The 2022 NFL draft is just days away, and the rumor mill is starting to hit that next gear as this year’s event draws closer.
Every year, the draft conversation is driven by the top quarterbacks, even when the class doesn’t feature a clear-cut No. 1 overall pick, or even a consensus top prospect at the game’s most important position.
Those quarterbacks usually inspire a robust trade market, with teams jockeying for position to land their future franchise passer.
Could that happen again this year?
Here’s an updated look at how the first round of this year’s draft could shake out, complete with a handful of trades that could go down on draft night:
*denotes projected trade
1. Jacksonville Jaguars | Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson
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Like most teams picking in the top five this year, I think the Jags would love to trade out of this spot. But since nobody else will want this spot either, they’ll likely have to stick and pick.
If they do, Hutchinson still feels like the best bet here. He’s a polished, well-rounded prospect who does everything at a high level, and proved last season that he can have dominant stretches where he takes over a game all by himself.
2. Detroit Lions | Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
There are a handful of prospects who are likely to get strong consideration here, but don’t be surprised if common sense wins the day, leading the Lions back to Thibodeaux.
The questions about his motor or passion for the game are undone by the film, which shows the same dominant player we expected him to be since he stepped foot on campus in Eugene.
3. Houston Texans | North Carolina State OL Ickey Ekwonu
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
You would think Lovie Smith would want to spent his first pick on defense, but don’t be surprised if this goes the other way. If the Texans want to roll with Davis Mills as their franchise quarterback, he’ll need all the help he can get.
Laremy Tunsil is a stud at left tackle, but the rest of this offensive line is lackluster. Ekwonu was an all-conference pick at both guard and tackle, and would be an immediate upgrade at either spot.
4. New York Jets | Cincinnati CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner
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The Jets have multiple options here to fill big needs on defense, so it comes down to overall value and upside. While Georgia edge defender Travon Walker should get consideration, his lack of production could have New York leaning toward a more proven prospect in Gardner.
“Sauce” has a rare combination of size, length and athleticism, along with the instincts and confidence to be a shutdown artist at the next level. He didn’t give up a single touchdown in college, and will do his best to keep that streak going in the pros.
5. New York Giants | Alabama OT Evan Neal
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The Giants have needs in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and quality prospects to choose from at each spot. Once again, Walker should force a debate here, but New York picks again at No. 7, and the Carolina Panthers are lurking at No. 6 with a need at offensive tackle.
That should lead the Giants to spend this pick on Neal, a massive mauler who could even supplant Andrew Thomas at left tackle, but at the very least would give them a huge upgrade on the right side.
6. Carolina Panthers | Mississippi State OT Charles Cross
(AP Photo/Butch Dill)
This has been a popular landing spot for the first quarterback off the board, but the closer we get to the draft, the more it feels like the Panthers are targeting one of this year’s top three tackles. They passed on Justin Fields last year in the top 10, so why dip into a weaker quarterback class this time around?
No, the Panthers grab Cross, who could make a strong argument to be the best of this year’s impressive tackle class. He’s got ideal size, length, athleticism and strength, along with a track record of success against SEC competition.
7. New York Giants (from CHI) | Georgia EDGE Travon Walker
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This is a perfect scenario for the Giants, who land a player that could easily end up going No. 1 overall, and fill their biggest need on defense in the process.
Walker’s lack of production is concerning, but his rare athleticism and versatility give him as much potential as any prospect in this draft. If the Giants can maximize those physical traits with a more featured role than he had at Georgia, Walker could easily end up being a much better pro.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (from ATL)* | Liberty QB Malik Willis
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The Falcons should take Willis, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they pulled the trigger on an offer from the Steelers that would net them at least another first-round pick in next year’s draft, which should have a stronger quarterback class.
It seems like no team loves Willis more than the Steelers, and if he gets to this spot, they would be wise to leap ahead of the Seahawks, who could be targeting him with the next pick. If Willis becomes the dynamic playmaker he can be at the next level, that 2023 first-round pick the Steelers give up in this deal should be a late one.
9. Seattle Seahawks (from DEN) | LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
If the Seahawks do have their eye on a quarterback here, Willis makes the most sense. While Kenny Pickett’s small hands might not be a huge issue for some teams, they could be a problem if he plays in a cold, wet place like Seattle.
With Willis off the board, the Seahawks turn their attention to the defense, where they have a chance to land one of this year’s best overall prospects. Stingley has been banged up over the last two seasons, but has top-five talent when healthy.
10. New York Jets (from SEA) | Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson II
(AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)
After getting a shutdown corner at No. 4 overall, the Jets luck out here, landing one of this year’s best prospect at another huge position of need on defense.
Johnson backed up his impressive film with a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl, before showing off his athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’d be a huge steal at this spot.
11. Houston Texans (from WAS)* | Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Hamilton is widely regarded as perhaps the best overall player in the entire draft, but his slow 40-yard dash might be enough to send him tumbling out of the top 10, regardless of his dominant game tape.
If he’s still on the board here, it shouldn’t be too expensive for the Texans to jump ahead of the Vikings (who could use an elite safety like Hamilton), landing a dynamic weapon for Lovie Smith’s defense.
12. New Orleans Saints (from MIN)* | Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson
(Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
With Stingley and Hamilton both off the board, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Vikings tried to move back and grab an extra pick instead of reaching here. This year’s loaded receiver class hasn’t been touched yet, and a team like the Saints could leap up the board to get first dibs.
Wilson’s explosiveness and big-play ability would be the perfect pairing with a physical possession target like Michael Thomas, giving Jameis Winston a strong 1-2 punch. Moving up four spots shouldn’t cost the Saints much more than a mid-round pick at this point in the draft.
13. Washington Commanders (from CLE via HOU)* | USC WR Drake London
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After dropping back a couple of picks, the Commanders still have most of this year’s talented receiver class to choose from, hoping to give Carson Wentz another dynamic weapon to pair with Terry McLaurin (or a replacement, if they prefer to trade McLaurin, rather than extend him).
London’s 2021 season ended prematurely due to an ankle injury, and while he hasn’t tested his speed with a 40-yard dash at any point in the predraft process, his film shows a physical, athletic target who can dominate in the red zone.
14. Baltimore Ravens | Georgia DL Jordan Davis
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)
If any team knows the value of a dominant nose tackle, it’s the Ravens, who enjoyed the presence of Haloti Ngata for nine seasons. Davis could make a similar impact for a defense that has been decimated by free agency up front.
A massive, disruptive force with rare athleticism for his size, Davis was the anchor for the nation’s most dominant defense in college football last season, and is well worth a top-15 selection.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA) | Arkansas WR Treylon Burks
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Jalen Hurts already has one young playmaker in DeVonta Smith, but he could use another pass-catcher with a more physical playing style to pair with Smith’s smooth route-running skills.
Burks is big and athletic, putting his thick frame to good use in contested catch situations. He’d give Hurts a balanced tandem at wide receiver, and even more big-play ability.
16. Minnesota Vikings (from IND via PHI, NO)* | Washington CB Trent McDuffie
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
After dropping back four spots, the Vikings still end up with a player they likely would have considered at their original pick. Even with Patrick Peterson returning for the 2022 season, Minnesota needs a more long-term solution opposite Cam Dantzler at corner.
Anything McDuffie might lack in size, he more than makes up for in every other area of his game. He’s the most polished and pro-ready prospect in this year’s deep corner class, and would be a perfect fit here.
17. Los Angeles Chargers | Boston College OL Zion Johnson
(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
After filling their biggest needs on defense in free agency, the Chargers need to use this pick to help out their young franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert, particularly in the trenches.
Johnson is this year’s best interior offensive line prospect, with all the physical and mental traits to be a quality starter from Day 1, and the ability to quickly develop into one of the league’s best.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (from NO) | Utah LB Devin Lloyd
(AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Sure, Howie Roseman doesn’t like to spend first-round picks on linebackers. But with the way that unit has played recently, maybe it’s time to rethink that strategy.
Eagles fans saw what a big, athletic, versatile linebacker can do as a rookie when Micah Parsons terrorized the NFC East last year. Lloyd might not be quite on that level, but he’s got the athleticism and versatility to make a similar impact.
19. New Orleans Saints (from PHI) | Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
After trading up to land a big-play receiver, the Saints keep building around Jameis Winston with this pick, landing a potential franchise left tackle to replace Terron Armstead.
Penning still needs a ton of refinement when it comes to his technique, but his physical traits give him tons of potential. It’ll take some patience and quality coaching, but Penning could develop into a dominant force at the next level.
20. Atlanta Falcons (from PIT)* | Alabama WR Jameson Williams
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If the Falcons are willing to pass on Willis and trade down from No. 8 with him still on the board, it’s unlikely they would then spend this pick on Kenny Pickett, should he happen to fall this far.
With eyes to the future, the Falcons grab an explosive pass-catcher who is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the national title game, but otherwise would have been the top receiver in this year’s impressive class.
21. New England Patriots | Clemson CB Andrew Booth Jr.
(AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)
After losing both Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson over the past year, the Pats desperately need an infusion of young talent at the corner position. They’ll also need a prospect who is polished, and ready to make an immediate impact.
That’s exactly what they get in Booth, who has all the physical traits and mental prowess to be a perfect fit in the New England defense. He was among the nation’s best at a premium position last season, and would immediately be the team’s best cover man.
22. Green Bay Packers (from LV) | Ohio State WR Chris Olave
(AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)
The Packers traded away arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, so the least they can do for Aaron Rodgers is to spend one of the picks they got in return on a new pass-catcher.
Olave is a smooth operator who runs precise routes, and can turn any catch into an explosive play with deceptive speed. Even in a loaded receiver class, he might be the most polished prospect in the group, ready to make an immediate impact for a playoff contender.
23. Arizona Cardinals | Pitt QB Kenny Pickett
(AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
After the offseason we’ve had, don’t even pretend this couldn’t happen. Russell Wilson, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill are just a few of the names who have been traded over the last month, so nobody is safe. If the Cardinals don’t want to extend Kyler Murray, I’m sure there are plenty of other teams who would send them plenty of draft picks for the right to do so.
If a top quarterback prospect like Pickett is still on the board here, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing for the team that took Murray just a year after trading up into the top 10 for Josh Rosen to spend their top pick on a new passer yet again. The Cards could make this selection, then have a bidding war for Murray that brings them a haul of future picks.
24. Dallas Cowboys | Texas A&M OL Kenyon Green
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The offseason departures of Amari Cooper and Randy Gregory have left the Cowboys with needs at receiver and defensive end, but don’t be surprised if they prioritize the offensive line with their top pick.
Green played both guard and tackle at a high level against SEC competition, and could be an immediate upgrade at either spot, particularly at right tackle.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (from BUF)* | Iowa OL Tyler Linderbaum
(AP Photo/Matthew Putney)
Both the Titans and the Bucs could use interior offensive line help, which could push the Bengals to leap in front of them to make sure they land the last of this year’s first-round talents in that group.
Linderbaum may lack ideal length, but he’s an athletic, smart and physical blocker who would be the perfect cherry on top of Cincy’s overhaul in the offensive trenches this offseason.
26. Tennessee Titans | Penn State WR Jahan Dotson
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The Titans have a big, physical target in A.J. Brown, and replaced Julio Jones with another solid veteran in Robert Woods (once he returns from injury). That said, this offense could still use another explosive pass-catch to stretch defenses and keep them from loading up the box against Derrick Henry.
Dotson is undersized, but makes up for it with a polished skill set that includes reliable hands, impressive leaping ability, and a knack for turning any target into a huge play.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Georgia DL Devonte Wyatt
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The Bucs have needs in the trenches on both sides of the ball, but in this scenario, the value leads them to defense, something new head coach Todd Bowles won’t mind in the slightest.
Even if Ndamukong Suh returns on another one-year deal, the Bucs desperately need more speed, explosiveness and pass-rushing ability next to Vita Vea and Will Gholston. Wyatt’s skill set would be the perfect fit, and a stellar blend of need and value at this spot.
28. Green Bay Packers | Central Michigan OT Bernhard Raimann
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)
After getting a talented pass-catcher for Aaron Rodgers to help offset the departures of both Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Packers should spend this pick improving his protection up front.
Raimann is a bit older than most prospects (turns 25 in September), which might give teams pause about spending a first-round pick on him, but he’s a polished blocker who could start immediately at right tackle.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (from SF via MIA) | Purdue EDGE George Karlaftis
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
The Chiefs have back-to-back picks here, and some glaring needs on both sides of the ball, something you usually don’t see with a perennial Super Bowl contender.
With their first pick, they add a well-rounded edge defender who can get to the quarterback with power and polished technique, as well as stuffing the run with a solid frame and impressive strength.
30. Kansas City Chiefs | Washington CB Kyler Gordon
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Wide receiver is a popular pick for the Chiefs in many mock drafts, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them double-dip on defense instead, especially after signing Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Juju Smith-Schuster in free agency.
Instead of adding another pass-catcher to try and offset the loss of Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs opt to bolster their inconsistent secondary. Gordon is a complete defender with an impressive combination of physical traits and mental tools who would make an instant impact.
31. Buffalo Bills (from CIN)* | Tulsa OL Tyler Smith
(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Gordon may have been the pick here, but with him off the board, the Bills opt to help Josh Allen up front, rather than taking the next-best corner off the board.
Smith still needs some refinement, but he’s big and athletic, and plays with a nasty mean streak. He’s versatile enough to play guard or tackle, and his physical traits give him tons of potential.
32. Detroit Lions (from LAR) | Michigan DB Dax Hill
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There are some intriguing quarterback prospects on the board here, but the Lions seem more likely to wait until next year to address that position. A QB-needy team could trade up to this spot, but I doubt the Lions would want to drop back far enough to allow one of those clubs to move up to this pick.
Instead, they give their defense some much-needed help in the secondary, in the form of a versatile, dynamic hybrid in Hill, who can make big plays while lining up anywhere in the defensive backfield.