. Wydermyer is a mismatch nightmare, as he is too big for safeties and too quick for linebackers.
14. Arizona Cardinals: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Arizona didn’t address cornerback at the top of the 2021 draft, so they will be looking to do so in 2022. Booth is a better prospect than A.J. Terell. He is sticky in coverage and is a playmaker. If teams throw his way, Booth will be a turnover machine next season.
15. Los Angeles Chargers: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The other Ohio State wide receiver comes off the board at 15. Wilson is good at everything. He can run routes, has great hands and very good body control. Wilson doesn’t have that "wow" trait, but he is very good at everything.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers: Avery Young, CB, Rutgers
The Steelers need a cornerback and Young’s tape is phenomenal. He is elite in coverage. Teams rarely throw his way, as he is always glued to wideouts. Young can also tackle and play in the slot. Defensive coordinators can have him travel with the best wide receiver every game. He’ll be a plug-and-play No. 1 cornerback.
17. Tennessee Titans: Evan Neal, T, Alabama
It is hard not to see Mekhi Becton when watching Neal. He isn’t the same athlete, but players at 360 pounds shouldn’t be able to move like Neal. Tennessee drafted Dillon Radunz, but if Neal is still available here, the Titans can kick Radunz inside. He projects as a starting right tackle at the next level.
18. New England Patriots: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
Head coach Bill Belichick added pass rushers in free agency, but Karlaftis is a true five-tool defensive end. He can do everything. Belichick will be able to deploy him in so many different ways and get the most out of his talent. Karlaftis will be very good value in the teens.
19. Miami Dolphins (via 49ers): Jordan Battle, S, Alabama
The Dolphins brought in Jevon Holland in the 2021 draft, but they need to find him a running mate. Battle has a very high football IQ and great instincts. He is great in zone coverage and will be a playmaker at the next level. Head coach Brian Flores would love him as the leader in the back end of their defense.
20. Dallas Cowboys: Verone McKinley III, S, Oregon
Dallas went heavy on defense in the 2021 draft and theb Cowboys continue that trend here. McKinley III can play all over the field as a versatile chess piece in coordinator Dan Quinn’s defense. He has the upside to be even better than Budda Baker is in Arizona. Dallas still needs help in its secondary and McKinley III would provide that.
21. New Orleans Saints: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
The slide stops here for Rattler. He is a very talented quarterback, but there are some character concerns. Rattler is a great athlete and has an even better arm. He makes a lot of eye-popping throws, but he still threw too many ill-advised passes last season. Head coach Lincoln Riley should help him cut down on those next year.
22. New York Jets (via Seahawks): Ali Gaye, DE, LSU
The theme of the 2021 first round was edge rushers with great traits. Gaye has those traits and even better production than some of the players who went in the top 32. Gaye took the SEC by storm in his first season and could take a leap to All-America status next season. The Jets need a high-end edge defender and Gaye is just that.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (via Dolphins): Adisa Isaac, DE, Penn State
The Eagles are getting older defensively. They’ll need to find a replacement for Brandon Graham and Isaac has the talent to be that. Isaac is a freak athlete like Odafe Oweh but he should put up big-time numbers as the top pass rusher for Penn State next season. He’ll be one of the biggest risers this season.
24. Indianapolis Colts: David Bell, WR, Purdue
The Colts keep Bell in Indiana by making him their first-round pick. Bell does everything well. He is an excellent route-runner and is a better prospect than Rondale Moore. Bell also has the talent to be an even better pro than college player. This would be a great pick for a Colts team that needs more weapons.
25. Denver Broncos: Nik Bonitto, LB, Oklahoma
The status of Von Miller is still up in the air. Bonitto could step right in and replace Miller if the Broncos trade or cut him. Bonitto is an unbelievable athlete, with fantastic bend. Out of all the edge rushers, he is the best of the bunch in coverage. Bonitto has the chance to be a high-level pass rusher, while also being an elite coverage linebacker.
26. Green Bay Packers: Jarrett Patterson, iOL, Notre Dame
The NFL loves Notre Dame offensive linemen. Three of them went in the top 100 this year and Patterson is a better prospect than all of them. Even with drafting Josh Myers, the Packers still need help on their interior. Patterson will be able to play guard or center and is a Day-1 starter.
27. Cleveland Browns: Drake Jackson, DE, USC
Cleveland has done a great job of drafting under general manager Andrew Berry. The talent on their roster allows them to take the best player available. Jackson isn’t utilized correctly at USC, but it is easy to see how good he can be. He is very powerful and has the athleticism to be elite in the NFL.
28. Buffalo Bills: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Buffalo did not address the cornerback position, instead going with two pass rushers early. They still have a weakness at cornerback outside of Tre'Davious White. Elam has been a starter since arriving in Gainesville and he has been very good. This pick would give Buffalo one of the best cornerback duos, to go along with a great offense.
29. Detroit Lions (via Rams): Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
The Lions passed up on a wide receiver early to invest in the trenches. Burks is a mix between a tight end and wide receiver. He is a smooth mover and has the biggest and best hands in the nation. Burks can also return kicks and punts.
30. Baltimore Ravens: Isaiah Foskey, DE, Notre Dame
After a really good redshirt freshman season, Foskey should be one of the best players in the nation as a full-time starter next season. He has great size for the NFL and natural bend. Foskey is everything teams look for in a pass rusher. He’ll be moving up draft boards next season.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
If Tampa Bay makes it to the Super Bowl again, quarterback Tom Brady will probably keep playing. At his age, they’ll need to add a bell-cow back. Spiller has been very good at Texas A&M. He can break tackles and has very good vision. He’d have been a potential first-round pick in 2020.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Lecitus Smith, G, Virginia Tech
After losing the Super Bowl to the Buccaneers, the Chiefs will make sure they never have a problem on the offensive line again. Smith is a fantastic guard prospect. He plays like a mauler, but is a superior athlete. He is great against speed from the interior and gets to the second level with ease. He’ll provide gaping holes for Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the run game.