Mock drafts are always fun exercises in the "what if." What I like most about doing them is putting on the GM hat for all 32 teams and figuring out what makes sense, what has the best bang for the buck, and how can I maximize the talent on the roster.
For me, it's about understanding the roster and depth chart, as there may be a solution to a perceived question that's already on the roster. Truth be told, most teams do a fantastic job of drafting and acquiring talent. This is arguably the deepest draft class to acquire talent, as evident by my 1,035 page scouting guide (www.footballgameplan.com/2022DraftGuide).
I don't have sources or connections, so this mock -- as most should be -- will be focused on what I would do as the GM based on what I view are the team's needs. This isn't based on what I've heard, what I think will happen or what will happen. Now let's get started!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
A Thibodeaux-Josh Allen combo would make for an excellent, athletic and versatile pass rush for the Jags up front defensively.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
There was a time when the Lions could've snagged him with pick 32, but the cat's out of the bag now with everyone finally realizing the talent and potential Willis has. That forces Detroit's hand here in taking its future franchise QB at No. 2. He still lands in an ideal spot with an ideal coaching staff and situation.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
Quietly, if the Lions didn't take Willis, I would've gone with Willis here for the Texans. Instead, they get one of the top pass rushers in the class in Travon Walker. It's the upside you're banking on with him, and that, to me, makes him more attractive than other rushers in the class.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Gardner gives the Jets a bonafide stud at corner who has the length, athleticism, awareness and ball skills for the position. You can't get any more ideal than that.
Round 1 - Pick 5
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Stingley is a fantastic corner who has elite-level ball skills and technique. Now that he's checking boxes medically, I wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger here if I'm the Giants.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
If I'm Carolina, I continue to get better up front with Ekwonu. The Panthers would have some flexibility with he and last year's pick, Brady Christensen, as to who will get to play left tackle and who can kick inside to guard. Either way, the team gets an elite talent up front.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'6" / 265 lbs
I really like Hutchinson's game, and I personally feel as though he could be a really good player within this Wink Martindale defense for the Giants, continuing to bolster Big Blue on this side of the ball.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
The Falcons need help on the perimeter, and they get one of the top receivers in the class. London can win short, intermediate and deep down the field.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Kaiir Elam CB
Florida • Soph • 6'1" / 191 lbs
No one is talking enough about Elam and how stellar he is on the perimeter. He's one of the better press man corners in the draft class, which is music to the ears of Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
I don't care what Hamilton did in Indy at the Combine. All I care about is what he did between the white lines in South Bend. Adding him and Gardner instantly makes their secondary stronger.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
Olave is one of the more polished receivers in the draft class, and would be the perfect fit with both Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel to help round out the Commanders' receiving corps.
Round 1 - Pick 12
San Diego State • Soph • 6'5" / 270 lbs
Thomas is one of the best pass rushers and one of the more active defensive linemen in the draft class. As Minnesota switches to more of a 3-4 defense, having someone who can play the 5-technique like Thomas would be a godsend.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 13
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
In my opinion, he is the best offensive lineman in the draft class and would help strengthen the Texans at any one of the their three interior spots up front.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Clemson • Soph • 6'0" / 194 lbs
I like Booth's game because of his mirror-and-match skills. The Ravens do get back Marcus Peters from injury, but they still need one more stud on the perimeter, and Booth gives them someone who can play inside or outside.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
The Eagles have done some really good work improving the second level this offseason, so why not complete the retooling with one of the better linebackers in the class. I think a Lloyd-Haason Reddick-Kyzir White linebacking trio is a fantastic one.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 16
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
With the way this mock fell, maybe the Saints were on to something by making the move to acquire another first-round pick. Cross is one of the top-tier pass protectors in the class, filling a major void on that offensive line.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
The Chargers couldn't stop the run last season, so adding one of the best defensive tackles in the class would go a long way to ensure that won't happen again in 2022.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 18
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
Jason Kelce can't play forever, so why not get the next guy in place who happens to be the best in the class at the position? I know some view Landon Dickerson as the heir apparent at the position, but if he's thriving at guard, why not leave him there and get another stellar center instead?
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 19
Alabama • Soph • 6'2" / 189 lbs
Williams will give the Saints help on the flanks, but it will require a bit of patience as he's coming off of an ACL injury in January. But heck, with the way guys are recovering from ACL injuries, you could tear your ACL tomorrow and be back yesterday -- considering how Williams is already showing that he's running.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 207 lbs
Ridder, to me, is most ready to step in right now and lead a football team. This pairs up perfectly with the current situation in Pittsburgh. He's got the acumen, skillset, athleticism and temperament to be exactly what the Steelers need at the position.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
Don't count out the Patriots exploring an offensive tackle in the first round. And with the way this mock draft fell for them, they'd be ecstatic to land a player of the caliber of Neal.
From Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 22
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Pickens is the Anthony Edwards of this draft -- a star who wants the spotlight and wants to consistently show and prove his greatness. He's going to have an impact immediately wherever he lands.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
Losing Christian Kirk in free agency and being able to replace him with Burks makes complete sense. However, they are going to really need this offense to be consistently explosive as the skill talent would suggest.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
I really like this fit for the Cowboys here, as Green would help strengthen them on the interior, which would help both their run game and their pass game be even more dynamic this season.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Auburn • Soph • 5'11" / 190 lbs
Every time you watched McCreary vs. the top-notch receivers on his schedule, he more than held his own. I believe he's also capable of traveling inside with wideouts, giving the Bills more versatility in their secondary.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Wilson plays much bigger and tougher than his size indicates. He would give the Titans another weapon on the outside who can win with his route and/or his ability to make the contested catch.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Logan Hall DL
Houston • Soph • 6'6" / 283 lbs
There isn't a lot of talk about Hall, who I like to call "chaos on wheels." He's got the ability to rush from anywhere along the defensive line and will help add to the pass-rushing rotation for the the Bucs.
Round 1 - Pick 28
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
I'm a big fan of Karlaftis' game, and he is getting underrated in the same way that Ryan Kerrigan was coming out of the same program. He'll give Green Bay some juice up front at a position of need.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 29
North Dakota State • Soph • 6'5" / 208 lbs
Watson would give Kansas City a stretch-vertical option who can be close to the deep threat it lost with the Tyreek Hill trade. Don't sleep on his ability to impact the game early as a rookie.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
The Chiefs need some more punch coming off the edge, so getting a guy like Johnson at this juncture of the draft would be ideal.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Sam Houston • Soph • 6'2" / 199 lbs
I'm taking the gamble here on the small-college corner who has Power 5 athleticism. McCollum is a tremendous talent who can play press coverage well and has top-tier ball skills. He'd be an ideal fit in Cincinnati.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
David Ojabo EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'4" / 255 lbs
The Lions also have an early second-round pick, so why not secure the services of the athletic Ojabo and allow him to slowly work himself back to 100% after tearing his Achilles during his pro day?
Teams without a first-round pick:
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Dotson isn't a "slot-exclusive" player, although he can thrive inside. What he would give franchise quarterbck Justin Fields is a gamebreaker on the perimeter who can put the ball in the paint.
Myron Cunningham, OL, Arkansas
Cunningham is an underrated tackle prospect in this class. He's coming off a strong career at Arkansas and an excellent week at the East-West Shrine Bowl. He would be in play for the Colts' left tackle position with this selection.
Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
The Browns have really drafted well the last couple of seasons in my opinion, but one area where they are thin is on the defensive interior. Wyatt is a cat-quick penetrator who can be disruptive on both ends of defense.
Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
It's the explosiveness and range that makes this a no-brainer for the Niners. Pitre would be an instant playmaker on the back end for their defense.
Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
Muma would help keep the Broncos solid on both ends. He's got the ability to pursue the ball in the run game and effortlessly float through zone coverage in the passing game.
Zach Tom, OL, Wake Forest
Tom is someone who has strong tape and is starting to garner a lot of attention as of late. Adding him here would help continue to strengthen the depth up front for the Raiders.
Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
He's got the athleticism and versatility that you want patrolling the second level. You don't have to take him off the field, and he'll fit in perfectly with Jerome Baker.
Marcus Jones, CB, Houston
Don't focus on his size, Jones is one of the top slot defenders in the draft class. He can click-and-close on the football extremely well, and will instantly bolster your special teams units.