You've heard the narrative: The 2022 NFL draft is not a strong quarterback class.
But we're here to tell you that even if that is true, it might not matter. Teams need quarterbacks. A lot of teams.
Tom Brady retired (we think). So did Ben Roethlisberger. The Colts appear ready to move on from Carson Wentz. The Titans might feel the same about Ryan Tannehill. Several other clubs might seek long-term answers at the position.
In short, there is a high level of quarterback need around the league. There aren't many options just sitting around. That's why, even if this QB class lacks the pizzazz of its 2021 NFL draft counterparts, we feel four could end up in the first round, which is how it unfolded in this mock, and possibly five in the top 50 overall.
On the larger scale, we tried not to play whack-a-mole trying to fill every team’s major need with free agency still in front of us. Instead, we placed prospects in the rough vicinity — prior to next month's NFL scouting combine — we think they’ll be drafted and attempted to pair up players with teams we could see appreciating their skill sets.
Here are the 32 picks in Round 1 of our mock draft 3.0, along with the five teams that don't have a selection until Day 2.
Alabama OT Evan Neal
This feels fluid. But if the Jaguars want to protect Trevor Lawrence and give him every chance to succeed, this might be the way they lean. Doug Pederson always had strong trenches in Philly, and the guess is he'll want to attack those spots heavily this offseason.
Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson
Wouldn't count out Kayvon Thibodeaux here, as the Lions reportedly are fans of his athleticism and versatility. But Hutchinson just feels like the exact mold of tone setter the Lions are seeking. Dan Campbell would love this guy. The Lions are building this roster back up through the trenches.
Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux
For now, the Texans' edge-rusher need looms large. They were closer to the bottom of the league in pressure rates and could use a jack-of-all-trades defender to pair up front with Jonathan Greenard. Thibodeaux can win in the same ways Whitney Mercilus did years ago.
Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton
Part of us thinks GM Joe Douglas wouldn't draft a safety this high. But another part thinks they can use all the dynamic playmakers possible. And this position needs an overhaul, with Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner both unrestricted free agents coming off significant injuries. They don't have anyone like Hamilton on the roster, and he could be special in Robert Saleh's defense.
North Carolina State OT Ikem Ekwonu
“Ickey” isn't perfect, technique-wise, but he has the frame, the play strength, finishing ability and temperament to be a bulldozer up front. The Giants could make him a right tackle and pair Ekwonu opposite emerging left tackle Andrew Thomas or kick the rookie inside, where he also could be a star. The Giants need more physical tone setters and land one of the best available here.
Liberty QB Malik Willis
It wouldn't be hard to envision Matt Rhule pushing for Kenny Pickett here, given that Rhule recruited Pickett to Temple years ago. But we wouldn't be shocked by the Panthers shooting for the moon with the ultra-talented (but unrefined) Willis. GM Scott Fitterer certainly could try to pry Russell Wilson from his former Seahawks pals, but short of that, gambling on Willis is one route to consider. The owner, David Tepper, acts like a man who wants as close to a nuclear-grade QB as he can find.
7. Giants (via Chicago Bears)
Utah LB Devin Lloyd
In Bills GM Brandon Beane's first draft in Buffalo, the banner move was trading up for Josh Allen. But Tremaine Edwards also was a player the Bills targeted with their second first-round pick in 2018 for his length, athleticism and third-down ability, and Lloyd could check off those same boxes for new Giants GM Joe Schoen — Beane's former understudy in Buffalo — in his maiden draft in New York.
Cincinnati CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner
The Falcons are in an interesting spot here, with no obvious pairing jumping out. But assuming they add pass-rush help in free agency, getting some depth at corner might not be a bad idea. Gardner and A.J. Terrell could make a very tough pair to throw against on the outside.
Pitt QB Kenny Pickett
Why would the Broncos take Pickett if they passed on the likes of Justin Fields and Mac Jones a year ago? Well, the stakes and urgency have been raised, and Aaron Rodgers and other big-name veterans might not be available. Pickett would have a chance to start immediately and have success with Denver's allotment of pass-catching talent.
10. Jets (via Seattle Seahawks)
Michigan EDGE David Ojabo
We're not quite as high on Ojabo right now as others might be, but the Jets almost certainly will add multiple rushers this offseason. With time and development, Ojabo could be a special talent off the edge. The Jets might also consider OL or WR help here, depending on how free agency goes.
Ole Miss QB Matt Corral
For those who don't understand three quarterbacks going in the top 11 this year, we hear you. But there might be a significant need for several teams to find one in April, including Washington, if several veterans don't switch teams. Corral has a playmaker's mentality and decent physical traits, and he's come a long way the past few years, but he'll need a structured system to thrive.
LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.
There's an irony in the Vikings taking a corner in their first year after moving on from Rick Spielman, but it's a void now. They simply didn't make enough plays on the ball and allowed way too many yards to opposing receivers. Stingley has top-10 talent but also some questions after a few injury-marred seasons. Reuniting with Justin Jefferson should lead to some epic practice showdowns, too.
13. Cleveland Browns
Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson
There's a debate about whether the Browns' analytics-driven front office should consider taking a receiver here and doing what it takes to give Baker Mayfield every chance to succeed. But there's also a need for more pass-rush help alongside Myles Garrett. Johnson was the best player we saw at the Senior Bowl and could give the Browns' front some more bite.
14. Baltimore Ravens
Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning
With Johnson off the board, Penning absolutely could be in play here — even with Charles Cross still on the board. Penning's nasty demeanor could make him a perfect Ravens tackle, and he should put on a show at the combine for his size.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins)
Purdue EDGE George Karlaftis
Karlaftis might be a prospect who typically gets picked in the 20s in a stronger pool of talent, but he absolutely makes sense for the Eagles here if they keep this pick. His athletic traits should also be showcased at the NFL combine, which could help boost his stock to this point.
16. Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts)
Washington CB Trent McDuffie
In the Eagles' zone-heavy system, McDuffie might be a bit of a better fit than a corner such as Clemson's Andrew Booth. McDuffie isn't big and lacks great playmaking production but has keen instincts, hasn’t allowed a touchdown since 2019 and is a willing tackler.
Mississippi State OT Charles Cross
Having Cross fall into their laps the way Rashawn Slater did a year ago could convince the Chargers to double down in Round 1 on a tackle. The need is still there, and Cross is one of the better pass protectors in this class. There are holes on defense, but Justin Herbert remains the ultimate priority.
Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson
They might need a tackle if Terron Armstead leaves via free agency, but wide receiver must be addressed, too. Wilson could be a strong YAC performer and an immediate starter — especially if Michael Thomas isn't in the picture.
Iowa C Tyler Linderbaum
If Jason Kelce isn't back, Linderbaum would be a perfect replacement, allowing Landon Dickerson to remain at guard. Linderbaum still can improve as a pass protector but is an elite run blocker, hyper-competitive and very smart. The perfect addition for QB Jalen Hurts if they don't trade this pick.
North Carolina QB Sam Howell
If one of the tackles listed above were still on the board, we might have changed directions; that remains a big need. But so is QB, and outgoing GM Kevin Colbert had to be impressed with Howell's second-half performance at Heinz Field in the rain last season. With three QBs off the board, the Steelers might have to pounce this early.
Georgia EDGE Travon Walker
Getting help for Mac Jones would be nice. But the image that will be burned into Bill Belichick's brain all offseason was the scoreboard from the playoff loss to the Bills and the helplessness the Patriots felt defending Josh Allen. Some teams might not know how to best unlock the 275-pound Walker's unusual skill set, but we believe he's an ideal fit in New England.
Clemson CB Andrew Booth
Mike Mayock might not be the GM anymore, but another Clemson player finds his way to Vegas. It's also a position the Mayock/Jon Gruden-led Raiders tried to address multiple times and could not. Booth's man-coverage ability would fit well with new coordinator Patrick Graham's defense.
Penn State EDGE Arnold Ebiketie
With a run on cornerbacks here right ahead of their pick, the Cardinals must be prepared to pivot. And if Chandler Jones moves on, there will be a major need for pass-rush help. This might feel high for Ebiketie, but he's ascending post-Senior Bowl and could provide quality third-down snaps early on.
24. Dallas Cowboys
Central Michigan OT Bernhard Raimann
The Austrian-born Raimann, whose love for the game came from watching "Friday Night Lights" as a kid, lands with America's Team. Perfect. The Cowboys have not used a top-50 pick on an offensive lineman since Connor Williams in 2018, and the time might be nigh for one with Tyron Smith’s and La'el Collins' declines. Raimann is new to playing tackle but possesses the kind of rare traits to be a star in time.
25. Buffalo Bills
Georgia DT Jordan Davis
There will be debates in draft rooms across America, trying to figure out the sweet spot for Davis. Back in the day, he might have been a top-10 pick. But how much value is there now for a massive, space-devouring nose tackle who averaged 25 snaps per game? The Bills have a decent nucleus up front but could unleash Ed Oliver more as a three-technique and let the 6-foot-6, 365-pound Davis occupy blockers and shut down the run game.
26. Tennessee Titans
Alabama WR Jameson Williams
The Titans have a history on gambling on risky first-rounders under GM Jon Robinson, especially in regard to injury, and Williams' torn ACL clouds his landing spot. But the Titans' patience could be rewarded with the speed of Williams eventually. They were shorthanded at receiver when A.J. Brown and Julio Jones both were hurt last season, so adding another playmaker feels important.
Ohio State WR Chris Olave
Perhaps this pick is used to lure a veteran quarterback, so our approach was to simply peg the best player here who potentially could be a fit. If the team can't find a way to keep Chris Godwin, Olave might be the closest facsimile at this stage of the draft. His smooth route running and knack for gliding to separation would make Tom Brady's replacement a happy quarterback.
Houston DL Logan Hall
The Packers always seem to go just a bit off-radar with their first-round selections. Yet taking Hall here wouldn't necessarily be a reach, as he's steadily raised his stock over the past year and could be a perfect post for their odd front.
29. Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers)
Texas A&M OG Kenyon Green
The Dolphins have spent plenty of resources on the line the past few years, but the results have not been good enough. We know Mike McDaniel wants to run the ball, and Miami's biggest OL problem has been figuring out who lines up best where. Green can solve both: He's an aggressive mauler in the run game and has played four of the five OL spots. We think he's best at guard.
Arkansas WR Treylon Burks
This would be a coup for the Chiefs, who still could use a third wheel in the passing game. Burks might not run a speedy 40-yard dash, which could hurt his standing, but he offers great versatility and yet won't be expected to catch 75 passes as a rookie. Burks' size, toughness and tracking ability could be lethal in this offense.
Boston College OL Zion Johnson
Even if the Bengals add OL help in free agency, drafting a potential starter at guard or center wouldn't be a bad idea at all. Johnson quietly had a terrific Senior Bowl and looked natural snapping for the first time in a live, competitive setting. He could replace Trey Hopkins or slide right in at guard in 2022.
32. Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)
USC WR Drake London
Depending on what London runs at the NFL combine (assuming he runs there), he could rise ... or drop just a bit. He's a high-volume receiver who is tight with former USC teammate and Lions 2021 fourth-rounder Amon-Ra St. Brown. The two could help reshape Detroit's WR room over the next few years.
Teams without a first-round selection
Florida CB Kaiir Elam
Adding more length at corner could be a good first move for Matt Eberflus, who mixed up coverage quite a bit in Indianapolis but often asked his corners to get physical with receivers. Elam can be a bit clunky in downfield coverage and let speed receivers get on top of him, but he has the length and physicality to fit nicely here.
Minnesota OT Daniel Faalele
The Seahawks don't mind mass in their offensive linemen, and the 6-9, 380-pound Faalele will enter the NFL likely leading the league in mass. Can he be their right tackle of the future? It's likely worth the gamble at this spot in the draft.
Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder
There's a decent chance Ridder ends up going higher than this following a strong senior season and a Senior Bowl week that started slowly but yielded daily improvement. Compared to where other quarterbacks have landed in this mock, Ridder could end up being a solid bargain if he falls into this range. The Colts could use a QB bargain after spending this year's first-round pick on one year of Carson Wentz.
Mississippi State CB Martin Emerson
The biggest need appears to be at corner, and here the 49ers find a long, zone cover man in Emerson, who plays the run well, is competitive and is a better prospect than his limited ball production might otherwise suggest.
Southern Utah OT Braxton Jones
The Rams traded away their first-, second- and third-round picks in this draft and were rewarded with a Super Bowl title. Their top choice, in Round 3, is expected to be one of the last compensatory picks issued for that round, with the final order determined later. Here they grab a small-school big fish who could be a developmental left tackle.
* estimated first pick; compensatory picks will be announced in March