The 2021 NFL season is nearly halfway complete, with most teams having played eight of their 17 regular-season games. That gives us a fairly solid baseline for the range in which teams will be drafting and the needs they figure to try and fill with those picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.
This is the first mock projection for the year. The draft order here is based upon the current standings prior to the Monday Night Football game in Week 8. I went two rounds to get almost every team included, and this mock draft was begun just minutes before the Rams traded away their Day 2 picks to the Broncos for Von Miller. The picks here represent an early guess at what I believe the teams would do with the given slot, not necessarily what I would do if I were making the pick. Because it’s early on, my own preferences do carry more weight than later versions will once we know more about both the teams and the prospects.
1. Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon. The most impactful talent in the draft is an obvious choice for a Lions team in dire need of impact talents on both sides of the ball. It’s hard to ignore Detroit’s desperation at quarterback, but it’s harder to ignore what Thibodeaux could do for a young defense that has some nice pieces but needs the centerpiece.
2. Texans: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan. Two pass rushers at the top? Yes. Hutchinson figures to test better than a Bosa brother and brings the same sort of proven collegiate results and NFL potential as either Joey or Nick, and they both went in the top 3. The Houston overhaul gets its new featured defender.
3. Eagles (from Dolphins): Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss. I don’t believe the Eagles are out on Jalen Hurts yet, but I also can’t rule out that they see how much Corral offers and become enamored enough to take the plunge. Corral’s leap in his final season echoes those of Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes, two QBs who were not nearly as well-regarded as they should have been because they lacked preseason hype. I’m not saying, I’m just sayin’...
4. Jaguars: Kyle Hamilton, S Notre Dame. The Jaguars need playmakers on defense, and Hamilton has proven he can create a big impact against both the run and pass from his safety spot. It’s higher than the first safety is typically taken but Hamilton isn’t your typical top safety prospect.
5. Football Team: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty. It’s a big leap of faith to invest such a high pick in Willis, who has incredible physical tools but comes from a simple offense in a lower-level FBS league, where he’s been inconsistent. The Football Team has the type of team that can help him develop quickly, and it’s a step they might need to make to snap out of consistently picking in the top 10.
6. Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU. Stingley is a technically polished and physically confident man-coverage corner who should be able to play on an island. For a team that starts Javelin Guidry and Brandin Echols at cornerback, that’s an easy projection.
7. Giants: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue. If Aidan Hutchinson is a long-lost Bosa brother, Karlaftis fits the mold of a member of the Watt family of pass rushers. Long, strong and quick, he’s scheme-versatile. The Giants get the do-it-all rusher they’ve been looking for.
8. Eagles: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama. It wouldn’t surprise me if Neal came off the board at No. 2. Hard to look past that sort of potential. Neal could be the long-term solution the Eagles have sought at OT for the last couple of seasons.
9. Eagles (from Colts): Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson. Booth doesn’t have the ball production of most elite CBs, but the blanket coverage, long speed and excellent run defense make him too talented to omit. He’d make a great complement to Darius Slay in Philadelphia.
10. Jets (from Seahawks): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State. Perhaps the easiest projection outside of the No. 1 pick in this entire draft. The Jets need nothing more than a playmaking wide receiver on offense. Olave is a spectacular one of those from a program that reliably churns out NFL-ready receivers.
11. Giants (from Bears): Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M. Normally when you notice an interior lineman in a big game it’s not in a positive context. But Green’s performance in the Aggies upset over Alabama proved otherwise. He was the most impactful player on the field and did it playing left tackle. If he can come close to that for the Giants, the OL overhaul is in great shape.
12. Falcons: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati. Pour that Sauce all over a Falcons defense that has a crying lack of playmaking flavor at cornerback. Gardner’s consistency against all types of wide receivers stands out.
13. Dolphins (from 49ers): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State. One of the in-season risers, Cross has added more strength to his game and it looks like it will translate impressively to the next level. Miami has to keep trying to fix the line if they hope to rise up in the standings.
14. Vikings: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M. Leal is a baller, plain and simple. The hard part is figuring out where he plays in the NFL. Mike Zimmer, or whoever is coaching in Minnesota in 2022, could have a lot of fun figuring that out while trying him anywhere between 3T and 7T.
15. Chiefs: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC. Another player who is improving his stock by improving his production and all-around game in 2021, Jackson is a nice fit for a Chiefs defense that doesn’t really do anything well on a consistent basis.
16. Patriots: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah. If ever there was a prototypical Patriots defender, it’s Lloyd. He can play any LB spot and has a high floor at every skill required at any of the spots. His coverage range and ability extend a lot farther than most college LBs.
17. Broncos: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina. While he hasn’t lived up to the preseason No. 1 overall hype, Howell has quietly performed well at a lot of things the NFL wants in quarterbacks. He’s pinpoint accurate on timing throws, has a quick release and he can run. It feels like the Broncos have to do something at QB.
18. Browns: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas. Burks size, physicality and ability to create after the catch are exactly what the Browns offense needs. Remember--there’s a very good chance both Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are playing somewhere else in 2022. Huge need for Cleveland, potentially.
19. Panthers: Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State. The one-time top OL recruit in the nation has finally grown into the extra weight he needed to pack on. The technical refinement in 2021 after switching to left tackle has been impressive. I still think he’s an NFL right tackle, where he started at Ohio State. The OL-needy Panthers can use him on either side.
20. Chargers: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia. Davis is the master of the dirty work inside, a fantastic facilitator for EDGE rushers and off-ball linebackers. But he can also make some plays on his own. The Chargers can plug him in right away and fill in the LB hole behind him later.
21. Steelers: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati. Tough projection because Ridder is not a sure-fire first rounder and the Steelers’ tepid efforts at replacing Ben Roethliseberger leave their intentions difficult to read. Ridder certainly makes sense with his ability to create big plays.
22. Bengals: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida. Elam brings size and athleticism straight out of central casting. His ability to remain in-phase in various coverages is an impressive attribute that should intrigue a Bengals defense that will need at least one new starting CB in 2022.
23. Saints: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State. It seems like every year the Saints are in the market for an impact WR. In this scenario, they pull the trigger on Wilson and his ability to win both before and after the catch, making him a dynamic weapon that can line up all over the formation.
24. Buccaneers: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa. Every year there’s an FCS-level standout who gets first-round acclaim. This year it’s Penning, a tehcnically proficient guy capable of stepping in at either tackle spot as a reserve in 2022 and growing into something bigger and better beyond for the Bucs, who are a tough team to shop for.
25. Bills: Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati. The Bills aren’t an easy projection with so many key spots locked up already. Adding Sanders builds depth at the pass rush spot and also help in the run defense. He might be the best-in-class and stacking and shedding OTs in the run game.
26. Raiders: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington. One of the best open-field tacklers and pursuit players in the draft, McDuffie is a capable playmaker in off-man or the Cover-3 zone that Las Vegas uses extensively. He’s got some of the most consistent performance tape of any CB to hit the league in a few draft cycles.
27. Cowboys: Adam Anderson, EDGE, Georgia. There’s something mighty appealing about adding a player with Anderson’s dynamic burst and cornering ability to the Cowboys defensive front that I can’t resist projecting it. Probably higher than he actually gets drafted (I see more 35-50 overall range) but he’s an impact player vs. the pass right away.
28. Packers: Drake London, WR, USC. It’s difficult to project London after his season-ending leg injury. Prior to that, it wasn’t unusual to see him as a top-15 prospect. As long as the medicals clear, the Packers would get the much-needed jump-ball winner who can also win with finesse routes.
29. Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa. The consensus top center, Linderbaum is exceptional at blocking in space and hitting just the right angle. Sure sounds like a good fit for a run-first offense and a mobile QB like Lamar Jackson.
30. Lions (from Rams): Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State. Detroit’s painfully most glaring defensive need is a competent, do-it-all safety that can create an occasional takeaway. Brisker is a lot better than that base shell description. Took me less than 5 seconds to make this projection the way the board fell here.
31. Titans: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia. A sideline-to-sideline off-ball backer who can blitz and handle short-area coverage responsibility is a perfect fit for Tennessee’s defense. Dean has proven to be that guy in a stellar 2021 campaign playing behind a great DL for the Bulldogs. He could benefit from the immediate success of the very similar Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with the Browns and come off much earlier that 31st.
32. Cardinals: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn. McCreary has played his way into first-round consideration with an impressive display of press coverage and ball skills. The Cardinals land the best player available at a skill position where no team has enough depth.
33. Lions: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
34. Dolphins: Kenneth Walker, RB, Michigan State
35. Texans: Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State
36. Jaguars: Ikem Ekwonu, IOL, North Carolina State
37. Football Team: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
38. Giants: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
39. Jets: David Bell, WR, Purdue
40. Colts: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
41. Seahawks: Kingsley Enagbare, EDGE, South Carolina
42. Bears: Sean Rhyan, OT, UCLA
43. Eagles: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
44. 49ers: Noah Daniels, CB, TCU
45. Vikings: Jalen Catalon, S, Arkansas
46. Chiefs: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
47. Falcons: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
48. Broncos: Cameron Thomas, DE, San Diego State
49. Browns: Tyler Davis, DT, Clemson
50. Patriots: Erik Ezukanma, WR, Texas Tech
51. Jets (from Panthers): Travon Walker, DE, Georgia
52. Steelers: Verone McKinley, S, Oregon
53. Chargers: Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State
54. Bengals: Demarvion Overshown, LB, Texas
55. Saints: Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
56. Buccaneers: Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma
57. Raiders: Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College
58. Bills: Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky
59. Cowboys: Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
60. Packers: Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati
61. Ravens: Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina
62. Broncos (from Rams): Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
63. Falcons (from Titans): Thayer Munford, OT, Ohio State
64. Cardinals: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
Bonus pick at 65. Lions: Romeo Doubs, WR, Nevada