We're less than two weeks away from the 2022 NFL Draft. How things will shake out at the top of the draft are much less clear this year than they were a year ago, when we knew who would be selected with the first two picks several weeks ahead of time.
The lack of clarity means there are sure to be a ton of surprises on Day One of the draft, and that expectation gets baked into the projections you'll see below. Anything can happen, and if history is our guide, a whole lot of weird stuff is what we should expect.
Let's mock this thing.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
There's been a lot of talk about reasons why Thibodeaux might fall. What about the reasons he shouldn't? He's an outrageous athlete who was wildly productive in college, and he plays one of the league's most important positions. He can be a game-changing player for Detroit's defense.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Round 1 - Pick 4
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Plenty of people will make the argument that Sauce Gardner is the best defensive player in the draft. Robert Saleh's defense needs an injection of talent in the secondary, and he can be a shut-down guy.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
New York needs a right tackle to play across from Andrew Thomas, and Neal has already played on the right side. (He's said he can play everywhere but center.) It helps that he's also one of the top three tackles in this class.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
The Panthers would surely love to pick a quarterback here... but there just aren't top-six-worthy quarterback prospects in this class. Instead, they address a major need with the best pass-protector in the class.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
Walker can be a flexible piece along the front for defensive coordinator Don Martindale, who values versatility. He's a tremendous athlete who wasn't asked to do as much as a pass rusher in college as he seems to be capable of.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Two years ago, the Falcons passed on CeeDee Lamb to take A.J. Terrell, who has turned into a terrific player in his own right. With their pass-catcher corps depleted aside from Kyle Pitts, they land Wilson here, who looks a whole lot like Lamb on tape.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
Seattle desperately needs pass-rush help, even after acquiring Shelby Harris in the Russell Wilson trade. Johnson had a breakout season for FSU after transferring from Georgia, and can be a twitchy presence on the edge for new defensive coordinator Sean Desai.
Mock Trade from New York Jets
Round 1 - Pick 10
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
There's a theory that the Saints traded up simply to land a tackle ahead of the Chargers. I don't buy it. They're looking to move up the board again and nab their quarterback of the future. Willis would open up opportunities in their offense that the organization hasn't had in quite some time.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Washington could go receiver here, but Ron Rivera is going to want to fortify a need on defense by grabbing a safety who could make plays everywhere inside the box and match up against tight ends in space.
Round 1 - Pick 12
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Stingley has battled injuries over the past couple years, but his 2019 tape was outstanding and the bet here is the Vikings can tap back into that player -- especially after they re-signed former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, who can serve as a mentor for his fellow former Tiger.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 13
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Davis is a player who makes almost no sense, given his combination of size and athleticism. Lovie Smith would certainly love to add a player like that to his defense, which needs help at all levels of the field.
Round 1 - Pick 14
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
The Ravens love stocking up on edge rushers who can play the run as well as the pass, and while he's not the quickest guy around, Karlaftis can win in a bunch of different ways due to his power and technique. With Calais Campbell getting up there in age, Karlaftis can prepare to take over in a similar role.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
Philly needs another receiving threat across from Devonta Smith, and Olave is a terrific complement. Smith is a burner who can take the top off of just about any defense and create big plays, while Olave is a technician who can also do the same.
Mock Trade from New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 16
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 180 lbs
Williams is coming off a torn ACL, but with the Jets having Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Braxton Berrios in their receiving corps, they can let him take his time. He can then be the big-play guy for Zach Wilson over the long term.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 18
Mock Trade from New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 19
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
With the other pick received in their trade with the Saints, the Jets land an interior defensive lineman who can play an important role in Saleh's defense. Three first-round picks net New York three major pieces.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
Pittsburgh can afford to let Pickett sit behind Mitchell Trubisky for as long as he needs before he's ready to take over. We know the Steelers like taking players from Pitt (see: Conner, James) if it fits a need.
From Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 22
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Think of Pickens like a wide receiver version of Derek Stingley. He might be the best receiver in this class, we just haven't seen it for a couple years due to injuries. Green Bay needs a guy who can develop into a true No. 1 wideout.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
Dallas could go with a wide receiver here, but the Cowboys also love being the first team to take a player at a specific position and here they land the first guard off the board. They desperately need a starter on the left side of the line and can land a wideout in Round 2.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
With Cole Beasley no longer around to play the slot, Buffalo currently looks set to split the role between Jamison Crowder and Isaiah McKenzie. But what if they could get a monster-sized threat man like London, who provides something entirely different than either Stefon Diggs or Gabriel Davis with his size as an intermediate threat with great run-after-catch ability? That seems like it could really help Josh Allen.
Mock Trade from Tennessee Titans
Round 1 - Pick 26
Round 1 - Pick 27
With Jordan Whitehead leaving in free agency, the Bucs go ahead and select a replacement who is even more versatile. Hill can play deep, in the box, or in the slot, and allow Todd Bowles to do the things he likes to do up front.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Logan Hall DL
Houston • Soph • 6'6" / 283 lbs
After (finally) getting Aaron Rodgers a first-round receiver earlier in the draft, the Packers address a need along the interior of the defensive line. Hall can play as a 3-4 end or 4-3 tackle, and even rush from the edge.
Round 1 - Pick 30
David Ojabo EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'4" / 265 lbs
Ojabo won't be able to contribute right away for the Chiefs, but this is the kind of pick they should be looking to make for their defense. He likely was not going to be available in this spot if not for his injury, and he has the type of upside that makes a dice-roll worth it. With the Chiefs seemingly taking a longer-term view at the moment, he makes sense.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Kyler Gordon DB
Washington • Soph • 6'0" / 200 lbs
The Bengals spent most of their time, energy, and money this offseason on the offensive line. But they can't ignore the defensive backfield and pretend the contributions they got from their low-cost corners last season are guaranteed to them in the future. Gordon helps address that area.
Mock Trade from Detroit Lions
Round 1 - Pick 32