While the 2022 NFL Draft is almost a full year away, several top prospects have already established themselves at the college level. It is important to note that mock drafts before the NFL and college seasons are rarely predictive; rather, they primarily aim to both identify unknown or underappreciated athletes and reintroduce fans to familiar names.
1. Houston Texans: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Texans are reportedly coming to the end of the Deshaun Watson era. To replace the star passer, Houston selects arguably the 2022 NFL Draft class’s top signal-caller. Malik Willis has the ideal traits to thrive as a dual-threat quarterback in the NFL. His high-level running ability, strong arm and consistent ball placement should translate to the league immediately.
2. Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
While the Lions choosing second would indicate their first year with quarterback Jared Goff was an unsuccessful one, the team may stick with its recent trade acquisition and continue building its defense in 2022. Detroit bolstered its interior defensive line in the 2021 NFL Draft. In this scenario, they add an elite defensive end prospect to rush the passer opposite Trey Flowers. Thibodeaux has been a projected first-round selection since his freshman season. He is the most likely non-quarterback to be taken with the first-overall pick in 2022.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Bengals were widely expected to select an offensive tackle in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Instead, the team opted to bring in a pass-catcher. Still, Cincinnati must protect Joe Burrow, their 2020 first-overall pick whose rookie season ended prematurely with a knee injury. Evan Neal’s excellent athletic traits and massive frame give him special potential.
4. New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
After focusing on the offensive side of the ball in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets spend their top-five pick on a lockdown cornerback prospect. Derek Stingley Jr. has been projected as an NFL star since his freshman season with the Tigers. New York desperately needs an influx of talent at cornerback. The LSU standout is arguably the best player available in this scenario.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kyle Hamilton, SAF, Notre Dame
The Jaguars lacked proven starter talent at either safety spot entering the 2021 NFL Draft. After selecting the recently injured but talented Andre Cisco in the third round, Jacksonville doubles down with an elite strong safety prospect. Hamilton may compete for the title of top prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft class. His talent overrides any concerns surrounding positional value with this pick.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Sam Howell, QB, UNC
Securing a top-ten selection next year would indicate that Jalen Hurts is not the answer. In this scenario, Philadelphia replaces its dual-threat passer with a contender for the first-overall pick come April. Howell followed his breakout freshman season with an impressive sophomore year and should hear his name called in round one when he declares.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
The Raiders have invested heavily in their offense in recent drafts. To pick in the top ten in 2022 may lead the Las Vegas front office to invest in a new franchise passer. Rattler flashed brilliance in his first season as the Sooners’ starter. While his 2020 campaign was painfully inconsistent, he possesses the talent to be a high first-round selection.
8. New York Giants: Kedon Slovis, QB, USC
The Giants have surrounded their 2019 sixth-overall pick, Daniel Jones, with excellent offensive weapons. A top-ten selection in 2022 would likely be the last straw for the talented but frustrating passer. After an incredible freshman season that saw him take the field to replace an injured starter, Slovis took a step back in 2020. Still, he is a talented prospect who may return to the early first-round conversation with a strong 2021 campaign.
9. Atlanta Falcons: Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
The Falcons have long been approaching the end of Matt Ryan’s tenure as the team’s starting quarterback. In this scenario, Atlanta brings in a young franchise signal-caller to capitalize on the organization’s immense pass-catching talent. Strong flexes the skill-set to hear his name called early in the 2022 NFL Draft.
10. Carolina Panthers: Avery Young, CB, Rutgers
The Panthers used the 2021 eighth-overall pick to add the draft’s top defensive player and cornerback, Jaycee Horn. With the tenth pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, Carolina continues turning its weakness into a strength by selecting an unknown cornerback with elite potential. While he should succeed in any scheme, Young has the tools and ability to thrive as a press-man corner in the NFL. He is NFL-ready and should start immediately for most teams.
11. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears): Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
The Giants have surrounded Daniel Jones with high-level talent at each skill position. The team is also tentatively set at each tackle spot after respectable performances from rookies Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart. In this scenario, New York enhances its interior offensive line. Kenyon Green is a round-one player who can be an immediate impact player in the NFL.
12. Arizona Cardinals: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
The Cardinals lack proven starters at cornerback and were widely expected to address the position in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. In this scenario, Arizona brings in a high-floor, high-ceiling prospect. Booth Jr. has the talent to start instantly in the desert.
13. Washington Football Team: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
The Washington Football Team’s quarterback situation currently consists of unproven starters and career journeymen. Desmond Ridder has had a volatile career at Cincinnati but flashes starter upside and is the best passer available with this pick.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Adam Anderson, 4-3 DE, Georgia
While the Vikings have a fairly well-rounded roster, the organization lacks proven talent at one defensive end spot. Anderson demonstrates an intriguing skill-set and a high ceiling. What’s more, he has excelled against strong competition.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
The Steelers will likely look to add talent at offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft. Charles Cross was a bright spot in Mississippi State’s offense last year. Pittsburgh brings in an early contributor with high-level starter potential.
16. Denver Broncos: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
The Broncos were widely rumored to be interested in the 2021 linebacker class. Although Denver addressed the position in the third round of the most recent draft, Harris can be a difference-maker early in the league.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
The Chargers were expected to address either cornerback or offensive tackle with their most recent first-round selection. After bolstering the offensive line by taking Rashawn Slater with the 13th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, there is currently a clear hole in Los Angeles’s depth chart. Elam has stood out in a talented Florida secondary since his freshman season. He can be a strong starter in the league.
18. New England Patriots: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
New England was severely hindered by their lack of pass-catching talent in 2020. After barely addressing that problem in the 2021 NFL Draft, New England adds a first-round receiver in 2022. Pickens is a legitimate contender for the top pass-catcher in the 2022 NFL Draft. He should start immediately and has an incredible ceiling.
19. New Orleans Saints: Drake London, WR, USC
The Saints famously feed Michael Thomas with an unreasonably high amount of targets. While quarterback will likely be a need in the 2022 NFL Draft, no one available here would meet the value of the 19th pick. Instead, New Orleans brings in a receiver to work alongside Thomas. London is a two-sport athlete (basketball) at USC whose size, athletic ability, route running and hands make him a possible first-round selection.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins): Mike Jones Jr., LB, LSU
Philadelphia failed to sufficiently bolster their linebacker corps in the 2021 NFL Draft. In this 2022 scenario, the Eagles bring in one of the best second-level coverage defenders. Jones Jr. stood out against the pass and the run with Clemson. He could blossom into a star at LSU.
21. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
While the Cowboys have a fairly well-rounded roster, they have a glaring hole at the tight end position. Wydermyer is widely seen as the top tight end available in the 2022 NFL Draft class. He should start as a rookie in Dallas.
22. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks): Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
The Jets should look to add talent at tackle to complement Mekhi Becton. Walker has early-starter ability with high-level starter potential. He may find the field sooner than expected and would become a part of New York’s budding young offensive nucleus.
23. Tennessee Titans: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The Titans added Dez Fitzpatrick in 2021 to help AJ Brown. In 2022, they may look to continue building their wide receiver room to round out an already impressive offense. Wilson is an NFL-ready route runner who should contribute immediately in Tennessee.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts): Isaiah Pola-Mao, SAF, USC
The Eagles need to add talent in their secondary. Although the run on cornerbacks has depleted the value available at that position, the 2022 safety class is extremely deep. Pola-Mao is a big, athletic, versatile safety who has even worked in the nickel during this offseason. He is a name to monitor entering 2021.
25. Cleveland Browns: George Karlaftis, 4-3 DE, Purdue
Cleveland is not sorely lacking talent at any position. As a result, they bring in a promising defensive end to back up Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Karlaftis is a versatile defensive lineman who can make an impact early. He has the talent to start early if Cleveland moves on from Clowney after the season.
26. Green Bay Packers: Ellis Brooks, LB, Penn State
The Packers must look to add talent at inside linebacker. Brooks is an instinctive defender both in coverage and against the run. The high-floor Penn State linebacker can contribute early for the Super Bowl contender Packers.
27. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers): Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
Miami would benefit from providing Tua Tagovailoa with a talented running back. Breece Hall is an impressive all-around ballcarrier who would be an immediate starter in Miami.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
The Baltimore Ravens currently lack long-term answers at offensive tackle. Petit-Frere flashed high-level movement skills and hands in 2020. He can find his way into the first-round conversation with a strong 2021 season.
29. Buffalo Bills: Calijah Kancey, 4-3 DT, Pittsburgh
The Bills have a well-rounded roster, along with contracts at defensive tackle set to expire after the 2021 season. To add depth and prepare for the loss of interior defensive line talent, Buffalo brings in an extremely undersized defender who moves like a linebacker. Calijah Kancey can contribute early thanks to his refined hands, excellent understanding of leverage and legitimate power. While his size may keep him out of round one in April, he can develop into a game-wrecker in the NFL.
30. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams): David Bell, WR, Purdue
The Lions were widely expected to choose a wide receiver in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. After passing on the position early this year, they take a star pass-catcher in 2022. Bell will continue his standout career at Purdue as the clear number-one option with Rondale Moore in the NFL.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Eboigbe, 3-4 DE, Alabama
Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, Tampa Bay has several expiring contracts along their defensive line after the 2021 season. Eboigbe is a breakout candidate for the Crimson Tide. He has the potential to be a first-round pick in 2022.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland
Each of the Chiefs’ expected starters at offensive tackle is slated to have their contracts expire after the 2021 season. Duncan is an excellent athlete with high-level starter potential. Another strong season may catapult him into the first-round conversation.