Three quarterbacks go in the Top 10, contenders load up at wide receiver, and the Lions get a Michigan EDGE after all.
For our first article at Mike Drafts, it’s only fitting that we do a mock draft. And for our maiden voyage, why not go big? So without further adieu, let’s go a full seven rounds as we do our first 2022 Mike Drafts NFL Mock Draft:
1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson (EDGE, Michigan)
This pick is far from chalk. Travon Walker, Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, and Kayvon Thibodeaux are all candidates to go first overall to Jacksonville, and the presence of Josh Allen (EDGE) and Cam Robinson (LT) also put dark horse candidates like Ahmad Gardner and Kyle Hamilton in play.
Perhaps if a quarterback-seeking team feels the Lions are a threat to steal their man with the second overall pick, a trade scenario could present itself.
That said, the Jacksonville Jaguars need talent however they can get it, and Aidan Hutchinson offers the total package. A high floor, a high ceiling, high marks for character, and the kind of grit and competitiveness that sets the tone in the locker room. The Jags can’t afford to whiff here, and Hutchinson ensures they won’t.
2) Detroit Lions: Malik Willis (QB, Liberty)
Malik Willis is not the second best player in this draft. He’s not even the most NFL-ready quarterback in this draft. But he offers the most upside of the entire quarterback class. And if the Lions are going to find the successor to Jared Goff this year, there’s no reason to wait until Pick 32 to do so.
There will be teams that don’t have Willis as their QB1, but a team that already has a “fine” quarterback in Goff only makes this move to chase upside. Goff’s presence also means the Lions can take their time with Willis, making him a better fit in Detroit than other QB-needy situations like Carolina, where Matt Rhule appears to be on the hot seat.
3) Houston Texans: Kayvon Thibodeaux (EDGE, Oregon)
Kayvon Thibodeaux has seemingly rubbed some front office officials the wrong way in team interviews, but perhaps these reports are merely smokescreens being sent out by lower-selecting general managers that want this elite talent to fall into their laps.
Thibodeaux not only provides the Texans with juice coming off the edge, but also the kind of swagger and energy they’ll need to hang in what has become a loaded AFC over the last several weeks. There are other suitable options for this pick, but Thibodeaux gives Houston the best opportunity to take the next step in its rebuild.
4) New York Jets: Ikem Ekwonu (OT, North Carolina State)
The Jets are going to get Zach Wilson another weapon via the draft or through a trade, but that doesn’t have to be with the fourth overall pick.
The hit rate on mid-round offensive weapons is significantly higher than that of mid-round tackles, so New York would do well to bolster Wilson’s protection with their first pick of Day 1. Ekwonu still has some work to do as a pass protector, but can set the tone as a run blocker in Mike LaFleur’s Shanahan-style offense and also projects well at guard if George Fant and Mecki Beckton both prove capable of holding down tackle spots. That scenario would have the Jets suddenly boasting one of the NFL’s better offensive lines.
5) New York Giants: Ahmad Gardner (CB, Cincinnati)
The Giants brought in Wink Martindale to help their defense take the next step this season, but we saw what his usually-stellar Ravens defense looked like last year without good corner play.
Gardner is a near-essential piece if Martindale’s blitz-heavy style is going to be effective in New York, and all the more so if James Bradberry is indeed on the trading block. Giving Daniel Jones more help is a must in this draft, but getting into shootouts every week also isn’t going to put him in position to succeed. Gardner should be the pick at five, and the rest of the draft can focus on helping Jones.
6) Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett (QB, Pittsburgh)
Pickett doesn’t offer the most upside of this class, but he’s probably the most “NFL-ready”, and was previously recruited by Matt Rhule during his time at Temple. With Rhule on the hot seat, a quarterback’s ability to immediately produce will likely factor more heavily than raw potential, and Pickett checks that box.
Pickett’s not such a sure thing that we’ll be able to confidently say the Panthers’ long, public search for a quarterback is over. But perhaps he can be the answer.
7) New York Giants: Evan Neal (OT, Alabama)
Many have described Neal as a “dancing bear” in pass protection, and there’s simply no better way to put it. He’s remarkably athletic with exceptional footwork at the tackle position, and will provide Daniel Jones with the protection he needs to hopefully stop committing so many turnovers.
8) Atlanta Falcons: Travon Walker (EDGE, Georgia)
The Falcons roster might be the most barren in the NFL, which puts them in the (advantageous?) position to simply take good football players. Travon Walker is a physical freak that can align all along the defensive front, command attention to free up other pass rushers, and offer the kind of every-down effort Atlanta’s going to need to build a culture in the post-Matt Ryan era.
9) Seattle Seahawks: Desmond Ridder (QB, Cincinnati)
If the Seahawks are indeed set on keeping DK Metcalf, they offer arguably the best landing spot of any QB-needy team. And despite the praise they’ve heaped upon newly-acquired Drew Lock, it’s hard to imagine a Seattle team apparently intent on competing believing that Lock gives them a good chance to do so.
Reports suggest that many teams have Ridder as their QB1 in this class, and it’s easy to understand why between his winning pedigree, arm talent, and love for Avril Lavigne. The Seahawks can adapt some of what Ridder ran at Cincinnati into their playbook, where he’ll find instant success having DK Metcalf in the “Alec Pierce” role.
10) New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr. (CB, LSU)
This pick could easily be Jermaine Johnson or Kyle Hamilton, but the Jets just cannot run out Bryce Hall and DJ Reed as their Week 1 starting corners.
Stingley offers as much upside as any player in the draft, and could prove to be a steal at tenth overall if he returns to the all-world form he showed as a freshman in 2019. With receivers like Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill on the schedule twice a year, adding a premier talent at corner is critical if the Jets want to become relevant in the AFC East.
11) Washington Commanders: Kyle Hamilton (S, Notre Dame)
With Carson Wentz in tow, the Commanders are no longer in the mix to draft a quarterback. Maybe this is where the run on wideouts starts? But Kyle Hamilton puts an already-loaded Washington defense over the top, and is easily the best player still on the board. Easy pick for Ron Rivera and Martin Mayhew.
12) Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Davis (IDL, Georgia)
The Vikings have moved some pieces around on their defensive line this offseason, parting ways with Michael Pierce and signing former division rival Za’Darius Smith. They’ve done little at this point to replace Pierce, though, and Davis offers the kind of interior disruption that can make Smith and Danielle Hunter an even more lethal duo coming off the edge.
13) Houston Texans: Garrett Wilson (WR, Ohio State)
The Texans just locked up Brandin Cooks to a big extension, but have little else in the way of weapons for Davis Mills. Wilson gives Houston a lethal 1-2 punch at receiver, and allows supplementary targets like Nico Collins and Chris Conley to thrive in more appropriate secondary roles in the offense.
Charles Cross could also be the pick here if Nick Caserio’s comments about an improved relationship with Laremy Tunsil are just posturing.
14) Baltimore Ravens: Jermaine Johnson (EDGE, Florida State)
The Ravens took swings at free agent edge rushers like Emmanuel Ogbah and Za’Darius Smith, but ultimately walked away without a difference-making pass rusher. Johnson gives them another threat opposite Odafe Oweh, and also offers insurance while Tyus Bowser recovers from a torn Achilles suffered at the end of last season.
The Ravens stand out as one of the non-quarterback needy teams that will likely try to get aggressive (if a player like Kayvon Thibodeaux or Kyle Hamilton starts to slide) or trade back and accrue more picks, but this is a draft where a trade partner may be hard to find.
15) Philadelphia Eagles: Andrew Booth Jr. (CB, Clemson)
Darius Slay is still a high-end corner, but the Eagles have little else in their cornerback room. The hype surrounding Ahmad Gardner and Derek Stingley has left Andrew Booth getting the cold shoulder from fans and pundits alike, but he posses elite ball skills and excels in man coverage.
Assuming the Eagles don’t like one of the remaining quarterbacks more than Jalen Hurts, Booth makes the most sense to help them take that next step towards real contention in a weak NFC.
16) New Orleans Saints: Charles Cross (OT, Mississippi State)
Sometimes a team and player just make too much sense, and that’s the case with Cross and the Saints. With Terron Armstead now in Miami, New Orleans has a gapping hole on the left side of its offensive line, and Cross offers the kind of athletic profile that gives him Armstead-like upside at the left tackle position.
The Saints’ push to add a second Day 1 pick this year could suggest they’re eyeing a trade up for a quarterback, but if it signifies a desire to get aggressive in such a weak conference, finding the heir to Armstead will be imperative in this draft, and can’t wait until Pick 19 if they want to avoid losing “their guy” to the Chargers at 17.
17) Los Angeles Chargers: Trevor Penning (OT, Northern Iowa)
The Chargers took steps towards addressing their offensive line last season, signing Corey Linsley and Bryan Bulaga to help keep Justin Herbert upright. Bulaga was unable to stay healthy in 2021 and is now once again on the open market, meaning there is still a hole at the left tackle spot that needs to be addressed.
Trevor Penning’s small-school background and frequency committing penalties have made some talent evaluators skittish, but his performance during Senior Bowl Week also seemingly did wonders for his draft stock. Penning will add some “nasty” to a team built more on flash, and sure up Herbert’s protection on the left side.
18) Philadelphia Eagles: George Karlaftis (EDGE, Purdue)
The Eagles boast a pair of accomplished veterans along their defensive line in Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, but both are on the wrong side of 30. George Karlaftis injects some youth into the Philadelphia defensive front, and has drawn comparisons to Ryan Kerrigan, who spent 2021 with the Eagles.
19) New Orleans Saints: Matt Corral (QB, Ole Miss)
The Saints want to be competitive in 2022, but there’s also a case to be made that there’s never been a better year to trot out a rookie quarterback and still win football games.
Jameis Winston showed in limited 2021 action that perhaps he’s left the turnovers in the past, but the two-year contract he received from the Saints is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’s their long term answer under center. Winston’s presence will allow New Orleans to go slow with Corral, ensure his ankle is fully healed up, then run him out there whenever they’re ready to turn him loose. Corral’s been knocked for his size, but there’s no franchise more willing to trust a shorter QB with five-star leadership skills than the New Orleans Saints.
20) Pittsburgh Steelers: Sam Howell (QB, North Carolina)
The Steelers could very well opt to trade up for “their guy” at quarterback, or maybe they actually do want to try this Mitchell Trubisky thing for a year?
But in this no-trades mock, they find the heir to Ben Roethlisberger in Sam Howell, who showed what he can do with talent around him during a strong 2020 campaign two years ago. Throwing to the likes of Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth will help Howell rediscover what made him such a well-regarded prospect, and having Najee Harris in the backfield doesn’t hurt either.
21) New England Patriots: Devin Lloyd (LB, Utah)
Dont’a Hightower is still a free agent, and the fact the Patriots have not yet brought him back would suggest they’re open to getting younger at the position in the draft. Devin Lloyd seems like he could very well fall right into their laps, and offers the kind of range and versatility that Bill Belichick will covet.
Lloyd’s a complete player with a strong football IQ, and has what it takes to become the next “green dot” player as father time continues coming for many of the Patriots’ long-time defensive stalwarts.
22) Green Bay Packers: Jameson Williams (WR, Alabama)
After trading Davante Adams and seeing Marquez Valdez-Scantling sign with Kansas City, the Packers are thin at wide receiver. Jameson Williams is perhaps the best in this year’s class, and Aaron Rodgers and Co. are a capable enough bunch to withstand a few games without him in the early half of the season.
23) Arizona Cardinals: Drake London (WR, USC)
The Cardinals offense took a major step back when DeAndre Hopkins had to miss time with an injury last season. And with Christian Kirk now getting paid handsomely by the Jaguars, Arizona would be wise to give Kyler Murray another weapon.
At 6″5′, London adds another element to an offense that is currently set to feature Hopkins and explosive 5″7′ slot receiver Rondale Moore. While he struggles to create separation, his size allows him to consistently win at the point of attack and use his physicality to fight off fenders for yards after the catch. This just feels like a Cardinals pick.
24) Dallas Cowboys: Treylon Burks (WR, Arkansas)
Jerry Jones has said that “unless a Micah Parsons or a CeeDee Lamb is there, we’re going offensive line in Round 1.” But can he really resist a standout wide receiver from his alma mater sitting right there for the taking? Especially after losing Amari Cooper?
This probably isn’t the most prudent pick given the depth of this receiver class and the Cowboys’ desperate need to provide more protection for Dak Prescott, but if Burks is there, it’s hard to see Jones passing him up.
25) Buffalo Bills: Trent McDuffie (CB, Washington)
The Bills’ lack of corner depth arguably cost them a trip to the AFC Championship Game in 2021, and with Levi Wallace now gone, their need to find more depth behind Tre’Davious White is more evident than ever.
McDuffie’s only knock is his underwhelming size (5″11′). He has the versatility to play outside or in the slot and plays with the kind of fire you’d expect from a player trying to silence the critics. After watching the Bills hang with the Chiefs in Arrowhead sans-White last year, it’s scary to think what’s possible with White and McDuffie as their 1-2 punch at corner.
26) Tennessee Titans: Chris Olave (WR, Ohio State)
The Titans are a sleeper choice to take a quarterback, but also have a gaping hole on their receiver depth chart after AJ Brown. Pairing Brown with Julio Jones was supposed to provide Tennessee with a dynamic duo at receiver, but Jones simply couldn’t stay healthy enough to be effective over a sustained period of time.
Chris Olave is perhaps the best route runner in this class, and would make the Titans’ passing attack dynamic enough that defenses can’t afford to stack the box without getting bit. Regardless of who is under center for Tennessee in 2022, they’re going to need more than just Brown to throw to.
27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Zion Johnson (IOL, Boston College)
Two years ago, the Bucs needed a tackle, and Tristan Wirfs fell right in their laps. This year, they need a left guard to replace Ali Marpet, and it seems like they could get lucky again.
Zion Johnson is the most polished guard in this year’s class, and even took some snaps at center during Senior Bowl practices in an effort to improve his versatility. Tampa Bay is already one of the favorites to emerge from a weak NFC, and a strong draft led by Johnson could push them over the edge.
28) Green Bay Packers: Jahan Dotson (WR, Penn State)
With Adams and Valdez-Scantling both gone, the Packers need to add at least two receivers this offseason, and if Williams is going to miss some time, adding another blue chip talent would be a wise choice for Green Bay.
Williams, Dotson, and a likely veteran signing would revive a Packers receiver room that is in need of some fresh talent, and would all leave the successor to Rodgers in good hands, whenever that handoff ultimately happens.
29) Kansas City Chiefs: Skyy Moore (WR, Western Michigan)
Skyy Moore isn’t Tyreek Hill, but profiles as well as anyone not named Jameson Williams to fill Hill’s roll in the Chiefs offense.
Moore isn’t without his question marks, between his small stature and the lesser competition he faced at Western Michigan. But because the Chiefs added JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdez-Scantling already this offseason, their receiver room is not totally void of talent. That allows them to take a swing on Moore and hope he can reach his ceiling in Andy Reid’s offense.
30) Kansas City Chiefs: George Pickens (WR, Georgia)
The Chiefs were part of the famous AFC Divisional Round matchup with the Bills that seemingly sparked the Great AFC Arms Race of the 2022 Offseason over the last several weeks.
But because of their cap situation, the Chiefs haven’t really been a part of it. They’ve added Smith-Schuster and Valdez-Scantling, but no true game changer that can replace what Hill gave them. George Pickens may not do that right away, but offers immense upside, tenacity, and perhaps the best hands in this receiving class. A pass-catching group with Pickens, Moore, Smith-Schuster, Valdez-Scantling and Travis Kelce should be more than enough to let Patrick Mahomes do his thing.
31) Cincinnati Bengals: Kair Elam (CB, Florida)
The Bengals have made a point to sure up their offensive line this season, meaning cornerback is now the only remaining major hole for the defending AFC Champions.
Elam has good size and the athleticism to become a quality outside corner in the NFL. He comes with the SEC pedigree that teams covet, and plays with the strength and swagger necessary to thrive in the AFC North.
32) Detroit Lions: David Ojabo (EDGE, Michigan)
Ojabo was likely a Top 15 selection before his injury, and could fall into the front half of the second round depending on how teams see the rest of this edge class. But the Lions are a team that can afford to be patient with the Michigan standout, and will be more than happy to keep him in the Great Lake State.
Ojabo is still far more raw than his Michigan counterpart Aidan Hutchinson, but assuming a full recovery from his Achilles injury, his raw traits give him just as much upside. Without pressure to make significant noise this year, the Lions will happily take a blue chip talent with the final pick of Day 1.