1-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft: Lions select Malik Willis, Panthers pick Kenny Pickett in the top 10

Combining team needs, short- and long-term trajectory, and talent available, here is an NFL landscape-altering 1-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

The 2021 college football season is over. The Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl. Free agency opened, blockbuster trades ran rampant throughout the league, and secondary signings are slowly trickling in. So you know what time it is — it’s NFL Draft season, baby. Thus, 2022 NFL mock drafts are coming in at rapid speeds. Who should your team target in Round 1 this April?

2022 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16

Taking into account team needs, free agency strategy, and short- and long-term franchise trajectory, here is how I forecast the first round shaping out. The current NFL Draft order was used to conduct this 1-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft, but there will likely be several trades on Day 1 of the event in Las Vegas, Nevada.

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

There’s some noise about the Jaguars potentially drafting Georgia’s Travon Walker first overall. But I’m not buying it, and Aidan Hutchinson‘s track record far supersedes Walker’s collegiate production. Jacksonville needs culture-setters, and that’s exactly what Hutchinson can be for the defense.

2) Detroit Lions: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Malik Willis is going in the top 10; it’s just a matter of where. I believe the Lions pull the trigger at No. 2 unless they receive a worthwhile trade package to move down. Willis can sit behind Jared Goff for a year to hone his physical traits and improve his mental processing.

3) Houston Texans: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

The Texans aren’t going to be competing any time soon. Their main priority is hitting on high-floor players to stabilize the worst roster in the NFL. Kyle Hamilton is quite possibly the best pound-for-pound player in the 2022 NFL Draft. Sure, he is a safety, but he can fly all over the field and be a cornerstone on the defensive side of the ball.

4) New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

The board falls perfectly for the Jets to nab Kayvon Thibodeaux. There are a lot of rumors and negativity around his work ethic and passion for the game. And while some of it may be true, Thibodeaux is an elite athlete and stellar edge defender. He fits perfectly into Robert Saleh’s defense and would immediately form a deadly duo with Carl Lawson (assuming he is fully healthy).

5) New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The Giants don’t have to think about their first pick all that much. It’s offensive line or bust, so they will pick between Evan Neal and Ikem Ekownu at No. 5 overall. Most mocks have one or the other off the board at this point. But in this 1-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Giants have to decide which top OT prospect they want. With Andrew Thomas holding down the LT spot, NY opts to select Neal, who already has experience playing at RT and can start from Day 1.

6) Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Matt Rhule and Co. can’t head into 2022 with Sam Darnold as the starter. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and the front line is not conducive to rookie success, but Darnold only compounds the issues. Rhule has a connection to Kenny Pickett, who committed to Temple in 2016 while Rhule was the head coach. Is the connection strong enough to make Pickett a top-10 pick? Possibly, especially with his 2021 production and NFL readiness compared to his peers.

7) New York Giants (from CHI): Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

He may not be the No. 1 overall pick in this mock, but Travon Walker only has to wait for six picks to hear his name called. Although he is a bit raw technically, his physical tools are off the charts. Walker can win with power as Azeez Ojulari turns the corner on the opposite side.

8) Atlanta Falcons: Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State

There are multiple places the Falcons can go with their No. 8 overall selection. Wide receiver is an obvious need, but currently, the defense needs a bigger influx of talent. So, Atlanta chooses Jermaine Johnson II to be the star edge rusher they have longed for. Johnson wins with length, leverage, and bend, natural traits that raise his floor.

9) Seattle Seahawks (from DEN): Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

Ikem Ekwonu falling to No. 9? Seems unlikely. I mean, we could see as many as four OTs go in the top 10. However, the way the board has fallen, the Seahawks get to reap the benefits of drafting “The Pancake King.” Ekwonu can fill Duane Brown’s vacant LT position, but he has the versatility to start at both tackle and guard spots.

10) New York Jets (from SEA): Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

After taking Thibodeaux with their first Round 1 pick, the Jets cap off their defensive overhaul with cornerback Ahmad Gardner. “Sauce” didn’t allow a single touchdown in coverage across three years at Cincinnati. He fits what Saleh covets from his corners and can alleviate pressure from a stout defensive front.

11) Washington Commanders: Drake London, WR, USC

Washington is riding the Carson Wentz train into 2022 — one that has gone off the rails with two different franchises. It’s an ill-advised decision, but one Ron Rivera and Martin Mayhew have tied their careers to. As a result, they aim to support their investment by drafting USC’s Drake London. Wentz loves his big-bodied receivers, and London is likely the best one overall he will play with.

12) Minnesota Vikings: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

The Vikings need cornerback reinforcements. Everyone knows that. And while Derek Stingley and Andrew Booth are still on the board, Trent McDuffie seamlessly fits into defensive coordinator Ed Donatell’s system. McDuffie is also arguably the most “pro-ready” among the 2022 cornerback group, thanks to his athleticism, tackling ability, instincts, and healthy experience in zone.

13) Houston Texans (from CLE): Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

Trevor Penning could be a top-10 pick and few people would bat an eye. While I believe Charles Cross is the better prospect in Year 1, Penning’s athletic prowess and mauler mentality endear him to offensive line coaches everywhere. Thus, Houston pairs him with Laremy Tunsil as the bookends for Davis Mills — or whoever will be the QB of the future.

14) Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

I’ve had the Ravens selecting an offensive tackle in nearly every mock draft since last summer. However, with Morgan Moses and Ja’Wuan James in the mix, it seems Baltimore has their eyes set on a different tackle position. Jordan Davis is quite possibly the rarest build at defensive tackle the NFL has ever seen. Standing at 6’6″ and 340 pounds, he tested out of the roof at the Combine with a 4.78 40-yard dash. Davis instantly plugs two gaps in run defense and offers potential as a pass rusher with his tools.

15) Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA): Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Derek Stingley Jr. “falls” to 15 or possibly later due to injury concerns and a lack of production the last two years. However, when fully healthy and 100% focused on the task at hand, Stingley is the best corner in this class. Heck, he would’ve been the best corner in the 2019 NFL Draft when he was just a true freshman.

16) Philadelphia Eagles (from IND): Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

Fletcher Cox has been steadily declining since 2018 and could use another DT in the rotation outside of Javon Hargrave. Devonte Wyatt can be just that, as well as Cox’s future replacement. Wyatt’s first step is the quickest in the class, and he knows how to cross a guard or center’s face.

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