2022 NFL mock draft: Early 1st-round projections full of big surprises

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It’s only July, but we’ve already seen a pretty strong pattern develop when it comes to the top picks in early projections for the 2022 NFL draft.

The latest 2022 NFL mock draft from Sports Illustrated, however, takes a much different approach at the top.

At No. 1 overall, this projection has the Houston Texans taking Nevada quarterback Carson Strong, passing up the likes of North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler and Liberty’s Malik Willis in next year’s top spot.

The surprises continue at No. 2 overall, where this mock has the Detroit Lions opting for Purdue edge defender George Karlaftis, instead of Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. Thibodeaux has been widely regarded as the top overall prospect in next year’s class, so it’s intriguing to see him not even being the first player at his position off the board.

Thibodeaux doesn’t wait long to hear his name called in this mock, as the New York Jets are rewarded when he falls into their lap at No. 3 overall.

Rattler lands with the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 7 overall, but the next quarterback off the board is another big surprise, as the Denver Broncos opt for Western Michigan’s Kaleb Eleby over Howell and Willis at No. 19 overall. Neither Howell nor Willis are projected at any point in this first-round mock.

Another surprise here? LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. falling out of the top five, landing with the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 6 overall.

To check out the full first-round projection at Sports Illustrated, click here.