The 2022 NFL Draft is less than 12 hours away, which means it is time to make final projections. Exploring various situations and seeing how that impacts the order is out the window and these picks count. Weeding through rumors and trying to make sense of it all may be a fool's errand, but that is what I tried to do below. Fans should be treated to a wild night where the actual results of the first round vary greatly from what has been popularly projected through media.
Without further ado, let's kick this thing off!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
Even with Cam Robinson's contract extension, I believe the Jaguars should consider an offensive lineman. However, general manager Trent Baalke has gotten his way a few times this off-season so I do not expect that to change. I think he takes Walker with the first overall pick.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'7" / 268 lbs
I do not think Hutchinson is the choice just because he went to a nearby college. He is a good football player who does fit the character mold that leadership is attempting to create. Detroit has a few foundational pieces with Romeo Okwara and Hutchinson on defense. If Jeff Okudah can stay healthy and take the next step forward, there are reasons to be excited about the Lions defense.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
Houston is the most difficult team to predict in the top 10 right now. They could go in a number of directions. At the end of the day, it would be a mistake not to do enough to best evaluate Davis Mills this coming season. If Mills fails, then the franchise has to feel better about a quality offensive lineman being in place for the next quarterback.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
The mock draft exercise is to project what we think each of these teams will do. Although it would not be my personal choice, it sounds as though New York is high on Johnson and value him inside the top 5. They could go offensive line here but Johnson is gaining steam.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
There is a lot of buzz indicating Cross could be the choice for the Giants, but I have difficulty ignoring Neal's past playing right tackle and guard. He gives them more flexibility at this spot and it just makes more sense. I am sticking with my gut and placing the Alabama product here.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Carolina has done enough to convince me that they are not taking a quarterback at No. 6 overall. With two of the top three offensive tackles off the board, I plugged Cross into this spot. He is a left tackle that has been better as a pass protector to this point in his career. As a young player, the Panthers can bring a lot more out of him.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
After taking Evan Neal at No. 5 overall and under the impression of James Bradberry's imminent departure, the Giants take the first cornerback off the board at No. 7 overall. Gardner is my top ranked player in this class because of his size, speed and confidence. Trading down would also be an option for New York.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
As much as I would have thought Ohio State's Garrett Wilson would be the choice to give them a faster dynamic to pair with Kyle Pitts, there is a lot more buzz that London would actually be the choice. London and Pitts would give the Falcons two big outlets and certainly creates interesting mismatches against the defense.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
The rise of Jermaine Johnson II theoretically pushes Thibodeaux down the board. Seattle ends that slide and the former Duck is able to remain in the Pacific Northwest. From a talent perspective, I think Thibodeaux offers more upside than most others in this class and the Seahawks have been chasing that type of player for quite some time.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
I would have thought that Drake London would have been a more natural fit for this Jets offense but he is off the board. I think to New York's pursuit of Tyreek Hill and his speed. The roster is lacking in height but there would be no shortage of speed between Elijah Moore and Wilson. Leadership is doing everything in its power to support Zach Wilson.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Kyle Hamilton to Washington has been one of the more popular selections at No. 11 overall. The Commanders play Dallas Goedert and Dalton Schultz a few times each year so having a tight end eraser is an asset for this franchise. Hamilton's intelligence and awareness will probably win over head coach Ron Rivera here.
Round 1 - Pick 12
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
It is easy to see "so and so is a top 10 pick, so and so is a top 10 pick" until you reflect, count the players that has been said about and realize that covers about 15 players, including the quarterbacks. Not everyone is going to go top 10 and, in this particular case, Stingley falls out and Minnesota is the beneficiary. It is a perfect choice for the Vikings without sacrificing any draft capital to move up.
Mock Trade from Houston Texans
Round 1 - Pick 13
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
A few years ago, there were public remarks about Pittsburgh's interest in Devin Bush. Last year, there were several reports linking the Steelers to Najee Harris. We can explain away the franchise's rumored interest in the quarterback dating back to January, but maybe they just do not care to hide their cards. Willis to Pittsburgh is one of the best fits in the first round. They make sense for each other.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Edge rusher and defensive tackle make the most sense for Baltimore. With the perceived top edge rusher options off the board, the Ravens take Davis, who is pound-for-pound the most athletic player in this class. The AFC North franchise is one that values larger interior bodies like Haloti Ngata, Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce and others.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 180 lbs
For the second year in a row, Philadelphia drafts a wide receiver out of Alabama. Williams is ahead of his ACL recovery timeline and should not miss much, if any, of the season. With the Eagles offense, defenses were starting to creep down into the box and now they have to respect Williams' speed.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 16
Northern Iowa • Soph • 6'7" / 325 lbs
NFL teams will love the aggressive nature with which Penning plays. After losing Terron Armstead in free agency, it was a concerning area of the roster. The Saints believe they are a few pieces away from competing in the NFC and it stands to reason left tackle is one of those pieces.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
Olave could be a heart or a head pick. I would love to see him in that Los Angeles offense with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, but it also makes sense from a structural perspective. His selection would spread defenses out even more. I would love to see them take a bigger running back on Day 2 and really have every element to create conflict for defenses.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 18
Quay Walker LB
Georgia • Soph • 6'4" / 240 lbs
Walker is an athletic linebacker that has more to show than what he did at Georgia. He does not turn 22 years old until next month so he is still developing physically and the possibility of him not reaching a second contract until age 27 has to be appealing.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 19
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
I keep hearing about wide receiver fits for New Orleans but that could be misguided. Michael Thomas has had difficulty staying on the field in recent years and who knows how he will perform once he does return. The Saints need to get talented players in that room and Burks is the best available.
Mock Trade from Pittsburgh Steelers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
After picking Ikem Ekwonu at No. 3 overall and trading down from No. 13 overall, Houston makes its second pick at No. 20 overall. Lloyd is a well-rounded linebacker who can drop into coverage, blitz or flow sideline to sideline. It is not a blue-chip position but Lloyd represents good value.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Hill is a versatile defender who can line up in the slot or drop back to safety. New England has lost a lot in the secondary in the past two years and it is difficult to imagine that comforts Bill Belichick. They add a piece to the secondary and it is probably not the last time over the course of these three days.
From Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 22
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Green Bay adds another big body to its defensive front. Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed are entering the final year of their respective contracts with Kenny Clark being the last man standing. Wyatt is an older prospect but also great value.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
Green has five position flexibility and nearly accomplished that during his time at Texas A&M. Arizona upgrades the protection for Kyler Murray, who has dealt with nagging injuries in recent years. He has had to take points in the season to rest up for the postseason and that has derailed all momentum.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
Dallas takes pride in having a strong offensive line. What was once regarded as one of the best in the league is no longer. The Cowboys almost always pick a player from the list of players brought in on top-30 visits and fans will find Johnson's name on that list.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
McDuffie is a savvy cornerback who not only adds depth and provides flexibility, but also gives them insurance in the event that Tre'Davious White is still recovering from last season's injury. Teams have historically taken flyers on cornerbacks late in the draft.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Tyler Smith OL
Tulsa • Soph • 6'6" / 332 lbs
Tennessee returns to the right tackle well as they make Smith the 26th overall selection. He could transition inside but I do not think that is necessary. He is a physical lineman that embodies the toughness that Mike Vrabel has tried to instill in his team. He only recently turned 21 years old so it is realistic to think the Tulsa product is around for a decade-plus.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • Soph • 5'11" / 231 lbs
Tampa Bay has few needs on its roster so they prepare for the future. Lavonte David is entering the final year on his contract. Dean gets to learn from him for a year before sliding into that starting role next season.
Round 1 - Pick 28
North Dakota State • Soph • 6'4" / 208 lbs
Green Bay may need to be aggressive moving up for a wide receiver. It is not ideal to find themselves in a position reaching to select Watson. With his size, he does give that offense another element but a relationship with Aaron Rodgers is not going to happen overnight. The Packers face an impossible task trying to replicate Davante Adams' production.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 29
Jahan Dotson WR
Penn State • Soph • 5'11" / 182 lbs
Kansas City adds speed to the wide receiver room in the form of a player that can make plays at all three levels of the field. He is a sure-handed player that -- along with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Juju Smith-Schuster and others -- should minimize the loss felt by Hill's absence.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Kaiir Elam CB
Florida • Soph • 6'1" / 191 lbs
Kansas City has struggled at the cornerback position signing any possible reclamation project off the street. With the No. 30 overall selection, they add a big-bodied, physical cornerback who has amassed six interceptions during his time with the Gators.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
Cincinnati has shown the self-awareness to know its offensive line needed a lot of work. When they signed Ted Karras, they likely did not envision Linderbaum being available to them in the first round. I do not think what amounts to a one year deal will deter them from making a selection that will be praised by everyone in football.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
Georgia • Soph • 6'2" / 199 lbs
Cine is great value at this stage of the first round. No. 32 overall is going to be valuable for a team to potentially move up and take a quarterback to gain that fifth-year option. The Lions may not be making this pick when the moment arrives but it should comforting knowing that talent like this should still be available.