It's never too early to put out a mock draft, right? (The other side of that argument, of course, is that it's always too early because, invariably, they're wrong -- but that's not the point. Look at this this way: how else would you spend all those hours reserved for anger-tweeting at us?)
Maybe a better way to look at this is not as a mock draft -- "Here's who your team will take 51 weeks from now having no idea how the current roster and subsequent season unfolds" -- but as a guide to the college players you should keep an eye on in 2021 for the 2022 NFL Draft. And unlike the last few classes, there is no clearcut No. 1, no Trevor Lawrence or Chase Young or Nick Bosa, but in some ways that makes it more intriguing because there's room for guys to explode onto the scene, like Joe Burrow and Zach Wilson did (here's a closer look at our early No. 1 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux).
One other thing, and this is important: the draft order below was determined using SportsLine's Super Bowl odds but in reverse order. We know folks are going to be very angry about why we have their team picking so high, but it's not our fault! These are your team's odds of winning a Lombardi Trophy.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
The only reason a QB doesn't go here is because the Texans used their first pick in the 2021 draft -- a third-rounder -- on quarterback Davis Mills. Instead they get Thibodeaux, who has been dominant in his first two seasons at Oregon.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Sam Howell QB
North Carolina • Soph • 6'1" / 220 lbs
We'll find out if Jared Goff is the answer in Detroit, and if he's not the Lions will be in the market for a franchise QB. Howell has some of the same gunslingin' traits as the last face of the franchise, Matthew Stafford.
Round 1 - Pick 3
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Stingley has been on NFL radars since his freshman season in 2019. He was the best defensive back on that championship LSU roster that also included Kristian Fulton and Grant Delpit.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Hamilton is a big, strong, fast safety who is the latest in a long line of freakishly athletic defensive backs.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
Unless there are glaring needs at, say, quarterback heading into the season it's hard to predict what those needs will be by next January. But the Eagles have had injuries along the O-line torpedo their chances in recent years so it's never a bad idea to upgrade the unit. Neal played guard early in his Alabama career, kicked out to right tackle last season and he'll move to left tackle in 2021.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Clemson • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Kendrick was in the conversation as a first-round pick in the 2021 draft before returning to Clemson and then entering the transfer portal. Wherever he lands for '21, he'll be among the cornerbacks NFL teams will be monitoring closely.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Zion Nelson OL
Miami (FL) • Jr • 6'5" / 316 lbs
This is an upside pick. Nelson has a chance to be really, really good, and if he continues to make strides in '21 he'll find himself in the first-round mix as one of the best tackles in this class.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Oklahoma • Sr • 6'1" / 218 lbs
Rattler is undersized at 6-foot-1, but that's less of an issue in today's NFL. Either way, he can sling it -- he completed 67 percent of his throws last season with 28 touchdowns and he's only going to improve.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Kedon Slovis QB
USC • Sr • 6'3" / 215 lbs
The Raiders need a lot of things -- and maybe the '21 draft class will solve some of those issues -- but it's only a matter of time before Jon Gruden succumbs to the allure of a new QB.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
Willis is going to be fun to watch -- he has a rocket arm, threw for more than 2,200 yards and rushed for 940 more. And if the Panthers aren't sold on Sam Darnold, they too could be back in the QB business.
From Houston Texans
Round 1 - Pick 11
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 273 lbs
Jackson had a standout freshman campaign, flashed in the shortened Pac-12 season in '20, and is looking for a breakout campaign in '21. At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, he looks the part.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 12
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
Injuries and the pandemic saw him play limited snaps in '20 but Karlaftis was dominant at times in '19 when he recorded 17 TFLs and had 7.5 sacks.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
Olave had some 1st/2nd-round buzz after a stellar 2020 season, but he decided to return to school where he'll be one of the top receivers heading into the fall.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'1" / 215 lbs
Spiller is in the running for RB1 after two years for A&M where he's averaged nearly 1,000 rushing yards a season to go along with 19 rushing TDs while averaging 5.5 yards per catch.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 15
Kaiir Elam DB
Florida • Soph • 6'1" / 191 lbs
Elam has the size (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) and athleticism to be considered among the up-and-comers to watch. He had two picks and 11 pass breakups last season playing opposite Marco Wilson, a 2021 fourth-round pick of the Cardinals.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Cade Mays OL
Tennessee • Soph • 6'6" / 325 lbs
A former 5-star recruit who transferred from Georgia, Mays can be dominant on the inside.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Sevyn Banks CB
Ohio State • Sr • 6'2" / 205 lbs
Banks is the next in a long line of Buckeyes defensive backs who end up in the NFL after impressive college careers.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Alabama • Fr • 5'11" / 187 lbs
We can use the Sevyn Banks template above for Alabama wideouts: "Metchie is the next in a long line of Crimson Tide wide receivers who end up in the NFL after impressive college careers."
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 19
Ohio State • 6'6" / 272 lbs
Harrison looks the part, without question, but he'll need his production and consistency to match that to work his way into the first-round conversation.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Burks is a Grown Man. And while we haven't heard much about him nationally, he could end up as WR1 with a good '21 season.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 21
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 226 lbs
Harris could end up being the best of the recent crop of linebackers to come out of Alabama.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Josh Jobe CB
Alabama • Soph • 5'11" / 190 lbs
Jobe doesn't come into the '21 season with the recognition of, say, Patrick Surtain II or even Trevon Diggs, but he's a long CB who plays at Alabama and has more than held his own against some of the best players in the country.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Penn State • Soph • 6'6" / 325 lbs
Even after Anthony Castanzo retired, the Colts didn't address the left tackle position in the '21 draft. With a solid '21 campaign, Walker, who was dominant at times last season, will be in the first-round mix.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'6" / 265 lbs
We were glad Hutchinson returned to school because we thought he needs to continue to improve his game before declaring for the draft. He has the size and bulk for the part; now he just needs to play with more consistency.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
Green started as a true freshman and has only gotten better each year. He consistently moves defensive tackles off the line of scrimmage, a trait which translates to any level.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 207 lbs
Ridder is another QB who is incredibly fun to watch. He can sling it, but he's also rushed for more than 1,800 yards in three seasons. He'll need to but it all together to work his way into the Round 1 chatter by next offseason, but he has all the physical tools.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 27
Texas A&M • Fr • 6'5" / 265 lbs
Wydermyer was one of Kellen Mond's favorite targets for a reason: he was reliable and almost always open. Not a bad combination.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 28
Miami (FL) • Fr • 6'2" / 200 lbs
Bolden flashed at The U in 2020, returned to school and he has a chance to be one of the top safeties in this class along with Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Davis is an enormous human being who can clog running lanes all day long, but he'll need to expand his pass-rush repertoire (mostly because he's only needed brute strength to beat most of the O-linemen that lined up in front of him).
Round 1 - Pick 30
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Wilson made plays on a weekly basis for the Buckeyes in '20 and it's fair to say that he and Olave are the most dangerous WR tandem heading into the 2021 season.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 290 lbs
Originally a defensive end, Leal has the versatility and athleticism to play up and down the line, though at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds he's primarily on the inside. He has the potential to be really, really good and this could be the year he puts it all together.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Justyn Ross WR
Clemson • Soph • 6'4" / 210 lbs
Ross missed the 2020 season because of a neck injury but he was on track to be a first-round pick. Instead, he returned to school, has been cleared to play football, and hopefully he can stay healthy because he has special talents.