The recently rebranded Washington Commanders enter the 2022 offseason facing the same decades-long problem: find a franchise quarterback.
The last Washington quarterback to start the majority of games for more than three straight years was Mark Rypien, who made 56 starts from 1989-92. During that four-year stretch, he compiled a record of 39-17, made two Pro Bowls and earned MVP honors in Super Bowl XXVI -- as the franchise hoisted its third Vince Lombardi Trophy at the conclusion of the 1991 season.
Rypien was injured in Week 2 of the 1993 campaign, and since then Washington has trotted out 32 different starting quarterbacks. Unsurprisingly, the smorgasbord of signal-callers has produced mostly mediocre results, leading the franchise to just six playoff appearances and two postseason victories over the past 29 years.
The Commanders need a franchise QB in the worst way, and in this mock draft, they select their sixth first-rounder in the last three decades after failing to woo a proven-signal caller to the nation's capital via free agency/trade. Ron Rivera's former team, the Carolina Panthers, also start anew under center, as do the Saints in Year One of the post-Sean Payton era. Now let's get started!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
New head coach Doug Pederson said the Jaguars' job moving forward is to "find more good pieces" to put around former No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence. How about protecting his blindside with a 6-foot-7, 350-pound wall who should test very well at the NFL Scouting Combine? That would be a very good start.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
The top two selections of the 2021 draft get potential cornerstone left tackles. Ekwonu has room to grow in pass protection in front of Zach Wilson, but he's dominant in the run game and plays with an aggressiveness that will endear him to his teammates.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
The Giants need to add multiple offensive linemen as the new regime evaluates if Daniel Jones is truly the answer at quarterback. Cross won't wow you with his power or agility, but he is at his best in pass protection and can step in right away.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
There are no top-10 worthy quarterbacks in this class, but the Panthers seem like by far the best bet to draft one in that range if they miss out on a proven veteran in free agency or via trade. Willis has the highest ceiling of the bunch, and Carolina could fall in love with his potential as it desperately tries to find an answer post-Cam Newton.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
After addressing a glaring need (offensive line), the Giants select one of, if not the best player available in Hamilton. New York certainly has weaker positions, but the Notre Dame product is a Swiss Army knife who can impact all three levels of the defense.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Based on everything coming out of Atlanta, it seems like the best option for both the Falcons and Calvin Ridley is to move on. With Ridley's future uncertain, combined with Russell Gage set to become a free agent, Atlanta selects the polished and explosive Wilson to give Matt Ryan another dynamic target.
Round 1 - Pick 9
David Ojabo EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'4" / 265 lbs
Ojabo may not be as productive early on as Purdue's George Karlaftis, but he has the immense talent to become a game-changer coming off the edge. The Broncos bank on that potential by making him the second Michigan pass rusher to go inside the top 10.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
The Jets have not had a lockdown corner since Darrelle Revis patrolled the secondary from 2007-12. Stingley is not Revis, but his monster freshman season in 2019 and his elite traits suggest he could turn into one of the league's top young cover guys.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
Pickett's immense experience and well-rounded skillset give him the best shot among the quarterback prospects to start in Year 1. And even if he does not win the starting job during the preseason, there's a good chance he'll take over as the starter at some point in 2022 and produce with a solid cast of playmakers around him.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
With Kirk Cousins likely staying in Minnesota for at least one more season, the Vikings upgrade their uncertain and underwhelming secondary with Gardner. Based on what Minnesota has now, Gardner would likely step in as its No. 1 cornerback right away.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
Unless the Browns spend big on one of the premier free agent wide receivers, this pick should be a dynamic pass-catcher for Baker Mayfield. Get the ball in Burks' hands and he'll do the rest, which will force defenses to focus less on Cleveland's highly efficient rushing offense.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
The Ravens have a history of letting homegrown centers sign big contracts in free agency, and that could happen again with three-year starter Bradley Bozeman. In that case, Linderbaum could come in and immediately offer Pro Bowl potential blocking for Baltimore's potent rushing attack.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
The Eagles pride themselves on having a stout defensive front, and adding Karlaftis will surely help a defense that inexplicably finished second worst in the NFL with 29.0 sacks in 2021. Karlaftis won't beat offensive tackles with his athleticism, but his high motor and power will allow him to consistently get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 16
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
The drought is over. For the first time since 1979, the franchise selects a linebacker in the first round. In addition to his ideal size (6-3, 235) and versatility, Lloyd stuffed the stat sheet this past season with 111 tackles (22.0 for a loss), 7.0 sacks, six pass breakups, four interceptions and two touchdowns. It'll feel like Lloyd is everywhere for a defense that should take another step forward after a solid 2021 campaign.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
The Chargers badly need help along the defensive line, and Walker can essentially line up anywhere and be disruptive. Defensive guru Brandon Staley would love having Walker to help improve the league's worst run defense while also being a capable pass rusher.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
Do Jalen Hurts a favor and get him another No. 1-caliber wide receiver to pair with DeVonta Smith. With two capable wideouts, a top-notch tight end and a successful running game, Philadelphia would then be able to better evaluate if Hurts is the long-term answer at quarterback.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
With proven veteran Joe Haden likely gone from what was a meh cornerback group, the Steelers select McDuffie to fill the void. What he lacks in size and length, he makes up for with his explosiveness, technical ability and field awareness. He'll excel in both man and zone coverage at the NFL level.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 180 lbs
You know new head coach Josh McDaniels and quarterback Derek Carr would love to add another explosive weapon to what was already the sixth-ranked passing offense in 2021. And if not for Williams' torn ACL in the national championship game, he probably would have been gone by this point in the draft.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
This is a draft class full of high-end edge rushers, so the Cardinals decide to move on from four-time Pro Bowler Chandler Jones, who turns 32 at the end of the month, and replace him with Johnson. A dominant Senior Bowl week, combined with a uber-productive 2021 campaign at Florida State, cemented Johnson as a first-round talent.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
The Cowboys sure up what was a disappointing offensive line in 2021 with the selection of Green. He's best suited at guard but can fill in as needed. He played four out of the five positions this past season at Texas A&M.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Northern Iowa • Soph • 6'7" / 325 lbs
Penning will need some time to acclimate to NFL edge rushers coming from an FCS school, but his ideal combination of size, length and athleticism will go a long way towards protecting Ryan Tannehill (47 sacks taken in 2021) and clearing running lanes for Derrick Henry.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
The Buccaneers can't keep all 22 starters like a year ago, so they'll have to decide which veterans to move forward with. In this edition, Tampa Bay prioritizes keeping its defense together and therefore lets Chris Godwin walk. The NFL-ready Olave is a viable replacement.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Kenny Clark earned his second Pro Bowl appearance in 2021, but his counterparts were underwhelming. The 6-foot-6, 340-pound Davis will help Clark and company clog running lanes against the likes of Dalvin Cook, David Montgomery and D'Andre Swift.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 29
Central Michigan • Soph • 6'6" / 303 lbs
The Dolphins go back to the offensive lineman well in the first round. The Austria native has only played tackle for two seasons after transitioning from tight end, but he's already capable of stepping into an NFL offense and contributing from the jump.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Hill can help basically anywhere in the secondary, which is significant considering the Chiefs defense could lose Tyrann Mathieu and Charvarius Ward in free agency.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
The Bengals get lucky with Johnson here, as the Boston College product has top-20 upside thanks to his positional versatility and encouraging Senior Bowl week. More importantly, Cincinnati adds a quality player to protect Joe Burrow.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
Baylor • Soph • 5'11" / 198 lbs
Aaron Glenn's defense places a lot of importance on the safety position, and the Lions could lose leading-tackler Tracy Walker III in free agency. As a result, Detroit goes with Pitre, a player whom the coaching staff worked closely with at the Senior Bowl.