Way-Too-Early 2022 NFL Mock Draft

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Derrik Klassen
·15 min read
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1. Houston Texans - QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

The Deshaun Watson saga is still technically unresolved, but the Texans have already made plenty of moves to suggest he is in trouble, notably signing Tyrod Taylor and drafting Davis Mills in the third-round of 2021. Taylor is not a long-term option, and Mills was not a particularly good prospect. Rattler’s combination of arm talent, mobility, and creativity gives him the best chance to rise as the best QB in the class, assuming he can rein himself in just a little bit.

2. Detroit Lions - DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

Detroit hit the trenches hard in the 2021 draft. Penei Sewell, Levi Onwuzurike, and Alim McNeill help solidify both sides of the line of scrimmage. Despite taking those two DTs, though, the Lions still need more help up front, particularly off the edge. Thibodeaux is a former five-star recruit who has produced 12 sacks in his first two seasons on campus, which is made slightly more impressive due to the PAC 12’s 2020 season being shortened.

3. Cincinnati Bengals - OT Evan Neal, Alabama

Jackson Carman, who the Bengals took in the second-round of 2021, is probably not a tackle. He will likely be playing guard in Cinci. Additionally, right tackle Riley Reiff is a middling player who is only on a one-year deal, meaning the Bengals will almost certainly need a tackle in 2022. As per usual, the Crimson Tide is providing one of the best options to fill that need in this class. Neal dominated at right tackle for Alabama in 2020, but could potentially move to the blind side with Alex Leatherwood now out of the program.

4. New York Jets - CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

The Jets went all in on offense with the 2021 NFL draft. They wanted to ensure rookie QB Zach Wilson has the tools to succeed out of the gate. New York’s defense is still a bit of a mess, as a result, and they will absolutely have to address it at the top of the 2022 draft. Stingley is a former five-star recruit who has been a stud from the moment he got to campus at LSU. Stingley is long, athletic, and has unteachable ball skills. Stingley instantly changes the makeup of the Jets defense.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars - WR Chris Olave, Ohio State

Olave sports a pretty average 6-foot-1, 190-pound build, but he is a dangerous wide receiver. Olave’s blend of speed, explosion out of breaks, and route-running savvy make him the kind of WR who can always work himself open, especially when not pressed. Olave also has exceptional hands and a good sense for how to adjust to the ball, making him more of a safety blanket type than his size may suggest, even if he is not the most physical guy around. Surrounding QB Trevor Lawrence with as many talented pass-catchers isn't too bad of a way to go about things.

6. Las Vegas Raiders - WR Justyn Ross, Clemson

Yes, this is in part because this Raiders’ regime seemingly only picks players from top-10 programs. The Raiders do need a wide receiver who can win from the outside, though. Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, and Hunter Renfrow are all decent players, but none of them quite offer true No.1 WR qualities. The major issue with Ross is his neck injury that kept him out of 2020, but he was one of the best WRs in the nation before then and should return to that status in 2021.

7. Philadelphia Eagles - LB Christian Harris, Alabama

Philly’s LB situation is embarrassing. They did sign Eric Wilson this offseason, but he is really more of a coverage specialist than a legit three-down player. Harris is a former four-star recruit who earned a starting job as a freshman at Alabama. At 6-foot-2 and 232-pounds, Harris could use a couple more cheeseburgers to fill out the frame, but the speed, processing, and understanding of how to take on blockers is fantastic.

8. New York Giants - DE George Karlaftis, Purdue

Injuries and a positive COVID test stripped Karlaftis of most of his 2020 season. However, he still earned two sacks in just two games in 2020, while earning 7.5 as a true freshman back in 2019. Karlaftis has tremendous size at 6-foot-4 and 270-pounds, as well as some good strength and violent hands, making him a good fit opposite 2021 second-round pick Azeez Ojulari.

9. Carolina Panthers - QB Sam Howell, North Carolina

Sam Darnold is probably not the answer. Granted, I’m not sold that Howell can be the answer for the Panthers either, but he’s a top-two QB on every board right now and would make for a good fit in Carolina. Howell throws a pretty deep ball and the Panthers have an abundance of vertical threats. Howell playing college ball in the same state may help the Panthers sell themselves and the fan base on the pick, too.

10. Washington Football Team - QB Malik Willis, Liberty

Ryan Fitzpatrick only has so many years left in him. None of the other options on Washington’s roster are realistic long-term starters, either. It’s got to be a quarterback. The 2022 QB class is seemingly weak, but Willis’ size, speed, and arm talent make him one of the best candidates to rise through the process. If Willis can clean up the accuracy a bit and shave a tick off some of his processing, he may well be the first or second QB off the board when it’s all said and done.

11. Atlanta Falcons - DE Drake Jackson, USC

Atlanta needs a pass-rusher. Again. The Falcons could also use, well, every other defensive position aside from IDL, but pass-rushers tend to come first in the pecking order when ranking premium positions. Jackson sports a thick 6-foot-4, 255-pound build, and plays with the violence and explosion desired of a defensive end. Jackson is a bit raw in his approach as a rusher, but the tools are there and he could rise once the PAC-12 gets to play a normal schedule again.

12. New York Giants (from Chicago Bears) - CB Kaiir Elam, Florida

The Giants probably have three starting CBs in James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, and 2021 third-round pick Aaron Robinson. However, assuming both the Jackson signing and Robinson pick work out as planned is probably optimistic, and you can never have too many good cornerbacks anyway. Elam has the height, athletic tools, and head-on-fire mentality to be a good starting cornerback in the league.

13. Arizona Cardinals - OL Cade Mays, Tennessee

Mays has been a long-time force in the SEC. After starting for two seasons at Georgia, Mays returned home to Tennessee, where he instantly snatched a starting guard spot. Whether or not the Cardinals will actually invest in the OL, who knows, but they could use a guard and Mays’ blend of power and flexibility is enticing. Mays has also spent some amount of time at all five OL spots, so trying to fit him into the lineup should never be an issue.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers - QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Many expected Ridder to declare and be a top-100 pick in the 2021 class. Ridder instead chose to return to a loaded Cincinnati program, where he hopes to improve his stock by ironing out some of his ball placement and errant decision making. Ridder has good size, excellent rushing ability, and a strong arm. All the tools for success are there — Ridder just needs to make use of them in a smart, consistent way.

15. Minnesota Vikings - WR George Pickens, Georgia

The Vikings could use someone like Pickens on the outside. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are a nasty 1-2 combo at WR, but Minnesota would benefit from having a stud who can consistently win on the perimeter. Pickens is 6-foot-3, 200-pounds with some sudden explosiveness and speed. Pickens also has an absurd catch radius and a real knack for playing with strong awareness near the sideline. Assuming the ACL injury he suffered this offseason does not ruin him, Pickens is going to be a star.

16. Tennessee Titans - WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas

It has to be a WR. Does not matter who. As of now, the Titans’ only good WR is AJ Brown. After that, the depth chart is a smorgasbord of role players, at best. They need to get a legit wide receiver who can get open alongside Brown, and Burks can be that. Burks is more of a “power slot” at 6-foot-3 and 225-pounds, but the H/W/S dynamic in addition to his natural YAC ability makes him a menacing pairing with Brown.

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17. Los Angeles Chargers - CB Sevyn Banks, Ohio State

The Chargers just took Asante Samuel Jr. in the second-round of 2021, but I’m skeptical that Samuel alone fixes the team’s need at CB. Samuel, Michael Davis, and Chris Harris Jr. could be a fine enough trio, but it would not be surprising if the Chargers believed they still needed a dog on the outside. Banks has impressive feet and good ball skills, which could be enough for him to fix the Chargers’ woes.

18. New England Patriots - CB Josh Jobe, Alabama

Stephon Gilmore’s contract expires after 2021 and it’s hard to imagine Bill Belichick is going to be okay with losing cornerback talent, assuming Gilmore walks. Jobe is a former four-star with a good build (6’1/192), long arms, and exciting press-coverage qualities. Throw on top the fact that he’s a Nick Saban guy and it just feels like such a natural fit with the Patriots.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami Dolphins) - OT Zion Nelson, Miami (FL)

There is still a chance Andre Dillard turns things around in 2021. However, his play to this point has been poor and it’s fair to think the Eagles could be thinking about replacing him. Nelson, a former three-star recruit, will have three years of starting experience in as many seasons at Miami by the time he comes out. Nelson is not the strongest or most violent OT, but the movement skills are just wonderful.

20. New Orleans Saints - QB JT Daniels, Georgia

Daniels is not yet a first-round lock, but there is a pretty decent chance he gets to that range after the 2021 season. Daniels, a former five-star recruit and freshman starter at USC, came on strong for the Bulldogs down the stretch after returning from a knee injury that took him down in 2019. Though he does not have the strongest arm, Daniels’ decision making is sound and he’s got the accuracy to be a difference maker. Potentially not having George Pickens at WR this year will hurt, but that UGA offense is well constructed and has some other ball-winners.

21. Indianapolis Colts - OT Thayer Munford, Ohio State

Many expected the Colts to address left tackle with this year’s draft. Instead, the Colts double-dipped at EDGE, leaving tackle to be an issue for 2022. Munford is heading into his fourth year starting for the Buckeyes. In each of his first three years starting, Munford has only gotten better and better, particularly with respect to his work in the run game. Munford probably could have been a top-50 pick in 2021, but returns to school with hopes to iron out his technique just enough to raise him into the first round here.

22. Dallas Cowboys - S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

The Cowboys really tried their best to fix the defense with the 2021 draft class. However, literally every position group needed work, and safety was the one that got skipped over in 2021. Hamilton is a fall, long safety who plays like a menace downhill, both vs the run and when driving on routes. It’s possible the Cowboys may want more of a true post safety, which Hamilton is not, but his range and man coverage skills versus tight ends and slot receivers is valuable.

23. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks) - DE Zach Harrison, Ohio State

Signing Carl Lawson this offseason was a step in the right direction, but the Jets still need work on the edge. Harrison, though not terribly productive in a short season in 2020 (two sacks), has great size at 6-foot-6, 265-pounds and shows surprising bend for a dude his size. Harrison was also a former top-15 recruit back in 2019. This next season could be huge for Harrison and it would not be a shock to see him actually go higher than this.

24. Denver Broncos - DL DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M

Realistically the Broncos would probably trade up for a QB from this position. It’s possible Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater take command of the job, but my assumption with Denver finishing this well would be that it’s in spite of their QB play. Well, there aren’t any more QBs left here, so the pick is Leal. Leal is the quintessential pass-rushing DT: lean, explosive, could use some more weight on him vs the run. Denver could use the juice, though.

25. Green Bay Packers - OG Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

Who knows what will happen with Green Bay’s QB situation. The team needs guard help regardless, though. Green is a wide-bodied, aggressive guard for the Aggies. Green has all the movement skills, power, and violent mentality to be one of the league’s better guards right away. His efforts in leading the Texas A&M line earned him second-team All-America honors. Even if Green plays tackle in 2021, which he may, that should not stop the Packers from kicking him back to guard in the pros.

26. Cleveland Browns - LB Ventrell Miller, Florida

I’m not sold that Cleveland figured out their LB position this offseason. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will probably struggle in the box, while their other potential starting linebackers (Mack Wilson, Jacob Phillips, Sione Takitaki, Anthony Walker) all leave something to be desired in terms of firepower. Miller is a fast, physical linebacker who has shown he can be a menace in the box and take on blocks, even if his tackling technique can be … unconventional, at times.

27. Baltimore Ravens - DL Tyler Davis, Clemson

A team can never be too deep in the trenches, especially not in the AFC North. Defensive linemen Calais Campbell will also see his deal expire after 2021, so it’s possible the Ravens will have a legitimate hole to fill along the DL anyway. Davis was a stud for the Tigers as a freshman, ripping off 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. An ankle injury put a damper on Davis’ 2020 season a bit, however, and he was not quite able to continue his upward trajectory. Expect Davis, a powerful DT with a red-hot motor, to get back on track in 2021 with a cleaner bill of health.

28. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco 49ers) - EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia

Smith was “stuck” behind Azeez Ojulari on the depth chart last year, but do not mistake that as him being a meaningfully worse player. Smith was the No.1 recruit in the 2019 signing class and possesses all the absurd speed, explosion, and quickness expected of a player like that. Smith mostly played behind Ojulari for seniority and run defense related reasons, I would assume, but the pass-rush potential is exciting and the Dolphins could still use another guy there.

29. Buffalo Bills - OL Jaxson Kirkland, Washington

Kirkland played left tackle in 2020 (and presumably again in 2021), but he does not necessarily have to play there for the Bills. Kirkland started out as a right guard for Washington, showing great quickness off the snap and decent power at the point of attack. He is also one of the most efficient pass blockers in the country. The Bills could slot Kirkland at guard right away while having the option to flex him out to tackle, in the case of injury or some other circumstance that would benefit from him moving around.

30. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams) - WR John Metchie III, Alabama

The Alabama WR dynasty is not over. Last season, Metchie got a ton of playing time as Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy left school, in addition to Jaylen Waddle missing much of the season with injury. Like his teammates, Metchie has tremendous speed and a natural ability to track the ball down the field. Metchie, at 6-foot and 200-pounds, is a bit thicker and tougher than Waddle and DeVonta Smith, though, and offers a slightly different style of YAC.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - TE Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M

Rob Gronkowski and OJ Howard will both see their contracts expire after the 2021 season. Who knows what Howard will ask for on the open market, and Gronk only has so many years left with the condition his body is in at this point. Wydermyer has been producing since his freshman season at Texas A&M, thanks in large part to some exceptionally smooth movement skills. Wydermyer can also play both in-line and from the slot comfortably. Though not in the George Kittle tier, Wydermyer can also handle himself as a run blocker.

32. Kansas City Chiefs - EDGE Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma

The Chiefs fixed many of their roster issues this offseason, but EDGE was left mostly untouched. Fourth-round pick Josh Kaindoh probably is not moving the needle on how good that unit will be, and the Chiefs still need to find someone to play across from Frank Clark. Bonitto is twitchy, fast, and bendy, giving him all the pass-rushing upside in the world. Bonitto needs to add some muscle and play better versus the run, but his pass-rushing prowess alone may be enough to put him in the top 32.