We've admitted throughout the fall that we have no idea how many quarterbacks end up going in Round 1, though the reality is, we currently have first-round grades on just two of them: Matt Corral and Carson Strong.
There are mitigating circumstances, of course, most notably: Teams will overdraft the position and there's no reason to expect anything different this time around. It's why we have four passers coming off the board, though the first doesn't hear his name called until the No. 9 pick, when the Falcons plan for life after Matt Ryan. Even more interesting: Six picks later, the Steelers roll the dice on Malik Willis, who can be electric but who also is incredibly raw.
Put another way: He'll need to land in a great spot to maximize his success, and what better spot than Pittsburgh, where the second-most important offseason priority (after finding a QB) is fixing the offensive line.
And while quarterbacks are often the most important topic in any mock draft, here's something else to chew on with days remaining in 2021: There could be a situation where a team eager to land an elite pass-rusher, Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux, could be willing to move up a few spots to make it a reality. This week, the Giants pull off such a move, and we know what you're thinking: OK, what did it cost?
Remember back in 2018, the Jets shipped three second-rounders to Indy to move up from No. 6 to No. 3 to take Sam Darnold. So there's precedent, though the trade details aren't critical here; the bigger takeaway is that we could see a team trade up next April not for a QB but for an edge rusher.
For now, keep reading to see how the entire first round unfolds.
One other thing, and this is important: now that we're past the midway point of the season, we're using the 2022 NFL Draft order (via tankathon, with results prior to Monday's and Tuesday's games) to determine selections 1-32 below.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Michigan • 6'6" / 265 lbs
Hutchinson is a great example of a player who got better each and every season, and instead of coming out early he stayed in school, balled out as a senior, and made himself into arguably the best player -- on either side of the ball -- in the country during the '21 college football season. The Jags have taken an edge rusher in the first round in two of the last three drafts.
Mock Trade from Detroit Lions
Round 1 - Pick 2
Oregon • 6'5" / 258 lbs
The Giants need help on both lines, and in last week's mock draft we had them target two offensive linemen. This week, they move up from No. 5 to No. 2 to get Thibodeaux, who could end up being the first player selected in April. Is the cost prohibitive for the Giants, a team with plenty of holes to fill? Ultimately, that will depend on what it costs, but remember, it cost the Jets three second-rounders to go from No. 6 to No. 3 back in 2018 to go get Sam Darnold.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 219 lbs
Justin Reid is in the final year of his deal for Houston, and while the team could be in the market for a QB, they also appear willing to see what rookie third-rounder Davis Mills can do the rest of the season. Hamilton, meanwhile, is a 6-4, 220-pound version of Ed Reed -- a sideline-to-sideline ball hawk -- and that makes him a Day 1 impact player.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Ikem Ekwonu OT
NC State • 6'4" / 320 lbs
The Jets have to protect Zach Wilson, and this should be the mantra to begin every draft meeting the team has. Ekwonu is one of our favorite players in this draft class. There's talk that he may have to move inside to guard but when you watch him play, he's perfectly suited to be a dominant tackle as well.
Mock Trade from New York Giants
Round 1 - Pick 5
LSU • 6'1" / 190 lbs
Jeff Okudah's career has been marred by injuries and while we liked Ifeatu Melifonwu coming out of Syracuse, the Lions need to continue to beef up their secondary. Stingley missed the final half of the season because of injury but that will have zero impact on his draft stock.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 6
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • 6'7" / 350 lbs
This feels like best-case scenario for the Giants, even if the costs is an additional three second-rounders. They get arguably the best pass-rusher in the class with Thibodeaux, then land arguably the best left tackle in Neal. Daniel Jones, who could have a new head coach and GM, will be out of excuses in '22.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Mississippi State • 6'5" / 310 lbs
Quarterback makes all the sense in the world here, but it's important to remember these two words: Fit matters. Put Mac Jones on the the Jets and he probably looks a lot more like Zach Wilson than a legit Rookie of the Year candidate. So knowing that, the Panthers bolster an offensive line in desperate need of bolstering. Cross is a high-upside athletic offensive tackle who had a breakout season for Mississippi State.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 8
Clemson • 6'0" / 200 lbs
The Jets already addressed the offensive line so here they one of the best defensive players in this class. Booth has all the athleticism and tools to be special, and he balled out for Clemson this season.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • 6'2" / 205 lbs
It would be somewhat surprising if a QB lasted until the ninth pick, but much like the 2013 class, this group doesn't possess a Trevor Lawrence or Joe Burrow or Kyler Murray. In Atlanta, Corral can sit for one more year behind Matt Ryan and then take over Arthur Smith's offense in '23.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 10
Iowa • 6'3" / 290 lbs
Jason Kelce is 34 years old and the Eagles could either move on from him after the season, or let his contract expire after the 2022 campaign. Yes, Philly drafted Landon Dickerson in the spring, but he can remain at guard going forward because Linderbaum might end up being the best offensive lineman in this class.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Alabama • 6'2" / 189 lbs
The Vikings could go QB here, if Mike Zimmer is ready to move on from Kirk Cousins (despite taking Kellen Mond a year ago), or they could target a cornerback. Instead, we have them going with wideout. Yes, Justin Jefferson is one of the best players in the league but Adam Thielen will be 32 next season, and more importantly, there's not much depth behind those two among the wideouts. Williams, who had to transfer out of Ohio State to see the field, was electric this season for 'Bama.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • 6'4" / 325 lbs
Brandon Scherff, Charles Leno and Cornelius Lucas are all in the final year of their contracts, and even if, say, Scherff is re-signed, you can never have enough dudes on your offensive line. Quarterback would be a consideration here, for sure, but with Matt Corral already off the board, this is too rich for whichever player you have penciled as as your No. 2 QB in this class.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Purdue • 6'4" / 275 lbs
Karlaftis adds another dimension to the defensive line. Injuries and the pandemic saw him bounce back in '21 after playing limited snaps in '20 but Karlaftis was nearly impossible to stop in '19 when he recorded 17 TFLs and had 7.5 sacks.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 14
Ohio State • 6'0" / 192 lbs
This likely won't be a popular pick because the Eagles have used first-rounders on wide receivers the last two years, but they'll only have four wideouts under contract after the season, and that includes J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Wilson is one of the the most dynamic players in college football.
Round 1 - Pick 15
David Ojabo LB
Michigan • 6'5" / 250 lbs
David Ojabo was a lot of fun to watch this season for the Wolverines, where he took advantage of every opportunity playing opposite Aidan Hutchinson. But don't get it twisted -- he's a twitchy edge rusher who is just a junior and will only get better with experience. In Denver, he'll line up opposite Bradley Chubb a year after the team struggled to replace Von Miller.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Pittsburgh • 6'3" / 220 lbs
We love what Pickett accomplished this season but we also didn't give him a first-round grade. But that doesn't mean he didn't have a fantastic season, or that he'll end up being among the first 32 selections. It's hard to imagine 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger returns for another season and if he doesn't, Mason Rudolph has yet to prove he's earned the starting gig behind him. If Pickett does end up in Pittsburgh, the team should focus on bolstering an O-line that has struggled at times in '21.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • 6'0" / 225 lbs
Dean plays with the type of urgency and physicality that has been lacking at times in the middle of this defense. And while Dean's playing on the best defense in the country, don't be fooled -- he's not riding on the coattails of a dominant defensive line -- he's been a huge reason for their success. The thought of Dean and JOK on the field at the same time would create a lot of headaches for the rest of the AFC North.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Kaiir Elam CB
Florida • 6'2" / 193 lbs
The Ravens' secondary has been decimated by injuries this season but Jimmy Smith is in the final year of his deal and Marcus Peters and Tavon Young are set to hit free agency after next season. It was a forgettable season for the Gators but Elam's talents were hard to miss. He has the size (6-foot-2, 190) and athleticism to be one of the best draft-eligible corners.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • 6'1" / 225 lbs
Willis is an intriguing prospect, perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the entire class. We have a second-round grade on him based on his 2021 season, but the Saints -- and every other QB-needy team -- will need to do the math on projecting what Willis will look like in 2-3 years. There's a lot to love about the situation in New Orleans, starting with Sean Payton, the O-line, Alvin Kamara (and possibly Michael Thomas) and a dominant defense.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Auburn • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Heading into '22, there isn't much depth behind Tre White (who suffered an ACL injury earlier this season) and Taron Johnson. And McCreary, who has gotten better each year against some of the best WRs in the country, had a great campaign for the Tigers.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 21
Kentucky • 6'5" / 345 lbs
Kinnard is a mauler who plays with an edge and he can wreak havoc as both a run and pass-blocker. He may have to kick inside at the next level but his ability to open holes in the running game makes him an immediate asset for the Dolphins' offense, which has tried to address the O-line in recent drafts but not with the success they were hoping for.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • 6'1" / 188 lbs
Olave is one of the best route runners in this class and he would certainly be a welcome addition on this Chargers offense. And in L.A., only receivers Keenan Allen and rookie Josh Palmer are under contract after the season. And if Mike Williams isn't in the long-term plans, Olave wouldn't be a bad consolation prize.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 23
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • 6'3" / 232 lbs
Lloyd is a twitchy, sideline-to-sideline player who fits the mold of off-ball linebackers we've seen coming into the league over the last decade. The Eagles might not have a history of taking off-ball linebackers in the first round but that doesn't mean they shouldn't consider it here.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 24
Nevada • 6'4" / 215 lbs
Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy tweeted this last week about Strong, who officially declared for the NFL: "Plenty speculation on here about status of ... Strong's knee. He had surgery Feb. 21 and rushed back to play this fall despite normal 10-month recovery time. Recently saw an NFL team doc who told him there was zero cause for long-term concern after clean MRI." If that proves to be the case with team docs for QB-needy teams, Strong will be a first-round pick, and could go much higher than this. The Lions stockpiled second-round picks by trading down earlier, landed Stingley, and now get a franchise QB here. Not a bad day's work for new GM Brad Holmes, should it play out this way.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Washington • Jr • 6'7" / 310 lbs
Kirkland was the cornerstone of the Huskies' offensive line and has a chance to be a first-round talent. He may have to kick inside but that still fills a need in Cincy. Last spring, the Bengals opted to take Ja'Marr Chase over Penei Sewell and it appears to have been the right decision, but they still need to make protecting Joe Burrow a priority.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Central Michigan • 6'7" / 305 lbs
Raimann is originally from Austria and moved from tight end to left tackle after the 2019 season, but you wouldn't know it to watch him play. He might be the most athletic O-lineman in the entire class, he's just scratching the surface on his abilities, and the Titans' O-line has struggled to keep Ryan Tannehill upright for much of this season.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • 6'6" / 340 lbs
Davis was consistently a one-man wrecking crew for Georgia this season and he could go much higher than this even if he doesn't offer much as a traditional pass-rusher. He's a pocket collapser, which, on some level, transcends the play call.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Jahan Dotson WR
Penn State • 5'11" / 182 lbs
The Bucs could use help in the secondary, for sure, but next year's WR corps could be without Chris Godwin (on the franchise tag) and Antonio Brown, who will hit free agency after the season. Only Mike Evans, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson and Jaelon Darden are currently under contract heading into '22. Dotson, meanwhile, was electric this season for the Nittany Lions, and he threatens the defense at all three levels. He's not going to break a lot of tackles but that assumes defenders are able to get their hands on him; he's as fast as he is elusive, and a legit home run threat every time he touches the ball.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Arkansas • 6'3" / 225 lbs
At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Burks was consistently dominant during the '21 season. He has all the tools to eventually be WR1. He'd be a welcome addition in New England where the Pats appear to have found their next franchise QB.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Daxton Hill DB
Michigan • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Hill is part of a Wolverines defense that could end up seeing three players go in Round 1 next spring. He's underrated nationally but watch him play and it becomes clear pretty quickly that he's in the running for one of the best defensive backs in this class. He's listed as a safety but he can line up anywhere.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Washington • 5'11" / 195 lbs
Even though McDuffie plays cornerback, we get Tyrann Mathieu vibes when we watch him. We love him as a slot corner who serves as an enforcer in run support and locks down short and intermediate routes, though he has balled out on the outside for the Huskies this season.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Drake London WR
USC • 6'5" / 210 lbs
London, was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing USC season. And while he won't run a 4.3 when healthy, London is a high-point-catch machine who can take over games, which sounds like something both Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams would appreciate in Green Bay.