The 2022 NFL Draft is officially less than a month away, which means final projections are quickly approaching. Although the typical quarterback talent is not available, there are plenty of intriguing storylines to monitor in this year's draft. For example, eight teams do not have a first-round pick. In which order will the wide receivers be taken? In today's thought exercise, those topics as well as many others are explored.
Without further ado, let's kick this thing off!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'7" / 268 lbs
There remains a chance that Jacksonville takes an offensive tackle with the No. 1 overall selection. Evan Neal and Cam Robinson have the flexibility to play interior positions so Robinson's franchise tag, which could be rescinded or traded when signed, should not be a limiting circumstance. As it stands, it is more likely that Jacksonville takes the pass rusher from Michigan to pair with Josh Allen.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
Georgia did not use Walker as a traditional pass rusher. They rarely sent their defensive linemen vertically but rather created confusion through stunts. In terms of size and athletic testing, Walker is a prospect rarely seen coming into the NFL. Teams will be taking a chance on what he could become but the ceiling is very high.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Houston has several needs on its roster so the strategy should simply be taking best player available. Gardner is that prospect in this case. He is a productive, lockdown man coverage cornerback that does not lack confidence. The Texans have another pick, acquired from Cleveland, to address other needs at No. 13 overall.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
General manager Joe Douglas' background is that of a person who values not only a competent offensive line, but depth. The addition of Ekwonu allows them to raise the floor of what is expected from that unit. Mekhi Becton has missed 18 games since being taken No. 11 overall so Ekwonu's presence gives them some flexibility.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
Andrew Thomas showed a lot of improvement at left tackle last fall but right tackle remains a glaring need. Neal has played guard and right tackle in the past. His transition back will not be easy but it is certainly more reasonable than someone who has not been accustomed to changing positions.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
Carolina has been desperate for a quarterback in recent years as evidenced by their trade for Sam Darnold and interest in Deshaun Watson. All overtures have been rebuffed by veteran quarterbacks so they take a player with zero say in his destination. Any quarterback selected will need time as the rest of the offensive talent is built up.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
The Giants follow up the selection of Evan Neal with Thibodeaux, who will drastically improve the team's pass rush. They have taken chances of Azeez Ojulari and Oshane Ximines in early rounds but are still chasing a difference maker at the position.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Marcus Mariota's primary outlet right now is Kyle Pitts. His secondary outlet is probably Cordarrelle Patterson and there is little else remaining. Atlanta probably needs to take at least two wide receivers in this class but they get their first choice in this scenario. Wilson has great body control.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Seattle remains the favorite to land Baker Mayfield so that eliminates the need for a quarterback early. It does allow them to use those assets on other positions, including offensive tackle. Duane Brown remains unsigned so Cross is his replacement.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
New York was aggressive in pursuit of Tyreek Hill so that signals the team's interest in upgrading the wide receiver position. The selection of London gives Zach Wilson another outlet and a staple in that offense for quite some time. When at BYU, Wilson was praised for his ability to extend plays and give his pass catchers a chance downfield. Few pass catchers are as decorated as London at the catch point.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Hamilton is one of the top overall prospects and Washington is able to nab him at No. 11 overall. There are more critical needs for the Commanders but no one is going to complain if the safety ends up being an All-Pro talent. The franchise has invested significant assets into the defense. Five of the last six first round picks have been used on the defense.
Round 1 - Pick 12
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Minnesota has unexpectedly gone from rebuild to pushing for a playoff spot. They signed Za'Darius Smith to pair with Danielle Hunter but cornerback remains a huge area of concern. Stingley would give the Vikings their first lockdown man coverage cornerback since prime Xavier Rhodes.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 13
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Houston took Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner with its No. 3 overall selection. They add one of the other athletically gifted anomalies at No. 13 overall. The NFL has never seen a player test as well as Davis did at the NFL Combine. The Texans need to add talented players with strong resolve and both fit the profile.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
A year ago, Baltimore took Odafe Oweh in the first round. The team attempted to sign Za'Darius Smith in free agency but that agreement fell through. The team's intentions were clear and it stands to reason that they still have an interest in upgrading the position. Johnson, paired with Oweh, gives the Ravens a formidable pair of edge rushers.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Philadelphia retained Fletcher Cox for the upcoming season but it feels as though the end of his career is quickly coming to an end. The Eagles have the luxury of possessing three first-round picks to create a smooth transition from the past and present to the future. Wyatt tested very well at the NFL Combine.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 16
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
It is time for the Eagles to address the linebacker position with significant resources. When fans look back at the off-season, Philadelphia will have added Haason Reddick, Devonte Wyatt and Lloyd to the front seven. It is a noteworthy infusion of talent to Nick Sirianni's defense.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Northern Iowa • Soph • 6'7" / 325 lbs
The Chargers' offseason moves have left them with few holes to fill on the roster. Los Angeles drafted Rashawn Slater in the first round last year. He was stellar during his rookie campaign but a hole on the right side introduced itself through an injury to Bryan Bulaga. Penning has been playing left tackle but would theoretically make the transition to right tackle.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
Pittsburgh is the organization that has been most closely linked to Wills during the pre-draft process so it would make sense for them to pursue a possible trade up. As it stands, New Orleans adds a young player to eventually take over for short-term stays Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton. Willis has tremendous mobility but significant room for improvement as a passer.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Clemson • Soph • 6'0" / 194 lbs
Philadelphia rounds out its defensive overhaul with the addition of Booth, who has significant exposure to a zone heavy scheme. Combined with Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox, the Eagles would have one of the better cornerback rooms in the league with an eventual plan for Booth to take over.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 207 lbs
Pittsburgh's tour of quarterback prospects ended with Cincinnati's Ridder. Ridder's accuracy issues have been tied to inconsistent footwork and some believe that he can improve with more regulated coaching. Those issues are often a non-starter but the progression of Josh Allen has teams believing that lightning could strike twice.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Kaiir Elam CB
Florida • Soph • 6'1" / 191 lbs
The Patriots have lost Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson over the past six months. They need to add bodies to that room and Elam is the type of physical, man coverage cornerback that Bill Belichick covets. I think it is a more pressing need than wide receiver.
From Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 22
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
Green Bay has to invest in the wide receiver position. I would imagine Aaron Rodgers would have fought harder for Davante Adams unless he knew that the team intended to take at least one wide receiver early. Olave has great speed and is reliable in the sense that he is always where he is supposed to be; Adams values that accountability.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
Arizona went all in last off-season and it did not work out. They had some real holes on the roster and injuries did not help. The selection of Linderbaum is embracing a new strategy of building younger and cheaper. With the ongoing contract dispute between Kyler Murray and the franchise, the selection of an offensive lineman is one way of keeping him healthy.
Round 1 - Pick 24
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
Dallas signed Dante Fowler Jr. to counteract the loss of Randy Gregory but Atlanta and Los Angeles have already shook that tree and it has little fruit left to bear. They need a long-term plan and Karlaftis is a player that justifies being taken higher in my opinion. He gives them another young piece to that defensive front.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
The teams that believe they can contend are clear and those teams have been aggressive in upgrading their roster this offseason. Buffalo is one of those teams. After addressing needs through free agency, the Bills could stand to upgrade the secondary and maybe find some eventual replacements at safety. McDuffie is a savvy cornerback that should have no problem making an immediate impact.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • Soph • 5'11" / 231 lbs
Dean is a Mike Vrabel type linebacker that is willing to do the dirty work. He is going to work sideline to sideline and allow Bud Dupree, Harold Landry to make plays in the backfield. The Titans are hoping they get more production out of Dean than they did the last linebacker they took in the first round.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
The explanation is probably getting tired at this point but Tampa Bay lost Alex Capp and Ali Marpet. They brought in Shaq Mason through a trade with New England but the position on the other side remains vacant. No lineman would be in a better spot than Johnson coming in and playing between Ryan Jensen, Tristan Wirfs.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
Green Bay double dips at wide receiver to appease Aaron Rodgers. They took Chris Olave earlier in the round and now round it out by selecting Treylon Burks, who took a bit of a hit from his Combine performance but is no less impressive on film. I actually like Burks using his size to work on a vertical plane but he has the playmaking ability to be used at or near the line of scrimmage.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 29
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 180 lbs
Williams lasting to this stage of the first round is a steal for the Chiefs. He was trending towards my top rated receiver before his injury and is still in the top ten overall. The Ohio State transfer has speed to burn and that should allow Kansas City fans to forget a bit about what was lost in Tyreek Hill.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Boye Mafe DL
Minnesota • Soph • 6'4" / 261 lbs
If Kansas City walks away with Jameson Williams and Mafe, they are big winners of the night. Both are among my favorite prospects in this draft class. Mafe has bend around the edge but is also capable of dropping into coverage or sealing the edge. He would step in and be a rich man's Melvin Ingram.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Logan Hall DL
Houston • Soph • 6'6" / 283 lbs
Cincinnati used multiple defensive tackles during its run last season. Hall helps re-establish some of that depth although an entirely different player from Larry Ogunjobi. Hall is going to be a penetrating interior defensive tackle and that will take some of the attention off of Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
Georgia • Soph • 6'2" / 199 lbs
Cine tested off the charts at the NFL Combine. With what he has shown on tape, plus those athletic testing numbers, some team is going to feel comfortable taking him in the first round. Detroit is just looking to get the best players in the building and they have now plucked two from the National Champion Bulldogs.
No. 33 overall: Jaguars - Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
No. 34 overall: Lions - Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
No. 35 overall: Jets - Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
No. 36 overall: Giants - Daxton Hill, CB/S, Michigan
No. 37 overall: Texans - Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
No. 38 overall: Jets - Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State
No. 39 overall: Bears - Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
No. 40 overall: Seahawks - Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
No. 41 overall: Seahawks - Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin
No. 42 overall: Colts - Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
No. 43 overall: Falcons - Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
No. 44 overall: Browns - George Pickens, WR, Georgia
No. 45 overall: Ravens - Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston State
No. 46 overall: Vikings - Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
No. 47 overall: Commanders - Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
No. 48 overall: Bears - Cole Strange, OG, Chattanooga
No. 49 overall: Saints - Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
No. 50 overall: Chiefs - Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA
No. 51 overall: Eagles - Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
No. 52 overall: Steelers - Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
No. 53 overall: Packers - David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
No. 54 overall: Patriots - Dylan Parham, OG, Memphis
No. 55 overall: Cardinals - Travis Jones, DT, UCONN
No. 56 overall: Cowboys - Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma
No. 57 overall: Bills - Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
No. 58 overall: Falcons - Kenneth Walker II, RB, Michigan State
No. 59 overall: Packers - Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
No. 60 overall: Buccaneers - Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
No. 61 overall: 49ers - Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
No. 62 overall: Chiefs - Demarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
No. 63 overall: Bengals - Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
No. 64 overall: Broncos - Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State