As many as four quarterbacks have been going in the first round of our weekly mock drafts, and on most occasions the number comes in at three. But this week, only two signal callers hear their name called.
Why? In recent mock drafts, we've had the Texans targeting a passer at No. 2 but with the news this week that rookie Davis Mills will be the Texans' starter for the rest of the year, it's reasonable to think that he'll get an opportunity in 2022 as well. For now, we have them taking Kayvon Thibodeaux, the Oregon edge rusher, who could end up being the first-overall selection.
We've also had Carson Strong in Round 1 for most of the fall but there are concerns about his knee, and we'll know more once we get further along into the pre-draft process. If he gets the all-clear, he's a legit Round 1 talent, and given that teams will invariably overdraft the position, Strong could very well be among the top 32 selections.
As for the QBs who we have going in the first round this week, Matt Corral lands in Carolina, a team that desperately needs to upgrade the offensive line. But with two tackles and a center already off the board, finding a passer to replace Sam Darnold and Cam Newton could be a distinct possibility.
The Saints could also be in the quarterback business this offseason, and unlike many of the clubs in similar situations, it could be a great landing spot for a rookie passer. Not unlike the Patriots and Mac Jones, Kenny Pickett would benefit from New Orleans' offensive line, its running game (possibly it's passing game if Michael Thomas returns), a solid defense, and most importantly, playing for Sean Payton.
We'll repeat what we said a week ago: given the state of this QB 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 it's only mid-December, and a lot can change between now and the draft.
In the meantime, keep reading to see how the entire first round unfolds.
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 three weeks; first a three-sack performance against Ohio State, then helping Michigan win the Big Ten Championship Game a week later, and on Saturday, he finished second in Heisman voting.
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
Oregon • 6'5" / 258 lbs
Addressing the quarterback position could be an option here if there's a player the Texans truly like, but with the team turning to rookie Davis Mills for the rest of the season, that may be an indication that he's the future, at least for now. So instead of overthinking it, Houston takes Thibodeaux. He battled an ankle injury early in the season but was just about unstoppable when he was on the field this season.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • 6'7" / 350 lbs
The Jets have to protect Zach Wilson, and 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 during his Crimson Tide career.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 5
Mississippi State • 6'5" / 310 lbs
The Giants have an opportunity to take two of the best defenders in this class but instead pass on Derek Stingley and Kyle Hamilton to bolster an offensive line in desperate need of it. 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 6
Iowa • 6'3" / 290 lbs
Linderbaum is one of the best offensive linemen in the country, and while sixth overall seems way too high for a center, a) Linderbaum is that good, b) the Giants lost Nick Gates to injury, c) his replacement has struggled, and the O-line could stand to be upgraded.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 7
LSU • 6'1" / 190 lbs
The Jets already addressed the offensive line so here they take the best CB in this class, and perhaps in any of the recent draft classes. Stingley missed the final half of the season because of injury but that will have zero impact on his draft stock.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • 6'2" / 205 lbs
The Panthers desperately need to upgrade the offensive line, and perhaps they'll try to trade down from this spot if four O-linemen are already off the board. For now, they target a quarterback because, well, neither Sam Darnold nor Cam Newton feel like long-term solutions.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 219 lbs
Like the Panthers, the Falcons could be in market for a quarterback but with Hamilton still on the board they'll bolster their secondary. Hamilton is a 6-4, 220-pound version of Ed Reed -- a sideline-to-sideline ball hawk -- and that makes him a Day 1 impact player.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 10
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.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 11
Clemson • 6'0" / 200 lbs
The Eagles are on track for three first-round picks, which means there's a great opportunity to address their defense. Booth has all the athleticism and tools to be special, and he balled out for Clemson this season.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Auburn • 6'0" / 190 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, and McCreary, who has gotten better each year against some of the best WRs in the country, had a great season for the Tigers.
Round 1 - Pick 13
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 didn't have a fantastic season, or that he won't end up being among the first 32 selections. And as becomes evident every draft, teams will overdraft quarterbacks and 2022 will be no different. Which brings us to the Saints, which would be a fantastic landing spot for any young quarterback -- New Orleans has a good O-line and defense -- and the offensive firepower to again be in the playoff mix in '22.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Round 1 - Pick 15
David Ojabo LB
Michigan • 6'5" / 250 lbs
The Steelers lost Bud Dupree to free agency and traded Melvin Ingram just before the deadline. T.J. Watt is a legit MVP candidate, and Alex Highsmith has flashed at times during Year 2, but there's no depth on the roster after that. QB could be an option here, too, but with Corral and Pickett off the board, and questions about Carson Strong's knee, Pittsburgh could address any of their myriad other needs here. Ojabo, meanwhile, was a lot of fun to watch this season for the Wolverines, where he took 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 16
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 Denver, he'll line up opposite Bradley Chubb a year after the team struggled to replace Von Miller.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • 6'4" / 325 lbs
The Bengals opted to take Ja'Marr Chase over Penei Sewell and it appears to have been the right decision, but they still need to make protecting Joe Burrow a priority. Green can play either tackle or guard and he has the ability to be a Day 1 starter.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Ohio State • 6'0" / 192 lbs
We've had the Browns targeting a wideout in recent drafts but this is the first time they've had Wilson fall to them. Wilson is one of the the most dynamic players in college football and he'll give Baker Mayfield another downfield option now that Odell Beckham Jr. is in L.A.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Alabama • 6'2" / 189 lbs
WFT needs a long-term answer at QB but with two QBs off the board and, to his credit, Taylor Heinicke has played well in recent weeks. Instead Washington decides to bolster the wide receiver corps, where Terry McLaurin remains WR1. Of course, the hope is that Curtis Samuel will indeed be an impact player, but even if that happens, there's still plenty of room for Williams in the offense.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 21
Drake London WR
USC • 6'5" / 210 lbs
This likely won't be a popular pick because the Eagles have used first-rounders on wide receivers the last two years, but they'll only have four wideouts under contract after the season, and that includes J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. London, meanwhile, was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing USC season. And while he won't run a 4.3 when healthy, he is a high-point-catch machine who can take over games, which sounds like something Jalen Hurts could use.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 22
Washington • Jr • 6'7" / 310 lbs
Kirkland was the cornerstone of the Huskies' offensive line and has a chance to be a first-round talent. 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 had hoped for.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Arkansas • 6'3" / 225 lbs
At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Burks was consistently dominant during the '21 season. He has all the tools to eventually be WR1, and in L.A., only receivers Keenan Allen and rookie Josh Palmer are under contract after the season. And if Mike Williams isn't in the Chargers' long-term plans, Burks wouldn't be a bad consolation prize.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 24
Jahan Dotson WR
Penn State • 5'11" / 182 lbs
By the time we get to the actual draft, we'll much more clarity on what the Lions' QB plans might look like. For now, there's not a quarterback worth taking first overall, and there likely won't be a worthy one on the board at this point, either. So instead, Detroit adds top-flight wideout Dotson. He 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 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
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. You might note that the Cowboys just drafted Micah Parsons, who excelled as an off-ball linebacker at Penn State, but has emerged as one of the most explosive edge rushers in the NFL. Adding Lloyd can take a suddenly good defense and make it great.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Kaiir Elam CB
Florida • 6'2" / 193 lbs
It was a forgettable season for the Gators but Elam's talents were hard to miss. He has the size (6-foot-2, 190) and athleticism to be one of the best draft-eligible corners in '21. In K.C., the defense has improved over the second half of the year but only L'Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton are under contract beyond '21.
Round 1 - Pick 28
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 Tampa, McDuffie provides depth to a secondary that has struggled to stay healthy in '21.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Central Michigan • 6'7" / 305 lbs
Raimann is originally from Austria and moved from tight end to left tackle after the 2019 season, but you wouldn't know it to watch him play. He might be the most athletic O-lineman in the entire class, and he's just scratching the surface on his abilities.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • 6'1" / 188 lbs
Olave is one of the best route runners in this class and he would certainly be a welcome addition in Green Bay -- and it would give Aaron Rodgers something the Packers haven't had since 2002: a wideout taken in the first round.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Georgia • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Kendrick is a first-round pick all day long, and he proved that again this season with Georgia after transferring from Clemson. The biggest issue for NFL teams will be off-field issues; if Kendrick has matured since his time with the Tigers, he'll be worthy of a top 32 selection.
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.