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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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!)

  4. 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