It’s draft week! The 2022 NFL Draft beings with the first round this Thursday night, and it’s time for my only mock draft of the year. This mock is a little different, as it’s an all-GM mock where I’ll be making the picks based on what I would do for each team. However, keep in mind that this does not play out realistically in terms of what situations would occur if I was running an individual team; i.e., Nakobe Dean is picked third here, but in the real draft, I could probably get him as a team in the teens (if, for example, I was running the Eagles only and he was there at No. 15). Really, controlling every team makes it more difficult to find guys, such as Dean, that I feel can be major value picks on Thursday night. Still, I’m going 1-32 running every team in this mock.
1. JAX: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
The 2022 draft isn’t seen as having super-elite prospects, but I think it might prove to be better than people are giving it credit for, and Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal is atop the list as a freakish and productive player out of the SEC. The Jaguars tagged left tackle Cam Robinson for a second consecutive year, but Neal can start elsewhere on the offensive line if necessary before moving over to the blindside next year. Protecting Trevor Lawrence is obviously critical for Jacksonville, and new Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson knows the importance of a great offensive line after winning a Super Bowl with one in Philadelphia.
2. DET: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Aidan Hutchinson should be one of the safest players in the draft, but that doesn’t mean he can’t also be a difference-maker off the edge at the next level. The Michigan product staying close to home and playing for the Lions makes this an even better fit.
3. HOU: LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Probably the most underrated player this draft cycle, Nakobe Dean is worthy of a top-ten pick on Thursday night. Dean was the leader of the championship Georgia Bulldog defense last season, and he’d be an exceptional fit in Lovie Smith’s defense. Linebacker has become somewhat of a discounted position in today’s NFL, but I’m not going to ignore the difference guys like Devin White (a former No. 5 overall pick) and Darius Leonard have had on their clubs over the past few years. In real life, Houston might be able to pick up Dean with their second of two first-rounders.
4. NYJ: CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner did not allow a touchdown during his college career. It didn’t happen in a conference like the SEC, but it’s still highly impressive. Gardner tweeted (in a now-deleted tweet) that he’s the best player in this year’s draft class, and he clearly has the confidence required to play on an island at a high level. Also, the lengthy Gardner is an ideal fit in Robert Saleh’s defense.
5. NYG: DL Jordan Davis, Georgia
Another player from the national championship Bulldogs defense that isn’t getting enough respect, monstrous defensive tackle Jordan Davis should be a top-five selection (top ten at the very least) in the draft. The knock on Davis—that he doesn’t have enough stamina and doesn’t do enough rushing the passer—is an ignorant one in my opinion. Georgia was so deep that they could afford to rotate guys in and keep units fresh, and ideally an NFL team can do that to some extent too. But Davis can play on all three downs and can become a force similar to Vita Vea in Tampa Bay.
6. CAR: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
I probably like at least two of the quarterbacks in this year’s class better than I do Sam Darnold at this point, but No. 6 is a little rich for me at that position. Instead, we’ll draft one of the top overall players in the draft, also filling a need at left tackle with Mississippi State’s Charles Cross. The Panthers and head coach Matt Rhule value offensive lineman very highly (as all teams should), and Cross can be a wall in pass protection.
7. NYG (via CHI): EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
In this scenario, I would strongly consider going with Travon Walker for some added chemistry on the defensive front along with Jordan Davis, but Kayvon Thibodeaux is an intriguing prospect that’s dealt with some criticism over the past few months. Thibodeaux has a little something extra there to consider when making a selection, but I don’t mind much if he does in fact have a bit of an attitude or selfishness (as some have said) to him. If he was a quarterback, I would be more concerned with the noise; but I don’t think Thibodeaux will have much of a problem getting after the passer, and he’s going to want to produce and get a massive second payday down the line.
8. ATL: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia
Wide receiver would be in serious consideration here in this scenario because I like a few of them as potential top-ten picks in this class and Atlanta has a glaring need there, but it’s difficult not to go with the upside of potential No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker. The six-foot-five, 270-pound defensive end that blazed a 4.51 40-yard dash with a 35.5-inch vertical jump plays very hard and has the athleticism to develop into a premier pass rusher. The Falcons have needed some more “juice” on the roster for a while, and Walker would be a nice follow up to the Kyle Pitts selection in 2021.
9. SEA (via DEN): C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The Seahawks undoubtedly want to run the ball a ton without Russell Wilson at quarterback, and Tyler Linderbaum can help anchor the offensive line as the team transitions and looks to compete by keeping games close and winning in the end. This might not be seen as an overly exciting pick, but Seattle could use more fortification to go along with an exciting skill group that includes D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Rashaad Penny.
10. NYJ (via SEA): WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
The Jets missed out on Tyreek Hill earlier this offseason, but I would much rather forego Hill’s issues and history and fill the wide receiver need another way. Jameson Williams has similar field-stretching ability and was pretty much unguardable for the Crimson Tide in 2022. The gamebreaking speed of Williams can open things up for everyone else on offense, and, in this case make things easier for Zach Wilson overall and for Elijah Moore and Corey Davis underneath.
11. WAS: CB Roger McCreary, Auburn
There’s a lot of talk for wide receiver here, and that is in consideration, but this ultimately came down to Roger McCreary versus Derek Stingley Jr. I think Ron Rivera might prefer McCreary in his defense, where corner could use a boost to complement a pass rush that’ll get Chase Young back this season.
12. MIN: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
Maybe I cheated a bit having Derek Stingley Jr. be the selection here, as I feel this would be perfect for the Vikings and for Stingley, who can learn to be a pro from an outstanding potential mentor in fellow LSU product Patrick Peterson. The athletic, playmaking cornerback was formerly seen as a future first overall pick in the draft, and I’d have no problem at all with him going in the top five on Thursday night.
13. HOU (via CLE): S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Seen as a likely top five or six pick early in the draft process, Kyle Hamilton’s stock appears to have slipped just a bit during the lead-up to this week. The lack of totally eye-popping testing numbers made it difficult to have a safety remain a top-five overall prospect. However, Hamilton has ideal size and made a ton of plays at Notre Dame, and this should probably be the floor for where he’s taken.
14. BAL: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
Devin Lloyd is probably the pick which most differs from our 2022 big board, but I really like the potential fit as a versatile off-ball linebacker in Baltimore. At Utah, Lloyd made a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage. The Ravens might be the best team to find a way to utilize his skillset at the next level.
15. PHI (via MIA): WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
I wanted to take Jahan Dotson much higher than this, but I didn’t see a good fit over the past few picks—and maybe as an Eagles fan I’m just hoping they come away with Dotson on Thursday night. The bottom line is that while Dotson doesn’t get the hype of some of the other top weapons in this year’s draft, he is a superb target with Spiderman-like hands. Dotson and DeVonta Smith would be a lot of fun together.
16. NO (via IND from PHI): WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
Every time I watched Treylon Burks in 2021, he was making plays in the SEC. The body type is a bit uncommon for a productive NFL receiver, but Burks uses his big frame to find a way to box out defenders and come away with jump balls—yet he can also be used as a guy to just get the ball to on screens and pop passes. Burks could make things easier on Jameis Winston, who will also get a healthy Michael Thomas back.
17. LAC: OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
Ikem Ekwounu certainly could have gone higher than this (including to New Orleans just before this pick), but in a mock draft where I’m not doing trades, the Chargers sit at No. 17 and get the other bookend to last year’s first-rounder Rashawn Slater. In perhaps the toughest division in the league by far, it’d be good to know that protection for Justin Herbert is further boosted.
18. PHI (via NO): G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
In real life where I’m not making every pick, the board might fall to get a couple of defenders like Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis, which I think would be sensational in boosting the Philly defense. But I already drafted them both top five in my all-GM mock. And here, the offense is getting the boost, with Kenyon Green joining Jahan Dotson. Green can instantly start at guard, but he can probably play anywhere on the offensive line if called upon for whatever reason. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and the offensive line have arguably been the biggest reason for the Eagles’ success and consistency over the past several years, and the Green pick would help ensure that remains a position of strength into the future.
19. NO (via PHI): QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Jameis Winston was just mentioned, but at this stage in Round 1, I think it’s worth considering the quarterbacks for teams that might have a need there. Kenny Pickett was highly productive in his final college season at Pitt, and he’s probably the most pro-ready quarterback in this year’s draft class. This would be a good spot for Pickett, with the chance to begin his career with a supporting cast that includes Alvin Kamara.
20. PIT: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
I must be clear in stating that I am high on Mitchell Trubisky’s upside in his second shot at a starting gig after he was more successful than people remember in Chicago. However, in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, Pittsburgh must ensure they are in a good spot at quarterback—so it’s worth taking another swing at the position. Liberty’s Malik Willis is a talented high upside option can be very productive in a good situation, which the Steelers identify as. There’s risk to Willis, but he’d ideally be able to sit for a year or two with the Steelers.
21. NE: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
I like the situation for the receiving corps in New England after they traded for DeVante Parker, but the defense could use a boost. Trent McDuffie and a few other corners were in consideration, but George Karlaftis profile nicely as a piece in a Bill Belichick defense. This is a pick I could easily see happening on Thursday night if Karlaftis is available at No. 21.
22. GB (via LV): WR Drake London, USC
I think Drake London is at least a top-20 prospect, but it was again a situation where I couldn’t find a fit for him in this mock draft—especially with no trades. It would work out nicely for Green Bay to get a high-volume target from USC. London has shown he can win the 50/50 balls, which he should continue doing in the NFL, but he can develop into the top overall weapon and most targeted player for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
23. ARI: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
The Cardinals have one of the oldest skill position groups in the league, including wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green. Garrett Wilson would make them younger there, giving Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray another exciting weapon to work with. Wilson is an all-around target that could form a strong long-term duo with second-year versatile receiver Rondale Moore.
24. DAL: EDGE Drake Jackson, USC
The Cowboys lost Randy Gregory in a controversial situation during free agency, but this year’s draft class is very deep at edge rusher. A high-effort and high-upside pass rusher like Drake Jackson would be a fit with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and the Cowboys defense—and he’d cost a lot less than Gregory’s new salary.
25. BUF: WR George Pickens, BUF
It must be stated that one of the big concerns with George Pickens is the maturity red flags he showed at Georgia—if he was completely clean, he might be considered a top-15 or top-20 prospect this year. If I’m a team like the Bills, it’s worth considering a swing at Pickens late in the first round. The expectation would be that a situation with an elite offense and team would help keep Pickens grounded—and playing with Josh Allen can lead to instant success for a fantastic downfield, jump-ball threat. Cornerback and one of the top running backs (Breece Hall, Isaiah Spiller, Kenneth Walker III) would be the pick if not Pickens.
26. TEN: DL Devont’e Wyatt, Georgia
I think the Titans would have to go defense with how the board plays out in this mock. Georgia defensive lineman Devont’e Wyatt brings even more strength to the trenches for Mike Vrabel’s squad, which has had success thanks in large part to excellent play on the interior on both sides of the ball.
27. TB: S Lewis Cine, Georgia
Michigan’s Daxton Hill and Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker are two other safeties that should get late-first consideration, but I just love the fit of Lewis Cine in Tampa Bay. The Bucs don’t have a need at safety, but they lost Jordan Whitehead to the Jets, and Cine would be an exciting first pick under new head coach Todd Bowles. Cine can help clean things up on the backend of the defense, bringing even more range to an athletic and relentless group.
28. GB: EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
The intangibles of Jermaine Johnson might play a role in getting him drafted considerably higher than this, but his demeanor would also make him an awesome fit for a Packers team looking to compete for a championship. Johnson would fit well into the rotation for Green Bay.
29. KC (via SF from MIA): WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
I think the Chiefs would be fine at wide receiver if they don’t come away with one of the top several guys on Day 1 or Day 2 of the 2022 draft, but Chris Olave is a perfect match if he’s there at No. 29. Olave is very natural at tracking and coming down with the deep ball, and it’d be tough to contain all of him, Mecole Hardman, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling down the field—not to mention Travis Kelce and JuJu Smith-Schuster underneath.
30. KC: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
I might try to move this pick if I were the Chiefs—or maybe package it with No. 29 to move up for a player—but Kaiir Elam is a strong selection at the end of the first. The Florida product is six-foot-two and excels in press coverage, so a team that wants that skillset could take him earlier than this. Overall, Trent McDuffie probably gets the nod all things being equal; but Elam’s size is a better fit in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense.
31. CIN: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
Boston College guard Zion Johnson is an intriguing option at No. 31 for the defending AFC champions, but Trent McDuffie is too good of a value. McDuffie can play wherever he’s needed in Year 1 before potentially taking over for Eli Apple as a full-time starter in 2023.
32. DET (via LAR): CB Andrew Booth, Clemson
This is definitely a spot where I’d be looking to trade back if I were the Lions, especially if a team wants to move up for one of the remaining quarterbacks to get that fifth-year option in the contract before the first round ends. But Andrew Booth is a first-round prospect in this year’s class, and I could see Dan Campbell liking his style.