With the NFL quarterback carousel finally starting to slow down, the teams in the mix to select a first-round signal-caller are quite clear.
The Panthers are still set to start 2022 with the erratic Sam Darnold; the Falcons signed Raiders backup Marcus Mariota after trading away Matt Ryan; and the Seahawks received Broncos enigma Drew Lock in the blockbuster deal for Russell Wilson. All of these clubs possess top 10 picks, and no one would blame any of them if they gambled on a rookie based on what they have now.
Seattle currently has the lowest pick of the three, but in this mock draft, head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider take matters into their own hands, leapfrogging the Panthers and Falcons to snag the first passer off the board. Elsewhere, the Chargers give up more draft capital for offensive line help, while both Ohio State wide receivers go in the top 10. Now let's get started!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • 6'7" / 260 lbs
The Jaguars' free agency moves suggest they won't be drafting an offensive lineman with the top pick, and Hutchinson is the clear-cut best edge rusher in the class. This pairing makes all the sense.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Georgia • 6'5" / 275 lbs
The Lions would have loved to have gotten Hutchinson, but Walker is a versatile, athletic defensive lineman who can impact the game in a variety of different ways. His eye-opening combine performance pushed him into the conversation of being one of the first players chosen in this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • 6'4" / 320 lbs
Can Davis Mills actually be a viable long-term option in Houston? Part of finding out is making sure he's protected as well as possible, and that wasn't always the case last season. (The Texans allowed 44 sacks, the ninth-highest mark in the NFL.) If the team decides to keep Pro Bowler Laremy Tunsil, having him and Ekwonu as bookends up front would go a long way towards keeping its young quarterback upright.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • 6'4" / 254 lbs
The Jets were in the mix for Chandler Jones before he landed with the Raiders, per CBS Sports NFL insider Josina Anderson, which suggests that GM Joe Douglas is looking to make a big move at pass rusher. And as long as Hutchinson, Walker and Thibodeaux don't go 1-2-3 (in any order), New York will be in position to add a potential game-changer off the edge. In this mock, it's the big and explosive Thibodeaux.
Mock Trade from New York Giants
Round 1 - Pick 5
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • 6'1" / 219 lbs
By swapping one of their second-round picks (41st overall) for a fourth-rounder (112th overall) with the Giants, the Seahawks move up four spots and select their future franchise quarterback in Willis. Seattle hopes Drew Lock plays adequately until Willis, who has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this class, is ready to see the field at the professional level.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Pittsburgh • 6'3" / 220 lbs
GM Scott Fitterer admitted at the NFL's annual league meetings that the Panthers are considering taking a QB. "At some point, you have to take a shot, especially in the top 10," he said. Well, if the Panthers wanted Willis, the Seahawks just swatted their first shot into the fifth row. Luckily, their second shot could result in Pickett, perhaps the prospect most capable of playing right away.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • 6'7" / 350 lbs
This is a win-win scenario for New York, who swaps a fourth-rounder for a second with Seattle and still gets its guy. The Giants badly need a tackle with Andrew Thomas occupying the left side. Neal, perhaps the best one in this class, started 12 games on the right side and 15 games on the left side during his career at Alabama. It's a perfect match.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Ohio State • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Relying on a quarterback who hasn't started since 2019 isn't ideal, but that's what Atlanta has going right now with Marcus Mariota. More than anything, Mariota needs weapons, so the Falcons get him the consensus top wideout in Wilson.
Mock Trade from Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 9
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Hamilton's low 4.7s 40-yard dash at his Pro Day is notable, but it shouldn't scare teams off from drafting him in the top 10. The Giants, while capable in the secondary, add a explosive weapon who will elevate the entire unit.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • 6'1" / 188 lbs
Passing on top cornerback prospect Ahmad Gardner might prove costly, but the Jets covet a No. 1 receiver for Zach Wilson. Heck, they were willing to give up their 35th, 38th and 69th draft picks for Tyreek Hill and a late third-rounder. After Hill chose the Dolphins, New York addresses the position with the silky smooth Olave.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Drake London WR
USC • 6'4" / 213 lbs
The run of wide receivers continues as Carson Wentz gets another much-needed weapon to pair with two-time 1,000-yard receiver Terry McLaurin. London and McLaurin immediately give Washington one of the best contested-catch duos in the NFC.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Mock Trade from Houston Texans
Round 1 - Pick 13
Mississippi State • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Draft picks don't matter in Los Angeles apparently. The Chargers see Charles Cross slipping down the board and pounce, trading away the 17th and 79th selections to jump four spots and scoop up Cross, who may be the best pass blocker in the class.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Washington • 5'11" / 195 lbs
McDuffie's biggest knock is that he's 5-foot-11 and has sub-30 inch arms, but aside from that he's rock solid. He's scheme versatile, position versatile, a great athlete, instinctual, physical and a stout tackler. He would thrive in the Ravens secondary playing alongside the elite trio of Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Marcus Williams.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
LSU • 6'1" / 195 lbs
Who better to help an inconsistent cornerback with immense potential than four-time Pro Bowler Darius Slay? Stingley has all the tools, and with the right environment could wind up as the class' best cover man.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 16
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • 6'5" / 262 lbs
There's a chance Johnson goes higher than this if three defensive lineman come off the board within the first four picks, like in this mock draft. But if he falls, the Eagles would be happy to pounce on the explosive and productive Johnson to beef up the all-important defensive front in Philadelphia.
Mock Trade from Los Angeles Chargers
Round 1 - Pick 17
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • 6'4" / 275 lbs
The Texans could use a high-end edge rusher to pair with Jonathan Greenard, who broke out with nine sacks in his second NFL season. Karlaftis provides Lovie Smith's defense with a technically sound, high-motor player who already has an NFL body to attack opposing tackles.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Alabama • 6'1" / 179 lbs
The Saints' passing attack would look much different in 2022 if Jameis Winston had Michael Thomas and Williams to heave the ball to (in addition to All-Pro all-purpose back Alvin Kamara). Those are legitimate weapons as New Orleans aims to extend its playoff window under new head coach Dennis Allen.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Arkansas • 6'2" / 225 lbs
Having not added any free agent receivers so far, it would make sense for the Eagles to use one of their three first-round picks on the position. Burks provides another dangerous pass-catcher for Jalen Hurts to go along with DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Northern Iowa • 6'7" / 332 lbs
Mitch Trubisky needs time to throw and Najee Harris needs bigger holes to run through. Penning, with his nasty demeanor and physical, aggressive playing style, will help ensure that happens in Pittsburgh's first year without Ben Roethlisberger.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • 6'3" / 316 lbs
The Patriots beef up their offensive line with the versatile and intelligent Johnson. The Boston College product has soared up draft boards to the point where some expect he'll be the first interior offensive lineman taken (like in this mock).
From Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 22
Georgia • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Kenny Clark could use some help up front, and the Packers get him some in the form of Wyatt. The standout from Georgia can best be described as a disruptor up front, causing issues for opposing linemen in both the run and the pass games.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • 6'6" / 336 lbs
The release of Jordan Phillips means the Cardinals could use an immediately starter at nose tackle. Enter Davis, who alongside J.J. Watt would provide Arizona with a lethal duo as it attempts to slow down the offenses of the NFC West.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • 6'4" / 323 lbs
Jerry Jones said at the NFL's annual league meetings that, "Obviously, I'd like to have a young offensive lineman at the position that you could immediately come in and play." As long as Green cleans up some bad habits (grabbing that leads to holding penalties, etc.), he has the NFL-ready frame, overall skillset and versatility to contribute immediately.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Clemson • 6'0" / 194 lbs
The Bills need a replacement for the departed Levi Wallace, and Booth, despite reportedly undergoing sports hernia surgery, will compete to be the answer once he's fully healthy, which should be for the start of training camp. He still has a lot of room to grow, but working with Tre'Davious White and Taron Johnson should expedite his development into a solid No. 2 corner.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • 6'3" / 235 lbs
Getting Lloyd here would be a steal for the Titans. He excels in every facet of the position -- just look up his stats from this past season at Utah -- and would fit right in with Tennessee's stout front seven.
Mock Trade from Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 1 - Pick 27
Cincinnati • 6'3" / 207 lbs
Kevin Colbert gets aggressive in his final draft as the Steelers GM. With the Bucs looking to trade out, he gives up the 52nd pick this year and a second-rounder next year to move back into the first round and select the next potential franchise QB for Pittsburgh.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Jahan Dotson WR
Penn State • 5'11" / 182 lbs
It seems like a guarantee that the Packers will use one of their first-round picks on a wide receiver. In this exercise, it happens to be the Dotson, who satisfies Matt LaFleur's need for speed at the position.
Round 1 - Pick 29
David Ojabo EDGE
Michigan • 6'4" / 255 lbs
The Chiefs capitalize on Ojabo's fall due to tearing his Achilles at his Pro Day. While he's expected to miss six months, meaning he would not return until a few weeks into the upcoming season, his pass-rushing prowess alone makes him worthy of a late first-round selection.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Michigan • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Trading away Tyreek Hill doesn't mean the Chiefs have to take a wide receiver in the first round, especially considering the position's depth. Instead, they strengthen a secondary that lost Tyrann Mathieu and Charvarius Ward with a player in Hill who can line up all over the defensive backfield.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Iowa • 6'2" / 305 lbs
The Bengals added three starting-caliber offensive linemen in free agency. They should also jump at the opportunity to draft Linderbaum here. You can never have enough quality offensive linemen, and Cincinnati can plug in the Iowa standout at center and not have to worry about the position for years to come.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32