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NFL Mock Draft 2022: Edition 1 (Early Edition)

Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan to Jacksonville

Now that the college football has been finished for two weeks and with the NFL postseason in full swing, it seems like the perfect time to shift focus to the 2022 NFL Draft. The Draft process is never a straightforward one, and it could be particularly interesting this season without an overwhelming favorite to be the No. 1 overall selection. Several edge rushers, quarterbacks, and O-Linemen will be in the hunt, but there's still plenty of mystery at the top as we head into February.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan

Although there isn't an overwhelming frontrunner to be the No. 1 pick, Aidan Hutchinson is the slight betting favorite. Hutchinson is a great story; he improved each and every single season while at Michigan and then decided to come back for his senior year, where he was a Heisman finalist and led his team to a Playoff berth. He has a lot to like as an NFL prospect; good size, a ferocious tenacity, and the intangibles that aren't easy to teach. He'll have to answer for an underwhelming Playoff performance that wrapped up his collegiate career, but he makes a lot of sense for a Jaguar team attempting to rebuild their defense.

2. Detroit Lions

Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

Expect Kayvon Thibodeaux to be in the conversation as the No. 1 overall selection right alongside Hutchinson. Thibodeaux was the nation's top recruit before an impressive three-year showing at Oregon, even as he battled through injuries and double teams all of 2021. Physically, he's even more impressive than Hutchinson, but needs refinement in his technique and fundamentals. Detroit could possibly trade down, but if they stick firm at No. 2, the former Duck makes plenty of sense.

3. Houston Texans

Evan Neal, OL, Alabama

At this point, there's absolutely no telling which direction Houston goes at pick three. The Deshaun Watson drama hangs over the franchise like a storm cloud and they have needs on both sides of the ball. Quarterback is definitely a possibility, but a better bet might be Evan Neal, who would go a long way in shoring up the offensive line. Neal, who is 6'7", 350 pounds, has the type of athleticism and footwork you simply don't see at the position everyday.

4. New York Jets

Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

I suspect the Jets go either offensive line or defensive back based on their current needs and with Neal off the board, they focus on the secondary. It's been awhile since the Jets have had a shutdown corner, but LSU's Derek Stingley could fit the role. Stingley was one of the best true freshmen we've seen in college football history but after two injury-riddled campaigns, his status as top CB in this class is in doubt. Even so, he's got the raw tools you love at the position, and plenty of room for growth.

5. New York Giants

Ikem Ekwonu, OL, NC State

After a rough start to his careerm Andrew Thomas has developed into a capable, above-average starter on the line for the Giants. However, he can only do so much for a line that has struggled to protect Daniel Jones early on in his career. NC State's Ikem Ekwonu isn't a flashy pick, but the hard-nosed, experienced blocker can run and block protect and is a safe selection compared to others available at this spot.

6. Carolina Panthers

Charles Cross, OL, Mississippi State

This is a fascinating spot for a Carolina organization likely to enter 2022 under some pressure. Matt Rhule sits squarely on the hot seat, Sam Darnold may be on his last chance to be an NFL QB and the OC hire, Ben McAdoo, was underwhelming. QB makes sense, but do the Panthers really bring in a young signal-caller with the current state of the team? A better bet may be O-Line, as the Panthers need to shore things up along the trenches if they want any hopes of competing in the NFC South.

7. New York Giants

George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue

With the pick acquired from Chicago, the G-Men have their choice of just about any position they could want. Kyle Hamilton is the best player available, but this is a really quality young secondary already. A larger need is pass rushing, and Purdue's George Karlaftis is well worth the No. 7 selection. Although his production in West Lafayette doesn't necessarily jump out at you, the tape doesn't lie; he was genuinely facing double and triple teams every single weekend due to the lack of proven pass rush beyond him.

8. Atlanta Falcons

David Ojabo, DE/LB, Michigan

Is this the year Atlanta finally gets their long-term replacement for Matt Ryan? There seemed like a good chance the Falcons would have gone with Trey Lance if he dropped to No. 4 last year, but does it make sense in 2022? I still think they hold off, considering Ryan was still productive this fall and has two more years left on his deal. Instead, they add a dynamic pass rusher in David Ojabo, who was slightly overshadowed by Hutchinson, but has insane upside.

9. Denver Broncos

Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Just as there is no clear, overwhelming favorite to be the No. 1 pick right now, there's no obvious favorite to be the first QB off the board. Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, Malik Willis, and Sam Howell all remain firmly entrenched in the hunt. Denver definitely needs a new signal-caller, and I think Pickett best fits their current roster. He's a savvy, experienced quarterback whose growth this fall was one of the feel-good stories of the 2021 college football season.

10. New York Jets

Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

With Stingley already secured, I like the idea of New York addressing their offensive limitations with pick ten. Offensive line is always in play when you have a young QB, but wide out may be the greater need. Garrett Wilson is the best receiver in a deep class, as he's got the athleticism, route running and jaw-dropping catch radius to form a potent 1-2 punch with Zach Wilson.

11. Washington Football Team

Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

While Taylor Heinecke has been a nice story as an NFL QB, he's not the long-term solution for the Washington Football Team. Even if they're players in the free agent QB market, I still suspect WFT wants a quarterback of the future. Enter Matt Corral, a gunslinger who had a big 2021 campaign and has the type of confidence, or swagger, that the franchise has lacked at the position since RG3.

12. Minnesota Vikings

Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

Minnesota enters the offseason extremely thin at corner and that's before Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander hit unrestricted free agency. They could use some fresh blood at the position, and Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner would be a home run at this spot. Gardner was the definition of shutdown while at Cincinnati and has the versatility to play in just about any defense, depending on the direction the Vikings go with in the front office and at head coach.

13. Cleveland Browns

Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

2022 could be the final straw for Baker Mayfield in Cleveland after a frustrating fall. The Browns could really use an upgrade at receiver, especially after parting ways with Odell Beckham Jr. mid-season. They have plenty to choose from here, but I like Treylon Burks. Defenses keyed in on him all season because of the lack of a true game-changer behind him at Arkansas, and he still put together a monster campaign for the Razorbacks.

14. Baltimore Ravens

Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

Either defensive end or corner seems like the likely avenue for Baltimore where they stand right now, pre-free agency. With most of the big names gone off the edge, expect Andrew Booth to be in play at this spot. The freaky athlete has astounding ball skills and tremendous instincts for the position, even though he needs to improve his consistency.

15. Philadelphia Eagles

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

I would be pretty shocked if Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton happened to drop to the mid-first round, but it's a possibility based on team needs. If he does, Philadelphia would jump at the chance to land the rangy defender, who would quickly remind Eagle fans of the prime Brian Dawkins days.

16. Philadelphia Eagles

Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Philadelphia gets another skilled defender to upgrade their back-seven here in the form of Devin Lloyd. Lloyd's a twitchy, well-rounded linebacker whose production while at Utah speaks for itself. This past season, he finished with 111 tackles, eight sacks, four interceptions, and also brought home two touchdowns.

17. Los Angeles Chargers

Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia

Upgrading their rush defense should be of top priority for the Chargers, who barely missed out on a postseason berth this season. The good news is that there are plenty of options at linebacker and along the defensive line available at this juncture. Georgia's Jordan Davis makes a ton of sense; he was dominant all fall long and has the mix of size and athleticism any NFL team would covet.

18. New Orleans Saints

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

New Orleans could run it back one more time with Jameis Winston, but they need a quarterback of the future. Luckily, there's a good chance one of the top signal-callers in this Draft drops all the way down to 18, with Malik Willis being one of them. Willis' massive arm and ability to improvise would be terrifying in this New Orleans offense.

19. Philadelphia Eagles

Travon Walker, DL, Georgia

With their third selection of the first round, Philadelphia adds yet another impact defender in Georgia's Travon Walker. Walker was often overshadowed by Davis and the host of other Georgia Bulldogs set to go to the NFL, but he put together an extremely productive career while in Athens. He can play on the inside or outside, a real advantage for a Philly D-Line with aging Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M

Pittsburgh is going to be in play for a quarterback following the likely departure of Ben Roethlisberger, but is this the right spot to add one? Sam Howell remains on the board, but the Steelers can't draft a young QB until they focus on improving an O-Line that was terrible throughout much of 2021. Adding Kenyon Green, a former high-profile recruit who lived up to that billing in College Station, would certainly help, and he can play either tackle or guard.

21. New England Patriots

Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

Dont'a Hightower played one of the best college football defense of all-time while at Alabama and has since put together an impressive NFL career, but his days may be numbered in New England. The Patriots could snag his long-term replacement here in Nakobe Dean, who just so happens to be a leader on one of the other greatest defenses in CFB history. Dean's athleticism and closing speed would immediately upgrade an average Patriot rush defense.

22. Las Vegas Raiders

Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

The Raiders undoubtedly made the right decision to cut ties with Henry Ruggs III following his drunk driving arrest, but his absence leaves them thin at receiver. Enter Jameson Williams, who should still land somewhere in the first round, despite a torn ACL suffered in the National Championship Game. For my money, Williams was the best wide out in college football this year and his speed gives Derek Carr a valuable deep threat.

23. Arizona Cardinals

Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

Even before Patrick Peterson departed for Minnesota this past offseason, it was pretty clear Arizona needed to get younger at corner. It didn't help that Peterson's replacement, Malcolm Butler, made the surprising decision to retire just weeks before the regular season. The Cardinals get their fix a year later in Trent McDuffie, a sturdy, well-coached corner who will continue the long line of Washington defensive backs going to the league.

24. Dallas Cowboys

DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

Carlos Watkins is an impending free agent, meaning Dallas could look to invest across their defensive line early on in the 2022 NFL Draft. While most of the big names will almost certainly be gone by this point, DeMarvin Leal offers real value at 24. He's got the frame and athleticism to play either inside or out and is a ferocious pass rusher, with 8.5 sacks to his name in 2021. A marijuana possession charge in late December could threaten to drop him to Day Two, but Jerry Jones has never shied away from talent, even if there are off-the-field concerns.

25. Buffalo Bills

Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

After coming just shy of a trip to the AFC Championship Game, Buffalo again enters an offseason simply a piece or two away from being a true Super Bowl frontrunner. They may be tempted to add another offensive weapon to this offense, but corner is their greatest need. Kaiir Elam is the best available at his position and while Florida's defensive numbers were terrible the last two years, he was a lone bright spot.

26. Tennessee Titans

Tyler Linderbaum, OL, Iowa

For starters, I'd be shocked if Tyler Linderbaum lasts beyond pick 20, as he has potential to even land in the Top 10. He's the most dominant interior offensive linemen we've seen in college football for a decade and projects favorably to the next level. Tennessee could use an upgrade on their line, even if the interior of the group isn't their greatest weakness.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

No matter Tom Brady's future in the NFL, Tampa has some thinking to do regarding their receiver corps over the offseason. Antonio Brown infamously quit, and Chris Godwin will likely demand loads of money as a free agent. The Buccaneers should invest in a cheap replacement here, and Chris Olave is worthy of a first-round selection. He doesn't have the upside of other wide outs in this Draft, but the production in college speaks for itself.

28. Green Bay Packers

Wan'Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky

Green Bay is another team entering the offseason with huge questions after a disappointing early exit in the postseason. Is Aaron Rodgers going to be on this team next fall? It's truly a mystery, but either way, it's past due for the Packers to upgrade the weapons around the future Hall-of-Famer. Wan'Dale Robinson is certainly not your traditional NFL receiver, but his versatility and game-breaking ability would really open up this offense.

29. Cincinnati Bengals

Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

The Bengals need to upgrade their pass protection, if the beating Joe Burrow took in the AFC Divisional Round wasn't obvious enough. This is actually a pretty deep class at offensive tackle, allowing Cincinnati to land a high quality blocker in Trevor Penning in the late first. Although he comes from a "small school" Penning is a beast who would play a key role in keeping Burrow clean.

30. Miami Dolphins

Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan

Another team trying to keep their young QB healthy, Miami has to improve their offensive line. To their credit, they've thrown a lot of money and draft picks at the position group in recent years, but the success hasn't appeared. Perhaps adding a high-upside piece like Bernhard Raimann in the late first could be a potential solution. He becomes the Central Michigan Chippewa to go in the first round since Eric Fisher went No. 1 back in 2013.

31. Detroit Lions

David Bell, WR, Purdue

This is prime territory for a team to trade up into the first round for a quarterback and Detroit could be in the market for one, as well. However, they can't develop the position until they address a lackluster receiver group beyond Amon-Ra St. Brown. David Bell would be a nice get in the late first; he doesn't have Rondale Moore's versatility, but is more of your traditional NFL wide receiver.

32. Kansas City Chiefs

Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

Don't be surprised if Kansas City is also in play for a receiver at this spot, but corner makes more sense given their needs and what's available. Roger McCreary was quietly one of the best corners in college football last year and is a proven, intelligent defender. He's a low-risk, high-reward prospect that the Chiefs have hit on over the last several years.

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