The Jaguars finished the season strong with a dominating performance against the Colts, and if the Lions hadn't beaten the Packers, Detroit would now have the No. 1 pick. In some sense, that would've made things easier for Jacksonville, an organization that doesn't need an edge rusher. And no one would've blinked had Detroit taken Aidan Hutchinson at No. 1.
Instead, the draft order remains pretty much unchanged from recent weeks and the Jags will have to confront the real possibility of selecting Hutchinson, even though they've taken edge rushers Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson in the first round in two of the last three drafts. There are worse fates, of course -- like overdrafting a quarterback, though this appears to be the year where there likely won't be a team willing to trade up to No. 1 to take one.
This week, the top 10 is dominated by offensive linemen and edge rushers, and the first quarterback doesn't go off the board until the ninth pick. All told, only three QBs go in the first round, though a lot can change between now and late April, especially if one of the passers currently on the outside looking in gets red hot at the Senior Bowl, which is just a few weeks away.
Keep reading to see where the three quarterbacks land, and how the entire first round unfolds.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Michigan • 6'7" / 264 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, but we don't expect there to be teams clamoring to trade up to the top pick in this draft and Jacksonville may be stuck here.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Oregon • 6'5" / 258 lbs
The Lions would probably love to trade down because for as good as Thibodeaux has been, he won't be the final piece to turning things around in Detroit. But since there are no trades in this mock draft, and there may end up being no team moving up this high for, say, a QB in the actual draft, the Oregon pass-rusher remains the choice here.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Ikem Ekwonu OT
NC State • 6'4" / 320 lbs
With Davis Mills playing some pretty good football since earning the starting job, it sure seems like the team will move forward with him, at least for another season. And if that's the plan, it seems reasonable to protect him. Ekwonu, meanwhile, 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, which is exactly what Houston needs.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • 6'7" / 350 lbs
The Jets have to protect Zach Wilson, and this should be the mantra to begin every draft meeting the team has. Neal is an athletic marvel who has excelled at several O-line positions during his Crimson Tide career.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Ideally, the Giants would beef up the O-line here but the two top targets are already off the board. Instead, they focus on the defense. The team has young safeties Xavier McKinney and Julian Love, but that doesn't mean there isn't room in the secondary for Hamilton, too. He's 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 6
Mississippi State • 6'5" / 311 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 the offensive line and perhaps find their next franchise QB via free agency or a trade. Cross is a high-upside athletic offensive tackle who had a strong season for Mississippi State.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Iowa • 6'2" / 305 lbs
Linderbaum, who left Iowa's bowl game with a lower-body injury, is one of the best offensive linemen in the country. And although a center hasn't gone higher than No. 18 in the last dozen drafts, a) Linderbaum is that good, b) the Giants need to solidify the interior O-line.
Round 1 - Pick 8
LSU • 6'0" / 195 lbs
Former first-rounder AJ Terrell is having a great season, and Isaiah Oliver, who has also been good in coverage, is in the final year of his contract. After that, there's not much depth and if the best CB in the draft is on the board here, it'll be hard to pass on Stingley. The other option, of course, is targeting a quarterback here.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • 6'2" / 205 lbs
The team fired Vic Fangio on Sunday morning and in his final presser, Fangio made it clear that upgrading the QB position was critical, especially in a division where the three other teams have top-flight passers. We'll see what happens either through free agency or via trade but if the Broncos use the draft to target a QB, Corral would be an option here -- he's our top passer, though there's no clear-cut No. 1 like in previous years.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • 5'11" / 231 lbs
Dean plays with the type of urgency and physicality that has been lacking in this Jets 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 its success. In New York, he'll join C.J. Mosley, Jarrad Davis and Blake Cashman, a group that hasn't consistently played up to the expectations of first-year coach Robert Saleh.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Pittsburgh • 6'3" / 220 lbs
There will be plenty of teams talking themselves into QBs in this draft and WFT (along with Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, Denver, Pittsburgh and Detroit) will be in the running in a decidedly weak class. Pickett had a great 2021 season for Pitt and he'll have several opportunities during the pre-draft process, starting with the Senior Bowl, to prove he's QB1.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Clemson • 6'0" / 194 lbs
The team already parted ways with 2020 first-rounder Jeff Gladney, and Patrick Peterson is on a one-year deal. Wide receiver could also be an option here but stockpiling defensive backs is never a bad strategy. Booth has all the athleticism and tools to be special, and he balled out for Clemson this season.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • 6'1" / 219 lbs
The Browns reportedly are bringing back Baker Mayfield for another season but it's only January and a lot can change in the coming months. Willis does everything Mayfield does but is a top-end athlete, too. He'll also go to an organization with a good offensive line and running game, and a young defense that should be even better next season. On paper, this is a good fit for a rookie QB, especially one who isn't quite a finished product.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Kaiir Elam CB
Florida • 6'1" / 191 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.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
Purdue • 6'4" / 263 lbs
Karlaftis adds another dimension to the defensive line. Injuries and the pandemic saw him play limited snaps in '20 but Karlaftis was nearly impossible to stop in '19 when he recorded 17 TFLs and had 7.5 sacks, and in 12 games this season he logged 10 TFLs, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 16
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 and he'll give Jalen Hurts another downfield option alongside rookie DeVonta Smith.
Round 1 - Pick 17
David Ojabo LB
Michigan • 6'4" / 255 lbs
Prior to the semifinal loss to Georgia, David Ojabo was a lot of fun to watch this season, where he took advantage of every opportunity playing opposite Aidan Hutchinson. But don't get it twisted -- he's a twitchy edge rusher who will only get better with experience. In L.A., he'll bring some much-needed juice off the edge opposite Joey Bosa.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Alabama • 6'1" / 179 lbs
Quarterback will obviously be a consideration here but only wide receivers Michael Thomas, Marquez Callaway and Tre'quan Smith are under contract, and there's no guarantee Thomas will be back. Williams, who had to transfer from Ohio State to Alabama to see the field, is a legit first-round talent.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Auburn • 5'11" / 190 lbs
McCreary was the most consistent cornerback in college football this fall, and that's all you want from that position, so while he lacks the high-end athleticism of some of the other names often mentioned as first-round talents, he's rarely out of position and almost always making positive plays for his team.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Washington • 5'11" / 193 lbs
There will be a lot of turnover this offseason, starting with Ben Roethlisberger. But with three QBs already off the board, the Steelers look to bolster the cornerback position where only two players -- backups Justin Layne and James Pierre -- are under contract after the '21 season. Even though McDuffie plays cornerback, and plays primarily outside, 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, even though he balled out on the outside for the Huskies this season.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Cincinnati • 6'3" / 200 lbs
J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills have seen the majority of snaps at cornerback for the Patriots and Jackson is in the final year of his deal and he'll be rightfully looking to get paid in the offseason. If the Pats want to add depth in the secondary, targeting a CB here would make sense. Sauce Gardner is a long, press corner, who would have a chance to play immediately in Foxborough.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 22
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • 6'1" / 189 lbs
Yes, the Dolphins need to continue to bolster the offensive line but the wide receiver position will need some attention, too; only Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker and Allen Hurns are under contract after the '21 season. Olave is one of the best route runners in this class and would give Tua Tagovailoa another downfield threat (assuming, of course, Tua remains in the long-term plans).
Round 1 - Pick 23
San Diego State • 6'5" / 270 lbs
Thomas, who can play anywhere along the defensive line, set career bests in tackles for loss (20.5) and sacks (10.5) this season for the Aztecs, and he appears to just be scratching the surface on his abilities. He's as good against the run as he is getting after the quarterback.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Arkansas • 6'2" / 225 lbs
At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Burks has all the tools to eventually be WR1, as was evidenced just about every week in the fall. The Cardinals have DeAndre Hopkins (whose season is over because of injury) and Rondale Moore but Christian Kirk is in the final year of his deal and Arizona can move on from A.J. Green after the season, if they so choose.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • 6'4" / 323 lbs
The Bengals opted to take Ja'Marr Chase over Penei Sewell and it was the right move, even though Sewell has shown well in Detroit. But they still need to make protecting Joe Burrow a priority. Green can play either tackle or guard and he has the ability to be a Day 1 starter.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Georgia • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Levi Wallace is in the final year of his deal and Dane Jackson has been serviceable as his playing time increased following Tre White's season-ending injury. That said, beefing up the secondary would be reasonable here. Kendrick is a first-round pick all day long, and he proved that again this season with Georgia after transferring from Clemson. The biggest issue for NFL teams will be off-field issues; if Kendrick has matured since his time with the Tigers, he'll be worthy of a top 32 selection.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 27
Drake London WR
USC • 6'4" / 213 lbs
By the time we get to the actual draft, we'll much more clarity on what the Lions' QB plans might look like, though it feels like Jared Goff's job in '22. With its second first-rounder, we have Detroit adding London, who was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing USC season. He won't run a 4.3 but London is a high-point-catch machine who can take over games, and we love the idea of him playing alongside former college teammate Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has been a bright spot in the Lions' passing game.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • 6'3" / 235 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. You might note that the Cowboys just drafted Micah Parsons, who excelled as an off-ball linebacker at Penn State, but has emerged as one of the most explosive edge rushers in the NFL. Adding Lloyd can take a suddenly good defense and make it great.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Washington • Sr • 6'7" / 340 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 in Kansas City, where several players could be headed for free agency after the season.
Round 1 - Pick 30
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
Round 1 - Pick 32
Logan Hall DL
Houston • 6'6" / 283 lbs
Last spring, some people were surprised Payton Turner made his way into Round 1. Don't be shocked if his Houston teammate, Hall, follows a similar path. He was unblockable at times this season and at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, he can line up just about anywhere.