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2022 NFL Mock Draft: Defensive Prospect Rise Up Draft Boards

The latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft has defenders rising up the boards with offensive linemen. See who your favorite NFL team drafts.
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The Latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft

The latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft has defenders rising up the boards with offensive linemen. See who your favorite NFL team drafts.

The latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft has defenders rising up the boards with offensive linemen. See who your favorite NFL team drafts.

With the latest All-Star game roster invites now on the site, we get to start diving deep into how teams feel about specific prospects. Knowing the invites, we can start accurately predicting where these college football prospects will go in the NFL Draft. View the latest 32 picks of the upcoming NFL Draft in our 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

1. Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

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The Lions are impressively entertaining with discovering new and unique ways to avoid winning football games each week. While Jared Goff's depressing play has quarterback as the Lions' major need, there isn't one worth taking over the blue-chip prospect in Thibodeaux. Oregon's star edge defender leads the nation in pressure rate with 21% and has eclipsed his sack total from 2020. For a Lions defense that ranks 29th in DVOA and 29th in sacks per game, they could desperately use Thibodeaux's talents and should be ecstatic with this selection of the 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

2. Houston Texans: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan

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The Texans can go in about five different directions with this pick, and they'd all add immense talent but Hutchinson's lure as an alpha pass rusher to pair with the emerging Jonathan Greenard is too fun to pass up. With the Texans at ground zero in the rebuild, bolstering the trenches on both sides of the ball should be priority #1, and Hutchinson makes a tremendous impact versus the run and pass. Over ten weeks, Hutchinson is up to nine sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, showcasing his advanced hand usage, immense competitiveness at the point of attack and pro-ready play strength.

3. New York Jets: Kyle Hamilton, DS, Notre Dame

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The Jets have the worst defense in the NFL by DVOA, points per game and multiple other statistical figures - luckily for them, this draft class provides elite defensive talent at the top. Hamilton might be the freakiest player this year, possessing the elite range of a single high safety, the build, physicality and tackling of a modern linebacker, plus the football instincts that allow him to succeed wherever he's lined up on the field. With safety Marcus Maye a free agent after this season, he's, unfortunately, missing the rest due to an Achilles injury - which typically zaps future athleticism - the Jets would be wise to bring in a new top dog in the secondary in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

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The Jaguars' defense also needs much help, and while Stingley Jr.'s stock has fallen over the past two years, he makes too much sense for Jacksonville. In a division with big, physical wide receivers like the established AJ Brown, the breakout sophomore Michael Pittman and even rookie Nico Collins, the Jaguars could use a tall, physical and athletic corner to match up with the foreseeable future. Stingleu's athleticism, size and ball skills didn't just disappear over the past two seasons, and he'd pair quite well with Shaquil Griffin in the secondary.

5. Philadelphia Eagles: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue

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The Eagles are currently the team with the most to gain from the first round of the 2022 draft, and they start it off with an edge defender who might be the best at his position in most draft classes. Karlaftis' best plays are right up there with Kayvon Thibodeaux's, and the Purdue stud has so much room to grow. When his pass rush moves are timed well, there is no way for offenses to stop him - see the Iowa game to get an idea of just how difficult Karlaftis makes it for offenses to move the ball.

6. Philadelphia Eagles: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

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Back at it again, the Eagles take another extremely physical and athletic prospect for the trenches. This time for the offensive side of the ball, Neal's positional versatility gives the Eagles plenty of options for how they want to construct their best five men up front. Neal gives head coach Nick Sirianni a similarly talented mauler as Quenton Nelson, whom Sirianni understands how impactful that player can be due to his time with the Colts.

7. New York Giants: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

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The Giants should see how pouring resources into the defensive line leads to promising results and follows the offensive line's same plan. Cross' elite mirroring skills and stellar use of hands should lock down Danny Dimes' blindside while allowing Andrew Thomas to move to the right side - where he may be more comfortable - which finally ends the Nate Solder era. Sounds like a win-win-win.

8. New York Giants: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

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With another chance at-bat, the Giants get great value here in Booth Jr., who has a legitimate case for the best cornerback in this class. He's got great size, functional length, fluid hips and triggers downhill explosively, plus is incredibly intelligent in processing offensive concepts. Booth Jr can excel in a variety of man or zone coverages while being a physical and dependable defender versus the run as well.

9. Washington Football Team: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

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While Washington could very well look to bolster their extremely disappointing defense, they decide to take the top quarterback now and hopefully stop worrying about the position for over a decade. Corral exudes competitive toughness as a runner, thrower and leader - he's the type of guy who commands a locker room and operates the scheme to near perfection. Corral's growth in his decision-making from the 2020 to 2021 season speaks volumes to his work ethic, and he'll surely create a dynamic bond with star receiver Terry McLaurin.

10. Miami Dolphins TRADE to Houston Texans: Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M

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The first trade of this mock draft is the often predicted Deshaun Watson to the Dolphins fiasco that thankfully has gone quiet since the trade deadline has passed. Nonetheless, the desire for these two parties to join forces has not disappeared and will likely be revisited come draft time. The Texans benefit from the 49ers having a down year and must ensure that this pick is included in the deal. After selecting Aidan Hutchinson with their 1st first-rounder, the Texans add another animal in the trenches with Green. He's played all over the Aggies line but has looked like a future All-Pro lineman when at left guard. This is a perfect fit for the Texans who tried the Tytus Howard guard experiment but should now feel comfortable moving Howard back to right tackle, with Green sliding in beside Laremy Tunsil. Green will help improve the league's worst run-blocking unit due to his elite play strength to pave wide lanes on the ground.

11. New York Jets: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

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The Jets double down on secondary studs as they pair "Sauce" Gardner with Kyle Hamilton. These two are freaky athletes with plenty of size and length to get their hands into passing lanes and break up passes. Gardner has been blanketing receivers all year (and previous years) as he possesses stellar re-routing ability at the line of scrimmage and great movement skills to stay attached to the receiver's hip when in trail position. With Gardner and Bryce Hall as the cornerbacks of the future, Robert Saleh can play a more aggressive style of defense than he ever has before. This 2022 NFL Mock Draft gets them exactly what they need.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Ikem Ekwonu, IOL, NC State

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The Vikings may be in for a big overhaul with Mike Zimmer on the hot seat, and one addition that can help them no matter who's coaching this team is a bodyguard like Ekwonu. While he plays left tackle for the Wolfpack, his best projection to the NFL is at guard, where he can maximize his raw power and mauling mentality in the run game while limiting his necessary range in pass protection. He fits the zone-heavy approach that Dalvin Cook, Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neil excel in, as Ekwonu has surprisingly effective movement skills when making reach blocks and punishing defenders in space.

13. Atlanta Falcons: Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia

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This year, Davis can anchor the Falcons defense just like he does for Georgia, the first of many Bulldog defenders to hear their name. A true nose tackle with his elite size and build should not be as explosive and agile as Davis, yet he finds a way to be the most impressive player on the field in nearly every game he plays. Pairing his dominance versus the run with the spectacular Grady Jarrett would create one of the best defensive tackle duos in the NFL. Atlanta's 27th ranked run defense DVOA would get a much-needed boost thanks to Davis making plays himself and also making his teammates' lives infinitely easier by commanding double teams.

14. Philadelphia Eagles: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

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The Eagles are back at it again for the third time in the first round, making every other GM jealous as they take the best linebacker in the draft. Dean is a tone-setter that every defense needs, playing bigger than his size would indicate - he is a relentless run defender who never backs down from a block. Most impressively, though, is Dean's ability to impact passing plays in multiple aspects. He is an elite blitzer who combines timing, bend and energy to rack up 4.5 sacks in ten games. Additionally, Dean can spot-drop in zone coverage and read the quarterback's intentions, regularly being in the right place to stop route combinations. Finally, Dean has shown he can line up out wide with a running back, locking them down in man coverage and forcing turnovers where offenses typically feel like they have a mismatch. This 2022 NFL Mock Draft adds a tremendous need for the Eagles.

15. Cleveland Browns: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

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Wide receiver needy team, meet the best option in the class. With the Odell Beckham Jr. era over, it's time to find a receiver that Baker Mayfield will connect with better. Wilson's ability to succeed in the slot, out wide, versus press coverage, off coverage, man or zone, should give Mayfield and Kevin Stefanski zero excuses not to make him a big part of the game plan. Wilson's speed and after-the-catch prowess will add a much-needed dynamic element to the Browns' passing game.

16. Denver Broncos: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

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Stuck in the middle ground after clearly being on the hot seat, it shouldn't surprise anyone if Vic Fangio gets canned after this season. Continuing with this hypothetical, the next Broncos' head coach - Kellen Moore or Brian Daboll, possibly - may love to work with the uber-enticing Willis. He has all the physical tools to be a Pro Bowl quarterback but needs some time to develop his decision-making and full-field reads. Willis sitting behind Teddy Bridgewater for however long he needs would be a great starting point, and eventually, Willis can show the organization and their fans that he is the exact opposite type of quarterback from Bridgewater. Willis can bring a dynamic running element and remarkable willingness to attack down the field, which will be a refreshing taste for everyone involved.

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa

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The Bengals ridicule for taking Ja'Marr Chase over Penei Sewell has calmed down since Chase has exceeded expectations and is on pace to set rookie receiver records. However, the offensive line is still an issue for the Bengals, and they get immense value here, with Linderbaum somehow still available in the late teens. The best center in the draft, Linderbaum, is a freak athlete who mauls defenders in the run game and is as dependable as they get in pass protection. He will be a welcomed fit for Zac Taylor's zone-heavy run game and can help him expand upon that scheme due to Linderbaum's prowess as a puller as well.

18. Kansas City Chiefs: Daxton Hill, DS, Michigan

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The Chiefs are one of the most underwhelming teams in the NFL, and it seems easier to improve their defense than offense, regarding personnel, at least. Hill is a feisty defensive back who loves to engage versus the run, has the instincts to cover short+intermediate zones and the ball skills to create turnovers. Hill's versatility as a nickel/safety defender would help eviscerate Daniel Sorenson's snaps and provide a piece similar to Tyrann Mathieu. Giving defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo another jack-of-all-trades defender would provide great value in adding to the exotic structure that Spags wants to execute.

19. Carolina Panthers: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

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Whoever is playing quarterback for the Panthers in the future will need a better offensive line than what is currently constructed. Penning is one of the biggest risers in this draft cycle, and deservedly so. The left tackle prospect is incredibly physical, consistently looking to put defenders in the dirt in the run and pass game. He plays with very good balance and has intense moments of re-fitting his hands to lock out defenders. The Panthers should continue to bolster the offensive line, but Penning is as good a start as it gets.

20. Los Angeles Chargers: David Ojabo, DE, Michigan

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Another major riser in the 2022 class, Ojabo, is intriguing because of how his story matches his film evaluation. Ojabo only started playing football in 2019, which gives credence as to why his hand technique is the most important area of his game to improve. He's seemingly gotten better in that aspect as every week progresses, showing dynamic development, and with his freakish get-off and bend already providing a solid foundation to work with, Ojabo's ceiling is truly scary. Brandon Staley will love to utilize Ojabo as he did with Leonard Floyd in Los Angeles, but Ojabo can occasionally drop in coverage and hold his own in the flat. Staley needs more pieces on defense for his fruition to come to life, and Ojabo is the perfect man for the job.

21. New Orleans Saints: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

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The Saints are an interesting team to figure out, but neither Jameis Winston nor Taysom Hill should be seen as the future franchise quarterback. Pitt's super-senior Pickett provides a high floor due to his nearly 50 games of starting experience and a decently high ceiling due to his arm talent, which can make all the NFL throws and mobility, allowing Pickett to defeat pressure and make defenses pay while out of structure. In the right scenario, Pickett can immediately impact a la Mac Jones, and the Saints are a perfect destination as they can provide him with the offensive line, weapons and play calling to help Pickett shine.

22. New England Patriots: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

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Despite investing heavily in the wide receiver position group last offseason, the Patriots could benefit greatly from a big-time difference-maker, like Burks. At 6'3", 225 pounds, Burks should not be as fast, elusive and explosive as he is, let alone possess the precise body control and vice-grip hands which entail an elite ceiling. Burks' success will be heavily tied to his destination's play-caller as he is not a refined route runner, so it'll be up to Josh McDaniels to tailor his scheme to Burks' strengths - plenty of motion to gain free releases and screens to feed Burks in the flat, please. Burks can grow with Jones and become a dynamic duo for over a decade, working into the WR1 role and the focal point of the Patriots offense.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kingsley Enagbare, DE, South Carolina

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It's clear that Ben Roethlisberger is no longer a viable option under center for the Steelers, but there isn't a quarterback in this range who would be an immediate tangible upgrade. Instead, the Steelers go with a talented prospect who isn't near his ceiling - adding Enagbare to fill their Bud Dupree-sized hole on the edge. Enagbare's raw athleticism is constantly on display, leading to the second-highest pressure rate in CFB, behind Kayvon Thibodeaux. Enagbare must improve the timing and variety of his pass rush moves, something practicing with TJ Watt every day will certainly help.

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

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Most mock drafts won't have Leal this low, but his traits don't seem easily translatable to NFL success. Thus there is an immense risk with drafting him. Leal lacks the get-off and bend to be a consistent pass rush threat on the edge and struggles to consistently hold the point of attack versus the run from the interior. Leal will disappear for long stretches of games - often when he is late off the ball - and needs to be set up for sacks rather than easily create them himself. With all that being said, if there is a defensive coordinator who can get the most out of Leal, it's Todd Bowles. Leal may fit best as a 3-4 defensive end, taking over for Ndamakong Suh or William Gholston and developing as an interior pass rusher who has admittedly shown extremely bright flashes throughout his career.

25. Las Vegas Raiders: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

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The Raiders have been one of the NFL's best surprises this season and can continue Derek Carr's wonderful resurgence by gifting him a potential top wide receiver in Olave. Possessing the speed to dominate on deep crossing routes and the route nuance to get open in the short and intermediate areas of the field, Olave has no business lasting this late in the first round. With the Henry Ruggs III fiasco over, Olave can step into the offense as a focal point and his ability to separate with ease compliments Bryan Edwards' and Darren Waller's skill set nicely.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky

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Everything the Ravens do on offense revolves around the ground game. Thus bolstering the trenches should be a priority this offseason. Kinnard needs to clean up his pad level, hand placement and lunging, but his physical tools and tenacity are too good to pass up. Kinnard's aggressive mentality as a blocker fits the Ravens' culture to a tee, and he would provide Lamar Jackson with more time to excel as a passer too.

27. Detroit Lions: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

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The Lions add the two most important positions on defense with Kayvon Thibodeaux and now Elam, manning the defensive end and cornerback roles for hopefully a defensive turnaround in Motown. Elam's size, physicality and never-say-die mentality will be highly-welcomed by Dan Campbell and Aaron Glenn. The youngster may have some rough patches transitioning to the NFL, but as he works on keeping his stance low and matching route patterns, Elam can become a top cornerback for a team.

28. Dallas Cowboys: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

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The Cowboys have a weak link on defense, and everyone knows about it. The second cornerback spot, manned by Anthony Brown, has been targeted early and often. Even Trevon Diggs will benefit from the addition of McDuffie as he offers a different skill set and body type for Dan Quinn to throw at offenses. McDuffie is an extremely fluid mover who triggers downhill with ease and has great instincts in zone coverage. He rarely gets beat deep and is a strong tackler, too, giving Dallas a promising young cornerback duo to build around.

29. Buffalo Bills: Lecitus Smith, IOL, Virginia Tech

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The Bills continue to be one of the most complete teams in the NFL, but if there is one area to improve, it's certainly the interior of their offensive line. Jon Feliciano's days should be numbered, and Smith would bring the nasty that exemplifies Buffalo football. Smith is a true tone-setter in the trenches and loves to take defenders for a long ride out of the play. He is impressively quick for his size, and once he improves the consistency of his hand usage, he can become a plus starter in all blocking phases.

30. Arizona Cardinals: Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia

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The Cardinals could benefit from an athletic, long cornerback to pair with Byron Murphy and Kendrick is a great option with five corners already off the board. After transferring from Clemson, Kendrick's talent has been on a much more consistent display for the Bulldogs. He's a feisty defensive back who has very advanced route mirroring ability and impressive reactionary quickness. Kendrick trusts his deep speed, rarely getting beat deep and when in press coverage, he seemingly always knows when the receiver is making their break, leading to sticky coverage.

31. Tennessee Titans: Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M

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Wydermyer to the Titans makes too much sense. After losing Jonnu Smith, they could use a dual-threat tight end who can make plays in the passing game while being a plus blocker - aiding Tennessee with run/pass anonymity when he is on the field. Wydermyer has improved his route salesmanship this season and is a clear focal point for the Aggies' offense. He will provide immense value blocking for Derrick Henry as Wydermyer's wide build, powerful upper body, and long arms help create displacement versus defensive linemen, linebackers and especially defensive backs.

32. Green Bay Packers: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

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Rounding out the first round is an electric playmaker who is the better of the talented Alabama wide receivers. Williams made himself a lot of money transferring to the Crimson Tide, and his elite athleticism is consistently on display. Williams is a dangerous Z or Y receiver who dominates off-coverage due to instant acceleration and explosive breaks, leading to unfair separation. He's best as a deep threat but shows enough route nuance to win his routes at all three levels. Furthermore, once the ball is in Williams' hands, good luck tackling him. The Packers could take some pressure off Davante Adams by adding the dynamic Williams and form a top-tier 1-2 punch at wide receiver.

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