In our weekly mock drafts, we've typically had three quarterbacks go in the first round, but with the college season concluded (save the playoffs), and draft season unofficially underway, don't be surprised if that number grows as we hear about quarterback-needy teams talking themselves into players that, truthfully, are second-round talents who end up being over-drafted.
But that's what makes the whole draft process interesting, and with so many teams needing franchise quarterbacks, expect a run on signal-callers, even in a decidedly weak 2022 draft class.
Matt Corral remains our QB1, in part because of how well he played this fall, but also because of questions about Carson Strong's knee. (We've been saying it for months, but if Strong's knee is 100%, he's the passer we're taking first.) But after Corral, it's wide open; some teams may love Strong, others may prefer Kenny Pickett, and others still may love the upside of Malik Willis or Sam Howell or Desmond Ridder.
Given the state of this quarterback class, perhaps the real winners might be Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson or any other veteran quarterbacks who force their way off their current clubs. But, hey, a lot can change, not only between now and the draft, but between the draft and the NFL season. A year ago, some folks (not us!) thought it was crazy to suggest that Mac Jones was not only a legit first-round talent, but one of the most-NFL-ready passers in the class.
For now, keep reading to see how the entire first round unfolds.
For a more extensive draft discussion beyond the mock drafts, check out our weekly show every Tuesday on YouTube!
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 game) 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 exclamation point came the last two weeks; first a three-sack performance against Ohio State and then, on Saturday, helping Michigan win the Big Ten Championship Game.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Ikem Ekwonu OT
NC State • 6'4" / 320 lbs
The Jags have used first-rounders on edge rushers two of the last three drafts, and while Kayvon Thibodeaux is certainly worth a top three selection, Jacksonville has to beef up its O-line. 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, which is exactly what the Jags need.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • 6'2" / 205 lbs
We've had Corral-to-Houston for a few weeks now, mostly because this team desperately needs a QB. and that hasn't changed after a 31-0 drubbing vs. the Colts on Sunday. Is this too high for any QB in this class? Yes! But how often have teams overdrafted a position of need, especially when it's the most important position on the field? Plus, if the Texans are convinced that one of the quarterbacks in this class can serve as a big red reset button then it's probably worth rolling the dice. Corral is the best QB in this class and he was much-improved in '21 after a solid '20 campaign.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • 6'7" / 350 lbs
The Jets, knowing they have the Seahawks' first-rounder as part of the Jamal Adams trade, use their own first pick to improve the offensive line. The Jets have to protect Zach Wilson -- 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 for the Crimson Tide.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 5
Oregon • 6'5" / 258 lbs
After addressing the offensive line at No. 4 they go defense and take Thibodeaux. He battled an ankle injury early in the season but has since proven that he's just about unstoppable when he's on the field -- to the point that it's almost unfair.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 6
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 219 lbs
The Giants have young safeties Xavier McKinney and Julian Love, but that doesn't mean there isn't room in the secondary for Kyle 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 7
Mississippi State • 6'5" / 311 lbs
The Giants have an opportunity to take two of the best defenders in this class but instead pass on Derek Stingley to bolster an offensive line. This may be high for Cross, but he is a high-upside athletic offensive tackle who had a stellar season for Mississippi State.
Round 1 - Pick 8
LSU • 6'1" / 190 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 after that, and if the best CB in the draft is on the board here, it'll be hard to pass on on Stingley. The other option, of course, is targeting a quarterback here.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Pittsburgh • 6'3" / 220 lbs
We love what Pickett's accomplished this season but we also didn't give him a first-round grade. That doesn't mean he hasn't had a fantastic season, or that he won't end up being among the first 32 selections. And as becomes evident every draft, teams will overdaft quarterbacks and 2022 will be no different. Which brings us to the Panthers, who fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady after a season-and-a-half, in part because he couldn't get the most out of Sam Darnold. If the Panthers are out of the running for Deshaun Watson then it stands to reason they'll look long and hard at a QB in the draft.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Clemson • 6'0" / 200 lbs
The team has 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 11
Ohio State • 6'0" / 192 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. Wilson is one of the most explosive players in this class, and that was on display every week during the college football season.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 12
Auburn • 6'0" / 190 lbs
This may seem too high for McCreary but was the most consistent cornerback in college football this fall. 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 13
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 Eagles 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.
Round 1 - Pick 14
David Ojabo LB
Michigan • 6'5" / 250 lbs
The Broncos shipped Von Miller to the Rams just before the trade deadline and, not surprisingly, have struggled to consistently get after the QB. Ojabo has been a lot of fun to watch this season for the Wolverines, where he's taken 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.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Cincinnati • 6'3" / 200 lbs
The Raiders have had several weeks off-field news that has resulted in the firing of the head coach and releasing both 2020 first-round picks, including CB Damon Arnette. Sauce Gardner, meanwhile, is a long, press corner, who would have a chance to play immediately in the Vegas secondary.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Alabama • 6'2" / 189 lbs
Williams had to transfer from Ohio State to Alabama to get playing time (think about that) and he's taken full advantage of his opportunities. In Cleveland, the Browns don't have much depth at wide receiver and Williams, who has been unstoppable against SEC defenders, has put his name into the first-round conversation.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 17
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 18
Nevada • 6'4" / 215 lbs
It sounds like Ben Ben could hang it up after the season (though who knows after his best game of the season in the win over Baltimore), and that means there will be a great sense of urgency to find the next franchise quarterback. The biggest question about the Nevada QB: how healthy is Strong's knee? With a clean bill of health he'd be in the running for our QB1, but that will be the lingering question as we go through the draft process, and if the news isn't good, he could fall out of the first round altogether. He's had a fantastic career at Nevada and has an NFL arm and consistently makes good decisions with the ball. If he ends up in Pittsburgh here, the team should use every available resource to fix the offensive line.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 19
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • 6'4" / 325 lbs
Green can play either tackle or guard and he has the ability to be a Day 1 starter. He may have to kick inside but wherever he ends up, he's the latest O-lineman drafted early by the Dolphins, which have tried to address the unit in recent drafts but not with the success they were hoping for.
Round 1 - Pick 20
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, something he did regularly for the Huskies in '21. In Washington, Kendall Fuller has been the team's best corner and after that, well, there are a lot of questions. McDuffie provides answers to some of those questions.
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 protecting Joe Burrrow, who was sacked seven times in Sunday's loss, has to be an offseason priority.
Round 1 - Pick 22
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. In L.A., he'll line up opposite Joey Bosa a year after the team struggled to replace Melvin Ingram.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 24
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • 6'1" / 225 lbs
We have a second-round grade on Willis but -- and stop us if you've heard this already (scroll up) -- that doesn't mean teams looking for a quarterback won't take one 15 to 30 picks before perhaps they should. If the Lions do, in fact, target Willis here it has to be with the understanding that he'll be a backup in '22 while Jared Goff continues to hold down the job. Willis has all the tools you look for in an athletic, strong-armed QB but he's also extremely raw. It would be reckless to throw him into the lineup as a rookie.
Round 1 - Pick 25
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 26
Jahan Dotson WR
Penn State • 5'11" / 182 lbs
We're going to keep mocking Dotson to the Chiefs until we will it into existence. Kansas City's offense certainly appears too much closer to the group we're used to seeing, and with only Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman under contract after the season, why not give them another athletic marvel? Dotson 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 27
Washington • Jr • 6'7" / 310 lbs
Alejandro Villanueva has struggled this season and the Ravens will likely look for an upgrade. Kirkland has been the cornerstone of the Huskies' offensive line and has a chance to be a first-round talent.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • 6'6" / 340 lbs
We love the idea of having Davis and Vita Vea on the field at the same time wreaking havoc, especially since the team can void Ndamukong Suh's contract after the season. When healthy (and, honestly, that's been rare this season), the Bucs don't have a lot of needs so they beef up the defensive line here.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • 6'1" / 188 lbs
Is wide receiver the Titans' biggest need? No, of course not, but only AJ Brown, Julio Jones and rookie Racey McMath are under contract after the season, and Brown and Jones have both struggled to stay healthy. Olave is one of the best route runners in this class and he would immediately be the WR No. 3 in this offense.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Drake London WR
USC • 6'4" / 213 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.
Round 1 - Pick 31
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. Donte Hightower certainly fits the old-school mold of what an NFL linebacker look like, but he's 31 and is set to hit free agency in the spring.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Logan Hall DL
Houston • 6'6" / 275 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's been unblockable at times this season and at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, he can line up just about anywhere.