After countless days, weeks, even months of going through the top talents at the college football level in preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft, it is time to unveil my first mock draft for the 2022 draft cycle.
Many people feel mock drafts are pointless, especially this early before either the college or NFL season. I have always believed that mocks are a great resource for any time of the year, as they can be used to provide information regarding some of the premier players who will be mainstays on Sundays for, hopefully, a long time.
Since it is still immensely early in the 2022 cycle, my goal is not to provide a 100% accurate representation of what to expect next April.
A couple of notes before we start:
- I will not be projecting any trades in this initial, one-round mock--those will appear in further editions. Still, it is silly to project how NFL front offices may value specific offers at this stage of the process.
- The order for this mock draft includes trades that have already been completed, and I will recognize the original team in the mock draft below.
- The order I used for this mock is my PERSONAL PREDICTIONS, so I will be more than ready to face any anger regarding specific draft slots. Don’t look too deep into it--I’m just as wrong as everyone else (maybe a little less!)
- Despite the news that Carson Wentz may be available in Week 1 for the Indianapolis Colts, this mock reflects my belief that he will not play enough to meet the percentage that would relinquish the Colts pick to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now that that’s out of the way let’s rock and roll!
1. NEW YORK JETS - Kayvon Thibodeaux, ED, Oregon (6040, 250, 4.58e)
Despite hiring promising head coach Robert Saleh and the additions along their defensive line (now without Carl Lawson, who unfortunately suffered a torn Achilles during practice), the Jets are still a long while away from competing.
Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson is expected to endure the growing pains that typically inhibit first-year signal-callers. The team is simply lacking enough top-tier talent to make a dent in the AFC East.
Luckily for Gang Green fans, if they’re picking number-one overall, they can get their hands on Kayvon Thibodeaux.
The consensus top prospect overall for the 2022 NFL Draft class, Thibodeaux’s play in his first two seasons for the Oregon Ducks gives him the respect to be mentioned with previous blue-chip pass-rushers, such as Myles Garrett and Chase Young.
He’s incredibly advanced technically at this point, and he combines that finesse with elite power and athleticism. Against some of the top tackles in the PAC-12, he made them look like full-blown chumps (Alijah Vera Tucker, Sean Rhyan, etc.”
Jets fans would be reasonably livid if their team finished with the worst record in the NFL, but having a starting defensive line of Thibs-Quinnen Williams-Sheldon Rankins-healthy Lawson would be worth a million smiles.
2. HOUSTON TEXANS - Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma (6002, 205, 4.70e)
There’s already been so much talk of the dysfunction within the Texans organization that I won’t waste my words divulging into it further. Regardless of the result of Deshaun Watson’s ongoing legal troubles, I doubt he plays a snap for Houston ever again.
The team spent a third-round pick on Davis Mills out of Stanford this past year, but they need to find a new franchise face if they're picking second.
Spencer Rattler did not perform quite to the level you would expect from a top-tier quarterback prospect in 2020. Still, his ceiling is the highest out of any signal-caller in this class.
Armed with tremendous arm talent and anticipation, Rattler throws some of the prettiest and jaw-dropping passes you’ll come around. We’ve seen before how Lincoln Riley can get the most out of his QBs at Oklahoma, including Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, and Rattler looks to be the next guy up.
He plays a risky game and was dealt fairly solid luck in 2020, but more composure and patience will make him one of the stars of this potential class.
If Watson isn’t playing for the Texans, the team might as well secure the somewhat local kid who, out of any other player in this class, has the potential to fill the void left by the former Clemson star.
3. CAROLINA PANTHERS - Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina (6006, 225, 4.72e)
Yes, I get the Panthers spent a second-round pick to acquire Sam Darnold. However, this team is not expected to be very good despite the nice core of their young talent scattered around their defense.
Furthermore, if they’re picking here next April, I will go out on a limb (a concise one, at that) and say Sam was not very productive. Luckily, David Tepper and Matt Rhule can find his replacement in-state!
Sam Howell, to me, is the cleanest quarterback prospect in this class. He certainly has his weaknesses --he struggles reading the second level of the defense at times, and his offense does him boatloads of favors.
On the flip side, his arm talent is extremely underrated. His accuracy at all levels and anticipation is typically on the money, and he’s a true leader for the Tar Heels and plays with a ton of grit. He’s not the “sexiest” guy out there, but he gets the job done and has drawn many comparisons to Baker Mayfield and Matthew Stafford.
Another poor year with Rhule at the helm will start getting the Panther fans antsy. The prudent way to try and curb those concerns is to provide some stability and safety to your franchise.
Risks can pay off, but in this situation, it would be best for the Carolina front office to hit for the double instead of swinging for a home run and striking out.
4. DETROIT LIONS - Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (6005, 215, 4.52e)
In contrast to the strategy I suggested for Carolina, a team like Detroit that has had little success not only in recent years but throughout the history of the franchise should take a couple of swings.
Malik Willis is a former transfer out of Auburn who blew up the college game in his first season at Liberty. Armed with a howitzer, Willis can make all throws at all levels of the playing field.
His accuracy can dip in some instances, but he has displayed some incredible anticipation on deep shots. Oh, he’s also a freaky athlete. On tape, Willis looks much faster than Justin Fields, and he’s a phenomenal runner and adept at avoiding pressure and turning would-be sacks into first downs, given his take-off ability.
Willis wouldn’t come in as the unquestioned guy for Detroit off the rip, as Jared Goff’s contract cannot be moved off until 2023 at the earliest. It would be wise for the Lions as an organization to have a guy waiting in the wings, and who knows? Willis is so talented he may be starting sooner rather than later.
5. CINCINNATI BENGALS - Evan Neal, OT, Alabama (6065, 350, 5.38e)
One of the reasons the Bengals felt it was smart to pass on Penei Sewell for Ja’Marr Chase was that their current left tackle Jonah Williams is on the brink of stardom. While that is true, you can never have enough talent protecting your quarterback, let alone someone as good as Joe Burrow.
Evan Neal is an absolute freak, and I mean that in the most generous way possible. Listed at over six and a half feet tall and 350 pounds, the Alabama right tackle is one of the freakier athletes to come on in recent years.
He moves laterally insanely well and plays with a tremendous mean streak to boot. While his technical proficiency in pass-protection can be tested often, and he expectedly struggles with some smaller, bendier edges, Neal is a well-rounded playing with a high ceiling.
Making the switch to left tackle for the Crimson Tide in 2021, Neal would likely move back to the right side if Cincy selected him. To be frank, it wouldn’t matter where you put him - he’s that good.
6. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame (6040, 219, 4.49e)
Even if the Eagles aren’t all that good in 2021, quarterback Jalen Hurts does have the potential to show some promise, and there’s a chance the front office does not address the quarterback position. Plus, they have a truly special talent available on the board in Kyle Hamilton.
Practically a clone of Derwin James, Hamilton has been a tremendously versatile weapon on the backend of Notre Dame’s defense since 2019. He is blessed with elite length, size, athleticism, and instincts, he flies all over the field, making plays.
He’s an exceptional tackler, and his expertise in zone coverage is much appreciated. He can truly align nearly anywhere for a defense, and his man coverage reps as a slot corner are immaculate as well.
The Philly secondary is relatively thin now, and they have some deals coming off the books next offseason. The definition of a true game-changer, the selection of Kyle Hamilton would be a grand triumph for a team that needs to start replenishing their star power.
7. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - DeMarvin Leal, IDL, Texas A&M (6040, 289, 4.89e)
Despite the selection of Trevor Lawrence in 2021 to be their starting quarterback (hopefully) for the next decade-plus, this Jacksonville team has plenty of holes on both offense and defense. Here we give them the clear-cut best interior defensive linemen in this class. Luckily, it’s a position of great need.
DeMarvin Leal is entering his junior year for the Aggies, and he truly began his breakout campaign in 2020. The numbers on the box score aren’t entirely out of this world, but that should change this year, and his value for that defense supersedes any number.
A man with his build, nearly 300 pounds, should not move with the type of silkiness and speed that Leal does. It was also delightful to see the steps he took forward technically in 2020--he’s not some raw, ball of clay-type player who relies on his physical traits. He has a great repertoire.
Outside of promising 1-tech Davon Hamilton, the Jaguars don’t have much young talent along their interior. Leal would slide in right away and provide Duval with a menace as a pass-rusher and a smart, capable run defender.
8. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS - Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU (6010, 195, 4.40e)
For all of us on #DraftTwitter, we are well aware of the notion that the Raiders may be helmet scouting from College Football Playoff contenders. LSU was not in that discussion in 2020 and probably won’t be again this upcoming season. Still, it doesn’t matter in this instance because Stingley could be playing for Furman, and he’d be an A+ selection.
Stingley dealt with COVID-19 and nagging injuries during the 2020 season and still played like a top-3 talent in this class. Furthermore, his true freshman season in 2019 was arguably the most impressive season ever for a cornerback in college history - yeah, the one where he had over twenty pass breakups and six interceptions.
Stingley is a scheme-versatile corner with elite size, tremendous man-cover skills, and double-take-worthy athleticism. There hasn’t been a secondary prospect with as much hype since Jalen Ramsey, and I think Stingley could somehow, some way, be EVEN BETTER.
Despite the improved play of Trayvon Mullen, Las Vegas remains relatively thin at the cornerback position. Veteran Casey Hayward was signed to a one-year deal, and 2019 first-round [ick Damon Arnette has not lived up to his draft slot. When combining the need at the position and value, it’s hard to find a better combination than this fit right here.
9. NEW YORK GIANTS (via Chicago) - Carson Strong, QB, Nevada (6034, 215, 4.90e)
It remains to be seen whether or not current Giants quarterback Daniel Jones will make the necessary improvements to secure another season as the starter, and having this extra pick from Chicago certainly helps the Giants' chances of trading up if they feel the need to do so. Since there are no trades in this mock, the value of said quarterback launches, and New York gets a guy who many feel may be an eventual top-5 pick.
Carson Strong was a revelation for the Nevada Wolfpack in 2020, displaying the arm strength that is ever so rare in today’s game. His ability to stretch the field and set up his wideouts for big plays is outstanding. His internal clock and read progression looked much better across the year.
Strong still struggles with anticipation and ball placement, primarily across the middle portion of the gridiron. He mostly favors a dump-off pass or a deep shot--his current playstyle is extremely reminiscent of Drew Lock when he was coming out of Missouri.
Regardless, he has clear-cut NFL-caliber starting quarterback tools, and let’s face it, NFL general managers will never shy away from guys with bazookas for arms. Strong feels like the type of signal-caller from a stylistic perspective that the Giants have always favored.
10. DENVER BRONCOS - Drake Jackson, ED, USC (6040, 255, 4.65e)
Currently headed by Vic Fangio, the Denver defense looks awesome on paper heading into the 2021 season. Still, they have many contracts up following it, including outside linebacker Von Miller. Coming off a season-ending knee injury, it remains to be seen how Miller will look this fall, and there’s a real chance he’s in a different uniform in 2022.
Drake Jackson has been terrorizing Pac-12 offensive linemen since his college career began in 2019. The scary thing is he doesn’t look close to reaching his ceiling yet. With tremendous explosiveness off the LOS and a solid catalog of pass-rush moves, Jackson is usually a mainstay in the opponent's backfields.
While he needs to add more of a power element to his game, and he can get stifled from this inside, his elite first-step around the corner is special to watch, plus his closing speed when he reaches the quarterback is an ultimate play-nullifier.
Aside from the future of Von Miller, a Bradley Chubb extension is ahead for Denver as well. While the former NC State stud should receive a nice payday, there is an off-chance that the Broncos pass rush can go from loaded to very thin in a short time. Jackson feels like both a look towards a future and someone who can contribute rather quickly as well.
11. NEW YORK GIANTS - Kenyon Green, IOL/OT, Texas A&M (6040, 325, 5.34e)
Now that the Giants have spent their introductory Round 1 selection on a new quarterback, it makes sense to give him more protection. Regardless of how their rookie years went, I believe Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart can both be good bookend tackles for a long-time on this Giants offensive line. Questions remain across the interior, and here at #11 feel like an ideal time to address them.
Kenyon Green will be making the switch to left tackle for the Aggies in 2021, but he’s been a lethal left guard for them since his college career started. Likely the strongest prospective offensive lineman in this draft class, Green has the physical dimensions that would make him a fantastic guy to put on an island.
His arms are long, and his base has minimal poor bodyweight on it. An absolute bear in the run game, Green has been an integral part of star running back Isaiah Spiller’s success for the last two seasons.
His pass-protection technique is a little wonky, as his footwork and hand placement can drop at times, but these look like easily correctable flaws on film.
If Thomas and Peart make those step forwards in their play, Green can slide back into his left guard role. If one or both struggle, he has the talent to play either tackle spot as well. It feels like a win-win proposition for the Giants.
12. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson (6003, 195, 4.43e)
Newly signed Eric Fisher will hopefully fill the gaping left tackle void by next year for the Colts. The team spent its first two picks in 2021 on Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo, two pass-rushers. It feels like the appropriate time to address their need in the corner department, and luckily one of the best players in the draft is still on the board.
This may feel like hyperbole, but I have never in my life seen a cornerback, and maybe even a player, with the closing speed and short-area quickness that Andrew Booth Jr. out of Clemson withholds.
His ability to make five yards look like one foot is double-take worthy every time I see it, and it makes him a genuinely lethal run-defending corner, a trait that general manager Chris Ballard appreciates immensely.
His cover skills are also impressive. His length, athleticism, and verticality allow him to constantly make plays on the ball. His body contortion in the air is tremendous, and he’s everything you look for in a blossoming star.
Given Xavier Rhodes’ increasing age and the inconsistency of former second-rounder Rock Ya-Sin, Indy should begin addressing their talent at the outside cornerback spot. Booth Jr. is closer in talent to Derek Stingley than suggested, making him a jaw-dropping value here.
13. PITTSBURGH STEELERS - Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State (6051, 310, 5.06e)
While I appreciate a lot of the young talent along Pittsburgh’s interior offensive line in Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green, the tackle spot is already a planet-sized question mark. It’s a weak point for a team with not many holes on offense, so it feels appropriate to address that spot here.
When it comes to footwork and smoothness dropping back into pass-protection, you won’t find anyone better than Charles Cross. A former five-star recruit, Cross came into his own in 2020 for the Bulldogs of Mississippi State and was a shutdown blindside protector for the offense.
He’s very impressive in his stance and keeps his hands at the appropriate level at all times. Being only a redshirt sophomore, Cross still has a lot of cleaning up in his game to do, primarily getting beaten by bendy and fast edge rushers.
However, his ceiling is immense, and his style of play would be night and day from Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner, the Steelers’ two projected tackles who have massive athleticism issues.
14. ATLANTA FALCONS - Trent McDuffie - CB, Washington (5112, 193, 4.48e)
Many draft fans chuckled when the Falcons took A.J. Terrell in the first round of the 2020 draft. It was a move most (including myself, wrongfully) felt was a reach at the time, but Terrell looked very solid in his rookie campaign.
As for the other outside CB spot, there are uh… questions. Fabian Moreau was brought in from Washington to fill that void this year, but a more long-term move would be wise for the Falcons front office.
Trent McDuffie isn’t the tallest, nor is he the longest corner. What he is, though, is stable, and one with some pretty special athleticism as well. McDuffie was the best cornerback in the Pac-12 in 2020. He showed off his ball skills and ability to play sticky coverage in either press or man.
His build is NFL-ready, which is odd to say for an NFL cornerback. Still, his base and muscle are very well-put-together, and he doesn’t inhibit any lack of flexibility in his movement skills and has the long speed to match up with most wide receivers he goes against.
For an Atlanta defense that certainly needs that stability, McDuffie would be a dynamite pick and would give that defense two blooming outside cornerbacks for a very long time.
15. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM - Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss (6015, 205, 4.67e)
This Washington team has the potential to be very good on paper, but it remains to be seen if their long-term quarterback is on the roster. Ryan Fitzpatrick is likely a one-year stop-gap, and Taylor Heinicke remains unproven. Picking smack dab in the middle of the first round isn’t ideal for taking a QB, but they get potentially the biggest riser in this class.
Watching Matt Corral, it’s hard not to fall in love with his aesthetic. He’s not your prototypical gunslinger, but his arm can make all the throws, and he’s mobile enough to make plays.
Armed with one of the quickest releases in this class, Corral displayed some impressive anticipation and excitement for the Rebels in his first full year as a starter.
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Now, turnovers were a significant issue in 2020, including a six-pick meltdown vs. Arkansas last fall, and it’s an area he will need to improve. However, from a stylistic perspective, Corral seems to be where teams have been leaning in recent years.
The last time Washington spent a first-round pick on a QB in the middle of the first, it blew up in their face. This would be a good opportunity to right a wrong and possibly get a pretty nice value in the long run.
16. ARIZONA CARDINALS - Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida (6020, 193, 4.48e)
This is an extremely good perspective corner class for the 2022 NFL Draft, which bodes well for many teams that need secondary help. Insert the Arizona Cardinals, who get the option to take Kaiir Elam, the stud corner out of Florida.
Elam is gifted with elite size for a defensive back and is typically seen on film incorporating his long limbs and tremendous instincts into being a true playmaker on the backend for the Gators.
Those instincts are so solid, and he’s able to play as a free safety and in the box as well and look just as impressive. While he is primarily used in man coverage on the outside, his long speed may be a bit of a concern, and I can see Elam thriving in a zone or off-man role.
With newly-signed Malcolm Butler on a short-term deal and getting up there in age, plus not much depth otherwise, Elam is a perfect fit in Arizona’s scheme and can provide some much-needed infusion of talent and versatility.
17. MINNESOTA VIKINGS - Jordan Battle, S, Alabama (6010, 210, 4.54e)
Things may look very different for the Minnesota Vikings if they miss the playoff in 2021, as long-time coach Mike Zimmer’s seat keeps getting warmer. There’s also the need to replace some of the older players on their roster.
While Harrison Smith remains one of the best safeties in the league, it would be wise to find someone to grow under him and potentially replace Xavier Woods, who was scooped up in free agency on a one-year deal.
Jordan Battle looks to be the next Alabama secondary prospect with legit first-round buzz, and rightfully so. A DB who can play either safety spot, Battle had a fantastic 2020 season, displaying excellent instincts in the run game and the swiftness to drop into coverage as well.
His closing speed and athleticism are very good in terms of physical traits, and he’s a smart player. He takes effective and efficient routes to the ball. His playstyle reminds me a ton of Malcolm Jenkins.
For a team like the Vikings who prioritize building their secondary primarily from the draft, this would be an ideal selection regardless of where the team falls in the standings.
18. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS - Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas (6030, 225, 4.52e)
As a draft community, we have been blessed that the wide receiver classes have been loaded the last two years. While not entirely up to that same level for 2022, there are still many guys worthy of first-round consideration, and New England gets the best one right here.
Where would you guess if I told you the top WR in the 2022 NFL Draft was from an SEC school? Alabama? LSU? Maybe Florida? Nope, Treylon Burks is an Arkansas Razorback and has all of the traits required to potentially be a dominant skill player at the next level.
In terms of stretching the field, Burks is an animal. His run after the catch ability is spectacular. His hands are like glue. He does a phenomenal job tracking the football and adjusting for wayward passes. His route running is also very much underrated.
The Patriots did well to deepen their receiver corps this past offseason to help Cam Newton and Mac Jones, yet they lack that true go-to option in the passing game. With another big year against top-tier competition, Burks can prove he can do just that.
19. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (5116, 188, 4.42e)
The last time New Orleans selected a wide receiver out of Ohio State, it turned out very nicely. Even if Michael Thomas is healthy, this is a very thin receiving corps that lacks another all-around, solid option.
Garrett Wilson, out of OSU, is one of the more reliable pass-catchers in the country. He’s not the biggest or fastest guy on the field, but man, does he produce. Armed with quick feet, crisp route-running, and underrated contested catchability, Wilson is more of a safety net for quarterbacks than what is let on.
His skillset offers very few flaws, and he can stretch the field given his innate ability to create separation. Regardless of who's throwing the ball for the Saints in the future, whether it’s Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, or someone not on the roster at this very second, having guys like Wilson on your team only makes it better.
20. DALLAS COWBOYS - Adam Anderson, ED, Georgia (6041, 230, 4.58e)
Outside of DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys have struggled to find stability at the other pass-rusher spot. Guys like Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory have never lacked talent. Still, maturity and off-the-field issues have dampened their careers. If you’re looking for a player with good character and a high work ethic, then Adam Anderson is that player for you.
In terms of style and method, Anderson is very close to Randy Gregory. In the limited snaps he played for Georgia last year, he looked utterly dominant. He will undoubtedly need to put on some weight, given his 230-pound frame. Still, in turns of explosive athleticism and flexibility, you won’t find a better pure pass rusher in this entire edge-defender class.
Taking a guy whose best and most common work is on third-down may seem risky, but don’t overlook Adam Anderson. If he produces near the outstanding rate he did for the Bulldogs in 2020, he may not even make it that far come next spring.
21. TENNESSEE TITANS - Austin Stogner, TE, Oklahoma (6050, 255, 4.79e)
Last year’s tight end class in the 2021 NFL Draft was Kyle Pitts and everybody else. There is certainly no Kyle Pitts-level talent (nor will there be one anytime soon, likely) this upcoming season, but the depth is outstanding. The guy with the highest ceiling to be the first one taken lands in a spot that is undoubtedly lacking a proven and capable one at the moment.
Austin Stogner formed a nice rhythm and chemistry with Spencer Rattler for Oklahoma during the 202 campaign, showing off the impressive athleticism for a near 260-pound human being. Stogner is lethal up the seam but has shown sharp ankle flexion on the other routes he’s run.
In terms of blocking, he is a pleasant surprise - in such a pass-happy offense, Stogner does a tremendous job playing stout and never surrendering leverage. He’s not just a red-zone target - he’s very useful in between the twenties, as well.
Now that Jonnu Smith is no longer with the Titans, their TE room is very thin and needs an infusion of talent. Stogner could provide a super reliable safety net for Ryan Tannehill and a wonderful complement in the passing game to A.J. Brown and Julio Jones.
22. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (via Miami ) - Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa (6030, 289, 5.15e)
Despite the great amount of turnover on the Eagles roster as of late, one specific player who has been a leader on and off the field for Philly has been center Jason Kelce. While Kelce’s play hasn’t dipped much, he has considered retirement in the past, and it may be time to look for a new center of the future.
Tyler Linderbaum out of Iowa is likely one of the safest prospects in this class. My top offensive lineman in college football, regardless of position, despite Linderbaum’s smaller stature, he certainly doesn’t lack power.
Touted for beating Buccaneer right tackle Tristan Wirfs in high school wrestling, the current Hawkeyes is ferocious with his hand usage and is a true mauler in the run game. He gets to the second level with ease and seldom surrenders leverage, even in less optimal situations.
Linderbaum is also flawless, snapping the ball with a great snap-to-power ratio, and his pass-blocking is sublime. Centers don’t get selected insanely high in the NFL Draft. Still, given how good Linderbaum is, this is an absurd value.
23. NEW YORK JETS (via Seattle) - Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State (6006, 200, 4.48e)
The Jets remain an organization with massive issues at the cornerback spot. Outside of Bryce Hall, a young but oft-injured talent, it is painfully thin.
Sevyn Banks was able to get some legitimate playing time on the outside for the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2020. Despite some frustrating moments of inconsistency in man coverage, the special tools are apparent.
He’s a long, well-built defensive back prospect who plays physically and has shown he is more than capable in zone coverage. He displays a true appreciation for wanting to make plays on the ball. He certainly showed improvement towards the end of last season.
As previously mentioned, in a corner room lacking true NFL talent, the Jets would be wise to take a minute risk here in Banks, as the pay-off could be fantastic in the long run.
24. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS - Jalen Catalon, S, Arkansas (5100, 198, 4.49e)
I, along with many of you, are praying for a fully healthy season from Chargers star Derwin James. He fills one of the safety spots, but there is a void at the other. Rayshawn Jenkins went to Jacksonville, and Nasir Adderley has been very inconsistent and unreliable for Los Angeles.
To find a running mate for Derwin while providing some insurance if the injury bug strikes again, snagging the most underrated player (in my opinion) in this class helps.
Only entering his redshirt sophomore season, Jalen Catalon as an absolute breakout phenom for the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2020, earning All First Team SEC honors. His listed measurables are rather small, but he has a fully rocked-up frame.
When he’s running downhill in run defense, he can lay out some of the more bone-crushing tackles you will see. His coverage ability is also spectacular, notching three picks in 2020 and showing the versatility that could allow him to play all over the secondary. He’ll need to prove he can produce like a superstar again with only one year under his belt. If Catalon does, he won’t be a sleeper for much longer.
25. GREEN BAY PACKERS - Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State (6053, 315, 5.04e)
There is a decent probability this iteration of the Green Bay Packers looks MUCH different this time next year, given the unknown future of Aaron Rodgers as the team’s starting quarterback.
Regardless of who is the starting quarterback in 2022, that person will need proper time to throw the football. The right side of Green Bay’s offensive line lacks talent as currently constructed.
A former five-star recruit, Nicholas Petit-Frere, truly began to come into his own for the Buckeyes in 2020. Blessed with wonderful athleticism and strength like a rhinoceros, NPF was able to display the tools that warranted his five-star ranking. At times, he has some extremely poor technical miscues, and his timing against the pass needs to be ironed out.
However, we know what the Packers look for in its linemen: athleticism. NPF has that and more, and if he is developed correctly, he has the ceiling to be a Pro Bowl-caliber right tackle for the Cheeseheads.
26. CLEVELAND BROWNS - Drake London, WR, USC (6050, 210, 4.52e)
The Browns will have a lot of financial decisions to make regarding their roster after the 2021 season. Outside of the looming Baker Mayfield extension, the state of their wide receiver corps is in flux.
Who knows what the future will hold for the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and despite the potential of guys like Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones, there aren't many proven, go-to options in Cleveland in terms of pass-catchers.
Drake London out of USC has yet to fully emerge for the Trojans offense, given the fantastic players they’ve fostered before him. Still, he enters 2021 as the clear-cut WR1, and London is ready to explode.
London is silky smooth on his releases, a wideout with tremendous size, length, and ball tracking ability and has displayed intriguing route-running potential. His separation skills across the middle portion of the field make him a safe target, and his strong hands allow his ceiling to rise as a red-zone threat.
Primed for a massive season for USC, Drake London has all the tools to develop into a top option for an NFL passing offense and outplay this hypothetical draft spot.
27. BUFFALO BILLS - Avery Young, CB, Rutgers (6010, 205, 4.52e)
The Buffalo Bills have owned one of the more talented and deep rosters in the NFL over the last several seasons. One area, however, that they don’t appear to be quite deep at is the cornerback spot. Outside of Tre’Davious White, it’s a sore spot on a franchise that has been rather lights-out when it comes to finding value and skill.
Avery Young is the unsung star of the potential 2022 cornerback class for the draft. A veteran with a ton of experience in Big 10 play, Young excels mainly in a man coverage scheme but has shown nice potential in zone.
He’s deadly in run support and has the long speed to attack receivers who try to out-muscle him to get a step ahead. His ball skills are not otherworldly, but he’s such an eraser as a pure sticky defensive back it’s rather unlikely the quarterback is looking to throw to the guy Young is covering anyway.
Brandon Beane has done more than a great job as the GM of the Bills, and Avery Young would give the team a potential starter next to his established star in White.
28. DETROIT LIONS (from LA Rams) - George Pickens, WR, Georgia (6030, 200, 4.56e)
Continuing with the theme of taking risks in this Detroit Lions draft, they use their second first-round pick, acquired in the Matthew Stafford blockbuster, on a player who can turn out to be the best wideout from this class if his health holds up.
In terms of talent, George Pickens is the best WR to come out of Georgia in the last several years. That’s saying a lot, as the school has continuously pumped out NFL-caliber pass-catchers, but Pickens is on another level.
A fantastic route runner who takes long strides and has the release and separation ability to glide by defensive backs, Pickens can work wonderfully across the intermediate portion of the gridiron and utilize his strong mitts to bring in any passes. Pickens also provides the versatility to be an outside guy or play that “big slot” role for an offense.
The Lions have one, if not the, weakest wide receiver groupings in the NFL. Pickens is slated to miss most of the 2021 college football season with a torn ACL, but he could come back later in the year. Regardless, pairing him with Malik Willis in Round 1 would give Detroit some excitement and star power on their offense.
29. MIAMI DOLPHINS (from San Francisco) - Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M (6010, 225, 4.50e)
It may feel weird for Dolphins fans to only have one first-round pick this year, but they’re still in a spot to add a premier player. While Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed looked good in their backfield last year, there were some reports the team was seriously considering UNC running back Javonte Williams before Denver traded up and sniped them. In this mock, they right they’re wrong with the addition of Isaiah Spiller.
Spiller has been one of the more reliable and talented running backs in the country since the 2019 season, as he’s been the undisputed leader in Texas A&M’s backfield. Spiller possesses excellent vision and contact balance when cutting to the inside. While his long speed is nothing to write home about, he has the elusiveness and acceleration to churn out extra yards.
He’s still coming into his own as a receiver out of the backfield. Still, his route running has improved, and he’s a competent weapon to be developed there. The cherry on top over everything - Spiller has zero career fumbles across 400 total touches in his Aggie career.
Speak what you will about the lack of value running backs carry nowadays and how they’re not worth a Day 1 pick blah blah blah. Still, Spiller epitomizes what NFL teams look for in any player regardless of position - a leader, durable, and ultra-talented.
30. BALTIMORE RAVENS - George Karlaftis, ED/IDL, Purdue (6042, 275. 4.77e)
While Baltimore has some nice young pieces in their edge room in Odafe Oweh, Tyus Bowser, and Jaylon Ferguson, you can never have enough pass-rush, and the interior of their defensive line is in flux after the 2021 season with Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams all up for free agency.
In the most respectful way possible, George Karlaftis is what many would call a freak of nature. After a rookie season in which the Purdue defensive end totaled 55 pressures in 2019, Karlaftis dealt with nagging injuries and COVID in 2020, which cut his 2020 campaign short. Ready to rock and roll this upcoming fall, Karlaftis has a chance to take the Big Ten by storm.
Possessing the size and burst to play anywhere from 5-tech to 9-tech, Karlaftis turns the corner with stunning ease for his size while mixing in the occasional and unstoppable bull rush.
Heavy hands and stout run defense round of the star Boilermaker, and his addition on an already loaded Ravens defense would be daunting for opponents to go up against.
31. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS - Dohnovan West, IOL, Arizona State (6030, 315, 5.25e)
It’s crazy how much a year can change. Many analysts struggled to find what areas the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers would address early in the 2021 NFL Draft, mainly due to their deep roster that brought back many free agents.
With less cap space and more talent set to hit the market, next spring may be difficult for Tampa Bay. For example, they may look to replace starting right guard Alex Cappa on their offensive line, and there’s a player here who would fit in perfectly for that offense.
Dohnovan West is an undersized yet athletic guard for the Arizona State Sun Devils. Named to the PAC-12’s First Team for his play in 2020, West is one of the more robust linemen in the entire country.
He’s a fantastic run defender who can pull to create lanes for his running backs. His pass protection assets include maintaining a wide base while utilizing phenomenal footwork and lateral agility.
Getting to the second level is not a problem for West, and he has the skill set to play multiple positions across the offensive line if need be. If Tampa Bay can work a deal to bring back Ryan Jensen in 2022, a right side of him-West-Tristan Wirfs, can go toe to toe with some of the best lines in the league.
32. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS - Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington (6000, 189, 4.39e)
For as many questions as others have about the Chiefs not prioritizing their defense as much as their league-best offense, general manager Brett Veach has done a solid job finding some talent in the secondary.
Jarius Sneed looks like a stud after his rookie year, and Charvarius Ward also had his moments last year. More depth and bodies are needed, and Kyler Gordon would be another guy to throw in that secondary mix.
Slated to play next to Trent McDuffie in 2021, the other Washington corner played limited snaps last autumn and displayed the traits that could see him skyrocket up teams’ draft boards. Even in a class with Derek Stingley Jr. and Andrew Booth Jr., Gordon's athleticism is on the same level as those guys, as he’s projected to jump well over forty inches in the vertical and run in the 4.3s.
Gordon looks most comfortable as a zone corner, but he does have the clear matching speed and composure to be physical and play man and off-man as well. I was pleasantly surprised by his stifling demeanor on the field - he plays the position with confidence and rarely gets burnt.
It will be fascinating to see the improvements Gordon can make and maintain his promising level of play this upcoming college football season. Still, if he does, the Washington Huskies will have the best corner duo in the sport.
- A Way Too-Early New York Giants 2022 Mock Draft
- 2021 NCAA Scouting Series: Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Prospects
- 2021 NCAA Scouting Series: Big Ten Conference Offensive Prospects
- 2021 NCAA Scouting Series: Big 12 Conference Offensive Prospects
- 2021 NCAA Scouting Series: Pac-12 Conference Offensive Prospects
- 2021 NCAA Scouting Series: SEC Offensive Prospects
- 2021 NCAA Scouting Series: ACC Defensive Prospects
- 2021 NCAA Scouting Series: Big 12 Defensive Prospects
- 2021 NCAA Scouting Series: SEC Defensive Prospects
- 2021 NCAA Scouting Series: Big Ten Defensive Prospects