2022 NFL Mock Draft: Malik Willis is first QB selected

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2022 NFL Mock Draft: Malik Willis is first QB selected originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Alabama lost to a back up quarterback and former Raiders' head coach, Jon Gruden lost the respect of the football community. It may not seem at first these two unrelated occurrences could affect draft boards, but the ripple effect from these happenings inevitably will cause change. It's October and the winds of change are blowing.

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

1. Jaguars: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Thibodeaux's speed, agility and change-of-direction athleticism are elite level attributes that allow him to create pressure and cause havoc in offensive backfields. An exceptional athlete with length and good functional strength, his abilities could immediately improve a lack luster Jaguars' pass rush. Currently, opponents are averaging passer ratings of 115.5 against Jacksonville, ranking the Jaguars defense 31st out of 32 NFL teams. 

2. Lions: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The Lions traded for quarterback, Jared Goff during this past off season and his cumbersome four year, 134 million dollar contract. Goff becomes a free agent in 2025, however, the organization has a potential "out of the contract option" in 2023, and would incur approximately 10 million in dead cap money. Fiscally speaking, the Lions may pass on drafting a quarterback and select an offensive lineman with pro bowl upside. Neal should be able to improve an offense that ranks 20th in rushing (103 yards per game) and is 25th in scoring (19.6 points per contest).

3. Texans: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Offensively, the Texans are currently averaging 282.6 yards per game ranking 29th in the league. Houston's struggles on offense is directly tied to its lack of elite level talent at the quarterback position. Should the Texans choose Malik Willis to be their next signal caller, Houston will be acquiring a dual-threat talent with massive upside. Consider for a moment that to date, Willis' 498 rushing yards and seven running scores is greater than the Texans' team totals (399 rushing yards / 3 rushing touchdowns) in the same categories. 

4. Jets: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

New York will have to decide if resigning starting safety, Marcus Maye is cost effective, considering his current contract pays him over 10 million and he'll want an increase in salary. In addition, the team has three unrestricted free agents at the safety position going into the 2022 season. Hamilton is an intriguing prospect and possible solution to New York's concerns in the secondary. An athletic marvel at 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds, his career eight interceptions and 16 passes defended attest to his impact as a defensive playmaker. 

5. Eagles (via MIA): Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Philadelphia has allowed 10 passing touchdowns, while only intercepting four passes over the first five games played. Furthermore, the Eagles are letting teams complete 69 percent of their throws, ranking dead last in passes defended with just 11 on the season. Taking Stingley, an elite level cover corner whose ability to shadow and shutdown receivers, would greatly enhance Philadelphia's effectiveness in its secondary. 

6. Eagles (via IND): Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Philadelphia may want to focus on improving an aging defense, comprised of 10 out of 15 unrestricted free agents on the defensive side of the ball. Hutchinson possesses size (6-6, 265 lbs) and underrated athleticism that could greatly enhance Philly's pedestrian pass rush (11 sacks in five games). By comparison, Hutchinson's 4.5 sacks in six college games this season is over one-third that of the entire Eagles' defensive total. 

7. Giants: Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M

The struggles on the Giants' offensive line are significant and their 24th ranked rushing attack reflects this pressing concern. New York ranks in the lower third of the league in red zone scores (6), while averaging only 20.6 points per game which is 23rd overall in the NFL. Taking an aggressive road grading run blocker like Green could dramatically improve the Giants' offensive woes. A better run game should reduce the amount of pass rushing pressure on the quarterback. Entering this season, Daniel Jones (QB) was sacked 91 times in just 32 games played.

8. Falcons: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

On the season, Leal has recorded 4.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss providing consistent pressure along the line of scrimmage. Atlanta's pathetic pass rush has generated just nine sacks this year and is allowing 29.6 points per contest, ranking 28th in the league. Leal's ability to shed blocks and penetrate the interior of an offensive line would be invaluable to Atlanta's beleaguered defense.

9. Patriots: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Burks is an amazing blend of size, speed and intelligence at the receiver position. Incredibly fluid for a player his size (6-3, 225 lbs), Burks is adept at shifting gears and sinking his hips as he pivots away from defenders to create separation downfield. New England is desperate for a true number one target and Burks' skill set and production strongly suggests he can be fill that role. Watching him perform against various coverages designed to stop him, most scouts realize that Burks is just scratching the surface of his potential effectiveness at the next level.

10. Eagles: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama

When it comes to generating impact defensive plays like forced fumbles, interceptions or passes defended, Philadelphia's linebackers are noticeably absent. Only one linebacker all season (Eric Wilson) tallied impact plays in the aforementioned categories. Harris is a versatile linebacking talent that can blitz the quarterback, track down ball carriers and drop in to coverage to disrupt pass plays. Should Philadelphia draft Harris, it'll be acquiring an every down linebacker that doesn't have to be substituted for any defensive scenario.

11. Dolphins (via SF): Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

A physically competitive corner like Elam could shore up any inconsistent and underperforming secondary. Miami is clearly struggling this season, having allowed 1443 yards through the air and 12 passing touchdowns in just five games. Adding to the Dolphins' deficiencies in coverage, is the fact their two interceptions amount to just one percent of the passes thrown against them this year. Ideally, Miami can take advantage of its proximity and closely scout the Florida Gators' primary pass defender in Elam.

12. Jets (via SEA): Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

Gardner is a lean 6-foot-2, 188 pound cover corner, whose long limbs make every potential reception a contested challenge. His ability to flip his hips and run alongside most wideouts contribute to his shadowing them closely, from underneath routes to long downfield pass attempts. If a savvy Jets' front office decides to draft him, Gardner will perform with a swagger most New Yorkers would appreciate.

13. Washington Football Team: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

There isn't a quarterback on the entire roster that was a first round pick from any draft class. Actually, of the four signal callers on the team, Ryan Fitzpatrick was the only one drafted and that wasn't until the seventh round. While these athletes have overcome the odds of making a NFL roster, they have proven to be adequate quarterbacks, but not franchise changing players. Washington may select Matt Corral to be that dynamic element at the quarterback position, if he's available in the early mid rounds. 

14. Vikings: Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama

Minnesota has three unrestricted free agent corner backs it has to make a decision about for next season. Patrick Peterson isn't as dominate as he once was, but he has been serviceable. However, for a defensive unit that forces less than one turnover (0.8) a game, the Vikings may want to interject some youthful athleticism into their secondary. Jobe sports prototypical size at the corner position (6-1, 192 lbs) and utilizes his physical attributes to shutdown receivers.

15. Steelers: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Not every NFL quarterback can perform near or at 40 years of age like the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time), Tom Brady. Even Peyton Manning and Drew Brees displayed evidence of physical decline when they approached the 40 year milestone. The Steelers future Hall of Fame quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger is showing the wear and tear of his NFL years, so taking an athletic signal caller with NFL ability and intangibles would make sense. Ridder is a winner and the type of leader Pittsburgh should target.

16. Chiefs: Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma

The Chiefs are really struggling on defense, surrendering a league worst 32.6 points per contest and are second to last in yards allowed (437.4) per game. In over 100 years of professional football one truism remains steadfast, the team that controls the line of scrimmage can dictate the flow of any game. Kansas City needs immediate help on its defensive line and taking Winfrey would go a long way in remedying that concern.

17. Bengals: Zion Nelson, OT, Miami (FL)

After suffering an horrific knee injury last season, Bengals precocious quarterback, Joe Burrow is still being sacked at an alarming rate. Currently, Burrow has been sacked 14 times, which is tied for fourth most in the NFL. Cincinnati passed on taking an offensive lineman in the first round this past draft, they better concentrate on selecting one from the upcoming 2022 class. Nelson is a consistent blocker with enough versatility to play four of the five offensive line positions. Burrow needs better security and Nelson can provide the required protection.

18. Saints: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Howell lost over 4,000 yards of production from last season when four of his top playmaking teammates moved onto the NFL. So, adjusting to less experienced skill players has affected his overall production and effectiveness from game to game. Despite those weekly challenges, Howell is maintaining a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio (16:5) several games into the season. The Saints could use a player of his caliber and consistency at the quarterback position instead of the rollercoaster production they are currently experiencing.

19. Titans: John Metchie III, WR, Alabama

The Titans are a run dominated team and with an otherworldly talent at half back, like Derrick Henry, it makes a ton of sense to continue running the ball. However, in today's NFL the ability to spread teams out and use the elements of speed and quick to score instantly and often is a necessity. Metchie is a lightning quick receiver with strong hands and excellent route running skills. His speed can stretch a defense beyond its comfort level and decongest running lanes for the aforementioned Henry.

20. Broncos: Charles Cross, OL, Mississippi State

Denver is maybe one offensive lineman away from fielding a top 10 blocking unit. Cross is an agile 6-foot-5 lineman with loose hips that allow him to fluidly pivot and block athletic pass rushers. A shade under 300 lbs, his frame can handle the additional weight he may need to compete as a professional. Cross' athleticism enables him to sprint out and block into the second level, or move seamlessly downfield on screen plays. 

21. Panthers: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Should the Panthers decide to move on from veteran center, Matt Paradis an unrestricted free agent for 2022, targeting Linderbaum could be a viable option. Linderbaum is an University of Iowa trained offensive lineman, which usually translates into solid NFL player with pro bowl potential. Even if Carolina resigns Paradis, at age 32 he may agree to a short term contract, making him a possible mentor to a talented blocker like Linderbaum.

22. Giants (via CHI): Brandon Joseph, S, Northwestern

Joseph is a ball hawking safety who is a strong tackler, too. He plays with anticipation and is adept at reading quarterback tendencies. Astute scouts recognize how aware Joseph is on the field, almost seeming to never be out of position when impacting a play. Intelligence breeds confidence and Joseph's unflappable play on the gridiron is what the Giants could use in their inconsistent secondary. New York should strongly consider taking Joseph if he falls to them this late in the draft.

23. Browns: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC

Jadeveon Clowney is a high priced free agent acquisition that's paid to be an elite pass rusher. A total of two sacks in five games played is not "elite" production. Cleveland drafted an exceptional edge rusher (Myles Garrett) in 2018, and may draft another in 2022. Clowney's contract may not be worth the results he's currently producing, so choosing a talent like Jackson may be more economical. Jackson has an explosive first step and his ability to be disruptive to offensive schemes makes him a viable option.

24. Lions (via LAR): Drake London, WR, USC

Detroit desperately needs a primary option at receiver and London's size and physicality in the open field make him suitable for the Lions' passing attack. London stands at 6-foot-5 and is a lean, long striding talent who fights for every pass thrown in his direction. The aggressive attitude he competes with is infectious and Detroit could use a player with his tenacity in its receiving corps.

25. Raiders: Ikem Ekwonu, OL, North Carolina State

Las Vegas struggles with consistency from its offensive line and the shuffling of players at different positions exemplify the team's troubles in this area. Ekwonu is a stabilizing force who plays with an unapologetic attitude when blocking his opponents. An imposing figure at 6'4", 320 pounds, he utilizes his size and aggressive mentality to dominate his area. The Raiders may turn to such a player to help enhance a culture of blocking dominance.

26. Buccaneers: Kingsley Enagbare, EDGE, South Carolina

Tampa is a veteran team with many players older than 30 years of age, and a roster full of unrestricted free agents (26 UFAs). The defensive pass rushing aspect of Tampa's defense is an area that needs an infusion of talent. Enagbare is quickly moving up many draft boards because of his noticeable production this season. Amassing 3.5 sacks and four tackles for loss, Enagbare showcases a knack for penetrating beyond the line of scrimmage and disrupting offensive players' ability to execute plays. 

27. Bills: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

The Bills are an emerging powerhouse in the AFC. After a thorough beat down of the Chiefs in Kansas City, Buffalo is looking like a team that may challenge for Super Bowls for several years. Maintaining the success, especially offensively that the Bills have developed, drafting a young receiver may offer future continuity in the passing game. Olave is a polished wideout with excellent awareness and body control. His ability to create separation, find soft spots in defensive coverages and win contested passes makes him an affordable receiving option for the small market Bills.

28. Packers: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

Green Bay has been lukewarm on the effectiveness of corner back, Kevin King for the past couple of years, so they may be looking to upgrade that position. McCleary plays with an edge and toughness reminiscent of Packers defensive backs from the Lombardi era. McCleary's closing burst enables him to quickly undercut ball carriers and limit how far they get downfield. A physical defensive back with good hands and game changing ability, McCleary could fit in nicely to Green Bay's secondary.

29. Cowboys: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Dallas has already parted ways with linebacker Jaylon Smith, is it possible ties are cut with unrestricted free agent, Leighton Vander Esch at season's end? If so, then taking the multitalented Lloyd could be a pragmatic decision the Cowboys undertake. Lloyd has the size (6-3, 232 lbs) to play as an inside backer, while his athleticism allows him to drop into coverage on passing downs.

30. Ravens: Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati

Sanders is being noticed due in part because of the success and national ranking his team is achieving. The other reason he's piqued scouts' interest is his active game play and increasing success against opponents. At 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, Sanders moves well and navigates his way past blockers making tackles and completing his defensive assignments. He's a solid player with incredible potential to become a special one.

31. Chargers: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

Davis is a force to be reckoned with along the line of scrimmage and tends to collapse offensive pockets with impunity. Incredibly strong and unusually athletic, Jordan has to be double-teamed consistently or he may disrupt plays before they fully develop. If he tests well at the combine, he may not last this far into the first round. The Chargers could definitely use a player of his caliber, especially since their current nose tackle (Linval Joseph) is a free agent at season's end.

32. Cardinals: Jalen Wydermeyer, TE, Texas A&M

Wydermyer is athletic and possesses NFL caliber speed for a tight end that can alter defensive coverages. A big target with soft hands, Wydemyer would excel in Arizona's wide open offense. Because of the talented receivers on the roster, he would typically face single coverage, with his size and quickness making him a mismatch for defenses. The Cardinals could become as dominate offensively as the Chiefs have been these past few years, should they choose to incorporate his talents.