Every draft is unique, and in that sense, it's pretty difficult to predict what the top 10 teams will do, let alone how all 32 picks will unfold. But this year, more than most, feels particularly tough because this year's quarterback class doesn't have a Trevor Lawrence or Joe Burrow, or even Kyler Murray.
Instead, QB-needy teams will need to project more than most years what this group of passers will look like 2-3 years from now. That said, we fully expect the Panther to be in the quarterback business, primarily because they didn't land one in free agency and owner David Tepper seems like he's running out of patience. Other teams who could be looking for QBs include the Falcons, the Seahawks, Saints, Steelers, Lions and possibly even a surprise team like the Titans. In fact, we have Tennessee taking a QB in this week's mock, and all told, four quarterbacks end up going in Round 1.
Even more surprising (or, perhaps, far-fetched is a better way to put it): the Packers use both first-round picks on wide receivers. Of course, it took Aaron Rodgers seriously contemplating retirement and trading Davante Adams to Las Vegas to make it happen, but necessity it the mother of ... being confronted with the reality that your roster has a huge gaping hole at wide receiver and you desperately need to do something about it. So maybe this is the year Green Bay finally takes action.
We'll all find out together if our make-believe scenario below mirrors real life in less than a month when the actual draft takes place. For now, keep reading to see how all 32 picks play out.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'7" / 268 lbs
For the longest time we've had the Jags targeting an offensive lineman here, but the team used the first week of free agency to beef up the O-line so we're back to where we were during the season: Aidan Hutchinson is the No. 1 pick here, even though the team has used a first-rounder on an edge rusher in two of the last three drafts. Josh Allen has been as good as advertises while K'Lavon Chaisson is still looking to put it altogether in the NFL. Hutchinson is probably the safest pick in this entire class.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
Walker is something of a tweener, which is odd to say about someone who stands 6-foot-5, and weighs 275 pounds. But he can line up as a 3, 4 or 5-tech and that versatility, coupled with his non-stop motor and consistent playmaking ability, makes him an attractive option for any team looking to bolster their defensive line. Walker's stock has skyrocketed during the pre-draft process and he's just scratching the surface on how good could he can be. He has really good tape, but he also played on a Georgia defense that could end up with 4-5 first-round picks and his combine performance -- a 4.51 40, a vertical of 35.5 inches and a mind-boggling 3-cone of 6.89 seconds -- only reminded people of why he has a chance to be special.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
The Texans have five of the first 80 picks in the draft and with Deshaun Watson now in Cleveland, it certainly seems like Davis Mills is the QB of the future (for the time being, anyway). And if so, Houston will need to protect him. Ekwonu is our OT1 and had the Jags not addressed their OL needs in free agency, Ekwonu would remain our first-overall selection.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
Yes, the team signed Laken Tomlinson in free agency, and have used first-rounders in back-to-back years on Alijah Vera-Tucker and Mekhi Becton, but Neal can play right tackle if needed, and he can man the left tackle spot from Day 1 if Becton isn't healthy.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Cross plays in Mike Leach's Air Raid offense, which means he's not asked to do a lot of run blocking. And he'll tell you that's one of the things he wants to improve, even though he was very good in that area last season. Either way, Cross' athleticism shines through and that, coupled with his strength, makes him a top-10 draft-day target.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
The Panthers didn't find a big-name quarterback in the first week of free agency so they'll turn to the draft. No QB is worth taking sixth-overall but Carolina is out of options, and if you're going to overdraft at a position, make it the most important one on the field. The fear is that you get Mitch Trubisky but the payout, of course, is that you find Josh Allen. Willis has the arm strength and athleticism to be special, he just needs to refine his game and play with more consistency. The Panthers desperately need to fix their offensive line but they also need a franchise passer too.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
Thibodeaux has game-changing talents and, frankly, he's been all over the board in our mock drafts, mostly because teams have differing opinions on him. They're no denying he's just about unstoppable when he's locked in and if the Giants could come away with Cross and Thibodeaux in Round 1 that would be a huge win.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
The Falcons replaced Matt Ryan with Marcus Mariota, so it stands to reason they could be in the market for a QB here since Mariota last started a game in 2019. But the WR position is in dire need of some upgrades and Wilson, who is our WR1, is a top-10 all day long. His game reminds us of Odell Beckham Jr., and Atlanta may need to target several wideouts in this draft to restock a depleted unit.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Hamilton ran in the 4.5s at the combine and was timed in the 4.7s at his pro day. This shouldn't see him slip on draft boards because he plays much faster than this. Seattle could be in the market for a QB or O-lineman here, but they appear committed to Drew Lock and three offensive tackles are already off the board.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Gardner is a long, physical corner who can run with any WR he goes up against. He didn't give up a single TD during his career and in '21 he was as close to shutdown as you're going to see, which will come in handy in the AFC East.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
Washington has needs at wideout and along the offensive line, but Lloyd is a special talent who would pair nicely alongside '21 first-rounder, Jamin Davis. We were impressed by him during the '21 season and nothing changed at the combine. He's the prototypical off-ball linebacker in today's NFL (pay no attention to his 4.7-something 40 times -- he plays immeasurably faster), and it's like he was built in a lab. This may seem high but, well, it's not.
Round 1 - Pick 12
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Stingley didn't work out at the combine as he recovers from a foot injury, and he only played three games in '21, but it's hard to forget just how dominant he was in '19 as a freshman, where he spent practices going up against Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall and Racey McMath. If he was eligible two years ago he would've been a top-5 pick. He remains a ball hawk, not to mention an asset in the return game and he'll only last this long because hasn't played a lot of football in the last 12 months. The team just re-upped Patrick Peterson, but it was only on a one-year deal.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 13
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
Every receiver on the Texans' roster except Nico Collins has just one year left on their deal. The team got an offensive lineman with the No. 3 pick and here they get Davis Mills a downfield weapon. At 6-foot-5, London was a high-point-catch machine before his '21 season ended prematurely with an ankle injury. He reminds us some of his former teammate at USC, Michael Pittman, and London has all the tools to be WR1.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
After transferring from Georgia, Johnson had a fantastic season at Florida State. And he told us at the combine that he felt like he had something to prove going from the SEC to the ACC. He did that and then some, then he dominated the Senior Bowl, and followed that up with an electric workout in Indy. The Ravens drafted Odafe Oweh a year ago and he'll get a running mate with Johnson here.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
Even though McDuffie balled out on the outside for the Huskies this season, we get Tyrann Matthieu vibes when we watch him. He has the athleticism to line up anywhere -- and he told us at the combine that he can do just that at the next level. McDuffie is one of the best cornerbacks in this class and adds some much-needed depth in Philly.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 16
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 180 lbs
Williams tore his ACL in the national title game, but he's still one of the best players in this draft class and should be ready to contribute next October. And if not for the injury he's likely the first wideout off the board. The Eagles have a need at the position, even though they've taken a WR in the first round the last two years, and if they can be patient with Williams as he recovers, Philly could end up with the best WR corps in the division.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Davis dropped some weight, showed up at the combine and at 6-foot-6, 341 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.78 seconds, had a 32-inch vertical, and a broad jump of 10 feet, 3 inches -- and oh, by the way, he was a one-man wrecking crew in the SEC. It's easy to say Davis is a two-down player, but his obvious strength and surprising speed make a legit three-down threat who just needs to refine his pass-rush arsenal beyond the bull rush. The biggest question is if he can keep his weight down, which directly correlates to his stamina, and his ability to stay on the field.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
The Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Colts, and signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year deal, but Mariota hasn't started an NFL game since October 2019. Pickett made the right decision to return to Pitt for the '21 season, and in the process, he worked himself into the first-round conversation. The question is where does he get selected because, depending on who you talk to, it could be anywhere from top-10 to bottom of Round 1.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • Soph • 5'11" / 231 lbs
We love the fit because the Eagles could use Dean in the middle of their D (even if, historically, they don't draft off-ball linebackers in Round 1), and because Dean was so dominant during the '21 season. And while he played on the best defense in the country, don't get it twisted -- he didn't ride on the coattails of a dominant Georgia defensive line -- Dean was a huge reason for their success. There are questions about his size and how that translates to the NFL but his tape tells a different story.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
Yes, the Steelers signed Mason Cole in free agency after rookie Kendrick Green struggled, but this will be Cole's third team in three years. Adding Linderbaum gives the unit even more depth with Cole and Green as backup options to go along with free-agent addition guard James Daniels. Linderbaum is one of the best offensive linemen, even at center, and he could certainly go much higher than this.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Clemson • Soph • 6'0" / 194 lbs
Andrew Booth had a strong '21 season for Clemson and he's only going to get better with experience. The Patriots lost J.C. Jackson to the Chargers and they'll need to upgrade their secondary this offseason, something they didn't do during the first week of free agency.
From Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 22
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
Burks is a contested and high-point catch machine. Don't be fooled by his 4.55 40 at the combine -- he regularly outran defensive backs to the end zone in the SEC and that won't change in the NFL. The scariest part of his game is that he's not even close to his ceiling yet, and what better way to get there than in Green Bay. He reminds us of some combination of Anquan Boldin, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Deebo Samuel.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Boye Mafe DL
Minnesota • Soph • 6'4" / 261 lbs
Mafe had 7 sacks, 9 hits and 26 hurries in '21, and his mix of speed, bend and power was often overwhelming for opposing offensive tackles. That extended to the Senior Bowl where he dominated 1v1 and team drills, and then Mafe busted out a 4.53 40 at the combine. He may ultimately end up in Round 2 but it wouldn't be a surprise if he's among the first 32 picks. Plus, the Cards let Jordan Hicks and Chandler Jones walk in free agency so there's a gaping need for pass rushers.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
Green can play outside or inside and at Texas A&M he lined up against some of the best defensive linemen and edge rushers in the country. The Cowboys let guard Connor Williams walk in free agency and there's a huge need at the position. Green is coming off a strong season and may be off the board by the time Dallas goes on the clock.
Round 1 - Pick 25
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 26
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • Soph • 6'2" / 205 lbs
Corral is our QB1 but we know he's not for everybody. That said, he fits the profile of the QB position is evolving into -- he's athletic, has a strong arm, and is tough. Ryan Tannehill had a tough stretch to end the Titans' season and if the team is looking for a strong-armed, athletic QB to succeed Tannehill, Corral is a great option.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
The Bucs lost Ali Marpet to retirement and Alex Cappa to free agency, and while they traded for Shaq Mason, there's still a need on the interior line. That brings us to Zion Johnson, who is another player who went to the Senior Bowl and proved he was worthy of first-round consideration. He played left tackle at Boston College and worked at guard and center in Mobile. He's a Day 1 starter at several positions.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
Look, when a team hasn't used a first-round pick on a WR since 2002, maybe it's worth doubling up when you get the opportunity, especially now that Davante Adams is in Vegas. Olave is probably the best route runner in this class but he alone won't be able to account for all of Adams' offense, but Olave plus Treylon Burks is a great start.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 29
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Unfortunately, Wyatt doesn't play WR. Also unfortunate: the Packers took two WRs at picks 22 and 28. But Wyatt is another player who changed some minds with his Senior Bowl week and he continued to convince folks of his first-round talents by putting on a show at the combine. Incredibly quick off the snap and powerful once he gets going, he can be unstoppable when he's on his game. We love the idea of him lining up alongside Chris Jones and Frank Clark.
Round 1 - Pick 30
David Ojabo EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'4" / 265 lbs
Ojabo is a top-15 talent who tore his Achilles earlier this month during his pro day. He's only been playing football for five years and he was unstoppable at times last season for the Wolverines.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Kaiir Elam CB
Florida • Soph • 6'1" / 191 lbs
The Bengals re-upped Eli Apple for another season but isn't much depth at outside corner. Elam is a long, physical CB who is coming off a strong season for the Gators. He needs to get better in run support but he has the size and speed to be successful in the league.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
Sam Howell QB
North Carolina • Soph • 6'1" / 220 lbs
The more we watch Howell the more we like. He carried the Tar Heels in '21, after losing his two best WRs and two best RBs to the NFL. It wasn't pretty at times, but he has the arm strength and the athleticism we see on Sundays from the league's best young passers, and in Detroit he can sit for a year behind Jared Goff.