With the 2022 NFL season wrapping up for all but eight teams, this mock draft is here to bring some excitement to struggling teams’ fans. The draft will be in Las Vegas from April 28th to the 30th.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Kayvon Thibodeaux – Edge, Oregon
The Jacksonville Jaguars will select Kayvon Thibodeaux with the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Although most people will have Aidan Hutchinson going first overall, the Jaguars need more potential in their selections. This football team is not going to win in the near future. Thibodeaux provides the fans in Jacksonville with the hope of another pass rush like the 2017 “Sacksonville” season. The sophomore from Oregon has unprecedented speed off the edge that can strike fear in any NFL quarterback. Pairing up Thibodeaux with Josh Allen will ramp up the Jacksonville defense and provide a blueprint for the future in Northeast Florida.
2. Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson – Edge, Michigan
With the second pick, the Detroit Lions will take Aidan Hutchinson. The edge rusher from Michigan flew up big boards after an outstanding senior season where he tallied 14 sacks and 62 tackles. Hutchinson is known for not shying away from the spotlight, having a career game against Ohio State this past season. Hutchinson’s Michigan roots will also make it a smoother transition to Detroit. The Lions’ offense proved to have some glimpses of future success this season with the help of D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown, but the defense is in desperate need of attention. With the failed pick of Jeff Okudah in 2020, the Lions’ defense needs anything it can get. Aidan Hutchinson is the guy to get this defense going for the future.
3. Houston Texans – Kyle Hamilton – Safety, Notre Dame
With many questions surrounding the Houston Texans this upcoming offseason including, Deshaun Watson and the head coaching position, the Texans need a good draft. During the 2021 season, the Texans were 31st in the league in yards given up per game, with an astounding 384.4. Although this team has a lot of holes to fill on the roster, defense is the answer with this draft class. Kyle Hamilton, a versatile safety from Notre Dame who can fill some of the defensive voids in Houston, is the pick that makes sense. The 6’4 junior will make an immediate impact in the struggling secondary. The Texans need more answers beyond which rookies suit up for them next year, but this is a start to getting back on track.
4. New York Jets – Derek Stingley Jr. – CB, LSU
The Jets will keep the defensive momentum going by selecting Derek Stingley Jr. with their initial pick of the first round. Stingley will be a prized selection for defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh, whose defense is struggling to stay afloat. The Jets ranked dead last in yards given up per game, with an almost unimaginable 397.6. Since trading Jamal Adams to the Seattle Seahawks, the Jets have lacked talent in the secondary: something Stingley can fix. A lockdown corner who can halt big passing plays would be vital in recovering the secondary. The young Jets offense also struggled to put up points, but the defense should be the priority going into the offseason. Stingley is the pick for New York at four.
5. New York Giants – Evan Neal – OT, Alabama
The Giants need protection. It does not get much better than Evan Neal from Alabama. The future of Daniel Jones at quarterback is currently in jeopardy, but a dreadful line has damned both him and Saquon Barkley in the backfield. Another tackle to go on the other side of Andrew Thomas will only help offensive development as talent grows in skill positions. The 6’6 360 pound monster will add beef to a weak offensive line. Although picking linemen may be boring to football fans, it pays dividends down the road. The Browns are a great example of building a durable offensive front to rack up more wins. Evan Neal is the only pick that makes sense to the Giants at this very moment.
6. Carolina Panthers – Charles Cross – OT, Mississippi State
After selecting several defensive players over the past two years, it is time for Matt Rhule to take a first-round offensive player. The Panthers are in the same boat as the Giants in terms of questions at quarterback. I still do not believe they will pull the trigger on a quarterback this early. There will be plenty of free-agent quarterbacks looking for jobs this offseason that the Panthers can pursue. Charles Cross, an offensive tackle from Mississippi State, will protect whoever is under center next season. If the Panthers do not love who is at the top of the board at six, they should trade down. Assuming there are no trades in this top ten, the line would be the best place to start to rebuild this offense back up, and Cross is the man for the job.
7. New York Giants (Via Chicago Bears) – Ikem Ekwonu – OL, NC State
This choice might come as a surprise, but the Giants will use this pick from the Bears to select another offensive lineman. Last season Ikem Ekwonu played offensive tackle for the wolfpack; however, he has the versatility to be moved inside at 6’4 320 pounds. A line consisting of Andrew Thomas, Evan Neal, and now Ekwonu could protect any quarterback and running back duo in the big apple. Again, this pick would not be a flashy one, but it can only help the offense as a whole. The Giants should not reach for an interior lineman who is not as skilled as Ekwonu. Selecting Ekwonu and moving him to guard will solidify an offensive line that will strike fear in the rest of the NFL.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner – CB, Cincinnati
The Atlanta Falcons once again have a top ten pick in the draft. Kyle Pitts was an exceptional pick last year to help out Matt Ryan. The rising of cornerback A.J. Terrell was massive for a struggling Falcons defense. The Falcons should roll the dice with pick eight and select Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner out of Cincinnati. Gardner was the definition of “lockdown” in college. In over 1,000 qualifying snaps in coverage, Gardner did not give up ONE touchdown to the opposing receiver. This stat almost feels made up for a division one football player. If this pick were to shake out, the Falcons would have two young studs at corner who could shut down many teams’ passing schemes. The Falcons need to take a chance on Gardner for the potential of a historical cornerback duo.
9. Denver Broncos – Jordan Davis – DT, Georgia
After the firing of Vic Fangio, the Broncos’ priorities need to be finding a new head coach and quarterback. Once again, I think that the Broncos will have better luck signing a free agent quarterback than drafting one this year. The Broncos’ secondary is already stacked and will be solid for a long time, but their run defense is the main issue. Jordan Davis, a 6’6 340 pound run plug can offer his talents in stopping NFL rush attacks. Davis, a recent national champion with the Georgia Bulldogs, will be another piece to the already talented Broncos defense. If Denver begins to stop the run with Jordan Davis leading the way, the sky is the limit for this defense in the future.
10. New York Jets (Via Seattle Seahawks) – George Karlaftis – Edge, Purdue
Rounding out the top ten in this year’s NFL draft is the New York Jets (again). This draft pick was Seattle’s, which was part of the trade for Jamal Adams in 2020. The Jets can again address defensive issues by drafting edge rusher George Karlaftis out of Purdue. Getting pressure on the quarterback in this day and age is crucial for any defense. Game changers such as T.J. Watt of the Steelers have transformed their team in only a couple of years. Karlaftis will not have trouble putting pressure on the quarterback, which is a perfect fit for a team with only 33 total sacks last season. The additions of both Derek Stingley Jr. and George Karlaftis can significantly upgrade the pass defense in New York. There is more pressure on the Jets with this pick because it was once Jamal Adams, but Karlaftis is the safest choice to upgrade the drowning defense.