2022 NFL Mock Draft: Could 5 quarterbacks go in first-round again?

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NFL Mock Draft: Could 5 QBs go in first-round again? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

College football and the NFL are back, and so is NBC's weekly mock draft heading into 2022. Like always, we'll attempt to highlight the best prospects for next year's first round and match them to the organizations desperate their talents.

This year's class looks to be strongest at cornerback and offensive tackle, but is a bit of an enigma at the game's most important position - quarterback. Well, enjoy this week's version and join us throughout the season for the rollercoaster ride of mock drafts.

And remember, it's been one week so the draft order is far from clear.

1. Patriots: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Most likely the Pats won't have the first overall pick in next year's draft, but if they did selecting Neal would make the most sense. First, there's the obvious connection between Neal's college coach, Nick Saban and Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick. Factor in Neal blocking for his former teammate, current rookie starting quarterback, Mac Jones and we have a lot of synergy developing. Aside from those noted intangibles, Neal is arguably the best football player entering next year's draft. A dominant offensive tackle with athleticism to spare, he can man the left edge of the line for 10 plus years.

2. Packers: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Stingley won a National Championship as a freshman a couple of years ago, and will most likely win the football lottery as a top three selection in the 2022 draft. Possessing NFL bloodlines dating back to his grandfather ( WR - Darryl Stingley / New England Patriots ) , Stingley is an athletic prodigy with game altering, playmaking skills beyond his years. 

3. Giants (via CHI): Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

A cannon armed transfer from Auburn, Willis is an exceptional athlete with dual threat capabilities. Wills' strong leadership guided Liberty to two victories over Power Five opponents ( Virginia Tech / Syracuse ) and a bowl win versus a ranked Coastal Carolina team last season. An ascending talent with massive upside, New York takes Willis and moves on from a struggling Daniel Jones as its "franchise quarterback."

4. Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Currently, Thibodeaux is sidelined with a significant ankle injury, but this setback won't cripple his top five draft status next offseason. Thibodeaux is an absolute game wrecker, registering 24.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks in just 21 career games at Oregon.

5. Bills: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

The Bills have 17 UFAs (unrestricted free agents) and seven of them are defensive lineman. So, shoring up the interior of the defensive line and being able to apply immediate pressure to opposing quarterbacks is a necessity for Buffalo. Taking DeMarvin Leal dramatically improves Buffalo's defensive front. The 6-4, 290 pound lineman tallied 85 tackles and 14.5 sacks in 24 career games and the 2021 college campaign is only three weeks old. 

6. Falcons, Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Hamilton has uncommon size for a safety (6-4 , 219 lbs), and exceptional athleticism buoyed with an explosive fluidity. It’s a toss-up between Hamilton and Stingley as to who is the most impactful secondary talent entering the draft, but Hamilton is definitely the more powerful of the two. Jamal Adams was the last safety drafted in the top ten (New York Jets - 2017) and Hamilton will be the latest taken that high in 2022.

7. Jaguars: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama

Ho-hum, another NFL rookie prospect from Alabama taken in the top ten of a draft. Over the past ten drafts, 11 players from 'Bama have been selected tenth or higher into the NFL. An explosive and versatile athlete that can cover, Harris exhibits pro-level ability to be a three down linebacker for the Jaguars, should they elect to choose him next year 

8. Eagles (via IND): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Olave is a silky, smooth talent with reliable hands and underrated toughness. The All-American wideout from Ohio State is slender but plays with a sinewy strength that allows him to beat press coverage and outfight defenders for contested passes.

9. Jets: Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M

Green is an impressive 325 pounder with incredible hip and knee flexibility. His a massive earth-moving talent that utterly dominates at the point of attack. If the Jets select Green, quarterbacking rookie phenom, Zach Wilson may never have to be concerned about interior pressure from opposing defenders.

10. Ravens: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Elam is an "in-your-face" defensive back who is versatile in zone as well as man coverage. Elam's length and size ( 6-2, 192 lbs) make him incredibly difficult to pass around, and his short-area quickness stymies most receivers. Long time Ravens' defensive back, Jimmy Smith is an unrestricted free agent, so taking Elam seems like a natural fit.

11. Browns: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC

It’s possible that NFL edge talent, Jadeveon Clowney's mercenary-like, one year contracts will have him out of Cleveland next season. If so, taking Jackson may prove to be an affordable investment for the Browns offering several years of quality returns. Jackson has an explosive first step and plays with leverage along the edge of the line. Raw but athletic, he projects incredible upside with little downside to his game.

12. Titans: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Wilson is like a receiving "ninja," that sneaks up on unsuspecting defensive backs and strikes with speed and precision downfield. His acceleration is uncommon and his ability to shift gears and change direction helps create an organic separation from defenders. Wilson is a better receiver than athlete and that's saying something because his athleticism is already NFL level.

13. Washington: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Entering the 2021 college football campaign, Howell looked like a lock for being a top three pick, but after a brutal season opener his stock has fallen. Clearly, he misses the skill talent that matriculated to the NFL this past draft, but Howell has time to adapt to those losses and improve his draftability. A strong armed quarterback with competent athleticism, Howell's potential can be tapped by the right organization. 

14. Cowboys: Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma

Winfrey displays solid 3-technique ability that would fit in nicely with Dallas' defensive schemes. He's a pliable interior defender with explosive get-off, but is able to sustain at the point of attack. Winfrey is a solid run defender with pass rushing acumen that needs further refinement, in order to make him an unblockable nightmare for years to come.

15. Giants: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Hutchinson's game is very similar in scope to the Eagles' Ryan Kerrigan, but infused with an upgraded athleticism. His power to speed conversion is off balancing because most linemen initially account for his power. Once engaged with blockers, Hutchinson's ability to slip their grasp and motor past them is mesmerizing.

16. Buccaneers: Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama

Jobe showcases prototypical size for a cornerback at the next level. His notable wingspan and overall length is extremely problematic for most receivers. Jobe is another member of the Crimson Tide who'll find himself chosen on day one of the NFL draft.

17. Bengals: Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M

Wydermyer already owns the Aggies' record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end ( 12 ), and after this season could be in the school's top five for most receiving scores. Solidly built (6-5, 255 lbs), Wydermyer presents various problems for opposing defenses trying to guard him. His size threatens defenses as an endzone target and his speed stresses a variety of defensive schemes. He isn't as explosive as Kyle Pitts (4th overall pick in 2021 draft), but he is an impactful talent.

18. Saints: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

Karlaftis is a composition of manic, relentlessness combined with a focused intensity aimed at disrupting every offensive snap. Extremely physical off the ball, he attacks instantly and places offensive linemen on the defensive. Karlaftis is underrated athletically and occasionally maneuvers past blockers with short bursts of quickness and agility.

19. Vikings: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

Many view Rattler as potentially, the first overall prospect in next year's draft and that may still occur. However, a bit of scrutiny suggest his questioned ball security issues and habit of throwing off his back feet may drop him in the first round. If so, the Vikings may move on from incumbent, expensive signal caller, Kirk Cousins and pin their fortunes on the upside passing talents of the gun-slinging Rattler. The All-American from Oklahoma is a developing prospect from a system that's already produced two top picks in the last three years.

20. Eagles (via MIA): Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State

Harrison flashes top half of the draft potential, but his inconsistent play may land him around the middle portion of the first round. Athletic with long arms to ward of blockers and disengage to make tackles is among his many natural gifts. Maturing his approach and developing better counter moves will only enhance his draft status. The upside he presents is challenging but could be very rewarding over his professional career.

21. Steelers: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Ridder appears a bit gangly (6-4, 214 lbs) at first glance, but he moves fluidly for his height and plays tougher than his wiry frame would imply. He is a competitor that plays through pain and leads by example. If he's able to improve his ball placement this season, he could easily move into the top half of most teams' draft boards. Should Pittsburgh select Ridder, he may remind "Steeler Nation" of another dual threat quarterback (Kordell Stewart) that had early success in the Black and Gold.

22. Texans: Carson Strong, QB, Nevada

If the Texans manage to be "good enough" to pick this late in the first round, then taking a quarterback at this position may look something like Nevada's Carson Strong. A methodical passer who goes through his pre-read paces, Strong, nonetheless moves with alacrity in and out of the pocket displaying sufficient mobility. His compact throwing motion should help keep pass rushers from reaching him when protections break down.

23. Panthers: Zion Nelson, OT, Miami (FL)

Nelson possesses the physical traits many scouts and coaches look for in offensive tackles. His size and length (6-5, 315 lbs) are natural impediments to defenders attempting to sack quarterbacks, and prevent disruption in offensive backfields. Nelson moves quickly enough to mirror pass rushers and displays adequate flexibility to effectively attack the second level on running plays. 

24. Eagles: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Jason Kelce can't play center forever in Philadelphia, so drafting his eventual replacement would seem prudent. Linderbaum is another Iowa product who plays with brilliant technique and efficient manipulation of every fundamental skill a lineman could possess. He moves with balanced strength and combines leverage and use of angles to overcome larger opponents. 

25. Lions (via LAR): Brandon Joseph, S, Northwestern

An intelligent playmaker with elite level recognition skills, Joseph separates himself from his contemporaries with spectacular ball hawking traits. Last season, Joseph tabulated six interceptions and did so during crucial times in various games. He plays under control, but moves with a practiced aggression that always places him around the action.

26. Cardinals: Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State

Banks is one of many talented and athletically gifted corner backs in this upcoming draft class. His ability to play physically downfield and utilize his length and speed to close space between himself and receivers is noteworthy. Banks' vertical is over 40 inches and it allows him to contest passes at their highest point and frustrate even the tallest of receivers. Banks could make the Cardinals secondary virtually impossible to pass against on deeper routes.

27. Chiefs: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Cross plays with a violent edge and a mauler's mentality when engaged with opposing defenders. His excellent footwork prevents most edge rushers from out leveraging him and getting to the passer. Cross' frame can handle an additional 10 to 15 pounds without affecting his athleticism. A player brimming with talent, Cross would be a nice find this late in the first round.

28. Broncos: Andrew Booth, Jr., CB, Clemson

Denver has 20 UFAs this season, and it’s possible the Broncos don't resign defensive backs, Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan. Retaining Von Miller may be a priority for the Broncos, so drafting another corner in the first round (Patrick Surtain, 9th pick - 2021 draft) is a possible option. Booth's quick feet and impressive speed would make him an instant contributor on Denver's vaunted defense.

29. Jets (via SEA): Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida

The Jets need a presence in the second level of their defense and Miller epitomizes the type of linebacking pressure currently lacking in that unit. The Florida Gator's career numbers to date include, 15 tackles for loss and seven and a half sacks with one interception.

30. Raiders: Emil Ekiyor, Jr., G, Alabama

Ekiyor is a wide, stout wall of a man who's impressive balance and weight distribution keeps him anchored in pass protection. He's more fluid than quick with his footwork, and shifts his mass effortlessly when walling off defenders. If Las Vegas were to draft Ekiyor, they might align him next to his former line mate, Alex Leatherwood.

31. Dolphins (via SF): Breece Hall, RB, Iowa

If this were the Eighties or early Nineties, Hall might have been a top ten pick. However, times have changed the focus of offenses in the NFL, and the running back position is not as favored as it once used to be. Nevertheless, Hall's ability still screams "first round" and Miami could benefit from his workman like effectiveness. Hall rushed for over 1500 yards and 21 touchdowns in just 12 contests last season.

32. Chargers: Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia

Davis is a massive human and is nigh impossible to block with just one offensive lineman. Extremely strong and unapologetically aggressive at the point of attack, Davis collapses the interior at the line of scrimmage. He has an ability to implode many offensive plays before they reach full execution and he still has room to mature as a defensive lineman.

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