Hold onto your hats, because the 2022 NFL Draft is officially less than a week away. That means the dreams of many prospects will either become a reality on Thursday, or not so much, as there is bound to a surprise or several -- regarding who gets drafted and when versus who is forced to wait until undrafted free agency to find a home (and not everyone will initially).
On the other side of the coin, for NFL teams and their respective general managers, it's as exciting as it is also pressure-packed, because months of work (and often, more) now boils down to making a decision that will decide the trajectory of their team; and often for years to come.
That said, let's take a shot at seeing who goes where when things get underway in Las Vegas!
Round 1 - Pick 1
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'7" / 268 lbs
As the Jaguars attempt to hit reset [again] in 2022, they'll do so this time with Doug Pedersen calling the shots, and seeing as Pedersen has his QB of the future in Trevor Lawrence, it's time to find the cornerstone defensive player to complement him -- Hutchinson presumably being just that.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
Dan Campbell turned the Lions into a fiery, overachieving bunch in Year 1 and adding an edge rusher like Thibodeaux should help level up the team's defense -- something that would pay off well in those instances when Jared Goff runs into one of his rough patches.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
In the first draft of the post-Deshaun Watson era, it's not about finding a quarterback to replace him -- newly-installed head coach Lovie Smith and Co. loving what they have in Davis Mills -- but it's instead about finally fixing the team's defense. Add some Sauce to the recipe and they'd be off to a great start.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
As the NFL draft nears, Walker is seeing his stock skyrocket to the point some believe he could overtake Hutchinson as the No. 1-overall pick, but while it didn't happen in this mock, don't anticipate a talent like Walker making it out of the top 5 and past a pass-rush-thirsty Jets team.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
Is Daniel Jones the future at QB for the Giants? It's time to find out in 2022, but the Giants haven't done him any favors as far as protection goes over the course of his young career. With new leadership in the building, Brian Daboll should immediately turn that tide and start protecting his QB -- be it Jones now and/or someone else later.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
It's no secret that the Panthers are desperate to land a QB, but this year's crop isn't as impressive as usual and that means the Panthers will continue to try and land a more established NFL presence (Baker Mayfield?), which matters little if they can't protect him/whomever. Neal is basically a bouncer at the club, and not many get past his velvet rope.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
It's a quick turnaround for the Giants to get back on the clock in the first round, and they use their second pick to add potency to the team's needy-defense -- one that hasn't had a dominant pass rush since the era Strahan-Tuck-JPP days. Johnson's abilities could shine well in tandem with Leonard Williams.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
No, Marcus Mariota is not the future of QB in Atlanta after trading away Matt Ryan but, as noted above, the crop of QBs isn't groundbreaking and the Falcons have so many needs to fill that it stands to reason they'd grab Hamilton, a player who could flex well on the defense -- masking more than one deficiency.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Seattle has been mostly quiet after the blockbuster trade that sent Russell Wilson to the Broncos for a package that included former second-round pick Drew Lock, and while Baker Mayfield keeps mentioning them, they've not mentioned him. So maybe they truly believe Lock has potential and, if so, it'll be paramount to consider a player like Cross -- who could keep Lock upright more often than not.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
Three words: Greg Van Roten. That's not who you want standing between Zach Wilson and would-be pass rushers, so plop Linderbaum onto that offensive line and let Wilson live long enough to make some plays.
Round 1 - Pick 11
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
With Carson Wentz now in uniform, the Commanders don't feel they need to address the QB position in this year's draft, but the same can't be said for a porous secondary that hasn't boasted a shutdown corner in years. There are pre-draft concerns regarding Stingley, but if he plays to his potential, he could be a star for Washington (a team that isn't afraid to roll the dice on a player).
Round 1 - Pick 12
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Having already acquired former and longtime pass rush rival Za'Darius Smith to tandem with Danielle Hunter, adding a goliath like Davis could make the Vikings defensive line one of the most fearsome in the entire NFL. Davis is as athletic as he is powerful, and the Vikings should race to make this call.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 13
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
Flipping one of the Watson picks into another weapon for Mills seems the right move here. With Brandin Cooks now secured on a multi-year deal, it'd be wise to consider playing him in complement with another dynamic talent -- such as London.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Having likely eyed Jordan Davis as the hope here, the Ravens can take solace in the fact Wyatt is still available, and use him and his versatility to help level up a Baltimore defense that is also becoming whole after a rash of season-ending injuries to star players in 2021.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 180 lbs
It appears more and more that the Eagles are all-in on Jalen Hurts, at least through the 2022 season. That said, the more weapons he has, the better, and you can bet Hurts would drool into his shirt knowing Williams -- expected to return to top form following his knee injury -- could be suiting up opposite DeVonta Smith.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 16
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
Olave and the Saints have mutual interest in joining forces, and the latter knows they can grab this potent talent while readying to jump back on the clock in three picks from now to solve another top need (as you'll see in a moment). The jury is out on if Michael Thomas will ever be the same and, if he is, this duo (with Alvin Kamara in the backfield) is lethal. If he isn't, then Olave becomes the successor to the throne at WR1.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Central Michigan • Soph • 6'6" / 303 lbs
With Olave off of the board and Mike Williams still leading the charge at WR, the Chargers can redirect to asking Raimann to help keep Justin Herbert pressure-free -- something still needed in L.A. as the young QB continues to thrive despite often being under duress. So imagine what he could do if he wasn't.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 18
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
From the Eagles to the ... Eagles. Johnson is not-so-arguably one of the best interior offensive linemen in this year's class and, having just added another impact receiver for Hurts with the previous pick, adding protection on the offensive front to help Hurts have more time to find said receivers is a must.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 19
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
Boom. The first QB off of the board goes to the Saints who, despite having signed Jameis Winston to a two-year deal, are eyes-forward on the position. There's a lot of intrigue regarding Willis in New Orleans, and he'll have 1-2 years to get ready behind Winston.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
This all worked out well for the Steelers. It ultimately boiled down to whomever the Saints did not pick at 19th-overall, between Willis and Pickett. And considering the Steelers do so love Pickett, who made a name for himself at Pitt, they'll take this pick and run.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
Mac Jones answers the question of who'll be the QB of the future, but who's the QB of the defense? Lloyd would answer that question in a big way for Bill Belichick -- who can't afford to enter the 2022 season with the existing void at this position.
From Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 22
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
Talk about a blessing for the Packers, who are no longer employing Za'Darius Smith but need someone to dominate opposite Preston Smith going forward. Karlaftis is easily a top-5 ranked edge prospect in this year's draft and could hit the ground running quickly for the Green Bay defense.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Clemson • Soph • 6'0" / 194 lbs
Patrick Peterson isn't walking back through the door in Arizona. They could find another shutdown corner in Booth, however, and while no one is saying he'll have the career Peterson has had, there's also no one is saying he can't.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • Soph • 5'11" / 231 lbs
The Cowboys see the run on offensive linemen (granted, they need one as well) force Dean down to them at No. 24, and they simply can't make the mistake of leaning toward need here. Grab arguably the best LB in the draft to play in tandem with the phenom that is Micah Parsons and continue to allow Dan Quinn to build the framework for what might be the next Legion of Boom.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
Stop thinking of Burks as simply a WR (although he does that very well) and consider him in the mold of Deebo Samuel, and you'll quickly understand this fit for the Bills -- who also need help at RB. Burks can be a game-changer in the right hands, and those hands might as well be the ones in Buffalo, as Josh Allen continues to take leaps forward.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Jahan Dotson WR
Penn State • Soph • 5'11" / 182 lbs
The Julio Jones experiment was an abstract failure and, assuming the Titans aren't unwise enough to trade away A.J. Brown, they'll need a definitive WR2 if they want the passing game to do anything well, and consistently, in 2022. Ryan Tannehill has his own issues to clean up, but you have to love what Dotson would bring to the table for Tennessee.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
Father Ti-... er... um... Tom Brady is unretired [swiftly] and that's fantastic news for the Bucs, but he's not getting any younger, so the name of the game is again to make sure he has time in the backfield to do what he continues to do very well: make plays downfield. Introducing Green, who is more than capable of getting the job done.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Northern Iowa • Soph • 6'7" / 325 lbs
Speaking of future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks who aren't getting any younger, Aaron Rodgers would like a word. Now secured by the Packers, you can bet Rodgers would love to avoid being planted like a tent spike when the playoffs roll around. And with Green off of the board one pick earlier, Penning steps up for Green Bay here.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 29
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Yea yea... WR by committee, blah blah blah. The reality is the Chiefs, having traded away Tyreek Hill, are now in need of another star receiver to avoid letting teams key in solely on Mecole Hardman. Wilson has both the talent and versatility to do it, and Patrick Mahomes will enjoy seeing him make plays in multiple WR roles.
Round 1 - Pick 30
David Ojabo EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'4" / 265 lbs
If not for the torn Achilles, Ojabo isn't still available here for the Chiefs. But since he is, it makes complete sense they'd take a chance on him with what is -- for all intents and purposes -- a high second-round pick at this point. Raw but dominant, if the Chiefs can polish his skill set, they could turn Ojabo into the steal of the entire draft by Year 2.
Round 1 - Pick 31
If the Bengals can't come to terms with Jessie Bates on a contract extension, they'll need another dominant safety. If they can come to terms with Bates, they'll still need another dominant safety -- to play alongside him -- making it too enticing to forego drafting Hill here, in my opinion, especially given his versatility.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • Soph • 6'2" / 205 lbs
As it turns out, the Lions didn't have to get frisky and move up to get a QB, because one is still worthy and available to be their added first-round pick. That guy is Matt Corral, who has all the tools necessary to supplant Goff, be it later or sooner.