BY NIC ROHLOFF, FORMER SPORTS DIRECTOR
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NFL
Welcome to my 2022 NFL Mock Draft. For clarification, I have made these picks based on what I think is GOING to happen. Not what SHOULD happen. Through reading reports from beat reporters and moves teams have made in free agency. This mock draft is done without trades as it is too hard to predict. Without further adieu, here is my one and only NFL Mock Draft:
- Travon Walker – EDGE- Jacksonville Jaguars
I didn’t believe the hype on Walker out of the gates but considering all the national reporters have flipped, and Walker becoming the betting favorite to go first overall, I had to have the Jaguars selecting the edge rusher out of Georgia. Walker is an uber-athletic pass rusher, and the Jaguars hope he can create a nasty one-two combo with Josh Allen.
2. Aidan Hutchinson – EDGE – Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions will be ecstatic if Aidan Hutchinson falls into its lap. A high-motor pass rusher out of Michigan that will make an immediate impact. If he compares to anyone in the NFL, I like 49er Nick Bosa. Hutchinson will fit in perfectly with Dan Campbell.
3. Kayvon Thibodeaux – EDGE – Houston Texans
Thibodeaux was the projected number one pick a year ago. After many ups and downs in the draft process, I believe the Texans could go best player available since the Texans are a team that needs help in every position. Could be a foundational player for Houston in it rebuild.
4. Ahmad Gardner – Cornerback – New York Jets
My number one corner in this class goes fourth to the Jets. Gardner didn’t allow a touchdown in his entire collegiate career, and with his long arms and man-to-man ability, he will slide right into any NFL team and be a starting-caliber corner. The Jets need a lot of secondary help, and Gardner will help fill that need.
5. Ikem Ekwonu – OT – New York Giants
The Giants are fortunate to have two top-10 picks in this year’s draft. With needs of offensive line and corner, the Giants go with what seems like the consensus number one offensive tackle in this draft. Ekwonu was a monster at NC State and will come in and start year one alongside Andrew Thomas to help protect Daniel Jones.
6. Evan Neal – OT – Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have one of the most intriguing decisions to make in this year’s draft. Do they draft a quarterback? Or continue to build their roster? I have them selecting MY number one offensive tackle in Evan Neal. He was a stud at Alabama, and will fill a massive void allowing the Panthers to address QB later in the draft or via trade.
7. Derek Stingley Jr. – Cornerback – New York Giants
The Giants need cornerback help with James Bradberry likely on his way out. New York selects the talented Derek Stingley Jr. out of LSU. Stingley was unbelievable his freshman year but didn’t impress in his final two years at Baton Rouge. The Giants hope they get the Stingley of 2019 and get a cornerstone in their secondary.
8. Malik Willis – Quarterback – Atlanta Falcons
My first quarterback of the draft slides in at eight to the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons traded their franchise QB in Matt Ryan to the Colts and will need a quarterback for the future. They have Marcus Mariota, and he is the perfect quarterback to help Malik Willis develop into an elite QB.
9. Charles Cross – OT – Seattle Seahawks
Seattle is in a tricky position here as they are a team that will be going into a full rebuild since they traded Russell Wilson. The best course of action is to build from the o-line since that has been their Achilles heel since the days with Wilson. Cross is an unbelievable talent and will be a great start to rebuilding the Seahawk offensive line.
10. Garrett Wilson – Wide Receiver – New York Jets
The Jets round out the top-10 with the first wide receiver of the draft. New York needs to add weapon for second year QB Zach Wilson, and the talented Garrett Wilson couldn’t be a better spot. Wilson is a technician with his routes and has fantastic hands. Can play any receiver position and will fit perfectly with Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios.
11. Kyle Hamilton – Safety – Washington Commanders
The Washington Commanders need help at the safety position after the Landon Collins experience failed. Kyle Hamilton could be argued as the most talented player in this draft. Washington could add another significant piece to its defense.
12. Trent McDuffie – Cornerback – Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings have struggled defensively over the last two years. The departure of long-time corner Xavier Rhodes didn’t help, and the Vikings need to add someone on the outside on defense. McDuffie is a versatile corner from Washington who can play zone effectively and tackle. This pick would help sure up the outside of the Minnesota defense.
13. Jordan Davis – Defensive Tackle – Houston Texans
Jordan Davis is one of the biggest questions in this NFL Draft. The six-foot-six-inch and 340-pound defensive tackle is a freak athlete for his size, and led the stingy Georgia defense to a national title last season. I already had the Texans select Thibodeaux with their third pick, and selecting Davis would create an unbelievable rebuild in the trenches on the defensive side.
14. Jermaine Johnson II – EDGE – Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens pick could go in multiple directions. I suspect it would be on the defensive end. Baltimore could end up going with Trent McDuffie if he is available here, but he isn’t, so the Ravens go with the former ACC Defensive Player of the Year to sure up their pass rush. A division with Deshaun Watson and Joe Burrow will garner a solid pass rush.
15. Jameson Williams – Wide Receiver – Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles initially had three first round picks but are down to two following a trade with the New Orleans Saints. Philadelphia have drafted a receiver in the first round in the past two years and I don’t see that trend stopping. Jalen Reagor is a mess, but the Eagles hit on DeVonta Smith last year. If Jalen Hurts is to be successful, he needs another weapon, and who better than the speedy outside threat of Jameson Williams. The Eagles will get Williams at a discount here because of his torn-ACL in the national title game. Williams would have been the consensus wide receiver one without the injury.
16. Chris Olave – Wide Receiver – New Orleans Saints
I have the speedy receiver out of Ohio State going here to New Orleans. The Saints traded up earlier in the offseason for a reason, and I believe it is to make sure they can get one of the top-end receivers in this draft. Olave will provide a change of pace to current receiver Michael Thomas. Offensive weapons like Alvin Kamara, Thomas, and Olave would give Jameis Winston a chance to succeed as a starter.
17. Devonte Wyatt – Defensive Tackle – Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers had the ninth-worst rush defense in the NFL a season ago thanks to their lack of run-stoppers inside. The Chargers would love for Jordan Davis to be here, but with him not, they go with his counterpart at Georgia with Devonte Wyatt who can step in and play day one.
18. Devin Lloyd – Linebacker – Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles select the most talented linebacker in this draft class in Lloyd. The defense needs work and could go in two different directions. An athletic linebacker or a corner to line up with Darius Slay. I elect to think the Eagles grab a linebacker because the lack of talent Philadelphia has at that position. Lloyd and Williams would be a fantastic day one for Philly.
19. Trevor Penning – OT – New Orleans Saints
Terron Armstead left for Miami this offseason which left a massive void on the New Orleans offensive line. There are rumors of the Saints wanting a quarterback with one of their two first round picks, but I find it hard to believe they select one assuming Malik Willis is gone. New Orleans starts the era without Sean Payton by drafting the Armstead replacement, Trevor Penning.
20. Kenny Pickett – Quarterback – Pittsburgh Steelers
Now I want this to be clear. I believe Kenny Pickett will not work out in the NFL and doesn’t garner a first round selection. That being said, the Steelers could be desperate to draft a quarterback with Big Ben finally calling it quits. Do they believe Mitch Trubisky is the answer? Probably not. Who better to lead the Steelers into the future than the man that played his collegiate career at Heinz Field.
21. Nakobe Dean – Linebacker – New England Patriots
The New England Patriots got embarrassed by the Buffalo Bills twice at the end of the season. That should have been a wakeup call for Bill Belichick that the defense needed to get younger and faster. Nakobe Dean as sideline-to-sideline speed and the instincts to stop the run. Dean could be the perfect replacement for Don’t’a Hightower, and could be the new age linebacker that guards tight ends and tracks mobile quarterbacks.
22. Drake London – Wide Receiver – Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers shockingly traded away All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams this offseason to the Raiders. If the Packers want to keep Aaron Rodgers happy and contend, they are going to have to break their streak of not drafting offensive weapons in the first round. Drake London has a big body at six-foot-five-inches and 209 pounds. He can run routes with the best of him and has the frame to go up and get the ball. Would be a perfect fit for the Packers and London.
23. Tyler Linderbaum – Center – Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals have had an interesting offseason with the theatrics of quarterback Kyler Murray. Murray struggled in the wild card loss to the Rams, and the fact he was under pressure for the entirety of the game didn’t help. Tyler Linderbaum is an unbelievable talent, and I think he has an All-Pro future. The positional value is the only reason he falls this far in the first round. Would be a starting caliber player in week one.
24. Bernhard Raimann – OT – Dallas Cowboys
Tyron Smith is getting old, and flat out has not been as productive lately. The once touted Cowboys offensive line needs some work. Raimann could come in and start right away or learn a little bit from the veterans and be an effective starter from that point. Dallas needs to address the o-line, and it isn’t a sexy pick, but an effective one. It does seem unlikely the Cowboys will select Raimann as it is heavily rumored they want to trade up in this draft.
25. Treylon Burks – Wide Receiver – Buffalo Bills
The Bills were 13 seconds way from a home AFC Championship game. Josh Allen continues to improve alongside Gabriel Davis, and Stefon Diggs just got an extension. Buffalo could use an interior defensive lineman but with Wyatt and Davis off the board, they turn their attention to offense. Buffalo doesn’t have a true wide receiver number three right now, and the talented Treylon Burks would be a perfect addition alongside Diggs and Davis.
26. Zion Johnson – Guard – Tennessee Titans
As surprising as it is with the success of Derick Henry, the Tennessee Titans need help alongside the offensive line. With Rodger Saffold leaving to Buffalo, the Titans only have three guards on their current roster. Zion Johnson is an experienced guard who is smart and could bolster this o-line instantly for Tennessee.
27. George Karlaftis – EDGE – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What many thought was going to be a quarterback selection, the Buccaneers got Tom Brady back and will select someone with the thought of contending again. George Karlaftis would be a “best player available pick” and makes a ton of sense for a team that would want someone to impact the club right away.
28. Kenyon Green – Guard – Green Bay Packers
The Packers once again turn their attention to the offense. The current guards for Green Bay are Elgton Jenkins, Royce Newman, and Jon Runyan. Green is a talented lineman from Texas A&M and would be able to help protect Aaron Rodgers immediately.
29. George Pickens – Wide Receiver – Kansas City Chiefs
In an unbelievable offseason, the Kansas City Chiefs traded away All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins. Kansas City signed Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Juju Smith-Schuster, but it isn’t enough. Pickens would be a great X receiver on the outside, and he could provide a deep threat for Patrick Mahomes.
30. Andrew Booth Jr. – Cornerback – Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have back-to-back picks in this first round. They could package them to move up, but in this scenario where they keep both, they have to address their secondary with one of their picks. Dax Hill is a prime candidate to be selected in order to replace the void of Tyrann Mathieu. The cornerback position is also a need with Charvarius Ward leaving. Andrew Booth Jr. will slide in and impact the teams right away with his man-to-man and press skills.
31. Tyler Smith – OT – Cincinnati Bengals
Everyone in the world knows the Bengals will go offensive line with this pick if they keep it. The question is which one? Tyler Smith is the best lineman available at this point, and will be entrusted with protecting Joe Burrow for the foreseeable future.
32. Matt Corral – Quarterback – Detroit Lions
The final selection of the first round is a quarterback for the sole reason of retaining this player for an extra year. Sure, the Lions should go elsewhere but the team-option in the fifth year is too important. Matt Corral has been sneaky in this process since he didn’t throw at the NFL Combine. The Lions round out this first round with the hopeful replacement for Jared Goff.